Disclaimer: not mine
Spoilers: spec and something from an interview Katee Sackhoff just did. It concerns an object, I'm just doing the speculating.
Pairings: Kara/Sam Anders, references/hints: Kara/Lee, Kara/Leoben, Dee/Lee, Shevon/Lee
Rating: PG13, language, violence
Set: post-Revelations.
Length: 3800+
Notes: I'm sorry, three of these sections came out present tense, two came out past. I'm not editing to make them all the same (or even editing right now at all. is late).

Bullets - Five Times Kara Doesn't Say Goodbye
by ALC Punk!

5. Peace

She sometimes turns it over in her fingers, rolling it between them and smelling the gunpowder and oil that's long gone. The scent was sharp in the beginning, acrid and bitter at the back of her throat. Now it's just a memory Kara takes out to poke and prod at.

Twisting and turning the chain the bullet hangs on is an old habit she had back when there was just a pair of dog tags on it. Then one left and she gained a ring.

It's habit she'll probably have until she's withered and grey. If she lives that long.

"Hey." Sam's even more bronzed by the sun here, and his smile is almost as easy-going. When he tucks her against his side, his hand brushes the nape of her neck, tugging lightly at the chain.

Of course he knows what's there.

He slammed it down in front of her after all. Wanna put a bullet between my eyes, Kara? Do it.

She'd picked it up, staring at it, then up at him. There'd been too many things she couldn't say in reply and so she'd done what she did best. She'd run. She'd tucked the bullet in her pocket and run. It stayed there for a week, a week where Sam avoided her, where she avoided everyone (scheduling CAP was a bitch). Until it was too much.

Laird had frowned at her request, but done it, drilling a hole (carefully, of course) and sliding a ring through the bullet. With it clinking against Zak's ring and her dog tag (still singular, and she's never asked for it back), she had something approaching courage and resolve.

It hadn't been easy.

He'd known. He'd known what he was, and he hadn't told her. And yet... and yet, she couldn't blame him then anymore than she can blame him now.

"They're talking about settling in a city halfway around the planet," he says. He doesn't call it Earth.

Kara knows who 'they' are, and she's careful in her reply, "Have you decided to settle with them?" She dreads the answer even as she knows it would make things so much simpler for her.

The silence between them is filled with too many unspoken words, until he laughs a little, and turns. His fingers pull the chain free, "You going to use this anytime soon?"

"I never would have," she blurts, then looks away, unable to believe she's allowed herself to be this vulnerable. Even now, with this man, she needs the comfort of her barriers. "Look, Sam, I--you should--"

Go. Be happy with your own kind. Leave the humans to wallow in their own misery.

But she doesn't say that.

"I'm not going," he murmurs, brushing his thumb over her lips. He tugs at the chain again, "You'll have to use this, first. Besides," he grins cheerfully, his eyes dancing, "Who else is going to keep the CAG happy and well-sexed?"

"Asshole," Kara mutters, shoving at him before she leans into his chest.

****


3. Happenstance.

Roslin claims the Admiral was saving her life when he got shot. There's other rumors, though, ugly whispers about Cylons and double-crosses and the hint that the Admiral wasn't human. Trying to sort fact from fiction is difficult, but one thing remains stark and clear: Admiral Adama is dead, a bullet through his heart and out his back.

It's a strange thing to pick up and hang onto, but Kara finds herself thinking of it as her link to him. She wasn't there for him, she didn't get to save his life the way he'd saved hers so many times.

She can't interrogate Roslin and find out the truth. The woman is stronger than Leoben (always has been), and trying to shove the President's head in a bucket of water isn't exactly good politics. But Kara notices things. The way the woman sometimes freezes, when people talk of Adama. The way she grieves quietly, or not at all (and Kara knows that could just be her way).

Public grief is good politics, could be lobbied into keeping her career going. Oddly, Roslin doesn't pursue re-election as many thought she would.

Kara watches from the sidelines as Lee runs, takes office, speaks for the whole fleet to the Three, D'Anna.

It's a different role for him, but he's good at it. Stands solid with Zarek and the Quorum behind him (Zarek, who's just as changed as Roslin, though for the better, in his case).

Kara sticks to what she knows best. CAG. Ordering and scheduling, bantering with Tigh (who will never forgive his heritage), dodging reality with her husband. She's good at it. And in the end, it has to be better than acknowledging that the one man she'd considered close enough to be a father is dead.

The bullet goes on her chain to rattle around with Zak's ring. Maybe in a way it's a reunion for them.

****


1. Crystal

Kara had tried to stop it. She'd surprised herself doing that, moving into action and grabbing for the woman with the gun.

Too late, of course (a lot of things were too late, these days). The bullet smashed through the air, driving through Leoben's upper left side. His eyes had been so open with shock and something else: uncertainty. It occurred to her that he wasn't sure where he'd really go. The Gods, his God, all of them had led the colonial fleet and the Cylons on a merry chase that had ended on a dead planet.

Sam had plowed over the woman, stripping the gun from her and landing a punch that cracked her head halfway around and dropped her to the deck. "Gods--"

"Where's Cottle?" Kara snapped, already on her knees and pulling at that stupid Gods-damned shirt that had to have come from a frakking thrift store on Caprica near the damned flight academy. Her hands were soaked with his blood so fast.

Too fast.

"Kara--"

He was gone before she could answer, the light flickering out of his eyes an instant after he tried to say something.

"Shit--" Her fist slammed into his chest, trying to get his heart moving again, "You don't get to die this easily, you bastard. Shit!"

"It's too late," said the Three, dropping down on his other side. Her fingers stroked through the blood almost reverentially, "He was so much closer to the Five than he thought he was."

"Frak you," Kara muttered bitterly.

The violence had been so sudden and unexpected that only now were the marines and centurions beginning to react. Guns coming up, claws shifting into rifles, boots and metal feet chattering as both sides found themselves enemies again.

"Stop!" Sam was on his feet, still standing over the civilian he'd dropped. There'd be an investigation later, something that would explain who she was, where she'd come from. "This is not a declaration of war, people. This was an accident--a tragic--"

"Accident?" Her voice amused, D'Anna rose to her feet again, "What you call an accident, I call murder."

"You would," a marine muttered, "Frakkin' toaster."

"Stop." Kara stood, wiping Leoben's blood on her pants and turned to glare at the marines, "Stand the frak down, assholes. This is not a shooting war. We are DONE here. Got it?"

"Leoben," started D'Anna, as though she were going to continue the argument.

Kara moved, blood-stained hands grabbing the Cylon by her lapels, "Enough. This is over, D'Anna. All of it. The hatred, the fighting, the killing. He didn't--" her voice almost broke as she tried to ignore the pain, tried to fight the knowledge bubbling through her. "--die, just so we could anihilate each other."

"I'll make sure," Sam said quietly. He had the woman on her feet, hands behind her back, "that she gets a trial."

"But will it be fair?"

"It will." It was Lee Adama, close enough to a centurion that it almost looked startled to find him there. "You have my word."

"Your word? You have no authority anymore," sneered D'Anna.

"I have enough," he raised his voice, "This woman is under the joint custody of myself and Sam Anders. Any attempt on her life will be met by deadly force."

There was a ripple through the crowd and Roslin stepped forward. She didn't even glance at the dead Leoben on the floor, "Mr. Adama," she started.

"Madame President, I suggest you convene a tribunal for the morning, as there is a very serious matter to be dealt with. Now, Ensign, if you'd be so kind?"

Sam nodded, but he moved towards Kara, hand brushing her arm and eyebrows raised. Her lips twisted and she looked down, seeing the streaks of blood on her flight suit for the first time. "Sam--"

"I'll see you later, hot stuff," he whispered, bending to kiss the top of her head before he moved on. As he reached D'Anna, he put himself between the woman and the Cylon, eyes calm and contained. D'Anna let them pass without a word, as did Roslin, though both were obviously seething.


Later was after the trial, when Marlene Smith was sentenced to some sort of community service--Kara never bothered to check what. They could have airlocked her or shot her, but the latter was a waste of ammunition and the former a waste of a body that could work. And the settlement they were trying to build on Earth needed all the help it could get.

Later was also Sam handing her a lump of metal and looking a little lost.

The bullet had broken in two, the large piece misshapen from passing through flesh and bone. Kara looked at it for a long time before tucking it in her pocket. Zak's ring chimed against her dog tag, and she knew where the bullet would go.

"Will you miss him?"

The silence was uncomfortable until Kara finally met Sam's eyes. "Yeah."

Honesty had always cost her. Sam dropped his eyes first, then raised them again, something strange in his. "I'll miss him, too."

That confused her. "Why?"

"It was easier to hate him."

"I don't know that I ever did," more words that are too honest and Kara looked away this time. "I should--"

Sam's hand touched her shoulder, "If you want to be alone, I can leave. But if you're going to drink, you should have someone to drink with."

"No drinking." Kara reached up and took his hand. "You ever seen the sunset from the inside of the atmosphere, Longshot?"

****


4. Scenery

Kara was on CAP, flirting over the wireless with her husband and making Dee crack jokes about over-sexed pilots when it happened: a splinter group decided that the colonial fleet needed a new leader. The call came in about the same time that a window blew out of Colonial One.

"Starbuck, Galactica, we've got a report of insurgents on Colonial One."

"I can see that, Galactica," Kara replied, already flipping her viper and heading at speed for the ship that had once been nothing more than a short-range shuttle from Caprica. "Longshot, follow me. Galactica, scramble the alert vipers to keep us covered in case this is more than just insurgents."

"Copy, Starbuck."

In less than a minute, she and Sam were covering Colonial One; finding damage along the side housing the president and the quorum. A garbled transmission told them the insurgents had been taken care of, but that there were casualties. Dee relayed that Cottle and his team would be on their way once the marines gave the all-clear.

An hour later, the story was clear: the terrorists had taken out half the quorum before being stopped, and the President was injured, though no one knew exactly how bad.

And Lee Adama was dead.

That was the part Kara was having trouble with, as she finished her post-flight check on her viper, mechanically signing the clipboard and then climbing from her bird.

Chief Laird was at the bottom, business-like and solid. He wasn't Tyrol--he was a solid deck Chief, but he wasn't Galen Tyrol, who'd known her for nearly six years, and the difference hit her as she walked away. Tyrol would have had something to say. A slap on the back, some gesture that would have reminded her she wasn't alone in the vast universe--and, frak, she was getting maudlin. She frakking hated being maudlin.

It was Dee who found her a few hours later, in one of the disused storage rooms. There was a bottle of ambrosia in Dee's hand and two glasses in the other.

"This is awkward," Kara cracked, not bothering to get up.

Dee shrugged and crouched in front of her. "I thought you could use a belt. I know I can." There were tear tracks on her cheeks and her eyes were red and puffy.

"Not into--"

"You're not into a lot," Dee said, shifting and setting the glasses down. She poured an instant later, holding one out to Kara, "Drink this and shut the frak up."

"Well, when you put it like that..." People didn't normally have to twist Kara's arm to get her to drink. Now was really no exception, she just didn't see the point in drinking with Dee. Or maybe she didn't know why the other woman was there--didn't want to know. She could guess. "So, if this is a meeting of Lee Adama's Women, where's that hooker he was seeing a while back?"

The first salvo went wide. Dee laughed softly and shifted again to sit cross-legged across from Kara, her back against a shelf. "Her name is Shevon, and I believe she's been happily married to an ex-accountant from Picon for two years."

"Oh." Kara shrugged, less interested than she'd been, really. The gossip had been old, after all. She sipped the drink, a little surprised to find it wasn't a bad batch. "Chief slip on this one?"

"It's one of the last New Caprican batches. I think it aged well, don't you?"

Not that it was a shot, but Kara couldn't help her little start of surprise. "Yeah. Sure."

"I--" Dee looked down, then said, "He would have made you happy. He loved you."

"Yeah. So much he wouldn't leave you for me."

"He was afraid of what he felt for you, afraid you'd run like you did on New Caprica."

Kara downed the rest of her drink, feeling the pleasant burn was a good distraction from Dee's words. "Maybe." She stuck her finger in the glass to get the last droplet. "And maybe I didn't want him enough to push him into something he was afraid of."

A frown crossed Dee's lips, "How drunk are you, Starbuck?"

"Bottle and a half."

It was mostly the truth.

Dee was silent for a moment, then she said, her voice odd, "If Sam hadn't been there, would you have--?"

Bottle and a half... "No." Kara looked down at the floor, finger drawing lines in the dust, "Lee... Lee never really seemed to see me for me." She stopped, voice changing, "I think you'd better go before I spill all of my secrets." Her head raised again, "Or I ask you what would have happened if Billy hadn't died."

"I deserved that." Raising her glass, Dee inspected the color of the liquid it contained. "To fallen pilots and quorum members, and the people we can't help but love. Even the Cylons."

"Yeah." Feeling strangely young, Kara raised her own. "To that stupid arrow."

Dee's eyebrows shot up, but she didn't ask. They drank the bottle dry between them, discussing upcoming schedules and whether they might need a new recruitment drive for pilots and marines. They carefully avoided the original subject of discussion. At the end, Dee stood, not even wobbling. At the hatchway, she paused and looked back at Kara. When she fished something out of her pocket, Kara had no idea what it was until it was in her hands after Dee had tossed it.

"Thought you might know what to do with that."

With the door shut, Kara turned the small plastic container over in her hands, eying the misshapen piece of metal.

It was in the shape of a heart, the kind small children drew when they were first learning shapes.

****


2. Window

There's a crease on the back of his neck--a furrow of angry red that might never fully fade.

Sometimes, she finds herself running her thumb over it.

The bullet missed doing more permanent damage, and she is lucky, she could have easily lost him. Half an inch deeper and he'd be dead. Cottle hadn't even been sure Sam would walk again, but her husband was a determined man. No bullet was going to stop him.

He was grounded for at least six months, though, working through physical therapy and making certain the damage wasn't severe enough to limit his reflexes.

No one had expected Gaeta to snap like that. Kara sometimes felt she should have, given that she'd been there when Sam shot him. But it had been one more thing she'd fallen down on, one more thing she'd forgotten. Adama'd had their official report, after all. He'd never heard the full story, never heard about the mutiny and double-cross. Helo and the rest being airlocked wasn't something she'd ever wanted.

She'd just needed to find Earth.

What a joke.

Earth had been his breaking point, the straw that pushed the camel into something he wouldn't normally have done. Then again, Sam is a Cylon, and maybe that had been all the justification Gaeta had needed to catch him after a CAP one night.

The gunshot had been too loud, echoing forever as Kara reacted instinctively, her gut clenching as she ducked into the corridor, eyes searching for the location.

Even now, she can remember the utter horror that had gripped her at the sight. Gaeta had been pulling the trigger on another shot when Kara's took him between the eyes, dropping him before his finger could move far enough.

Sam had been a mess, and Kara doesn't remember the frantic call to Cottle, the curses at Ishay, the growls at Helo when he'd tried to ask her what happened. What she does remember is grabbing Sam's hand, telling him, ordering him, not to die. You are not allowed to die on me, you frakking Cylon asshole.

Now, sitting by his bedside, she remembers other things. Snatches of conversation as the truth came out about the Demetrius. The Admiral has been silent about whether Sam will face charges or discharge from the fleet.

Kara hopes it will be neither, hand clenched around the fragment of the bullet she'd pulled from his wound. Cottle has told her if the thing had stayed Sam might now be paralyzed from the pressure on his spinal column.

An inch deeper...

They've both cheated death so often, she sometimes wonders what will happen when they do go. Will they go together? It's a frakking stupid thought that she shoves away as fast as it spills across her mind. Her fingers cramp around the bullet fragment and she loosens her grip, thumb turning it over a moment later. Worrying at the metal distracts her from worrying at Sam.

"Kara," he murmurs. It doesn't surprise her anymore that he always knows when it's her sitting there. It would always be her, except that she still has CAP and her duties as CAG (though Racetrack has taken over the paperwork, claiming Starbuck's handwriting could frak itself into an early grave).

"Yeah." Her thumb rubs over the line of his wound, not pressing enough to hurt.

He catches her hand before she can pull it away far enough and tucks her fingers under his chin as he carefully turns his head to look at her. "You could have let him kill me."

It's the first conversation they've had where he was lucid. Kara's mouth opens, then closes before she says, tone caustic, "I don't let other people fight my battles for me. If I want you dead, I'm going to frakking pull the trigger myself."

"Good to know. Should I sleep with one eye open from now on?"

"Nah. Shooting you in your sleep would be pointless." She sucks in a breath, then adds, "Besides, it would be a bad idea to kill the father of my child."

That gets him, and his eyes go wide as he stares at her, "What?" Then he starts moving, "That's it, where's the Doc? You're nuts."

"Don't--" Kara moves, shoving down on his shoulders to keep him prone, "Don't get up, you idiot."

"I have to restrain the crazy woman at my bedside," Sam tells her, his tone firm, though he doesn't try to get up again. "I should call the Doc."

"Shut up," she mutters, subsiding back in the chair and cursing internally. Frak. She hadn't ever planned on telling him. Or Cottle. "Besides, I don't actually..."

He lets her be silent for a while, then mumbles, "I should ask Helo for advice on this sort of shit."

"What, on shooting your girlfriend?"

"I think I can handle that part." The look he's giving her is mixed terror, shock and something that could be happiness. "It's the other... if we have a girl are you going to go ape-shit and shoot people who look at her too hard?"

"Don't be such an asshole."

"Can't help it."

Kara rolls her eyes and settles back in the chair, still letting him hold her hand (not the one with the fragment, of course, and that goes in a pocket a moment later). "Whatever. Don't get your hopes up."

"I won't," he says, before shifting a little and closing his eyes again. He gets tired too easily, she thinks as he drifts off into sleep.

Or maybe she's just paranoid.

-f-