Author's note: Happy birthday, Rocky! Spoilers up to and including "Black Market". Takes place immediately after the events of that episode.
Disclaimer: Characters and places belong to people who are not me. No profit or infringement intended.
Laura Roslin rolls over in bed, her cheek resting against the pillow, her eyes opening slowly. For the sixth day in a row, she's woken up at least 12 minutes before the alarm clock went off. She sighs and settles back, rubbing her feet together. She feels an ache in her lower back, no doubt because the mattress gets more and more compact with each passing day; it's not a bed made for long-term use. One of these days, she'll have to see about getting the foam replaced, or perhaps even the mattress. But despite the uncomfortable mattress, she does appreciate being away from the cloying antiseptic smells of Doc Cottle's infirmary, away from the ever present swarm of people -- who mean well, she knows that -- hovering over her.
She stretches, an almost luxurious indulgence, before swinging her legs over the side. The floor beneath her bare feet is cold, and she reaches for her robe as she nears the bathroom. The light is dim -- two out of three bulbs burned out over the last three weeks -- and she has to lean forward to look at herself in the mirror. Gingerly, she runs her fingers beneath her eyes, caressing the soft patches of skin, and then lingers on the tiny wrinkles at the corners. Her lips are dry, the skin peeling in patches where she's bitten down. She puts her hand to her forehead, applying gentle pressure, even though she knows it will do no good; the throbbing headache she wakes up with each morning is the one constant in her life.
She continues staring at herself, her eyes narrowing as she leans forward, her forehead nearly touching the glass. There should be something different, she thinks. But this morning, as in the five previous, she traces the familiar contours of her face, and once again finds nothing.
"I'm fine." Laura smoothes the skirt of her navy blue suit. She's getting tired of this suit. Very tired. And also of the pink blouse she wears with it. She pushes away this feeling, thinking it's superficial to be pondering her wardrobe -- or lack thereof -- when there are Cylons to contend with and Earth to find.
She looks across the table at Billy, her curt remark an answer to his unasked question. She wonders how many times they will have to go through this routine before he understands she's no longer lying to him. "Really," she says, this time with a little more patience. "I'm fine. I feel fine. Better than fine."
Billy knits his fingers together; he doesn't look at her, but focuses his attention on the pile of folders in front of him, the notebooks covered in his neat handwriting. He pushes her daily meeting schedule across the table at her, and the words blur, as if they're running off the page. Laura takes off her glasses, pinches the bridge of her nose.
"I could use a cup of coffee," she says.
Billy gets up, nearly knocking over his chair in his haste. Laura bites back a smile, and for a moment, allows sentimentality to intrude as she watches him.
"Overall, you have a fairly light day scheduled, starting with your morning briefing with Adama," Billy says when he put the coffee in front of her. "First thing."
"I saw that." Laura puts her finger on the first line of the schedule. She doesn't look further down. One thing at a time, she thinks.
"And then Baltar after him."
"Can you guess which meeting I prefer?" This time she lets herself smile, and is relieved when she sees Billy relax, his shoulders slouching ever so slightly. "Anything else?"
"Tonight, there's the graduation ceremony on Galactica--"
"The new Viper class of Viper pilots?"
Billy nods. "Yes. Graduation, followed by a reception."
"Do I need to say anything?"
"Only if you want to. Captain Adama and Captain Thrace stressed they want to keep it informal."
Laura arches an eyebrow. "A graduation ceremony and a reception are anything *but* informal." She shrugs. "What do you have there?"
"A bill for you for your consideration, and if you'd approve, your signature." He hands her a folder.
"Ah, the rationing act."
"If you're going to take a stand against the black market--"
"Oh I don't need to do that. Captain Adama already did." Laura puts her mug down. "He made a deal."
"I thought you didn't approve."
"I don't, but there's not much I can do." Laura bites her lip, a futile attempt to keep her emotions in check. "He went over my head, behind my back, however you want to put it. He made a deal and I've got--" she glances at the bill, the title "Rationing Act" printed in bold red letters across the cover sheet "-- a piece of paper that means nothing because people do what they need to do, laws be damned." She pushes the bill aside. "Did you send Dr. Baltar a copy of this?"
Billy nods. "Of course."
"Good." She twists in her chair and glanced at the whiteboard. "How many did we lose in last week's Cylon attack, Billy?"
"Two, ma'am, but it's been quiet since yesterday. No sign of them."
Laura frowns. "I'd like the names of the dead," she says. "And family members, if they have any." She reaches for the blue marker and hands it to him. "Let me know when Adama gets here."
She extends her hand. "Good morning, Admiral." She likes the way the title rolled off her tongue, the way it seems to fit him perfectly. Without thinking, she touches his lapel pin. "Thanks for coming so early."
"Would you have a seat?" She indicates the two chairs in front of her desk with a tip of her head. Without waiting for a response, she rounds the table that serves as her desk and takes her seat behind it; there are days when she appreciates the barrier the desk provides and she wonders if today will be one of those days. "Has anything changed since yesterday's meeting? Any surprises?"
"Considering the circumstances of the last few weeks, there are no major issues. I know you are concerned about how the Pegasus crew is settling in, and I assure you, the transition has been almost seamless," Adama says. He nods thanks to Billy, who hands him a steaming cup of coffee before disappearing once again into the shadows. "How are you *feeling*, Laura?"
She wonders if he likes saying her name. Is there an extra emphasis on the first syllable? A slight roll in the inflection on the second? She puts her hands on the table, weaves her fingers together in an attempt to still the trembling in her hands. "I wish people would stop asking me that. I feel fine." She hates the note of irritation that slips into her tone. Hardly presidential, she thinks with a tinge of guilt.
"I'm glad to hear it. You're looking stronger." He reaches for his coffee, his hand brushing lightly against the file folders stacked at the very edge of the table. Laura exhales.
"As fine as anyone can feel after being this far--" she holds up her index finger and thumb, just a couple of centimeters apart "-- from death. And now--" cynicism tinges her voice "-- I have Cylon blood in me."
"Yes. You do." Adama tips his head to the side. The harsh light in her office illuminate the craggy counters of his face, and she wonders why she never noticed the hollows in his cheeks before. She decides the various pits and scars on his face are distinguishing. "It seems we learn something new about the Cylons every day."
"Do you think it's part of their plan?"
"Plan? Saving your life, you mean?"
"You have to admit, it is a strange turn of events," Laura says.
"But a fortuitous one." Adama looks across at her. Was she imagining the softness in his eyes? "And perhaps you're giving the Cylons too much credit. They couldn't have known about your breast cancer, about Helo choosing to stay behind after the attack on Caprica, so many variables for them to consider. They may be machines, able to calculate infinite possibilities, but humans, we're more variable." He shakes his head. "Some might even call it a miracle."
Laura flinches at the word. "I wouldn't go that far," she says grimly. "But I am grateful." She settles back against her chair.
"Are you?" Adama eyes her and she can't quite tell if it's skepticism clouding his gaze or something else. She chooses to think it's something else. She hates not being believed. A president has to have credibility. She remembers telling that to Adar many times, but advice is easier to give, harder to take.
"Of course." Laura levels her gaze directly back at Adama. He doesn't intimidate her, not anymore. She knows now where they stand with each other, their days of wary circling over. She trusts him, thinks he trusts her, and she likes to think together, they'll lead the fleet to Earth. "I know I was dying. I never expected, not a million years, to be sitting here with you for our morning briefing. Not after last week." She glances down at her hands. There's still a patch of skin, near her thumb, that's thin and translucent, the veins clearly seen. The skin there is powdery soft, worn, like a well-loved piece of clothing. It's the one physical reminder she has of her illness, of the toll it took on her. She hopes it never fades away.
She glances up. "I'm sorry." She smiles. "I was being grateful."
Adama shifts position. "It's good to have you back, Laura."
She decides it isn't her imagination, that he does pronounce her name differently than everyone else.
Billy brings her a second cup of coffee before her meeting with Baltar. She thanks him, and then asks for a piece of toast.
"And remember," she says, "come get me in thirty minutes. Exactly thirty minutes."
Laura gets up from her chair. It feels good to get up, move around. Her bones creak as she goes to the window. She's still standing there when she hears a disturbance behind her. She knows it's Baltar, a few minutes late, but she doesn't turn around.
"Have a seat, Gaius," she says. It's hard to keep her voice modulated around Baltar these days. The image of him with the statuesque blond Cylon infiltrator -- Shelley Godfrey -- from Pegasus keeps replaying in her head. She would ask him about it, but she's not sure what to make of it. Between her illness, the emotional traumas of the past few months, she wonders about the accuracy of her memory -- whether she's making more out of something than she should. There's only one thing she's sure of: where Gaius Baltar is concerned, she will need to watch more closely. "How are you today? Any surprises I should know about?"
"No, nothing." As usual, he sounds smooth, but there's an edge to his tone, and she wonders if he's lying to her. "I did review the rationing bill you asked me to look over. I don't see any problems."
"Good." She turns. "I didn't think there would be, but I did want a second pair of eyes to look it over." She offers him a smile. Keep him off-guard, she thinks. "I appreciate your diligence on this matter, especially when I know you have been hard at work on the Cylon testing program. Admiral Adama tells me you have picked up your pace quite a bit in the last week."
"Well, yes," Baltar says, a slight hesitation between the two words. "I have made good progress in my research."
"And I am grateful for your efforts." The words come out more formal than she'd intended, but the tone implies the distance she'd like to keep.
"Yes, of course." Baltar puts his hands, palms down, on his thighs, rubbing lightly. He twists in his seat, turning towards the window, his chin tilted upwards. Laura glances in the same direction, but sees nothing.
"Is there something wrong?" she asks.
"Uh, no, no. Just, wondering, how you are feeling, since the treatment."
Laura rubs the powdery patch of skin near her thumb. "Fine," she says. "Thanks to you."
"Not me. The Cylons." There's something about the way he says 'Cylons' that catches her interest, a kind of caress of the word. With a start, Laura realizes Baltar *admires* those things.
Recovering her composure, she says flatly, "Yes, of course."
"There is so much to learn from them," Baltar says. He is tapping his foot in rapid rhythm. "What they are, how they work, their society, culture. I'm starting to think more and more, perhaps it does not have to be this way, this constant *fight*. Perhaps the peace activists--" Baltar squirms in his chair, puts his hand to his chest. Laura realizes the first three buttons are undone. She takes a step backwards.
"The peace activists?" her voice sounds strangely hollow, even to her own ears. "Are you talking about the group that wants to make peace with the Cylons?"
"They're tired of the fighting. Everyone is. Perhaps we should find out what they want from us, take it from there."
"I'm not interested in negotiating with machines that have no goal in life, if you can call it that, other than to kill us," Laura says. "*This* government doesn't negotiate with murderers." She puts her hands on the back of the chair, bracing herself. "You should continue on your research, Doctor. Report your results back to me on a daily basis." Baltar's breathing is uneven. Laura wonders if she should call Doc Cottle. "Is there anything else I should know?"
"No, no, everything is as, uh, it should be." Baltar doesn't make eye contact. She wonders again what she was thinking when she picked him as Vice-President. "I have encountered no further Cylon-human models."
The tone of his voice makes her suspicious. Trust your gut, Laura. If you think someone is lying, they probably are, Adar told her once. Laura inhales sharply. "That is indeed good news, but don't let down your guard."
"Of course not."
They look at each other. Laura debates whether she should bring up the safety issues on the mining ships, the lack of medicines across the fleet, the Viper training programs -- any number of things the Vice-President of the Colonies should be involved in, but she holds back. She can't put her finger on what exactly it is about Baltar that bothers her and she can't trust her memory. Until she figures it out, the less Baltar knows about the inner workings of the Colonies' government, the better.
"I'm not feeling well after all," she says. She sinks into her chair with a sigh, pressing her fingers to her forehead. "Thank you for coming. You're dismissed."
"Lunch?" Billy stands in the doorway, holding a tray. "You have to go to Galactica this evening, don't forget."
"Thanks for the reminder."
"About lunch or the Galactica?" Billy puts the tray down in front of her.
Laura glances at him, feeling a mixture of exasperation and fondness rising up within her. "Both," she says sincerely. She breaks off a piece of bread. "Have you eaten?"
She nods at the chair. "Have a seat. Keep me company."
"I figured you've been talking all morning--"
"So I have been. How about you do the talking?" Laura takes a bite of the fruit and then turns her attention back to Billy. He looks contemplative. "Tell me what's going on with you." She smiles, a little sadly. "I haven't exactly been there for you in the last few weeks." She makes a small waving gesture with the fork. "So?"
"Nothing really. Just--" he shrugs, almost helplessly "-- work."
"What about Dee?"
"What about her?"
She catches the sharp edge in his voice. "Something wrong?"
"No, I don't know." Billy presses his lips into a thin line. "I mean, things ought to be great, but sometimes, I wonder."
"How do you know if someone is in love with you? Or just pretending to be while they're waiting for someone else?"
Laura puts her fork down. "That's a good question," she says quietly. She thinks about Adar, about entering his office, closing the door behind her and staring across the room at him. She thinks about the way he would stand up and say her name, his tone always one of surprise and delight, as if he were meeting her for the first time. And she could never get the way he said her name out of her mind, always with the deep intonation on the first syllable, and then ending on a questioning note, as if he wondered about her the same as she wondered about him. "The question is one of trust, I suppose, maybe even of motivation."
"I thought I could trust her," Billy says miserably. He glances towards the window. "But the other day in the gym, I saw her looking at Captain Adama and I wondered."
"I'm sorry," Laura says quietly. She reaches out, covers Billy's hand with her own. She feels strangely unsure of herself at this moment. "Have you talked to her?"
"Maybe you should."
"Yes." But the tentativeness in Billy's voice tells Laura everything she needs to know.
"Sometimes," she says quietly, "it's better to just ask and find out for sure what you need to know so you can move on, make the best decisions for yourself. Don't put it off, Billy, not if you're wondering."
"Sounds like you've been there before, Madame President." Then frowning, he adds, "I'm sorry, ma'am, I didn't--"
She holds up her hand. "Billy, it's just you and me, two friends having lunch." She smiles. "I've been there, more times than you think. And it depends on the risk you want to take, whether you'd be happier not knowing something for sure, or finding out and confirming your worst fear."
"What would you do?"
"Experience has told me that it's best to cut my losses and move forward," Laura says. "To find out for sure before investing too much of my time and emotion into something that may never turn into anything meaningful." She takes a sip of water, and before putting the cup down, runs her tongue over her lips. "It's a risk either way, but wouldn't you want to know for sure?"
"That's a good question." Billy gives a bitter laugh. "I wonder about Helo, how he deals with Sharon, I mean, knowing what she is. He almost got himself killed for her."
Laura shifts in her chair, squaring her shoulders back, until her chest tightens with the effort. And then, letting her breath out slowly, she relaxes. "I can't say I understand what goes on between the two of them," she says. She stares down at the pad of paper just to the left of her hand. In broad strokes, she'd written 'Galactica' and then just below it, 'Pegasus'. She can't remember now why she did that.
"But the thing about it is," Billy says earnestly, "is he doesn't worry about it. He *trusts* she loves him."
It takes Laura a second to remember he's talking about Helo. "However misplaced that trust might be." She picks up her pen and writes 'Cloud Nine'. "She is, after all, a machine."
"A machine that is having a baby that just happened to save your life."
"Yes," she says evenly. "Which has nothing to do with *your* current issue." Laura pushes away her plate. "If you want to know if Dee truly has feelings for Captain Adama, you should ask her."
"And if she says she does? Then what?" He fumbles with the class ring on his finger.
Laura glances down at her hands. She thinks about the last time she saw Adar, how he put his hands on her shoulder and said, in a low voice, "Laura?" And in that instance, she no longer wondered where she stood with him. How stupid she had been, having an affair with a married man who didn't think her diplomatic skills were up to par. She remembers how Adar looked at her, compares that to how Helo looks at the machine. After a moment she looks up at Billy. "You never want to be second best," she says quietly.
Captain Adama arrives to take her to Galactica. He stands in the hatch, a little awkwardly, and she brushes by him. The last time they spoke, he'd told her about the black market. As she takes her seat in the Raptor, she decides she's no longer upset about the deal Lee made behind her back. There are other things to worry about.
Lee takes the pilot seat, and Billy slides in next to him. She's glad Billy's decided to come. For a moment there, she had wondered if he'd beg off on this trip, say he had something to do on Colonial One.
"It'll be a quick trip," Lee says. "Estimated arrival time on Galactica in about six minutes."
"Nice and short. That sounds good to me," Laura says. She leans back, closes her eyes. She's starting to feel exhaustion in every inch of her body. Doc Cottle tells her that while she's healthy and cancer-free, it may take a few weeks or months to recover her full strength.
"Get a good night's rest," he told her when she left the infirmary for what she hoped was the last time. "Full eight hours of sleep every night, minimum. Take it easy when you can. Don't be afraid to relax."
Thinking back to that conversation now, Laura scoffs under her breath. Take it easy, she thinks, don't be afraid to relax. Is Cottle living in the same world as she is, where relaxing for a single second can get you killed?
"What's so funny?" Lee asks. His tone is easy, light-hearted, and Laura is struck by it. The last time she'd seen Lee, he was so tightly wound, she'd been afraid of what he might do. Of course she would never tell the father her fears, but her gut instinct was that Lee was disappointed in her, in the Admiral, that somehow he was quietly judging and condemning them both.
"Just thinking about something Doc Cottle said to me," Laura says. "It's nothing." She has to raise her voice to be heard over the sound of the Raptor's engines.
"Ah. How are you feeling?"
Laura curls her fingers into a fist, and then slowly unclenches it. "Great," she says. "Never better."
"You get that a lot, don't you? That question?"
She thinks about how she really wants to respond to this question and then decides she's the president. Even in close quarters, with people she can trust like Billy and Lee, she shouldn't let down her guard, offer them more familiarity than is necessary. "I understand," she says carefully. "I've made a miraculous recovery. A week ago, everyone was preparing for my death. And now--" she smiles "-- it's as if I was never ill. Soon, everyone will forget, and the meetings and bills will start to pile up again."
"So it's been a quiet day?"
"Any day without Cylons is quiet."
Lee takes a deep breath. "They *have* been quiet. Kara was telling me it's been at least twelve hours since we last saw them on Dradis and even that time, they didn't engage. Just jumped in and then out, as if verifying where we were. I suspect they are building up their resources, and then they'll make their move. It's only -- and always is -- just a matter of time."
"What are you doing to prepare?"
"This new class of Viper pilots is a step in the right direction," he says. "And when the mining ships finish up next week, we should have enough to build a few more Vipers to replace the ones we've lost."
"That sounds positive," Laura says.
"It's a patch, not a solution," Lee answers. "We have finite resources, and even getting the supplies we need requires more resources than we really can spare. Guarding the mining ships leaves the fleet unprotected, but we need the mining ships or we can't build more ships. Pilots, on the other hand, the way things are going--" he gives Billy a grim smile "-- maybe one of these days we'll draft you."
Laura shivers. "We'll find Earth," she says. "We'll be safe there." She can see Galactica in the front window, and Dee's voice comes over Dradis, giving Lee clearance to enter the hangar bay. Lee carefully maneuvers the Raptor into position, but not before throwing a comment over his shoulder.
"Don't make promises you can't keep," he tells her. "Don't talk about things that may never happen, otherwise people may never trust you again, and Gods know, trust is something else we have in short supply these days."
She always has a feeling of coming home when she steps aboard Galactica. She smiles as Adama takes her hand in his, holding it just a second longer than necessary, but she says nothing; she likes the feel of his skin against hers.
"Welcome," Adama says as if it's the first time she's visited.
"Thank you." She glances around, spots Tigh in the shadows; he falls into step behind them as they make their way out into the corridor. "You know, it just occurred to me that we could have done this morning's briefing here instead of you coming over to Colonial One. You didn't have to make the trip."
"It was no problem. And I understand you have your hands full meeting the latest Viper pilot graduates." Adama matches his stride perfectly to Laura's. She remembers having to double-time her walk to keep up with Adar, finding it difficult to maintain conversation and her pace at the same time. As they round the corner, she sees Baltar, his back up against the wall, his head thrown back, and his mouth slightly open. His eyes are closed. Laura looks away.
"I am looking forward to the graduation ceremony," Laura says sincerely. "And of course the reception, getting to meet the new pilots..."
"And they're eager to meet you as well," Adama says. He pauses. "Laura. There's something I'd like to discuss with you."
She eyes him suspiciously. Tigh is standing just centimeters away, his face a little redder than usual.
"Is something the matter?" Laura asks.
"In here." Adama pushes open a door, and Laura steps in. It's a small room, with just a few chairs around a table. The smell of booze hangs heavy in the air. When Laura takes a step, her shoe sticks to the floor. She grimaces.
"All right," she says, determined to cut to the chase and not stay in this room a second longer than she needs to. "What is it?"
"We're not making any progress with the Cylons," Adama says. "Nor are we any closer to finding Earth."
Despite her better judgment, Laura leans against the wall. It is, as she guessed, sticky with some fluid that may or may not have once been alcohol. She decides not to think too much about the substance. "I know," she says with an edge. "But I try to look at the bright side of things once in a while."
"I think Sharon can help us," Adama says. "She was one of our best pilots and the Gods know, we don't have an endless supply of those."
"She has helped us in the past. Has helped *you*," Adama says. "We've never thought to ask her, but Baltar--"
Laura bristles. "You've talked to Baltar about this?"
"He *is* our resident Cylon expert," Tigh says in a tight voice. His breath is heavy with the smell of alcohol. Laura glances at Adama. His expression betrays nothing.
"You want to put Sharon, a *Cylon*, in a Viper? Whose idea is this?" she asks. She doesn't wait for answer and instead stalks towards the door. Her hand is on the knob when Adama's voice stops her.
"Laura," he says.
Laura turns slowly. "Do you trust her?" she asks. "Do you trust *him*?"
"Sharon's baby saved your life," Adama says.
"You say that as if it's a badge of trust. Even Billy says that," Laura says. She paces the length of the small room, her heels clicking against the floor. "But what you call 'trust', I consider survival instinct. Sharon is what she is. She will betray us in the end." She glances at Tigh, looking for confirmation, but he doesn't make eye contact. Laura frowns. "Bill, I'm concerned your affection, if I might call it that, is blinding you to the very real threat this thing poses to the fleet. It's one thing to keep her alive, use her as a source of information; it's another to put her in the seat of a Raptor."
"I've thought about it."
"Do you honestly believe her loyalty -- and I hate to use that word -- extends further than saving herself and her child?" Laura asks. "Do you believe she would fight for Galactica, if the Cylons found her first?" She shakes her head. "We're second best to her, the one thing standing between her and the airlock. You think for a moment if she could find safety with the Cylons, she wouldn't turn on us? And don't tell me she has affection for us, or for Helo for that matter."
Adama says, "I've thought about that too."
She hates his impassivity, the fact it's nearly impossible to argue with the man. Once again, she looks to Tigh for support, but there's nothing there.
"I don't trust her," Laura says. "Either of them."
"Baltar's not a Cylon," Tigh says.
Laura thinks about her memory, the soft-focused edges of Baltar and the blond woman, her back against the white marble walls of the capitol building. "He's worse," Laura says with a furious conviction she was only recently aware she possessed. "He has nothing and no one to protect, only his own agenda, whatever that might be." She shivers. "I don't think it's a good idea to involve either of them too deeply in our plans."
"Baltar's the vice-president. You can't isolate him," Adama says. "Not without him mounting a challenge."
"I'm aware of the risks. I'm prepared to face them." Laura glances at her watch. "Gentlemen, I leave all military issues in your hands, but I am telling you, if you follow through with this plan of yours, it will be a tremendous catastrophe. For all of us."
She steps out of the room, and breathes deeply. Tigh walks slightly ahead of them, his head bowed. The reaction surprises Laura, and she turns to Adama.
"He seems more invested in this plan of yours than I would have thought," Laura says. "If anything, I would have expected a brawl."
"He's tired. We all are," Adama says. "Sharon and Baltar, as many questions as we have about them, may be a solution to ending this conflict once and for all." He waits a moment. "With Sharon's information, we may find Earth sooner than we otherwise would."
Laura feels herself softening a little bit. Hadn't she always told Adar that flexibility in leadership was key? That sometimes one had to make unholy alliances in order to attain a mutual goal? She thinks about the two pilots who died last week in the Cylon raids, raids she was barely aware of as she lay dying on her too-thin mattress. She thinks about Sharon, who saved her life, however unaltruistic her motives may have been.
"I like the idea of Earth, but I like the possibility of an end to this conflict better," Laura says finally. She looks Adama straight in the eye. "I trust you," she says. "Do what you need to do, but don't, for a moment, make that thing think she's safe."
She's alone, as she so rarely is these days. Laura is grateful for this opportunity. Billy had protested, yes, but she insisted he see Dee.
"We're going back to Colonial One in an hour," she said, feeling strangely maternal. "Go talk to her."
Billy looked uncertain. "And you, ma'am? What will you do?"
Laura glanced at her young aide for a contemplative moment and then shook her head. "I'm still thinking about it." She smiled, touched by his concern. "Don't worry about me. I'll be fine. The Gods know, there's never a dearth of things to do aboard this ship."
Now that she's thought about it, she finds herself in the brig. She walks past the guards and up to the window. The Cylon is sitting on the bed, chin resting on knees pulled up to her chest. Laura stands there for a few seconds before Sharon looks up. They look at each other and then Sharon slowly gets up and makes her way to the glass window. She picks up the phone, but Laura doesn't reciprocate the action.
She studies the Cylon's face carefully, noting the smooth skin, the sweep of cheekbones, the small indent between the lips and nose, and the long black lashes framing those dark almond-shaped eyes. There's nothing inhuman about the heart-shaped face she's looking at.
Sharon moves from foot to foot, her hand still gripping the phone. Her fingers are long and slender, her nails bitten to the quick. A white raised scar, about three centimeters long, breaks the skin of Sharon's left forearm. Laura sweeps her gaze down lower to Sharon's belly. There's a gap of skin between Sharon's white tank top and her grey sweatpants where she neglected to pull the material over her growing belly.
Sharon's lips are moving but Laura still makes no move to reach for the phone. Adar once told her that one must act with confidence because once something is done, it cannot be taken back. "The worst thing you can do is apologize," he told her, his fingers running lightly down her spine. "Know what you're doing and do it without reservation."
Laura splays her fingers out wide against the metal grid protecting the glass. She waits for Sharon to react, but there's nothing; the Cylon's face is impassive. Slowly, Sharon replaces the phone and turns and walks back to her bunk. She sits down heavily, and with some effort, pulls her knees up to her chest once again.
Laura glances at the guard.
"I'm done here," she says. "Let Admiral Adama know I'm ready to return to my ship."
She didn't mean to stay for the nightcap. But Adama asked, and she sensed Billy could use some time with Dee. So she agreed to come to Adama's quarters. Admittedly, she liked being there, surrounded in the warm glow of light, the walls covered in books. There was a lived-in look to Adama's quarters and she liked that.
"Vintage, yesterday," Adama says as he pours a golden-hued drink for her. "Or so Tigh tells me."
"You're a lot more lenient than I would be about the stills," Laura says, but she accepts the offered glass gratefully.
"They need something," Adama says. He settles in the easy chair opposite Laura. "We all do."
"The graduation ceremony and the reception, that was nice. Thanks for including me."
Adama shrugs, an easy gesture. "No need for gratitude." He offers her a rare smile. "You *are* the president."
"So I keep getting reminded," Laura says. She laughs, and it feels good. "So when are you all going to let me do my job again? You don't have to go easy on me. I'm fine, I'm back."
"We know how you feel, but it doesn't mean you don't need time to absorb what's happened to you."
Laura sighs. "I've been thinking about it every day," she says. "About what it means to have Cylon blood in me, that I owe something to them for saving my life, and yet, all I can think about is killing them." She stares at him pensively. "I haven't changed, Bill, but I think I should have. In some way, shouldn't this experience have changed my attitudes? Shouldn't I *feel* more lenient, more sympathy?"
"The Cylons wiped out the Colonies. That's not something easily forgotten or forgiven."
"I wish I knew what they wanted," Laura says. "This cat and mouse game, it's too much."
"It'll be over soon."
"You have more confidence than I do," she says, and then she immediately regrets the words. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have said that."
Adama dismisses the apology with a wave of his hand. "Don't," he says. "The last few weeks have been tough. There hasn't been much to look forward to, nothing in the way of hope. We need that again." Thankfully, he doesn't bring up her recovery.
Laura tips her head to the side. "You think we'll ever find Earth?"
"We've had one miracle," he says. "Why not hope for a second?" He takes a sip of his drink. "What do you want to do about Baltar?"
"Remove him from office." She presses her lips into a thin line. "Some days, I think more violently than that." Adama contemplates her, a long sweeping gaze that doesn't make her nervous. How far they've come, she thinks, and she wonders how much further they will go. "Does that surprise you?" Laura asks.
"Not much does these days," he says. "And I learned very quickly not to underestimate you. You know what you're doing."
"President Adar never thought much of what I was doing," Laura says. She's matter-of-fact, not bitter anymore. No point in dancing on a dead man's grave. "I wonder how he'd do in this situation and my guess is, he'd have liked Cain's style. A lot."
"Adar was never a blood-thirsty man."
"You didn't know him as I did."
She finds a spot uncluttered by papers and books on the side table and puts her glass down. Adama's leaning forward, his drink cupped between both of his hands, the light glinting off her glasses. "Richard was a jerk," she says and it feels good to say the words. "But he wouldn't have hesitated. Not about anything or anyone." She raises her head to look at Adama. "*He* would have known what to do about Gaius, even if they *were* friends."
"You know too," Adama says quietly. "But you're not Richard Adar. For that--" he raises his glass, the gold liquid swirling "-- I am grateful." And then he says her name again, very quietly, and without thinking, she gets up and takes his glass away from him.
She stands in the bathroom, her hands braced against the sink for balance as she leans forward. This is day eight since her miraculous resurrection. There's more color in her cheeks this morning, and perhaps her face is a little fuller. She traces the lines at the edges of her eyes, and then glances down at the patch of skin near her thumb, now nearly gone. She touches the spot almost reverently. Her lips have smoothed out, the dry patches of skin nearly gone now. Maybe not the fountain of youth, she thinks with a smile, but she hasn't looked this good in months.
One of these days, she'll find a way to thank Sharon in a way she won't eventually regret.
In the reflection, she sees Adama standing behind her. She takes a step towards him.
"Laura," he says. "It's late." He holds out his hand and she takes it. His touch is warm, and in this moment, she feels more than fine. "You can go back to Colonial One in the morning."
"I didn't bring an overnight bag."
"We can make do," he says.
"I need to review my schedule for tomorrow so I can be ready for whatever the day brings."
"You can do that in the morning as well. Billy can return to Colonial One and prep for you."
"That seems," she says, almost breathlessly, "a grave dereliction of duty. Don't you military types frown upon that kind of thing?"
His fingers are playing with the buttons on her blouse. "In a time of war," he says, "we occasionally make exceptions. One day at a time, Laura." His voice is gruff, but she doesn't care. She hears something else, a promise that no matter what happens, she'll never be his second choice.
"It sounds so easy when you say it like that," Laura says in a shaky voice.
"It is." Adama rests his hand on her shoulder. "It can be. Trust me."
She remembers what Doc Cottle said about relaxing, about getting a good night's sleep. She's not so sure about the latter, but for one night, she'll take his advice about the former. She closes her eyes and leans towards Bill.
~ the end
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