Author: Sara C. (flowrs4ophelia)
Characters & Pairings: Lee/Kara(/Zak)
Summary: Without a war to bring them back together, it takes a lot for Kara and Lee to be able to forgive each other. And themselves.
Previous parts: Part I
Notes: Thank you for all the lovely comments so far, sorry I haven't responded to them! And no, you're not imagining things, I did originally say this was supposed to be three parts but I've realized it would be impossible to make it that short. Of course this originally started off as a one-shot like all my fics. LOL.
Kara gets home from grocery shopping just in time to catch her phone ringing. After three rings, she picks up the receiver, curses when she drops it on the table, and then finally says into it, "Sing out."
"Hello?" she says just as she then hears the click.
It felt strange to Lee to have so many people inside the house he grew up in for the funeral reception when he hardly spent any time there anymore, and now what it meant to him to be there and remember his childhood had changed so much. Everything in this house had always been immaculately clean, every surface perfectly polished, so that everything looked new and untouched. He wondered if the place seemed as cold to others as it did to him.
As soon as he went out on the back porch that had a view of the lake and mountains, Kara followed him. As he heard her sliding the door shut behind her and then approaching, he didn't turn around. She had to grab his arm and force him to turn and look at her.
"What the hell did you say to your father?" she demanded.
He just looked at her with a little alarm for a moment, not understanding exactly why she was so angry but feeling like he had somehow expected this at the same time. "Why, is he upset?" he asked in a dull tone.
She looked like she wanted to slap him. "Of course he's upset," she said with carefully contained rage. "You frakking jackass. His child is dead! What the hell is wrong with you? You feel better after that?"
"You know, I don't see why you care so much," he said. "Maybe you've practically been part of my family for a long time now, but you didn't see the things that went on in this house. You don't know what it was like for Zak and me. You don't have any idea what you're talking about."
"It doesn't matter," she says. "Not today. This is your brother's funeral. You think he would have wanted it this way? You have to do something, tell him you didn't mean it."
"Are you kidding me?"
"He thinks he's lost both of you for good!" She no longer looked angry, just devastated and hopeless. As he kept coldly looking away from her, she said softly, "Please. For me. I'm not asking you to forget everything, but your family should be together right now."
Something seemed to finally get to him for a second, and he shifted uncomfortably, crossing his arms. But then he just spoke with the same bitter tone. "So you be with him."
Kara stared at his face sadly. So there it was. The inevitable tear of separation that they had already started to feel the pain of the last time they saw each other sitting on the bench outside that store. It seemed like they had both been waiting for this ever since that moment that she wouldn't let him stay there with her: a way to make it easier for both of them. And she couldn't even be truly angry at him anymore right then, for no matter what he was guilty of she was guilty of more, and that was why she cared so much in the first place. There was only so much she could handle feeling responsible for. But it seemed the most she could do to try to fix this disaster at all was remove herself completely from his life.
"Fine," she said. "I will."
Kara felt a strange sense of peace once she was back inside the house and already trying to forget him standing alone out on the porch. She could now remember the last days they'd had, as three, Zak and Kara and Lee, and know that while they lasted those were good times neither of them would give up. She had ended it before she could screw things up any more and so it would be okay.
"Good afternoon, Delphi!" says a bright voice on the radio when she finally rolls herself out of bed way too late the next day after a long night spent out with some old friends. She leaves the radio on while she brushes her teeth, washes her face, and spends a good couple minutes just forcing a brush through her hair trying to get all the tangles out.
A small lunch out of what she has in the fridge that hasn't gone bad, some cleaning up around her apartment, and then jogging in the park again. There are now already some big red tents put up here in preparation for the Mars Day festival in a couple days. Too bad she's heard it's expected to rain.
She has been going for almost twenty minutes when she sees a dog running across the path in front of her trailing a leash and then notices who has to be the owner, a middle-aged woman frantically chasing after it but so behind it's obvious she'll never catch up.
Kara sighs and veers right off the path into the grass, trying to run after the dog to help catch it. She loses sight of it for a few seconds when it disappears over a hill, and then when she follows it and goes over the top she immediately freezes in her steps, eyes going wide.
The dog has stopped running and is going right up to someone whose side is turned to her as he kneels in front of it. He grabs the leash and then stands back up, looking around, and then he sees her and also freezes.
She and Lee are both just standing like this and staring at each other in alarm when the woman catches up to them and starts thanking Lee.
"Sure" is all he manages to say in his disorientation as he turns to her and lets her take the leash. Then she goes off and leaves them still looking at each other like they were before a moment longer.
Kara's look of surprise turns more mild, and then she just slowly turns away and starts to go back toward the path.
"Kara," he calls behind her, his tone unsure, and she can hear him following her.
"What?" she says carelessly, not looking back at him as she speaks and keeps walking. "If you have something to say to me, you'll have to keep up."
So he follows alongside her as she goes on running, but he doesn't say anything. He just keeps up, chasing her as closely as a shadow, as she finishes a lap around the entire park and then starts another. They eventually speed up to an aggressive pace, making pigeons scatter from the pavement in front of them as they turn quickly around corners and nearly running into a few people walking on the path, all the while keeping their faces turned forward and never looking directly at each other. Kara wipes her hair that is wet with sweat out of her eyes, breathing in almost angry-sounding gasps, feeling like she could do this all day and wondering how long it would take to shake him off her tail.
Then Lee disappears from the corner of her eye when he trips and falls straight to the ground.
"Ah, frak!" he says.
A few feet ahead of him, she stops running and turns around to look at him, catching her breath. "Come on," she says, and only then notices that he's bleeding profusely from the knee he landed on. "Oh, shit."
"Landed on a frakking broken bottle," he says, tossing away a large, bloodied chunk of glass.
"Well, wrap it up with something!" Kara says as she comes closer. "It's bleeding like crazy."
"Oh, for frak's sake—" She takes her shirt off over her head as she kneels on the ground and then ties it tightly around his knee. "Gods, this looks bad. How the hell did a bottle do this?"
"Yeah," he says as she stands up and then takes his hand to help him up. "Guess I should get to a hospital."
He starts trying to walk away with her while still holding her shirt over his knee to keep it from sliding down, and she asks, "Where's your car?"
"You think I drive here? It's only eight blocks."
"Okay...Damn." Kara stops and thinks for just a moment, then touches his shoulder to signal him to stay before she starts walking off. "Just wait here."
"What are you doing?"
"Just wait right there!" she calls back as she runs off.
A few minutes later, he sees something coming from far away and immediately says incredulously to himself, "Oh no..."
Kara is driving her huge four-by-four right over the grass to get directly to him. People in the park all around stop where they are and stare, some laughing, as she speeds toward him and then comes to an abrupt stop ten feet away.
"You are beyond insane," he says as he climbs into the passenger seat.
She just breaks out into giddy laughter and starts speeding away again before he's even quite shut the door.
"It's hardly like I'm dying, you know," he says.
"Didn't want to wait for your slow ass," she says as she turns quickly onto the road at the end of the block.
As they reach the hospital, Lee looks at her and says, "I assume you don't intend to come inside like that," referring to the fact that she is wearing only a sports bra on top.
"Absolutely not," she says, and he gets the impression she wouldn't even if properly dressed.
Only then does Lee realize something and say, "Oh. Crap."
"I don't even have my wallet. I don't have insurance information or anything on me."
"I wasn't exactly planning to stop for coffee or anything."
She sighs heavily. "Give me your keys and go on in. I'll get it and just bring it to the desk."
He takes his keys out of his pocket and as he hands them to her he starts, "Do you remember what—?"
"Yeah, I know which room it is," she says.
He gets out of the car and she immediately drives off, sighing again and shaking her head as she turns her music up very loud.
Lee's phone is ringing when she unlocks the door to his apartment and goes inside. As she takes a moment to idly look around the apartment that looks a little different now than she remembers, she hears someone leaving a message.
"Hey Lee, it's Jill. Just calling you back. Thought you should know I'm leaving today and will be out of town for the rest of the week, so I guess I'll just see you when I'm back. Bye."
Kara only now realizes that she didn't even ask Lee where his wallet was. As she moves a bunch of newspapers around on a table to see if it's under anything there, she finds something that makes her stop for a second. Lee's chain with his dog tags is sitting in the bottom of a fancy, clean glass ashtray in the middle of the table. She picks it up and dangles the tags in front of her face, smirking at them and muttering, "Son of a bitch," and then carries them in her hand as she keeps looking around.
When she goes back into his bedroom, she finally sees the wallet on the small table by his bed. She puts it in her back pocket and absently puts the dog tags on around her neck. Then she opens up his closet and smiles mildly as she looks through a bunch of his shirts, many of which look familiar. She picks a dark red one and puts it on with the top three buttons left undone and rolls up the sleeves to her elbows.
When her hand takes the door knob on her way out, she stops as if she suddenly feels someone watching her, remembering something, and then looks behind her at a wall where she knows there was always a framed photo of Lee and Zak when they were seventeen and fifteen. And there it still is, Zak's face, the sight bringing a tight and constrained feeling in her chest like it always does now.
She blinks, turns back around, and hurries out.
Fifty minutes and nine stitches later, Lee goes out into the waiting room of the hospital to find her wearing his shirt and looking at a magazine with her feet up on a table.
"You're still here," he observes, as if it surprises him a little.
She closes the magazine and tosses it down. "Your girlfriend or somebody called while I was at your place," she says.
He looks a little confused a moment. "Who, Jill?"
"That's the one, I think. I assume you only have one."
He just smirks and then sits on the edge of the seat next to her.
She looks over at him, biting her lip and looking a little bored, and then asks, "So can I see?"
Lee lifts up the bandage on his knee and she leans over to look close at the nasty long gash that is now sewn up.
She grimaces at the sight. "Does it hurt?"
He shrugs. "Yeah."
She looks back up at his face. "I know what'll help."
At a bar not far from Lee's apartment, they order the first round of shots to get it over with before they try talking much. Then Kara takes off his dog tags and starts playing with them, winding the chain around her fingers, and when Lee notices the name on them he goes still and stares.
"What are you doing with those?" he asks.
"What are you doing without them?" She drops them on the table in front of him. "You're not off duty right now, are you? You're done."
Lee picks up the tags and puts them in his pocket. "Yeah."
"I always wondered when you'd finally find the balls to do your own thing. What are you gonna do now?"
"Not sure yet."
"Hm. And you haven't told your dad yet."
"I did go see him. I thought I was going to tell him, but it ended up going so smoothly I decided not to push my luck by bringing up anything like that."
"In other words, you chickened out. Do you really think he'll give you a bunch of grief about it?"
He just shrugs. "It's hard to say what I really think when it comes to him anymore. All I know is it felt like the military was the only connection to each other we had left."
She rolls her eyes. "Give me a break...He did tell me you'd been around to see him. I just about had a heart attack."
Lee goes silent in thought for a while, knowing he's being prodded for some kind of explanation. "I guess I've been thinking a lot about what you said the last time I saw you," he says. "And even at the funeral...It's weird. Our parents are supposed to give us everything we need and be these heroes we can look up to. Sometimes it's hard to see that they have limits and can frak up as easily as we can. When I was growing up, I hardly ever saw my dad at all, and I certainly never saw him show any weakness. He was like this god who just occasionally graced us with his presence. And it was so strange, seeing him out of the uniform, out of work, just sitting at home with his bathrobe when I came over...I don't know. I guess I'm finally being able to see him as just a man."
"Is this your way of admitting you were an idiot for not realizing how the kind of things you've said to him would actually hurt him?" Kara asks. "Because you're saying this to the wrong person. What the hell are you doing with me right now anyway?"
He laughs. "Good frakking question. I didn't even know you were home right now, and I just run into you somewhere."
She easily detects the lie in his words and remembers a strange phone call, but she pushes it out of mind and doesn't say anything about it.
"So," she says after sighing like she's bored with the subject. "Lee. It's been a while. How's life? Why don't you tell me about your girl? Jill. It's Jill, right?"
He cocks an eyebrow, easily reading her complete disinterest in what she's asking about, but resolves to humor her. "She's not 'my girl.' We've just gone out a few times."
"I see. A new thing. What, hasn't she let you frak her yet?"
Lee looks confounded and says, "What the hell makes you assume that?"
"Uh, I don't know, maybe that you have the painfully obvious air of someone who hasn't gotten laid in way too long...Or maybe that's just you. I've had a long time to stop being so used to your constant tight-assedness."
He rolls his eyes. "Not that there's any good reason to tell you, but I have slept with her."
"Wow. And it was that bad, huh?"
She grins devilishly. "So where's she from?"
Kara's mouth drops open a moment while he just smirks at her reaction. "Aerilon?" she says back incredulously. "Oh. Nice, Lee. Way to broaden your narrow little rich-boy horizons. How the hell did you meet her?"
"Well...I got off on the wrong stop when I was trying to take a shuttle to Picon, and during my accidental visit to her Colony I rescued her from being used as a human sacrifice to the gods."
Kara throws her head back with explosive laughter, hitting the counter.
"Actually, we live on the same floor," he amends through his own laughing.
"Oh." She snorts. "So much for broadened horizons."
He jabs her with his elbow as she keeps laughing a little, making her drop the empty shot glass in her hand.
"Wow," she says, waving down the bartender for another shot as she sets the glass upright again. "I don't think I've ever once met anyone from Aerilon in Caprica City."
"Just because they aren't easily recognizable by wearing the most typical farm clothes possible doesn't mean they're not around," Lee says, sending her into giggles again.
"Well, now I know why she's so bad," she says, looking like she can't resist. "You know what they say about the Aerilonese..."
He shakes his head, smiling uncontrollably. "Oh, don't even..."
"They're eager for some action—you know, after living most their lives in old-fashioned small towns—but not necessarily experienced, right?"
"I didn't say anything. Look, she's lived on Caprica for seven years. I know it's not like I'm the first."
"Yet you're still trying not to laugh."
Lee shakes his head as she downs her shot, giving up, and then does laugh a little with a new thought. "Gods, how did I forget what a mean bitch you are?"
"I know, I know," she says. "Sorry. I'm sure she's great. I'm sure she's really...sweet."
Lee rolls his eyes again at her still mocking tone. "I happen to like nice girls, okay?"
"Of course you do. Why shouldn't you? After all...you're a nice guy. Usually."
Something makes Lee frown, his head filling with dark thoughts, those steep edges he avoids. Do it do it do it.
"Not that nice," he mutters before picking up his glass and taking the shot.
"What?" she says, though he's pretty sure she heard it.
He just shakes his head.
Now Kara is frowning, too. She lets out a long, exasperated breath, leaning over and resting her chin over her arm on the table. She stares at her glass, spinning it with one finger, and then speaks with a dark yet almost joking tone, as if she is just playing with an idea by trying to voice it in a way that makes sense.
"Well...what if I told you I killed your brother?"
Lee goes completely still and silent beside her. After a long hesitation, he starts speaking very carefully. "We both have to live with what happened to Zak. And it's probably natural to think of ways we could have prevented it or just things we would never have done or even thought if we knew we were going to lose him. Hell, the last time I saw him I kept bothering him about how he owed me fifteen cubits...But you can tear yourself up forever about what you took for granted or things you thought before and it doesn't change the fact that these things just happen and are completely out of our control."
"Blah, blah, blah," she mutters, still looking at the countertop. "Tell me something I haven't heard a million times before that doesn't help."
He hesitates even longer this time, and then his voice starts to sound quiet and very different, almost like he's talking more to himself. "You can meet someone and know right from the beginning that they're not for you," he starts very slowly. "That it can never be. But sometimes...it doesn't stop you from feeling something anyway. And that doesn't make you a bad person. We can't all be completely in control all the time."
Kara swallows as she sits up and still doesn't look at him, immediately fighting the nervousness rising in her. "You can," she says a little mockingly. "That's who you are."
"That's just what you think."
"Well, all I know is you've never done anything to surprise me in all the time I've known you."
They both say nothing more for a long time, drinking one more round. Then the bartender leaves the bottle of liquor he's been serving them with on the counter as he goes to another end of the bar. Kara eyes him for a moment as he's turned away mixing a cocktail, then quickly leans across the counter to grab the bottle and hides it in her jacket to smuggle it out. She tosses a thirty-cubit note on the counter so it isn't quite stealing and mutters to Lee, "Let's go."
Lee doesn't even blink. It's something she used to do so often she probably owes every bar in Caprica City a fortune in profit. He just gives her a slightly disapproving look and then follows her out.
It's surprising how easy it is to fall back into their old ways, laughing together as easily as they used to as they walk together back to his apartment passing the bottle back and forth, never seeming to run out of stories to tell from all the time they've been out of touch. But of course, at the same time, it feels very different from the way it used to be. There is finally, through all their laughter, some painful inner acknowledgment and acceptance that the old times are really gone and this is it. Just the two of them now.
Kara only meant to walk him back to his place and enjoy the nice night and then take a taxi home, but she soon realizes she hardly has any money left. By the time they sloppily drag themselves up the stairs in his apartment building and make it to his room they're both ready to collapse, but Lee has somehow ended up in worse shape than her and she ends up half-carrying him to his room. As she supports him with an arm around his waist, he goes to the bed and falls into it so quickly he almost pulls her down with him, which makes her have to just stand leaning over with her hands on the bed to support herself for a while as she keeps laughing so much it makes her stomach sore. He just lies completely still like he's going to pass out any moment.
"Look...your shoes are still on," she says, and then it takes her a ridiculously long time to be able to pull his shoes off and throw them on the floor.
"Heh...So are yours," he murmurs, belatedly responding.
"No shit," she says, rolling him all the way onto his back so he isn't so dangerously close to the edge of the bed. Then something very serious and wounded that has crept into the look on his face makes her stop and look at him.
Lee's voice comes out sounding strangely detached and unconscious, and suddenly deeply sad. "Did we kill him?" he says quietly. "Did we...sometimes...want him out of the way?"
She frowns, struck silent as she looks down at him, and after a while he drowsily looks away from her and closes his eyes. She slowly sinks to the floor and then turns to sit with her back against the bed, picking up the bottle from where she left it on the floor and taking another drink. Left alone with the silence and her thoughts pressing in on her, she curls her legs in against her and sinks her face into her crossed arms. Then one hand tightens around the bottle, the other curling into a fist, and she sits back up and throws the bottle across the room so that it shatters against the wall in front of her.