ghosts and clouds and nameless things.
squint your eyes and hope real hard,
maybe sprout wings.
22. Blue skies (even if they’re fake)
A long long time ago Lee went to the temple and arranged thin wooden statues in front of him, and he was told clap your hands together. Religion was watered down and made palatable, made into music, made into stories about bright vast beings who had flaws just as humans did but who were, on the whole, there to help.
A long time ago Lee stopped listening to the stories and listened to the flaws instead, and then he was infuriated at being lied to.
He wonders sometimes if the difference between him and Kara isn’t to do with the fact that he was given everything in stages, stories wrapped in wool; she was given the gods as cruelly as she was given any other gift, given them stripped of glory, and that kind of thing leaves an impression. She never clapped her hands: she held the statues from the very first day, even when they were too heavy for her. And Lee knows her inside-out and knows that she believes in that pain, because it was and is familiar.
Lee Adama resented his disillusionment. It felt like an insult. And yet he doesn’t envy her the extra loyalty; he is already divided and always has been.
30. How the air changes when someone you love walks into the room
With her arms wrapped around him Kara is suddenly small, receptive, instead of her usual explosive self. She wants to know that they’re okay, because sometimes she’ll let him be the one to decide that.
She moves her head a little and he whispers forever into her hair before he remembers that she doesn’t believe in forevers: she believes in cycles.
8. Living in convenient proximity to the stars
It is this that he carries away to the Pegasus with him, this resentment of her failure to believe in him – in them – to the same fierce extent that he does. Perhaps it’s that he can still taste saltwater and adrenalin in his mouth and still feel sunlight on his face, and he’s not willing to forget that he was ready to die, ready to carry her face with him so that it was the last thing he saw, imprinted on his eyelids, forever.
That word again.
The day that he leaves she gives him a note with a silly scribbled picture of a winged horse and words: vehicle for heroes? which is maybe her idea of an apology for not believing in forevers.
That’s just the way she was raised, after all.
It’s not her fault.
Lee shoves the note into a drawer of his huge Commander’s desk and resents her even more for reminding him that he loves her; hugely, hopelessly, like stars and lies.
20. Knowing that you’re never going to be useless
Commanding a Battlestar is exhausting and on second thoughts he doesn’t have time to fly around in a Viper any more, much as he’d like to; no, not even for a single four-hour shift, and that is absolutely and utterly the only reason why he takes his name off Kara’s rosters two days after he’d said he’d love to be flying again.
“All right, sir,” says his CAG, and blinks.
“That’s all it is,” Lee repeats, walking away.
Four days later he gets her letter, and watches his own treacherous face change in the reflective surface of his desk, and he thinks oh, that’s why.
2. Feeling the water turn cold just as you’re finishing your shower.
Things to enjoy about being alive.
Actually what he likes most about the list is the impossibility of it all, and the messages she’s left in the gaps: number two means that she’s getting up earlier, which means that she’s taking her responsibilities seriously. Number twenty-six means that she hasn’t yet forgiven him for not flying with her, and may never forgive him for chaining himself to a desk, but she still thinks of him as Apollo.
Life is occasionally a speck of guilt in a breathtaking emptiness but number nineteen means trust me, you idiot, and Lee thinks it might be about time to let her off the hook.
Besides, the definition of implicit is that it never really leaves you.
She signed it Take care, Kara.
So he reads the letter six times in a row and that night he dreams of deep dark water underneath a sky that goes on forever, the constellation of Apollo set against the black-ink curve of space and reflected in the surface below, symmetrical, divided. And Kara flies past and says, “You’ve got to choose one or the other, Lee,” as she crashes into the star that represents his heart.
10. Anticipation of calling in favors from the 49,000 odd people who owe you their lives
Unavoidably he dreams; dreams the water, dreams in terms of hissing oxygen and bouyancy, and wakes up wishing that these dreams would fade from his memory as quickly as all the good ones seem to. He reads the list in half-darkness, memorising the exact angle of her careless lettering, the way she crowds her words obstinately against the edge of the page, refusing to stop even when it must be obvious that there isn’t quite enough space.
No hesitation and no do-overs.
He may be taking this just a little too seriously.
But no matter what she intended, the facts remains: the reasons are good ones, and sometimes he needs to be reminded why he was glad to open his eyes to the tearing pain across his chest, throbbing chills in his hands and Racetrack’s terrified face.
He does mean to write back and tell her about all of the occasions on which the list has been helpful, but one day follows the next and then there’s just too much to fit into a letter.
26. Being one of the two best pilots left in the known universe
“Sorry!” Cally squeaks, her face already struggling not to break into a grin. “Apollo! I didn’t know you were…I’ll just…sorry.” She dashes past them, grabs a tin of cleaning liquid, and then makes her escape.
“Well, that’ll be all over both ships in no time,” Dee says. Uncertain, so he puts his arms back around her from where they had jerked apart.
“I don’t mind,” he says firmly, deciding that he doesn’t, even though this isn’t exactly what he imagined he’d be doing after his meeting with his father. Meeting, not pleasant chat; Admiral and Commander, not father and son; the Old Man trying and failing to pass on advice without sounding critical. Lee had walked out feeling like the pressure was leaving fissures in him, and running into Dee was a breath of fresh air – Hello, Petty Officer, fancy meeting you here – which became a conversation which became sympathy, her hand slipping into his, which became Commander Lee Adama of the Battlestar Pegasus kissing a pretty girl in a supply closet.
“It’s not just your war, Lee,” she had said, all earnestness with a touch of accusation, which he liked, because with Kara Thrace no longer under his command, nobody accused him of anything any more. Not to his face.
And in the space left by Cally’s departure he thinks about taking care, and the fact that he’s never been very good at doing it for himself. But Dee has competent hands and a smile like cool water, and this is what he needs right now: the drip-drop of her willingness into his cracks.
Kissing her is like a rush back to something he thought had been lost, like a river flowing uphill, and nothing at all like Kara holding his face between her hands and trying to find the love in his mouth with her tongue so that she can catalyse the conversion of its taste into that of someone else entirely.
It becomes something, a not insignificant Something, and Dee’s transfer to the Pegasus is approved and Lee thinks: take what you can, right now.
Which wasn’t on the list.
Which he’s glad of, because otherwise he’d feel guilty about it and
knows exactly why.
23. Watching the faces of nuggets the first time you insult them for existing
At some stage he must have read a memo or signed a form that dictated the presence of Galactica’s CAG at some minor strategy meeting, but it’s been lost enough in the organised chaos of his mind that turning a corner on C Deck and bumping into her is a shock. Her face is knocked into something almost soft, very wary, and she stares at him while he flashes quickly through their whole frakked-up history and remembers that he’s forgiven her.
“Ah, I was just going to lunch,” he says. “If you’re free…?”
She shrugs, and he’s read more from her on the strength of less; it seems that there is still something for which he hasn’t been forgiven. But she follows him into the mess and sits across from him and Lee falls into the old, old pattern of pretending that what’s on their plates is far more edible than it is, and that what he feels for this woman is far less consuming than it is.
“We used to be friends,” she says out of nowhere, and Lee swallows down his mouthful before he can choke. “What happened to that?”
It can’t be that simple; it never is, with her. He looks away. “I’m sorry,” he says.
“That’s not an answer,” she says – damn her – puncturing his dismissal with her usual perfect aim.
Suddenly he wants to give her this because she knows that she doesn’t want it; like she never wanted the gods to be flawed; like she never wanted to grow up as fast as she did. He wants to press his love for her into her hands and hold her fingers tight around it and not let her release it, no matter how much it hurts. No matter how she tries to run. He wants to hold her tangled in it until she has no breath left.
But he’s Lee Adama, so what he says is, “I miss you.”
Her lip sticks out. Stubborn. “So what’re you gonna do about it?”
For the first time it occurs to him that maybe he’s not just meant to be fixing his own life with her words. Maybe she expects him to fix hers as well.
“I’m guess I’m going to liaise with Galactica’s CAG more often,” he says obediently.
And she says, “Damn right you are, Apollo,” and smiles like all of the regrets he’s been trying to discard
13. Earth could be pretty frakking awesome
“Pegasus actual,” he says, to piss her off.
“Dipstick,” she says cheerfully, in return. “What do you want?”
“Your refueling schedule is a mess,” he says, and they’re off. Yesterday it was personality clashes amongst the pilots. The day before that it was sourcing maintenance tools. Wrapping themselves in mundanities for safety’s sake; but her voice relaxes a little more each time, and it feels like they’re fixing something.
“So, Dee’s pretty,” she says later. An irrefutable statement, such a stubbornly Kara way of telling him she’s heard about them. There is absolutely nothing he can call her out on, no way to argue, no hint of bitterness in her voice that he can discern. She’s so good at this.
All he can do is agree with her, and it’s easy enough, because he means it.
“Well,” she says, “I think it’s great,” and he takes a moment to shift and sort through the list that lives in his head, now, and he gets stuck on the intrusive memory of Kara so warm and uncertain in his arms, but then he plucks out trust me, you idiot.
And he does. In the end.
“Me too,” he says.
7. Actually doing what you’ve been training most of your life to do
With his feet set in the centre of CIC and his mind creating vectors and schematics, he entertains the conceit that there are no disillusionments left. He has command of a Battlestar, his morals are stretched tight like a wire, he sleeps with a woman and they both pretend that he loves her enough. There are no gods and he doesn’t really think that they’re going to find Earth. Eventually the need to scream with an engine so that he doesn’t end up doing it with his voice is so strong that he shoves all of the avoidance aside and puts himself on a CAP roster.
“What if –” he starts, and Dee shakes her head.
“Then the XO will handle the initial coordination, and you’ll get yourself home as soon as possible. Don’t worry about it, Lee.”
A sensible plan that works right up until the Cylons do appear, when suddenly Lee’s mind is wiped clean of everything but fire and reflex and Starbuck’s jubilant yells and the jagged rain of adrenalin and stars and manouevres and warnings, and the last thing he’s going to do is make a run for home. And then Kara’s engine gives out and the idiot tries to pretend that there’s nothing wrong and then tries to pretend that she doesn’t mind her own helplessness and he’s so frakking sick of pretending.
“We can do this, Kara,” he says. “Number twenty-six, remember? Reason twenty-six.” He speaks without even thinking, so accustomed to the list scrolling bright and effortless through his mine, and then feels like a fool: she won’t remember the order, and he’s just given away how many times he’s read the thing.
Her Viper flips and a Cylon missile dives through empty space, and when she finally replies she sounds like she might turn her guns on him – “How about reason forty-one – the need to kick your frakking wingman’s sorry ass from here to the Lagoon Nebula?” – and Lee’s so relieved he could laugh. Instead, he throws away the pretense.
“You know my ass is available to you any time, Captain,” he says, and she laughs as she blasts another Raider down.
“In that case, Commander, get that ass safely back to your ship. I’m fine.”
“Not a chance.”
Five heart-hammering minutes later and they’re spinning clear through a sky full of debris. She lands with her usual flair, even half busted up, even in the unfamiliar Pegasus bay.
“Idiot!” she yells as soon as they’ve got her helmet off, “Idiot, idiot,” but she’s laughing, and he’s laughing, and surprised at himself.
19. Friends who trust you implicitly
“You’d have done the same for me,” he says. “Kara. Kara, it isn’t frakking locked, just come in.”
She laughs through the metal: “Damn right I would have,” her amusement catching the edge of the hatch wheel as it spins.
He was wrong: there were layers of disillusionment left to expose, which Kara does, with her smart mouth and her desert skin and her hands –
She’s saying, “I missed you,” as she tangles her fingers in the metal chain around his neck, and, “Don’t read too much into this, okay?” as he goes where she pulls him. All over her skin bright with sweat and the muscles underneath shivering with her breath and her beautiful eyes and her legs, opening.
Lee feels, again, insulted.
But he waits until she is distracted and her eyes half-closed her body shivering, and then he kisses her and she knows him outside-in and tries to pull away before he can say it, but he holds her face between his hands.
“I love you,” he says.
“That’s your problem,” she says, and Lee smiles, and lets it go, and five minutes later –
“I love you.”
But of course this time she’s shuddering around him and she takes a while to come down, and by then the words have sunk in a little further. This is the only way to make an impact on Kara Thrace. By the look in her eyes she is not surprised at his cruelty; but she believes him, and that is something.
I love you I love you until she stops pulling away.
1. There will always be time to discard your regrets
“I have to go,” she says, looking at him sideways as her limbs disappear into her clothing, shocked into sobriety.
“You’re coming back,” he says. “I trust you. Implicitly.”
Sarcasm creeping back around the edges of her mouth, and he’s glad, because he never wanted to destroy her: just hold her in place for long enough to change her. “Implicit trust, Lee? Is that anything like unconditional love?”
Yes, he thinks, yes: just as destructive and just as unavoidable.
“I wouldn’t know,” he says, “you’re the one who wrote it.”
“Yeah,” she says with her lips curving, “I guess I am.”
And she steps across the threshold.
And the air changes back.