DISCLAIMER: These characters do not belong to me and no copyright infringement is intended on my part.
WORD COUNT: 2,036
FOR: icedteainthebag for encouraging me to finish this and for the whole Dragon*Con gang. I can't wait to see you all!
Every day a Raptor jumps away from the Fleet's hiding place. It jumps just within wireless range of New Caprica and it waits, listening.
After twelve hours the Raptor jumps back to the Fleet. Once it is within wireless range, the crew reports that it has received nothing at all from the planet.
He stalks the echoing passageways of his ship, sometimes for hours on end. Once these corridors bustled with his crew and various civilians, everyone in a hurry, always with somewhere to go and something to do. He never fully appreciated how Galactica teemed with life then, thousands of bodies dedicated to one goal—the survival of the human race.
Now the ship is eerily silent. If he believed in ghosts he might worry that he might encounter one in a dark corner.
He does not believe in ghosts. He will not see Laura.
More often than he'd like to admit, he comes across bits and pieces of Laura's presence in his quarters. A book she once borrowed from him, a strand of brown hair on a sofa cushion.
Once, he managed to convince her to spend three days with her on his empty, rattling battlestar. He bribed her with the prospect of hot showers and cold water, a chance to briefly escape the leaden gray skies and drizzle of New Caprica.
He officially gave her Tigh's old quarters for her stay but she never so much as set foot in them. The welfare of the ship was placed in Helo's relatively capable hands. "Don't call me unless it's an emergency," he brusquely told his new XO. It never was.
The Cylons were gone; they would never return.
The first thing Laura did was take a shower. "I never feel clean on the planet," she told him. Water rationing meant that she was able to shower only every three or four days. Everyone on New Caprica smelled like sweat, like dust and wood smoke. He didn't mind the smell, but Laura did.
She spent a long time in the shower. He could just make out her tuneless humming over the sound of the shower spray. Impatient, he barged right in and squeezed into the tiny stall with her. Standing behind her, he lightly bit her wet shoulder, his hands lathering her full breasts. His cock grew hard against her bottom and she whimpered with pleasure as he slipped his finger between her folds.
Eventually they staggered to his rack, leaving a trail of wet footprints behind them, and collapsed in a damp heap on his sheets. He entered Laura with a long sigh. Nothing was better than this joining with her. Why had they waited so long?
Laura sharply cried out, louder than she'd ever been on New Caprica, where tent walls were thin and overcrowding was epidemic, and he thought that he might die if he ever had to live without her.
From time to time he walls the hallways with Sharon. He now allows her to leave her cell if she's accompanied by himself or sometimes even Helo.
She's Sharon and not Sharon—the same body, face and voice as the woman he'd once considered to be very nearly a daughter. This Sharon is quieter, more guarded. She's experienced loss that the other Sharon never could have imagined. But she's also more confident than the old Sharon was. He asks her about it once, as they stop off in the Observation Lounge to look at the stars.
"I don't know," she says. "Maybe it's because I've always known what I am. Your Sharon never had that."
"And yet you've chosen to turn your back on your old life."
Sharon nods, her eyes fixed on the starscape drifting by. "Don't ever underestimate the power of love, Admiral."
He wants to believe that love has transformed Sharon Agathon.
He wants to believe that love can transform them all.
She's alive, he's sure of it.
Hope ebbs and flows like the tides of the sea.
They're all alive down on the planet. Kara. Saul. The Chief, Cally and their fat baby boy.
They're oppressed by Cylon rule, but they still live.
He wonders how they're managing to survive. Do they live in constant fear and pain, or have they managed to resist?
They're all alive. One day at a time, they survive.
"How much longer do we wait?" Lee asks.
Bill pours himself another glass of whiskey. He's thoroughly sick of this conversation. They have it at least once a week.
"How much longer, Dad?"
Lee has grown fat in this long, dull stretch of waiting and listening, Bill thinks. "As long as it takes," he finally says to his son.
"We need to be practical. We can't wait here forever, hoping we'll hear something from the ground. It's been months."
"I'm not going to abandon them." Bill slams his glass down on the desk and whiskey splashes out, puddling on the old wood.
"Lee," he says, his tone sharper than he meant it to be. "We're not leaving. Not yet."
The last time he saw her, they stood on the hillside, looking down at the tent city.
"What a frakking mess," Laura muttered, tossing her hair. Her jaw was clenched, her eyes narrowed.
"Is it fixable?" He touched her cheek, its softness sending a thrill up his arm.
"I don't know. I hope so, but as long as Baltar's running things..."
"Will you run against him in the next elections?"
She shook her head. "Hmm, I don't think so. There are others who'd do a good job. And I've grown accustomed to the quiet life of a private citizen."
Just the other day, he'd watched her teaching the children, her eyes shining as she explained the use of metaphor in The Ballad of Zeus' Daughter.
"We couldn't do this if I were the president," she said, taking his hand and squeezing it. She had surprisingly strong hands.
He kissed her there on the blustery hill. It wasn't a goodbye kiss. He'd see her in a few weeks, whenever he'd next be able to get away from Galactica. It was an ordinary kiss between a man and a woman who were falling in love.
He'd be back and she'd be waiting.
She's dead, he's sure of it.
Hope ebbs and flows like the tides of the sea.
They're all dead. Kara. Saul. The Chief, Cally and their fat baby boy.
Almost everyone he's ever cared about are now skeletons sinking into the New Caprica mud.
He wonders how it happened. Were they all lined up in front of a firing squad of Centurions? Or were they torn apart in a series of lightning-quick explosions?
They're all dead. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.
Privately, he thinks that Lee is probably right. Perhaps what's left of the Fleet, the few thousand of them, should jump away and continue searching deep space for their mythical home.
It's what Laura would want, he tells himself. She'd want her quest to continue.
He accompanies Sharon to the gym one night. They're the only ones there. Sharon runs on the treadmill and he dons his gloves and begins attacking the heavy bag as if with each punch he's defeating a Cylon agent. Sweat pours down his face.
Sharon gets off the treadmill and watches him hit the bag, punch after punch.
"What do I do?" he asks her, gasping for breath. "Should we leave or stay?"
She looks at him and shakes her head.
"Do you think they've alive?"
Sharon grimaces. "I don't know. I'd like to believe they are, but I don't know. I wish I could tell you what we—" She bites her lip. "What they've done, but I don't know."
His arms ache, but he keeps punching. He doesn't want to stop. "What would you have done, if you'd been in charge?"
"Before I'd met Helo, before I left Caprica?"
"Yeah." He stops hitting the bag and turns to Sharon. He wipes his forehead with his forearm.
She closes her eyes for a moment, and then opens them, looking straight at him. "I'd have killed them all."
On a rare sunny day, Laura took him to the mountain lake where she wanted to build her cabin. The afternoon was unusually warm and sunlight shimmered on the calm, clear waters of the lake.
Laura stood on the rocky shore, skipping stones. "Yes," she said, as if talking to herself. "This would be a fine place to build a home."
He wanted to build her that home, to chop down trees and hew them into logs. He imagined a wide, wooden bedstead covered with faded quilts and all the rainy nights they could spend under those quilts.
But he also thought of Galactica, orbiting the planet without its admiral at the helm and he couldn't picture such a future.
He thought, which do you love more? He didn't know.
They spread a blanket under the limbs of an old, gnarled tree. Laura reached into her backpack for the lunch they'd brought, but he caught her by the arm and drew her face to his. They hadn't kissed for at least an hour and he already missed the soft warmth of her lips.
She giggled. "Your mustache is tickling me."
He touched the bristle of hair above his lip. "Should I shave it off?"
"No, I actually like it. You look dashing, like an admiral should."
He touches her face. "Laura, I..." It's not easy to say the words. He hasn't said them in so long. He's not sure he ever meant them before this.
She kisses him again, long and slow. "I know, Bill. I know."
He'd lied to Sharon the other day when he told her he doesn't do guilt. Of course he does. He wallows in it sometimes, lies back in his rack and lets the guilt wash over him in waves. He left them all behind on New Caprica, left them helpless on that godsforsaken rock.
Reason prevails at times. What could he have done? Five basestars had jumped in. There was no way Galactica and Pegasus could have taken them with their reduced crews. They all would have died.
Sharon had said to him, "I don't think the Fleet or Galactica or the people on New Caprica can survive...unless the man at the top finds a way to forgive himself."
He stands at the mirror in the head, staring at his reflection. He looks and feels old and worn, beaten down by time and circumstance.
You have to forgive yourself, he tells himself.
How can he even begin?
Laura would forgive you, he thinks. She would understand why you ordered them all to jump away.
He looks at the old man in the mirror. I forgive you, he says silently. I forgive you.
Bill takes a deep breath. He feels like he's lost twenty pounds. He feels free again.
On this day a Raptor jumps away from the Fleet's hiding place. It jumps just within wireless range of New Caprica and it waits, listening.
After twelve hours the Raptor prepares to jump back to the Fleet. Just before they are about to make the jump, the ship receives a wireless signal from the ground.
Once the Raptor has jumped within transmission range of Galactica, Racetrack contacts the battlestar on comms. "We made contact. I say again, we made contact with the ground. Colonel Tigh has formed an insurgent group against the Cylons, and now they're ready and waiting for instructions on how to coordinate the rescue effort."
Bill listens to the message, feeling something expanding in his chest. Hope.
Laura is alive. They're all alive. He's sure of it now.
"It's gonna be okay," he says. "It's really gonna be okay."