Title: "The Reality and Immortality of Things"
Word Count: 3,678 (this chapter)
Spoilers: all but the last twenty minutes of 4.20
Summary: "It's not a life she ever would've imagined for herself before they landed on this planet. She wouldn't have even wanted it back then. But it's the life they've created, and it's good."
* * * * *
From this hour I ordain myself loos'd of limits and imaginary lines,
Going where I list, my own master total and absolute,
Listening to others, considering well what they say,
Pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating,
Gently, but with undeniable will, divesting myself of the holds that
would hold me.
* * * * *
She feels barely tethered to this planet. A strong gust of wind might knock her into the stratosphere. As the Raptor takes off, the air turbulence makes her clutch Lee's elbow a little too hard. If he feels the bruises she must be giving him, he doesn't say anything, and for that she's grateful. He just tugs her closer and says, “I'm going to miss them,” and “I'm glad you're here.”
They stand there until the ship disappears, then Lee nods. “Guess we should get back to work,” he says in a voice that suggests he wants anything but that.
As he turns to leave, Kara holds onto him for a moment and adds, “Glad you're here too.”
* * * * *
They never discuss it. They don't sit down and make a plan, with lists of provisions and a map to their destination. It just happens. Later, she decides that she's glad it went down that way.
Kara walks into the operations tent about an hour before sunset, feeling strangely out of place even though this is basically her creation. People – some familiar, some strangers – swarm around, full of a purpose most of them haven't felt in far too long; Showboat's wearing the biggest smile that Kara has ever seen as she puts together dossiers giving the locations of the various settlements. Another woman organizes lists of names. Amid all the chaos, Lee's standing at the surveillance maps, hunched over as if he's entirely alone in there. One finger traces a line up the continent, toward a large sea that's an almost unnatural shade of blue. Her finger joins his on the map.
“We're in Helo and Athena's group,” he says. His voice seems to echo in the tent, like he's waking up from a long sleep.
She taps that swath of blue sea. “It's really beautiful.”
“Yeah. All that land, out there just waiting for us.”
She catches that wistful note in his voice. A random, nonsensical leap of intuition made her turn a song into numbers. She has always trusted her instincts, even when everything else was a mess. Now she thinks maybe she knows Lee well enough to make another leap.
“Wanna get out of here?”
Startled, he looks up at her. His eyes narrow, then his face slowly relaxes as he figures her out. And she feels something pulling at her chest as he starts to smile and says, “Yeah.”
* * * * *
While the rest of the camp sleeps, they gather the bare essentials and pack them into the duffels they'd brought with them when they first set foot on the Galactica years ago. Clothes, boots, bedding, some basic tools, water purification tablets, enough algae bars to last them a week. The pack settles heavily onto her shoulders, but she doesn't care. It's a good weight. She glances over at Lee, watches carefully for a flash of hesitation. If he backs out, so will she. She's walked away from him too many times already. But as he packs his own bag, his lips are pursed in a faint smile, as if he's sucking on a piece of candy.
They leave an hour before dawn, as the eastern sky shifts from black into dark blue. She leads the way, and as always, he's on her six. Nobody awakens to stop them, and they never look back.
* * * * *
On the first day, they don't move as far as she'd expected – maybe ten clicks at the most. It's exhausting. Running laps around a ship in orbit is no preparation for hours walking across a savanna. It's beautiful, though. She's seeing something completely fresh and new, and it's as if she can hear the gods whispering through the trees. For the first time in ages, she's glad to listen.
They don't talk much – just the basics about where they're going and what they're doing – and that's okay. She's got more than enough on her mind without trying to explain it all to him.
She does watch him, though. Carefully. Like he'll disappear or change his mind at any moment. Just before sunset, the first heavy raider takes off, carrying people to their new home. Lee stands still, tracking its path across the sky until it dips over the horizon. She holds her breath. Hopes he doesn't want to follow it. Hates that it matters so much to her. If he turns back, she'll go with him. She'll always follow. She has known that for a long time now. But he simply raises a hand as if to wave goodbye, then he looks over his shoulder and asks where she wants to camp tonight. And once they find a place, she's too exhausted to say more than “goodnight” before crashing.
When she wakes, the eastern horizon is streaked with blue and purple, and Lee is propped up on one elbow, staring at her. Before she can say anything, he leans in and slowly kisses her. Just a simple kiss, but it wakes her up and slides all the way down to her toes. He finally pulls back and says, “I missed you.”
She swallows hard and wants to say the same thing back to him, but all she can do is nod. He rolls on top of her, eyes wide and dark and Lee. His weight pressing her into the hard ground, she wraps her arms around his back and tugs on the hem of his tanks. They kiss and kiss, and she can't stop smiling.
* * * * *
“So, where are we headed, Starbuck?”
She looks up at Lee, her arms full of kindling for the fire they've barely managed to start. The question's a surprise, though once her brain processes it she wonders why it took him so long to ask. “I guess we'll keep heading north. According to the maps back at the settlement, there's a large sea at the other end of the continent.”
“You guess?” Lee shoves his hands in his pockets. “I thought you had a plan for this trip of ours.”
Put on the spot, Kara freezes then gets her defenses back up. “Don't put all this on me! You never asked what was going on. You just said, 'Let's go.'”
They stare at each other, frustration coming off Lee in waves. He glances over his shoulder, probably calculating how long it'd take for him to ditch her and head back to civilization. Amid the panic in her gut, some disconnected part of her wants to laugh at how she managed to frak this up in less than forty-eight hours. But another part needs to make this right, make him understand. “Look, Lee. You might be able to do that song and dance, but I can't anymore. So if you want to go back there, be my guest.”
She grips the kindling harder; splinters begin to stab at her hands. He finally says, “I want to be with you, Kara. I just need to know what's going on.”
It spreads through her chest, warmer than the sun. Buying time until she can get her voice to work again, she spreads the wood on the fire and watches it leap toward them. Then she walks back over to their bags and pulls out the map she'd sketched from the Raptors' surveillance. Lee comes up behind her as she spreads it out on the grass. “Okay,” she begins, finger tracing a path along the pencil lead. “If we head due north, we can follow some rivers up to that sea. Looks like there's enough variety in the terrain to provide food and water.”
“Okay.” He sits down next to her, and they go over it for maybe a half-hour. Then he says, “And if this doesn't work out, at least there are a couple of Colonial settlements within range.”
She nods. “It'll work out, though. I know it will.”
* * * * *
They survive. It's not much of a life, but it's the one they've chosen – at least, that's what she tells herself when the rains won't stop and she's knee-deep in mud. Food is still plentiful, but it's getting harder to catch and kill. Starting and maintaining a fire is damn near impossible. The first time she's forced to eat raw meat, Kara has to swallow hard and press her fingers to the front of her neck to keep from vomiting it back up. Lee isn't so lucky. She rubs his back until he looks up at her, bleary-eyed, and mutters, “I'll live.”
“Damn right you will.”
Lee reaches for the jug of water and coughs between sips. Then, his voice almost too low for her to hear, he mutters, “They won't.”
He frowns. “The others. They won't live. This place is going to kill them. What the hell was I thinking?”
Frak. Kara sits back on her heels. Should've seen this coming sooner or later. “First of all, I suggested this little trip of ours, so blame me.”
“Yeah, but I went along with --”
“Second of all,” she barges on, “you gave everyone a choice. They voted on it. Big deal. Not your responsibility. For frak's sake, Lee, I'm the one who found this planet. If you want to start assigning blame, have at it.”
Lee sits up straight, color returning to his face as he wipes away the rain that has slowed to a drizzle. “Fine. Enough blame.” It's a lie; she can tell from his eyes. He continues, “We should have built a city. Strength in numbers. You and I are having a hard time out here, and we're strong. But the rest of them –? They'll be gone in a generation or two, if they even make it that long.”
“Or maybe they won't. Who the hell knows what's going to happen? No point in beating yourself up over it.” That was her job. All the intensity – the need to make him get over it – pushes through her body until she feels like she could fly. Grabbing his face with both hands, she crashes into him. Only when he opens his mouth to hers does she remember that he was sick a few minutes ago. She fumbles for the canteen and shoves it in his hands, waiting impatiently as he rinses. And then she climbs him again, kissing him everywhere else. She doesn't have a clue what's going to happen later. All she knows is that she wants him naked right now.
* * * * *
Shoulder-to-shoulder, they stare at the ridge in front of them. As mountains go, they're not much. Barely more than foothills. She dealt with much worse back during all-terrain camps in the Academy. But she and Lee are the only ones for miles around; she hasn't seen any of the native tribes for weeks. These mountains are completely new. Theirs. And they're beautiful.
She glances over at Lee, his face lit up like a kid's. It spreads into a grin when he catches her looking at him. “What do you think, Starbuck? Ready to give it a try?”
She gives him a slow, serious nod. “After you.” But before he can make the first step, she takes off running.
* * * * *
The horizon seems to stretch forever. Kara stands a safe distance from the cliff's edge, but close enough to feel that she could fly off the side. If she squints hard, she imagines she could see every one of the Colonists' settlements from here, even though she knows that's not true. She reaches for Lee's hand and laces their fingers together. “They're all going to be okay.”
He squeezes her hand in reply.
Up here she feels close to the Gods, like this is what they meant for her to see when they put that song in her head. She doesn't have as much need for them anymore, but she has one more thing to tell them. Closing her eyes, she begins, “Lords of Kobol, hear my prayer. Take the soul of your son, Samuel Anders, into your hands, along with the souls of all your sons and daughters who gave their lives so that we could be here.”
Their answer is the wind swirling around her and Lee, up here on this mountaintop.
She glances over at Lee and waits for him to say that it's time to go; he's never had any patience for this type of thing. Instead, he surprises her by taking a deep breath and saying, “Lords of Kobol, please watch over William Adama and Laura Roslin, and let them find some peace.”
Kara blinks as a slow tremble spreads through her body. She wraps her arm around his shoulders, holding him close.
* * * * *
The earth never tires,
The earth is rude, silent, incomprehensible at first, Nature is rude
and incomprehensible at first,
Be not discouraged, keep on, there are divine things well envelop'd,
I swear to you there are divine things more beautiful than words can tell.
* * * * *
Nothing special happens on the day when she realizes that she is happy.
They've been tracking a herd for the past week, watching the movement patterns to make hunting easier in the future. It's necessary work, but it's boring as hell. Her legs have begun to cramp from keeping still all day, and she'd give nearly anything for a pair of sunglasses. Sprawled beside her on the grass, Lee's arm brushes against hers whenever he moves. For lack of anything else to keep them from going crazy, they play I Spy. As a game, it's fairly pointless; they can easily guess what the other suggests. Might as well have some fun with it.
“I spy something purple.”
After a short pause, Lee turns to stare at her. “No, you don't. There's nothing out here even remotely like that.”
“Yes, there is.” Her voice drips innocence. “Are you calling me a liar?”
She watches him scan the perimeter for something that might be vaguely purple. Finally, he shrugs. “Yes, I'm calling you a liar.”
They stare each other down for a ten-count. Then she bursts out laughing, the sound loud enough to startle the animals in the distance. Lee's too busy gaping at her to notice. She sputters, “You looked! You believed me!”
“No, I didn't.”
“Yes, you did.” She elbows him and taps her fingers up and down his spine until he's laughing as well. They lie there together on the grass, acting like kids, and she decides that, yeah, she's happy. When she stops to breathe, she glances up at the sky and says a quick “Thank you.”
* * * * *
As the weeks pass, there are other such moments. They make a game of climbing everything in sight. She belays as he scales the side of a cliff, and he tosses her a look over his shoulder that spreads down to her toes. In a rare stroke of luck, they literally stumble across some wild berries. They gorge themselves with purple-stained fingers. She trains herself to hold his hand without flinching. She lets herself just be happy with him.
It's not a life she ever would've imagined for herself before they landed on this planet. She wouldn't have even wanted it back then. But it's the life they've created, and it's good.
* * * * *
Despite all the dangers, she feels safe here, until one afternoon when they crest a hill and find a tribe of the indigenous people, clustered less than a half-click away. Both of them immediately drop to the ground and make themselves as still as possible to avoid being seen. Two former Colonial officers versus thirty, maybe fifty of them? All well and good for Starbuck to be reckless in a Viper cockpit, but this is a whole different story.
“They might not be hostile. Might even welcome us.”
That's Lee Adama, always trying to be a frakking diplomat. “Okay, Lee. Go on down there and introduce yourself. Let me know how that works out for you.”
He doesn't respond, but she can almost hear him roll his eyes. Either way, she's genuinely intimidated for the first time in ages. Neither of them moves for what might be hours. Then, once nobody in the tribe appears to be looking in their direction, she and Lee skulk away silently in the direction from whence they came.
* * * * *
A stray thought wakes her with a start: she isn't pregnant.
She should be, with all the sex they've been having. Her last contraceptive shot must've worn off months ago, and they didn't bring anything else. Hadn't even occurred to her. She can't remember her last period; then again, a dead-or-whatever-she-is body doesn't have much reason to bleed. So, she's not knocked up. A relief, right? She glances over at Lee, still asleep beside her, and for some strange, sudden reason, she needs to get away. Tapping on Lee's shoulder until he's awake, she whispers, “I'm going for a walk. I'll be back by sunset.”
He gives her a sleepy, confused frown. Before he can say anything, though, she drops a kiss on his forehead. “Have dinner waiting for me, okay?” Then she gets up, grabs her canteen, and begins to walk away. She can feel his eyes on her back, but at least he doesn't stop her. Strange for Lee, but she'll take it. Not the first time they've needed a break, after all.
She knows she'd never make it to the lake and back in one day, but she heads in that direction anyway. As she walks, she tries to figure out why she's so freaked out right now. It's not like she has ever wanted kids. Especially not here on this planet. They can barely keep themselves alive, much less a child. She doesn't know if Lee wants them; it's one of the few things they haven't talked about all these months. He must've figured out by now that it isn't going to happen. But he's the one she's thinking about now. Together, they watched his father take off on a one-way Raptor flight. When Lee dies, the Adama family is over. Nobody left to remember them, to carry on. Almost like they'd never existed, even though she knows that's not really true. She scans the grasses that give way to reeds and marsh near the horizon. It looks peaceful, but a hundred different things out here could kill them. If she hadn't been so selfish, right now he might be off in one of the settlements, having a dozen kids with some nice woman who isn't her. Frak.
She walks for hours then sits in the grass when she needs to rest. The solitude helps clear her head, until she convinces herself that she's being ridiculous. She can't give Lee a frakking heir? Big deal. They're all going to die one of these days. Might as well enjoy whatever time they have left.
As promised, she returns to their campsite about an hour before sunset. Lee just wraps his arms around her and says, “Glad you're back.” She loves him for that. If he's curious why she left this morning, he never asks. Maybe she'll tell him someday.
* * * * *
For three or four months, they follow the banks of a river. She quickly grows tired of looking at the thing, but it's fresh water and game and a dozen other things they need. The river gives them a path, a way to keep moving forward instead of losing themselves in the desert that stretches for ages on either side.
They start to bicker over little things, though Lee acts like each problem is the end of the world. The best place to camp for the night. Whether to use the last drops of butane in her lighter or find a way to preserve charcoal embers for fires. Staying put versus moving on. When he complains that she's not skinning the antelope properly, she invites him to go to hell.
He shoots back, “Already there, Starbuck.”
They stare at each other for a few moments, until he reaches for his bag and mutters, “I'm outta here.”
She doesn't watch him leave.
He'll return. He always does. A break is just what she needs right now. Ignoring all the other things she should be doing, she strips off her clothes and swims naked in the river. The sun's too hot, but she doesn't care. She stares at the dunes on the opposite bank and says, “Don't expect to get laid again anytime soon, Lee.”
But he's not back by sunset, or when she wakes up the next morning. No point in getting worked up about it, she tells herself, but panic begins to seep into her bones. And when he finally strolls back to the campsite in late afternoon, looking refreshed and with arms wide like he expects a hug, she punches him instead. He wipes blood from his lip and sputters, “What the hell was that for?” even though the idiot should know the answer.
She stares him down and says, “Don't ever do that again.”
She doesn't speak to him for the rest of the day.
* * * * *
The anger fades. No point in staying pissed off. All they have is each other, and walking beside him while grinding her teeth only gives her a headache.
She's pretty sure Lee stopped being mad long before she did, but she doesn't know why he looks like he might cry when she finally takes his hand. They watch a school of fish leap in and out of the river, and she says, “Love you.”
* * * * *
O public road, I say back I am not afraid to leave you, yet I love you,
You express me better than I can express myself,
You shall be more to me than my poem.
* * * * *