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06 January 2011 @ 10:29 pm
fic: a theory of relativity (bsg, kara/leoben)  
 Title: A Theory of Relativity 
Characters/Pairing: Kara/Leoben
Rating: PG-13 for sexytimes
Spoilers: My take on what happened between "Maelstrom" and "Crossroads II"
Summary: Spring is a fickle season on Earth.
Notes: x-posted under 
[info]la_belle_dame  at [info]trial_by_water




A Theory of Relativity

       Open your eyes, Kara.

  
          But she can’t, she’s dead, she burned up in the eye of Jupiter, bled out on the altar of the gods. The last sacrifice of Starbuck and the end of Kara Thrace. Now she’s good and dead, thank you, and dead she’s going to stay. But he’s got his hand on her back and his mouth at her temple and Kara feels so warm and safe that she forgets that she’s dead and leans into his touch, sighs.

            Open your eyes, Kara. It’s time to wake up.

            His breath is warm and sweet on her cheek. She notices her breathing is deeper and slower than his, and it’s a revelation to Kara that she’s breathing at all. And with the breath comes the pain and Kara’s back arches reflexively and her fingers tighten on nothing, on air, and then on flesh, rough and solid under her nails. His arms lock around her, wrists crossed beneath her breasts, and hold on as Kara’s legs kick out and out and out into blackness.

            When she comes to again, she is on her back, staring up at blue. Her flight suit and helmet are gone and she can feel the chilly grass prickle through her tanks, the cold dew seeping up to skin. She tries to sit up and the sky slides sideways, and she has to concentrate very hard on not throwing up. Instead, she rolls onto her stomach. Her face feels puffy and hot against the cool green and when she looks up, she sees fire, huge licks of flame are rising and arcing up into the pale sky. Her Viper.

            She’s in a clearing. There are trees all around her. Two of them next to the Viper are on fire, the fresh leaves burning with a thin, whitish smoke. Kara plants both palms on the ground and pushes, trusting her body to remember countless afternoons working out between CAP patrols and rack time. It does and she rises to her knees. There is a figure, silhouetted between her and the flames, his black outline static against the dancing orange and red. Kara croaks, her voice raspy and smoke-filled.

            “Leoben.”

            He turns and although she cannot see his face, she could trace the edges of his smile. He walks toward her, measured and unhurried. Kara reaches one hand out, to ward him off she tells herself, not to take his outstretched hand and let him help her to her feet. His wide palm fits into the curve of her waist, and Kara closes her eyes against the rightness of it.  “This is so familiar,” she mumbles into his shirt and prays he can’t hear her.

            “Kara,” he breathes. “Look around you.” She levers her chin into the crook of his neck and stares. The ring of stones looks smaller, more ordinary in the dawn light than it did on Kobol in the depths of Athena’s tomb. From behind Kara, a bird starts singing and she wants to hum along because she’s heard this song before, she’s been here before, but that’s impossible.

            “Is this Earth?” she asks and she’s terrified the answer’s no just as much as she’s terrified the answer’s yes. Leoben laughs and presses his mouth into her hair and if she wasn’t so tired, she’d slap him away, really she would.

            “This is home,” he says and may the gods forgive her, she believes him.

* * *

            After New Caprica, he says, he had a vision of Earth, of the jumps across stars and nebulas and novas to crash his stolen Heavy Raider down onto terra firma. He says he’s been here for months, that no one followed him, that once she can walk on her own, he’ll show her the Raider’s wreckage.

            “Won’t your toaster friends be looking for you?” she snits from her bed. He’s been living in a farmhouse twenty miles out from the nearest town. The owners abandoned it to the elements and Leoben simply slid into the space they left. Some of the windows are boarded up, nothing seems to work, and during the day when she’s not drifting in and out of sleep she can hear him hammering downstairs in the kitchen.

            “Not much of a home,” she’d said when he first carried her through the front door, her legs too wobbly to take the stairs.

            “Not yet,” he’d said and laid her down gently on a soft bed and pulled a thick quilt over her.

            Right now, he’s got his back to her as he ladles soup into a chipped china bowl. Kara looks at the brass lamp on the night table. It should feel natural to reach out and grasp it tightly, to bring it down over the back of his head. It should feel like New Caprica, like imprisonment, like suffocating, but there are no bars on these windows and no resurrection tanks to bring him back to her and it feels like Earth. So she cups the bowl in her hands and admires the blue willow-patterning on the rim.

            “They won’t be looking,” he says. He sits on the side of the bed and Kara feels the mattress tilt underneath her, feels herself slip almost imperceptibly toward him. “They think I’m a glitch. A fluke. As long as I stayed away from the Fleet, they weren’t concerned with where I went.”

            “So you’re broken?” Kara smirks.

            Leoben smiles. “I am the shape of things to come.”

            Kara wants to laugh at him, wants to make him sound ridiculous with all his talk of prophecy and fate, but the words settle in her ears and ring with truth.

            “The shape of things to come,” she repeats and Leoben looks at her and Kara thinks of the Geminon Traveler and Kacey’s room on New Caprica. He looks at her like she’s something beautiful, like she’s worth her weight in tylium, like he loves her.

            It takes all her strength not to reach out and touch his face.

* * *
          
  She’s on her feet soon enough and Leoben drives her to see the Raider in a rusted-out pick-up truck. A man of his word, he says, and Kara doesn’t get the joke for twenty miles. They pull up in front of a pile of tree branches and heaped leaves. Kara has to squint to see the glimmer of battleship gray underneath the blanket of green and brown. He’s packed sandwiches and crackers with cheese and bottles of tap water in a duffle, and they sit on the hood of the truck, eating together. The breeze is crisp and cool, and Kara watches it reshuffle the leaves over the Raider, revealing and concealing bits of the broken ship.

            “Autumn’s coming,” Leoben says. Kara scoops up a handful of gravel and starting lobbing pebbles at the Raider. They ping softly when they strike and bounce off. “I need to get the upstairs windows sealed before the frost comes.” Kara rolls the bits of rock around her palm, relishing the dusty scrape of them on her skin.

            “Are you asking me for help?”

            Leoben shrugs and tugs the collar of his jacket further up against the wind. “Are you volunteering?”

            The downed Raider catches a sliver of sun and throws a glint of bright light into Kara’s eyes. She plucks the bottle from Leoben’s grasp. “I could paint,” she says and takes a sip of icy water.

            They go into town to buy supplies. Kara marvels at all these people, these lost Colonial brothers and sisters going about their daily business. She wonders what they’d think if they knew what Leoben is. Then again, she wonders what they’d think if they knew what she is. Their speech is strange to Kara, too formal. It sounds like the old-fashioned Caprican in the classical plays Zak dragged her to. Leoben speaks it well, or well enough to flirt with the pretty cashier at the hardware store. Kara hates herself for sulking all the way hom— back to the house. Leoben sees her, of course, and does that awful thing where he grins when he thinks she’s not looking.

Once they’re inside again, he pops his knuckle over her pouting lip and Kara forgets to flinch. He’s already rolling up his sleeves and laying down paper on the kitchen floor before Kara thinks to hit him. She adds it to the running list of Kara Thrace’s sins and pries the lid off a can of paint.

The brush feels good in her hands and Kara lets everything else drain away as she dips the bristles in the can. The paint is a warm buttery color and Kara loves it. She keeps waiting for the familiar desire for hard blues, slash-wound reds, severe yellows to rise and is surprised when she feels content to splash brushfuls of cream across the walls. Leoben strips them of their dirt and tattered paper and Kara coats them in wide, even lines. There are no swirling circles itching under her palms, just the sweet slide of the brush over plaster. Whey they’re finished, the room feels bright and clean, and Kara’s already planning a light green for the front hallway.

Leoben rinses off the brushes in turpentine and water, and stands at the sink scrubbing his hands. There are flecks of paint on his neck and in the morning sunlight they look white against his skin. And in an instant Kara remembers slick paint on her back, under her bare feet. She remembers the press of him against her body, her mouth. She remembers scratching through his fine hair, down the lean muscles of his back. Her own panted gasps mingling with his moan. And for a dizzy, breathless moment, Kara can’t tell if it was a dream or a memory.

Without thinking, she steps close to him, places her hand on his back. She skims the pads of her fingers up and over the nape of his neck, tracing the paint spots near his hairline. Leoben stands very still and Kara wishes she could see his face. His skin is warm and gives a little when she presses down on it. He makes a small noise in his throat and Kara pulls her hand back before she does something she may not regret. The water from the faucet makes a rushing sound as it pours over the brushes and his hands.

“You have paint in your hair,” she says and walks out of the cream-colored kitchen. Hours later, Kara passes the door again and sees Leoben still standing over the running sink. His spine glows red through his thin T-shirt and he’s murmuring to himself, over and over. It sounds like he’s praying.

* * *

Kara starts dreaming again. On Galactica, she hardly ever dreamed. Rack time meant darkness and the utter absence of thought, the only place other than the cockpit Kara felt free. But here she has eight whole hours a night to sleep in a warm feather bed, a maelstrom away from the Cylon menace, and she dreams, oh does she dream. Every night, all night.

- She’s bound to a chair, her long blonde hair soaking wet and dripping onto her bruised shoulders. Leoben forces her chin up with the butt of a gun. “Tell me what you know,” he growls, hate blooming in his voice, and Kara wants to kiss him so badly she feels sick with it. He’s been torturing her for two days now and she’s five times as strong as he’ll ever be (they programmed her well), but she’s let him beat her to blood and bone because violence is all he understands and even after all this, she’s nearly blind with tears and sweat and love for him. And God is love. He swings his hand back and she braces herself-

- She’s holding a baby, a little girl, and she looks so much like Kacey it stops her breath a little. Leoben lifts her from Kara’s arms and tosses her in the air. This girl- their daughter- squeals with delight and Leoben laughs, his teeth flashing white in a sudden brilliant smile. He sets her down and she races across a green lawn, toddling on chubby legs. Leoben drops onto a blanket spread over the high grass and Kara kneels behind him. She slings her arms around his neck and watches him watch their child. He smells like soap and spice and their little girl, and arousal hits Kara like a slap, like a shot, and she’s dying for him-

- He’s holding her hand, watching her mother die-

- She’s leaning over a resurrection tank, telling him to breathe past the pain-

            - He’s a priest in the Oracle’s temple and she’s a handmaiden and they fall into each other and are killed for their blasphemy-

- He’s twisting a knife in her side, hissing “Neither will I”-


            Kara sits up in bed, sweating in her twisted sheets. Leoben stirs next to her and rubs her back, warm flesh on warm flesh. “Kara,” he says. “Open your eyes.”

            Kara wakes up, alone.

* * *

            She loses track of the weeks first, then the months. It isn’t until Leoben playfully flips her hair off her shoulder one evening before she climbs the stairs to bed that she realizes it’s long again. Occasionally, she thinks about cutting it, especially when they begin stacking fluffy pink insulation in the drafty attic and it’s constantly falling in her face. Leoben offers to take her to the barber, which is symbolic at best as Kara’s been driving into town alone since the first frost. Kara declines on the basis that it doesn’t matter, she hardly notices it, she likes it long, but she’d be lying if she said she hadn’t noticed the way Leoben looks at it sometimes.

            One day for fun, she wears it up. She works for a half hour braiding and twisting it up and off her winter-pale neck. An Aerolon knot, the girls back on Caprica called it, but Kara always liked it and deep down it makes her feel kind of pretty. Starbuck would have laughed at her, raged at her, called her soft and foolish and weak, but Starbuck burned up in a Viper crash, all her glorious pain gone at the eye of the storm. Starbuck died and Kara lived on.

            She comes downstairs to find Leoben on his knees measuring in the living room. He shakes his head, and then looks up. Kara has a witty remark on how the rug he’s had his eye on will never fit in here, but it dies on her tongue when she sees the way he’s looking at her. Her hands fly up to undo all her hard work, but he moves. He’s to his feet and on her too fast to see and how could she have forgotten this? He grips her wrists and holds them suspended in the air. “Please,” he says and Kara feels his arms tremble. She holds her breath and thinks of all the different ways she could use this to hurt him and there are so many. She counts them off as she gazes into his eyes and nods. He releases her and there is only air between them until he stumbles back and down onto the threadbare couch.

            It takes longer than she would have thought to really forgive him. For New Caprica. For her dreams. For everything. For Kacey. It happens on an ordinary Thursday afternoon. Leoben’s cleaning up after a late lunch, scraping his plate into the wastebasket before dropping it into a sink full of soapy water for Kara to take care of. He clears the table, she washes, he dries, she puts the dishes back. She watches him bend down to pull out the garbage liner and realizes she’s not angry anymore. It’s just slipped away from what they’ve become. “I forgive you,” she says and he straightens immediately. He won’t raise his eyes to her. “Just so you know,” she shrugs, like it’s not the hardest thing she’s ever done.

            Leoben is quiet, then bows his head, a courtly gesture. Kara stands and places two fingers on his forehead. A benediction.

* * *

            Spring is a fickle season on Earth. Kara complains that it never rained this much on Caprica. Leoben loves it, but then Kara muses, he would, wouldn’t he? She won’t admit to it in front of him, he’d never let her forget it, but she kind of enjoys the thunderstorms that sweep over the house in the early morning. She likes waking up to the tap-tap of rain on the newly shingled roof. It makes her think of the Old Man. She stretches and grins at the ceiling. “Nothing but the rain,” she sighs and starts the day.

            The heater must be working properly at last, repaired by a nice handy-man from town with nice arms and a nice smile who Leoben doesn’t like at all, though he won’t admit to why. Kara’s feet are warm on the floorboards as she traipses barefoot into the kitchen to pour herself a cup of coffee.

            He’s already up, of course. She likes to tease him about how he never sleeps. In turn, he’ll quote Cylon poetry at her from memory until Kara sticks her tongue out at him. He pages through the local paper while she pulls a mug out of the sink. “Where’s the cream?” she asks scanning the counter.

            “Here,” he says, holding the carton out without looking. She grabs it and her finger brushes his. He must hear her sudden gasp because he lays down the paper and cups her hip. He pulls her to him, his hand a steady pressure guiding her forward, always forward into his arms, into his warmth, into the sweet morning smell of him. He stands up, so near to her that normally she would have shied away even at the thought of anyone being so close. But instead, she takes his hand and together they climb the stairs of the house they’ve built up to her bed.

            The rain is falling faster now and there’s a low rumble of thunder now and again as Kara holds Leoben’s shoulders tightly in her hands and rocks up into him. He’s holding his breath, trying to stay calm, but the rain is pouring now and Kara presses her fist into the center of his back, pushes their hearts right up against each other, and he all but sobs her name. Kara grins into his neck, wild and sweet, and lets her eyes fall shut.

            “Leoben,” she whimpers as he sets himself to his task. “Oh gods.” His hipbones are sharp and thin, and his mouth is warm and wet, and Kara looks, but there’s no mandala over his head, just his soft hair parting with her fingers. “Leoben. Oh gods,—God!” He holds her face and Kara stares up into blue. And her breath stops and her heart starts, beating like an unbound thing, and Leoben shouts like laughter and falls apart in her arms. Kara cradles him, his brow resting on the swell of her breast, and listens to the rain.

            “This has all—, ” Leoben pants out the words. “—all happened before, and – ”
            “Shhh,” Kara hushes. “I know.” Leoben lifts his head. She traces his eyebrow, down his nose. “I remember.”

Leoben kisses her and it tastes like Earth.

* * *

            They doze and sleep, and when they wake, the rain has stopped. Kara rubs her bare stomach and exhales. Leoben is already up, standing bare-chested at the open window. Kara can feel the warm, damp breeze from the bed and she tips her head toward it like a caress. Leoben waits for her to shrug on his rumpled shirt before speaking. “The Fleet will never find Earth without a prophet.”

            Kara winces. “The last time a woman said she was one of those, the Old Man locked her up.” Leoben nods, solemn as a priest. Kara says, “My bird's dead,” but she means something else besides her Viper is gone. The name she can’t, or won’t, revive.

            “Starbuck kept the Fleet alive in the black,” he says and his eyes unfocus as he slips into the stream. “But only Kara Thrace can lead humanity to Earth.”

            Kara pads over to him and rests her cheek on the plane of his back. “How do I get back?” she says and the moment she asks, she knows. Leoben turns into her arms and drags his thumb along her jaw.

            She’s jouncing around the cockpit. She’s too low to the deck. She has to climb.

            He brushes his mouth over her mussed hair and breathes her in. Kara says, “I love you,” and it means more than even she can understand right now. It means her mother’s deathbed and the Kacey to come and the promise of this house. There’s wet on Leoben’s face and Kara closes her eyes.

            Apollo’s gone, flown off with tidings of her demise carried inside like a sickness. But she’s here, in the maelstrom, listening to the rain on her Viper. Instinct takes over and she wrenches back the throttle. She starts to climb. It’s hard. It only looks like rising from the outside.

            They won’t believe her on Galactica, but it doesn’t matter. No prophet ever found welcome in her own house. They’ll follow her eventually. She’s seen it.

And he’s waiting for her.


            Kara Thrace opens her eyes at the heart of the storm.