Characters: Kara Thrace, Lee Adama and minor appearances by Racetrack, Narcho, Sam
Summary: Season 3 AU. Kara reups with the Colonial Fleet but her choices have left her with a new set of consequences. Things are not adding up in Kara's life. Her only conclusion now is that Leoben might just have been right. How can she keep everything she has worked so hard for?
Author’s Note: Beta’d by the lovely scifishipper with an extra special helping hand from callmeonetrack!
Need to catch up? All Chapters Here.
Six Weeks Later
Scrubbing a hand over his face, Lee made his way through the corridors to his quarters. Even though he had been cleared for light duty after a month of recuperating, his body was still healing and left him feeling exhausted at the end of his shift. A dull ache radiated from his ribs as he walked. He remembered this part, the last time he’d been shot he felt the pain for weeks after the wound had healed.
Lee pushed the hatch open and his gaze was immediately drawn to the two figures lying on his bed. Kara lay sprawled on her back on top of the sheets with Seph dozing away on her stomach. He’d seen her in his quarters a handful of times—come back from a shift to find her playing with Seph or feeding her, but he’d never seen them like this.
An ache kicked up in his chest completely unrelated to any physical pain. There was something so beautiful about the two blondes lying there—mother and daughter—they shared a bond that Lee knew he could never share with them. They’d spent several months in a prison together, faced gods only know what kind of treatment, and Lee still didn’t even know the bare bones of it. He wondered if she’d ever let him in on what happened.
He couldn't deny the astounding transformation he had seen in Kara since that terrible day when she’d left their daughter with him. She had dug herself up out of the darkness she'd been living in and back to the person she was. Kara was back. The woman he loved was back.
The thought hit him like a speeding drone. He was still in love with Kara after all this time. He had just been too stubborn to admit it. Lee felt dazed standing there in front of the open hatch. He didn't think it was possible to still want this--to want her, to want a real family with her.
Family had never seemed like a real possibility in his life. Fear of fatherhood had driven him to abandon Gianne. He didn't even think of having kids when he was with Dee. But now it seemed like it was right there, just within his reach. Watching Kara and Seph sleep it seemed so simple. The thought that he could come home to this at the end of a shift, every shift--that Kara could come back to this family too--put a smile on his face.
If she would come back to him. His heart suddenly felt frozen. Kara didn't exactly have the best track record in that regard. In the back of his mind, he wasn't sure he wouldn't wake up to find her gone again. It had nearly crushed him the first time through--he'd lived through bullets from and for Kara, but her leaving again was something he was not sure he could survive. This loose-knit semblance of family was just hanging on as it was. Was it worth it to put everything on the line and risk this fragile peace?
Lee's thoughts were cut short by a whimpering noise. It turned out the peaceful sleep he had walked in on was shifting into something else. Closing the hatch behind him, Lee approached the bed. A cold sweat dotted Kara's brow as she gasped and arched on the bed. He hesitated for a moment before reaching for her shoulder.
Kara's eyes shot open as she gasped for air. "Kara, it's okay." She didn't seem to hear him. Her gaze darted around the room, frantic until she seemed to confirm her location. Without a word, Kara got to her feet, pressing Seph into Lee's arms. Frak. She was about to bolt.
He stepped in front of her as he adjusted the sleeping child in his arms. "Are you all right?" he asked, hoping to slow her speedy exit.
"I'm fine," she said, thoroughly unconvincingly. Her voice was strangled and distracted. He shot her a questioning look. Her eyes met his and for a moment he saw the same wild look they’d had when she first returned from New Caprica. It chilled him to the core to see her like that.
He let her brush past him. Lee couldn’t bear to watch her walk out the door. Of course, she did. Kara never stayed, never would. He didn’t know how he could have been so stupid as to think that it would ever be any other way.
Kara braced her hands on the counter as she slumped over the sink. Droplets of cold water still clung to her face as she tried to calm her breathing. The details of the nightmare flashed vividly in her mind, no matter how hard she tried to push them away.
Kara’s in her old apartment on Caprica… or is it New Caprica? Looming on the wall in front of her, the image of the mandala jumps out in bright primaries against the white wall. It taunts her. Destiny. One lifetime, brought into existence for only one reason—no choices, no will, no frakking anything. She needs it gone.
She scoops white paint onto a brush and smears it over the wall in wide, dripping strokes. When the brush doesn’t work fast enough she takes the bucket and flings the contents at the wall. Paint coats her as she works with her hands, desperate to hide the symbol.
She doesn’t even hear him as he approaches, doesn’t sense his presence until his arms are around her waist, pulling her back against him.
“It’s no use, Starbuck.” He presses a kiss into the back of her neck, voice dropping. “You can’t erase your destiny.”
Leoben spins her and slams her back against the wall. Her feet seek purchase but slip and slide over the paint-covered floor. The grip on her wrists is bruising and she can’t move. “Don’t fight it,” he says. And then he’s kissing her. Her stomach churns as she tries to pull away, but his lips never leave hers once. His hands abandon her wrists and grab the sides of her face, smearing streaks of paint along her cheeks.
And then, something changes. She’s kissing him back, submitting to his will. His hands rip her shirt open and she doesn’t try to kick or scream or shove him back. No, her head tips back, gasping as he bites at her neck. The next thing she knows she is on the floor with Leoben straddling her body.
It’s not that she’s tired and sick of fighting him, she wants him. She wants him the way he’s wanted her to. You have to want it, too.
As he sits up, stripping off his shirt, Kara grows impatient. She needs this, needs him, and finds herself reaching for the zipper on his pants. Leoben smacks her hands away, pushing her back down to the ground, reminding her who is in control. “Say it,” he commands.
“I love you.”
His body rocks against her, slides inside her, pleasure coursing in her body. All the while, she watches over his shoulder in horror as the white paint fades away and nothing remains but those circles on that wall.
Kara splashed another handful of cold water onto her face. The worst thing about the nightmare was that it didn’t frighten her. It was inviting. Leoben had always seemed so damned serene in his insanity, and the idea of surrender seemed so much easier than fighting every godsdamned day.
But she couldn’t stop. She couldn’t let him crawl under her skin and draw her down into the madness with him. There was too much on the line. Seph needed her, and there was no way she was going to let her down. Her stomach lurched, thinking about how she’d just shoved her into Lee’s arms and ran out—again. Shit, it was starting all over again. She couldn’t keep doing this, couldn’t keep running away, she was going to lose Seph and Lee all over again.
The hatch squealed open and voices began to fill the head. Privacy gone, Kara slicked her hair back from her face and strode out into the corridor She made her way back to the pilot’s bunkroom to get ready for her shift—to keep fighting for another day.
CAP was boring and routine, just flying lazy circles around the fleet while they worked to refuel all the ships. Hot Dog flipped his viper upside down, saying it looked like flying in blue skies when he was looking at the planet below. Kara looked down at the gas planet below—its surface covered in swirling storms. She didn’t know what Hot Dog was seeing, but all she saw was a churning hurricane in red, blue, and yellow. Lightning crackled in the eye of the storm and it seemed to beckon her closer.
Don’t fight it.
Lee’d known something was wrong, but he didn’t know how bad it was until Kara nearly rammed her fist into Chief’s face over a malfunction with her viper. The hope that he had been holding onto sank like lead in his gut.
The hangar deck buzzed with whispers of rumors on top of its usual activity as Chief went over every inch of Kara’s viper. Lee looked over his shoulder to see her watching from several meters away, hands planted on her hips with an impatient expression on her face.
“I can’t find anything.” Chief’s voice drew Lee’s attention back to the task at hand. “I’ve run every test in the book and a few that aren’t, inspected every line and even replaced the sensors. The system checks out. There’s not a frakking thing wrong with it.”
Lee glanced back at Kara whose arms were now crossed over her chest. He’d ordered her to make an emergency landing after she’d reported a drop in hydraulic pressure and a steady indicator light on her dash. But something wasn’t adding up. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Kara turn and stride away from the deck. He told Chief to keep looking for the problem before racing off to find her.
She hadn’t gone far and he caught her in the corridor just off the hangar. “Starbuck,” he said, getting ahead of her. “What happened out there?”
“My frakking Viper’s not working and those stupid knuckledraggers don’t know frak all about fixing it.”
“Bullshit,” Lee said. His reaction caught her off guard, he watched the line of her throat as she swallowed hard. “I heard you on the comms, you sounded…”
“What?” she snapped. “Tell me, Lee, what the frak did I sound like?”
His jaw tightened and he breathed to calm his irritation. He hadn’t wanted this to turn into an argument, just wanted to know that she was okay. “Forget it. Just get in my Viper and finish your shift.”
He expected it to be a done deal from that, but Starbuck just dug her heels in ever deeper. “Frak no!” she shouted.
“Kara, what the hell—”
“I’m not going back out there, Lee. I’m just not!” There was an edge creeping into her voice, the same one he’d heard over the comms. It was something other than anger—something was frightening her, but he couldn’t tell what.
“Starbuck,” he said firmly but calmly. “Are you able to go out there and do your job? Because if one of my best pilots can’t get into the cockpit, then I’ve got myself a serious problem.”
Kara’s eyes narrowed. “Then I guess letting me back into the fleet was a serious mistake,” she hissed. “I can’t. Lee, I’m frakking seeing shit that’s not even No way. I’m not going back out there.” Whatever was left of her control shattered then and there. “Frak.” Her voice broke as she turned and took off running down the corridor. Lee sprinted off after her but she was faster, he lost her around the first turn and she was gone.
When Lee finally found her, she was slumped in a seat in the ready room with a bottle of liquor in her hands. She didn’t move or speak as he crossed the threshold and made his way down towards her spot in the front row. As he moved closer, he could see that the bottle was mostly full, she couldn’t have had more than a few swallows of the liquor.
“I’m losing it all over again… might as well go all out,” she rasped.
She didn’t answer him, but she didn’t put up a fight as he took the bottle from her hands. Setting it aside, he eased himself into the seat next to her. “Have you talked to the doctor about… anything.”
Lee pursed his lips, trying to pick his words carefully. “Kara… if you’re… if you’re seeing things… you should really—”
“He can’t help!” Kara snapped suddenly. “All right? There’s nothing he can do.”
“What do you mean, Kara?” he said. “He’s helped you come this far. What happened on New Caprica—”
“It’s not about what happened on New Caprica anymore, Lee. It’s bigger than that. It feels like something’s pulling me away…” Kara leaned forward, avoiding his eyes with her elbows resting on her knees as she stared straight ahead at nothing. “He was right.”
Lee sat with a stone face, hands folded in his lap as he leaned towards her. “Who?”
“Leoben. Bastard kept going on and on about how I had a destiny.” Kara’s face twisted, like the words tasted sour. “Said that Seph was… a distraction. That she was going to lead me away from my destiny. Gods, everything he did…”
Calmly and deliberately, Lee asked, “What did he do to you, Kara?”
Kara stared straight ahead, stone silent for a solid minute before she drew in a shaky breath. “Whatever the frak he wanted, he knew I couldn’t fight back.”
Couldn’t? “What do you mean? Why couldn’t you—”
“Because he was going to hurt her!” she snapped, shooting to her feet. “He wanted to kill Seph. He said he had to do it for my own frakking good. Sick son of a bitch wouldn’t stop talking about it when I was in frakking labor!”
Rage hit him like a lightning bolt. The fact that his daughter was born at the hands of the cylons was bad enough. Never in his worst nightmares would he have imagined that Kara’d given birth with that toaster talking about how her baby needed to die.
Kara paced the floor in tight circles, fists clenching and unclenching at her sides. “Every time I did something the motherfrakker didn’t like he took her. I woke up in the middle of the night and she was just… gone. The first time he told me she was dead.”
Lee’s hands started shaking. Anger and fear rolled off of her in waves and he felt himself soaking it up. His heart pounded, chest tightened—the room suddenly seemed devoid of oxygen. Kara had been locked up with a complete psychopath in control of her life and of Seph’s.
“I don’t know where the frak he took her, if she was alone, if the cylons did something to her… but he only brought her back after he felt I’d learned some kind of godsdamned lesson. Everything was some kind of stupid lesson about destiny and sacrifice and that someday I was going to love him.” She spat out those last words like they were poison. “Then he started acting like he frakking cared about Seph, wanted to pretend to be human and take care of her. He… he wanted… Frak.”
Kara trailed off, voice shaking and unable to speak anymore. Her eyes shone with unshed tears, she was fighting to hard to keep herself in control. Lee couldn’t even begin to imagine what other memories were burned into her mind, what else that insane toaster could have done to her or Seph.
Lee leaned forward. “Kara, did he…?”
She shook her head, not meeting his eyes.
Lee swallowed, relief and anger burning inside him. Everything that he’d done while she was on that planet came rushing back – the anger, and regret and how he’d hated her. It all came back with a force that made him sick. And she would still be in that hell if Lee had had his way. If the Fleet had never returned to New Caprica, Kara would still be trapped in that hellhole. Gods only knew what sort of terrors the cylon would have put her through by now. Lee searched desperately for words that would make it okay, but nothing came to him. There were no words to make this okay. He wondered if it would ever be okay.
Unable to hold himself back any longer, Lee rose from his seat and threw his arms around her. Kara’s eyes went wide as he pulled her into his embrace. At first, she simply tried to push him away, but when his hold didn’t loosen, her fists came up. She half-heartedly hit him in the shoulders and arms, maybe out of some reflex she’d developed down on the planet, but he couldn’t let go.
Then, so faint that Lee thought he might be imagining it, she sobbed. He held her more tightly and she buried her face in the crook of his neck, and made no sound at all, but he could feel the warm wetness of her tears as they soaked through his uniform to his skin. Whatever energy she had drained away, knees buckling, and he was the only thing still holding her up.
Slowly, they sank down to the ready room floor. Kara’s hands dug into Lee’s arms so hard it was almost painful, but he didn’t matter. He’d take in all of her pain if it meant she didn’t have to live with it alone anymore. He kept one arm around her shoulders, and rubbed his other hand in slow, steady circles over her back. “I’m sorry, Kara. I’m so sorry. I should have come back sooner.”
Kara drew in a shaky, unsteady breath as she sat back a bit. Her face turned up to him, eyes red and cheeks damp with tears. For the briefest moment, she leaned into him and brushed her lips against his before resting her head against his shoulder.
Lee wasn’t sure exactly how long they stayed there—on the ready room floor, clutching each other like they were the last two people alive—but when they finally emerged into the corridor again, he could feel that something had changed. This time, he hoped, for good.
Kara sat in the front row of the ready room, listening to Lee go over another day of insanely boring and routine CAP formations. She barely registered his words, none of it really applied to her. Her flight status had been suspended since her brush with insanity—it meant she spent her days doing shit tons of paperwork, but things could be worse.
“A reminder that some of you have been banging up the deck on your landings. Chief has told me to pass along that any pilot who marks up his deck will be banging out the dents themselves.” Lee said.
Maybe he’d just gotten used to her absence, but Narcho decided that now would be the perfect time to run his big mouth. Sitting in the row behind her, she could hear him perfectly as he whispered about how they “couldn’t blame this one on Starbuck anymore, seeing as she’s got a one-way ticket to the psych ward.”
Kara turned over her shoulder, and he practically jumped out of his seat. “Funny, Narcho. Because I know for a fact, the only place you leave more skidmarks is your skivvies.”
A ripple of laughter filled the ready room as Narcho turned a particularly bright shade of red. With a smirk, Kara turned back in her seat and caught the faintest glimpse of Lee smiling at her. “Well, Starbuck, if you’re done airing Narcho’s… dirty laundry, can we get back to the meeting?”
She snapped him a sarcastic salute, and he barreled on with his notes.
Kara was halfway out the door after the meeting was dismissed when she heard Lee call out, “Starbuck!” She turned and looked over her shoulder to see him holding a piece of paper.
“Paperwork? For me?” she drawled. “You’re a lady-killer, Apollo.”
The one benefit, if she could call it that, of being grounded, was that she actually got to spend some time with Lee—going through CAP rosters, training maneuvers, whatever needed to be done, they got it done together.
“Not exactly,” Lee said, holding it out to her. Kara took it and glanced it over twice, because she was damned sure she couldn’t have read it right.
“I know it was supposed to be a thirty-day eval, but I told Stoffa I needed my best pilot back in the cockpit, ASAP.”
Kara couldn’t stop the smile from creeping onto her face. “So, guess I’m not a psycho anymore.”
"I didn't say that ...You're a raving lunatic, as demented and deranged as the first day I met you.” He gave her an affectionate smile, and something in her—some lingering doubt—snapped and vanished at his words. “But I wouldn’t want it any other way.”
The smile vanished from his face, a cool seriousness filling the space between them as he studied her. Kara wasn’t sure who moved first, but a moment later she had her arms around him, and his were wrapped around her waist. Kara leaned into the embrace letting her chin rest against his shoulder.
“You’re also amazing,” he said in a hushed, reverent tone. Lee’s hand cupped her face as she pulled back to stare at him. “You are the strongest person I know, Kara. You’ve been through hell and back and refused to give up. You still fight it and win every day. I don’t even know how you made it through when I barely had the strength to go back.” Kara’s heart pounded in her chest. Lee shook his head, unable to meet her eyes for a moment. “I didn’t even think about what you might be going through, didn’t know that I’d left you alone with our daughter. Gods, everything was so frakked up. I—”
“And I’m the one who frakked it up in the first place.” Kara stood up a little straighter, words flying out—she’d held them in so long, so tight, they’d just been waiting on the pull of the trigger. “Worst godsdamned mistake of my life.”
Lee met her eyes once again, slightly dazed and surprised, and with something else she had not seen since that night on New Caprica, the night they made Seph, something that she probably didn’t deserve from him—love.
In that moment, she couldn’t remember anything that had come between that night and now. Something had changed between the two of them; she could feel it.
And it felt good.
The feeling continued through the rest of the day, right up through when she was slated for CAP, her first once since her flight status had been restored.
The last time she had felt the vinyl of the flight suit against her skin, Kara’d felt nothing but dread—the feeling that something deadly was calling out to her. Destiny. Leoben’s frakking destiny. But it hadn’t claimed her. She was still here, still standing.
Sitting in her cockpit, waiting in the launch tube, Kara felt something else calling out to her—speed and space. It was going to be a run-of-the-mill CAP, with Hot Dog flying her wing…
…and eight hours of nothing but her at the controls…
…and when it was over, Seph and Lee—her family—would be waiting for her…
She launched. It felt like freedom.