Lee handed the last folder to the President (because even now he couldn’t refrain from thinking of her that way) and headed out to the shuttle bay to catch a raptor over to Galactica. As he disembarked in the hangar deck, Lee felt a prickle of tension in his neck. Would he ever be able to do this without double-checking the perimeter for ambush possibilities, without envisioning the stark indifference on Racetrack’s face, without remembering the cold metal barrel pressed to his temple? He shook it off and thanked the gods that he kept forgetting he didn’t believe in for Starbuck’s deadly aim.
Lee frowned as he headed towards sickbay. Sam had to have been out of surgery for several hours now, he’d expected to hear word, not necessarily from Kara but from his dad or Tigh perhaps. As he pushed through the doors, Ishay rushed by him, scowling, a bright red mark on her cheek. Lee raised an eyebrow and noticed Hot Dog standing by a nearby bed with Nicky Tyrol. He tamped down a smile as he watched the pilot ineffectually trying to mimic a viper to get the kid to eat some algae.
Hey Apollo,” Brendan stammered. “Uh, I guess, I mean Lee.” He shook his head, as if the civilian name still didn’t feel right.
Lee smiled, “Hey, you know where they’ve got Anders?” His gaze wandered towards the curtained bays in the back of the room, but returned to Hot Dog when he saw the guy shift nervously from foot to foot.
“They took him. The cylons.” Brendan shrugged. “I mean Tyrol and Tory, they took him back to the baseship.”
“What?! Should they really be moving him like that? He just had major neurological surgery.”
Brendan grimaced. “He’s braindead, Lee.” The name rolled easily enough off the tongue this time, but the words before it stuck in Lee’s head. He heard himself exhale heavily and faintly realized he felt like he’d been socked in the stomach with a heavy glove. Which was a curious reaction, he though detachedly, given his history with the man. It’s not like he— “Kara let them take him?”
A look of shame crossed Brendan’s face. He shook his head. “She hightailed it out of here when she got the news. Ishay didn’t exactly break it gently.”
Lee sighed, thinking the nurse’s red cheek made a lot more sense now. “You know where she was headed?”
“No, sorry,” Lee started to turn toward the doors, but Hot Dog stopped him, “When you find her Apollo… Would you tell her I’m really sorry? About Sam and about what I said earlier.” Lee’s questioning glance had him blushing again. “She’ll know.”
Lee nodded and left sickbay. He started walking but wasn’t quite sure where to try. He didn’t know Kara’s life now the way he used to. He headed for the rec room on instinct, but realized he hadn’t seen Kara touch a drink or play hand of triad since before she…died. He winced. Even now, months after her return, it still wasn’t something he could stomach thinking about. Although, he thought wryly, you’d think he’d be used to it by now. After Gianne. After Dee. Lee figured he should be more accustomed to his lovers’ deaths. Ironic that he should have that in common with Kara. He thought of Zak and now Sam, who wasn’t dead, but might as well be, the poor bastard.
Ten minutes later he’d checked her viper, the ready room, officer’s quarters, Helo and Sharon’s, the head, CIC and his father’s quarters (although now he guessed he’d have to get used to it as his father and Laura’s quarters). Kara was nowhere to be found. Lee was at a total loss and was just about to ask Hoshi if he could have her paged, when he realized he hadn’t tried the memorial wall. He practically ran there, tracing down the long corridor, his eyes flicking towards the corner where he’d placed Dee’s picture just a week ago, but moving on. Kara wasn’t here.
Lee was thinking of the stranger places he might try (the brig? Baltar’s cult?) when he passed the small temple room at the end of the corridor and a flash of blond hair caught his eye. He stepped through the doorway, feeling the relief flood through him, but it was arrested when he saw it was the cylon instead. Caprica was lighting a candle. He turned away, but stopped at her words. “You’re looking for Kara, aren’t you, Mr. Adama?”
He scrubbed at his face wearily with his hand. “Have you seen her?” He took in the pregnant woman, and marveled anew at how life could blossom within a machine.
She nodded. “She’s with the civilians from New Caprica. I believe you refer to their quarters as Dogsville.” Her nose wrinkled slightly at the perjorative term and a bit of steeliness creeped into her voice. Lee paid little attention, wondering what the hell Kara could be doing down there. He turned towards the door once more, when Caprica called his name. His first name this time. “Lee. Tell her we’ll take care of him. He is our father and we will not forsake him. We will worship and love him for all of his days.” Lee paused in confusion. He didn’t understand a word she was saying, but he couldn’t waste time with explanations now that he knew where Kara was. He nodded curtly and headed down the two decks to Dogsville.
He hadn’t been down here since that time that doctor nearly killed Dee and Lee tried not to wonder how many times since then she might have wished Helo hadn’t saved her. He shook the thoughts from his head and focused, searching the floor for Kara. He’d forgotten how many refugees there were down here. After ten minutes of poking his head into cubicles, he found her.
Kara was sitting on a cot holding a small child. Blonde with ringlets and hazel eyes and Lee realized this must be Kacey, the little girl that skinjob had brainwashed her into believing was her kid. Even knowing the truth, he was taken aback by the resemblance. Kara’s eyes were closed and she was whispering to the little girl and stroking her hair. Lee felt embarrassed at intruding on such a private moment, but he couldn’t tear his eyes away from her. From them.
He felt that same rush he’d had when Hot Dog told him about Sam. Lee couldn’t breathe again. He thought he’d given up hoping for things like bright shiny futures, especially now, so he was stunned by the fresh wave of longing that passed through him as he watched Kara cradle the child. He had wished for this once. It thoroughly shocked him to realize he wished for it still.
He was still standing there, staring, when Kara’s eyes opened and caught his. They widened slightly but then she gave him a small, sad smile and Lee remembered to breathe. He walked over to the cot and sat beside her, as Kacey turned her head to look at him.
“Kacey, this is Lee.” Kara said softly. The girl looked at him uncertainly and Lee felt a rush of old insecurity in his veins. He’d never been much good with children. He mustered up a smile and said hello to the girl. Kacey grinned shyly and turned back abruptly to bury her head in Kara’s neck. She laughed softly and he blessed his clumsy way with kids for the first time ever. “It’s okay, Kace. He has that effect on all the girls.”
She dropped a kiss on the child’s head and stroked a hand over her hair and avoided Lee’s gaze, but she ever so slightly leaned towards him so her shoulder rested against his. Lee shifted, leaned into her too, offering support the only way he could, knowing Kara wouldn’t accept more right now. It wasn’t what he wanted. His arms practically ached, he wanted so badly to sweep them both up and not let go. But if he’d learned anything from dealing with Kara Thrace, it was that patience was a virtue.
They sat in silence for another few minutes until a pretty but harried looking woman bustled into the cubicle, holding bowls of rations. “Thanks Kara, sorry that took—Oh, Hello.”
As Lee nodded to the woman, Kacey’s head popped up and she scrambled off Kara’s lap, “Mommy!” The girl flung herself at the woman’s legs, who laughed as she bent to pick her up. Lee looked at Kara’s face, bereft in its utter emptiness and slid the arm she was pressed into around her, his hand resting on her lower back. Kara still didn’t look at him, but she leaned back for a moment, into his palm and Lee felt gratified he could give her this at least.
“Julia, this is my…” she faltered, starting again. “Lee Adama”
Julia smiled at him. “Yes, I recognized you from the press conference. I enjoyed your speech last week Mr. Adama.”
Lee stood to shake her hand. “I’m glad if it brought you small comfort. Please, call me Lee.”
Kara stood beside him. “I should really be going. I’ll come by again soon, Kace, OK?”
The toddler nodded and held out her arms toward Kara, who hugged and kissed her. She pulled back and shifted in Julia’s arms toward Lee, holding her arms open. His eyes widened in surprise. He heard Kara chuckle beside him and nudge him. He stepped forward and the girl threw her arms around his neck, squeezing with a fierce grip that made him wonder if she wasn’t actually Kara’s child after all. She let go just as suddenly and turned away, hiding her face in Julia’s shoulder this time.
They said goodbye to Julia and left. Kara and Lee were silent as they picked their way through Dogville’s maze of makeshift compartments and headed back up to Galactica’s main decks. As their footsteps sounded heavy down the quiet corridors, Lee felt the silence weighing on him, threatening to pull him down into its depths and he flailed for the right words. “Kara, about Sam—”
She cut him off with a quick, “Don’t Lee. Just…” Her eyes were trained on the deck in front of them and her pace didn’t slow.
Lee felt the silence slip over them again and waited till he thought he might choke from it before trying again. “Hot Dog said to tell you he’s sorry…” her face clouded over and Lee rushed on “…about what he said earlier?” Kara paused, then her lips quirked as if she wanted to smirk, but she didn’t say anything.
Twenty more paces and Lee tried again. “And, uh, I ran into the cy-, Caprica, the Six.” He exhaled heavily, prepared to barrel through this. But then he realized he couldn’t tell her this without looking her in the eye.
“Kara, stop! Please.” She did but she wouldn’t look at him, her eyes fixed stubbornly on the decking. Lee grasped her arms and said her name, quieter. “Kara.” No response. He slid his hands down her arms and caught her own in his, tangling his fingers with hers. “Kara, please.”
She raised her head, her mouth set in a fierce grimace, but her eyes, shining with a watery gaze, gave her away. “Lee—” and it hurt too much to hear her voice break so he cut in.
“Kara, listen, the cylons. They-” he squeezed her fingers a little, gripping harder. “-they took Sam back to the basestar with them.”
“I know.” Her voice was low, but she was holding it together. Lee marveled briefly, far from the first time, how the hell she could be broken again and again, yet still be the strongest frakking woman in the universe.
She nodded, biting her lower lip. “I ran into Tyrol after I hit—after I left sickbay. He told me they wanted to take him, that they could maybe do more, make him more comfortable there.” She hiccupped a hard breath. “I told him to do it. I want him to be…” and her voice caught and broke finally, finally, “…taken care of.” A sob slipped out involuntarily, and Kara pulled a hand away and covered her mouth. The tears spilled, cascading down her cheeks and Lee could hold back no longer. He pulled Kara to him, sliding both arms around her shoulders and cupping a hand around her head.
She was silent, only her shaking shoulders giving her away, but Lee kept shushing her softly anyway, stroking her hair, the way she’d held Kaacey. He was so caught in the moment he nearly missed what she was saying as she started to talk, the words pouring out in a frantic stream, muffled by the cloth of his suit jacket. “—couldn’t do it. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t keep him safe. I can never keep anyone safe—”
“Kara! KARA!” He ducked down a little, leaning back and catching her face in his hands. His thumbs stroked over her cheeks, wiping away the wetness. Her eyes were unfocused and she looked manic, in a way he hadn’t seen in a long time “Kara, this wasn’t your fault.”
She snapped her head up and locked her eyes on him, focusing again. “No, this wasn’t but everything else was. I never even told him, Lee. I never told him I loved him, not one godsdamn time.”
His heart twisted in his chest, but he just said, “He knew, Kara.”
“Maybe. But I should have told him anyway.” She exhaled raggedly and pushed back out of his grasp, hands rubbing at her face then pushing back through her hair, elbows up as her fingers locked on her head.
Lee stood awkwardly, unsure of what to do next. But Kara’s arms dropped abruptly and she turned back toward him, her swollen eyes fixing on him with a look he’d seen before, recently. It was right after she’d shot the marine to save him, right before she’d kissed him. “Lee, I love you.”
She didn’t say it romantically at all, it was more like a knife she was stabbing him with, but Lee felt his heart spasm just the same. Still, he was pretty sure it was just the guilt talking. “Kara, you don’t need to—”
“Yes, yes I do. I should have told Sammy a lot of things. But he’s gone now. I missed my chance.” She laughed wryly, a harsh choked off sound. “I’ve missed a lot of chances.”
She stepped closer to him, eyes fluttering, throat gulping furiously, and Lee was hit with a feeling of déjà vu, an all-too-vivid remembrance of a night in a field and a conversation about an apple cart. He saw Kara in front of him in double vision for a second, but then she reached for him and he realized this wasn’t at all like the last time and the vision faded.
Kara’s hand was shaking as she touched Lee’s face. “But we’re still here and I want you to know that. I love you, Lee, and I always have. Even—” she smiled ruefully, “especially—when I shouldn’t have.” Her thumb rubbed his cheek this time and Lee felt a click inside, like something that had been naggingly misaligned snapping into place finally.
He realized what it was a second later, it was his resistance snapping. The resistance he’d been trying to build towards Kara since she came back. Since realizing she was still married and just as untouchable as she ever was. Since he couldn’t afford to break again the next time she flew off and didn’t come back. Since he still saw that viper explode in front of his eyes too many times a week to count.
He couldn’t speak, so he just pulled her to him again and rested his forehead against hers. After a minute he pulled back and took her hand again, “Do you want to go to the baseship so you can be with Sam? I’ll get a transport if you do.”
Kara smiled at him, sadly. “No. Sam’s not gonna wake up and if he does, well, I’m not sure I could stand seeing him like that.” Lee nodded. His own feelings on Sam Anders had been a jumble of confusion. First a rival, then a friend, then a cylon. He was surprised, when Sam got shot, to realize none of it mattered. Sam Anders was a good man, he didn’t deserve this.
“Caprica said something I didn’t understand. She said to tell you they’d take care of him because he was their father? That they’ll worship him all of his days?” Lee looked at her in confusion.
Kara sighed and rolled her eyes and Lee was glad of the small normality of the gesture. She scratched her forehead. “Before the surgery, Sam had a memory. The bullet triggered something and he said he remembered everything about Earth and how the cylons were made. He wasn’t making much sense, but I’ll tell you about it.” She squared her shoulders and locked eyes with him again, trepidation written all over her face it.
“What is it, Kara? Did he know something about…about your destiny?”
She shook her head. “No, but about that… I have to talk to you. I wanted to before but…well, let’s just say I missed my chance.” She reached into her pocket and pulled something out, dropping it into his hand. It was a set of dog tags….and a silver ring. Lee’s glance skipped to the necklace Kara wore containing an identical set, plus a bullet. “I want to tell you now. It’s about what I found. On Earth.”
Her gaze was locked on him, narrowed and determined, but Lee could see an uncertainty in her eyes, a fragility he hadn’t expected. So he closed his fingers around the tags and took Kara’s hand with his free one and nodded. “OK, I’m ready.” And they wandered the halls of Galactica, talking and listening, destination unknown.