Case Orange

Coding: Roslin

Rating: G.

Spoilers: The Mini

They were only two words; small words with one syllable each. Case Orange. But they were terrible words. They were the words that heralded doom and carried in their signification the downfall of a government, the fall of a civilization. Case Orange.

Just after each member of the political cabinet is sworn in, they hear the words for the first time. Case Orange.

No one ever expects to hear them officially, so they read the briefing solemnly but with an almost dismissive air of just being handed yet more minutiae of their office. They memorize their ID code and accept the remote possibility that one improbable day they'd be called upon to step into the highest office of the Colonies. Case Orange.

No one ever expected that what was sometimes a joke at dinner parties and state functions would ever actually come to pass. Case Orange.

Still when the message actually came over the wireless of Colonial 798, Laura Roslin was more or less prepared. No one had heard from the President or Vice President since the surrender was offered after the nuking of Picon and at this point, she doubted that Adar had even gotten off Caprica safely.

And the illusion that everything was going to be alright dissolved at last with two words. Case Orange.

She was cold despite the blanket that she held clutched around her like a shield. In truth, the temperature of the cabin wasn't what made her shiver. Laura could see it coming, could feel it coming. And she didn't want it. If she could have run, she would have. But there was no safe haven, no refuge from responsibility.

Back when she was teaching, she'd given lectures to eager students about moments like this one; where leaders are born of fire and pain. Some of those people failed spectacularly but some of them became what was required of them. Those were the great leaders, the ones who put the lives of their people paramount to all things; the ones who rose above themselves because they had to.

Laura just didn't know if she could become one of those leaders. On today of all days, how much more weight could she bear?

She closed her eyes and waited. Her thoughts were in turmoil, though she sat still as a statue. She thought about all the times she should have gotten out of politics. After every campaign, she'd given her resignation and every time, Adar had refused and offered her another post. The day after he was elected President, he'd come to see her with the ripped pieces of her letter in his hand. He'd offered her Chief of Staff. Laura had declined vehemently. She hated politics and CoS was about as political as you could get without taking the Oath of Office. But the President wouldn't take no for an answer. He'd offered post after post, insisting that he couldn't get along without her, that he was in this office in large part because of her efforts and he needed her. So, Laura had accepted Secretary of Education partly to appease him but mostly because he'd kissed her hand and gotten on his knees and begged with that smile of his. He'd used his big weapons on her that day and they had laughed and started making plans for the future administration right there on the floor of her living room.

That was eight years ago and over the course of that time, Adar had always told Laura that she was a natural leader because she was a thinker and damn near unflappable in a crisis. Laura attributed the former to her education – she was a mathematician - and the latter to cancer. She found that most events in life could be broken down into equations, some simple and some complex, but still just equations. And watching her mother die slowly and horribly had made every other terrible thing in the world seem less chaotic. When Laura offered that explanation, Adar had patted her on the shoulder and told her that one day she would make a great President. Laura had laughed at him and said the only way that would happen is if there was a Case Orange and even then, they'd have to drag her into the office kicking and screaming.

Now, as she awaited her fate, Laura thought that if Adar was still alive, he would be laughing his ass off.

Laura found herself telling a tiny part of that story to Captain Adama. She liked him. He was straightforward and she saw compassion in his blue eyes as he listened to her. She wondered what he saw when he looked at her. Did she look as frightened as she felt? They both knew what was coming; was he there with her now because he sensed that she was so close to breaking? Did he know that she wanted to run?

The pilot stepped up to them softly and Apollo's eyes went to him. For a second, Laura froze. The pilot was a good man; he was just out of his element and unused to being part of big things.

And he held a big thing in his hand; a history that would be told for a thousand years, should their civilization manage to survive the day.

Laura took the paper from him. She didn't have her glasses but she could still make out the slightly blurry "Case Orange … Laura Roslin … Oath of Office … Presidency." The words didn't matter, really, so she gave the paper back. Dimly, she knew that he'd keep it, preserve it somehow for as long as he lived.

The pilot was looking at her in awe as she put on her jacket. Once he'd gone off to fetch a priest among the civilians, Laura's hands dropped back to her lap. She could feel Apollo's eyes on her.

"So, this is it," she said softly and suddenly it hit her.

Laura stood and found herself running down the empty cabin. She rounded the corner to the stairs to the cockpit. The area was small and dark and just what she needed.

She put her face against the cold wall, her palms pressing into her ears. I don't want this! she wanted to scream. I don't want this! I don't want this! I don't want this! I DON'T WANT THIS!

She felt hands on her shoulders and she didn't resist when she was turned around and enfolded in a tight embrace.

"I don't want this," she whispered against Apollo's shoulder after a long moment. Her hands clenched his flight suit as if it were her only lifeline.

And at the moment, maybe it was.

"I know," he whispered back, his hands gently smoothing her back. "I wish I knew what I could say …" He pulled back some to look into her eyes. His fingers reached up to caress her cheek. "I'm sorry."

Laura sighed. "You shouldn't be. You aren't making me President."

"No," Apollo told her. "But I need you to be."

She stared at him. That was it, wasn't it? They were now a people without a leader; they were scattering across the solar system in chaos and fear. Whatever wasn't destroyed by Cylon nukes would surely fall to the bleak disorder that would follow if there was no nexus of leadership, no vestige of normalcy, no government to inspire hope.

The people needed a President.

And there was no one else left to do the job.

Always just equations and this one was simple.

Laura wound her arms back around Apollo's shoulders and hugged him warmly before disengaging herself altogether with a step back.

"Thank you, Captain, for the shoulder."

He nodded. "Are you sure you're ready for this?"

She managed a shaky smile. "No. But I will do it anyway."

The End.