summary: kara/lee. kara/zak. five things that never happened to kara thrace.
a/n: thanks you, as always, to pen.
The party has been going for three hours and Kara has a slight headache when she manages to make her way through the crowd to the bar.
Just as she’s ordering, the woman beside her turns and manages to sweep her glass off the counter. The liquid sloshes down the side of Kara’s dress, and both women watch as a long strip of darker blue appears.
“Oh, frak,” the woman says, and even her words are messy. “Sorry. Frak.” She drops awkwardly to her knees next to Kara and tries to jerk the alcohol off the material. “I’m so sorry.”
“It’s fine,” Kara says, stepping back out of the woman's reach. She looks up and the bartender is already offering her a paper towel. “Thanks.”
“She’s been here a while,” the bartender says quietly. “She’ll be passed out within the hour.”
The woman pulls at Kara’s arm.
“Do I know you?” she says. “I’ve seen you before.”
The smell of ambrosia and something harder coats the woman and Kara leans backwards. “I don’t know,” she says, wiping unsuccessfully at her dress.
“You were just dancing with Gaius,” the woman says, pushing her hair back with one hand. “He’s very good with his fingers,” she whispers. “Very good.”
“You knew him on Caprica?”
“No.” The woman smirks. “We met on Cloud Nine.” She looks blissful for a moment and then turns to the bartender. “Can I have another?”
The bartender slides Kara’s drink towards her with a long-suffering smile just as Lee appears at her elbow. He looks down at the stain on her dress and the towel in her hand and raises his eyebrows.
“Not my fault,” she tells him, placing the towels back on the bar and shaking her dress out one final time. “For once.”
He laughs and she grins, picking up her drink. “Enjoying the party?”
“So so,” he replies absentmindedly, his eyes drifting down over her again and something like triumph sends warmth pulsing through her. He’s close enough that she can smell his aftershave, and even after three hours of being in the crush of people, he still smells clean and fresh and nothing like the woman she was just talking to. Over his shoulder, she sees Baltar approaching and her skin crawls.
“So… Lee,” she says, looking from him to the dance floor. He grins.
“If you want to ask me to dance, just ask, Kara,” he tells her, and she rolls her eyes.
“I’m not asking,” she says, and grabs his hand as he laughs. Their fingers tangle together easily as she tugs him out onto the crowded dance floor.
As they pass Baltar, she taps him on the shoulder. “I think the woman at the bar wanted to talk to you about something,” she says sweetly, and Baltar looks over to where the blonde is slumped over the counter and Kara swears she sees him flush before Lee slides his arm around her and they start moving in time to the music.
“What was that about?” Lee asks. His breath is warm on her neck and she fights off a shiver.
It’s halfway through the second dance when she notices the woman slip off her stool and collapse neatly onto the floor.
Three dances after that, she notices Baltar covertly leave with another tall blonde and she grins into Lee’s shoulder. “Baltar has a thing for blondes,” she says quietly. Lee's jacket is soft against her cheek.
“You keep saying that.”
“It’s nothing,” she repeats, letting her mouth brush his neck. She feels his fingers flex once on the small of her back through the satin and chiffon. “Enjoying the party?”
“Hating every second of it,” he says, and she can hear the smile in his voice.
“You realise I could kill you before they come back into the room? I could get to my feet, rip your skull from your spinal column, crash through that door and kill you in less time than it’s taken to describe it to you?”
His face is a mess of blood and sweat and anger, just as she mixed it.
“Then why don’t you?”
“Because it’s not time,” he replies after a pause, and she has to smile.
The next sound she hears is metal snapping and then she’s slammed up against the door and held there by one of his hands. She thinks, briefly, he wasn’t lying, before raw fear crashes through her. His fingers are tight and slippery around her throat.
“Now it's time,” she hears Leoben say, faintly, as if from great distance, and his hold on her gets tighter and she didn’t think that was possible.
The blood is pounding in her ears, and she’d beg but she can’t breathe.
“Go home, Kara,” he says, and even as the world is losing colour, she wonders how he knew her name. His grip is like fire. “If you have a soul.”
And even as everything gets darker and her lungs, chest, throat are burning, she thinks it’s going to be fine because the guards are rushing up behind him and -
Cards, ambrosia and Tigh to insult. Perfect, Kara thinks, rocking backwards on her chair and watching Tigh fidget with his cards.
“Where’d you get that nickname anyway? Was that before you were thrown into the brig as a cadet for drunk and disorderly or after?”
She grins, knowing Tigh’s hand must be bad if he’s trying to bait her like this.
“After… that’s right, it was after.”
She glances down at her hand, and looks up to see Helo smirking at her around his lollipop. She’s not surprised. He was in the brig with her after that particular incident.
She watches Tigh throw his bet into the middle. “How’s the wife?” she asks casually. Helo’s eyes widen in appreciation.
“The wife is fine,” Tigh says finally, after Helo’s thrown his bet in.
“Talked to her lately?”
It’s a low blow, and she knows it. And it’s her turn to call.
“Alright,” she says. “Thirty to me, and it looks like I’m going to bring this lovely little game to a close ‘cause – full colours!”
The irritating dance she performs is entirely to incense Tigh and she knows she’s been pushing him, has been since he sat down, but she does not expect the poker table to come flying at her the way it does. She tries to move out of the way, but she’s not quick enough and it crashes down into her ankle.
“Frak!” she says, and her wish to smack that look off his face takes second place to her ankle because it hurts that frakking much. “Frak. You bastard!”
By the time she's worked out whether she can put weight on the joint and then how to get around the table, Helo and Boomer are in between her and Tigh. She clenches his fists in frustration as he leaves.
“You should have let me hit him,” she tells them, bending over and picking up her winnings.
“You would have ended up in the brig,” Boomer says.
Kara shrugs. “It would have been worth it,” she says, and Helo grins.
“Never strike a superior officer,” he tells her. “We learnt that in flight school.”
“By many trips to the brig.” She laughs. “You were as slow a learner as me.”
Boomer laughs. “You two...” she says.
“Oh, you love it,” Helo says, nudging her with his shoulder, and Kara wonders, not for the first time, exactly what kind of emotional mess Helo’s got himself into.
“Still. What if we’d needed you?” Boomer says, turning back to Kara.
“Please. When was the last time anything exciting happened on the Galactica?”
Helo shrugs. “I think they just built a gift shop somewhere...”
“That’s exciting in your world, Helo?”
"Shut up, Buck," he tells her, and she laughs.
His office smells like stale cigar smoke.
“Take a seat, Starbuck,” he says, and she sits down gingerly on the other side of the desk and watches him ruffle through some papers.
“You’re just doing that for dramatic emphasis,” she says finally, and he laughs.
“No beating about the bush with you, is there, Starbuck?”
“No, sir.” Her palms are sweaty all the same.
“Well,” he says, reordering the papers one final time. “I’ve come across some, well, interesting information.”
“Regarding you and a certain Zak Adama?” She opens her mouth to speak but he cuts her off. “Don’t bother denying it.”
She looks at him squarely. “I wasn’t going to.”
He chuckles. “I didn’t think you would. You’ve got more guts than that.”
“Thank you, sir. I think.”
“You do realise you’re his flight instructor?”
“With all due respect, sir, it’s not against the regulations.” She watches his eyebrows rise. “We checked,” she says defensively, annoyed to find the heat rising up her neck.
He still looks amused. “Starbuck, that’s not the point.”
“What is your point, sir?”
“My point is that you’re not an objective judge of his ability if you are involved with him.”
“I won’t pass him if he hasn’t got the chops,” she says, but she knows she’s losing this argument, and a tiny, traitorous part of her is glad this decision could be taken out of her hands. She knows how much Zak wants to please his father, wants to live up to his big brother’s name - but she also knows his landings are shoddy and probably always will be.
“I know you think that, but I’m still assigning Lieutenant Stanley to Adama’s flight test.”
“Sir – ”
“Don’t argue with me, Starbuck,” he says. “Be grateful I’m letting you train him.”
She bites back the retort that springs to her lips. “Yes, sir.”
She turns back at the door. “How did you find out?”
He grins through the cigar smoke now wreathing his head. “That’s my secret, Starbuck. See if you can work it out.”
She’s there, nearly there, when she stumbles over a chair and the books on it slide onto the floor with an impressive crash.
“Frak!” she says under her breath, whipping her head around and freezing as he stirs. “Frak frak frak.”
She backs towards the door, praying that he doesn’t wake up, but the gods are unkind and he opens his eyes just as her fingers close around the handle. Bright blue pins her neatly to the doorway. She looks away.
“Hey,” he says. “Where are you going?”
“I was just – ” She runs out of words, and twists her hands together. Too late to run now, she thinks.
His eyes rake down over her and his forehead creases.
“You were leaving?” he says, and she doesn’t understand the tone in his voice.
She doesn’t understand any of this.
She shrugs. “I thought – frak, I don’t know, Lee.” She runs her hand through her hair. “I didn’t know what you’d think.”
“Kara.” He pushes himself up slightly on his elbows. He has a bite mark on his neck. She wasn’t gentle. “Come here.”
“Lee - ”
She drops her bag next to the door and the noise it makes hitting the carpet sounds like surrender. She moves around the room, carefully avoiding his clothes which are still strewn all over the floor, and stands awkwardly next to the bed. He reaches out and catches her sleeve, tugging her closer.
“Why were you leaving?”
“I – we were drunk, Lee.”
“No, we weren’t,” he says, simply. “And you know that.”
“Frak,” she says, touching the sides of her face. Her skin feels hot. “This wasn’t supposed to happen.”
“But it did,” he said, and pulls her roughly down onto the bed next to him, down onto sheets that still smell of them, and she remembers with gut-twisting intensity the way his skin felt against hers, slick with sweat, and the way she’d gasped his name over and over when he made her universe explode into white light. Her body starts crawling with lazy heat and he’s watching her, eyes full of tentative hope and warmth that makes her breath catch somewhere.
“Lee,” she says.
His fingers trace the line of her throat, lingering on the bruise she’d seen in the mirror when she’d brushed the taste of him away with his toothbrush. “Do you regret this?” he says.
“No,” she says and his face relaxes, almost imperceptibly. “But I thought you would.”
He leans in then, and kisses her with the gentleness she’d always expected of him but hadn’t seen the night before, and one of his hands pulls her closer until the heat of him creeps through her clothes and into her skin. The other is still holding the hem of her jacket.
She’s not going anywhere.