“I want the fighting to stop, Ms. Cavendish. I don’t care why they’re fighting, I just want them to quit. They’re setting a bad example for the younger pilots, and it’s damaging morale to have my CAG and my Top Gun constantly at odds the way they are.”
Bill Adama was serious and stern, but Eliza Cavendish noticed the way his voice changed slightly when he said ‘my CAG’ and ‘my Top Gun’ so she knew this wasn’t just about crew morale.
“Of course, I’ll do what I can, Commander. Is there anything else I need to know?”
“It's all in the file. Keep me posted on the progress, if you would?”
“Of course, sir.”
Thrace and Adama settled into opposite ends of the couch, and Eliza let it slide for the moment. “So, tell me about yourselves,” and as they both started to speak at once, “...only, Lieutenant Thrace, I want you to tell me about Captain Adama, and Captain, I want you to tell me about the Lieutenant.” The look of bewilderment on their faces was mildly satisfying. “Lieutenant, how about you go first?”
Kara’s wide-eyed gaze narrowed as it moved from Eliza to Lee, and she stared for a moment before speaking.
“Lee...” Eliza scribbled on her notepad, noticed Kara was watching her and motioned for her to continue.
“Lee is my CAG. My superior officer. My Commander’s son. A great Viper pilot - almost as good as I am...” she was interrupted by a snort from the other end of the couch. “...and...”
“Lieutenant, how about something personal? All of those are good things, but give me something more.”
Kara looked at Eliza, snuck a look out of the corner of her eye at Lee. “Um...he’s...a terrible triad player?”
“Are you asking me, Lieutenant? And I do mean something more personal.”
“He was a great big brother. He’s got crap taste in women. And he’s got a stick up his ass the size of a Viper.” Kara laughed and looked sideways as Lee opened his mouth to protest.
Eliza looked at Lee, and he stopped. She made another note on her pad. “Okay, Lieutenant, let’s move on. Captain? What can you tell me about Lieutenant Thrace? Something personal, mind.”
“She was a great girlfriend.”
Interesting they both address the other’s relationship to the brother. He’s still a critical part of the way they deal with each other, how they avoid anything too personal. Scribble.
“She’s patient and obnoxious and has a foul mouth.” Now it was Kara’s turn to try to protest, only to have the urge quelled with a glance. “I’ve never had a better sparring partner or wingman.”
She looked at each of them. “It sounds to me like the two of you admire each other professionally, and believe you work well together. Is that the case?’’
Lee and Kara gazed at each other for a moment, then nodded, their eyes pulling away from each other to look at her.
“All right. We’re going to do a short exercise next. I want you to move so you’re sitting next to each other, but not quite touching.”
She watched them exchange another look which meant nothing to her, but obviously communicated something between them - a split second containing an entire conversation.
Scribble, scribble. He stays put. She goes to him. I was reading her as the Alpha, despite their ranks. Intriguing.
As she led them through the exercise, she noted that while the minimal distance between them remained, it wasn’t long before some part of them was constantly touching - fingers, shoulders, knees, and for little more than a second, Thrace’s head was on Adama’s shoulder. It interested her that they were more responsive when they were touching, as if the physical contact negated the need to look at each other to “talk,” or gave them some kind of comfort - freedom to be more open. And she was certain they were talking with every glance, every touch.
Such a unique dynamic here. I could write a groundbreaking paper on it, if there were any academia left for which to write papers. I wonder how it would impact their communication if they were touching but couldn’t see each other? Or how it would work if they could neither see nor touch each other? Next time.
“All right. I think that’s enough for today. I realize your schedules are dependent on a variety of factors, but I’d like to pencil you in for this same time two days from now. Will that work?”
Thrace nudged Adama and asked, “Will it, Apollo? You wrote the schedules.”
“Yeah, I think we’re both scheduled for down-time then.”
“Wonderful. Then I’ll see you both in two days. It has been lovely to meet you.” They walked toward the door. “Oh! By the way, I’d like to call you by your first names rather than your last names or ranks in the future. Will you both be amenable to that?” When they nodded, she added, “And you may feel free to call me Eliza, or Ms. Cavendish, if you prefer the formal.”
At another session a week or so later, Eliza had the chairs moved so they were together, but facing away from each other, rather than toward her.
“Today we’re going to dig a little deeper. Last time Kara went first, so Lee, I’d like you to start today. I want you to tell me something about Kara, something related to your professional lives, that you dislike - it disappoints you or makes you angry. Do you understand?”
“I think I can come up with something for you, Ms. Cavendish,” Lee snarked. He looked over his shoulder, even though she knew he couldn’t actually see Kara. “She’s reckless when she flies. She gets the job done. Exactly that and no more, except in her Viper.”
Kara snorted. “When I get bullshit orders for busywork, why should I bother breaking my ass?”
Lee opened his mouth, but Cavendish broke in before he could speak. “Kara, are you sure the orders are unreasonable, or have you earned the assignments you’re given? Instead of answering out loud, think about the way you treat authority figures. I want you to work on that this week, both of you. Think on the orders you give and your responses to orders you receive.”
She doesn’t address me, and he continues to use the formal. Interesting. She went forward with the rest of the session.
Eliza had rearranged her office chairs again, as she did every few sessions, and Lee and Kara hesitated just inside the door when they saw the changes. “We’re going to do something different again today, so I needed to move things around to accommodate that. All right?”
Kara opened her mouth, but Lee spoke for both of them. “Of course.”
“Good. If you would take your seats?” She waited for them to sit down, confirming her suspicions when they both seemed put out to realize they wouldn’t be able to see each other. She looked from one to the other, watching them settle in. The arms nearest each other were stretched out on the chair arms, and if the barrier weren’t there, they’d be touching.
“Today’s exercise should be fun for you. No thinking required.” The corners of her eyes crinkled - Lee’s eyes cut toward Kara, and the corner of his mouth quirked.
“Ready?” When they both nodded, she picked up her pen. “I’m going to read out some words, and I want you each to say the first word or phrase that pops into your head, no matter how ridiculous or irrelevant you might think it is. The whole point is just to spit something out immediately without engaging your higher brain.”
Kara looked out the corner of her eyes, spoke slightly more quickly than Lee. “Eyes.”
Lee’s eyes widened as he said, “Knees.”
Interesting. She likes his eyes and he didn’t know that. Blue makes him think of knees? Wonder what that’s about?
She covered her mouth to hide the smile when they both looked where the other would be as they said, “Frak,” simultaneously. Eliza was puzzled by the way Kara’s face went blank instantly.
“Viper.” Kara’s hand went forward as if she were handling a joystick.
She really does love to fly.
“Piano. Music.” There were minute changes in Kara’s face, and Eliza knew she’d hit on something.
She made a note: Dig into Kara’s connection to music.
“Earned.” Lee bit the word out.
Wonder why he reacts that way?
She sat up a little straighter. They both had tiny smiles on their faces, and were looking toward each other. She made a note that neither of them actually answered out loud.
“Cylons.” Their answers were simultaneous.
Lee opened his mouth, but said nothing. Kara looked as if she were about to cry.
She went through a series of words without anything worth noting, then Eliza penned a few more general notes and closed her notepad. “All right. I believe we’ve done enough for today. Do either of you have anything you’d like to talk about?” She expected the head shakes, and nodded to both of them.
“All right, then. Your next appointment is in four days, so I’ll see you then.”
Lee and Kara rose in tandem, and she watched as they walked toward the door, Lee’s hand hovering over Kara’s lower back, and Kara’s head tilted toward him. The door closed behind them and she smiled.
A couple of months in, Eliza thought they were ready to get into rougher stuff. “Today we’re going to do something a little different. Yes, again.” Eliza smiled at them both. “You know the cliche of lying on the therapist’s couch? Well, Lee, you’re going to lie on the couch with your head in Kara’s lap while Kara talks. You’re her anchor - something she can hold on to when the subject gets tough for her.” Kara would need that today.
She watched as they maneuvered uncomfortably around each other until finally Lee pushed Kara down at one end of the couch and laid down with his head in her lap. Kara closed her eyes and tilted her face away, as if this simple bit of physical contact was too much for her. Eliza had seen them touch, knew they took comfort in each other, even if they didn’t acknowledge what they were doing.
Kara was an enigma, though. She frequently behaved as if she weren’t allowed to be human. She was comfortable with physicality, but from what Eliza had picked up in their individual sessions, only if it was superficial - playing Pyramid, bumping into people in the corridors, sparring in the gym. Or sex. Kara’d let little clues drop that made it clear she used sex to keep people at a distance - she might have exceptions, but it sounded as though she didn’t sleep with anyone she actually liked.
Eliza was fascinated by that particular behavior in Thrace. It would seem logical for Kara to use sex to keep Lee at a distance, but he was probably one of the few people on this battlestar she wouldn’t allow herself to use. In individual sessions, she’d mentioned a number of partners by first name or rank, but never Lee, and when Eliza had probed, Kara had made it clear it had never happened.
She knew Kara didn’t realize how much information was in the fact that sex with Lee was off the table. Hmm. Table. Interesting phrasing there, Eliza. She flipped through her notes from the word association session. Table = Frak for both of them. She flipped back to her most current page and made a note to attempt some delicate digging into that particular association. Back to work!
One of Kara's hands gripped the arm of the couch, the other hand hovering over Lee until he reached up and caught it, holding it against his chest. They both smiled at the contact, Kara looking away as if needing to hide her pleasure. Time to begin.
“Lee, it’s important during this for you to avoid interrupting. Your sole purpose in this exercise is to be Kara’s touchstone. Any questions you have need to be saved for later. All right?”
“Kara, talk to me about your favorite music.” She let Kara talk for a few minutes about music, but knew she was avoiding some painful topic. “Tell me about instrumental music. Piano, for instance.”
The hand Kara had on Lee’s chest balled into a fist and her face went blank. “Piano music’s good.”
Eliza watched as Lee caught at Kara’s fist with both his hands, and unfurled her fingers, flattening them on his chest and covering them with his hands. How does he know what to do? And why does she let him? “And? Do you have favorite artists?”
Kara spoke for a few minutes, and Eliza was working up to rerouting the conversation when Kara mentioned her father.
“Your father played piano, Kara? Was it a hobby for him?”
Kara shook her head. “He had a couple albums. Was big on Canceron.”
“He played professionally, then?”
“Yeah. Taught me to play when I was little.”
Kara’s hand had tried to ball up again, but Lee held on tight, and the rest of her body stiffened up instead.
“Did you enjoy it, Kara? Consider making it a career?”
Kara shook her head once, sharply, without saying a word.
Eliza waited a few tense moments, then broke in gently. “You never played, Kara?”
Kara delivered the information in bursts, as if it were being forced out of her.“Not possible. Broke all my fingers when I was little. Never healed right. Couldn’t play after that.”
There is something more to this story. “How did you break your fingers, Kara? You broke all of them at the same time? It must have been extremely painful.”
Kara mumbled the next words, and it took Eliza a moment longer than it took Lee to parse them, because she was also taking in his instantaneous reaction. She could see the response in his body, and in the way his hands soothed over Kara’s instead of just lying on top of them, the way he lifted her hand to his cheek. He’s comforting her before I’ve even fully registered she needs it. They are definitely communicating on some nonverbal wavelength.
“My mother did it. Slammed my hands in the door when she caught me playing once, after dad left.”
Lee opened his mouth, shock and anger clear on his face, but Eliza caught his eyes and gave him a brief shake. Kara was still off in some distant place, likely reliving the painful memory. Eliza gave Kara a moment or two longer, then probed further. “So your dad left when you were young, then? Did you ever see him again?”
Kara shook her head, her eyes shining with tears she forcibly blinked away before she’d look at Eliza. “No. He never came back.”
Eliza’s mind was racing, not only to take in the last few minutes, but also to identify Kara’s father. If he’d played professionally, she’d have heard of him, surely? Kara Thrace. Thrace. Canceron. Albums.
Drellide. Kara’s father was Drellide Thrace! Eliza’d studied some of his compositions toward the end of her schooling, but she was pretty sure he’d dropped completely out of sight nearly twenty years ago. Had he never played professionally again? Had something happened to him? She flicked her finger at her leg. Get back to work, Eliza.
“I imagine it was a disappointment for you. Did he ever contact you?”
“Doubt it. Even if he had, momma wouldn’t have told me. She never mentioned him again after he left, never let me talk about him.”
“Did you enjoy your father’s music, Kara?”
Kara nodded her head.
I’ll have to try to find some recordings, maybe have them playing in the background during one of our sessions. Individual or Joint? Joint, I think. She’s more open to some things when he’s here. “Do you still have any of it?”
“Got a music chip. Found it in my apartment when I went back to Caprica.”
Eliza noted Lee stiffened up at the mention of Caprica. Something there. She scribbled a reminder to ask about it another time. She needed to dig deeper into what Kara had seen and done on Caprica, anyway. Commander Adama had mentioned there’d been some medical issues when she’d returned. “I hope the music is a bit of comfort for you.”
“All right. Let’s continue.” Once they’d moved on from music and her father, Kara was more forthcoming, though of course she was never chatty. Eliza made a few notes, but the rest of the session was less fruitful.
When they were in the corridor, going back toward quarters, Lee walked slowly, trying to figure out a way to approach the subject. If Kara answered with words instead of her fists, it would be a miracle, but he had to try.
Kara was quiet the entire walk back. When they went through the hatch into the bunkroom, Lee knew he was down to the wire.
Her shoulders stiffened, but she didn’t turn around.
“Can we - talk?”
Still she didn’t turn. “About what, Lee?”
“Anything you want.” He didn’t know what else to say. He couldn’t exactly lead with ‘your parents’.
She’d stripped out of her fatigues, tossing them into her locker in exchange for shorts, and was down to her bra on top. “Was gonna take a nap.”
“Oh.” He worked to keep his voice even. “Okay.”
She slid the curtain aside, and stood there for a moment. He didn’t know whether to hope or not. “Lee?”
“Got room for you. If you want.” She stood still a moment longer, then climbed into her rack without looking at him. She pulled the curtain across, leaving a few inches open.
Lee stripped down, too, leaving boxers and a tank. He looked around the room, pulled the hatch shut, and padded to Kara’s bunk, pulling the curtain aside. Kara was on her side, turned away from the bunkroom. He slipped in, shut the curtain, and wiggled around, making himself comfortable.
When he’d stopped moving, he felt Kara turn to her back, and he stretched his arm out. She put her head on his shoulder and her arm across his chest.
Neither of them said anything. Lee was getting nervous, wondering if he should have started talking already, when he felt something wet rolling down his neck. It was the only indication he got that Kara was crying. He put his hand over hers on his chest, and let his thumb trace back and forth until she fell asleep.
“Commander, I wonder if you might have some resources not available to me.”
“We’re low on a lot of things, Ms. Cavendish,” he cautioned.
“Oh, no! I don’t mean supplies. I’m actually interested in finding some music for my sessions with Lieutenant Thrace. Piano in general, but if someone has some of her father’s music, it would be ideal.”
“Kara’s father was a musician?” There was a moment of silence. “I don’t believe I’ve ever heard her mention her father. I know her mother was a Marine Sergeant-Major.”
“Yes. Socrata. I’m sure you have access to her service jacket in your ship’s records.” She was careful to keep her voice neutral and open. He seemed in a sharing mood.
“Probably an abbreviated version. She wasn’t serving here, so I wouldn’t have her full personnel jacket.”
Eliza redirected. “But music? Do you have someone on board who enjoys music and might have a selection from which I could borrow? And something to play it on?”
“I’ll have to ask around. I’d bet Gaeta can find it. I’m half convinced he runs a black market on this ship. If I ask for something I’m not sure we have, he’s nearly always got it within a day or two.” Commander Adama laughed.
He is in a talkative mood. He sounds really proud of this Gaeta. “I would appreciate it so much.”
“I’ll get back to you on it. Any news on getting to the bottom of whatever their problems with each other are?”
“Actually, yes. I’ve made some fascinating observations, and I think we’re making progress. Do you remember anything about Kara’s relationship with Lee before the war? Did they get along?”
“With Lee? I got the impression from Zak she and Lee met through Zak and became close friends, but when she came to Galactica, she never mentioned Lee. We only ever talked about Zak.”
“Hmm. I’ve gathered from our sessions, and from a few things you’ve said, that Zak cared a great deal for Kara. She tells me they were going to be married when he graduated?”
“He hadn’t said it in so many words, but when he sent me the information about graduation, he told me he’d met someone. That she was important to him, and he wanted me to meet her. I didn’t know what to expect when I met her after Zak died, but she clearly cared as much for him as I did.”
“I haven’t delved too deeply yet, but I think part of the issue between Lee and Kara is they were very close friends, but when Kara came to Galactica after Zak died, Lee cut off contact with her. She adapted, made new friends, but subconsciously, she’s still dealing with what she perceives as Lee’s abandonment of her, a betrayal, in essence. And Lee’s dealing with his own guilt, both from that and from breaking a promise to Zak.”
“There’s no room for these sorts of issues in the chain of command, Ms. Cavendish. They need to sort it out.”
“Commander, human emotions aren’t subject to rules and regulations. You contacted me because you knew just telling them to stop fighting wasn’t going to work.”
“You have a point,” he said gruffly.
“So, you’ll check on the music and some kind of player and get back to me?”
“I’ll put Gaeta on it first thing.”
“Thank you, Commander.”
Something had changed between them, but Eliza couldn’t quite put her finger on it. “When you were friends before, when Zak was still alive, were you so standoffish with each other in your personal lives?”
“Actually, no. Zak was very touchy-feely, and I’m usually pretty comfortable with physicality. Playing pyramid and close quarters at the Academy made any reservations I had moot. Not that I really had any, growing up in the military.” Kara’s voice was matter of fact.
“Okay. Lee?” Eliza looked at Lee.
Lee shook his head. “We were always touching. Hugging, playing pyramid, lying on the couch watching TV, in the kitchen. But after Zak died….”
“I see.” Scribble, scribble. “And why do you think it changed?” She watched as they both looked toward but not at each other, then down at their laps. Some shame there. Remorse, possibly? So there was an element of attraction in it for them, and after his brother died, it seemed wrong to get even simple pleasure out of touching each other. “Were you attracted to each other from the beginning, or did the attraction grow out of the closeness you three shared?” They both looked startled, then panicked. “Remember, this is a safe place. Nothing you say or do here leaves this room.”
Kara admitted “Always,” without even looking up.
Lee confirmed, “From the moment we met.”
“And something happened early on, but you worked past it and became primarily friends?” She waited, and Lee nodded. Kara was still focused on her lap, a stricken expression on her face.
After an uncomfortable silence, Lee clarified, “Yeah. More like something almost happened, and we both felt guilty about it, and the guilt got worse after Zak died, until we could hardly stand to be around each other anymore.”
Could this be the table incident? “Kara? Did you love Zak?” Kara’s eyes whipped to look at Eliza.
“Of course I did! What kind of question is that?” she snapped.
“It’s a perfectly reasonable one. And did he love you?”
“He said he did.”
Eliza watched as Lee rushed to comfort Kara. “Of course he did, Kara. You know he loved you. And he knew you loved him.”
“Did you ever wonder if he knew something had changed between the two of you, if he knew the two of you were attracted to each other?”
Kara neither spoke nor looked up, but she nodded her head.
“Kara, do you think he’d want you to be unhappy? Never fall in love again? Spend the rest of your life pursuing meaningless physical relationships because it would be untrue to his memory?”
Kara still didn’t answer, but Lee did. “Of course he wouldn’t! Zak loved Kara. If he’d known he was dying, he probably would have picked someone out for her and told her to be happy after he was gone.”
“You know in some cultures, that person would have been you, Lee. An unmarried brother would be expected to marry his brother’s widow and take care of her and any children.”
Lee’s face went carefully blank and Kara’s gaze flew to hers. “But Zak and I weren’t married yet.”
“I think the only thing missing was the paperwork. Were you going to marry him? Was there any possibility you would have backed out?” Eliza asked. “I’ve gotten the impression you hadn’t yet because he was still in school, and you weren’t ready to go public yet. Is that accurate?”
“Yeah. If we’d gotten married, paperwork would have been filed and the Fleet would have found out. Could have gotten us thrown out of both the Academy and Fleet, Adama name notwithstanding.”
“Lee, did Zak ever ask you to take care of Kara if something ever happened to him?”
Lee squirmed uncomfortably and answered, “Yes. He made me promise.”
“What, exactly, did he make you promise?”
“To take care of her. Keep her from grieving too long. Encourage her to fall in love again. Make her happy.” Lee slid his glance sideways, but didn’t turn his head toward Kara. “Doesn’t matter. I didn’t keep any of that promise. I abandoned her after Zak died.” His voice broke on abandoned.
“I want you to think about how much the guilt over what you perceive as a failure on your part impacts your current relationship with Kara, and we’ll come back to it in a future session. What do you think he meant by ‘make her happy,’ Lee? Did he say precisely that? ‘Make her happy’?”
Lee nodded. “Those were his exact words. ‘Make her happy, Lee. She deserves someone who loves her as much as I do.’ It wasn’t too long before his crash.”
Eliza looked at them both thoughtfully. “It sounds to me like he knew you loved her, and he was giving you his blessing.” The expression on Lee’s face was a heartbreaking combination of hope and guilt and love and who knew what else. Kara was still quiet, looking at her lap. It was time to get her back into the discussion.
“May I let you in on something I’ve observed over the past few months, during both our joint and our individual sessions?”
They both nodded, and Kara looked a little trepidatious.
“The two of you communicate in a way I haven’t ever seen before, except in a clinical setting, studying twins. You have a shorthand - gestures, words, phrases, facial expressions - you tell each other hundreds of things without even speaking a word. When you do this while you’re touching, even more information gets shared. It’s truly astounding how much of what you tell each other you never verbalize, things no one else hears or understands.”
She watched them absorb this, shifting on the couch in tiny increments to bring them closer to each other. Both of them looked at each other out of the corners of their eyes, but didn’t actually make eye contact.
“This abbreviated communication system is a great deal of the reason you work so well together, how you fly in sync. In a work setting, you allow it to flow without judging it. In your personal interactions, though, you make assumptions and judgements about each other that hinder your relationship.”
Kara spoke up. “But we don’t have a relationship.”
“Oh, but you do. You have a friendship. You have a deep, intense connection you both ignore out of what you deem is respect for Zak, and for Fleet regulations regarding fraternization.” She gestured toward them. “Have you noticed since you sat down, you’ve moved closer together so you’re touching?”
They looked down at their knees. Lee immediately scooted over so they were no longer together.
“Why did you do that, Lee?”
He opened his mouth, wrinkled his brow, and shut his mouth again without answering. He shrugged.
“Would you like me to offer an educated guess?” Lee nodded cautiously, and she continued. “This setting is personal, and some part of you doesn’t believe a personal relationship with Kara is appropriate, even though it existed before you both ended up here.” She raised a brow and waited while he thought it through. “You were friends first.”
When he looked up, he still appeared puzzled, but she went on. “The way you two communicate works on every level, not just on the flight deck or out in your planes. You two have a remarkably deep connection, and it scares you. Both of you.”
Lee opened his mouth, then closed it again. Kara kept her eyes down, though she turned her head the slightest bit toward Lee.
“Kara, you are a very physical person.”
Kara looked up, eyes wide in startlement.
“You work hard. You fight hard. You play hard. You fight with Lee, because you know he’s strong enough to take everything you can throw at him, and never back down, and it’s the only way you let yourself touch him. And Lee, you fight with Kara because she’s the only person in your chain of command who won’t knuckle under or give anything to you easily just because you’re in charge, and she’s the only person who won’t misinterpret the fighting as personal. You value this about each other. You push against each other to stay sharp and on top of your game. You count on it. But you also judge it when it comes to personal interactions, feel it’s wrong in some way.”
She moved so she could put her chin in her hand, ostensibly, but mostly so neither of them would see her smiling. In the brief time she’d been talking, they’d moved closer to each other again, their hands spread on their thighs, their fingers reaching toward each other. She decided not to mention it.
“So for next time, I want you to consider why you’ve each decided the only way you’re allowed to touch each other is with your fists, why friendship is impossible. And I don’t want fraternization regulations spouted at me. Pretending not to be friends, not to care about each other, won’t make it any easier to lose each other in this war.”
Kara’s face closed down, and Eliza made a mental note: Kara had already decided she couldn’t handle losing Lee, so she’d kept him at arm’s length in an attempt to avoid the emotional fallout. How to address that…
Lee was here by himself today, and he was antsy, fingers moving, eyes everywhere, shifting constantly.
Eliza flipped her notepad open and folded her hands over it. “How long have you been in love with Kara?”
Lee went completely still, his eyes locked onto her face. He shook his head.
Eliza gestured around the room. “Safe space.”
Lee clamped his lips together, then bit his lip. She was more used to seeing Kara do that. Finally he nodded, as if to himself.
“Since the day I met her. She wasn’t like anybody I’d ever met. There was something about her just made me feel...I don’t know, like I was part of something bigger, maybe.” He shrugged one shoulder. “I’d never felt like that, connected to someone so strongly, like I’d been missing part of myself until then. But she was Zak’s girlfriend. She was gonna marry him. He was so happy. I couldn’t -”
She nodded. “Kara seems to have that effect on all of you. Your father is quite fond of her, too.”
One side of his mouth lifted. “I think it’s in our genes, in tiny block letters. ‘Kara Thrace’.”
She smiled at him. “Why did you cut her off after Zak died?”
Lee’s mouth hung open a bit, and red rushed up his face. He lifted a hand to run his fingers through his hair. “I was so angry. Zak only went into Fleet to satisfy Dad. And because he did that, he was dead now. Kara was devastated, but she shut herself off, wouldn’t let me help, kept telling me she’d killed Zak, but wouldn’t explain what she meant. Then she told me she was coming here. To Galactica. To serve with my dad.”
“Why did that bother you?”
“Zak was dead because of him, and Kara was letting him in. She would end up dead, too, I was sure of it. And Kara wouldn’t frakking listen to me.”
There was a tone of bewildered grief in his voice. He’d been angry at all of them. Still was, and didn’t quite realize it.
“So you were punishing her for taking his side?”
He sat there with his mouth open for a moment, then shut it.
“Lee? Have you considered that if Kara hadn’t come to serve on Galactica with your father, if she’d been still serving at the Academy, or if she’d been on another ship, she’d likely be dead now?”
His voice was flat when he answered. “I don’t like to think about it. She’s all I’ve got left, and if I don’t have her -”
Eliza waited, knowing he wasn’t quite finished.
“What’s the point?” He looked down at his lap.
“Some part of you is constantly afraid one day she won’t come back. Is that it?”
When he looked up, his eyes were shimmering. “We’re pilots. We get out there every day to kill cylons, Some day, they’ll get us instead. Me or her. There’s nothing we can do to stop it.”
“And when that happens, what are you going to do, Lee?”
He shook his head, and when he looked up, his face was set in hard lines. “If Kara doesn’t come back, I won’t, either.”
“Mmm,” she murmured. “I imagine that will be difficult for your father, to lose both of you in one day.”
He shrugged one shoulder. “He likes Kara better anyway. If I came back without her, he’d probably tear me apart.”
Hmm. Interesting perspective.
“We’re about out of time today. Is there anything else you’d like to discuss, Lee?”
Lee shook his head.
“Okay, then. Your next appointment is in two days. With Kara.” She stood from her chair. “We talked about difficult topics today, Lee. Would you like a hug?”
He took a step forward, then stopped himself. She could see he was torn between his need for basic human comfort and his need for Kara. He took a step back and locked himself down. They’d have a break in this soon. She was positive.
“I’ll see you in two days, Ms. Cavendish.”
She nodded, and he left without another word.
Lee was on his way back to the bunkroom after dinner when he felt Kara coming up behind him. She settled in at his side, adjusting her pace to his, and when he should have turned left to go to quarters, they turned right instead. After a couple more turns, he was in a part of the ship he didn’t know well, but he figured Kara would let him in on whatever it was at some point.
They reached a hatch, and before he could read the plaque, Kara had opened the hatch and waved him through. The room was dark, and Kara didn’t turn on any lights. She did flip a switch, and a piece of the inner hull slid away to the sides. Kara walked ahead of him, and he knew to follow.
The light through the window was dim, but there was enough he could see groupings of furniture. Kara sat down on a small couch which directly faced the window, and waited.
Lee sighed and sat down next to her. For long minutes, they said nothing, both watching what they could see of the civilian fleet and the stars and Galactica’s outer hull.
Kara turned sideways, lifting her legs over his lap, and leaned against the back of the couch. He watched her get comfortable, still wondering what she was up to.
“What’s wrong, Lee?”
He shook his head a little.
“And don’t say ‘nothing’.”
“What makes you think something’s wrong?”
She leaned forward into his space. “Really?”
Lee leaned over until his head touched hers. “Nothing’s wrong, really.”
“No. Really. I met with Cavendish today. She made me think about Zak and Dad and you, why I didn’t want you to come here after Zak died. Why I was so mad at you.”
Kara didn’t say anything.
“But in the end, it doesn’t matter, because if you hadn’t, you’d probably be dead, and I -”
“What?” she whispered.
“I’d be alone.”
Kara scooted forward and put her head on Lee’s shoulder. He wasn’t sure what she wanted, but she stayed, and eventually, he wrapped his arm around her back and put his head on top of hers. He felt pressure in his chest, like he was taking too many gees, and his breathing hitched once or twice. He didn’t notice when he started crying.
Kara leaned away so his head was on her shoulder now, and kept a hand on his back, never saying anything.
After a while, Lee was stiff, and he sat up, stretched his back and arms, and looked toward Kara.
“You okay now, Lee?”
“I got CAP first thing. Let’s walk back.” She stood and held out her hand.
She weaved through the furniture, flicked the switch again, and shut the hatch behind them.
They walked for a while without talking, then as they crossed another corridor, she zigged and bumped his shoulder with hers. He opened his mouth to protest, then saw the smile she was trying to hide.
“You wanna sleep over again?”
He looked at her, and she looked straight back at him. No eyes skittering off, no nervous twitches. Not even anything in her eyes to tell him what she wanted him to say.
“I slept pretty good the other night.”
She shrugged. “Me, too.”
Kara wasn’t sure what to think when she sat down in Eliza Cavendish’s office. Eliza’d waved a hand at Kara to sit, but hadn’t said a word. Kara shifted on the couch, becoming more uncomfortable with every silent second.
She’d just opened her mouth to say something when Eliza started talking.
“When the cylons attacked, I was on my way home from a conference. I tried calling, but communication was obviously down everywhere. We didn’t know that yet. We came out of FTL into a debris field, and as I looked out the window, I could see half the planet billowing smoke. We made a circuit around Scorpia, but the planet and the shipyards had been destroyed. I didn’t get to say goodbye to my wife. Or my husband. I’m sure you have a similar story, Kara.”
Kara shook her head. “I just wanted to get out there and fly. I left everybody behind a long time ago.”
Eliza turned and faced Kara. Planes and angles shaped her face with grief. “How did you feel when Lee died?”
“He didn’t -”
“No, he didn’t. You didn’t know that at first, though, did you? You’d seen him for a few minutes, known he was alive, ready to fly. Then he wasn’t, as far as you knew. How did it feel to see him again? Standing in front of you, whole and untouched, after you’d believed him dead for hours.”
Kara clenched her hand into a fist; the pain helped her stave off the rush of unnameable emotion. “He wasn’t the only one. Too many people were dead.”
“But they didn’t all matter to you as much as Lee did, did they?” Eliza didn’t wait for an answer. “You don’t want to feel that agony again, and so you keep yourself separate and alone by pretending not to care.”
She caught Kara’s eyes, and Kara wanted to say something, opened her mouth to say something, but nothing came out.
“Some people are lucky, Kara. They find love. They make happiness in some of the bleakest circumstances. Even now, when there are fewer people alive than there were in one suburb of Caprica City, people are connecting, falling in love, caring about other people, finding new purposes.” Eliza leaned back and wiped a hand over her face. “And pretending not to care, so the next time the cylons come, it won’t matter if their neighbor never comes back.”
She closed her eyes for a moment, then sat forward again. “What was the hardest part of meeting Lee? The first time?”
Kara bit her lip while her mind flew in a dozen directions. She didn’t want to answer, but maybe if she said it this once, she’d never have to say it again. “All my life, I’d been missing something, and then Zak came along. He was so persistent. Finally convinced me he was worth the risk. Told me he loved me even if I wouldn’t be with him. I felt like a real person for maybe the first time ever.”
She stood and walked around the couch aimlessly. “And then I met Lee. I opened the door, and I didn’t know who he was, but I knew him, knew he was part of me. I still loved Zak, but it felt faded, like a memory of something from another lifetime.”
Kara came back around and dumped herself on the couch. “I didn’t know how to love Zak the right way again. Didn’t know how I could avoid hurting him. Didn’t know how to not love Lee. And Zak’d been so good to me.”
Eliza asked, “The right way?”
“Zak should have come first. I was in love with him. We were going to get married. I shouldn’t have been able to love somebody else when I loved him.”
“Why not, Kara? Why couldn’t you love them both? Most of the animal world, including humans, aren’t wired for monogamy. We are hard-wired for variety, to expand the gene pool, to spread our DNA all over the place, to create hardier stock, more contagion-resistant bloodlines.”
Eliza’s voice had risen as she’d spoken, and Kara stared at her. Eliza had never, in all their sessions, been anything less than cool and collected, always in control of the room. But even Kara could see the sadness in her right now.
After a few moments, Eliza sat up straight in her chair. “I apologize. That was inappropriate.”
“Sure,” Kara said, standing.
“I’d like to end early today. Clearly, I need a break.”
Kara shrugged. “Nobody’s perfect.”
Eliza nodded. “Thank you. I believe our next appointment is a joint one, in two days?”
“Sounds right. I’ll check with Lee.”
Eliza had been updating Commander Adama with periodic progress notes, but this time, she’d asked to see him, and he’d invited her to his office.
“Your family was Tauron, Commander, correct?”
“But you were born and lived on Caprica.”
Eliza crossed her legs. “I’ve seen President Roslin’s whiteboard count. We are a dying race. You realize there were more people in one small suburb of Cap City - hell, in a suburb of Delphi - than there are humans alive right now?”
Bill sighed heavily. “Yes, Ms. Cavendish. I am well aware.”
“I’m not just spouting statistics. I’m going somewhere with this.”
“All right.” He walked away for a moment. “Would you like a drink?”
“Actually, Commander, I really would.”
There was a glimpse of humor in his eyes before he locked it down. He handed her a glass and sat down at the other end of the couch. “Go on.”
“You are incredibly lucky. Out of the billions of people exterminated throughout the entirety of the Twelve Colonies, the two people you love most survived. Not just survived, but are here with you.” She shook her head. “Not many can say even one person they knew is still alive, much less here.”
Bill took a sip. “It’s not something I think about.”
“If you don’t think about that, how extraordinary it is that both your son and your almost daughter-in-law are here, you’re deluding yourself, sir.”
He glared at her through his glasses. “Make your point.”
“Very well.” She took a sip, swirling the flavor in her mouth for a moment. “Captain Adama and Lieutenant Thrace are friends.”
“I know that. We’ve talked about this, Ms. Cavendish.”
“I’m not entirely certain you understand. How often have you seen them interact in a professional situation?”
“Couple of dozen times.”
“Does anything about the way they work together strike you as unusual?”
She held out her glass, and Bill rose to refill it.
“They work well together.” He wiggled his hand. “They’re baffling sometimes. If they talk at all, it’s in broken sentences and -” He shook his head. “Kara’s very creative, and Lee’s very rule-bound, but when they work together, they somehow meet in the middle without giving up anything.”
Eliza nodded. “It’s fascinating to watch. They are connected at some deep level, don’t even need to talk to each other to communicate. I’ve noticed it in our sessions.”
“Outside of that, though, is where they fight almost constantly. They’ve even come to blows on the flight deck. That is why I contacted you, Ms. Cavendish.”
“Yes. You did. You may not like what I’ve discovered, though.” She tapped a fingernail on the side of her glass.
Bill shook his head and sighed. “I probably won’t. Tell me anyway.”
“They are terrified of losing each other.”
“Losing them would devastate the fleet,” he agreed.
“I’m not talking about Captain and Lieutenant, CAG and Top Gun here, Commander. I’m talking about the people, the human beings who wear the uniforms. Lee is afraid to lose Kara. Kara is afraid to lose Lee. Oh, they know, every single time they get in their planes, it could happen, and on a professional level, they’ve accepted that eventuality. But on a personal level…”
“We don’t have room for on a personal level, Ms. Cavendish,” Bill rumbled.
“Commander, we have nothing else. Every single person wearing a uniform, and every single person not wearing one, needs a reason to keep fighting. Those personal connections are what will make the difference between humans surviving to find Earth and humans giving up the next time the cylons attack us. People will try harder, fight longer, if they know there’s someone at home waiting for them.”
Bill finally lost his patience with her carefully placed words. “What is your point? You haven’t told me anything I don’t already know, and you haven’t told me how you’re going to get them to stop fighting.”
“Let them be together.”
She’d shocked him.
“Frat regs, Ms. Cavendish. They’re in the same chain of command. It’s impossible. Besides that, they aren’t in love with each other.”
She let her voice sharpen. “They are very much in love with each other, Commander, though neither one will admit it, for exactly that reason, and because neither wants to disappoint you. With less than fifty thousand humans alive in the entire frakking universe, Commander, are fraternization regulations really more important than people’s emotional well-being, more important than Lee and Kara’s happiness?”
“But, Kara was going to marry Zak, not Lee.”
“Yes, she was. And then Zak died. Did you imagine she would always be the grief-stricken widow? Would never love anyone else?” She paused for a moment, then continued. “Is that what Zak would have wanted for her?”
His jaw clenched, and she smiled inside. Lee did the same thing when confronted with truths he didn’t like.
“Frat regs are there to keep personal feelings from interfering with people doing their jobs.”
This time she rose, held out her glass in question, and Bill nodded.
“Do personal feelings keep them from doing their jobs now?” She sighed. “I’ve heard the stories about Starbuck and Apollo, sir. There are at least half a dozen times their love for each other is the reason both of them came back alive.”
She sat back down. “The feelings already exist. Let them make it official. Give them a reason to want to keep coming back to you.”
He eyed her warily. “Rewriting frat regs could blow up in our faces.”
Eliza shrugged. “It could. Or it could help the civilian fleet understand the people wearing Fleet uniforms are just like them. Love is contagious, Commander. Give your people some hope.”
She rose and set her empty glass down on the table. “You’ve got a lot to consider, Commander. I’ll continue to see them, individually and together, because there are other issues they each need to resolve. But this, the inability to openly love each other, is by far the largest obstacle they face.”
Bill grunted, and she smiled as she turned to leave. She was already out in the corridor when she heard him say, “Thank you, Ms. Cavendish.”
“You asked to see me, sir?” Lee stood in front of his desk.
“At ease, Lee. Sit.” Bill waved a hand.
“What’s this about, Dad?”
“I’ve got a project for you.” He sat back in his seat, and trained his eyes on Lee. “I’m working on something with the President, and you’ve got both a solid knowledge of the Uniform Code of Fleet Justice, and a fairly good foundation of personal law.”
“It’s a joint military/civilian project?”
Bill nodded. “Mostly military, but we make up a small percentage of the entire fleet, Lee, so it’ll have repercussions on the civilian population as well.”
He met Lee’s eyes again. “It’s going to be a bit time-consuming, because you’ll have to work around your duty schedule, but I think you’ll enjoy applying yourself to this one.”
“Okay,” Lee said slowly. “What is it?”
Bill took a deep breath. “You’re going to rewrite the Colonial Fleet Fraternization Regulations. We need them to better reflect the current population and circumstances of our Fleet and civilian personnel.” He waited a moment, then said, “Dismissed, Captain.”
“Sir.” Lee stood and went to the hatch.
Lee turned back. “Yes, sir?”
“When you’ve got them finished, I’ll expect an invitation to the wedding.”
Lee’s mouth dropped open, then he gathered himself and though he didn’t smile, Bill could see the joy bubbling under his son’s skin. It had been a long, long time since he’d seen Lee so happy. He waited until Lee was gone and the hatch closed behind him, and he started to laugh.
He crushed a few nuts in his hand, tossed the meat into his mouth, and picked up the phone. “Saul? Come to my office. We need to talk.”