Kara had forgotten how much she hated rain. Especially this kind of fine rain that lashed against her face like needles and seemed to find its way through every seam in her clothes. As she struggled up yet another steep hill, she swore under her breath.
Planet of the gods, my ass.
It almost made her miss the harsh yellow heat of Caprica.
She reached the crest of the hill with a sigh of relief, and allowed herself to just stand still for a moment.
“Catching your breath, Starbuck?”
Kara quickly plastered a smirk on her face. “Just enjoying the view, Apollo.”
“Really?” An answering smirk appeared on Lee’s face as he walked towards her. “There’s nothing like a view of thick cloud.”
Damn. Looking around, Kara realised he was right. Thick cloud surrounded them, covering most of the neighbouring hills.
He’d caught her out, but she wasn’t about to admit it. “So much for using the view to work out our position,” she said hurriedly. “What do we do now?”
“Take the President’s best guess and keep going. But we’re going to have a short rest break first. So let’s get out of this frakking rain.” Lee headed for the shelter of a nearby tree, and Kara followed.
The tree wasn’t very large, but it provided a little shelter from the rain, and there was even a dry patch of ground. Kara took off her pack and flung herself down on it, leaning back against the trunk.
Lee dropped down next to her and she blinked, disconcerted. “What are you doing?”
“Sitting,” said Lee drily, raising his eyebrows. “That okay with you?”
“I just thought you’d be running back to the President. You’ve barely left her side all day.”
Her tone came out harsher than she’d meant. Lee blinked, then frowned, and then obviously decided not to pursue it.
“If you’re going to follow that up with some innuendo, don’t bother,” he said, in a determinedly light tone. “Zarek and his cronies have already beaten you to it.”
“I didn’t mean-” Kara broke off, frustrated. What had she meant? “Just forget it, okay.” She turned away from him, rummaging in her pack for a ration bar and trying to work it out. She’d just wanted to needle him, she decided, maybe annoy him enough to go and sit somewhere else so she didn’t have to deal with him.
She still felt awkward around him, despite their talk in the Astral Queen’s locker room the day before. They’d ended up joking, but she still wasn’t sure their quarrel over Baltar was completely healed. And then there was the kiss he’d given her…she still wasn’t quite sure what to make of that. Or that slip in the locker room when he’d said he loved her. Was it really only as a friend, or was it something more? And if it was something more, did she really want to pursue it? Maybe the whole Baltar fiasco just proved that she and Lee were better off as friends. If they were still friends.
She bit into her ration bar, watching the rest of their party haul themselves to the top of the hill. She half hoped someone would come and sit with them, and even tried to catch Helo’s eye and beckon him over, but he was too busy sticking as close to
No-one joined them, and her dilemma remained. She sneaked a glance at Lee; he was eating a ration bar of his own and pointedly looking in the other direction. She knew what he that meant; he was saying it was her turn. He’d made the effort yesterday in the locker room, and now it was up to her to return it, to show that she also wanted to repair their friendship.
And she did, she admitted to herself. She didn’t know exactly what was going on between her and Lee, but she didn’t want to lose his friendship. She’d missed him acutely on Caprica, felt the lack of his support. If he’d been there to back her up…
But if they were going to be friends again, she had to say something. Fortunately, something she had realised on the shuttle trip down had given her the perfect conversational icebreaker.
“Happy Birthday, Lee.”
“What?” Lee blinked at her in confusion. She could see him mentally calculating the date as his eyes widened. “Gods, you’re right. I’d completely forgotten.”
“Hardly surprising, with all that’s been going on.” Kara smiled hesitantly. “I just happened to spot the date on the shuttle monitors.”
Lee was still looking surprised. “I didn’t think you even knew when my birthday was.”
“After dating Zak? Are you kidding?” Memories sprang to life and Kara found herself grinning. “Every year he’d spend a month beforehand agonising over what to get you.”
“Did he really?” said Lee sceptically. “Strange then how every year I got a bottle of ambrosia and a novelty beer mug.”
“I didn’t say all the agonising had a successful result.” Kara chuckled. “You’re just a difficult frakker to buy for.”
“No, I’m not.”
“Yes, you are. No point buying you replacement kit, you never lost anything. No hobbies-”
“I have hobbies! “ Lee protested. “
“Burning toast was the limit of his abilities.” Kara smiled fondly, remembering several culinary disasters. It didn’t hurt so much now to remember Zak, since she had confessed her part in his death to Lee and the Old Man. She could finally talk about him without guilt choking her.
Lee shrugged. “Oh well. They do say it’s the thought that counts.”
“They do. And you can never have too many novelty beer mugs.”
“Unless you’re serving on a battlestar. They took up half my locker.” Lee smiled sadly. “I don’t miss most of my stuff, but I wish – I don’t have anything Zak gave me, not now.”
Kara didn’t know what to say. She looked down at the ring on her thumb, wondering how she’d feel if she lost it. She searched for something comforting to say, but Lee got to his feet before she came up with anything. “Looks like it’s time to move on. I’d better go and check on the President.”
Kara watched him go, frowning thoughtfully.
That night, she waited until she caught Lee alone by one of the campfires and presented him with a bundle wrapped in a blanket.
“Just a little something for the birthday boy,” she said, trying not to show how uncertain she felt. “Well, not the blanket. I want that back. It’s cold down here.”
Lee rolled his eyes. “Kara, you shouldn’t have,” he said sarcastically. He looked at the bundle with slight suspicion. “It’s not loaded, is it?”
“Oh, for the gods’ sake! Why did I even bother-” Kara made to snatch her offering back, but Lee pulled it towards him.
“Sorry, sorry. I’m sure I’ll like it, whatever it is.” He unwrapped the blanket to reveal one of the plastic mugs they had brought from the Astral Queen.
“A mug?” Blue eyes stared at her, totally confused. “Kara, they did issue me with one of my own-”
“Look closer, you idiot.” Kara grabbed the mug from his hand and twisted it so the firelight lit up the message she had scratched on one side.
“ ‘Greetings from cloudy Kobol’,” read Lee, a grin spreading across his face with every word.
“I thought you might like to start a new collection,” said Kara. He was looking at her in a way that made her feel suddenly awkward. “Fill up your locker.”
“Kara-” The tone of Lee’s voice made her even more uncomfortable and she looked away, suddenly unable to meet his eyes. “I – it’s – thanks. It’s a great present.”
Kara steeled herself to look at him, and what she saw in his face made her swallow hard. “No problem,” she said, trying to sound dismissive, pass it off. “You’d just better get me something just as good for my birthday.”
Lee returned her smile. “Count on it.”
There was something in his smile that said he saw right through her attempt at casualness, and oddly enough, it made Kara relax. Because it told her that they were going to be okay. No matter what had happened since Colonial Day, she and Lee were still friends. And in that moment she was certain that whatever happened in the future, they always would be.