Fahye (fahye_fic) wrote,
Fahye
fahye_fic

[BSG fic - Academy!pilots]

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, O CLAIRA MY CLAIRA.

Title: Our Pataphysical Divigation
Fandom: Battlestar Galactica
Rating: PG
Word count: 5243
Notes: Like so many of my fics, this was meant to be different. It was meant to be a brief and fluffy portrait of pilots-at-flight-school, and it turned into something else because Lee Adama is a broody bastard who won't shut up when he's in the mood for introspection. However, it retains such piloty staples as banter, Vipers, and punches in the face :D




our pataphysical divigation


pataphysics -
The science of imaginary solutions or of nonsensical philosophy

divigate -
To stray; the opposite of navigate

~

There’s blue ink on his thumb from where his pen, sleek and new and with his name inscribed in gold, has leaked onto his fingers.

“Hurry up, Cadet.”

He signs. He turns the pen so that the inscription proclaims his heritage to the palm of his own hand, and he invents a new signature on the spot, one that obscures the telltale surname with dark blotting loops.

~

The sun is insanely bright, and through an administrative snafu (welcome to the military, nuggets, Lee thinks dryly) one of the dorm houses has been left locked. Nobody seems to know where the key is. Lee sits on the warm concrete, leaning back against his canvas bag and trying to ignore the light beating down on his eyelids. His uniform is still stiff with starch and ironed creases, and it seems to trap the heat with malicious ease.

By mid-morning a small crowd of hot, irritated first-year Academy recruits has gathered in front of the building, and the key is still nowhere in sight.

“Maybe it’s a test,” someone suggests nervously. “Maybe we’re meant to find our own way in.”

“Maybe someone’s just lost the frakking key,” someone else shoots back. “All the other dorms have been let in.”

“No, really, my cousin told me that they like to –”

“Look, if you want to break a window and have the cost added to your account on day one, you go right ahead.” The young man speaking waves a hand and then collapses in a disgruntled heap next to Lee, who has been inching his way across the ground in an attempt to follow a patch of flimsy shade. “Ugh. I don’t care if it is a test, it’s too hot for vandalism.”

“Very true.” Lee smiles, and the guy smiles back.

“I’m Karl.”

“Lee.” Lee shakes his hand, pleased at the snap-snap syllables of their exchange, no surnames mentioned. Lee can’t wait for the day he gets his callsign, no matter how embarrassing it is. Any form of anonymity is fine.

Ten minutes later Lee is wondering about the melting point of the human eyeball, and someone’s started an impromptu pyramid game. A girl with cropped blonde hair wanders over to them, tossing a ball to and fro between her hands, and raises her eyebrows.

“Move back a bit, you two? You’re on my court.”

“Your court, huh?” But Karl shrugs and loads himself up with his bags. Lee sighs and does the same, biting back a curse when his sleeping roll slips through his fingers.

“Could you get that?” he asks the girl.

She gives him an unimpressed look. “Get it yourself.”

He tries, but just as his fingertips scrape the strap his canvas bag slips from the other shoulder and all of his luggage tumbles in a heap around his feet. The girl rolls her eyes, and all of a sudden it’s too much: Lee’s too hot, tired from the trip here, nervous as all hell and feeling crushed by the pressure from all directions.

Those are the excuses, but the anger is pulsing and new.

“You know, you could have just helped,” he snaps at her. “What’s that matter, did your mother tell you not to break a fingernail?”

Despite everything, the first time she hits him his ingrained politeness comes boiling to the surface, fragile bubbles of etiquette atop the sea of anger, and says: you don’t hit ladies.

By the time he’s finished that thought, she’s hit him again

And after that, he has exactly enough time to imagine what his father will say about his getting into a fight on his first day at the Academy before her fist flies out a third time, a blow just as inexpert and fierce as the others. The bubbles burst with hurried precision. He turns his body and lets her knuckles glance off his shoulder, then takes a step closer so that she can’t get enough leverage to recover in time.

She screeches as he kicks her legs out from under her, an almost laughably girlish exclamation that merges fluidly into some of the filthiest language Lee’s heard in…in a very long time. The girl currently flailing inelegantly on the ground in front of him is booted firmly out of the ‘lady’ category, but he can’t quite find another one to put her into. She lifts her head to glare at him and the quick hazel of her eyes freezes all categorisation attempts in their tracks. Her image hovers on the periphery, slipping away from labels, sliding into the gaps.

“Lee Adama,” he says, in the absence of anything more appropriate.

She ignores his outstretched hand and stands up, slowly, rubbing her hip. Her eyes don’t leave his face. He wonders if she’s going to try and hit him again, or just recommence the insults.

However: “Kara Thrace,” she says, eventually, and takes his hand.

It’s a moment before he remembers that he should shake or squeeze or something of the kind, and they end up performing some weird hybrid of the two. The small crowd that has gathered around them starts to scatter, clearly not expecting any more entertainment from them today, but throwing glances backwards just in case.

The sun creeps behind the pale muslin clouds for the first time, and under the newly filtered light Kara Thrace’s irritated expression seems to melt into a grin, aimed squarely at the nonplussed expression he can feel still adorning his own face.

“Surprised?” she says, and the fight’s gone from their bodies but it’s there in her tone of voice nonetheless.

“A little.”

She grins even more widely and gives his hand a final squeeze, hard enough to hurt. “Get used to it.”

~

Two weeks later Lee has picked up the habit of moving his fingers up and down the pen whilst he’s thinking, and the gold has all but rubbed off. Only a few specks of identity remain as he stares at the wall above the lecturer’s head and remembers the minor celebration that had occurred upon his acceptance into the Colonial Fleet Academy. Zak’s wide grin as he punched his brother’s shoulder, his father’s stony joy and crushing hug, the black-and-white text of the letter addressing him as

“Cadet Adama.”

“What?” He pulls himself back into the present. “I’m sorry, sir, what was the question?”

The lecturer looks less than pleased. “I asked for suggestions as to how the present situation could be handled.”

Lee stares helplessly at the board, which has a few meaningless lines and symbols dotted across it. Is he the X? Is he the small green circle? Is he in a Viper? What the hell does GRT stand for in this context?

“Um,” he says.

“Right. I suggest you pay closer attention in future, Cadet Adama, unless you wish to be blown to pieces when you first encounter such an enemy force Cadet Thrace,” he continues without a pause, pivoting across to peer at Kara, whose hand is not doing much to stifle her laughter. “Perhaps you’d like to propose a course of action?”

Kara’s laughter gulps to a halt, and for a brief pleasant moment Lee enjoys the fact that someone else has no idea what’s going on.

“Well, sir,” she says, “I might try using Cadet Adama as a bargaining chip, as he’s clearly not being much use as my wingman.”

Incredulous, uncomfortable amusement trickles through the room. The lecturer frowns, and of course she’d have to try a stunt like that in Tactics of all classes. Lieutenant Scott has a well-deserved reputation for possessing no patience whatsoever.

“You would,” he says, fixing her with a flat stare.

“Mmhm,” she confirms, seemingly oblivious to the danger.

“ManDet, Thrace. During Tuesday rec time, for the next two weeks. You too, Adama,” he shoots at Lee. “The Colonial Fleet has no room for dreamers and smartasses.”

“Yes, sir.”

A pause that’s bordering on subordinate, and then Kara echoes him.

“Yes, sir.”

After that, Lee keeps his mouth shut and his attention focused. His pen pokes a hole in the paper, through another leaked pool of blue ink.

~

Their Mandatory Detention is taken by Lieutenant Madigan, a leggy brunette with a sharp tongue and a talent for tricky flying. She teaches advanced combat, and rumour has it that at least a third of every graduating class has harboured a crush on her at some point.

“Simulation drills,” she snaps, leading them over to the complex. “First you will clean these booths from top to bottom, and then I’ll be taking you through a few of the basic missions.”

Lee wonders if the cleaning was part of the original deal or just an added bonus to make this enough of a punishment for Kara, whose mood has improved dramatically in the last five minutes. They’ve only clocked a few hours in the sims so far, but her enjoyment and his dread of the drills are a pretty even match as far as he can tell. Kara’s a natural, already getting known for it and being held apart with the automatic resentment of the young. They’re all still finding their feet and fighting insecurity; it’s not the time for tall poppies. Either she doesn’t notice or she doesn’t care; she just flies, and flies well.

Lee himself knows that all the books in the world can’t help you get a feel for flight, and yet his brain refuses to relinquish control. It does nothing for his confidence and even less for his skill.

So he spends his rec hour being blown to pieces by Cylons, which he thinks is pretty frakking ironic.

“You think too much, Adama,” Madigan says bluntly. “You know exactly where you have to be, and what you’re meant to be doing, but you keep second-guessing yourself. Don’t analyse every little movement. Just act.”

“I’m trying, sir,” and he really is, but there’s a block there that he can’t get past.

Madigan sighs. “Same time next Tuesday, Cadets. Dismissed.”

~

For no apparent reason, Kara is intolerable all of the following week. She sits next to him in classes and distracts him by humming loudly, she spills her drink into his pasta salad, and she responds to every courteous request with a juvenile insult. Lee’s patience frays, slowly but surely, and by Tuesday he’s just about ready to punch her in the face.

He hopes that she’ll be better once she’s flying – she usually is – but even that can’t seem to quell her determined mission to make his life miserable. They’re on a double mission, a simple search and destroy, and Kara is ducking and weaving ahead of him when they come across the Cylon patrol.

“You take it,” she says, and her Viper swerves drunkenly to the side.

“Don’t be absurd.” He clenches his teeth. “You’re closer, and your vantage point is better. I can’t possibly pull it off from this angle.”

“Just take the frakking shot, Lee,” she snaps at him, and she’s so unreasonable and his fingers clench around the controls in fury and all of a sudden some tiny wire in his mind goes white-hot and then shorts out, nothing left coherent but the anger and the perfect clarity of instinct. He pulls back on the throttle and pushes down on the trigger, feels the angle, a fluid certainty that fills him entirely and leaves no room for thought.

Three Cylons are nothing but gas and metal splinters before Kara’s Viper shoots out ahead. She’s laughing.

Stepping out of the booth this time feels like being punctured with a gentle knife. The room seems smaller, and the lights overly artificial.

“Ha.” Kara appears looking very smug, and full of an exhilarated energy that Lee finally understands. It’s tingling in his wrists, spreading in uneven bursts through his whole body. More than anything he wants that again; the soaring and the thoughtless grace.

“Well, Adama. That was an excellent manouevre.” But Madigan is looking straight at Kara, eyebrows raised.

“I guess I know how to piss people off.” Kara shrugs. The urge to punch her returns, just a little, peeking through the euphoria.

Madigan smiles. “We’ll make a teacher out of you yet, Thrace.”

Kara flicks an incredulous stare in her direction. “Are you frakking nuts, sir?”

~

Somehow and somewhen, callsigns appear.

“Apollo,” Lee says despairingly. “Is this a joke?”

“Of course.” Karl ruffles his hair. “That’s the whole idea, O He Who Rules The Sun.”

Kara cackles. “All shall bow before him and marvel at his radiance!”

“It isn’t all that funny.” He glares at her. She smiles, unperturbed

“Yes, Apollo,” she says with finality. “It really is.”

“Shut up, Starbuck.”

Jokes, but within two days they’re as natural as breathing.

~

The next week they turn up to the sims complex without thinking about it, and the door is locked.

Kara frowns. “Do think they’ve forgotten?”

“No, I think you have.” Madigan approaches, dangling the keys between her fingers. “Your ManDet was for two weeks only, Cadets.”

Lee’s mood dips in an unaccountable spark of disappointment, and –

“Oh.” Kara glances uncertainly at the door and Lee almost laughs at the sudden drooping of her manner. “Do you think – if we cleaned anyway –”

“So why are you here, Lieutenant?” Lee asks.

Madigan's lips twitch up into a smile. “I had a feeling,” she says, and unlocks the door.

~

It’s like a comm channel that has suddenly been patched in: one day they’re two oddly-shaped pegs shifting uncomfortably to fit in and the next they’re friends. Exactly the right shape, together. They become something approaching a twin set in the eyes of their peers. For the first time Lee lets himself feel relaxed around her, lets her unwind him, and learns a knack for winding her up in turn.

“Bastard,” she chokes out, eyeing her perfectly arranged locker in dismay.

Lee stares at the floor and manages – only just – not to smile. “You’re disgustingly disorganised, Starbuck. I was just doing you a favour.”

“Favour? I won’t be able to find anything.”

He shrugs, serene and unmoving, and the laughter of their impromptu audience gathers volume. Her foot hooks his thigh and tips him from the bench; he latches onto her arm as he goes down, and the next minute he’s trying to breathe through carpet dust and kicking out, twisting his shoulders, digging his fingers into her ribs.

“Okay! Okay!” she gasps. “Just don’t –”

“Don’t?” and he tickles her for just long enough that he can roll over and pin her down with one arm, and remove fluff from his lips with the other.

“Oh, very manly.” Kara glares up at him, filling the six inches between their faces with resentment.

“Kiss her!” someone that might be Karl yells helpfully, and Lee wonders if they are really that keen to see his tongue get bitten out. For a moment Kara appears to be thinking exactly the same thing, and then her face changes into an entirely new expression that makes Lee’s stomach clench. “What’s the matter, Apollo?” she practically purrs. “You didn’t seem so reluctant…last night.”

Lee, to his horror, feels his face turn pink.

Helo bursts out laughing, and the room explodes.

~

After that, their kisses become the cohort’s running joke – the kisses that never happen and yet are somehow extensively documented, the kisses that a wicked-eyed Kara blows across the room during nav theory lectures, the kisses that are the subject of wild speculation. They kiss in the sims booths after hours, in hallways and bathrooms, on dorm beds and Viper wings, but never once in the world of reality. Illusory heat radiates out from them and burns its way through the cadets; suddenly thumbing one’s nose at the loosely-enforced frat regs becomes the new black, and nobody is getting fewer kisses than Lee Adama. Another source of irony.

~

And still they fly the sims, every mission, over and over, and Lee can feel himself improving in leaps and bounds. He’ll never have Kara’s maverick brilliance, but he’s damn good, and he may as well have ‘officer material’ stamped all over his forehead.

And his progress review.

When he goes home for the holidays his father doesn’t say much, but his eyes crinkle up and his hand on Lee’s shoulder is heavy and warm, and Lee can tell that he is impossibly proud. Lee says all the right words. Lee laughs with his brother and tells him what it feels like to sit in a cockpit. Lee is exactly who he is meant to be.

Lee lies in bed thinking about flying and about Kara and he wakes up with his hands clutching at absent controls, stale panic in his stomach from a dream of a spin that he can’t get out of.

~

Helo knows, of course, that they’re nowhere near lovers. This doesn’t stop him from inventing the more ridiculous rumours.

“Sordid encounter during intern placement,” he says very seriously.

They’re eating lunch, stretched out on the grass behind the lecture halls, enjoying the first traces of the new season’s sunshine. Kara snorts. “We weren’t even on the same ship.”

“Doesn’t matter.” Helo shifts the lollipop to the other side of his mouth. “You were so desperate to see each other that Apollo faked a distress call and picked you up in his mission Raptor.”

“Apollo? Subverting authority for such a frivolous cause?” Kara kicks the model student in question in the knee, grinning, and takes a swig of water.

“Too implausible?” Helo sounds genuinely worried.

“Sex in a Raptor,” Lee puts in, trying to make his eyes move on from the paragraph on engagement tactics that they’ve read at least nine times in the last five minutes. “Sounds uncomfortable.”

“You didn’t notice. You were so overcome with lust that frak, Starbuck.” He wheezes and clutches the spot on his stomach that Kara has just driven her elbow into. “You don’t like that part? All right. Let’s see.”

And so it goes, because it’s good to be able to laugh about it.

~

In many ways they have fallen into a crack of existence where they are defined by only the what-was and the what-will-be. Where they came from and where they are going. They are constantly out of frame. Lee feels simultaneously anchored in his father’s name and rushed into the future that has been built for him out of other people’s hopes. Stretched thin, with precious little of himself left over for the present.

He sees the stress of it in Kara’s eyes, too, sometimes – a different set of expectations and aches, but there nonetheless. They fly and fight; they push it down and ride it out.

~

Not everyone takes their hearsay romance at face value, however, and one afternoon Lee finds himself saying yes to dinner with Cadet Bronwyn Lark, callsign Ticktock. She’s the only person whose theory grades are consistently on a par with Lee’s own; an average flier, but with a real knack for strategy. Her quick words and wide blue eyes duck under Lee’s surprise. He feels as though there is a reason that he should be giving her a polite refusal, but try as he might he just can’t think of any.

Bronwyn is bright.

Bronwyn is friendly.

Bronwyn is, admittedly, very cute.

And yet Lee feels something in himself take a step backwards, raising its hands, putting him on nothing more than autopilot for the entire evening. The interest in Ticktock’s face wanes from its initial vibrancy and becomes, by the end of dinner, embarrassingly intellectual. As though Lee is an interesting specimen of emotional retardation, to be studied and possibly used as a weapon. ‘Officer’ is marked on her as clearly as it is on him.

Lee still feels awful about it, and finds himself overcompensating. “We’ll have to do this –”

“We don’t,” she says, patting his arm. “Have to. It was fun, but you don’t owe me anything, Apollo.”

It’s such a relief he almost does want to kiss her.

~

Kara knows, of course, but never says a word to him about it; and the day after she’s her normal irrepressible self, shouting innuendo across the mess hall and enjoying the whistles that result.

“Remind me again why I put up with you, Starbuck?” he shouts over to her, because the flirting is second nature by now.

“Surely a few good reasons spring to mind.” Soon enough they’ll be told to settle down, but for now Kara is flashing and jubilant, pouting outrageously. A few people call out suggestions, mostly concerning talented hands and joysticks.

Lee juggles a carton of flavoured milk onto his tray and laughs. “You know, I just can’t think of anything.”

“You know you love me, Apollo,” she yells back.

And just like that, he knows that he does.

~

Meanwhile, the fiction becomes greater than either of them, their exploits and records and misadventures blown ever more out of proportion. The cadets are grounded now, and they’re searching for idols. They find Starbuck and Apollo, Starbuck and Apollo, Starbuck and Apollo, friends and legends and nominal lovers. Starbuck and Apollo make a good picture and an even better story.

Lee knows that he can’t be simply Apollo in the same way that he can’t be simply Lee Adama, son of William Adama; they’re both ideas, roles, and they’re both too big to fit him. Sometime he feels as though only a handful of people in the world can look at him without the magnifying glass of preconception.

~

He tells her all of this.

In return she tells him about her fingers; why she punched him, that first day

~

“Why are we running?”

“It’s a birthday surprise. Come on.” She has a deathgrip on his wrist, and is tugging him towards the sims with abnormal enthusiasm.

“Being woken up by your singing at me wasn’t enough? That was painful, you know. Very painful.”

“Yeah, yeah.” She’s too distracted to even respond to the jab, and Lee starts to get very curious about this surprise. He knows that she’s made friends with some of the senior programmers, and wonders if she’s wheedled them into designing a new mission for them.

“You seem eager this afternoon, Cadets.” Lee could swear Madigan winks at Kara. It’s the single most frightening thing he’s ever seen.

He’s wrong, though; Kara chooses a mission that they’ve done before, one of the harder ones, a stealth chase through an asteroid belt. Kara flies a little conservatively, for her, but nothing seems different until they’re in the penultimate leg of the flight path, where the debris is enormous and close together and their communication has to be perfect for them both to make it through.

“Hard starboard, Apollo,” she orders, and he obeys instantly, curving around the edge of a huge canyon and almost colliding with a –

A giant – pink –

“What – frak!” he shouts, and smashes into an asteroid.

Kara’s helpless laughter fills his headset.

~

After that, because it is his birthday, she drags him out drinking. Not enough to get properly drunk, because they have a flight review the next day and their reflexes could do without the dampening, but Kara believes in celebrating the day on the day. They squirt liquid through straws and make a mess of a bowl of peanuts, and Kara spends a good five minutes attempting to capture her idea of the look on Lee’s face when he came head-to-head with her pink elephant.

(In space. It takes two shots of ambrosia before Lee starts finding it as funny as she does.)

“So, birthday boy, any good presents from the family?” Kara drawls, tilting her chair back at an alarming angle.

Lee thinks about the cufflinks from his mother and the promise of a visit to a battlestar from his father, but he tells her about the book from Zak instead.

“He took the cover off a book on great pyramid players and glued it around another book, one on military history.”

Kara snorts into her glass. “What the frak for?”

“No, it’s a joke.” Lee smiles, remembering. “He used to do the opposite; put academic covers on his pyramid books and read them in class. His note said that this was a way for me to regain some social respect without having to sacrifice my precious study time.”

Kara laughs. “Sounds like my kind of little brother. When do I get to meet him?”

“Soon, if you want,” and this is fun but Lee feels like they’re on a kind of tightrope. “He’s got exams coming up soon, but I think Dad is planning some kind of family holiday on Picon for afterwards.”

“That’s nice.” And there it is. Her face ripples, too calm and too absent, and Lee curses himself.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean – I know your father wasn’t –”

“Yeah. Whatever. This is too maudlin for a birthday celebration, Apollo, I’m leaving.” And she does, she pulls her jacket off the back of her chair and she’s halfway out the door before Lee can even set his glass down.

He catches up with her outside the bar, and grabs her arm. “Kara.”

“No, Lee.” She yanks it away. “You don’t get to feel sorry for me, all right? You just don’t. At least my father never tried to control my life.”

“He doesn’t –” The words are out before he admits to himself that they’re a lie. Kara sneers, and she must be a little drunk after all because that’s not a normal expression for her.

“No? What the frak are you even doing here?”

“Don’t start, Kara.” His voice cuts underneath her rising one; soft, controlled. Control is important.

“Come on, Lee.” She smiles, a messy missile of amusement. “If you’d had any choice in it, would you have even applied? If you’d had the balls to think for yourself –”

And he’s not quite sure what happens in the next three seconds because somehow his thumbs are digging into the flesh of her shoulders and he’s pushing forward and forwards until rough impact jars through them both and he can’t push any further.

He has always been careful. She has always held the switch to that wire.

The shock of his own actions is inside him like a cold liquid thing, heavy at the base of his ribcage, melting through his fingers. It leaks up to Kara’s face and freezes there.

“Just. Don’t,” he says, unaware of the words before they’re voiced. It’s terrifying. It’s the nightmare when you’re on stage and you don’t have a script and yet somehow, somehow, you’re speaking. Terrifying, the darkness staining his voice and the tense feel of her against him and the fact that she hasn’t pushed him away yet. “You don’t know what you’re talking about. You have no idea.”

She makes a noise that could generously be called a laugh. “So what’s new?” He forgets to be scared for himself, the bitterness in her voice is that strong.

Breath hisses out between his teeth.

It’s transiently surprising that her lips do not taste bitter, but the instinct is still there: to absorb her, all of her; her peppered insults and private sweet smiles and lemongrass pain; to learn all the flavours and somehow, through them, her gestalt. The sum and total of Kara Thrace, whose hand is fisted in his hair. Whose leg is between his own, and whose mouth is frantic, and who is far more than her own story.

She breaks it on a laugh. It sounds more like a laugh, this time.

“All those jokes,” she says breathlessly, “and this is how it happens.”

He jerks. “I’m sorry. I’m. Look, we’re –” They’re what? Outside and sort of drunk and it’s cold, frak, it’s freezing, and he has Kara Thrace shoved up against a wall upon which someone has painted lewd graffiti. It’s so unlikely he could laugh right back at her. Instead, he takes half a step backwards.

“Don’t be sorry,” she hisses.

“What?” He looks at her and tries to comprehend.

“Please don’t be sorry, Lee,” and she grabs at his collar desperately and pulls him back against her, and then the emotion clicks and he understands.

~

And then: everything is normal, at least from the outside. The flirting dies away, however, and the rumours surge upwards to fill the gap. Lee thinks it’s the most ridiculous situation he’s ever been in and he doesn’t like it at all.

The problem is that they’ve had no practice. Lee’s etiquette is shaky on the subject of proper behaviour after kissing one’s best friend, and Kara seems determined to deal with it by not dealing with it. They are hyperaware, overthinking everything, and of course their flying suffers as a result. Kara loses her place at the top of the rankings for the first time and Lee gets to relive his unpleasant first few weeks at the Academy.

“Whatever has gotten into you two, get it out,” Madigan orders, waving their scoring printout in Kara’s face. “This is an embarrassment. You’re embarrassing me.”

Embarrassing her. Lee tries to catch Kara’s eyes and fails.

He writes a letter to her, rewrites it four times and then throws it away. What he tucks into her pocket, eventually, is simply this:

If it were up to me, I wouldn’t have, at the time. But now I wouldn’t be anywhere else.

Truth.

He wouldn’t be anywhere but here, even with the expectations. Even with the way his relationship with Kara has been chopped up small and rebuilt in strange ways. He keeps noticing her from angles that are unfamiliar, keeps tripping over her lips and getting his sleeve caught in the way her eyes brighten as she laughs. It’s exciting, but it doesn’t help.

“Do something, idiot,” Karl tells him.

Lee has a feeling that I wrote her a note isn’t going to cut it as an excuse, so he swallows the fragile equilibrium and sits next to her at dinner, ignoring the personal space they’ve been cultivating for the past few days.

When his hand finds Kara’s she tenses, going very still, her eyes staring straight ahead. She doesn’t pull away. Her fingers are long and loose within his grasp. Next in the epic tale of Starbuck and Apollo: what? Another spectacular argument? A dramatic re-enactment of their first kiss, in front of the whole room? A confession of eternal love?

Tune in next week.

He’s sick of it. You can’t live a fiction, not even your own.

“We’re fine, aren’t we?” he whispers, and relief falls over her face like a gush of water. All of a sudden it’s his best friend sitting there, not just Starbuck and not just the stripped-wire emotional tangle that is Kara Thrace. His roles are too big for him, but she could drown herself in hers, and he’s not going to let that happen.

And again: “We’re fine?”

“Yeah.” She grins and squeezes his hand under the table, and Lee feels a truer and more complex story start to write itself in the warmth of her fingers, in the ambiguous edge to her smile, in the secrets yet to be told and those that they’ve already kept.
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