Lee slowly raised his hand as the raptor rose into the clear sky. Kara raised hers beside him, a small, silent salute of farewell. Side by side, they stood on the new Earth as the tiny ship disappeared from view, taking Admiral Adama and President Roslin with it. 'I guess that's it,' Lee said quietly, half-turning to Kara as he spoke. 'They won't be coming back.' Kara nodded in affirmation.

'What will you do now, Lee?' She asked, bland curiosity in her voice. Lee stood still for a moment, closing his eyes as the possibilities hit him. He could do anything. This was a new world. As he stood and considered, he felt the strangest feeling on his face. It took him a moment to realise that the feeling was the sun.

All day, barely remembered scents had been assaulting him, sharp and tangy, dusty, clear. No chemical smell of disinfectant, no familiar sweaty, musty whiff as he entered a room, although of course, there were no rooms to enter, not yet. In fact, now that he stopped to consider, he hadn't smelled a human being all day. There was so much space, so much land, rolling as far as his eyes could see, and from what he had seen from above, even further than that. This land was unspoiled, beautiful. Rich. It was almost too much to take.

Opening his eyes, he took in the glorious green-gold of the shifting long grasses that blanketed the land they now called Africa. A rustling sound gently met his ears, unmarred by the whir of an engine, the blast of a gun. Nothing but the light shifting of grasses, the distant trumpet of beasts, the trickle of a stream flowing to meet a great river of clear, drinkable water. And what lay beyond? This beauty, as wonderful as it was, was only one of the many kinds that this land had to offer. He was sure of it. He knew, with absolute certainty, what he wanted to do now that he was here on this land.

Still gazing out across the endless plains, Lee took a deep breath of clear, dusty, sun-tanged air. He remembered now, how a hot sun gave a scent to everything. A just-baked scent. He could smell Kara – Starbuck – behind him, clearer than he could ever remember. They had bathed in the river along with the others earlier that day, throwing their clothes on the banks in their eagerness to be immersed in clean water, the chill of each splash a marked change from the heat of the sun. A breathless, tingling sensation. And now she smelled like new rain as it drifted down, raised dust and let the sun soak through it, until it was nothing but a mist. He suddenly wondered what her hair smelled like, clean and lighter blonde, free of chemicals, free of fear-sweat and stress.

'I know what I'm going to do,' he said, turning to her with a smile filled with optimism, blue-eyed hope. 'I'm going to explore. I always thought that when we finally found Earth I would kick back, you know, relax. But I want to see this land. I can't believe I'm saying this – it sounds so exhausting! But I want to find everything this land has to offer. That's what I'm going to do.' He nodded firmly. 'What do you want to do?' He asked her. The hope in his voice was tinged with a bone-deep wariness borne of years of her friendship.

Kara looked at him for a moment, a serious light in her usually mocking eyes. Her upper lip firmed, causing a sensuous ridge to appear around her unusually wide mouth, blatantly defining it, making Lee shift uncomfortably. Her mouth always undid him, no matter her mood. Angry. Sad. Sarcastic. Blinking, he snapped his mind back, concentrating instead on her eyes, the serious look of them. He shoved his hands in his pockets, squared his muscular shoulders inside his gray tank. It was bad news. He could tell.

'I think I'll be going away from here,' she said. Nodded her head, fine strands of blonde caressing the strong, almost masculine line of her neck. The sight of this - the everlasting contrast that was Starbuck - squeezed his heart until he thought it might burst. 'Yep,' she repeated. 'I think it's time to go.' Lee let his breath out with a sigh and nodded, heart wedged high in his throat, waiting for the next words – 'with you'.

They didn't come. Even with the new Earth's silence roaring in his ears, he couldn't have missed them. Lee felt a sudden breeze sluice his face, causing tears to spring to his eyes. He knew her. Knew it had been unlikely. But they had shared so much – he still wished...

Lee squared his jaw and swung his body around, ready to say something, to make her stay. A glaring emptiness met his eyes. She was not there. The lack of her was a blot on the landscape. He shook his head, trying to clear it, to make her reappear. She had said she would leave – but surely not now. Not like this. Did she not even want to say goodbye?

Did she not feel anything for him at all?

Falling slowly to his knees, Lee ignored the sun, the rich scents, the plaguing tickle of the grass on his face. He bent his forehead to the warm earth. She was gone. But he loved her. Had loved her ever since he first set eyes on her, so many years ago on Caprica, a cheap bouquet of flowers clutched in his hands. At the door of his brother's house. At that moment so awkward and shy it had almost been as though he had arrived for a date, instead of for dinner with his brother and his brother's girlfriend.

She had opened the door and looked straight in his eyes, that long, crooked grin flung across her face in welcome. And he had felt something click. Her. She had cracked his heart open in a single moment, with the absolute strength of her presence. And later, with her humour, her smart-ass remarks, the rightness of her with him. And then with her anger, her brokenness that she had let only him see. The fragile core that the outward strength of her masked. He loved it all.

Closing his eyes against the beauty around him, Lee shut it all out. She was gone.

She was gone.

Kara watched as Lee fell to his knees and pressed his forehead to the hard earth. His obvious despair was amazingly arousing, his desolation over losing her like an affirmation of faith. She had let him down before, many times. On New Caprica. On Galactica. On the algae planet. It felt to her like she had done nothing but hurt him – and for what reason? She just couldn't bear to love him. He mattered too much. Leaving him first had seemed easier - he couldn't leave her, then. Yet here he was, pressed against the ground as though it might part its grassy banks and swallow him, despair and all, until he was as gone as she. She had intended to leave. But it was impossible. Leaving Lee Adama – Captain Apollo – had never quite been possible for her.

Breathing in deep, Kara prepared to do battle with her own soul. The only time that she had told the truth – on New Caprica, under the faint stars, in the dust and dirt and scrubby brush of that fallow land, when she had screamed out her love for him like a damned cliché in the darkness – she had left him the next morning, run away from her fear into Anders' waiting arms. She had married that man. Had married Anders, abandoned Lee in her sick fear, the denial that had hit her seconds after she uttered the truth. It was easier, she had told herself. But it was anything but.

Lee was sitting up now, the line of his back straight and true even in sadness, as she imagined it must have been that morning when he had woken up alone. The back of his head in this clear, golden light was the most beautiful thing she had ever seen. She had seen him look so many different ways – sweaty and fear-filled, angry with his strong jaw clenched in rage at her, face lit up with a laugh in even the direst situation, a smile like light as they spoke, and that bland mask of duty. Every sight of him was stored deep in her memory. She slipped over the land very quietly, trying not to crackle the grass. Lee gazed endlessly into the distance. Kara sat directly behind him, reaching her hands forward, the long supple fingers slipping over his cotton tank, around his hard stomach.

Lee felt a hand on his stomach and snapped to with a start. His whole body tightened and he spun around, flinging the hand away, reaching for a gun he no longer had. His eyes met Kara's and he froze. Her wide mouth was pinched in a smile, the woman in her gaze so unlike her that he paused and just drank it in, cool, sweet water for a parched man. The despair he had felt didn't leave, but it lessened a bit. He gripped her arms. She wasn't leaving him again.

Kara didn't say a word, she just stared at him. Her eyes were angled slantways to the sun and he noticed that the new bright light changed them from hazel to a deep, clear green, chasing away all of the darkness. The unashamed brightness of that green dredged up a deep memory, of Starbuck - habitually dirty, messy, somewhat masculine Starbuck - wearing a dress of that same deep green. A dress that had hugged her amazing body, swept its way over her curves so snugly that he had felt jealous of it. Her breasts had looked so soft in that gods-damned dress; he had immediately ached to touch them. He didn't think he had even noticed that she had breasts before then.

***Next chapter coming soon! Reviews welcome***