-- I Promise

The sound of her laughter made Karl turn his head to see what was going on. Kara was on the other side of the Pilot's Rec Room engaged in a rather raucous triad game and regaling the younger pilots with tales of the adventures of Starbuck and Apollo while she cleaned them out of their money and possessions. Lee was right next to her, playing along, embellishing on Kara's already blown-out-of-proportion stories.

Karl smiled. He was glad Kara and Lee had gotten over their differences. Not just for their sakes, but for the rest of the ship, because when Starbuck and Apollo were at odds, everybody suffered from the fallout. The nuggets no longer shivered in their boots when either senior officer walked into the room, and the deck crew stopped looking over their shoulders waiting for the yelling to start or for fists to fly. Karl was happy about that too. Usually he was the one to break them up and he had gotten clipped by a stray right hook one too many times.

Besides, he knew Kara needed Lee in her life. She needed someone who could keep up with her and watch her back.

Just like he himself used to do before either one of them had ever heard of the name 'Adama.'

Karl watched as Lee spoke low near Kara's ear, bringing a slow smile to her face. She turned to look at him with a shine in her eyes that Karl knew all too well. She was looking at Lee the way she used to look at him. Laughing with him the way they used to laugh together at shared secrets. A blind man could tell that Lee Adama was in love with Kara Thrace. That was old news among the crew, but Karl believed he was the only one who knew that Kara Thrace loved Lee Adama too. A sudden, sharp pang of jealousy caught Karl completely by surprise, as did the memory that came with it. Karl closed his eyes against it trying to shut it out, but it refused to leave his mind.

He didn't expect her to start crying when he showed her the acceptance letter. She had to know this day was coming. He was always talking about going to the academy on Picon and fulfilling the dream his father had for him of becoming a raptor pilot. He expected her to be happy for him. He had been accepted into one of the most prestigious military schools in the twelve colonies.

" I am happy for you Karl, really." Kara said. "And I'm so proud of you, but Picon's so far away. We'll never see each other."

"We'll see each other less. That's all." He assured her. "But I'll be back on breaks."

She looked at him disbelievingly.

"I will. And you'll come see me on yours." He put his arms around her waist and pulled her close. "We'll call, we'll write, we'll do everything we can to make this work, Kara."

She smiled wanly at him. "Promise?"

"Of course I promise. I love you."

"Forever?"

He chuckled quietly.

"Promise, Karl." She urged. "Promise you'll love me forever."

"I promise I will love you forever." He said, kissing her softly. "Now it's your turn."

"Me too." She whispered. "I promise I will love you forever."

He opened his eyes when he felt Sharon's hand on his arm.

"Are you ok, baby?" She asked quietly.

He placed his hand over hers and gave her a smile of reassurance. "Yeah. I'm ok."

----

Kara watched the small display of affection between Karl and Sharon and felt her heart sink, remembering how Karl could make all the bad things in the worlds go away when he had touched her and looked at her like that.

Karl. Her first love. The one relationship in her life that she didn't single handedly screw up.

She regretted losing what they had together all those years ago. Their parting had hurt, but he had promised her that he would love her forever. He had promised her that his leaving wouldn't change what they'd had. She could be angry with him for breaking that promise, but she had promised too.

They had kept their promise for a while, but as their lives became more complicated and their obligations became more numerous, their long, passionate reunions turned into brief, heated trysts, until they stopped altogether and their love affair came to a tacit end.

They were different people when they met again on the Galactica. The gods had brought her Zak Adama, a love that mirrored what she'd had with Karl. Zak was carefree and happy, supportive and protective just like Karl was, and she embraced him with all her heart. Her own romantic foolishness had taken him away from her and pain of his loss was more than she could bear. She had sworn she would never fall in love like that again. It hurt too much. And because of that, she had kept Karl at a safe distance. Friends, not lovers, until he gave up and started looking elsewhere.

She choked back the lump that suddenly rose in her throat, as Karl placed his hand over his wife's. She missed the warmth and strength of those hands. If only…..

"Hey, Kara?" Lee's voice pulled her out of her thoughts. "It's your play."

"Right." She said, absentmindedly discarding one card and picking up another.

As she looked up from her hand, her eyes met Karl's. A sad smile played at the corners of his mouth.

"I promise I will love you forever." He mouthed from the other side of the room.

She smiled, though a small tear escaped the corner of one eye. "Me too." She mouthed back.