Bill stepped into his quarters, quietly, conscious of the fact that Laura
would be sleeping. Closing the hatch, again being as silent as possible, he let
out a small sigh. Laura. The memories of their earlier conversation circled his
mind once again, and as he turned, he allowed his eyes to wander to his rack and
absorb the sight of her sleeping form. She had been right – as usual – about his
feelings regarding Kara, and Lee, and herself. And, as usual, he’d been too
stubborn to admit it to her face.
It wasn’t because he thought she would gloat about being right; about knowing him so well: That had never been something she did. No, the anger he had directed at her should have been aimed at himself. He had been so confused, so lost, and those were feelings he rarely admitted to having. He fought them every step of the way. He was a hotshot pilot, a Commander, an Admiral: they didn’t get lost; they didn’t find themselves not knowing what to do; unprecedented situation or not, they were in control at all times. But now, his control was slipping. Too many people were drifting away from him, being taken away from him, and there was only so much he could suppress.
He had made some peace now with the others: he and Lee had said their goodbyes, he was confident that his son knew what he was doing, that Lee Adama would make a difference in the Colonial government. And he had reached a compromise within himself over Kara. Laura would probably have things to say about him giving her a ship and letting her go; but he also knew that she would understand – providing she could move past the dreadful way in which he had treated her earlier.
She hadn’t made eye contact with him at Lee’s farewell ‘ceremony’. She’d stood beside him, smiled and nodded at him when he offered her that greeting, but her eyes had never once met his.
… You can stay in the room, but get outta my head…
… You’re afraid to die that way…
His words hurt him now when they echoed in his mind, what must they be doing to Laura?
He passed through his quarters to the head, easing the door closed behind him, and stopped in front of the mirror. His eyes took in his tired appearance: the exhaustion that looked back at him, the tension in his jaw; the man fighting within the stoic Admiral. He ran the cold water, wetting first his hands, and then splashing his face; before leaning against the sink, head down, unable to face himself again. As the Admiral he felt he was letting his people down – first Lee, then Kara; as the President’s confidant, he was letting her down, letting his emotions dictate his words, letting him be the cause of her pain; and as Bill, he was letting himself down. He’d allowed himself the indulgence of opening up to Laura a little, of taking a step closer to revealing his feelings to her, but now his fear was holding him back again and forcing the space between them to expand. She was staying in his quarters, but he was doing an excellent job of making sure that was the only thing close about them.
Letting out another sigh, this time of frustration, he slammed one hand down on the side, before sweeping it sideways and knocking various items to the floor. How had he let everything get so complicated? And when did he lose the ability to handle it?
He caught his refection in the mirror again, and glowered at himself.
… That your death may be as meaningless as everyone else’s…
His eyes slipped closed. Dying leader or not, her death would be far from meaningless – for the fleet, for his crew, for him. He could tell himself she had provoked him, she had been as brutal in her appraisal of him and his feelings; but that didn’t justify his words. She had been right and he had come to some decisions. He had been right, but his comments could not have helped her. How could pointing out that she was afraid to die alone possibly have helped her?
Guilt gnawing at him, he turned, intending to pick up the discarded items from the floor before retreating to the sofa to wrestle with his emotions while sleep eluded him. He had retrieved a facecloth, a tumbler, and Laura’s toothpaste when something in the bin caught his eye.
Raising one hand to return the items to the side, the other tentatively moved aside some tissue to confirm that his suspicions were true. While his heart ached, and his stomach lurched, his fingers gingerly closed around the clump of hair that had been uncovered. He moved it between his fingertips, as he subconsciously glanced at the door – towards where Laura was sleeping.
His heart fell as he realised that she hadn’t mentioned this to him; that she was dealing with it alone. Alone: a state they were equally as afraid of; a state they didn’t need to experience now they’d found each other; but a state they had forced themselves to retain.
He stood up, placing the hair on the countertop, and pushed open the door. His eyes took time to adjust to the dim light as he moved over towards his rack, and he could just make out the shape of her on the bed.
“Are you all right?”
He stopped when her quiet voice surprised him.
“I heard… clattering,” she continued.
“I knocked something over,” he told her.
“Ah,” she acknowledged and then she was silent again.
“I’m sorry I woke you.”
“I wasn’t sleeping.”
“Why not? It’s late, you should be,” he reprimanded.
“As should you,” she countered.
“I was talking to Kara,” he admitted, knowing they would have to talk about it at some point.
“I know,” she told him.
He was silent, waiting to see if she was going to elaborate or lay into him about making the decision without her, or about trusting a potential Cylon.
“I’m the President, Bill. Very little happens in this fleet without me finding out about it… Won’t we all be disappointed when they don’t return with food any time soon?”
“Maybe they will.”
She laughed once, short and sharp. “Food from Earth?” she asked sarcastically.
“It was a compromise, Laura.”
“I know,” she said again.
He began to realise that he didn’t like it when he couldn’t see her face when he was speaking to her. Her expressions obviously said so much more than her words.
“Is that it?” he asked her, when once again the onslaught he had expected didn’t materialise.
“You were right… About doubt frakking with your aim. How could I shoot Kara, Bill? She’s a daughter to you. I couldn’t do that.”
“You said you’d do it again.”
“I can’t have people thinking they can hold me at gun point and I won’t fight back… I would miss again.”
“I don’t think that picture could take it.”
He sensed she was smiling, though he still couldn’t see her face. “I’ll replace that.”
“Laura, I – ”
“It’s done, Bill… There’s no point making an issue of it. We wait and see now.”
“I couldn’t watch her like that.”
“I know… It’s okay, Bill.”
“How is it okay?” he snapped, tired of her patience and understanding. “I didn’t consult you. I went against your wishes. I gave away one of the ships! – ”
He stopped when he heard her sigh. “Have you had a good day today, Bill?”
“You seem intent on starting a fight with me. I was wondering if you’d had a better day than I had after our last conversation.”
“No I haven’t.”
“Then why are you trying to do this?”
“You should be angry at me.”
“What good would that do? I didn’t want you to lose Kara, Bill. I didn’t want you to have to see her distressed. You found a solution to that… I’ve been feeling crap all afternoon, I’m not about to fight with you again.”
“I’m sorry. For what I said earlier.”
“So am I.”
“But you were right.”
“So were you.”
He took a few more steps forward, bringing him to stop beside the bed. “You won’t die alone, Laura.”
“If we carry on like this I might,” she said softly.
“You won’t,” he insisted. “Room for me on there?” he asked, not wanting to sit, without checking with her first, as he couldn’t see exactly where she was.
He heard rustling and shuffling, and then she said, “Sit.”
He did, but quipped, “What makes you think I didn’t intend to lie down next to you?”
“You never have before,” she replied.
“There’s a first time for everything.”
“I doubt that will happen while you think I’m pissed at you.”
“Ah. True,” he nodded.
There were seconds of silence during which Bill’s thoughts once more swirled with the hurtful truths he had so sharply delivered. Interspersed with them now were images of Laura running her fingers through her hair; of the strands coming away in her hand; of her fear and her tears. Of her sitting alone. He felt his chest tighten, and the sting of tears behind his eyes.
… Nobody’s going anywhere…
He remembered her face, the moisture in her eyes as she had briefly turned away from him, no doubt trying to think of a way to respond to his absolute denial.
“I don’t want to fight with you, Bill.” Her quiet sigh of words brought him out of his thoughts, and he swallowed the lump that had formed in his throat.
“I know,” he responded, finding that he couldn’t think of anything else to say.
“I need you,” she admitted quietly, and the lump returned when he heard the quiver in her voice.
He shifted forwards quickly, his hand reaching out to find hers. Their fingers instantly made contact, and he wrapped his around hers. “You’ve got me,” he assured her, his voice thick with emotion.
“We’re so angry at each other,” she whispered.
“No,” he insisted, tightening his hold on her hand, “We’re angry at the universe. We’re just easier targets.”
She laughed at this, but the sniffle that followed it revealed that she was crying. He brought his other hand to cradle hers as well.
“Laura, we can get through this,” he told her.
She nodded, and he heard the softest sound of an agreement.
“You are not alone,” he promised, determinedly.
The hand he held moved to squeeze his. “Neither are you,” she wisped. “We’ve gotta stop pushing each other away.”
He nodded once, and gently stroked his thumb along her hand as he thought about everything they had been through, and all that was to come.
“Permission to lie down?” he asked eventually, breaking the silence that had fallen.
“So you’re convinced I’m no longer pissed at you?” she responded with a soft smile.
“I’ll take my chances,” he retorted.
She laughed again. “Then permission granted.”
He removed his boots, and then carefully adjusted his position to lie down beside her, resting his head on his elbow so he could look down at her. His other hand found hers again, and she entwined her fingers with his.
For minutes they were silent, just lying with each other, absorbing the apology and forgiveness being freely given, then Bill felt tension riddle Laura’s hand, and sensed her stiffen beside him.
“Bill, I – ” He knew what was coming.
“I know,” he said, moving the hand that held his head to gently brush hair away from her forehead. “We’ll get through it together.”
She angled her head towards him and increased her grip on his hand. “I am scared, Bill.”
He gave her hand a squeeze, before letting go to move his hand to cup her cheek. “So am I,” he admitted, “But we’ll face it together. No more fighting.”
She raised her hand to rest over his. “No more fighting this,” she whispered.
His eyes held her gaze in the dim light of his cabin, and then he slowly lowered his head, gently brushing her lips with his, once and then again, lingering a second before he pulled back to focus on her eyes once more.
Her fingers squeezed his hand and her frightened eyes looked deep into his. His thumb wiped a tear from her cheek, and he kissed her again before echoing, “No more fighting this.”