Word count: 14,330
Notes: Apparently if fahye and stars_like_dust are allowed to exist in close proximity to each other, they produce nearly 15,000 words in 24 hours. Who knew?
This is set between 'Unfinished Business' and 'Eye of Jupiter' and is, as will become abundantly clear, very AU.
The title is from the poem The Sleepers by Walt Whitman.
those journeymen divine
Lee Adama is halfway between the starboard head and the CIC when he wakes up. The process occurs in the time it takes for his left foot to lie flat on the floor; the time between his heel striking the metal and his weight shifting forward. It’s enough to freeze that foot where it lies, enough to make him steady himself on the wall and fight back a gasp. His mind has been thrown open like an airlock. Everything sucked out and replaced with a cold, weirdly comforting void. The first thing he realises is that he understands the two bullets that Boomer put into his father’s chest; understands the flash that switched her on and the effortless squeezing of the trigger.
The second thing he realises is that he no longer cares one whit for the human man who has never really been his father at all, and with that realisation the tenth Cylon model finds the web of consciousness and locks into it. It feels like coming home. It feels like losing his soul. It feels like finding it for the first time.
He is still standing in the corridor.
From behind his shoulder comes Kara’s amused voice. “Forget where you are, Apollo? You know that memory problems can come with old age.”
“Yeah, that must be it,” he says, and isn’t quite sure what he expects from his voice but it’s exactly the same teasing tone that he’s always used with her.
“Life is hard.” She gives an exaggerated sigh and brushes her fingertips down his forearm as she passes him, the kind of casual touch that she’s been indulging in more and more frequently because she knows it drives him crazy. She throws a grin over her shoulder: mockery tempered with something more uncertain. “Don’t worry, I’ve got your back. You know that.”
And suddenly, with a mental sensation that is both bright and rough…he does know.
And he knows that she doesn’t.
After that, it’s a waiting game; playing the part of Captain Lee Adama on the same autopilot that’s kept him alive through scores of missions, and watching her. In the same way that he knows where the Cylon fleet is right now and he knows that Kara Thrace’s model number is eleven, he knows that he won’t be alone in this place for long.
“Athena thinks she may have decoded those signals we intercepted,” the Admiral says. “I’d like you and Captain Thrace to come up with one of those crazy plans of yours,” with a faint smile, “because we can’t spare many Vipers for reconnaissance right now. Too many down for maintenaince. You can get the exact figures from the Chief.”
Lee nods and looks at Athena, momentarily afraid that he will find recognition in her face, but there’s nothing new there. The old dead part of him still says traitor and the newest says traitor as well, echoes of insult coming from two different corners of his psyche, but another part sees her hand tangled unthinkingly in Karl Agathon’s, the way her body angles towards his.
Love’s a bitch, he thinks, and almost laughs, and doesn’t hate her at all.
“I’ve got some models set up on the table in my office,” he says, and raises his eyebrows at Kara. Still waiting.
“Sure.” She throws a salute that’s just the wrong side of deferential, and follows him.
Two hours later they’re on opposite sides of the table and she’s chewing her lip while she thinks, her hands on the table edge, her eyes dancing from one sketched quadrant to another. He can’t quite stop sneaking looks at her face, waiting, waiting, but that’s perfectly all right because he’s never been able to stop. Lee Adama loves Kara Thrace, beyond construct and conditioning, shouted out even into the void of his new awareness. It’s almost a surprise.
“What about –” she begins, her hand moving towards one Viper, but Lee catches on immediately and shakes his head.
“That leaves –”
“Oh, right, yes. Godsdammit, if we just had three more…”
“Well, we don’t.” He smiles. “Where’s that famous insanity? Come on, Starbuck.”
Smirking, “Expecting a miracle, Apollo? You should –”
She looks up at him and her eyes are wide, his name choked out of her mouth, and he’s grinning as he walks around the table to hold her up. He’s nothing that he thought he was, and humanity is doomed, but he’s still got her. Not quite what he expected, and not quite a miracle. But it’s all he needs.
They’ve been planning this frakking mission for two hours now, and Lee won’t stop looking at her. She’s used to his eyes on her, but this time there is something cautiously watchful in them, and it’s unnerving and making it hard to concentrate on the miniature Vipers and Raptors scattered across the table.
Okay, she thinks. Time to get your head back in the game, Starbuck.
“What about –” she starts, and reaches for one Viper, but Lee shakes his head.
“That leaves –”
“Oh, right, yes. Godsdammit, if we just had three more…”
Lee smirks at her, but underneath it she still sees that undercurrent. “Well, we don’t,” he says. “Where’s that famous insanity? Come on, Starbuck.”
“Expecting a miracle, Apollo? You should –”
Something cracks, ripples through her. Lee’s eyes are dark, staring into her as parts of her mind turn to liquid and slide away. She’s dissolving into darkness and static and she gasps, sucking in air that doesn’t seem to reach her lungs. Cold is sparking out from her centre to her fingertips and toes and she grips the table and can feel herself sinking.
“Lee,” she chokes out, and he moves towards her and she feels his arms wrap around her just as her vision goes dark.
When she opens her eyes again, there is a vast, humming knowledge at the edge of her consciousness, a connection to something so huge it has washed her mind clear of everything else. She reaches out, and in the ebb and flow of numbers and data, she finds herself.
Eleven. She inhales.
She slowly becomes aware of other things: Lee’s arms tight around her body, the smell of his dress blues and sweat. The constant ache in her knee, gone. Strength floods back, and she straightens, lifting her head off his shoulder to study his face. Lee looks just the same, but she knows, even before the information blinks into her mind. Model Ten.
“Well, this is unexpected,” she says, and his lips crook into the smile she loves, the one that transforms his face into that of the boy she knew at the Academy.
“I think it was harder for you.”
Kara stores that away for later, and slides her hands from his shoulders to his neck. She flexes her fingers experimentally against his throat, feels the rush of his blood beneath his skin. His breath is warm, hands sliding over her back. He’s so real.
“How long have you been –”
“About ten hours,” he says, and she laughs.
The singular slips off her tongue easily, and she remembers Kara’s loyalty to a pantheon of Gods and dismisses it; pities the woman for her blind devotion to something so false. For the first time in her life she feels like she fits in her own skin.
Lee’s still holding her. She keeps her arms around his neck, and carefully probes the link between them in her mind. It feels warm, almost tangible.
“What do we do now?” she asks.
“We’ll know,” he says simply, and she knows it’s true, they will know. She also knows that her world has collapsed and rebuilt around her and nothing is the same but this; the look in his eyes and the knowledge that she loves him.
It’s easy to rise a little, angle her head, and Lee smiles before taking her unspoken invitation, bending a fraction to kiss her. It’s the same, the same ripple of heat down her body, the same twist in her gut when he slides his tongue into her mouth. He still gasps when she drags her fingernails against his scalp, and when she does it a second time Lee lifts her onto the table, scattering the plastic Vipers and Raptors with one careless hand. She draws him in between her legs so he’s pressed up against her, hooks her heels together around him and studies his face, the flush on his cheeks.
This is the line they never crossed, drawn between them as indelibly as the wing on her arm. The woman she used to be was afraid to be happy, afraid to trust her feelings for this man; afraid of bitter retribution from the gods, and Kara waits for some remnant of that guilt – for Lee to go from pulling her closer to pushing her away.
“Kara?” he says, and she slides her hands back over his shoulders, resting them on his chest. The laugh tumbles out of her before she can stop it.
“What’s so funny?” Lee says affectionately, fingers weaving distracting patterns over the skin of her hip.
“Nothing,” she says, and flicks the first button of his jacket undone, tightening her legs around his hips. A shudder works through his body. “Nothing.”
“You know,” Kara says, halfway though her breakfast, twirling her fork in the air. “If you die, I’m going to have to kill myself?”
“Thank you, Kara, for that depressing thought first thing in the morning,” Lee says, and she laughs and picks up her coffee.
“Think of it as a bonus,” she says cheerfully. “You can never be rid of me.”
The grin she flashes him is pure Kara and makes his heart flip a little. He grins back. “My wife might object.”
She throws her toast at him.
What amuses him about the whole situation is the fact that so little has changed. Starbuck and Apollo were meeting in corners and hiding their affair from the world long before Ten and Eleven had the same necessity forced upon them. Freed of her guilt, Kara shows every sign of loving this game more than ever; she slides her hand up his thigh under the mess table and suggests ridiculous rendezvous locations until he is fighting not to inhale his juice. Secrecy is easy. Secrecy is where they’ve always lived.
So that evening it takes very little effort to manoeuvre their way around the traffic of pilots as the shifts change, avoid the crowd heading to the rec room and end up in her rack. Lee doesn’t….actually, he does know that Dee is rostered on in CIC for another three hours, but he doesn’t care, and as soon as Kara smirks and pulls the curtain shut he stops thinking about his wife entirely.
“I was thinking,” Kara says, later.
“You were thinking? Really?” He kisses her temple and grins when she groans at him.
“Are we ever going to be done with this joke?”
“No,” he says comfortably. “Never.”
“Anyway.” She exhales. “How did they do it? I mean…I remember my mother. We’re not like Sharon, who nobody had met before she arrived on Galactica and whose family was conveniently lost. My childhood was real. Yours was real. Your father saw you grow up, for God’s sake…how did they do that? Why did we age?”
“We’re two of the Final Five,” Lee says easily, and though he’s never said it before it’s been a clear and obvious fact since they first woke up. “We’re different. You know that.”
“So we’re special.” She exhales again, her breath warm and tingling against his skin, and burrows a bit closer. “All right.”
“Do you want to talk about…everything else?” he asks, which has never been a particularly helpful question where Starbuck is concerned, but she just taps her fingers against his collarbone and looks thoughtful.
“It’s like it was all scooped out,” she says eventually. “I mean, I never really thought about it, the loyalty to humanity. Being so angry that all those people died. Feeling tied to them all, feeling obliged to defend every other being with the same combination of genes. It’s all gone.” She giggles abruptly, curling her grin into his chest. “Frak, it’s like I was born with a weight on my head that I didn’t even notice was there until someone lifted it up.”
“Very poetic,” he tells her, teasing, but he recognises the sentiment. He says: “I look at their faces and feel…nothing. Because there is no reason to feel. But I remember feeling.”
“Feelings are overrated.” Kara yawns. “Fewer feelings. More kissing.”
“Do you mean that?” he says, not entirely pretending his offence.
Kara rolls her eyes and kisses him: hard, and for a long time. “You moron, Apollo,” she says when she pulls away, but her hand is at his cheek for a soft fleeting moment and the connection between them lights up like a nova at the back of his mind.
They’re in the rec room playing triad, and Kara wishes sometimes that the link between her and Lee was far more detailed, because she would really like to know what is in his hand right now.
She glances over at Lee, and he’s not looking at Hotdog or Racetrack – he’s staring past them to where Sharon and Helo are talking on the couch and there is an expression on his face that even after all this time she doesn’t quite understand.
There is such love evident on their faces, the glint of their wedding rings as they twist their hands together. Lee’s own ring is bright against his playing cards, and she frowns and rubs her fingers down her arm. She’s enjoying sneaking around with Lee, pretending the biggest thing they have to hide is their relationship, but –
She shakes her head slightly, because what she’s thinking is human and dangerous, and tucks her cards safely against her chest when Lee leans over so that he’s close enough to speak without being overheard.
“I don’t know what I would have done if it had just been me,” he says softly, lips brushing against her ear. “I’m glad it wasn’t.”
“Me too,” she says, turning slightly so she can meet his eyes. The connection between them glows warm in her mind, and Kara decides that she’d rather that than gold rings and vows in front of pagan gods any day.
Lee smiles, and she smiles back and then Hotdog coughs violently on the other side of the table.
“Can you both get your minds on the game?” Racetrack says, raising an eyebrow, and Kara smiles and calls.
Sure enough, one day Lee wakes up knowing what they have to do next. He’s almost disappointed at the lack of (figurative) flashing lights; the command is just there, just part of the data. He thinks about it as he showers and dresses, as he kisses Dee’s cheek obligingly and ignores the customary sigh that invites him to enquire after whatever is troubling her.
He ducks into the ready room and quickly alters the rosters to give him and Kara the rest of the day off. The roster was only drawn up last night, and nobody’s seen it yet, else he wouldn’t dare. Already he is thinking in terms of suspicion and subterfuge. Survival. Then he drinks two cups of something purporting to be coffee without even noticing the taste and is very careful not to speed through the morning briefing, even though Kara is slumped in her chair with bright eyes that tell him everything he needs to know.
“Captain,” he says curtly as the others are leaving for the flight deck, and beckons her in the opposite direction. “Did you…?”
“Three steps ahead of you, Apollo,” she says. “As usual.” She pulls something out of her pocket, and Lee raises his eyebrows. Dee’s knife.
“You know, I could have just asked her to lend it to me.”
“True,” she says cheerfully. “But this way I got the satisfaction of stealing it. And it’s less suspicous.”
He checks the corridors and then gestures in one direction. “So I think –”
“Directly into the secondary power box?” She nods. “Yeah, that’ll be easiest, considering the lack of networks.”
In the end, Lee is the one who takes the knife and sharpens the wire, his fingers moving unerringly to the correct place in the tangle that fills the tiny, dusty box. Not many people bother with this corner of the engine control areas, but Kara keeps a sharp eye out just in case.
“Over to you,” he says once he’s done, and flips the knife shut.
Kara nods and they switch positions, Lee moving to the sentry spot a few feet away.
“How did Sharon do it? She just…” Kara pauses with the sharp wire poised above her arm. “This is kind of disgusting,” she says. “I’m glad I didn’t have to watch her do it.”
“Well, Starbuck, if you’re going to chicken out –”
“I am not,” she snaps. “I am merely commenting on the fact that I am about to stick a wire into my vein.”
“Duly noted.” He smiles and leans back. “Any time, Kara.”
She winces and hisses breath out through her teeth as the metal punctures her skin and disappears slowly, almost two inches of it. “Frak. All right. I’ll just –”
Lee loves the expression on her face in the moment when the virus downloads through her consciousness: open and shocked and almost triumphant, and all the more stark for the complete lack of reaction in the Galactica itself. Not so much as a spark, not a whisper of complaint from the engines.
“Ngnuh,” Kara says, opening her eyes and blinking furiously a few times as she slides the wire out. “Wow.”
They share a tight grin before Lee unwraps the gauze pad he took from Cottle’s kit and presses it to her wrist. “How are we going to explain this one?”
“We heal fast, remember?” Her grin widens. “And to think Starbuck’s reputation as a stoic was gained through such underhanded means.”
“Well, Starbuck’s reputation will help here.” He winds a bandage around and pins it neatly in place. “Make up some minor accident. And make sure you wear your flight suit or your blues for a few days, so that nobody thinks about the location of the cut too often.”
“Yes sir.” She rolls her eyes and they wipe down the wire, fix it back into place and close up the box. Nothing looks suspect.
“How long?” he asks.
“Fifteen minutes,” she says, squeezes his arm, and heads off. “I’m going to go and challenge the Agathons to a card game. They’ll be with me when the engines start to fail.”
“I’ll be in CIC.”
She laughs, the pure delighted Starbuck laugh that he’s been hearing more and more. “We’re good.”
“Just as we’re made,” he tells her, and leaves.
A quarter of an hour later, the engines stop completely. Lee’s been planning his expression of shock, and is quite pleased with it when he turns it on the Admiral. The entire fleet is contacted and told to stay put. CAPs are doubled. Mechanics descend upon the engine rooms and nearly pull their hair out trying to isolate the problem, but they don’t have any luck.
Though really, luck doesn’t have anything to do with it: Cylon viruses have improved somewhat, Lee thinks, and is surprised by the stab of pride that this notion elicits. He flies CAP after CAP with enthusiasm, finding it almost relaxing to sit in his cockpit and direct the usual sweeps without even a trace of anxiety. The skies are empty. They remain empty. The Fleet gets more paranoid by the hour.
Six hours and spare change into the crisis, Lee stands very close to his Viper, supposedly checking it for damage, and Kara wanders over with her helmet under her arm.
“Why do you think they wanted us to do it?” she asks, sounding curious but not overly so.
He thinks about it, scans the available data in a heartbeat, and shrugs. “We’d know if there was going to be an attack. Maybe our fleet needs time to get a bit closer. Maybe it’s just to spread panic.”
She smiles. “Well, it’s doing a good job of that.”
A few hours later, they’re crushed into a tiny alcove just off Hallway 4, and for once they aren’t trying to rip each other’s clothes off.
“How much longer have we got before the engines start again?” Lee says, checking his watch, and Kara reaches out and captures the data from the flow though her head.
“Just under half an hour. There’s some kind of timer on the virus – that’s as much as I got as it downloaded. You should try it some time, Lee.” She shuts her eyes, reliving the download of information pouring through her body in a cold sparkling stream. “Mmm.”
“You don’t want to know what you look like right now.” She opens her eyes to see Lee leaning back against the wall, arms folded across his chest, and she can tell from the look on his face exactly what he’s thinking. She smirks, drags her gaze down his body.
“It was the most incredible feeling,” she tells him, and Lee looks torn between affronted and amused.
“I’m fine not sticking wires into my veins, thank you very much.”
There’s a harsh inhalation of breath from somewhere behind them, and they both jerk and turn. Cally’s standing a few metres away, her face white, fingers splayed against the metal walls of the hallway, and Kara discovers that even Cylons can feel panic for a split second before programming takes over.
“How much did you hear?” Lee says, and his voice is cold and hard and Kara realises with a shock that he really has no feeling, except with her.
Cally is trying to creep backwards down the corridor. “Nothing,” she says, but she’s not a good liar and Lee takes three quick steps forward, his hands rise, and then there is a sickening crack. Cally falls like a rag doll.
“Check the stairs for traffic.” Lee’s not looking at her, picking Cally up in his arms. Her head is lolling at an awkward angle, and Kara does what he says.
The corridor is deserted. “Clear,” she calls softly, and Lee appears. He moves down the stairs awkwardly and arranges the body so it looks like a horrible fall.
“Check for a pulse,” he says, and she looks at him like he’s stupid.
“I know that,” Lee says dryly. “You just discovered her body. Check her pulse, Kara.”
She gets it, and kneels beside Cally’s body, checks for the pulse that is non-existent. The woman’s throat and wrist are still warm under her fingers, her eyes open with an expression of surprise, staring at the wall.
Kara gets to her feet, dusting her hands on her pants. “Does that look authentic?”
Lee nods. “Are you okay?”
“Of course,” she replies swiftly. “She killed one of us, once, remember?”
“We didn’t have a choice.” There is a tiny edge of uncertainty in his eyes that she knows is reflected in hers, but neither of them can admit it.
“Let’s go raise the alarm,” she says instead, and Lee nods, blinks, and the doubt vanishes from his eyes like vapour in a breeze.
They sprint through the ship – it’s hard to fake a sheen of sweat - and by the time they reach the CIC they’re both out of breath. Lee pauses outside the hatch and straightens his tanks, and then seems to think better of it and messes them up again.
“Ready?” he says, and she nods, and when she enters the room Lee’s arm is tight around her shoulders and she can feel the shudder working its way though his body. Adama takes one look at them both and his face loses colour.
“What’s happened?” he says, and she staggers a little, knows all the eyes of the CIC are on her, and when she speaks her voice is choked. She gasps out the news between sobs – accident, H4 stairs, Cally’s not breathing – and then turns her head into Lee’s shoulder and lets him finish the rest in a haltering voice.
She can just imagine what they look like: the proud, unbroken Starbuck distraught over the death of a friend, and Apollo breaking inside yet supporting her. She wonders whether the tears might be overdoing it a little, but knows nobody is going to call her on it on a time like this.
When Adama’s finished his orders and comes over to her, she submits to his fatherly hug and clings to him enough that she knows all his paternal instincts are rising to the surface. Perfect, she thinks to herself, and wonders how they can work this to the best of their advantage.
When Adama releases her, his face is grey, and she can imagine what Tyrol is going to look like; she’s already seen him lose one person he loved.
She lets her fingers slide into Lee’s, and doesn’t care that his wife is watching from three metres away. His fingers close over hers before he pulls her close again, and she lets him hold her in the middle of the CIC and tries to ignore the hard, hot part of her that is viciously glad it’s not her that is losing someone for once.
The engines start again, but by then nobody is thinking about why they stopped in the first place.
The funeral for Specialist Cally Tyrol is an enormous one; life on the Galactica grinds to a halt for an hour, and the pilots draw straws for the task of flying CAP while their fellows attend the ceremony. The girl was popular, likeable, married to the Chief. She was a mother. Roslin makes a beautiful speech, her voice choked with tears, and Adama sits stony-faced because there is no evil for him to stand up and denounce.
Luck is cruel seems to be the general opinion, sometimes with overtones of the gods are crueller. People avoid looking Tyrol in the eye. Lee adjusts the cuffs of his dress blues and wonders absently just how strong the Chief’s faith is in this moment.
A stifling silence lies over the crowded room, broken by the occasional whisper or sob or the scrape of a chair across the floor. Silence for respect. Silence to think about the ways in which the Specialist dedicated her life to the protection of the Fleet. Silence in which everyone is trying very hard not to think about the fact that she wasn’t blown out of the sky in a blaze of glory, wasn’t gunned down by a Centurion or even murdered by a skinjob – she just fell at the wrong frakking angle and nobody was there to witness it.
So did it make a sound? Lee thinks, and bites his lip and it could just as easily be tears that he’s fighting to hold back. He’ll have to tell Kara that one later.
The metal coffin is so much larger than he remembers Cally’s body being. It’s an honour guard of enlisted soldiers – deck crew – who step forward stiffly and fold the flag, trying not to look at each other’s faces. No shame in tears, but pride in a straight back. This is the Colonial Fleet, boys and girls. This is war. This is death.
People say their few words about what a wonderful person she was. Seelix speaks thickly about the new ship the crew are planning to build with Cally as its namesake. The morbid atmosphere is slipping under Lee’s apathy, and suddenly he wants this stupid ceremony to be over.
“And I believe,” Seelix says, swiping the back of her hand across her face, “that the CAG is going to read the final memorial prayer.”
Lee schools his face into a perfect mask of sober grief – it’s easy, so easy – and fiddles with the paper for a moment before he starts to speak. The words are not very different to those written for any of the other funerals he’s spoken at, and there have been lots of them. Gods watch over her. A better life in the place to come. It’s all so frakking hollow, useless, absurd. Laughable.
He searches the crowd and finds Kara; she’s sitting with Tyrol, murmuring to him, one of her hands resting lightly on Nicholas’s head.
He meets her eyes. They’re bright with tears.
She winks at him.
“I’m sick of playing the screw-up,” Kara says, sitting in the ready room late one rotation. Lee’s head is in her lap, and his hair is thick and soft between her fingers. “Can I just go a day without being mean or rude to someone?”
Lee smiles, catches her free hand in his. “You do it so well.”
“Years of practice,” she answers, and something on his face softens.
“What happened to you, Kara? You’ve never told me.”
She shrugs, and then realises he can probably access all the information he wants anyway. This way might be better, easier, and she fixes her eyes on a point of the wall and starts speaking before she can talk herself out of it.
She tells him about her father; his genius and insanity. She tells him about being abandoned to a mother who drank too much; she tells him about the beatings, the way her fingers broke so easily under her mother’s touch, the bruises under long sleeve shirts. Escape at fifteen, on a scholarship for pyramid, and a bad fall tearing her knee and her dreams apart until an Academy representative came to the hospital to recruit her.
When she’s finished, she makes the mistake of looking down at his face. Lee’s eyes are fixed on hers and she sees so much sympathy and caring that her voice falters for the first time.
“It doesn’t matter,” she says. “I’m okay.”
“It does matter,” he says, sitting up and holding her hands in his. “I’m so sorry.”
“It wasn’t your fault,” she replies bitterly. “It was all them. Being placed with a woman who believed in suffering –” She breaks off, feeling the resentment rise like bile in her throat. “I don’t understand.”
He straightens her fingers between his and doesn’t say anything else. There isn’t much to say.
“Lee.” Dee is sitting cross-legged on their bed, staring at her hands. “Talk to me. I just feel like…” She looks up at him, somewhere between proud and pleading. “Like you’re getting further away from me every day. I think if we just talk, if we get everything out into the open, then –”
“Dee, do we have to do this now?” He hears the irritation in his own voice and hopes it’ll dissuade her, but Anastasia Dualla has never shrunk from an argument when the mood takes her and she doesn’t seem to be shrinking from this one. She leans forward and rests a hand on his arm.
“Look, Lee. I know that something is going on and I’m not an idiot, I know it probably involves Starbuck –”
“Shh.” Lee puts his fingers over her mouth, once again refusing to let her complete her sentence. He doesn’t want to talk about Kara here. He doesn’t really want to talk about anything, and there’s only one other option. “You’re my wife, Dee. I love you, I married you, and I’m still married to you.” Four statements and only one is a lie. That’s a much better ratio than in a lot of marriages Lee has observed.
Dee looks at him, steely despair giving way to something softer, and she really is very pretty. “It’s hard to remember that, sometimes,” she said, but she closes the distance and kisses him and he makes sure to kiss her back.
“I love you,” he repeats, for good measure, and reaches out to draw her to him. Her smells are familiar but no longer comforting, and the contours of her body are no longer those that he knows the best, but this is automatic. Easy enough. Lee moves like a much less complex machine than the one that he is, and holds the profanities tightly between his teeth, and kisses gasps from the lips of a woman for whom he feels nothing at all.
“People are starting to suspect,” Lee says, pulling his tanks over his head, and she watches the muscles in his back ripple from where she’s sprawled out on his bunk. He’s locked the hatch behind him.
“Suspect what?” she says idly, closing her book and putting it aside.
“That something is up.”
His belt buckle makes a sharp click as it hits the floor, and she sits up, pulls her tanks and bra over her head and shimmies out of her running shorts and underwear.
“Haven’t they always?” she says, taking a deep breath as Lee slings his pants and boxers over the back of a chair. God, she thinks, she’s never going to get enough of him.
She rolls her eyes and lies back in the bunk. He follows, and she shifts so that his legs are in between hers.
“We need to be careful,” he says, pushing her lightly down into the mattress. She arches up into him, wrapping her arms around his neck.
“Okay,” she says, trying to pull his mouth down to hers. “We’ll be careful.”
“I’m serious,” Lee says reproachfully. “We can’t afford another Cally.”
She nods. “Leave it to me,” she says, grinning. “I have a plan,” and pushes him over until she can straddle him, settle her weight down just right and rock her hips into his enough that Lee’s throat constricts, breath hissing out between his lips. His hands reach for her breasts, and she catches his fingers between hers, holds them against her stomach. “Are you done thinking?”
“Good.” She grinds against him again, and Lee’s head jerks back into the pillow. Now the only look on his face is lust.
Kara’s plan seems to involve an immediate cranking up of the amount of public flirting, which Lee finds puzzling for only a very short time; one of them cannot be in a particular mental place without the other catching up almost immediately. It’s clever, he has to admit; it’s very clever.
“Hey,” Racetrack says to Helo. Lee is fairly certain he’s not meant to be overhearing this conversation, so he keeps his head down over his folders and tries to look utterly absorbed in the timetables for the latest refuelling ops. “Did you notice Starbuck and Apollo after the briefing yesterday…?”
The man grins. “What do you think, worst-kept secret on the ship?”
“Try the whole damn Fleet,” she says, sounding amused.
“They’re not that bad,” Helo relents.
“No.” Racetrack pauses. “But they’re getting sloppier.”
“You’re not going to –”
“No! No. Pilots stick together,” she says firmly. “If people don’t want to see what’s going on, then we’re not going to point it out.”
And there it is. It’s simple, and it’s beautifully effective. The pilots of the Galactica have a strong loyalty to their CAG and an even stronger one, even though most of them would hate to admit it, to their brilliant egoist of a flight instructor. If Starbuck and Apollo seem to be finding a suspicious number of reasons to be alone together…well, it doesn’t take a genius to fill in those gaps, and fill them colourfully. And if the pilots can do a few little things to help them, turn a few blind eyes and tell a few white lies, then that can hardly hurt anyone, can it?
Lee thinks the irony there is fantastic.
And this, he knows, is why he is still living the charade of his marriage to Dee, when not even a sense of duty is left to tie him to her: because if there must be an illicit secret, then let it be star-crossed love. Sex in the furthest shower stall. Thrills and romantic betrayal, the melodrama of Starbuck and Apollo; let it be everything but the truth.
Besides, he’s starting to enjoy the game for its own sake.
Combat had been inevitable, and she’d been waiting with some amount of impatience for the first dogfight, to see how things had changed now that she was a machine. To her surprise, she’d found it almost the same – the same rush of adrenaline, the same tension in her muscles at launch – and the only difference was the cold prompts in her mind telling her what to do.
Now, it’s more a complex give and take with the Raiders, the lethal dance, and she’s even more reckless now she knows she’s not going to die.
This particular time, she knows how this is supposed to go: Lee will circle in, fire a burst just off the Cylon’s wing and it will go on to take out at least one of her nuggets, maybe two, before she swoops in and takes it out. The knowledge sits in the back of her mind, and sure enough, Lee’s Viper arcs beautifully through the air, missing the Raider by less than an inch, and five seconds later Nexus blows up.
Then it all goes wrong: the wing of the kid’s Viper clips Lee’s bird and there are sparks and flames and then a dark shadow against the light as he ejects from the cockpit. Her heart slams up into her throat, because there are four Raiders left, and the nearest Raptor is too far away, and even as she watches, one Raider starts a slow mindless circle towards where Lee is floating.
Something erupts white hot in her mind; she keeps her mouth closed against the scream so it only echoes in her mind, takes over as CAG, orders her pilots into formation and flips until she’s facing the debris. Her first volley of fire takes out the nearest Raider to Lee, and she swoops into the empty space it leaves. She’s Starbuck, invincible, and she ignores the icy clear part of her consciousness telling her to ignore the Raiders and stick to the plan and she spins her Viper over and around and fires and fires until there are no Cylons left and she sees Athena’s Raptor pull Lee into safety.
She lands her Viper last, scrabbles at the fitting of her helmet until she can get the frakking thing off her head and breathe air that doesn’t smell like terror and smoke, and then pushes out of her cockpit and past the deck hand. There’ve been moments like this before, where she’s made her way over to him with trembling legs, but she’s never run before, never pushed people out of her way, and when she catches sight of his face she knows he was expecting it.
He opens his arms, and she falls into him, lets him wrap her up and breathes in his sweat. “You frakking idiot,” she chokes out, when her eyes have stopped stinging, and beats at his shoulders with her fists. “You could have died, and I’d be left here –”
He pulls her close, and there’s a second where she leans up to kiss him and he does the same, their noses bumping before she remembers and jerks back because there are people around, people who are watching, and she swallows and buries her face in his shoulder.
“We need to get out of here,” he says into her ear, and she nods, slides her hand down his arm and tightens her fingers through his, pulls him out and away from the hangar deck. She wants somewhere small and silent where she can wrap herself in him.
They find a suitably dark room not far away, and she lets him go long enough to dog the hatch, and when she turns around he’s right behind her.
His face is white. “I heard you,” he says, pulling at her flight suit with shaking fingers. “You were screaming.”
She shakes her head and leans into him. “I can’t lose you,” she says into his neck, holding him so close that there’s no space between them, not anywhere. “You’re all I have.”
It’s truer now than it has ever been.
Kara has her head on his chest, listening to his heartbeat, holding him as though he will slip away any moment. One of his hands strokes lazily up and down her back, and for a long time neither of them says anything at all, but Lee is replaying the mission in his head with effortless clarity and eventually his hand stills.
“They’re not going to be happy with us,” he says.
He feels her shrug. “I don’t care.”
Lee tightens his arms around her and searches for a reason to care about anything beyond the two of them. He feels her fingers press gently against his shoulders; remembers that Cylon bones break just as easily and with just as much pain. His world is infinitely larger than it used to be but it is also much, much smaller; its boundaries begin at the places where their skin is in contact, and end at the corners of her smile.
“Me neither,” he says finally.