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06 January 2012 @ 02:10 pm
In the Whole World: Chapter 6, "Liars"  

“Liars”
Chapter 6/13
Word Count: 2,899

Four weeks later

Olivia Valerii shepherded Hera into daycare down in what had been Dogsville, on Galactica's hangar deck. She hadn't known what to expect when she'd taken up Sharon Agathon's schedule, how little time there was in it for parenting: the training, the recon missions, the meetings with military and civilian officials to coordinate settlement operations… And she could only keep skipping out on all of it for so long.

But by God, she was sick of it. She had thought this life would feel like coming home. And not only for her. She'd also thought that her decision would save Sharon Agathon's husband and daughter from pain and grief—that it would save their home.

She was realizing, though, that she hadn't really thought about it at all. Because eighteen days in, the guilt was destroying her.

"Don' go, VeeVee!" Hera grabbed her leg. That had been an unexpected complication; Hera knew her mother at a glance the way that most Cylons needed support—mutual connection to a basestar or network device—to recognize each other as individuals. What wasthis child? Neither human nor Cylon gifts accounted for her.

Hera had been strangely unfazed by her mother's disappearance, but Olivia supposed her childish fantasy life accounted for it. The little girl happily talked about her Mama as if she were still present. "VeeVee, Mama said I can't go outside today, it's too rainy"; "Mama got a new shirt and it's blue like yours, VeeVee…" She just kept hoping Karl didn't hear her mixing her mothers; he would only buy her lame explanations about "VeeVee" for so long.

Now, though, Hera wanted her VeeVee to stay at the nursery. Every day it was the same; she was terrified to be dropped off, but then didn't want to leave by the time VeeVee got back. That was frustrating as well as comforting, on both ends. "Shhh, sweetie, I'll be back in a few hours. Until then, have fun with Noel and Sacha, OK?"

She squeezed her eyes shut against Hera's stricken face—Olivia knew she'd be happily playing in a few minutes—and squeezed herself out onto the landing bay.

The landing bay was one more complication. For her, it was one of many unwelcome places on the battlestar. She had to shove down too many memories of rocky landings here. They made her anxious. Boomer's rocky landings. No, Athena's. Shit. What's the difference?

Either way: not mine.

When will they become mine?

She was in a rush to get out of there. Out of that thought. So turning the corner, she slammed straight into someone's chest before she could stop herself. She gasped. "Chief! Sorry, sorry. You—you startled me."

He had. Olivia wondered if she'd ever be comfortable thinking about the Final Five at all, let alone treating them as fellow Cylons—as fellow people. They'd been boarded up in the corner of her mind for so long… all the re-education programming they'd undergone after the Five had revealed themselves had only relieved the worst of the psychological effects.

Noticing the Chief hadn't responded, she risked a glance back at him as she scurried by. And then she gasped again.

Arms crossed over his chest, Galen Tyrol was staring at her with black, unfathomable eyes that yelled at her, loud as day: USURPER. MURDERER. LIAR.

He knew. Oh, God.

He wasn't coming after her—was just standing there, staring, knowing.

But Olivia was running when she made it back out under the sun.


Kara woke up that morning as she did most mornings, with Lee Adama wrapped around her like a blanket.

OK, like the kind of blanket you clutched back. Also, the kind of blanket that got an erection that could lull you out of sleep.

New tactic, she thought, sliding her thigh up very, very slowly over his. Get him before he's awake enough to lie about what he wants.

"Mmmmb," Lee, still blurry and eighty percent inside whatever dream he was having, pressed himself against her, the muscles on his abdomen visibly jumping as she slid her hand down it. She restrained her own shudder—but not a reckless grin—at the sight. She leaned down to his clavicle, and opened her mouth, tracing the bones there with her tongue. Gently, gently.

But just like that—as soon as she had him in her hand—he came awake. "Kara! Gods damnit, Kara. Not again." He rolled away from her defensively, like she was a meal he'd been about to eat and had just discovered was still alive.

"Great." Kara slid all the way upright to sit on her heels. "Spare me the moralizing this time, OK?"

He gritted his teeth. "This arrangement—this bed—is for sleeping. We sleep in it together," his voice dropped to a mutter, "because of the nightmares."

He didn't say whose, but there was no point. They both had them.

Kara flinched, deflected. Like every other time. "C'mon, bigshot, this isn't gonna get you off the hook. You still have to pay rent. Withholding sex isn't going to work on me, Apollo." Unless his goal was to drive her out of her godsdamned mind with frustration.

He scowled, at that. "Apollo." He reached to his chair for the newly pressed slacks his assistant had delivered the night before, slid them on with his back to her. "That's half the problem, you know."

"You mean the inflated ego that comes when you get named after one of the gods? I know, you and Athena should really have a chat about it, because lately she's been unbearable—"

"No. The problem is, you calling me Apollo whenever we start to have an actual conversation. Get it straight, Kara. In this tent, I'm not your superior officer, or some random Viper jock you can frak to scratch a damn itch. I'm onto you. You call me 'Apollo' whenyou want to just be Starbuck, in here. Reckless and frakked up and unaccountable."

"I am—"

"And you know what? Starbuck is my best godsdamned friend, of anyone living or dead. And Starbuck's the reason I'm alive today, four or five times over. But Starbuck is not all that you are. Not when it's the two of us, here in this tent. Not just Starbuck." He reached irritably for the button-down shirt he'd had on last night, slid it over his arms and onto his shoulders.

She parried. "This is what I don't understand, Lee. You'll move in with me—sleep in the same bed—eat frakking dinner with me at night and frakking talk to me about how your day went." Though she didn't say it and could barely think it, this was already something that terrified Kara more than a gods-inspired drawing of a temple ever could. "But you draw the line at doing any of that stuff with our clothes off? Like that's some big noble difference?"

"It's not about the godsdamned sex. You know it isn't." Lee drew in a breath. Was it possible she really didn't get it? "It's about what it did to you, and to me, the last time we cheated. You were so frakking guilty, and you don't do guilt well, Kara. In those weeks afterwards, first you took it out on everyone around you—especially me and Sam—and then you turned it on yourself."

"I did not!"

"And then you flew into a storm and—and—and you—"

"Oh, gods. Seriously? Is this what you think happened? A dozen extramarital fraks forced me into the maelstrom? I did it because I'm a cheater?"

"And you died. Seriously. You frakking died because you couldn't talk yourself out of crashing into some cosmic black hole. So no, I'm not eager to start a situation that's going to destroy both of us again. But I also can't just—just leave you." His voice had gone low again. "I've drawn the only lines that I can: I stay. But we don't cheat. Sorry that sucks for you."

He ran his hand along the bottom of his jaw. "Anyway, I'm sure you'll find some particularly inventive way to drop a live grenade in the middle of this, anyway. You always do. I'm just trying a little pre-emptive damage control." He went to the trunk at the foot of their bed to see if he could find a cleaner shirt in his meager wardrobe.

But Kara was on his heels. "See? See! You do want to punish me! This is all about you getting your petty revenge because I hurt your pride—"

"My pride? Kara, for frak's sake. Is this," he waved his hands around the tent, where their items were heaped together on side tables and shelves, "the kind of thing that a man with pride does? Moves in with a woman who left him to marry another man? Holds her at night so she can sleep, watches her leave to go to her husband every morning and asks at the end of the frakking day how it went?" He shook his head disgustedly. "It's not news, but you're out of your damned mind."

On the floor beside the trunk, he was annoyed at himself that he'd delivered that speech on his knees. It revealed too much. I stay. But we don't cheat. Did she really think this was his ideal life, here? That it wasn't a kind of unrelenting misery?

He stayed. Because he was afraid of she would do if he didn't, what he would do. Fear, not pride; it was much more pathetic than she thought.

Pathetic.

He stayed because he was afraid of how little time there was left.

He sighed, looking at Kara and noticing that her eyes had turned into amber spikes. You could only push Kara so long before she pushed back with more force than any ten people could muster. He reached for the patience that was so easy to muster for anyone else. He didn't quite get there. "I don't need a frak so badly that I'll let you make both of us cheaters again. Deep down, you don't want that anymore than I do."

He saw the hard gleam that lit those eyes at that, and braced himself for her assault. When it came, it was soft power and not hard.Oh, hell. She walked toward him slowly. "Liar," she said softly.

"You're one to talk." His throat clenched. His defenses were not up and running at full capacity yet today.

"You want me. This. Every bit as much as I do." She knelt down next to him.

"Kara, for the love of the gods, listen to me. That's not the point."

"Liar." She reached for him, and if she'd swooped in swiftly, Lee thought he could have mustered the will to fend her off; his instincts for self-preservation might have kicked in. But as she slowly lifted her mouth to his, all he could think was, now who's being punished?

He crushed her against him, let himself hold her as hard as he could, felt her rain kisses over his face and neck as his head fell back and he fought the urge to let out a primal yell. Mine. She was moving from his jaw to his ear, from using her lips to using her teeth, when he put a hand on her face. A gentle one. "Kara," he breathed. "Divorce Sam. And let's build something here. Let's be like everyone else in the fleet and move out of a tent and into a cabin. A real house. Something honest. That we can talk about in broad daylight, with anyone. Let's do it for real this time."

And just like that, she froze—as he'd known she would, as he hadn't been able to stop himself from catalyzing. Her arms fell to her sides. Her body, sinuous and warm against his a moment before, was now a block of stone.

Her head fell.

"I can't."

His brows shot up. "You think you can't. But you already have."

"I can't! I can't leave him. He's in a coma. He got shot, Lee, and partly because I let him get taken as some kind of enemy prisoner in the first place. And when we found him, I didn't take care—"

"Kara." He shook his head, tried to clear it. "You saved him ten times. He got shot once. Not by you. And that's not a good reason to stay in a marriage to someone you left a long a time ago."

Left. Kara squeezed her eyelids down as hard as she could, remembered that she was leaving him, too, leaving everyone. As soon as this temple was built. Frak. When will you quit being selfish, Starbuck?

She bit her lip. Would he believe her if she floated part of the truth? The part of it that would force him to do the right thing, since she didn't have the strength. It was a tad cruel. But cruel-to-be-kind, cut through with an occasional dash of cruel-to-be-cruel, was her stock in trade.

She could make Lee leave. Make him save himself.

"Lee. It's not just that he's… hurt. I love him."

She expected that to fall like a bomb. But he just rolled his eyes. "Now who's lying, Kara?"

"No. I do. I love Sam."

"Tell it to someone who didn't have an affair with you—who wasn't there, the night before your wedding, when you 'loved'—"

She cut him off before he could say any more of the unsayable. "No. Love isn't what you think it is. Not for me. It's not aboutintimacy and trust…all that syrupy sweet bullshit." She met his eyes, and knew they could both hear it, her voice hoarse, her eyes terrified, her body shaking as she yelled "Kara Thrace loves…" into the New Caprican darkness.

Maybe now, she could tell him what that had meant. If he could hear it. "It's the urge to survive. It's the people who make you hope you can. It's what you owe them." Her eyes were black, still, and pleading. "You… Sam gave me a way to survive." She started to shiver, and shoved away his arms, reaching for her. "So yeah, I love him. And I'm not going to abandon him, not now. I made a promise."

"Gods, you're compulsive." His laugh was bitter like a year's worth of cups of algae coffee from the bottom of a carafe being spat in her eye. "The only thing you're committed to is destroying yourself—Starbuck." He let the dust settle on that name as it dropped past her knees. "You can't stop yourself. You don't even try."

She opened her mouth to intervene, but he didn't give her the chance. "I don't know what the first lie was. Maybe I'll never know. Did you pretend to keep loving Zak—and now, Sam—as a way of destroying the life you really wanted—with me? Or did you use me as a way of destroying your lives with them? Was it both?"

"Lee."

"Then again, sometimes I think—you're just like, a kid. A lying kid. Who tells a lie—'Lee, I'm going to marry Zak, we're going to beso happy together'—and then the kid gets caught, but instead of coming clean—"

"It wasn't a lie!"

"Instead of owning up, you double down on the lie. Repeat it, like if you say it enough times it'll be true. 'I love Sam. Sam's going to make me happy.'" He spread the fingers of one hand to press his temples, shoving some old images back. "Who the frak did you think you were kidding? Who do you think you're kidding now? At my worst, lowest moment, I never believed you loved Sam. For exactly the reason you said—you think love is survival, Kara. Because you've never been able to have a thought beyond survival—about what makes survival frakking worthwhile!—for two days straight in your life. You'll never get to love, at that rate, never get there and stay there and figure out what it is. And I'd feel bad for you, I do feel bad for you. But you keep destroying my chances of getting there along with your own."

Kara felt a surge of nausea rising up in her as she realized how right he was. After all this—she was destroying him. But she could still save this. Save him. She knew she could. "Maybe it's time you knocked on someone else's door, Apollo—"

"I swear to the gods, if you call me Apollo one more time—"

"Ah, just what I expected." All at once, Karl Agathon's voice cut off their planned attacks. Lee swung away in disgust as Kara pivoted her fury in Karl's direction. "Domestic bliss, Kara Thrace style. How's your blood pressure, Mr. President?"

High, Lee thought darkly. "Oh, just fine," he said aloud, and surged to his feet. He stalked off in the direction of the "office" he'd attached to the front of the tent. "I'm going to get some paperwork done. I have a meeting here at oh-eight hundred hours. I won't be in your way for long—Starbuck."

He was beginning to think that the bad mornings back on Galactica had a lot in common with ordinary mornings on the happy hunting grounds of New Earth.

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