It feels as if her one saving grace is the uniform. Otherwise she would be completely out of place because the only time she ever went to bars with a doorman, of where they were more bouncers than anything, it was shaking kids like her down for fake ID's. This place though, has a man in some red velvet monkey-suit opening the door and giving her a salute.
There's no cover charge thank the gods. She doubts she could afford it walking inside, seeing that it's nothing but polished Caprican amber-wood, dim lights, gold trim, and plush carpeting. No dropping shots till you throw up in the corner here. No brawling with that girl who thinks she's trying (and most of the time she is, for one night anyway) to steal her boyfriend.
A descent sized crowd of smart-suited, well-to-do executive types both young and old fill out the tables. A few turn to stare in her direction, the uniform once again grabbing attention amongst so many civilians. The reason she came here doesn't seem to around just yet so she walks up to the bar and orders some Aerelon double-malt scotch because she assumes that what everyone else is drinking.
Taking a sip, though it is a little difficult to keep it just a sip, it's smooth and heavy and slides wonderfully down her throat.
Frak, she thinks. These moneybags sure know how to drink.
She asks the bartender when the music is supposed to start, and he tells her any minute now, so she takes her scotch and makes her way to a table closest to the stage and tells herself not to put her feet up.
A man off to her left puffs on a cigar and she starts patting at her pockets and viola, one left. She asks to borrow a light. The stage dims a little and the crowd politely claps as the reason walks out and toward the piano.
Fourteen years, she thinks. And he's still wearing that same trench coat over his suits.
He lifts a hand to the crowd, smiles at them all, and takes his seat placing his hands on the keys. The opening number is one she doesn't recognize, but it's pretty. So she just puffs on her cigar, enjoys her drink and listens.
He wanders over to the bar, and after a second, she follows. Slow, stealthy, like hiding her viper along an asteroid belt. Nodding at the bartender he calls him Charlie, orders ambrosia, and so does she. He notices and gives a friendly smile, lifting his glass to say cheers. She doesn't stop looking at him. This he notices too, and turns to face her. He sips his drink, gets a better look at her, and she can see some kind of recognition in his eyes. The dots aren't quite connecting how ever, but he's still trying. So she takes a big gulp of liquid courage before speaking.
"I'll make it easy for you," she starts, and it sounds ridiculous coming out of her mouth because she never makes anything easy for anybody.
She had a big reveal planned. A name dropping bomb what would clear the confusion on his face and shoot a bullet straight through his heart. She falters though. Looking at him now, seeing that he hasn't changed at all. She thinks that maybe it's the alcohol taming her resolve for once instead of encouraging it. Because any viciousness she feels for this man is suddenly gone.
The only words she can find now:
It's not quite a confrontation.
He doesn't ask how she found him, which is good, because the details are a little too dull for the conversation. Instead he asks the usual questions. How are you? Are you seeing anyone? He chuckles when he says, "I guess I don't have to ask about career."
Small talk with pleasant words, is almost a bitter little pill because as much as she'd missed him at times, as much as she'd prayed to the gods that he come back, she is still painstakingly angry with him for not.
And as much as wants to unsheathe this sword of anger inside her, to smite him down and walk away feeling like she'd gotten something she wanted out of it, she doesn't.
Once the pleasantries die down it is he who takes the sword and brandishes it on himself.
"I'm sorry," he says suddenly. Sincerely.
It twists her stomach in a way the ambrosia would, had she been five or six drinks in. She takes another heavy gulp and lets it go straight to her head. She doesn't ask the obvious, about why he left, anyone who'd ever met mama would get it.
"I didn't want to stay away," he says. "But you're mother, well you understand."
She does but it doesn't mean much. There are just some things you're not supposed to give up on.
"She made it very clear that you were hers," he goes on. "That I was insignificant. She even took my name away from you."
This makes her blink. She doesn't remember ever having his name.
"You did," he insists. "Until we enrolled you in school and she put down Thrace. She never even told me. Maybe I should have known then."
Known that mama's tolitarian possessiveness, discipline, and cruelty all revolved around her own selfishness? Kara wonders. Known that it would only get worse once you were gone? Yeah, maybe.
This isn't what she wanted. None of the old ghosts are being laid to rest. The man in front of her, the one she'd dreamed about for so long and so often, not exactly rising to the occasion. She's disappointed in herself as well. Sitting here, not saying anything she'd wanted, the words choking themselves off in her throat. Feeling like that teary-eyed eight year old watching him walk out the door and never come through it again.
"If you hate me, I understand."
He scares her then. Because she suddenly feels like her mother's daughter, thinking the weak-willed, feeble old man wasn't worthy of her time or attention. That her anger is going to boil over because apologies are meaningless and doesn't change the fact that mama once broke all her fingers. That mama made her lie to doctors, and dentists, and principals. That if mama didn't get what mama wanted, the second she wanted it, little Kara got to pay the price.
Hate is a strong word. An easy word.
And while not untrue, he does have it a little backward.
"I don't hate you for leaving," she says. "I hate you for not taking me with you."
Not quite a confrontation.
She's not the same person in front of him. She's not Starbuck. She's not even the Kara Socrata Thrace made damn sure she grew up to be.
There aren't any tears or begging for forgiveness.
But somehow the truth feels like a fight anyway.
He asks her to stay.
He dedicates his next song to her and the audience just eats it up.
She attempts to smile at him as the notes begin to flow from the piano.
She fingers the music disk he'd given her inside her pocket.
She leaves before the song is over.
The first time they lie to him, he pretends not to see it.
Because it could have been any number of things, a trick of the light reflecting the recognition in their eyes, or a casual remembrance of each other's face from being at the academy at the same time.
He's not sure about what he sees, or thinks he saw, despite the fact that Kara has always been guarded and secretive and Lee has never been easy to read. He thinks that one of them would have said something about knowing the other. As much as he'd talked to Kara about Lee, and as much as he'd talked to Lee about Kara, he can't quite let himself believe that somehow this had slipped through the cracks.
He stands in-between the two suddenly feeling very much the third wheel even though it's his brother meeting his girlfriend, it's them seeming to forget he's there.
Then Lee sticks his hand out and says "nice to finally meet you." Kara doesn't even hesitate to shake his hand, and it's almost convincing to the point where Zak wonders if he's just being paranoid. To let him admit to himself that even though they're grown up it still feel's like he's living in his big brother's shadow. That he finally has a girl worthy of Lee's attention, but is still afraid that he will get bested in his affection for her as he had been with so many other things.
Neither Kara nor Lee see these things in him, because they'd have to be looking at him to notice.
Finally he just throws a hand on both of their shoulders, driving a wedge into the underlying tension of the situation, and asks "who's thirsty?"
Two months later they are inseparable, and Zak couldn't be happier.
Lee is attending War College now and is just across campus. He helps Zak out with his simulator runs when Kara's instructional hand gets a little too firm even for him, helps him when he books start to get confusing, helps him when Kara lashes out on occasion.
They hit the bars on a regular basis, the exploits of Kara Thrace and the Adama brothers an endless source of gossip among the cadets, while somehow avoiding the fact that she was dating one of them.
Road trips are frequent when, by some miracle of the gods, they all manage to get leave at the same time. That's where they are now, driving along some coastal highway an hour or two outside the city limits.
Lee is driving and Kara is in the passenger seat and they both think he's asleep sprawled out in the back. He finds it amusing how much they bicker, how intense it can get when they think he's not listening, and how many times he hears Kara smack Lee's hand away when he tries to change the wireless station.
He would laugh but then the fun would be over when they realize he'd been eavesdropping the whole time. They talk about pyramid first. Both he and Lee had inherited their father's love for the Panthers despite born and raised on Caprica, and Kara is C-Bucs all the way.
Kara talks about how the constant rule changes have been dogging the league for years, and Lee tosses back that rules are there for a reason, which only ignites Kara's argument further though she goes off on a tangent about the size of the stick up his ass.
It fiddles out once they get to statistics because even Kara has to admit that her team is not in its prime this season, but she defends them to the death for arguments sake.
When they move on to flying he hears a wistfulness in her voice he doesn't quite recognize. She talks about her internship on the Triton and how flying a real CAP, not being tied down with nuggets and training runs, was some of the best times she's had in a viper since she joined the fleet.
Zak knows he's still learning and that he has a long way to go before he's even on the same level and Kara and his brother. And he knows it's because of this she doesn't talk to him about flying the same way she talks about it with Lee.
They get quiet for awhile, and the silence is enough for Zak to actually nod off for a few minutes, but then Lee says something only slightly above a whisper.
"You never told him did you?"
This makes him sneak an eye open at the two of them.
"Told him what?" Kara says flatly.
Zak throws his arms out and makes a big show of waking up, and suddenly Kara is turning back to him with all smiles and Lee keeps his eyes on the road.
"You guys look like you've been bitching at each other again," he says mustering up the bravest grin he has.
"Not really," Kara replies.
"Just friendly conversation," Lee throws in.
Zak looks back and forth between them.
The third time they lie to him it's not quite the team effort. But the results are so eerily similar that he can't help but question if it was a coordinated response they had all but planned out for him when he got the guts to ask.
He and Lee are playing one on one in the academy gym, and Zak is winning because Lee always over thinks his strategy rather than simply executing it. They're shifting around, and Lee is trying to wrestle the ball from his grip when Zak asks.
"Did you and Kara ever-?"
"No," Lee replies, whip quick, like he knew exactly what Zak planned to say.
Then Lee tackles him, wrestles the ball away, and strides right toward the goal.
Later that day when he meets Kara back in the locker room she loves to frequent, she's taking a long gulp of something from her own locker. He sits on the bed, looking over her shoulder at that picture someone took of the three of them and wonders.
"Did you and Lee ever-?"
"No," She replies, whip quick like she knew exactly what he planned to say.
Then she nearly tackles him onto the bed, and kisses him like she's drowning out anything else he wants to say. And he gives in for awhile, because it's Kara, because he loves her.
There's just the sinking feeling in his mind that's she's doing it so fiercely to get him to forget.
When he pushes her back, says her name more than once to get her to focus, her eyebrows are knotted together and he thinks she might punch him.
"Why would you ever ask me such a stupid frakking question?" She growls.
Because I've seen you together, he thinks. Because I'm not blind or stupid, no matter what the two of you think you are doing, when you don't realize I'm listening.
"I love you Zak," she says in a voice that he doesn't quite recognize coming from her mouth.
Her face softens, her grip loosens, and she looks down at him with gentle caring eyes.
She's telling him she loves him, and looking at him as if it's him she really wants, and he can't help but believe her.
The fourth time they lie to him, he's wandering through a mass of relatives at a party he specifically told mom he didn't want. He's far too old for the family gathering on his birthday, and he definitely does not feel like an officer of the Colonial fleet whenever Aunt Gladys pinches his cheeks by the punch bowl.
He wanders by the couch where most of the uncles and male cousins are watching the Pyramid finals on the tele-vid, and only half of them cheer when a goal is scored. Through the hall and out the door to the back yard he sees more family and neighbors gathered around the pond.
No Kara though. No Lee either.
Nothing to worry about, he tells himself. They're probably trying to out drink each other with all the beer floating around, or in the driveway tossing a ball back and forth. When he bumps into his mother he asks if she's seen either of them, and she mentions something about the garage, but it was a few minutes ago. She runs off just as quick because Uncle Aston just knocked over a tray of finger sandwiches.
The door is partially open already, probably because of all the traffic going back and forth to the extra fridge out there. They don't see him because they're in a corner, huddled together, talking in slow hushed tones. It's a kick to the stomach because for someone reason seeing this hurts more than if he'd caught them frakking.
Whatever this is, whatever they deny by the light of day, it's real. In this moment it doesn't get any more real. He doesn't interrupt. Doesn't make a big show of catching them red-handing because he really doesn't know what he's catching.
So he does the only logical thing he can think of. He turns and walks away. Back through the family room, out the sliding glass door, and out to the cooler full of Oasis ale. Taking a bottle and popping off the top, he takes a long hard drink.
It's ten minutes or so before Kara makes her way out to him, sitting on the edge of the pond, and takes a seat next to him. Lee is right behind her and takes a seat on his other side.
"Where you guys been?" He asks.
"Nowhere," Lee says.
"Socializing," Kara says.
Another lie, Zak thinks, doesn't matter if it be little white or one of omission. They just can't come out and tell him something he already knows.
Kara puts her hand on his knee, and Lee throws an arm around his shoulder, and they both say happy birthday.
He smiles weakly, says thank you, and takes a long look at the two of them and decides to just let it go.
Because he loves his brother.
And he loves Kara.
He just hopes to gods that they don't realize they love each other.
A nugget once asked her why she hated the cylons so much.
She made him recite the complete raptor maintenance guide while running laps around Galactica for asking such a stupid question.
When she was seven years old her mother signed her up for dance lessons because she had such strong little legs. It's because of this she broke her tap shoes the very first day. The instructor said she could learn to harness this strength, if she could only focus her energies.
Even at seven Maggie thought the lady was full of crap, but kept going because her sister Angie never wanted to dance when she was younger, and it made mom happy. The other girls made fun of her knees, of all things, and laughed when she couldn't pick up on the moves as fast as everyone else.
But she kept going.
One day Jenny Toskola called her horse legs and for that she kicked her, tap shoes and all, right in the stomach and made her throw up all over the polished wood floor.
She was asked not to come back after that.
And she was sad that mom was so disappointed.
Card games aren't quite the same anymore. With Kat gone, and Starbuck gone, and Apollo resigning, it's the same old peanut gallery of her, Narcho, Hotdog, Skulls, and Athena. Sometimes Helo will come and play, along with Gaeta and other CIC officers, but it's mainly what's left of the pilots.
Cubits are few and far between after New Caprica, so they bet with anything shiny they can get their hands on. Narcho still tries to get her to bet some shared rack time with him, and it is tempting, but seems a little too typical a thing to fall into. The crew doesn't need another Starbuck and Apollo type romance to gossip about, even if she and Noel aren't quite the same caliber of drama queens.
She places her bet, looking for the tell tale twitch in Hamish's eyebrow, doesn't see it and thinks that maybe he's finally got hand after so many shifts of card playing, being watchdogs of the fleet.
Athena throws down, and Maggie knows not to even bother trying to read her. Toasters could lie right to your face and give away nothing, yet she isn't as good a card player as Boomer was. Odd that they're all the same, but sometimes it's the little things that seem to change.
As much as she hates the cylons, she accepts Sharon, if only because she's proven herself time and time again. Time to call and everyone groans as she lays down full colors. She winks at Narcho who laughs into his drink, and collects her winnings.
After the dancing fiasco, her mother enrolled her into gymnastics which also didn't last long, but she can still do a Rudi if she got a running start. It almost made her wish Angie would have done these things when she was younger, but for some reason mom wanted to retry living her lost child hood dreams through Maggie instead.
They were leaving the class for the last time when she saw the setup outside, and tugged on her mother's jacket to stop, as she walked closer for a better look. Kids racing each other around in circles, kids running and jumping to see how far they could get, this captured Maggie's attention.
It was the perfect use for those strong little legs of hers, and she kept at it all the way through high school, winning numerous trophies and medals along the way. She still held the fastest time for the one-hundred, two-hundred, and three-hundred meter dash at Oracle Tech.
It was enough to get the colleges interested, and when the fleet academy promised her gold flight wings to go along with her collection, she found the offer too tempting to resist. She won the inter-collegiate decathlon her freshman year, first title in academy history, and got a shiny new call sign (third choice actually, due to Sprinter and Racer already being taken) to go along with her medal.
She goes to the wall of remembrance once a week to remind herself just why they fight, why she fights, and why she has to ignore the steady increase in acceptance for all the human looking toasters spreading throughout the fleet.
It feels as if everyone seems to forget just what the toasters did to create this forsaken odyssey, and she's only one willing to remember just why hatred of them is the only accepted method of thinking.
Walking along slowly, she takes in all the pictures she's come to memorize in their places, the names she made up for them rattling off in her mind easily. The Jensen's, the Atolls, the Hendricks. She doesn't know their real names, and doesn't really want to know for fear that it will make coming here all the more painful.
The one picture she stops at, the one she'd placed herself, still stings the same despite how much time has passed, and that's enough for her.
Lighting the candle again, she places her hand gently on the glossy image, her past fingerprints still visible on the surface, and smiles sadly at all their faces. It's the last time she can remember feeling a smile on the inside. Not one manufactured by a card game, a glass of ambrosia, or the rush after completing a mission.
Kneeling down, she clasps her fingers together, remembers that day in the photo, and prays to the gods for strength.
Back at home she was still little Maggie Edmondson, fourth in line at the dinner table behind Steven, Angie, and Brian. Shortest is stature but biggest in volume and attitude. She was the youngest, the baby, and loved when all the attention focused on her.
It never changed no matter how much older she got any time she returned.
Steven had brought his kids all the way from Scorpia for Dad's retirement party. Angie had brought her husband. Brian brought his latest girlfriend. The only thing she had brought with her was her shiny new, full-blown lieutenant pins, clipped to the collar of her uniform. They all teased her when they noticed. Stood at attention and gave mock salutes, for which she threatened to toss them all in the brig. Dad was proud, and Mom was proud, and she smiled so wide.
Her nieces and nephews asked all about her Raptor, her friends, and what it was like serving on a battlestar. They asked about what happened in dance class, and she told Steven that she would get him back for letting that story filter down to his children.
After dinner Mom said she wanted a picture of all of them, and Steven, Angie, Brian and her all fell into their proper order seen in all family photos had been taken in since they were kids, with Mom and Dad as the bookends. Someone made a joke; everyone laughed, and off went the flash.
He thinks he's dreaming.
When the blonde haired woman in the coat walks up to him, when she leans in so close and asks if he's alive, it makes him wonder if there was something in that last anti-radiation dose. Or if he's slowly losing his mind.
Six days since he broke away from the remains of the survivors who didn't get picked for the Raptor. Six days since they chose not to listen to him, to follow him, and were most likely dead by now. Six days since he saw a single moving thing that wasn't metal and shiny and trying to kill him.
Her lips are on his, soft and sweet, and he wonders if this is what it would have felt like to kiss Sharon. Something is wrong. He feels it deep down in instinct and the gun she's keeping him from using, has a twin wedged under his thigh. She gasps when the bullet goes through her, and for a second there is regret in his mind when he sees the surprise in her eyes, but then need for survival takes back over and he's pushing her off of him.
He can hear that familiar metallic clank somewhere off in the distance, and he grabs what little gear he has left and takes off as fast as his wounded leg can carry him.
Another couple of days and he's walking through the shadowy remains of Caprica City, following the faint beeping from his radio. Nothing and no one is all that he sees and it's so unnerving, he feels a hole forming in the pit of his stomach. No survivors, which really isn't that much of a surprise, but what really disturbs him is the fact that there are no bodies.
When he finds the shelter he feels like the luckiest frakker in the colonies. Food, a roof over his head, and clean water are a godsend. Still, he has a feeling that something isn't quite right. The question in his mind sullies the place because he can't help wondering just how someone went through the trouble of setting it all up, only to never utilize it for its exact purpose.
Grabbing a bag, he shoves as much food, anti-radiation meds, and bottles of water as he can inside. Too convenient, he thinks too himself. Too easy, and too tempting to just stay and hide.
Making his way back up the stairs he sees more toasters outside the window, searching for survivors, searching for him.
He screams, and fires, and runs, runs away.
Shivering cold and alone in the hay loft of some barn is a far better way to spend his nights than sleeping on a rain soaked forest floor. But the smell of animals still turns his stomach to the point where cold beans are even more unappetizing.
Gods he is so tired.
Being on the run non-stop for, well, he can't even remember how many days it's been anymore. The fact that the sun still rises and sets is a detail lost in the shuffle of running, hiding, and not getting killed.
His eyes burn in his skull with exhaustion, he hasn't been able to find a way to rest without jumping awake every five minutes, and knows that one of these days he's going to slip and end up on the wrong end of a centurion's guns. Wedging himself under a mound of hay, he let's his consciousness go, and dreams of Sharon and the blonde haired woman.
The sun is out when he finally wakes up, and his hand reaches for his gun because he can hear the familiar whir and clank of toasters marching somewhere out in the distance. Cautiously, he peeks his head out of the window, and thinks he must still be dreaming because what he sees can't be real.
The blonde haired woman, the one he knows he put a bullet in; walking in front of an army of centurion's as if she's leading them all. She's not alone though, Sharon is walking right next to her, and for a moment his mind refuses to wrap around that little fact.
Run! The rational part of his mind shouts. Don't think, Run!
He's down from the loft and out of the barn as quickly and quietly as he can muster. What the frak? He thinks. He'd shot that woman, seen the light go out in her eyes, and Sharon? What was she doing? How was she even here?
A thought is forming in the back of his mind, but he blocks it out, concentrates on getting the hell out of there.
When he finds Kara in the museum, bruised and bloody, yet on the winning end of a fight with the blonde haired woman, the relief of seeing someone else alive after so many months of being alone is instantaneous.
He pulls his gun from its holster anyway.
"Helo what the frak are you doing?" She asks.
"Tell me you're not a cylon," he says firmly.
He presses the gun into her chest. Too many months by himself, too much confusion as to why there are so many copies of the blonde haired woman, of Sharon, of that short man he's sure he recognized from somewhere, walking around Caprica everywhere he goes. It's Kara, he knows this, but his survival instinct just has to be sure.
"Tell me you're not a frakking cylon!" He shouts.
The look she gives tells him that somehow she will make him pay for this later, but she still does what he asks.
"I'm not a cylon."
He hugs her after that, as firmly as he can without breaking anything, when he feels her reaching for her own sidearm. Automatically he knows she's not pulling it on him, and he swirl around to match her target, only to see Sharon standing on a ledge above them.
"Yes," he says, admitting it aloud to himself for the first time since he'd seen her that day in the barn.
Kara pulls the trigger, and he follows suit, but Sharon is too quick and is gone.
"We have to go," he says, wrapping his arm around hers and pulling her up.
"Give me a second."
"We don't have a second, now."
They make their way out to the front of the museum, just in time to see Sharon crawl into a raider and take off.
"Bitch took my ride," Kara says.
He looks at her in surprise.
Her apartment isn't what he thought it would be. Kara has always been guarded, and secretive, but the color and words on her walls just tells him there are a lot more layers buried under all that attitude. Honestly he didn't know what to expect when she told him she had a place, let alone be presented with some kind of artistic outlet he didn't think her capable of.
He can't do anything but watch as she hobbles around her things, shifts through some garbage, and toss the arrow on the couch. She puts her gun away, but he can't bring himself to yet. He walks around the small confines keeping his eyes focused for any possible entry points. Any open windows that might get them.
"Relax," she says, slowly peeling off her jacket.
"I can't," he replies, searching around the mini-kitchen for food.
She moves over to a small stereo and puts a disc, and a somber piano medley comes out of the speakers. It's nice, though he knows it's not her playing, says so as he moves to check the window one more time.
"Karl come on, what's with you?"
He spins on her, and her eyes go wide the slightest bit not expecting the sudden movement.
"I've been here by myself for months," he says slowly, the fatigue is his voice clearly evident. "Always on the run, always one step ahead of the cylons. No time to relax Kara. No time to take a breather and weigh my options, because if I did, I'd be dead. Simple as that."
She doesn't say anything as she plays with a cigar.
"I saw Sharon a month or so back. Walking with that blonde you killed and a couple dozen centurions behind them. I knew then you know? You didn't even have to tell me they look like us now because I saw it. I shot that blonde and there she was. Sharon was all the way back on Galactica, but there she was."
Kara listens intently as she lights her stogie.
"They don't stop," he says, his voice softer now. "They're machines no matter how much they want to appear human and it just… Gods I'm so frakking tired."
He plops down on the chair just across from her, leans his head back, and rests his gun in his lap.
"Feel better now?" She asks.
He smirks, and his face feels funny because he can't remember the last time his mouth actually turned in an upward direction. His head sinks back into the cushion, letting the music wash over him, and nods off for a beat.
Something jingling snaps his attention and he's out of the chair in an instant, gun drawn. Kara almost laughs waving the keys in front of his face.
"Think you could relax if you didn't have to walk anymore?"
He actually smiles this time, and puts his gun back in its holster. He hugs her suddenly, the need for contact coming from somewhere that has missed it, and she hesitates a second before hugging him back.
"I'm glad you're still breathing Karl," she says.
For the first time in months, he is too.
The first time they meet he is captivated.
Which is a new feeling because, all ego aside, when he met women it was usually the other way around. The circumstances aren't quite the same either, because when he looks he finds, and he wasn't looking. Yet there she is. He is supposed to meet his mother for lunch, and he is on time, but she is nowhere to be found.
He can't stop staring at her, only getting a look at her profile, his eyes caught on the way the sun poured through the window causing her hair to glow like a halo. The red dress she
wears shows off a body that has clean thoughts taking a vacation in his mind. He doesn't even realize he's walking toward her when suddenly he's there, making some inane comment on the weather.
She smiles as if she expected him to say such a thing, as if she had somehow how seen him looking and waited for him to make the first move. He feels like a schoolboy in front of her, his tongue tied for anything else to mention.
Her smile is impossibly white.
Her name is Gianne.
Her eyes light up when she finds out he's a pilot, so full of questions about flight maneuvers, military protocol, and life on a battlestar. He's hesitant to talk about it at first. The last thing he wants when he finally gets away from all that is to have to answer civilian questions that wouldn't get her any closer to understanding lest she actually experience it for herself.
She pouts, and gives him the most adorable little sad face, and kisses it out of him.
The answers he finds, come easy after that.
Their first date is pyramid game of all things, at her suggestion no less. She said something about being amongst the crowd when the excitement built into a crescendo got her all twisted up in knots, and it plants a seed inside that will make him love her for it later.
They have courtside seats, he makes sure of that, and she says she's never been so close to the action before. The second before tip-off she grabs his hand, her smile stretching so wide, and her laughter infectious.
It's the first time he's smiled so deep since Zak died.
And when he kisses her, fifteen-thousand people cheer.
He gets teased the second her puts her picture up in his locker. Knowing it's jealousy more than anything lets him ignore most of the ribbing, especially when no one can come up with anything better than schoolyard taunts like "Lee and Gianne, sitting in a tree…"
Crossfire and Barbecue get particularly lewd however, and he's pretty sure he's going to end up spending a little time in the brig before his wingman Jason gets into the mix and breaks it up.
She's on his mind constantly. Something he knows is not particularly healthy when you're a pilot and need a clear head anytime you are anywhere near the cockpit. He hasn't thought about someone this much since he met Kara, and those were nothing more than wishful feelings that always took a left turn toward disaster.
He wins her a bracelet playing triad, some strange jagged silver thing that he knows she'll love. It's the only reason he keeps it because the look on Mishmash's face when he set down his cards did spark some remorse on his part.
He wonders if it's a bad thing that the thought of Gianne's smiling face lets him ignore it.
When he gives it to her she is so surprised she doesn't know what to say, but slips it deftly on her wrist and kisses him until he sees stars.
At first it's almost embarrassing how she's slightly taller than she is. How she hunches her shoulders slightly to be able to press her forehead against his. But when she wraps those long arms around his neck, when she presses herself so firmly against him, any semblance of self doubt fades away in an embrace he feels he was made for.
The way she says is name seems to float off her tongue. When he looks at her he isn't afraid of turning into his father, of them turning into his parents, because he knows the uniform, the viper, the call of duty doesn't hold a candle to the way she makes him feel.
When she pushes him down on the bed, her top slides off like beads of water, and looks at him so intensely. Her kiss is wild, and he feels he has to almost struggle to keep up.
When she asks "do you love me?"
His yes is breathless.
Kara's hair was blonde, but not this blonde. Hers was dirtier, more natural. Gianne's is a few steps beyond anything sun-kissed, edging more toward platinum. She giggles into his chest, slinking halfway down his body, as he runs his fingers through the strands just tickling the underside of his chin.
He's never been much of a cuddler, yet he has to admit the feeling of her so close, of them between silk sheets, is something he can get used to. All is his inner tension is gone anytime she smiles at him. All that coiled up control unwinding at a simple touch.
Finally being able to shed his self imposed image of the cool headed, rule abiding, perfect soldier when he's with her is something he doesn't ever want to lose.
He thinks about asking her to marry him.
He wonders if she'll say yes.
One strange thing they have in common is that they never really talk about their families. He never mentions that he'd once had a brother who'd died trying to be the pilot Lee knew he couldn't be. He doesn't tell her that, to this day, he still blames his father entirely for the circumstances leading to Zak's death.
He keeps it to himself that he has always been at odds with the great Commander Adama despite following in his footsteps career wise.
She never mentions a father, a mother, or siblings of any kind. Because of this he presumes them estranged or dead.
His curiosity gets the better of him one night, and he does end up asking, though her response is strange and cryptic and he doesn't know how to take it.
Something about the gods, something about children, then she kisses him and he forgets all about it.
The ring feels heavy and obvious inside his pocket. He's sitting at the small café table thinking he's so frakking obvious, and that anyone looking in his direction can see just this once, his calmness is nowhere to be seen, and his nerves shine through.
It's a wonderfully sunny Caprican spring day. People are out walking around, stopping in this place for coffee before going on with the rest of their day.
When she shows up, the sun hits her hair in almost the same fashion as the day they met, and once again he's captivated. Her smile is warm and inviting, and he feels the tingling of his nerves amp up the slightest bit.
They have coffee, they make small talk, and they joke about the future.
He pulls out the ring, and thinks she's so surprised she's speechless.
She takes it from his hand but doesn't put it on.
She doesn't say no.
What she does say has him walking away without looking back.
Two days later the colonies are attacked and destroyed in a surprise attack by the cylons. Six days after that he's sitting in the rec room alone because everyone on Galactica's crew had finally gotten a chance to rest, and are all passed out in their bunks.
A half empty bottle rests in his hand and his alcohol addled brain is still trying to decide if it wants to finish it off. The few officers still awake poke their heads in the door, but don't come in after one look at him. They all assume he's torn up about the Olympic Carrier, and they're partially right. Guilt over thirteen-hundred people, guilt over maybe being able to warn everyone before it ever happened.
What's really on his mind, and on his finger, is the ring she didn't take. The words she'd said that drove him away, about an enemy that hadn't been a threat in over forty years, telling him that humanities' children were returning home.
He takes another long pull off the bottle, the guilt and horror refusing to let him rest.
He didn't believe her. It was ridiculous, it was impossible; it was just her way of telling him she didn't want to marry him.
She smiled at him one last time before he left her there. Said she really had feelings for him.
She didn't even flinch at his accusation, or reference to a toaster.
"There are twelve models. I'm number six."