Summary: “There is a feeling that you should just go home/And spend a lifetime finding out just where that is” (cathedrals, little children)
Fandom: Battlestar Galactica (2003)
Spoilers and/or Warnings: through the season finale.
Title, Author and URL of original story: leiascully. "I have come home" by leiascully.
of fallen angels across the ceiling (the click your heels three times remix)
“Home” implies a sense of belonging, or, at least, an understanding. Home is more than a house, a structure, a place to crash. Kara never felt home until the night she broke onto to base, climbed inside a Viper and pressed a few buttons. Kara felt home in her flight suit, almost a second skin despite the room for O2 to circulate. When she first sat in class, learning about the physics of flight, she remembering thinking how flying was similar to diving in the ocean – tanks, special suits, pressure gauges. Kara and Zak had gone diving more than once off the shore in Caprica City, once even taking a trip to Aerlon (the best reefs in the colonies) to risk life and limb deep under the quiet water that swallowed them.
Zak was always more comfortable under water than Kara was. She was always looking up, looking at the ceiling of water above them. He took in the wild life, pointing out fish to her, beautiful coral, giant tunicates 100 clicks down. She did it for him, because he loved it. But she always thought about how he was more comfortable under the sea than flying above, and how the opposite was true of Zak. Zak who wanted to eat dinner together and sleep together and who made her laugh in ways she never thought she would. She didn’t deserve happiness, but it found her. So even though she knew he was in flight school simply because of his father, that he was more comfortable a mile under the water than a mile above it, she encouraged his misguided mission. He had no feel for flying, not like Kara, who never felt more comfortable than inside a bird, not even in Zak’s arms. But she passed him anyway, because she was afraid to lose him. Because he wasn’t completely safe, completely secure, but he loved her and she loved him. She passed him because he made her feel normal, normal for wanting to be the best in the skies, normal for smoking and cleaning up at Triad.
And after he died, she devoted herself to something that wouldn’t betray her, let her down, disappear on her. Kara chose the machine that wouldn’t make a stupid decision on its own, the machine that she understood. The thing that killed her fiancé, the machine she always had a feel for. Only Kara could make the decisions in that relationship. Only she was in control. If she respected the bird, it would respect her.
She wouldn’t frak that up, not for anything.
She almost frakked it up for Zak, but the birds didn’t care. They didn’t tell her secret. The birds kept quiet and responded to her the way they always did, the birds listened to her commands and trembled under her hands as she pushed against the thruster. After that, after Zak – she had new purpose and zeal. She landed in the brig more often, she spoke back to her superior officers. She reverted back to who she was on Caprica before Zak, before flight school. The know-it-all in the back of the class, rolling her eyes and just waiting for the time to pass. But she looked up to the old man, felt a kinship with him. He was someone that knew what it was like to want to fly, all the time. And while she never wanted to be in charge of anything, she knew his job was hard, and he did it well. He looked after her, even though she pretended not to notice how much she started to mean to him.
When he lied to her about Earth, it was Zak all over again. She could love, but she couldn’t trust humans the way she could trust her vipers. She accepted that, right before she spooled the FTL drive up for Caprica. Later, she heard that the old man said she went home. He couldn’t have been more wrong, she thought. Caprica was never home. The skies above it, maybe, but never the planet. When she confronted Leoben for the first time, she didn’t say, “You destroyed my people.” She didn’t say, “You destroyed my home.” She said, “You destroyed my civilization,” because that was the most honest thing she could say.
(Kara knows it’s frakking strange that her first sense of home came when she was sitting in a machine that was never meant to stay still. The psychology of the Viper matched her own, in a sense, and though she always returned to Galactica and her changing, make-shift family, part of her always wanted to just keep going. Perhaps that’s why she listened to the Leoben before going into the storm. She was already home; what more could she ask for?)
It wasn’t just the adrenaline rush of breaking the rules that first night that made her realize flying was something she wanted to do more than anything. It wasn’t even the first time she sat (officially) in the cockpit, and listened to her flight instructor tell her to engage. It was the quiet of the space inside the Viper, it was the understanding that there was only space for one person inside that bird, and it would always stay that way. Too many people could try to crowd a Raptor (not to mention the need for a co-pilot), too many possible different missions. In a Viper, it would be just Kara and her bird, build to evade and destroy, meant to move fast and maneuver quicker. She made all the decisions and all the mistakes. She didn’t have to rely on anyone. Young Kara knew even then that this machine was her escape route, her sanctuary, her special destiny. Even with Zak, Kara knew that she always had her Viper – a place that would always be her own space, a the place that no one else could invade, that no one else could take away. In her bird, Kara knew what to do and how to do it. No second guessing, because she didn’t have to guess – she knew.
In her bird, Kara didn’t question who she was. Maybe that was part of being home, too.
Later, reflecting, Kara realized she wouldn’t have wanted to die any other way. Kara knew it was real, in that moment, when she saw the dog-tags, charred, but hers. She backed up in the tall grass, tried to think about how this could be a cylon trick, like Kasey, like everything before. She tried, again and again, but she kept coming back to the fact that it was her body, alone in a Viper on Earth. The harbinger of death, the future of things to come, Kara Thrace and her special destiny. All of it combined told her that she died on that planet. Kara Thrace died on Earth, the radioactive, depressed planet that held all their hopes and dreams, that kept them going for years across uncharted space. FTL jump after FTL jump, closing their eyes and hoping to take a step forward. She was dead, and she died alone, in the only place she could call home, and that told her she didn’t know who she was anymore. If she was any one. If she was ever any one, if humanity ever coursed through her veins and made her someone like Lee, like the old man, like the President. Even Leoben was afraid of her then which would have made her laugh, if she was anywhere close to laughing.
Nothing on New Caprica ever felt like home, not even Sam, really, as much as they both tried. Gravity bound, Kara didn’t wear her tags, grew her hair out, felt the weight of the planet on her shoulders. She loved Sam, but it wasn’t enough. She was never meant to be planet-bound; her heart knew the music of the stars and thought in patterns of Viper commands, thrust and roll.
She thought of herself on Caprica, before the holocaust, and she thought of Zak and Lee and her mother and her jeep. Kara didn’t like thinking about things that had already happened, that she couldn’t change. It seemed like all there was to do on that gods-forsaken planet was to think about the past. She knew this wasn’t the planet of their future – that it wasn’t Earth – and even though Sam listened to her, he didn’t really understand. She didn’t blame him, not really, because he was a boy that loved the feel of the ground beneath his feet, loved spinning on dirt and slamming a ball on the pyramid court. Sam loved fresh air and running and the sound of the wind.
Kara didn’t get it, but she tried. She tried for Sam. But a tent is not a home, especially when you are Kara Thrace.
Maybe that’s why she couldn’t be with Lee, because eventually, they would both get in their vipers and be alone again. Kara wanted it that way, while Apollo . . . Apollo would want family and home in the way Kara couldn’t give him. Apollo married Dee, for frak’s sake. How could she create home, house and hearth, when the only time she ever felt truly secure was alone? She never had those things, never really wanted them (Kasey was an exception, a cylon mind trick, that whole time one frakking mind-mess.) And after seeing Kasey, and Leoben, and Sam, Kara knew even more that house and home were not for her to create.
She tried. No one could say she didn’t try.
And Kara loved, of course. She loved Zak, Lee, Sam, the old man. She loved Roslin and Dee and Helo, but they never gave her sanctuary the way her Viper did.
Her Viper asked nothing in return, only strong grips on the controls and for Kara to understand it. It didn’t ask her to decide between two loves, or to break protocol. If she wanted to take on eight Raiders alone, all she had to do was point the nose in the right direction. There was no debate, no moral judgments to make, no emotional context. There simply was.
That’s how she got the Raider to fly, way back when it didn’t have everything to do with her own possible cylon nature, just the fact she understood its urges: to follow commands, fly freely and alone through the vast expanse of space, and come back with news for the people it loved.
Simple, really. Most basic.
The desire to be free.
Her Viper gave her freedom she never knew, never even thought possible, with her abusive mother and absent father, her feet tied to the laws of gravity ruling the twelve colonies. She wasn’t tied to the roads, like she was with her jeep, tied to painting and piano planning and being the general frak-up in school everyone expected. When she sat inside her bird, she was different. She was herself.
She broke the laws physical science when she flew. She broke stereotype and form. Kara Thrace was the best gods damn fighter pilot in the fleet, before and after the holocaust, because Kara Thrace was never more herself than when she was in the cockpit. From there, she could do anything. Make the right decisions. Save humanity. Find herself free from all the mundane realities of life aboard a battlestar.
And perhaps it was no surprise that Kara believed in the gods as she broke the laws of the natural world. And when she prayed to Athena, Artemis and Aphrodite, she felt lighter, as if her soul was taking flight in a small Viper, transversing the skies to carry a prayer and bring peace home.
When she can’t sleep, she goes down to the hanger deck, and she touches the side of the birds, and she climbs inside one of the old relics that have saved their collective asses countless times, and she touches them for thanks.
They are the only thing she can rely on, when she doesn’t even know who she is. The birds don’t judge her, and they never will. She is still the best pilot in the fleet, will always be, and they respect her for that. When she flies, she thinks of Kat and Chuckles, Crashdown and Boomer, so many lost and so many to remember. When she took her picture down from the wall of remembrance after the storm, when Roslin told her Lee put it up, she slept in a Viper that night, her hands on the controls, her neck gently tilted back.
Kara Thrace and her Viper – the only place she would ever be truly safe, ever be truly understood. She had made a promise that first day in flight school, and she intended to keep it. All the days of her life.
Remembering the charred Viper, her body bones and scorched hair, waiting for them on Earth, Kara found herself smiling. On the new planet, the one they decided was really Earth – the Earth of the gods, anyway – Kara stood with her feet on the solid ground. She thought about how Galactica was gone, she thought about how she found her own dead body and laughed because even if they were right, it this happened, and it would happen again, Kara Thrace did not frak it up.
And like that, she was gone.