The Groundbreaking Ceremony had been dull, as expected, but the party had turned great, as the liquor flowed all afternoon and a group of civilians played music for dancing.
During the dance, Kara laughed as Lee's foot went the wrong way. "Can't hold your liquor, Commander?"
He pulled her into his body. "I hold it just fine."
She laughed again as they whirled around to the music. But when the music ended, she caught sight of Sam sitting at the bar, watching her and Lee without any expression, and then he turned his back on them.
The sight curdled something in her stomach, and though she wanted to laugh it off as Sam being jealous of nothing, when she turned her head, Lee was looking in that direction, too, biting his lip. Then he dropped her hands. "I ... Kara... you want him, I know that. But then you make me think I have --" he started and cut himself off, shrugging. "I don't know what you want."
She glanced back to Sam, who slammed a shot like he had every intention of drinking himself unconscious. A little voice whispered that it would be perfect: if he passed out, she could sneak away with Lee and return to Sam in the morning. He might suspect, but he wouldn't know. And Lee would never refuse her, she knew that.
But... that wasn't what she wanted, she realized. Lee wouldn't put up with it forever -- he'd make her choose. Plus it was pure fantasy to believe Sam would never find out. The settlement was one huge gossip circle; Sam would find out, and he'd leave her. She didn't want that.
She grabbed Lee by the hand and pulled him toward the bar. "Come on. You're right; it's time we figured out what the hell we're going to do about this."
Sam saw her first and smiled, happy to see her. That smile died the instant he saw her hand-in-hand with Lee. Kara dropped Lee's hand like it burned. "Sam..." she said. "Can we go someplace away from the noise?"
His hand tightened on his cup. "That's okay," he said, coolly. "I get it. I'm not an idiot and I'm not blind. Thanks for saving my ass from Caprica." He turned his back in dismissal and started to lift the cup to drink.
The words hit with physical force, and she felt anger curl up inside, and reflexively wanted to strike back. With effort she shoved it down; if she didn't, everything would be ruined.
She gripped Sam's wrist to keep him from drinking any more. "No, that's not it. It's not what you think."
He frowned, adorably confused as he looked from her to Lee, who shrugged, having no idea what Kara was doing either. "What then?"
She stole his cup and drained it. She hated this sort of thing, she was no good at it, but if she didn't try, she'd lose at least one of them anyway. So what the hell. Time to roll the hard six.
"Come with me. To the cabin spot. We can talk there." Quivering with uncertainty, she didn't dare look either of them in the face. There was one obvious solution to this problem, but she didn't know if either of them would go for it. Lee wasn't religious, but he was sort of conventional and idealistic about his views on fidelity and marriage. She thought Sam would be more flexible; she remembered when that video of him making out with some male dancer or yoga instructor in a club had hit the C-Bucs fan sites like a bomb. The video quality had been terrible, but hot nonetheless. Sam's statement afterward had simply requested privacy in private moments, which Kara had assumed meant it hadn't been the first time. But being willing to frak both girls and guys wasn't the same thing as what she wanted.
She led them both into the dark, away from the settlement until the sounds of the celebration faded behind them and she could hear the wind in the scrub. She knew the way, up the narrow sandy defile, past the rocks, to where the short trees rattled their leaves.
Sam was last, steps dragging, and when he hit the top of the ridge, he folded his arms and stopped. "This is far enough."
"We're not to the--"
He cut her off. "I know where we are. Say what you want to say."
"Well, if you're gonna be like that--"
"How am I supposed to be, Kara?" he demanded, low and irritated. "It's obvious we're here to hear the results of the little game you've got going, so spit it out."
"It's not a game!" she protested, "and that's the problem!" Then she bit her lip and turned away. Gods, this was a stupid idea and it was never going to work. If Sam was this hostile even before hearing it, she'd be lucky if he didn't spit in her face before walking away.
Lee asked, in a more reasonable tone, "Then what's the problem?"
"It's not a game," she repeated more quietly, looking out toward the wilderness to the spot where she and Sam had decided to build their cabin with its view of the western valley. "I want both of you. And I suppose that makes me the awful person my mother always said I was, but I don't want to choose. So I was thinking --" she swallowed hard and turned back to face them, blurting it out, "We could all get married."
Both men looked stunned. Lee found words first. "What? You ... you're thinking of group marriage? Seriously?"
Okay, that wasn't the most promising start. But incredulity was better than outright rejection. She nodded, and added, trying to sell it, "Group marriage is allowed by the Scrolls. None of us are religiously opposed, and we're all Capricans, or as good as," she corrected herself with a glance at Sam, "where it's permissible. I know it's rare, but not unknown. It would bind us together, and I wouldn't have to lose anybody..."
"So, basically you want to be able to frak us both, without feeling guilty," Lee said.
She flinched. "You make it sound so dirty!" she objected defensively. "Is it so terrible to want both of you?"
Neither of them answered at first.
Sam lifted his eyes toward the cabin spot. When his gaze returned to her, he seemed sad. And he said with obvious reluctance, "Kara... group marriage is for people who love each other. I barely know Lee. And while I guess we both love you, he's right -- if this is about frakking us both, that's not what I want out of marriage. For me, marriage is forever - it binds our souls. If you really loved us both, then... maybe. But I won't get married so you can have a three-way."
"But I do love both of you," she protested. "If I didn't, it wouldn't matter. I could do what I wanted: I could frak around, we could have a three-way, we could have frak parties, anything. It'd be so much easier. But I don't want one night of all three of us in a bed together -- not that I'm against it or anything," she admitted with a short laugh, "but I want more than that. I can't lose you. I know it's selfish, I do, but I don't want either of you to walk away. And ... and this is the only solution I can think of," she finished, feeling stupid and pathetic, convinced this was never going to work.
She looked at each of them in turn, waiting, folding her arms and making her hands into fists. No one had walked away yet. That was a good sign, she tried to tell herself.
To her surprise, Lee spoke first. "Maybe we could try something not so binding?" Lee suggested hesitantly. "Let Sam and I get to know each other at least? I'm going to have to stay up on Pegasus for a little while, anyway, until Dad is convinced the Cylons can't find us."
She smiled, relieved and happy at what could be a good compromise. "Like one year temporary vows? You can come down for visits and talk and get to know each other. And Sam and I can build the cabin. And we'll all get comfortable with each other, and you two will like each other. Because, c'mon, of course you will, and then, it'll be perfect."
Sam snorted skeptically. His arms were folded, and he was staring out into the dark. She frowned at him. "What?"
"Perfect?" he repeated. "You going to keep a timer when you're with each of us?" he asked, his smile wry and a little bitter. "Gods, I don't see how this isn't going to crash and burn terribly, but I keep considering it. I must be drunker than I thought."
"We can make it work," she insisted. He was considering it; that meant he wasn't saying no. She almost smiled. "As long as neither of you turn into jealous idiots, this'll work. I want both of you in my life, and I want it open and honest and all of us in it together."
The men's eyes met for a long, wary look.
"I know I'm asking you to share," she said. "And that's asking a lot." She impulsively stepped forward and grabbed one of their hands in each of hers. "I wouldn't ask if I didn't want to lose either of you."
"You're traveling in between," Lee added slowly, coming around to the idea. "So we kind of share you already."
"You're Persephone?" Sam asked, after a moment of silence. "Lee gets you above, and I get you below?"
That made her smile, something easing in her chest. "That sounds like a good arrangement. At least while we all get used to the idea and you two get used to each other." Her smile widened, looking from one to the other and back. "Because I gotta tell you I don't want it separate forever. I want you both with me. It'll be amazing."
She brought her hands together, bringing their hands to touch as well, and neither pulled away.
Gods, how had she gotten so lucky as to have them even thinking about it? Maybe Sam was right and this was going to crash and burn terribly. But, she couldn't help it. As long as they were willing, she would take it.
Her smile widened, thinking of those two bodies together. "And you could get together and I'll watch. That'd be... yummy."
"Kara!" Lee protested, pulling his hand free and looking as shocked by that as the idea of sharing her. He was so funny sometimes. "No! This is for you. I'll share you, or at least I'll try, but let's not get carried away." Then he realized what he said could be taken as an insult and glanced at Sam. "No offense. I'm just -- that's not what I'm into."
Sam waved it away. "It's okay."
She noticed he wasn't shocked by the suggestion of getting with Lee, and that made Kara suspicious he'd already thought about it. She wondered how far he would be willing to go with Lee, if Lee were willing. Maybe if they gave Lee time to get used to the idea, he'd try it. "Oh, come on, at least think about it," Kara told Lee. "Then it wouldn't all be on me. And gods know you're both hot."
"Kara--" Lee started to protest again but she shook her head, silencing him.
"Just think about it, that's all I ask. Because if we could build a full triad marriage, it would work better." And she desperately wanted to watch. Because, gods, that was the best fantasy-come-to-life she could imagine.
Sam intervened, suggesting, "Let's concentrate on learning to share you right now and getting to know each other. Before we add complications."
She dropped it for now, figuring he was right.
"Okay. Then, let's find a priest in the morning. And right now, I -- think we should start on that sharing thing." She grabbed both of Sam's hands in hers, went up on her toes and pressed a quick kiss to his lips. Then she did the exact same thing with Lee, noticing that they both looked away, when she was kissing the other. This was going to take some time.
Trying to lighten the mood, she suggested, teasing, "And now I think you should do the same with each other."
The two men's gazes snapped together, Lee's practically striking sparks, daring Sam to move forward. For a second she thought Sam might do it, to face down the implicit challenge, but then he chuckled. "Nice try, Kara."
"Can't blame a girl for trying," she retorted, grinning. Her eyes met Sam's, and understanding passed between them. It was going to happen eventually. Funny, how that thought of Sam kissing Lee made her stomach twist with jealousy and yet also made arousal start to seethe between her legs. But if she was asking them to get over their jealousy, she had to get rid of hers, too. Which she did by imagining the two of them - naked, sweaty, and gods, so frakking beautiful -- locked together. Yeah, she wanted that.
Licking her suddenly dry lips, she turned away. "Come on, Lee. We'll show you the site."
She led the way, with Lee following her and Sam tagging along behind. They hiked along the ridge, until she stopped in a clearing.
Then she turned with a smile. "Here. This is it."
"Looks better in daylight," Sam observed.
Kara watched as Lee stopped and turned slowly to take in the sights.
There was a tall tree, and some lower scrubby trees in a semicircle around a clearing. The grass was thick and high with only a few loose rocks. Opposite the big tree was an opening with a view of a small valley. The brook in the valley was just a damp spot now, but it would run when it started to rain which would give them water for gardening. Above, the sky was deep black with sharp stars and the distant but bright gas giant sending its silvery light across them.
"It's lovely," Lee agreed with a slow approving smile. Kara was relieved, though she hadn't really doubted he would like it.
"We found it on a hike a few weeks ago," Kara said. "We've been all over the nearby area." Actually, they'd had sex over most of the region, but she didn't say that aloud. Sam's quick smiling glance at her said he was remembering, too.
"We rejected anywhere that has too much sand," Sam said, his voice a little dry.
Kara chuckled. "It does get everywhere. But this place is much more comfy." She sat down in the grass and started to take off her shoes, both Sam and Lee watching her in some puzzlement.
"Sit down," she urged them. "Come on. Let's stay here for a little while." She pulled off her socks and wiggled her toes, enjoying the touch of the breeze.
"You're... going to stop, right?" Lee asked, but settled down cross-legged.
Just for that she was tempted to keep pulling off clothes, but instead she laughed at him. "Such a prude in your old age, Apollo. Fine. No strip triad tonight."
Though that did give her a really great idea...
"Oh no, I see that face," Sam teased and dropped to the ground in that way that ought to be clumsy with his size, but instead turned into something graceful. It was like watching a lion, she'd often thought - not that she'd ever tell him -- large and strong but quiet unless roused. Whereas Lee was more... she glanced at him, wondering ... cheetah, smaller and leaner and quicker. And both of them insufferably arrogant in his own way, but she supposed that was hardly unique to them.
"I'll bring cards next time," she promised and grinned mischievously. "I know for a fact that Lee's played before, because I took his pants with a perfect full colors once. And somehow I bet you've played before."
"Strip triad? Me? No, never," Sam claimed innocently, and the others laughed.
But the laughter faded as they all wondered what to talk about.
"So," Lee said and stopped. Kara almost laughed again at the awkwardness. Here she was, with two hot guys she wanted in the sack and who'd actually agreed to that by some gods-damned miracle - and yet the three of them were sitting there, fully clothed, and looking so uncomfortable it might as well be a fleet performance review.
"So," Sam repeated.
"So, tell me about yourself," Lee suggested. "It seems we have to get to know each other."
Sam shrugged and bent one knee to rest his arm on. "Not much to know. I went to Queenstown University on a pyramid scholarship, turned pro at the end of my third year instead of graduating, played for the Silverstars, Panthers, and then was traded to the C-Bucs. Cylons blew the place to hell and here I am."
Lee smiled faintly. "Okay... now how about something I couldn't read on the C-Bucs official bio?"
"Don't have one," Sam answered. "My parents died when I was a baby. I grew up in group homes and foster care."
"Oh. I didn't know that. Sorry," Lee said.
Sam shrugged as if it didn't matter. "Don't remember it that well."
"And the accident?" Kara prompted. "I've never asked..."
He didn't have to ask her which accident. There was only one that mattered in his background, but it was one only true fans knew about, because he had stopped talking about it in the press. And in fact, he gave her a surly look, as if she wasn't supposed to ask. "Kara..."
Her hand curled over his knee. "Lee needs to know you're more than your rep."
"But I'm not," he retorted, with a skeptical snort. "I played pro pyramid. It's not like I was, I don't know, some kind of brain trust doctor or anything important." He waved his fingers to dismiss the whole topic. "I played ball for money, and I had all the things that went with that, like models and film premieres and department store appearances."
She frowned at him, wondering why he was so determined to make Lee believe he was shallow. There was a lot more to him than his rep as a player, on and off court. "Tell him, or I will."
"What? It doesn't matter anymore." But off Kara's look, he sighed and gave in, reciting the story as if it had happened to someone else. "Fine. Ancient history. In high school, I was on a school outing and the boat went down at sea. I managed to cling to a fishing float, all the way across the Narrows. I washed up ashore at Minos, mostly dead. I barely remember any of it. I was in the hospital for a month. The staff encouraged me to play for my recovery and that's how my pyramid career started."
"Oh gods," Lee murmured in shock. "I had no idea."
"And?" Kara prompted. "Tell Lee what you did for the hospital."
"I gave them money." He shrugged, shoving it off as no big thing. "Lots of players donate to charitable causes; it wasn't unique to me. Besides, they saved my life. If they'd been a typical institution, all paperwork and rules and no heart – I would've turned out different. But they weren't like that with me. They let me stay even when I should've gone back to Neiseon; they wrote Picon Child Welfare to get my case file transferred to Minos so the same case worker could keep watch over me." He paused and his expression softened with the memory and affection. "They saved me from being one of those street kids who steal from the tourists and do drugs. So it seemed like it was the least I could do, once I had some cubits in my pocket, was give some back.”
Lee, apparently already wise to Sam's self-effacing ways, asked, "Did you set up a foundation or something?"
"He built them a new hospital," Kara told him, and was glad to see the new respect dawn in Lee's eyes.
"A children's annex," Sam corrected. "Not a full hospital. I was never that rich." He smiled wryly. "But everything else you ever read about me is true. It's only after the attacks that I stopped frakking around. I realized how none of it – not the games, the parties, the lifestyle – none of it meant a damned thing."
Lee nodded thoughtfully. "That's pretty much true for everyone, I think. Survival is a pretty powerful motivation. Even in the Fleet we had to get a lot more serious. But ... I don't think that makes our lives before the attacks somehow invalid or empty, because we weren't fighting to survive. It's just how it was."
Kara thought the conversation was getting way too depressing, especially when the Fleet was safe, at least for now.
"I think we're all far too serious and we could use more frakking around," Kara grinned at them and had to stretch to reach Lee, too, but managed to curl a hand around both their thighs. "And I aim to fix that."
"Kara, now's not the time," Lee grabbed her hand to keep it from sliding upward.
She chortled and yanked her hand free to try again. "It's always time."
"Kara!" Lee fended her off as she made quick feints trying to get inside his guard; eventually she pushed him over on his back, gripping his hands, and she could swing a leg across his waist and smirk down at him gleefully.
"Lighten up, Leland," she mocked. "We've already been through the end of the world."
She was drunk enough to forget Sam was still there, until his hands clasped her waist and pulled her off, backward, into his lap.
"Hey!" she yelped, reflexively struggling, if not very hard, and he hugged her middle to keep her there.
He nuzzled at her neck, his breath hot on her skin. "We all get to play, Kara. And we're not always going to play the games you want," he warned softly.
She shivered at the implicit promise, then found her voice. "If you're telling me that you two are ganging up on me, then I say, bring it on, baby." She ground her hips into his lap, grinning as she felt his breathing falter.
Lee sat up. For a moment, she feared he was going to break the mood, as a strange expression passed over his face and his throat worked, but instead he crawled nearer and surprised her by kissing her.
It didn't last long, but long enough that it felt perfect. It was what she wanted -- one body behind her, one in front, both loving her. Then Sam's mouth fell away from her neck. Lee's eyes were open, but looking over her shoulder at Sam. They both seemed frozen as if surprised to find they were so close together.
"See?" she asked quietly into the sudden taut silence. "It'll work."
Whether it was her words, their proximity, or that they were touching each other as well as her, she didn't know, but the moment broke. Lee pulled back to sit cross-legged, and Sam's arms loosened and he nudged her off his legs.
"How about we just talk?" Lee suggested, not looking at either of them. "I'm not drunk enough for that."
"Yeah. It's... too soon," Sam agreed.
Kara smiled and pulled at strands of grass to twine around her fingers, wondering if they realized they were both implicitly agreeing that it would happen eventually. One day, all three of them would be naked in bed together.
She expected she was going to have to be in between them, at least at first, but that was definitely something to look forward to.