Laura Roslin was starting to wonder if giving Tom Zarek the vice presidency had been such a good idea.
Of course, there was that horrible situation with the secret jury (although, when she wasn't thinking too hard, she secretly applauded the use of her favorite execution method). There was the fact that he was a terrorist and an extremist. And, even after all that they'd been through, she didn't trust him at all.
But the worst part was that she didn't trust herself around him.
Usually meetings were boring and something to simply be suffered through. But every time Laura met with the Vice President things got a little more interesting. Oh, it started out innocently enough. Zarek would smile brightly at her or say that she looked particularly nice that day. It was the kind of thing that Tory rolled her eyes at if she overhead, and although Laura took it as nothing more than him trying to get into her good graces. Then it progressed to flirting. What kind of person flirted while talking about fuel rations? What kind of person found herself flirting back?
She wasn't sure how she felt about this entire situation. Tom's active contributions and participation made him such a change from having Baltar as her Vice President. Tom actually cared about this job. Even more, he felt it an honor rather than a job. It was certainly refreshing. Then again, Laura was used to running things pretty much on her own, in her own way. Now, not only did she still have Admiral Adama to contend with, but she felt a certain obligation to tell the more than willing Zarek what was going on. Having more people involved in the government couldn't possibly be a bad thing at this point, though.
This was also a lot more…fun than she remembered. True, it was still difficult and often grueling, but she was laughing more, and it was primarily Tom's fault. She had this vague notion that this couldn't be healthy, enjoying the company of a man like Tom Zarek. She came to dread and welcome these meetings with him, because even if she was having a bit of fun, she was letting her guard down in the presence of this most untrustworthy man.
Like today, for example. They were supposed to be discussing the nutrition problems in the fleet—not at all funny—and Laura knew that she would break out into laughter at least once before the end of their conversation. Entirely inappropriate.
It was a late meeting and Tory had already turned in, leaving the two officials alone at Laura's desk. She made sure they got right down to it so that she could eventually get some rest herself before the next day had to begin.
"What are we going to do about the lack of calcium in most meals? Doctor Cottle says there's been an increasing incidence of broken bones. This is a serious issue for healthy human survival, especially for women and children."
"The lack of livestock is the greatest contributing factor to the problem..." He looked at her expectantly.
"Are you suggesting that we somehow find milk-producing animals, gods know from where, and bring them on the ships?"
"I don't see any other long term solution."
She knew she was looking at him like he was a complete moron. "You can't be serious. You know there's barely enough food as it is, never mind feeding cattle."
"Well, that's the answer, so maybe the question's wrong. Maybe we're going to have to just accept what can't be prevented with any pill supplements that can't be scrounged up." She had learned to expect this kind of thing from Zarek. He was a fighter; he wanted rights for the people. But he was also a realist who knew when something was wrong or couldn't be fixed. She sighed.
"I'll see what the doctors can do."
"All right," he said, blinking rapidly, probably trying to stay awake and moisten his eyes. "What next?"
She rolled her head around. "The people on the Farthest Hand are having a problem—oh!" She brought her hand up to her neck, rubbing the sore spot. "Sorry, it's been giving me trouble lately."
"Let me help." Before she could protest he was around the desk and behind her, massaging her shoulders not at all where her neck hurt, but…
"Oh, gods. That feels so much better. How did you do that?" she asked, glancing back. He just smiled and continued with the massage, first taking a quick moment to tuck her hair under her collar and out of the way.
"Tom…" she began, but was cut off when he hit a very tense spot. She bit her lip instead. She had forgotten how sore she was, or how good releasing the tension in her back could feel. Or how dangerous letting a man do it could be.
He used his whole body, not just his hands. His entire weight was behind every knead and push, making this a full-body endeavor on his part. Wrists and forearms merely controlled every motion. He pushed her forward a little to reach her lower back. She was somewhat bent forward over her desk and was in perilous danger of her glasses slipping off her nose, but none of this seemed to register. All that mattered was the exquisite feel of his fingers prodding at her back.
Suddenly the massage stopped, and she knew she was incredibly relaxed when she didn't even protest. She also didn't stop him when he pulled her hair back out of her shirt, let his fingers run through it for a few seconds, then swept it over her left shoulder. Or when he began running his fingers along her spine and blowing on the skin at the nape of her neck.
"Laura." He said it so softly that she didn't know if she really heard it, but his breath was hot on her neck. She wouldn't let her body take over. He might be attractive and apparently willing, but that was no reason to let him control her. She could be relaxed and in charge at the same time.
"Lower," she ordered, her voice not betraying the slightest hint of the effect his hands were having on her.
"Why? I like it here," he murmured, tracing patterns on her neck. She wished she could stop shivering, because he could certainly see that.
"I am giving you an order as your president. Lower, Mr. Zarek." She heard a chuckle, then felt his compliance. Right there, just at the bottom of the ribs….yes, that was where her knots were. She felt herself melt once more. She was tempted, in this moment of weakness, to say so many things. We shouldn't do this, Tom. This is incredible, Tom. Let's go a little further, Tom. But no matter what, she wouldn't say anything. Her words would not betray her now.
"Any other executive orders, Madame President?" She could hear the smirk in his voice as he spoke in a low half-whisper. Well, she couldn't let him get away with that.
"As a matter of fact, Mr. Vice President, if you wouldn't mind…" She stood up quickly and turned around. Tom's eyes caught her and she thought she saw something that almost made her stop, but when she double-checked it was gone. She shook it off. "Please have a seat," she said sweetly, offering hers. There was a slight surprise, or maybe apprehension, in his eyes, but his demeanor didn't change and he complied with her request. It was all she could do not to rub her hands together in glee.
"Men always seem so willing to give a massage," she started, placing her hands on his shoulders. "But there's always an agenda." She began digging her fingers in aggressively and felt his back tense in response. "Don't think I'm not on to you, Tom Zarek," she whispered in his ear. His shoulders shifted uncomfortably. She pressed her thumbs sharply against his spine and his back arched away. "See, Tom, I really don't think you want to play me, because I know a thing or two about returning the favor." She twisted both thumbs outward and he gave a sharp, short cry, followed by a moan as she drove her thumbs down to the small of his back. It seemed she'd already won, succeeding in making him scream when he hadn't been able to do the same to her. She felt a tinge of disappointment that he'd given in so easily, as she had looked forward to more of a game. Instead she gave one last dig, feeling him shudder, and withdrew.
"Now give me my seat back." He spun around quickly and caught her wrists in his hands.
"In a minute." He tugged and she fell on to him. Her lips were immediately caught by his. Oh, she thought as his soft, warm mouth melted into hers. He's good.
He withdrew again and her eyes wouldn't open for an entire second. Just wouldn't. When they finally did she began mentally kicking herself because that smug grin of his had returned.
"Why, Madame President, how clumsy of you." Frak, why did she suddenly feel like a teenager tricked in to something risqué? Laura glared at him, as if the mere fiery force of her gaze would crisp him in front of her, and picked herself up.
"Out," she ordered, steel in her voice. She didn't have to point for him to know that she meant for him to leave not just her chair but also the room. At the door he paused, glancing back.
"I guess the Farthest Hand will have to solve its own problems." He disappeared and she looked down at the open file on her desk. Damn! He had certainly won this battle.
But Laura had won a few of her own, too. She had beaten him in her own little silence contest. And I didn't giggle, she thought, a smug little grin not unlike that of Tom Zarek's spreading across her face.