Written for astreamofstars for the A/R Secret Valentines Fic Exchange on LJ. Special thanks to plausiblyremote for the amazing notes and beta.
Billy pushed her down the corridor gently, as if any bump would shatter her like glass. Laura gripped the metal sides of the wheelchair with whitened knuckles, elbows locked as they kept her upright. As she felt her stature crumble the further they got from the brig, she realized just how much the discussion with the leader of the separatist faction had taken out of her . She may have been cured from her cancer, but her body was still far from recovered.
She reached a hand out to Billy, and the procession stopped. He kneeled in front of her and she spoke to him softly for a moment. Standing back up, he addressed Adama. "The president would like to meet with you in your quarters."
The question played across Bill's features. Billy just shrugged.
"Madam President, are you sure…"
Her voice rang out, shaky, but certain, and leaving no room for further debate. "I am, Admiral."
Upon arrival at his hatch, her actions again preempted their logistical concerns. A glance at Billy and he was at her side, helping support her as she rose shakily to her feet. She took a moment to find her balance, then nodded to Bill, who came to her other side and grasped her elbow as they helped her down the steps leading to his cabin.
Inside, smiled weakly and addressed her aide. "Billy, Please tell Doctor Cottle I will be back in shortly. Then take the evening off- go find Petty Officer Dualla." At Billy's unsure look she smiled again, this time more reassuringly, and shooed him away.
"Go, I'll be fine. I Promise."
Billy didn't look convinced, but did as she said and turned to leave, the hatch sealing solidly behind him.
Bill guided her the rest of the way into the cabin, and carefully deposited her into the deep cushions of his couch. Giving her a moment to settle herself, he stepped away towards a trunk sitting in the corner of the room. Searching through the neatly folded contents, he found what he was looking for and turned back, taking in the sight of her nestled in the pillows, feet tucked under her body in her usual manner. He held up the offering in his hand, and at her nod he stepped close and spread the thick red blanket over her small frame. Her eyes looked up to meet his, and she was surprised to see a soft smile spreading onto his features.
"What?" She asked, narrowing her eyes at him.
He shook his head. "Nothing. I'm just really glad you are here."
She sighed heavily, and turned her head away, uncomfortable under the weight of his scrutiny.
Bill's gaze lingered on her for a moment, then he moved away, crossing to his service cart to pour two glasses of water. Returning to her side, he set one down next to her, and she couldn't help the flinch that ran through her body as he sat down near to her on the other side of the couch.
Neither said anything for several long minutes, and as the silence stretched on, the air in the room seemed to thicken. Bill opened his mouth to try and break the tension, but it was Laura who spoke first.
"What were you thinking, Bill?"
The vitriol in her tone clearly caught him by surprise, and he stammered as he tried to form a response. She ignored him and continued.
"Cottle told me. He said it was your decision. Your directorder. So I want to know, what you were thinking. Why would you do this? Why did you do this to me?" She gestured to herself, disgust dripping in her features, and looked away from him again, not trusting her ability to keep the anguish she was feeling off of her face.
Bill's dropped his head and stared into the glass in his hands. Finally looking up, he spoke softly towards the back of her head
"You were dying, Laura. You were slipping away, and I thought there was nothing we could do. The fleet needs you, and we were going to lose you. And then all of a sudden, Baltar said he had found a way, that he could save you. How could I have said no to that? I couldn't just let you die."
She shook her head with a violence that belied her physical condition, but when she looked up at him, her features reflected only sadness and betrayal. "Did you even stop to think what I would have wanted? That maybe I was ready to let go? That I'd done my job, I did as much as I possibly could have, gave as much of myself as I had to give, and was ready for it, for this to be over with? Did you?"
Bill opened his mouth to reply, and then shut it again as he took in her words. He looked down. "No." He admitted quietly.
She laughed once, mirthlessly. "No, you thought you'd swoop in and fix this, fix me, and damn the consequences. There are consequences, Bill. Big ones that you haven't taken into consideration. You never think about the big picture. But what happens when the news of my recovery gets out in public? You think the press, the quorum, the population, are just going to get a press release that says the President of the Colonies was saved with cylon blood, and just be ok with that? You really think they're going to let me lead this fleet then?"
She choked on the last word and began coughing, and he leaned over to gently rub her back, soothing the spasms away. With his other hand he reached to the table and brought the water glass to her lips; she cautiously took several small swallows before she collapsed against the back of the couch with her eyes closed, breathing heavily.
He returned the glass to the table and waited as she recovered. Finally, her still head lolled against the back of the couch, but she opened her eyes and fixed his gaze with her own. "When this gets out, there's going to be hell to pay. Death is going to seem like the much easier option than explaining this away. It'll be a nice little irony, Madame President, sent out of her favorite airlock."
Bill's voice was a low, dangerous rumble. "I won't let that happen."
Laura scoffed. "What are you going to do Bill, lock me in your quarters, keep me under armed guard, protect me from the people I'm supposed to be representing?"
"It won't get out. There's not that many people who know exactly what happened. Just Baltar and-"
She cut him off before he could continue, rolling her eyes.
"And what about Gaius FrakkingBaltar? Can you trust him, Bill? Because I know I can't. The man is crazier than a loon on his best of days. You don't think he's going to use this to his advantage somehow, to tell whatever bimbo he's sleeping with at the moment, to add another feather in his cap? Gods Bill, how can you be so naïve?"
"You made him your vice president," he pointed out reluctantly.
Laura looked away once more, and took several steadying breaths. "Yes. I did. But if you recall, it was the best I could do with very limited options. I did whatever I could to keep him under wraps, and I figured when it came that time, you could do the same. I never imagined that you of all people would be railroaded by him."
"I wasn't railroaded. He brought me the information, and there were minutes, minutes to make a decision. And I made that decision based on the information I had at hand: that the fleet needed you. Your leadership. Your guidance. Not Baltar. You. I'm sorry Laura, but I can't apologize for that. You of all people should be able to understand that.."
"Gods!" Her frustration escalated as she took in his words and could in fact concede his point. But, it didn't assuage the plethora of other issues.
"And what about Captain Agathon- supposedly he's the father of whatever it is that saved me. You think he's not going to use that to his advantage while he tries to rescue his Cylon bride?"
"Helo's a good solider. He won't talk."
"Right." She could hardly believe that after everything, he still had such blind faith in his people. "What about the cylon? Gods forbid somehow the press gets wind of her and somehow talks to her? You think she won't be happy to tell anybody who will listen what we did?"
"She won't, because she wants to save her baby."
His naivete enraged her all over again. She moved to get up, then flopped back against the cushions when the effort required was more than she could spare. Her failure only served to further ignite her fury. "Which brings me to my next point- there shouldn't be a baby, Bill. I gave you a direct order to take care of that."
Bill winced, and she knew she had found a flaw in his dogged self- assurance that he had done the right thing. "I know."
When he didn't continue immediately, she thought maybe he was trying to avoid the question. She was about to prod him along, when he suddenly looked up at her, his blue eyes shining, and the uncertainty present within them surprised her.
"I couldn't do it, Laura. That baby's blood saved your life. At the very least, that tells me we need to know more about it. Cottle and Baltar both agree that by letting it be born, we can find out much more about the cylons physiology, and how it's possible that it was conceived in the first place, than we could from aborting it now. That knowledge has to be worth something."
"It doesn't make that thingless dangerous. If anything, it is more of a threat now than it ever was. If this gets out, it's a target- both for what it is, and what it can do. The cylons will still be after us, and we'll have every zealot and nutjob within the fleet trying to get at it like it's the frakking fountain of youth."
Both were quiet for a long moment, as the implications sunk in. When Bill spoke again, his voice carried the same exhaustion she felt. "There has to be another solution."
Laura brought her hands to her head and rubbed at the persistent ache behind her eyes. "We are damned either way, no matter what we do."
Hesitantly, Bill reached over and put his hand on her shoulder. When she didn't instantly pull away he moved down her arm and squeezed it gently, his touch bringing with it a sense of comfort that she gravitated to despite herself.
When he spoke again, there was an unfamiliar, wistful tone in Bill's voice that Laura hadn't heard before. "My father was a lawyer, back on Caprica. He often took on cases that no one else would touch- people with no money, no prospects, no hope. I asked him once why he bothered to try and help them, when no one else ever did... and he told me that it was because nobody was a lost cause. That the only time a cause was lost was when you gave up."
Laura looked up at him sharply, his words tickling her recent memory. Despite herself, she giggled once in disbelief.
"What?" he asked, concern marring his features at her unexpected response.
She shook her head, sobering. "Nothing.. it's just funny you should say that." Had it really been only six months ago that she had said the same words to Richard? At the time, she had been horrified to hear his hard-line response, shocked by his unwillingness to compromise or even consider other options. Now, she saw everything in a different light, her views having been shaped and changed drastically by the hardships of the months since the fall of the colonies.
Looking up, she realized he was waiting for her to explain further. "Right before I came to Galactica, I was trying to resolve a teachers strike. I had convinced the union to back down, but when I took it to Richard- "she corrected herself quickly " -Adar... when I took it to him, he was furious that I had negotiated with the strikers. He said that I had made the administration look weak by being willing to hear out their demands."
"Hmmph. Adar was a frakking idiot." Bill responded, giving her hand another squeeze.
Laura shook her head. "He wasn't always. In the beginning, he was different- idealistic, open to ideas... Responsibility. Power. It changed him. Turned him into somebody I didn't recognize."
She looked up at Bill, her eyes glistening. "I don't know who I am anymore, Bill. I've done things, ordered things in the last few months that I never could have imagined doing, to try and save this fleet, and find our people a home. But now this, this cure... " She spit the word out with a look of disgust on her face. "What does that make me? Did I live just so I could become some kind of monster?" She looked away again, wiping furiously at the tears that were falling unbidden down her face.
"Laura..." When she didn't look up, he waited, and spoke more softly, until her eyes finally met his. "Laura, you are not Richard Adar, drunk on power and making decisions to benefit your own ego. . You were put in an impossible, unthinkable situation, and you managed to overcome the end of the worlds, a really unhelpful military commander, and cancer in order to save us all." He saw the edges of her mouth pull up in a slight smile, and he reached out to gently cup her face, turning it towards him.
"Whatever happens from now on, we are going to deal with it. Together." She stared at him for a moment, then nodded, the comfort of his words washing over her. She shut her eyes, just enjoying the sensation of his warm hand still holding hers. She allowed herself to relax slightly, before opening her eyes again and holding his gaze.
Taking a deep breath, she put voice to the other question that had plagued her thoughts ever since waking up in lifestation two days ago to an unexpected new lease on life.
"Bill... the prophecy, it said a dying leader would guide the way. What if... what if by surviving, I prevent us from finding Earth?" Her voice got smaller as she spoke, ending in a hushed whisper he had to strain to hear.
He was silent a long moment as he considered her question. Wordlessly, he shifted so that he was now sitting next to her, and brought their shared hands into his lap.
"I don't pretend to believe in the prophecies- you know that." He looked to her for confirmation, and at her nod, continued. "What I do know is what I can see. What I've seen, with you. You found Kobol. You found the map to Earth. But you have also kept this fleet together-" he grinned at her "-most of the time."
She smiled despite herself as he continued. "And maybe those prophecies of yours have some merit, some shortcut to help us find Earth. But if it's a choice between you being the dying leader in order to fulfil this prophecy, or you and me finding Earth the old fashioned way, then I choose to have you here with us, and the prophecy be damned."
The conviction in his words warmed her, and she couldn't help the genuine smile that spread onto her face as the weight of her worries lifted just a little bit.
He grinned back at her broadly, and lifted his glass of water. "To Earth."
She raised her own glass and clinked it to his. "To Earth." She confirmed.
"All the way to the end."