.X.

She was aware of his presence as she drifted between conscious states, lost in the agony that ebbed and flowed but never really left. Her life, it seemed, was flashing before her as she teetered on the edge, her body no longer capable of holding the cancer at bay. Memories came to her, disjointed and random, but she remembered in all of them how it had felt to be alive, how it had felt to breathe and blink and simply exist without constant pain. And it was then and only then that she realized how very unprepared she was for death so imminent.

Her fear was lessened somewhat by knowing that when the last of her breath left her she would not be alone. On those brief occasions when she could muster enough of her voice to speak with some semblance of coherency he was there, a stoic figure of discipline and command who had ceased at some point in the frenzied months past to be her adversary and had become instead her friend. When she had summoned them all to her side—her deathbed, such as it were—to give them her last advice and orders as President, she was aware of the pity in the gazes of all but one. It was Adama who looked upon her with respect, with admiration, choosing not to see her as she was now but as who she had had been, and she was intensely grateful for it. Later, when most had left to return to their duties and she lay gasping for breath, caught in the grips of pain greater than any she had ever known, it was Adama that sat beside her bed and held her hand. He said nothing, inclined to be laconic even at the best of times, but instead offered her that small, kind smile he rarely gave to anyone when the tears she had suppressed for months could no longer be held back. And she wept—Laura Roslin, who had become President in a new and terrifying reality only because every other eligible person had died, who had tried to the best of her ability to make the decisions that would save humanity and not condemn it, cried because she was dying and because she was afraid. Adama was a lifeline; his fingers twined tightly with hers reminded her that even in this, her darkest hour, she wasn't alone. And later, when she was too exhausted even to cry, she opened eyes made dull by her sickness and looked at the man who had sat with her for hours and tried to smile.

"Admiral," she said, his new title sounding a little strange and a little foreign but suiting him all the same. It took her a long moment to be able to continue, but when she could she merely said in a voice that she could no longer raise above a whisper, "Thank you."

Dark eyes blinked at her from behind the small lenses he wore, and he simply nodded with another of his rare smiles. She tried to tighten her fingers around his and found she lacked the strength; his fingers flexed around hers instead, a gesture meant to reassure. He said, voice as quiet as it ever was, "The doctor can give you something for the pain."

"I would rather—" She had to pause to catch her breath. "—die this way."

"I know." There was something almost rueful in his expression; he was thinking, perhaps, of all the times they clashed when first they'd been forced to deal with each other. "But I told him I'd ask you."

"I appreciate you being … here, but don't you have … important things to … tend to?"

"This is important." He said simply, and it was her smile this time that manifested itself.

"I think Colonel Tigh … would beg to differ …"

"Maybe. But he's the colonel, and I'm the admiral." She laughed, a weak exhale of air, and he went on with a definite gleam of mirth in his eyes. "There are some perks to this job."

Silence fell then, companionable and comfortable. She drifted for a while in a state that hovered between wakefulness and sleep, remembering things that had happened, recalling them as though they belonged to another person in another life. He was there when she came back to herself, and through eyes that were steadily being darkened by a haze she studied him, committing how he looked in that instant to memory, even though that memory would soon be rendered redundant. This man beside her was not Admiral Adama who commanded not only the Battlestar Galactica but the Pegasus as well—this man was a friend, a comrade. This man cared whether she lived or died.

And that, she knew as her eyes fluttered closed once more, as a weariness greater than any she'd ever known washed over her, was all that really mattered.

.X.