author: claira (mail to clairad@gmail.com)
summary: kara/lee. angst!
rating: pg
a/n: thanks you, as always, to pen.

[ w e i g h   t h i s   m o m e n t ]

It's exactly like watching a nugget on their first flight, he thinks, grinning as her laugh rings into his cockpit - the naturals are always drunk with power and Kara's no different.

"Oh, this is FLYING," she says gleefully to everyone and no one in particular, soaring down and around Lee's Viper. "She handles like a dream."

She'd spent days shamelessly begging the Commander to let her try the Raider - it required less strength in her knee and Tyrol was itching to get an evaluation of the Raider in flight - and his father had given in just as Lee knew he would. Now Lee is watching her fly like a mad thing around the Galactica, working off weeks of frustration with every manoeuvre she knows.

He laughs as the Raider swings in close around him again. "That the best you can do, Starbuck?"

"Oh, you're on, Apollo." She sounds like she's high on stims or too much coffee. "Five laps of the Galactica, now."

*

There is one lap remaining and Lee is just nudging ahead when the Raider seems to pause mid-turn, shakes and slides to the left. "Starbuck?"

"Frak." Kara's voice is a punch of panic. "She's not responding. Galactica, I've lost control of the Raider."

The Raider starts flipping, slow at first and then faster and faster and Lee realises that he can't hear Kara's breathing anymore and that means that she's scared.

"Starbuck - " Dee's voice cuts across space and slides into Lee like a knife. "You're on a collision course with Galactica."

"I know," Kara retorts. "I can see that, thanks."

"Starbuck, respond with status," Dee says and Kara doesn't answer for a moment.

"If I don't pull out, Lee is going to have to take me out," she says finally, and there is too much control in her voice.

"No," Lee says. "No frakking way, Kara."

She laughs again but this time it's full of ice and fear. "The cylon's didn't build these things with ejection seats," she tells him, her intonation choppy as the Raider rolls her over neatly, once, twice, three times.

"Forty seconds," Dee says and Lee's stomach slams up into his throat. "Thirty-five."

"Starbuck?" he says desperately.

"I'm trying," she shoots back. "Shut UP."

And the next thirty seconds haze into black space and stars and the Raider spinning in front of him, Kara pleading and swearing (frak Lee, just do it, Lee, NOW) and Dee counting the time down in five second increments, her voice choking by fifteen. At ten, his father makes it a direct order and his fingers are tight on the trigger but he knows that he can't do it (six-five-four) and then the Raider suddenly banks, pulls sharply to the right and grinds over the Galactica in a spray of sparks.

There is silence, total silence everywhere and then Kara speaks again. "Galactica, she's under control."

"Thank the Gods," he hears his father say quietly, and then "Both of you in, now."

Kara's already halfway there.

*

He doesn't say anything to Cally as he gets out of his Viper - he shoves his helmet into her hands and runs across the hangar. Kara's not out of the Raider yet but Tyrol is already yelling at her, and that somehow makes it real. He waits until the exact moment when she's on her feet and sees him (her face freezes, loses all colour) and then grabs her by the arm and marches her out of the hangar and down the nearest hallway blindly.

"You okay?" he says, not slowing, not looking at her.

"I'm fine." She's limping and he hates himself for not caring.

"What happened?"

"I don't know, Lee."

He stops and she almost falls; he's realizes then that he's still holding her arm and he lets go as if the material burnt him. "What do you mean, you don't know?"

She rubs her arm. "I guess - "

"Excuse me, sir," someone says, and squeezes past with an apology, so Lee pushes Kara back through the hatch behind them and slams it shut. When he turns, she's not looking at him. He rubs his forehead with his fingers and they come away wet with sweat.

"What did you say?"

"I must have prayed hard enough," she says, finally.

"Don't give me that shit, Kara."

"Oh Gods," she says, leaning back against the wall and Lee realises that she's still shaking violently with left over adrenaline. "This is worse than using up 43% of the reserve fuel and that was frakking insane."

"How did you - " he starts, but she cuts him off.

"It doesn't matter," she says. "What matters is you don't seem to be able to do your job. Captain."

He thinks for a moment that she's the only person on the ship that makes his rank sound like something detestable, and then the anger hits him and his hand closes around her bicep and he yanks her forward.

"I didn't realise that my job description would involve shooting your frakking Raider out of the sky," he tells her, and she smiles, slow and cruel.

"You had no problem taking out the Olympic Carrier," she says and his grip tightens so much on her arm that she gasps, and the only thing that stops him from hitting her is that he knows she wants him to.

"You of all people know that isn't true," he says, relaxing his grip. Her face flicks anger-frustration for a moment and then her eyes drop to his shoulder.

"I thought I was going to die," she says slowly, and then she looks up again, smiling, but it's twisted somewhere. "And all I could think about was how bad the Raider smelt."

"Kara."

"You should have shot me."

His other hand finds her arm and traces upward until his fingers are brushing the skin under the collar of her flight suit. He presses lightly and the muscles of her neck flex as she swallows.

"You should have."

"I couldn't do it, Kara," he says quietly. Her pulse is racing underneath his fingertips. "I just - ." He stops, because there is too much and nothing he can say, and she's so close now that he's a heartbeat away from grabbing her and kissing her until she is trembling and can't breathe, so that she understands what he felt like when his world narrowed into cross-hairs.

"I - ah - " She's looking everywhere but at him, and she licks her lips. "Lee."

The intercom crackles and then: "Captain Adama and Lieutenant Thrace to the CIC now."

She flinches and steps back and Lee thinks wryly that even the worst cliches have to happen occasionally.

He can still feel her skin underneath his fingers.

"We should go," she says. "They'll already be wondering where we've been."

Lee wonders how many people saw them go into this room and heard the lock snap - three? four? - and he knows what most people will be thinking. He thinks there's irony there, somewhere, but he doesn't tell her and follows her out of the room.

Chances are she knows better than him.

She usually does.

*

[ b a c k ]