"That's just it Kara, I didn't want to make it back alive."

She doesn't know what to say to this, he can always tell with her, unsure what to say or do whenever an emotion spills uncontrollably out of one of them. She keeps her hand close, doesn't leave though he knows that's her first instinct, the urge to flee shouting out in the language of terse lips.

He sees the conflict in her eyes as she tries her damnedest to figure out how to comfort him, or whether to let her own demons take hold, and just let him be.

She wants to go, he knows she wants to go, but she stays.

He thinks that it must count for something.

/\/\/\

In CIC he keeps it professional. Makes sure to call her Petty Officer Dualla instead of Dee, hopes that the blatant subtext will be crystal clear to anyone who had their suspicions.

There was something starting, that much he can't deny, all fighting and flirty despite the onlookers. Despite the fact that her boyfriend showed up knocking on the hatch.

He never wanted to be that guy.

Ended being him anyway with Zak and Kara, though not ever completely in the literal sense, and here he was almost doing it again because it's the end of the world. Because he's been so frakking lonely, and the pipe dream of Kara Thrace is never going to come to fruition.

Dee smiles at him as she hands over the files he had come for. He copies the gesture though it never quite reaches the place where it means what it's supposed to, and for a second he's pretty sure she can tell.

"Thank you petty officer," he says before turning to walk away.

/\/\/\

Running had always been the easiest thing to do when wanting to clear his head. Stay focused, lift your legs evenly, concentrate on breathing.

There lies the kicker.

Concentrate on breathing.

Last time he'd done that it really wasn't up to him what the end result of said concentration would be. It was up to that hole he'd decided wasn't worth the effort because the light display going on in front of him seemed so gods damned hopeless.

Because he was sick of surviving and not living, because everyone he'd ever loved or cared (not including Kara or the old man of course, but those are matches that always seemed to burn no matter how careful he was) about was already dead.

Squeeze it tight or let it go.

He'd never taken the easy road a day in his life, but something about the moment made it so tempting.

His stride is broken, and he collapses against the bulkhead, gasping for breath even though the air is abundant.

/\/\/\

His leg won't stop twitching.

He sits in the co-pilot's chair of the Raptor waiting for Racetrack to go through her pre-flight checklist, idly tapping his thumbs against his leg. He never did like sitting in the ECO seat. Felt too much like a taxi, and he always hated riding around in those too.

Another meeting with the president aboard Colonial One.

Not something he'd been anticipating yet somehow politely mandatory.

Still won't stop twitching.

Because the last time he'd been in a Raptor he was getting paddles pressed against his chest, (pulled out of the water), gasping and looking up at the wide eyes of an ECO whose name he couldn't recall.

He looks to Racetrack, realizes that she'd been the one flying the SAR bird that day. He feels like he should thank her though he's not particularly grateful, just because it's the polite thing to do.

Just because.

She notices his stare out of the corner of her eye, turns her head to meet his gaze, her eyebrow lifting in curiosity.

"Sir?"

He doesn't say anything at first, merely places a hand on his knee to try and stop his leg, opens his mouth and immediately closes it. He barely knows her, doesn't think she'd have such a high opinion of the CAG, should he choose to spill his guts out now for whatever ridiculous reason.

Something in her face changes, as if she can see all the conflicting thoughts racing through his mind at this particular moment. Knows how he feels because she was there to see it happen.

She puts her hand out, stills his shaking leg, and gives the hint of a smile.

She says:

"You're making me nervous sir."

What she really says:

Your secret's safe with me.

She moves her hand away, goes back to focusing on the stick.

"Raptor 129," she says into the comm. "Ready for take off."

/\/\/\

He heads to the weight room wanting to blow off some steam, cracking his knuckles in anticipation of the hits to come, rolling his neck and swinging his arms, narrowly avoiding knocking the files out of some CIC officer's hands.

He stops dead at the hatch, sees that Kara had the same idea, but instead taking out her frustrations on the heavy bag, she's got Helo dancing around her with pads on his hands.

Watching a little as her face twists with the effort, she catches sight of him standing there, stops her punch mid-swing, meets his eyes for a second or two before looking away.

He knows it's usually up to him to cover the distance between them, and it's not entirely her fault because that's just the way things are, the way they've always been.

Helo nods a hello, a gesture he returns, as Kara shifts around glancing at him then away again.

He walks away when she averts her eyes again, makes sure he's not there should she look back up.

/\/\/\

When he slides into the seat across from her in the mess, she's surprised to see it's him taking the open spot, but gestures he's just as welcome as anyone else. It's then that he realizes, besides the other day, they've never really spoken outside the normal protocol. Never shared a card game or a drink in the rec room, no other interaction of any kind.

She doesn't know him, and he doesn't know her.

No expectations. No same old Lee.

Something actually refreshing in a day to day existence where the only changes he ever sees are the rotation schedules he writes up.

Racetrack has a somewhat bitter edge to her, reminds him a little of Kara, but seems to carry it as a badge of honor rather than excess baggage. He quickly puts any comparisons to Starbuck out of his mind because that will only sully the interaction. Will make him second guess his motivations for sitting here in the first place, and for once in his life is exhausted of the effort of over thinking.

She tells crude jokes that get him to laugh for the first time since it happened.

She smiles and says if they're going to be friendly, he can call her Maggie.

/\/\/\

He runs into Dee just outside the senior officer's quarters and knows it's not a coincidence.

She asks how he's doing, and he gives the short answer of fine, but can tell she wants more. He's not sure what else to give, can't find the words to tell her flat out he won't be that guy twice in his life. They stand there awkwardly for a minute, and she offers herself should he ever need to talk.

He smiles politely, says thank you and walks away.

Says no thank you to himself.

/\/\/\

Looking through Janik's personals, cylon sympathizer, now he's heard everything.

Kara's got that look again. Like she wants to try and figure him out because it's the rare occasion where he's no longer predictable to her.

"So um…" She starts. "Haven't seen much of you since your space walk."

Oh you noticed? He thinks, then immediately pushes the thought away. He's not mad at her for not being there for him, because he knows damn well he'd be pushing her away should she make the effort. Maybe he can't look her in the eye because he's still ashamed breaking his word, because he gave up, yet always thought more of himself than someone who would do such a thing.

"Been spending a lot of time with Racetrack?"

It comes out a question, but he knows that she knows, almost corrects her to say 'a lot of time with Maggie,' but keeps his mouth shut. The rumors are already running rampant over the CAG hanging out with a certain Raptor pilot through most of his off shifts.

Scuttlebutt is he and Racetrack are frakking every time she shuttles him to colonial one, or any other ship in the fleet, and that Starbuck and Dee are so jealous she can't be alone in the head or rec room without fearing for her safety.

It's a king-sized can of worms and all Lee wants is for the conversation to be over, and he almost thanks the gods when the portable library reader falls out of some old clothes.

When Kara has a mission nothing else matters and he's more than happy to give her one.

/\/\/\

Racetrack shuttles him to Cloud Nine, mandatory shore leave by order of the Admiral himself.

He jokes that she should message back to Galactica, tell them her bird has some mechanical malfunction, and they should go get a drink where everyone won't stare at them like they're some hot new it couple.

"Are we dating sir?" She laughs and he just smiles and looks away. "If you're that hard up for a good frak maybe you should just buy yourself a date to clean out your pipes."

That gets him to laugh, she follows, and they try to keep it together while she starts landing procedures.

He thanks her for the ride, moves to grab his bag, as she catches his elbow.

"If you're ever serious about that drink," she says with mischief twinkling in her eye. "Just ask."

/\/\/\

It's hard to find the moral high ground when we're all standing in the mud.

Lee smirks.

It would be poetic if it didn't come out of the mouth of a man who didn't blink at the idea of selling children.

This is one of those moments, he thinks. Like floating through space staring dead on at the end of all mankind while a centimeter sized hole takes your life away because you made the choice to let it.

The gun presses into his chest and he doesn't see the difference.

What he does see the difference in, he makes clear. There are lines, lines across his throat, lines you don't cross.

Phelan is so sure of himself, so sure that Lee won't do what he threatens to do. Thinks he knows him through some picture he's painted in his head, uniform and all, the golden boy who won't sink to his level.

He pulls the trigger.

Proving someone wrong never seemed so righteous.

/\/\/\

Maggie is the first one to see the marks on his neck when he walks through the hatch and takes a seat next to her.

"Gods Apollo," she says turning to face him, reaching a hand out to ensure that it's real, "what the frak happened in there?"

He's fairly certain that she wouldn't want to know.

Just as he's fairly certain she just called him Apollo in a familiar way rather than a formal one.

He grabs her wrist, stops the fussing he'd never thought her capable of, kisses her because she's warm and close, and he feels like he's just walked out of a freezer. Kisses her because the last woman he'd kissed was Kara, because he almost kissed Dee, because he'd seriously thought about paying for Shevon's services before he got wrapped up in her drama.

When she kisses him back, it isn't complicated at all.

/\/\/\

His father hands him a drink.

They talk about what happened, what didn't happen, what needed to happen.

Then the Admiral gets personal.

"Ever since you ejected from the blackbird, you've been different."

Lee knows this. Has seen it in the faces of everyone who thought they knew him before it happened.

"Harder to reach."

Can't reach what isn't there, he thinks. Because anytime anyone tried to get him to deal with what had happened, what he'd gone through, he'd ignored them all, gone the other way.

"I'm just trying to understand."

Try all you want, he sighs internally. Simple fact is we face death everyday, every time we jump, every time we fly CAP. The threat of the cylons is always there, hiding underneath every single moment of every course of action. It's nothing new; it's nothing that anyone else in the fleet couldn't understand.

But what he can't seem to deal with is the fact that he'd stared death square in the eye, didn't blink, and opened his arms for that cold embrace.

Lee sips his drink, avoids his father's eyes because he knows out of anyone aboard this ship, he's the one man you can't run from. Oh how he'd tried. Two years of never speaking until an iron clad order came down to his bunk telling him to report for Galactica's decommissioning, until the cylons forced him to stay.

"Well like you said dad," he starts, pulling the dad card because that's always been the easiest way to get him to drop something. "We've all been through a lot."

His father mulls this over for a second.

"Fair enough," he says as he takes a drink of his own. "But when were you going to tell me about Racetrack?"