Title: Breeding Lilacs out of the Dead Land
Author: dannica webb
Rating: FR-18 (warnings for very mild sex scenes and references to child abuse)
Fandom: Battlestar Galactica 2003
Pairing: Kara-centric, Lee/Kara with smidgens of Kara/Zak, Kara/Sam, and Kara/Helo
Spoilers: Um, lots. Especially for Resistance, The Farm, Home, Lay Down Your Burdens, Occupation, Unfinished Business, Maelstrom, Sometimes a Great Notion, Someone to Watch Over Me, and Daybreak, but I'm sure I missed a few.
Summary: Sometimes love is not enough, but sometimes love is all you need; sometimes it's the whole world.
Author's Notes: Title and section breaks (italicized portions) are lines from the poem The Waste Land by T.S. Eliot. The ending is late season four and slightly AU - the Fleet has found Earth, it's a nuclear wasteland, and there's a mutiny, but Sam doesn't get shot.
i will show you fear in a handful of dust
Sometimes after Kara tells her mother "I love you," she ends up with cuts or broken bones. She braves the pain and does it anyway, because it is her mother and it is the truth and she has been brought up to believe that lying is a sin, unless you are lying to doctors and teachers about why there are bruises on your arm.
Then it is just private and not anyone's business and Kara has also been brought up to believe that you must protect your family no matter what.
When she is ten and she comes home from the doctor after having her fingers set, she finally stops saying the words out loud, and she wishes she could stop feeling them because that is worse than the physical pain, but no matter how hard she tries, she cannot.
here, said she, is your card, the drowned phoenician sailor, (those are pearls that were his eyes. look!)
She doesn't remember ever saying the words to her father. She doesn't remember him saying them back. Of her father, she only remembers the sound of music and the smell of exhaust and the license plate number on the car he drove away.
But sometimes when things are very quiet and still or just as she's hovering in that period between sleeping and waking, she remembers a little girl sitting next to a man on a piano bench, and a warm feeling spreads in her chest.
in the mountains, there you feel free
Helo says it to her first long before she is Starbuck or he is Helo. The first time he says it, she is fourteen and he is sixteen and they are lying on a rough blanket spread over the grass in the midst of a copse of trees at the edge of the base where their parents are stationed. After a long period of internal debate, she has decided she is going to lose her virginity to him; she has known him longer than anyone else, and he is her best friend, and it makes sense, after all.
She manages to shove the sound of her mother's voice proclaiming her a worthless slut from her mind long enough to enjoy the experience of being held in his arms. She knows Karl Agathon is well out of her league; has spent the last six years of their childhood friendship wondering why he wastes his time on a world-class frak-up. He's never mentioned it to her, but she is aware the other kids tease him mercilessly for hanging out with her. She is pissed at herself for being too selfish to push him away before she can frak up his life as well, pissed at herself for giving into need.
When he comes inside of her, he whispers her name breathlessly along with the words, over and over and over until the sounds melt together into a harmony that causes tears to spill over. Afterwards he holds her. She tries to squirm out of his arms, angrily wiping her face, but he just holds her tighter until she stops crying.
They never have sex again. Something in her almost shatters that day underneath the weight of his affection and tipping the balance of their relationship makes her too uncomfortable, so they go on as they always have - practically attached at the hip, watching each other's backs, taking care of each other, anticipating each other's thoughts. Long before she becomes half of StarbuckandApollo, even before she becomes Starbuck and he becomes Helo, she is half of StarbuckandHelo. After that day he repeats the words from time to time, always catching her off guard, when it is just the two of them and it is quiet and he knows she's had a bad day, or when she is so pissed about something she won't let him come near her, or when he drives her home quietly from the doctor to her mother's house and she can feel his own protective, explosive anger thrumming underneath the surface.
Every time he says the words to her, she opens her mouth to say them back and she chokes and he smiles a little half smile and squeezes her hand and says, "S'okay. I know."
what are the roots that clutch, what branches grow
The first time Zak tells her, she's putting fistfuls of wildflowers he's brought her into a vase and she drops it. Shards of glass cover her kitchen floor, keeping her from running for the door. She stutters and cleans up the mess, face hot, wishing she could be somewhere - anywhere - else. He's not the first man she's dated to tell her, but when she finishes sweeping and looks up, he doesn't seem offended at all that she hasn't said it in return. He's the first man besides Helo who has never expected her to be someone other than who she is. This is the only reason she doesn't cut and run.
who is the third who walks always beside you? when i count, there are only you and i together but when i look ahead up the white road there is always another one walking beside you
The first time she sets eyes on Lee Adama, she's somehow certain she's said the words to him a thousand times before. Ages-old memories are ingrained in her flesh, stealing the appropriate pleasantries from her. "You must be - " she says finally, awkwardly, and his easy smile saves her the embarrassment. "I'm sorry, I'm Kara, come on in."
Later, when Zak has passed out, she blames the memories for her honesty. She doesn't talk about herself to people, especially not to the family members of people she's dating, whom she's only just met. Hell, she doesn't do meeting the family. The whole godsdamned situation is so far from normal. That's her only excuse. "What do you think about when you're flying?" he asks her.
"I think about dying," she says instantly and sets the shot glass down on the table, staring into it. "Or I don't think at all."
When he pins her with the weight of a concerned stare, she's angry with herself for drinking so much that she forgets some things are not appropriate to say in polite conversation. It's just that - she knows she's never seen Lee Adama before in her life, but she remembers flying with him. She remembers it. It scares the shit out of her. She pours them both another shot before she can say anything else, certain she's not drunk enough for this.
"You're tempting fate," he says as she leans into the burn of the alcohol.
"Mmm," she murmurs. She smiles recklessly. "If I have a fate, then it is set, and thinking about it isn't gonna make it happen any faster." She lays her arm on the table and leans down, closing her eyes briefly.
"Okay, fair enough," he says, "but flying - when you're thinking about dying - it's a bad way of doing business." When he laughs she can feel his breath on her face. She leans into her arm again, away from him. "You're gonna get scared and you're gonna start second guessing yourself!"
No, that's what he would do. She knows this not because Zak told her but because she's seen it happen. All of this has happened before and all of it will happen again. "I'm not scared," she counters, meeting his gaze.
His mouth forms a soft o of surprise and he seems to have forgotten how to speak for a moment. "You said that you think about dying every time that you get into a cockpit," he says, gesturing drunkenly.
"Uh huh," she mutters, not following his logic.
Laughter bubbles up out of both of them. "Well, hello," he says, as if it's obvious.
"Yeah, but it doesn't scare me, Lee, that's what you don't get." His name feels good, comfortable, familiar in her mouth. Too much honesty, she thinks, as his brow furrows, but they've gone too far to back down now. For a second she thinks he might kiss her.
"What, so it's, um, Kara Thrace, the fearless warrior," he mocks gently. "Right?"
"No, I - I know - I know fear," she responds quietly. "And I get scared. Just - just not of dying." She brushes her hair back from her face with unsteady fingertips.
"So then what does scare you?"
"Mmm," she stalls, pouring herself another shot as she thinks of a little girl trapped in the back of a closet with her bruises. "Being forgotten."
Then they move onto some less scary topic and work on getting more drunk. She keeps remembering the comfortable weight of him on top of her, even though some rational part of her knows they've never kissed before, let alone had sex. But the sense memories are driving her mad. Finally she blurts out, "You and I. Right here. Right now."
"On a table?" he responds. If she were less drunk she'd notice how odd it is that he doesn't protest, but she's not, so she snorts in laughter instead.
"I dare you," she teases, standing up. "I double dog dare you."
He blinks owlishly. "Double dog dare?"
"Uh huh!" She's sitting on the table and he's agreeing and then suddenly he's leaning over her, looking at her, just looking, and she is certain she could drown in all that blue, and she's laughing nervously, but then he's kissing her and it's so right - so natural - that the perfection of feeling his body against hers steals away every other thought. She feels the irrational urge to say the words to him, and they are bubbling up within her, Iloveyouiloveyouiloveyou, but before she does something shatters and she's not sure if it's the wine glass or her heart.
he who was living is now dead / we who were living are now dying / with a little patience
The first time she says it to Zak is after the funeral. She's standing at his grave long after everyone else has left and crying so hard she can barely breathe. Somewhere in between the prayers to the Gods and the sickened apologies, the words tumble out uninvited.
these fragments i have shored against my ruins
She tells Helo for the only time in her apartment back on Caprica. She whispers the words into the darkness when she thinks he's asleep, but then he rolls over and looks at her in surprise and she knows she's been caught. She doesn't have to tell him how terrified and alone and isolated and sad she was all those months she thought he was dead; she can read in his eyes that he understands.
there the nightingale filled all the desert with inviolable voice and still she cried, and still the world pursues
She's reeling from emotional whiplash the first time Lee tells her. It's too much - what happened on Caprica, coming back to him, him kissing her and then suddenly being so angry with her, as if he's just discovered what her mother always knew. When he shows up in the locker room, she guesses Helo must have confronted him after they had their little fight in the brig.
She doesn't care. Anger and helplessness are coursing through her in equal measure. The whole time she was on Caprica she'd counted on getting home, told herself everything would be okay if she could just get back to the Fleet. Back to Lee. Now that she was back, things were infinitely more frakked up than before. There's no way for her to take out her frustrations, and she'd probably get a lecture from Helo on ripping her stitches if she did, so instead, she's bouncing Sam's pyramid ball against the bulkhead.
When Lee shows up and takes her ball, she is surprised that her first instinct is not to hit him. If she just felt a fraction less despair, she'd be itching for a fight. Instead, when he teases her, holding the ball out of her way, she walks away wearily.
He gives in, gives it back. The victory isn't as satisfying as she'd hoped.
"What's up with you, Kara? Anything you want to talk about?"
He sits behind her, propped against the fence, and she leans into the weight of his body. She looks down at the ball in her hands, fighting tears. "Nope."
"Musta been hard," he says, "being back on Caprica, being home. Probably saw some - some tough things back there." Part of her wants to say you have no frakking idea, and part of her wants to wrap herself up in his concern and hide from the universe. "Anyway," he goes on, "tomorrow, this whole thing's gonna end one way or another. We find the tomb or we don't, we find the way to earth or we don't. I just want you to know, Kara, that I'm your friend. I love you."
He's babbling on about talking things out, getting things off her chest, but it's all just white noise.I love you. She grabs those three words, imprinting the exact sound of his voice when he said it, savoring the warmth that spreads through her whole body. Tears prick at the back of her eyelids and she returns to bouncing the ball, trying to restore some sense of equilibrium, of normalcy.
"Anyway - " he mutters, standing up and causing her body to slump into the fence.
She teases him, tries to pretend she's not replaying the words over and over in her head. "What was that middle part again?"
"Hmm?" he asks, turning around as he reaches the door of the locker room. "What do you mean?"
She stands up and leans over the fence. When she smiles it feels like the first time she's smiled in weeks. "Did you say you love me?"
He laughs self-consciously. "Well, um - "
"Lee Adama loves me." It sounds so much better out loud.
"All I meant was - "
She shakes her head. "No, seriously, very sweet," she says, as though it doesn't matter when in reality it is the whole world. "You love me."
When he laughs it off and walks away it dislodges something in her chest. "You love me," she insists. "You can't take it back! There's no takebacks."
He shakes his head and keeps walking. "You're dreaming it, Kara."
"You love me!"
"You're dreaming it."
"You love me."
"Mm-hmm!" she exclaims, leaning over to make sure he's turned the corner and can't see the ridiculously goofy smile on her face. She holds onto the memory of his words, tucks them away like her own personal bit of hope.
april is the cruellest month, breeding lilacs out of the dead land, mixing memory and desire
"I'm not gonna stop until you get up and do it, too."
She's laughing at the absurdity of the situation, laughing because this helpless tenderness is so far from their usual frak-or-fight rhythm that she doesn't know what to do with herself.
"Okay, here we go again," he shrugs. "LEE ADAMA - "
"Okay, okay, okay!" she protests, giggling as she drunkenly stumbles to her feet. She shivers in the midnight cold, arms wrapped around herself. "KA - " she chokes on the words. For a moment she's afraid she's not going to be able to say them. Then the feeling of his warmth at her back, so familiar, centers her. All of this has happened before. "KARA THRACE LOVES LEE ADAMA!" She stands there for a moment, blushing and waiting for the sky to fall. When it doesn't, she turns and kisses him, relieved. Terrified.
After he is asleep, she whispers it over and over, and remembers. I love you. I love you. I love you.
here is belladonna, the lady of the rocks, the lady of situations
"What if this is it? The rest of your life, Kara. Is this how you want to spend it? Is this who you want to spend it with?"
Lee had dangled the questions in front of her, as if she had options. As if she had choices. It was cruel when they both knew, no matter what happened between them, no matter what impulsive promises and dreams he spun, he was an honorable man. "Just like that," he'd said, when they both knew it wasn't that easy. He'd go back to Dee, and Dee was good for him. She couldn't fathom, in this universe, anyway, how Lee would leave a woman like Dee for a frak-up like her - couldn't see him ever choosing to marry a frak-up like her. So the morning after, she runs.
The first time Sam tells her he loves her is just after she marries him. It sounds like settling. It sounds like safety.
that corpse you planted last year in your garden, has it begun to sprout? will it bloom this year?
Leoben tells her all the time. He uses the words as a weapon, a trap, lacing them with long stares and touches that make her feel so exposed and raw and dirty she's not sure she'll ever be able to wash them off.
one must be so careful these days
She whispers the words to Kacey over and over, using them to ground herself, praying that her love for this child will get them both through the occupation intact. For four months, fighting Leoben and loving Kacey are all she knows; Kacey is her ray of sunshine in the middle of the sick sense of fear and despair that clouds her mind. When she returns to Galactica, she doesn't have to fight anymore. But she doesn't have a daughter anymore, either. All she has left is the despair.
a heap of broken images, where the sun beats, and the dead tree gives no shelter
The first and last time she tells Leoben, she's already decided where she's going to stick the knife.
so many, i had not thought death had undone so many
"Morning, Starbuck. What do you hear?"
"Nothing but the rain."
"Then grab your gun and bring in the cat."
She and the Old Man never have to say those particular three words to each other; they have a language all their own.
this card, which is blank, is something he carries on his back, which i am forbidden to see. i do not find the hanged man
After they find Earth, suicide rates quadruple overnight. Haunted by memories and the smell of burning flesh, Kara doesn't notice.
"I'm getting a divorce," Sam says one night before undogging the hatch and pulling his boots in.
She stares down at the dog tags in her hand. "Hmm?" she murmurs absentmindedly from where she sits on her lower bunk.
"I'm getting a divorce."
Her gaze snaps up to meet his. The usual protestations come to mind - marriage is a sacrament, it's for life. She might be a hypocritical two-timing bitch, but she believes this. But she doesn't argue on the basis of religion. All she can think to say is, "Humanity's falling apart around us, Earth is a nuclear wasteland, and you're seriously worried about clarifying yourmarital status right now?"
He scrubs a hand over his face and looks down at her, leaning against the wall. "Seeing Earth like that - it's made me want things, Kara," he says quietly, urgently.
She rolls her eyes. "What are you talking about?"
He shrugs. "Look, if this is all we have left - if this is all we'll ever be - I want to be happy. I want you to be happy, too."
She looks down at her hands again, at the dog tags clutched there, wondering why her chest hurts all of a sudden. "I love you," she whispers. She's never told him that before.
He kneels down next to the bunk, takes her face in his hands. "I know," he says. "I know." He kisses her forehead, lets his lips rest there for a moment. And then he walks away.
after the torchlight red on sweaty faces after the frosty silence in the gardens after the agony in stony places the shouting and the crying prison and place and reverberation of thunder
Standing at the memorial wall, it seems absurd to her that they've come all this way, they've endured all of this, just to end up back here.
"Kara? What are you doing?"
She turns slowly to face Lee, shaking her head, trying to form words around what she's feeling and failing utterly.
"Okay, listen to me," he says. "I don't care. Right? Nope. We've all been through some crazy, crazy stuff. I don't care what he's talking about. And he can talk until he's blue in the face, about God, gods, miracles, life, death, whatever he - I don't care. I don't care what you think you saw. I watched your viper explode. Don't care. I'm here. You're here. 'Cause I'm Lee, and you're Kara, and the rest of it isn't worth a damn. Alright?"
She's smiling and trying not to cry at the same time. "Alright," she murmurs, thinking she finally understands what Sam was trying to say. "I cannot help what people say," she says haltingly. "And I can't control who believes it. It's okay."
He's staring at her again and when his hand comes up to touch her face she knows - this time, she knows she could drown herself in the blue. She remembers what it's like to want.
"This is all that matters."
i will show you something different from either your shadow at morning striding behind you or your shadow at evening rising to meet you
All of this has happened before, but in the wasteland that used to be her heart, she feels a new beginning writing itself.
i will show you something different