[personal profile] embolalia
Title: Into the World
Fandom: BSG/Dollhouse
Pairing: Kara/Lee
Rating: PG-13
Words: ~2,000
A/N: This continues Into the Dollhouse, which started this AU.
Summary: In wartime, there are more important things than love. But every war must end.

Lee spends his afternoons alone on the hillside near his father’s old cabin. Some days he wants to die. Other days he thinks she’s out there somewhere.

It’s been ten years since the war began, since the first phone rang somewhere in New York City and within half an hour the city was at war with itself. Lee understood more than most that the rumors were plausible, that people could be programmed. He started looking for the Dollhouse right away, digging deeper than he ever had before. But he wasn’t the only one looking, and the world was falling apart around him.

LA was hit two weeks later, and Lee’s father came to find him. “You have to give this up,” Bill ordered. “Even if you found her, she’s got Active architecture. We don’t know that they couldn’t turn her in a serial killer from ten miles away with just a remote control. You can’t bring her back here, Lee.”

Lee turned on him, furious. “And what if it were Zack? What if he came back to us and he’d had a thousand other people inside his head but it was him again? Would that change anything?”

His father looked stricken, but not for the reason Lee had wanted. “We have a duty to this community,” Bill said. “We couldn’t let him in.”

In the next few days Bill Adama rounded up everyone left in their section of the LA Air Force Base housing, destroyed all the technology within a mile, and started fortifying. Lee dreamed of Kara every night, but they’d never survive without him and chances were good she was already dead.

Twice Adama’s enclave tried to leave the base and set up a new town for themselves, with space to grow food and access to fresh water; twice they were driven back by raving, mindless hordes of Butchers. Lee fought alongside the handful of marines who’d been on base during the first attacks, but he was no longer a perfect soldier. In every madman’s face, before he fired, he looked for her.

Even that feels long behind them as Lee lies in the grass, watching birds fly overhead. The wildlife has come back since the attacks, and the world feels healthy again. But Lee feels utterly lost.

*

Kara stays close to the buildings as she winds her way down the streets of Los Angeles. The pulse Topher set off should have knocked out all the Butchers, but she learned wariness as a child and the decade that’s passed since the world ended has only strengthened that instinct. She remembers when she used to drive these roads at breakneck speeds, back when there were cars, and gasoline, and - for that matter - roads. Kara climbs over a roadblock of wrecked trucks and keeps going. It’s a long way across the city.

A few weeks after things began to spiral out of control, they set all the Actives back to themselves. It was Caroline’s doing, or so Paul always said. He was stunned silent to realize he’d met Kara before, that her encounters with Lee had been as herself. Then he cocked his head, starting to smile. Kara looked away.

It took nearly a year to gather what they needed and enough of a plan for leaving the city. Kara’s military training came in handy; she and Tony trained the others in self-defense and marksmanship and other skills they’d never needed back when they were cashiers and teachers and librarians. They told each other plenty about their past lives, eager to claim their own identities again, but no one spoke of the reasons they entered the Dollhouse. There was too much loss there, too much pain, and the promises that had been made about distance and good fortune had come to nothing.

The day they left, Paul pulled Kara aside.

“What?” she demanded. They’d worked together long enough to know each other’s shorthand. The way he was frowning meant she wouldn’t like what came next.

“That man,” he said. “Who used to request you as you.”

“Lee,” Kara said, and just his name on her lips made her chest ache.

“We won’t be back here for a while. If you want to try to find him--”

She glared him to silence. “You know what it’s like out there.” Her tone begged him not to make her say it. There was no denying that Lee was almost certainly dead. Paul gave in, and nodded, and they armed the former Actives for the journey.

The Safe Haven they made for themselves was anything but safe. She and Tony and Paul and the others ran constant patrols, endless scavenger missions to recover food and medicine and information. After a few years, it became a kind of life.

Still, Kara held herself apart. She’d drink with the others, and train, and fuck Paul occasionally since he was longing for Caroline and they both knew where they stood, but she avoided any permanent commitments. Paul saw. After she saved him while they were breaking back into the Dollhouse, after Topher set off his pulse and the world reset, he found her.

Kara smirked; the whole house had heard him and Caroline the night before.

Paul grinned back, and shook his head. “Go find him.”

So she left. But now, with the gates of the Los Angeles base hanging half off their hinges in front of her, Kara is stabbed with regret. It’s probably far too late.

*

Lee wanders back to the empty cabin as night falls. They finally came out here, toward the old Adama cabin, as far as they could get without cars or technology of any kind. God, he misses tech some days, but after his father’s best friend got wiped, they had no choice but to give up anything that even used electricity. For the past year, they’ve been making do, living far enough apart not to draw the Butchers’ attention and quietly setting up gardens and low-tech farms to sustain a basic trading economy.

At first it was alright, the work so hard there was no time to miss anyone. But two weeks ago Laura, a woman Bill fell in love with during the war, finally began to sucuumb to cancer they no longer had the resources to treat. He took her back toward the city, to find medicine or be buried near her family, whichever came first.

His father’s simple choice, so different from anything the Bill Adama who raised Lee would have done, has stirred up a decade of suppressed emotions. Just being in the cabin conjures her up; he first met Kara here, when Zack brought her along on a hiking trip. They drank and laughed and Lee knew, like he’d never known before, that he was meant to be with someone. After Zack passed out, they kissed for the first time, hot and sweet and addictive. Sitting down to eat at the same kitchen table where she lay under him, Lee can barely stand it. He has to help Gaius and Sharon plow the south fields in the morning, but then he’ll go. She has to be somewhere.

*

Kara thought he might still be here, or might have come back when the pulse went off. But if he survived he’s likely somewhere without technology and hasn’t noticed the change. She tears angrily through his old house, remembering the way he fucked her against the front door, the way he held her among those sheets like he’d never let her go. Tears come to her eyes and she wipes them angrily away. She was the one who left.

She finds the deed in the kitchen, and now she does cry with relief. They knew there were only Butchers after them, who couldn’t read or reason, so Lee didn’t bother to burn or bury this clue. It’s tacked to the wall, a pin where the cabin is. Kara remembers it with a shiver: a cold night, Lee’s lips fierce and hungry on hers. Until Zack woke up. Until the first thing to ever made sense spiraled out of control. Still, she closes her eyes and lets herself feel it all over again. She guards her memories differently now. Even the ones that are guilty or embarrassing or painful are hers. They’ve done more penance than she could ever have dreamed of. They deserve to have what they want.

Kara spends the night in Lee’s bed and rises early, restocks her pack and sets out. People are starting to wander around, confused at what’s happened and how they’ve been restored. It’s reassuring to see them talking to one another and not roaming like zombies. Kara makes her way first to her old place and finds it intact. There’s enough gas in her motorcycle to get most of the way to the mountains and she laughs with hope. The engine roars to life.

*

Lee climbs the hill one last time, taking in the view of the new world before he leaves it. The sky is blue and cloudless, the grasses green and tall as the wind urges them gently in rolling waves. It would mean peace if only she were with him.

“Lee,” the wind whispers in his ear.

He turns and she’s appeared from nowhere, as impossible as a bird alighting inside a house with all the windows closed.

She’s dirty, bedraggled, grinning. He finds his gun in his hands, trained on her by instinct, but his hands are shaking. Even if she were a killer he couldn’t pull this trigger. “Show me your birthmark,” Lee whispers. He’s afraid of something else, even more: it’s possible they reset her, that the last thing she remembers is Zack’s death and how they ended things before she left for the Dollhouse. To have her back if she’s forgotten--

Kara smiles and turns and pulls up her shirt.

Lee grins so hard his face hurts, so hard there are tears on his cheeks. That last time he saw her they went to Vegas. It was only days before the worlds ended, though they didn’t know it yet. They went because he needed an ending he could believe in, and even if she didn’t believe yet she wanted to give it to him. When her handler came to get her, she gave Lee the ring back, but what’s on her skin now she can never undo. The letters are faded already; she’s had the tattoo for years. Kara Thrace Adama.

As she turns back, tears in her eyes, too, Lee pulls off his t-shirt, dropping his gun with it into the grass. Her name is engraved over his heart, and he watches her start to smile before he turns, so she can see his birthmark. He feels her fingertips stroke over his name and Lee turns, wrapping her in his arms and kissing her, in case the world finally ends for good or because now it never will.

His tags are caught between them, both their rings hung on the chain. Kara winds her fingers through the chain as she pulls him even closer, kissing him back, whispering his name against his lips.

“Kara,” he murmurs back, and pulls her down into the grass as she laughs, her joy ringing out for the world to hear. “I’ve missed you.” He kisses her softly, pulling away far enough to free their rings from his dogtags and slipping Kara’s on for her. She returns the favor, and when she cups his cheek with her hand he can feel the warmth of the metal on his jaw.

“I’ve missed you, too.”
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embolalia

December 2016

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