|Are You Sweet On Your Sister
They were short-handed again, too many people flying recon missions and Helo out of commission and Boomer, well, Boomer in the brig because she wasn't Boomer, and so Kara was the only one off-duty, the only one sleeping in her bunk when the thump and the cursing started up somewhere outside of the vicinity of Kara's pillow.
Kara had been on duty fifteen straight hours, and up for ten before that, and she was frakking exhausted, but she peeled one eye open just enough to see what the frak was going on - there was an unfamiliar woman, tall and firm and angry-looking in black leather, standing two feet from Kara's bunk, cursing in a language Kara'd never heard on any of the colonies, and she'd been to all 12, before ... well, before.
"People are trying to frakking sleep here, you know," she said, and the dark-haired woman turned and fixed Kara with an expression of amusement and irritation that Kara was only used to seeing on Helo's face.
"Hello," the woman said. "Where am I?"
Kara was off her bunk, looking for her sidearm while the dark-haired woman stared at her. When Kara found the gun - under the pants she had dropped on the floor before she crawled into her bunk not even a frakking hour ago - the dark-haired woman said, "Are you going to shoot me?"
"Not if you're not a frakking toaster," Kara said.
"Oh, I'm not a toaster," the woman said firmly. "Toasters are small white or silver objects, that cook bread. Daniel was quite upset when I broke the one in the commissary specifically for bagels."
"What the frak are you talking about?"
"I'm not a toaster," Kara's stranger said, "I'm ... well, I'm not human, not the way Daniel defines it. But I'm most definitely not a toaster. Vala Mal Doran," and she stuck a hand out to Kara.
Kara looked at it warily. "Boomer didn't know she was a toaster, either," she said.
"That sounds like a mental health problem," Vala said cheerfully. "Which, admittedly, can often be solved by shooting the crazy person in question. But I'm not crazy."
"Yeah," Kara said. "Whatever you say."
"I'm Vala," Vala said again, her hand still in the air.
"Kara Thrace," Kara said, looking down at Vala's hand. "Call me Starbuck."
"Nice to meet you, Starbuck," Vala said, grabbing the hand of Kara's that wasn't holding her gun, which was still cocked, and shaking it firmly. "Where am I?"
"You're in the pilots' off-duty room on the Battlestar Galactica, flagship of the Colonial Fleet," Kara said. "And you're in a whole lot of trouble." She touched her radio and said, "Commander, this is Starbuck. We have an unauthorized visitor in the pilots' off-duty quarters, and I don't know where she came from or what she's doing here or how she got here."
Commander Adama said, "Mobilizing a team to take her to the brig right now. Keep her there for two more minutes, and be careful."
"I always am, sir," Kara said.
"You never are," Adama said. Kara stared at Vala for a full five minutes, neither of them saying anything, before a team of Marines busted through the door and pulled Vala's arms behind her back, cuffs clicking on firmly.
"Even Daniel was more friendly than this," Vala said petulantly, "and I almost tried to kill him the first time we met."
But she went placidly with the guards, like this was something she was used to, and Kara watched Vala's leather-clad ass saunter down the hall, before she turned, clicked the safety on her gun back on, and went back into the duty room to put her pants on.
Another day that sleep just wasn't going to happen.
She ate in the mess, and leaned over into the guts of her Viper with Chief for a couple of hours, and she was lying on the floor of the duty room pulling crunches when her radio flared up. "Lieutenant Thrace," Adama said. "If you would join us in the brig, at your convenience."
Kara pulled on a shirt and her jacket and her holster, and jogged down to the brig, where Adama and Roslin and Gaius Baltar were standing outside the cell where they'd put Kara's visitor. "Commander," Kara said. "Madam President, Dr. Baltar."
"At ease, Starbuck," Adama said.
"Sir," she said. Vala was pacing around the cell, staring at the walls with interest and ignoring the gathering on the other side of the bars.
"She insists that she's not a Cylon," Roslin said. "She knows nothing of the first Cylon war, and nothing of the second. She's a little rude, but then again ..."
"... so is Starbuck," Adama finished. Kara laughed, and Vala turned her head, crossing her arms across her chest - accentuating her cleavage, and Kara mostly frakked men but she wasn't picky, and Vala had a really nice rack - and stared straight at Kara.
"Dr. Baltar, if you could be so kind as to test her?" Roslin said.
"The Cylon detector doesn't work," Baltar said, but he didn't sound like he meant it. Kara tried not to think about Boomer, the Boomer on Galactica, the one who'd shot the old man, because Baltar'd been testing for Cylons before, and he hadn't found her. She kept her eyes trained on Vala, who was watching Kara curiously.
"Humor me," Roslin said. "Please."
"Lieutenant, go with them to Dr. Baltar's lab," Adama said. "Lee will join you there."
"Yes, sir," Kara said, and Adama opened the cell and Vala bounded out into the corridor, holding out her hands for the cuffs that Adama clicked around her wrists without a complaint. "Freak," Kara muttered.
"That's always what Cameron said," Vala said, and when Kara grabbed her elbow to drag her down the hallway, Vala leaned into Kara's body and Kara almost twitched away, but Vala's body was warm, and Kara couldn't help but lean back, just a little.
"Frak, they really build the toasters good-looking, don't they?" Kara said, leaning against a counter in Baltar's lab, because she had to say something - the silence was starting to get to her. Lee smirked at her, and Helo, trailing in Lee’s wake, flinched; his Sharon was in the brig, too, like Vala had been, and Sharon was pregnant, and Kara felt his flinch shudder through her, where his shoulder touched hers. She traded a look with Lee, saw something worried in Lee’s face. Nothing was easy anymore.
"She's not a Cylon," Baltar said. "She's not from the Colonies, certainly, but she's not a Cylon."
"You said that about Boomer," Kara said. "Sharon. I heard, you said that about the Sharon who shot the old man. What the frak do you know?"
Baltar winced and at least had the good graces to look ashamed. Kara glared at him.
"I'm not a Cylon," Vala said, swinging her legs off the table and smiling cheerfully, dragging Kara's attention back to Vala and her leather clad body. "I'm not a Goa'uld, either, or a Jaffa, or from Earth."
"You've been to Earth," Kara said, because it was the only word she recognized, and it was the only word she didn't believe, and out of the corner of her eye, Kara saw Helo twitch, and Lee’s posture snap straight like his father’d just walked in. Vala might not be a Cylon, but she certainly wasn't - Kara didn't know what she wasn't, or what she was. Vala was unsettling and fascinating and weirdly magnetic, and Kara knew that people like that spelled danger right then.
"Absolutely," Vala said. "They have hamburgers there, and movie theaters, and their gene pool is surprisingly small. What's a Cylon?"
Kara looked at Baltar, sure that her shock was written all over her face; Vala wasn't a Cylon, but that anyone in the Colonies could ask that question. Lee stared at the ground. Vala said, "What?"
Baltar said, "She doesn't have any mental damage, not visible damage, at least, and she's not a Cylon, I guarantee you. I wouldn't lie." Kara raised an eyebrow. "Well. Again."
"Fine," Kara said. "Come on," she said to Vala. "Let's go. I think you need to answer some questions."
"Ooooh," Vala said, hopping off the table and sliding up against Lee, who jumped backwards and stared at her like she'd bitten him. She turned and put her hand on Kara's arm instead. "Are we going somewhere fun?"
"No," Kara said. Vala was suddenly very much in Kara's personal space, licking her lips and smiling, pressing her breasts up against Kara's arm. "We're going someplace I can get a drink."
"That sounds fantastic," Vala said. "You're much more hospitable than Daniel ever was."
"It's not for you," Kara said. "Dr. Baltar?"
"Get her out of here," Baltar said. "I fear for my virtue." Kara lifted her eyebrows, because she knew Gaius's secrets, and Vala watched interestedly, glancing between Kara and Gaius as though they were a particularly good game of Pyramid. "I fear for someone's virtue," Baltar amended. "Commander Adama wants her chaperoned by someone from the Galactica's staff at all times, until he and President Roslin decide what to do with her."
“I’m on duty,” Lee said, already halfway out of the room, “if she’s not a threat.”
Helo backed away, his hands up in a gesture of fear and frustration that she'd never seen on him before ... Sharon, and said, "I've got to ... I can't, Kara, okay, I can't."
"Fine," Kara said. "Come on, let's go." She pried Vala's fingers off her arm and grabbed Vala's elbow.
Vala followed along patiently, but said, "You know, you look like you'd be more fun than you actually are."
"I'm a lot more fun when people who might be frakkin' toasters don't show up when I'm trying to sleep," Kara said.
"What is it about you people and toasters?" Vala asked, trying to wriggle out of Kara's grasp. Kara dug her fingers in harder and Vala looked over and her and purred, "You like to play rough, huh?"
"I'm not playing at anything," Kara said, though gritted teeth. "You serious?"
"Oh, darling, I'm not serious about anything except stealing, and I'm not even very serious about that," Vala said. "Serious about what?"
"You don't know what a Cylon is."
"Oh, no," Vala said. "No idea. I know all about the Lucien Alliance and the Goa'uld, and the Taur'i and the Replicators and quite a bit more about King Arthur and Merlin than I'd ever hoped to know, but nothing about Cylons. You'll have to tell me, I can warn Daniel if I ever get back to Earth."
Kara glared at her again, and said, "Look. I'll tell you about the Cylons, because even the human ones know enough to act like they know what Cylons are, and you fake dumb better than they do. But if I do, you tell me about Earth."
"Nothing really to tell," Vala said glibly. "Small gene pool, repressed sexually, generally smarter than they appear."
"It exists, though," Kara said.
"Oh, yes, unless Cameron Mitchell has blown it up since I left," Vala said. "That's always a possibility, unfortunately."
Kara paused in the corridor, trying to decide if she'd just take Vala back to the duty room and keep her there, or if she'd take her down to the ready room, make Vala sit in the corner while Kara got herself a drink and won herself some cigars playing Triad. "Come on," she said to Vala, turning toward the ready room. "Cylons are robots," she said, as matter-of-fact as she could manage, talking about all the frakking horror they'd lived through. "We made them, they rebelled, we beat them down. We thought they were under control. Then they attacked again, last year, and wiped out most of the Colonies, except for us that were up in space, for the Galactica decommissioning. Some of them look like humans. They're trying to kill us, from the inside of the Colonial survivors out."
"They sound icky," Vala said, wrinkling her nose. "Rather like Replicators, in fact."
"Earth is a myth," Kara said. "No one's been there."
"I'm beginning to think that I've ended up in the wrong galaxy," Vala said. Kara paused outside the door of the ready room, staring at her. "I've never heard of your Colonies, darling, and I've traveled further than Teal’c, and he was Apophis’ First Prime. You think that Earth is a myth, and I've gone bowling there. It's as though," and Vala paused, spinning a finger in the air, "it's as though, no, Daniel explained this, there was a quantum mirror, it's - another reality. Parallel, but different. Or simply you're so far from Earth that it's been relegated to a myth. Just a different frame of reference." She looked Kara up and down, smiling, and ran her fingers along Kara's cheek; Kara jerked backwards, losing her grip on Vala and almost landing on her ass in the hallway. "Earth is real, but as Cameron said, you can't get there from here, alas." Vala paused, and tapped a finger against her chin. "Come to think of it, I'm not sure how I got here from there. Damned rings, always malfunctioning at the most inopportune times."
"Earth is real?" Kara said, suddenly feeling something cold and sharp crawling up her spine. Vala was strange, unsettling, something dangerous and unreal in a world that was all too real for Kara in its loss and fear, but at the same time, she was beautiful, and a pool of attraction that Kara hadn't felt since she'd left Anders was uncurling in her stomach every time Vala moved, showing off her breasts or pressing up against Kara, too close for polite company. Vala was like the best sort of dogfight, frightening freefall and the danger of a crash, adrenaline rush laid underneath her skin. Kara was terrified of her, and couldn't pull away. " I found the Arrow and we found the temple. Earth is real."
"Oh, absolutely, darling," Vala said cheerfully. "Very much so. I just don't think that it's something you'll get to see."
"You don't know anything," Kara said, leaning back toward Vala, gripping her arm again. "Don't talk about this, to anyone. You might not be a frakking toaster, but you can't say those things to anyone, at all, you understand me?"
"Sure," Vala said, shrugging. "If it helps, no one ever believes anything I say. Probably because I lie a lot."
"You're lying about Earth," Kara said.
"Whatever you say," Vala said. She cocked her head, noticing the door in front of them for the first time. "Is there a card game going on in there?"
"Yeah," Kara said, "but you don't get to play."
"Oh, now, that's not nice," Vala said. She pouted, running her fingers up the hand Kara was holding her with. "I'm a stranger here, you know. It would be terribly friendly if you'd let me play."
Kara shoved the door open, and shoved Vala in before her. Three heads looked up, Kat and Hot Dog and Skulls, and Kat went for her sidearm. "Starbuck, ain't that the toaster you found in the duty room?"
"She's not a toaster," Kara said. "Deal me in and pass me the frakkin' hooch."
"What's she doing here?" Hot Dog asked. "She's not from the Colonies, I heard."
"Miscommunication, darling," Vala said, leaning over behind him and stroking a hand down his chest while she looked at his cards. "Bit of a malfunction, you see, I'm sure I'll be out of your hair sooner rather than later. I've never played this game before."
Vala roamed behind all four of them while Kara took all of Hot Dog's cigars and most of Kat's extra hooch. She flirted indiscriminately, touching everyone but Kara, staring at cards and making amused noises when someone played a bad hand. Kara ignored her, except to make sure that she wasn't up to anything, which she didn't appear to be, except for flirting. After an hour, Kat had huffed out, going on deck duty to hold tools for Chief while he tuned up the latest Raptors back on board, and Vala sank into Kat's chair and pressed her breasts up against Hot Dog's arm. "Spot me a few," she said, "and I won't take all your winnings right away."
Hot Dog blushed, stammered, and slid a few cubits over to Vala. "Right," she said to Kara, who was flipping the cards together. "Deal me in."
Kara did. Vala had no kind of bluffing face, but her shameless teasing and taunting flustered Skulls into losing all his cubits to Kara, and Vala ran Hot Dog out of the game not long after that. Skulls went off to his shift, and Hot Dog muttered something about getting some alone time, staring at Vala's breasts all the while.
"So," Vala said, stretching her legs out and propping them on Hot Dog's abandoned chair. "It's just you and me."
"Great," Kara said. "Just how I wanted to spend my one night off from duty."
"Don't worry," Vala said, flipping Kara's cards out in front of her before settling the draw stack beside her elbow. "I'm sure we can think of something fun to do after we finish here."
Kara smirked at her, and Vala only raised one well-tended eyebrow before Kara pulled her gaze away, and Vala dropped her own eyes back to her cards.
Vala didn't chatter when it was down to just the two of them. She just frowned at her cards, produced runs that Kara couldn't fathom, and stared at Kara like she was trying to commit Kara's entire face to memory in between bets. They'd been playing even, trading a few cubits here and there, back and forth, for nearly an hour before Vala spoke again.
"Earth isn't a paradise," she said.
"What?" Kara said, startled, dropping three more cubits than she'd meant to onto the pot.
"It's not paradise," Vala repeated, seeing Kara's wager and raising her two more. "I'd thought it was, myself, but it isn't. They're intolerant, the people who live there, and just as scared as you are, of other things."
"There's nothing to be frightened of on Earth," Kara said, calling the pot. Vala won, sweeping her earnings in front of her and flipping the cards out for a new game.
"There's the Orii," Vala said.
"Exactly," Vala said. "They're evil, they're religious nuts, worse than the Goa'uld, because the Goa'uld styled themselves gods but the Orii really think that they are gods."
"The only gods are the Lords of Kobol," Kara said. She wasn't religious, or she hadn't been; praying to the Lords had been rote duty, before, and now she simply hoped, believed in the arrow of Apollo and hoped for something that would look down on the Fleet and end their suffering - somehow.
Vala choked out a laugh that was barely a laugh. It sounded tired, and hurt, and Kara thought that she might have been projecting, but she thought it sounded a little scared, too. "There are gods everywhere, sweet thing," she said, shuffling her cards in her hand. "All in, what do you say? End this now."
"Sure," Kara said, because Vala's smile had disappeared and her mouth was tight at the corners, making her look fierce instead of seductive and flirty. "All in."
Vala slid her cards together in her hand, and leaned in toward Kara, resting her elbows on the table. "They would have burned me alive," she said, voice low. "The Orii, or their followers. They're cruel, and they're blind, and they are gods that you don't want to believe in, believe me, Kara Thrace. Earth is no paradise, and Earth is as frightened and paralyzed as you are. I'm not supposed to be here, I shouldn't be here at all, it wasn't supposed to work this way, but I'm here, and I will tell you this once, and you can believe me or you can not, but Earth is not a refuge from all this. The only thing you can do is keep going, and keep fighting, and don't show them when you're scared."
"I don't believe you," Kara said.
"It's written all over your face," Vala said, and flipped her cards face up. Full colors, and Kara had a hand full of junk. Vala watched her fold her cards in, and said, "Keep it. I won't be here in the morning, and I travel light."
Kara didn't have anything to say to that.
The halls were quiet when they left, heading back for the duty room. Everyone was on duty, or sleeping, or frakking someone they shouldn't be somewhere private; they wouldn't be in their bunks, because Kara was the only one who really slept there anymore. Everyone was on edge, everyone was scared and trying to hide it, and a night of nightmares surrounded by their fellow pilots didn't hide it.
The door was hardly closed behind Kara when Vala turned, pressing Kara up against the wall, one thigh braced between Kara's, and kissed her. Kara gasped, and Vala slid her tongue into Kara's mouth, running across the edge of Kara's bottom lip, tugging with her teeth. Vala's hands skimmed up underneath Kara's jacket, the edge of her shirt. Kara grabbed for something, anything, to hold on to, and settled on Vala's hips, firm and warm under their leather.
Vala laughed into Kara's mouth, and then pulled back, one hand pinning Kara's own hips against the wall, the other reaching up to smooth Kara's hair back from her face. "You need a good fuck," Vala said.
"What?" Kara said.
"Sex," Vala said.
"Oh," Kara said. "A good frak." And there were a lot of things that she could have said then, but Vala bit her neck, and slid her hand from Kara's hips, up underneath her shirt and cupped one of Kara's breasts, squeezing gently, thumb brushing against a nipple. "Oh," Kara said, and her hips jerked against Vala's, against Kara's will. "Oh."
Vala licked at Kara's neck, and her other hand shoved at the shoulders of Kara's jacket. Kara, her own hands still on Vala's hips, pushed Vala backwards, trying to walk her toward the bunk, any bunk, Kara didn't care whose.
Vala's legs bumped the edge of the bunks, and she sat down hard, hooking her fingers in Kara's belt loops as she fell and tugging Kara down into her lap. Kara planted a knee on the bunk, straddling Vala, and wrapped a hand into Vala's hair before she kissed Vala again. Vala wriggled underneath her, and she was stronger than she looked, because the next thing Kara knew, she was on her back on the bunk, and Vala was biting at Kara's neck while she unzipped Kara's pants. She pulled on them until Kara lifted her hips to let Vala slide her pants to her ankles, where they stuck on her boots. "Damn shoes," Vala said, sliding to the floor and untying Kara's boots. Kara only barely heard the thumps when they landed somewhere else, because Vala was shimmying back up Kara's body, pressing her down to the bunk with a searing kiss, and sliding her fingers inside Kara's underwear.
Vala had thick hair, halfway down her back, and when Vala's thumb brushed across Kara's clit, she was happy to have something to hold onto, something to dig her fingers into when she groaned into Vala's kiss. Vala rubbed circles with her thumb, her other hand bracing her body above Kara's while she kissed Kara - and Vala had the clever, quick hands of a thief, circling Kara's clit, stroking two fingers up inside her, bringing Kara to the edge before Kara realized that she'd gotten there, and then Vala backed away, pulling her fingers away and her mouth from Kara's.
"Frak you," Kara said, tension still humming in all of her muscles, and she was almost desperate to come, to find some kind of release where she wouldn't have to think about toasters and Anders and everything else for just a couple of minutes.
"Language, darling," Vala said, and hooked her fingers in the waistband of Kara's underwear, tugging them off and sliding down Kara's body with them, settling between Kara's legs. "Mmmm," Vala said, and then she ran the broad flat of her tongue over Kara's cunt, while her fingers slid back in, teasing at Kara's clit.
Kara fisted her hands in the blanket and tried not to thrash, and as Vala worked her closer to the edge, fingers teasing and tongue soothing, she shoved a fist in her own mouth to keep from crying out. When she came, thighs clenching at Vala's shoulders, she bit down on her own hand so hard the mark was there for days after.
Vala stood up, wiping her mouth with the back of her hand, and Kara just shuddered, pulled her hand from her mouth and said, "Oh, frak."
Vala smiled, smug and superior, and reached a hand behind her neck. Kara watched as Vala's leather was stripped off in one piece, revealing creamy breasts and a stomach as firm as Kara's, and then Vala crawled back onto the bunk and kissed Kara, tasting sweet and musky and alive. Kara shuddered again when Vala ground down against Kara's thigh, and shocked her hands into working, sliding one between Vala's thighs and grabbing Vala's ass with the other, holding her in place while she worked at Kara's hand and Kara's thigh, until Vala twitched, trembled, and kissed Kara fiercely while she came.
Vala buried her face in Kara's neck, and Kara could feel the smile against her skin; Anders had smiled like that, the first time - it was a smile of relief and comfort and something that Kara thought might be thanks.
Kara dozed; she didn't remember falling asleep, but she must have, because she woke up, and she was twisted in Kat's blankets, half-naked. Vala was standing in the middle of the duty room, bent over to tie a boot, showing off an ass that was, really, made for black leather. "Hey," Kara said, twisting up to sitting.
"Hey yourself," Vala said. She propped her hands on her hips and looked at Kara, measuring, like how Lee and the old man looked at her sometimes, fierce but not bad. "Thank you, darling, for the cards, and the fuck, and for not throwing me out of - "
Before Vala could finish her sentence, a set of rings set down in the room, one at a time, wide enough to touch the bunks and send Kara scrambling backwards, and tall enough that Vala disappeared inside them entirely. Seconds later, they whooshed back out of the room, out of existence, and Vala was gone completely. Kara blinked, twice, and thumped on the side of her head with her hand, but Vala was still gone, and the relaxed feeling in Kara's thighs was still there.
She crawled out of Kat's bed slowly, pulled her underwear and her pants back on, and padded out into the hallway with her boots. It was the middle of the night, not that it mattered much in space, and Helo was coming in, off-duty and headed for some sleep, and he said, "Hey, what happened to the ... to that girl?"
"Hitched a ride on a transport," Kara said. "She's not our problem anymore."
Helo tilted his head to one side, considering, and then he nodded and pulled Kara into a surprising hug. "You're a pretty good kid, Starbuck."
"Shut up," Kara said, slugging him on the arm. He let her go, and she walked slowly down the hall to the flight deck, back to real life and a search for Earth and not letting anyone see just how scared she really was.
author's notes: title and summary from the decemberists, "the tain". plum and ez did beta duty, and shep, asb, and plum gave the second draft the go-ahead thumbs up and the pre-posting vocabulary check.