Three days later, in a forest of swampy trees not very far away...
Lee Adama ran a sweaty palm through his equally sweaty hair. His face was dirty, smudges of mud on his arms and fatigues, and he had a headache no hangover could touch. This was beginning to get impossible. Being only a tad bit of a pessimist, he had to admit the chances of finding the missing half of the fleet- and the raptor crew along with it- were growing slim as the years went by. He had a sinking feeling, as he trudged through a grimy swamp, that this would turn out to be the thousandth-and-some-odd search they'd been on to find the other half of the fleet. And even if they were, by some great miracle, able to find their missing commrades, would they like what they found? In all honesty, it had been three years and a handful of days since the separation, and who's to say they were even still alive? The thought pained him so much he had to stop walking, hold on to the nearest tree, and take a deep swallow of air. In the pit of his soul, he knew the 'they' wasn't as important to him as the one: Kara Thrace.
"Apollo?" came Hotdog's voice from behind him, "Apollo, wait up!" The other man jogged to where Lee had crouched, followed by Chief Tyrol and Racetrack; the four of them made up the crew the senior Adama had selected to go on this round of searching. They took a small freight ship and flew one hundred kilometers from where they'd ended their last search, and then back-tracked. This is how it was done each time. A few other members of Galactica's crew opted to come along, mostly just to get off base. As it wasn't a dangerous mission, the Commander gave the go-ahead.
"How much further do we have?" Tyrol sat down next to Apollo, just as tired and dirty.
"Not sure," Lee answered, taking a long drink from his canteen. "We'll have to check the distance when we get back to the ship. I'm sure Dee's been tracking it."
"Let's try to go a little further before we head back. I have a good feeling about this one," Racetrack put in, smiling a little to encourage them.
"You say that every time, Edmondson."
"Yeah, but this time I mean it."
A little over fourteen kilometers away, Kara was taking a slow walk down the long aisles of the marketplace, which reminded her of the one they'd constructed on New Caprica, the main difference being most of the goods here were for trade and not sale, since there wasn't really any money in use. The outdoor market was bustling with people, and Kara smiled at a young woman carrying a baby; at least someone had been able to find happiness on this godsforsaken planet. She made her way past several tables boasting baskets full of ripe tomatoes, wild onions, and bright red apples. She stopped at the apples, picking one up. They were one of Lee's favorite fruits. Shaking her head a bit, she dropped the spple back into the basket, remebering she didn't even like apples.
Everyone around her seemed so happy, so carefree. More than a few people were toting babies and small children along, acting as though this was how it always was, how it should be. Maybe they were all better at accepting their fates and moving on with life. Or maybe they were wrong.
Now ten miles away from the bustling marketplace, Lee, Chief Tyrol, Hotdog and Racetrak were fast becoming exhuasted. It was getting dark, they were almost out of water, and all growing hungry. When Hotdog tripped on a tree root and nearly twisted his ankle, Lee reluctantly decided it was time to head back to their freight ship and regroup for the next round of searching.
"I still say this time's it. I just know it," Racetrack said as they pulled out their flashlights for the walk back.
"I hope you're right," the Chief replied quietly. Hotdog put a hand on his shoulder, and Lee gave him a friendly smile. No one had lost more than the Chief, at least in the others' eyes, and every time they ended a search with no new leads, Tyrol seemed to break a little more. It had already been three years; Lee wasn't sure how much more he could take.
They walked in silence, and Lee's thoughts drifted to Kara. His breathing became constricted as thought about the last time they'd seen each other. He couldn't quite remember the exact words spoken, but he knew it wasn't a happy ending by any means. Now she was probably living a happy life with Anders, who knew if she even thought of him any more? Sometimes he wondered why he never had any desire to get back together with Dee after the landed on Earth. He always justified that decision by telling himself they would find the others, and he would be reunited with Kara, the Starbuck to his Apollo, and everything would be right again, Samuel T. Anders be damned. He just had to have faith, just like Kara always had. He was never a religous man, but maybe it was time he become one. He could use a few prayers right now.
Back on the freight ship, the others were winding down and getting ready for a few hours' sleep before the next day, while Dee was bouncing her two and a half year old daughter on her lap. She smiled at Lee as he walked into the oversized storage room she'd made living quarters in. Lee stood in the doorway, feeling a little bit awkward, even though he and Dee had decided, after all, to remain friends.
"How'd it go?" she asked, looking up at him hopefully.
He sighed. "Same as always."
"Oh." Then, "Lee, I'm sorry. I'm sorry about Kara."
He managed a weak little half-smile before clearing his throat and bending down to give the little girl in her lap a kiss on the forehead.
"And how's miss Ophellia today?"
The girl turned shyly away from him and buried her face in Dee's shoulder. "Good," she mumbled.
"Lee, I wanted to tell you, I think we miscalculated. We're off by about ten kilometers."
"So you mean..."
"We need to go forward another ten kilometers and then backtrack from there."
"Oh." He didn't seem affected by the news either way. "I'll wake Hotdog, then."
Kara couldn't sleep, so she grabbed a blanket and went out to the back of her house and lay on the damp grass, looking up at the stars with a heavy heart. For the first time in many years she though about Sam, and wished he was there, to hold her and help her get to sleep. She'd been so lonely without the warmth of another body next to hers, especially on cool spring nights like these.
Just as she was beginning to drift off to an uneasy sleep, an unusual breeze startled her awake, followed by the unmistakable whirring of twin engines: a ship was approaching. She bolted upright and squinted, trying to make it out in the dark. She heard a door slam from somewhere, and saw Cally come running with a lantern.
"Kara, do you hear that? Sounds like-"
"It's a ship," Kara replied evenly, keeping all emotion at bay, at least for now. They both watched as the vessel passed over their heads and landed in a clearing a few hundred feet away. Kara said nothing to her companion, just started to run. She ran, Cally following, and by this time others had woken, coming out to see what the noise was.
"Kara!" Helo called, jogging to catch up with her, "Kara, wait!" But she didn't stop.
She ran through a small thicket of trees, not noticing as brambles and twigs snagged her ankles and arms. Cally and Helo kept shouting at her to stop, what if it was the Cylons? But she knew. Oh, gods, she knew.
Then she stopped. Dead in her tracks, right at the edge of the clearing. There was Lee; even in the poor light she could make him out. Her heart began to beat three kilometers a minute, and she didn't know what to do next. So she ran again, right to him, calling his name until she was hoarse. Lee gently shoved a small girl he'd been holding into someone's arms, and caught her, falling backward to the ground in disbelief.
"Kara? Kara, oh gods, it can't really be you. This is a trick, this is..." He didn't know what he was trying to say, so he let his words trail off, and instead hugged her tightly to his chest, letting his tears paint her cheeks as he pressed against her. She grabbed his arms, holding on as if to let go were to lose him again, and then started laughing.
"It's me, Lee. I'm here. You found us, just like I knew you would." She grinned wildly at him, not really sure if it was possible to feel this happy. Then she knew it was as he pulled her down to him for a kiss, a feather-light brush of lips that deepened into something Kara hadn't known she'd been longing for, something that seemed to heal both of them as they found each other again. A kiss that reunited Starbuck and Apollo, Kara and Lee, and proved once and for all that everything meant nothing compared to destiny.
Kara rolled off him, still giggling, and stood up, realizing hundreds of people were now surrounding the ship. Hotdog, Helo, Athena, and Racetrack shared hugs and cheers, and Cally and the Chief were both crying and smiling the biggest smiles Kara had ever seen. Lee pulled her in for another hug, and kissed her forehead, cupping her face with shaking hands. Kara opened her mouth to say something when she noticed Dee standing a little ways off, a smile on her face, holding the little girl Lee had been carrying earlier.
"Lee, is that your-"
"Kara. No. Of course not." He hugged her once more, then pulled back to look her over, noticing the look of relief in her eyes.
"Where's Anders?" Lee was surprised he hadn't come running right behind Kara.
"He's dead." Lee couldn't read the look on her face. She was sad, but not grieving. No tears came to her eyes. If anything, she looked guilty.
"Kara, I'm sorry."
"Don't Lee, not now. We'll talk about it later. Right now I'm still trying to convince myself you're really here."
Lee winked at her and gave her a quick kiss. "Yeah, tell me about it. At least you got to set up house and play homemaker, just waiting for me to find you; I had to do all the hard work, like always."
She slapped him on the arm and laughed, this time her turn to kiss him. "Lee Adama. Some things never change."
a/n: Yay, Kara and Lee finally get reunited! There will be much more K/L goodness in the next chapter! :)