A/N: Major thanks go to bunchofgrapes for looking this over and sharing in my enthusiasm for this 'ship, and to whyoffry for the quick beta and awesome words of encouragement. This is my first foray into the A/R fandom so any frak ups are mine and mine alone.
Disclaimer: Battlestar Galactica and its characters aren't mine, so no copyright infringement is intended.
Laura stepped through the hatch, slammed it shut then firmly turned its wheel.
She was fuming.
Even through the thick steel door, she thought she had heard a loud crash. Laura knew Bill was taking out his frustrations on his furniture, no less. Muttering a curse under her breath, she decided it'd be best to leave well enough alone and stormed off.
Laura had only gotten a corridor and a half away from his quarters when she stopped in her tracks. Torn between getting the frak off Admiral Adama's ship and venting her own frustrations—most likely on Tory—or confronting him about it and demanding that he tell her the truth she decided on the latter. Gods knew Tory didn't want to be Laura's punching bag at that point.
"Frak," she cursed again then turned on her heel and marched back the way she had come, with every intention of making the man talk.
The Marine sentries were gone this time and Laura thanked the powers that be for that small gesture. At least they'd be spared her targeted goal of a possible raised voice and several expletives thrown in for good measure.
Amazing what desolation, destitution, and having to fight for your very survival would do to a person's attitude. New Caprica had changed her just as much as it had changed him, but she wasn't so sure she liked the path Adama was headed down. For a fleeting second she could've sworn she saw failure cross the man's steely blue eyes when Adama admitted he'd have to straighten out the whole mess.
The Fleet didn't need a leader second guessing his own decisions on the toughest of choices, and Laura knew that's what it boiled down to when Lt. Daniel Novcek had miraculously returned from the dead. The rip current in those choppy waters obviously ran a whole lot deeper than just below the surface. Laura had to figure out how deeply it went so she could keep William Adama from getting swept away.
Laura closed the distance between her and the hatch to Bill's cabin and took a deep breath. Raising her hand, she was about to pound on the steel door to gain entry when she hesitated then placed her open palm on it instead. What was she waiting for? Prolonging the inevitable wouldn't do any good, but there she stood. She half expected the Admiral to open the hatch, only to have her stumble inside which in turn would cause her to land on her worried ass. Anything at that point would've at least made things more bearable than going head to head with the inscrutable man.
If the hatch to the Admiral's quarters hadn't been securely latched, then she would've probably shoved it open in shock anyway. Laura stood still a few seconds longer, trying to reassemble her already frayed nerves. She shut her eyes in deep embarrassment for briefly allowing her guard to drop then turned to face the person in possession of that voice.
"Ma'am, are you all right?"
She cleared her throat then regarded the Marine coolly. "Yes, I'm fine."
"Ma'am, I'm afraid you just missed the Admiral. He was summoned up to CIC five minutes ago."
"Thank you," she paused. "I'm curious; how is it you're aware of that if Admiral Adama dismissed…?"
The Marine allowed a very faint smile to creep across his features over the President's flustered state. He cleared his throat then answered, "That's easy, ma'am. I just came off of my rotation in CIC. Pardon me for being frank, but I grew concerned when I saw you standing there as I was walking past."
"Thank you. And, I'm fine. But seeing as your commanding officer is currently otherwise occupied, I'll take my leave off this ship."
Gods knew Laura hated backing down from a possible argument—especially where the Admiral was concerned—but there would be other opportunities for a confrontation of sorts later. Retreating was her best course of action for now because having an argument with Bill in CIC just wasn't considered proper etiquette by her standards.
"Madam President, I'd be more than happy to escort you to CIC if you wish to speak with Admiral Adama."
"That's quite all right. It'll have to wait, I suppose."
"It'd be no trouble and I promise to do my best to get you there safely."
"I'm sure you would, mister…"
"Oh, it's Lieutenant Peters."
A few beats ticked by as Laura came to her final decision.
This may very well be your mess, Bill, but I'm not going to allow its sole burden to rest on your shoulders…she thought, with a heavy sigh.
"Well, Lieutenant, maybe you can escort me to my shuttle instead?"
He moved to the side and gestured for her to precede him. "Madam President, this way please."
With one last look at the steel hatch, Laura turned and smiled at the young Marine. Sooner or later—she was hoping for sooner—she'd get the truth out of Adama even if she had to resort to some drastic measures. As she was being led away from the Admiral's quarters, Laura's mind was already formulating a plan on how to do just that.
Laura deeply sighed then tapped a pencil on the roughened surface of her desk in a rhythmic pattern. A seed of an idea had been germinating in the back of her mind, as soon as she'd disembarked off of the Galactica this morning. Implementing the idea was something else. There had been something of a slow build up of trust between herself and the Admiral after they had fled Caprica, and she didn't want to undermine that by going behind his back… again.
In this instance she had every right to know what had occurred between Adama and Lt. Novacek. And, if it meant using the man's son to get through to him then by the gods she would.
Laura expected the younger man within the next thirty minutes so she still had some time to figure out how to nonchalantly broach the subject.
But Fleet business, or more specifically her aide, Tory, had distracted her by strolling into the office. "Madam President, everything has been set up and the invitations for Admiral Adama's Medal of Distinction presentation have been taken care of."
"Thank you, Tory. Is there anything else?"
"That's it, I believe."
"All right. Well, you have yourself a good evening then."
"Will do, ma'am. Oh, and before I forget, Major Adama, is running a few minutes late."
Someone cleared their throat near the back of the room. "Not anymore." Both Laura and Tory traded amused expressions.
"Major Adama, please do come in and have a seat."
"Thank you, Madam President. Tory. I'm sorry if I am a bit late; there were some issues that needed to be addressed aboard Galactica," Lee replied, as he sank into a seat.
Tory spoke up before Laura had a chance to respond. "Well, I think that's my cue to give you two some privacy."
"Good night, Tory." Laura shared a smile with her aide then watched her walk out before locking eyes with Lee Adama.
Lee shifted subtly in his seat. There was always an underlying meaning to that particular stare whenever it happened to fall upon a person, and he knew it. It was penetrating and there was a certain determination behind it. Whatever Roslin wanted from Lee was important enough that she'd personally summoned him over to Colonial One.
Somehow, he sensed this spur of the moment late night meeting had something to do with his father.
However, he was still reeling from the discussion he'd just had with the Old Man. And, sifting through that revelation was proving too difficult for him to handle. Obviously, it showed in his features as the Colonial President continued staring at him in concern.
Leave it to the woman to address a portion of what was bothering the younger man, "Lt. Daniel Novacek. What do you know about this man?"
"Well, ma'am, to be honest… not much. My father hasn't shared much information concerning his tour of duties prior to Galactica."
She believed him but the younger man seemed to be holding back something very important. Let's try a different tack… she thought, settling back in her seat.
"What exactly did your father tell you about this secret mission that he sent Mr. Novacek on?"
Lee should've expected that but the bluntness of the question still managed to catch him off guard. He blinked several times before answering.
"He, uh… Permission to speak freely, ma'am?"
"Oh, please do." Her tone took on an exasperated note.
"With all due respect… ma'am, he spoke to me in confidence and as far as I'm concerned I'm not willing to betray that confidence, even to the President of the Twelve Colonies."
"I see," she pulled her eyeglasses off clearly irritated and in some ways, embarrassed. "You have a very good point and I apologize for bringing you into the middle of this. It's just… I'm concerned. I'm also afraid that—"
"Excuse me for interrupting, Madam President." One of the President's junior aides emerged from behind the curtain and Laura feigned a smile—inwardly, she groaned at the interruption. "There is a call for you from Galactica. It's Admiral Adama, ma'am."
For a split second, Lee experienced an overwhelming sense of paranoia. Obviously, his father had learned of his late-night sojourn to Colonial One and was curious about it. He sat deep in thought then the President shared eye contact with him.
"Major Adama, thank you for coming over on such short notice," she said as she rose from her seat. "I assure you, I won't mention any of this to your father."
Lee took the hint and stood at attention. "Madam President." With a curt nod, Lee beat a hasty retreat.
Laura sat down and slowly picked up the receiver. "Admiral Adama?"
"Madam President, this is Galactica Actual; I'm going to connect you with Doctor Cottle in Life Station."
Laura blinked in confusion. Her junior press aide had specifically said Adama was on the phone. Or had Galactica's CMO found something significant in Lt. Novacek's rudimentary physical that he had missed the first time, and was consulting with the Admiral?
"Madam President?" asked the gruff voice of Jack Cottle.
"Doctor Cottle, I'm afraid I'm a bit confused. I was expecting Admiral Adama."
"I'm sure you were but the man is in no condition to talk right now. He demanded that I call you before I took care of his wounds," he paused shortly then sighed before continuing. "Serves me right for not sedating him."
Oh gods, Laura said under her breath. "What exactly happened?"
"After the physical examination I performed on Lt. Daniel Novacek, I mentioned his possible emotional instability to the Admiral."
"I expected as much. Three years in captivity aboard a Cylon baseship would have detrimental effects on anyone…"
"Yes, Madam President. However, this situation as it were, between the Admiral and Lt. Novacek is a lot more complicated than any of us thought."
Laura breathed deeply then asked, "Is the Admiral all right?"
"He will be, as soon as I've patched him up. For some unknown reason—which probably only Admiral Adama is aware of—Lt. Novacek took it upon himself to beat the man senseless." Doc Cottle hesitated a brief second. "Madam President… Novacek nearly killed him."
Closing her eyes briefly, she let the gravity of the statement sink in.
"Thank you, Jack." She cleared her throat as she decided on her next course of action. "I'll be there shortly."
Galactica – Life Station
As Laura ventured further into Life Station, she visually sought out Bill Adama. She found him reclining on a bed beyond the rest of the other patients, with his eyes closed as a medic was in the process of cleaning the blood from the left side of his face. The Admiral's crisp military jacket and discarded shirts lay at the foot of the bed covered in a smattering of blood. Normally, the sight of the man in a state of undress made her think of the possibilities. However, the added stains of his own dried blood on his flesh and undershirts—as well as the medic's determination to quell the oozing of fresh blood from the cuts on his face—made her wince.
She heard a low hiss escape through his clenched teeth as the medic applied a topical antiseptic to the cut above his left eye. Laura was about to go to his bedside but thought better of it and went off in search of Doc Cottle.
Bill watched her through narrowed eyes as she veered from her destination and disappeared behind a wall. Working his jaw, he wondered if perhaps she didn't want anything to do with him in his present condition.
The medic finished up and told Bill to lie still while he fetched Doc Cottle. He complied taking a deep shuddering breath filled with pain. How the frak did I let this happen, Bill thought to himself as he passed an open palm across his tender midsection. Everything throbbed and ached fiercely. The Admiral knew he was going to be intensely sore tomorrow but at least he was alive.
He was beyond tired, so he sat up with a loud groan. Going against his better judgment, Adama slowly slid off the bed and his knees nearly gave way underneath him. Miraculously, someone was there to catch him and he looked up, willing his eyes to penetrate the fog of intense pain surrounding him.
It was Laura.
Adama looked away, his pride all but gone because of his foolish spur of the moment idea.
"Easy, Madam President, I've got him." Jack Cottle took the Admiral's weight off her arm and helped him settle back into bed then glared at him. "That was a bad idea, Admiral."
Adama's only response was to close his eyes.
"Now, you've sustained several injuries and at your age your body is gonna give you one helluva time while it heals."
"We covered this, Jack." Adama rasped out softly.
"Not for the benefit of the President, we haven't," Doc Cottle paused then turned and addressed Laura, "Admiral Adama has a bruised windpipe, and as you can see several superficial cuts to his face… the real injuries are the ones he sustained to his torso; the man's got three bruised ribs and that pipe Novacek used on him managed to inflict slight damage to his existing scar. Nothing life-threatening, but if he wasn't experiencing any discomfort since the incident then this'll remind him of it for the next few days."
"Then it's a good thing Saul decided to venture out of his quarters." Adama said eyes still closed. If he didn't have to look into Laura's eyes, he knew he wouldn't have to see how angry the woman really was; he was just too tired and in a lot of pain to launch himself into a heated discussion with her.
"Cut the bull," Laura replied in irritation. "So far your 'mess' has only succeeded in escalating into something akin to retribution for Lt. Novacek."
"I suppose I was asking for it."
"Dammit, Bill. He almost killed you…"
Doc Cottle cleared his throat, "If you two will excuse me, I have other things to do besides be privy to one of your all too famous spats. As for you, Admiral, you're free to go, but I advise you to take it easy for the next several days while your body heals, and that means staying off your feet for as long as possible. I'm prescribing some pain killers in the interim to keep your discomfort down to a minimum," Cottle said then he looked at Laura, "And as for you, Madam President, try not to finish what Lt. Novacek started."
Laura shot Doc Cottle one of her potent glares, which had absolutely no effect on the man.
"Thank you, Jack," Adama muttered under his breath.
"Don't mention it. Now get… I need that bed," Cottle said. Walking away then hesitating near the clear curtain, he offered his parting remarks to Laura, "Madam President, I suggest you keep an eye on him."
The rest of the walk through the corridors back to his quarters was spent in silence as the Admiral mulled over the last few hours' events. Stiff, sore, and in a great deal of more pain than he'd been in when discharged from sickbay, Adama winced loudly, enough for Laura to notice the discomfort lining his roughened features.
"I won't say I—"
"Then don't," Adama interrupted her then added tersely, "Madam President."
Laura flinched at the enunciation of her official title. She'd hit a sore spot and for a minute or two, she'd known he'd been asking for it but now at the sight of him so fatigued and in physical pain, she chastised herself silently.
He doesn't need this, not now.
"You're not getting any…"
"Give it a rest, Laura. I know that all too well, but you have to remember, this was something I should've handled quickly. I just sat on my thumbs, even though I knew there was always a possibility that it would lead to this. As I said earlier… I suppose I was asking for it... or maybe I wanted it to happen." Adama then softly added, "I've certainly had to live with the knowledge that I instigated the entire thing."
They reached his quarters and Adama acknowledged his Marine sentries then gestured for Laura to step through the hatch first. He shut and locked it from the inside with a soft groan then stiffly turned and shared eye contact with Laura before slowly moving into the other room. Adama returned to find the President comfortably seated in one of his armchairs and offered her a glass of water.
She graciously took it and intently observed as the Admiral slowly lowered himself with a grimace into the welcoming cushions of his couch.
Adama poured two pain pills onto the smooth surface of his coffee table, and resisting the urge to take them, he settled back as he undid the buttons on his jacket. He thought it wouldn't be fair to the woman seated across from him if he had an unclear head as he explained what he'd meant earlier. She was obviously dying to know what secrets he'd managed to keep deeply buried from her… from anyone, really.
His first question—since the all too familiar but heavy silence had descended on them—almost caused her to spit out the water she'd just sipped.
"How much did my son tell you?"
Considering her reaction, Adama thought Lee had betrayed his confidence. He clenched his jaw and kept his gaze fixed on a shelf overflowing with his precious books, trying to read some of the more noticeable titles on their spines. The Admiral didn't have to wait long for Laura to respond after clearing her throat.
"He didn't betray your trust, if that's what you mean."
"Good," Adama softly sighed. "There's been too much of that already." He looked at her with coldness in his steely blue eyes.
That hit home and Laura knew it. Bordering on fury, Laura set the glass of water down making its contents slosh onto the coffee table and stood.
"I've had enough of this… of you. When you're ready to talk let me know. Otherwise, I'll be…"
"The attacks on the Colonies…" he rasped out softly, "The Cylons… They discovered the breach of the Armistice Treaty during the course of the black-ops mission Lt. Novacek was a part of."
Laura stared confoundedly at Adama. Not quite sure of what her response should be, she lowered herself back into the armchair and allowed the man to continue.
"It was the Admiralty's decision to send a stealth ship on a recon mission to see if an attack by the Cylons on the Colonies was imminent. Well, things didn't go according to the mission parameters. The military was right, the Cylons were waiting for us… they'd been watching us the entire time.
And, Lt. Novacek had to be sacrificed before the Valkyrie was discovered… I thought I'd killed one of my best officers in a bid to protect the mission," Adama paused and held her gaze for a minute then looked away. "However, I still succeeded in casting the first stone, Laura. The ensuing decimation of nearly the entire human race has haunted me ever since our departure from the Colonies."
"Bill, you can't blame yourself. It was the Admiralty that placed you in that position."
"You sound just like my son. I'll answer you with the same thing I told him. It only takes one man."
"But that's just it, you're only one man. The Admiralty thrust the guilt on your shoulders, they obviously needed some sort of scapegoat and you gave them that. And, if they knew what was coming down the line then they should've done something to prevent it."
Adama grunted in response.
"Laura, why are you really here?"
"For frak's sake, Bill. What kind of a question is...?"
"Is it pity?"
Laura was completely caught off guard by the sharp turn the conversation had taken. She stood then walked several steps away, allowing herself a minute to quell the angry retort that threatened to roll off her tongue.
"No need to answer. Your silence is pretty indicative of that."
"Listen to me, Admiral Adama. The one thing you shall never have is my pity. You will however hear me out… get your head together, move on. Let this go"
"Oh, that's easy for you to say. You aren't responsible…"
"Don't," interrupting him she turned and crossed her arms over her chest. "All of this self-inflicted guilt won't change a thing. It will however undermine your ability to function as a person," she said with a strong hint of determination in her voice. "If this so much as starts interfering with your…"
Bill held up a hand to quiet her.
Several seconds ticked by then Bill looked up, his blue eyes betraying how tired he really was.
"All right… You need your rest, Bill."
The Admiral hesitated then glanced away.
"I suppose you're right, Laura," he said with a deep sigh. "It has been a rather interesting day."
Laura could sense his conflicted emotions as he stiffly rose from the couch.
"Will you be all right?"
She followed him to the cabin's hatch and she watched as he slowly unlatched it with a groan. Sighing in frustration, Laura then surprised him by resting her hand on his forearm as she slipped past him into the corridor.
She turned to face him, only to be met with an impenetrable wall of silence. "Good night, Admiral."
"Madam President," he replied in a roughened voice.
The Admiral watched as Laura disappeared around a bend further along the passageway then he closed and sealed the hatch behind him.
I know what needs to be done, Bill thought to himself as he settled in for a restless night's sleep.
Galactica, later that morning
Admiral Adama sat in his office with explicit command instructions that he not be disturbed, unless the ship's DRADIS had something to say about it. He was embarking on an important decision—one that would affect him but more importantly the Fleet. The Admiral had collected the necessary forms required to make it official. He just hoped the President would see things his way.
Although, deep down he knew she wasn't going to.
He sat back and closed his eyes recollecting an earlier event with chagrin.
Bill stood at the Command and Control Center console in CIC perusing a few course corrections and other important reports. He could feel several of his officer's eyes on the back of his neck.
Worry, intermingled with relief greeted the Admiral upon his entrance to CIC earlier that evening. They vaguely knew about his connection with Lt. Novacek but were still in the dark as to why the man had attacked their superior officer.
The light from the table lit up his face making them well aware that the altercation at the hands of Novacek hadn't been all that pretty. Adama breathed deeply and grimaced as a sharp pain coursed its way down the length of his side. Perhaps he'd been on his feet for far too long.
Glancing around, Bill noticed Lt. Gaeta and Lt. Adama involved in deep conversation.
"… Old Man definitely deserves the Medal of Distinction. He's brought us this far."
Adama cleared his throat and Lt. Gaeta straightened. "If your conversation in any way pertains to ship business then by all means, continue. Otherwise, stow the gossip."
"Yes, sir." Felix and Dee sounded off in unison.
Captain Agathon stepped up to the center console allowing a slight grin to flash across his features.
The Admiral glanced up at his XO, subtly annoyed. "I've had enough excitement for today. Mr. Agathon, you have the deck. I'll be in my quarters."
Adama slowly walked out of CIC, musing over a snippet of the conversation he'd just overheard.
Whatever else they may think of me… I most certainly am not a hero, he thought to himself as the distance between him and CIC lengthened.
Bathed by the soft glow from a desk lamp, Adama opened his eyes and sat for several minutes in silence then set about signing the paperwork.
He carefully placed the sheets into a folder bearing the crest of Galactica, his ship, his home, and guardian in times of great need, and then stood up. He knew that assuming responsibility for the events that'd been set in motion was in the Fleet's best interests.
Adama yearned for some peace of mind and he knew that to have that he'd have to sacrifice something in return.
Admiral Adama had requested a private meeting with the President later in the afternoon and was granted her undivided attention.
Thus, there he stood in front of her desk awaiting her to acknowledge his presence.
"Just be a minute, Admiral," she said with a smile. "Please, take a seat."
"Thank you, but that won't be necessary, Madam President."
She looked up just then and wasn't pleased by the look in his eyes. The Admiral of the Fleet had something very important on his mind.
Laura sat back, disregarding the report in front of her. "Admiral Adama, what can I do for you?"
The Admiral remained silent then offered the President a cream-colored folder, which she reached for with a suspicious look. Laura wasn't exactly sure where this was headed and her gut instinct told her that she wasn't going to like the outcome.
"What is this?" she asked. The Admiral's resignation letter briefly surprised Laura then she grew angry. "Your resignation… you've got to be kidding me."
"I said before, we can't hide from the things that we've done. I see no other way around this situation. Maybe it's time, Laura."
Unconvinced and still irritated, Laura held his gaze for several beats then said, "Sit down, Bill."
Hesitating for a brief second the Admiral finally capitulated to her command with a sigh then took a seat in front of her desk.
Laura took a deep steadying breath before placing the folder to her side. "I think you're being naïve."
Bill's only comment was to repeat a portion of her statement in a roughened voice, "Naïve." Deciding it'd be best to let her talk, he looked away, refusing to meet her eyes.
"Did it ever occur to you that the Admiralty may have set you up to provoke a war they wanted?"
Holding her stare for a moment, Bill wanted to believe in what she was saying. Yet, he found himself unable to.
Unperturbed by his drawn out silence Laura continued, "It's naïve to think that horrible things that we can't understand have simple explanations. Because simple explanations make us think we have control when we don't. We know why the Cylons attacked us and it wasn't any one thing, oh my gods. We did a thousand things good and bad, every day, for forty years to pave the way for those attacks."
"Something has to be done," Bill replied softly.
Giving his comment some thought Laura then reached for an envelope, withdrew a sheaf of paper, and handed it to Bill. "You know what that is?"
The Admiral took the folded paper from her hand and stared at it.
Imprinted on it in gold leaf was his name then Bill opened it to reveal an invitation to join the President in a ceremony to honor him with the Medal of Distinction, for his forty-five years of service in the Colonial Fleet.
Placing the invitation back on Laura's desk, he commented in annoyance, "Medal of Distinction." Bill's eyes once again strayed as she pointedly stared at him.
"This is before I heard about this resignation of yours. So… hmm…" Laura idly responded as she picked up and read the invitation.
An amused look flashed across Bill's face then it was gone as he once again shared eye contact with Laura.
"I'd like to propose this: You seem hell bent on paying some kind of penance for whatever it is you think you've done. So, instead of resigning, why don't you get up and walk out of here. Meet me on the port hanger deck tomorrow evening for the ceremony, and let me pin a frakking medal to your chest."
Bill wouldn't allow himself… couldn't allow himself to accept a medal when he wasn't feeling at all worthy of it.
"It's not for you. It's for them. Stand up there and acknowledge your Fleet and give them what they need… a hero. That'll be your penance. Even if it kills you."
Laura allowed a look of triumph to settle onto her face then rested her chin on her hand to signal the end of the discussion. Bill glanced away having slowly come to the realization that she might be right. He may not have to like it but trying to argue with the woman wouldn't be a good idea. Once the President had made her decision, all other avenues for debate would be closed.
So, they sat there staring into each other's eyes until Laura smiled. But he couldn't share in her amusement; the only thing he would allow himself to do was follow her advice.
Bill rose to his feet with another heavy sigh then walked out without another word or backward glance.
Laura's gaze followed him out the door and then she opened the folder containing the Admiral's resignation letter and shut her eyes. The thought of their rag-tag Fleet without William Adama at the helm was unfathomable. She needed him at her side… more than the Fleet would ever know.
No, there was no way she would ever allow the man to leave them when they so obviously needed him. She took one last look at his letter then decided that tomorrow, before the ceremony, she'd incinerate it.
Galactica – Port Hanger Deck
The crew had been assembled and was standing at attention to witness their Admiral… their hero receive his commendation.
"On behalf of everyone in this room, it is my pleasure to present you, Admiral Adama, with the Medal of Distinction for your forty-five years of courageous service to the Colonial Fleet." Laura carefully unfurled the ribbon holding the medal and took a step toward Bill. "Congratulations."
The hanger deck then erupted into thunderous applause and several cheers.
Admiral Adama slowly stepped up to the podium for the obligatory speech, but paused to look out at his fellow officers and friends then smiled sadly.
As such, as penances went, this would be something he'd be paying for a long time to come. He just wanted the entire evening to end as quickly as possible but he had to give his people something. And with that thought, along with Laura's comforting presence nearby, he began talking.
Galactica, later that evening
Saul Tigh had left the Admiral's quarters later that night. Bill sat alone, feeling a slight bit better over the fact that they had reconciled and that Saul had slowly begun the process of letting go of the past, however painful it was. Scars aren't only evident on the surface, he thought as he finished the rest of his amber colored liquor. Before Tigh's departure, Adama had reiterated his earlier advice to him, to take as much time as was needed.
The Admiral retrieved his Medal of Distinction from his desk then sat back down at the table and poured himself another drink. He could still hear Laura's humbling words of advice to him the day before the ceremony.
Bill absentmindedly fingered the medal he'd just been awarded then let it go just to listen to it clatter onto the weathered surface of the table. He'd have to find an appropriate place for this one. However, unlike his other commendations, this one didn't hold much significance for him. He wasn't deserving of a medal proclaiming him as a hero; he was just a man doing what needed to be done in the face of such overwhelming odds. Bill watched the play of light on the medallion then sighed as he finally allowed the weight of its significance to rest on his shoulders.
A soft knock on the hatch pulled him out of his reverie and Bill gave the closed steel partition a questioning glance.
A shapely leg appeared through the entryway, Bill blinked to clear his vision then the rest of her stepped into his quarters, and he chuckled.
"I wasn't expecting you at this hour, Madam President."
"I know it's late, Admiral, and it's Laura."
"Well, Laura, what can I do for you?"
"You can pour me one of those," Laura commented as she strolled past then kicked off her heels and settled into the spacious couch. "Ah, yes, this is exactly what I needed."
He joined her on the couch and grinned in response. "Glad to be at your service, Laura."
"And to think, you were going to give all of this up," she spoke softly.
"I don't deserve any of this," he replied glancing around. "And, I wasn't deserving of the medal…"
"We've been over that."
"All right, all right. No one has the power to change the past…" Bill leaned back into the cushions and continued, "This idea of yours did have its merit. The Fleet was in definite need of a boost in morale."
"No use in apologizing… I forgave you a long time ago," she said with a playful smirk. "Oh, and there's just something about the sight of you in those dress grays."
Bill chuckled softly.
The playful streak in Laura's eyes vanished as she caught sight of Bill's medal lying off to one side on the surface of the table.
"Just remember Bill, don't let the weight of this self-imposed penance rob you of your functionality… of your importance as a hero," she said enunciating the word as he glanced away. "Yes, a hero… to your officers and to the people out there."
"I refuse to except that I'm a hero to these people. I'm just doing what needs to be done to ensure their survival." Bill turned his head to meet Laura's gaze. "However, I thank you for giving me that swift kick in the ass I so desperately needed."
"Glad to be of service, Bill."
Bill grinned that all too familiar grin that she'd grown to love and they sat in mutual silence for some time, enjoying each other's comforting presence. She was right. With each passing day, Bill was determined to move on and slowly rid himself of those thoughts that he'd been the harbinger of so many deaths on the Twelve Colonies.
But, right now, he was enjoying her company until a stray thought occurred to him. "Laura, I hate to drive you away but won't your aides on Colonial One be a little…?"
"I gave them the evening off. Something about a party below decks in your honor."
"Somehow, I'm having a difficult time imagining Tory Foster attending a party, let alone one held on my ship. I suppose you were…"
"Tory? No. She's still working on getting Baltar's remaining effects off the ship. The sooner his presence is gone…" Laura visibly shuddered.
"Besides, I don't think my attending a party in your honor would be such a great idea."
"You do tend to make a few of my men nervous." Bill downed the rest of his drink then she nudged him in the ribs and he groaned in pain.
"Oh, Bill, I'm sorry." Laura placed a hand on his chest and Bill's breathing stilled.
He looked into her eyes and smiled. "There is one thing I forgot to do."
"Give you a proper thank you."
"Really, there's no…"
Bill interrupted her mid sentence by slowly leaning in and giving Laura a tender kiss on the lips.
Laura leaned back and a mischievous twinkle settled into her eyes as she regarded the man seated next to her.
It took several minutes for her to climb down from the high he had so generously given her.
"In that case, I should present you with commendations more often, Admiral."