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Ringing in my Ears

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After the funeral, Lee’s soulmate has the same sad, slow song stuck in their head that played as Zak was lowered into the ground. The music has the echoey, far-off quality as ever, like he’s hearing it through a window.

The poor sap’s also at a funeral, he thinks. The song is standard, played at Fleet funerals across all twelve colonies. He could look into who else in the Fleet died recently, but he decides against it. Some people tempt fate, try to find a connection, but he has never felt like that is his path.

He knows his soulmate is in the Fleet. Or is close to someone who is-  though maybe that someone is dead now. He'd figured that part out years back, when his soulmate had joined up. Everyone in basic learned jodies, the cadences called out while marching, and his soulmate had the tunes stuck in their head for ages.

If they’re in the Fleet, he would meet them eventually. And if they lost someone in the Fleet, well. He’d see them around, sooner or later.

He gets a happier tune stuck in his head in response. Something to cheer up his other half, even if he feels nothing but a mix of grief too deep to name and rage, white-hot, that he has to feel this way at all. Stewing in his anger would be easy; to simply go over what he could say to his father over and over again is what he wants to do. It is harder to recall something cheerful, a tune Kara sometimes hummed when the three of them had all hung out together. But it gets him out of his own head for a little bit.

If it cheers up his soulmate somewhat, it would have been worth it. Not that he would have a way to know; the only response he can feel is what is stuck in their head, as per usual. The song he gets from his soulmate changes from the funeral dirge to the same tune he had sent across, so that had to mean something.

When he sees his father, he says the first things that come to his mind, which are the most hurtful things. He isn’t sure if they would have been different if he had spent time thinking up what to say or not, if he would have found a way to be more diplomatic or if he would have gone ahead and called his father a murderer regardless. The look the old man gives him, a mix of loss and agony, is just about what Lee feels himself.

The pair of them could grieve together. Maybe it would be good for both of them. They both just lost Zak, both loved him dearly.

Lee entertains the thought for the briefest of seconds before he turns on his heel, excusing himself.

His father calls after him, his voice breaking. Lee does not turn around.

Hours later, Kara buys the first round and he buys the second.

“Do you believe in fate?” She asks after the fifth round, maybe. He has lost track. He looks over at her curiously- she was religious, he knew that much, but there was a world of difference in fate and religion. She had called fate a child's game once or twice.

“Do you?”

She shrugs, her finger tracing round and round the edge of her glass. “Sometimes I wonder if the Lords play tricks on us, giving us soulmates like they do.”

“Was Zak yours?”

“I thought so.”

She tosses back her glass and then waves her hand to the bartender for another.

“My soulmate was at a Fleet funeral today, I think. They had the music stuck in their head,” he says. Have the pair of them ever talked about this before? Since she had been with Zak, it wasn’t the kind of thing he would bring up- if the pair of them weren’t matched, or if they hadn’t talked about it, Lee wasn’t going to bring it up for them.

“Mine’s having a good frakking day, by the sounds of it. On the worst damn day of my life.” She knocks back the next drink and stands, steadying herself before Lee can reach up to help her. “Take me home, will you?”

He stumbles along with her, neither of them sober enough to walk in a straight line, but they’re arm in arm for support. The streets are dark but these are their streets, their old haunts, it’s not scary. Especially when he’s got Kara, who could take just about anyone even blindingly drunk.

Kara sits on the large bed she had shared with Zak and points Lee to the kitchen, demanding water. He rushes for two cups, and hands it to her without sitting.

“Lee?” She asks, her voice soft and almost scared. She had sounded like that the first day, on the phone when she had called him to tell him. Almost like she's nearing tears.

“Yeah, Kara?”

“Don’t blame your dad for all of it. There were a thousand choices that led to this.”

Lee is almost impressed with how coherent she is, but it still makes his press his lips together, draw a deep breath. He can’t get into this with Kara, not when they’re both drunk. “Go to bed, Starbuck,” he says, walking around to turn off lights before settling himself down on the pull out couch.

“I’m serious.”

“My father made all the choices that led to this.”

“Not all of them.”

In the dark, the silence spreads between them uncomfortably. If she wants to think Zak actually played a part in his own death, fine. But Lee isn’t going to buy it.

“You don’t even know him, Kara. Just go to sleep.”

An old lullaby, something he is sure that he heard in a movie at some point, plays softly in his head. His soulmate thinks of it often as Lee is getting to bed, and he smiles just a little. Even that little reminder of a normal day helps, shows him that his soulmate is going to be okay even if this whole situation is frakked up beyond all recognition.

He wakes in the morning and Kara is gone, and there’s a note on his bag telling him not to wait to say goodbye before he goes back to the Atlantia.

Hell of a way to leave the girl who had nearly been his sister in law, who is undeniably still family to him, but he packs his shit and goes, just like she suggested.

 


 

 

Lee cherishes the lullabies his soulmate gets stuck in their head, but their schedules are so off balance from one another's that it plays in his head sometimes when he’s in a Viper, or getting drunk, and he wishes it would just stop.

It breaks his heart when he realizes that it’s been weeks since he last heard it. His soulmate still gets music stuck in Lee's head plenty, but it’s angrier tunes or sadder ones.

He sends back that cheery tune that Kara taught him.

He wishes he could do more.

They both lost someone, he decides. It wasn’t just some fluke that they had heard the same sad song, the funeral piece, the same day. Maybe they had even been at the service, that it's some friend of Zak’s that Lee never got around to meeting. Maybe that’s a gift from the Gods, in the worst way. They could have grieved together, leaned on eachother for support.

Instead, Lee had yelled at his old man and then snapped at Kara.

His closest friend on the Atlantia asks him about soulmates one day, nearly a year later, over drinks and Lee shrugs it off. After talking about it with Kara, it doesn’t seem so… important. She thought she had found her soulmate in Zak, and only found out after he had died that it was a lie. And the pair of them had been happy.

What good are soulmates?

His friend looks at him like he’s committed a mortal sin even saying it.

A few nights later, his soulmate gets that same old lullaby stuck in their head and Lee wants to eat his words. That slim comfort that there is someone in the solar system by his side - even when they’re flung gods knows where- is enough to make him thank the gods for this blessing.

He doesn’t vow that he’ll find his soulmate. Many people never do.

But he makes a silent promise to them that he will be there, and he gets that cheery tune stuck in his head to send their way, that melody that Kara always used to sing.