Title: A Good Day for Dying
Disclaimer: Don't own 'em.
Characters/Pairings: Kara, Lee, hints of K/L and K/Z
Spoilers: Just the mini.
Beta: Thanks to visualthinker11 and tracyj23 for editing this one!
Note: Written for the klficathon on livejournal, for blueskypenguin's first prompt.
Prompt: 1. What if Kara hadn't been in hack when Lee had come on board in the mini-series? Where would she have been and how is the reunion different? Anything goes for this one – angst/romance, whatever.
Summary: They met in the middle of the bay, and he knew he was smiling like an idiot, but she was too so it was okay.
Kara usually found triad relaxing. She could sit back, kick some congenial ass, and recharge. Not today.
"Was that before you were thrown in the brig for Drunk & Disorderly as a cadet, or after?"
Kara gritted her teeth and concentrated on the edges of the stiff cards against her fingers. She wasn't in the mood to be dwelling on that day in the brig. Things had been mostly okay before that.
"After," she answered tersely.
Yeah, after. Along with everything else in her life. Not that before had been bliss, but at least it had been a pain she could understand.
Her thoughts returned to a certain uptight Apollo (that was how she thought of him, Apollo—well, mostly) even though she was stubbornly set on not thinking about him.
It wasn't like the frakker wanted to be coming to Galactica anyway. It's not like he's coming to see you, Thrace, she told herself. So stop being so frakking girly about it. Apollo was coming to Galactica. Big frakking deal. If the idiot couldn't be bothered to return her comm, then she wasn't going to give him some big bear hug on the flight deck or anything stupidly sentimental like that.
She was so busy not thinking about Apollo between automatic quips with the XO that she was just a fraction too sluggish when the old bastard upended the table. Helo grabbed her around the waist before she could throw a single punch. She struggled against him as the XO stared her down.
"Easy Kara," Helo whispered in her ear. "Do you really want to spend the decommissioning ceremony cooling your heels in hack?"
She eased up, but didn't stop glaring at Tigh. Helo didn't let her go either, not until the Colonel had dragged his drunken ass out of the rec room and the other pilots started picking up the table, cards, and cubits.
When Boomer offered to deal her in for a new hand, Kara gave a careless scowl and an "I'm outta here."
If she just happened to be checking up on her Viper when their esteemed guest arrived, well, that was entirely coincidental.
"I have the ball."
It figured that his father's half-rate junker of a ship wouldn't even have automated landings. That was just the perfect start to this godsdamned trip he'd been politely ordered to take. The only bright spot to his day was the prospect of seeing Kara again.
It had been a long time since he'd made a manual landing, but his Viper still settled neatly onto the decking, mag locks quickly engaging and the lift carrying him down to the hangar.
A deckhand—the Chief—greeted him with the requisite spiel about the great Commander Adama. Lee couldn't stomach it for more than a few seconds, and quickly brushed past the man. He took in the hangar, his eyes moving past the Chief to the other knuckledraggers, some polishing Vipers but mostly relaxing on the eve of the ceremony, and—
"Hey, Starbuck!" someone shouted from the walkway above.
Lee's eyes snapped to attention on the familiar figure checking a Viper across the bay. She turned around, shouting something vaguely derogatory in reply before her eyes found Lee's.
There was a moment in which he wasn't sure how she was going to react. But it was only a moment before her eyes brightened and her lips curved into a blinding grin.
They met in the middle of the bay, and he knew he was smiling like an idiot, but she was too so it was okay.
"Captain Adama, sir," she said, bringing one arm up in a lazy salute. "Welcome to Galactica."
He was getting tired of hearing people say that, and thought about telling her, but he found he didn't mind as much hearing it from her. Maybe it had to do with the way she kept poking her tongue between her teeth in the pauses between her words.
"Did Chief Tyrol kiss your ass to your satisfaction?"
Ah, there was the Kara he knew. "So I'm supposed to be in the ready room for a briefing," Lee said. "But I've never been on a ship so antiquated, and these corridors could be a labyrinth for all I know..." He trailed off in expectation.
"And they say men never ask for directions." With that, Kara gave Lee a wry grin and a lift of the eyebrows before wiping her greasy hands all along his neck and collar where the top half of his flight suit was open. He laughed and feigned outrage as he followed her through the bustling halls.
"Same old Kara."
She snorted in response as they walked side-by-side. "Yeah? How long's it been anyway?"
There was a pause as they both remembered why, and Lee was conscious enough to feel the sting of guilt. He really had meant to write her back, he just...never known what to say, and then it had been too long to pretend he hadn't been thinking about her. But words on paper just seemed inadequate when everything about Kara Thrace was in three dimensions.
"Two years?" she said before his guilt could go on too long. "We must be getting old. Seems like the funeral was just a couple of months ago."
I always feel that way, he didn't say, except for the days I think it never happened and my little brother is still living life too fast and too hard—waiting still for the impact.
"Your old man's doing fine. We don't talk about it much—maybe two, three times a year. He still struggles with it, though." Kara's steps were steady but her eyes, though they remained straight ahead, were uncertain.
Lee swallowed around the cold lump in his throat. "I haven't talked to him."
"Why not?" The uncertainty was gone.
"Kara, don't even start." He bit out the words, consciously relaxing his muscles and keeping his voice low.
She scowled and took a sharp turn. People cleared out of her way as soon as they saw her face. "How long are you going to do this?"
"I'm not doing anything," Lee insisted.
"He lost his son, Lee."
"And who's responsible for that?" he spat, losing the fight to stay calm.
Her pace faltered for a fraction of a second before speeding up to push past him. "Same old Lee," she muttered. If he hadn't been focused so closely on her as he followed on her heels, he wouldn't have caught her words. But maybe she knew that. "You haven't changed either," she said, turning just slightly so that he caught sight of her profile over one shoulder.
He grabbed her arm, bringing her to a halt in the middle of the corridor. She looked away. He didn't move his hand.
"Zak was my brother."
Her eyes closed for a moment, lips parted slightly and chin lowering towards her chest. Then her gaze snapped up to meet his. "What was he to me, nothing?" She shrugged off his touch, moving away again.
Shit. He rushed after her. "That's not what I meant," he protested, "and you know it—"
"We're here," she snapped back, shoving her way into the ready room and not looking back.
"Frak," he mumbled. "Way to go." Another pilot on his way to the briefing gave Lee an odd look. "Frak," he said again.
Kara sank into her usual spot beside Boomer in the front row. She didn't notice the other pilots' greetings. She did notice, however, when Lee settled quite stiffly into the seat right next to her.
She spent the whole briefing focusing intently on Ripper's words and steadfastly ignoring the fact that Lee was sitting right frakking next to her and she could hear the sonofabitch breathing. Then the CAG had to call on Apollo in the middle of the briefing, the frakker.
She was first out of the room when they were dismissed.
Lee should have felt satisfied as he left his father after the oh-so-touching photo op reunion. He should have felt satisfied for making his father pay for his crimes. Putting the blame where it belonged. Punishing the guilty. It should have felt like justice, he thought as his hand lingered on the hatch. But nothing about this day had gone right. At least he was almost through. He'd get to fly soon (in his father's plane, but it was still flying) barring yet another disaster from some unexpected corner. That, and assuming Kara didn't blow him out of the sky as soon as he launched.
Speak of the hotshot pilot with an attitude problem...
"Hey," she greeted him, straightening from where she had been leaning against the wall opposite the hatch he'd left his father behind.
For a moment, he was speechless. "Hey," he replied. She'd never done what he expected before. Why should this day be any different?
"Look, I," she took a step forward, hesitated, licked her lips (and he did not notice the slow drag of her tongue), tried again. "I thought you'd be heading to the flight deck after—" she nodded to the closed hatch, "and someone should make sure you didn't get lost in the labyrinth."
Her posture was tense, arms tucked in close, and shoulders tight as though she were expecting a blow. But this time her gaze held firm.
He let out a breath, and felt as though his anger and bitterness were draining away in the face of the push-pull of their relationship, almost reliable in its unpredictability. "It's good to see you, Kara," he said, moving towards her.
She smiled, and it was brief but real. "Yeah," she said, "you too."
They stood facing each other in the middle of the corridor for another long moment before he coughed slightly, fighting not to start grinning like an idiot in public again. He tried for a disaffected smirk as he broke the silence. "So, you, uh, going to show me the way or are we just going to stand here and miss the flyby? I don't know about you, but the squadron would definitely miss me and my flying expertise."
She laughed and started walking. "Sure hotshot, but isn't it hard to miss something you've never had? Like, say, your 'flying expertise'?"
They weren't the only ones in the halls, but they moved together, shoulders not quite touching but always threatening to. They passed the quick trip to the flight deck this way, trading jokes at each others' expense. It was almost like it used to be.
Once they got to the hangar, she quickly immersed herself in pre-flight and chatting with the other crew. He watched her for a minute, zipping up her flightsuit and pulling on her gloves as she moved confidently around her Viper.
It really was good to see her.
10 ... 9 ...
Kara smiled as she waited in the launch tube, the LSO's countdown ringing in her ears.
8 ... 7 ...
She had a bunk, a locker, and a squadron full of cohorts and comedians.
6 ... 5 ...
She had a deck of cards and a handful of stogies.
4 ... 3 ...
Most of all, she had her wings and two men named Adama who she thought might care to have her around.
2 ... 1 ...
It was going to be a good day for flying.