Hey, all! I'm new to the BSG fandom, and most definitely in love. This is my first Kara/Lee fic, and comments are much appreciated.
Summary: Lee struggles to deal in the wake of the worlds' ending. Post "33".
Note: Many thanks to TamSibling for the beta.
"Lee, wake up. I wanna go for a run."
He hears her of course. He isn't deaf, and she isn't exactly whispering.
"C'mon, Adama. Get you lazy ass out of bed."
He pretends to be asleep, silently willing her to go away. Unbelievably—okay, not so unbelievable, this is Kara—she yanks the pillow out from under his head and uses it to wing him across the face.
"Lee," she says, and he can tell from her tone she's losing patience with him. She's losing patience. Un-frakking-believable.
He opens his eyes now. He doesn't have a choice. She's watching him from behind an awning of messy blond hair. As long as he's known her, she's kept her hair short. Now it's the end of the world, and all the barbers are dead. Maybe she'll let her hair grow. Squinting his eyes, he tries and fails to picture her with long hair. The exercise is pointless, but it reminds Lee that he'll need a haircut himself soon. He wonders if there's anyone left on Galactica to do it. It's a small worry—petty, really—but it's grabbed hold of him now and he can't shake it.
She's beaming down at him, pleased to have succeeded at last in rousing him.
"Finally," she says, eyes rolling.
"Go away, Kara," he says coldly.
She blinks, genuine emotion crossing her face for about a second. Then she drops to a crouch and leans in close to his ear.
"Pissy in the morning, aren't we?" Her voice is low and a little throaty, as though she's only just woken up herself. "C'mon, Lee. I need to run."
"Permission granted." He stuffs his pillow back under his head and turns his face away from her. "Now get lost."
She gets in bed with him instead, straddling his calves. She hasn't shaved her legs in a few days—razors are becoming a precious commodity like chocolate, bubble gum and cigars, and he can't blame her for rationing. The peach-fuzzy brush of her thighs should be a turn-off, but for some reason he finds it kind of erotic.
"I used to run with Helo," she says, leaning over him. Her fists dig into the mattress on either side of his body. Her knuckles are almost white with the effort. "Helo's dead."
She isn't asking for sympathy. Lee's just a suitable replacement—the next best thing. He doesn't know if he should feel flattered or insulted.
"Not today, Kara." He tries not to sound like he's begging.
"You're awake now anyway," she points out.
"Only because you woke me up." He doesn't bother feeling guilty for the lie. "You do know it's completely inappropriate, not to mention rude, to wake your superior officer for no good reason."
"Just doing my patriotic duty, sir. Can't have the commander of the air guard going soft." She punctuates her words with a sharp slap to his stomach muscles, and he has to battle back a wave of nausea.
"Lieutenant," he warns but he can't make his voice sound appropriately commanding. He isn't going to win this one by pulling rank. And he doesn't have the energy to drag her ass to the brig.
"I didn't sleep a whole lot, Kara. Give me a break, okay?"
She studies his face a moment, unblinking. Then she shrugs and slips off the bed.
"Rough night, sir?" she deadpans. But he thinks there's a glint of humor lurking in her eyes.
"Something like that," he says warily.
She throws one leg into a lunge, stretching her arm over her head in a neat arc.
"Poor, Apollo," she mocks. "Is it hard being so hot? All those able-bodied pilots fighting over you, clamoring for the chance to spread 'em for Galactica's new CAG."
He doesn't feel like discussing his nonexistent sex life with Starbuck, of all people. Still, an argument serves as an almost pleasant distraction from the noise in his head. If this, trading jibes with her, could shut up the noise permanently, he'd consider paying her for the privilege.
"Sorry, Kara, you lost me. Do the women of Galactica want to frak me because of my body or my rank?"
"Women?" she asks innocently.
He must really be off his game. No other explanation for walking into that one.
He feels almost capable of sitting up now, decides to give it a shot. His head spins, but he manages to keep the contents of his stomach in place.
Kara studies him, narrowed eyes seeing too much.
"Jealous?" he asks, eager to distract her.
She gives a snort of incredulity.
"Hey, you brought it up," he reminds her.
"Like I want to interfere with the great Apollo's oats-sowing. I'm just looking for a running partner, Lee. Running. You wanna frak the whole fleet, be my frakking—"
"Starbuck," he begins, struggling to unclench his jaw. "I'm on duty in two hours. I'd like to get some sleep before then, and that would be far easier with you gone. I'll run with you—in a few days," he finishes lamely.
"Days?" She waggles an eyebrow. "Strain something vital last night, sir?"
She cracks her neck with a loud popping sound. He lets out a long-suffering sigh.
"Can you stop calling me that?"
"Maybe we should get Cottle to take a look, sir."
"I'm going to take a shower," he says loudly. "If there are Gods, you won't be here when I get back."
He gets to his feet with effort and angles them in the direction of his locker. A second later he's slumped against Kara, her slender arms all that's keeping him upright. Horrified, he tries to pull away from her, but finds that he can't; his brain is reeling, air rushing into his ears, muting everything. Shapes and forms pale, the bunkroom fading to a big, light blur that stretches across his vision. Vaguely, he wonders if Captain Lee "Apollo" Adama is going to faint. Then, suddenly, the world comes rushing back—the lockers, the racks, a dirty poster someone taped to the wall and Kara's back clad in a clean set of double tanks. His face feels hot, and damp with sweat. He lifts it from the curve of her neck, dragging slow deep breaths through his mouth.
"It's okay," he says. "You can let go."
He imagines her pursing her tongue between her teeth as she concentrates on guiding them both to the floor. She's healthy and strong, her muscles toned from rigorous workouts. Still, he clearly outweighs her.
Several moments pass as they settle on the floor of the bunkroom, their backs flush with the lockers. He shifts to find a more comfortable pose, and the back of his arm brushes hers. Tiny blond hairs glide against his flesh, and he shivers.
"If you're dying, Lee, I swear to the Gods I'll kick your ass."
The comment, coupled with her expression of terror, has his mouth curving upward. Guiltily, he bites the inside of his cheek to hold his smile in check. She's scared, and a small part of him—the part that's less than magnanimous—takes some sick pleasure in the idea that he can inspire fear in her.
"I'm not dying, Kara." He holds her gaze, willing her to believe him.
"Then what the frak is wrong with you?"
Hazel eyes blink at him, at a loss.
"What are you talking about?" she asks finally.
"Before the attacks on the Colonies, I was taking a, um, a kind of medicine," he says quietly. "Treatment for an anxiety disorder." He thought this would be harder, that he'd feel ashamed. He only feels tired—weary to his bones as though he's just run a long way. He trudges ahead, eager to lay everything out and be finished.
"Three days ago, I ran out of pills," he says carefully. "The withdrawal symptoms haven't exactly been a picnic on the Caprican shores. Last night—so far last night has been the worst."
She's quiet—uncharacteristically so—and he figures she's still processing. Bracing himself, he risks a glance at her face. There's a reason Kara always wins at Triad; she doesn't give a damn thing away.
"What kind of symptoms?" she asks just when he can't take the quiet another second.
He swallows, and has to lick his lips before he can speak.
"Insomnia. Nausea. I, um, I was sick—a couple times. And I've been feeling a little lightheaded."
"Yeah, I kind of noticed," she snaps. She sounds more frustrated than angry, though, so he lets it go. He didn't expect her to take this information especially well. He knows she doesn't approve of drugs—not stims nor anything else. The Academy doctors offered Kara medicine in the wake of Zak's death. Little pink pills to ease the pain. Kara laughed in their faces.
"I guess you talked to Cottle already."
"I couldn't do that, Kara." He's surprised that he has to explain this to her. "He'd go to the commander. He wouldn't have a choice. Anyway, they don't carry drugs like the one I was taking on a Battlestar."
"He might have something to help you sleep at least . . ." She trails off. "Gods, Lee. You look like death warmed over."
"Thanks," he says with a hollow laugh. "I appreciate the honesty."
"You're not flying."
He was waiting for that. Still, having orders barked at him by one of his pilots is a blow to the ego.
"I'm off for another couple hours," he says carefully, fighting to keep his temper in check. "If I can get some sleep—"
"Frak that. I'm taking your shift."
"You're not flying, Apollo."
"I'm the CAG. What I say goes."
Talk about delusional.
"You can get back to being a bossy pain in my ass when you're better, Lee," she begins, the rest of her words sailing over his head.
She said "when" he was better. Not if. He feels a sudden, embarrassingly sharp urge to hug her and not let go. He yearns to drag her against him and bury his face in the soft, clean odor of her hair.
"Are you listening, Lee?" she demands. She snaps her fingers in front of his face until he swats her hand away with his.
"I'm listening," he says, swallowing. "And I'm debating whether or not to toss your ass in the brig for insubordination."
"We can discuss the fate of my ass when you're one-hundred percent. Until then, what I say goes. Understand? And I say you're not going up in a Viper today."
Oh, he thinks. Oh. How many times has she wished she could go back and say those words to Zak? Save one Adama brother to make up for her perceived failing of the other. They should talk about that, really talk, but honestly he hasn't the energy right now. Instead, he makes himself smile for her and throws a light punch at her bicep.
"You're not getting rid of me that easy, Starbuck."
She punches him back, harder.
"Frak you, I'm worried about the Viper."
"Ah," he says, rubbing his upper arm. "Well, I won't risk one of those either. You're the boss, Kara. Sir," he adds, hiding a smile.
"Mmm, I like the sound of that."
"I'll bet you do," he says mildly.
She looks, for a second or two, like she might take another swing at him. She laughs instead.
"So, uh, what do we tell the others?" he ventures after a pause.
She thinks for a moment.
"That you're sick. You've got a bad stomach flu and can't get off the toilet."
"I try. C'mon, get up. You're gonna take a shower."
"It's not a hangover, Kara. A shower's not going to help."
"It'll help with the smell." She wrinkles her nose.
"Are you lecturing me about hygiene, Thrace?"
"Just get your ass to the showers, Adama."
He lets her help him to his feet. He thinks that he should be embarrassed at his own helplessness, but honestly, he can't quite muster the sentiment. He has seen Kara at her absolute worst, and vice versa. They're long past the place of shame.
In the shower room, he strips off his tanks and sweatpants, saving his shorts for when he's inside the stall.
"Can you stand?" Kara asks skeptically, arms folded over her chest as she studies his face under the fluorescent lighting.
He raises a brow and attempts a leering grin.
"Are you offering to help me take a shower, Kara?"
"If you need it," she shrugs.
Immediately, he feels ashamed for making light of things.
"Thanks, I'll manage."
Shrugging her shoulders, she jerks her head at the row of benches seated between two walls of lockers. She straddles one bench, planting her knuckles on the surface of the wood. Apparently, she intends to wait for him.
Sighing, he turns and walks purposely into the stall, relieved when he only lurches slightly. He closes and latches the door behind him, and leans against it a moment before he steps out of his shorts and turns on the taps. He still feels queasy, but there's little in his stomach left to lose.
The water's heated up some, and he steps under the showerhead, allowing the pounding spray to ease some of the tension from his temples. He tries to focus on the task at hand, but the monotony of his shower routine facilitates his brain in straying down forbidden paths. He doesn't want to think about these things. He doesn't want to think at all. He wants, for five glorious minutes, to slip outside the confines of his own head and hide out someplace clear and calm and simple.
He finds himself reviewing CAP assignments in his head. Did he make a mistake pairing Flippers and Crane? Flippers is practically a nugget, Crane only slightly more experienced, though Starbuck insists she has natural talent. There are no simulators on Galactica. Cylon raiders serve as the flight instructors. Will Lee realize his error only when Starbuck relays that day's flight report? We lost another one, sir. Five words, always with the 'sir' tacked on the end, as though to remind him of his total culpability. Fear glides through his veins, cold and gray as the sludge that passes for coffee these days; he shivers despite the warmth of the water.
"How's it goin' in there?" Kara calls cheerfully from her position on the bench.
He squeezes a coin-sized portion of shampoo from the dispenser on the wall, smiling in spite of himself.
"You want a progress report?"
"Maybe, if I get bored enough. You know," she muses. "I'm sort of surprised you caved so quickly."
"You would have slugged me. And I'm not really up for a round just now."
"Since when is the great Apollo scared of a few bruises? Anyway, a fat lip wouldn't have kept you out of the cockpit."
"Probably not," he agrees. "So what would the almighty Starbuck have done then, hmm?"
"I hadn't come up with a whole plan yet, Lee."
"C'mon," he taunts. "You're supposed to be good at out-of-the-box."
"There's always breaking the frat regs," she says suddenly, her tone smug with sudden inspiration.
He blinks furiously, trying to clear away the shampoo he's just dripped in one eye.
"H—how exactly would you . . .?"
"Easy. I walk up to you in CIC and start tongue-frakking you in front of Colonel Tigh. If he doesn't drop dead from a heart attack, he has us both thrown in hack."
He doesn't blush—he's known her too long—but his eyebrows definitely arch.
"Can you avoid using the words tongue and Tigh in the same sentence? I'm already nauseous here."
She snorts again and is silent a while. He takes the soap in hand and rubs it over his chest and abdomen.
"Are you whacking off in there?" she calls casually.
"Go ahead, if you think it will help."
"You'd probably keep talking the whole time," he says shaking his head.
"Only if the sound of my voice helps you get off, Lee."
He emerges, a towel wrapped around his waist.
"Thanks, but I'll 'whack off' later."
It's worth it to see the smirk play over her lips. She tosses a bundle of his clothes at his chest and rotates her body on the bench so she's facing away from him. She feigns interest in a bruise on her calf, giving him time to pull up his sweats.
He rounds the bench, still shrugging into his tanks.
"Thank you," he says. "For keeping me company."
She clamps down on her lower lip, probably biting back a smart retort.
"Think you can eat?"
He grimaces, the mere thought of food stimulating his gag reflex.
"Fine," she says. "We'll talk dinner when I get back from your shift. You're drinking some water though."
"Gods, you're a pain," he says without heat, allowing her to lead the way back to the rackroom.
Somewhere, amidst the talk of tongue-frakking, he managed to forget he would be spending the next twelve hours alone. The Gods know Kara isn't easy. She's loud and brash, cantankerous and crude. She commands all of his attention. Without her, he'll have time—long still hours spent lying in his bunk. He dreads his own company these days.
"Get in," she says, mistaking his shiver for cold. She holds back the corner of his sheet. He finds it easier to take her orders than not, which is a good thing as she keeps dealing them out.
"No, sit up. Drink."
She holds a bottle of water to his mouth until he gives her a wry look and takes it from her. Even though the liquid makes his stomach roll, he drains half the bottle before handing it back to her.
"Think you can sleep?" she asks.
"That's the idea," he says with a forced smile.
She knows he's lying. She knows him. But she doesn't argue with him, just jerks her head shortly.
She starts to undress, slipping tanks over her head. He closes his eyes, though he's seen it all before. Sometimes he's glad of that fact, perversely pleased that he saw Kara naked long before Zak ever did. He and Kara spent years together, sharing locker rooms and dorm rooms. He never intentionally looked, but things happen. Once, twice, glancing the wrong way while she was changing and letting his gaze linger a couple seconds longer than was proper. Surely Zak had known this, or at least suspected. Did it bother him? It would have bothered Lee, but then Zak was a better person than Lee. Everyone knew that.
Everyone got along with Zak. Hell, everyone loved his baby brother. You couldn't not love Zak, he was so sweet and funny and genuine. When Dad had left—for good this time; not like the other times when he was just away for months on end—Zak handled things so much better than Lee.
"You'll spend the school year with your mom, and the summers with me," Dad tells them.
Lee is only ten, but he knows that Dad won't be back for the summer.
"Take care of your mother and brother, Lee." Reaching out a hand, Dad ruffles his fingers through hair that still has its childhood curls. "You'll do that, won't you?"
Lee nods gravely, already wondering how he can take care of them when he can't even take care of himself. Then Dad's gone, and the last vestige of his presence is the massive wooden desk that stands gathering dust in a corner of his abandoned office. Sometimes Lee spreads his homework over the desk, taking comfort in writing arithmetic and French on the surface where his father scribbled military reports so many nights.
The phone calls come on Friday evenings. Zak holds the receiver up to his small face, relaying animatedly a week's worth of adventures with enthusiasm only an eight-year-old can muster. Lee claims he has to study and retreats to the sanctuary of his room. He worries a lot—about Mom, who spends hours locked in the bathroom with the taps on full blast; about Dad, who flies sleek little ships called Vipers. He worries about his classes and his grades. The only person he doesn't worry about is Zak.
Sometimes, when his fear builds to an intolerable high, Lee crawls under his father's desk to hide. Pressed into a dark corner, he shivers and waits for the panic to subside.
Zak gets postcards from the glittering Tauron shores and the frozen deserts of Geminon. Lee gets an appointment with a pretty doctor in Caprica City. He's twelve now, and the doctor explains to Lee's mother, who explains it to Lee, that his brain isn't making the right chemicals. It isn't natural for a little boy to worry so much. The doctor writes him a prescription, and he starts taking pills with his breakfast each morning. He stops being scared all the time, and starts going out with his friends again. When Dad calls, Lee is coolly polite. His father never mentions the medicine, and Lee follows his example.
Floating in the past, Lee jumps when he feels a soft fingers curve over his shoulder.
"Lee, I'm going."
He opens his eyes. Kara stands over him, already in uniform.
"I'll stop by CIC," she says. "Tell your dad your head's up your ass. And, you know, that you're sick."
"Thanks," he manages.
She waits a beat, in case he wants to provide some witty comeback. He tries to think of something to make her laugh, but the effort's too great. He struggles to hold a smile.
Kara licks her lips, obviously preparing to say something.
"How long, Lee?"
"How long have you been on the drugs?"
Lee swallows thickly and forces himself to look her in the eye.
"Since . . . since we lost Zak."
"Right." She straightens up, her face, again, a mask. "Get some sleep, Lee."
He thinks she might touch him again, maybe squeeze his shoulder in passing, but she only walks out.
Kara likes the noise of the pilots' rackroom. Okay, the frequent clanging of lockers, the creak of the hatch opening and the din of it closing, the continual chatter of people who think they're whispering, can grate on anyone's nerves. But there's something fundamentally reassuring about hearing the same, steady breath sounds emanating from the bunk above yours each night.
An only child, Kara had her own room growing up. A bedroom with her stuffed animals and her paint set, a low wooden table and chair where she could sit, and a door with a chain that her mother could secure from the outside. Four years old and sent to bed with a stinging slap to the cheek, Kara huddles under her blanket, listening to the tree branches that claw at her bedroom window and breathing short shallow breaths into the dark.
"Someday," her mother repeats over and over like a favorite bedtime story, "the Cylons will come back to Caprica and take away all the nasty little girls to punish them."
"I'm the nastiest," Kara sneers. "Bastards better take me first." By the time she's eight, Kara stops worrying that metal men will snatch her from her bed at night. By ten, she isn't afraid of anything, and takes pains to let everyone know it.
Eighteen and clamoring for independence, Kara arrives at the Academy with two suitcases and an air of dominance. She walks into her dorm room for the first time, glances around at the twin sets of bunk beds, the four, scarred wooden desks and matching chairs, and releases the breath she didn't realize she was holding. She gripes about communal living just as loudly as her classmates, but secretly she takes comfort in having three breathing, whining, laughing humans around to annoy her.
At the start of her second year, she returns from a voluntary summer posting on Picon—she will never again spend the night in her mother's house—to find Lee Adama, the much-lauded son of Commander Adama, sprawled on one of the two, top bunks reading a flight magazine.
"Top one's mine," she says curtly, hardly sparing him a glance as she tosses her duffel up beside him.
He hesitates a beat, as though assessing the situation as well as Kara herself, and then closes his magazine. He draws himself to a sitting pose, allowing his legs to dangle over the edge of the bed.
"I didn't see your name on it," he teases, grinning down at her.
She opens her mouth to respond but Hutch, hopping down from the opposite bunk, beats her to it.
"Hey, Adama," he calls. "Don't you know Kara likes it on top?"
Lee's shoulders tense beneath the thin cotton of his t-shirt. For a second, Kara wonders if he's going to jump down and punch Hutch in the mouth. Shrugging out of her bomber jacket, she drops it on the lower of the two bunks before striding purposely across the room. She slugs Hutch in the arm and then pulls him in for a hug.
"Frakhead," she sneers as he lifts her off the ground.
"Hey, Kara, how's it going?"
They chat about their respective summers, and Kara ignores Lee completely. When she turns around again, she finds him once again flipping through the flight magazine.
"You can have the top," he offers with a shrug. "I don't mind."
"Keep it," she decides. "The bottom'll be easier when I'm too drunk to make it up the ladder."
They live together until they graduate, and when he leaves for War College she's almost upset. It's not like she thought they'd be roommates forever. She's not that naïve. When he kisses her cheek in goodbye, she's so surprised she doesn't even slap him.
"Take care of yourself, Kara," he whispers, his breath tickling her neck.
Four weeks after Lee leaves for War College, Kara meets his baby brother, and two weeks later she and Zak are sleeping together. They rent rooms in squat motels with neon signs and frak on mattresses stained with other people's indiscretions. He tells her she deserves better. He tells her he's going to marry her some day. She tells him he's nuts—a lust-crazed nugget—and makes sure his mouth is too busy to argue with her.
Despite herself, she grows accustomed to falling asleep with his arms locked around her chest, one of his long legs threaded through hers. When he presents her with the ring—smooth silver, warm from his pocket—she calls him an idiot and an asshole and the biggest fool in all the Colonies. Then she's crying, crying, like she might never stop.
Two months after he proposes, Zak dies in a spectacular ball of fire too beautiful to be true. On the day of his funeral, Kara accepts a position aboard his father's battlestar.
She moves her gear into the senior pilots' quarters on Galactica. For the first time since she watched Zak's Viper explode against a sky as clear as water, Kara sleeps through the night without dreams. In the two years that follow, she gets used to Boomer's sleep-mumbling, Crash's asthmatic wheezes, Helo's soft snoring in the bunk above hers.
Helo. Stupid noble frakker.
Now Helo's gone, along with twelve worlds, but like some crazy cosmic joke, Lee's come back to her. Kara doesn't plan to make the same mistake twice.
Rolling her neck to loosen the knots, she peels down her flight suit, sticky from long hours in the cockpit. She glances around the bunkroom with weary eyes. She estimates by the hour and the number of drawn curtains that about half the pilots are in their racks. Given the twelve-hour shifts they've all been pulling, she doubts anyone would care if she were to drag Lee from his bunk and start frakking him in the middle of the floor. On second thought, there might be a pool.
She makes a show of drawing Lee's curtain, asking in a false, too-bright tone "how the lazy-ass CAG" is faring.
One glance tells her that he didn't sleep, not much anyway. She sweeps her gaze over his face, noting the pale, sweat-glazed skin, the dark hollows under his eyes.
"Frak, Lee," she says dully.
He blinks a couple times, a little dazed, but manages to twist his mouth into a smile.
"It's not all bad. I've got you taking my CAPs."
She makes a quick decision and snaps back his blankets.
"Hey—" he protests weakly.
Her gaze drops to his feet, clad in gray, standard-issue Colonial Navy socks. Other than a pair of faded gray shorts hanging low on his hips, the socks are the only articles of clothing on his body. She remembers teasing Zak about his habit of wearing socks to bed. She had harassed and harangued until he caught her face in his hands and kissed the taunts from her lips. Now she sees that the tendency is common to all the Adamas, or at least to the sons. Giddy with exhaustion, she wonders if the commander too tugs on a pair of socks before climbing into his rack at night. The idea has a couple hysterical giggles bubbling in her throat. She notices Lee watching her and swallows hastily.
"Can you walk?" she asks.
"Why?" he says, suspicious.
But she's already hauling back the curtain and slipping out of his bed.
"C'mon, Apollo," she says in a loud voice designed to reach anyone with an ear poised to his or her curtain. "Let's see if you can eat anything without puking. No frakkin' way am I taking your shifts all week."
He tries to glare but she just turns her back. The hatch opens, and a couple bleary-eyed pilots stumble into the room.
"Hey, Starbuck," one calls.
"Feeling better, Apollo?"
Kara grunts a reply, occupied in digging a sweater from the bottom of her locker. Lee makes an effort to stand up, holding casually to the bedpost.
"A little. Thanks."
From the corner of her eye, Kara watches him cross to his own locker. He pulls a sweatshirt over his head and tugs on his track pants. He slides his feet into a pair of old running shoes.
"After you, Captain," she says, shrugging on her sweater.
He drops the act approximately two seconds after the hatch slams behind them. She thinks he's going to chew her out for pulling that stunt to get him out of bed. But he just stares straight ahead and moves one foot in front of the other.
She detours to the mess hall, leaving Lee in the corridor with a murmured instruction to wait for her. Inside, she considers the possibilities. She bypasses the meatloaf and soup; if they're making her want to lose her lunch, she can only imagine the effect they'd have on him. Instead, she crams a few packets of crackers in her pockets and stuffs a couple water bottles under her arms. She emerges to find him waiting just outside the door, engaged in conversation with Crashdown. Or rather, Crash is engaged in the conversation. She can tell Lee isn't listening, just nodding his head for effect.
"Hey, Starbuck," Crashdown greets her with a smile. He eyes the water bottles under her arms and smirks. "Not up to solid food yet, CAG?"
"Lee's watching his girlish figure," Kara snaps back quickly.
Lee manages a faint smile.
"Later," she says. She jerks her head in a none-too-subtle gesture and starts down the hall, pleased when Lee falls into step with her.
They travel Galactica's halls, weaving to avoid the officers and nodding at the enlisteds who scramble out of their path.
"Sir," Lee says, pausing to salute as they pass Colonel Tigh.
"Apollo." Tigh nods at Lee before turning a contemptuous eye on Kara. "Thrace."
Kara salutes him, tucking her chin down to hide a smile. Trust Lee to ass-kiss even when suffering from drug withdrawal. They travel a ways in silence, Kara leading. Lee jogs a little to catch up with her.
"Where are we going?"
Relief has her grinning like a loon. If he were sick enough to dog her every move, she'd really have to worry about him.
"We're going to your father's quarters," she says without bothering to turn around.
She doesn't know if he failed to hear her or if it just took awhile for the words to register. They've gone several paces before he draws to an abrupt halt.
"What was that, Kara?"
She turns to face him now, her expression patient.
"We're going to your father's quarters, sir."
Turning on her heel, she starts walking again. He grabs her wrist, tugging her to a stop.
"Run that one by me again, Lieutenant."
"We need someplace private to talk. And I happen to know the commander's in CIC until oh-six hundred."
"Kara. We're not breaking into my father's personal quarters."
"Of course not," she says, casually extracting her hand from his grip. "Gods, Lee." She smiles tightly. "It's not breaking in if you have the passcode."
"You're insane. There's no word to express how insane you are."
"You do have the code?"
He hesitates a beat, sighs.
"My father gave me the code for emergencies, but—"
"But what?" she demands. She drags a hand through her hair, which has grown far too long for her taste. "You're not going to wuss-out on me, Apollo."
He just shakes his head.
"That argument doesn't work on anybody over the age of twelve, Starbuck."
It works well enough because minutes later she's sprawled on the Old Man's worn leather sofa, while Lee stands stiffly near the entryway. She sips recycled water from a reusable plastic bottle and admires the commander's art collection. She's been in this room before, of course, though never without the commander.
"This is a bad idea, Kara."
She spares him a glance, one brow raising.
"Wouldn't be my first," she shrugs. Off his expression, she rolls her eyes. "Gods, Lee. It's not like we're here on some nefarious mission to compromise Fleet security. We just needed a place to talk, and you're his son for frak's sake. What?"
"You know what 'nefarious' means?"
She throws a packet of crackers at his chest. It bounces off his sweatshirt, and he catches it on the rebound.
He makes a face but tears the plastic wrapping obediently from the package and puts a cracker in his mouth. Eating mechanically until the package is empty, Lee paces the length of the room. He pauses at his father's desk, half buckling beneath stacks of files. One tentative hand reaches out to stroke the surface of the wood.
"Lee," she says. "Lee."
She shakes her head.
"Stop pacing, okay? You're making me dizzy."
He wanders back to the couches and lowers himself tentatively to one of the cushions.
"How was CAP?" he asks.
"Fine," she shrugs. "I blew away every Cylon son-of-a-bitch in the galaxy and found us a new planet to settle. Then your dad made me King of the Universe."
"Sounds like a good run," he comments, lips twitching.
"It wasn't bad." She takes a long sip of water. "How was lying on your ass?"
"I had a dream that you were King of the Universe and we couldn't fit the crown over your big head."
"Hilarious. You sleep at all in the twelve hours I was gone?"
His face takes on that grave, indebted expression that makes her want to run in the other direction. Or take a swing at him.
"I'm grateful, Kara. Really. I know all my pilots are overworked—"
"Did you sleep, Lee?" she interrupts, jaw set in a harsh line.
He blinks a couple times, and lifts and lowers his shoulders.
He feigns interest in his water bottle.
"I'm not sure."
"I want to sleep, Kara. I just—I can't."
He hesitates a beat, brain scrambling to find the right words.
"When I close my eyes, I can't get my mind to relax. I just keep . . . thinking."
"What, are you some kind of genius like Baltar now?" The words escape her lips before she can retract them.
He flashes her a look that's half annoyed, half hurt, and she lets out a groan.
"Frak," she mutters. "Okay, I suck at this. You know I don't do touchy-feely too well."
"I don't expect you to get it, Kara."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Nothing. It's just that you don't overthink things."
"No," she laughs brashly. "No one ever accused me of thinking too much."
She knows she can be impetuous, even reckless on occasion. She's heard the condemnation from more than one set of lips, but dammit, it stings to hear it from Lee's lips. Why is it that his critiques hurt so much worse than anyone else's?
"You can make a decision without agonizing over the consequences. Sometimes I wish you'd think before you acted, Kara, but at least you do act. You don't let fear hold you back."
"I'm not a toaster, Lee," she says quietly. "I have feelings, just like everyone else."
"I know." His eyes are too soft, too close to true understanding.
She doesn't want his frakking pity.
"Were you ever going to tell me?" she says suddenly. "If you hadn't almost collapsed this morning in the bunk room, would I ever have known?"
"I don't know, Kara," he says finally, voice rising in frustration. "Do you tell me everything? Do you share all your hopes and fears?"
"I don't have any. I'm a frakking robot, remember?"
"Frak you, Kara."
"Maybe later," she smiles. "You're not exactly up to my standards now."
"You have standards?"
She only glares at him. The conversation is starting to make her head hurt.
"You could have told me," she says. She curses herself for sounding so weak, so hurt.
"I wasn't sure how you'd respond," he admits. "I thought you wouldn't approve."
"Of you being sick? Now that you mention it, yeah, I'd rather you weren't."
"I thought you'd disapprove of the drugs," he amends, averting his gaze.
"They're prescription meds, Lee. It's not like you were shooting up in a storage closet."
"I'm reminded of the time I almost had to slap my pilot on the mouth so she'd take her stims."
"Yeah," she snorts. "I'm the frakking poster child for sobriety. How many times in flight school did you wash vomit out of my hair? How many times did you haul me back to our room and put me to bed?"
He looks away, reliving some old memory she wishes he didn't have.
"It's not the same, Kara."
"We all have our crutches," she laughs, raising a hand to toast him with her water bottle. Sobering, she twists her body around on the sofa so they're facing each other.
"Talk to me, Lee," she says softly.
He offers her a sad smile.
"Because talking about my problems will make them go away? I never figured you for a fan of psychotherapy, Kara."
"I'm not a frakking doctor, Lee. So talk to me before I slap your mouth."
He doesn't say anything but the corners of the mouth in question twitch, just a little. She decides to take it as a gesture of accord.
"Tell me what's going on in there," she says, motioning at his head. "You know, if you think someone like me can understand the great mystery that is Lee Adama's brain."
"Kara," he warns, but she only grins. And waits.
"It's—I guess you could say it's the stress of the attacks. I haven't been dealing especially well."
"The worlds' ended, Lee. Nobody in their right mind could deal with that."
"I'm the frakking CAG, Kara. If anyone should be cool under pressure . . . ." He's not yelling, but she can hear the exasperation in his words.
"It's not exactly within your control, Lee." She tries to reason with him but reason has never been her strong point. "Anxiety isn't something you can control."
"Oh, so the fact that I'm not in my right mind makes it okay? No, Kara, it doesn't. I can't afford to be—"
"Out of control?"
Kara cringes inwardly at the expression that slides across his face.
"Zak said something . . . " Her throat closes, and she has to start again. "He mentioned that you had some trouble coping when your parents split up. He said you tried to take care of everybody."
"He told you that?"
"Don't look like that," she complains, wincing at the wounded expression that crosses his face. "He wasn't betraying a confidence, Lee. It was just a passing comment."
"I didn't know you two talked about me."
"You were Zak's brother and my . . . we talked about you sometimes. It's not like we sat around cracking jokes at your expense."
"I appreciate the restraint."
"Stop changing the subject."
"You're the one who brought up Zak," he reminds her.
"I did," she snaps. "So you were frakked up over your dad leaving."
The comment hangs in the air for several seconds.
"Something like that," Lee says finally. There's a quiet fury to his tone, and Kara knows she ought to back down, but, really, when has she ever done what's good for her?
"Then what happened?"
She watches as the last of his reservations wears away, leaving something raw and throbbing in their wake. Too tired to fight her anymore, he gives in. He tells her about his father leaving home, about the Old Man asking him to look out for his mother and brother. He tells her about the panic attacks, about crawling under his father's desk and hiding in the dark. He tells her about the psychiatrist his mother made him visit when he was twelve.
"By the time I was sixteen, I felt more in control of things, more in control of my life. I decided I didn't want to be on medication for the rest of it so I talked to the doctor again and cut my dosage. Eventually I stopped taking the medicine all together. I went to the Flight Acad, War College. For the most part, I was okay, and then—" He breaks off. She doesn't want to look at his face, mostly because she knows what she'll see there. She's seen it in the mirror enough times.
"And then we lost Zak," he says quietly. "I went back on the drugs a month later."
"That doesn't make you weak, Lee."
"No," he agrees, a twisted smile curving his lips. "No, it just makes me frakked. I feel like I've lost control again, Kara. When Dad . . . the commander made me CAG . . . it was like I had a thousand new worries. The Cylons finding us, the FTL malfunctioning. Losing more people, more of my pilots."
"I think about those things, too, Lee."
"Yeah, but the difference is, you're not responsible if someone dies. It's not your fault."
Zak. Suddenly his face is everywhere. Lee reddens, bracing himself as though for the forthcoming blow. Deliberately, she unballs her fist, forcing her hand to relax at her side. Lee's bruised enough for one night.
"No, sir," she says wryly. "I just follow orders."
"What are you talking about, Kara?"
"The Olympic Carrier, Lee. I pulled the damn trigger, too." Then she sighs, the exhaustion she feels in every muscle and bone of her body starting to catch up to her.
"Listen, I know I've given you shit before. But you're a good CAG. Your father made the right choice when he gave you the job. And if some poor nugget gets blown to bits out there, it's not because of you, okay? It's because of the frakking Cylons."
A pale trace of a smile crosses his face.
"Whatever I may have implied in the past, you're a damn good pilot, Kara. I'd say the best, but your head's big enough as it is."
"So we're both frakking wonderful. I'm glad we've got that settled."
"What if I go crazy out here? I could become a liability to the Fleet, to my father . . . ."
"You're not crazy, Lee."
"How—how do you know?"
She can hear the edge of desperation in his tone, the one he's trying so hard to cover.
"I frakking know, all right?"
Her tone isn't gentle or patient. But it's okay because that isn't what he needs. He needs to believe her cocky assurances, trust that there's truth behind the mighty Starbuck's bluster and bravado.
Kara Thrace believes in the Gods. She believes they took Zak because of her mistake. They can't be cruel enough to take Lee from her, too.
"You're not crazy," she says. She grabs the sides of his head, forcing him to meet her gaze. "You're just you. Lee frakking Adama. I know you, okay? I know you."
Something in his eyes scares the hell out of her.
"Don't you dare do something stupid, Lee." Her voice is very quiet. "Don't you dare leave me."
"Kara." Reaching up a hand, he cups the side of her face. "I'm not going anywhere."
She gives a jerky nod and releases his face. He drags a hand through his hair, only succeeding in mussing it further. He looks like he hasn't slept in weeks.
"Is there anything I can do?" she asks with levity she doesn't feel. "Want me to sing you a lullaby?"
"Thanks but I've heard you sing." He smiles, and she's so relieved she has to bite her cheek to keep the grin from covering her face. "You could fly back to Caprica and raid a pharmacy.
"You get the Old Man to clear it, and I'll ready the Raptor," she promises.
"You didn't seem so concerned with getting the Old Man's clearance when we broke into his quarters," Lee says with a touch of irony.
"We didn't break anything." She rolls her eyes. "I was serious, you know."
"About flying back to Caprica? Try it and see how hard I kick your ass, Lieutenant."
"I meant," she says, eyes rolling, "if there's anything I can do to help you sleep . . . "
"I can't sleep, Kara," he says wearily.
"Have you tried . . .?" Her voice falters, and she has to take a breath and begin again. Gods, Kara, just say it already. "Sometimes it helps if you aren't sleeping alone."
His eyes widen, and he holds his breath—a Triad tell she's been trying to break him of since they were nuggets. She knows when he's bluffing, and she knows when he's pulled four on a run. She knows his favorite color (green) and his favorite scent (wet paint). She knows he likes petite blond women with blue eyes and soft smiles. She knows he misses swimming, and good coffee and his motorcycle.
She knows him so well; how is it possible that she didn't know how close he was to breaking?
He eyes her wearily, hands twisting in front of him.
"Frak. I didn't mean . . . I wasn't offering to frak you, Lee. I'm not that good a friend." She forces herself to laugh. "I just thought that maybe, if someone was sleeping next to you, it might help . . . forget it. It's stupid." Turning her head, she lifts her water bottle from the table and takes a long swig.
"You—do you mean it, Kara?"
She shrugs because she can't trust her voice just now. He seems to take the gesture for acquiescence.
"How should we do this?" he asks, seriously.
"It's cuddling, Lee. We don't need to get tactical involved."
She bends down to slip off her shoes and socks. She can feel his gaze, hot and unyielding on the back of her head.
"Here?" His voice is higher than usual.
"Unless you'd prefer we do this on the Old Man's bed."
"Gods, Kara," he says, but he chuckles. It's good to hear him laugh.
He steps out of his shoes and tugs his sweatshirt over his head. He drops it on top of his sneakers, and toes the bundle off to the side.
Choking back a nervous giggle, Kara shrugs off her sweater and lets it fall to the floor in a heap.
They arrange themselves on the narrow couch. Lee lies down first, rolling on to his side so his back is flush with the back of the couch. Kara fits herself into the shallow space that remains, the curve of her back resting against his chest.
He shifts a little but doesn't make a move to hold her. Sighing, she realizes she's going to have to instruct him like one of her nuggets back at the Academy.
"Put your arm around me, Lee."
Obediently, he drapes an arm over her waist, his hand coming to rest against her stomach.
"Is this okay?" he asks.
She doesn't know. Somehow she manages to make a grunting sound, which seems to satisfy him. She can feel his breath, a warm breeze against the back of her neck. His hand is warm, too, skimming her stomach where the hem of her tanks has ridden up to reveal bare skin.
Stupid Lee with his stupid warm hands and his stupid cotton socks that tickle when they rub her bare toes.
He slides his free arm under her neck and draws her a little closer, curling himself around her.
"What?" she asks wearily.
"Thank you," he says and squeezes her gently.
She sighs and snuggles a little closer.
"Go to sleep, Apollo."
"Kara. Kara, wake up."
She hears him. She's just not overly inspired to answer. She's warm and cozy, and as she hasn't been either of those things very often since the worlds ended, she doesn't have a burning desire to move. Maybe someone in CIC accidentally bumped up the thermostat, or perhaps she's just having a particularly good dream. Either way, she's not getting up.
"Go 'way," she grumbles into her pillow, which is warm, too.
"Starbuck." He sounds a little more urgent this time.
"Go frak yourself, Apollo," she says without any real passion, and burrows more deeply into her rack.
There's a moment of silence. Good. Maybe he's going to take her not-so-subtle hint and get lost.
"Lieutenant Thrace," he barks in that no-bullshit captain's tone he only ever employs when the situation's serious or else she's seriously pissed him off. She opens her eyes, and the flood of light almost blinds her.
"I'm trying to sleep here—oh, holy Gods of Kobol."
The Adama standing over her is not the one she expected. And the Adama under her is certainly not her rack. She rolls off of Lee's chest and lands on the carpet with a dull thud, which might have been funny under different circumstances but isn't earning her any laughs now.
"Commander Adama, sir," she says, shooting to her feet. She tries to comb out her hair with her left hand, saluting him with her right.
Lee gets up too, unfolding himself from the couch.
"Dad . . . sir," he says, apparently unsure if he's addressing his father or his commander. He's not blushing yet but she can tell he's close, his expression wavering between embarrassment and some demented brand of amusement.
The commander studies his son for several seconds before turning to Kara.
"Lieutenant," he says in an even tone. "You're late for your shift."
Frowning, she glances around the room for a clock. The commander holds up his arm, tilting his wrist so she can see the gold watch nestled in the dark hairs of his arm.
"Frak," she mutters. Lee coughs and she murmurs, "Excuse my language, sir."
"Almost an hour," the commander says, ignoring her slip. "You know, being late for a shift is worth three days in the brig, Starbuck."
Set an alarm. Yeah, that would have been a good idea.
"I know, sir."
"One night in hack," Adama says. "You can report there after your shift ends."
"Dad," Lee protests.
The commander shoots him a cool look that's rife with warning.
"Did you have something to add, Captain?"
"Kara shouldn't be the only one in the brig. We both fell asleep."
Kara groans, one hand sliding up to rub at a knot in her neck.
"Don't be a frakking idiot, Lee."
"That's 'don't be a frakking idiot, sir,'" Adama reminds her calmly before shifting his gaze back to Lee. "I thought you were sick, Captain. I believe Starbuck said you were 'puking your insides out.' "
"I, uh . . . yes, sir."
Kara ducks her head so neither Adama can see her eyes roll. Clearly all the Triad they've been playing since the worlds' ended hasn't improved Lee's ability to lie.
"If you weren't scheduled to work today, you can't be late for your shift. Unless you've committed some other regulations breach . . . ?"
The commander's gaze pans the sofa, still marked with the imprint of two bodies, before drifting casually to the floor. Various articles of clothing are strewn over the carpet like beacons.
"No, sir," Lee manages to choke out.
"Uh huh. That'll be all, Captain." The commander lowers himself into a chair, stooping to unlace his shoes. "I think you have a job to do, Starbuck."
"Yes, sir!" Grateful for the escape, she stoops to collect her shoes.
"Oh, and Lee?"
"Maybe you could check with me next time you want to bring a friend by."
This time he does blush, a soft pink stain that starts at his neck and bleeds upward.
"You're a little old to be sneaking girls over, aren't you, Lee?"
"Yes, sir," Lee agrees. "Goodbye . . . Dad."
He pulls the hatch closed behind them. Kara manages to take five wobbly steps before half-collapsing into Lee's chest, the front of his sweatshirt smothering her laughter.
Kara's doing sit-ups on the floor of her cell. He watches for a while, knowing she'll look up when she's ready and not a second before.
Her head rises and falls in a steady rhythm, her stomach muscles contracting with each curl of her body. He can see the sheen of sweat glistening on her forehead and upper lip, the tops of her shoulders and her bare stomach. For the second time that day, Lee feels himself blush, but it doesn't matter because she still hasn't looked at him.
"It's not fair," he says after a while.
She doesn't answer until she finishes her twenty-count.
"That I'm prettier than you?" Rising, she angles her head to either side, cracking her neck with an audible pop. She studies him through narrowed eyes. "Something you'll have to learn to live with, Lee. Although. You look marginally better today."
He feels better. No miracle from the gods took place last night in his father's quarters, but he feels like, maybe, he can survive this. Perhaps in a day or so he'll even get his appetite back and quit nicking crackers from the mess.
"About that," he begins. "You shouldn't be the only one in that cell."
She winds a hand through her sweat-dampened hair, pushing long bangs out of her eyes.
"I broke regulations, Lee. I was late for work."
"I let you into the Old Man's quarters."
"My idea," she insists, maniacal pride shining in her bright eyes.
"I gave you the passcode," he presses.
"You weren't thinking clearly," she counters. She averts her gaze as if worried for the first time in all the years they've known each other that she may have offended him.
"No," he says thoughtfully. "I wasn't thinking clearly. I mean, if I was taking advice from you—"
"Frak you!" But there's no heat in the words, and Lee just laughs.
"Anyway," he says sobering, "I wanted to say thanks."
"I didn't do anything," she shrugs.
"It was something, Kara."
She's quiet a moment, her gaze not quite meeting his.
"I owe you one," he says softly.
"You owe me more than one, Adama. But not for last night."
"Lee. Just drop it, okay?"
"Okay," he says, hands lifted in defeat.
"Face it, Lee," she says grinning. "I'm the rebel. You're the good one."
"Maybe," he admits, a small smile curving his mouth. "Still isn't fair that you're stuck in hack."
"One night in the brig isn't going to kill me. It's practically a second home."
"Maybe I wanted to cuddle again."
He manages to keep a straight face long enough to watch her eyes widen in shock. Maybe there's hope for his Triad game yet. He has the conceivable forever to practice.
"Frakker," she hisses.
"Seriously, Kara. I feel awful about this."
He gestures at their surroundings—the bars, the cell, the narrow cot and the marine standing guard at the door who's doing his level best to ignore them.
"You could break me out," she suggests grinning.
"Something tells me we'd wind up right back in hack."
"Nice." Chuckling, he lowers himself to the cold floor of the brigroom, pulling something from the pocket of his pants. "And I brought you a present, too."
"Is it a cake with a file baked inside?" she asks, arranging herself on the ground opposite him.
"A cigar?" she asks hopefully.
"Smoking'll kill you, Kara." He angles a worn Triad deck through the bars. "Borrowed these from Boomer's locker."
He quirks an eyebrow. Kara smirks, and he wonders if he's done the unimaginable and managed to impress her.
She passes the deck through the bars again and leans back, balancing her weight on her hands.
"Deal the cards, Adama."
Smiling, he deals the cards.