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Unsteady (Hold On To Me)

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“Miss Roslin?”

Laura finished wiping the whiteboard and turned around, her eyes falling on a boy with floppy black hair she was more than familiar with. He’d been in her class for the last year, a star pupil like she didn’t see many, and they had spent an increasingly longer time together. 

“Of course, you can stay,” she replied to his silent question. He gave her a smile and sat in his usual seat. 

It wasn’t through the boy’s fault that he was in her classroom after class like any sort of detention, not at all. Since the beginning of the year, he’d stayed with her after school while she marked tests or dealt with paperwork and he waited for his mother to pick him up. The thing was, though, that he stayed later and later, and Laura was starting to get worried.

If only his parents would tell her they got off work late and he needed to stay at school for a while, she’d understand, but nothing of the sort had happened. She’d tried to open conversation with his mother, but she’d shut Laura down. His father was nowhere to be seen. She hadn’t had the pleasure of meeting him in the whole of the last year, and no one had come to the last parent-teacher conference. Of course, she could always tell those parents that no child could stay after the end of school, but where would he go?

Laura watched the boy open his history textbook and bury his nose in it. She noted the absence of his younger brother today, and frowned. Maybe she should check in Maya’s classroom for the 3rd grader. They were rarely apart in those moments where she watched them after class. 

“Lee, what are you doing here?” a deep, stern voice resonated in the room, too loud for the quiet classroom.

Laura turned her head to a man standing in the doorway, his bulky frame taking almost the entire width of the door, with Lee’s brother trailing behind him. Five minutes after class ended, that had to be a new record. If this was the boys’ father, maybe she’d get to go home early tonight.

“Hi Miss Roslin,” the little boy chirped with an energetic wave.

“Hi Zak,” Laura smiled at him and stood up, making her way to the door to greet the adult.

“I was waiting for mom to come,” Lee replied to the earlier question as he closed his textbook and put it away in his bag. He closed the zipper and joined the group at the door.

“Lee and Zak regularly stay in my classroom after class, Mister Adama. They get a chance to do their homework, but surely a regular schedule would be more beneficial to them,” Laura said.

“Captain Adama,” he corrected and extended his hand and she shook it with equal strength, looking into his piercing eyes. She never let parents - men in general - intimidate her, and she wouldn’t start now.

Military. The Colonial Fleet uniform gave it away, but just from the way he held himself, she should have guessed. 

“Laura Roslin,” she replied, although he must have known that, as she occupied the school’s director chair on top of being Lee’s teacher for the second year in a row. “Oh there’s something I wanted to discuss with you,” she said as Adama had already turned around to leave.

He spun back around, quirking an eyebrow and waiting for her to speak. Her eyes were attracted to a pink scar between his temple and his forehead, but she quickly looked away. None of her business. 

“Captain Adama, is there a way Lee could have access to a networked computer?” Laura asked.

“I don’t see how this is relevant to his education,” he replied, and Lee shifted from foot to foot behind him.

“Sometimes, his homework requires research,” Laura explained. This was a first -- she’d never had to explain to a parent why technology would help their child, and now there she was. Who said that just because she was over 40 she couldn’t have any more firsts?

“Do you know how many lives we lost because someone wanted a faster computer?” Adama asked, and Laura didn’t even try to refrain a roll of her eyes.

“So you’re one of those people, you’re actually afraid of computers,” Laura said with a small huff. “I’m not asking you to give the Cylons a backdoor into your ship, I’m only telling you that, as an educational tool, your son would benefit from it.”

“Duly noted,” Adama said curtly. “Good evening, Miss Roslin.”

As he turned around and left, Laura suppressed a groan. How one person could be this hardheaded was beyond her. The fact that he was in the Colonial Fleet didn’t suffice to explain his absence from all school-related matters and his disinterest in the fact that his children spent a lot of additional and unneeded time in school just waiting for someone, but Laura couldn’t, and wouldn’t interfere. This wasn’t her first rule for nothing.

#

A better Caprica City. Richard Adar for Mayor. 

The poster was still glued there, on the corner of Laura’s street, nagging her. It had been a year since Richard’s election to Mayor, but they had never taken off all the posters they’d plastered around the city. She’d tried to rip it off herself, digging her nails in her ex’s frakking face, but it had held on. Now she was forced to see it every time she left the house, her stomach tightening. 

Looking away, she walked faster to her house and unlocked the door, closing it behind her and leaning against it. Images associated with him used to be pleasant, but it had been years since the thought of him had been anything but hurtful.

The beeping of a machine. A flat line. So much smoke. Those words he’d uttered at the weakest point of her life.

Laura clenched her trembling hands into fists and walked to the kitchen where she poured herself a glass of wine. The picture of Cheryl’s graduation tumbled to the floor and she bent down to pick it up. Her father had insisted on keeping everything, every picture, every birthday card, every postcard, and the house was flooded with them. Laura couldn’t get herself to pack at least some of them up and put them away. She looked at the picture, at her beaming sisters, her proud father, and her heart ached for what used to be. 

She stuck the picture back to the fridge, next to a sonogram copy where her father had excitedly written ‘GRANDPA’ at the top. 

Picking up her glass again, she moved to the first floor, to the room she’d made into her de facto office.

#

Silence greeted Bill’s return to his and Carolanne’s apartment. Had she finally moved out? Before he’d even stepped foot on the planet, she’d told him she couldn’t pick up the kids from school and he’d have to do it. This was probably how it was going to be from now on. She’d drop full parental responsibilities whenever he was planetside. Nevermind that he hadn’t slept in almost 24 hours.

Zak and Lee immediately headed to their room and Bill looked at the papers on the kitchen counters. Divorce papers, with Carolanne’s signature already applied. He resisted the urge to grab a random pen and sign them; he had to read the whole thing first. Only then could he sign and be free. He sat down on a stool -- those godsdamn high stools Carolanne had insisted they get because they were trendy but that he kept falling off of -- and began reading.

In the end, he was all too happy to append his signature to the document. After months - years -  of fighting, of avoiding being home, of the tension of uncertainty, it was finally official. He was a free man, not that he was going to do anything with that.

The keys sitting next to the document answered his earlier question, and he breathed out a long sigh. She was finally out of there. He’d never spent a lot of time at their apartment anyway, but to know that she wouldn’t come back, that she wouldn’t drink and push him into a fight or throw objects at his face was such a relief that he found himself smiling.

“Boys, how about takeout?” he asked as he made his way to their room.

Lee looked up from his book. “Scorpian?” he asked.

“Noodles,” Zak said at the same time. “I want noodles.”

“Too late. I called it,” Lee said with a shrug.

“No fair,” Zak frowned at him and looked at Bill. “Dad, where is Mom?”

“She won’t be here tonight. You know when we talked about how we’d live in different houses from now on?”

Zak nodded. “Because she screams a lot?”

Bill’s heart tightened. “It’s the best for both of us. But don’t you worry,” he sighed. He was usually so absent that he never had to bother with heart-to-hearts with his children, but now that he was on his own with them, he had no idea how to proceed. Lee was 10 and Zak, only 8, how was he supposed to explain everything that had gone on with their mother? Should he even?

Luckily, Zak went back to his game and Lee to his book, and Bill called to have some noodles delivered, getting them milder for the boys. The last thing he wanted was for them to choke on spicy food on the first night he had them alone. Carolanne had pushed for joint custody, so he’d have to get used to the responsibilities because he’d get the boys half of the weekends and holidays. He stayed in space for longer than two weeks, sometimes, so they’d hopefully come to an arrangement about that. 

When dinner was delivered and the three of them sat around the table, Bill having left the jacket of his uniform on the couch, Lee spoke again. 

“Dad, why did you tell Miss Roslin that people died because they wanted a faster computer?” he asked, his wide eyes studying his father’s face.

Bill let out a groan. He’d never met Lee’s teacher, she must have been new there, but they’d already butted heads. Therefore, that Lee kept talking about her was unnerving. “Because it’s true,” he replied, sending a look to Zak who loudly sucked a noodle in his mouth. “It’s what happened during the Cylon War. Did you learn about that?”

“A little bit. But they’re not going to come here, are they?” Lee asked with a frown. 

“We signed an armistice. The war has been over for a long time,” Bill said, taking a sip of water.

Lee cocked his head to the side. “But you still have to go protect the Colonies against them?”

“The Colonial Fleet does more than that, but yes, we’re also on the lookout. You’re safe, though,” Bill added, feeling like his eldest might get scared. 

“I want to see your viper,” Zak whined.

“If we’re safe, then why did you tell Miss Roslin you didn’t want a networked computer at home?” Lee asked again.

Bill closed his eyes, pinching the bridge of his nose. What ideas was this teacher feeding his son? “Because,” he said at last, and focused on food.