Rating: R, adult themes, child abuse, sex.
Warnings: het, love-doesn't-conquer-all, sex, child abuse, sarcasm.
Pairing: Kara Thrace/Sam Anders, ref: Kara Thrace/Lee Adama, Anastasia Dualla/Lee Adama.
Set: after Taking a Break.
Notes: I blame a lot of this on lizardbethj's Angsty!Sam kink, plus her writing him all angsty. Y'can thank lucyparavel for cackling evilly and telling me of COURSE it was a good idea. Title from The Cardigan's "Communication" (the entire Long Gone Before Daylight album IS Kara and Sam, scarily).
how to connect by ALC Punk!
Sam doesn't talk about the scars on his back. Which is fair, they're so light that Kara sometimes wonders if he even remembers them. She traced them one night, fingers gentle while he slept. They were near-perfect circles and ovals, the slight shine marring his otherwise perfect (to her) skin.
But Kara understands far more than she wants to about scars you don't talk about, so she never asks.
It's two months after she asked Lee the most important question he could answer, and Lee blew her off, that Kara's laughing with Sam, surrounded by pilots. They're joking about stupid bar trips they've all been on, Racetrack--who loosens up once you get ten shots of tequila into her--is rambling on about this time she was dating this girl, and they went to this bar.
Kara's mostly ignoring it, because she's been there and done that, except for the dating part. And besides, Sam is right there, consciously invading her personal space and neither of them have had ten shots of tequila (she's learned to pace them both--no more falling under tables unless they want to).
A snicker comes from Two-Bit, who had no tequila, but plenty of whiskey. He's got a cigar in one hand, and seems to keep forgetting it.
It's important that he forgets it.
Kara just wishes he'd forgotten to light it, instead of almost setting Dee's hair on fire.
The woman smacks him and moves away, and Racetrack's story is forgotten as they're all suddenly off on bad smoking experiences. Two-Bit contributes a sly, "I almost put it out on someone, once."
"Could put 'em out on Cylons!" someone calls from further back in the crowd.
Kara fleetingly has a thought that it's a good thing Sharon and Helo disappeared almost an hour before--and then she notices the tension in Sam. If he weren't so close, she's not sure she'd see it at all.
There's agreement about stubbing cigarettes out on Cylons, and the conversation changes yet again to what they'd like to do--with a few noting that they wouldn't do it to Athena, 'cause Athena isn't really a Cylon anymore anyway.
Kara ignores it, focusing on Sam. Her hand touches his arm, and she quirks an eyebrow when he glances at her, startled.
"I need to hit the head," he says, avoiding her eyes. He sets his glass down and moves away from them, half-heartedly patting her ass as he passes.
She could let it go. Kara stares at his glass on the bar, and thinks about not asking questions and letting sleeping dogs lie. But in the end, the conversation around her sucks, the alcohol will always be there, and Sam... Sam will always be there.
It takes a couple minutes to convince Connors to let her settle the tab later, then Kara slips out of the crowd. Most of them don't even notice her going, although Dee gives her an odd look. Kara figures the Lieutenant isn't used to Starbuck being slightly responsible. Or maybe she's just making sure Kara isn't going after her husband anymore. Kara could tell her not to bother worrying, but it's none of her business anymore.
Kara checks the head first, because even if it was an excuse, she can't rule it out.
There's water running in one of the stalls, but the door's open; looking around, she finds him sitting on the floor. He's in the corner, head down, knees drawn up. "Sam?"
He looks up, and for a moment, Kara can see his brain working. Should he act normal, or should he explain, or should he try to distract her? He settles for something in-between. A non-committal, "Hey."
You don't ask questions, Kara thinks before she blurts out, "What's wrong?"
Amusement flickers in his eyes and his shoulders rise and fall in a shrug. "I see you one day out of every ten, you could get killed every time you fly, the Cylons are still out there... Take your pick, Kara."
But it's not any of that. Kara snorts and moves to kneel in front of him. Not touching him, not yet. "Talk to me, Sam."
"You sure, Kara? I thought that's what we did best: not talk." He's almost sardonic, the amusement slipping away.
A frightening thought hits her that he could have things to hide that make hers seem like child's play. But she wants to know. She wants to know, even though she's sure she can't help. And she can't make anything better, she learned that long ago. "I wouldn't have asked, you idiot."
Maybe he can see the bravado in her, maybe not. He leans his head back against the metal of the wall and closes his eyes. Kara can see him swallow, once, twice, and then he speaks, voice quiet. "I spent my summers at my uncle's for three years. I was five, the first year."
When he doesn't continue, Kara wonders why, and then realizes that he's still giving her a chance to walk away. It scares her, that he thinks this is something she doesn't want to hear. Starbuck isn't supposed to be afraid of anything, and so she moves, close enough to press against his legs, "You were young. Bet you were adorable."
A flicker of a smile crosses his lips, but his eyes remain dark when he opens them to look at her.
She shouldn't be listening to this, she thinks, as he talks. She should be running, hiding in a corner of her own so she doesn't hear Sam tell her in bald words that his uncle abused him, that the man thought nothing of hitting and kicking him, of locking him in a closet for hours, of holding him down and putting his cigarettes out on him, claiming it would make him a man. She wants to tell Sam it can't be true.
And she wants to know how he deals with it, how the pain in his eyes isn't raw and always present, how it seems like a half-healed memory that he'll eventually forget.
It's not fair.
He stops, suddenly, story finished. His voice is humorless as he closes his eyes and leans his head back, with a sardonic, "And now you know. I spent three years discovering that there were things..."
Kara flinches as he trails off. She doesn't know how he was going to finish the line, but she thinks it might have mentioned her. Even if it wasn't, it touches her somewhere raw and she wants to hurt him, to make him take it back. "Sam."
His eyes flicker open and he looks at her, almost calm. As if waiting for her to strike that first blow. To shove the knife in deep and twist. And he'll just take it, as he's taken all of her shit, all of her cheating and diffidence, the way she doesn't put him first, everything she's ever told him about her mother and Leoben. The way she simply uses him. "Kara."
And she can't. Not now. Maybe later, when he's not so painfully vulnerable that she could reach out and hurt him in ways she can't take back. Instead, she pushes at his knees, separating his legs and moving forwards, one hand on the wall as she leans into him. "You survived," she whispers, kissing his chin before pressing her lips to his.
Something escapes him, a sound or a sigh, it doesn't matter, as the tension lessens, his hand cupping the back of her head for a moment. His lips are cold against hers.
He's cold, the wall behind and the floor having sucked the heat from his body. Kara presses against him, trying to share the warmth from her own body with his, trying to break the chill into nothingness. She wants him warm, wants the man who laughs and mocks her, not this scarred and flawed human being who reflects her own soul in ways she doesn't want to consider.
Arms snaking around him, she tugs the back of his shirt up, fingers finding the small circles easily, she scrapes them lightly. He shudders against her. "Kara--"
"Shh." She dots kisses along his cheeks and jaw, stopping to nip at his earlobe.
His arms tighten around her and his legs come up to press against her sides. "Kara, the floor is cold." He sounds almost normal. Almost as if he hasn't spilled far too many secrets that she didn't want to know.
Kara suddenly realizes that she can taste salt when she kisses him. "Poor baby." But her mockery falls flat as she pulls back enough to see what's suspiciously like tears on his cheeks. She freezes. She doesn't know how to deal with Sam like this, not broken and in pieces around her. She knows sex and anger, happiness and something that might be contentment. But she doesn't know this. "I could--"
"No." His hand cups her jaw and his eyes open again. "I was one of the lucky ones. That third year, one of my teachers happened to be traveling in the area and ran into me at the local fair. He noticed something was up. And it changed. My parents never sent me back."
"How did you learn to deal with it?" How did you learn to be normal? The question makes her want to cry, too, because until he'd said something, she never would have guessed. She would have spent her life never knowing that there were dark places inside Sam, and some part of her thinks that might have been better.
"I did a lot of talking. And I found out I liked playing pyramid." He doesn't smile as he looks at her, "I learned not to repress it until it destroyed me."
Kara wants to tell him it's not that easy. That life is hard and you don't get a free pass to living without pain. She thinks he might not have been talking about her, but then again, that's as likely as Apollo grounding her for not being able to fly rings around him. "Don't."
"Yeah." He closes his eyes again. "I should get off the floor."
And just like that, he is giving her the chance to go back to before--back to normal, back to there being nothing but surface gloss and no looking beneath the surface. There are edges that could cut them both, floating there. Kara sees that now in ways she didn't before. They can't go beneath that surface without splintering it into shards that will cause them to bleed. Or maybe it's only her that bleeds, these days.
But it's what she wants.
No complications, no trying to understand each other completely. She likes it this way, likes not caring... Which hurts in ways she never expected.
They can't disappoint each other if they don't expect anything.
"I gotta go," she says, pulling away. She pastes the smirk on her lips, that trademark of Starbuck's that everyone knows, and hates herself just a little for it.
Sam's eyes turn blank, "Yeah. Think I'll stay here."
"Connors needs someone to pay the tab," she makes the excuse, knowing he won't believe it. Knowing that she doesn't believe it. Her last sight of Sam before she turns is of his eyes closing as his head tips back again.
She should stay.
They could have sex, which would fix it. Sex fixes everything for them, except when it doesn't. Kara pushes the thought away and leaves, letting the door close behind her.
She returns to the bar, the group still laughing and joking. It takes her less than a minute to fall back into Starbuck, to pick up the thread of the conversation (losing your virginity, bad sex, and why men need to shut up about staying power). Connors slides a shot to her when she waves.
And it feels normal again.
With 'Track and Hot Dog, Starbuck makes her way back to quarters. The three of them keep falling over, or running into things. At least, Kara thinks that's what they're doing. It's all a bit hazy, with the alcohol and all.
The lights are out, and someone curses at them for knocking into the table. Kara falls onto the rack she thinks is hers, giggling almost hysterically.
She lands half on someone, who oofs quietly before grabbing her and dragging her down.
Half a second to register Sam's mouth and then he's kissing her, rolling her over and under him, insistent. Kara has a dazed moment of the sense that his hands are everywhere, and then she grabs his collar, tugging at his shirt.
It takes him very little time to arouse her, and she thinks she should hate that. Except that he's hot and good with his hands and when he gets her pants off, she shoves him to the side and climbs on top and then his hands are on her waist and her mouth is biting at his and the alcohol is gone, but she thinks she's still drunk.
Her skin heats, and his is warm with sleep and her touch and when she climaxes, she takes him with her--she thinks she knows his body too well not to make him come with her.
"Kara," he murmurs against her mouth, arms pulling her flat against him.
She was right, she thinks fuzzily, sex fixed everything. As long as they have sex, they're fine. Completely and utterly fine.
He tastes like salt when she kisses him one last time, and she takes a sense of disquiet into her dreams with her when she falls asleep.
The morning dawns with a hangover and the taste of something dead in her mouth. Kara's halfway to the head to lose her breakfast when she realizes she didn't have to climb over Sam. Once she's brushed her teeth, she comes back and confirms that he's gone.
She doesn't remember him leaving, and she wonders if that's a bad sign.
Not that it matters. She'll see him again.
He can't give her up any more than she can let him go and move on with her life.