She was looking at her own report, but he could tell she wasn’t reading it. Her eyes weren’t moving over the lines of text, and she was missing the little pout her lips took on when she was concentrating.
“Laura?” he prompted, wondering where her mind had taken her.
Still no reaction.
“Laura!” he repeated, louder this time, and she looked up.
“Hmm?” she queried, her lips quirking into a small smile, as her Presidential mask quickly covered the fact that she hadn’t been paying attention.
“Something on your mind?” he asked her.
She frowned as if she didn’t understand the question.
“You’ve been distracted since you arrived. And just now, you were quieter than I’ve seen you in a long time… Especially given that we’re discussing Baltar.”
She sighed and dropped her report to the coffee table. “I’m sorry.”
He placed his report on top of hers, and leaned forward in his chair, resting his elbows on his thighs. “It’s okay… Care to share your thoughts?”
She smiled again, a smile of gratitude, he recognised, then she settled back into the sofa, folding her arms across her chest in somewhat of a protective manner. Bill mentally frowned at this brief show of vulnerability, and his chest constricted a little in fear of what could have caused it.
“I ran in to Lee on my way here,” she told him slowly, and his frown surfaced now as he wondered what his son could have done to upset the President. She continued before he could question it. “He was with Captain Agathon.”
That made sense. Bill sat up straight in the chair. “Did he do something?”
Laura shook her head quickly. “Oh no. No. No, he was perfectly civil,” she assured him with another small smile that didn’t quite make it to her eyes. Then she fell silent and pensive again.
Bill’s frown deepened. “With all due respect, Laura… You’re not making much sense.”
She laughed once, and looked at him with apologetic eyes. “He had Hera with him,” she stated with a gentle sigh.
That was no doubt supposed to lift Bill’s confusion, but it only puzzled him further. He hadn’t expected that Laura would have a problem with seeing Hera. She knew the child was alive, she’d endeavoured to protect her and keep her alive on New Caprica. ‘Isis’ had spent most of her time in Laura’s schoolroom for frak’s sake –
Bill’s eyes met Laura’s as the realisation dawned.
Her smile was sad this time. “She recognised me, Bill… She reached out to me, clapping her little hands together, and chattering at me. Asking me to hold her.” Her voice grew quieter with each word, and tears were starting to pool in her eyes.
Bill rose swiftly from his chair, and dropped down beside her on the sofa, wrapping his arm around her shoulders. She turned into his embrace, resting her head against him, as she let out a long sigh.
“I’m sorry,” he told her. “I never thought about how close you might have gotten to Hera…”
“It’s okay,” she said, quietly. “I never… I never expected seeing her would affect me like this…” She nestled further towards him. “She was the closest thing to a granddaughter I’ll ever have. And I thought she was – ”
She was crying now, Bill knew, and his heart broke as he held her tighter, and soothingly rubbed her back. He should have seen this coming. Of course he hadn’t been looking for it. They had moved past his initial anger, but time had brought that to pass, they had never really talked about Hera. Perhaps that in itself should have been a clue.
He waited until she started to calm down before he spoke again. “I’ll share my grandchildren with you,” he told her.
He felt her laugh as much as he heard it. “Is that a proposition, Admiral?”
“That depends on your response,” he replied, smiling.
She laughed again, and moved out of his hold, dabbing at her eyes with her fingers, before turning to face him. “Are you expecting some grandchildren that I don’t yet know about?” she asked.
Bill shook his head. “No… But I expect there’ll be some one day… There’d better be.”
When she smiled this time, he was pleased to see her eyes sparkle.
“You okay?” he asked her.
She nodded. “Thank you.”
“Any time,” he shrugged.
“We should get back to Baltar,” she said, dejectedly.
Bill grunted. “Yeah…” he agreed, but he caught hold of her hand as she moved to pick up the reports. “Stay for dinner?”
She turned back to him, her hair falling perfectly around her face as she smiled brightly. “I’d love to.”
He simply held her gaze for a few seconds, enjoying the way he felt when she looked at him like that, then he nodded once and let go of her hand.
She handed him his report, before settling her own on her knee. He was just about to pick up where he’d left off when she spoke again.
“And you know what would be fun?”
He grinned in anticipation of whatever scheme had put the mischievous glint in her eyes.
“… We should invite Lee and Dualla, and pester them as to when we’re getting our grandchildren.”