Title: A Form of Betrayal
Pairing: Lee/Kara (hints of Kara/Zak)
Disclaimer: Ron frakked up Lee and Kara's resolution, so I think I should be able to do whatever I want.
Spoilers: Flashbacks in "Daybreak" Parts I & II, mini-series, most of the frakkin' series
Summary: The next time he sees her, after the dinner party, after the drunken kissing, and the double-dog dare, and the shirt that plunged down to there, is the night of Zak's death.
A/N: Just like all other Lee/Kara shippers in the universe I'm still mourning the end of Friday's episode. I do have a post-Earth fic in the works, but this one just came pouring out of me today, so I thought I'd listen to my muse and commit it to word doc. I really hope you all like it!
The next time he sees her, after the dinner party, after the drunken kissing, and the double-dog dare, and the shirt that plunged down to there, is the night of Zak's death.
He's at her door before he even realizes that was his destination. He thinks about standing here a year ago, flowers in hand, nervous and anxious, knowing this dinner was so important to his brother. Not many things had ever been that important to Zak; he was always the one who let the world roll off his back, never took things to heart the way Lee did. The knowledge alone that he wanted Lee to meet Kara had told his older brother all he needed. And he'd still been nervous.
She was a revelation, still is when he thinks of her at night, in his empty rack on Atlantia where he doesn't have many friends and doesn't try to make them. The military is a stop-gap, a means to an end and he's not going to get sucked in over some kind of misplaced fraternity. One year down, three to go, that's it. His thoughts are wrong, he knows, almost as wrong as his actions that night. He wonders how far it would have gone had the glass not broken; had Zak not awakened for just a second. He wonders how he would have lived with himself; he wonders how he would have been able to walk away. He barely could after just one kiss.
He raises his hand to knock and stops. He has no right to be here. He's had no contact with Kara in this year except shared stories told through Zak. Their middle-man is gone and Lee wants to be sad, and he is—he's lost a brother, the one person in this life who knew him better than anyone, better than their parents at any rate. The absence of him, of Zak, is devastating, but Lee knows he hasn't come close to really feeling it, not yet. He's afraid to turn that corner, to sink into that grief. Coming to see Kara is as much for him as for her; it's a distraction, but he'll pretend it's the selfless act of a caring man.
Zak would have called him on that bullshit.
He sighs and then knocks, waiting for an answer. Her truck's outside, that huge behemoth that in no way represents Kara, not the Kara he knows. He's heard the stories though of Starbuck and thinks maybe that's who bought that truck—the fierce warrior who lights up the sky with daring stunts and elegant flying. The truck definitely conveys a sense of "you can't touch me." And in the air, no one can touch Starbuck, that's the truth.
There's no answer. He counts to a hundred and knocks again, calling softly through the door, "Kara."
Still no answer. He thinks he should go. If she's home and not answering him then maybe he should leave her be. But something inside him, something he hates and cherishes all at the same time, doesn't want to leave. He wants to see her, touch her, know she's okay. Or as okay as she can be. He shouldn't want any of those things, it's not his place, but he can't stop himself. He's here and he has to be sure.
He tries the doorknob, not surprised that it's locked. She doesn't live in the best part of Delphi, although it's certainly not the slums either. Considering the trouble of kicking it down, Lee steps back and runs his fingers along the door jamb. On the right hand side, his fingers glance over a slim shape and he pulls. Covered in black electrical tape is a key. Oh Zak, old habits diehard.
Lee swallows quickly at the thought. Even ridiculous clichés take on a whole new meaning now. That sucks.
He puts the key in the lock, worried he'll startle her; worried he might get a fist to the jaw for his trouble. He opens the door slowly, pocketing the key and sticks his head through the narrow opening. "Kara? Are you here? It's me. It's Lee."
There still isn't an answer, there isn't anything. And now he's more worried than before. He heard from a classmate down at the landing strip that Kara had been there, teaching when Zak's bird had gone down. She'd been in time to see the smoking hulk of metal and plastic, in time to see his burned body pulled from the cockpit, unrecognizable and made of ash.
No one had seen her after that. And Lee thinks somebody should. Somebody should help her through this, because she lost Zak and he was Lee's brother, but he was her fiancé and that's not a little thing.
"Kara. Come on. Answer me. Please." He shuts the door and throws the bolt, before peering over the edge of the landing. The living room is empty, pristine almost and Lee frowns. That definitely wasn't Zak's doing, the guy didn't understand the word "tidy."
He heads down the stairs, pausing halfway to listen. He swears he can hear something and he jogs the rest of the way, turning the corner and finding her. His heart breaks and he realizes that losing Zak won't be the thing that kills him—it'll be watching Kara lose Zak.
She's sitting in the middle of the dining room table, arms wrapped around knees that are bent and pulled tight to her chest. She rocks back and forth slightly, murmuring words Lee can't understand. As he approaches her, slow, cautious, he notes she's wearing a shirt that's far too big for her, a long-sleeve button down. It's Zak's. She's not wearing much else. Her legs are bare and Lee fights down the urge to take a long look.
Of course, he is that guy, the girlfriend-stealer as Zak liked to tease. Really not, in the grand scheme. Zak had simply had a crush on a girl when they were in school who was Lee's age. And Lee had started dating her, completely oblivious to his brother's feelings. It was years later after too many beers and too much sharing that he'd even learned of Zak's adoration of … what was her name … Mariel. They'd had a good laugh over it. But it hadn't been a betrayal, not really.
Anything with Kara would be.
She doesn't even acknowledge his presence and he figures she doesn't know he's there. He risks getting closer. Taking a few more steps toward the table, he's an arms-length from her now. Her blonde hair is still short, and her eyes stare unseeing from underneath the fringe of her bangs.
"Kara, it's Lee. Can you look at me?" His voice is shaking. His hand is shaking from the need to touch her, to comfort her. He doesn't know why he feels it's his duty, but since he heard the news, it's been just about all he can focus on.
He stills when she doesn't answer and listens. It takes a minute, maybe two, before his mind can hear what she's whispering and he thinks maybe this, maybe helping her, will be too much for him.
"I take it back," she murmurs over and over again, lips muffled against the tops of her knees. "I didn't mean it. Please, bring him back. I take it back. I'll be good. I promise, I'll be good."
Lee doesn't understand it, doesn't understand her words, but he hears her pain and that's enough.
"Hey, Kara, come on. Let's get you down from there, okay? We'll get something to eat." Since words alone don't work he risks touching her. Placing a light hand to her shoulder, he squeezes just slightly and her head jerks up, wide hazel eyes staring at him in confusion.
He feels an inordinate amount of relief when she says his name. "Yeah, Kara. It's me."
She glances past him, dull eyes taking in her apartment and then falling back to his face. "What … what are you doing here?"
"I came to check up on you, Kara," he explains gently, keeping his hand to her shoulder as if the touch is what's causing her lucidity. He stands closer to the table, hip bumping against the edge and adds, "I wanted to be sure you were okay."
Her face crumples at his words and Lee curses himself for being so tactless. Is there a better way to say it? He doesn't know and Kara's not looking at him again and just as she starts rocking he knows the words don't matter, it's being here that does.
"Kara, come on." He places one knee on the closest chair and the other on table so he can get one arm around her shoulders. Tugging her gently toward the edge of the table, he coaxes softly, hoping he's helping. "You shouldn't be up there, come on."
She slowly unfolds her body, face expressionless, and Lee guesses this is simply the start of a long evening. He's fine with it; Kara's his distraction from his own grief and he'll keep that at bay for as long as he can.
As she scoots across the table toward him, Lee places both feet back on the ground, his hand in hers. As he about to help her down, her arms wind themselves around his neck, legs resting on either side of his hips. She's soft against him, her body fitting into his in ways he didn't think possible. As she buries her face into the base of his neck, he hitches a breath, knowing he shouldn't want to hold her back, but he does.
His arms loop around her and he rests his cheek to the top of her head as she whispers, "I'm sorry."
"Shh." His hands stroke up and down her back slowly, as he feels tears wet the collar of his shirt. "It's okay, Kara. It's not your fault," he murmurs, golden strands getting stuck in his lips.
"It is. I did this. I killed him." She holds on tighter, knees squeezing his hips, arms strong around him and he just holds her right back. "I took him away. I'm sorry, I'm so sorry, Lee."
He tells her again it isn't her fault, but he has to endure another five minutes of her apologies before her tears make it impossible for her to speak. His legs are growing tired, but he doesn't want to let her go. As she continues to shake against him, he circles his arms tight around her back and whispers, "Hang on to me, okay?"
She does as he instructs and he's able to lift her off the table. Her legs wrap around his waist, as he carries her toward the bedroom. Before he's gone five steps, she shakes her head. "I can't go in there."
Lee changes direction without hesitation and heads for the sofa. He sits, Kara now in his lap and she curls her body into his, head resting under his chin, arms pulled in tight to her chest.
It feels exquisite, holding her like this. It's reminiscent of so many dreams he's had in the past year and he's ashamed to realize his imaginings are paltry in comparison to the real thing. He's ashamed that's what he's thinking about, at this moment when Zak's body isn't even cold yet.
But doesn't she need someone? Zak had told him her parents were gone and that she had only one or two friends to speak of. No one should go through this alone. Gods knows, Lee doesn't want to.
Minutes pass and then it's been an hour, then two and Lee feels the pull of sleep. He guesses Kara has been in and out since she stopped trembling an hour or so ago, but it's hard to tell from his viewpoint. She hasn't moved since they sat on the couch and Lee is in no rush to request that she does. But they can't sit here all night; not when he doesn't know if she isn't, in some way, all right.
In an effort to fight off his own fatigue, he runs his hands down her back and whispers, "Kara?"
"Are you hungry?" he asks, his fingers rubbing her shoulder blades in a gentle pattern before drifting down again and then back up.
She shakes her head, but Lee guesses it's more of an automatic response than a truthful one. "When's the last time you ate?"
She shrugs and he almost smiles at her petulance. Stubborn was by far Zak's favorite word to describe her. "You should eat something," he scolds gently, running his hand through her short hair and tugging lightly on the strands.
Kara looks at him then and his breath stops in his throat. Her luminous eyes are so wide he fears he'll pitch over the edge, falling into them and never find his way out. Pale skin marked with tearstains and full lips he shouldn't be focusing on aren't much of a distraction from his desire to touch her more, to kiss her and hold her until she stops hurting.
It's a betrayal; he has to remember.
He realizes he's closed his eyes and they snap open at the sound of her soft voice. Meeting her gaze once more, he steals himself for the pull of her and listens. "I'll eat if you eat."
He grimaces at the thought. Food's the last thing he wants right now, but if he's going to make her choke something down than he has to take his own advice. It's only fair.
Nothing else about this is.
"Deal," he tells her, risking the added contact and brushing a strand of hair behind her ear. His palm rests against her cheek almost of its own accord and Kara freezes, lower lip trapped between her teeth, eyes intently staring into his.
Lee holds her gaze, because it's impossible to look away. This is what had drawn him in that night: the unmistakable vulnerability and strength that resides inside this woman. He knows she can take care of herself, knows she's a damn fine pilot whose made a name for herself, mostly positive, among her superiors and peers.
But as he looks at her now, Lee sees the same questioning gaze he had a year ago; the one that said, "do I have to dare you to kiss me?" The one that told him she wanted to be enough without threatening his ego. The one that said she was afraid of being forgotten.
He could never forget her. And he doesn't need any incentive to want to touch her. He just needs her to look at him like that.
Before he does something monumentally stupid, and he knows it's just seconds from happening, he pulls his hand back. Almost simultaneously, she removes her leg from one side of him and rises. Holding out a hand, she tells him, "I have no idea what's in my fridge, but there ought to be something."
Lee eyes her and then her hand and determines if it's madness to touch her again. He reasons that he doesn't care; he's already lost down a path of darkness and grief, what's a little more confusion when added to that?
Taking her hand, he entwines their fingers and rises. "We'll make do," he tells her quietly and she almost smiles.