She was dying.
Dying was different this time. Dying was the same.
The pain was the same. Searing through her and slashing through her weak defences, it left her helpless to the sensations it created within her bruised body.
The tiredness was the same. Although she refused more pain meds than absolutely necessary, those she accepted left her drained and she couldn’t keep her eyes open for more than a few minutes at a stretch.
The room was the same. She looked up the same ceiling she did last time. Last time when she survived. Some moments it was almost as if the last three years hadn’t existed, as if they had just been another chamalla induced vision to haunt her.
The company was almost the same. There was Jack Cottle, who stopped by more often than he most probably should with so many other patients around. There were various people of Galactica’s crew. In the moments she was awake she had recognised Starbuck, Helo, Tigh. There was Tory. Even Lee found his way to life station this time. The only constant through all of it was Bill though. Bill Adama, who was by her side each time she awoke from another slumber, dragged back by another wave of excruciating pain.
The visions though - those weren’t the same. This time it wasn’t Richard Adar to haunt her last moments. This time it was Bill Adama and the images conjured up by her mind gave her peace instead of unsettling her.
“You should sleep.” She didn’t turn at Bill's words who was looming over his rack. She didn’t open her eyes. Didn’t want to. What for? To argue any further? They had hurt each other enough for one evening. For one lifetime. For the rest of her lifetime.
“Laura, I know you’re not asleep.”
She turned away from him, facing the wall, her eyes still firmly closed. “Maybe I would be if you weren’t keeping me up.” The tone of her voice was soft, tired.
She waited to hear footsteps, a sign that he was about to retire to his couch. A sign that he had left her alone with her misery. He hadn't. Instead there was a sudden, added weight to the mattress and the blanket was lifted. He slipped into bed with her, pulling the blanket over both of them, before letting his right arm rest on her hip. He didn’t say a word. He didn’t have to. To feel him, the warmth of his body pressed into hers, his breath on her neck … It felt right. It was enough. Laura suddenly knew that things would be all right in time.
She awoke coughing. Her body was shaking from the violent spasms and she found she couldn’t breath. Someone lifted her upper body upright and finally she was able to take in some much needed air. It was Bill. He held her until she wasn’t shaking from the coughing anymore and the pain had receded enough for her head to clear. She looked at him. He was smiling at her through the tears in his eyes. Those eyes that had taken her a time to learn how to read them but which were like an open book to her now.
“I’m sorry.” It was all she could offer. It wasn’t enough.
He helped her settle back, taking her left hand into his. “Don’t be.”
“Bill, I can’t hold on much longer.” Her voice was raspy and each word caused pain in her dry throat.
Bill didn’t say anything, just looked at her and suddenly she wished she’d never let him come this close. She had never wanted to hurt him. Never him. More morphin dripped into her veins and soon she couldn’t keep her eyes open any longer.
Bill looked at her, slightly smiling, his eyes shining with …No, she didn’t dare to place a name to the emotion dancing in his eyes. “I used to think it was such a pipe dream. I used to use it as a carrot for the Fleet.”
“What made you change?”
“You. You made me believe. “ His smile blossomed further and she couldn’t help but return it with one of her own.
She had never believed that time could actually stand still but right now it almost felt like it. This moment when they just looked at each other. The way they communicated things they couldn’t just say yet. A second, a year or an eternity might have passed when he leaned into her, his lips brushing hers ever so softly. It was almost like their first kiss but at the same time it was so much more. This time she wasn’t too weak to even really process it. This kiss …It made her shiver. It made her heart weep with joy. It gave her hope. She wanted to live. For him.
Slowly withdrawing she cupped his cheek with her right hand, stroking the contour of his mouth with the tip of her thumb. Then she got up. She would have loved to stay, was longing to stay … for more … but somehow she knew it wasn’t their time. Yet.
Her eyes opened slowly. She was tired. So tired she didn’t want to face whatever the day would bring her. Her eyes fully opened she realised this wasn’t Colonial One. It was Galactica; life station to be exact. Memories came back to her slowly. She was here … dying… but the thought didn’t scare her like it once did. Maybe it was just her time to go. Yes, she liked the thought of letting go but then she felt someone stroking her hand. A tender touch. A lover’s touch. With it came the awareness as did the pain that started to rage through her body once more.
Turning her head slowly, she looked at Bill. How long had he been sitting there? How much time had passed since she had been awake for the last time? She wanted to speak but her mouth had trouble forming any words. She took a ragged breath, willing the pain into the background for a moment. “I love you.” Only three words but they had taken all of her strength. Her eyes fell shut again.
“What are we going to do now that Jack finally released you?” Bill’s eyes were twinkling and the hand that was holding hers squeezed lightly. He hadn’t let go of her hand since they had left life station, obviously not caring what people might think. In fact he didn’t seem to have registered that there even were other people around.
She shrugged. “How about a shower and some sleep?” She was teasing him and she knew that he knew that. Since she had told him she loved him they both knew that they wouldn’t sleep the next time they were alone. They had waited for too long; tension was running too high between them for sleep.
This … this was their time.
When he closed the hatch of his quarters behind them, shutting out the world effectively, her heart was beating wildly in her chest and for a moment the urge to break into giggles was almost overwhelming. There should be no reason to be nervous but she was. Bill turned her gently, so that she was facing him, enfolding her in the embrace of his warm and steady arms.. He took her face into his hands, his eyes searching hers. He leaned into her, kissing her. This was coming home. His soft lips on hers was all the encouragement she needed and when she parted her lips under his, accepting his tongue into her mouth she knew they would be fine.
It was late, so very late, when sleep finally consumed them but when it did it was the best she had in years.
The pain was gone. She could breathe freely again and she felt light. So light as if some heavy burden was lifted from her shoulders. She was still tired but she knew that when she would sink into sleep for this last time it would bring her peace. She was ready. Ready to let go. To move on.
Opening her eyes came easier this time. She saw his face at once, it was hovering over hers. She smiled, hoping that he could see the love she felt for him shining in her eyes. She smiled and closed her eyes.
She was gone.