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When You Go, Don't Return (to me, my love)

Title: When You Go, Don't Return (to me, my love)
Words: ~3500
Characters/Pairings: Kara Thrace, Socrata Thrace, Zak Adama, minor OCs (Some K/Z at the very end)
Rating: PG-13 for dark themes
Timeline: Pre-series
Summary: After two visits to the emergency room, young Kara notices her mother beginning to act differently towards her.
Warnings: Story focuses on child abuse, there no graphic depictions of abuse within the story, but mentions of canonical events.
A/N: Song title lovingly ripped from Mama by My Chemical Romance 

On the way home from the hospital, Kara began to pick at the cast on her hand. It itched like crazy, and no matter what she did, she couldn’t make it stop.

“Cut that out,” Momma snapped from the driver’s seat.

“Yes, sir,” Kara said quietly. She rested her hand in her lap, staring out the window at the buildings that rushed by. Usually, if she needed to go to the hospital her mother took her to the one on the base; the military doctors were particularly nice to her—not nice in a happy way, but in a safe way. They called her a klutz and always told her to be more careful next time. This time, they’d gone to a civilian hospital. Kara wasn’t really sure why.

As her mother drove, Kara became aware of the fact that they were moving away from the base. She sat up straighter in her seat, examining the buildings and street signs. That couldn’t be right. But it was. “Where are we going?”

“Don’t ask questions,” was the only reply.

Kara sighed and slumped in her seat. She’d known something like this was going to happen when she spent all the money she’d saved up on a box of rubber bugs, but she hadn’t really expected another trip to the emergency room—two trips in the same week. The sight of her mother jumping up and down, screaming and trying to kill the toy bugs was completely worth it, she told herself.

She looked up, catching Momma’s eyes watching her in the rear view mirror. “What’re you smiling about?”

“Nothing,” Kara said, quickly looking out the window again.

There was silence until the car finally pulled to a stop in a small shopping plaza. “What are we doing here?” Kara asked as her mother unbuckled her own seatbelt and climbed out of the car.

Her mother opened Kara’s door, and shook her head. “What did I say about asking questions?” Without another word, Kara undid her seatbelt and slid out of the car. She trailed along behind her mother until she went to open a door to one of the shops. Kara paused, her eyes flicking from the sign on the door, to her mother. “Are you coming or what?”

“Yes, sir,” Kara said again, voice lifting a little as she followed her mother into the ice cream store.

The line wasn’t very long in the middle of the afternoon, so they didn’t have to wait very long. “What can I get for you today?” the woman behind the counter asked. Kara looked tentatively from her mother to the clerk and back to her mother.

“Go ahead.”

“Can I get chocolate?”

“Sure thing,” the woman said.

“Medium,” Momma demanded. “And in a cone.”

“Coming right up.” When the woman handed Kara the ice cream, she instinctively reached with her injured hand. She briefly wondered if this meant she was going to get out of her school work because there was no way she was going to be able to write. “Ouch, that looks like it hurt,” the clerk said.

Kara’s mother rested a hand on her shoulder and it wasn’t a warning. “We just had a little accident, is all.” Her mom sounded… something. Is that what it sounded like when her mother was sad? She wasn’t sure.

“You be careful now,” the woman said, as Kara took the cone in her good hand.

“What do you say, Kara?” Momma prompted.

Something about this was very wrong. Kara glanced back towards the door, then to her mother. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. But she had ice cream in her hands, and she wasn’t about to have that change—well unless, she’d eaten it… then it wouldn’t really be in her hands anymore.

“Thank you.”

---

It was practically impossible to make the bed with only one hand, let alone get the covers as straight and neat as Momma expected. It had only been a few days since she’d gotten a broomstick to the head—and several stitches—for not making her bed. And she was trying, she was but every time she smoothed out one wrinkle, another one popped up to take its place.

Kara grunted, her good hand striking the pillow and creating several new wrinkles in the sheets. “Come on! You stupid fr—”

“Kara.”

She looked up to see Momma in the doorway, face like stone.

“You’re not ready yet?”

“No, Momma.” She waited. Waited for the yelling, for the cursing, for the slap across her face. But, they never came. Her mother didn’t even move from the doorway.

“Come on,” she said. “You’re going to be late for school.” And then she was gone.

Kara stared at the empty doorway for a moment.

“Kara!” her mother called from down the hall.

“Coming!” She snatched up her book bag and raced out into the hall.

Again, no yelling. Just a “How many times do I need to tell you not to run in the house?” Her mother picked up her newspaper as Kara skidded to a stop in the kitchen.

“Sorry.”

“Don’t apologize, just eat and go. If you’re late again…” She didn’t say what would happen if she was late, but Kara got the feeling she didn’t want to find out. She sat down at the kitchen table across from her mother, and scarfed down the bowl of cereal that had been waiting for her.

“Don’t you have any table manners?” Momma muttered not looking away from her paper.

Finished eating, she put her bowl in the sink. As she picked up her bag, her mother called out to her, “Do you know what you’re going to say when they ask about your hand?”

“Yes.” She’d heard Momma lie enough to the doctors the day before. Kara headed out the door and walked to school with her stomach doing tiny cartwheels. Something wasn’t right. Something felt missing, and it left her feeling restless.

Kara did make it to school on time, but she just sat in her seat, flicking bits of paper at the redheaded boy that sat in front of her.

---

A broken hand meant she had to sit on the bleachers during gym class and watch all the other kids play. Kara swung her leg, hitting the bleacher with a rhythmic thump as she watched the other kids running across the court playing pyramid and playing really bad.

She tried to tell the teacher she could still play with one hand, but it didn’t matter and she got benched anyway.

About halfway through the period, Tommy Meers plopped himself down on the bench next to her. She figured he’d gotten smart enough to stay away from her—then again, he had been in the same grade for the last three years. How smart could he really be?

“Aw, look at little Kara Thrace,” he teased. “What did you do? Break your hand punching a marshmallow?”

Maybe she couldn’t punch him with her hand all messed up, but she sure as hell could kick him. And she did. Right where it hurt.

Tommy got sent to the nurse. Kara got sent to the guidance counselor. She kept trying to ask Kara about her feeeeelings. All Kara said was “He deserved it.”

“No one deserves to get hit, Kara.”

Kara rolled her eyes and didn’t say anything else. She spent the rest of the day sitting in the principal’s office and waiting.

And waiting.

And waiting…

…past the last bell of the day, until her mother could come and pick her up. It was dark by the time she showed up. The entire car ride home was spent in complete silence. It was always quiet right before the worst of it. When they pulled up in front of the apartment building, her mother sat with her hands on the steering wheel. She didn’t look at Kara when she spoke. “When we get inside, you are going to go to your room and not come out for the rest of the night.”

Her mother’s tone was sharp. Not yelling, but sharp. And her hand still hurt like hell, so she went, and sat in her room. She left her textbooks in her backpack and doodled in her notebook instead of doing her homework. Her mother brought her dinner about an hour later, and then came by again to turn out the lights at 2000.

Kara crawled into bed and pulled the sheets over her head. It had been a weird day, she thought. But it didn’t matter. Things were going to go back to normal tomorrow. They had to.

---

They didn’t.

Nor did they go back to normal the next day. Or the day after that.Or the day after that. Kara began to wonder how badly those rubber bugs had scared her. But it couldn’t have been that, it had to be something else.

She picked small rules to break, she purposely flunked a vocabulary test and let herself get caught sticking chewing gum in the redheaded kid’s hair after he made fun of her painting in art class. Every time she came home, expecting things to go back to the way they’d always been.

Kara ended up spending more time in her room than she had before and heard more warnings than she’d ever gotten from Momma. In fact, the only time her mother raised her hand to her was when she dropped a dish and it shattered on the kitchen floor. Kara braced herself for the blow to land, but it never came. Her mother dropped her fist and turned away.

Even the unending ache in her hand started to fade, and it wasn’t long before she was going back to the military hospital to get the stitches taken out of her head. The doctor asked her about the hand, why they hadn’t come to see him about it and Kara just shrugged. That night, when Kara was pretending to be asleep, her mother came into the room and tucked the blankets in around her before turning out the hallway light.

---

Three days later a woman in a brightly colored suit visited the apartment. She walked into Kara’s room like she had all the rights in the worlds to be there, and only then actuallyasked Kara if she could sit down. She just rolled her eyes. “Whatever.”

Kara thought she reminded her of the guidance counselor. She gave off the impression that she wanted to talk more about Kara’s feelings, looking all concerned. Kara sat against the wall, watching her and picking at the cast.

“That looks like it hurts,” she said.

“Not that much.” Well it didn’t hurt much anymore. The woman looked at her like she expected Kara to tell her how it happened—Kara didn’t say a word, but she just kept staring at her. She sighed. “I broke my hand punching a wall.”

“A wall?”

“A brick wall. Really hard.”

“Must’ve been very hard to break your hand.”

“It was.” The woman looked at Kara like she didn’t believe her.

“You were probably really angry, if you needed to hit something that hard.”

Kara glanced at the closed door then back at the woman. “Yeah, I was pissed off, okay?”

“Are you angry a lot of the time, Kara?”

She leaned back against the wall folding her arms across her chest, but didn’t answer. Angry, sad, scared… it didn’t matter how she felt. It didn’t change a godsdamned thing.

“You can sit down, Kara. This is your room,” the woman said in a sickeningly sweet voice.

“I’m fine right where I am,” Kara snapped. “And why are you even here?”

The woman shifted. “I’m here for you, Kara.” She did her best not to laugh. “I’m here to make sure that you are in a good place.”

There was no such thing as a good place. Not for the kind of screw-up she was. Why didn’t anyone understand that?

It had been silent for too long; then the woman picked up a stuffed bear from Kara’s bed. “This is cute,” she said. “Does it have a name?”

Kara surged forward and snatched it away. “Hands off.”

“I’m sorry.”

It was stupid. Kara clutched the bear to her chest. The whole thing was so godsdamned stupid. She shouldn’t be so attached to a stupid toy. And she certainly shouldn’t be talking about it, but it slipped out anyway. “My dad gave it to me…”

---

The day that Kara got her cast taken off, she got to school in time for gym class. Coach welcomed her back and made her a team captain when they played pyramid. Her team kicked Tommy Meers’s sorry behind 10-3. Later on, in the cafeteria, she threw a marshmallow at him. He let out a high-pitched scream and fell out of his chair. Kara laughed so hard she nearly fell out of hers.

Before bed that night, Kara looked at herself in the mirror and was surprised to see the girl looking back at her. She didn’t have any new cuts or scabs to pick at. Her skin was no longer dotted with splotches of purple and green bruises in different states of healing.

She briefly thought the person staring back at her wasn’t actually such a bad kid after all.


---

After a couple visits, Kara could recognize the social worker’s voice. She didn’t particularly like having her around, but they talked about random stuff. They talked about pyramid and art class, but not about home. Because things were fine now, and she didn’t need to talk about it. But those small conversations were enough for her to learn the sound.

So, when Kara heard her voice coming from the living room, she couldn’t help but go and listen. She stayed in the hall, around the corner where nobody could see. It didn’t take her long to realize the woman and Momma were talking about her.

“…that she’s internalized a lot of guilt, possibly even blaming herself for him leaving. And she’s expressing it through reckless behavior and self-injury. I don’t think we really have a case here.”

“And she has been doing better these last couple of weeks. She hasn’t gotten herself hurt. It seems you’ve been a good influence on her.”

Kara felt her body tense as she listened to them talk. There was something so weird and fake about the way she was talking. A bubble of worry welled up inside her. And what did the lady mean by “have a case”? The words echoed inside her head. Reckless behavior. Self-injury. Of course, that was always the story. Kara always brought it on herself. She did though, didn’t she?

After a few more minutes, Momma got up and led the lady over to the door. “I just wanted to thank you again. I don’t know what I would’ve done if they’d taken Kara away.”

Kara slunk back to her room, and shut the door, even as it felt like the walls were starting to close in on her. She stood in front of the mirror, staring at the clean reflection. Everything was perfectly clear now. The whole thing had just been an act. Nothing was better, nothing was going to get better.

Anger welled up inside her until she felt like she needed to scream. Before she could stop herself, she brought up her fists and bashed them against the mirror until the glass tinkled to the floor and her hands were bleeding. Momma must have heard the noise, because a few seconds later she was in the room, looking at the cuts on Kara’s hands.

Her voice was strained when she asked, “Why do you do these things to yourself?”

---

The bucket of paint landed on the carpeted floor with a dull thud. Kara could feel her heart hammering, face hot as she dropped to her knees and wrenched the lid off. A few splatters of paint went airborne before landing like little bugs on the floor. Kara ran her hand over it, smearing the darkness into the carpet. She hunched over it, studying the mark—the scar—she had left on the perfect room.

Kara sat back on her heels and looked around the living room. There was not an inch of clutter to be seen. A place for everything and everything in its place. Even the colors were clean. Not warm, not inviting, but clean all the same.

And it was all a lie.

Nothing in this place was clean. The sight of it made her stomach tighten into a little knot and she couldn’t stand it anymore. She shoved both hands into the thick, black paint before hurling two fistfuls at the wall. The sickening squishing noise it made as it hit the wall filled a small part of the emptiness in her gut.

Kara dug her hands in again, rising to her feet. She could feel her heart beat faster, her breath becoming heavier as she walked over to the couch and marked it with two long black streaks. Not enough, she told herself as she smeared the dark paint over every piece of furniture in the room. Claiming it and destroying it all at the same time.

She’d been so stupid. Of course she had.

The bucket felt heavy in her hands but she hauled it up. Godsdamn this place. She flung the bucket, black gushing out, landing in splatters across the floor and walls. The metal connect with the window, and it shattered in a rain of glass. A sound came out of her that was something like a scream, something like a sob. She wasn’t going to cry, she couldn’t cry. Crying wasn’t going to change anything. And still the tears rolled down her face. She threw herself into the beautiful mess, smearing and marking and breathing and screaming until the room felt like her.

Frak!” she screamed, as she fell to her knees. She’d never said the word out loud before but it felt good, it felt like release. She chanted the word again and again, her fingers gripping the carpet. She sat there, until her throat was sore, until the tears stopped, until there was nothing left…

…except to wait for Momma to come home.

---

“I tried to change things for you, Kara. I thought you could learn. I did. But obviously, I was wrong. You proved me wrong.”

Every inch of Kara’s skin stung or ached, but it almost felt better that way—no more lies, no more pretending that everything was going to be okay.

)( )( )( )( )( )( )( )( )( )(


She laughed at him. She laughed loud and hard and with a hint of hysteria underneath it all. The worst part of all of it was the way that Zak just stared at her like she’d kicked his puppy—or he was a puppy that she was kicking—and he managed to make Kara feel like a heel, which made her laugh harder. Frak, this whole thing was so messed up.

“I don’t get what’s so funny,” he insisted, a flush rising furiously in his cheeks.

“Did you even hear what you just said?” she spluttered.

“Yeah,” he said, sinking down next to her on the couch. “And I’ve only been planning it for the last month.”

That shut her up fast. Lords, Zak Adama could be painfully stupid, but he was painfully sweet, too. She’d never had a thing for the sweet ones, or maybe the sweet ones just had never had a thing for her. Hell, she’d never really had anything that lasted more than a week or two, and those were rare. And then there was Zak Adama, asking to marry her.

Kara bit down on her lip and forced a smile onto her face, even as she shook her head. “I can’t, Zak. It’s not going to work.”

“What do you mean it’s not going to work? How could you possibly know it’s not going to work?”

Zak should’ve known as well as she did that marriages just don’t last. People left, people grew cold and cruel, and they left pain and destruction in their wake; and odds were on her to be the one to frak the entire thing up. On the other hand, maybe he didn’t. Maybe he genuinely didn’t see it that way; Zak always managed to see the best in things.

He certainly didn’t see her the way others did. Zak saw past the skills and the work that she took pride in and showed to the world; he saw past her barriers and not only liked what he saw, but cherished it. She couldn’t even say the same for her own parents.

And when he said, “I love you, Kara Thrace,” she believed him. He crowded her back against the armrest, his dark eyes locking on hers and never straying once. “I love you, and I want to be with you for the rest of my life. And maybe you’re right, maybe it won’t work out… but maybe you’re wrong and it will. But there’s no way you’re ever going to know—no, no way we’re ever going to know, unless we try. And I don’t know about you Kara, but I want to try. I really do.”

In that moment, all Kara knew was that she didn’t want to fight him, not now, not about this. She wasn’t sure she believed in bright shiny futures, but she wanted to believe in Zak the way that he believed in her. She threaded her arms around his neck and pulled him to her kissing him hard and long and breathless.

And maybe the whole thing was stupid, but Zak could be incredibly stupid and he was probably the greatest thing that had ever happened to her. So maybe, just maybe, without pretending, everything was going to be okay.

--End--

Comments

( 17 comments — Leave a comment )
stripes13
Oct. 3rd, 2010 02:22 am (UTC)
Wow. Such a great job with this, Ray.
rayruz
Oct. 9th, 2010 11:33 am (UTC)
Thanks.
kag523
Oct. 3rd, 2010 02:42 am (UTC)
Such a difficult story to tell, but you've done it in such a raw, evocative way. Well done! K :>)
rayruz
Oct. 9th, 2010 11:33 am (UTC)
Thank you! :)
thegreenkitty
Oct. 3rd, 2010 02:56 am (UTC)
Really well done, Ray.

I especially appreciated the "no one deserves to get hit, Kara". Also the social worker scenes were so frustratingly, heartbreakingly accurate. The scene with the black paint was perfect.
rayruz
Oct. 9th, 2010 11:34 am (UTC)
I was really stuck on this for a while, and then decided that I was just going to write the black paint scene and it got me unstuck. (Sorta the reverse of the white paint scene? IDK.)

Glad you enjoyed.
grey_sw
Oct. 3rd, 2010 03:25 am (UTC)
I love this. It's a perfect look at the Catch-22 that was Kara's childhood -- the way she "proved her mother wrong" with the black paint was beautiful and terrible, all at the same time. I especially like how Zak managed to say just the right thing, just the right truth: "no way we’re ever going to know, unless we try". Great job!
rayruz
Oct. 9th, 2010 11:36 am (UTC)
Thank you. I'm so glad you liked it. I just sort of wanted to explore a little bit of Kara's past, because she sabotages herself quite a few times on the show, and it had to originate somewhere right?
shah_of_blah
Oct. 3rd, 2010 04:02 am (UTC)
Oh Ray, this is so wonderful that it hurts. It's just so Kara. I'd like to leave a more detailed review, but it just made me feel all sad and achy and like I just want to wrap little Kara up in a hug.
rayruz
Oct. 9th, 2010 11:36 am (UTC)
*gives you (and tiny!Kara) a warm blanket and hot chocolate*
trovia
Oct. 3rd, 2010 06:34 am (UTC)
Wow, this was intense and evocative. I particularly was impressed with the paint scene. It was so interesting that you ended this on the note of Zak.
rayruz
Oct. 9th, 2010 11:38 am (UTC)
I was going back and forth on whether or not including Zak would be too mean, sorta like teasing a second chance for her here... because I feel like Zak was very much a breaking point for her. Not that we really know, but Zak seemed like a unique figure in her life... and well we all know how that ended.
(Deleted comment)
rayruz
Oct. 9th, 2010 11:43 am (UTC)
I work with troubled kids, so I think that's done a lot in shaping this fic. It was really hard, I think, to write about Kara's past because it is so dark. Anyways, glad you enjoyed.
ecstaticdance
Oct. 3rd, 2010 08:20 pm (UTC)
Very powerful, Ray. You do her pain justice.
rayruz
Oct. 9th, 2010 11:44 am (UTC)
:( It's just sad that she has so much of it.
bellaaurora
Oct. 4th, 2010 12:42 am (UTC)
Perfect and absolutely heart-wrenching!
rayruz
Oct. 9th, 2010 11:44 am (UTC)
Thank you.
( 17 comments — Leave a comment )

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