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The Shoebox

Chapter Text

 

Laura couldn't decide whether it would have been worse to not know what was happening.

 

The confusion would have frustrated her, but the knowledge she possessed of just how bad things were about to get weighed on her. This way, she knew what had to be done.

 

“They came to school, said they wanted to talk to us.” Her eldest's voice was shaking, and she sounded out of breath. “But dad said... he said that if anyone came for us, without you or him... that..”

 

“That you should run.”

 

“Yes.”

 

Of course he had.

 

She sounded scared. Laura wanted to hold her in her arms and tell her everything was going to be alright, because it wasn't about to be.

 

“He said to go-”

 

“Go there,” she cut her off, knowing that having no idea where her children were heading was for the best. “Honey, you go there and you hide, and you wait for him, do you understand me?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“I want you to turn your phone off once you hang up, okay?”

 

Richard's reenactments of Baltar and his overly long meetings didn't seem quite so bad now. At least she understood how some of their satellite defense mainframe could be utilized.

 

“...okay.”

 

She sounded like she was about to cry. Laura squeezed her eyes shut, though they were dry and no tears threatened. Her heart was hammering wildly in her chest and her knuckles where white from how tight she gripped the bathroom counter in front of her, but her voice was steady.

 

“Lilah, you can do this, honey. Keep your sister safe. Stay safe, you can do that. I love you both.”

 

“Love you too, mom.”

 

The call ended and Laura slowly brought the phone down from her ear. After seeing her daughter's name on the screen, she had promptly made her excuses and left her meeting. It was the middle of the school day and alarm bells had immediately set off in her mind. This hadn't been one of the horrible scenarios she had conjured up. Laura looked at her reflection in the large, wall length mirror. She didn't look like a woman whose entire left just got turned upside down. She just looked tired.

 

Slipping her phone into her pocket, she exited the bathroom, heading for the stairs. There was no point in going back into the meeting. Let them wonder and scratch their heads. Let whoever had sent someone after her children worry that she was about to do something. Let them panic for a little while, fearing they had tripped open a sleeper cell and a building was about to go up. If her daughters had been hurt someone would have definitely been in pieces, Laura would have made sure of that.

 

Gods, her children. Though she was relieved they had been warned of such danger, a part of her felt bitter that Tom had foreseen such circumstances. How long had he been telling the girls this? Under what guise? Your mom has a very important job at the government, and someone might try to hurt her by hurting you... Gods damn it, their children! She told Tom she could never forgive him such a trespass, and she knew she wouldn't. If only hating him made things simpler.

 

He had better be able to reach their girls before someone else.

 

“Madame Secretary?”

 

Ignoring the surprised call of her title, Laura pushed her way out of the building, earning several frowns from the security officers. No, she hadn't frakking signed out, let them come after her.

 

The midday sun warmed her skin, and blinded her momentarily by reflecting off the white stone plaza in front of the building. She trotted down the steps quickly but froze at their base, unsure of where she was going.

 

Everything did have to fall to shit on a rather nice day, didn't it? What had happened? A break somewhere in the network? A mole? Some lucky bastard called the cops on the right crook? It couldn't have been anything from within their apartment. After she found the box the only thing Tom ever brought home with him was the information in his head. She wondered if she would ever know the truth of it. A part of her wanted to shout that she was just overreacting, that there was a perfectly reasonable explanation for why someone would want to speak to her children without going through her first. That this strange behavior was what would get them exposed, not some supposed crime. She couldn't even let herself hope such a dismal lie could be true, and it faded quickly from her thoughts.

 

Inspiration struck and she moved out across the plaza, a purpose to her step.

 

A whole godsdamned year she had sat on the information of what her husband was a part of. After the initial shock had worn down, she had managed to push it from her thoughts, most of the time. Twenty-one years of marriage and it had taken a shoebox for her to realize what is was he did in his spare time. That she had been totally blind to his activities for all those years, now that was one of the better lies Laura had ever told herself.

 

The lunch hour had just started, not many people had managed to make their way outside yet, and she was glad for the small amount of privacy that granted her. Reaching the edge of the fountain, she stepped out of her shoes, carefully setting them on the stone edge where she intended to sit. It was a place she liked to visit regularly, and relax, to dip her toes in the water on a particularly warm day. Tom had lunch with her there more often than not, when his own schedule allowed. He would grab whatever it was she happened to be craving that day and meet her with the food. They used to take the girls, when they were little, to a similar fountain in the park by their old apartment. They'd toss cubits into the water and chase the pigeons that gathered to drink. The happy memories offered little comfort now.

 

She stared down at the rippling water, adjusting her skirt as she took her seat. Droplets splattered against the fabric, darkening the rich blue color even further. She clenched her fingers together, resting her fists in her lap. The ring on her left hand bit into her skin. It was a heavy platinum band, unadorned with designs or script.

 

You're never going to marry me, he'd told her, but if you ever did, here's a ring that'll leave a dent for when you decide to throw it at me.

 

She'd only been tempted once, the night after she'd proposed. There had been other ways to get back at him after that, and the ring never needed to come off her finger. It left its own kind of mark by staying on her hand.

 

Her pocket vibrated and Laura fumbled with her phone for a moment before she managed to bring it out.

 

'Lilah' flashed onto the screen. She answered, but didn't speak.

 

“Laura?”

 

Tom.

 

Whatever thread that had been holding her together since her daughter had called snapped, and tears started streaming down her cheeks.

 

“You've got them?” Her voice didn't crack nearly as much as she thought it would.

 

“I've got them.”

 

“You don't let go.” She wrapped her arm around her middle, bringing up her knees and not caring about the way her skirt refused to cover her properly with the shift. “You don't let go.”

 

“I won't.” His voice was rougher than she expected. “Laura, I-”

 

She dropped the phone into the water.

 

“Madame Secretary.”

 

The voice was closer than she would have liked, and she could hear several others shifting behind the speaker.

 

“I need you to come with us.”

 


 

 

“I want her off world as soon as possible.”

 

“One of the Colonial Heav-”

 

“No.” Richard squeezed his eyes shut, pinching the bridge of his nose. “No, she needs to stay off planet, long term, secured.”

 

“You want to stick her on a battlestar?” Jack had to ask, with everything that was happening, there no longer were any clear answers.

 

“Yes.”

 

Richard wanted someone to tell him that this was ridiculous. That Laura Roslin, a woman he had known and worked with for more than twenty years- a woman whose children had grown up alongside his- didn't need to be relocated off world for security purposes.

 

No one spoke up.

 

“Nigala is dry docked over Scorpia right now. Cain could take her,” Jack finally offered, and not what Richard wanted to hear. The Secretary of Defense was just as shaken as the President, he'd known Laura as long as him.

 

He grimaced at the idea. Did they really know how far entrenched Laura was in all of this? Would the admiral really be necessary? “The Pegasus is over Leonis, it'll take days to get here, and I don't want to jump any ships. I don't need people asking me why I'm moving battlestars across the planets.”

 

Richard could see Jack's shoulders relax, he obviously hadn't liked the idea either.

 

“If you want close, there's the Galactica. She's four hours out, we could get her there, and no military ships will have to be moved off course.”

 

Close, yes, but.. “Under who?”

 

“Commander William Adama.”

 

“Isn't he-”

 

“Yes.” Jack didn't like dwelling on failures. “What matters is, he'll do as ordered, no complaints. And he's not politically active.”

 

No wonder the man had never made admiral. “Arrange it.” Richard pushed himself up from his chair, suddenly feeling old. That something like this could be traced back to Laura changed everything. Everyone would need to be rechecked. Every decision she had ever made would need to come into question. He couldn't even be sure of Jack now, but he had to start somewhere.

 

His Secretary of Education was married to a frakking terrorist. Laura seemed to have a knack for making his life more interesting, though he really couldn't blame her for what happened last term. Tom had been the source of that disturbance too.

 

“I'm going to go see her.”

 

“I don't-”

 

He silenced the other man with a glance. Just because he wasn't ready to face it didn't mean Richard wasn't going to. There could be no putting this off, not if things were to run smoothly. Laura needed to be completely cut off from access to the planet. They had to make sure that she couldn't signal anything to happen, and they needed her in a more secure location in case someone tried to come after her.

 

Would Tom risk coming after his wife? It was a question Richard had been grappling with since he'd had to ask it. They'd always had a strange dynamic to their relationship, and Cath had always been better at interpreting it than he had. Would they have operated their whole lives under a lie? Could she have been a part of it, had she helped her husband in this cause?

 

With the girls having slipped between his fingers, Richard knew he had lost his biggest bargaining chip in getting information from Laura. At the same time, it was strangely relieving. Using children to manipulate and coerce their parents... it would have made him sick.

 

The security team that followed him was larger than usual, frustrating him further. What did these people in suits matter when those who he had considered friends were suddenly enemies? The break in trust could bring him down more efficiently than a bullet, and more effectively than the current dip in the polls.

 

Richard paused outside the door, the two men standing guard never looking at him. He stared over his shoulder at his entourage.

 

“Stay out here.”

 

He knew they only complied because of the other men posted inside of the room. Laura attacking him seemed a preposterous idea, but everyone had cause to be cautious now.

 

She had punched him once, he suddenly recalled. A Colonial Day barbeque at his house, years ago. They'd both been a little drunk and she'd tried to give him a boxing lesson. Tom had laughed so hard he'd choked on his beer. Richard stepped into the room with the ghost of the sound suddenly ringing in his ears.

 

If only all of it could be some horrific joke.

 

He ignored the expected security, eyes on Laura as he closed the door behind him. She was seated at the end of the small conference table, eyes vaguely focused on the painting hanging on the far wall. Her shoes were on the table in front of her, and her hands were clasped neatly in her lap. Apparently she hadn't breathed a single word since they'd brought her back into the building. They'd fished her phone out of the fountain they found her by, and taken her ID badge from her pocket, the only other things she had with her.

 

Her office, desk and purse were being searched. Her calender combed over, her assistants questioned. A detail had been sent out to her apartment, but they hadn't found anything. No one had found anything, except at the publishing house.

 

It was almost enough to make him want to believe she didn't know; if she hadn't slipped away in the middle of the day...

 

“Hello, Laura.”

 

She didn't respond, and he stopped several feet of reaching her, tucking his hands into his pockets.

 

“It's a bit rude to ignore someone when they're talking to you.” He could feel a slight catch in his throat as his words stuck before they managed to escape. “Just a quick chat,” Richard tried again. “Clear all of this up. You and me, we can sort it out.”

 

Laura narrowed her eyes, looking at him sideways. “You came after my children.”

 

And they'd run. Like foxes from a hound, but they would find whatever den they had dove into. Their father with them. At least he got her to talk, even if it was because he had made her a little angry.

 

“Where are they?”

 

“That's not a question I'm comfortable answering at this time, Mr. President.” She laced her fingers together, straightening in her chair and turning to face him. “Would you care to ask another?”

 

“Gods damn it, this isn't a joke.” He could feel his fists shaking in his pockets.

 

“No, it most certainly isn't.”

 

How could she sit there and act as if he was in the wrong? He hadn't raided her home in the middle of the night. He hadn't done this without provocation. He wasn't a monster.

 

“This is your last chance. Laura, please.”

 

“Please?” She drew out the word, her contempt clear. “Please what?”

 

“Think of your family.”

 

“My family?” She nodded. “Yes, my family. What would happen to them? My husband, tried as a terrorist. Prison for life, at least.”

 

She knew what was happening. Damn it, she knew what they had found. She knew.

 

“My daughters? Taken away, paraded and attacked by the media. What life would be left to them?”

 

He owed Laura nothing, but Richard knew he would keep her girls from that, as best he could. Lilah and Morgan deserved better than what their parents would put them through. What they would be going through now, on the run from their government.

 

“And me.”

 

She smiled, and it made Richard's heart ache.

 

“Me, an official of the government. I know what's going to happen to me, and you can't say you have no idea.”

 

Of course he knew. There was no way she wouldn't be convicted of treason, and traitors were executed.