lostinapapercup: (survival instinct)
[personal profile] lostinapapercup
Title: Whiskey Makes the Band Sound Better
Characters: Kara, Lee
Rating: R-ish but nothing graphic
Words: ~1720
Summary: We all know Kara apologizes to Lee for her role in their conflict in Kobol's Last Gleaming, but that apology has always been one of the more difficult things I've had to rationalize when writing and roleplaying Kara. This pre-canon backstory is more or less the personal canon I've had in mind for it. I thought it was finally time to get it out in ficlet form.

Lee hugs her after the service. Lee, looking starched and hollow-eyed in the sunlight; Lee who's barely left his crying mother's side. Lee, who's looking almost nothing like the same drunken guy she double-dog dared to frak her on her dining room table while his brother was passed out on the couch. She can remember the smell of Leonis Merlot on his lips, one breath away from a kiss, and she still recalls the glazed guilt in his eyes when he pulled away.

This time she doesn't wonder if they would have or wouldn't have if Zak hadn't woken up. The grief's too thick and heavy around her shoulders. Even in full uniform she feels exposed: flesh and bone and guilt, her heart a stupid noisy thing in her chest. This time she has something else -- something worse -- to feel guilty about.

Her stinging eyes roll skyward as she breathes against Lee's shoulder and pats his back. She's tired of ceremony, tired of being around all these sympathetic faces, tired of looking the Adamas in the eyes.

She's had enough of trying not to cry.

Alone in her apartment, she stares down the bottles arranged on her counter top. There's Leonis wine, Glen Docan, two bottles of Caprican ambrosia. Most of them would've been celebratory: her and Zak, toasting each other and cooking together and looking through apartment listings and frakking like the almost-married.

She starts by opening the Glen Docan, and for once she doesn't drink because she enjoys the booze on her tongue, the burn in her throat, the flush in her cheeks, the heady can't-get-enough buzz through her veins. She drinks because Zak isn't around to help her -- will never be around to help her -- and she's sick of caring.

Besides, none of the bottles will drink themselves. Better in her stomach than on her counter, each one a reminder.

Her phone rings and she ignores it.

It rings again in an hour, and Lee's voice, quiet and almost halting, leaves a message.

She unplugs the machine.

At Thane's Bar on the lakefront, she downs her third shot of whiskey. The guy two seats over screams military from his severe haircut to his perpetually squared shoulders to the telltale chain she spies around his neck, tags hidden away under his shirt.

She doesn't recognize him, but when they make eye contact for the second time she moves over to the stool next to him and doesn't turn down his offer to buy her next drink.

He's a major from the Atlantia, a recent transplant from Leonis, and currently on shore leave. She listens, but mostly she drinks and leans toward him, her eyes drawn repeatedly to the movement of his mouth and the ripple of muscle under the short sleeves of his shirt. She's reluctant to wrench her attention away when her phone starts vibrating, but when she finally checks it she sees three letters on the display: LEE.

She makes the phone disappear into her pocket again, her hand finding and appreciating Major Barnett's arm. The skin-on-skin contact is a welcome crackle of electricity as she orders another shot, and he doesn't seem to mind if she laughs too loudly or gets too close.

The second time she feels the phone vibrating at her hip she excuses herself, ducks into the dimly lit hallway leading to the restrooms, and answers the call with a low hiss. "What's going on, Lee?"

"Where the frak have you been?"

Leaning her shoulder against the wall, she dips her chin and closes her eyes. "Around. What do you want?"

"I'm in Delphi. I went by your apartment, but--"

"But I'm not there? Yeah, I noticed that too." The words come out sharper than she intends, but once they're out she doesn't feel bad for it. "Why are you in town?"

He hesitates. "You haven't been answering your phone."

"And you thought I'd done something beyond stupid? Wow, Lee, that's a real vote of confidence."

"Kara, can you just tell me where you are? I'm already here and I'd like to see you before I go back home."

Her exhale comes out in a loud exasperated sigh, barely tempered by the memory of him standing next to his brother's casket. "Do whatever you want, Lee. I'm at Thane's, but I'm not staying."

She's determined not to, one way or another. Back at the bar, her phone tucked away in her pocket and turned off, she puts herself into overdrive. She angles herself toward the major, all smiles, and the pyramid game on the television overhead is all but forgotten when she leans in to ask what the frak they're waiting for. Nearly an hour's worth of flirtation finally boils over as they stumble through the front door, and if he has any sense of decorum she coaxes it out of him, her mouth on his like their lives depend on it, one hand tugging him toward her and threatening his buttons before they even get as far as his car.

Whatever his intentions are to start with, they simplify somewhere between his hand on the car door and her hand on his fly.

"You look like hell."

"After all this, that's all you have to say to me."

She slams her keys down on the table. "How about 'get something out of the freezer for the swelling.' Or 'why the frak would you punch Barnett for stepping between us?' You're lucky he figured out who you are and calmed down." She takes a seat and watches as Lee visibly swallows down another comment and goes into her kitchen.

He returns with a bag of peas cradled against the side of his face, and he sits across from her in stony silence for a few moments.

"You've had a lot to drink."

Empty bottles still line her counter. She shrugs, half-conscious of a dull ache above her left eye, and even though it took her two tries to unlock her own apartment door she wishes she felt even less sober right about now. "Now that's breaking news."

Moving the peas, Lee tests his cheek with his fingertips for the second time. "I don't want us to be like this, Kara."

"To be like what?" Leaning against the back of her chair, she folds her arms over her chest and looks at him expectantly. "What are we like?"

Their eyes meet, but he looks away just as quickly. "I don't want to fight with you."

"Maybe you should've thought about that before butting in."

"How is this all my fault?" He stares at her like he's never learned the language she's speaking. "Two days, Kara. Zak's been buried two--"

"I haven't forgotten." She feels an uninvited tremble in her chin and does her best to ignore it, to ignore his face, to stick with anger.

"I know this is hard. I know it better than most people. He was my little brother. I feel like--" She can hear the tension threading through each word, and he stops himself, seemingly at a loss. When he opens his mouth again, he sounds resigned. "I know how stupid it is, but I feel like I should've been able to protect him somehow. Like I should've kept him out of danger, paved a safe road for him. I feel like I've lost the closest friend I've ever had. I know what happened to Zak isn't actually my fault." He hesitates. "And it's not yours, either."

Her headache forgotten, she lifts her eyes to find his again.

"Haven't you had enough already?"

"Lee, you can make me feel bad about hitting you and you can sleep on my frakking couch if you're not up for the drive back, but you're not gonna stop me from drinking." With a unapologetic smile, she tips her head at him and then raises her shot glass in half a salute. "Not until I'm good and ready, so you can take the concern out of your eyes right now."

Briefly he looks as though he'll crack a smile, but he fights it off as he disappears into her kitchen again. She hears the freezer open and close, and as he comes back into the room she admires the bruise blossoming on the side of his face.

"Looking sharp," she tells him with a gesture to her own cheek.

"Yeah, well, you pack a mean punch."

A corner of her mouth twitches. "Don't forget it."

Instead of returning to his chair he takes half a step toward the door. "I should go."

On autopilot, she nods.

He runs one slow hand over the top of his head, then pats his pocket to double-check for his wallet. "I'm sure I'll be seeing you around C-City sometime."

"Maybe." Hands flat on the table, she pushes herself up from her chair and follows him to the door. "I'm resigning from the Academy."

His jaw goes slack. "Kara--"

She discourages anything more with the sternest look she can still muster, and nobody can tell her she's had too much booze for it to be effective. "Don't."

"So what next?"

"I'm a better pilot than a teacher."

He sighs audibly. "Just promise me--"

Half a laugh escapes her throat; he's full of shit if he thinks she's making any promises.

"--that you won't go around blaming yourself."

"I won't," she answers, and the lie tastes so sour her lips want to twist. She sticks her hand out as though to seal the deal with a firm shake.

He takes her up on it, his palm warm against hers, and after a second he tugs her in closer and wraps one arm around her shoulders. She stills against him, her nose pressed against his shoulder. For a moment, with his hand on her back and his mouth near her neck, she doesn't think he should go anywhere.

"If you need anything--"

"I know how to find you." Taking the initiative, she separates from him and draws herself up to her full height. "Don't be a stranger, Lee Adama."

For the first time all night, he smiles at her. It's not a smile that crinkles his tired eyes much, but it's good to see. "You either, Kara Thrace."
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Galactic Cupcake

October 2014

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