Spoilers: Through "Torn"
Summary: One breakup and four reconciliations.
He clung to her, kissed her neck and shoulder and down to her breasts. Licked away her sweat, shivered as her hands washed up and down his back. He felt her tremble as she came down from her climax. Slow sex, all soft moans and flicker-sweet looks and so many things he’d never expected from her. He’d forgotten the way it felt to really be happy.
“Love you,” he whispered into the curve of her breast.
She threaded her fingers through his hair, sharply tugged him up to face her. But her face was wistful instead of angry, and her “Love you, too,” was clear and sure.
He knew it was crazy, like they were play-acting a scene from a novel, but he still grinned back at her and laughed at how she could always surprise –
“But this isn’t going to work.”
Sucker-punched, he gaped at her and waited for some kind of explanation, knowing he wouldn’t get one. She looked two seconds away from tears, but of course Kara frakking Thrace would never cry. No, she’d just screw a guy then laugh it off. Even worse for how she was still naked beneath him, sex-soft skin and teeth-marks on her neck and, gods, what the frak was happening here?
“Mission accomplished, Commander.” Her lips curved into a bitter smirk, and all he could do was punch it off her face. Not hard enough to break, but enough to make her bleed.
She just shook her head and reached for her clothes. Blood smeared on her upper lip as she pulled on her tanks and buttoned her coat. He stared at her, wondering who the real Kara was – the one he’d just made love to, or the one who wouldn’t look back at him now.
“I really do –” her voice slipped and cracked. “I do love you, but you’re so much –”
He felt every muscle in his body harden and set. “Get the frak off my ship. Don’t bother to come back.”
Face blank but eyes wide, she nodded then walked over to the hatch, closing it behind her with a dull thud. He concentrated on breathing, as if that would make it all go away. Should’ve known better.
Weeks later, he heard that she’d married Sam. By then he’d trained himself not to care.
2. plastic calla lilies
When Sam had pneumonia, she’d teased him that he had to get well because hacking up a lung was a ridiculous death for someone like him. Fighters didn't die like that. But he’d shrugged and said that she was the fighter – he’d always just been trying to keep himself alive. “Blazes of glory are such bullshit,” he laughed. “I wanna die of really old age. I’m thinking 97 is a good number.”
In the end, it wasn’t glory or age, but a frakking forklift. An accident. His friends on the Rising Star made it sound as dignified as they could, but it was just a case of Sam helping unload supplies when a hydraulic gear suddenly snapped. He’d probably find a way to laugh at that, but she couldn’t.
Divorced five months, but they’d still been friends and sometimes frak-mates. She still loved him, in a different way than before. Didn’t make this any easier, though.
Widow’s weeds weren’t her style, so she put on her dress grays and took a Raptor over to the Star. Listened to Roslin say a few words about how great he’d been on New Caprica, how he’d worked tirelessly for the Fleet’s welfare since they returned. She stared at the sheet-draped body – no more coffins or shrouds anymore – and pretended it wasn’t really him, but of course it was. And when it was her turn to speak, all she could say was, “Sam was one hell of a man.” And he had been.
Her eyes burned and hand trembled as she pressed the airlock’s button, and she couldn't stop shaking the whole way back to Galactica.
When she stepped off the ramp, she wanted to beat the crap out of the punching bag, wanted to get back in a Viper and shoot at space. So of course Lee would be there to block her path, with that now-typical look on his face. She stared over his shoulder and waited for him to get it the frak over with.
Instead, he stared straight at her and said, “I’m sorry for your loss, Kara.”
She blinked. Opened her mouth and closed it, curled her hands into fists. And all she could do was nod, because talking would mean tears and pain and, gods, she couldn’t go there.
He didn’t hug her, but his hand on her arm felt the same. She tried to smile a thank-you, and she thought that it might be okay now if he saw her cry.
3. casualty projections
Of course it was awkward, but they still had a job to do. The Cylons didn't give a damn what happened on the Pegasus a year and a half ago, and he shouldn’t care either. He’d rather be planning this op with anyone else but her, but she was the only one who knew how to fly that raider they’d captured last week. So they circled the command table, never quite meeting each other’s eyes as they went over maneuvers and discussed the raider’s combat capabilities.
She pulled up a stool and began annotating the flight manual she’d drawn up last night. Bracing his hands on the edge of the table, he stared at the toy-like ships against the backlit surface and tried to ignore the headache brought on by casualty projections and the simple fact of having to share the room with Starbuck again.
“Are you two happy?”
“You and Dualla.” She bit her lip. “You two look good together.”
All he could do was gape at her, but she didn’t sound like she was trying to frak with him or anything. For once in her life, she sounded honest. So he nodded and replied, “Yeah, things are going well.”
But instead of getting back to work, she leaned against the table and stared down at her hands. “I’m sorry about what happened.”
Of course he knew exactly what she meant, but this wasn’t the time or place. Never would be. He forced down a calming breath and muttered, “Forget about it.”
“I mean it, Lee,” she blurted out, tripping over the words like she had to get them out before they went away. “I was a real asshole that night, and I’m sorry. I know you’re going to hate me for the rest of my life, but I –” She groaned and stared up at the ceiling.
“I don’t hate you.”
She looked as surprised as he was, and he realized that he didn’t hate her. Not anymore. He didn't know how the hell he felt about her, but it wasn’t hate. Complicated and frustrating and a thousand other things that he’d probably never figure out, and he wasn’t sure he wanted to. Right now it was better to just keep moving forward. He’d learned that the hard way, even before she’d broken his heart.
They stared at each other for a few seconds, then he found himself chancing a smile at her. Didn’t know what it meant, but it was a start. She raised one eyebrow before following with a half-smile of her own.
But all the awkward smiles and apologies in the universe wouldn’t get the damned mission sorted out, so he went back to staring at the ops table as if he could make sense of it through sheer willpower. Silence stretched between them again, but now it wasn’t uncomfortable.
“Y’know, if you shift the reserve Vipers over to the second quadrant, that’ll free us up to bring in the Cylon raider around back.”
He frowned at the table, trying to see what the hell she meant.
“Get over here.” She stood up and crooked a finger at him. “It makes more sense from this angle.”
Lee circled around to stand next to her, his arm brushing against hers as she leaned over to position the models. And yeah, it did make more sense. “Good call, Captain.”
He glanced up in time to catch her grinning at him. She picked up her pen and made another notation on the report, and he kept standing there next to her, feeling strange things inside his chest shift back into place.
4. insomnia-fueled anxiety
She was tired of flying as the wingman instead of the lead.
She was tired of hearing the cold condescension in the Admiral’s voice.
She was tired of acting like she was normal, as if she ever was.
She was tired of staring at the backs of people walking away from her.
She was tired of Lee hating her, and she was tired of wanting to fix it but not knowing how.
So she worked her ass off in the gym and the ready room and the sky. On CAP one day, Kat muttered “Good move there, Starbuck,” and followed her through the maneuver instead of the other way around. Wasn't gonna be the Top Gun again anytime soon, but she was getting close.
She played by the rules, memorized the frakking code of conduct, even the stupid, outdated stuff. Helo actually put a commendation in her file; it was just paper, but the XO’s praise still meant something. When she got word of a new op against the Cylons, she holed up all night and wrote a strategy report that was her usual brand of crazy, but it just might work. She didn’t sign her name to the file she slipped under the Admiral’s door. The next day, Adama glanced at her across the CIC, a knowing near-smile on his face. She smiled back.
She ran into a former Marine who had taken holy orders after the rescue, and he invited her to his small office. Took almost an hour for her to blurt out every damn problem weighing her down, but once she was done, he said something simple and wise. As they prayed together, she let herself believe that the gods might be listening this time.
She made it through an entire night of triad without pouring herself a drink. Laughing along with the others got easier with practice. They didn’t talk about New Caprica, which suited her just fine. She started to make friends again instead of casual acquaintances. She put herself out there, and sometimes she got smacked down, but that was all right.
She watched Lee pull back the curtain and stretch out on his old bunk. No idea why Dualla wasn’t with him, and she wasn’t sure she wanted to know. After a half-hour or so of staring at the ceiling of her rack, she got out of bed and sat on the edge of his. Waited patiently for him to open his eyes, but once he was awake, he didn’t frown at her. “Hey there,” she said with an attempt at a smile. “Hey,” he muttered back. They didn’t say anything else, but she felt like she could breathe again.
When she crawled back into her own bunk, she wasn’t so tired anymore, but she managed to sleep through until morning.
5. office gossip
“If any of your idiots can pull off a Persephone Roll, I’ll kiss you right there on the hangar deck.”
Kat tossed out another of her trademark taunts, but Lee just laughed. He’d seen her going over the Persephone with Hot Dog after hours, and knew the challenge was meant solely for him. But before the kid could engage, in came Starbuck. He watched her flip back and spiral away from the rest of the CAP, moving with a precision that was damn near perfect. Yeah, her stunts were a pain in the ass, but even he could appreciate the beauty of them.
As she fell back into formation, she called out, “Hey, Kat? Make sure you grab a breath mint first.”
Catcalls and laughter filled his headset, drowning out whatever Kat grumbled in response, and he heard Starbuck’s laughter loudest of all. Once the group was back into the routine, Lee said, “That was a pretty damn good move, Starbuck.”
Silence as everyone waited for her response; Lee realized that this was the first time they’d directly spoken to each other over ship-to-ship since she’d returned. But she finally said, “Thank you, Major,” and he wondered if that note in her voice was pride or relief. Maybe both.
No kisses as they landed, with Kat stalking across the deck as if Tyrol’s advice was of utmost importance. Lee couldn’t help grinning at that. He turned toward Starbuck’s plane, watching her double-check the fuselage. Furrowed brow and rat’s-nest hair, but she suddenly looked as fierce and alive as she had the first time he’d seen her on Galactica almost two years ago.
He couldn’t stop staring at her.
She unfastened the top of her flight suit and let it hang at her waist, sweaty hair framing the tattoo on her nape. Her tanks stretched over the curve of her back, and she turned to grin at something Cally said. As he watched her, Lee forgot about the night she’d slept with him and broke his heart, the year of hating her, the way he’d wanted to shove her out of an airlock instead of having to see her every day. All he could think about was how frakking beautiful she was right now, and gods, he’d missed her.
While he finished his own post-flight checklist, Lee kept glancing over at her, making sure she didn’t leave before him. Once they were both done, he followed her through the corridors toward the ready room. “Captain, I’d like a word with you,” he called out, and she turned to face him, looking both tall and nervous.
He closed the hatch behind them and walked over to the podium. She stood against the whiteboard, arms crossed defensively, sussing him out. “Good CAP today, Starbuck.”
She blinked. “Thanks.”
He should’ve known better than to look for something else in her eyes. Should’ve remembered his wife and regs and how much she could hurt him. But she was Kara, and –
She tasted of breath mints, metallic and warm and so many sense-memories. Her back left a streak of white on the board as they slid across it, his hands cupping her face and hers framing his shoulders. “Kara,” he groaned, and he felt her breath on his lips as she said something he couldn’t hear. He smiled and kissed her again. Should’ve known better, but he didn’t care.