Title: A Form of Betrayal, 3/3
Disclaimer: I'm still mad at Ron, 'nuf said.
Summary: After the cemetery and the rain and a quick bite at her favorite diner, Lee doesn't see Kara again until three days later.
A/N: All right, this is it. This story ate my brain for a week and now it's done. I really hope you like this as much as you liked parts one and two. And now, I can hopefully focus on my post-Earth fic!
After the cemetery and the rain and a quick bite at her favorite diner, Lee doesn't see Kara again for three days. He's been checking in, calling every day, just to see how she's coping. Once she sounded fine; the other two times he'd almost charged over to her apartment based on the tone of her voice alone. But she asked him not to come, asked him to give her space and he'd done it.
Then, she'd asked for his help.
She needs to go through Zak's things and she doesn't want to do it by herself. He's standing at her door thirty minutes later, with a six-pack of Caprican ale and the determination to help however he can.
Kara's not smiling when she answers the door, hasn't smiled for a while. She eyes the beer and rolls her eyes, but takes it and places it in the fridge, before leading him wordlessly to the bedroom.
Lee starts on Zak's dresser, opening drawers and piling pajamas, t-shirts and underwear in boxes. Kara says she wants to donate it, so Lee separates what can and can't be taken to charity, while Kara works in silence on Zak's closet. They work like this for maybe an hour and just when Lee thinks they should take a break, he finds an old cigar box, buried in the last drawer of Zak's bedside table.
He pulls it out and onto his lap before sitting on the bed. Opening it, he's ashamed his hands are shaking. Kara's back is to him, she's still tossing out shirts, pants and shoes with a vengeance, so Lee has a minute to reminisce unnoticed.
It's full of pictures; pictures from their childhood, moments in time where Lee is smiling, but can't remember why he's happy. There's the morning of Zak's seventh birthday when he'd gotten the bike he wanted; and the afternoon of Zak's seventh birthday where he's brandishing a cast while he sits on the sofa with a huge ice cream sundae in his lap. Lee's beside him in both instances.
There's a picture of his mother and father when they were young and happy. It stings Lee to see it, to be reminded of how far they've fallen. He puts it aside quickly.
Then, there are pictures of Kara: Kara alone, Kara with Zak, Kara with her bird. There are a lot of pictures of Kara and her bird actually and he has to smile at the cocky grin on her face, aviator sunglasses perched on her nose, a cigar stuck between her teeth. She looks amazingly self-assured and Lee realizes these aren't pictures of Kara, they're pictures of Starbuck. Apparently, his brother had loved both women.
The last photo is one he'd forgotten about. How could he have forgotten that day? Two days after the dinner party when his hangover had finally faded, Zak called begging Lee to join them for a game of Pyramid: they were a man short. He remembers Kara's cackle in the background as she called out, "well, he is a little short." He remembers being unable to avoid the challenge despite the fact that he can't play Pyramid for shit.
This picture was the culmination of that afternoon. Kara nuzzling Zak's face and Lee standing to the side, looking uncomfortable; yeah, he'd beat it home pretty fast after that.
"What'd you find?"
Kara's voice startles him and he glances up. She's hugging one of Zak's sweatshirts to her chest, but otherwise her eyes are dry and clear and Lee's grateful. He's glad to know that when he leaves at the end of the week she might be okay.
"Some pictures," Lee tells her, showing her the box. Kara takes it and fingers the photos reverently. Occasionally, she smiles, but quickly her calm expression fades and she places the box back on the bed, Zak's sweatshirt beside it and heads for the kitchen.
"I could really go for a beer," she throws over her shoulder and because Lee doesn't want to push her, he follows.
When he leaves later that night, after the stuff for charity has been packed in his car, she hands him the cigar box. He tells her he can't take it and she tells him that's ridiculous. It sits on the passenger seat for his ride home.
Before he goes to bed, he leafs through each of the images again. The ones of Kara and Zak are gone and Lee's glad she kept them. It's not until he's drifting to sleep that he realizes the picture of the three of them is missing too.
It's his last night of leave and he wants to see her. He's back at her apartment, waiting for her to answer her door.
A young cadet, pretty and obviously flirting with him, walks by with a basket of laundry and tells him Starbuck's not there. When he asks if she knows where she might be, the girl shrugs and gives him the name of a couple of bars nearby; apparently, Kara has a reputation that even her neighbors know about.
Lee thanks her for the info and doesn't miss the purposeful sway of her hips as she continues down the hall. Maybe if he wasn't so obsessed with his dead brother's girlfriend, he'd be interested.
The bars are close enough for him to walk. The first one is quiet, more upscale with dim lighting and soft music. He gives Kara's description to the doorman who says he hasn't seen her and Lee only gives the interior a cursory glance. This isn't her kind of place anyway.
He walks two blocks down and one block over to reach the second bar. The music's pulsing so loud he can hear it while he's still a hundred feet away. It's thudding a rhythm through the soles of his feet and he figures this has to be where Kara is.
The place is packed and it takes him a few minutes to work his way toward the bar. He manages to catch the bartender's attention and begins his description of Kara. He doesn't get very far; the guy knows her well and tells him she left about fifteen minutes ago with a guy.
He's immediately mad and immediately jealous and he knows that's not fair. Not only doesn't he have any claim over her, but he's the last person in the world who should think he does. Although, for reasons he knows are inappropriate he doesn't like the idea of another man touching her. Doesn't like the idea that she'd allow it, so close to Zak's death. But he understands the need for release and he can't judge her for that.
The thought's occurred to him as well. He's considered calling up an old girlfriend, playing the sympathy card, seeing if he can get a few hours of forgetfulness. He hasn't though, because every time he reaches for the phone, he wants to dial Kara's number and he can't do that either.
He leaves the bar, not interested in drinking alone or listening to loud music or even finding a body to dance with. He wants to see Kara. Apparently, he'll have to go back into space without a goodbye.
Lee considers the quickest way home, eager now to be as far away from her as he can. He'll need to cut through an alley and although it's probably not the best idea, he's just on this side of careless, so ducking his head, he changes direction.
He's halfway into the alley before he realizes he's not alone. Up ahead, in shadows, he sees what he assumes are two people in a somewhat intimate position. Figuring they'll be too busy to notice, Lee powers ahead, pausing after another dozen steps as he makes out words.
"I said enough. Get off me!"
Lee takes another step closer and feels his heart launch itself into his throat. It's Kara. Despite her strength, a large, uniformed man has her pinned to the alley wall and from what Lee can see in the minimal light, a bruise and a cut mar her face. She's struggling for all she's worth, but the man is stronger and bigger and he's already got her hands braced against the way, making them ineffective.
"Shut up, you frakkin' tease! You wanted this and you're gonna get it."
Lee sprints the rest of the way and without considering the consequences, he pulls roughly on the guy's shoulder, getting him off Kara. And turning his drunken rage on Lee.
"Sir." Lee swallows as he recognizes the major pips on the man's jacket and is very thankful his tags are hidden beneath his shirt. "I think you should leave her alone."
"Who the hell are you?" The major is really drunk and he sways once before striking out a fist in Lee's direction. The alcohol makes him sloppy and Lee sidesteps him easily, inserting himself between the major and Kara who hasn't moved or spoken since he got there.
"Are you okay?" he murmurs over his shoulder and all he gets is a small "uh-huh," in return.
"Dammit, boy. You wanna whore, you go get one of your own!" Still swinging wildly, the major doesn't stand a chance of landing of punch. But that doesn't stop Lee from hitting him squarely on the jaw, dropping the large man to the ground in an unconscious heap.
Considering the week he's had, it feels damn good.
Shaking off the sting from his knuckles, Lee turns to Kara and finds her staring at the crumpled form of her attacker. Worried, he reaches for her hand, disheartened when she pulls back violently. "Kara, are you okay?"
She pulls her eyes from the ground and brings them to Lee and he's not sure what he sees. He thought he'd see fear and pain and maybe a little anger, but he's pretty sure all he can make out is despair. She doesn't say a word, just stares at him for a moment and Lee feels the full force of her glare. Then, she turns and starts to walk away.
She doesn't get very far. Whatever the other man has done causes her pain, because she stops with a hand against the wall and her arm wrapped around her midsection. Lee's at Kara's side in a second, one hand on her shoulder. "Let me help," he tells her, no longer angry that she allowed another man to touch her; just grateful he cares enough to have come looking.
"Go home, Lee," she murmurs, eyes closed. "Just go home and leave me alone."
He sighs. "I thought we'd been through this," he tells her, backing up a step. "I'm not leaving you alone, not while I'm still landlocked and since my leave doesn't run out for another twelve hours, you're stuck with me 'til then."
She's not amused by his flippant tone and he knew she wouldn't be. But she finally does look at him and this time it is pain he sees in her eyes—physical as well as emotional. "Why are you doing this?" she finally asks, and he knows there's a ton of questions she's not asking, like 'why are you here,' 'why do you care,' 'why won't you leave me alone'?
And despite all the ways he's answered this same question in the past few days, he does it again, because for some reason Kara Thrace cannot understand that there are people in this world who don't want her to suffer.
He approaches her again and gently removes her arm from her waist, draping it over his shoulder and taking most of her weight. "Because Zak was my brother," he whispers to her.
She finally collapses into his side.
It's a long walk when carrying another person and Lee's broken a sweat by the time he reaches Kara's building. As he eyes the stairs, he nudges her and says, "Come on, Kara, you gotta help me out."
She comes around for a few minutes to get to the second floor of her building. She's hanging on him again by the time he reaches her door. Shifting her weight, he pulls out the key he'd pocketed a week ago, and lets them in. Once the door's closed, he pulls her into his arms and carries her down the stairs and to the couch.
Flipping on a few lights, he does his best to assess her injuries and the anger he'd initially felt for the major comes back tenfold.
The bruise on her cheek is already deepening to a nice shade of purple and the cut on her forehead is ugly, but not deep. He wants to check on her abdomen, wants to know why she had a hard time walking on her own, but she's still out of it and he doesn't want to frighten her.
Instead, he goes to the bathroom and finds a washcloth, some antiseptic and a band-aid and brings them back to the sofa. He gently washes her face first, careful of the bruise. Moving onto the cut, the minute he presses the antiseptic to it, she wakes, hissing. Sitting up swiftly, she cries out as the movement aggravates her midsection and Lee catches her as she pitches forward against him.
She's breathing heavily, her forehead touching his shoulder and he doesn't know what to do. He wants to tell her it's okay, wants to ask her what that guy's name is so they can report him. He wants to ask if she's really all right, wants to know why she was there, in that alley, wants to know how she could let that creep touch her.
But he holds his tongue, because right now, she's relying on him and he won't jeopardize that with his curiosity.
"Son of a bitch," she murmurs softly as she gingerly reclines again, eyes closing while she takes deep breaths.
Lee waits a beat and then resumes working on the cut in silence. As he applies the bandage, her eyes flutter open and he sees regret there. He has to say something. "Are you really okay?" he asks softly.
She nods slightly and then changes the direction mid-motion. Moving her hands down to her stomach, she plays with the hem of her shirt. "He bruised my ribs," she admits quietly and Lee grits his teeth against the rage that blossoms in his heart.
"Can I take a look?" he asks, wanting to make sure it's just bruising and not something more serious. He knows he doesn't have the skill to make a diagnosis, but he learned enough in survivalist training to get by. Of course, so did Kara, so he wonders at the intelligence of finding an excuse to touch her.
Kara's lower lip is trapped in her teeth and her eyes stare at him uncomprehending. He stares back, hoping she understands that in the span of a week, she's become one of the most important people in his life. Hoping she understands that leaving this apartment tonight will be harder for him then putting Zak in the ground.
Without giving him an answer, Kara grasps the hem of her shirt and slowly starts to inch it up her stomach. Lee places his hands over hers to help and he knows he's damned. She's shaking, just noticeably and now he sees tears in her eyes. He hopes he's not the cause.
By the time her bruised torso is exposed, she's not looking at him anymore. Her head's turned to the side and he can see an errant tear or two drip from the corner of her eyes. He wants to forget about everything and just hold her, but he does want to know she's okay.
He ghosts his hands over the bruises, feeling the heat of her skin beneath his palm. Hesitant and afraid for reasons he can't name, he pauses a second before biting his lip and pressing down as gently as possible on one side of her body. She cries out a little and then bites her fist and Lee immediately pulls his hands back. "I'm sorry," he murmurs, reaching up to stroke her hair.
She still doesn't look at him, so he checks her other side and then decides this is too much. He's not that strong a man and he's definitely a sucker for a damsel in distress. He knows Starbuck would lay him out flat for having such a thought, but Starbuck's not here right now, it's Kara and her vulnerability has always been his undoing.
He works her shirt back down and asks, "Do you want some water or something?"
She doesn't answer him, but Lee needs to move, so he rises and grabs a glass from the cabinet. He lets the tap run for a minute. Before he fills the cup, he splashes a bit on his face and feels better for it. It's almost over. Now all he has to do is be sure she gets to bed and then he's gone.
And he doesn't know when he'll see her again.
His throat goes dry at the thought and absently he fills the glass, turns off the tap and returns to her side. He's surprised to find her sitting up, feet on the floor.
"Here." Lee hands her the water and Kara takes it, barely looking in his direction. She takes a few sips and he watches closely, uncertain what to do next. He doubts she wants to talk, but he feels that it's his duty to at least ask.
He sits beside her again and she tenses. "Kara, what …" He doesn't even know where to begin.
"Don't over think it, Lee," she rasps, voice shaky. "I was just looking for some fun."
He can't help the anger that flares in his gut. Gingerly, he touches her wounded cheek. "Is this your idea of fun?"
She tenses again and then turns to him with empty eyes. "You don't know me all that well."
It's a challenge and it angers Lee more. "Dammit, Kara. How could you do this? To yourself? To Zak? What the frak did you think you were doing?" He's on his feet because he needs to pace.
"It's none of your damn business," she tells him, rising. She winces in the process and Lee almost reaches out a hand to steady her before he remembers how mad he is. "I didn't ask you to take care of me, Lee! I don't need you!"
He blinks at her words, taking a step back. Her own features pale for a second before he watches her face become blank once more. He doesn't know how it's possible for her not to need someone, especially now. He does and now he fears that makes him weak.
But she can't make it any plainer and Lee knows on some level she's right. He takes the key from his pocket and places it on her coffee table, before risking one last glance to her face. He has to bite his lip from saying something undeniably stupid.
Instead, he swallows and manages, "See you around, Kara," before turning and heading for the door.
His foot's on the first step when she calls him back. "Lee?"
He knows he shouldn't turn around. He's a pretty smart guy and he knows the best thing to do is head up those stairs, get in his car and drive home. He knows it.
He turns around anyway.
She's a hands-breadth from him and he didn't expect her to be so close. She's staring at him with an unfathomable expression and Lee just holds his breath. Finally, she bridges the small distance between them, her hand on his cheek and kisses him.
It's a brush of the lips, nothing more really. Lee stands frozen as it happens, his body flooding with adrenaline and desire he can't act on. When Kara leans back, a questioning gaze on her face, Lee lets out a breath and says, "Kara."
She shakes her head slightly and whispers, "I don't know what I'm doing."
Her confession disintegrates his remaining anger. Without any further thought, he pulls her into him and holds her tight. She squeaks as he puts pressure on her ribs and he loosens his hold, but just a little.
"What am I doing, Lee?" she murmurs, her lips by his ear. "What am I supposed to do?"
"Nothing, Kara," he tells her, pressing a kiss to her bruised cheek. "You don't have to do anything."
She wraps her arms around him tightly and Lee feels tears sting his eyes. He blinks rapidly, refusing to cry them and then says, "You need to get some sleep."
She nods, but doesn't move, so Lee is forced to make the hard choice. He doesn't want to let her go, but he knows he has to. "Come on, Kara," he whispers, keeping an arm around her shoulders as he steers her toward the bedroom.
Kara stops in the doorway, staring at the empty room. It's devoid of all of Zak's effects, and it looks sparse. There are a few paintings on the walls and a framed picture next to her bed, but that's all. The bed's made and doesn't look as if it's been slept in for days. Lee guesses it probably hasn't.
"I need to get cleaned up," she tells him suddenly and turns abruptly, heading across the little hall for the bathroom. She's inside with the door shut before he can even ask what's wrong.
He hears the shower turn on and sighs. Going to Kara's dresser, he finds what he assumes are pajamas and leaves them folded by the door. Then, he goes into her kitchen and puts on a pot of water for tea. And waits.
She's been in the shower for over thirty minutes by the time Lee's impatience wins out.
Approaching the door, he raps lightly and calls, "Kara?" She doesn't answer, so he tries again. "Kara, I left some pajamas out here for you, okay? And I made some tea, so just come out when you're ready."
There still isn't an answer. Lee presses his palm to the door, wanting to open it. Again he knows he can't, but considering everything Kara's been through, everything he's been through, he's starting to not care about 'can't."
"Kara, are you okay?"
When she still won't answer, he decides that's enough. "I'm coming in there, Kara."
There's no answer to the threat either, so Lee grabs the knob and turns, pushing open the door. Kara's sitting on the toilet in a sky blue bathrobe he's never seen. Her hair's wet and stringy around her face. She's staring at nothing.
"He can't be gone, Lee," she murmurs, eyes still staring straight ahead. "He can't. This is a dream, right?"
Bringing her eyes to his face, Lee sees such desperation there he almost says 'yes;' he'll say anything, do anything at this moment to make it easier for her.
He risks getting closer and kneels before her, taking her hands in his. "Kara, it's not a dream. Zak's gone and we have to live with that."
She bites her lip and nods absently, looking at their joined hands in her lap. Zak's ring is still on her thumb and it makes Lee smile slightly. At least she has this reminder of how much Zak loved her. He wishes the simple act of removing it would make whatever this is between them okay. But he knows that whether she ever takes off that ring, anything between them will never be okay. It'll be a betrayal.
It doesn't stop Lee's heart from wanting it, wanting her.
"Come on, Kara. I made tea." He rises and gives her his hand and she takes it after a momentary pause.
He gets her to the couch and then retrieves the two mugs and sits beside her. She's curled her legs up underneath her and rests her head against the back of the couch between sips. They don't talk and Lee figures it's better that way.
"Why do you think we never met?" she asks quietly, startling Lee enough that he almost spills his tea down the front of his shirt.
Turning to her, he answers, "Because Zak waited to introduce us."
She shakes her head and leans forward to put her empty mug on the table. "No, I mean before, at the Academy. Why do you think we never met?"
Lee shrugs; it is a question he's been asking himself in the past year. "I'm not sure. Maybe because I'm a reservist."
"I guess," she says with a shrug and then looks away again. Lee finishes his own drink and knows it's almost time for him to leave.
As he gets ready to say goodbye, she looks back to him again, eyes shining with tears and whispers, "I wish we'd met back then. I wish we'd met before …"
He inhales sharply at the statement and can't stop himself from kissing her. He holds both sides of her face in his hands and crushes his mouth to hers. She stiffens for a second and then gives in with a small sigh from the back of her throat and Lee wants to kiss her more.
One of her hands wraps around his neck and Lee leans toward her, pressing her back into the couch, his body half covering hers now. He thinks that lying with her like this, touching her, kissing her, is better than anything he's ever experienced.
Ignoring the alarms blaring in his head, he deepens the kiss, running his tongue along the seam of her lips and tangling it with hers as she responds in kind. His hand begins to drift and as it covers her breast, soft and pliant under the silky fabric of her robe, he wonders if his hand was made for this, for touching Kara.
She mewls, her body arching and pressing against his and he groans as the contact makes his already aroused mid-section flare hot. Gods, he wants her so badly despite all the reasons he shouldn't. As his dexterous fingers work her nipple into a hard peak, Kara's hand drifts from his neck down his chest and he can feel her fingers fumbling with the buttons of his shirt.
And for some reason, that's what pulls him back to reality. "Kara," he whispers against her mouth, trying to disentangle himself. He can't though because one of her legs is trapping his and her other arm is still tight around his shoulder.
He pulls himself away from her mouth and almost says to hell with all of it, when she stares at him with those damn eyes. Her lips are swollen, from his kisses and his hand is still resting against the soft skin of her breast and he's still rock hard. This is so very, very bad.
"Kara, we …" He can't finish the statement, because they damn well can do this and were quickly on their way to seeing it through.
"Lee," she whispers and he looks at her. "Please."
How is he supposed to deny her? Just as he leans forward to attach his lips to her neck, he thinks of being in a similar position a year ago. So he stops.
"Kara, I can't." And that's the truth, because they can, but he can't, he can't do that to Zak or to Kara. He gets off of her quickly and sits on the coffee table before the couch. She reaches for the edges of her robe and holds them together tightly, again not looking at him. "I'm sorry," he murmurs, scrubbing a hand over his face. And he is, in so many ways he can't count them.
"I thought we …" She swallows hard and Lee watches the lump in her throat pass. "I thought there was something here."
He can't outright lie to her. Reaching for her hand, he's relieved that she lets him take it. "There is, Kara. There just can't be right now."
She nods and looks at him and thankfully her eyes aren't full of tears. "I know, I … I know," she finally says.
He sits there holding her hand in both of his. They can sit here now and face each other and it's not painful. He still wants her, with everything he has, but he's resigned that this isn't the time and he can see she's come to the same conclusion.
Minutes pass and he finally rises. "I should go."
She nods and rises too, taking his hand as they walk to the door. At the top of the landing, he faces her again and places a kiss on her cheek. "You're going to be okay, Kara," he whispers, pushing damp hair behind her ear.
Kara gives him a small nod, but not a smile and Lee's heart tightens in his chest. "You are, you hear me?"
She doesn't sound convinced which is making it harder for him to open the door. "Kara—"
"It's okay, Lee." Kara meets his gaze and he sees that it will be. "I'll get there. That's just leave it at that, all right?"
He nods. He knows that's all he can hope for, so he'll have to take it. He opens the door and steps into the hall, turning back to face her. She leans against the doorframe, so frakkin' beautiful he almost breaks all his own rules and kisses her again. Instead, he extends his hand and tells her, "I'll see you around, Kara Thrace."
She returns the handshake and says, "See you around, Lee Adama."
Lee manages to walk away and not turn back.
Galactica's Brig – One Year Later
Lee can't believe he got roped into this pomp and circumstance. Of course, Nagala made it clear it wasn't a choice and at least it got him off the Atlantia for a bit. Any break is a good break.
He's on the deck and tries not to harass their Chief; the guy's just doing his job, following his father's paranoid orders. He heads to the Ready Room on his way to the showers and takes a look at the board. When he sees her name, he smiles.
A half hour later he's in tanks and BDUs and on his way to the brig, because where else would Starbuck be?
As he enters and returns the guard's salute, he catches sight of her, doing push-ups, looking tough. Her hair's shorter than before, but otherwise, she's the same Kara.
Approaching the bars, he raises his arms and leans against them and watches her for a minute. Maybe a few days on Galactica won't be so bad. "Well, this seems familiar."
He watches her movement pause for a second and waits as she finishes a few more push-ups, just because she can. When she drops her feet and stands, wiping her hands on her pants, she meets his gaze.
And this time, she smiles.