It was three weeks after they fled from the orbit of New Caprica when she first appeared to him.
The latest strategy meeting in Admiral Adama’s quarters ended abruptly when his frustration got the better of him and he barked at everyone to get out. Lee hesitated momentarily, but a well directed glare got rid of him as well.
Bill secured the hatch behind them, making sure that he would not be interrupted, and without even a pause, sent a pile of books flying off his desk with one sweep and a loud rumble of aggravation.
“Since when did throwing books across a room solve anything?”
He turned abruptly at the sound of the familiar female voice, to find Laura Roslin standing by the hatch. Turning away again, he closed his eyes and shook his head to clear it.
“Great, now I’m hallucinating,” he mumbled, massaging his forehead with his thumb and forefinger.
Her response came from right beside him. “Don’t think of it as hallucinating…”
He glanced up, to find her perched on the edge of his desk.
“… It’s only hallucination if that’s what you call it… This is more like… thinking more clearly.”
“How do you figure?” he asked, before realising what he was doing, and moving away, muttering, “And now I’m talking to the hallucination.”
“Well, that’s why I’m here, isn’t it?…” she called after him as he walked into the head. “You feel like you can’t think clearly without me around. So here I am.”
He leaned over the sink and splashed cold water vigorously over his face, pleased when there was silence from his little ‘vision’. Despite his head being pleased that she was gone, he felt his chest constrict. If only she actually was there. If only he could wake up to find it was all a nightmare.
He straightened up and reached for a towel, jumping, startled by the reflection in the mirror.
“Sorry,” she said softly.
He buried his face in the towel, shaking his head continuously. “I’m cracking up.”
She was silent again, until he risked lowering the towel to see if she was still there.
“Bill,” she said, placing a gentle hand on his arm as he returned his face to the towel. “You made the right decision… If you’d stayed, you’d all be dead by now, and you’d be no use to anybody.”
He threw the towel to the sink and stalked out of the head.
“Bill, stop hiding!… I’m here because you need me. You’re going to get nowhere if you spend all the time running away from your own thoughts!” she reprimanded, following him.
He turned on her, anger raging in his eyes again. “I’m going to get nowhere if I spend any of my time talking to you! How many people are going to take me seriously when they see me talking to nobody?!”
She giggled at this, her hand shooting up to cover her mouth, as her eyes regarded him apologetically.
“And now my hallucination is laughing at me,” he said, moving to sit behind his desk, and drawing his notes up in front of him to distract himself.
“Oh no, no. I’m not laughing at you. It’s what you said. I just… That sounds a lot like Baltar.” She sat down opposite him, her eyes on the wall behind him as she was deep in thought. “Do you suppose that’s what was going on? All those times he appeared distracted… he was hallucinating?”
“So now it is called hallucinating?” he mumbled, looking through his notes.
She laughed again. “I can be whatever you want me to be.”
He slowly lifted his eyes to meet hers, and a mischievous smirk crept across her lips.
He closed his eyes again, scolding himself for taking her on.
“You have plans to make,” she told him.
“I – ”
“You can,” she interrupted his self-deprecation, prompting him to open his eyes. “You’re Admiral Adama. You will lead humanity to Earth… But before you can do that, you need to get them back.”
“You make it sound so simple.”
“It will only be as complicated as it needs to be… You know you can do this, Bill. I know you can – ”
“Ah, but you’re a figment of my imagination,” he countered.
She smiled. “True… But I’m sure the actual Laura Roslin knows you can do this as well. And I’m sure she’s waiting for you… And you know she won’t be impressed if you keep her waiting too long.”
Thinking about Laura, stuck on New Caprica going through Gods knew what, set his jaw determinedly, and the woman before him smiled more widely.
“That’s the spirit,” she said. “Bring them home.”
As time progressed, Bill grew more accepting of her presence, but was very careful not to address her in public. Her comment about Baltar had remained with him, and the more he thought about it, the more it seemed to fit. It didn’t sit well with him that he was acting like that lunatic, but took comfort in the fact that his vision was helping him – she certainly hadn’t prompted him to bang his own head into the bulkhead, whereas whoever it was Baltar envisioned must be the explanation for the several occasions people had witnessed the doctor do just that.
During meetings ‘Laura’ would sit opposite Bill so he could listen to her without looking away from the people who were speaking to him. She would offer comment on occasion; suggestions or improvements, but most of the time, she just offered him moral support. Assuring him that, despite Lee’s protests, going back to New Caprica was the right decision.
Helo laughed at his commanding officer during one such meeting, and Bill’s eyes snapped quickly to his XO, while his mind ran through the last few minutes to see if he had done something worth laughing at.
“What?” he asked Helo, his expression stern.
“Oh, nothing,” Helo shrugged it off.
“No one laughs at me for nothing,” he declared.
Helo nodded. “Okay… That just sounded like something the Pres - … Laura Roslin might say.”
Bill laughed once, desperately ignoring the melodious sound of ‘Laura’ giggling beside Helo.
“Well, then I guess,” Bill said. “It’s the best idea I’ve had all day.”
‘Laura’ was never present for his meetings with Sharon. He wondered sometimes if this was because he knew she wouldn’t approve. Regardless, however, he was doing what needed to be done. There was only one person on his ship who would be able to infiltrate Cylon defences, and such infiltration was the only way to get his people back.
“I seem to be around a lot more lately,” ‘Laura’ observed one night as Bill sat in his quarters, double-checking the latest plans.
She sat down beside him on the sofa, folding one leg underneath her, and resting her arm along the back of the seat as she settled herself facing him.
“I hadn’t noticed,” he murmured in response, his attention remaining focussed on his papers.
She laughed, and trailed one finger down the back of his neck as she said, “Maybe you do need help. Now you’re failing to notice your own hallucination.”
He pulled his head away from her hand.
“Or maybe you’re not,” she grinned.
“Laura,” he said, warning to his tone.
She raised her eyebrows in question, face a picture of innocence, and he shook his head again, realising he was chastising a creation of his mind for its behaviour.
“I have got to stop this,” he said, standing up and pressing his head into his hands.
“Why?” she asked, remaining seated. “What harm is it doing?”
“The future of humanity rests in the hands of someone who is talking through plans with an apparition!” he snapped, standing with his back to her.
“And, as a result, are you making irrational decisions?”
He sighed angrily. “I don’t know.”
“You do know,” she stated calmly. “This has been your life for over forty years. You know if the decisions you are making are plausible or completely insane.”
“I know I’m completely insane,” he grumbled.
“That may be… But as long as you come up with an effective way of getting our people off that planet and away from the Cylons, your level of sanity is irrelevant.”
He turned slowly to face her now. “Somehow, I don’t think the real Laura Roslin would say that.”
She frowned. “Well, you obviously do think she would say that, because I just said it.”
He stared at her for a moment, considering whether or not she was right. If he was still making logical and effective decisions, then did it matter that he was doing so with the assistance of a ‘vision’? After all, he had felt a lot more in control, and his mind and direction seemed a lot clearer, since she had been around. Did it matter how he came to formulate the rescue, just as long as he did?
“You have an answer for everything, don’t you?” he muttered.
A smile lit up her entire face and it hit him that, insane or not, he didn’t want to do this without her.
“You wouldn’t want me any other way,” she smirked.
His head thrashed from side to side; his arms reaching out, mumbled shouts and screams coming from deep in his throat; ‘no’ the only discernible word.
“Bill?” she said softly. “Bill… Bill!”
He snapped awake, his eyes catching sight of the woman sitting beside him. Instantly his arms wrapped around her, pulling her to him.
“Oh thank the Gods, Laura,” he said holding her tight against him. “I couldn’t get to you. The Cylons were behind you and I couldn’t – ” He had to stop, breathless from the exertion of his nightmare.
“Bill, calm down,” she instructed, tenderly stroking his back.
“I couldn’t – ”
She pulled back from him and took his head in her hands to make him focus. “Calm down. You need to be – ”
“I thought I’d lost – ”
She closed the distance between them, pressing her lips against his to silence him. He responded for a second, before pulling back and looking at her with a confused and saddened frown.
“You need to calm down,” she told him, by way of an explanation.
He rubbed a hand across his face. “You’re not…”
She shook her head and placed a reassuring hand on his arm. “Tomorrow, Bill…”
He shook his head vigorously. “It didn’t work. There were too many of them.”
He tried to get off his rack, but she stopped him, pulling him back down to sit beside her.
“It was a nightmare, Bill…” she said quietly, gently caressing his cheek, making him turn to face her. “You need to forget it. And get some rest. The plan will fail if you’re not completely with it.”
He took hold of her hand and lowered it from his cheek. “I need to check over – ”
“You need to stop!” she snapped. “It was a nightmare… Don’t start doubting yourself, Bill. Your crew doesn’t doubt you. The people on New Caprica won’t be doubting you. Your plan is as good as it possibly can be. Nothing you do to it now could make a difference. There are too many people involved, and no way you can contact them all… The only thing you can do now is lie down and sleep.”
“I can’t sleep,” he said, gruffly.
She smiled sympathetically. “Okay… But at least lie down… We need you to be able to think on your feet tomorrow.”
He realised he was still holding her hand, and he studied it for a moment before gripping it with both of his. “I hope we’re not too late,” he whispered.
She nudged closer to him, placing her other arm around his shoulders, supportively. “You know you’re not too late,” she whispered back.
She was there throughout the rescue, simply standing beside him, placing her hand reassuringly atop his when his doubts began to surface.
And she was there when he addressed the reformed fleet, welcoming them home.
But when he stepped into the President’s office on Colonial One, he was alone.
“Bill,” Laura said to him, rising from her seat behind her desk; a smile on her lips, and tears in her eyes as she walked towards him.
The smile was infectious. “Laura,” he replied, starting slightly when she wrapped her arms around him, and held him tightly.
“I knew you could do it,” a voice whispered softly in his ear. “Tell her she got you through this. Don’t miss another chance.”
“It’s so good to see you,” Laura was saying, her voice slightly muffled by the shoulder of his that she was leaning on.
He closed his eyes and relaxed into their embrace, relishing the feeling of actually holding her. Smiling and resisting the urge to laugh, he held her tighter and replied, “It’s good to see you, too.”