Title: “A Step to the Left”
Spoilers: None, pre-mini
Summary: Kara and Helo on leave. "Everything's the same, but now, somehow, everything is different."
Disclaimer: Ron D. Moore, David Eick, etc. etc. Not mine.
Word Count: approx. 1400
Author's Note: Many, many thanks to the supremely wonderful sabaceanbabe for her beta and her encouragement.
Somewhere between bar number three and bar number four on night number two of a three-day pass, Kara stops and points to a hole-in-the-wall whiskey joint. She says she’s (still) feeling lucky and thirsty and she wants to go in. Helo glances up at the name over the door, Thelxiepia's, remembers what happened the last time they came here... And while he's had a lot to drink, it's not nearly enough to make him think that this could - in any way, shape or form - be a good idea.
"It hasn't been long enough, Kara."
She squints for a moment, tilts her head slightly and Helo knows her sodden brain has finally put two and two together when a wicked smirk curves her lips and her eyes light up with trouble. He grabs her hand to pull her away before she can act on any crazy ideas.
"Karl..." she protests and digs in her feet, yanking back against him. But Helo's a pretty big guy and he can dig his feet in, too. The two of them catch and hover for a moment, perfectly balanced, equally determined, before the laws of physics kick in and she starts to sway in his direction.
"Tell you what. I might consider revisiting that place if you ply me with more alcohol somewhere else, first," he placates and gives her a smile. Actually, he gives her the smile, the one that has sent countless pairs of panties flying across Colonial airspace and in his general direction.
Kara rolls her eyes as an exasperated puff of air passes between her lips.
"You know that doesn't work on me," she replies and Helo chuckles to himself. The smile always works on her in the way he means it to, distracting her from her objective just long enough for him to alter her trajectory. Well, okay, not always... but more than enough times that he hasn't given up using it yet.
"You still haven't told me what would," he purrs seductively. It's laughably over-the-top and designed specifically to get under her skin, to keep her attention diverted as he pulls her gently down the street and away from temptation. He continues on, offering up ludicrous suggestions as he searches for a new bar to crash. "Motor Oil? Clowns? A virgin sacrifice?"
This time, Kara gives not just a huff, but a full-fledged snort of amused disdain and Helo laughs because baiting Kara is so. much. fun. "Come on, help a guy out, Thrace..." He flashes her the puppy-dog eyes - another thing that doesn’t work on her - but fits in this game of misdirection he's playing, so why not?
She's quiet for a moment, and now she's no longer dragging behind but walking alongside him. He glances at her from the corner of his eye, sees her run a considering look up and down his body. There's a sudden need to display: tense his biceps, stand a little straighter. Because even though they're battle buddies and drinking partners and, most importantly, good friends, Helo's only human and they're both drunk and she's attractive and there's a little part of him that's always wondered...
He quickly quashes that impulse though, because this is Kara and he knows...
"Okay, Agathon, here’s how you can score with me: find a pillow, take a nap and dream." Kara singsongs the word "dream" and it carries the same combination of playfulness and snark as the smirk she's leveling at him right now.
"Oh, ouch." He brings his hand up to cover his heart. "The mighty Starbuck hits her target with deadly accuracy, yet again." He grins at her and nudges her ribs with his elbow. "Just for that, you're paying the rest of the night as I drown my sorrows away."
She returns his nudge, with interest, as she grouses good-naturedly at him. "I always pay, anyway."
"Only because you always win, so I wouldn't be protesting too loudly there, champ."
His words spark a gleam in her eyes and bring a bit of the wolf to her smile. "Be nice to me and maybe I'll let you win, one day. Like, say, for your birthday or something? My little gift of love to you," she fires back.
This time, Helo’s the one rolling his eyes.
A companionable silence falls between them as they walk, mostly steady, along the sidewalk and to no place in particular. Kara's distracted by the trouble she's having lighting her cigar, so she doesn't notice the bar they're currently passing. Helo doesn't say anything, even though he really wouldn't mind another couple of drinks and checking the score of the game. They'll stop at the next place because, right now, it's a warm spring night and they're mostly by themselves and it's... nice, just being here.
He vaguely registers that they're still holding hands, but there's no reason to pull away as long as she's not caring. Touches that aren't related to casual sex or casual violence are in short supply ever since he joined the military, and sometimes Helo misses them. Also, hand-holding was much preferable to other things - like that last leave in Delphi when Kara had decided she wanted a piggyback ride on the way back to the motel. Only, she'd neglected to tell him that before taking a running leap at his back and plowing them both, face-first, into the pavement. The cuts and bruises they sported after that particular pass weekend had kept the grapevine on Galactica speculating for days...
Helo smiles at the memory and looks over at her, notices that she's given up on the cigar, for now.
"Hey, Karl?" Kara asks, staring up at the sky as she slows them to a stop.
And suddenly she's pushing her upper body away from him, toppling sideways, falling towards the street. There's no hesitation, no time for alcohol-dulled reflexes, as Helo tightens his grip on her hand and works and pulls to slow her fall. He uses her downward momentum to swing her up and around so she ends up smashing hard against his chest instead of smashing hard into the ground.
The wind’s been knocked out of him and he takes a few seconds to catch his breath while she stares up at him, seemingly unshaken. He feels the need to inhale again, even though he's just done so, when she gives him a small, warm smile that he's never seen before. "What the frak was that?" he finally asks.
"The reason why your smile of seduction doesn't work on me."
Helo is a little confused, but it finally dawns on him: Kara Thrace gives a lot of different things to a lot of different people, but the one thing she doesn't give a lot of is trust. He doesn't need a carefully crafted smile to win her over, because he's already done it just by being there, with her, for her.
As he looks down at Kara, he experiences a slight shift in perspective, like he's taken a step to the left. Everything's the same, but now, somehow, everything is different.
He wraps his arms around her waist and pulls her into a hug - just a short one, though, because she won't allow anything more than that. "Don't get soft on me, big guy," she smirks and punches his shoulder, hard, after she pushes him away.
Helo playfully cuffs the back of her head, then drapes an arm across her shoulders and turns them back in the direction they came. "Come on, Thrace, the next bottle's on me."
She steps out from under his arm, raises an eyebrow and makes a show of examining him. "That's a first."
He starts to walk and tosses her a smirk from over his shoulder. "What can I say? I'm a sucker for women who throw themselves at my feet."
"Well, at least you got the sucker part right," she retorts as he continues moving away from her.
After a few seconds pass, her footsteps start closing in and Helo's pretty sure of what she's about to do. This time, when Kara jumps, he's ready. He grabs her legs and bounces her once to better balance her weight across his back.
Her arms wrap around his neck and her chin comes to rest on his shoulder as he carries them toward their destination, just ahead and to the right. They're less than ten yards away when she whispers, "Piggyback rides always work," and gives a sharp nip to his jaw.
He sucks in an audible breath, and Kara chuckles lowly, throatily in his ear. Leave it to a Viper pilot to flip and change directions with no warning... But following a pilot's lead is what he's been trained to do, so it's not surprising to feel himself flipping and changing directions right along with her.
Helo bounces her again, in retaliation. "Always?" he manages to grind out, now very much aware of the way Kara's body presses and shifts against his as she settles back into place.
"Always," she repeats, her hand sliding under his shirt to play with the tags resting against his chest.
His mind flashes back to Delphi and everything's the same, but now, everything is different. "Oh," he says quietly.
"Oh," Kara agrees and traces the tip of her tongue up the side of his neck. "Let's get out of here," she growls softly.
A slow smile spreads across Helo's face as he steps to the left, moving them away from the bar and out into the night.