Title: Captive, Epilogue
Summary: It's Aurora's first birthday. How will the new Adama/Thrace family celebrate?
Disclaimer: It's not mine. I've written letter after letter, but it's still not mine.
A/N: First off, I want to thank everyone who has faithfully followed this story and faithfully commented. It means a lot to me that you all have stuck with me through the random updates and the many trials I have put our pilots through.
Secondly, this is the first story I've ever posted while in progress and I can assure you, I WON'T be doing that again! It's waaaaaay too stressful.
Thirdly, I don't know what's next for Lee and Kara as far as my writing goes. I am in the final "crunch" phase of my thesis and am getting ready to shop my book around to agents. So, I might have a few more RL distractions in the coming months. If a story idea strikes me, I'll probably end up writing it, but at the moment, I don't have anything planned.
Again, thanks to everyone! I love this fandom and I adore writing fic for these two crazy kids.
6 Months Later
Kara sat and stared at her daughter. Her one-year-old, babbling, beautiful daughter. Kara had never thought she'd be here, watching her child pull at her socks, dropping the small pink booties beside her, before she rolled over onto her belly and pushing herself up, manage to crawl toward Kara.
Her bright blue eyes—they had never darkened—looked up to Kara full of happiness. "Mama," she cooed, reaching Kara's knee and pulling herself into a standing position, blonde curls bobbing on her head.
Kara opened her arms to the girl, and scooped her up bringing her close to her chest.
"You're one year old today, little one," she whispered, watching with amusement as Aurora clapped her chubby hands at this pronouncement. Kara could swear the kid knew exactly what she was saying all the time. It had definitely caused her to start watching her language. "I can't believe it. You got so big."
"Mama, mama." It was like a chant. Kara couldn't help smiling, remember the first time, just a month ago when she had uttered the word. Aurora had been calling Lee "dada" for weeks, but it seemed Kara wasn't quite up to naming status. The little girl would reach for her and want Kara's attention, but despite their repeated efforts to get her to utter the moniker, she just didn't.
Then, a month ago, while Lee had been out on CAP and Kara had been struggling with a particularly severe Leoben flashback, she had heard Aurora's sweet voice. "Mama." It had snapped Kara's mind fully back to the present, tears in her eyes that sprung from a place of happiness and not despair.
Kara hadn't had another flashback since.
Until today. It was hard to celebrate this day, Aurora's birthday, and not remember the frakked up circumstances surrounding her birth. She couldn't help but remember Leoben and his sick smiles or the one time she had awoken to find her daughter missing.
The fear of the memory caused Kara to squeeze Aurora a bit too hard and the little girl cried out. With a hand pushed to Kara's face and a pout on her lips, she told her mother, "No."
Kara laughed. "Oh, yeah, you come by that honestly."
At the sound of Kara's laughter, Aurora joined her and it was with tears in their eyes that Lee found them as he returned from his shift in CIC.
He still cut a fine form in dress blues and Kara gave him a more than appreciative glance as he entered their quarters, crossed to her and pressed a kiss to her forehead and then Aurora's. "What are you two laughing about?" he asked, returning Kara's grin.
"I was just telling Aurora how silly her daddy is," Kara teased, even as her daughter reached for Lee and he scooped her up. "And she was agreeing."
"I'll bet," Lee told her, sticking his tongue out at Kara before turning his attention to his daughter.
Kara rose reluctantly, not really looking forward to the rest of the day's festivities, but she knew it couldn't be helped. She wanted to stay in, just her and Lee and their daughter, but the Old Man had insisted on a family dinner to celebrate his grandchild's birthday and who was Kara to deny him. Besides she knew her reclusive behavior over the past few months had caused some real concern among the crew and her family. Rumors were rampant that Kara had suffered some kind of mental break; that she sat in her quarters day and night babbling incoherently.
They weren't true, of course. The only babbling she endured was Aurora's. But people wanted to talk and so they did. She figured stepping out for a few hours might put some of those rumors to rest. Then at least Lee could stop fielding all the questions and strange looks.
Kara turned toward the sound of his voice, startled to realize she'd been standing in front of her open locker. "What?"
"You okay?" he asked, crossing the space between them, Aurora starting to get sleepy as her afternoon nap was upon them. "You were staring off for a couple of minutes."
Shaking her head as if to clear cobwebs, Kara told him. "Yup, I'm fine. We're still going to your dad's, right?"
"If you want to," Lee told her, his brow still furrowed, implying that he didn't quite believe her. "I can always call and tell him—"
"No, Lee." Kara reached into her locker, grabbing her shower gear and a fresh set of underwear. "I need to get out of this room if only so everyone on the frakkin' ship will stop speculating about how far over the edge I've gone."
"Since when have you cared what anyone thought?" he challenged. She supposed he had a point. Other people's opinions didn't really matter all that much to Starbuck.
But she couldn't stand the thought that Lee could be suffering from her lack of social skills.
"I don't," she told him, heading for their small bathroom. "But I don't want them to think you're with me out of pity or some other—"
"Kara." He was standing at her back before she could even register that he'd moved.
Turning to face him, she had to bite her lip to avoid laughing at the unbelievably adorable expression on his features. "I don't give a damn what anyone thinks about us. I'm with you because I love you."
"Me too," she told him with a grin and quick peck on the lips, before slipping into the bathroom and shutting the hatch.
She leaned against it, taking a shaky breath and then another. It shouldn't still be that hard to hear it, to "not" say it. Kara didn't know why the words caused a cold sweat at random intervals. Leoben had never actually uttered them to her himself. And she believed that Lee loved her completely.
Shaking off the momentarily chill, Kara straightened her shoulders before turning on the tap and starting to undress. It was just today. She'd woken up feeling off and with the flashbacks she'd just felt more off balance. As much as she wanted to celebrate for her daughter's sake, Kara would be beyond relieved when this day was over.
Lee stood in the doorway, eyes wide, staring at the dozen or so people crammed into his father's quarters. He could feel Kara's tense frame beside him, Aurora in her arms clapping happily at the sight of her favorite people, while he knew her mother was fighting the urge to run.
"You knew about this, didn't you?" Kara hissed in his ear, pasting on a tight grin as Dualla, Helo and Roslin descended upon them, all cooing over the baby. Kara gave her up to Helo easily—the taller man had watched Aurora on many an occasion and Aurora went to him gladly—and then turned to glare at her daughter's father. "Lee Adama—"
"I swear to the Gods, I had no idea," Lee told her softly, taking her hands in his. Studying her closely, he asked, "Are you okay with this?"
He could tell by the quick glance she gave to the decking she wasn't, but he also knew she'd lie. And he was right.
"Of course. This is Aurora's day and it's really nice for your dad to go to all this trouble."
"It wasn't any trouble," the Old Man told them, his voice rumbling through the din in the room. Reaching Lee and Kara, he offered them both small glasses of Ambrosia and then toasted them with his own. "To my granddaughter."
"To Aurora," Lee and Kara murmured in return, before knocking back the green liquid quickly. Looking to his father, Lee told him a hushed tone, "I really wished you'd asked me, dad. We didn't want a fuss."
"What he means is, he's afraid I'm going to go bat-shit crazy and start screaming at everyone," Kara interjected with a saucy smile that Lee was forced to return.
His father simply looked unapologetically between them. "It's just a few people and everyone in this room cares about you, Kara and Aurora." Adama glanced behind him, taking in the sight and Lee's eyes followed his.
It was true; the people in this room were the closest thing to an extended family he and Kara had ever had. Even Tigh was there and despite his gruff exterior, Lee could swear the older man was fighting to smile as Aurora managed to bang her hands on his bald head, from her higher perch at Helo's shoulder.
But Kara had eschewed any kind of scene like this in the months she'd been back. On a few occasions he managed to get her to eat in the mess with him and Aurora, but they always sat at the quietest table, far from the noise and the din, and then always returned directly to quarters after. He knew that being out, exposed, caused her to feel vulnerable and while he wanted to fix it, he didn't know what to do except let Kara dictate the pace. He knew she was trying and that was more than enough for Lee.
Turning to face her, he again held her gaze, swallowing hard. "Do you want to go? We can take Aurora and go home, make our apologies."
Kara's eyes scanned the room, her lower lip worried between her teeth as her gaze fell upon her daughter, beaming and giggling happily across the room. Shaking her head once, she turned back to Lee and he saw true determination on her features. "No. We should stay. This is for Aurora."
Taking her hand, Lee gave it a gentle squeeze and pulled their bodies close. "It'll just be for a little while."
She didn't offer an answer, but Lee felt her shift just a little bit closer into his side.
Aurora was not starved for attention on Galactica. Aside from her doting parents and grandfather, she had the president of the colonies wrapped around her tiny fingers, as well as most of the knuckledraggers, pilots and auxiliary staff. Helo and Sharon were frequent babysitters and Aurora adored Karl. It didn't surprise her as he'd always been one of Kara's most trusted friends.
Even Dualla was sweet on the child and while Kara had initially been unnerved by the other woman's presence, she had gradually come to accept that Ana wasn't making a play for Lee. She was simply enjoying her time around a small, happy child. Because Aurora was hope—hope for the future they were fighting so hard to preserve and Kara knew hope was often the most precious commodity.
Aurora had been passed back to Kara now. The longer the night wore on, the more fussy she became and even Helo couldn't manage to calm her. Kara had no trouble. With cake marring her chubby cheeks, Aurora had quickly dropped her head to Kara's shoulder. While rubbing her back gently and humming softly, she had quickly fallen asleep and Kara was tempted to join her.
She caught sight of Lee through sleepy eyes across the room. He was talking to his father, but thankfully, there was a smile on his face, indicating that the Old Man had managed to leave any military business at the door. She was glad to see Lee relaxing, glad to see him smiling and laughing. They had their light-hearted moments of course, but she knew that both of them laughed far less than they used to. They did a lot of things far less than they used to, she supposed.
Like teasing one another, joking, even fighting. Kara missed it. She missed the comfort, the familiarity of being with someone who knew you so well, that they could yell and scream at one another and still be okay a few hours later. She missed kidding Lee about his fastidiousness and him teasing her about her hygiene.
She missed them.
With a sigh, Kara blinked tears back quickly. It was her fault, this odd, strained limbo they were in. She was still broken, even after months on board, even after healing. She was fragile and Lee knew it. She could tell every time he looked at her, every time he came home and caught her staring at nothing or she snapped at him for something trivial.
Every time they made love, she could feel it. He treated her like glass, like a china doll that sat too close to the edge of a wobbly shelf. The sex was great, but there were times when Kara wanted him to be more like himself, more like the man who couldn't keep his hands off her. But he wouldn't. He didn't initiate anything, didn't even make an attempt if he didn't first ask permission.
Kara hated that she had reduced him—them—to this. To walking on eggshells and being careful. To hiding the more natural parts of themselves. That wasn't what a relationship was about, right? Kara feared if things stayed this way for too long, they might not make it. She feared that in trying to support her, Lee might fall out of love with her. He'd always love her as a friend, sure, but the passion—hot, fiery and maybe a little unhealthy—that had been the bedrock for their relationship before New Caprica appeared gone now. Kara worried what might happen if it never returned.
"Cubit for your thoughts?"
Kara blinked back another set of traitorous tears and glanced to the side, offering Helo a small grin. "I doubt they're worth anything, let alone a cubit."
"Yeah, well, money's useless now anyway." Helo returned her smile and then allowed his eyes to fall to Aurora, who was still sleeping contentedly against her mother's chest. "Now, see? How come she wouldn't do that for me?"
She smiled wide this time. "She likes me better."
Her friend chuckled softly and then let his eyes scan the room before coming back to Kara. "So, what's up?"
Kara shrugged, resting her cheek lightly on top of Aurora's blonde curls. Her hair was still baby soft and Kara relished the feel of it against her cheek.
She knew that tone and she also knew it was going to be difficult to ignore him. Counting to five, she raised her eyes to his face in answer and he asked again, "What's up?"
"Nothing, Helo, okay? I'm just a little worn out."
"Yeah, right." Helo pulled his chair a bit closer. He had straddled it, so he rested his arms against the back, bringing their faces basically eye level. "Come on, Thrace. This is me you're talking to. Let's not pretend I'm going to fall for any of your usual subversive bullshit, okay? I get tired too you know."
She knew he meant it all as a joke, but Kara felt more tears sting her eyes. She ducked her head before he could see, but even that gesture caused more concern. "Hey, Kara, come on. That was just a little tough love. I didn't mean it."
His hand rested lightly on her shoulder, giving it a soft squeeze and Kara took a deep breath before again feeling composed enough to look at him. "I know, and I appreciate it, really. I just …"
She bit her lower lip, worried that if she put her fears into words they might come true. Her eyes roamed the room, finding Lee again, glad to see him now in a deep discussion with the president. It seemed the two of them had found more than a little common ground since the exodus and Kara knew Roslin's confidence meant a lot to Lee.
"What if I'm always like this?" she finally rasped, eyes back on Karl's. His brow furrowed in confusion, Kara elaborated. "What if I never get back to myself? I mean, staying in quarters for days on end, not taking meals in the mess—who does that? What if Lee—"
No. She couldn't say it out loud. She just couldn't. She focused her attentions back on Aurora, although the little girl had barely moved from her comfortable position.
"Kara. What about Lee? What's wrong?"
Kara wasn't sure how Helo had become the truest friend she had, but she could never have traded him for even the finest Caprican cigars. Except for maybe right now. "It's nothing, Helo, okay? Just leave it alone."
She knew he wasn't going to let up, so she was left with only one option. Shifting Aurora in her arms, she passed her to Helo before he could protest and then rose, heading swiftly for the hatch. She didn't bother to see if Lee had caught sight of her, she just kept walking. "I need some air," she threw over her shoulder to no one in particular as she reached the hatch, pushed it open and walked hurriedly down the deserted corridor.
Lee saw Kara leave and was half out of his chair by the time she'd taken a step over the threshold. However, considering Kara's moods of late, he though that maybe a quick check with Helo on her mood might be the best first course of action.
As soon as he caught Lee's eye, Helo told him, "I swear, I didn't do anything."
Lee smiled tightly. "I know that, Karl. But something happened."
Helo's gaze traveled the path Kara had taken a minute before and then fell back to Lee. "She's worried she's never going to snap out of this. She's worried she's going to be timid forever."
Lee frowned. He had considered the possibility for maybe a second; Kara Thrace was many things, but she was not timid. "It's just a rough patch, Helo. I know Kara's going to come around."
"But she doesn't." Helo stood, Aurora still tucked safely in the crook of his elbow. "I'd go remind her a little bit of the Starbuck she used to be."
"I don't want to push." And that was the heart of it. Kara had gone through hell, the last thing Lee would do was dictate the pace at which she'd recover. "I know she'll see herself through it."
Helo shook his head. "I don't think so, Apollo. I think she might need a little nudge in the right direction. I think she needs to remember who she was before New Caprica. And I think she needs you to remind her."
Lee digested that, wondering just how exactly that conversation would go. Was it even a conversation? Or was it action? Did Lee need to get her in a viper? Have her play a few hands of Triad with the other pilots? Spar with her in the gym? He didn't know. And his fear of doing the wrong thing was almost worse than his fear of doing anything.
"Don't over think it, Apollo." Helo's hand on his shoulder was heavy. "Just go. It's Kara, man, and I'm pretty much convinced that no one knows her better than you."
He wasn't sure he shared Helo's confidence. Glancing to his daughter, he asked, "Can you—"
"Yeah, Sharon and I got her, 'til morning. Just go find Kara."
Lee grinned at his friend and clapped him on the shoulder. "You know, one of these days you're going to have to stop bailing Starbuck and I out."
"Blasphemy," Helo teased, his grin wide and reaching his eyes. "I'm pretty sure this is what friends do, man. I'm just holding up my end of the deal."
Lee gave him a quick nod and then turned to find his father staring at him from across the room. Giving another nod to his dad, he headed out the hatch and went in search of Kara.
She couldn't go back to quarters. She'd spent so long in that frakking room she could identify every dent, paint chip and rivet.
So, instead, she'd just walked and somehow she'd ended up here, in the pilot's ready room staring at the board. She knew maybe a third of the callsigns and it reminded her again of how much everyone had suffered at New Caprica. Not just her—it wasn't just about her.
She circled the room, standing behind the podium, staring at the empty seats. There were maybe a handful of places Kara had ever felt she belonged and sitting out there, getting briefed or heckling Lee, was one of them.
But she wasn't so sure anymore. She'd briefly considered heading to the hangar deck, checking out her plane, but she just couldn't bring herself to do it. The doc had cleared her for flight about two months ago, but Kara had never once asked to be reinstated. Lee had never pushed either and she wasn't sure if she was relieved or annoyed.
Kara supposed she could blame her reticence on Aurora; she didn't want to fly because something might happen and then Aurora would be motherless. She knew it was a pretty weak excuse though and not even close to the real one. She wasn't flying because she was afraid. It felt like a lifetime ago that she had sat in a cockpit and fired at toasters. It felt like another life, another person and Kara wasn't sure she could muster the same reckless, fearless attitude that would keep in her alive in the cockpit.
"Hey now, you're in my spot."
She glanced up sharply at the sound of Lee's voice, catching sight of him from where he leaned against the wall, arms crossed over his chest. She knew he'd been watching her, but she had no idea how long.
Stepping back from the podium, she gestured toward it with a flourish. "By all means, Captain. I wouldn't want to be accused of assuming rank."
Lee smiled tightly at her remark and that's when Kara knew he was here to talk about something serious. Of course, when wasn't he? Wasn't it always serious now between them?
He stood before her, blue eyes studying hers intently. "Are you okay? You left kind of fast."
She shrugged and skirted around him, taking a seat in the front row. "Yeah, sure. Just a little tired, you know."
He didn't respond and Kara wouldn't look up. She didn't know if she could take one more look of pity from Lee. One more look of "I don't want to break you, so I'm not going to challenge you." What was their relationship without a little bit of challenge?
"You know what, Lee? Can we not do this?" She risked a glance to him and almost giggled at the completely flabbergasted look on his face. His mouth hung open for a full ten seconds before he snapped it shut.
"Uh, yeah. I guess." He crossed the room and sat beside her, the armrests keeping them at a distance. "Just out of curiosity, what did you think this was?"
Kara sighed and let her head drop back against the seat. "I don't know. Another somber conversation about how 'things will be fine' and 'we'll see our way through this' and 'it's okay if I'm not quite back to my old self.' 'We'll weather the storm'."
She'd memorized all his platitudes. Sliding her eyes to the left, she saw that he had a slightly bemused expression on his features and it made her sit up and demand, "What's so funny?"
Lee shook his head and admitted, "Nothing, I'm just pretty sure that's the most Starbuck thing you've said to me in over a year."
When he turned to catch her eyes, he was grinning and she started laughing a split second before he did. As their laughter filled the room, Kara clutched her stomach, unable to remember a time when she had laughed this hard.
Struggling to catch her breath, she wiped tears from her eyes and caught Lee doing the same thing. "Gods, that felt good."
"It did, didn't it?" He turned to face her fully and reached across the small space between them. "I've missed you, Kara."
Her heart soared as he vocalized her own thoughts. "Gods, Lee. I've missed you, I've missed us."
His brow furrowed and Kara continued, standing to pace in front of him. "I mean, my Gods, we're so careful around each other lately. That's not us. I don't want you to … I don't want you to treat me like I'm made of glass, Lee."
She looked to him, noticing that his mouth was already open to protest, but she silenced him by adding, "You do it, Lee, whether it's conscious or not. I'm not gonna break."
His eyes narrowed as he stared at her and for the first time in a while, she didn't flinch under his gaze. After a moment, he rose and approached her, cradling her cheeks in his hands, his eyes still intent on hers. "Kara, for a while there, it looked like you might. I don't—"
She didn't need to hear the rest of what he had to say. She knew it would be sweet and perfect and utterly adorable, but she didn't want him to continue treating her with kid gloves. So instead, she kissed him. Hard.
He froze for a second under her mouth and then Kara felt him come alive. His hands slid around to the back of her neck, drawing her closer and he opened his mouth under hers, his tongue sliding deliciously along the seam of her lips before Kara opened her mouth and thrust her tongue into his.
It was the most passionate kiss they'd shared since she'd returned from the surface. It was so "them" she almost wanted to cry. But Kara refused to do that. She was stronger than that, stronger than anything Leoben had put her through and she was safe now, with Lee, on Galactica. Those were the things she needed to remember day in and day out. Not nightmares of her captivity.
Lee's hands tangled in her hair, tilting her head back slightly so he could more readily devour her mouth. Kara moaned against him, pulling her body flush to his and feeling his arousal press hard against her thigh. It was Lee's turn to groan and he broke away suddenly, panting, his forehead resting against hers.
"Kara, are you—"
"Lee Adama, if you ask me if I'm sure I want to frak you, I swear to the Gods I'll see to it that Aurora is your only child."
Lee's eyes locked with hers and she watched a slow grin slide across his face. "There's my Starbuck," he murmured as his lips descended on hers once again.
Oh hell yeah. She was back.