Disclaimer and Denouncement: I don't own any of the characters; they're the intellectual and legal property of Universal, R&D TV, and Glenn Larson. This is all for fun and no material profit. Don't bother suing; my debt to income ratio is godsawful. This was inspired by author Nancy777ca's seminal work "Strawberry Wine". It posits similar circumstances as portrayed there, but is its own tale and not a re-write or AU version. In terms of timeline, the central story takes place roughly three years prior to the Cylon's attack on the Colonies; Kara Thrace is a few weeks shy of her 24th birthday, Lee Adama is 26 and a half. Lee has been in the Colonial Fleet for five years now and is about to be promoted to Captain, while Kara hasn't been in uniform for over four years.
Disclaimer and Denouncement: I don't own any of the characters; they're the intellectual and legal property of Universal, R&D TV, and Glenn Larson. This is all for fun and no material profit. Don't bother suing; my debt to income ratio is godsawful.
This was inspired by author Nancy777ca's seminal work "Strawberry Wine". It posits similar circumstances as portrayed there, but is its own tale and not a re-write or AU version. In terms of timeline, the central story takes place roughly three years prior to the Cylon's attack on the Colonies; Kara Thrace is a few weeks shy of her 24th birthday, Lee Adama is 26 and a half. Lee has been in the Colonial Fleet for five years now and is about to be promoted to Captain, while Kara hasn't been in uniform for over four years.
Lee Adama would never know what possessed him to take leave that day, never mind take the shuttle to Sparta and choose to wander the Embankment rather than Riverwalk in Caprica City (as had been his original plans). Certainly, it hadn't been for the scenery, such as it was, or the wares of the various sellers and stalls.
Major Corel had been surprised and not-too-quietly pleased when Lee had asked for 24-hour pass to go planetside. He'd actually been so pleased he'd mistakenly issued a 48 hour one instead and a pointed directive to "enjoy himself". Gods knew he had more than enough leave built up from the past four years, and the fact the Atlantia was in skydock meant he wouldn't be beyond easy reach should the need arise.
Lee didn't mind really, although he had yet to call his mother or Zak about the change; no one in fact knew where he was right then. He carried his pocket wireless with him just in the event he was needed.
He wandered around the poor man's market with ease and anonymity, which was a small mercy.
Otherwise, someone would ask why the eldest son of William Adama had his hands around the neck of much younger man, apparently intent upon strangling him.
"Gahk," the freckle-faced youth barely old enough to have to shave once a month choked out around the two very strong sets of fingers.
"Where? Did? You? Get? This?" Lieutenant Lee Adama asked, each word a demand. 'This' was a leather portfolio, unexceptional in all ways except for two stylized letters embossed on its cover.
He knew of only one such portfolio decorated in such a way and with such characters, as it had been his own commission to have it specially made. Two month's wages had been the cost, although its true worth was greater than any material price conceivable. Or so he'd thought at the time.
Strangely, he hadn't thought about it in some years. Indeed, if he had been asked about the item before that moment, his only answer would have been a blank look.
There was a distant voice inside his head that sanely advised him to let the boy speak if he wanted answers. It very nearly went unheeded, and only discipline ingrained into him by the last five years gives him rationality enough to follow the advice. That same discipline had saved his life many times over the same period, preventing him from eating the barrel of his side arm as he sometimes felt the urge to.
Loosening his grip enough to allow the boy to pant clean air, Lee leaned in close and said, "I only want to know where you got it. Tell me that, and nothing more will happen."
"I -- I -- bought it --" The boy was clearly terrified, as well he should have been. Lee had calmly piloted his Mark VII through a category four storm system over Aerilon with only one engine firing; but then and there he doubted even his formidable self-control could hold much longer.
"You bought it from where?"
"A store on --" Lee's fingers curled back around his neck, the lie nearly too much for him.
"Liar," Lee heard a voice that couldn't have been his hiss.
"Mister, please!" the boy begged. "I'm from Gemenon --" The plea nearly went unheard, save that another's voice suddenly overlaid it. A girl's voice, no less terrified, no less desperate.
It was her voice he heard, prompting him to wrench his hands away.
Blinking hard, clenching his teeth harder still, Lee tried again. "All I want to know is where you got this from." His voice is calmer now, his shoulders somehow relaxing as he spoke. The boy's words filtered through, ugly implications coming with them. Lee pulled his wallet out and produced a handful of script notes. "I'll even pay you for the information, okay?"
The boy nodded, eyeing the notes hungrily but eyeing him with an equal amount of fear. Smart kid, Lee mused distantly from himself.
"I -- I got it, okay?"
"Stole it, okay?"
Lee Adama hated violence; hated it to the depths of his very soul. Despite his choice of profession, despite his rank and all his training, he had never found a reason to embrace or celebrate the taking of another's life.
Yet it took Lee Adama mustering all his will and all his emotional strength to keep from reaching out and snapping this boy's neck like a twig. In a flash, barely the blink of an eye, he envisioned ten more ways he could kill this boy for the crime he'd just admitted to. Another blink and Lee envisioned still ten more. He was almost dizzy from the speed and energy of his thoughts and the alien urges that come with them.
"Wh -- where?" he managed to ask, sounding at once groggy and high as a child's kite.
"Uh -- why d'you wanna know?"
"Because --" Lee started then stopped for a breath. "Because I'm looking for the -- for who you took this from." He had been perilously close to speaking blasphemous, ugly words the boy would not understand. Worse, the boy might have even agreed with them, not realizing that his life would be forfeit if he did so.
The gods must have felt generous that day, as the boy gave an address and quick directions to finding it. Apparently, the place in question was fairly close by. Lee repeated them all to ensure he had them correct; this was too important to risk taking a wrong turn anywhere.
Satisfied, he handed the boy the notes and took possession of the portfolio, letting the youth on his way and marching into the city.
The address turned out to be an apartment building barely four blocks in from the Embankment. Not a well-maintained one, the brick façade crumbling and far too many windows boarded up. Uncollected garbage swirled on the broken sidewalk outside, as did the stink from the runoff from the local sewer.
It made Lee almost physically sick to look at it, but not for its shabby appearance. Rather, he feared the interior would be every bit as bad, if not worse. This place had to be violating at least a dozen health codes.
But what he feared most was that he would find in there the person he has not dared think about, either in private and under any circumstances, for the last five years. He was not sure his heart - or sanity - could take it.
Lee squared his shoulders and stuck his hand into his pocket as casually as possible, conveniently brushing both his sidearm and pocket wireless. Despite the unplanned nature of this expedition, Lee was thankful he'd heeded the intuitive urge to bring both with him.
Pushing the front door open, Lee had to brace himself against the rush of stale air that hit him. He blinked once, and then marched inside. Seeing the two elevators were both out of service, he turned and ascended the nearby stairwell. The boy had not specified an apartment number per se, but had given a floor and relative location for the target.
Lee took the stairs two at a time. He didn't want to waste time, or give himself time to lose his nerve. He reached the fourth floor in short order and barely even panting, pausing only to mentally orienthimself to the boy's description. The apartment he wanted lay at the far end of the narrow hallway.
This time, Lee took his time walking, his normally clear head trying hard to swim through the morass of emotion that threatened to completely drown him. What would he say? What would he do? Tirades and shouting matches were unlikely to have positive effect, although he wondered if he really wanted a positive outcome from this. Breaking a few bones for five years of agony and heartache could always be written off as proper response from Old Scripture.
Who was he kidding? There was only one way this could or would end. That was if she was actually there, and if he managed to get so much as a foot in the door, and if she didn't manage to get his gun from him and simply shoot him dead --
He found himself standing before the only door to apartment 402 before fully realizing it. For some reason, he found the cracked and untreated grains of the wood too fascinating to even think of adding to the damage to it by just knocking; or so he would tell himself later. The simple possibility that she was on the other side of that simple barrier was enough to paralyze him.
This paralysis broke suddenly when a congested-sounding voice drawled a few feet away. "You gonna arrest 'er?"
"Excuse me?" Lee asked, summoning his best glare. It didn't appear to faze the pensioner who had spoken.
"You're military?" A pointless question, given he was in uniform and carrying a weapon. "You comin' t'arrest that one?"
"Eh?" Lee was still fighting for mental traction. "Arrest who?"
"Her, tha' lives there."
"Too bad," the pensioner shook his gray-topped head. "Tha' one could stand it."
Lee immediately folded both his hands behind his back, holding the portfolio firmly under one arm. He did this because he didn't want to give in to the ugly itch that had overtaken his right palm; the sort of itch one gets when the body wants to seize a weapon out of its holster and let loose a torrent of bullets.
Holding himself stiff and erect, Lee asked, "You work here?"
"Yup. Mah'na'jar and super --"
"Can you open this door, please?"
The man shuffled forward, an awkward limp making his approach appear all the more painful. "You sure you ain't arrestin' 'er?"
"I just need to talk to her."
This appeared to satisfy the man as he pulled out an expansive key ring and selected the appropriate one. The door creaked open and Lee calmly stepped inside; it was either that or he would kick the door off its hinges and rush in like a mad fool. A quick glare over the shoulder sent the older man scurrying away, leaving Lee to study his surroundings.
There was no one there, the rooms temporarily deserted. Again, a small mercy that Lee was grateful for; he needed time to study the terrain, devise his strategy, and ponder contingencies. The overall objective was no long in question.
One look, one sniff of that hovel of an apartment and he was more determined than ever to minimize the time spent there.
The front room for one thing contained nothing but a unbalanced coffee table, a sofa that should have been burnt, and a couple of folding chairs whose frames were pock-marked with rust. The single window allowed the late afternoon sunlight in only grudgingly, the grime clouding the glass's exterior side distorting the life-giving rays and gave the place an unsettled, sinister air. The walls were bare, the wallpaper yellowed and peeling away. He counted a small blessing in seeing no garbage or other detritus around.
Seeing nothing else of interest, Lee moved to the interior doorway and found himself in a still smaller room that contained a cot and thin mattress, a chest of drawers, and a window that cracked and missing in several sections; newsprint had been taped over the cracks and gaps, darkening the room a bit more. The noise of the city outside waffled in, breaking the otherwise stifling silence. There was nothing else.
It was there that Lee reflected on the many and unsupported assumptions he was making here. He'd simply assumed the portfolio (which he had yet to let go of) was the same one he'd gifted six years ago, just as he'd simply assumed the owner of it was the same person he'd so diligently (and unsuccessfully) sought to forget about.
Why the frak hadn't he asked the old man what the occupant's name was, or asked the boy if there had been anything inside the portfolio when he'd broken in and grabbed it? Either would have saved him a fair amount of worry and effort; or so he told himself as he stood there and contemplated the room.
Still and all, he was there now. He could at the very least conduct a search of the place, careful not to disturb what little there was, to at the very least tentatively establish whether his time had been wasted or not.
He began with the wardrobe drawers, finding the lower two empty. The second from the top yielded a handful of clothes, mainly military surplus pants, tanks, and a couple pairs of women's underwear. The clothes smelled as if they hadn't been washed in a few weeks.
The topmost drawer was almost empty as well, save for a small cigar box. Virgon Rollers, or so the box's exterior claimed; he couldn't remember her necessarily liking to smoke, certainly not cheap leaf like Rollers. He forcefully reminded himself it had been five years and like it or not people could and did change.
Picking up and opening the box, Lee frowned as noted there were three cigars left inside. His frown deepened when he set the box on the wardrobe's top, an odd sound coming from it he would have sworn was not the sound of loose cigars. Opening the box again and dumping out the cigars, Lee shook it a couple times, listening carefully; faint, almost inaudible sounds of sliding and rattling confirmed there was something still inside it. He reached into it and tapped the bottom, allowing himself to grin in silent congratulations as he felt it shift slightly under his fingers.
It too a bit of doing, a bit of experimentation, but he was ultimately able to pry off the false bottom. With greater care than before, he emptied the hidden contents of the box next to the cigars.
It was six items total, each of them confirming all his impossible hopes and worst fears. The first thing to fall out was a music minichip, the handwriting on its label familiar in its near-illegibility.
The second item was a slightly tarnished insignia pin of an Active Flight Officer in the Colonial Fleet. This jibbed with rumors he'd only half-heard concerning her getting kicked out of the service entirely, only for those same charges to be reversed barely a month afterwards. The scandal had rocked the Academy's upper echelons sufficiently that getting her wings back was the very least she could demand. Even now, close to two years afterwards, Admiral Nagala would still quiz himself and his mother as to whether they had ever been in contact with 'her'. Caroline Adama had as much difficulty saying her name as Lee himself did, though he suspected it was somewhat different reasons.
The third, fourth and fifth objects were photos. Of these, he could stand to look only at the first, eyes misting in both relief and disbelief at the sight of himself and one other there taken seven years ago.
But it was the final item nearly sent him to the floor. The sight of a slender platinum band crowned with a tiny diamond landing in his palm hit him with the force a free-falling battlestar. He actually staggered backwards, the ring clutched in one hand, landing atop the mattress nearby. The frame groaned under his weight, but the mattress itself -- crackled?
His shock momentarily forgotten, Lee swiftly stood and stared at the makeshift bed. A thought hit him almost immediately. If the boy's claim was true, if his suspicions about what happened were accurate --
He pocketed the ring in his jacket pocket and pulled up the mattress. He patted the underside several times, feeling for -- ah, there it was, a cut in the material, one loosely (deliberately so) sewn shut. "Clever," he nodded appreciatively.
Lee grinned, not excited but rather more nervous at what might be hidden there. He took a breath and eased his hand into the cut, fingers almost immediately encountering something other than foam filling. Specifically, what felt like a bundle of paper. He gently extracted the handful, the large handful, of papers and went over to the window, as it was the only source of illumination in the room.
There was no surprise felt at what pages depicted: himself in repose, nude. He recalled the pose involved vividly, and quickly paged through the rest of the pages, alternately relieved that he could recognize most if not all of them, and appalled that so many were crumpled or had needed to be taped back together.
If someone had desecrated and defaced the masterworks of Aphrodite and Artemis in Dome Temple at Teegarden, Lee doubted he would be a hundredth as upset. The boy from Gemenon would have much to answer for if he'd had anything to do with the damage done here.
Lee calmed himself and, after smoothing papers down as carefully as he could, he slipped them back into the portfolio that he'd unforgivably let slip from his fingers and onto the floor. He then picked up the minichip and pilot's insignia and dropped them into his breast pocket alongside the ring. The three photos presented a bit of a conundrum; the thought of folding them in any way made him feel ill. By the same token he was unwilling to risk them being taken from his person until he'd had words, a lotof words, with this place's resident. They fit snuggly into his breast pocket as well, although unfolded it would make it a tad difficult to pull them out again.
Those words would not be spoken here, however. Indeed, his immediate objective was to ensure a lot of distance was put between themand this tenement, not letting her out of his frakking sight until things were settled between them once and for all. He would accept no other outcome, and if that mean beating her unconscious and carrying her back to Caprica City, so be it.
This brought to mind another small issue: namely, where was he going to take her? Well, there was his house – barely more than a prefab shack with indoor plumbing – the one he'd bought five years ago and had been keeping payments on all this time. He hadn't spent more than three or four days a year there, so likely as not it needed some cleaning out before it was fit for habitation. His mother would of course insist they stay with her until that was done, so no worries there.
No, those weren't the real worry, Lieutenant Lee Adama reflected as he sat himself on a rusted and unstable chair in the front room; the immediate worry was how to ensure that objective was to be reached. He set the portfolio on the coffee table, and then holstered his sidearm. Deftly removing the firing pins from the weapon, he settled the now-disarmed gun atop the other item and sat back. There was every chance his temper would get the better of him when he saw her, and certainly vice versa. The very least he could do was ensure the encounter between them wouldn't result in a terminal shooting match.
Broken bones, split lips, and bloodied eyes on the other hand? He wouldn't wager against such things.
He took breath through his mouth (the sofa and threadbare carpet and musty walls all reeked) and leaned forward, elbows on knees, staring at the apartment's door. Lee remained utterly still sitting there, only occasionally glancing at his watch or over his shoulder at the dying daylight.
In contrast to his outward stillness, his thoughts were once again racing. Mainly, he was concerned with what he was going to say to her when she finally appeared, however soon that was. There were a thousand and one things he considered, only to reject each of them nearly out of hand as too inane ("Hey, Kara. Long time no see."), to the too aggressive ("Hey, Kara. Long time no see, you bitch."), to the simply suicidal ("Hey, Kara. C'mon, we are going home. Now!").
The twilight had nearly fallen and he still had no opening he was comfortable with. Lee couldn't help but silently berate himself once again for not asking the old man if he knew what business she was in these days or what hours she kept now. For all he knew, she was off-planet doing shuttle runs to the Astral Queen and her sisters.
At length, he gathered up his weapon and the portfolio, intending to seek out the building's superintendent to get some further intel. There wasn't any sense in just sitting there without at least some sense of how long --
That was when the door clicked and opened. Lee felt himself tense and sit straighter, fists clenching, then unclenching and resting on his knees. Rage spiked at the sight of the slender figure in military cast-offs stumble in as if drunk. Despite the gathering shadows of the dying light, despite the unkempt appearance, there was no doubting who stood there.
Kara Thrace. The woman he'd proposed to. The woman he'd loved. The woman who had run from him.
"Hey, Kara." his vocal chords worked out on their own, amazingly reflecting none of his internal turmoil. This greeting was more than enough to make the figure stop and look up.
That's when Lee saw her hair matted dark, and how her left eye was almost swollen shut.
Swollen, bloodied lips moved as if trying to form words, her visible eye rolling upwards as the rest of her simply collapsed to the floor.
"Kara!" Lee screamed, rage drained from him as he vaulted over the sofa to kneel beside her. There was an unhealthy rattle to her labored breathing, each breath accompanied by a stream of dark bubbles issuing from her damaged lips. "Oh, gods, please no no no no --" Lee muttered, momentarily torn between wanting, needing to take her in his arms and blind fear he might injure her further.
He did a quick visual inventory – battered face, blood on her shirt and pants, but no immediately visible gunshot or stab wounds – and carefully felt her neck. Her pulse was there, but thin and irregular. Panic reached such fever pitch within him his thoughts and senses attained a strange crystal clarity.
Reaching to his belt, Lee pulled out his pocket wireless and flipped it open. Cradling Kara's head in his lap he dialed Emergency Services. The instant a connection opened he calmly reported, "This is Lieutenant Lee Adama, Colonial Fleet ID 923753. I have a badly injured Fleet Officer with me; multiple impact traumas with possible internal bleeding and lung damage. Our location is --"
He spoke all this on automatic, listening attentively to the clipped tones that advised him not to move the injured and that medical services were five minutes away.
"Kara," he murmured quietly, stroking her battered face and sticky hair. "Kara, don't leave me. Please don't leave me. Please don't leave me."
He continued reciting this mantra even after the paramedics arrived, even when they were riding in the ambulance, even when they reached surgery and the multiplicity of her injuries were shouted.
At some point, an attendant took him aside, asking useless questions for useless paperwork that were answered again on automatic. "Karissa Antigone Thrace -- age, uh, 23 or 24 -- Colonial Benefits number 934854487 -- birth world Picon -- blood type alpha-negative -- I don't know what happened to her -- no living relatives I know of -- she's my fiancée -- No, I don't know who did this to her -- she's been missing for five years --"
He answered more questions, barely conscious of them anymore.
All his attention, all his mind and heart and soul, lay in the operating theater beyond doors he was barred from crossing.
His only thought during all this time was the same plea repeated over and over: Please don't leave me. Please don't leave me. Please don't leave me. Please don't leave me --
TBC...when you hit the arrow button!
De Author Seez: Re-reading the original version of this I realized Lee knew a bit more than he should have, hence the reposting. Sorry if it got everyone excited. On the up-side, I'm doing this in conjunction with posting Part 17. Hope you enjoy it.
Want to learn more? Read on...BATTLESTAR GALACTICA:
OTHER LIVESPrelude: Five Years Ago
The day Kara Thrace died had been the happiest of her nineteen years of life.
Three things had made it so.
The third and last event to happen had been saying her farewells to her mother. Strangely, wishing the gods to grant peace to the woman who had birthed her and almost destroyed her soul gave Kara herself a peace and calm unlike any she'd otherwise known. Only one other experience, practiced with one other soul, could equal it.
The first thing to happen had been receiving the acceptance letter from the Fleet Flight Academy on Picon. She'd feared her scores would have relegated her to attending the Marshfields over on Tauron, where the Fleet sent its reservists and borderline washouts.
This was very good news on many levels, not the least of which was that she'd be not only on the same planet but also in literally the same facility as the one she was utterly convinced possessed half her soul. By rights, nothing should have been able to top this news.
However it had been the second event of the day that left her floating. Her nerves had been so shot in anticipation of being either accepted or rejected from the Fleet Academy, added to which her appetite and sleeping patterns so badly disrupted from having to spend a full week without the company of a very specific person for the first time in nearly two years. She'd gone to the local clinic about these difficulties; despite having been put on the other person's benefits plan, Kara had never been comfortable claiming it and so avoided doing so.
It turns out it wasn't nerves at all. And while the news meant her flight training would need to be delayed a year, the news also changed everything for the better. Kara believed this with all her heart. The small keepsake she'd requested from the technicians, which resided now in her pocket, was perhaps the most precious thing she'd ever own.
But Kara was clear-headed enough to know it was not hers alone. It was a bond, something that bound her to her other half in ways that would never be broken; even the ring adorning her finger and all it represented paled in comparison.
Knowing she would be going to Picon and learning to fly, receiving news she once would have dreaded, and leaving the most bitter and hurtful piece of her past behind; all these things together set her heart free-flying, bathed in the glowing hope for her future.
Those hopes were dashed as a delivery truck chose the same moment as she was crossing a street outside her mother's hospice to run the lights. It sent her body flying through the air as wildly as her heart had been but moments ago.
And like any uncontrolled flight, she crashed to the ground, not knowing until later all those hopes were crushed before she'd even landed.
Part One: Target Acquisition.