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dancing through the underground

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Laura Roslin is a popular political analyst with a primetime network slot, and Bill Adama a retired admiral, regular commentator, and professional pain in her ass. To say they don’t see eye to eye would be... a drastic understatement, but their spirited arguments keep the viewers tuning in and her network is not above taking advantage of that, especially after she successfully renegotiates her contract for a 15% raise (still 10% less than Richard, the frakwit host of Afternoons with Adar makes, she thinks with no small amount of bitterness).

Annoyance isn’t nearly a strong enough word for what she’s feeling when they railroad her into some celebrity dance show she’s never heard of on an affiliate network, even more so when she finds out who her partner is.

“Please tell me you’re joking,” she says, accepting a seltzer water from her apologetic PA after he tells her that she and Bill Adama are expected at Dualla Dance Studios that evening after The Roslin Report airs.

“Uh, ma’am?”

She sighs. “Nevermind, Billy.”


Their first rehearsal is almost exactly as painful as she expected it would be (the phrase ‘unmitigated disaster’ comes to mind), and their coach keeps chiding them for both trying to lead. Laura nearly storms off the dancefloor the third time Admiral Adama steps on her feet, quickly muttering an apology she doesn’t believe for a minute is genuine.

“Kill me now,” she mumbles under her breath.

“Excuse me?”

“Look, we both know you don’t like me, and Admiral, no offense but I certainly wouldn’t have picked you for this. The network has me under contract- what do they have on you?” She tries to turn them one way, while he tries to go the opposite direction, they end up standing awkwardly in the middle of the parquet flooring that covers the studio. Unseen at the edge of the room, their coach despairs of ever getting them to sync up.

“I have no issue with you, Miss Roslin,” the admiral grumbles, and she rolls her eyes. He has a funny way of showing it, what with disagreeing with every single word that comes out of her mouth. She’s still annoyed about their earlier argument during filming- how is it even possible for the man to disagree with her on the concept of tax incentives for companies that employ veterans?

He falls silent for a moment, taking advantage of the quiet moment to take the lead, guiding them through a series of complex steps she wouldn’t have expected him to approach with such finesse. She waits him out.

“My son,” he says at length, “hosts Legal Brief.”

“Lee Adams is your son?”

He nods. “His professional moniker. He prefers not to be associated with my name.”

“Does he know why you’re doing this?”

His silence is answer enough but over the next hour and a half dozen offhand remarks, she gets a halting sketch of Adama family relations- a family man with a sense of duty too developed to overlook his military obligations, an ex-wife who could only put up with so much distance, two boys who didn’t understand and enough regret between the four of them to swamp a battlestar.

She doesn’t pity him. She does understand him a little better though, even as they switch topics, resuming their earlier political debate and seamlessly drifting towards another.

While they’re not thinking about who’s leading and who’s following, they actually manage to take a turn around the dancefloor without any toes being stepped on.

(Since they’ve landed on a spirited discussion of the current administration’s defense spending policies, impassioned voices echoing across the dance hall, Dee only counts it as half a victory.

This is going to take a while.)


Laura has to admit that they’ve made some progress after the next few sessions, though she’s honestly expecting that they’ll get knocked out in the first round of Celebrity Danceoff and then life can return to normal. It seems easier to just go along with it until the inevitable happens and then they can pretend this whole thing was just some strange aberration.

What she is not expecting is for their coach to interrupt the latest round of squabbling on the newest education bill as they make their way through a staid rendition of a waltz.

“Okay, hold up!” Dee calls, letting the music screech to a halt and deftly maneuvering around the camera crew to swap in a different record. “I’ve seen more passion in the chicken dance. Let’s try something different.”

Laura isn’t expecting Dee to throw them in the deep end with a fast-paced salsa number after a cursory rundown of the steps, but somehow the frenetic pace seems to work for them, and what they miss in technical perfection their natural back and forth seems to make up for nicely.


Surprisingly, she finds herself having fun, and if some part of her secretly looks forward to the Wednesday nights and Saturday mornings when they practice, it’s only because she’d forgotten how much she actually enjoyed dancing.

She’s not sure whether she, Bill, or Dee is more startled when they advance to the second round, and then the third.

Not long after they sail through the third round of the dance show, Richard Adar crowds her into a corner of the now-empty news studio a few minutes after filming ends for her show. Same old Richard, always the charmer if he thinks it’ll get him what he wants, leaning on nostalgia and a decade plus of history between them. They came into this business together and he’s not above using familiarity against her. But they’ve been down this road before, and she didn’t like who she was around him back then. She’s still almost tempted despite having told him multiple times that she’s done. Only almost, though; she pushes him away half a second too late to see the shadow backing away from behind the green screen.

“Go home, Richard,” she says, and walks away.


Round four is the second to last, and from the beginning something is off. She and Bill have managed to reach what she’d call- if not a tentative friendship- at least a far less adversarial rapport than they ever had before. Quite often now, it’s friendly competition sparking their bickering more often than any real discord- she’s discovered she actually likes arguing politics and literature with him and she doesn’t think he minds either if the way he smiles at her is any indication.

Laura knows what’s nagging at her and it has everything to do with the doctor’s appointment awaiting her come Monday morning, a cold lump of fear that’s been lodged halfway down her throat since she found a lump of another sort a few nights before. She has no idea what’s wrong with Bill though, and they struggle to get in sync with each other.

The last seven weeks have been almost fun, something that’s been sorely lacking in her life for longer than she cares to analyze. She frowns when he misses a step he’d had no trouble with the week before. It’s uncharacteristically quiet too- no good natured quibbling today, just the music playing over Dee’s record player, the sound of their steps and heavy silence between them like a boulder.

“What’s gotten into you?” she asks when they pause before starting the routine over.
Bill doesn’t answer, and it’s a little ridiculous to pretend he hasn’t heard her when they’re standing less than a foot apart, but he does so anyway.


Saturday afternoon taping rolls around and they are out of sync before the music even has a chance to get started. They stumble over steps that should come easily to both of them, she misses one of her cues and a few seconds later he nearly trips her, pulling back and catching her at the last moment in an ungainly recovery that makes them look every bit the amateurs they are.

It’s a frustrating performance and she knows color is rising in her cheeks when they exit the stage but she keeps her head held high, even as they receive the lowest score of the night. She doesn’t look at Bill when they don’t make the cut, nor does she watch the episode when it airs that night.

Sunday night, Dee texts her as the live results show airs, telling her she better be ready to work hard on Wednesday- apparently the viewers don’t get enough of them bickering on her show and used the season’s Majority Save boon to keep them on Celebrity Danceoff.


Monday morning comes and goes. She tries not to think about anything other than discussing the day’s political news with her commentators that afternoon but she knows it’s one of the dullest episodes they’ve ever filmed.

She leaves the studio quickly, ignores the curious look Admiral Adama shoots her and pretends she doesn’t hear when he tries to catch her, her turn to ignore the questioning gaze that rests on her. Goes home in a daze, calls her lawyer to schedule a meeting, quietly goes about the business of setting her affairs in order.
It turns out that dying involves a lot of paperwork and six to eight months seem a very poor substitute for the rest of her life.


Dee decides to go for broke when they start rehearsing for the finale, leading them through the steps of an ambitious tango routine.

Laura steps behind a paneled divider the third time her phone rings, conducting a hushed conversation that echoes further than she realizes in the wide open space of the dance hall.

(“I told you last week and six months ago and last year too Richard, no means no. Go spend some time with your kids and your wife,” she spits out, ending the call before he can reply and silencing her phone.)

“Where were we?” she asks, meeting up with Bill and Dee in the center of the dancefloor, a smile she doesn’t really feel firmly in place.

“Okay, start from doble frente and go to the end,” Dee answers, moving them around like marionettes until they’re positioned the way she wants, Bill behind her and off to the side slightly, arms wrapped around her in an approximation of an embrace with their hands tangled together.

“You okay?”

She tries not to startle when he whispers in her ear, instead mentally going through the next few steps of the routine as the music starts up again.

“Of course,” she answers. “I’m fine.”

It’s easier to pour all of her disquiet and pain into the dance than it is to think about what comes next. She’s seen how this goes: endless weeks of treatment, of sick, of almost dead and wondering if actually dying would be better than the torture of grasping for even a chance at staying alive.

She doesn’t want to think about any of it right now, and so she doesn’t.

Something clicks in a way it never quite has before for them, and it’s almost terrifying in its intensity, especially since she’s only finding it now, when she’s never going to have the time to figure it out. For a little while she lets herself forget about cancer and doloxin and radiation treatments and the six to eight months she has. She lives in the moment and lets it stretch into an hour as they dance, thinking of nothing but blue eyes, sure hands, and steady feet as they fly across the dancefloor.


Season finale night rolls around and Laura’s dress is a shade of red that makes her feel daring- she figures she can use the extra courage.

Bill stares appreciatively when they meet up in the wings before they go on stage.

“That’s a nice color on you- brings out your eyes.” His rumbling voice is almost a caress, equal parts soothing and tantalizing, and she smirks her thanks at him, but her eyes are watery and concern immediately furrows his brow, a question forming that she cannot answer.


She’s never been so grateful as she is when their names are called and she doesn’t have to answer.

She’d probably say yes to whatever he asked and that’s neither fair to him nor honest. (She’s not okay, he can’t help, and no she doesn’t want to talk about it regardless of whether she needs to. What is there to say anyway?)

“We’ll talk later?” Bill says, more a statement than a question. She gives a non-committal hum and takes his hand as they go on stage.

The red dress helps. The way he squeezes her hand before they seamlessly fall into their routine helps more.

Life is markedly unfair- all this time thinking she hated him and as it turns out, she doesn’t, not even a little. Nothing for it but to let his gaze anchor her as she lets her heart bleed all over the dance floor.

The crowd gives them a standing ovation, the judges are floored, she catches Dee sniffling into Billy’s handkerchief on the sidelines and she flashes Bill a shaky smile as they take a bow, still holding hands.

They wait around on stage for a few hours while the votes are tallied and the season recaps play, she keeps up a steady stream of nervous chatter and doesn’t let him get a word in edgewise unless it’s to bicker with her about the upcoming midterms or the book they’ve been talking about this week. Tries to hold herself together when she sees footage of their first few practices during the recaps and was that really only two and a half months ago? she wonders idly, and then does a double take as the footage continues, all of a sudden feeling very naked as she realizes she’s watching herself fall in love on national television.

(it doesn’t surprise anyone when they win.)


There’s a cash prize that she doesn’t need and probably won’t be around long enough to use, and a lot of publicity shots and promos that she frankly doesn’t want to do but… contracts and all. So she lets them trot her and Bill out for a photoshoot. They go through one of their dance routines, periodically halted for various shots by the photographer, a blonde woman with a sunny accent and a bit of a chip on her shoulder when it comes to her artistic vision.

Bill dips her, and she can’t quite hide her smile on the way back up. He really is a lovely dancer when they’re not fighting each other.

“Pause!” the photographer, D’Anna something, calls out.

It’s getting annoying, especially when they’ve been halted right on the edge of her losing her balance, but Bill’s hands are sure and steady and she knows he won’t drop her.

“I’ve got you,” he murmurs just loud enough for her ears, and she instinctively relaxes just that little bit more into his hold.

“I know.” It doesn’t cost her as much to admit it as she expected it might. Bill’s never dropped her, never let her down like that even when they were clumsy and out of sync and had no idea how to move together.

Her breath catches in her chest and she decides to just enjoy it, a selfish indulgence to be sure, but also the safest she’s felt in years. Richard was never safety. Other things- lust, dislike, habit, but never safety.

She tries to steady herself when they finish their routine, hands clasped as they take a theatrical bow as instructed, ignoring the sound of cameras clicking away.

It’s just a moment, and then D’Anna’s calling out for them to strike various poses- side by side, arm in arm, and then they’re done after extracting promises of advance copies of the photographs so they can veto any images they don’t like.


She hears him walking behind her- he’s been trying to talk to her for the last two weeks since the show ended- but she can’t. She wouldn’t even know where to start- so she darts out the door of Dee’s studio and doesn’t look back.


D’Anna sends her advance copies of the photos, a post-it note stuck on the manila envelope that reads ‘in case you haven’t figured it out yet’ and is it really so obvious that even a press photographer feels the need to butt in?

(She opens the envelope, finds several posed shots she recognizes and a dozen more candids that she doesn’t, taken over the course of the show when she had no idea the cameras were on them. Mistrust turning to guarded respect to camaraderie to… something more. She knows what it is on her side, but seeing it mirrored in his eyes is a revelation she doesn’t know what to do with.)


She goes back to work for the three days in between the photoshoot that marks the official end of Celebrity Danceoff and when her treatments begin.

They argue about policy onscreen and she makes herself scarce when the cameras aren’t rolling, answers Bill’s missed calls with vague text messages about trying to catch up and sits in her dressing room jotting down addendums to her will for her lawyer to review.

(The fact that she has no living relatives makes things both easier and more difficult. Her house will be sold, the proceeds split between Billy and a donation to a local cancer treatment center in her mother’s memory. The rest of her assets will go to a fund for survivors of accidents caused by drunk drivers and a local children’s home. She very carefully does not think about everything she wanted to do with her life but never got around to.)


Thursday morning rolls around, and she’s awake with the sun despite being off work for the next two weeks. Doctor Baltar will be hosting the show in her absence and the gods only know what the lunatic will say, but at least he’s usually good for ratings.

Her first treatment is scheduled at lunchtime, and so she putters around the house trying to burn off nervous energy. She jots down a few notes for Billy to follow up on, reads the news online with a steaming cup of coffee, manages a few pages of a book she’s reading for research before she gives up and throws a few pieces of clothing in a bag in case they keep her at the hospital overnight.

It feels like a lifetime passes before she gets out of the house mid-morning, driving through streets that are relatively empty after the morning rush.

The hospital is large and imposing, it looks the exact opposite of restful and healing, and she stares into the fountain out front for some time before hurrying inside.

The doctors go through the same things they’ve told her several times now, what to expect from the Doloxin, potential side effects, and how long she’ll need to stay before she can go home after the first treatment. She gets a quick physical, a bed, an IV of fluids, and then it’s time.


It’s been at least an hour, she thinks, and she is floating on a rising tide of nausea and what she can privately admit is a minor pity party when there’s a soft knock on the door.

It opens a moment later, and she doesn’t bother opening her eyes or moving, having found the single position in the bed that doesn’t seem to make her exponentially more nauseated. Besides, she’s expecting no one other than perhaps a doctor or nurse to give her an update on how much longer this session will last.

When there’s only silence, she peeks open one eye, then the other.

Bill looks like he’s not sure of his welcome, but she sighs and musters a smile that’s equal parts sheepish and sardonic as she greets him. “Surprise.”

“You could’ve told me,” he chides gently, taking a seat at her bedside and taking the hand that doesn’t have multiple IV lines connected. She wants to argue but his hand in hers is doing more for the rolling sense of unease that’s been tormenting her than any of the palliative medications they’ve given her.

She suspects Billy is the weak link in the chain-link fence separating the two parts of her life, but regardless of what she should tell Bill (’go home, leave me alone, this is a lost cause’), she finds herself simply holding on.

“It’s not the sort of thing you can just drop into a casual conversation about books, Bill. And my odds aren’t great.”

“It’ll be fine. I’ve never cared much about math anyway,” he answers, holding up a book. It’s a paperback copy of the one he gave her last week. “Have you started it yet?”

She shakes her head. “Read to me?”

Bill smiles, tucks the blanket up over her shoulders and settles in, all without letting go of her other hand, before flipping the book open.

“It started like it always did. With a body…”


Six months later when the doctors tell her she’s in remission, she smiles and kisses him like she has something to live for.