Author: Psychic Philosopher (aka, Grammar Maven on FF)
Notes: I posted this on Survival Instinct in October, but thought I'd post it here, too, since I've been visiting and reading a lot. There are no Season 4 spoilers, but everything up to "Crossroads II" is game, especially Season 1's "Fragged." The phrase "doors of perception" is borrowed from The Doors of Perception by Aldous Huxley, who, in turn, borrowed it from William Blake's The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. Jim Morrison is not involved here in any way. The company I keep is odd enough.
"Tell me what Chamalla is like."
Laura stops reading her memo and looks up at the man she made Admiral. He's sitting on their couch—his couch, she corrects herself—looking into the glass of water in his hand. She watches him for a moment, waiting for him to make eye contact. He doesn't. Instead, he continues to look at the water as if scrying for the future he recently told her they had to look to.
His question is random, seemingly coming out of no where. Laura's reply is defensive: "That's an odd request, Bill. Why do you want to know?"
The edge in her voice makes him look up at her. He tries to reassure her with his gentleness and his words. Setting his glass on the coffee table, he scoots closer and reaches for her hand. Laura draws back slightly, causing Bill again to realize that everything between them still isn't repaired after his vote to set Baltar free.
"I just want to understand your visions, that's all. I won't use it against you—" Bill cuts himself off before the words like my son spill from his mouth.
Taking a cleansing breath, Laura replies to his request in her schoolteacher voice, the one she reserves for conveying new information to those who might not understand. If she detaches from the information, she thinks she might get through this.
"Well, it's hard to describe. It's not exactly a pleasant drug. It tastes bitter," she smiles sarcastically, "but that's common knowledge now, isn't it?"
She pauses, staring at Adama, but he doesn't rise to the bait. Resuming her "lesson" voice, she continues, "I take it because it's supposed to take the edge off the pain."
"Some days, yes. Some days, no."
"What else?" Bill's been around her Chamalla use long enough now to know there's more.
"It makes me nauseous sometimes, and dizzy," Laura pauses and looks up, contemplating how to explain the sensations. She closes her eyes as she continues. "When it doesn't make me sick, though, it actually makes me feel good. Not well, because it's still a drug, and it feels like a drug. But good because…."
Laura stops her musing and opens her eyes, suddenly uncomfortable with her honesty. She's uncertain how much she should reveal to the man who so recently bruised her trust in him.
Bill senses her reluctance. Softly, he rasps, "Please continue."
His request is almost a plea, and Laura is torn between giving in to her desire to give this man anything he asks or giving in to the anger that's kept them distant in the past few weeks since Baltar's trial. She compromises, giving Bill what she knows he wants, but she does so on her terms. She looks at Bill defiantly and says, "You know about the visions."
This isn't the continuation of what Laura was saying, but Bill lets it pass. Instead, sincerely curious, he asks, "Do you always have visions when you take it?"
She notices he doesn't say "hallucinations." She smiles slightly, wondering if he realizes his acceptance of her visions.
"Not always. Besides, the visions are just a side effect," Laura pauses, her voice becoming as bitter as the drug they're talking about. "Sure they come in handy for the alleged prophet, but…." Laura's voice drops off.
Quietly, tenderly, Bill promises, "You can tell me, Laura."
Laura looks at him, and he knows she's measuring him up. He holds her eyes, silently begging her to trust him fully again. It's silent in the room for nearly a minute before Laura whispers, "The visions scare me sometimes. I don't know what they mean. They scared me before, but I had Elosha to help interpret them. Now…the doors are perception are wide open, and there's no one around to help me figure out what everything means."
"There are other priests. Or someone from Geminon. Sarah Porter, perhaps?"
Laura gives him a flat look. "I need someone I can trust, Bill. Someone who has no agenda." Laura sighs. "I'm afraid there's no one in the Fleet who meets those requirements right now."
Laura's words punch Bill in the heart. He grabs his water glass and goes to the bar to refill it so she can't see the pain in his eyes.
Laura, realizing the hurt she's inadvertently caused, tries to shift the conversation. Staring at Bill's back, she says, "But as bad as the scary visions are, withdrawal is far worse."
Bill turns around and looks at her again. He's surprised.
"Withdrawal? From the first time around?" Bill inquires.
Just when Bill believes he knows everything about Laura Roslin, a new chapter opens up. He sits next to her on the couch, not as close as before, but closer than the Admiral would sit next to the President.
"You hid it well. I never even knew." His face still registers a small amount of shock.
"That's because you weren't around." There's no accusation in Laura's tone. Just statement of fact.
Bill looks at her questioningly. "When wasn't I around? Are you talking about New Caprica? That was a while after your remission…."
"No, Bill. When you were in the coma. When you were—"
Neither one of them can finish the sentence aloud, but they're both taken back to their darkest days. They've never talked about it directly. The only time they've really even addressed it was under the tarp on Kobol. But Bill realizes now more went on during his bullet-imposed sabbatical than he knows, even all these years later. He starts thinking about it, when the thought occurs to him.
"You were in the brig."
"Yes, I was."
"And you didn't tell anyone you needed medication."
Laura doesn't know how to respond. Bill Adama takes so much for granted at times, such as his XO's humanity. She doesn't want to be the person to tell him this, so she weighs her options. Unfortunately for her, her lengthy internal debate tips off Bill that there's more to the story.
"Laura, you didn't tell anyone you needed medication. Right?" Bill asks.
"I…" Laura's breath hitches, and tears suddenly burn her eyes. She lowers her head so Bill can't see the emotion behind the memory as she finishes her statement. "I didn't ask, no."
Although Laura's a very good liar and has fooled him in the past, Bill knows she's lying now. Suddenly, this conversation has gone beyond his curiosity about Chamalla.
He moves closer to her, and she allows him to tilt her chin up so he can meet her eyes. He gently says, "You're lying to me."
Laura moves her head in an effort to avoid eye contact. This time Bill cups her cheek to redirect her eyes to him. "Tell me what happened. Please."
It's his "please" that undoes her.
"Billy tried to get Chamalla for me, but it wasn't allowed in the brig."
"Well, I can understand to some degree. It's an unusual request. But I'm sure once Cottle explained to Saul that you needed it…"
Unconsciously, Bill's hand has dropped from Laura's cheek to her thigh. He doesn't realize this until he feels Laura tense. He then loses his patience.
"Laura," he begins gruffly, firmly, "I want to know what happened. Out and out truth. No bullshit, no placating. What happened?"
"Cottle was busy with you, Bill. It was a difficult time, and people did the best they could. You had just staged a military coup and locked up the President. We had just pulled off a major military mission. Boomer shot you in the middle of CIC. There were Cylons to deal with and you, the heart and soul of Galactica, well, we weren't sure if you were going to live or die. Apollo…he came to the brig with your blood all over him. Truly, the last thing anyone was thinking about was the needs of a discarded president."
That last comment stings, and Bill takes an extra moment to tamp down the warring emotions playing out in his stomach. His voice is quiet, deadly, as he says, "We don't deny sick prisoners medication, Laura. Regardless of situation."
"No one knew I was sick, Bill. Remember?"
"But you said Billy tried to get Chamalla. Who'd he go to?"
Bill, to himself more than to Laura, says. "He went to the top. He went to Tigh, didn't he? Billy was a by-the-book kid. If Cottle was busy with me, he would have gone to Tigh. That's what he did, isn't it?"
"Laura, did Saul deny your request for medication?"
"It wasn't my request."
"Gods dammit, Laura!" Bill snaps, "Did Saul Tigh deny any type of request from anyone for medication for you?"
"Yes." Her whispered reply is in contrast to his outburst.
More guilt digs into Adama's consciousness.
"I'm so sorry, Laura."
"It's not your fault you got shot, Bill."
"No, but it's my fault you were in the brig." Bill pauses, his tone softening. "I was so angry with you…."
"Bill, we've been through this. We've buried our hatchet. There's no need to rehash this." Laura doesn't understand why something so far in their past has upset him.
"I would have never thrown you in the brig had I known you were sick, Laura."
She has a flash-fire of anger because this is exactly the type of treatment she doesn't want due to her cancer, now or back then. She thinks about calling him on it, but decides against it. He has too much of a burden to bear, and she knows that burden's only going to get worse in a few months. She's still angry with him about Baltar's trial, but…she loves him. So she soothes him in the only way she can, through compliance and forgiveness.
"It doesn't matter now, Bill. Look where we are today. We survived, and that's all that matters."
"It's not all that matters, Laura. How many times have I said it's not just enough to survive?"
He moves closer and their gazes become more intense, more electric. The tension is thick, the desire palpable. They've been to this point before. Both recognize the battery the other has put into place to prevent an emotional assault, but now, as Bill Adama stares into the eyes of Laura Roslin, it seems there are no troops left guarding their emotions.
Slowly, he leans in and kisses her. It's a gentle kiss, in some ways reminiscent of their only other kiss, but it's also so much more. This kiss is an apology, a balm, and a promise.
And as the kiss deepens, it becomes love.