SUMMARY: There is no word to describe her relationship with Bill.
SPOILERS: Early Season 4.0
WORD COUNT: 3,162
DISCLAIMER: These characters do not belong to me and no copyright infringement is intended on my part.
NOTE: The poem in this story is actually by Judith Pordon, not by some imaginary Caprican poet.
THANKS: To my lovely icedteainthebag for beta and one year of incredible friendship.
She strides down the passageway, flanked by her entourage—her security detail, Tory, and Tory's assistant Meghan. "People are going to talk," Tory hisses in her ear for probably the twentieth time.
"Let them," Laura hisses back. She's past caring anymore. This is a fight for her survival. She'll do what it takes to maintain her health and her strength, Fleet gossips be damned. She endured the rumor mill on New Caprica before the occupation, she'll endure this.
Tory is dragging the black, wheeled suitcase that contains all of Laura's worldly possessions. Funny, she never imagined herself to be the kind of person who would have a someone handling her luggage. Never, even in her most grandiose fantasies, did she imagine she'd become the President of the Twelve Colonies.
Everyone comes to a halt at the hatch marked Commander. The Marine stationed in front opens it with something of a flourish. "Madam President," he says.
One of her security guys shakes his head. "Not until we check it out."
The Marine sighs and steps aside. They all wait in the passageway. Laura taps her foot and fights a rising bubble of giggles. There's no one to carry her over the threshold, she thinks. Bill is on duty tonight. She wanted it that way, wanted to seamlessly merge into his quarters without any awkward ceremony.
The officers come out. "You may go in, Madam President," says the taller one. She's pretty sure his name is Jeff, but she can't remember. He's new.
She steps through the hatch and her entourage troops after her.
Tory sets the suitcase down near the dining table. "What can I get for you? A cup of tea? A snack?"
"I'm just fine. You all can go now, thank you."
"I'd be happy to help you settle in, unpack your belongings."
"Tory, I'll be okay. I'll see you day after tomorrow."
"Good luck tomorrow," Tory says. The entourage troops back out and the hatch clangs shut. She stands in the middle of the room and tries to catch her breath.
So, here she is. She needs to sit down.
She finds the sofa and settles on the cushions, taking a look around her. She's always felt comfortable in Bill's quarters. The place reminds her of a masculine, old-fashioned version of the home she once had, full of books and interesting antique pieces. It smells like the leather binding of books in the bookcase and piled everywhere and it faintly smells of the aftershave Bill sometimes wears.
On the old, wooden coffee table she finds a scrap of notepaper.
I'm sorry I couldn't be here to welcome you, but welcome. Make yourself at home.
Next to the note is a plastic bag full of dried apricots. Wherever did he find apricots? She hasn't seen them in many months. She smiles, recalling how she told him once on New Caprica that they were a favorite treat of hers. She touches the bag, almost stunned by their sunny color. Food that isn't a greenish hue, imagine that. She fights the urge to stuff her mouth full of their sweetness. No, she'll be prudent and save them.
She remember a rainy shore leave night when they lay together in her lumpy bed, munching on almonds and dried apricots as the raindrops pattered on the canvas roof of her tent. Replete with love, content at last. The smell of wood smoke and his skin as she curled into the heat of his body.
She stands, brushing imaginary dust from her suit jacket.
One not very large suitcase. Her entire life is packed in there. When she'd moved into her new house in Caprica City seven years ago, it had taken a week of packing after work, twenty-seven boxes and two burly men to deal with her possessions. Boxes upon boxes of books, carefully culled from the city's bookstores. Paintings and drawings she'd collected from up-and-coming artists. Copper pots and pans from the gourmet kitchen shop in the West End. Dozens of framed photos—her parents' wedding picture, her younger sisters as laughing little girls at a birthday party, her best friend lounging on a Libran beach with a fruity drink in her hand.
One not very large suitcase. She unzips it, thinking that she could simply keep everything stored in there; this is only a temporary measure until more permanent quarters are readied for her on Galactica. But she wants to be comfortable and her clothes will wrinkle if she doesn't hang them.
She opens the closet. Hanging in it are several blue duty uniforms, a gray dress uniform, a charcoal civilian suit and a few white dress shirts. She tries, and fails, to imagine Bill in a regular suit and tie. He's thoughtfully pushed his clothes to one side and there's a bunch of empty clothes hangers waiting for her.
Four suits. Not even enough to carry her through a regular work week, if such a thing existed anymore. She doesn't have the plum suit she wore on the day the world ended or the blue one she'd brought along for the decommissioning ceremony anymore. They're still in a box in her tent on New Caprica, probably moldy by now from the constant dampness, along with her other clothes. She'd escaped the planet with the clothes on her back and the Scrolls of Pythia, started over with nothing for the second time in her life.
She misses the red outfit she'd worn for the groundbreaking, how the soft fabric of the skirt had flowed around her legs as she'd danced with Bill under the stars. It had been the first outfit she'd acquired since the attacks, not because it was suitable for presidential duties, but because it made her feel beautiful. Bill had apparently agreed with her. She remembers feeling his eyes on her body and how he'd remarked that the color looked good on her. And she remembers later, much later, as his hand had slid under the fabric of her camisole and his mouth had found hers. She owns nothing like it now, nothing that doesn't serve a purely utilitarian purpose. Nothing pretty.
With the addition of her four suits, four blouses and two pairs of shoes, the closet looks almost full, looks like the wardrobe of a professional couple of long standing. The irony.
The bureau next. She hates to open the drawers. It feels like she's invading his privacy. But if Bill made room for her in the closet, surely he's emptied out a drawer or two.
In one drawer she finds dozens of neatly folded sets of tanks. In the next, rolls of socks and starched, white boxers, no doubt military issue. In the second to last drawer she discovers a few pairs of fatigue pants, a pair of jeans, a couple of sweaters and a gray sweatshirt. She touches the jeans and the sweatshirt, remembering how he wore them on his shore leaves instead of his uniform. It was jarring to see him in his civvies at first. He almost looked like another man—softer, relaxed, younger.
Yes, indeed, he's cleared out the bottom drawer for her. She'll barely fill it with her meager belongings. Six pairs of underwear and two bras. She owns just enough underclothes to get her through one week. Once a week she does her laundry in the bathroom sink. She supposes she could ask one of her staff to do it for her, but it embarrasses her to think of one of them handling her dirty panties.
She attempts to fold the cotton bikinis, gives up and tosses them in the drawer. Once upon a time she had a weakness for lingerie. All the salesgirls at Silk knew her by name, knew she was the schoolteacher with a soft spot for lacy bras, slithery peignoirs and daringly cut teddies. Richard had aided and abetted her addiction by frequently bringing her gifts of garter belts and silk stockings, filmy negligees and scraps of satin so brief they hardly qualified as underwear at all. "I like to unwrap pretty presents," he once told her, deftly unsnapping her satin corset top and licking the nape of her neck.
Oh, well. It would be a difficult task to feel sexy now, even if she if she did have her lingerie arsenal at her disposal. Even though she feels all right, she knows the cancer cells are gnawing at her from the inside, marshalling their forces to take her down again.
She always knew they'd return. Hera's blood was merely a reprieve, a year and a half of grace before the prophecy asserted itself again. The dying leader. A wasting disease. Sometimes in utterly selfish moments she wishes she could casually toss it all away, the promised land and all. Being the prophetic leader is glorious in theory, terrifying and painful in reality.
She doesn't want to die like her mother did, wasted and wracked with pain.
There, the suitcase is nearly empty. She gathers her few toiletries and carries them to the head. In the mirror, she catches her reflection. She looks perfectly healthy, if a bit tired and pale. There are a few new lines under her eyes. She hasn't been sleeping well lately. Laura touches her hair, wraps a curl around her finger and lets it spring free.
Tomorrow an IV needle will enter a vein in her hand. Poison will drip into her bloodstream in an attempt to murder the offending cells.
Her mother had thick brown hair, wavy and glossy. She never let herself grow gray; she had it colored every month at the salon. After a few Doloxan treatments, her mother's hair had begun to fall out in clumps. Her hairbrush was clogged with tangled chestnut knots. Finally she asked Laura to go out and buy some scarves for her denuded head.
It's only hair, she thinks, but her stomach lurches all the same.
Just as in the closet and the dresser, Bill has made room in the bathroom cabinet for her. Her toothbrush joins his in the holder. It looks pleasingly domestic. This isn't the first time she's lived with a man. She lived with Andrew for seven years, with John for two. But never has cohabitation been so ill-defined.
There is no word to describe her relationship with Bill. Friends, she tries out. No, it's not quite enough. Lovers doesn't work, either. That all ended after the exodus, save the desperate night of their reunion. Good sense and decorum prevailed as soon as she became president again. Partners sounds too much like they have a law firm or something. Laura gives up. No word will ever fit them.
She's exhausted now. The lack of sleep and chamalla withdrawal have caught up with her. She has to report in at sickbay at 0800 hours. She takes a quick shower and wraps herself up in her white cotton robe, towel dries her hair.
They haven't discussed the sleeping arrangements. There's only one bed in his quarters and it's small. They won't be sleeping together, anyhow. The sofa will have to suffice. She dims the lights and finds a throw pillow and a blanket. She chooses a book at random from the bookshelf and pours herself a small tot of whiskey from the decanter on the service cart. The whiskey creates a warm trail down her throat to her stomach and promises an easier descent into sleep.
She curls up on the sofa and opens the book. The Collected Poems of Eliza Young-Harding. She vaguely remembers reading something of hers in college. She opens the book to the middle and finds a poem.
In a long thin arc of loneliness
where nothing collides, I wait.
Face flushed, intestines pounding,
minutes and hours drag by.
Alarm cuts the steep silence.
Vertigo bells resound.
Handle to mouth,
this cradle rocks me.
I reach to speak through a thread,
grip your voice with mental muscles.
Flowers burst in my heart.
A laugh of two becomes one.
Not enough time.
Don't hang up.
Laura smiles, remembering all the times she and Bill have talked late into the night on the wireless, ship to ship. She closes the book and drifts away.
She wakes to the sound of footsteps on the floor. She'd know his stride anywhere. Her eyelids flutter open and Bill is standing over her, his face blurred without the aid of her glasses.
"What are you doing?" he asks.
She struggles to sit up. Her head feels heavy, stuffed full of cotton wool. "I was sleeping. What did it look like?" She finds her glasses on the table and the world comes into rational focus.
He walks off and returns in a moment with two glasses of water. He hands one to her and she sips at the cool liquid. "I was wondering what you were doing sleeping on the sofa. It can't be comfortable," he says, sitting next to her.
Her eyebrow rises, as if of its own volition. "I didn't realize you had other alternatives in mind, Bill."
His laugh is almost soundless. "That's not what I meant. I can sleep on here. You take my rack. The sheets are clean and everything."
"Mmm...Such hospitality you offer." She touches his warm cheek for an instant. "You're too kind."
He closes his eyes, as if it hurts to be touched, to remember all the times she touched him unreservedly, when he was merely an officer on leave and she, a teacher.
She stands on shaky newborn foal legs. "I should get back to sleep. Tomorrow is an early day." The needle, sliding into her vein and dripping poison.
"Of course." Bill stands and offers his arm. Such a gentleman, even late at night and in the privacy of his own quarters. His mother would be proud. He walks her twenty paces to his bunk.
"Thanks again," she says. "It can't be easy to share your quarters after so long, no less with a noisy, messy woman like me."
"If it gets to be too much I'll have the Marines remove you," he chuckles.
Familiarity breeds contempt, the old adage states. But she's found that in the years she's known Bill Adama, she's grown to love his face, for all its scars and craters and wrinkles. This face has become as familiar to her as her own, as beloved as any of her lost family's faces, which are starting to grow dim in her mind without any photographs to remind her.
She wants to kiss him, but she knows she can't, she shouldn't. She needs her strength for something else.
Time slows to a maddening crawl as they stand before each other in front of his rack. Finally, he ends the game of chicken by pressing his lips to her forehead, a safe, chaste kiss that would hardly be remarked upon if he gave it to her in public.
There. That's all she needs. Comfort and platonic love. A strong friendship. The meeting of lively minds. It's enough, it is. So, why then does she find herself pulling his face to hers, her mouth seeking out his, her tongue slipping into his mouth? Truly, she's lost her mind. Long-term chamalla damage, no doubt.
After a moment, Bill pulls away, his hands on her shoulders. "Are you sure this is a good idea, Laura?"
She sighs. Of course it's not a good idea. It never has been, probably never will be. "You think too much," she says and pulls him to her again.
She has very little left anymore, but she still has him.
Her body remembers. Her brain may have tried to erase him with policy decisions and military crises, but her body recalls everything. The scratch of his stubble on her cheeks, the unreasonable softness of his hands, the weight of his body pressing on hers, the heat of his skin. His deep thrusts come back to her like the lyrics of a song she hasn't heard in years. Tears burn her eyes as he moves on her, in her.
"Are you all right?" he asks, kissing the tip of her nose.
She doesn't have the words to describe how she's feeling. Why is their language so poor as to not have a word to describe overjoyed, terrified, overwhelmed and astounded, all at once? She feels as if she's been carrying a heavy load for a long time and has finally set it down. She feels strangely untethered, loose. She doesn't quite know where she'll blow.
Later, they curl into each other under the covers. Despite the blankets and his body heat, she shivers. Bill wraps his arms tighter around her. "Are you scared?"
"Not really," she says.
"I would be. It's all right to be afraid."
She rests her head on his chest, listening to the slow, steady beating of his heart. "I'm scared, Bill."
She loves that she doesn't have to explain to him all the things she fears. He knows them all.
Cottle skillfully inserts the needle into the vein on her left hand. It hardly hurts as it breaks her skin and slides in. "It'll take about an hour," he says, fiddling with the IV bag. "Just lie back and relax."
Sickbay smells like disinfectant and bandages. The room is slightly chilly. She shivers, wishing she'd brought a sweater or jacket. She leans back into the pillow and closes her eyes, imagining the poison entering her bloodstream for battle. She can hear her heartbeat in her own ears.
She hears those familiar footfalls and opens her eyes. Bill is standing there, a book in his hands.
"What are you doing here?" she asks.
He sits in the chair beside the bed. "I started reading a new book the other day and I thought you'd like it. The Hunt for Hephaestus' Tomb, by Robert MacMillian. Murder, conspiracies, intrigue and grave robbing."
She smiles. "That sounds like a good one."
"It was meant to be a simple archaeological dig, the four of us on the Windward Plains of Aerelon, searching for shards of ancient pottery. Little did I know that twenty-four hours later, I’d be the only one of us still alive and on the run from forces more dangerous than anything I could have imagined."
She closes her eyes and listens to the sound of his voice.