Coming in Hot
by Rana Eros
Written for the Yuletide 2004 Secret Santa Challenge. So much thanks to Eliza, Elke, and Tara, three of the most fabulous betas in the world. Also thanks to
Dirty Diana, for making the request that allowed me to dip my toes in the fandom waters.
"Morning, Starbuck, what do you hear?"
"Nothing but the rain."
"Imp. Grab your gun and bring the cat in."
Battlestar Galactica the mini-series, Part 2
She tells him to hold still and maneuvers around him, flipping upside down. It's a relative concept in space, but as she shifts position she uses Lee as her focal point; Apollo drifting in his broken ship. She's surprised he's not still protesting, but maybe he's learned that when she says, "Shut up," she means, "I'm not listening anyway," and decided to save his breath.
Maybe he's just saving it up for when they're back aboard the Galactica. She can live with that. A nice fight would help bleed off all this adrenaline from the battle. She's got to get him inside first, though.
Just sit tight, little cat, she thinks giddily, lines up her Viper and rams it home, hooking Lee's Viper like...like grabbing a kitten by the scruff of the neck. Maybe she'll share that observation, just to make sure she gets her fight.
"--insane!" she tunes in to hear him shouting, and she feels herself grinning wide enough to hurt.
"Kickin' in the burn!" she calls out, and yeah, she sounds giddy, but that's okay. The Cylons have taken all the friends they get today. She's got her gun, she's got the cat, and she's going in.
She points them at the Galactica, adjusting position so she can see around the bulk of Lee's ship. Lee himself is largely in the blind spot of her helmet. She's pretty sure she can feel him scowling, though she doesn't take her attention off the hangar bay she's aiming for. It's coming up awful fast.
"We're coming in a little hot, don't you think?"
Lee can't see the Galactica from his position, but she's not surprised he can feel it, that they're approaching at unaccustomed speed. She does her best to reassure him, hoping he can't see her face any better than he can see the ship. "No, not really."
The bay doors are closing. She hopes they're going fast enough to make it.
She hopes they're going slow enough that landing won't kill them.
"Hang on," she warns Lee as the hangar looms up before them. She dings the bay on Lee's side --she hopes he heeded the warning-- cuts engines and lets the Galactica's gravity take over, dropping them hard to the hangar floor. They careen a bit, still locked together, then fetch up hard against a wall. The jolt of that breaks their ships apart, but they still face each other as she feels the Galactica move around them.
She's shaky with the adrenaline, but her gaze holds steady on the blob of him as they stretch across space in the FTL jump. They expand together, venturing farther into unknown territory, and she holds on.
And then the jump's over, the fleet's made a run for it, and she's feeling the effects of a less than stellar landing. The adrenaline's still pumping, though, so it's not as bad as it could be, and she's regained her cocky grin as the deck crew come to help extract them from their battered Vipers.
"You're crazy!" Lee spits as soon as he's got his helmet off.
"You're welcome," she says, not losing her grin. Even after everything, still the same old Lee.
"Did I or did I not order you to leave me behind?"
"Are you complaining that I saved your ass?"
"With all due respect, Captain, I wasn't going to be the one to tell your father I left his son out there!"
It isn't what she meant to say. It summons Zak's ghost to hang between them, and it's not a fight with Lee she wants anymore. She wants to be able to draw blood. She thinks longingly of Tigh--of how it felt to finally knock the old bastard for a loop--as Lee stares her down.
"You may have to one day, Kara. If the fleet's in danger--"
"I know that!"
"I know." He doesn't look angry anymore, just tired. He takes a breath, steps closer. "I know you do."
She's buzzing with the need to hit someone, hurt something, almost wishing they were still on the other side of the jump and she had Cylons to shoot down. Lee moves a little, and it occurs to her he might reach out to her, and she's not sure what she'll do then. She doesn't really feel like ending up back in the brig, but if he touches her....
She turns and leaves the hangar. No need to stay any longer, and there will doubtless be a memorial service before long. She needs to get cleaned up, bid her fallen comrades farewell properly.
Lee could have been one of them. If she'd followed his orders, he would have been.
"Starbuck!" she hears him calling to her, but she keeps going and he doesn't order her to stop. She's not sure she'd listen if he did. Some orders just aren't worth following. Then she hears his feet coming up fast behind her, and fights the urge to speed her own step. "Starbuck! Kara, will you stop?"
"You can't walk and talk at the same time?"
"Are you going to talk to me?"
"I'm talking now."
"This isn't exactly what I had in mind."
She stops after all, plants herself right in front of him and asks, "What do you want from me, Lee? You want me to put the fleet first? I do that, just like every other pilot on this ship. You want me to obey orders? I do that too, when they make sense. You want me to leave you behind when I don't have to? Sorry, Lee. That's never going to happen. They don't get you."
She's not shouting, she's been very careful not to shout, though there's no one else in the corridor at the moment. But she's gotten closer to him, and he hasn't backed away. They're breathing into each other's faces.
"They didn't get me, Kara," he says quietly, "but they might. This is war, and that--"
"Shut up, Lee. I know what this is. I thought they killed you once already, when I wasn't there to stop them. Never again. They don't get you."
And because he's so close and so alive and because she's so furious and needs to do something, she doesn't even think about it when she fists his flight suit, sees him brace himself for violence, tilts her head that little bit necessary, and kisses him.
He's warm and soft and momentarily unresponsive, caught off-guard, but then she feels his hands closing on her upper arms and he's kissing her back, just as furious, just as shaken. She tries to suck the breath out of him, tries to hold onto that little bit of him to keep safe against his future stupidity and heroics, and she wonders if he's doing the same thing. She's willing to admit they're alike that way, it's part of what fuels their fights. But he's always been more controlled in his temper, and she can feel the exact moment he recognizes what they're doing. She pulls back before he gets the chance, but keeps her hands on him.
"They don't get you," she repeats, holding his eyes.
"No. Neither of us."
She means it, too, if at all possible. They've all suffered enough, lost enough. This much, they can try to hold onto, for however long they can.
His hands release her first, skimming along her arms to touch her fists. She eases her hold on his flight suit, takes a breath and lets go completely. Steps back just in time, as a group of deckhands round the corner from the hangar. She can feel them looking, and she makes herself return the gaze, stands motionless as they move past her. She doesn't look back at Lee until they vanish down a cross-corridor. She wonders if she looks as shell-shocked as he does.
"So," he says and stops.
"So," she repeats, waiting.
He swallows, then asks, "Still want to hit me?"
"Still want to give me an ass-chewing?"
His lip quirks at one corner. "Not at this exact moment, no."
"Then I can probably live without decking you one. This time."
"Generous of you." He sobers again, gives her a long look. "I meant it, you know. You don't want to tell my father I'm dead, and I sure as hell don't want to be the one who tells him you are."
"I know." It's a reminder of where she was headed, and she tilts her head down the corridor. "We better clean up. A lot of friends to say goodbye to."
Again, she's thinking of Zak, and she thinks he is too. It doesn't make her angry now, though. Just sad, and tired. The adrenaline seems to have finally worn off.
"Come on, then."
She starts walking again and he keeps pace. They're not touching now, but she can still taste him, and that much of him they'll never get.
She holds on.
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