I'm sorry, I'm sorry, a million times I'm sorry for how long this has taken. For those of you who have been waiting patiently, thank you for sticking with me. There are three parts left to this, and I promise they will be coming regularly till we get to the end.
As Cottle promised, Laura slept peacefully in her morpha-induced state, but as predicted the medication did nothing for her fever. When she started to shiver Bill laid beside her, warming her body with his own. When she got restless he would rise and resume wiping her face and arms with the cool, wet cloth, soothing away beads of sweat as soon as they appeared on her brow. Lee had mentioned trying to gather some building supplies from the settlement, and the sun was just starting to creep downwards when Bill heard the Raptor finally return. He got up slowly from his spot next to Laura to greet his son, and as they parted from a sorrowful hug Lee gestured behind him, where Bill could just make out five other figures unloading and carrying crates of supplies from the raptor towards their campsite.
"I hope you don't mind- they heard what was happening, and wanted to come help."
Bill stammered a bit, taken aback by the gesture. Laura stirred, and he kneeled back down next to her, talking to her softly until she settled again, before raising his gaze back up to Lee once more.
"No, we…I…" Bill gestured towards Laura, and looked back up at Lee with unshed tears in his eyes. "Please tell them how much we appreciate their help."
Lee nodded. "I will, Dad. How is she?"
Bill shook his head. "About the same. The morpha helped a bit with the pain, she's resting more comfortably, but it didn't help the fever. She's still burning up."
Lee held a bag out to his father. "Cottle sent me with some more injections for her. He didn't want her to be in any pain."
Hesitantly, Bill took the bag, knowing that it likely represented the last of the fleets supply. He looked back down at Laura, stroking her forehead gently.
"I'm going to help the others get settled, then we're going to start working on cutting some more logs."
Lee didn't wait for his father to acknowledge the statement before moving off, letting him and Laura have their time together.
The next three days were some of the longest and shortest of Bill's life. Laura's fever raged on, waxing and waning but never breaking. He held her throughout, and when the pain got bad he would give her one of the precious morpha doses and at least then she would sleep peacefully. In those moments where her face was unmarred with pain, he saw her again, the way she had been on New Caprica, and in those precious few days here on Earth- relaxed and peaceful, as if she was simply napping soundly in the afternoon sun on the surface of this miracle planet she had helped bring them to.
Then as the medication wore off and the pain returned, her face would contort into that familiar grimace he had become so used to day after day in sickbay, as he read to her the words he wasn't always able to say, and hoped that they would work with the poison dripping into her body to keep her here with him. It seemed even now, hardly conscious and truly slipping away from this life, she was still trying to protect him from how much she was suffering. In these moments, Bill found himself wishing more than once that she wasn't so strong, that she might finally let go and be at peace, ending her suffering once and for all.
Then, without warning, for a few moments, she'd be present. Her eyes would flutter open and instead of hazily staring off unfocused in the distance, or mumbling parts of a conversation that only she was hearing, she'd be there with him. She would find his face, and inside the pale green of her eyes there she would be. She'd smile faintly as he kissed her, sometimes manage to exchange a few words, then almost as suddenly as it had happened, she'd be gone again; as if once reassured of his continuing presence she felt comfortable enough to let go of consciousness once more. Every time she slipped away from him, every time her eyes shut and her breathing slowed, he waited for it to be the end; he cursed himself for at once hoping it was, and pleading with the Gods that it wasn't.
Laura felt a hand on her shoulder, shaking her body and calling her name. With a groan she opened one eye and found herself looking up towards Kara who was kneeling next to her, a worried look on her face. Laura shifted uncomfortably on the hard floor and with a groan unfolded herself into a sitting position on the ground.
"Are you alright?" Kara asked, as a low rumbling seemed to shake the foundation of the building. "Can you stand?"
Laura nodded, eyeing the broken stairs warily. "I think so."
She let Kara help her to her feet and leaned on the younger women as she shakily made her way to a nearby bench, where they both sat and took in the changes around them.
Since the last time she had been here, the Opera House looked like it had aged a hundred years or more. What had been so brilliant in its opulence was now tattered and worn, and the building itself was seeming to sag under its own weight, the rafters looking almost eager for the one small shift that would give them the relief from their duties.
She glanced at Kara, who was eyeing the lobby warily, having obviously come to the same conclusion as Laura: the Opera House, whatever it was, was not going to be around much longer.
Laura opened her mouth to speak, wanting Kara to elaborate on the "more time" she had spoken of the last time she had been here, but before she could begin the question, Kara spoke, her voice smaller and more hesitant than Laura had ever heard it before.
"I'm sorry I held you at gunpoint."
It was the last thing Laura had expected to hear her say. She was silent for a long moment, and when her mind finally caught up, she couldn't help herself- she started laughing.
"Kara," she started, then was interrupted by more laughter bubbling out of herr. At Kara's insulted look, she sobered, clasping the younger woman's arm while stifling the last of the giggles.
"It's not funny" Kara looked wholly insulted by Laura's response. "Kara." Laura tried again, and turned her gently towards her. "I'm sorry, I just… after everything we've been through the last few months.. the last few days- hell, right now- dead, alive, in this frakking opera house, and who the frak knows what's going on- it just wasn't what I was expecting you to say."
Kara still wouldn't look at her. Laura sighed. "And, to be completely honest, while I agree that at the time it was probably not the best way to go about things, in retrospect, I can't say as I blame you for doing it."
Kara's head shot up at this. "What?"
Laura smiled gently, and gave her arm another squeeze. "You know, when I first told Bill about going to Kobol and the Arrow of Apollo, he refused to believe it. He wouldn't listen, and he forced my hand. And you… you were willing to listen, willing to take the chance- you went back to Caprica, you found the Arrow- you made it so we could find the Tomb."
Kara shrugged, and Laura had to suppress a rush of frustration. Even after everything, Kara still didn't see the magnitude of what she had done for them all. She sighed heavily, and continued.
"I'm sorry Kara- I should have listened to you. After all we'd been through, I should have listened to what you had to say, given you a chance. Of all people, I should have been willing to consider the possibilities outside of what I thought I knew. I was so determined, so sure of how things were going to go, of what my role was. I was willing to believe in the gods, and the prophecies, but only up to a point- only when they had to do with me, and my role, and what I thought I had to do. And for that, I am truly sorry."
Kara looked away, uncomfortable with the sincerity and emotion she saw in the older woman's eyes. "It's ok," she said, "As it turned out, my Earth wasn't exactly the promised land."
"No, but you found us a home. You brought us home. And if I had managed to shoot you…" Laura trailed off, eyes widening as she realized how easily things could have been so different; how her own desperation to follow the course she was sure her life had to take had almost cost them the very thing she was fighting for.
Kara smirked at her. "Well, I guess it's a good thing you are an absolutely terrible shot."
The echo of a conversation played through her mind. "Hey now." Laura forced a grin, and pushed the feeling of desperation that came with the memory aside. "It's not all my fault. Diloxin fraks with your aim."
They shared a smile, then both lapsed into their own thoughts as the structure of the Opera House groaned again,
Awareness came slowly to Laura, information trickling into her mind bit by bit. She was laying half strewn over something solid, and the warmth it provided was soaking pleasantly into her upper body. Whatever she was resting on shifted slightly and emitted a slight groan, and her brain sluggishly made the connection. Bill. She opened one eye warily, then the other. A stream of sunlight filtered in through the half-open flap, illuminating the interior of their tent. Daytime again. She tried to remember if it had been day or night the last time she'd been awake, but it was too hard to remember; memories and visions were garbled together now.
Looking down, she took stock of their position. He was sitting propped up against the back of their tent, and held her head in his lap. One of his arms was wrapped around her torso, and had come to rest on top of hers at her waist. His other hand rested on his thigh, fingers loosely holding a book, their book. Without his glasses he couldn't read the text, but it didn't matter- she had always known only part of what he was reading to her was actually written in the pages.
He snored lightly, and she smiled at the familiar sound as it reverberated through her. She tried to lift her head to look at him, but her body felt impossibly heavy, fuzzy. With effort she managed to extract her hand from under his and reached up to clasp his arm gently. Almost immediately she felt his breathing change as he woke from his nap. He shifted his body slightly with a groan, and then froze when he felt her fingertips stroking his arm.
"Hey." Her voice was scratchy, and barely a whisper- it sounded foreign to her ears. He leaned over her, his shifting emotions playing across his face- surprise, concern, and finally, love. She hummed lightly in pleasure when he pressed a soft kiss to her lips.
Pulling back a few inches, he reached his hand up to caress her face softly. "It's good to see you." She hummed again, and then winced as a bolt of pain ran through her. She shut her eyes tightly against the pain and tried to will her body to comply for a little longer. These moments of clarity were getting shorter and she could feel there weren't many left. As the pain receded she opened her eyes again, and saw Bill fumbling with a syringe.
"No, Bill. Not yet. I don't know how much more..." Her hand began trailing along his skin again, trying to reassure him, and after a moment he set the syringe down and brought his arm back around her body.
"You should see the cabin, Laura. It's really coming along. The foundation is almost dug, and they found some great logs for the structure. Lee and the boys are..."
She cut him off with a tug to his sleeve. "Wait. Who else is here?" Her heart began to race as she tried to make sense of his words. Had they moved her while she was unconscious? How much time had passed?
Bill took her hand and squeezed it. "When Lee took Cottle back to the settlement, he came back with a few volunteers. Two of my marines, Conrad and Ellis from your security team, and Miller from Colonial One. They're working on the cabin, helping us get it built."
The panic that had flooded her receded a bit, but it was instantly replaced by guilt. "Bill..." she tugged on his arm, and waited until he leaned over so she could be sure he could hear her words. "Bill, no, please. They shouldn't be here. They should be with the settlement, or out exploring..." her breathy whisper was cut off by another bolt of pain. She sucked in a gasp of air and pressed on.
"Please, Bill. Tell them thank you, tell them how much I appreciate them being here. But tell them to go. Earth is for them. I want them to go and enjoy it, begin their new lives." His eyes searched hers, and she met his gaze for as long as she could, imploring him to understand. He nodded once reluctantly in agreement, and she relaxed slightly, closing her eyes against the building pressure. She could feel the fever rising again, pulling her thoughts away from her.
"Earth is for us, Laura. All of us. That includes you." His hand grazed her cheek, and she moved into it. The irritation she had always felt at his stubborn denial to acknowledge her impending death was gone now, and in its place was only regret. Regret that they both had waited so long to get to this point, wasting so much of the little time they had been given. Regret at how hard she had fought against this, thinking it would be easier for them both at the end. For years, all she had wanted was to survive long enough to find them a safe home; that if she could just make it that long, it would all be worth it. But now she realized that she had been wrong.
"Do you remember what you said the day of the attacks?"
She opened her eyes again, and he gently wiped away the tears that escaped her lids with his thumb. "You said it wasn't enough for us to just survive. You were right Bill. It's not enough. I want you to live here, on Earth. After everything we went though to find it, you have to see it, enjoy it."
He sighed and nodded gently. "OK, Laura."
"No." She shook her head out of his grasp and clasped his hand as hard as she could, bringing it to rest against her heart. "I know you Bill. When I'm gone, you're going to stay here, live all alone and brood, thinking that by keeping yourself here, you are honoring me."
"I don't brood." His tone was teasing, but his eyes were wet with tears. She pressed on, feeling the pain crescendo again.
"Yes you do." She matched his smile with one of her own, and then closed her eyes, unable to look at the expression on his face. "You just don't know that's what it is."
The pain was starting to drown out her surroundings. She felt a tremor work through her limbs as the fever reasserted control over her body. Summoning all of her strength she opened her eyes once more, and willed him to listen to what she was saying.
"You have to live, Bill. Earth is a new life for everyone. Enjoy it, please." She felt herself fading into unconsciousness as sharp pricks of pain spiked throughout her body. She whimpered softly, unable to hide her reaction. She watched him reach for the morpha syringe and prepare the injection. The faint prick of the needle barely registered amongst the other sharper pain, but she breathed a sigh of relief as the medication began to take effect.
"Promise me, Bill." He leaned down once more and kissed her gently on the forehead. He didn't pull away, and the feel of his lips as he breathed his promise into her skin was the last thing she felt as she faded away.
One week after they arrived on Earth, the sound of voices roused Bill from his place at Laura's side. From under their small tent, he squinted across the landscape. Lee and three of the volunteers had left the previous day to push a little further west, seeking out supplies and other materials for the cabin, and they weren't due back till later that evening. The two who had stayed behind had been busy since dawn finishing up digging the foundation for the cabin site, and had left a short time ago to cool off by the stream in the high midday sun. But this sound was coming from the east, where none of their people were, and Bill was instantly on guard.
Far in the distance he could just begin to make out figures as they approached. He watched as they drew closer, nervously looking around to find something he could use as a weapon if needed. He hadn't seen any evidence of the indigenous peoples in this area, but that didn't mean they couldn't have tracked him. In fact, he had been expecting it.
Picking up a large branch, Bill took a few steps out into the sun and stopped, unwilling to leave Laura unprotected. He looked to his side towards the direction of the stream, but the two men were nowhere to be seen.
The newcomers continued to come towards their campsite, and as they got closer, he could make out snippets of conversation as their voices floated over the breeze. Then he heard a laugh that he would recognize anywhere, and a grin broke out on his face as he made out the identity of the leader of the small pack.
"You old frakker!" Saul Tigh picked up his pace and walked towards Bill, who had started moving towards him as soon as he had recognized his old friend. They pulled up in front of each other and stopped before Saul took a step forward and embraced Bill with a heartfelt laugh. Pulling back, Saul studied his friend. "It's good to see you Old Man. When you took off in that raptor, I thought for sure you'd do something stupid. You don't know how relieved I was to see Lee the other day and hear you were alright."
Before Bill could respond, Ellen sidled up next to her husband, her fair skin tanned from their journey, her eyes bright and a large smile on her face. "Bill."
"Ellen, it's good to see you." Bill was surprised to realize it was good to see her, the events of the past few weeks having erased years of past animosity. She looked unsure of what to do, so he stepped forward and hugged her briefly, kissing her on the check in greeting. Stepping back, he looked at them. "It is so good to see both of you."
Saul nodded, then his mood turned solemn. "Bill. How's Laura? Cottle told us she was still alive... is she…" He let the words trail off, not sure how to ask the question.
Bill gestured towards the tent under the tree. "She's sleeping." Saul shook his head, understanding all that Bill wasn't saying through his devastated expression.
Turning his attention back to Saul, Bill looked past him and to the small group of people who had come with him, who were now standing in a huddle under the shade of another nearby tree. "What are you all doing here?"
Saul looked at Ellen, then back at Bill. "After Lee left, Ellen and I decided that we wanted to be here for you and Laura, help in any way we can. The others…" he gestured to the crowd again, "Well, they decided they wanted to come help too. So here we are."
Bill was struck with a wave of emotion- love for Saul, his brother in every way; appreciation and incredible gratitude of the kindness of these people that didn't even know him and Laura, and yet were willing to do so much for them. But glancing back towards the tent where Laura slept, he knew what he had to do. He hadn't been able to force himself to send the others away like she had asked, but her voice was ringing clearly in his head as if she was there, whispering it into his ear once more.
"Saul, please let them know how much we appreciate their coming all the way out here. But we can't accept their help. All Laura wanted was for the people to build new lives, to get established and take care of themselves, live and thrive. The last thing she'd have wanted would be for you all to be here, coming all this way. Take them home Saul- back to the settlement, or if that's not the place, then take them somewhere else. This planet is huge- go find a place for yourselves, and live on this planet. That's how you can honor her. Live."
At the end of his speech, Bill finally looked back into Saul's eye, and prepared himself to say goodbye once more to his old friend.
"You frakking idiot."
Bill almost choked. "Excuse me?"
"You heard me. You and Laura are both idiots. You still don't get it, do you? Even after all this time. Without the two of you, none of us would be here. You've said so yourself, without Laura, we'd have all died along with everyone else in the initial attacks. And without you, the lot of us would have died back on New Caprica, as the cylons picked us off piece by piece."
He fixed Bill with the full strength of his one-eyed glare. "But it's the pair of you, making your crazy decisions and going on your wild goose chases, that's what got us here. Every step you took together, chasing down frakking arrows and lions heads and fighting with each other and coming back for each other, that's what saved us all. I'm sorry you don't see that."
Saul took Ellen's hand, and lowered his voice. "Look at us, Bill. Look at them." He gestured back to the group that had come with him, easily fifty people or more. "It's not just humans, Bill. It's humans and Cylons. We're here, together on this planet, and you and Laura, you saved us all, and you brought us all home. There wouldn't be new lives to be had if it weren't for you and that woman. So, you'll have to excuse me, but if you don't mind we're gonna pitch some tents, then get to work. I know that time is short. But the lady wanted a godsdsammed cabin, and that's what she's going to get."