Title: Burn Up Hard and Bright
Don't own them; just borrowing.
She could get lost here, between him and the Viper, and just disappear.
Mostly just the miniseries and Act of Contrition. Only a very vague reference to flashbacks in Daybreak Part 1. This takes place pre-series, at any rate.
The title (and extra inspiration) comes from Ryan Adams' Firecracker: Well everybody wants to go forever/I just wanna burn up hard and bright...So when does the plane go down/'Cause I'm gonna ride it 'til it hits the ground/Then go out with a fight.

The civvie psychologist (they make her see a shrink) gets her flight status revoked. Just temporarily, Lieutenant, he says, in that irritatingly patronizing tone that grates against her ears and makes her skin crawl. Give yourself some time. It's only been a day. And, You just lost a student, he persists; she nods curtly as if she didn't know she just lost a student, as if that's all he was to her. But she scrawls her name at the bottom of the form, because she doesn't have a choice and maybe she deserves this, anyway.

Deserving or not, being grounded makes her crazy. She aches with it, with losing Zak and with wanting to be in the cockpit, and the two become one and the same in her mind, in her dreams. She stops sleeping, but it doesn't help. She smells him everywhere, and when she licks her lips, she only tastes the cold metal of space.

The morning of the funeral, early, she uses the last of her cubits to pay off the flight deck supervisor and signs out a Viper. Her flight suit slips on like a second skin, and she runs her palm across the smooth side of the plane as she climbs inside.

So you return, it hums to her, controls hot and alive under her hands, and she trembles. Why don't you blame me?

She hisses in a breath, grips the throttle. Going frakkin' crazy, she mutters to herself, eyes squeezed shut, and as the Viper shudders to life she groans. She maneuvers by instinct out of the hangar and doesn't breathe again until she's in the sky.

Space is calm. Silent, save for the ever-present hum of the Viper and her quickening breath. She holds position, floating among the clouds, and she's weightless and tethered all at the same time. Why don't you blame me? she hears again, and she curses, foul and angry, under her breath.

Finally she begins flying, slowly and deliberately at first, then harder and faster. She makes her way methodically through the check ride routine, performing each test maneuver exactly, with textbook perfection. This is the one he missed, she hears, three times, and when she's done – perfect score, Zak Adama – she lets herself drop into a spin, dizzying and intoxicating, arousing in its danger.

It's only when she hears the crackle of her radio, the concerned shout in the earpiece of her helmet, she pulls out of the spin. She switches her radio and controls off and flies hands-on back to the surface. Why don't you blame me? - one last time – and this time she whispers back: It was my fault.

She's landed and reaching to pull her helmet off before she notices her hands are shaking.

She hears his footsteps, hard against the metal of the hangar deck, before she sees him. She closes her eyes, helmet clasped between her hands, and listens.

What the frak was that? she hears, but he sounds tired, not angry. And then, Thought they'd have grounded you for a while.

They did. She opens her eyes, leaving the helmet in the cockpit as she climbs down to the deck.

He, to his credit, doesn't say more about the test maneuvers or the dangerous spin or whatever else he thinks he saw from the obs deck or on DRADIS or wherever the frak he's come from. She shakes her hair out, fingers through it, still trembling slightly, the familiar adrenaline and half-arousal still thrumming through her body.

(She's never seen him wearing dress grays before.)

Kara –

Lee –

They stutter, then stop. I'm sorry.

It's he who says it, of course. And she: Don't.

They're speaking as if through a fog, and she wants to be back up in the sky, where it's calm and clear and cool. She's still trembling and thinks he can tell, because he's in her space all of a sudden, and she hates how he's always been able to do that, from the first night they met, she nervous and giddy in their apartment (hers, theirs, it hadn't mattered). I'm sorry.

He says it again, of course. She gets angry then, as she had in the cockpit, and if she falls into a spin here it won't be nearly as satisfying. He's pushing buttons now, and she's not sure if he even knows he's doing it. I said don't. And she gets in his space right back, and it's the first time she's spoken above a murmur.

Gods, Kara, it comes out in a whisper, grief and desperation. She stands completely still and squeezes her eyes shut as his forehead comes to rest on hers.

She pretends he's Zak. She pretends she's flying.

Pitch. He's pressed too tightly against her and she presses right back, trying to feel everything and nothing at once. She surface of the Viper is hard against her back; she hisses when the cold metal comes in contact with her neck.

Roll. His mouth is hard and wet against hers, his breathing is too loud in the echoing expanse of the hangar. She tastes Zak and she tastes Lee, the rough wool of his uniform and the stagnancy of recycled air.

Yaw. She hears, rather than feels, the unzipping of her flight suit, and she groans, her body thrumming with grief and want. She ruts against him, pulls him closer to her, tighter, tighter. She could get lost here, between him and the Viper, and just disappear.

She loses equilibrium too quickly. A free-fall, a spin (and oh, gods, is this what he felt, burning up in the atmosphere?).

Why don't you blame me? she hears, suddenly, just as she had in the cockpit, but it's her voice, this time. She doesn't realize she's spoken aloud until Lee pulls away, abrupt and panicked, and she's left, bereft and gasping.

Gods, Kara...I, we...

He's flushed and mussed and for a moment he looks so much like his brother she wants to cry. But then he shakes himself, schools his features, and the illusion is gone.

Service's in two hours.

She zips up, nodding. Somehow her legs allow her to climb back up to the cockpit to retrieve her helmet, and when she climbs back down, he's gone.

She whispers it then, to the emptiness of the hangar deck, her palm flat against the flank of the Viper: It was my fault.

She can taste him, still, mingled with the ghost of Zak and the metal of the Viper and always, always the tinny sharpness of space and flight.