Starbuck shifts position at least five times before Lee gives in and acknowledges her presence, moving from foot to foot or adjusting the angle of her body against the closed hatch. He writes as slowly as possible, erasing names when he doesn't really need to, writing them in again, but she refuses to leave.
He writes out the letters B-O-O, wipes them out and starts over: A-T-H -
"What do you expect me to say, Starbuck?"
"You could try looking at me. Lee." She walks over, and he can tell just from the sound of her feet that it's the fierce, determined stride that she uses when she's about to climb into her Viper. When she's approaching the triad table and she means to leave with the pot. Lee frowns at the board.
"Right." She halts in his periphery and leans against the wall, a dull khaki blur. "Right. The great Lee Adama is just like everyone else on this frakking ship, and he won't look at me. I know I screwed up pretty badly, okay, but I have been trying, the gods know I have been working my ass off to follow orders and not punch Kat in the frakking face when she insults my flying and I am still being treated like a live round of ammunition. Like I'm invisible. I'm sick of it, all right? Look at me."
"Oh, frak you, Adama." The blur moves, comes closer, and before Lee can move her hands are at his face, his neck, and she's pulling him firmly towards her.
It's not an angry kiss, which surprises him. It's not one-sided, which surprises him even more. It's everything that was in her voice, diverted and distilled into heat; insistence, irritation, desperate belonging. Notice me, Kara's lips say, accept me, and Lee remembers bidding farewell to his ship and he kisses her back with the same need. Galactica needs to recognise them again, and that could start with their recognition of each other.
Kara is the one who breaks the kiss.
"That's better," she says. Her hand is still lying against his cheek, and Lee thinks about his beautiful, loyal wife and the seething anger against Kara Thrace that he's been carrying around for months, and he tries to summon some emotion that isn't this slow, relieved warmth. Like every muscle in his body has been clenched without his being aware of it, and they've all just relaxed. He tries to remember how to be angry, but he can't; tries not to look at her, but it can't really be helped now.
"That wasn't fair," he says softly.
"I know." She hasn't pulled away very far. Her face hovers inches from his own, not leaving enough space for him to gather his thoughts, to inhale without inhaling her. "I know. I'm a trainwreck, Apollo, you know me."
Lee wonders uneasily what he is, then, but she keeps talking before he can say anything.
"Lords knows I deserve to be left."
"Kara -" he says without thinking, and doesn't realise until her eyes widen that it's the first time he's used anything other than her callsign since the exodus.
"So I had to leave him. He deserves better," she continues, the words bland and rehearsed in her mouth, as though she's memorised this mantra as a way of convincing herself. "He deserves someone who isn't going to take out her own shit on him."
"Maybe he doesn't think so," Lee snaps, with enough violence that she takes a step back. "Maybe he would have liked to be consulted, Kara, maybe giving yourself to someone and then snatching yourself away out of a misplaced sense of martyrdom is going to hurt them more than if you'd just...never. Just never done anything. Maybe the what-ifs are going to keep him awake at night and never stop hurting, and maybe -" Lee's horrified sense of self-control finally, finally catches up with his tongue, and he stops speaking.
Kara's face is very still.
"Oh," she says eventually.
"Maybe you're not all that easy to leave," he says, and this time the bitterness rings out loud and clear.
"Don't take the high ground with me, Apollo," she says, but he can hear the lack of conviction. "If your morals are so clear, then why did you -"
"What? Settle for the safe option?" He watches her flinch. "All right. Maybe we're both guilty of that one."
She starts to look angry again. "I was going to say kiss me back, actually."
"Damn it, Kara!" He grabs her shoulders, wishing she'd just shut up and understand. "Because you're not the safe option, you're the most frakking unsafe option I can imagine falling in love with, but I wasn't consulted in the matter. By you or the universe or the gods or anyone else."
Well, she's certainly shut up. Lee forces himself to look away from her eyes. He traces the lines of her face, the way her hair hangs newly short around her jaw, shifting his gaze and trying not to notice the way her expression is changing.
When she speaks, finally, there's a teasing note in his voice that he'd half-expected to never hear again. "Did you say you love me?"
The last muscle relaxes, somewhere deep inside his chest, blood and perfection flooding through him.
"Dreamer," Lee says, and kisses her.