Thank you Ron D. Moore for giving me Bill and Laura, and endless source of hope, strength and inspiration in my life, in more ways than I can even count.
Something inside her duffle bag keeps clanging rhythmically as they make their way down the corridor. Bill casts a quick glance at her from the corner of his eye. Is she hearing it? If her expression is anything to go about, the sound is not registering with her at all. Her mind is at least one hundred FTL jumps away and cannot be bothered to return to reality. He keeps a companionable silence, preserves the space and time to think she seems to so sorely need. In a way, he likes this; he likes that she can relax around him now. So much so that she does not even pretend to engage him in a conversation none of them need. She can let her walls down enough for him to see that she is conflicted.
She is distracted; two or three times he has to pull at her elbow gently to indicate a turn or an obstacle on the hallway. By now, she knows the way to his quarters by heart: she is simply not paying attention.
'Gods, Bill, sorry' she mutters when she suddenly gets in Bill's way, making him stumble. She just meant to turn left where they are still supposed to continue straight. Had she not been wearing casual clothes and shoes already; had she had her heels on, the bump would have made her lose her balance and Bill would most likely have had to catch her, or she would have hit the deck.
Her focus seems to benefit from the startle for she gives him a small, apologetic smile and the rest of the short walk from the raptor goes by without further incidents.
'Sir', Bill's security guard salutes him, stepping aside to clear the entrance for them. The Admiral nods in return.
He opens the hatch. His hand lays on her waist gently, inviting her to precede him.
He spins the wheel locked and turns around facing her. Right there in the middle of his quarters, Laura is looking at him, and around, and at him again. Her bag is still hanging from her shoulder. Upon picking her up from the raptor, he had offered her to carry it, but she had refused. She had argued she did not have so many possessions, had assured him that it was not heavy.
Seeing it hanging low, curving in the middle under the weight it holds, he can tell it is.
'Where do you want me to put this?'
'Yes, just leave it there for now. I'll make room for it in my closet tomorrow.'
Laura sighs. She lets the strap slide down her shoulder and arm until it hits the deck with a thud. She kneels down and pushes it further against the side of Bill's desk, getting it out of the way. Then she straightens, looks at him.
'Are you sure you want to do this, Bill? I really can take it with me. I'm not going to use any of this on the planet but it's not like it takes up much space anyway.'
'It's okay, Laura. I am happy to keep it. I have plenty of room. All this stuff would just be a bother to you down there.' His pupils twinkle. 'Your suits and heels will stay here awaiting your return.'
Laura's eyes dart back at him. She looks amused, maybe even flattered, by what he is implying.
She will need those again one day. She will be back. As President. Again.
Their eyes meet across the room. She gives him a knowing smile, her cheeks slightly flushed.
'Stay?' he asks.
He holds her intense gaze, loaded with meaning.
Today, tonight, a little longer, until I settle, forever?
She nods. The corners of her lips twitch upwards.
He comes over and offers her a hand to help her up. She accepts it and stays standing still, right there, one inch into his personal space, making no attempt to withdraw her hand from his. Even before he lets himself drown in those green pools of hers, his heart rate picks up already. The burn catches in his gut. It is not quite like when he was a young boy; it feels quieter now, but also deeper. Quieter because he is an old man, deeper because it is Laura.
Laura herself also seems a little breathless as she lifts her hands to his collar, tentatively, as if she were almost ready to withdraw at the smallest sound, like a wild animal caught off-guard, or like an ex-president too used to behaving with decorum. His hands find her waist. His gaze draws a question mark, from her eyes to her lips, then back to her eyes.
She cocks her head to the side; her lids close slowly one second before his lips make contact.
It takes a second for it to sink in with him; he really is kissing Laura, and she is kissing him back. She is meeting him halfway, as an equal, like she always does. Giving back all that she is receiving, and more.
Like she always does.
He kissed her once, a peck on the lips, and those lips were so chapped and dry with sickness that the ache from that touch, bitter and heavy, has remained his heart all these months. Now, Laura's entire body is vibrating on her mouth, which is soft and warm and alive, and the hums in her throat every time his tongue digs deeper make his knees wobbly, and the joy is almost overwhelming as she lets his hands stroke her back; as she presses her body closer to his, wrapping her arms around his neck.
He draws back a little, looks at her. A droplet has escaped from the corner of her eye. He brushes it away with the pad of his thumb, leaving a moist trail across her cheek. Her eyes are still closed. She lets out a small, ragged sigh. A sad smile spreads on her lips; she has realized he has seen the tear.
'What?' he prompts, lovingly.
Laura looks up at him slowly, allowing him the sight of her gaze full of water. She shakes her head. An auburn lock slides over her temple.
'It doesn't matter anymore.'
Her palms rest flat on his chest. His arms are loosely hugging her slender frame. He sways them gently.
'It does matter, Laura. Just not more than your soul.'
She shakes her head again. She is growing impatient, or he does not know her.
'Maybe not to you. But it does to me.'
Laura frowns, her objection imminent. After a second, she closes her mouth with a huff. She stays silent, her composure partially recovered, staring back at him. He wishes he would not have had to stop her from stealing the election, to put her through this pain. He believes her with everything he is. If she had not budged after all he said, he would have followed through. At least, he would have known that she was doing the wrong thing for the right reasons. He would have forgiven her for making him live with such a weight in his conscience.
But he did not want her to have to live with it.
'I… I was dying. And I had a purpose. Now… now I am no longer dying, but I also don't have a mission anymore.'
This is about as close as Laura Roslin gets to expressing her grief in words. It hits him: the void, the confusion. For many, settling means hope; for some, disappointment. For all of them, uncertainty. But for her… for her it is a complete paradigm shift.
'Doesn't make you any less extraordinary.'
Laura holds his gaze, her own turning moist.
He leans over, presses a lingering kiss against her forehead. Gently, he enfolds her in his arms again. She lets him. He feels her taut muscles relax against his chest; after a few seconds of mild resistance, her arms wind around his back. Bill physically feels her surrender to his care, to his affection. He lays his cheek against her temple. His palm strokes her head in a soothing, protective manner.
Is it dense and soft, this hair of hers.
'When are you leaving?' he rasps after a while.
'I don't know. Soon.' She replies, her head buried in the crook of his neck. 'I have to catch one of those shuttle raptors.'
She lifts her head slowly, withdraws just enough to see his face.
'I… it's going to be a mess down there. I'm hoping I'll be able to make myself useful somehow. I just can't wash my hands and pretend I did my job.'
'I know.' His expression is grave. 'I'll be watching out for you from here for the same reason...'
She looks up to him, a brow arched, a questioning look on her face. She knows there is something else. It is uncanny how well she can read him now. He cannot tell when this ability of hers stopped making him uneasy. It is so heartwarming now; he has grown so fond of their unique way to both read and express much more than words could never say. Still, he takes his sweet time before voicing his last thought.
He clears his throat.
'I feel you'll be safer down there if I stay up here.'
Laura blushes, smiles; her eyes soften and sparkle almost mischievously. She is drinking from his eyes, staring right into his heart. Just like that, she can reveal his fondest secret, which to her is not a secret anymore. He is not worried; he is ready to trust her with his soul. He would not have it any other way. He cannot remember the last time he felt this warm.
The moment passes. She becomes serious, reflective.
'I hope I'll find a way to visit you here. I hope there will be some perks to being an ex-president. I'd like to think I'll be allowed to move freely…'
Her words sound casual but her concern, her regret, is real. Her wish and her hope are, too.
'I'll stay in touch one way or another. And I'm sure Baltar will require me planetside every now and then. I'll find a way to let you know in advance, and I'll visit. If you'd have me.'
'You better.' She chokes out.
His mouth gently captures hers just as she lets out a sigh. He breathes in her regret, her sorrow. He infuses her with a pulsating energy, receives her urgency in return, basks in the feeling of a slow burn that spreads from her body to his, and Laura is all but claiming him to her now, and the fire catches in his gut, and this is what desire used to feel like.
She pants; she cannot speak just yet. He waits, entertains himself burying his face in her hair, breathing in her scent, rocking them.
'I'm not the president anymore but you are still the admiral. If I stay here with you so soon after the election…'
'… someone will notice. And talk.' He completes her point for her, whispering against her hair. Leave it to Laura Roslin to throw a punch of harsh reality in the middle of all this.
'It might not be good for you. You'll still have to deal with that motherfrakker. If he sees that we are close… If he suspects that we conspire, he won't go easy on you.'
Bill grumbles. It is acquiescence as much as annoyance.
They stay silent. The humming of Galactica's engines surrounds them. It is soothing. After a while, Laura lifts her head from his shoulder. Her expression is fully open and unguarded as she gives him time to reply.
She is ready to accept his answer. Whatever it is.
'You can stay here for as long as you want, Laura.'
Silence again. What Laura has exposed is just the truth. It simply is not going to change his will, or his decision. Baltar has no business with them; he sure as frak will not let him dictate what he does for or with Laura.
She nods, gently leans her weight against him again, wraps her arms around his collar. He holds her tighter, anchors her to him, strokes her back.
'Maybe two days.' She suggests against his neck. 'It is not too much. And it's enough for me to get ready to leave.'
'Okay. Two days.'
She lifts her head, leans back a little to meet his eyes. He smiles.
'You better take care down there.'
She bites her lip and smiles back, blinking away tears. She nods.
'You better take care up here.'
'I'll be fine. I'll just miss you.' He admits, simply.
She lays her palm against his cheek.
Thank you for reading. Hope you liked it!