Lee Adama needed a date to the winter formal.
It was ridiculous. Preposterous. School dances — who gave a crap? A waste of money, for all involved. A waste of soundwaves, as the student council inevitably outdid itself by hiring a worse and more obnoxious DJ with each successive soiree. The refreshments were always terrible, nobody ever had any fun, and half the kids usually left as soon as the court had been announced, off to some cooler party on somebody's houseboat that he was never, ever invited to, not that he'd want to go anyway.
The court, actually, was precisely the problem. Lee had a good chance of being on it. He, of course, would never have given high school royalty or the Valentine's Day dance any thought at all, but for the goddamn bulletin that reached every club about nominating a senior for King of Hearts. Obviously, the debate club needed a nominee for the winter formal royal court like it needed another row over abortion, but Karl had always kind of been a dim bulb, now that Lee considered it. Of course he'd be the one to find it hilarious to send the form back to ASB with Lee's name on it. Ha. Ha. Hysterical.
So now he was nominated, and he'd survived the run-off, and now the choices were narrowed down to four: Billy, the Jewfro'd band geek darling; Sammy, an arrogant jock whose dad probably owned a whole armada of houseboats; and Galen, a quiet dude who must have cornered the loner vote. The contest was a joke, of course. Sam would win, like he'd won attendant place all three previous years, and escorted their class's winner in the Homecoming court half of high school besides. Lee could recite embarrassingly large chunks of the Federalist Papers from memory, and point out most of the logical fallacies in there to boot, but that was nothing next to a guy who could spin a ball on the tip of his finger. Disgusting. Not that Lee wanted to win, of course. Not that he, more immediately speaking, had an escort to go to with.
He knew what he had to do, but he put it off until it was almost too late.
He spotted her the Thursday before the dance. They didn't have any classes together this year, only extracurriculars, and it wasn't track season yet. She'd dropped in on a couple debate club meetings during lunch, but always seemed pretty bored and had stopped several weeks before. He knew she went to basketball games sometimes, and didn't like to dwell on the effort he'd taken to find out, but what did that matter? It was a free country and she could do what she liked. As long as she....
"Kara!" he yelled just before she turned a corner around which Lee was sure he'd never be able to find her again. "KARA! Stop!"
She did so, and waved goodbye to a couple of friends she'd been walking with. Obviously she'd recognized his voice. She turned around and arranged herself against the wall so that when he caught up she was smirking and leaning like she'd been waiting for him all her life, and there he was, late again. Lee could not decide whether he was angry at himself for having procrastinated this long about asking her, or regretting having ever thought it was a good idea in the first place. He trotted up to her. "Hey, Kara. Want to be my escort for the Valentine's Day dance?"
She laughed. "Hi to you too, loser. Do I what?"
"Do you want," he repeated, trying not to sound panicked, "to go to the dance with me? I need an escort."
"I'm nominated for King of Hearts."
"You are." God, where did she get off sounding so amused?
"Yes. I am," he said firmly. "Will you be my escort?"
"You mean your date."
Lee fumbled. "Well...yeah, okay, yes, my date," he replied. "You know, as a friend. A friendly date. Whatever."
Kara arched an eyebrow. "Oh, whatever? So it's all the same to you either way. If you just want a friend, why not bring Karl? You'd look cute together. Aww, you should do that, Lee." She punched him playfully on the arm. Lee was now definitely regretting this course of action.
"No," he said emphatically, rubbing his forehead, "I am not bringing Karl. I don't...I mean, I'm not...and the school, they wouldn't....For chrissake, Kara, if you don't want to go, just say so. I just thought we could have fun. And you'll get your picture in the yearbook. Never mind." He turned around and started to walk away, head hung dramatically low. He could hear Kara making sounds of exasperation behind him.
"Turn around, Charlie Brown, and stop being so emo," she called. "I'll go with you. As friends. And you better bring me a fat corsage. Pick me up at eight."
By the time Lee turned around Kara had gone; the smile in her voice was still ringing in his ears.
He showed up on her doorstep at 7:50 on the nose, having sat nervously in his car for a good fifteen minutes beforehand. He rang the bell and was amazed to find that not only was she ready, but she had answered the door herself.
"You're early," she said, peering out on the porch suspiciously.
"So are you," he grinned, and proffered the corsage, a gigantic and absurdly expensive thing the florist had looked shocked at his purchasing. Kara held out her arm, grinning diabolically, and cackled as Lee slid it over her fingers, onto her wrist with some difficulty. Only after the ordeal was over did he actually look at her whole formal ensemble, and had to struggle to keep his expression flat. She looked amazing. Painfully good. Positively glowing in shiny blue satin, scarves draped artfully and accenting every curve, blonde hair fluffy and perfect — not painful. Shouldn't be painful at all, Lee reminded himself; friends they were and friends he was happy to be. And he didn't care how many basketball games she went to. "Ready, um, to be my queen?" he asked, hoping his voice didn't crack.
"Can't wait another second," she said, pulling the door closed as she stepped out into the February chill. "Come on, friend." She grabbed his arm and made towards his Corolla. It wasn't until they were a block away that Lee realized he hadn't seen either of her parents.
"And this year's King of Hearts is...Samuel Anders! Go Sammy!" Sammy walked up to the dais and accepted his crown, sceptre, and sash with what Lee felt justified in classifying as a smarmy smile. His escort, a supermodel-looking blonde in slinky silver, followed him boredly.
"That dumb skank," Kara muttered to Lee. "She's on the cheerleading squad, you know? Horrible. No coordination at all, drops people all the time. The only reason she doesn't get kicked off is because she's hot and the basketball team likes to ogle at her. Hmmph."
"Yeah, she's the dumb one," Lee replied darkly. Then, realizing how jealous he must sound, he plowed on. "You're hotter." And instantly wished he was buried alive somewhere.
Kara turned to him with a delighted expression. "I'm what?"
"Um," he said. "Forget it."
"You said I'm hotter than what'sherfuck!"
"Yeah, well, it wouldn't take much, right?" He felt pleased with himself for coming up with a suitable tack for distraction. "She's all...heroin chic —"
"Lee Adama!" Kara cried, grinning like a loon. "You just said I'm hot. That is the sweetest thing an almost-king has ever said to his date."
"I'm just saying that," he said, blushing furiously, "because you're my friend."
"Karl must be sooo jealous."
"Friends compliment each other all the time."
"Do you want to go dance with him? I'll have a cookie. It's cool, I can go sit over there."
"Shut up, Kara, and dance with me."
"Aww, because I'm hot? All the other boys must be swooning into their punch."
"No, because you're my friend and I hate you. Is this the best you can dance? Maybe I should go ask Karl."
Ignoring the hideous music's beat entirely, Kara threw her arms around Lee's neck extravagantly, and began shimmying in alarming proximity to Lee's personal space. "Even though you failed to win or even get second place, you'll always be my king, Lee. And I will be your smokin' hot date."
"I wish we were both dead," he gritted. "As friends."
The dance, amazingly enough, turned out to be kind of fun. Once Kara's sadistic glee wore off she turned out to be very enjoyable to dance with, even if she did then insist on repeating the performance with every other nominee (plus Karl), saving thrice-damned Sam for last. She came tripping back afterwards and Lee couldn't help asking how he was. "Oh, great rhythm," she said, looking devilish again, "but lacking in that friendly touch."
"Yeah, I bet," Lee'd grumbled.
Now the evening was drawing to a close and Lee found himself walking Kara back to her door with fifteen minutes left to go before the anything turned back into a pumpkin. "That was not horrible," he noted, trying to prolong the goodbye.
"What's that expression about faint praise?" Kara asked nobody in particular. "No, actually, it was okay." She smiled at him, then, and Lee wondered if that was the first honest expression she'd allowed herself all night. She looked happy. He couldn't help beaming back like an idiot.
"Thanks for coming with me, Kara," he said, his voice soft. "Goodnight."
Her expression didn't change until a minute later when he got tired of the continued silence and turned to leave. "Wait a second. That's it? No goodnight kiss?" She sounded scandalized.
"What the hell?" he cried. "Kara, we went out as friends. The joke's over. I'm not going to kiss you, because...I'm not."
"Oh, yes you are," she replied, all business and a little terrifying as she grabbed his shoulder to keep him from going. "I went with you, I put on the dress, I wore the corsage, I played nice. Now pay up."
Lee stared at her, trying to find the 'kidding!' light in her eyes. Maybe it was just dark, but he couldn't see it. "Are you insane?"
"Probably," she replied, smiling coolly. "Kiss kiss."
"Shit," muttered Lee. "You are." He took a moment to attempt total control over his emotions and any language in his body that might give the wrong impression. Play it straight, Adama, he told himself. Leaned in and pecked her chastely on the lips. "There!" he crowed. "Satisfied?"
Kara scoffed. "NO." Before Lee could reassess the situation, he was well into it — into her arms, which wrapped around him with none of the evening's earlier playfulness; into her mouth, which demanded everything and then some from his own, and after a second received it because who, oh who, could not give up and kiss this psychotic woman back; and into her hands, running through his hair and mussing it up determinedly, every manicured finger raking at his skull. The moment lasted, deepened. Lee couldn't spend more than a fraction of his life resisting when this was all — everything — he'd never allowed himself to think about, every time he'd ever spotted basketball scores in the paper, every time Kara laughed raucously at things nobody else found funny, every time — every moment since that first day of tryouts, back in eighth grade, and quite possibly, Lee felt, before then too.
And then it was over.
"That's how you say goodnight after the winter formal," Kara announced in a husky voice. It seemed rather unnecessary. She smirked again and twirled her fingers in a wave. "Dances are fun with friends, you know? See you on Monday, Lee. 'Night."
He stared at her as she went inside and closed the door. He listened to her work the locks, and strained his ears to hear her stumble up the stairs. He made his way, somehow, back to the sidewalk, and watched the light in what he imagined to be her bedroom flicker on. It was a nice light; a yellow, comforting one. Steady. Steady was good. Like...the sun. All in all, a good light, Lee decided.
It wasn't until several minutes after that that he noticed his mouth was still hanging open, inviting nothing in but the cold night air.