Laura Roslin has her eyes closed, and her arms hanging loosely by her sides, as she takes languid, deep breaths, a smile curving her lips with each one.
He remains where he is, the hatch still open, neither wanting to disturb her nor wanting to miss this opportunity to look at her, to see her. It has been too long.
She is paler, he notes, but that’s understandable given her living conditions for the past year. Though she’s smiling, her face is tight with worry, he can tell from the lines that crease her forehead. The weight of their race never left her shoulders, but now added to that burden is what they have all been through, how much they have lost. He knows that in her mind she feels she could have – and should have – prevented it. He believes the same of himself. But such reflections and recriminations will not lead them forwards.
She pauses in the middle of her next breath and her eyes open, immediately finding his. He holds her gaze, watching as her inhalation is released on a trembling sigh, and her eyes sparkle with unshed tears as her smile widens.
“Admiral,” she whispers softly.
He grins and steps inside, pulling the hatch closed behind him.
“Madam – ”
She cuts him off with a raised hand. “Not until tomorrow.”
He nods and walks towards her. “Laura.”
She smiles again when he stops in front of her, and her hand tentatively reaches out towards his chest. She pulls it back once without even making contact, and he frowns as she nervously, but determinedly forces it back. She is entirely focussed on her hand, watching her fingers touch the fabric of his uniform, and she seems relieved when her palm joins them. It is at this point that she seems to remember he is there.
There is well-hidden panic in her eyes when she snaps them back to his, and he smiles questioningly.
“I was… Just checking you’re really here,” she explains – her tone confident, but shyness visible in her eyes and the blush to her cheeks.
“Do you often hallucinate me?” he teases and she slaps him playfully across the chest with her conveniently positioned hand.
“I thought maybe my desire to get off that planet had… willed you into existence,” she retorts.
“Ah… So that’s what you were doing when I came in,” he jokes, and she responds as he had hoped she would – with a laugh – one that lights up her entire face and, for just a few seconds, smoothes out the worry lines.
“No. When you so rudely interrupted me, I was… taking a moment. While I have the chance.”
He smiles apologetically. “Yeah, I guess there won’t be much opportunity once you’re reinstated.”
“No… But I’ll have the memory of that one to get me through.”
“Ah… The scent of Galactica,” he smirks.
There is no amusement in her face or voice when she responds, “The scent of home.”
His eyes dart back to hers and can see her lips trembling beneath them as she continues.
“The scent of battlestar, of leather…” Her eyes slip closed. “… Of books and wood and… recycled air…” Tears spill onto her cheeks as she accompanies that last one with a laugh. She’s still smiling beautifully when she opens her eyes again, and looks at him wistfully. “Gods, it’s good to be back.”
He returns the expression. “It’s good to have you back.”
“It’s a fine mess we’ve got ourselves into.”
“It is,” he nods. “But we’ll get ourselves out.”
Her smile returns. “I’ve missed you.”
He smiles back. “I’ve missed you more.”
As had been his intention, she bursts into giggles at that. Her head drops to his chest, and he wraps his arms around her shaking shoulders. When hers snake round his waist and she pulls herself closer, he realises she is no longer shaking with laughter. He holds her tighter, stroking her hair soothingly as she cries for herself, for her people, for their loss.
And when his breathing inhales the scent of her freshly washed hair, he remembers the scene he walked in on, and vows to ensure that at least once a day, President Roslin has time to just be Laura… if only for a moment.