Lee had been the one to spot it, when he dropped by the Academy to see his kid brother, and Zak had a girl in his apartment. She sat on the couch in her bra and a pair of pants, lounging back and listening to music.
His eyes dropped immediately to the mark on her ribs, a small wing in a dark grey color. It could be a tattoo, for as much as most people probably knew.
Plenty of people had tattoos that could be confused for soulmate marks. It was conceivable that for as the Lords of Kobol had given them the ability to find their perfect pair, people had used their ability to obscure the marks or fake them, or pretend that they weren’t a soulmate mark.
Lee’s eyes lingered too long, he knew, and she opened her eyes and locked her gaze on him. “You’re an unexpected guest. Care to tell me how you got in and who you are?”
She was Zak’s type, to a tee. Outspoken and beautiful, ready for a fight. He could see how he fell for her. “Lee Adama, Zak gave me a key months back, I was sent here unexpectedly and just wanted to crash for the night.” It would have been good manners to let him know, but the guy was in flight school. He should barely have time to be in his place, much less have a girl over.
She sighed and squinted at him. “I suppose you look familiar. Zak isn’t here, anyways, he’s still at the Academy, I’m just here because my power got shut off.”
“Sounds like an easy fix, pay the bill.”
“Flight instructor doesn’t pay that kind of money, Lee,” she answered with a smile. His name feels right on her lips. “You gonna stand there and stare at me or you gonna take a seat and offer me some of that ambrosia in your bag?”
Lee walked into the room and dropped his duffel on the table. “Who said I had ambrosia?”
She shrugged. “What officer would go on leave without it?”
He reached in and pulled out the glass bottle of amber liquid, a gift from his father. “You got a name?” In the kitchen area, he found two small glasses easily.
“Lieutenant Kara Thrace,” she answered, with a jovial little salute. “Pleasure to meet you, sir.” She reached out to take the glass from him, took a whiff. “Same stuff Zak buys, you know that? You’re just the same.”
By the time Zak gets home, they were both fairly drunk and in the middle of a competitive card game that had Kara up on her feet, slamming her cards down and screaming that she’d won again.
“Having fun?” He asked, bemused. Kara smiled over at him like he hung the damn sun and nodded. “Looks like your brother can’t hack it at cards, but he’s alright.” She went to go hug him, greet him with a kiss. Lee gathered the cards up back into the deck, not interested in watching. “Did I forget you were coming, or..?”
Lee looked back up at them and shook his head. “Nah, I didn’t bother to tell you I was coming by. Didn’t think you’d even know I was here. I usually stayed at the Academy barracks when I was there, but I didn’t have a girl to come home to, so. Guess we’re pretty different there.”
“Mmm, maybe. I’ve got to be the lucky brother somehow, huh?” Zak’s arm was wrapped around her still bare torso, the wing mark just as prominent as before. He’d been eying it all night, try as he might not to.
One just like that had appeared a few years ago on his own torso, on the ribs like a mirror image of hers. He had done the math during their card game- it lined up more or less with her going to flight school. Timing for when the marks appeared was hard to understand, something related to events in a person’s life making them compatible and perfect for the other. Some people ended up with multiples, some people’s faded away, and some never got one.
She had been with Zak for nearly a year now, and his mark hadn’t faded a bit. By the looks of hers, it hadn’t either. He wondered if Zak knew it was a soulmate mark that meant she was destined for someone else, or if she called it a tattoo, or if he ever asked. Sometimes it was just more polite to skip over marks like that. The last few girls he’d slept with, and the girl he’d dated for a while, had ignored it.
Kara leaned in to press another kiss to Zak’s cheek. Had Lee missed something said? Frak, he had been on a roll with just her, the picture of a friendly brother, sharing his alcohol and losing his money to her despite his best efforts. “You’re crashing on the couch,” she said, a little annoyed sounding. He’d probably missed Zak telling him once or twice. “We’ll see you in the morning.”
The door to the bedroom closed quickly and there were giggles and Lee groaned. He didn’t need to hear this from his soulmate and his brother. At least he’d had a long enough day and enough ambrosia to slip into sleep fast, thank the gods.
Lee woke to the sound and smell of eggs sizzling away. He lifted his head and it was still almost a shock to see Kara, again in just her sports bra and pants, cooking on the stove. “You seemed like you knew how to hold your cups, but eggs never hurt a hangover, eh Apollo?” She asked when he sat up.
Who was the last person to have cooked for him? His mother when he spent the night there a year ago? Maybe the ex, once or twice when she couldn’t sleep. It was sweet and domestic and Lee was very, very glad that he’d kept his shirt on last night.
Kara was Zak’s girlfriend, before anything else.
Soulmate mark or no, he wasn’t going to do that to his only brother. Opinions on what happened what you found your soulmate varied widely, largely based on where people had grown up. He didn’t know where she was from, but if she was the type to insist on giving them a shot at least? It would destroy Zak. The Lords of Kobol’s marks or not, he wasn’t going to take away the wide smile he’d seen on his brother last night.
“Don’t mind if I do,” he answered and went to the table. “Zak back at the Academy?”
Kara nodded. “Tests coming up. Means I have some extra time to enjoy this place and he has none.” Her smile was strange for a second, flickered like there was something else going on, but the moment passed and she went back to plating two eggs for each of them, two cups of coffee already waiting.
“For the record, I’m not hung over. It’s just impolite to reject hospitality.”
“Is that so?” She laughed at him, but it wasn’t cruel, just a happy and amused thing. He could entirely see how Zak had fallen for him.
They ate their breakfast in comfortable silence for a while. He didn’t mind it- he was going to leave soon, despite his initial plan of trying to spend a little time with Zak while he was planetside. But Kara and her mark complicated things, made it painful even if it was so very sweet to be near her. He would keep his distance, he decided, but for now? He could bask in this, an easy breakfast between friends. Good friends, nothing more.
She finished her breakfast and rose, her arms above her to stretch tall. His eyes were drawn to the mark again. “You’re not a talker in the morning, are you?” She asked with a good hearted shake of the head and a sigh. He could be, if she wanted him to chatter away at breakfast, but he didn’t dare say that. “I see you looking. Eyes up, Captain.” She cleared away her plate and mug before he got a chance to react.
“Didn’t mean to stare. Just. It’s an interesting, er, tattoo.”
Kara shrugged, her back to him as she cleaned the dishes.
“If it’s a soulmate mark. Aren’t they usually black, not gray?”
The frying pan in her hands slammed down to the bottom of the sink. “I don’t think I asked you, Lee.” That tone of voice saying his name wasn’t so sweet, so cherishable. He opened his mouth to apologize, take the words back, but she had turned to face him before he could say anything. “It’s just. A sore subject? Plenty of people have pointed out to me that if I wanted to have a fake mark I should have at least gotten it in the right frakking color.”
“Is it? A fake?”
Kara snorted out a laugh. “No.”
“Does Zak know?”
“Then why tell me?”
She shrugged. “You seem… trustworthy, I guess. Or I’m getting soft.” She turned back to the sink. “Bring me your plate, will you?” The conversation was closed, clearly. He wanted to ask her what she thought the color meant, if it meant anything. His was the same jet gray, had been from the start. The rumors about colored marks always swirled around, sure, but they never had an answer for what made them. Just as the question of why some were large or small, or why some were in identical places or some in mirror images never had an answer. The will of the gods, best as anyone could say. But the colors were just rare enough to raise eyebrows.
“I think I’ll head out,” he said as he placed his dishes on the counter. She turned and, unexpectedly, gave him a hug.
“Next time, give us a heads-up, would you?”
“Of course.” He knew that there wouldn’t be a next time. He was going to keep far enough away from Kara to keep him from doing anything stupid. “You make sure my brother doesn’t do anything stupid, would you?”
She hesitated before she nodded. “I’ll keep him on his toes, yes sir.”
He pulled back and wanted to kiss her so badly. Instead he gathered up his things, just his duffel that he’d barely unpacked, and left.
They didn’t speak at the funeral. What is there to say when everything is frakked up beyond recognition, when she was a mess and so was he and Lee was still fuming at his father.
The only thing he could think to say- the only thing- was that his mark had turned black. Was that a good sign? Had hers as well?
But that meant admitting his mark matched hers. That he’d known for months. That he’d kept it from her.
He settled on rehearsing in his head what he’d yell at his father, when they had a second.
It was easier than trying to figure out what to say to her.
She came up to Lee when his body was in the ground, the mass of people scattering, and hugged him for a second, squeezed him so tight he felt like he could barely breathe. It felt safe in her arms.
“Lee, I-“ She started, and he wondered for a second where that was going. A selfish moment that he wished she had put the pieces together, even though she didn’t have nearly all the information. Even Zak had never seen his mark, there was no way she could know. “I’m sorry.”
“Nobody blames you,” he reassured immediately, holding her tightly in return. There was plenty of blame to be borne, but none of it laid on Kara’s shoulders. “You did what you had to, you did everything you could. You did good.” He hated seeing her beat herself up over this- she was an outstanding flight instructor, by all accounts.
She shook in his arms but didn’t cry, and didn’t respond. She pulled away after a minute or so of that same comfortable silence and looked up at him for a moment as if she was deciding something. “I gotta go. I’ll see you sometime soon, okay?”
“Of course.” He didn’t have any more intention of meeting her again than he did the last time they parted. He wasn’t going to step on the toes of Zak’s memory. He was a good person, a good man. At least he wanted to believe as much.
Kara sought him out. He was updating the board in the empty room full of chairs. He wanted to get to bed, wanted to curl up and sleep for eight hours or twenty, but there was a chance it would prove impossible. The stims were still ringing in his system. Spiders behind his eyes sounded accurate, even hours after taking them. Compounded with shooting down the Carrier, the flames and explosions lighting up in his mind whenever he closed his eyes, and he wasn’t sleeping any time soon.
“The showers have cleared out,” she said, and he nearly jumped. The room had been silent, and her voice still always did something to him. “Everyone who’s not flying a CAP is asleep. I just got out, you can have them to yourself.”
She had noticed that he avoided her in the showers, then. He wondered briefly what she made of it, but she could assume what she wanted. He didn’t have the space in his mind to think about it.
“Lee?” Her voice had that concern in it. “Lee, you need to sleep. I know it’s not… great, with the stims, and the ship. But you need to.”
When had she turned into someone who cared this much? Maybe it was just him. Maybe it was a soulmate thing. Or maybe he had misjudged her.
Her hands were suddenly on his arms, leading him out of the pilot’s room.
“Okay, Mister Sleepless,” she said with that smile in her voice. He didn’t have to see her face to imagine the way she was shaking her head, ready to laugh at him. “Straight to your rack.” He shrugged out of her hold, baut didn’t mind that she walked back with him. He needed someone, needed something to focus on. Better than dwelling on the windows that were empty, right?
She opened the hatch to the bunkroom. “Shower in the morning, I suppose.” She gave his patchy beard a ruffle. “You need a shave, but that can wait.” He swayed on his feet, and she steadied him. She sniffed loudly and barked out a laugh. “Okay, come on. You need out of these clothes and then you’re good to pass out.”
He couldn’t be shirtless around her. He couldn’t.
It didn’t change the fact that she was helping his arms up to pull his tanks off. Her hands on him felt nice. Gentle. The tanks slid off.
Maybe the room was dark enough to not matter. Maybe she wouldn’t see the black wing on his rib, wouldn’t connect the dots in an instant. Maybe the stims would wear off, finally, and she’d be too tired to notice.
Instead, he felt her fingers on his skin, right where the mark was.
“Lee, what is this?”
He opened his mouth to respond and then closed it, not sure what he could say.
“Lee. Tell me. Is this-“
“It’s… real.” It was all he could think to say. It was, at least, real. Not some tattoo he’d gotten to match her. “Was gray til the funeral.” He hadn’t seen hers since he’d gotten here and the world had gone to shit, but he assumed that hers would have followed suit.
Her hand pulled back from touching the mark. “Did you think you’d be able to hide it from me? On a ship like this?”
He shook his head. Eight days since the decommissioning ceremony, and he was found out. Great going, great secrecy.
“Frak, you’re still a damn zombie, aren’t you?” She wasn’t wrong. Even the shock of being found out wasn’t enough to truly rouse him. “You need to get to sleep. We’ll talk about this in the morning.”
Her hand moved to his back and gently coaxed him to his rack, got him to sit down.
“I’m sorry,” he murmured, looking up at her.
She smiled back and sighed. “I’m not mad, Lee. I kind of knew, I think.” She leaned in to press a kiss to his forehead. It’s comforting and sweet and he pouted when she pulled back. He reached up to loosely grab her wrist, gentle enough that she could pull away without any trouble.
“Stay?” He asked.
She stared at him for a moment. Time was hard to gauge when he was this tired, might have been a second or a minute but either way he didn’t break eye contact. She nodded.
“Scoot over, I get to be on the outside,” she said, and he rushed to do so. She pulled off her tanks as well as he watched, the jet black wing tattoo stark against her skin. He wanted to reach out and touch, wanted to tell her that it was beautiful. But he bit his tongue and settled for reaching out to her, pulling her against him when she got into the narrow bed. “We’re still going to have a chat, Lee.” Her voice was more tired now. She’d fall asleep easily. They’d be there for a while, passed out after five days and change without rest.
“Good night, Kara,” he whispered.
Maybe it was being with her. Maybe it was just how long it had been since he’d had a chance to shut his eyes. But he hadn’t slept so well since he had planet leave, months back.