SUMMARY: A roadhouse at the end of the world.
SPOILERS: S3, through Unfinished Business. This takes place a few months after the flashback sequences but before you-know-what happened.
DISCLAIMER: These characters do not belong to me and no copyright infringement is intended on my part.
WORD COUNT: 3,273
NOTE: The title comes from Jace Everett's song "Bad Things." Yes, I'm mixing my fandom metaphors. Thanks so much to ninamazing for wading through this thing and making some sense out of it, i.e. beta reading.
This isn't her usual type of place. Although, come to think of it, she hasn't had a usual place in a long time. There was Colonial One and there was Galactica and the rest of the Fleet. Not a lot of options of places to spend her free evenings. No cafes, no pretentious restaurants with tasting menus, no Ambrosia bars, no nights at the opera. A cup of tea and the news on the wireless was as good as it ever got.
This place has no name. It's a shanty roadhouse built of scrap and canvas, far enough away from most of the tents to avoid noise complaints. It may be a windy, raw night outside but in here it's bordering on sweltering, too many bodies pressed together in a smallish space. Dancing, flirting, laughing raucously, swigging the appalling moonshine available at the bar. The air is thick with sweet, sticky smoke and the sharp scent of sweat.
It would never have occurred to Laura to come to this place. She'd heard about it, of course, since word gets around New Caprica like flu viruses do. But Amelia, her neighbor across the way, almost physically dragged her here.
"You never get out," Amelia said, hands on hips, sandy blonde curls wild around her face. She's probably twenty years Laura's junior, brimming with energy for the rigors of surviving on this inhospitable planet. She has a little girl named Rachel, but she's always ready to lend a hand, to go on a new adventure, to make things happen. Oh, youth.
"I get out," she protested. "I have a job. I teach. I go to meetings. I'm hardly a recluse."
Amelia snorted. "That doesn't count. Come on, Laura. Get a life already."
So here she is, a cup of foul-tasting clear liquid in her hand. It burns her throat as it goes down but leaves a warming fire deep in her chest. On a makeshift stage that looks as if it might collapse at any minute, a band plays low-down, bluesy songs. A redheaded singer in a slinky black dress is belting out lyrics about children lost, reunions with lovers, jumps to unknown depths of space.
It feels good to be somewhat anonymous in a crowd. People have mostly stopped bowing and scraping and Madam President-ing her. There may be days when she misses wielding power with the flourish of her signature on paper, of being at the heart of the crisis, but she also likes being known as the schoolteacher, the quiet woman who lives on Row 31, Lot 16, the good neighbor, the godmother to baby Isis. Everyone is new here on this planet, everyone is reinventing themselves.
She has seen a few familiar faces in this bar tonight. Kara Thrace and her husband are in a corner, downing shots in a crowd of former pilots. Tyrol is working the room, organizing for his union. She admires the way he's come into his own on New Caprica, become a leader for downtrodden and exploited, raising an increasingly loud voice against Baltar's ineffectual and corrupt leadership.
She's tired after a long week of teaching children in an unheated classroom, waiting in line for hours and hours for rations and water, attempting to keep herself and her tent free of the endless sand and mud, helping Maya with Isis. She'd like nothing more than to go home and rest her weary head on her pallet and sleep until noon. Amelia is in front of the stage, dancing with her arms wrapped tight around a strapping young man whom Laura recognizes as having been a Raptor pilot, although she can't remember what his call sign was. She could sneak out right now and be home after a five minute trot in the cold.
"Don't leave me," the singer croons. "This could be our last night together."
Then she feels something, a disturbance in the air that makes her catch her breath, although she's not sure what it is. She whirls around so fast that half her drink sloshes out of the cup and onto her arm. The cause of the sudden lack of oxygen is walking through the door.
Bill. Yes, Bill, shrugging off a long coat, throwing it on the giant heap near the door and striding into the roadhouse as if he's owned the place all along.
She can't breathe.
She's not sure if she's ever seen him out of uniform before, dressed in civvies, but he's wearing a black shirt with buttons, black trousers. His eyes meet hers across the throng of dancers and a smile quirks across his lips. He walks through the crowd, parting it like the mythical Waters of Poseidon with his aura of authority. Even out of uniform, everyone knows this is the Admiral; this is the man who led them through the fire to this windblown place. A hush doesn't exactly fall across the room, since the band is still playing, the singer still wailing, but the air seems to thicken with his energy.
And then he's standing right in front of her, his hand reaching out to grasp hers. "Laura," he says. She feels curious eyes on them.
If only they were two ordinary people reuniting. A freighter pilot and a medic perhaps and she could throw herself in his arms and cling to him, murmuring all the things she's wanted to say for months. But they're not. They never will be, no matter how long she teaches school or how many years the Cylons stay away and Galactica remains in orbit over the planet.
She squeezes his hand. So warm, his hand, strong and callused with a lifetime of hard work. "Bill." She gestures towards his civilian clothes. "Were you thrown out of the Fleet?" She has to lean into him to shout in his ear to be heard over the music.
He laughs. "You didn't hear about the mutiny? Lee is Admiral now. He'll do a fine job, even if he's getting a little pudgy." Bill takes the cup out of her hand and finishes what's left of her booze in one long swallow.
"You owe me a drink now." She raises an eyebrow.
"I have something much better." He pulls a flask out of his trousers. "Tauron whiskey. From my last bottle." He uncaps it and hands it to her.
This fire is smoother, glowing embers slipping down her throat. "Mmm...that's good." She hands the flask to Bill and he takes a long swallow.
"What are you doing here?" she asks. He hasn't been planetside since the groundbreaking.
"Shore leave. I have two days."
Two days. So many possibilities, although she doesn't want to make assumptions. The last time may have been an anomaly, fueled by too much drink, too much smoke, too much joy over a new beginning for everyone.
"How did you find me?" she asks.
He leans closer to her. "Laura, the Fleet knows everything." She laughs.
The band begins a slow, thrumming sort of song, strings and keyboard and horns coming together in a collective moan of beauty. He holds his hand out to her. "Come on, let's dance."
She closes her eyes for a minute, the music filling her head. "We can't. Everyone will stare at us."
He shrugs. "Frak 'em."
Frak 'em, indeed. What does she, lowly schoolteacher, care if the neighbors gossip that she was slow dancing with Admiral Adama? What of it? She's not the president. Not anymore.
She tosses the empty cup and steps into the throng of dancers with him. Her arms wind round his shoulders, his slip around her waist. She leans into him, moving with him to the music. The room is too crowded to do much more than rock together in place, as the singer howls, "I taped your picture to the wall, hoping someone had seen you, that you'd been saved, too."
He smells good in a way that New Capricans, with their chronic water and soap shortages, rarely do, like green and white-striped deodorant soap and shaving cream. Maybe even a little cologne. Does he have a small cache of cologne that he's hoarded for occasions like this? For his date nights? The idea makes her laugh a little to herself, the idea of the two of them, at their ages, on a date. A date at a roadhouse at the end of the world.
"What's so funny?" he asks.
"Nothing. I'm just happy."
"A good thing," he murmurs into her ear, his voice hoarse.
She can understand why dancing close together was somewhat scandalous in the old days. It's so much like making love, moving together to a mutual rhythm, two bodies pressed against each other. She remembers that night, how freeing it was to open herself to him after so long, to take him inside her, to have nothing between them. To finally be a woman, and not a president, besieged from all sides with the demands and cares of the people.
The song ends and they stop in place, arms still around each other. "We're going take a little break," says the singer. "But we'll be back with more. The night is still young."
"But we're not," Laura says.
"Let's get out of here," Bill says, eyes glimmering behind his glasses.
They walk out of the roadhouse like royalty, Laura on Bill's arm, heads held high, ignoring the whispers behind them. Outside, the wind has died down but the air is crisp as an Aerelon apple. Their breath comes out in streams of ghostly white.
"It gets cold down here, doesn't it?" he asks.
"You have no idea. Until I could afford to buy some extra blankets, I was sleeping in four layers of clothes."
"Really," he says, his mouth quirking, as if he's suppressing a thought too ribald to share. "I guess it's no longer the season for sleeping outside."
She remembers rough sacking against her neck, the ground hard on her back as he thrust inside her, the muscles of his back tightening against her hands. And his rough cry echoing in the empty night as he came at last.
They walk briskly through the frozen mud of the unpaved roads, between endless rows of tents, most dark for the night.
She wonders what she would have thought of Bill if she'd met him in her old life on Caprica, if a mutual friend had set them up on date. She suspects she would have thought him a mindless military drone, too repressed, not urbane enough for her. For years, she'd had a taste for slick sophisticated types who filled her head with obscure Gemenon chamber music, stunning bayside houses and tidbits of political scandal. The kind of men who left before daybreak because they had to meet their personal trainer to work out and had children from first or second marriages whom they rarely saw. Men like Adar. Men who, with the crystal clarity of hindsight, were absolutely no good for her.
Really, she hardly remembers what she thought of Bill when she first met him on Galactica. It feels like six lifetimes ago. She remembers that he was frustratingly stubborn and old-fashioned. That he was imposing in his blue dress uniform. That he was just another officer, someone she'd forget as soon as she got back to Caprica City to deal with her own problems, her looming illness.
First impressions are almost always wrong, aren't they?
They reach her hovel soon enough, the tiny corner that is all hers in this makeshift city. "Prepare to be impressed," she says as she opens the door.
Inside, it's nearly as cold as the outdoors. She fumbles to get the portable stove going. "This doesn't really work. It's more of a psychological thing."
He looks around her small tent. "You've still managed to make it a home, Laura. Admirable."
She snorts dismissively. "You should have seen my place in Caprica City. This is nothing."
He takes off his coat, despite the chill, and settles on her lumpy bed. "What was it like?"
"Tea?" she offers. He nods. She busies herself filling the kettle from the water jug and finding two clean mugs. "My condo was cozy and comfortable. Wood floors, big windows looking out over a park and trees, a loft bedroom, bookshelves everywhere. I had two cats, Jackson and Bess, always sprawled on the sofa, sleeping. It was clean and quiet and my refuge from the rest of the worlds." She gestures at the sagging canvas walls. "And now, a tent. No heat, electricity that only works about half the time, outhouse five doors down. But it's all mine, at least."
"That's all that counts."
The kettle, set on top of the heating stove, comes to a boil quickly. She pours the water into the mugs and adds tea bags. She sits down next to Bill and hands him his cup.
"What about you?" she asks. "Before all this happened, did you have a permanent home, besides Galactica?"
He shakes his head. "My ships have been my home for a long time, since my wife and I divorced. But even when I was married and the boys were small, our house on Caprica never truly felt like home. I'm not sure I'd ever feel at home on solid ground."
This makes her sad for some reason. She thinks of the cabin by the river she's built in her head, her dreams of sleeping to the sound of burbling water.
She takes a sip of tea. "Have you ever thought..." She lets her voice trail off, not sure whether she should pursue this avenue of conversation or not. Oh, frak it. "Have you ever thought about leaving Galactica, coming down here to live?"
His laugh is gruff, coming from deep in his chest. "To do what? Dig drainage ditches?"
"You could learn to feel at home on solid ground." Her hand finds its way to his knee, gives it a little squeeze.
He turns his face to hers. It's funny how she hated the brushy mustache at first, but now she can't remember his face without it. "I'm afraid I'll only ever be a visitor here, Laura. I need to be on Galactica."
She nods. "I know."
He touches her face, warm fingers on her still-chilled cheek. "I'll only ever be a visitor here, but I come to see you."
She loves the crinkle of his blue eyes behind his glasses, the lines worn by a lifetime of worry and laughter. His history is worn on his face. It's a long and painful history, but it's also a story of a full life.
"I'm glad," she whispers, removing her glasses and setting them on the table. "I'm so very glad." She leans in and presses her lips against his. The first time she kissed him, that whirling night under the stars, she'd been surprised at how soft his lips were. Tonight he tastes like tea and whiskey, he tastes like the cold outside and the warmth rapidly spreading through her limbs.
It's still too chilly in her tent for any lingering undressing. Clothes are quickly shed and they slip under the heavy covers of her bed.
"Ahh," he says, as if he's been waiting for this for a long, long time.
She knows she has. He's warmer than any hot water bottle. She touches him, marveling at all the varied textures of him, hairy here, smooth there, firmly muscled in some places, slackened with age in others. He purrs under her fingers like a tomcat after a saucer of cream. He hardens in her hand and she grins, glad to know she still has the power to make a man hard. To make Bill Adama hard, even better.
"Laura," he says, his fingers trailing glowing lines on the skin of her arms, her throat, her breasts. "It feels like a miracle sometimes, to have you here with me, so alive, so..."
She interrupts him with a kiss. She doesn't need to think about the bad, sick times. She's here and she's healthy and who knows how long it might last, but tonight she wants to think it will be forever. That they'll always be here in this rattletrap tent, making love under layers of quilt, making their own heat.
His thick fingers dip into her, gently probing and stroking. He touches her as if he's known her forever, has had years to discover her body. She bites her lower lip to keep from crying out. Tent walls are notoriously thin.
Just after she turns the lamp off, she takes him inside her, sighing as they join. They denied themselves this for so long, bound by duty and disaster, disease and fear. But no more. Not in this place where everything is new.
His eyes. Even in the dark she can tell that he never takes his eyes off her as they move together. She smiles down at him as the pleasure washes up her spine, through her legs and arms, as it spreads a fine flush through her cheeks. She never believed, at this age, that she could feel this much, let someone else go so deep. But they've been forged together by fire and death, miracles and illness, endless arguments and moments of peace. A shared dream of the survival of their people. She didn't think she had any love left in her, but she was so, so wrong.
Afterwards, they curl together under the blankets. "You're an effective heater," she says, stretching her arm lazily.
"I snore, you know."
"I know," she says. "I have an excellent memory."
He kisses her neck. "That was a great night, the night of the groundbreaking."
"I remember you talking about building a cabin by a river. Will you take me there tomorrow?"
"I'd like that. It can be a lovely walk if it's not too cold outside."
"We'll dress warmly," he says. "Tell me about it. Tell me more about the cabin you'd like to build."
She burrows deeper into him, her back against the heat of his chest. "It's nothing fancy," she says. "Maybe just one room. There's some decent-sized trees by the river. I picture cutting some down for logs. One big room with shiny glass windows overlooking the river. A fireplace to heat the cabin. I like to imagine lying in bed, with a fire roaring in the hearth, and it's so cozy there in that bed, with the sound of embers popping and the water rushing down the river, lulling me to sleep."
"That's a nice dream," he says. "Am I there?"
"Hmm...are you?" she says, suppressing a chuckle.
He pokes her in the ribs and she imagines the smile spreading across his face.
"Of course you're there, Bill. You're always there."