I couldn’t possibly be insane, if only because I was standing in the bowels of Caprica City’s most notorious mental institution and readily admitting to being just that. As the shadowy Doctor Grey had mentioned, the crazy rarely realize they are such.
– excerpt from Jayson P. Grant’s Adonis Hills Hotel
He wakes wrapped around her; legs tangled together, his hand somehow having found her breast all on its own, her hair, her hair, in all its gloriousness, tickling his nose. As he crawls from the fog of sleep, his senses are all but overwhelmed by her presence.
She shifts in his arms, rolling onto her back and looking at him askance with bleary eyes. A soft smile, a sigh, and then she hums, “Good morning,” and rolls into him, burying her face in his chest. Deep breaths flood him with her scent and his arms tighten around her, molding their bodies together.
The banging on the hatch makes him groan and she giggles in response, pushing herself away from him, snuggling deeper into the blankets as he gets up, throwing his legs over the edge of his rack and rubbing at the sleep in his eyes.
Saul lets himself in as he’s stretching out kinked muscles and he can feel his old friend (his one-eyed Cylon friend) appraising his appearance. He nods, seemingly satisfied by whatever he’s found, which could be anything since Bill has no idea what the man’s looking for.
“Evidence of an appropriate breakdown?”
“Morning, Bill,” Tigh greets.
Adama acknowledges him with a grunt and rises, grabbing his robe and slipping it over his shoulders, making his way into the head to briefly wash up. When he comes back out, Tigh is sitting on the coffee table inspecting the half-empty bottle that helped the admiral sleep so well the night before.
“This is good stuff,” the XO comments as Bill drops onto the couch. “Where’d you find it?”
A glance over at the wrenchingly empty rack. “Laura’s. One of the captains gifted her with it a few months ago.”
The moment of silence that follows is heavy. Saul clears his throat and says, “The night watch was quiet.” He hands over the reports he brought with him and Bill glances at them absently. “The basestar is finishing their priority repairs as quickly as possible.”
“Good. Ask them if they want us to send over an engineering team, help them get it done quicker.”
“You sure you want them in top form any quicker?” Tigh questions, ever paranoid, even of his new found ‘brothers’. “If they turn, they’ll be harder to beat.”
Bill nods. “That’s my point. If the other Cylon’s show up, ours will be better equipped for a fight.” He pauses, then meets his friend’s eye. “I don’t think they’ll turn on us now. We’ve come too far together and they have nowhere to go back to.”
“True,” Saul concedes. “Colonial One called. The President,” he practically spits the word in disgust and it’s more of an admission to his loyalties than the XO would ever put into words, “wanted to meet with you some time today.” Waving off any response, he tells Bill, “I already told them that you’ve got more important things to deal with today.”
“No,” Adama counters, shaking his head. “I should meet with Zarek.”
“You don’t actually think he’ll try to hold on to power, do you?” Tigh asks, a note of disbelief in his voice. “He’s a frakking terrorist. He’s the bastard that got Baltar elected.”
“It’s his right. The office is legally his now. He’s the president, whether we like it or not,” Bill replies sharply, not pleased with it either but understanding of the law nonetheless.
Saul shakes his head. “What Roslin was thinking making him her Vice … Woman must have lost her mind.”
“I knew what I was doing,” a lilting voice responds, but Tigh doesn’t hear it, still muttering to himself about her lack of sense.
Bill looks over at her, sitting on the other end of the couch, and gives her the smallest of smiles. Her bare feet are propped up on the coffee table, right next to where the XO’s ass is planted and she wears casual pants and a snug cream sweater he’s never seen her in before. Her eyes are bright and her hair is wavy around her face. She is looking at Tigh over the top of her glasses, shaking her head in amusement.
She meets Bill’s eyes with a resigned smile. “Even now, he thinks I’m crazy. Tom will do the right thing, Bill. He understands this game far better than most others.”
She looks so alive; vibrant and healthy, intelligence and humor sparkling in her eyes. He knows that just her presence, so real, means that he is more than likely losing his mind. He doesn’t care. If she is insanity, then he welcomes it.
“Zarek’s not stupid, Saul,” he finds himself saying, dragging his eyes away from her to look at Tigh.
“That’s the problem, he’s too frakkin’ smart.” The XO sighs and shakes his head. “Doesn’t matter. Not today. Don’t worry about Zarek, Bill, meet with him tomorrow if you must. Like I said, there are more important things on your agenda today.”
“Yeah,” he mutters, his eyes drifting to her once again. Her gaze is sympathetic and almost enough to crush him.
Tigh stands, slowly making his way over to a photograph of a beautiful woman with a smile brighter than the Tauron sun at midday on the summer solstice; the same one she is currently flashing him at his lyrical mental description of it.
“You know,” the other man starts, huffing a gruff laugh, “I used to think you’d gone mad. Kept asking myself, ‘how the hell does Bill put up with that woman?’”
“Says the man who willingly married Ellen,” she comments, laughing even as she rolls her eyes. Bill grins at her, ignoring the way the muscles in his cheeks ache at the effort after so long without use.
Saul keeps speaking, his tone turning wistful. “Now though … I sure as hell am going to miss having her around. Tough old bird, I never actually thought that it’d beat her. Though, in the end, I ‘spose it didn’t. ‘Spose she got it, really. Ice water in her veins.” He sighs, turning and meeting the admiral’s eyes. “You gonna’ be okay to do this today, Bill?”
She’s beside him now, her hand warm over his, her grip strong on his arm. “You’ll be fine,” she tells him as if she truly believes he will be.
He isn’t so sure. “What choice do I have?” he asks, answering both of them with the question.
A night of grief,
A cloud so dark
And rage so cold
That bitterness runs vile
Or perhaps never more
A whisper, a whimper
The stars fading
A heart is breaking
Never more, indeed
– Doe Han’s Forever More, Never More
Feather’s Retribution, Number 42
He didn’t mean to wind up in the temple. After leaving his quarters, he’d just started walking and without a conscious thought his feet had led him to the smoke-hazed room he now stands in the entrance of.
There’s still hours left, but she is already there and it’s like a sucker punch to the stomach, one telling him to turn around and leave, get out immediately before you throw up, even as his legs somehow keep lifting forward, moving deeper inside.
Priestess’s roam around reverently, whispering to each other and muttering prayers as they bathe the room in candlelight. They don’t look up at him, they focus on their tasks and leave him all the privacy he needs. He doesn’t intend to need any, not now, not yet, but he appreciates the gesture all the same.
At the back of the room, just behind the altar, a young man stands at parade rest, blankly staring out at nothing in particular, his face set into such stone it’s as if he believes that if he unclenches his jaw, he’ll simply break into a million pieces. Bill wonders what he’s doing here. There’s no need, not anymore. He’s curious, but won’t ask; it isn’t his place.
The dimly lit profile of Kara Thrace catches his eye. She sits as deeply inside the darkened room as possible on one of the back pews, hunched over, her features drawn with the shadows casting a haunted look over her face. It’s probably not even the candlelight causing the effect, a fact which depresses him further.
He makes his way over, stands just off to her right and asks the prerequisite, “Whaddya’ hear, Starbuck?”
She doesn’t even look up at him, her eyes focused on a nearby candle, her mind far away. “Not much of anything, Sir,” she tells him with little inflection in her voice.
Bill doesn’t sigh as he sits down beside her, but he can feel it in his chest. What would she say to her right now? he wonders and speaks, without meaning it because the words make him a complete hypocrite, “Sitting around by yourself and moping isn’t doing any good, Kara.”
“I asked Lee to come with me, be my brood-buddy,” she tells him after a lengthy silence. “But when they brought her in … he left, couldn’t deal with it.” She inclines her head in the young soldier’s direction and Bill takes another look; he hasn’t moved. “I don’t know how he’s been doing it. Word has it he hasn’t left her. At all.”
Pride blossoms in the old man’s chest for … he really should remember the boy’s name. He’s seen him practically every day in the past couple of months, at least once a week for the last couple of years; close, but never too close. An almost invisible, but ever comforting presence at the former president’s back.
“Liam,” she supplies from his side and he shivers because she’s so close her hair is brushing against his cheek.“Liam Tate.” The name clicks in place and he scolds himself and quickly repeats a mantra of ‘Tate takes care of Laura,’ in his mind.
And the young man did indeed take care of her. Still is now, even after his oath to her became null and void. Bill will take him aside, later, after she’s finally gone to where the officer can’t follow her, and give him his profound thanks.
Fondness coats her words as she tells him, “Mine too, please.” Then she chuckles lightly. “You know, I think he may be the one person in the universe that knew me better than you did.” He shoots her a sideways look, his expression relaying to her that no one knows her like him.
She just smiles in response and says, in that playful tone of hers, “There are things, places mostly, that a lady shares with her chief of security that she forbids any other man to ever see. Even the one she loves.”
His expression softens and for the first time in days, the dark cloud in the pit of his stomach eases, making way for the utterly content giddiness that fills him each time he hears her confirm her feelings for him. It doesn’t last long, because the person beside him, the breathing one, is oblivious.
“I couldn’t seem to make myself leave,” Kara says softly and then continues in a voice that’s more akin to a growl, “Why I should bother sticking around when she didn’t, I don’t know.”
Her eyes lift from the candle, to the altar and her previously emotionless state molds into a hard glare, her fists clenching until her knuckles are white. In the blink of an eye, the specter is kneeling in front of her.
“She’s angry at me,” she says sadly, reaching out a hand in a fruitless attempt to brush a loose strand of hair from the younger woman’s face.
It’s such a touching moment; her trying to relay in a soft touch what can only be described as a mother’s comfort, followed by the profound sadness in her eyes when she fails; that he finds his throat closing in on him.
Which is why his next words are gruffer than Saul Tigh’s appearance after a hard night of ambrosia. “Don’t blame her for this, Starbuck.”
“She gave up.” It’s so soft he has to strain to hear it. “She gave up,” Kara repeats, louder, but broken. “We never would have quit on her … and she just went and quit on us.”
“Not on you, Kara. Never on you, never again,” she whispers, equally as broken, tears running down her non-existent face.
He shakes his head, staring at her. “She didn’t give up, Starbuck.”
The pilot snorts unpleasantly. “There’s an empty bottle of morpha pills that disagrees with you, Admiral,” she sneers and shakes her head angrily. “She spent the past coupla’ years showing us how to live and now she’s --“
Bill cuts her off, harsher than he intends to. “Shown us how to die. With dignity. You’d deny her that? Deny her the right to refuse to die like her mother did, like yours did?”
Kara doesn’t answer. Her frame slumps further in on itself and she doesn’t even hurry to wipe away the tears that start falling down her cheeks. “She could have beat it … maybe there was something, like last time …”
He shakes his head miserably. “Not this time, Kara. It was the end of the line and she knew it.”
“Sharon said … she said she offered to let Cottle try Hera’s blood again, but the President refused. Why would she do that if she wasn’t quitting on us?” It’s the child inside this woman that asks the question, begging for understanding, needing a reason for what she sees as abandonment, yearning for reassurance that the world wasn’t crumbling inside of them.
Bill really wishes he could give her that.
“Oh, Starbuck … you couldn’t possibly understand. I put that family through too much already, I wasn’t about to let that child start screaming when Jack started poking on my account.”
“She hurt them once,” he tries to explain, to translate, in a sense. “She wasn’t about to risk doing it again, even for the smallest thing like a sample of Hera’s blood. She was righting a wrong.”
The young blonde looks at him incredulously. “She throws people out airlocks, signs assassination orders. She rigged a gods-damned election, only stopped at the last moment ‘cause she didn’t want you to feel guilty about it. Saving her life is where she draws the frakkin’ morality line?!”
A long pause as she stares at him, wide-eyed and he stares at the invisible minx who’s trying to hold back a could-lead-to-unstoppable-giggles smile. Then he meets Starbuck’s eyes and simply says, “Yes.”
She continues to gape at him and then together, slowly, they start to laugh. It’s almost completely hysterical, but soon they’re both guffawing loudly (the priestesses staring at them), with tears that can be classified as neither happy nor sad running down their faces.
“Crazy frakkin’ witch,” Starbuck mutters as she swipes at her face.
The joviality of the moment dies soon enough as they remember the point, that their tears, while mirthful in a twisted sort of way, are also those of deep loss. Long minutes of quiet follow and then Kara breaks it, whispering again, “It’s all going to change now, isn’t it?”
Bill responds with the slightest nod of his head and a confirmation of “Yeah,” that is little more than a sigh.
“What do we do?” she questions, her eyes imploring him for answers. “What the frak are we going to do without her?”
“When I figure that out, I’ll be sure to let you know,” he admits. “For now I’m just doing what I think she would do, if our positions were reversed.”
The look he receives from the pilot is understanding. “Dragging yourself through the broken glass with nothing more than the sheer force of your will?”
If Bill had to describe the experience of this day, those would be the perfect words. “Exactly.”
They share a grief-tinged smile and then Starbuck shakes her head. “Crazy frakkin’ witch,” she repeats, darker this time.
Bill reaches out, placing a hand on the shoulder of the young woman who, in all the ways that count, is his daughter and squeezes gently. “She’s family, Starbuck. She’s the matriarch of our family. If you have to be angry at her, be angry at her tomorrow. But not on this day. Today, just love her.”
With a sob and a nod, Kara turns and leans into him. He doesn’t hesitate to wrap his arms around her and let her cry into his chest.
Death is not a curse. Life and death are the eternal circle, the
law of life, under which all of us, heritage and worldly possessions
be damned, are mandated. We are blessed in death, as we are in
birth, as we are in death and so on and so forth. As the Lords of
Kobol granted us, our first understanding is that all of this has
happened before, and all of this will happen again; so fear not the
end of the cycle, nor worship the beginning any more so, but rather
fulfill the days between. The only curse is that of an inadequate life.
– The Sacred Scrolls, Book of the Dead
The service is just like she would have wanted. In fact, it is what she wanted. She’d made it known and he had fulfilled her wishes to the letter, even though at the time the topic of conversation had depressed him so much that all he’d wanted to do was block his ears, curl up in a corner and pretend none of it was happening.
The priestess, one she’d become quite fond of in her final weeks, not bonded with like Eloshia, but enjoyed nonetheless, reads from the Book of the Dead, speaks of the eternal circle that is life and death.
He feels her chest against his back as her breath tickles his ear while she whispers in perfect synchrony with the holy woman, “’All of this has happened before, and all of this will happen again.’ I have to admit, I hope that part’s wrong. If I have to go through all of this again, I swear I will airlock the Lords of Kobol themselves the next time around.”
Bill forces himself to smother the rich chuckle that threatens to escape him. He drops his head and hopes that the people around him will take his shuddering body for muted sobs, since it really would not be appropriate to burst out laughing during the former president’s funeral service.
He can just imagine telling them that it’s her fault he’s laughing because she’s whispering smart-ass cracks in his ear. He’d be instantly declared a loony, which, judging by the warmth against his back and the light laughter he can hear, might very well be a fair assessment.
“No, you’re not crazy, Bill. Just grieving,” she tells him and the reminder that she is in fact not here making jokes, that the pain he feels is for her, that the ache in his chest is simply the place she used to fill, is enough to kill the humor.
Attempting to focus again, Bill forces himself to listen to the scripture being read, but how is he expected to focus when she is now in front of him, standing tall and turning in a full circle to survey the room?
She shrugs and then turns back to him. “The service is perfect, though not quite as intimate as I’d imagined.”
It’s not as if we put a man on the door to hold out his hand for invitations, he thinks and she laughs. He has to admit however, it’s not as small as he would have liked either, with only the family and close friends.
While most of the fleet are respectful enough to stay away, content to attend the public service that will be held later in the hangar deck, with full honors and all the pomp a president of the Twelve Colonies deserves, quite a few people who simply like to claim they were close to her showed up at this one.
He sends a glare in the direction of the current president and the Quorom assholes that he’s sitting with. If only they knew what she really thought of them. He happily remembers the many tirades she’d have after a meeting. He could picture her, storming into his quarters, muttering to herself in quite an unladylike fashion, ranting to him as she left a trail of shoes and clothes from the hatch to the couch.
She despised the tedium they represented, could never get over the fact that they were so full of themselves. Now they sit at Laura’s funeral, not the President’s, and mourn her as if they’d been best of friends with her.
“Can you blame them?” she asks, smirking cynically. “There’s nothing quite like death to shoot a president’s approval ratings through the roof. I wasn’t even this popular when I was Pythia. It’ll be a massive boost for them, to be able to tearfully tell the people that they attended the private service.”
He grumbles quietly, but consoles himself with the thought that at least the media stayed the frak away. He glances to his right, where his son sits rigidly beside him and smiles to himself, knowing that Lee, or rather Delegate Adama, more than likely was the one who ensured that.
“The important people are here, that’s what matters most,” she consoles, smiling at him gently and then sending one of her wider smiles over to baby Nicky Tyrol, who happily chews on his father’s sleeve, probably the only person in the room who is untouched by the dark cloud over them.
The Chief himself is looking much like Bill feels, probably because this service is so similar to that of his late wife’s. Next to Galen, Racetrack is having trouble wiping away her tears, they’re coming so fast and Bill recalls that she was the president’s primary shuttle pilot, having delivered her safely on perhaps hundreds of raptor trips.
Across the room, Jack Cottle isn’t even pretending to listen to the priestess. He sits hunched over, an unlit cigarette dangling from his mouth, with his elbows on his knees. The lines in his face are frighteningly prominent. He’s surrounded by his medical staff and two young nurses are clinging to each other and openly weeping.
Helo stands tall behind his wife, jaw clenched. It surprises him that Sharon has tears glistening in her eyes, that she’d be moved by this particular woman’s death, though it shouldn’t; even when you despised Laura Roslin’s actions, you couldn’t help but be awed by the woman herself. Even when you hated her, a part of you couldn’t help but love her fiercely.
The young mother clings to Hera, whose face is buried in her breast. Bill wonders if the child is old enough yet to understand the significance of what is happening around her, if she knows that Laura has left them and will not return.
“She knows,” says the lady herself quietly from where she sits in front of him. “We have a special bond, the two of us. She knows that I’m gone. Knew the moment it happened, even before I was found.”
Saul is further down on the same pew as Bill (front row for her family), grim-faced, hands twitching in his lap for a hard drink. Another hand, smaller and softer, reaches out and covers the shaking appendages and Bill looks up at Caprica’s face. She’s in tears. He knows the pregnant cylon has spent a lot of time with Laura lately. He doesn’t know what they discussed, Laura never would say, but her posture had always given away the depth of the conversations.
When his eyes focus on Baltar, sitting in much the hunched position as Cottle, he almost wants to leap over the pews and strangle the life right out of him. How dare he, of all people, be here? What gives him the right to sit there and pretend to grieve for her?
Her breath is against his ear again. “Leave it be. He is mourning, in his own way. Besides, it could be worse. At least he didn’t bring his harem.”
True, he’ll concede that, a rare show of good taste on the doctor’s part. In fact, he’s rather secluded, by himself except for the two women near him. One of the sixes, a brunette one from the base star came as a show of respect, an extended hand for which he will thank them in kind one day.
It’s the other young woman that catches his attention though. A shot of red hot anger rushes his veins at the sight of Tory Foster, but he quells it. She’s a cylon, true, and she did stab her boss in the back, but even he, in all his protectiveness, can’t deny that she’s hurting, the look on her face portraying her pain, so he lets it go. He’ll give her this, this one short day, but then she’d better hope to never cross his path again.
Kneeling in front of him, she rests her elbows on his thighs and puts her chin in her hands, looking over at Tory as well.“Really makes me miss Billy. So loyal, so most definitely not cylon material.” Then she looks up at him and smiles. “At least I get to see him again now, just as I remember him.
“I guess that’s one good thing to him dying when he did, he’ll always be just like that; young and intelligent and warm and kind. Bright-eyed for the future, before the circling sharks in the political game could take any chunks out of him. Perfectly preserved.”
“And how will you be preserved, Laura?” he questions quietly, so that only Kara, close on his left, throws a concerned look in his direction.
Her smile is self-deprecating. “President, prophet. Maybe like Kara described, ‘Crazy frakkin’ witch’. I’ve even heard the word martyr being used, though my decision to end it when I did had nothing to do with getting the fleet to the Promised Land. It was purely selfish and I don’t apologize for that, so if they want to call that an act of martyrdom, then at least that’s one part of the history books that will reflect on me better than the truth.” She cocks her head then and asks, “How will you remember me, Bill?”
With the gentlest of smiles, he tells her, “Only as the love of my life.”
“Hmm. That’s probably my favorite, then.”
“Dad,” comes a hushed whisper from Lee, and when Bill looks up, the room is looking at him expectantly.
For a moment, he worries that he’s spoken too loudly to the thin air that they see, but the priestess clarifies the situation by repeating herself. “Admiral, perhaps you’d like to say a few words on Laura’s behalf?”
The figment in front of him turns her head to look over her shoulder at the holy woman. “On my behalf? She makes it sound like a ‘thank you and goodnight’ routine.” She looks at him again and winces in sympathy. “I’m pretty sure she’s asking for a eulogy.”
The whole room is still looking at him, but he can’t make himself stand up. Not here, not now; he isn’t ready to talk about her without having a complete breakdown. He certainly isn’t about to say goodbye to her in front of all these people.
He looks at Lee beseechingly and shakes his head, saying quietly with a throat that is suddenly all too raw, “I can’t … I can’t.”
Lee grasps his shoulder tightly. “It’s okay, Dad. It’s okay; I’ll take care of it.”
A wave of relief washes over Bill as his son stands and Kara takes his hand firmly in her own and squeezes. Just a month ago, he would have worried how his weakness in this moment looks to those around him, but with his chest tightening uncomfortably, he just doesn’t give a frak.
The figment quickly takes the younger Adama’s vacated seat and murmurs, “This should be good.” She takes Bill’s arm and gives him a sad smile. “I wish things had been different between Lee and I. We sorted it out mostly, in the end, but … I so wish we could have still been connected the way we were in the beginning. It’ll be nice to hear his final analysis of me.”
Bill has absolute faith that his son will not let her down. Lee loves her. Even after everything, the sour grapes they’d both fed each other, Lee is still devoted to her, protective of her. He won’t disappoint her now.
There is a long silence while the younger Adama gathers his thoughts and, for the first time since the service started, Bill pays attention to what is going on, watching his son clear his throat and try to push past the pain to begin.
“I worshipped Laura Roslin,” he starts, then clenches his jaw, takes a deep breath, and goes on. “I worshipped her. Here was this woman, this school teacher, who was suddenly thrust into an impossible situation, one that, even seconds before it happened, she never would have imagined herself in. Like the rest of us, she was completely blindsided by the apocalypse and yet … unlike the rest of us, she didn’t falter. Instead, she showed us how to get up off our knees.
“She once told me that she hated politics. Hated how difficult it was just to get people to agree to do the right thing. Hated how long it took to do that thing once it was agreed upon. She hated politics and in the blink of an eye she became the most powerful politician left alive.”
The breath he takes is shuddering, shaking his entire body. “What awed me the most though, was that she hadn’t just gone from school teacher to President of the Twelve Colonies … she suddenly became the only thing that was holding together the remnants of a devastated civilization.
“And hold it together she did. Even when we fought against her, tooth and nail, she was holding us together. Even when we condemned her, even when we treated her worse than we were treating our own enemies … she held us together, with nothing more than the sheer force of her will.”
Bill and Kara share a light smile at his choice of words and then Bill looks over at his companion. She meets his eyes, wiping away a few tears and then shrugs. “He’s exaggerating. I always had back-up.” And she squeezes his arm to show him who she considered the back-up, even if it is too much because, to his great regret, he hadn’t always had her back.
Lee has to pause, wipe away a few of his own tears and clear his throat again. “I worshipped Laura Roslin,” he repeats and then shakes his head sadly. “Which was probably the problem in the end because all I could see was the grace and the strength and the remarkable humanity … I forgot she was a person, a living breathing human being, with all the faults and flaws that came along with that.
“But she was just a human. She was a mother to some of us. She was a friend to others.” He looks over and meets Bill’s eyes. “And she was someone very special to someone else.”
Then after a pause he smiles, laughing a little and perking up as he says, “She hated high heels. Would kick them off the moment she got out of the office. She loved Aerelon field berries; was in mourning for a week when the fleet ran out of them. You wouldn’t think it, but she loved to sit ring-side for a good fight, and understood the technicalities of it all better than most of us.
“When she really wasn’t in the mood for a Quorom meeting, she’d amuse herself by choosing a random word and then counting how many times it was shouted across the table,” he tells them and while many of the Quorom members look mildly offended, the room is lightening as people start smiling, remembering Laura.
Bill is smiling himself, even while tears fall down his face, because this feels right, so much more fitting than any reading from the Scrolls. She should be remembered like this, she deserves to be. People should be able to smile when they think of her.
Lee is on a roll, grinning through his tears. “She got the giggles when she was nervous. Full blown giggles that, try as she might, she could not stop once she’d started. While she was having her treatments in Life Station, one of her favorite ways to pass the time was to see how many cigarettes she could frustrate Doc Cottle into chain-smoking.”
Laughter is filling the air and Lee drops his head and wipes at his cheeks. He’s still smiling when he looks up again, but it’s more wistful. “President Roslin was cold and she was calculating and she was downright ruthless when she needed to be. But Laura … when Laura loved, it was with everything she had. When she laughed, you couldn’t help but laugh with her. Laura was warm, and she was funny, and just a little bit eccentric, and she was flawed and …”
He trails off, the smile slipping from his face, and the whole room sobers with him. Lee swallows heavily and then almost chokes on his last words. “She was human. And … and I find myself still worshipping her.”
Bill, with pride in his eyes, looks at his ghost and finds her trying to contain herself. The look he gives her clearly asks, ‘Well?’
She shrugs and wipes at her nose with the hand that isn’t clutching his arm. She meets his eyes, nods and says simply, “Yeah.”
Smiling, he places his hand over hers on his arm, and cries with her.
[…] and in the event that the President of the Twelve Colonies
is either deceased or incapacitated, removed from office for any
reason by the Quorom of Twelve, has signed a resignation, or
is in any way unable to discharge the powers and duties of the
Office of the President, it is within the Vice Presidents right,
and it is indeed their responsibility, to take up the powers and
duties of said Office for the remainder of the current term.
– Article II Section I, The Articles of Colonization
“Like a prairie cat preparing for a scuffle,” she comments as he consciously spreads himself out to his full height and stature. “You ever do this before you walked into a meeting with me?”
He checks his uniform carefully, ensuring he looks, if not impeccable (simply not possible today), then at least presentable. “Yeah,” he admits and then smiles at her slyly, “but that was less prairie cat, more peacock.”
Her laughter follows him to the hatch of the Ward Room, where he knocks and, after receiving a call of admittance, enters. Zarek is sitting down behind the table, browsing a report, and barely even looks up at his arrival.
“Admiral, come in. I’m just going over my speech for the public service.”
“Mister President,” Bill greets politely, moving to stand at a parade rest in front of the man.
Zarek waves him off while he finishes reading. “Let’s drop the formalities, Adama. I know addressing me like that is probably giving you the urge to gag.” He puts the speech down and pushes it aside. “And I know you don’t want me here. Sit down, have a drink.”
Bill hadn’t even noticed the bottle of ambrosia. He does as he is told, taking a seat across from Zarek as his current superior pours him a glass of alcohol and refills his own.
While Bill eyes the glass in front of him suspiciously, Zarek says, “Can I let you in on something? I’m not a monster, despite my history. I don’t want to be here … not at the expense of Laura Roslin.”
“Aww,” she coos from her spot perched on the edge of the table, looking over at Zarek contemplatively. “I think he means it.”
Bill glances at her very briefly, a light glower in the look, but he can’t deny that the other man does look sincere. Of course, he still remembers Lee saying how sincere he looked as he’d denied any plot to have Laura murdered.
The President picks up his glass and holds it towards Bill. “A toast to her,” he says and then waits a moment while the Admiral hesitantly follows suit. “One hell of a woman.”
“I’ll drink to that,” Bill evenly agrees and then, after a paranoid sniff of the liquid (one which his invisible companion mocks him for, “Relax, Bill, he’s the President of the Twelve Colonies, he’s not going to poison your drink; he doesn’t need to, he can just sign an assassination order,”) he downs the whole glass.
Zarek is eyeing him with interest. “Needed that?” Bill just nods and Tom replies, filling his own glass again, “Me too.”
When Bill declines a second drink, Zarek just shrugs, sips on his own and then starts on the reason for the meeting without any more pussy-footing around. “I’ll cut to the chase. I’m sure you’re desperate to know if I’m going to serve the remainder of Laura’s term.”
Bill actually feels his eye twitch at her name rolling off the other mans tongue, but shakes it off. “I am curious. Are you going to?”
“Would you support me if I did?” Zarek volleys.
A long moment’s silence as he thinks about his answer and then Bill tells him, “She did. And it’s your right. The laws the law, no matter how I may personally feel. I think I proved that when Baltar was sworn in.”
“Gods I wish you’d let her steal that election,” he mutters shaking his head. Then he sighs and says, “Our Madame President didn’t support me as much as you seem to think she did. It’s tradition for the outgoing president to write the incoming one a letter.”
As he speaks he reaches inside his coat and produces a rumpled envelope which he lays on the table in front of him, running a hand over it to straighten it out. ‘Tom’ is written on the front in handwriting that Bill would know anywhere.
“I must’ve read this a couple of dozen times already,” says Zarek, his index finger gently running over the writing in a way that forces something to start clicking and shifting in Bill’s mind.
She’s behind the President now, smirking at Bill. “Now you’re catching on.”
He’s not sure he is exactly, but in a place he can’t quite reach, his perceptions are shifting. Bill clears his throat and moves on. “May I ask … what does it say?”
“It’s quite flattering actually,” Tom smiles. “There’s a whole paragraph on what a good man I am. Then there’s the part where she asks me to hold general elections as soon as I feel the fleet is ready for them.”
Slightly startled, Bill meets the other mans eyes. “Are you going to?”
The smile has a touch of pride now. “I have no choice. She was a very intelligent woman, understood how effective the right phrasing can be. She wrote that it was her last order as president of the Twelve Colonies. Even if I wanted to, it’s dated and signed before her death. I’m legally obligated to do what she asks.”
“But you don’t have to show that to anyone,” Bill counters, trying to figure out what Zarek is playing at. “You can pretend it doesn’t exist and just serve out the remainder of her term.”
He’s surprised by the sadness in Zarek’s eyes. “I could, but I won’t. I won’t deny her her last request of me. She didn’t tell anyone else she wanted the elections held, I can tell that by your reaction. Which means she trusted me to do it.”
The softness of the tone, the near-misery in his eyes, the way he was still fingering the elegant lettering on the envelope; it all fell into place for Bill with what must have surely been an audible click.
“You got it,” she whispers in his ear.
Shock almost knocks him from his chair and it certainly knocks the air from his lungs. “How long?” he rasps, staring at Zarek with disbelief. The other man looks up, a question in his furrowed brow and Bill clarifies, “How long have you been in love with her?”
Surprise flickers across the other mans face, which gradually turns to a rueful smile as he consciously stops himself from touching the envelope. “I’ve always been attracted to her,” he admits, shaking his head. “And I know you don’t blame me for that. Power, looks, intelligence. That don’t-frak-with-me-or-I’ll-toss-you-out-an-airlock vibe. Gods, those legs!”
Bill stares on, dumbfounded, while Zarek chuckles quietly. “The first time I realized the attraction was evolving? When she tossed my ass down that hill on New Caprica. She’d just saved my life and all I kept thinking was; don’t let her out of your sight; don’t let her go; don’t let those frakking toasters near her. She didn’t know, I don’t think.”
“Of course I did,” she snorts. “I just also knew that, despite his personal feelings, he still wouldn’t hesitate to drive a knife into my back in the political arena.”
Zarek meets Bill’s eyes and a new understanding builds between them in his next words, “I didn’t even see it coming. One minute I just wanted her to stay the frak out of my way, the next … she just snuck up on me.”
“Crawled under your skin before you even noticed,” Bill mumbles in response because he does understand, better than anyone.
He remembers the realization he had, on a long abandoned planet that marked the dawn of their civilization, under a tarp in the rain when she told him she didn’t ask for his forgiveness and he was so willing to give it anyway, because when you care for someone enough, you’ll forgive them anything.
He thought, at the time, that it should have been like a blow to the face, but that it was little more than a warming in his chest, where he didn’t even realize he’d grown cold,. The sudden clarity had been liberating; this woman meantsomething to him.
A frustrated huff off to the side informs him that she’s still there and, being discreet as possible, he takes in the sight of her. She is glaring at the both of them, her arms crossed tightly across her chest and her lips set in a hard line.
“Neither of you could have told me any of this while I was still alive?” She shakes her head and huffs again. “I would have felt a little more appreciated, not to mention the fact that I was dying and feeling decidedly unbeautiful … a few licks to my ego would have been helpful.”
Bill knows she’s not angry, not really. No, she hadn’t been pleased with her body in her last few months, but she’d been thoroughly loved and she’d known it. Not to mention he still believed her (and let her know quite often) to be the most gorgeous woman he’d ever know. Weight loss and wig included.
Zarek clearing his throat turns Bill back to the President, who is refusing to meet his eyes and straightening himself out, ready to get on with the business; that’s fine with Bill, he too would rather forget they just had a quasi-bonding moment.
“Anyway, I just wanted to let you know, Admiral, that I will be announcing next week that general elections will be held within the next three months, which I think will be more than enough time for the candidates to nominate themselves and get their names out there and all that wonderful democratic stuff.”
He almost doesn’t want to ask, and certainly has no idea, not now anyway, what he wants the answer to be. “Will you be running, Mister President?”
Finally, Zarek looks up at him, another sad smile touching his lips. “No.” He picks up the letter and gives it a wave, “Another request she made.” He puts the thing back in his pocket and Bill knows that soon enough it will almost be falling apart like a well loved book.
“No,” Zarek goes on, starting to collect his papers together. “Laura had someone else in mind. Someone she thinks more fitting to meet the needs of the fleet as it is. And she asked me to assist in getting them elected. So, if I’m lucky, I may end up as Vice again.” He shrugs in a self-deprecating way. “Always the best man, but never the groom.”
“If I can ask, Mister President,” Bill says, deliberately using the title, “who did Laura nominate?”
Tom is standing, lifting his folders and he smiles at the Admiral. “Oh, I almost forgot, she wrote him a letter too.” He rounds the table, shuffling through his papers until he produces another envelope. This one he holds out for Adama. “I thought it would be best if you were to deliver it.”
And then the man is leaving the room, leaving the older man to contemplate the name on the envelope. He looks up to find her leaning against the wall, no longer in her casual sweater, but rather looking Presidential in one of her power suits, the one with the low-cut blue blouse that he enjoys so very much.
She tilts her head at him enquiringly. “What do you think, Admiral?”
After a long moment, he nods. “Good choice, Madame President.”
Billy frowns. “If the Lords of Kobol are like our parents, then where are they? Parents should always be with us, helping us and teaching us and keeping us safe.”
“They’re dead, of course,” a snide voice interrupts, and Billy turns to see the dark-haired weasel faced boy he’d run into earlier. “It’s the only way we can flourish. For children to reach their full potential, their parents must die.”
“Oh, shut up, Louis!” Jenna snaps, glaring at the boy. She turns back to Billy. “Don’t listen to him, it’s not true. Just because you can’t see them, doesn’t mean they aren’t there. They are always there. They always have been and they always will be.”
– excerpt from Jodie Kale’s Starlight
He studies his son over the coffee table. Lee’s mind is far away, but he’s looking better than he did; his loosened tie makes him seem more relaxed, and there’s a bit more color in his face, though that’s probably from the ‘shine the younger man has obviously been drinking at the ‘wake’ that’s still ongoing at Joe’s.
They haven’t said much to each other since Lee arrived, finishing up with all the other mourners who prefer to toast their late President over and over and over, with time to spare to get to his father’s for a family meal. They’re just waiting on Kara now.
“What’s on your mind?” Bill asks, startling even himself because he really can’t remember making the decision to speak. Maybe he shared in one too many toasts in her name before he slipped away early, as well.
Lee looks over at him, blinking to focus, and then his eyes travel across the room. “I just … I don’t understand how hard this must be for you.”
“Your wife died four months ago, son,” Bill says and then thinks it’s a stupid comment. Lee already knows when Dee died.
He’s shaking his head, his brow furrowing in concentration as he tries to figure out how to explain. “It wasn’t like this. We’d been separated … I didn’t have to go home to a room that smelt like her. I could smell Laura as soon as I came in, that light, flowery scent … how do you stay in here with that?”
Bill just shrugs. “I’d rather walk in to smell her, than not. I rue the day this place smells like just me again.” He gives a small smile and Lee returns it, he thinks. It’s gone before he’s certain.
When his son mumbles something unintelligible, he asks him to repeat himself and is surprised when his son flushes with shame. “I said … I said that I never loved her like that.”
Lee nods. “I loved her, Dad, I really did. I just … I never loved her the way that you loved Laura. It was never all encompassing; never ‘I can’t live without her’. I loved her but I wish … I wish I’d been able to love her like that.”
There’s little he can do to soothe his son’s regrets at that moment, except be candidly honest. “I’m glad I didn’t love your mother like that.”
His son’s face registers surprise. “Why?”
He has to take the time to compose his answer, if only because it’s a little difficult to understand, even in his own mind. “Because then I wouldn’t have really known what it meant to be with the love of my life. Your mother and I … I loved her very much, Lee. And it was love, for me at least. But what I feel for Laura … that’s something else entirely. Something greater, something … spiritual. And I’m glad I’ve never loved another woman the way I love her.”
She’s beside him, unbelievably gorgeous in her casuals again, unshed tears in her eyes as she leans in closer, covering his hand with hers and smiling softly. “The feeling is mutual, Bill. You were it for me.”
Bill meets Lee’s eyes seriously. “You regret it now, what happened with you and Dee. And you’ll probably regret it for a long time. But one day … one day you’ll find the woman you’re supposed to love, the one you’ve been waiting for all your life and then you’ll know what I mean.”
“Yeah,” Lee agrees, very softly, speaking more to himself than Bill. “One day.”
Clearing his throat, Bill rises and crosses over to sit next to his son. “Anyway,” he begins. “I probably should have done this when you first got here, but I figured since Kara would be at least half an hour late, I had time.”
Lee watches him curiously as he retrieves the envelope Zarek had handed him from inside of his unbuttoned uniform and holds it out. “It’s from Laura,” he explains. “She left it with Zarek, for you.”
His son takes it from him, almost reverently, and turns it over in his hand. There’s a sharp intake of breath and then Lee is crying, heavily, wrenching sobs escaping his throat.
Startled by the outburst, Bill grabs his shoulder and in an attempt to lighten the mood says, “Wow. You haven’t even opened it yet.”
“No, I ..” He furiously wipes at his eyes and shakes his head. “I’m sorry, Dad, it’s just …” He holds it up for Bill to see. “It’s addressed to … Captain Apollo. She hadn’t called me that since … since I started being such an ass.”
Smiling sadly, Bill slips his arm around his son. There’s nothing to say really, nothing that could possibly help Lee anymore than just by being there and letting him let it out.
“My Captain Apollo,” she says softly, so very sadly, from her perch on the coffee table. She leans over and, much like she had done with Kara earlier in the day, tries in vain to comfort him, to wipe away his tears. “My great defender.”
Lee is slowly pulling himself together, but as he goes to open the letter, Bill puts a hand over his. “It’ll keep,” he tells him gently. “Open it later.”
Nodding in agreement, Lee stows it safely away in one of his pockets and then sighs, leaning back against the couch. Heavy silence and then, “I’ve been worried about you, you know? You were so serious, a few months ago, when you said you couldn’t live without her. When you hopped in a raptor for a suicide sit. You meant it.”
“I still do,” the elder Adama admits. “I can’t live without her.”
Worried eyes meet his. “Dad …”
Laughing gently, Bill reassures him, “Don’t worry, son, I’m not about to do anything drastic. You’ll have to put up with me a little while longer.” And then, in all seriousness, he looks at Lee and tells him, “I’m just saying that I can’t live without her … that when the time comes, I won’t hold on. I’ll let go.”
Reluctantly and with his heart breaking all over again in his eyes, Lee nods. The tense quiet that follows is rowdily interrupted by the force of nature that is Kara Thrace. She bounds her way through the hatch, but her exuberant entrance does little to hide her puffy eyes and pink nose.
“Sorry I’m late,” she says, crashing onto the couch opposite them. “I had to buy Hotdog a few drinks. He did good today, leading the flyover. Don’t you think? Would’ve liked to be up there myself, send the old lady out in Starbuck-style, but, you know. My place was with you guys. It was a good turnout though. I didn’t know the hangar bay could fit that many people.”
She speaks in a rush, her excitement a little too forced, a little too much to be real, but she’s trying and the men across from her smile at the effort, appreciative nonetheless. For now, it’s enough.
“Who the frak is she calling old?” she grouses, standing above the younger woman with her arms folded across her chest, glaring at her. She glances back at Bill. “I am going to haunt her like crazy when she hits menopause.”
He’s heartbroken. There’s a hole inside of him, a seeping wound that can’t be reached and misery is coiling in his stomach like a snake ready to strike. It will, he knows. Tonight, while he’s alone in the bed he shared with her for too short a time, the smell of her still on the sheets and her smile in his mind, it’ll hit him forcefully.
But right now, he’s with the three people he loves the most and it matters little to him that one isn’t real anymore. He starts laughing at her, heavy, belly-heaving laughter and Lee and Kara both look at him like he’s crazy for a while before following him into the insanity and laughing out loud, at nothing, with him.
Later, after they’ve eaten and talked circles around the formal service, Bill sits across from the kids, his kids --
“Excuse me, but I put a lot of hard work into those two myself, I think I’ve earned at least part ownership,”she corrects with a teasing smile.
Their kids, he amends, smiling himself. He sits across from their kids, watching the two of them bicker over something or other as if they were five year olds and her warmth beside him, still so damn real, is lulling him into a peace he hasn’t felt since she’d last smiled at him.
“Maybe something good will come from this,” she says quietly, looking at Lee and Kara with a hint of pride.“They’re getting along a lot better, maybe they’ll finally sort their crap out.”
“Maybe,” he agrees, softly enough that they won’t hear him.
The smile she gives him is soft, her eyes so full of love for him, that he just wants to crush her against him and weep into her hair and never, ever let her go. She’s fading, he can feel it. Sooner, rather than later, he’s going to have to say goodbye to her.
He swallows the lump in his throat and talks to her, no longer caring if the other two people in the room hear him or not. “You’re going, aren’t you?”
“Well, I was going to drop in and visit Balter, see if I can’t scare the frak out of him before I head out,” she jokes and even though he smiles, his cheeks are once more warm with tears. She brushes a hand through his hair and he leans into the touch. “I’m already gone, Bill.”
He nods. He knows that. It doesn’t make it any easier though. “You won’t be coming back, will you?”
She shakes her head. “No. I’ve got a stream to search for. I plan on finally building that cabin.”
He tries to hold it in, but it comes out, half-sob, half-guttural cry. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he knows the kids have stopped bickering and are now completely focused on what they must consider the shredding of the last of his sanity.
Bill grins at her anyway, drinking in the sight of her, so damn healthy and beautiful and perfect. “’Wait for me?’”
She grins back, recognizing the line, one from the end of a book they’d rediscovered together. “’I’ll find a nice, shady spot in the Elysian fields,’” she quotes and he is openly weeping because Gods he’ll miss her voice. “’I’ll wait for you, but take you’re time. There’s no hurry. We’ve all of eternity together.’”
Then she leans in and kisses his cheek and his eyes slip closed while she whispers, “I mean it, Bill. Take your time. Look after my fleet and I’ll be waiting right across the river when you’re ready.”
She’s gone when he opens his eyes and Kara and Lee think he’s gone mad. He doesn’t look forward to his future, but he’ll do what she asks, he won’t give up just yet because eventually his mortal coil will fail him, and she’ll be waiting.
“Wait for me?” I question as we slowly walk, afraid to voice the words, but even more afraid of the answer.
You smile at me; that smile that never fails to make me feel like I’m a broken raft being pulled away in a rip I can’t escape, nor do I desire to; welcoming the swell, happily condemning myself to the water, but knowing I am unworthy to lie in its perfection.
“I’ll find a nice, shady spot in the Elysian fields,” you promise, and faith that I lost so long ago blooms in my chest once more; I believe in you, above all else.
You take hold of my hand and pull me to a stop, your eyes drifting off, over the calming ocean and up to its twin masters, who rise in the darkening sky like proud overlords. Then you meet my eyes and I am washed away again, helpless in your hands and I have never felt safer. Your hair whips at my face as you lean in to be heard above the howling wind.
“I’ll wait for you,” you whisper in my ear, “but take your time. There’s no hurry. We’ve all of eternity together.”
And with a light brush of your lips against mine, I blink and you are gone. Your scent is swallowed by that of salt water and already I am aching for you.
I turn back to the ocean and wonder at how far I’ve come. It will be a long journey home and the seas will be unforgiving, but I fear not. Death does not scare me and the passing of days worries me little.
I’ve got nothing but time. Time in which to think of you, and feel.
– excerpt from KB Harold’s Searider Falcon