Author's Note: Yes, I accept the irony of this chapter title.
So, I originally planned to end this story after chapter 10 and continue to write other fic chronologically, since I tend to reference earlier pieces and didn't want to tangle myself up. But this piece ended up being so dark that it needed something, even if it isn't a total change, to brighten the ending. So you get this! Here we skip temporarily to Galactica, in the week that Kara spends recovering after crashing in You Can't Go Home Again. It will probably also be incorporated into whatever I end up writing about that period in the show. Umm...I hope you like it!
Oh, also, I'm considering posting further fic only on livejournal and not here, since there seem to be many more people reading over there. Is that what you all have found, too?
Okay, here we go:
"Hold still." Kara presses down hard with the cold compress as Lee jerks away. "Baby," she mutters affectionately.
Lee snatches it out of her hand. "I wouldn't have bothered coming all the way to sick bay if I knew would be treated to your bedside manner instead of Cottle's."
Kara sighs and lays back on her hospital bed, unfazed. "Cause who wouldn't want the doting doctor's attentions? Especially since he reports to your father."
He snorts and holds the ice along his jaw.
She props herself up on her elbows, grinning and waggling her eyebrows. "So, Captain, did you get to send someone to the brig for hitting you? Your first time?"
Lee rolls his eyes. "No, Lieutenant, not everyone needs to be locked up in isolation to get their temper back under control."
"Well maybe I just like the privacy," she smirks. Kara turns her head and looks through the gaps in the curtains to where Socinus is getting a cut checked out and Skulls is throwing up in a bedpan. "Not much of it here, for that matter." She turns back to Lee. "Can we say I did it?" She smiles gleefully.
He can't help laughing, then sobers, holds the compress in his hands and stares at it. "It was Billy."
"Keikaya?" Her disbelief is clear.
He nods to himself. "Dee brought him to the rec room and he was talking about his brother, how he ended up with this dog that his brother had left with him when he moved to Picon a few years ago." Lee glances over at Kara and sees her watching him seriously. He shrugs. "I told him...I said it gets better. Which, to be fair, I'd have punched me, too."
"Would you do that? For me?" she prompts.
He smacks her good leg instead, and Kara yelps. Then he rests his hand on her ankle, looks intently into her face. "It does though, right?"
Her eyes widen, at his words or his touch he's not sure.
"Yeah," Kara says softly. "It does." She stops for a minute. They still haven't talked through what happened before she crashed her Viper, or even how they parted years ago. But he's waiting, so she goes on. "That first year after he died was hard, but eventually..." She shakes her head.
"I stopped wondering."
"What do you mean?" He stares into her face.
Kara swallows hard. She's never said this out loud before. "For a long time, there would just be...you know...moments. When I'd think-what would we be doing right now? Would he be sitting next to me? Working on me about kids? And I'd miss him." She rubs at her bandaged knee and pretends that's why her eyes are damp. "But now, the Cylons...there's no time for that anymore." Kara darts a glance at him. "Besides, things are different. Everybody's lost just about everyone." She picks at her blanket. "He might be dead anyway," she murmurs.
"Zak was the one who crashed his bird," Lee says, trying to ease the guilt he can still hear in her voice. "I flew with him, too. He was almost there. He knew enough to be responsible for his own mistakes."
"I had a party for him," Lee says after a minute, offering an admission of his own.
Kara looks up and frowns skeptically. "What?"
"On Atlantia. For his birthday. When he would have turned 22, and 23."
She smiles. "That's a little morbid, Lee."
"Hey." He taps her ankle, then goes back to holding the ice against his jaw. "When we were little, since our birthdays were a month apart, Mom would throw one big party right in between. All the neighborhood kids, cake and ice cream and balloons." He shrugs. "It used to be easier to get ice cream on a battlestar."
"It sounds nice."
He smiles sadly. "There's nobody left who remembers those parties."
"But Zak's not forgotten."
Lee looks up, sees the intensity in her gaze and remembers her words from so long ago. "Never."
They gaze at each other for a long moment, unguarded.
Kara interrupts first. "Ishay was taking me for a walk earlier, cause I needed to get out of here. We were down-in the hall near records, people have been posting pictures." She pauses and Lee nods that he's seen it, too. "I put up what I could find from my squadron, the ones we lost in the first attacks. Stinger and Helo..." she bites her lips a moment against their names; the losses are still so fresh.
"You want to put up Zak?"
She shrugs lamely.
Lee nods to himself. "I think I have a picture we can use. Hang on, I'll be right back."
"Hey!" Kara protests as he gets up and heads for the entrance to sick bay. "What the-" She slumps back against the bed, grouchy at the reminder that she's stuck until her knee heals. She closes her eyes, twirls the ring on her thumb the way she always does. It soothes her.
"Here," Lee says a minute later, and he's back, standing over her.
She frowns when he pulls it out.
"What?" Lee asks.
"Nothing." She reaches for it.
"Kara? You okay?"
"Shut up." She glares.
Kara reaches down and pulls out a scalpel from a drawer next to her bed. Lee laughs. "Cottle just let you have that?"
"Hey, Lee, there are cylons around," Kara says cavalierly. "And you know I like my weapons handy."
He chuckles. "Do you remember that day?"
She gives him a look. "It was the first time we flew together. Of course I remember, Apollo."
"Yeah," he says, his voice unexpectedly soft.
Kara lays the picture down on her tray table and readies the scalpel.
"You're cutting it?" Lee exclaims.
She looks up. "Well we can't have you and me up there, frakwit, you'd scare half the fleet." She sees his face fall and shrugs. "Don't worry. There are many copies." She slices delicately down the slick paper. Only her arm, with his ring on her finger, remains attached to Zak. Kara hesitates, then holds out the pieces to Lee. "You'll have to put it up."
He raises his eyebrows, then glances around. "Oh I think I can spring you. Come on."
Kara's face lights up at his unexpected deviousness. "Am I inspiring you there, Apollo?"
Lee rolls his eyes and leaves her line of sight for a minute, returns with a wheelchair. "Here we go." He slides his arms gently around her back and under her legs. For just a moment, Kara is flush against Lee's chest, her cheek resting against his heartbeat. The heat of his body stirs up the memories they've been denying for weeks and she looks away quickly as she settles into the chair, trying not to let Lee notice she's flushed.
He doesn't seem to, just glances back and forth across the sick bay, then drops his ice pack abruptly into her lap and pushes her briskly toward the hatch.
Despite Kara's pleading, Lee refuses to race down the halls with her chair, and it takes them nearly ten minutes to reach what's becoming known as the Memorial Hall.
Kara insists he wheel her slowly as she searches for just the right place, but it's Lee who finds it. "Here," he says, pointing. There are a few inches of empty space in the middle of a wall, between a smiling baby and a young woman in a bikini on a beach somewhere. Kara wordlessly passes him the picture and he finds a tack. "Nice view, at least, man," Lee mutters as he pushes it through the photo. And smiles, because his brother would.
Kara looks up at the picture, remembers for a brief moment how genuinely loved Zak made her feel for the months she knew him. Tears spring to her eyes but she blinks them away. Pushing all her weight onto her good leg, she rises from the chair, gripping the wall to get upright.
"Whoa, there!" Lee says, reaching to help her.
She glares, then slowly settles herself on the floor opposite Zak's picture, only wincing a little as she gets her leg stretched out in front of her. Lee shakes his head but drops amiably beside her. Kara holds out a flask.
Lee accepts it, then raises an eyebrow, teasing. "With love from Ellen?"
She give him a fierce grin. "Won it at triad."
He holds up the flask toward the picture. "To Zak, the best brother I could have had." He sips and passes the ambrosia back to her.
"Who even loved a up a frak-up like me," Kara adds quietly, swigging.
"Who was the first person to blindly follow my orders, even when he ended up with poison ivy," Lee tacks on, then wrests the flask from her for a sip.
She giggles. "Who decided screwing a superior officer was a great idea."
"And who would probably have passed out by now." Lee tries not to choke as Kara cracks up next to him.
They're laughing as a group of people walk by, glancing at them warily.
Lee sighs. "Did he ever tell you about the first time he had ambrosia?"
Kara's eyes light up. "No!"
"It was when Dad made Commander. They had a party when he came home on leave, in our house and in the yard outside. Caterers, open bar, the whole spread."
"How old were you?"
"Well, I was eighteen. I'd already been away at War College for a semester and so I knew about drinking. Zak," he grins, "Zak was just sixteen.
"Anyway, there were these other officers' kids there and we snagged a bottle of really expensive ambrosia. And we sat around, away from the party, halfway down to this ravine behind our house. And Zak," he shakes his head. "He can't have had more than a few shots but..." He's already laughing. "He slipped, down the ravine, and couldn't get out again." He meets Kara's eyes, sees her delight. "And so my father comes down, looking for us, and Zak's scrabbling up the slope, covered in dirt and gods know what else, and dad's glaring at me for laughing, and just as he reaches down to grab Zak's hand, Zak pukes all over the place. Just everywhere." He grins. "And the generals showed up just as we hoisted him out. Thank gods I had to get back to College or he'd have killed me for sure."
Kara is still laughing at the image. Lee takes a drink and passes the booze to her. "Did he tell you how the other kids in his squadron found out about us?"
He raises his eyebrows in surprise. "No."
She grins and takes a long swallow. "It's almost the same story, actually. We went out for Colonial Day, like everyone else on the planet. I mean, literally, the planet, and within about an hour Zak could barely walk." She shakes her head, remembering. "And this little girl, Firefly, little like Cally, tells me she'll walk him back to the barracks, but she's pretty far gone so I tell her I'll do it. The barracks were closer than my apartment, and Zak wasn't getting laid in that state anyway, so I took him there. The puking happened just as I got him to his bed, all over me."
Lee winces in sympathy even as he snickers. "Oh, Zak."
"Right, so I have to shower, and by the time I'm done Zak's thrown up all the alcohol he drank and is relatively sober again. And since the barracks were empty, we figured why the hell not frak?"
"Of course," he nods at her logic.
Kara elbows him. "He was screaming my name when Firefly and Balderdash walked in to check on him."
"And you in all your glory?"
"I've never seen nuggets so shocked in all my life. And I've said some pretty obscene things to them." She sighs, shifts to rest her cheek against Lee's shoulder as she looks up at Zak. "But they kept our secret."
"I assume your primary training goal is to keep the nuggets from telling on you," Lee says affectionately.
"Yeah..." Kara's quiet a minute. "I wish I'd kept pictures of them."
Their breathing slowly calms, and they sit in silence for a while, Kara leaning on Lee. After a while he settles his cheek against her hair. There's comfort, as always, in the contact.
"I let you down," Kara whispers. "I'm sorry."
Lee shifts to look at her, realizes she's addressing the photograph. "So am I," he murmurs to his brother.
She pulls away enough to see him. He meets her eyes. She doesn't ask for what.
Kara looks away first. Lee slides his arm around her as she settles back against him, and laces his fingers through hers. He doesn't press her to talk about all the things they haven't said, about her running away from him at the funeral or the joy of flying CAP together or how once long ago they made love in a shower stall. It's enough that what she said was important that first night still is: the two of them, together, right there.