A/N: So, I swore I would never write pre-series, but then this popped into my head. I have a vaguely odd fascination with abusive relationships and the idea that Lee and Kara more than likely never talk about her abusive childhood.

I hope you like it. This is pre-Zak, in case you're confused.

Thanks to Kaynara for the beta – who is working on a kick ass Lee/Kara that everyone will adore … don't worry, I'll keep bugging her until she finishes!

---- ----

Lee was bored. Honest to goodness, someone-had-better-shoot-him-dead bored. With a sigh, he dropped his pencil on his blank notebook and rocked back in his chair, balancing it on two legs.

He really thought he'd be okay staying at the Academy over the break. It was just a glorified long weekend and when his mother had mentioned she'd be taking a trip with her newest boyfriend and that Zak would be heading to a friend's, he'd readily agreed to stay at the dorm.

Lee thought maybe he'd get some studying in, a little extra sleep, a few really good workouts – but now, here it was, barely three hours into the first day and he was bored out of his mind. Well, of course he was; Kara was gone.

He'd thought for sure she'd stick around, Kara never went home. Even for holidays, she stayed either at the dorm or came with Lee back to his house where his mother plied her with food and fussed over her like she was a baby chick fallen from the nest. Kara never seemed to mind, which Lee found it kind of hilarious; if he treated Kara that way she would no doubt beat the shit out of him. But Kara indulged his mother. He'd teased her about it once and she had managed to land a very solid punch to his upper arm. Right before making a comment about how lucky he was.

Lee had never mentioned it again.

So, excited at the prospect of the two of them having free run of a "ghost" campus for three days, Lee had eagerly told her his plan to stay behind. And then Kara had broken the bad news – she was going home this time. Lee couldn't remember the exact reason, only his disappointment; something about her mother needing her. Frak, what did it matter? The point was, he was alone.

And bored.

Glancing about the almost empty library, Lee saw only a few other students and no one else was sitting alone. Sighing, he gave up the charade of pretending to study, shoving his books back into his bag. He could still go home; it was only a five hour transport ride. But, he'd have the same problem, he'd still be alone and despite the plethora of distractions at his house, more than likely still bored.

Shouldering his bag, Lee headed for his room, wondering how he might be able to salvage the weekend.

---- ----

It was almost dark by the time Lee found himself on Kara's doorstep. Oh, he'd come up with a way to turn this weekend around. She was either going to be really surprised or really mad. As Lee depressed the door chime, he grimaced. There was actually a really good chance she'd be both – and not necessarily in that order.

He waited for an interminably long minute before the door swung open and he was greeted with Kara's weary countenance. Instantly, he knew something was wrong. Her hazel eyes held none of their usual spark and she appeared to have shrunken in size by a good inch.

Sluggishly, she brought her gaze to his face and focused on him. "Lee?" Her voice was tired too and Lee unconsciously took a step forward; he had the distinct impression she might fall over at any minute and he didn't want to see her hit the pavement. Blinking rapidly as she realized her eyes were not playing tricks on her, Kara straightened and then pushed him back outside, closing the door behind her.

"What the hell are you doing here?" Yup, she was angry.

Lee hated being right. Offering her his most charming grin, he answered, "I got bored. Surprise."

He was fairly certain she was fighting a smile. Glancing down to her feet, the next time she lifted her face to meet his gaze, he saw a distinct light in her eyes. "Bored? You took a transport all the way out here because you're bored?"

"Even a dipstick needs a break sometimes, Kara," he reminded her, using her favorite nickname for him.

She actually did smile. "That's always been my theory." She allowed herself one more unguarded moment before the reality of her situation again intruded.

"You can't be here, Lee. I'm sorry."

Crestfallen, he hung his head and sighed. "Oh."

"It's not – I mean, I wish that –" Kara was floundering and Lee was unaccustomed to it. She was never at a loss for what to say; never around him at any rate.

"Where'd you get to, you-?"

The angry voice that filtered through the cracked door startled them both and Lee's brow furrowed as he heard what he thought was a fairly unflattering name. The woman wasn't speaking about Kara, was she?

"Kara!"

Glancing back furtively towards the door, Kara took a step towards it. "I gotta go. I'm sorry."

"Kara." Lee reached for her wrist, managing to snag it before she was out of reach.

"Ahh." Kara's moan and her subsequent stiffening under his hold made Lee drop his grip instantly. He watched with wide eyes as she cradled the arm to her chest, her long-sleeved shirt hiding any damage from his eyes.

But her face told a different story and Lee saw a pained expression she never wore.

Brow furrowing, he took another step closer, stopping abruptly when Kara backed away from him, reaching for and squeezing the door knob behind her tightly. "Kara, what's going on?"

"Nothing, Lee. This is just a really bad time."

He wasn't going to let this go. Something was wrong. "I'm not leaving here until you tell me what the frak is going on."

"Lee." She was pleading, her hazel eyes begging with him to leave. Gods he didn't want to. It was obvious his best friend was in trouble. What kind he couldn't be sure, but that had long ago stopped mattering. Whether she needed him to bail her ass out of hack or he needed her to fly sims with him to all hours, Lee Adama and Kara Thrace were best friends; it wasn't a secret to anyone. And that friendship was unconditional. "You have to go."

"Not until you tell me what's wrong." He would not move on this point.

Exasperated, an expression he was used to seeing, Kara sighed heavily and gave him a small shove. "Fine. I'll meet you at Rick's downtown at 2100. Happy?"

"2100 or I'm coming back here." Lee gave her his serious face. She knew it meant business.

She rolled her eyes. "Yes, yes, all right you big dipstick. I'll see you in a few hours."

Lee watched her disappear inside and then turned to leave. He was still hesitant, something did not sit right with this entire situation. But he trusted Kara, despite her somewhat shaky conduct. She didn't lie to him; that was a non-negotiable part of their friendship. If she said 2100, she meant 2100.

Slowly, Lee made his way back to the metro stop and waited for the bus to take him back to town.

---- ----

2130.

He was going to severely injure Kara Thrace. Or maybe make her do his advanced physics homework all next semester. Yeah, that would be good.

Lee nursed another Caprican ale, wishing that the normally refreshing liquid would help to abate his anger. And his nerves. Kara had promised him she'd be here by 2100 and she wasn't. As much as he wanted to blow off her absence as just carelessness, something about seeing her earlier in the day had unsettled him.

And now he was anxious.

Ordering another round, Lee settled back onto his bar stool and waited.

As 2200 rolled around, Lee decided he'd had enough. Throwing a few cubits onto the counter, he gave a friendly wave to the barman before rising. He stopped for a moment to grip the edge of the counter as the room spun. He wasn't drunk, not really, just tipsy. It helped to stymie his annoyance at Kara. He knew he shouldn't be mad, he had surprised her after all, but still – how could she just stand him up like that?

Heading out of the overly crowded bar, Lee made his way to the nearest corner trying to get his bearings. His hotel was small and not the nicest place he'd ever stayed, but it worked for him. In all honesty, it was nice to be out of the dorm and have a space that was all his. Plus, the double bed was a welcome change from his single, bottom bunk.

Glancing to the street signs, Lee sighed. He'd gone the wrong way. Turning, he walked back towards Rick's passing the bar and dodging a few patrons who were a bit more unsteady then himself. Avoiding a particularly amorous pair as they stumbled into the street, Lee brushed up against the corner of the establishment, stepping back into the mouth of an alley to avoid being consumed by their embrace.

Waiting for them to pass, Lee took a step back onto the sidewalk and then stopped.

Cocking his head to the right, he heard a noise that sounded faintly animalistic. It was high-pitched and pained and Lee's heart tightened uncomfortably at the sound. Turning back, he squinted into the shadows trying to make out what creature could possibly be making such a noise. Perhaps it was a stray, hit by a speeding car and licking its wounds. Or maybe a discarded family pet, tortured by the neighborhood kids for no good reason.

Pausing, he listened again and this time the moan he heard was decidedly human. Stiffening, Lee wondered at the genius of exploring it further alone, but based on the noise, the person would be hard-pressed to put up a fight. "Hello?" he called hesitantly, wishing he had some kind of light to cast.

There were a few more groans and grunts and then the most haunting sound Lee had ever heard. "Lee?"

"Oh my Gods." Lee's feet took him towards the voice, his heart thundering in his chest as he searched for Kara. "Kara? Where are you?"

He searched the edges of the alley, scanning the piles of debris and garbage. "Here," she whispered and he caught sight of her hand, flailing weakly on the other side of a dumpster.

Rushing towards her, Lee dropped to his knees at her side. He reached for her instinctively and then stopped, noting the way she shivered, curled into the smallest ball imaginable. In the neon lights of the alley he couldn't make out much, but he could see that Kara's arms were wrapped tightly about her waist and her face was covered by a blood-soaked section of hair.

"Kara, what happened?" Lee felt a deep need to hurt someone, whoever had injured his friend so badly was going to pay.

She struggled to speak and Lee could tell by the way her eyes fluttered that she was fighting unconsciousness. "Doesn't matter. Needed help."

"I can't believe you made it all the way here like this." He didn't know where to touch her. Lee could only imagine how badly her body hurt. "We need to get you to a hospital," he commented, glancing to the mouth of the alley and wondering who he could call for help.

"No." Kara's hand came around his wrist holding it in a vice-like grip. "No hospital, no cops, Lee. Please."

The desperation in her eyes was barely readable, but Lee could not mistake the tone of her voice. Fighting down his automatic denial of her request, he nodded. "All right." Pushing her hair off of her face, he held her gaze and asked quietly, "Can you move?"

Frowning, Kara tried to adjust her position as an answer and ended up crying out in pain. Biting her lower lip, she shook her head.

"All right." Lee reached for her arm placing it around his neck as gently as possible. Kara winced once at the movement, but quickly dismissed the pain as Lee moved her other arm around his shoulder as well. Reaching around her waist, his mouth hovered by her ear. "I'm going to lift you on the count of three. This is probably going to hurt."

She nodded, but didn't speak and Lee counted softly. On three, he pulled them both into a standing position. Kara cried out, her body shaking with the movement and the added pain, but she managed to stay upright as Lee readjusted his grip and placed an arm under her legs. Lifting her into his arms, her head lolled against his shoulder, her breath escaping in a heavy sigh as he felt her relax.

"Just hang on, Kara." Almost as an afterthought, he brushed his lips to her forehead as he headed for the end of the alley and made his way back to his hotel. "You're going to be okay."

Her only response was to tighten her hold on his neck and burrow her face further into his shoulder.

---- ----

Lee had hated to leave her, but there were things he needed to treat her wounds. Kara probably hadn't even noticed he was gone. She had fallen asleep or passed out – he wasn't sure which – on his way back to the hotel. It was probably for the best. Kara would not have been able to stomach the odd looks and pitying glances they had both received from strangers on the street.

Gripping the bag of first aid supplies, Lee pushed open the door, shutting and locking it behind him. Turning, he went to hit the light switch, noticing that the bathroom door was closed. Pressing his ear against it, he heard the sound of running water and assumed Kara was taking a shower. How she'd managed to get herself out of bed, he had no idea, but this was not the time for inconsequential matters.

Rapping lightly, he called, "Kara?"

The water shut off abruptly. "Lee?"

"It's me. I've got some stuff to clean up those cuts." Reaching for the door knob, he froze, realizing she'd be naked if he opened that door. "Can I come in?"

It was quiet for several moments, the only sound a few grunts as Kara tried to move and her body fought her. Finally, the door swung open and Lee was confronted with her towel-encased form. She had managed to clean off most of the dirt and blood, leaving behind patches of red, black, blue and purple skin across her face, arms and legs. Lee felt his anger spike and did his best to fight back the urge to demand answers and avenge his friend.

Tired, hazel eyes regarded him and Lee cringed as Kara lifted her face, revealing more bruises and a still oozing cut at her hairline. Holding out a hand, she told him, "Give me the stuff. I can handle it."

Frowning, Lee stepped back from her and shook his head. Pointing to one of the double beds, he ordered, "Out."

Kara's jaw set into a firm line and Lee's heart soared at the familiar look of annoyance. It was only a glimpse of his best friend, but it meant she was still in there, underneath all the pain and horror of the last few hours. Holding his non-flinching gaze, she sighed. "Fine."

Slowly and stiffly, Kara moved towards the bed, her hand firmly wrapped in the top of the towel, keeping it together. Lee followed a step behind her, ready to catch her should she topple forward, but with a searching hand along the edge of the bed, she sat down slowly, grimacing as the new position caused new discomfort.

Lee began to attend to her wounds in silence. He cleaned and bandaged the cut on her forehead, taking care to keep as much of her hair from under the tape as possible. He addressed the other cuts he could see, a few along her knuckles and one on her cheek. Turning to her legs, he noted that most of the marks were bruises and while he wanted to ease the obvious ache, he knew that only time would heal them.

Kara was silent the entire time. She barely made a move even when he knew the antiseptic had to sting. As he finished examining a long, dark bruise on her calf, Lee noted her shiver and saw that goose bumps had risen along her arms. "Cold?" he asked, giving her a small smile which Kara did not return.

She shrugged. Lee rose, rifling through his bag and finding an extra pair of sweats and tanks he'd packed for a workout in the morning. Handing them to her, he said, "They'll probably be a little big on you."

Kara refused to look at him. "Don't," she told him. Her voice was rough, full of tension and hurt and Lee felt a deep desire to hold her. He didn't.

"Kara, you can't put your clothes back on, they're filthy." Lee knelt in front of her again, trying to catch a glimpse of those eyes. Placing his hand on her knee, she flinched away from him, crying out in pain as the movement aggravated some injury Lee had yet to catalogue.

Kara bit back another groan as her ribs pounded more acutely. Falling back onto the bed, she curled into a tight ball, her arms wrapping around her mid-section as more tears came. "Kara." Lee stood, trying to avert his eyes from her breasts which were now half-uncovered. "What is it? What hurts?"

Panting, she ground out, "My … ribs."

Concerned, Lee hurried to grab another towel. Draping it under the one she was currently wearing in order to leave her some modesty, he parted the other one over her mid-section and sucked in a huge gasp. Her abdomen was mottled with bruises, some of them purple, most of them almost black. Sinking onto his heels at her bedside, he reached out a hand, ghosting his fingers over the wounds afraid to touch them.

"Kara." He rested his other hand to her hair, waiting until her eyes had fluttered open before addressing her. "We have to take you to a doctor. Some of these could be broken. There could be internal bleeding."

Shaking her head, Kara took a few deep breaths, trying to fight through the pain. "No, no bleeding," she murmured, weakly pulling the towel shut. Eyes closing again, she added, "She knows better than that."

Unwilling to further examine the meaning behind her words, Lee nervously chewed on the inside of his mouth. Every instinct he possessed told him to take her to a hospital, have her checked out by a doc. But he could not disobey her wishes. Besides the fact that there would be hell to pay, Lee knew that Kara would view her current state as weak and in her mind, the less people who knew about her vulnerability, the better.

"I have to tape them." Her eyes opened again, no longer rimmed with so much pain. "Can you lie on your back?"

She nodded and tried to turn over by herself, but was unable to do so without crying out. "Easy," Lee whispered, placing a steadying hand to her shoulder. Meeting his gaze, she stared for a moment and Lee saw the silent plea in her eyes. "Hang on," he told her.

Reaching for the clothes he'd procured, Lee sat beside her once more. Getting the sweats on and over her knees, he pulled them up to mid-thigh doing his best to forget that he was currently touching a naked Kara Thrace and that she was currently letting him. He knew that in any other situation Kara would have cold-cocked him by now, but her malleability also communicated just how injured she was. Lee decided he'd rather see her spitting fire and throwing punches than docile.

Meeting her eyes, he felt his cheeks burn red as he saw the intensity of her stare. Slowly, her hands reached forward and covered his where they rested at the waistband of the pants. Tugging gently, she let him know it was okay and in less than a second he had pulled them up to her waist and removed the second towel.

The tanks were easier. Getting Kara into a sitting position so he could put them on proved more difficult. However, after only causing her minimal pain – at least he hoped it was minimal – Lee managed to get Kara onto her back, the tanks rolled up and resting just beneath her breasts, exposing her painfully injured abdomen completely.

He worked in silence once more, not surprised to glance up halfway through and find Kara had again fallen asleep. Her lack of scrutiny gave him time to muse unobserved and Lee found his mind drifting to possible suspects. He had first assumed Kara had had a run-in with a disgruntled ex or maybe an overzealous barfly, but he knew that wasn't the case.

Kara could drop a man twice her size and walk away without a scratch. It was a fact Lee had witnessed on more than one occasion. It also set him slightly on edge, since he was by no means twice Kara's size and she had felt the need to punch him in the past. He considered it luck and maybe a little bit of friendship that kept her from dropping him on his ass.

But the more concrete proof was Kara's comment earlier. She knows better than that. She. What woman would the almighty Starbuck ever allow to beat her so handily?

The answer was no one. Lee had never known Kara to sit back and take crap from anyone. Why should would now was something he had no desire to further examine.

---- ----

Lee was studying when he noticed Kara stir. Glancing quick to the clock, he groaned inwardly at the time. He hadn't pulled an all-nighter for some time, but at 0400, he knew he had little to no hope of sleeping tonight.

"Frak."

Rising from his position in the easy chair across the room, Lee moved to Kara's side, staring down at her as she stared at the ceiling. "Morning, sleepyhead."

Rolling her eyes, Kara tried to roll over and couldn't. "Call me sunshine and I'll kick your ass."

His expression turning serious, Lee sat beside her, his thigh brushing lightly against her forearm. "How're you feeling?"

"Like a Raptor landed on me." As she raised her hand to brush her hair back from her face, Lee watched it tremble violently. Kara must have noticed it as well, because she immediately put it back on the bed and averted his gaze. "What time is it?"

"Really, really early." He waited a beat, wondering if she might make this easy on him. As she made no move to explain how exactly she'd come to be such a broken and bloody mess, he decided to push it.

He didn't get very far.

"Lee, I can't explain it. If you're looking for answers, I can't give them to you." Her hazel eyes bored into his blue ones and he knew she meant it.

But Lee Adama had been stubborn long before he met Kara Thrace. "Can't or won't?"

Sighing, she closed her eyes. "Does it matter?"

"Yes, it matters." Placing his hand over hers, Lee watched her face as her features smoothed, the grimace from a flash of pain easing out of her pale skin until her expression was once again at peace. "Kara, you could have died in that alley. I want to know what the hell happened."

"It's nice to want." Her bravado was going to be the death of him. Kara had been pulling this shit since they'd first met. Pretending to misunderstand him was her favorite pastime and Lee grew tired of it. Especially when he knew that Kara understood him better than anyone.

Closing his eyes, Lee took a deep breath, trying to regain his patience. "You know, the whole trust thing does actually extend beyond the cockpit."

It was quiet for several moments and Lee was uncertain if he'd finally annoyed her to the point of silence. "Not for me," she whispered. Once again holding his look, she told him, "At least, not usually."

Lee squeezed the hand he held, refusing to let go even when Kara tried to pull away. "Well, it does. You can tell me anything." He knew he was pushing it now. This level of intimacy was one Kara shied away from at all costs. But if the only way to get the truth was to prey a bit on her current vulnerability, then he would do it.

She sighed again before squeezing his hand in return. "I know." Her voice sounded weaker than it had only moments before. She shivered again and Lee was uncertain if it was from the cold or what she was planning to tell him. Covering all his bases, Lee reached for an extra blanket at the end of the bed and tucked it around her, settling back at her side.

Meeting his gaze, Kara smiled weakly pulling the edge of the covers to her chin. She took a few shaky breaths and Lee resisted the urge to smooth his hand through her hair. There was something in her eyes that told him she didn't want physical contact right now. So, with his hands in his lap, Lee waited for Kara to explain.

"My mom …" Her voice caught and she blinked a few times, swallowing hard before being able to start again. "My mom has a mean right hook."

Lee was speechless. He knew Kara's home life was far from idyllic, but abuse was so far beyond what he had ever imagined. His eyes roved over her face and upper arms, all that was visible above the bedding. The angry bruises and deep scratches taunted him, serving as a harsh reminder that there were some things in all the worlds that Kara could not defeat.

His touch tentative, Lee ghosted a finger over her cheek, outlining a particularly vivid blemish. "Kara, your mother …" He could barely say the words, it was too unbelievable. "Your mother couldn't have done this."

Frowning, Kara struggled to sit up. He could see the spark of annoyance in her gaze and immediately chastised himself for his words. He hadn't meant to doubt her.

Wincing in pain as her bruised torso protested the new position, Kara bit out, "Yes, she could, Lee. In fact, considering that nothing's broken, I lucked out this time around." Hazel eyes dulling to a muddy brown, she added, "And I have the medical records to prove it."

"Why?" It was the only question he could think of.

Snorting softly, Kara shook her head, her eyes focusing on the opposite wall. "Because the Gods said suffering is good for the soul." She sighed. "My soul should be frakking perfect by now."

That wasn't what he'd meant. There was no justification for this kind of physical abuse and Lee could give two shits what reasoning Socrata Thrace had used on her daughter. No, Lee wanted to know why Kara – Kara, of all people – would take it.

"Kara, I've seen you start your fair share of fights, but I've seen you finish more. And I've rarely seen you lose." Lee's voice was firm, but not harsh and Kara lifted her dull eyes to him slowly as he continued. "Why did you let her do this?"

"Because she's my mother, Lee." Her voice was plaintive, sad and Lee hated the sound. A lone tear snaked its way down her left cheek, making a shiny path over the bruises there. Kara let the drop fall and ignored the others that followed. "Because I'm a screw-up. Because I deserve it."

"No." Lee had had enough. As gently as he could, he clasped his hands over Kara's, forcing her eyes to his face. She wiped hurriedly at her cheeks with her free hand, actively avoiding his gaze. "Don't say that, Kara. Not ever. You do not deserve this. No one does."

She didn't want to cry, but the sob escaped her lips before she'd even known it was on the rise. Dropping her chin to her chest, she inhaled a heavy breath, her entire body shaking with the movement and causing a new ache to bloom under her ribs. "Yes, I do, Lee. I'm terrible. I never listen, I swear all the time, I smoke and drink and sleep with the wrong guys-"

"Kara, stop." Lee placed his hand under her chin, tipping her face up. Offering her a small smile, he shook his head. "You don't deserve this. Your mother is wrong. Don't listen to her."

Kara couldn't tear her eyes from his, no matter how uncomfortable she was. Silence grew between them. Exhausted, Kara finally sank back into the mattress, grimacing as more pain enveloped her abdomen. Lee left for a moment, returning to her side with a glass of water and a few painkillers. "I think it's time for some more of these," he told her with a smile and Kara returned the grin grateful for any respite from the pain, no matter how temporary.

She felt sleepy again and knew that she'd be drifting off soon. Lee stayed at her side, his hand over hers, his gaze never wavering in spite of her less than reticent personality.

"I hear her voice all the time." Lee focused intently on her as she quietly confessed, eyes fixated on the ceiling. "I can hear her calling me worthless, telling me what a frak-up I am. Reminding me that I'm no better than a slut."

Unable to hear anymore, Lee gently cupped her face, doing his best not to aggravate her wounds. Once her eyes were locked on his, he spoke slowly and deliberately, making sure every word sunk in. "Kara Thrace, you had better listen to me. You are my best friend. You are not worthless nor a frak-up nor a slut. You are a good person, an outstanding Viper pilot and one of the best Triad players I have ever met." Her eyes grew moist again, but Lee continued. "You can also field strip a rifle in under three minutes, kick my ass in Pyramid and run a four-minute mile." As she smirked at his remark, Lee added, "Definitely not a frak-up."

"Well, when you put it like that." Her voice was still thick with unshed tears and her eyelids were again growing heavy as her fatigue settled into her bones. "I never wanted you to see this," she finally whispered, eyes fluttering closed for a moment before she could force them open again. When she did, she was only confronted with Lee's adorably puzzled expression. "I didn't want you to know."

"Why?" Lee asked, but he suspected he already knew the answer. "This doesn't make you weak, Kara. It makes you human. We all have demons from our pasts."

"Even a vaunted Adama has Cylons in his closet?" She knew he did. Kara knew, better than just about anyone how much of Lee's home life wasn't a picnic. Of course, if they were having a contest she'd still win – hands down.

Offering her a glare that warned her to back off, Lee sighed. "Cylons, skeletons. Take your pick."

Kara sighed. She was tired again. Slowly opening her eyes once more, she offered him a small smile. "Thank you."

The smile he offered in return was bright enough to warm her through despite the chill that had settled on her skin. "You don't have to thank me. I suspect I'll be saving your ass from a variety of situations for pretty much the rest of your life."

"Try reversing that, Adama," she teased back. Just before her eyes shut again, she asked, "Don't go, okay?"

Glancing over his shoulder, Lee looked to the room's other bed and sighed. "I'm just going to get some sleep. I need some shut eye."

Cocking an eyebrow in his direction, Kara asked, "What's the matter, Lee? Afraid I'll give you my girl cooties?" As he turned an incredulous look on her, Kara's eyes darted to the empty side of the bed beside her. "There's plenty of room."

"I don't know if-"

"Please." Kara didn't beg, never had, never would, but the tone of her voice now gave Lee the distinct impression that this was the closest she'd ever come. Risking a look to her face, the vulnerability he saw etched into her eyes almost took his breath away.

Trapping her lower lip between her teeth, she bit down tasting the metallic tang of blood as she reopened a cut. "Easy there," Lee whispered, reaching out and running his thumb along the wound. "Are you sure?"

Nodding, Kara swallowed hard before she could trust herself to speak. "I just want to know I'm not alone."

Lee was fairly certain his heart broke at the statement. Wordlessly, he got ready for bed, stripping off his shirt and pants so he was in his boxers and tanks. As he slid into the covers beside Kara, he rolled onto his side, propping his head onto his bent elbow so he could see her eyes in the glint of sunlight that was peeking through the curtains.

Kara rolled her head towards him, unable to roll over on her side as he had done. With a small smile, she sighed and then allowed her eyes to close. "You're a good man, Lee Adama."

He sighed. He wasn't so sure about that. Lying beside her, even bloody and beaten, she was one of the most beautiful women he'd ever seen. Touching her before, even under the guise of first aid had stirred a desire in Lee he'd been trying to ignore almost since the day they met. But Kara, her laugh, her body, her strength, was a magnet for him. "Not that good of a man," he muttered under his breath, glad she already appeared to be dozing.

He waited until she was asleep. Waited and watched as her chest rose and fell rhythmically as she took every breath. Saw her long eyelashes flutter shut against her bruised cheeks, her eyes moving beneath the lids as she entered REM sleep.

As he felt the pull of sleep, Lee laid his head on his pillow, pressing a kiss to Kara's temple. "You're not alone, Kara."

He swore he saw the faintest smile grace her lips before his eyes finally closed.

---- ----