A/N: My first time writing Leoben and Starbuck. Go easy on me.
Lastly, In The Fire
First, in the woods—
"What exactly are you expecting to find?"
She makes a noise of dismissal. She has been teetering on the verge of cruelty for weeks now, and cannot take anything he says with the levity he deserves; with the solemnity with which his words are imbued.
"I thought you were the answer man."
"I'm not a man," he says, though he doesn't believe it, he's just saying it to remind her of what her own version of reality is: that she will deny and deny, and even when they step close enough to touch she will shove. His voice is curiously soft.
She stops to look at him, and thinks that he is taller than she remembers.
"I don't know," she tells him, and for once, she's honest.
"Corpses of memories or memories of corpses," says Leoben, biting his lower lip thoughtfully as he surveys the fallow ground.
"Don't," says Kara.
He stares hard at the leaves, then glances up at her, eyes so blue. "Don't what?"
"Prophesy," she says, as she turns away.
Then, in the field—
Surrounded by weeds, steps arching high above them, her flight uniform and his dark clothing collecting burrs. There's a faint scent of decay in the clearing, though whether it's of vegetable or animal form she can't quite identify. Her foot comes down awkwardly once, immediately after entering the field, and his hand is on her arm for support before she even registers the tilt and lure of gravity.
She grits her teeth, and removes her arm from his hand. Moves on. He stands a moment longer, holding still, until he hears her say, "Thanks."
Then he comes after her, sure-footed as a cat.
She thrashes with the dying plant life, striding through, brushes a burr off her sleeve. Without looking, Leoben steps around a puddle. He spares a glance for the sky. He thinks it might be beautiful, come morning.
He's dogging her steps and again she grits her teeth. He's followed her around ever since they landed on this frakkin' planet. This beautiful planet, this amazing planet, this ethereal, terrestrial hellhole. She's paralyzed by the thought of regret over such a large thing— how can you regret an entire planet?— and so instead she looks for something to make it worthwhile. She'll set up house here, someday. She'll cook. She'll paint.
Frak that. She's never going to paint again.
She stops suddenly and he steps into her, full-body, close but cold. She turns to glare, shoves him off with her elbow. If he fell, she wouldn't catch him.
She's seen something, though.
She pushes forward.
Lastly, in the fire—
It's dying down when he shows up again, and takes a seat in a cautious series of movements as though he— or she, or Earth— might break.
She's tapping her soot-covered fingers against her lips; licks at the taste of dead wood and dried grass.
"Didn't think you'd come back."
"Neither did I," says Leoben, and hunches slightly, pulls his knees up towards his chin and wraps his arms around his legs. His pants are dirty. He had stumbled and fell several times, getting away from her. Not from his hurry; more from his shock. She'd watched him off into the distance.
Kara shakes her head.
"So what's this, then?" she says, softly at first, but with growing momentum. "You tell me I'm special. You get everyone believing it— frak, even I believed it. For a while. And then what? You're wrong, so you turn and run?"
"I wasn't wrong about that," he says.
"You're delusional," says Kara, eyes hard. She watches him across the dying flames. "If you think that I— if you think I'm going to do anything good for anybody, you're seriously frakked up in the head. I'm not going to do anything. If I don't do anything, maybe nothing bad will happen."
"That's not being true to yourself," says Leoben knowingly. "The Kara Thrace I know couldn't stand to just— do nothing."
"The Kara Thrace you know is nothing but dust and ashes," she spits out, and points at the fire. "You're finally warming yourself by her. She's gone."
She waits, almost breathless, for him to argue, to disagree, to pursue his delusions that were suddenly so comforting to her; but he says nothing, only sits in inscrutable silence, which she, abruptly, cannot take any more.
She stands, and he does too, stumbling to his feet to sway in the slight breeze. The fire flares briefly and she gets a good look at his eyes. She steps towards him.
"You're afraid of me," she says, and the thought both terrifies and exhilarates her.
Leoben takes a step back. She moves forward and he retreats, and it's a dance, a chess game, a hunt, a farce. She has a mad urge to laugh; and does, because giving into mad urges is what's gotten her this far.
"That's just great," she says, eyes wide and sparkling, a grin settling into place. "The Cylon is afraid of the human. Or— the Cylon is afraid of another Cylon. Whatever the frak I am, you're terrified. I know that look."
He shakes his head, but she's so preoccupied with what she's saying she misses it.
"You don't know what I'm going to do," she says. "You've been so sure all this time and all of a sudden you've lost your will to predict my actions, to read my mind— you're out of my head."
"You're afraid of me. Say it. Say it!"
Another head shake, another few steps, and by the time he speaks she realizes suddenly that somewhere along the line, he has stopped retreating. Her next step takes her up against him.
"I am not afraid of you," he says, softly.
"Then why did you run?" Her face is very close to his. He isn't as tall as she thought.
"I was afraid— " He pauses; it's hard for him to say it, somehow. "Of what you would do."
"What am I going to do?" Perhaps he hasn't stopped prophesying for her. Not yet. She waits for the prediction of her next move, and wonders how closely it will resemble the truth. If there is one. If she can find it.
But Leoben shakes his head, very slightly. His mouth open, he sighs a little. "I don't know," he admits, and swallows, and when she reaches up to kiss him he stands very still. Leoben doesn't particularly enjoy lying, but he recognizes the need for it— if he tells her that he is afraid of her, of Kara Thrace, she won't let him help, will only press the advantage as long as she can. Because he is terrified. Bone-deep, somewhere in the soul he is sure that he has, he is afraid.
He won't move, refuses to move, but Kara kisses him anyway; he might have a knife and decide a little reciprocal murder is in order, but she doesn't care right then. She's burnt herself to dust and ashes, and has nothing left to warm herself by except the friendly enemy. Her anger dies out on his lips, and just as he finally begins to respond, she pulls away.
She lets him go, sits down, leans back. Puts her hands on the ground and stares at the embers.
"What is this?" she questions, quietly.
He sinks to the ground beside her.
"Earth," he says. She may not be Kara Thrace, he thinks, but she looks like her, acts like her, tastes like her. The sudden thought of Starbuck, never ending, always coming back, dizzies him in a way that his own sudden mortality doesn't. After all, there is no resurrection ship for her, either, whatever she is.
They're the last of their kind. Everyone, now, is the last of their kind.
They sit together in the predawn, then the dawn, sit on Earth and wait for the sun to come up as it surely would— possibly— and the sky to blossom into color and for things to be beautiful; and when she picks up his hand, he lets her; and when he tangles his fingers in her hair, she lets him; and finally Kara Thrace thinks of him as the last Leoben, the only Leoben, her equal, and everything changes again; everything pulses and turns and changes, again.