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Loose Ends

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Deep down, Laura had known even before Dr. Cottle had confirmed it, could feel it as the bone-deep weariness became more prominent with each passing day.

She didn't have much time left.

Sensing what she would be told during her upcoming appointment, she started to take inventory of what she wanted to do with her belongings.

As she paced through her room, pad of paper in hand to make a list, Laura realized she wouldn't be leaving much behind. She had what little was in her luggage on the day of the attacks and then a few necessary personal items that she'd managed to acquire since the end of the worlds. Almost everything else that she'd accumulated in the past few months she considered to belong to the office of the presidency, not really herself. Those items and resources would be passed on to Gaius Baltar and his administration, of course.

The few clothes and shoes she had would go to someone who could use them, and while she wasn't sure what use her jewelry would be to anyone, someone might appreciate them all the same. Likewise with her makeup.

She shook her head as she considered how something as simple as a half-used compact of powder might be a treasured luxury now.

Her circuit around her room all but complete, she sat down on her cot and looked at the small stack of books on the table she used as a nightstand. Picking up the book the commander had offered to her shortly after the end of the worlds, she ran her fingers over the embossed letters on the cover and remembered how he had told her that he never lent books, that it was a gift. It had been a small but important moment in their partnership, both of them finally finding common ground over something that seemed so immaterial under the circumstances, and yet it provided them a more human connection to each other, a rare glimpse at the persons behind the persona of their titles.

She thumbed through the pages of the book, looking up some of the parts she'd enjoyed most and revisiting those passages one last time. The book may have been a gift but she couldn't bear the thought of it ending up in the hands of someone who might not treat it with care or fully treasure its place in their languishing society.

She slipped the tome into her bag. This she would return to Bill.

***

Laura found she hadn't braced herself quite as well as she thought she had. The confirmation still came as a harsh blow.

After she'd pulled herself together as best she could, she'd trudged away from sickbay on shaky legs and to the commander's quarters, where she had planned to finish up some paperwork in the relative peace the rooms offered. She went through the motions of spreading the necessary work out but found she was too numb to give the work the kind of focus it required. Instead, she arranged and rearranged the small stack, a futile attempt at distracting herself from the thoughts that weren't going to leave her alone.

All too soon, Bill arrived with the announcement that her shuttle was ready to bring her back to Colonial One and reality, ending her brief reprieve and forcing her to pull herself together.

Steeling herself, she handed his book to him, trying not to stumble over her words or explicitly state exactly why she felt it necessary to give it back to him. Laura didn't think she could anyway, would've choked on the words that were becoming far too real for her. So little time.

She just wished he hadn't looked at her like he did when she pressed the book into his hands. They'd both had become skilled in silently saying so much to each other without words in the last couple months since Kobol. For a man she once saw as too stoic and restrained, she now found it impossible not to see clearly every emotion he felt the moment he experienced them. In this moment, she knew he was struggling not to appear as wounded or as distraught by the admission that giving back this gift to him really meant. He understood. He looked as though she'd shoved the heel of her shoe straight into his gut at the unspoken admission of her prognosis.

And gods bless him, whatever he might be feeling, Bill didn't press for any information as he accepted the book back into his collection. Laura never appreciated him more than in that moment as he turned their conversation to business, seeking her advice on how to handle the computer virus currently wreaking havoc with Galactica's systems. The focus on more immediate concerns steadied her and took her mind away from the part of her that really wanted to indulge in a good old fashioned panic attack.

Once she'd advised him to the best of her abilities, she stood up to leave and he followed her to the hatch. As she started to raise her hand to open it, he suddenly grasped at her hand. Startled, she turned to him, hand still enfolded in his. He said nothing, just held her gaze for a moment before giving her hand a squeeze and then letting go.

She left then, biting her lip and fighting the rush of tears that were trying to well up in her eyes. An ache that had nothing to do with her cancer gripped at her chest.

Months ago, on the day she received her diagnosis, on the day she attended a decommissioning ceremony, on the day twelve worlds ended, she never would have imagined that the person she'd miss most as her time ran out would be William Adama.