Chapter 1: Captain Adama
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.
Chapter 2: Galactica
“Eyes over here, everyone. I need your full attention. Today-” Laura said, taking on a voice that never failed to capture the children’s attention. ”Jakob, shush. If you don’t listen, you’re staying at school with the 3rd graders today,” she gave the boy a stern look.
“Sorry, Miss Roslin,” Jakob replied, looking properly chastised.
“Today, thanks to Mayor Adar,” Laura started again, glancing at Richard next to her. He smiled at her and put his hand on the small of her back. She stared at him, head tilted to the side. Take it off or I’ll break your arm . He took it away. “we are going to visit a working Battlestar. It is stationed over Caprica at the moment and is doing some tests and training, so there will be no danger. You will get to see a battleship that fought during the Cylon War. I need you on your very best behaviour. It is a very big ship, and I want no running, no screaming, and no wandering outside of the group. There will be a test on what you’ve learned today, so I expect you to pay attention. Is that clear?” she asked, making eye contact with every single child.
“We’re going to see fights?” one of the students asked.
“You’ll be perfectly safe, don’t worry, Lisa. You’ll be with one of us the entire time.”
Since three classes were involved in the trip, Laura was accompanied by two other teachers and two parents acting as chaperone. Richard had invited himself, of course, his daughter being one of the students in the group. Apparently, the job of Mayor didn’t keep him busy enough and he had to waste a day accompanying a group of 10 year-olds. Laura had tried her best to dissuade him from coming, but deep down, she knew why he’d wanted to join: to have her trapped with him and get her back.
“Any other questions?” she asked, checking her watch. Still time to spare.
“What are we gonna do there?”
Laura clenched her jaw and looked down, taking a breath before she answered. “We’re going to… take a tour, learn about how the ship functions, speak to some actual people who work there. And then we’ll be back here tonight.”
Richard’s daughter was probably not anything different from the other kids, but to Laura, she was. The sight of her brought back too many painful memories, even ten years later. The only time Laura had taken advantage of her position as school director had been to place Maddie Adar in someone else’s class. She couldn’t handle seeing her every day.
She counted and recounted the kids as they boarded the ship that would take her to the Battlestar. 82. She took her seat at the front and grabbed some tests out of her bag she still needed to mark. She didn’t even get through one before Richard sat down on the seat next to hers and started talking.
Laura sighed. It would be so much easier if he didn’t.
“What do you want, Richard?” she asked.
“You,” Richard said simply. “Loosen up a little, Laura. It will be fun. Just you and I, like the old times,” Richard said in his smooth voice, placing a hand on Laura’s thigh.
“Nothing’s going to happen,” Laura replied, her voice tight.
“Come on, Laura. It will be good. Remember how much fun we had?” Richard asked sweetly, his hand travelling higher.
Laura used to have trouble resisting him; that was how she’d got into that mess back then, after all... It was the comfort of the familiar, the pull of a bad habit. And what was the harm?
Not today. She knew what was the harm, now.
She took Richard’s hand and pushed it away. He shrugged. “All right,” he said, picking up his copy of Caprica Times . He spent the majority of the flight reading his newspaper, and Laura had peace to deal with her own work.
She checked her watch about ten minutes before landing and her eye was attracted to a picture on one of the newspaper pages. She didn’t have to look at the accompanying article, she knew what it’d say. Gulping at the sight of him, her lip trembled with the effort to hold back a sob. She sprang to her feet and locked herself in the tiny toilet.
Her stomach heaved and she put a hand in front of her mouth, barely managing not to vomit her whole breakfast. She leaned against the door and closed her eyes, forcing deep breaths into her lungs.
So much smoke. She runs down the street in her nightgown and shoes, blood thumping so hard in her ears she doesn’t even hear herself screaming. There’s so much smoke.
She flashed water on her face as the announcement came that they’d be arriving any minute now. She sighed, and sat at her seat again. Richard didn’t look up, and the entirety of her group of students stood with their noses pressed to the windows, never mind that she’d told them to stay sitting at all times. She glanced out to see what got their attention and was met with the glorious sight of a Battlestar, two vipers flying above it. Oh gods, it was so big, what if she lost a student in there?
On the side of the warship is written, in big, bold white letters: Galactica.
Lieutenant Rossi greeted them as they left their ship and set foot on the Battlestar. Laura counted her students again. 82.
Their group split into three more manageable factions with two adults each, and unfortunately, Richard stayed with Laura instead of following his daughter’s group. Oh, bother.
She counted her new group. 27. Her own class.
Lt Rossi stayed with them and walked them through the warship, talking about what was behind every door they passed. The children asked all their questions at the same time in an impossible cacophony. After ten minutes of headache-inducing babbles, Laura caught up with the front of the group and stood there. They all stopped walking, and Lt Rossi looked at her curiously.
“Class. Shush,” she said and waited until everyone went quiet. “Class rules still apply. We raise our hands and ask for permission to speak. Remember what I told you. People are working here, and we are guests, so we behave and we are as quiet as possible.”
Laura smiled at the young lieutenant, and she smiled back. “Thank you,” she said.
Laura nodded. “Thank you for showing us around. Please, carry on.”
“We have a nice brig for anyone who’s naughty, too,” Lt Rossi added, and Laura could only chuckle at the shocked expression in some of the kids’ faces.
Three students raised their hands, each trying to go higher than the others. Lt Rossi picked the smaller one. “How many people are here right now?” she asked.
“We have a little over two thousand people on the ship at the moment,” the lieutenant replied, and the children’s gasps made Laura smile. She loved teaching this age group - old enough, but still impressionable.
Most students hung to Lt Rossi’s every word and followed her as closely as possible, except one who stayed slightly behind with the adults. He looked around, his eyes barely resting on one place before they moved to another, taking in every nook of the ship.
“Are you okay, Lee?” she asked.
Lee nodded. “My dad is a viper pilot.”
Ah, yes. Captain Adama whom she’d met the previous week was in the Colonial Fleet. Why wasn’t she surprised to find out he was a hotshot pilot?
“This is the Combat Information Center,” Lt Rossi explained. “This is where the commanding officer manages the ship and makes tactical decisions.”
“Can we see it?” one of the boys asked.
“Access is strictly restricted, so I can’t show you what it looks like. It is a very important part of the ship and a lot happens in there. It is like the office of your director at school. You can’t go in there whenever you want.”
“I’ve been there,” the boy replied, almost proudly.
“You were punished. There’s nothing to be proud of,” Laura reminded him. He narrowed his eyes but ultimately shrugged.
They continued the tour until most of the kids’ stomachs had started growling. They stopped in a room big enough for their group, one that had seemingly been emptied out just for them. When Richard sat down next to her, Laura realised how good it had been to have him keep quiet during the morning tour. He’d been mostly typing away on his phone, providing entertainment to the kids on the times he tripped. They wouldn’t see the Mayor of Caprica City tripping and catching himself while trying to keep his dignity every day.
Laura took a bite of her sandwich as she assessed her group’s energy level. Some of the kids had already appeared tired, and she couldn’t have them too worn out to pay attention. Would she have to change the day’s program? Her own feet had even started aching, and she had had the good sense not to wear heels today. She had definitely underestimated how much they’d be walking, and how large the ship was. Hopefully, they’d all feel better after lunch.
She counted her group again. 27.
The children seemed to have found his excitement again when they resumed their activity. Unfortunately for Laura, so had Richard.
“I’m going to Picon on business in a few days. Come with me. We’ll stay together in a hotel, some nice food, fine wine…” He turned his spotlight of a smile up a notch and nearly blinded her. “Come on, Laura, I haven’t seen you in a year. You’re not seeing anyone, are you? If you are, I won’t tell.”
“Has it already been a year? Time flies,” she replied, looking away from him.
It wasn’t that she hadn’t enjoyed herself. She had, but there was something sick about having sex with Richard after everything that happened between them; and that something had made her put a stop to this whole mess. Yes, she’d caved a year ago, but she’d felt so bad afterwards that she’d sworn she’d never go back to him again, no matter what.
“Thank you so much, lieutenant. We have all learned a lot today,” Laura said with a sincere smile, and Lt Rossi blushed slightly.
Laura’s group of students was talking to -- or assaulting with questions -- a pilot who’d agreed to share their experience once they ended their tour near the hangar deck. Laura kept an eye on them while taking the time to thank their guide. Richard stayed at her side instead of doing the thing he had supposedly come for, and she gritted her teeth. Soon, they’d be back on Caprica. Soon, she’d be rid of him.
“It was no trouble at all,” Lt Rossie replied. “I… you probably don’t remember, but you were my teacher in 4th and 5th grade. You were by far the best one I ever had. I can’t believe that was ten years ago, already.”
“How kind of you. Thank you.” Laura’s grin widened. She did always like to hear about her former students, especially to know what impact she’d had on the child’s life. Teacher was one of those jobs that have the potential to change a child’s life, but you never really know how you did, in the end, because the students leave school and live their life without looking back.
“Laura really is exceptional,” Richard added.
“I remember, in my last year, you told us you were going to have a baby. We all wrote a card,” Lt Rossi said. “We all came up with our own name ideas. It was ridiculous, I’m sure you don’t remember it,” she laughed.
Laura’s smile froze. “I remember it,” she said softly. “I still have it.”
Lt Rossi’s eyebrows shot up. “You do? That’s so sweet. What name did you go with in the end?”
“I…” Laura clenched her fist and glanced at Richard who, for once, had the good grace to stay quiet.
She looked around, desperately hoping for something that would prevent her from answering. She counted the students again. 26.
Another count. 26.
“I’m missing someone,” she said, taking a piece of paper out of her jacket. Lt Rossi looked around for the runaway child and Richard leaned against the bulkhead. Laura unfolded her class list and took a step towards the group again, standing in front of them. “Everyone. Eyes on me,” she said, loud enough to be heard above the children’s voices. She put a tick next to every name she called until only one was left that she hadn’t crossed off.
Lee Adama . Godsdammit.
“I’ll help you look. I know the ship,” Lt Rossi offered.
Laura nodded gratefully and turned a stern glare to Richard. “There are 26 of them. Keep an eye on them and not on your phone, and for the sake of the gods, don’t go anywhere. Stay here.”
Lt Rossi gaped slightly, but Laura didn’t care how she spoke to the Mayor of Caprica City at that moment. He’d been gnawing at her patience all day.
“I’m not one of your students that you need to scold,” Richard snapped as he straightened up, his voice hard. Good, she’d got his attention, at least.
“Sometimes, it feels like you are,” she replied before walking away.
They went back down the corridor they’d come from, but since they’d been standing in the same spot for twenty minutes, it was highly improbable that he’d been lost before that. She had even done another headcount when they had stopped by that pilot.
“Who are we missing?” Lt Rossi asked.
“Lee Adama. You might not have noticed him today. He’s been uncharacteristically quiet,” Laura said.
Lt Rossi stopped. “Is this Captain Adama’s son?”
Laura raised her eyebrows, waiting for the woman to continue, but she didn’t. “He’s aboard this ship, isn’t he?” she said with a sigh.
Great, first they butted heads, and now she’d lost his son. That wouldn’t earn her any points.
“He’s the CAG.”
‘He’s a viper pilot’ , Lee had said. He’d seemed down the whole day, which wasn’t like him, especially for the amount of time she’d heard him talk about Battlestars and vipers. Laura shook her head. What if he’d gone looking for his father?
“Where do you think he could be?” Laura asked. “Captain Adama, I mean.”
“There was an issue with one of the new pilots this morning before you arrived, and I think he might have been flying for a while. I’d say the crew quarters or the hangar deck, where we just came from.”
They retraced their steps -- again -- and passed the group of students on their way to the hangar deck. Not trusting Richard to pay attention to anything but himself, Laura counted the children as she walked. 26. She sighed.
The hangar deck was a lot bigger than Laura had first thought. They had to leave in close to an hour, what if that wasn’t enough time to search the whole deck? She’d have to ask for an announcement to be blasted across the whole ship and thoroughly embarrass herself.
Lt Rossi asked around, like the lifesaver that she was, and about a third of the way down the hangar deck, Laura saw a familiar figure. Lee stood in front of his father, talking animatedly.
“Lee,” Laura called, catching up to them. Lt Rossi saluted, but then left them alone. “Why did you leave the group? What did I say? I was really worried,” Laura said with a frown, catching her breath.
Lee looked down at the floor. He wasn’t used to being the target of Laura’s reprimanding voice. “I’m sorry,” he mumbled.
“It was my fault,” Captain Adama said, and Laura’s eyes moved to his face. A flush adorned his cheeks and his slightly tousled hair made him appear less stern than the last time Laura had seen him.
She quirked an eyebrow. “How so?”
“I promised to see Lee during the morning, but I was held up all day, so he came looking for me,” Captain Adama said. “He doesn’t deserve to be punished because of me.”
“So, who do I punish?” Laura asked, the teasing tone of her voice surprising even herself.
“I suppose I’ll go stand in the corner and think about what I did,” Captain Adama replied with a small upturn of his lips and Laura couldn’t help a giggle.
“You can call me Bill.”
“Bill…” Looking into his eyes, Laura momentarily forgot what she was going to say. She missed the way he smugly said ‘yes, that’s me’. “I’m glad Lee is safe,” she eventually said. She looked away from Bill’s face, noting he wore a different outfit than the last time she’d seen him. Not that she’d paid close attention to it. It was what she assumed to be a flight suit, except he’d taken the top off, exposing the greyish-green tanks that stretched over his toned chest.
“Dad, is this your viper?” Lee asked. Laura looked to where Lee was pointing; the viper standing nearest to them with the words William Adama “Husker” painted on the side of it.
Husker . Laura chuckled. All right.
“Yes, and I just flew it out today,” Bill said, running a hand on the side of his viper, an oddly intimate gesture for a machine.
“Can I get in?” Lee asked, his eyes wide.
Bill led Lee on the small ladder they used to board vipers. He easily lifted the boy and placed him into the seat, giving Laura a view of the ripple of hard muscles under his skin. She should have expected him to be somewhat athletic, as a soldier, but somehow, it still surprised her.
Bill showed his son some of the commands and explained things that Laura paid little attention to. This was the longest she’d heard him speak, and his deep voice was enthralling when it wasn’t telling her off. Just for that, she wouldn’t mind spending hours listening to him talk about viper specifications and controls.
“You’re a natural, son,” Bill said as he took Lee out of the cockpit and safely back on the deck. Another biceps flex. “You’ll make a great viper pilot.”
Lee looked down at his hands and bit his lip. “Dad, I… I don’t think I want to be a pilot. Is that okay?”
“A m-” Bill frowned and ran a hand over his face. “You get to decide what you want.”
Laura had listened intently for Bill’s reply, and she released a breath. He looked like one of those parents dying for their children to follow in their footsteps, but she might have interfered if he’d tried to force Lee into something he didn’t want to do. Luckily, there had been no need for her to break her first rule: don’t get mixed up in the children’s private lives.
“Lee is a very intelligent child,” Laura said. She’d meant to start the choice of middle schools conversation with his parents, but she had never seen much of them, and certainly never enough for a whole conversation. This might be as long as she was ever going to get, and she had a feeling that Bill being on his own territory might make things better.
“He is. He talks about you a lot.”
“He talks about his terrible teacher who gives way too much homework?” she asked.
Bill shook his head. “On the contrary. Are you new at the school?”
A disbelieving laugh bubbled in Laura’s throat. He couldn’t be serious. Bill’s face closed and his hard stare truly made it the same man she’d met in her classroom the previous week. “I’ve been teaching there for fifteen years. I’m actually the school director. This is the second year that Lee’s in my class.”
Bill pinched his lips, looking at her as if he might make her disappear. She ran a hand through her hair and held her head high. His gaze was attracted to her red curls and she narrowed her eyes. What in the hell had just happened?
“We’ll be going now. We ought to get back to the group.” Whatever she had done to cross him again, he wanted to be quiet to brood over it and, well, she would let him.
Lee said goodbye and followed Laura back to the group.
“Frak, who’s that?” Highland said with a whistle, coming to stop next to Bill and watch Laura walk away. “Look at that a-”
“She’s my son’s teacher,” Bill cut off with a growl, glaring at the other pilot. His almost possessive, protective reaction made no sense. He barely knew her and couldn’t act that way around all women he found attractive, especially the infuriating ones.
Now that he thought about it, he might have been too exhausted when they’d first met to notice just how much of a sight she truly was. The time he’d spent staring into her sharp green eyes had passed both slowly and quickly, and she’d had to distract him with the incredible colour of her voluminous curls. What truly puzzled him about their encounter -- apart from the fact that she’d openly laughed at him -- was her eyes, and the way she’d looked at him.
Laura’s eyes had followed him a little more than most people’s did. It was probably to make sure he wasn’t an unhinged parent ready to attack her. He remembered reading a story about a teacher being assaulted on Virgon in the newspaper last week; that job couldn’t be easy.
He hoped Lee wouldn’t be in too much trouble. The fact that his son had disobeyed his favourite teacher, the only topic of conversation ever on his mind, to come find him pulled at Bill’s heartstrings. He should have been there. But work and the needs of his position were unpredictable at times. It had always been that way.
He spotted the young lieutenant whom he’d seen accompany the class around Galactica and ran to catch up with her. Maybe he could probe her for info on Laura. “Lieutenant Rossi,” he called. She stopped. He wasn’t above pulling rank to get what he wanted.
“Captain Adama, sir,” she saluted.
“You were the one to give the tour to the school of the Mayor’s daughter, correct?” he asked. She nodded. “How were they?”
“Very energetic, sir. I only had one group, and they exhausted me. I don’t know how they do it.”
“The teachers,” she said with a slight frown. “I was a very chatty child, I must have given Miss Roslin a few headaches, come to think of it.”
Bill raised an eyebrow. “She was your teacher?” He did remember now Laura mentioning she’d been teaching for fifteen years.
“Yes, that’s why I requested to be one of the guides,” Rossi said. “Your son is in good hands. She cares a lot. She told me she even kept the card our class made her when she was expecting.”
Bill shook his head. What in the hell was wrong with him? He should be glad she had such an interest in her students as she seemed to have, and not question her motives. It wasn’t like he’d see a lot of her anyway; in just a short week, he’d embark on a six-week-long mission.
Chapter 3: The rules
Ever since Lee's speech in A Day In The Life about how his mother kept drinking, I wondered how it must have been for him and Zak, and I wanted to portray Bill eventually waking up to the fact that he was willingly abandoning his children and change the way he behaved toward them.
PS: playlist link has been moved to chapter 1 for easier access
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“Captain Adama, this is Laura Roslin. Something has happened.”
Laura had a set of rules she promised herself to live by, mostly decided on after that day:
- Do not interfere with your students’ private life
- Do not let anyone into your parents’ house
- Do not fall asleep in someone else’s bed
- Do not, under any circumstances, let Richard frak you over again
Today, she broke number one.
Two days earlier
Lee pushed away his brother’s hand. “You’re gonna mess it up!”.
“I want to draw a heart on it,” Zak frowned and Lee glared at him. “I’ll make my own card.”
“It’s my birthday,” Lee reminded him.
Laura tried not to pay attention, benched over the year’s budget, but she found herself keeping an ear on the boys’ conversation. A little over an hour since class was over, and they didn’t look like they’d go home anytime soon. She wondered if she should have spoken to Bill about that. She did mention it that first time, she remembered now, but he hadn’t replied.
Lee eventually got up and made his way to Laura’s desk. He put something on her desk and looked away shyly. She looked up and smiled at him. The card had an elaborate birthday cake drawn on it, with the words ‘ Birthday Party Invitation ’ written at the top. Was Lee inviting her to his birthday party? Surely, none of the kids that would be present wanted their teacher there.
She opened the card where more was written, including a date and a time. “That’s a lovely card, Lee,” she said, letting him explain in case the card wasn’t actually meant for her and he simply wanted her opinion on it.
“I am having a birthday party on Saturday,” Lee said. “Will you come?”
Laura chuckled fondly. “Am I invited?”
Lee nodded seriously. “Yes.”
“I’m honoured, thank you. I have to check if I’m free, but I will let you know?” she said diplomatically, unsure this was a good idea.
Her love of shaping young minds through teaching really was the only thing that that day hadn’t tainted, but seeing students as anything else but students -- as children with parents, with hopes and dreams… especially those around the age her own would be -- that, she couldn’t do. There was a reason why she’d made it a rule. If she wanted to continue teaching, this had to be the boundary. If she started thinking of them as their parents’ cherished children, she would be lost. It was selfish, perhaps, but if she started, where would she stop?
Getting home that night, her head remained full of budget thoughts, numbers and calculations, and away from birthday parties, cakes and children’s smiles. She took her things out of her bag, finding Lee’s card again and setting it on the kitchen counter. As it were, it ended next to another card she’d dug up after her trip to Galactica, and the two, side by side, made her stomach twist.
She reached for that old card, the one her class had so excitedly put together, and opened it. It was covered in drawings and colourful writing, and exuded happiness and childlike innocence.
The list of names pulled a sad smile out of Laura. She had never got to the point of choosing a name. She couldn’t return to work for the rest of the year after that day, so she never had to explain to those kids why her belly wouldn’t grow anymore; thank the gods for small mercies. How could she have told them about sitting by her father’s hospital bed and feeling the intense cramps she had dismissed, about losing her family, which arguably wasn’t her fault, and then losing another life, which was? She opened a random drawer and stuffed the card and its associated memories inside. Later.
Lee’s card remained on the table, bringing on different thoughts. She felt bad for him -- for him and Zak. He’d confided in her that his parents had split and that he had two homes now, even though he saw twice more of his mother than his father. The party would be at his mother’s new house, he’d said. His mood got worse and worse these days, and she’d actually caught him snoozing during class. If anyone deserved a birthday party, it was him.
That was probably why she ended up in front of a house in the suburbs of Caprica City on Saturday in early afternoon. A 'sold' sign still stuck out of the front lawn.
She stood there with a box of chocolates and a wrapped book she thought Lee might love. Dragons Fighters of Kobol, the story that had been Cheryl's favourite.
In front of that either newly sold or newly acquired house, Laura started questioning her decision. How would an adult invited to a kid’s birthday party look like? She should have called Lee’s mother first and asked if it was okay instead of barging in there. Oh well, she’d just get in there, wish Lee a happy birthday, give him the book and get back out. Simple and easy.
She raised her fist and knocked on the door. When it opened to a curious Zak, Laura noticed the absence of running footsteps and screaming children in the house that were usually a given at any child’s party.
"Hi," Zak said tentatively, far from his usual easily excitable attitude.
"Hi Zak," Laura said with a smile. "is the party still today?"
"Oh," Zak frowned.
"I'm sorry, Miss Roslin. It was cancelled and I couldn't tell you," Lee said, coming behind Zak. His eyes were red and puffy and he wiped his nose with his sleeve. Worry grabbed at Laura's insides and squeezed. "Let her in, Zak."
Zak stepped aside and Laura walked in the house, staying in the entryway. "Is everything all right?" She asked, gaze moving around the room. Stacked boxes occupied the whole living room with very little unpacked, a solitary couch standing in the middle of the space.
Lee looked at his feet. "We’re fine. Mom is in the bedroom. She said she didn't want the party anymore so I called everyone."
"Just like that?" Laura asked against her better judgement. She shouldn't interfere.
Frak that. She was interfering.
Lee shrugged. "Yeah."
"She said we can’t disturb her. But I went to ask if I could have cake anyway and she's not moving," Zak added. "I poked."
Laura's eyes widened, and her heart thumped faster. "Where is she? Can you take me there?"
The boys led her to a room where a woman lay on the bed, a bottle of alcohol and enough pills to kill an elephant beside her. Laura cursed and rushed over, checking for a pulse and breathing a sigh of relief when she found one.
"Is Mom okay?" Zak asked, watching Laura with eyes wide as saucers. She had no idea. Gods, he shouldn't have to witness this.
"I'm going to call a doctor so that they can take care of her," Laura said, standing up again and calling the emergency services. She stuttered when she explained who she was, but they said they'd come right away. "Why don't you and Lee go open the present I brought? I left it in the hall," she added with a reassuring smile that she managed only out of the force of habit. The medic over the line had told her to stay close, so she couldn't leave the room, but she wouldn't let the kids stay. They'd seen more than enough already.
When the medics came and left, Laura found herself alone in someone's house with their children. She couldn't stay there. And what to do with the two boys eating chocolate on the floor? It was up to her to find a solution until she could reach their father. She wasn't interfering by choice, but necessity, she told herself.
"How about we go back to my apartment? Would you like to see it?" She asked. She couldn't stay here, and if Bill was mad she’d taken his children to her apartment, she would deal with it later. That was, if she could reach him at all. Gods, she hoped she could.
“You don’t have to stay. We can be here alone,” Lee said, looking up at her. “We’ve done it before.” He licked the chocolate smeared around his mouth, but didn’t even get half of it. For the sake of the gods, he was just a child. They were both too young to be dealing with this.
“I’m not leaving you alone. I’ll call your father and ask him to pick you up at my place. We’ll be more comfortable.”
In the end, the boys agreed and Laura drove back to the city, to the apartment that was supposedly her home. When she opened the door, she told them to get comfortable. They sat in front of the TV and she brought hot chocolate for the three of them.
It was strange to be here now. Even though it was technically her home, the apartment she paid for, she’d found herself living in her parents’ house more and more over the years. That was where the memories were, that was where a part of her family still was, in a way - why would she leave? But she never brought anyone over there, didn’t want them to disturb anything, or look at her with the pitying look of ‘Aw poor, poor Laura, she can’t get over it’.
Digging up her phone, she called Colonial Fleet Headquarters, and after explaining for fifteen minutes why she needed to be connected and three redirections, she finally heard the voice she had sought, and could’ve sobbed with relief. “Adama,” he said.
“Captain Adama, this is Laura Roslin. Something has happened.”
“What happened? Are the boys okay?”
Laura looked over at the two boys. “They’re safe. They’re with me. But I’m afraid you need to come back to Caprica today.”
She quickly explained the situation, and he muttered so many long and elaborate curses that she was glad her phone wasn’t on loud speaker. It would take him a few hours to make it back, he said, and Laura agreed to keep the children in the meantime. What else could she do, anyway?
“Your dad is going to pick you up tonight,” she told Lee and Zak when she hung up.
“Thank you,” Lee said. “What are we doing?”
Laura saw the book in his hands, and remembered why she had gone to his house in the first place. It was Lee’s birthday. A plan formed in her mind. Her star student deserved a cake on his birthday.
“We could make you a birthday cake,” Laura offered. Lee’s eyebrows raised and Zak’s eyes brightened. She had given her phone number to the medic so she’d get news of their mother if there were any, but for now, they all deserved a break.
She put on some soft music and got up, striding to the kitchen. Lee and Zak followed and read the recipe she got out of a book. She’d picked simple chocolate chip muffins, and it turned out to be more work than she’d initially thought. She should have expected it, really. Whenever she’d cooked with her class in the school’s kitchen, they had made an absolute mess. That had been 25 children, but 2 of them could cause chaos all the same.
Zak insisted on cracking the eggs, but put an equal amount of shell in there as well. He went fishing in the bowl with his fingers until Laura stopped him. It took her way too long to take all the pieces of eggshell out afterward.
Lee measured the flour, but a huge chunk of it fell at once and a cloud of flour reached his face, making the strands of hair at the front a soft white. Zak almost fell to the floor laughing, resulting in Lee throwing a fistful of flour at his face so he’d be the same. Half of it did hit Zak right in the face, the rest of it landing all over Laura’s chest.
Lee’s eyes widened as they moved up to Laura’s face. Laura shook her head and dusted her shirt off, poking Lee’s nose with a white finger. Lee let out a relieved laugh before he went back to his measuring. Laura’s heart swelled at the scene, and she would have cried if Zak hadn’t distracted her by eating most of the chocolate chips before they went in. She poured the batter - with the three remaining chocolate chips - in the moulds, and they waited while the muffins cooked, cleaning up the flour-coated mess that was her kitchen.
Once the muffins were out of the oven, Laura fished around for a candle which she stuck on one of them and set in front of Lee.
“Make a wish!” Zak exclaimed, having found back some of his enthusiasm, which made Laura smile.
Lee looked at Laura, then at the cake and blew out the candle.
They ate their muffins on the couch while watching Pirates of Picon and laughing. As Zak eventually laid his head on Laura’s lap and dozed off, a tear fell down Laura’s cheek.
This moment, this domesticity, those bubbles of laughter... She could almost believe it was her everyday, her life, her family. She wanted it so bad it hurt, and a second tear slid out of her eyes to join the first.
But it wasn’t hers.
Foolishly, selfishly, Bill had thought he could keep going like he had before, that he could leave with the Fleet and Carolanne wouldn’t grab the bottle when she was alone with the kids. He’d wanted to believe that because it alleviated his guilt, but the day came when he couldn’t wash his hands with the things he’d done anymore.
What if Laura hadn’t been there? What would the kids have done then? He was two hours away from leaving for six weeks and wouldn’t have been able to quickly go back planetside. He hadn’t asked why Laura was there in the first place, gratefully accepting her help instead. He’d clearly underestimated Lee’s teacher.
Bill talked to the Commander about leaving for a family emergency, and luckily, another pilot volunteered for the mission, leaving free to go back to Caprica. He got to the crew’s quarters and opened his locker, throwing a few of his things into a bag and banging the door close.
“What’s got in your pants?” Saul groaned from his rack. He sat up, glaring at Bill who remembered his friend had gone through a night shift. This was supposed to be his quiet time.
“I’m leaving. The boys are alone. Carolanne’s in the hospital.”
Bill scoffed. “Take a wild guess.”
Saul had heard more about the struggles of his marriage than Bill cared to admit. Saul’s own marriage wasn’t left out of conversations either since he brought it up more often than not. Bill had spoken out against Ellen once, and when they had eventually reconciled, he’d looked stupid and vindictive. Nowadays, they just shared their troubles around a drink, and that was that.
Bill had even been grateful when two years ago, he’d come to work with a scar barring his temple and another, his cheek, stitches keeping the skin together, and Saul hadn’t pressed to know. He would have been too ashamed to explain. He still was, to this day. He’d made the mistake of seeing his wife in bed with someone else, and had later asked, once that someone had been kicked the hell out of Bill’s home, if Lee and Zak were even his, since she insisted on frakking anyone that crossed her path. She had thrown her glass at his face before he could react. It had crashed against his skull and broke, glass cutting deep into skin. He should have seen it coming. To those who asked now, and even to his best friend, he said it happened during a mission -- less pitiful than the truth.
“I don’t know when I’ll be back,” Bill said. Saul put a hand on his shoulder. “Anything you want to get down there?”
Saul opened his own locker and took out an envelope, which he handed to Bill. “If you can send it to Ellen.”
Bill nodded and slipped it into his bag. He was already out the door when Saul’s voice caught up with him. “Don’t read it.”
He shook his head with a small smile. “I don’t want to read your sex letters,” he called back.
Transport back to Caprica was longer than Bill remembered, giving him plenty of time to think. When he stepped on the planet, though, it was time to act. He went to the hospital, first, and his ex-wife had awoken, but she refused to see him. It only fuelled his anger, but anger at whom, exactly? He was just as responsible for the chaos as she was.
He eventually arrived at the place Laura had indicated, his eyes heavy and head pounding. The initial adrenaline of the news had dissipated, leaving behind an empty feeling of exhaustion. To his surprise, Lee opened the door.
“How are you, son?” Bill asked, giving in to the irresistible urge to hug Lee.
“I’m fine,” Lee replied against his ear. “We’re reading over there.”
Bill let himself be led to a couch where Laura sat with Zak asleep on her lap. She looked up when she saw him and smiled, though it didn’t reach her eyes. She gently held Zak’s head as she extricated herself from under him, replacing her lap with a pillow. The boy gave a sleepy groan.
The tenderness of it sent a rush of warmth straight to Bill’s heart.
Laura made her way over to him, asking Lee to keep reading without her. “Captain Adama- Bill,” she said. “I hope you travelled safely.”
Bill nodded. “I did. Thank you for watching them today,” he said, in an abridged version of how grateful he really felt. Words never truly managed to pass his lips when it came to expressing emotions.
Laura glanced at the boys, and then back at him. “You look like you could use a drink,” she offered.
“That bad, huh?”
She chuckled and gave a small shrug, reaching to open the cabinet and take two glasses out. Her shirt rode up, and as much as he wanted to look, Bill forced his eyes on the bottle she also grabbed.
“You must be wondering why I was at your ex-wife’s house in the first place,” Laura said after they’d poured them both a drink and sat down at the table, where they could keep an eye on the kids.
“It’s crossed my mind,” Bill admitted.
“Lee invited me to his birthday party, but when I got there, he said it had been cancelled.”
“Frak,” he hissed, his face taking on a paler colour. How could he have forgotten Lee’s birthday… again. If Laura noticed his distress, she didn’t comment.
“We made muffins and watched Pirates of Picon,” Laura continued.
“It seems they had fun despite what happened. You’re a better parent than I am,” Bill replied, swirling the liquid around in his glass.
“I’m not a parent,” she said so quickly he had a strange urge to apologise for the compliment.
“I missed Lee’s birthday. I wasn’t there for them.” Bill closed his mouth, a deep frown creasing his forehead. What was he doing exactly, confiding in his son’s teacher? Although after today, she might have become more than that.
“What matters is what you’ll do now,” she said, placing a hand on top of his. His eyes shot up to hers which held a mix of emotions he couldn’t quite decipher.
She took her hand away to brush her hair out of her shoulders and he instantly missed her warmth and the tingly feeling of her touch. She smiled gently at him, and the way she leaned forward accentuated the curve of her chest and the cleavage that a few undone shirt buttons offered. He took a big sip of his drink.
“It looks like you have some- um… I hope flour,” he said, trying to tear his eyes away from the soft-looking skin. Staring at her back when she was turned away earlier was a lot more tame in comparison.
Laura’s blush spread from her cheeks to her neck as she wiped the piece of flour that had clung to the skin just above her breasts. “Right,” she mumbled, clearing her throat and closing another button to hide that spot.
A moment passed before Bill spoke again. “Thank you…”
“Laura,” she completed and he rolled his eyes.
“I remember your name."
Laura raised a sardonic eyebrow. “Do you now? You didn’t when the class visited.”
“I didn’t realise that-” he cut off whatever excuse he was about to give. The truth was that he hadn’t known who she was because he’d barely given his children any time, let alone made an effort to remember the names of friends and teachers. Would he do better now? Could he? “Truly, thank you.”
“They’re great boys,” Laura said, but something in her voice was off. “Have you heard news of their mother? I haven’t.”
“I went to the hospital. She’s awake,” he said, unsure of what else to say.
It was late when he took the boys home, but Lee still had his head buried in the book he said Laura had given him. If words failed him, he had to find a way to show her how grateful he was. Maybe he’d invite her for coffee. Yes, that would be good.
Next chapter shall be lighter with first date vibes, yay!
Bill learned the meaning of the word as he tried to balance the boys’ school, pyramid practice, trying - and failing - to cook, and making calls to try to get his job sorted. Leaving again was out of the question now, and although it tore through his heart, this time, prioritising his family was the only choice.
He’d contacted Fleet headquarters to get reassigned to the Caprica base, but there was no place for him there. What was a viper pilot to do stuck on the surface of the planet? The answer had come from an old buddy with whom he’d gone to War College. The Fleet was re-designing their training program for pilots, flight simulators in particular. They’d been impressed with his career so far, his contact had said, and had got him a foot in the door. That meant dealing with recent, powerful computers though, and Bill was less than thrilled. He groaned as he thought of Laura’s reaction when she’d learn that his new job would involve a lot of technology. It would surely be hypocritical now to keep Lee from having a computer.
That day, he put on his uniform again, and met with the Admiralty to report on the end of his service. Saul had yelled down the line when he’d called to explain, but his mind was made. If he had this much regret about how he’d treated his children now, what would it be like in 15 years? He came out of that meeting with a heavy heart, but something to look forward to.
Children were running out of the building when he made his way to the school, and he got to hug his sons before they left. He’d finally found a babysitter a few days ago, which meant he could go and ask Laura for that coffee, at long, long last.
He knocked on the door to her classroom, an awkward move as both his hands were taken with flowers and a book he thought she’d love. Laura looked up at him over the rim of her glasses for a moment. She could have such a disarming stare - he never quite knew what to make of it.
“Hi,” he said, walking into the room. What seemed to be art projects hung on the walls and he looked at them as he walked the length of the room. On the other side were multiplication table and foreign languages cheat sheets.
“Hi,” Laura said hesitantly, watching him move around the room. “I thought you’d picked up the boys already.”
“I did, I did,” he said, looking at the walls until he couldn’t procrastinate on what he wanted to say anymore. It had been a while since he’d asked anyone out, and he didn’t remember being so indecisive. Not that this was a date. This was simply a thank you coffee. “I brought you those,” he held up the bouquet of flowers and deposited it into her hands.
“Oh Bill, you shouldn’t have,” Laura grinned at him, burying her nose in the red roses. The florist had told him red roses were for passion, but he’d bought those anyway. “Thank you.”
“And you might get this if you say yes to my next question,” he said, and Laura rolled her eyes. “Can we go get coffee? Are you free today? I owe you more than a coffee for what you did for me.”
“I…” she bit her lip and looked away, and there he felt utterly foolish. Why would she want to spend more time with him than she had to? He’d only shown her how much of a brusque frakker he was.
“Or another time,” he hastily added, burning to give her an out and then leave.
“Wait,” she stood up just as abruptly as he’d turned around to leave. “I’d love to.” She grabbed her books and pushed all the papers on her desk into a pile, which she neatly put in her bag. “I know a good one just around the corner.”
A wave of relief and a little bit of giddiness -not that he'd admit that's what it was- rolled through Bill and he nodded, his eyes following her movements. “Anywhere you want.”
She had to use the bathroom before they left, so Bill leaned against her desk as he waited, half-sitting on it. A phone rang, but it wasn’t Bill’s ringtone, so he looked around, finding another one on the desk. Laura’s. The ringing stopped. And started again a second later. Stopped. Started again. Richard . Whoever that was, they were very adamant on reaching Laura.
The phone was still ringing when Laura came back, and Bill got on his feet again. “Someone named Richard is on his fourth attempt to call you. It must be important.”
Laura snorted. “He’ll wait. My... “ she frowned, turning off her phone. “my ex isn’t used to being told no.”
He nodded, unsure how he was supposed to react, but Laura spoke again.
“You know, you might come to regret this. I’ll get the most expensive coffee with mountains of cream and weird combinations of syrups.”
“I’m sure I won’t.” Bill gave her a small smile that was only the tip of the iceberg that were his feelings.
He really didn’t come to regret this, and not just because she ended up ordering a black coffee with no sugar, while he got a cappuccino with mountains of cream and hazelnut syrup. They sat in a corner of what Laura had said was her favourite coffee shop close to the school. It was all soft colours, with tables in the centre of the room where people worked and studied. They sat down on two armchairs facing each other along the far wall. Lucky she had put his bouquet in her car already, or they’d have taken almost the entire width of the narrow pathway between tables.
“Is that enough cream for you?” Laura asked, a teasing glint in her eyes.
Bill looked down at his cup where whipped cream was piled high enough to tumble over. “Don’t be jealous. You should have got your own if you wanted cream.”
“I knew I could steal some from you if I had a craving,” Laura said with an innocent shrug. “So where are the boys tonight?” she asked, taking a sip of coffee and setting the cup down on the small table between them.
“I got a babysitter. It took a while to find someone trustworthy,” Bill said, thinking of the woman he’d ended up hiring. She had instantly clicked with Zak, and Lee was too busy reading to care.
Laura nodded. “I understand that.”
“Lee loves the book you gave him, thank you,” Bill said, handing her a book of his own. “It is only fair that I'd also have a book for you.”
“Dark Day,” Laura studied the cover and flipped to the blurb on the back cover. “One of the classics that I never got around to reading. How did you know I loved mysteries?”
“I asked Lee. He knows a lot,” Bill said, in a way he hoped wasn’t too creepy.
“Captain Adama, did you interrogate your son for information about me?” she asked, and whether she was serious in her sternness or not, he could only chuckle.
“Interrogate is a strong word."
“Thank you. It's too much and I'm sure you know that, but thank you,” she said, putting it on the table and giving Bill a smile that wrapped around his heart. “I meant to ask… how is your ex-wife recovering?”
Bill barely held back a groan at the reminder. He’d only been divorced a month. “She’ll be fine,” he said. What else was he supposed to say? That she was finally going into rehab but he didn’t hold out hope? That was heavier than a simple coffee called for. Laura hadn't run away screaming yet, but she still could. “How did your class like the Galactica?”
“They loved it. They couldn’t stop babbling the next day, it was hard to get a coherent thought out of the mess,” Laura recalled with a soft smile. “I learned a lot, too,” her cheeks tainted a light pink, and Bill burned to ask what had crossed her mind.
“She’s a mighty ship.”
Bill shrugged. “She’s not the most technologically advanced, but she holds up her own,” he said with a pang of sadness. He was staying on the planet for now. It might be temporary, or it might not, but he had to leave the ship. “I was surprised to see that Adar-- Mayor Adar had joined the trip.”
Laura snorted and picked up her cup again. "His daughter attends the school.”
“He must cause some commotion at parent-teacher conferences. I heard rumours that he was gonna run for president.”
Laura shifted in her seat, hiding her face behind her cup. “I don’t know him all that well,” she said, and it felt like one of those lies politicians told on tv. He didn't press.
“Speaking of parent-teacher conferences,” Bill said, changing the subject once again. “You might see more of me from now on. So I should apologise.”
Laura looked at him, her head tilted to the side and one soft-looking curl falling forward. “Your company isn’t that bad.”
“Was there whiskey in your coffee?” Bill asked, taking her empty cup and giving it a suspicious sniff.
Laura laughed, and Bill’s eyes fell to her elegant throat, its inviting curve tempting him to press his lips to it. He shook his head. “Not that I’m aware of. I wouldn’t have minded, though.”
“You should try sweet cherry wine. One of my favourite restaurants has an incredible selection,” Bill said before he could stop himself. His tongue worked faster than his brain, for once, and he let it. He hadn’t had a simple good time like this in a while, so obviously, he’d try to extend it as much as he could.
“Is this an invitation? Because I’m starving,” Laura said, and her grin made Bill bite the inside of his cheek.
“It is an invitation. I can’t let you go hungry.”
“Your sense of duty is admirable, Captain.”
If only she knew how not admirable he truly was.
“I promise, sometimes, parents are the hardest part of the job,” Laura said as she took another sip of the red-ish liquid in her glass. She had turned out to love the Tauron speciality, and they’d practically finished a bottle between the two of them. The buzz of alcohol was slowly getting to Bill’s head, but judging by Laura’s flushed cheeks and frequent fits of giggles, he’d say she was already ahead of him. At least, they’d enjoyed a nice meal, so the alcohol didn’t come down to an empty stomach.
“I’m the living proof of it, aren’t I?” he commented, pouring the last of the wine in their glasses.
“You’re not my worst,” Laura said with a bite of her bottom lip.
Too intrigued not to ask, Bill leaned forward. “Who was?”
“This is a funny story,” Laura straightened up and tried to school her features and appear serious. It might have worked had she been sober, but as it were, her eyes danced with mirth and a hint of a smile still played on her lips. Bill couldn’t have looked away if his life depended on it. “So this really large man comes to see me after class a few years ago, tries to get me to change his son’s grade. He tries to intimidate me, you know,” she towered over the table, looking down on her plate as he imagined the father had looked down on her, and he couldn’t hold back a throaty laugh. She giggled in response. “He looked between me and the desk as he spoke - I’d been marking tests - and I’m sure he wanted to bend me over it and show me who’s boss. Gods, I could have smacked him.”
Bill almost choked and his eyes widened. He didn’t need to imagine that. If he did, there wouldn’t be any blood left in his brain. But telling himself not to imagine that had the opposite effect. “Didn’t you?” he asked.
Laura looked up at him again, leaning back in her chair. “He wasn’t my type, and I don’t reward bad behaviour.”
It took a second for Bill to understand her reply, and when he did he felt his cheeks burning. “I meant didn’t you smack him?”
Laura grinned wickedly at him. “In my mind, a lot, yes.”
The waiter brought the check, and Bill’s quick reflexes were the only reason he managed to snatch it before her. She narrowed her eyes at him, and he could definitely believe she would hit people. Anyone trying to show her who’s the boss obviously didn’t know that she was.
“William Adama, give me that check,” she ordered.
“I’m afraid I can’t comply. I outrank you, Miss Roslin,” Bill replied.
“What if I was the President?” Laura challenged. “I would outrank you then, wouldn’t I?” If she was the president, she wouldn’t be wasting her time with him, but he wasn’t going to complain now. He shook his head.
“Then I suppose I’d have to obey, Madame President. But you’re not.” He gave her a smile. “Do you have any political ambitions you’d like to share?”
“Gods, no,” She groaned. “Come on, Bill. Don’t make me wrestle you for it. I told you I entertained violent ideas about hitting parents.”
“I’m well aware now how dangerous you can be. I'll take my chances.”
Bill got up and walked to the counter to pay, leaving Laura to glare at the back of his skull.
He’d opened his jacket at some point during the evening, feeling a heat that wasn’t entirely due to the alcohol in his veins, but now had to close it to hold away the chilling wind. When they stepped out of the restaurant, Laura’s hands met his on the buttons of his uniform. Her touch was soft and warm, and they stayed like this for a moment, her hand closed around his.
He looked into those emerald eyes of hers and smiled. Her teeth grazed her lower lip, and he was almost overpowered with the urge to kiss her. He could almost feel it, could almost taste her, hear the soft gasp that would escape her mouth, how he’d wrap his arm around her and press her body closer, how he’d bring his other hand to tangle in her hair...
He shouldn’t. She probably didn't even want him to do that.
“I had a great time tonight,” he said instead.
Laura stepped back. Nodded. Smiled in that polite way he'd seen her give other parents. “Me too, Bill.”
She walked away to call a taxi, and Bill praised himself on his self-control. Kissing her could have ruined everything, but why did he feel like not doing it had the same effect?
I had so much fun with this one, and thanks for the love, everyone!
Chapter 5: Persuasion
Laura stifled a yawn as she studied her class and the three raised hands. She’d gone home much later than expected, but found it had been more than worth it. Every time she yawned, she remembered where she’d been out late and had to fight back a smile. An unfortunate side effect for her focus today was that she couldn’t get Bill out of her head, even as the class studied a text recounting the founding of the Twelve Colonies.
"David,” she picked. “Do you want to tell us about the second paragraph?”
“It says we left Kobol and came to the Twelve Colonies,” the boy said.
“That’s right. And how did the text call that?” Laura asked.
“Exodus?” he tentatively answered and Laura smiled at him in response. “But what-”
A knock on the open door of the classroom interrupted David, who closed his mouth and turned his head, along with all his other classmates.
“Excuse me, class. Would you mind if I borrowed your teacher for a minute? I promise to give her back.”
Laura took a deep breath before she turned to the familiar voice. She entertained the wild hope that it might not be him, that another man shared sort of the same voice, the same sweet tone of someone who always got what they want, but no one else would dare disturb class with unapologetic ease. Richard’s wide smile, his relaxed stance leaning against the doorframe with his hands in his pockets made Laura’s blood boil. What the frak did he think he was doing?
“I’m sorry, but I’m in the middle of class,” Laura replied, “We break for lunch in half an hour, you’re welcome to stay until then.”
“Miss Roslin, please humour a busy Mayor,” Richard insisted, his challenging gaze on her, as if daring her to send him away. “It shouldn’t take long.”
Laura gritted her teeth. Well, now she had no choice. She couldn’t teach the children it was okay to disobey. She scanned her class, every child watching them in silence, for once.
"I will be right outside. Nadya, you're in charge," she said, looking at the girl on the front row. “You all have a text to finish reading and questions to answer, so I don’t want any chatting.”
She walked out of the classroom but wasn’t ten steps away from the door when she turned to Richard who seemed all too pleased. “What the frak was that?” she hissed.
“I needed to talk to you. You’re not returning my calls,” Richard replied.
“And you didn’t take the hint?”
“Oh, Laura, darling,” Richard said, the words dripping with condescension. “I suppose you’ve heard that I might be running for President.”
She tried to keep away from news of him, but Bill had let her know the night before. Oh gods, Richard would be even more insufferable if he became President, wouldn’t he?
Laura nodded. “I suppose you’re not here to deny that.”
“I haven’t made an official announcement, but I like to sprinkle out some rumours ahead of time to see how people react,” Richard said, his unsettling gaze not leaving Laura. She didn’t reply, and he went on. “I’d like you to join my campaign.”
Of all the things he could have said, that had to be the one Laura least expected. He couldn’t seriously think she’d do that. “What do you mean?” she asked.
“Campaign with me. Gods know we need your ideas. It won’t hurt that you’ll look great in the pictures next to me, too,” he winked. “Come on, Laura. It will be great. The two of us, just like old times. When I’m elected, you can be the Secretary of Education.”
“Why would I ever get involved in politics?” she asked, crossing her arms. "Especially on a national campaign."
“It’s exciting. And we’ll be together,” he said. “I need a good program on the education side of things, and you’re the best.”
Of course, he’d say that. The only programme he’d gone with for the Mayoral elections had been ideas she’d given him years ago. Why he was incapable of finding someone who had an interest in politics and ideas instead of bugging the one who didn’t was beyond her. Ideas, she had a lot; on the curriculum, on teachers’ qualifications and working conditions, on schools’ admission processes. But she’d gladly tell them to the one who’d take the job if they wanted to listen.
“I won’t take it, but I’m sure you’ll find someone great,” she said, taking a step back when she realised how much into her personal space he’d been leaning.
“Laura..” he breathed in the way he had when he was going to follow it with sweet, empty words.
Being with him? All day, every day? Ten years ago, yes. Today? Frak, no.
“Thank you for your interest, Mister Mayor. Good luck on your campaign,” Laura replied, turning on her heels.
“I’m not going public with it for a while. I’ll wait for you to change your mind. You always do.”
Laura groaned and clenched her fist. Five steps from the classroom. She imagined her fist connecting with his jaw. Four steps. His cheek rippling from the blow. Three steps. The look he’d give her; pained, shocked, maybe a little scared. Two steps. His hand flying up to cradle his jaw. One step. She smiled.
“Ok class, it’s…” Laura glanced at the clock, standing in her usual spot at the front of the class; the surprisingly non-chaotic class. “five minutes to lunch, so let’s call the morning done. Great job.”
She hadn’t even finished her sentence that books were being closed, chair legs scraped on the floor and excited babble being shared. She sat down at her desk and watched them all leave.
All except one.
Lee approached quietly, a secret smile on his lips. “What did the Mayor want?” he asked.
“That’s between us, Lee,” she replied.
“I still want to know,” Lee said with a look that made Laura’s smile widen. He was his father’s son. Bill had looked at her the same way during the evening, when she hadn’t wanted to share one embarrassing story or another. She hadn’t caved, but close enough. She wouldn’t give in to Mini Adama either.
She brought a hand to her chin, frowning lightly as if in deep thought. “Mmh, I remember him saying, and I quote, do not tell Lee Adama.”
Lee laughed, but then looked at Laura seriously. “Really?”
“No, not really. Now, you go and get lunch,” she said, gesturing out to the door.
When Lee left, she rested her head on her hands with a deep sigh. Potential Secretary of Education. There had been a time when she’d have jumped at the chance of working with Richard all day, every day; a time when he’d been so much more than the arrogant prick he was now. He’d always been on the side of controlling, but he used to be thoughtful, too, charming, and with an ability to think of other people that he’d now lost. He’d been gentle, driven, committed -- a father for their child.
It still hurt to think of him like that, because of what he’d told her the second he knew she had lost the baby; because of his announcing he was getting married two weeks later. The earlier part of him, she missed. The current one, she wanted nothing to do with.
"Are you having me on? What do you mean you're not ready?"
“Do you need a language lesson?” Laura replied, holding the phone between her ear and her shoulder as she opened a pack of soup and poured half of it in a bowl.
An exaggerated sigh on the other end of the line was all the answer she got for half a minute, then Kate spoke again. “Laura, he sounds good for you.”
“I know,” Laura sighed, putting her bowl in the microwave. “I know. He has children, and I just… I don’t know.”
“You love them, and they adore you,” Kate countered. “I know it’s scary,” she paused. “Ok, so you didn’t kiss him, but what did he do?”
“This wasn’t supposed to be a date, and I wasn’t sure if he’d even want to. He just looked at me for a while. It’s hard to know what he thinks most of the time.”
The microwave beeped, and Laura took her bowl to the table with the bread she’d cut.
Kate hummed in thought, and Laura waited for her friend to finish forming the plan that swirled around her head. “All right, I know,” she said. “Did you have a good time?”
“I told you I did. I haven’t laughed so much since that time you and I got high.”
“That’s true love, honey,” Kate said decisively.
Laura groaned, feeling a pressure on her chest. Why did Kate always have to jump ten steps forward? She was nowhere near ready for that. “No, it’s not.”
“I meant you and me. Who is he again?” Kate’s loud laugh made the pressure ease a little. “Do you want to see him again?”
“I’m going to see him again. After school, at parent-teacher meetings, all of that,” Laura replied, avoiding voicing the answer that was obvious in her mind.
“That’s not what I was asking, and you know it. Look, I was about to blackmail you into a blind date, so this comes at a perfect time. It’s time you get back on that horse. And I don’t say that to refer to what’s between his legs since I haven’t met him.”
Laura giggled, glad that she was alone so no one would see her blush. “I miss you.”
“I miss you too.”
“Anyway,” she said, trying to steer the conversation away from Bill. Every time she thought about the previous night, she saw the way he’d looked at her, his smile that she wasn’t sure she’d really seen before, the steady heartbeat she’d felt under her palm. Every thought made her long just a little more for the feel of his lips against hers. “What’s new with you?”
“Not much, Ed’s busy with work. I’m planning the next book tour and I’ll definitely have a stop or several on Caprica, during which I will be seeing you and Mr Colonial Fleet.”
Laura snorted a laugh. “I’d love for you to visit. I might be able to make a trip as well during summer.”
“You said that last year, too,” Kate said, her tone playfully reproachful. They both knew Laura said that every year. “Adar is going to run for president, maybe he’ll be too busy to bother you now.”
“He asked me to join his campaign, actually.”
“Oh gods, really?”
Laura hummed a yes.
Kate used to love Richard, back then, was even a little jealous of Laura. That was when Richard was charming and smitten and would take her on impromptu trips. She had long since changed her mind.
“Oh hold on, I think Luna’s sick, can I call you back?” Kate's dog ate everything, regardless of what it was, so she shouldn’t be surprised.
When they hung up, Laura ate her dinner and sighed, staring at the empty kitchen, the very same one she used to flee sometimes because it got so noisy. How things had changed.
When she was done, she picked up the book Bill gave her and started reading.
The woman who talked nonstop, seemingly never running out of oxygen, did nothing to soothe Laura’s headache. The kids had been particularly tough all day, between the over-excited, the eager and the ones looking for trouble, it was as if they’d organised to act out on that one day. To top it all off, she now had to listen to Nadya’s mother about school start times. She’d been ranting for ten minutes already, and Laura wished she could close her eyes a second and enjoy some silence.
“I understand that,” she said. “but school will not start at 7. We should let those poor students sleep.” She felt bad for Nadya, who was top of the class - fighting Lee for the spot - and whose mother wanted her to be in school 24/7. That had to be hard.
Thankfully, it only took ten more minutes of rambling and a yawn that she tried to refrain for Laura to be alone again. She closed her eyes and leaned her head against her hands. Just a few seconds.
All she wanted was to go home and slip into bed. Not yet, though. There were many more reports to finish before Monday, so that she could inform parents of their child’s progress and the plan for the rest of the year at the parent-teacher meeting.
“Is now a bad time?” a shiver ran down her spine when a deep voice disturbed her newfound silence.
She opened her eyes, and sure enough, Bill stood midway to her desk, out of his uniform, for the first time. He looked less stern like this, or was it the beginnings of a smile on his lips that gave that effect?
“This time of year is always very busy. What can I do for you?” she asked.
“I dropped the boys at pyramid practice, and I…” Bill trailed off, looking at her as she rubbed her forehead. Why had he come here, since he didn’t have any apparent business at the school? Not that she would complain, he was a breath of fresh air on her overheated mind. “Can I do something for you?” he asked, stopping in front of the desk.
Laura stood up so she didn’t have to strain her neck looking at him. After promising Kate to give it a shot, she’d wanted to call Bill, only to realise she didn’t even have his personal number. That seemed like a major mistake on her part, one that she intended to quickly remedy. “I don’t have your number. And it would be easier to arrange for next time if I did.”
“Next time?” he repeated, the corner of his lips twitching.
“I owe you dinner,” she said with a shrug, as if it was a fact he couldn’t oppose.
“What if I still don’t let you pay?” he asked, a twinkle in his blue eyes that she was close enough to see.
“I can be very persuasive,” Laura said, lowering her voice slightly, and she rested a hand on Bill’s chest, just like she had outside the restaurant.
"Persuade me, then.” His eyes fell to her lips, and she couldn’t mistake that. In the end, she had no idea who leaned in first, but then their lips were gently pressed together, someone was taking in a sharp breath, and nothing else mattered.
They parted too quickly, and Bill’s hand found her waist, burning a hole through her skirt as he whispered “Laura, I…”
“Shush,” Laura rolled her eyes and pulled on the hand she’d snuck around his neck to have his mouth back on hers. She barely had the time to bask in the feeling of his lips caressing hers, and his warmth seeping through their clothes when a noise at the door broke the spell. Bill gave a light groan at the interruption and tightened his grip on her hip, and Laura fought tooth and nail the urge to tell whoever was there to frak off.
“Laura?” Maya’s voice. Thank the gods it was only her. “Sorry to disturb you. I just needed to go over tomorrow’s plan when I’ll be absent.”
Laura took her hand down, running it down Bill’s arm with a smile as she looked at him before she turned to Maya. “Sorry, Maya. I’ll meet you in your classroom in a minute?”
Maya left, but not before Laura saw the faint blush on her cheeks. Great, the already very effective rumour mill of the school would get a nice boost now. Bill looked slightly smug, and she wanted to either hit him or kiss him.
"That's some strong power of persuasion," he whispered. “Let me know when you’re planning on buying me dinner.”
He left so she could deal with the rest of her work, but not before she scribbled her number on some old copy paper. She was suddenly not so tired anymore
Being late to class definitely reminded Bill of his childhood, but he didn’t expect to be in a similar situation at his age. The military had trained the propensity to lateness out of him, but there remained some things he had little control over; namely, his current job. He did his best to control his breathing as he walked into the classroom, not wanting to look like he’d been running and many heads turned towards him.
Laura stood at the front and her lips curled slightly when she saw him. She paused in her sentence and gestured to the only seat left in the room. He sat down on the too-small chair and Laura resumed talking. The scene was like a weird dream, or a weird nightmare where grown men and women sat in a classroom made for children and listened to the teacher speak. Even more of a nightmare for Bill who’d missed the first few minutes.
Laura talked about the rest of the year’s program, schedules, tests and the kids’ change of school next year as they got to sixth grade. He hadn’t been able to see her at all since they had kissed before the weekend, and being in the same room as her brought back those memories. He’d called her every day since, though, which had been a treat on its own, being able to hold long, interesting conversations with someone as bright as she was.
Not being able to see her in person had stung a little, though -- he’d been busy with Lee and Zak, and visiting potential new apartments. Besides, he didn’t want his children around the next time he saw Laura. He didn’t want anyone there; just him and Laura, his mouth and her soft, supple lips. As it turned out, a lot of people were there in the classroom now, and those weren’t nuggets he could order out. Unfair.
He shook his head of the memories and thoughts of her to listen and take notes on everything he needed to keep an eye for with regards to Lee’s year. How were there this many things? Right after this, he would have the same thing with Zak’s teacher. Lucky both weren’t at the same time. How did the other parents with several children even do it?
Realising Zak’s teacher was the one who’d caught him and Laura kissing made the whole thing more awkward and he avoided her gaze the whole meeting. When one-on-ones came, he waited for his turn, and sat at Maya’s desk, across from her. She looked up at him and bit her lip.
“Mr Adama,” she said. “Zak’s father.”
“That’s right. Last time, we…” Bill started, but realised mid-sentence he had no idea what he wanted to say. He wasn’t sorry for kissing Laura, more mildly annoyed they’d been disrupted. You shouldn’t have interrupted us, please don’t do that again. That was hardly something he could tell Zak’s teacher.
“It’s fine,” Maya said, looking down at her notes. “I don’t have a lot I need to say about Zak. He’s a good kid. He’s often very chatty though, doesn’t like to be reminded of classroom rules, but he’s always willing to help his classmates, which is very nice.”
Bill nodded. That Zak spoke a lot was certainly not a surprise, as the boy talked his ear off all day every day, but he might need to have a word with his son about how class was about listening and paying attention. They didn’t use many of the allotted minutes since Maya didn’t have many concerns or questions about Zak, which Bill was grateful for.
Bill stood up and turned to leave. “Mr Adama,” Maya called him back. He looked back at her and raised an eyebrow. “Please don’t… play with Laura,” she said, looking him straight in the eyes. “I’m her friend, and I can see she cares a lot about you.”
Bill narrowed his eyes, not sure what to make of this. “So do I,” he said and she gave him a small smile. Seeing the young teacher protective of Laura was sweet, but raised questions as to why she needed to be. No matter what, he would never hurt Laura.
Folding Zak’s report in half and putting it in his notebook, Bill walked back to Laura’s classroom and sat outside as he waited for his turn. He got a glimpse of her before he sat, though, and fought back a smile. She looked amazing, with her green blouse and her hair half-up, glasses perched on her nose as she regarded the man sitting opposite her. He gave a sigh, making the woman next to him send him a curious glance.
“Those things are always so long, aren’t they?” she said, mistaking his longing sigh for boredom.
Bill nodded. “It’s my first time, actually. I was never there. But it’s even longer when you’ve got several children to get reports for.”
The woman chuckled and nodded, her long earrings sparkling as they caught the light. “I only have one, and I’ve already seen her teacher, so that’s done.”
“Why are you seeing Lau- Miss Roslin, then?” he asked.
“I need to speak to her about security matters.”
“Are there safety issues in the school?” Bill asked, worry lines creasing his brow.
“No, not that I know of.” The woman quickly shook her head. “But my husband is a political figure, and I want to make sure the school is ready for increased attention…” she said, and hastily added, “if he were to get any more.”
Bill’s eyebrows raised as he took in the woman’s appearance, and she did look slightly familiar, but not enough for him to confidently identify her. The previous parent left the room and the woman went in, preventing Bill from asking any further questions. Laura’s words about Adar’s daughter being at the school came back to his mind, and the encounter suddenly made a lot more sense.
She didn’t stay long and soon, Bill was stepping back into Laura’s classroom and sitting across from her, so close from the spot where he’d tasted her lips a few days before. Her eyes on him indicated she was thinking the same, and he felt almost giddy.
“Lee Adama,” Laura hummed. “Great child, top of the class, very serious... like his father.”
“I was top of the class, that’s true,” Bill replied smugly. That it was at flight school and not elementary school didn’t matter. Top of the class was top of the class.
“Except that Lee is on time, and you have been late for 100% of official meetings so far.”
“But I didn’t do so bad in unofficial meetings,” the corner of Bill’s mouth curled up and Laura’s teeth grazed her bottom lip. Their eyes met, and he knew she was thinking the same thing. “Besides, I didn’t need the beginning, I know you already. You were also Lee’s teacher last year.”
Laura shook her head, the amused expression on her face making him feel accomplished. “As much as I’d like to continue this conversation, if you don’t have any questions, I need to move on, otherwise I’ll still be here at midnight,” she said. “Here’s Lee’s report.”
She handed him the sheet and his fingers brushed hers when he took it. She looked up into his eyes and gave him a smile. No, he could never hurt her.
“I’ll call you tonight?” she asked after a glance around.
He nodded and put Lee’s report next to Zak’s in his notebook.
“Dad, are you sure Laura’s coming?” Zak asked as they got out of his car.
Bill pinched the bridge of his nose, trying to hold on to his thinning patience. “Not if you ask that one more time. The limit is at ten, and then she won’t come.”
Zak pouted, crossing his arms.
They stood in front of a tall building a little bit out of the Caprica City centre. Not only was his current apartment expensive for its size, but it held all the memories of his failed marriage, and starting fresh meant leaving that place for good. He’d been living there since Lee was five weeks old, and the place was their love-filled cocoon. That was where Carolanne had told him she was pregnant with Zak, where he’d seen his sons take their first steps -- he now wasn’t so sure Carolanne hadn’t embellished that truth, because what were the odds of both babies starting to walk on the off days when Bill was on the planet? -- it was where they’d had their first real fight, and they had crossed the line from love-filled cocoon to what would end up a resentment-heavy trap. No wonder she’d left the place to him.
Bill was more than happy to move.
The boys had asked after their mother in the last few days, and he still wasn’t sure what to do. When he called and she finally talked to him, she agreed that it might not be the best for Lee and Zak at the moment. They could see her another time. He wished they could agree more often; it was a lot less tiring that way. She seemed to be doing better, if anything, even if she didn’t want him to visit. He didn’t know what he’d say to her anyway.
“Why is she coming?” Lee asked, and at least that question was new.
“Laura and I are… friends,” Bill replied. “And when we’re done with the visit, she’ll give us advice on which school would be the best for you next year.”
Lee nodded. “All right.”
Laura had had an intense week at the school ever since the parent-teacher meeting on Monday -- she’d kept him updated during their almost nightly phone calls -- and Bill wanted to take advantage of the weekend to finally see her outside her classroom again. She’d agreed to his weird invitation to see the place he would call his own soon.
They were supposed to meet at 11. He checked his watch. 11:00. He felt like bouncing on his toes the same way that Zak was at the prospect of seeing her, but he remained still.
She appeared around the corner, heels clicking on the pavement and he watched her approach, heart beating a little faster.
“Hi everyone,” she said, looking at the three of them. “I’m excited to see your new home, are you?”
Both boys nodded, even though Lee’s was a little more apprehensive. The real estate agent joined them and they took the elevator up. Lee’s enthusiasm came back as Zak thrummed with contagious excitement and they both babbled about what their new home would be like. When the door to the apartment opened, they rushed in. Bill had worried about having them go through yet another change, but so far, they’d taken this okay, although that might change when the excitement would wear off again. The agent headed for the kitchen, telling them they’d be waiting there.
Bill watched Laura look around and take in the space. It was roughly the same size he had now, but with a better layout and a construction date that wasn’t as ancient. “It looks like a nice place,” Laura said as she walked to the kitchen, then the living room where sunbeams drenched her in radiant light, making her look more goddess than human. When she spoke again with a soft “Bill?”, he realised he’d been staring and shook his head.
“What were you thinking about?” Laura asked as Bill found control of his legs and moved towards her.
“You. You’re incredibly beautiful, Laura,” he said as he took her hand. “I wish I could have kissed you again last time.”
Laura squeezed his hand, and her smile was so soft it almost hurt. “I kept trying to steal glances at you,” she admitted, bringing her other hand to cup his cheek. “So I’d say I know how you feel.”
He flinched at the touch, brain helpfully supplying memories of glass cutting into skin. She couldn’t possibly think that.
She pulled back to look at him with a look of open concern on her face. “Did I hurt you? I’m sorry, I didn't think that...”
This was one of those moments again.
One of those moments like they’d had one on their last phone call. ‘why did you want to move?’ she’d asked. All she really knew was he'd divorced and his ex-wife had entered rehab, and that was more than he would have told anyway. He could tell her the truth; could share the burden of his failed marriage and the mistakes he'd made to get it to that point; he could let her in, tell her what happened, but what if she suddenly thought he was too much of an asshole to be around? He couldn't screw up this relationship too, not when he was lucky enough to be around her. ‘I thought I could use a new start,’ he’d said in the end, a half-truth like the one he also told her now.
“No, you didn’t,” he brought her hand to his lips, and then his lips to hers once he’d listened to make sure the kids were still arguing in what would be their bedroom.
This close to her, everything was fine. There were no mistakes, no heartache, no fear, just her gentle warmth, the smell of her hair, and the feel of her everywhere their bodies were pressed together.
The kids thankfully left them alone for a few more minutes that they spent in close proximity, the outside world long gone. It came rushing back in when running footsteps approached, but the tension in Bill’s shoulders had eased, and he grinned easily.
“I’ll hope you’ll be there when I move in. I’ll need to make some happy memories,” he said, stroking the back of her hand with his thumb.
“You can count on me,” she replied with a wink that he thought he'd imagined.
He signed the lease, and they all went to grab lunch, answering the loud pleas of his children’s stomachs.
Next chapter is tooth-rotting fluff, people, you've been warned ;)
Chapter 7: Next steps
This story is my stress reliever, so please enjoy another chapter even though I only posted chapter six yesterday haha
This chapter is deserving of the story's mature rating, fyi...
Laura’s cautiousness had been thrown to the wind, and instead debilitatingly scary, it was exhilarating. She and Bill saw each other as much as they could over the course of the next few weeks, enjoying each other when the kids weren’t around, and acting responsibly -albeit reluctantly- when they were.
Bill had been eager to move, and she had helped him pack when she could. Everything was set up in his new place now, ready to be moved in. Not quite everything. He’d insisted on packing his books in separate boxes and bringing them up himself; something about not trusting the moving company or something.
She came one Saturday to help him carry the last boxes into his new apartment and spend the evening together there for the first time. Both boys were at sleepovers, which was such a rare occurrence and why Bill had chosen that day to officially move in. Gods she hoped he had the same thing in mind for the evening as she did.
They still hadn’t had sex despite some excellent opportunities, and she was slowly growing frustrated. They’d agreed to take it slow, -although, in retrospect, why the frak had she agreed to that?- but now she was cracking at the seams. Every one of his touches set her on fire in a way she couldn’t explain and that she was finding harder and harder to fight. She wanted -needed- to feel his skin, to hear him whisper in her ear as their bodies connected.
A wave of arousal washed through her at the thought, and she cleared her throat. Seeing him in tanks moving boxes, his muscles tensing and realising under his skin had started that trail of thoughts in her mind. It had only become worse when she'd got him to go shirtless and his broad chest on display, with an inviting line of hair going down from his navel and disappearing under his jeans, had taken her breath away for a second. The possibilities, all the things she wanted to do rushed to her mind at the exact same time, short-circuiting everything there.
She was done waiting.
As soon as they made the last trip and Bill leaned against the door with a smile, she was on him. The kiss held none of the tentativeness of the beginning, her tongue instantly pushing into his mouth. He growled at the assault but quickly caught up, slipping a hand under her shirt. She'd considered wearing a nice dress, but to carry boxes, one was definitely more comfortable in jeans and shirt. The contact of his hand on her bare skin made her shiver, and she broke the kiss to pull the shirt off and over her head.
"I thought we-" Bill started as his eyes didn't miss a second of the show.
"If your next words were going to be 'take it slow', I'm walking out of here," Laura said, giving him a pointed look.
Bill had the nerve to laugh. "I wasn't. I've had plans for today, and I hoped you'd want not to take it slow," he said and she grinned.
"And what are those plans?" She asked and her smile grew wicked when he reached to unclasp her bra.
He traced her lips with a finger before running it down her throat, the valley between her breasts, her stomach and stopping at the top of her jeans. Fire licked at her skin, following his fingers' path.
"I'm going to take the most beautiful woman in the Twelve Colonies to bed and celebrate this new start."
"Mmh when is she arriving? I thought I told you I wasn't into sharing," she said with a giggle that turned into a yelp when he bit on the skin of her neck.
"She's a godsdamn pain, though," he added with a smirk, licking at the spot where he'd sunk his teeth. "Can never get her to go with a plan that isn't her own."
"Sounds to me like she knows what she wants," Laura whispered, tangling a hand in Bill's hair and pulling him back so his mouth met hers. His tongue stroked hers and she nibbled and licked at his lower lip as her free hand trailed down his back, nails lightly scraping at his skin. He gave a low groan which fuelled her on, desperate to feel more of him, to be with him.
In the end, as they led each other to Bill's new bedroom, they found that their plans were exactly the same, and that the wait had been well worth it.
It was their world. A world of soft touches and passionate kisses, of unashamed desire and gently rolling hips, of heady giggles, words of affection and cries of pleasure, and above all, a world where nothing else existed. Loss, of fear, insecurity, campaigning all stayed outside the door.
As she fell asleep in his arms in the early hours of the morning, spent and happy, Laura didn't even think about a new rule she'd broken, the pesky one about not sleeping in someone's bed. It didn't matter anymore, right?
Waking up to someone in his bed was unsettling, to say the least. But then Bill caught a glimpse of Laura's red hair and creamy skin, and everything was right again. Gods, she was a sight. Something stirred inside him.
It had been a while since he'd had a woman between his sheets -- years since he'd shared Carolanne's bed, and he was too loyal, even to a wife he knew was cheating on him when he was away, to seek out other women like the other fleeters did. But that meant he was out of practice, and that was part of why he'd insisted they wait. Laura deserved something amazing, although waiting wouldn't have changed any of what worried him. Now he couldn't believe how stupid he'd been. Any amount of time not spent kissing every spot in her body was wasted time.
Seeing her peacefully sleeping with her back to him made his heart swell with feelings he wasn't quite ready to face yet. He traced light fingers over the freckles on her shoulders, down her side, the curve of her hip, and when he traced her spine, he felt her shiver. Grinning, he followed his hand with his mouth, dropping gentle kisses everywhere he could reach, and she let out a contented sigh.
"Good morning," she said, turning around to face him and gazing at him through half-lidded eyes. He immediately captured her lips in a tender kiss, savouring the feel of her, the sweetness of her taste. She hummed into it and brought a hand to stroke his cheek.
"The best of them all if you're there," Bill replied when he eventually let go of her mouth to trail biting kisses down her neck.
"I didn't peg you for a sweet talker, Bill Adama," Laura grinned, stretching with a long sigh. The sheet slid over her body, and Bill brought a hand to stroke her chest and cup her right breast, round and perfect. He took a rosy nipple between his lips and sucked gently and she arched into his mouth, breath quickening. Arousal pooled in his belly as a soft moan of his name escaped her lips.
"Is this you reminding me you're also a man of action?" She eventually breathed, gasping at the feel of his teeth on the sensitive flesh.
Bill let go to look up at her, and she pushed him back onto the bed, rolling with him until she was straddling his hips. She'd been so active last night, taking charge, and he'd never seen anything sexier than Laura on top of him. She looked at him with unmistakable desire in her beautiful eyes, and his breath hitched in his throat. She really did want him. That thought alone made him harder than any of the magazines that pilots smuggled aboard the ship ever could.
"I also know action. Love the word," she smirked, moving just enough so that she sat over the hardening length between his legs. He closed his eyes at the feeling and sighed, and she kept grinding against him.
"Laura…" he didn't know what he was asking for, or warning for, but just… Laura. That was all there was. The only goddess he wanted to believe in and spend time adoring.
"Are you getting tense over there?" She hummed, as if her own arousal wasn't painfully obvious and he couldn't just flip her over and make her incoherent. Gods, she'd made the sweetest sounds last night. He craved to take her apart with his tongue again.
"I'll show you tense," he growled, fingers digging into her hips, and was rewarded by Laura's rich laugh.
As his fingers travelled around to her front, hoping to show her what he meant, his phone vibrated and a generic music played.
The alarm. Laura reached to turn it off. Frak. Today. Pyramid game.
"I guess staying in bed all day will stay in my dreams…" Laura sighed, the corners of her mouth curling into a teasing smile. "Very nice dreams."
"Tell me, and I'll make them happen," Bill said, resuming his fingers' journey to where her legs met.
"Not on the day of Zak's first pyramid game you're not," she quickly rolled away from him, unsure whether she ever would be able to if he started stroking her. She stood up, treating him to the full view of her body, and he pillowed his head on his arm. "Let's finish this in the shower. It will save time," she added as she walked away, his eyes following the tantalising sway of her hips.
Gods only knew how much time they did not save in his shower stall. Her flushed skin when she stepped out, he was proud to say, was not just a result of the hot water.
Zak pulled on his gloves under Bill’s watchful gaze. It was Zak’s first year in the children’s pyramid team, and as the smallest kid in the team, he had a challenging time. Still, he smiled excitedly and ran away to the other kids as soon as his equipment was in place, barely turning back to wave goodbye.
“He’ll be fine, Bill,” Laura said, leading him and Lee to some free seats on the second row.
“A player got a dislocated shoulder in the last Panthers vs Buccaneers game,” Bill argued.
“Children aren’t allowed to be this brutal,” she said. “It’s not a professional adult game.”
She looked at him and gave a smile. Now he wished he had chosen a weekend with no pyramid game to move so they could have stayed in bed. Her red dress showed a lot more cleavage than she wore at school, and the top of a hickey he’d suck into her skin showed. He was anything but sorry, even as she’d laughed and called him a typical male.
“Bill. My eyes are up here,” she chided, her smile turning into a laugh.
“I wasn’t-” he grumbled. Yes, he definitely was. She hummed, more laughter threatening to break out of her. “I mean, look at you.”
She smoothed the front of her dress. “You like the dress, huh?”
“It’s a nice colour on you,” Bill said, checking that Lee was chatting with a friend before he put a hand on Laura’s thigh. He looked at her, an intimate smile playing on his lips.
“Don’t look at me like this,” she said.
He leaned over to kiss the spot behind her ear. “Why not?” he whispered.
She shuddered and sent him a glare. “You know why.”
An announcement indicated that the game started, and Bill straightened up, bringing both hands on his own lap. His worry quickly eased when the players started moving around the arena and passing each other the ball. It wasn’t like the professional games at all, thank the gods. They were slower, messier, and as Laura had said, less brutal.
Zak didn’t play in the first third of the game, impatiently sitting on a bench on the side. When he could finally go, he sprung to his feet and ran across to his spot.
“Go Zak!” Lee shouted, apparently loud enough to be heard because Zak looked back to them and grinned. Laura cheered him on too as the game resumed.
Lee leaned forward, elbows on his knees as he watched the game. He’d been part of the same team until last year when he’d decided he didn’t want to play. He was going to try other sports, and Bill hesitated to mention boxing. He was still young; maybe in a few years.
Laura was as invested as Bill had ever seen her, on the edge of her seat, muttering comments and strong expletives. “Not this way, Gods. Go around,” she groaned. Bill had to resist the urge to watch her instead of the game, but he kept his eyes on his son, who wasn’t half bad, even for being the smallest on the team. “Do a pass. Come on, shoot,” she mumbled.
“You know a lot about pyramid,” Bill commented.
Laura turned her head to him, an open look on her face. “My sister could have played for the Buccaneers. I went to a lot of college games.” She looked down at her hands and back at the game, and Bill felt like that subject was closed. Laura spent a few minutes quiet, her gaze unfocused before Zak’s team scored and she got back into it.
During a pause in the game, Lee went to buy some muffins from a bake sale and Laura put her hand on Bill’s knee. “If they keep it up, they might just win,” she said, a welcome twinkle of excitement in her eyes, and he put his hand on top of hers.
“They’re still five points behind,” he countered. Zak waved as he drank from a bottle of water and they both waved back.
“Have a little faith,” she grinned and accepted a muffin Lee was handing her. “Oh, thank you Lee. What do you think of the game?”
Lee bit his lip as he thought a little too hard for the light question, still feeling like he had to make an impression on his teacher. “I think Zak’s team wins, but by very little. If they keep Zak, and swap out another one for Bombers, they should be fine.”
“Bombers?” Laura repeated with a chuckle.
“That’s what we called him because he scored like a bomb,” Lee said, his cheeks flushing slightly.
“The bets are in,” Bill said. “Let’s see what they give us.” As well as Zak’s first game, this was Bill’s, and it was more exciting than he’d thought it would be. Laura helped to make it feel that way -- he was pretty sure she could make anything interesting.
The game started again, and when Zak scored, the three of them jumped to their feet and cheered loudly. The change Lee had suggested happened, to his greatest pleasure and the team caught up. Three points behind, two points behind. 4 minutes to play. Bill held his breath. Three points to score in four minutes? Unlikely. But the team did the impossible, and when the end signal rang, Zak’s team led by a single point.
They had to wait for the team to come out of the lockers, and when Zak walked out, he found himself engulfed in a three-person hug.
“That was well-played, son,” Bill said, releasing him. Laura agreed and Lee started telling him all the things he’d observed about the game, but Zak cut him off.
“Dad I’m so hungry,” he exclaimed, and everyone laughed.
Laura ruffled his hair affectionately. “How about pizza? In celebration. My treat.”
Bill narrowed his eyes. “You mean my treat.”
“Do I have to persuade you again, Bill?” she asked with a smile that reminded him of their night and early morning activities.
He grinned at her and that was all he could do not to say something inappropriate. He felt young and free with her, such an unfamiliar feeling it was almost troubling. Laura made him feel like he was twenty again, and that everything was possible. Holding on to her was imperative. “Lead the way then. You can do the persuading afterwards.”
Laura couldn’t keep the smile off her face as she drove home after Zak’s celebratory pizza dinner, nor did she want to. Being with Bill felt good. And not just the amazing physical sensations he’d managed to elicit when they were alone overnight, but his care, his heart, his smile made her blood sing.
As she rounded the corner to her house, the usual pang of pain poked at her heart at seeing it dark and empty. She stopped, turned around and got back to her car. She couldn’t do that today. She couldn’t take in the empty rooms, stare at the pictures and hurt; she wanted to hold the memories of that weekend close and replay them, not agonise over old ones.
She saw Richard’s still-there campaign poster on the way out of the neighbourhood and scoffed. He could stay there too.
Going to her apartment instead, she kicked off her shoes and put water to boil for a tea. She had to resist the pull of her heart to call Bill and really, that was ridiculous. She’d left him an hour ago. She wasn’t a teenager longing for her latest crush.
A knock on the door almost made her jump. She barely even lived here that her neighbours thought the apartment was empty, so it couldn’t be them. A robber? Surely they wouldn’t have knocked. Bill? He was the only one she could think of, and her heart fluttered at the thought. With a grin still firmly holding on to her face, she opened the door, and her smile faltered.
“I’m surprised to see you there,” Richard said, matching her smile with one of his own. Oh no, now he was going to think she was actually happy to see him. She leaned against the doorway, holding the door so he wouldn’t enter.
“How surprising that I’d be at the apartment I pay for,” she replied.
“You know what I mean. The house was empty,” he said, studying her face. His gaze flew over her body, taking in the way the dress wrapped around her frame, and she saw the exact moment he noticed Bill’s love bite on the top of her breast. “But maybe you were out… having fun.”
Laura pulled up the top of her dress in an attempt to cover herself. “What can I do for you, Richard? I was about to turn in for the night,” she said in a tone she wanted dismissive.
“Did you think about my offer?” Richard asked. “I could really use you.”
I bet you could.
Laura sighed. “It’s not for me.”
Richard was silent for a while as he studied her face, and for an instant, he looked like the man she’d known, before everything. “Holly told me she saw you regarding Maddie’s security. Thank you,” he eventually said.
Laura hadn’t met Richard’s wife a lot over the years, perfecting the art of avoidance, yet she’d recognised her as soon as the woman had stepped into her office, all blond hair and sparkling jewels.
She raised an eyebrow. “You say that as if you’re surprised I would protect the daughter of a presidential candidate.”
“Holly and I… we’re going through something. And I suppose I’ve been thinking about us and what happened a lot. Last month was when you told me you were pregnant, eleven years ago. I remember.”
“I’m sure you do, because that’s all you ever wanted. You only married her so you could have children. I’m surprised it lasted this long,” Laura said, shaking her head. Why did he have to reopen that wound? Why now? Now that she was trying to be happy, to have a life. He’d never deigned to talk about what happened again, but now he suddenly felt chatty?
“You’ve never sugar-coated anything, have you?” Richard smiled lightly, a sad tinge to it, far from the hotspot she’d got used to over the last few years. “Laura, Maddie’s not mine.”
Laura frowned. She shouldn’t care, yet she asked. “Why are you telling me this?”
“I don’t know,” he said at last. “I want you back, and if having you in my office is the only way, then I’ll take it.” he paused. “I still remember the curriculum you wanted to implement. It was interesting and with the right resources, you could make it happen.”
Gods, what if he was right and she could implement features she'd dreamed of for years? Could she pass up such an opportunity because of personal feelings? Giving up teaching, though, she wasn’t ready for that.
What would Bill think if she did? He wouldn’t say anything, because she hadn’t told him anything. She’d done a nice job of keeping those parts of her life separate, but this was going to come back and bite her in the ass.
“I’m making the announcement in three says,” he continued. “Good night, Laura.” He turned and left, and she closed the door.
Bill left the kids to his babysitter two days later and showed up at Laura’s apartment for dinner. He was a sight for sore eyes after a few days of thinking, thoughts of campaigning or not swirling around in her mind day and night, giving her no respite. She’d been so sure she wouldn’t do it, didn’t want the attention of a national campaign, but what if…
Bill brought takeout, but by the time they let go of each other to have dinner, it had long grown cold. They were far from sorry, but Laura’s stomach growled harder than she’d ever heard it, and it pulled a laugh out of her. Sex did always make her hungry.
“Should I take this as a compliment?” Bill asked with a smug grin at the noise.
“Now, don’t get too full of yourself. I barely had any lunch,” Laura said, poking at his chest. She put the food to reheat and turned back to him, her arms coming to wrap around his neck. “But you weren’t bad either.”
“I don’t think that fifteen minutes ago you thought I was ‘not bad either’,” Bill said, catching her bottom lip between his teeth. “You even insisted on bringing the gods into this.”
Laura giggled and licked her lip where he’d just nibbled. “I regret nothing.” She took the food from the microwave and transferred it into two bowls. It smelled heavenly, and her stomach’s answering growl made Bill laugh.
They ate while sharing stories of their respective days; Laura talked about breaking up a fight in the school corridor, and Bill told her about the new exercise he fought to add on to the pilot training programme. Afterwards they settled on her couch and she lay her head on Bill’s lap as he picked up a book and started reading. It had become their thing in the past few weeks, allowing them to read together. Laura loved books, but having Bill tell her the story in his slow, gravelly voice was another thing entirely. He’d stroke her hair from time to time, and she’d answer with a contented hum.
But now her thoughts were elsewhere, and she had trouble focusing, even as her eyes were on his face above her.
“What’s on your mind, Laura?” Bill eventually asked, running his fingers over the side of her face.
“Nothing,” she said, glancing at the book. “Continue. We’re about to know if the butler did it.”
“Are you sure? You seem troubled.”
Laura sighed, weighing her options. “I was invited to join Adar’s presidential campaign,” she eventually admitted. “He’s asked several times.”
Evidently, this wasn’t what Bill had expected as he stared at her quizzically, closing the book and setting it aside. “Why?” he asked, at last.
“We have a history. We talked about it in the past,” she said in an answer that was 90% too vague to give any useful information.
“Your ex, Richard, it’s the moron that’s mayor, isn’t it?” he asked, and Laura nodded, sitting up so she could be at eye level with him.
“Don’t be jealous, Bill,” she huffed.
“I’m not jealous. He’s got nothing on me,” Bill said, puffing his chest just a little bit.
Laura blew out a frustrated breath. “You men, I swear. It’s not about who’s got the biggest.”
“Of course it’s not. What is it about?”
“I don’t know,” Laura said with a frown. “It’s my own decision anyway. And I’m probably going to say no. You asked what I was thinking about, this is it.”
“I thought you’d be thinking about school, not a presidential campaign.”
“And why is that so surprising? I’ve got what it takes.”
“I know that.” Bill shook his head. “I should go. It’s getting late, the boys will be waiting.” He got up, and she made no move to keep him back.
That night, Bill could barely sleep. ‘
We have a history
’, Laura had said. He couldn’t reconcile the images of the prick he sometimes saw on tv with someone Laura might have dated. But most of all, it made him realise with a jolt that he didn’t know anything about Laura’s life; she only ever shared stories about teaching, about a friend occasionally, the author who lived on Picon, and that was all. He shouldn't have left like that, but old reflexes to avoid fights had kicked in, and in a minute, he was out the door.
He didn’t see her the next day, picking up Zak and Lee from school and leaving right away. He didn’t call her. She didn’t call him. It was ridiculous. He looked up Richard Adar on the computer he’d initially got for Lee and scowled, imagining Laura working for him. She’d be amazing, for sure, as she was at teaching, but why did it feel this wrong?
On Thursday, he arrived at the school before class ended, hoping to catch Laura and have a chance to talk. He waited in the corridor, but the voice coming from the classroom wasn’t Laura’s. He peeked inside her classroom, and sure enough, she wasn’t there, and another teacher replaced her. Lee spotted him and his eyes widened, but Bill quickly disappeared. Had Laura accepted the offer and left the school already? That seemed a bit precipitated.
He walked down the corridor where Maya was teaching Zak’s class -- paying attention to stay hidden this time because Zak, unlike Lee, would take any opportunity to be distracted, and Bill didn’t need Maya to dislike even more -- and stopped in front of Laura’s office. The door was closed, but a fit of cough caught his ear and he paused. Knocking on the door, he waited to hear her voice. When it came, it was hoarse, and concern flared in Bill’s chest.
Laura was bent over a pile of papers, and she looked up at him. She blinked, letting out a sigh. “Hi.”
“Hi,” he replied, walking closer to the desk. The office wasn’t too big, and filing cabinets took almost the entire space along the walls. Whatever space was left was occupied by Laura’s desk and two chairs on the other side of her. “Are you all right?”
“I’m fine,” Laura said even as she wrapped her jacket more tightly around herself and shivered. Not super convincing. “Can I do something for you?” she asked, getting up on her legs, but she tripped and fell over. Bill lunged to catch her and bring her upright again, his hand brushing her neck. She was burning up.
“I can do something for you,” Bill said, holding her arm in case she was going to fall again. Why had she even come to work in that state? “You’re obviously sick, let me take you home.”
“Bill, what are you doing? You’re mad at me,” Laura protested, looking up at his face. Her eyes were hazy, and he wouldn’t take any argument. He was taking her back to his place to take care of her if she couldn’t be trusted to do that herself. If he had to pick up her stubborn ass and carry her to his car, he would.
“I’m not,” Bill sighed. “We can talk about it on the way back. How long have you felt like tis?”
Laura shrugged, which was answer enough. “I asked someone to teach my class, but I still have a lot to do. I just need maybe another…” she frowned as thoughts became difficult to articulate. “half an hour.”
“Laura,” Bill warned, picking up her bag. “We’re leaving now. You’re in no state to be working. I’m not trying to tell you what to do, I just don’t want you to be suffering.”
Laura groaned, looking between him and her desk. She eventually gave in when a fit of cough tore through her and she gasped for air. “All right,” she mumbled, as if he was bothering her .
Bill picked up the kids from class and brought Laura home with them. He poured her a hot bath and helped take off her clothes and slip into the tub. When she closed her eyes with a sigh, he left the bathroom, being faced with his two boys who stood guard outside the door.
“Is Laura okay?” Lee asked. “She wasn’t in class today. It was kinda boring.”
Bill tried to refrain a chuckle. “She’s not feeling well. If you could be quiet tonight, she’d appreciate it.”
The boys nodded seriously, and Zak frowned at his brother. “Does that mean you get no homework? No fair.”
Lee rolled his eyes. “We had another teacher.”
“Speaking of homework, go and do it,” Bill told them. He grabbed a tall glass of water from the kitchen and some medicine to reduce the fever and got back to the bathroom. Laura lay there with her eyes closed, and at least she wasn’t shivering anymore. He handed her the pills and water, sitting down on the floor next to the tub.
She opened her eyes and swallowed the pills he offered. “You don’t have to drug me, I came willingly,” she said with a small smile.
Bill chuckled. “Too late now. How are you feeling?”
“The bath is definitely helping, thank you.” She closed her eyes again, and he stroked a strand of hair away from her forehead. “I have so much to do still. Next year’s admissions, hiring a new teacher for the 2nd grade, schedules, reports, funding…”
Bill shook his head and his brow creased. Getting worked up wouldn’t help with the fever. “Don’t think about that.”
Laura snorted and half-opened her eyes to look at him. “What do you want me to think about, Bill? Us?”
“Is that such a bad thought?”
“No… not at all, but the way we’ve left things…”
Bill shook his head. “I shouldn’t have left like that. I didn’t want the fight to turn bad.” But Laura wouldn’t have lost her mind, wouldn’t have screamed herself hoarse and thrown over anything that she laid a hand on. This wasn’t her; he had to tell his brain that.
“I turned him down now,” she spoke again. “For good. I was always going to, anyway.”
“I’m never going to tell you what you have to do. I was surprised, that’s all. He’s such a prick,” Bill said, making Laura snort.
“I can’t argue with that,” she conceded. “You were right, he’s got nothing on you.”
“Are we still talking about size?” Bill joked, hoping to make her laugh, and he grinned when she gave a low chuckle.
“I don’t kiss and tell.”
After a moment, Bill stood up again and kissed Laura’s forehead. “I’ll make you soup, do you need anything else?”
Laura started shaking her head, but quickly stopped with a wince. “No, thank you.”
Bill got to the kitchen and stared at the contents of his fridge. He’d actually got better at cooking, to his surprise, largely due to the fact that he couldn’t have his children on a strict pasta diet. He'd turned on the tv for some news on the background, and as he chopped vegetables, he heard the announcement. Adar, standing behind a podium, announced in front of a flock of journalists that he was running for president. Bill grabbed the remote and turned it off. The less he saw him, the better. He wanted to ask Laura so many questions, but she’d never share. That seemed to be the general pattern lately.
The boys came into the kitchen as he was almost done and complained about having to eat soup before they both announced being done with their homework. Bill helped Laura out of the tub and into some clothes of his, since she didn’t have any of hers at his place. She settled on the couch to eat some soup under Zak and Lee’s intense gazes.
“I’m not going to disappear. You can look away,” she told them. “It’s just the flu.” When they both hugged her and wished her to feel better, Bill saw her eyes water and she bit down on her trembling lip. He burned to ask, but he didn’t.
“You’re not going to work tomorrow at all,” he stated as he took back her bowl and gave her more water to drink.
“I thought you weren’t gonna tell me what to do?” The quip fell flat when she coughed and had to sit up.
“I shouldn’t have to when it comes to your health,” Bill replied. “Why do you have to be so damn stubborn?
Laura sent him an unamused look. “Why do you ?"
“Fine. I won’t go to work,” Laura sighed, holding a hand to her forehead. The fact that she hadn’t put more of a fight than this was a testament in itself of how tired she was.
He helped her get ready for bed, and covered her in several blankets. “Read to me?” she asked as he was turning away to check that Lee and Zak were ready for bed as well. He smiled at her and nodded.
The book they’d started was still at Laura’s place, so he grabbed another one from his collection, a murder mystery set in Caprica City that he thought Laura might enjoy. Zak and Lee had behaved for once, and he told them goodbye before rejoining Laura and sitting on the bed beside her.
His heart clenched at the sight of her shivering form, hair clinging to her forehead with sweat. He was glad that, even though he’d insisted at the beginning, she was now letting him take care of her. He wouldn’t have been able to sleep thinking of her, sick and alone in her apartment. He opened the book and started reading.
"It started like it always did. With a body. This one was in the river, and I could tell she had once been beautiful, but this bullet and fast current had taken away from her. All we are, or that we think we are, all that we are certain about, is taken away from us. When you've worked the streets and seen what I've seen, you become more and more convinced of it every day. Caprica City has been my teacher, my mistress.”
As he watched her breathe in and out, lying in his bed, smiling at the sound of his voice, words to express the depth his feelings battled on the tip of his tongue. Instead, he kept reading.
" From the moment I opened my eyes, she’s in my blood, like cheap wine. Bitter and sweet, tinged with regret. I'll never be free of her, nor do I wanna be, for she is what I am. All that is, should always be. "
This quote is one of my favourites and I have many feelings...
Ok so an update on how we're doing: I'm estimating that we'll end up at 17 chapters based on my outline, but I've been shuffling things around a little bit, so could be one under or one over, we'll see. Also chap 10 will be us getting to Angsty Town, uh oh...
Chapter 9: Family & cie
During the few days she stayed at Bill’s place while she was down with the flu, Laura felt truly at home.
On Friday, Bill was at work for the whole day, and she curled up on the couch with the book they’d started. She had to go back a few pages, having fallen asleep the night before in the middle of a paragraph that Bill’s soothing voice was reading. She felt slightly better by lunchtime, and reheated some soup that he’d left.
It was a strange feeling to be in a place where someone else lived; where it wasn’t just her, her habits and her thoughts filling the void. It had been way too long since she’d shared a space, and when Bill came home with the kids on Friday night, her heart almost burst with the domesticity of it. For a moment, she closed her eyes and imagined that every day was like that, so much that she wouldn’t think about it anymore. The place would be filled with the sounds that children made -- mostly laughs and shouts as they fought -- and she would come up behind Bill as he took off his jacket and wrap her arms around him. They’d discuss what to have for dinner, what they’d done during the day, and later, they’d fall asleep, limbs tangled together.
The daydream pulled a sad smile out of Laura and Bill asked if she was okay. She said she was, and blamed it on the flu. She didn’t leave his place until Sunday night, and by then she’d become so used to the companionship that her empty home - ever a tragic reminder - tore at her heart.
After missing two days of work, she unsurprisingly had a mountain of things to catch up on come Monday, starting with her students wanting to tell her everything that had happened in her absence. Everything . She hadn’t missed work in years, so this was new for them all.
She brought a few forms to approve to her desk in her classroom to work on during lunch, only now realising she hadn’t brought any food. Oh well, it wouldn’t be the first time. When the last student left the room for the cafeteria, she settled at the desk and took a sip of water before diving into the funding proposal she was planning to submit to the mayor.
A knock made her look up, and although she couldn’t help smiling at Bill, her gaze was half-confused, half-questioning. “Well hello again. What are you doing here?”
Bill tilted his head as he looked at her and chuckled. “You really didn’t listen when I said I had the day off to take care of a few appointments. I thought I’d bring you lunch,” he held up the bag in his hand. Laura’s mouth watered as she recognised the logo of her favourite salad place. Seeing the look in her eyes, Bill grinned. “Now, that’s more the reaction I was hoping for.”
“I appreciate it, but I thought we were already meeting tonight to go over Lee’s application,” Laura said as Bill took the food out of the bag and set it on her desk. She had to make room for it, and packed her funding proposal away.
“We are. If you can still help,” Bill said, grabbing a chair and setting it next to Laura’s.
Laura smiled at him. She’d actually had to insist for Bill to let her help with Lee’s application dossier. Those things could be so tricky, and she had all the insider knowledge he’d need. Plus, she’d write Lee a great reference letter. “Of course I do. I think Apollo Middle School would be a perfect fit for Lee.”
Bill gave Laura’s forehead a kiss and sat down. She rolled her eyes so hard they saw the back of her head. She’d won the battle to go back to work, but she knew he’d forcefully carry her back home if she showed any sign that the flu had lingered. “You’re not subtle, you know,” she said. “I feel better, don’t worry.”
Bill only looked slightly sheepish at having tried to trick her, but actually, not that much. “I’m glad to hear that. Now have some food.”
Laura grabbed one of the two containers and opened it, a whiff of sweet potatoes and parmesan reaching her nose and making her smile. Bill watched her intently as she started eating, and it had to be about more than lunch and her recovering from the flu. What was on his mind?
After five minutes of him not talking, or eating for that matter, she asked. “What’s going on, Bill?”
Bill blinked, his eyes gaining focus. He seemed to realise more time had passed than he’d thought and he took a bite of his own salad. “I was thinking about how nice it was to have you home with me.”
“You like when I’m sick, is that what you’re saying?” Laura teased for the sole purpose of watching him scramble for a clarification. He didn’t take the bait, though.
“That’s not what I’m saying and you know it,” Bill said, trying to keep his tone serious, which only made Laura giggle in response. His eyes softened and he shook his head. “I’d love to have more moments like that where I come home to you. And hopefully not with you running a fever.”
Laura smiled at him softly and squeezed his free hand. “I’d like that.”
Was today too soon? He couldn’t think she was desperate. Besides, what was she talking about, she had things to do at home, and big days the rest of the week. This was best done on a weekend.
“I can come over on Friday again, but this time it’ll be planned,” Laura offered.
“The boys will be thrilled,” Bill said. “So will I.”
Laura waited for the stab of pain that usually followed the mention of how Zak and Lee seemed to love her, but this time, it was slow to come, and she barely felt it at all. They talked about plans while they finished their lunch, and Laura checked the clock above the whiteboard-- she still had time.
“This was delicious, thank you,” Laura said, standing up. “I just have to hang up a map for this afternoon’s class. I could use some big, strong arms like yours.”
Bill raised an eyebrow and she winked at him. He stood up and helped Laura set up a big mag of the Twelve Colonies. It was massive and hung from hooks over the whiteboard. Laura had her back against the board, and when he reached up to secure the right end of the map over her head, he was brought much closer and looked into her eyes. She could feel his breath on her face, his warmth so close to hers and she leaned in to whisper in his ear. “You better close the door.”
Bill was all too happy to obey and he closed the classroom door, then returning to his place in front of Laura. She wrapped an arm around him, running her fingers along his back.
“So what are you teaching them today?" he asked, taking Laura’s other hand and pinning it to the map with his own, right on top of Caprica.
"Oh, only bad things, you know that,” Laura replied in a low voice, using her arm around him to press him closer. Her mouth found his, and they both sighed into it. Making out in her classroom hadn’t been on Laura’s bucket list, but having Bill there, alone, had rendered her a little wild again. Even a kiss as sweet and unhurried as this one sent fire to spread all through her veins.
They parted for air, and Bill released her hand so she put it to rest on the back of his neck, stroking the skin with her thumb. “Class starts in five minutes,” she said with a last peck at his lips. She licked hers as she left his embrace, still somewhat tasting like him.
It was lucky they stopped when they did and Bill was packing up the salad containers, because the door opened and the kids started coming in. They all looked at Bill curiously, whispering amongst themselves about whether the man was a new teacher or he was there to kidnap the last of them kids who would sit down. Laura ignored the babble as she usually did and walked Bill out of the class.
“Dad?” Lee was back from lunch, too, and staring.
“I came to bring Laura lunch,” Bill said. “Don’t be late for class.”
Lee narrowed his eyes but walked to his seat anyway. Laura bit her lip to try to contain a smile.
This was a much more enjoyable lunch than going over more funding paperwork.
They met again that afternoon after class, but this time, it was all business. Laura handed over Lee’s glowing reference letter, and they gathered his reports and filled in the forms. Bill made a joke about sleeping with the teacher for grades, and Laura smacked his shoulder.
Friday came soon enough, and as Bill had a late meeting, Laura took Zak and Lee back to their place. It was peculiar, being alone with both of them, and it reminded her of the first time it had happened, for Lee’s birthday a few months ago now. She’d been so lost then, hadn’t known what to do around two children outside of school. Now, they got to Bill’s apartment - he’d given her a key so she could get in - put on some music, and got to cooking together again. Lee kept asking questions so Laura had to turn the conversation into a trivia quiz as she chopped vegetables and put them in the pan.
“Why is Saturnalia called like that?” Lee asked, crossing his arms and looking at Laura defiantly. He’d relaxed around her as much as she around him, and Laura’s eyes twinkled with amusement as he tried to catch her out.
“Because of Saturn, the Lord of Kobol,” Laura replied, sending him a smile when he narrowed his eyes. She turned back to the stove, watching Zak closely as he stirred the food in the pan. “My turn… who won the Pyramid championship last year?”
Lee huffed. “Do you ask easy questions on purpose?” he asked suspiciously.
Laura laughed, and it felt good. “I don’t. You’re just very smart.”
“The Panthers,” Lee replied easily, but not without showing his discontentment. “But we almost beat them. Who’s the murderer in Murder on Picon ?”
Laura turned to look at him again., a little baffled. Murder mysteries were hardly for children. “You read Murder on Picon ?”
“Yeah,” Lee shrugged. “Mom let me. So, who is it?”
“It was the father-in-law. I figured it out halfway through,” Laura replied. “You need to really stir, otherwise the bottom will stick to the pan and burn,” she told Zak who’d got distracted. “I can do it if you don’t want to.”
Zak shook his head, willing to see it through. “No, I can do it,” he said quickly.
“I know you can. You’ll be the reason why we don’t go to bed hungry tonight,” Laura told him, and the boy beamed.
“Will you stay tonight?” Zak asked, turning away from the pan once again. Laura resisted the urge to take over, and she nodded.
“If you’re okay with that,” she answered.
“There’s no bed for you,” Zak said with a confused look on his face. Where did he think she’d slept last weekend?
Lee rolled his eyes. “She’ll sleep in dad’s bed, won’t you, Laura?”
“I wouldn’t take any of your beds, and your dad’s bed is quite large,” Laura said, trying to keep a straight face even as she wanted to laugh... and also to hide.
Zak accepted the answer with a shrug, and realised he’d left the sauce unattended again. When he stirred it, this time, some of it had started sticking to the bottom. He shot Laura an innocent smile. “Everything’s fine,” he said.
Laura nodded, letting him believe she hadn’t seen him do what she’d warned against. It was almost done anyway, the mixture having attained a creamy, homogeneous texture. She turned off the heat and took the pan to the counter where they’d taken out a large dish. “Be careful, it’s really hot,” she warned. “I’ll pour the sauce and the vegetables in, and you layer the pasta.”
Zak nodded seriously and they got to play the layers game until they sprinkled cheese on top and it was done.
“It’s my turn. What’s the ancient name of Aerilon?” Laura asked, upping her game a little. Lee had found her questions too straightforward, and she didn’t want him to think she was going easy on him or simply letting him off the hook. She wasn’t sure many adults knew the planets’ ancient names, but she’d seen a history book on Bill’s shelves, which might indicate an interest in that area.
Lee didn’t reply at first and Laura put the dish in the oven, setting a timer. Then she looked at him again, and he frowned back. He was definitely as competitive as she was.
“It’s Aries,” Zak said, eating the small pieces of cheese that had fallen on the counter.
“Shut up, I had it,” Lee snapped at his brother who just stuck out his tongue in response.
“Lee,” Laura said seriously, waiting until the boy looked at her. Her eyes bore into his. “Don’t talk like that. Zak knew the answer, which was very good for him.”
“My turn,” Lee said after he’d calmed slightly. “What’s the highest, Colonel or Major?” the smirk playing on his face showed he knew exactly what he’d done. He’d picked up on Laura’s military knowledge being limited, and was now playing on it. She held back a groan. If there was one thing she didn’t know much about, it had to be the military.
“It’s Colonel,” Bill said behind them, and Lee visibly held back another expletive at being interrupted. Laura smiled at Bill, though, as he walked in the kitchen.
“Thank you,” she said. “I would have gone with that, but I’m far from a military expert.”
“I can teach you. I can even start tonight,” Bill said, and his tone told her he wasn’t talking about military ranks anymore.
“I could make the time for that. You have a certain talent for it,” Laura grinned and kissed his cheek. “How was work?”
“It was work.” Bill shook his head. “Something smells good.”
“I made it,” Zak proudly replied.
“He did,” Laura nodded.
In the end, the trivia score was tied, as Zak answered the Aries question but Bill answered the Colonel one. Laura and Lee shook hands in a dramatic display of diplomacy and fair game, and Zak took a picture before they started on dinner. Bill kept stealing glances at her all throughout the meal, making Laura wonder what was going on in his head. His gaze was warm and gleaming with… something she wasn’t ready to see. The worry lines she’d observed on his forehead were much less present than the ones around his eyes and mouth now. Laughter lines. She took a deep breath and looked away. What she’d seen in his eyes was reflected in her heart, in the deepest part of her soul, but if she admitted that it existed, she’d have to face another unpleasant fact. She could just hold on to what they had for now. This was good; no need to complicate everything when they didn’t know what the future held.
They played cards after dinner until it was bedtime and they practically had to force Lee and Zak into their beds. Lee still insisted he’d won on a technicality, and Zak tried to prove he wasn’t tired, all the while holding back increasingly frequent yawns.
“Thank you for taking over tonight,” Bill said once it was just him and Laura. They easily moved into each other’s arms, and she finally pressed her lips to his.
“They behaved while you were away… mostly,” Laura replied, kissing along the hard angle of Bill’s jaw and he stroked a hand along her back.
“You’re amazing with them,” Bill said, his eyes trying to hold on to hers, but she focused on everything but them. They were too intense, burning too bright with something so scary; they held such a potential to ruin everything, and she couldn’t have that. “Laura, I lo-”
Laura’s eyes widened and she crushed her lips against Bill’s. He gave a surprised gasp, which she took advantage of to slip her tongue into his mouth and make them both forget what he was about to say.
Laura’s distracting efforts worked in the end, and he didn’t manage to speak a coherent word for the rest of the night.
Laura woke up to the sound of the shower, and she slowly stretched on the bed, a smile lighting up her face. Waking up in a lively home didn’t get old, would it ever? Hearing the sound of falling water reminded her that Bill was there, so close, that it was his place, and he’d invited her into his home, into his bed, into his family. She pushed down the part of her brain that frantically waved red flags. Not now.
She glanced at the clock. 9.06 AM. The bed smelled like him, and Laura rolled around to his side, staying there a few more minutes and basking in the memories of why they’d fallen asleep so late, exhausted and deeply sated. She didn’t remember ever being this close, wanting to be this close to someone, or had it just been that long since she’d had a worthy relationship?
She eventually got up and walked to the door, stopping when she realised being naked in Bill’s kitchen might not be the best idea with the kids around. She laughed at the thought and grabbed a shirt and sweatpants that had been thrown on a chair. This would do until she showered after breakfast.
Tiptoeing into the kitchen so as not to wake the kids up, she started making coffee. Whipping up a quick pancake batter, she ransacked Bill’s cabinets for chocolate chips, which she ended up finding behind a can of beans and a packet of cookies. Not where she’d have necessarily stored them, but soon enough the first pancakes were in the pan, and she was humming softly to a song stuck in her head.
Bill's arms suddenly wrapped around her from behind, pressing his body to hers and his mouth to the back of her neck. Her hair was piled on her head, leaving him a path free of voluminous curls. He placed kisses all over the freckles he could see on her shoulders and up her neck, his hands moving to stroke over her stomach.
"Come back to bed," he whispered, kissing behind her ear. He rolled his hips against her backside for emphasis. Even without it, there was no mistaking his intentions.
Laura moaned softly, the combination of his mouth, his hands and his husky voice full of promises making her skin hot. She turned around in Bill's arms and looked up at him.
"Mmh… again? I thought last night might have tired you out."
"You make me find new energy, and I’m not that old, Miss Roslin," Bill said, slipping a hand under her shirt. "Do you expect me to see you in my shirt and do nothing? I'm only human," he bit Laura's shoulder and licked a path up her neck, making her gasp.
"No complaints, sir," she grinned, taking ownership of his mouth with hers.
The kiss quickly grew heated, her hands in his hair and his squeezing her ass. He pushed her against the fridge as her tongue stroked his and she wrapped a leg around his hips, allowing them to grind against her. She felt like a teenager again, horny, full of hormones and wanting to do it all the time, and everywhere.
A door opened, and with a shocked yelp, they parted. The only time she’d slept here while the kids were there, she’d been sick; there had been no extra energy for adult activities. She didn’t have to worry then, but she did now.
Zak’s voice got closer as Bill ran a hand through his tousled hair and Laura put her shirt back into place, running the tip of her tongue over her swollen lips. Bill’s darkened eyes followed the movement and she glared at him.
"Frak you," she groaned, because now she was hot and bothered again, and he had the nerve to smirk.
"Yes, that’s what I was trying to do. I'll make it up to you," Bill said lowly, triggering another rush of arousal. This wasn’t what she needed to hear at the moment, but the thought was more than pleasant.
"Laura!" Lee exclaimed with a smile, and they heard Zak's running footsteps making their way to the kitchen, too. "Are you already making us breakfast? Can you be here all the time?*
Frak, the pancakes.
Laura snapped back around to the stove and flipped the pancakes, now black on the bottom. The burned smell made her slightly dizzy and she shook the memories out of her head. At least the pancakes would be salvageable.
“You told me last night to always watch food that’s cooking because it’s dangerous,” Zak said in the same tone she’d used when telling him off for being distracted while cooking.
Laura closed her eyes a second and let out a breath before she answered, “You’re absolutely right. I should’ve paid attention.”
“Really, Laura,” Bill chided, amusement clear on his face.
Zak grinned proudly, and a little satisfied with himself too. Bill placed an innocent hand on Laura’s hip as he asked what he could do to help, but his touch on her frayed nerves did not help. He knew, the bastard, and she sent him a glare that made him chuckle. She had no doubt she’d find a way to make him pay for this later.
“Laura, I forgot to give dad the flyer for next Saturday’s dance,” Lee said, a little sheepish as he took the bottle of orange juice out of the fridge. “I think I lost it, can you explain?”
Bill looked at Laura curiously, and she eventually nodded. “Thank you, Lee, I meant to ask about that. But you need to keep class information somewhere you won’t lose.”
Lee nodded, and Bill ended up asking, “so what is this dance?”
“The school year ends in three weeks, so the school is having a dance as a way of saying goodbye to fifth graders,” Laura said, flipping the new batch of pancakes that, this time, was not burned. “Kids were supposed to confirm attendance by yesterday, but I can make an exception.”
“I wouldn’t want you to hit me again for suggesting I get preferential treatment by being with you,” Bill’s smile reminded Laura of his ‘sleeping with the teacher for grades joke’ and she raised a sardonic eyebrow at him.
“I was going to ask if you’d like to accompany me. I could use one more chaperone,” she said. How weird was it to ask a parent out to a kids’ dance? She was doing it anyway.
Lee and Laura both looked at Bill expectantly until he caved in, still looking a little grumpy. “I’ll be there. What are the responsibilities in the position of chaperone?”
Laura handed Lee and Zak the first plates of breakfast, and they hungrily dug in. Suddenly, Lee didn’t care much about the party anymore. “You just watch the kids for inappropriate behaviour. Fights and such,” Laura answered. “That’s about it. I’ll be there to make sure you’re not bored, too.”
“I can dance too,” Bill said, taking Laura’s hand and leading her to the table along with a third plate to make sure she’d eat while it was hot.
“Wonderful, I'll count you in.”
“This is so good,” Lee exclaimed, his eyes on Laura. “Can you be here all the time?” he asked one more time.
Laura felt everyone’s eyes on her as they waited for a response which she didn’t give, changing the subject instead.
Chapter 10: The anniversary
My soft soul cried writing this :(
Bill groaned as he received more notes from the Secretary of Education on the pilot training program. As if she knew what she was talking about better than him. This could have been Laura, he realised. It definitely would have been more fun if it’d been her.
The job in itself wasn’t bad, figuring out what it took for a nugget to become a real viper pilot, but everything else was. He missed flying, too - real flying. Getting on a flight simulation after flying a real viper was like seeing people walking but only being able to imagine it. This job was going to be the death of him. In the latest simulation he worked on - flying into deep space and being chased by Cylons along with other friendlies through a series of debris - he kept getting busted because of what the engineers called a bug in the programming they were working on fixing. Frakking technology.
And now the Secretary of Education didn’t think they should include Cylon Raiders in the training, so as to avoid instilling fear in the minds of the future pilots of the fleet. As if it wouldn’t be those same people on the front lines if Cylons decided to start another war. As if those weren’t the only people that needed to know what the Cylons were like.
If it was up to him, he’d give it up and go back to actual flying, but it wasn’t.
“Bill,” Laura said, pulling him out of his thoughts. She stood behind the couch where he sat and placed a glass in his hand and a kiss on the back of his neck. “I asked if you needed a drink, and your lack of answer was enough.”
Bill gave a humourless chuckle and brought the glass to his lips before he replied. “Thank you.”
He’d drastically cut back on the stuff after having the kids full time, but a glass once in a while wouldn’t hurt. Besides, Laura was here. They were supposed to see each other for the dance on Saturday, but after such a frustrating day, he needed to see her. She agreed, not needing much convincing.
“Do you want to tell me what’s bothering you?” Laura asked, bent over the back of the couch so she could run her soothing hands along his chest. She straightened up after a bit, but he didn’t have time to miss her touch that her thumbs were digging into his shoulders. He groaned in something between pain and relief as she worked through the tense muscles.
“I have to prepare viper pilots to fly and attack, but Gods forbid I mention actual enemies,” Bill said with a frustrated sigh.
“Why won’t they let you show Cylons in the program?” Laura asked.
“Because the war is long over, and we can’t live in fear anymore.” When a particularly tight and painful knot released, Laura kissed the skin where her hand had pressed, and Bill moved his shoulder experimentally, finding very little of his earlier stiffness left. “You’re really good at that.”
“Don’t look so surprised. I thought I already showed you how good I am with my hands,” Laura teased, working in smaller movements on his neck.
“Maybe my whole body needs a refresher,” he replied with a smile.
“Happy to,” Laura said with another kiss. “But shouldn’t the people who defend the Colonies know of which threats they’re facing?”
“That’s what I said. But according to the security of education, it’s traumatic.”
Laura snorted at his tone. “I have to admit, though, that she has a point. The chances of them seeing a Cylon are slim, and maybe we don’t want all the potential pilots running away screaming.”
“So you’re siding with the one you could have replaced. Should’ve known.“ Tension was melting away from his body, and he found it in himself to tease her again.
“I have to support my fellow career politicians,” Laura said, her serious tone undermined by the laugh that followed.
The job didn’t matter much in the end, as long as he got to see Laura afterwards.
Saying ‘I love you’ was on the tip of Bill’s tongue again, but after Laura had reacted last time, he wasn’t sure it was the wisest idea to try again. He’d wait until she was ready. The insidious part of his brain whispered that it was because she didn’t love him back, but he kicked it away. He’d just have to try again in a while and see if she responded differently this time. Not that he could complain about her distraction techniques.
He'd had such trouble allowing himself to rely on someone else in any way, but Laura was here; frank, kind, beautiful Laura, and perhaps this would work out in his favour for once. Maybe she didn’t hold herself away from him just so she could leave more easily when she wanted to. Maybe he wouldn't frak it all up.
They played Triad until too late, and Laura was a much better liar than he’d thought her to be. She really could have been a politician.
“Today marks the eleventh anniversary of the Caprica City Hall bombing that killed twenty-eight and injured hundreds. Its instigator was immediately identified to be Sagittaron political activist Thomas Zarek. Zarek was found guilty in a trial held shortly after and is serving his sentence in prison. A ceremony will be held tonight in front of the commemorative plaque inaugurated last year by Mayor Adar on the tenth anniversary. Today, we remember those we lost, and their families.”
Images of the old Caprica City Hall burning rolled on the tv screen, and Bill felt the familiar wave of dread of having narrowly avoided death. He’d almost been there, amongst the victims. It had only been a small incident that had delayed him and saved his life.
Lee had been two, maybe three months old, and Bill had been on leave from the fleet. He’d meant to get an authorization for Lee to be able to leave Caprica and visit Tauron as they planned their holidays. For that, he had to go to Caprica City Hall, but at the last minute, the baby threw up all over him. He’d had to clean them both, struggling with his crying son. By the time he'd been ready, he’d felt the boom in the explosion in the way the building had shaken. Suddenly, it was all over the news, but he and Lee were safe. The same couldn’t be said of everyone else.
Bill turned off the tv, having seen enough. He had a party to plan for anyway. Laura inviting him to a dance had been too sweet to resist, even as he definitely did not see himself as any kind of teacher or responsible guardian to act as chaperone. It would be a chance to see her in any case. They could use a chance to talk.
If he arrived early, they could even have a moment together before the children arrived. She’d told him to come for six, but as he had no doubt she’d be there all afternoon preparing anyway, he could aim for an earlier arrival.
Laura was tying her hair into a ponytail when she heard it. She wrapped a ribbon over the elastic, tying it and letting it tangle with her hair, when the tv she had the bad habit of keeping on said those words.
“Today marks the eleventh anniversary of the Caprica City Hall bombing that killed twenty-eight and injured hundreds. Its instigator was immediately identified to be Sagittaron political activist Thomas Zarek. Zarek was found guilty in a trial held shortly after and is serving his sentence in prison. A ceremony will be held tonight in front of the commemorative plaque inaugurated last year by Mayor Adar on the tenth anniversary. Today, we remember those we lost, and their families.”
She walked closer and closer to the tv, eyes glued to the screen, staring at the journalist. Then she closed her eyes when they pulled images, putting a hand on the back of the couch for balance. She remembered them. She’d been there, running in the streets in her nightgown, the horror unfolding in front of her eyes. She remembered them. She didn’t need to see them again. The memories came anyway.
Laura stood in her living room, staring out the window, a cup of herbal tea in her hands. She’d had trouble sleeping again, and to top it all, hadn’t been able to keep her breakfast down for the last week. The doctor said she should've been done with morning sickness by month four but as of now, it hadn't happened. She rubbed a hand over the still small bump on her belly with a shake of her head.
“I have a feeling you’re going to be a troublemaker,” she said fondly, before taking a sip of her hot drink. As if in retaliation, her stomach twisted, and she put a hand in front of her mouth. Now she was even more glad she hadn’t gone out to City Hall -- throwing up on someone’s shoes was not on her bucket list.
She sighed and watched her dad, Sandra and Cheryl walking away. They’d come to pick her up so they could spend the day together, but she felt too queasy to go. They were going to a lake for the day, an hour away from the city, and Laura couldn’t hold back a hint of disappointment at being stuck at home and waiting until she felt better. But whenever that feeling arose, she remembered that life was growing inside her, and it soothed that particular sting.
She sat down on the couch and picked up the book she’d been reading, soothing her belly with one hand. Maybe she’d feel better in a little bit, and if by then her dad hadn’t left the city, she could catch up with them. He’d wanted to stop by City Hall to get a new permit for the house, insisting that it would only take five minutes when Sandra and Cheryl complained. Yes, maybe Laura could catch them before they left. She’d die for a day at the lake, to feel the heat of the almost-summer sun on her skin and swim in the clear water.
Her phone buzzed. Richard. She rejected it. He’d called, that day, too, and she’d picked up. They’d made plans, then.
“How are you, darling?” Richard asked and Laura smiled, holding the phone close to her ear. He never bothered with introductions, with ‘hey, it’s me’ or ‘good morning’. It used to bother her, but now she found it kind of endearing.
“Your child doesn’t like me eating,” she replied.
“So she’s my child when you want her to be…”
Laura nodded, although he couldn’t see it. “Yes, of course… But how do you know it’s a girl?”
“I can feel it. She’s an Olivia, too,” Richard decided, and Laura rolled her eyes.
“You can’t pressure that baby or me into doing what you want,” she replied and he laughed. “I’m actually feeling a bit better. I’ll try to join the lake trip.”
“Or we could leave and be at that resort on Leonis by tomorrow morning…” Richard said sweetly, and the pull of the beach was so tempting. “We’d get a secluded bungalow and make all the noise we want…”
Laura snorted a laugh. “I may have scarred one of the employees, but I won’t apologise for last time.”
“I wouldn’t ask you to.”
“Give me a few days and I can make it happen,” Laura said, a smile stretching her lips. She couldn’t have those amazing cocktails this time, though, but if she asked nicely, they might be able to replace the alcohol with some fruit juice or another.
The deafening bang of a nearby explosion travelled through the air, knocking the air out of Laura’s lungs and she dropped the phone on her lap. The gush of wind that followed broke the windows, glass splattering everywhere. Laura’s heart pounded, a strident beep in her ears, shaking arms shooting up to wrap around herself. After a minute, she registered Richard’s voice still screaming in the phone and she picked it up, still in some kind of transe.
“Laura, answer me! What happened?” he asked, his voice strained and worried.
“I-I don’t know. Oh gods, there’s glass everywhere. Something must’ve happened,” she held a hand to her mouth as a sob tore through her throat.
“Hold on. Don’t move, I’m coming to you,” Richard said, concern seeping even further into his voice. “Laura. Stay where you are.”
Laura shook her head, gaining some clarity back. “No. Don’t come. What if it’s still dangerous?”
“I don’t care!” he snapped. “I’m in the car now.” he kept talking for a few minutes, but Laura barely listened. She tried to stand up, taking deep breaths until the world stopped spinning. Looking out the blown windows, the sky was dark. At 10 in the morning. She had the presence of mind to put on shoes. Richard’s voice registered in her ear again. “It looks like it’s somewhere around City Hall.”
They lived only a street over from City Hall, with the building’s dome visible from the window. Now thick smoke filled the air, making it impossible to see it if she tried. She rushed back to the bathroom to throw up some more. “I’m so sorry,” she told the baby, letting herself fall on the bathroom floor. “We’ll be fine, we’ll-”
With a gasp, the conversation with her dad came back to Laura’s mind and she jumped to her feet, a wave of nausea nearly overpowering her again, but she ignored it and rushed for the door. She snatched her phone on the way and hung up on Richard, messily clicking around until she was calling her dad.
She ran down the street, still in her nightgown, tears streaming down her face. People had started gathering in the street and when what was left of the building came into view, Laura felt her heart break, tearing apart like a weak piece of paper. No matter how many times she tried calling, her father never answered.
Laura grabbed the remote and turned off the tv. Her legs gave out and she fell on the couch, tears flowing freely down her cheeks, and she ripped that damned ribbon from her hair. What hurt almost more - but not quite - than the memories, was that for the first time, she’d forgotten what today was. She’d forgotten it was the day her life had turned around, foolishly wrapped up as she’d been in work, in planning for the future, in Bill and his family. She’d planned a party at school and Bill was coming to chaperone with her. She’d been giddy about it. Too busy to notice the date and give it much thought. She’d even practically moved into her own apartment now instead of where her family’s memories were. Out of sight, out of mind, then.
How could that happen? How could she have planned a party, of all things, today? A children’s party, to celebrate the one she’d lost? She’d only lost it a few days later, after they’d found her father deeply injured, only for him to die in the hospital, like her mother had. But she might have lost it to the bombing for it was such a clear victim of it.
How could she face Bill today? And his beautiful, intelligent, alive children? Her own would have attended the dance with Lee, asked for a story like Zak. Gods, none of them deserved to see her like that.
She tried to call Bill to cancel, but he didn’t pick up, and even his gruff message to leave a voicemail couldn’t make her smile.
A plan formed in her head wherein she could drive to the school, drop the banner she’d brought home to finish and then come back and be alone. No one even had to see her, she would be in and out. She checked the clock; she’d have to hurry if she wanted to avoid people. If she left now, she’d barely even make it before the start. But not going wasn’t an option, that big banner was essential to the room’s decoration. The kids didn’t have to suffer, too.
So Laura splashed water on her face -- all the while being under no illusion that it would help her look decent -- grabbed her keys and left. The drive was filled with more memories, but she pushed them away.
She sneaked into the school and dropped the banner where it would easily be found, then turned away. She was almost at the door again when her name was called.
Frak. Why did Bill have to be early, this one time? She furiously blinked back tears as she stared at him, looking extremely dapper in a suit she’d never seen, and terribly overdressed for an elementary school dance. He smiled at her, but his face fell a little more the longer he looked at her. He stepped forward and put a hand on her arm.
“You don’t look well, Laura. What’s wrong?” he asked, his eyes so full of worry it made her heart ache. He didn’t deserve to suffer, either.
“Nothing. I think I need to go home,” Laura said, looking away from him, and she walked out of the room and into the corridor. The school always felt different at night, with the empty classrooms and quiet corners. Bill followed her, frustratingly refusing to let go and leave her alone.
“You talked me into coming here,” he said.
“I know, and I’m sorry.” She sighed. She couldn’t look at him again, or she’d break down. He couldn’t see her break down. He had enough to worry about on his own. “You have to leave it. Let me go.”
In the corridor, Bill caught up with her and took Laura’s hand in his, as if he hadn’t listened to what she’d just said. She couldn’t help it, she looked up at him. Just like that, she couldn’t walk away anymore. She leaned into him and he caught on, wrapping her into a comforting embrace. This felt good. After the day of painful memories, of tears and bitter regrets, being in Bill’s arms felt like coming home, and it scared her more than anything else could. How quickly she’d grown attached, how irremediably she felt pulled to him, how he made her long not to be alone anymore.
“I’m here. Talk to me,” Bill said, running a hand up and down her back. Parents and children walked by them, but Laura barely registered their words of greetings. Bill pulled them both to the side, to small benches along the wall designed for children.
She almost broke and told him right there and then. She was sure she wouldn’t even have to tell him all of it, that he’d just understand enough. She could ask him if he’d watched the news today, and that would suffice. If he’d caught sight of any news report, any paper, hear any journalist’s words, he’d understand. But telling him served no purpose, except for earning herself the look of pity that irremediably came every time someone found out. She couldn’t stand it if Bill, of all people, were to look at her like that. He didn't need to know everything for them to work out.
Taking a deep breath, she pushed it back out in a shaky sigh. She’d never actually had to say it out loud; everyone who knew her was more than aware of it. Richard was there, Kate carried her home from the hospital, the other teachers all knew. But Bill was there, always wanting to help, and her heart, full of love and childish hope wanted her to believe he’d make it okay. But she couldn’t say it, and she didn’t need anyone to make it okay. She could do this on her own.
They stayed that way for a while, wrapped in each other’s arm, with Bill’s hand stroking her arm and dropping kisses into her hair. It was their world; a world of bubbling feelings and terrifying dependence, a world of buried confessions and destructive secrets.
When Laura disentangled herself from Bill and stood up, he looked up at her questioningly, a glint of hope in his blue eyes.
“Would you care for a dance?” she asked, trying for a light tone. She felt marginally better, and dancing to the slow music that reached all the way down to their corner would hopefully help.
The frown that had settled on Bill’s face barely eased as his eyes studied her face. He wanted to know. He was imagining the worst scenarios, wondering why she wouldn’t trust him, why she wouldn’t give them a chance.
She released a sigh when he took the hand she offered and stood up. The smile he gave her didn't reach his eyes as he put his other hand on the small of her back while she put hers on his shoulder. They swayed along to the slow rhythm and Laura managed to relax a little in the closeness and the music. This felt nice.
“I didn’t tell you how beautiful I think you look today,” Bill said, dropping a kiss to her cheek. “So this is my chance.”
Laura smiled at him, this time. Maybe, if she could make him forget what had just happened, they could go back to the way things were. “Thank you. I love that suit on you. You’re dressed as if you’re going to a wedding after this, though.”
“I’m not,” was all that Bill said.
It was strange, dancing in a dark school corridor, a few steps away from the main activity, but they didn’t have the strength to move. After a while, she walked into the gym where the dance was held, and watched over the children.
When the party ended, they went back to their own apartments, and Laura couldn’t push away the thought that she’d made a mistake.
Chapter 11: Shattered
I didn't spend my day on those chapters, I don't know what you're talking about?
I had the Bill/Carolanne scene planned for later chapters, but I thought it actually fit perfectly here, which is kinda why this chapter is a lot shorter than the other ones, because it got added to the outline a few hours ago
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Bill couldn’t shake the feeling that something had changed. He was definitely not proud of the way he’d acted at the dance, but seeing Laura increasingly unhappy over the last week had given him flashbacks of the end of his marriage, and what if the problem was him and he made other people miserable? Surely, Laura would tell him to frak off if that was the case?
It didn’t help that the next day was the one his ex-wife had chosen to see the kids again. She’d cancelled every other time they’d set up a visit, and it was too important for Lee and Zak for him to cancel now. He had some stupid hope that it might go well, that they wouldn’t fight, and especially wouldn’t scream. The past few months alone with the boys had given him a sense of perspective he didn’t have before, dampened the entitlement and upped the respect he had for her, having done for years what he was doing now. Still, there were limits to what he’d stand.
Before they left, he tried to call Laura again, like he’d done three times already. Why didn’t she pick up? Gods, he hoped she was okay. He should have taken her back with him, should’ve listened to his heart instead of his frakked up brain that whispered she didn’t want to be with him anyway. He’d go and see Laura when he was done with the visit. Hopefully, she’d let him in.
Lee tugged nervously at his collar as they walked up the front yard to Carolanne’s house. She’d been allowed to leave the centre a while ago, and Bill hadn’t thought of the implications of that until now. What if he had to send the kids to her again? He legally only had joint custody. But a worse question than that followed, what if he’d done such a bad job as a father that his kids wanted to? He refused to fidget and clasped his hands together as Zak knocked on the door.
They’d been married for years but now, somehow, she felt like a stranger. Her smile when she opened the door hit him the wrong way. She looked the same as the last time he’d seen her, maybe a little thinner. She hugged both children and they all walked in.
“Are you okay?” Lee asked, his wide eyes on his mother.
Carolanne nodded and took her oldest back into her arms, kissing his head as she looked at Bill. “I promise you, that will never happen again.”
Bill looked away, resisting the pull to shake his head. They moved to the living room that was all unpacked by now, and he stayed silent for a long moment, watching his children get reacquainted with their mother. Even with being with him full-time for the past few months, they’d still spent a lot more time with her, but that would change. Zak talked about his Pyramid team, practice and his first game a few weeks back and Lee talked about school and books he’d read. When he mentioned his teacher, Bill’s attention suddenly flared.
“What about middle school?” Carolanne asked, and that was really the first question she addressed Bill. “I suppose you haven’t looked at that.”
“It’s two weeks before the end of the school year, in case you were too busy to notice,” Bill replied. “Lee is registered with Apollo Middle School.”
“Laura helped us with the admission stuff,” Lee said with a grin.
“That’s your teacher, Roslin, right?” Carolanne asked, even knowing exactly who her son was referring to.
Lee nodded. “Yes. She said I could call her Laura when we see each other outside of school,” he defended, but Carolanne didn’t care about how he called her as she stared at Bill.
“I don’t want to hear a word about her,” Bill warned, his tone inflexible, making his ex-wife raise an eyebrow. Yes, he’d shown his hand that this topic - this person - was important to him, but better than letting her insult Laura and get away with it.
“I’ve never had a thing to say about Lee’s teacher, Bill. Unless that’s not all she is?”
Bill looked at Zak and Lee. “Could you go in the next room for a few minutes?” he asked calmly, and the readiness with which both boys agreed and left sent a stab of pain to his heart. They were used to their parents screaming at each other when they weren’t in the room. “No, that’s not all she is. I love her, so be very careful about what you’re going to say.
Of all things, Carolanne laughed. “You love her?” Why did she find this so funny? She didn’t have a say in what he did anymore, and her finding the matter hilarious unnerved him to no end. “Oh, Bill. How long after the divorce? or better yet, you were frakking her while we were married, weren’t you? And there you were, standing on your moral high horse with all your accusations. I should have known.”
“You’re the only one who did it with a ring on your finger,” Bill said, holding up his left hand as if to prove a point. It had felt good to take it off, as if the ring had weighed a tonne and held all his worries. “It isn’t any of your business.”
“You’re right, it’s not,” She agreed, which should have pleased Bill, but made him strangely suspicious instead. “It’s not, because she won’t last long. Soon, she’ll see your true nature. You’re gonna frak it up, you always do.”
“Thank you for your vote of confidence. What should we do about the kids?” he asked instead of taking the bait. He’d be damned if he was going to let her have control of his fears. He wasn’t interested in a screaming match; all he wanted was to see Laura and make things better.
“Why? Are you going to leave again? Don’t be so predictable, Bill."
Bill gritted his teeth. “I’m not. But I should know if you are.”
“I’ll let you know,” she said in that dismissive tone of hers that didn’t mean anything.
She brought the kids back as a way to close the conversation, and Bill sat in silence once more. The times he’d called her and she’d been almost civil seemed far away now. He let out a sigh when they eventually left, rolling his shoulders but not quite managing to get rid of the tension.
As they got in the car, he was still thinking about Laura and what he would do. He was going to see her now, only hoping that she’d want to see him too. He would tell her he loved her, because maybe she needed to hear it. He’d make sure she knew he’d be there no matter what, even if there were things she couldn’t say or didn’t want him to know. The memory of how she’d so obviously fought with herself, the pain written all over her face, still filled his heart with sorrow.
That wasn’t exactly the way he’d wanted things to go. He’d thought he would drop off the boys with the babysitter and make his way over to Laura’s place. She’d invite him in, they’d share a cup of coffee, and he’d tell her everything he’d planned to say. Perhaps he’d even explain his reticence to trust, maybe touch on to the end of his marriage. If any of them needed to start sharing, it was him. She’d dealt with a part of his life he’d never explained, but she’d never been impatient about not knowing.
But instead of all that, he stepped out of a taxi with the boys and got up to his own apartment. A car had run into them at a red light and they’d spent a while at the hospital, getting checked over. It was only a formality for the boys that got out without a scratch, thank the Gods, but his own arm had been slightly bent out of shape.
As he was thinking of ways to go and see Laura now, there she was waiting outside his door. He gave her a relieved smile when he saw her, and Lee took the key from him to open the door.
“What happened to you?” Laura asked, her wide eyes on the splint around his arm. They moved inside the apartment, and her eyes only left him to check Lee and Zak for any similar injuries. She didn’t find any, and came back to him.
“First of all, let me assure you that we’re all fine,” Bill said, all the while seeing how much it annoyed her since something had obviously happened to him. Bags under her eyes spoke of her lack of sleep, and she looked ready to attack him if he didn’t tell her what happened right frakking now . “We had a minor accident. In three weeks, this will be gone,” he added, gesturing to the splint. He took Laura’s hand in his, but she barely reacted.
“You had an accident,” she frowned. “You could have died,” she added, so quietly it was almost a whisper.
“It’s okay. We’re fine,” Bill repeated, although she didn’t seem to listen to anything he could say. He had no idea what else to say, what would go through to her overwhelmed mind.
“You could have died,” she repeated. “What would I...”
“Laura, I love you, and I’m not going anywhere,” he said, squeezing her hand, and she took it away.
Her eyes, when they finally met his, were glistening with tears but filled with fierce determination that he’d come to associate to core Laura. He’d always admired it, but now it broke his heart, as if the vital organ knew something his mind hadn’t processed yet. She was leaving.
“How do you know that?” Laura asked, with too much force. “Oh Gods, I can’t do this. I’m sorry. I can’t do this anymore.”
“Laura, wait!” he called back, but she wasn’t listening and backed up towards the door.
Everything went cold when she left and his brain caught up. The person he least expected to be right had be the truthful one, this time. He’d really frakked it up, like he always did, and Laura was gone.
I'm sorry, you guys! But on the bright side, it's only up from here?
I needed something to push Laura over the cliff so that she'd eventually realise that yes you can lose someone at any time, but that doesn't mean love and attachment aren't worth it, and it's still worth looking towards the future rather than the past (and also teach Bill that sometimes things are outside his control and that's just the way it is)
Yes, I have a lot of feelings
Chapter 12: Aftermath part I
I hesitated to merge both of Bill's and Laura's separate hurtings and dramas in the same chapter, but it would have been long and overwhelming, so here we go for part 1!
A week after Laura had left his place and Bill was going crazy, pacing his apartment like a lion in cage. He was no less miserable, no less ready to pounce on anyone who approached. He’d tried going after her, calling her, going to her apartment, but he hadn’t been able to see her again.
At first, he’d been devastated. This couldn’t be the end. She couldn’t have left like that.
Then he’d been angry. Was she seriously avoiding him, hiding until he forgot, refusing any sort of talk to help him understand? Were they just a couple of teenagers getting over a fling?
When Lee came back from school in the last week of the year and reported that Laura wasn’t there, he became plain worried. Getting her to miss work when she was sick had been like pulling teeth, and now, suddenly, she was just gone? Dropped off the surface of the planet?
The next time he saw her face - outside his own head - was in a gossip magazine, the sort that he even avoided seeing the covers of at the supermarket. His blood boiled at the picture and the headline. ‘Richard Adar’s love affair’ and several variants of a picture of Laura smiling with her hand on Adar’s arm. Only his back and a bit of his profile were visible, but Laura’s face was fully into view. In a resurgence of anger, he picked it up, opened it and studied the picture so hard his eyes hurt. Those were old pictures, he realised, they both looked younger. Relief flooded through him, so thick he could have laughed.
If those pictures had been recent, he wasn’t sure he would have survived it. He started reading the article, but a paragraph in and he abruptly stopped. This was like invading her privacy, reading her journal without permission, especially if this journal was half full of lies like celebrity magazines always were. He put the magazine back after a last look at her smiling face, his heart aching, and walked away. Journalists were excessively interested in Adar now that he was running for president, and desperate enough to dig up old stories. That was just his luck.
This was ridiculous. He had to either talk to her or stop thinking about her.
Yet he kept thinking about her, missing her, and not being able to talk to her. For a man of action, he was helpless.
It only took a few more days before Bill caved and did the one thing he’d thought he’d never do: barging into City Hall and demanding to talk to the Mayor.
He arrived at the official building shortly after leaving work, and immediately stopped at the receptionist’s desk. His order to get a meeting with the Mayor was met with an incredulous stare.
“I’m sorry, sir. Mayor Adar is busy all evening, I’m afraid,” the receptionist replied. “But I can take a message. Can I have your name please?”
“Bill Adama. Tell him this is about Laura Roslin, I’ll wait here,” he said, and stepped back a little.
It took even less time than he’d thought. Adar appeared around the corner, seemingly arguing with a woman that Bill recognised as the one he’d talked to at the parent-teacher conference. That had to be his wife then. She left in a fury, and Adar walked straight to Bill, putting on the arrogant facade of his campaign posters. Bill squared his shoulders and stepped up to the man.
“Mr Adama,” Adar said, extending his hand. Bill shook it, making sure to apply as much pressure as he could. Laura’s words ‘ it’s not about size, Bill ’ came back to his mind, digging a little deeper into his heart, like every time he thought about her. He didn’t care what this was about, as long as the man listened to him. “My office is this way.”
Bill shot a look to the disbelieving receptionist as he passed him and ended up in the Mayor’s office at the end of the corridor. Adar closed the door and walked to his desk. “You said this was about Laura,” he said without preamble. “But who are you, exactly?”
Bill honestly could have slapped himself. What was he to Laura exactly? Boyfriend made him feel like a fifteen-year-old, but he wasn’t even that anymore, not since she’d broken up and subsequently avoided him. “I care about her,” he said, at last.
“Did you have an accident?” Adar asked with barely veiled disinterest, pointing to Bill’s arm with his chin.
“A minor one,” Bill waved it off. “Do you know where Laura is?”
“Oh, you’re the man from the hickey,” Adar said in a sentence that only made sense to himself, looking Bill up and down.
“I came to see her a while ago. She had a rather prominent hickey. Made me see red, like her dress.”
“You’re married,” Bill remarked.
“A necessity.” Adar shrugged. “Don’t you have children? One in Laura’s class? Something like that.”
Bill crossed his arms over his chest. “I don’t see how this is relevant.”
“I’m just thinking how weird it is that she’d get involved with you, of all people. She wouldn’t see my kid, but yours are fine? She thinks I don’t know she put Maddie in the other class. It wasn’t that subtle.”
Bill spent a long second wondering whether Adar had just insulted his children, but found he didn’t have an answer. Frakking politicians. Why wouldn’t his kids be fine? Laura had seemed to love them. She’d even cared for them while he couldn’t.
“Where is Laura?” Bill asked again, desperately holding on to his patience.
Adar’s eyebrows lifted almost to his hairline. “You think I know where she is? That’s funny. Why would that be?”
“She told me you two had a history. I need to talk to her. Maybe you’d know,” Bill said almost reluctantly, ending with a sigh.
“When she avoids me, I just go to the school. She hates it when I interrupt class.”
Bill clenched his fist. It was all he could do not to throw it into Adar’s jaw. “She’s not there, and for frak’s sake, who do you think-”
But now, it seemed he’d got Adar’s genuine attention, not the game he’d played to try to get a rise out of the lovesick fool pining over his Laura. “She didn’t pick up my call either. I don’t know why it’s hitting different this year. Maybe because ours would have been-” he cut himself off with a shrug when he remembered who he was speaking to.
Bill tilted his head with a frown, trying to process everything the man had overshared. What the frak was he talking about? At Bill’s expression, Adar shook his head. “You don’t know.”
“Know what?” Bill pressed, voice coming out rough.
“I’m afraid that doesn’t concern you,” Adar rounded his desk and sat down behind it, but Bill didn’t quite take his cue to leave. There was a lot more he could get out of the politician, he was sure of it.
Eventually, he got an address, and words that rang in his ears for hours afterwards. ‘Do you really know her?’ Maybe he didn’t. Maybe this would just be another time he’d messed up and he had to accept it. This time around, though, he was trying. Trying to explain, trying to be there, trying to make it work, but it didn’t. Maybe he should just stop and try to move on.
So Bill left City Hall and went home. As much as he would have loved to punch the Mayor, he had to act strategically, and this wouldn’t be a smart move. He looked at the address written on the piece of paper in his hand, a house that Laura reportedly half-lived in, but he put it away.
He couldn't force Laura to talk to him. Hell, no one could force her to do anything she didn't want to do. It was time to give up and accept the truth. It was over, and that was all he’d get. The fact that it took him two weeks to realise that made him feel supremely pathetic.
Everywhere in his apartment, there were reminders of her. A pair of heels she’d carelessly kicked off by the door, a bracelet on his dresser, a bottle of shampoo in the shower. Everything to show that she’d almost settled here, that they’d been comfortable, a unit if not a family.
There were also the things he couldn’t see, and those hurt more. The dreams where she came back; the love he knew would never go away; the memories of her beautiful smile, her quick wit, the fire in her eyes when she shared his bed, their reading sessions on the couch when he'd close her eyes and he’d run his fingers through her curls... He tried to shake them off, but they held on, stronger each time. He ended up both wishing he hadn't fallen so hard and grateful for the gift of her presence. Her absence hurt just as much no matter the day and which one of the two feelings he focused on.
And then there were the things he had even less control over than the thoughts in his head. Those were Zak and Lee and their refusal to accept that Laura was gone. It was his fault, of course - it had always been. Caught in the excitement of falling in love, he'd made her a part of the family without taking into consideration what would happen to the boys if things ended.
“Is Laura coming to my Pyramid game?” Zak asked one morning again, his wide eyes full of excitement.
Bill shook his head before Zak even finished his question. “No, she’s not,”
“Why not?” Zak insisted. “Is she not back?”
They still spoke of her as if she was on holiday somewhere and would soon come back to retrieve the place she'd forged for herself in their family. And now, like every other time, he had no idea how to tell them this wouldn't happen. Tact had never been his thing. How to do this so as not to scar them any further?
“Leave her alone, Zak,” Lee said with a sigh, his head turned down to his cereal bowl. “She doesn’t want to see us.”
“That’s not what it is at all. You haven’t done anything wrong, either of you. I did,” Bill said, steel seeping into his voice from the injustice of children taking on an adult blame. “Lee, look at me. Both of you. It’s not that she doesn’t want to see you. I may not know… that much I know.”
“If you made a mistake, can you apologise and maybe she’ll come back? She received flowers at school once,” Lee said, looking up. Bill had to put a final stop to it, in their hearts and in his. He may not know how to proceed, but he wasn’t going to let them hang on to silly hopes. Those were for him and his broken heart alone, not his children. Children shouldn’t have to worry.
The kids didn’t mention it again, and school was closed for summer anyway, so that was at least less possibilities of talking about Laura. Bill would even take small blessings at this point. And not having to go to school, look at her classroom where he’d first asked her out, at her desk where he’d tasted her lips, was one of those blessings.
“Maddie says her parents are getting a divorce. People keep teasing her about how her dad and Laura were together,” Lee said, leaning forward in interest, waiting for his dad to tell him more about it. Bill had barely just got home from his doctor’s appointment where he got to take his splint off, marking the end of the three-week-long annoyance. Having to ‘take it easy’ didn’t quite sit right with him.
“Why are you talking to that girl?” Bill asked, his initial reaction being to keep his son away from that family.
“She’s my friend,” Lee shrugged. “She’s nice. And people are mean to her about the article on her parents and Laura,” he frowned.
“What article?” Bill asked. He should keep a closer eye on the news. Having to rely on his eleven-year-old son was embarrassing.
“I don’t know. I don’t want to read it and make her sad,” Lee replied, grabbing a glass and filling it at the sink. “She says all the parents read it and her dad probably won’t be president.”
Bill watched him before quickly making a decision. After that gossip magazine fiasco, he hadn’t wanted to look. He hadn’t wanted to find out for himself what Laura clearly didn’t want him to know, but if this was all over the news, he’d end up seeing it anyway. He easily found the article online, for there were dozens of them reporting the same story. Holly Adar comes forward, shooting her husband’s political career in the foot . It had a picture of the woman and blocks of text detailing the things she’d done, the things they’d done together in the name of ambition, power and status. Bill made a face between disgust and fury as he read it and had both Lee and Zak promise they wouldn’t go looking for it.
The longer he read, the deeper his worry over Laura got, and she hadn’t even been explicitly mentioned yet, just a few remarks in passing. It was only the beginning of the long report.
Adar’s marriage right after the attack on City Hall, the article, the bombing, it had to be linked somehow.
In the middle of reading, Bill’s phone rang. He glanced at it, but none of the other times had it been Laura. This time was no exception. Unknown number from Picon. He didn’t know anyone there, not anyone with a reason to call him. He debated answering, and the ringing stopped.
He gave a shrug, then the phone buzzed again. This time, he picked it up, and found that he didn’t regret it.
Chapter 13: Aftermath part II
“Laura, I had the visit of someone who’s actively looking for you, but you probably already know that. He didn’t seem to know about anything. Anyway. People may contact you to talk about us. Don’t. Holly’s gone mad. Something’s going to explode soon. Wrong phrasing, but you know what I mean. Wherever you are, call me.”
Laura’s head spun with the amount of information Richard had managed to pack in such a short message. But no, she wouldn’t call. She hadn’t left to be sucked back in by incessant phone calls. She grabbed her phone again and turned it off.
She shook her head, thoughts of Bill meeting Richard somehow pulling a light smile out of her. She would have liked to be there for that storm.
For a moment, after she’d left Bill’s home, her finger had hovered over Richard’s number, in a replaying of every single time she’d struggled and gone back to safety. But she was frakking tired of that. She’d deleted the number instead. But having done that didn’t mean she didn’t know it was him when he called, and when he did, she let him go to voicemail, on the pile of all the ones from Bill she hadn’t listened to.
She’d survived the last week of class by locking herself in her office and dealing with end of year reports until she almost literally dropped from fatigue, ignoring every single knock on her door by pretending she wasn’t there - a very mature thing to do, thank you very much. They always spent the last week playing games, pooling all classes together anyway, so her absence amongst the other teachers wouldn’t make too much of a mark. And she’d get to avoid Bill. No matter how much work she put into it, though, it seemed like everywhere held a piece of him. The coffee shop he’d invited her to, the restaurant where they’d got tipsy on Tauron wine, the gym where Zak had his first pyramid game. Gods, she hoped the children were alright.
Everything reminded her of what she’d lost. She’d thought she’d felt all the grief there was to feel after the bombing, but she’d been wrong. Bill, Zak and Lee took centre stage in her pain now. She’d made the right choice, though, hadn’t she? They could all be gone in a second. A disease, a car accident, a bombing. Anything could happen, and she’d be alone again. Then she wouldn’t survive. Not this time.
Every time Bill called, she was tempted to answer and fall back into his arms, and this had to stop. If she was away, at least, the physical distance would stop her from doing something stupid.
So when school had finally closed, she’d fled, escaped, flew away. Far away, until she landed on Picon, on Kate’s door who’d stared at her in utmost confusion.
A week at her friend’s house had done her some good, removing her from everything that made her life miserable and overwhelmed her mind. She’d only briefly had to explain why she’d left her home, thank the Gods, but she knew Kate would ask again later. In that first week, Laura had read her latest novel, the one she was about to go on a tour for, they’d gone on hikes, discussed anything but her own life, and she’d even picked up painting again. Whatever she did, however she tried to distract herself, to convince herself that this was the right thing to do, that it’d all be fine, the ball in the pit of her stomach grew larger and larger, squashing her lungs, crushing her heart. She’d wake up in the middle of the night, struggling to breathe, reminiscent of the nightmares she used to have after the bombing. Instead of baby’s cries, now she heard Lee and Zak. Instead of her family, it was Bill.
She’d just woken up from one of those when she heard Richard’s voicemail, tears springing in her eyes. No matter how many she’d already shed, there always seemed to be more. She got out of bed and down the stairs, opening the door to the patio for some fresh air. The air was colder here than on Caprica, but it did her good. She sat on a chair, drawing her legs under her, and watched the lights of Queenstown shine in the dark of the night.
The door opened again behind her, and she must have sat there a while, because she suddenly suffered from painful pins and needles in her legs. She stretched them, looking up at Kate who joined her outside.
“What are you doing up?” she asked.
Kate shrugged. “Inspiration strikes at odd hours. What about you?”
“I couldn’t sleep,” Laura said, resting her elbow on the armrest and her head on her hand.
“Look, honey. I love that I finally get to see you. When you said you would a while ago, I didn’t actually believe it. But… I don’t understand what’s happening with your captain.”
“Can you stop calling him that?” Laura asked, although it was a rather weak demand. “It’s over. I can’t. I shouldn’t have.”
“You have to give him a chance, first, before you can say it’s over.”
Laura sent her friend a tired look, and slowly shook her head. “I did, and it didn’t work out.”
“That’s a frak- that’s a stupid excuse,” Kate said, too loud in the silence of the night. “and you know it. You shut everyone out, even me. The only reason I’m still here is that I didn’t let you push me aside. I had to fight, but at least I knew what I was fighting against. I knew what you were trying to do.”
Laura sighed. She didn’t reply, and Kate didn’t speak further either. They just watched the first signs of the day, the shades of blue in the sky. “I can’t lose him,” Laura said quietly after a moment. “I can’t. Gods, that accident, if he’d- I can’t.”
“So you leave him because you can’t lose him?” Kate asked, and yes Laura realised the flaw in her reasoning, but that didn’t mean she didn’t believe it to be true. “Haven’t you lost enough already?”
Laura huffed out a breath. “Exactly. You’re proving my point.”
Kate shook her head, finally coming to sit next to Laura. “I mean, you deserve something nice. Something you give a real shot at. I know it’s hard. And if you know that you don’t want to see him again, then don’t see him again. But I don’t think that’s what you want. Am I wrong?” Laura didn’t reply, not wanting to spur her on. She continued anyway. “You could let him in.”
“Don’t start with me, Kate.” This time, Laura turned her glare to her friend who had sadly seen it enough time that it didn’t make her tremble in fear anymore. Damn it. “I'm not gonna tell everyone that my whole family died and that I frakked who's probably going to be the next president and lost his baby, all of that before he decided that was the only thing he liked me for.” Saying it like that, she’d almost laugh at the absurdity of it.
“Not everyone,” Kate conceded. “But the man you love can handle that.”
“I don’t…” Laura started, but as Kate raised an eyebrow, daring her to refute it, she gave a short laugh. She couldn’t deny it. She wouldn’t have flown to another planet on a whim if it hadn’t been love. “I told you I wasn’t ready, back then. You told me to go for it anyway.”
“You didn’t let me lie to myself like that when I met Ed and didn’t want to give it a shot. I wasn’t about to let you do the same,” Kate said, looking down at her wedding ring. “We’ve been together for fourteen years, and I don’t regret any of them.”
“He told me yesterday you were thinking of adopting a dog,” Laura said in an obvious attempt at a subject change. She’d earned it, after all.
Kate was on the phone. Laura could hear her melodious voice downstairs but couldn’t make out words. When she went down the stairs and Kate saw her, she stopped talking. She had an air of secrecy about her, like she knew Laura wouldn’t approve if she found out. It reminded her of their college years and trying to stop Kate from calling her ex every time she had a drink. This couldn’t be good.
“I have to go. I hope you’ll… think about it,” she said into the phone before she hung up.
“What was that about?” Laura asked, tilting her head.
Kate shrugged nonchalantly. “My agent.“ She was a great author, but a pitiful liar. Unlike Laura, who could convincingly lie to herself that she was better alone. To each their own talents.
Laura reached for the pot of coffee and poured herself a cup. Kate had a book tour date in Caprica City in two days, and they would go back together tomorrow. After some needed time away, she’d face reality head on. There was no other choice.
The Picon Star Tribune lay on the table, and Laura picked it up, intrigued by the picture of Richard’s wife on the front page. The headline gave her pause though. She’d expected another article on the happily married couple and how hard they were campaigning or some other crap. Instead, she found herself enthralled by the truths and the secrets she found in there. This was going to destroy them all.
Kate watched her read, biting on her nails. “Look at that bastard. Serves him right.”
“He was definitely not ready for the journalists to dig up our relationship in his run for presidency. Do you think she finally lost her mind?” Laura asked, glancing at the round face of Holly Adar.
“Who knows? Tell me you’re not going to get involved in this.”
Laura groaned with a resolute shake of her head. “I’m not. My phone is blowing up, they all want a piece of the sad woman who doesn’t have a soul left in the world, and I’d tell them where they can put their newspapers, but that would be a waste of energy.”
Kate laughed. “Good. You’ve given him enough. I can’t believe they’re talking about you like that. Frakking vultures, the whole of them.”
Laura was past caring what the newspapers said, even though having her very private life exposed on national news was more than a little infuriating. If she could, she’d rip every last one of them to shreds. In the past few weeks, they’d become increasingly interested in her, but whatever they’d told hadn’t affected her. Now, though, this was different. She still couldn’t care less what people thought of it, except for one person. If Bill had read this… she couldn’t help thinking what he’d say, what he’d think. But worse, she thought of how he’d start to look at her with sympathy -frak sympathy-, carefulness, maybe apprehension, as he wouldn’t know how she’d react to anything. He’d watch what he said around her, so as not to risk upsetting her. He’d treat her like a fragile object.
Laura took a sip of coffee and shook her head. She wouldn’t have to see that anyway - not having decided what to do about their situation.
Still, she wondered what he’d think.
“Richard left me a voicemail a few days ago,” Laura said, leaning against the kitchen counter. “Asked me not to talk about us. As if I wanted to.”
“Are you okay about this? Do you still want to go back with me?”
If she didn’t go back now, she probably never would. She’d already thought about Picon schools and where to live, but this wouldn’t work. Caprica was where her heart was. “I didn’t know that he’d married her for her political connections, on top of a functioning womb.”
Kate sniggered, and neither said anything for a while. “I don’t think your Captain will have read it,” she eventually spoke again, a hint of something in her eyes that Laura couldn’t quite figure it out.
“It’s in every newspaper, and every tv report,” Laura argued, although she wanted Kate to be right.
“I’m just saying. I have a feeling.”
“How helpful, thank you,” Laura snorted.
In any case, she couldn’t blame Bill for being curious, especially with the way she’d left him. He really did deserve an explanation; the more she thought about it, the more convinced she was of that fact. Perhaps he was past wanting explanations -he’d stopped trying to call a week ago; perhaps he hated her by now, and she’d deal with that too.
She went back to Caprica with no plan, and that was a first. She used to have a plan for everything, class material, groceries, parties, life - although this last one had majorly derailed and therefore been abandoned.
Kate had agreed to come with her to the cemetery before getting to the bookstore, as she didn’t feel like going alone. The cemetery wasn’t a place she’d often visited over the years, much preferring her parents’ home as a place to honour her family’s memory to a cold stone with their names engraved. And maybe that was part of the problem. By not making herself look at that stone, she’d allowed a part of her brain to live in the past, in the safety of the memories she had of them alive, as if it would change the reality in any way. She would go today, before she did anything else.
She walked down the alley between the tombs, smoothing down the front of her shirt with a nervous sigh. It made no sense to be antsy about it - none of them were really there, yet she looked back at Kate again who kept her going.
A thought suddenly traversed Laura’s mind and she grabbed onto it, tears pooling in her eyes.
Gods, she wished Bill was there.
He’d take her hand, brush away her tears, wrap his arms around her. In this dark world, he’d be her beacon of light. She could almost feel his warmth, his breath on her neck, and the feel of his skin under her fingers.
But he wasn’t there, of course, because she’d broken his heart. After what he’d been through, he’d still found it in his heart to love her, and she’d stomped on that, all because she couldn’t bear the thought of losing someone else.
As she walked to the alley at the back of the cemetery where her family lay, Laura felt Kate slow down and she turned to frown at her friend. Kate said nothing and merely pointed. Wrapped in wishful thinking, Laura hadn’t noticed the massive flower arrangement that had been laid in front of her family’s stone. It was huge, colourful, and fresh-looking enough to be from the same day. She didn’t know anyone who could have been responsible for that. Whoever it was had put a lot of care into it. Richard had other things to think about, and this wouldn’t be his way to apologise, if apologising was even a word in his vocabulary. Anyone else wouldn’t be this involved, even guilty or sad newspaper readers.
A card poked out of the arrangement of flowers and leaves, and Laura picked it up. With a shaking hand, she opened the note and read it. Her breath hitched, and emotions welled up in her throat. The tears that had earlier threatened to fall cascaded down and she brushed them away with the back of her hand. She closed the note again, and turned around to glare at Kate, her wet eyes somehow dampening the intended effect.
Kate held up her hands in a peace gesture. “All I did was ask him a question, and tell him how to reach you. And maybe something about how you missed him, but that’s it,” she said seriously, before a smile split her face. “Oh wait, add to that a deep and very personal love declaration on your behalf.”
“Don’t joke about this,” Laura replied, her tone not holding too much force as she had to forcefully push the words past the lump in her throat.
Heart thumping so loud she could barely hear her own thoughts, she opened the note again to stare at the words.
I’ll be at our coffee shop until it closes, if by any chance you wanted to talk to me.
Laura parked her car around the corner, checking her face in the rearview mirror. Her eyes were red-rimmed and slightly puffy from either exhaustion, crying, or both. She took a deep breath, rubbing her eyes once more, as if this would make them anything else than more red. Giving up on trying to look decent, she got out of the car.
Each step towards that coffee shop where they’d had their first actual talk felt harder than the previous one. She’d spent a while in front of her family’s stone, looking between the names that would never leave and Bill’s words who would stay with her, trying to make up her mind. But in the end, she couldn’t have avoided him again. She didn’t have that strength. He’d get to actually know her, and then perhaps he’d change his mind about wanting to stick around. She’d be ready for that. She’d make herself ready for that.
Stopping in front of the door, she took a shaky breath and ran a hand through her hair. Someone side-eyed her as they walked past and entered the shop, and Laura couldn’t help a snort. How ridiculous she must look, anxious like one of her students before a test. She yanked the door open with more force than necessary, trying to get rid of any amount of that nervous energy, and walked in.
Bill wasn’t hard to spot - he had his gaze fixed on the door, and when he saw her, his eyes widened slightly. The same drink he’d ordered last time, the two-sweet one with more cream than liquid was untouched in front of him. Time seemed to stop as his eyes caught hers across the room and refused to let go. It was just the two of them, their world, their aching hearts. Someone passed in front of her, and reality rushed back in.
Bill stood up and slowly - too slowly - made his way over. He wore something Laura had previously referred to as his ‘civilian uniform’, because that was the one combination of civilian clothes that most closely resembled a colonial fleet uniform: navy blue trousers and jacket with black buttons - in summer, really? Laura had to remind herself to breathe, clenching her hands into fists to stop them trembling.
“Laura…” he said. His voice, quieter and more unsure than she remembered, coupled with his pained smile almost broke her down all over again. “I’m glad you came.”
“Me too,” Laura nodded. She offered her own smile back, but it was nowhere as easy as before. And how could it be? “How is your arm?” she asked, the first thing she thought of saying. It was fitting, seeing that was what had made her panic, realising how tragically human and breakable he was. The splint was gone, and she hoped he hadn’t taken him off himself in an attempt not to worry her. She wouldn’t put it past him.
“Good as new,” Bill replied, rotating said arm and flexing his fingers to prove his point. “How are you?”
Laura shook her head. “That’s a trick question. How are you ?”
The corner of Bill’s lips turned up slightly, making Laura long for the wide grins he’d come to give her in their time together. The ones he kept for his sons and her. “I missed you.”
Laura swallowed the lump in her throat at the words and blinked away. “I missed you too,” she replied in a whisper. “I heard you even spoke to Richard.”
“Frakkin’ moron,” Bill grumbled. The strength in his voice, the passion with which he expressed his unequivocal opinion made Laura chuckle, and just like that, the awkwardness lifted. “Should we go for a walk?” he then offered.
Laura let out a relieved breath. Oh, thank the Gods. She couldn’t imagine having this sort of conversation in such a public place. Besides, there was somewhere she needed to show him. She quickly nodded, and he opened the door for her. They walked out, to the biggest pleasure of the other patrons who had constantly needed to step around them.
They walked down the street, as close as possible, but not quite touching, a torture in itself. Neither spoke for a while, Laura’s thoughts a jumbled mess of everything she needed to say, needed him to know. Should she get the easy stuff out first? The worst to shock him once and for all, and then the rest?
To her surprise, he spoke first. “I’m sorry, Laura.”
Laura stopped in her steps to look at him properly, brow creased in confusion. How was he sorry? “Why?” she asked.
“I frakked this up for us, for you. I tend to do that with everything that matters,” he explained.
Laura bit her lip before she reached out and took Bill’s hand in hers. His eyes shot up to hers, and she allowed herself to get lost in them, only for a moment, a short reprieve. Touching him again sent a rush of warmth through her, giving her the strength to go on. “That’s not true. I couldn’t have asked for a better man. I left you, I avoided you, and yet you’re sticking by me. And thank you for the flowers. They’re truly amazing. You’re… Bill, I...” she shook her head slowly, words not coming out as easily as she would have liked.
Bill’s thumb stroked over her knuckles in an unbearably sweet way that filled her heart with longing; longing, and memories of how gentle he could be under the facade that he showed the rest of the world. “Your friend called me. She asked a lot of questions. She didn’t take my bullshit answers. She told me you’d be there, and I… I had to see you.”
“She can be intense sometimes,” Laura agreed as they resumed walking. “I was going to ask if you’d read that story from Richard’s wife, but I suppose I have my answer.” She looked down at her feet and sighed. Thankfully, she’d gone for flats today, and praised her earlier presence of mind.
“I stopped halfway through. Did you want me to?” Bill asked, his free hand coming around to rest on her arm, too. She was glad she wasn’t the only one in need of contact.
“I don’t know. I suppose.”
“I’m so sorry, Laura, about your family,” he said, and Laura held her breath, waited for the inevitable pity. This was the exact thing she hadn’t wanted, not from him. She studied his face, his pained eyes, the corners of his mouth downturned in sorrow. Care, not pity. Empathy, not sympathy. The wave of relief, of love and grief that coursed through her blood made her close her eyes for a short, blissful second. He kept proving her traitorous brain wrong. “Do you want to tell me about them?”
“Thank you,” she said, for far more than his condolences. They turned right, then left before she spoke again. She knew where she was going, and he let her lead without asking. “I was almost there myself, the day of the bombing. My father insisted on dropping by City Hall to get some permit for the house renovations… none of them should have been there. I wish I’d told them to… I don’t know. I wish for a lot of things.”
“There’s nothing you could have done,” Bill said, and although he was right, it didn’t make any of it better.
“I know. Sometimes I wished I’d been there with them. It would have hurt less,” Laura frowned at her own admission, and kept her mouth shut for the next minute. Where had that come from? “How are Lee and Zak?”
Bill’s face closed and Laura’s heart dropped at the sight. Wrong question. “They’ve not had the best time,” he said, in the understatement of the year.
“I didn’t want to get involved with them,” she tried to argue, but couldn’t find a way to express her initial struggle with Bill’s children. “I tried not to. But getting to know them was so easy. They’re really special.”
“Why didn’t you want to know them?” Bill asked, a protective edge to his voice that, even though it was directed against her, made her want to smile. He kept saying he was a bad parent, but she saw evidence of the contrary in everything he said, everything he did. She couldn’t vouch for what he’d done before, but now, at least, he was caring, protective, thoughtful.
“I assumed that, if not reading the article, then speaking to Richard would have taught you this, but he and I were almost parents,” she forced out, settling her eyes on anything but Bill’s face. Now, she was grateful they were outside so she could focus on other things while she drew the strength to talk about that subject. The lamp, the man they’d just walked past with the yellow tie, the music coming out of a car. “We didn’t plan for it, but we were thrilled anyway. I’d wanted to be a mother, but never thought it was the right time. I took it as the blessing that it was. Then the bombing happened, and I killed our child. The doctors kept going on about traumas and miscarriages, but I knew, and he did, too.”
“I know you, and you did not kill anyone, Laura. The mere fact that you survived shows more strength than I would’ve been capable of in that situation,” Bill stopped them again, and brought the hand on Laura’s arm up to her cheek. She leaned against it, drawing comfort from the tender touch. “Pregnancies are so fiddly. One thing is not quite right, and everything falls apart. Carolanne had a lot of issues, too, when she was pregnant with Zak. We thought we might lose him, once. I was devastated, and he made it, but the point still stands.”
“I’m sorry, Bill. Poor Zak, he’s such a sweet soul,” Laura said, thinking back to her recent nightmares, how Bill’s children had supplanted her own in the disaster scenarios, how worried she’d been for them while she was away. “How are they holding up with the accident?” she asked. Frankly, she’d rather talk about the living children than the dead one.
“They were more shocked than anything,” Bill said as Laura led them into a park and to a bench off the main path. They both sat down, never letting go of each other’s hand. “But I didn’t know what to tell them about why you weren’t around. They’ve had to deal with that too much already, and-” he paused, clenching his jaw and letting out a frustrated breath. “I shouldn’t have brought you into the mix this soon.” Laura’s heart skipped a beat at the implications of it. The things he only half said. “What are we doing here?”
“I don’t know,” Laura admitted. “I needed a chance to explain. Thank you for listening. As for… the future, I...” she said, finally starting to look forward, to what remained instead of what was lost. She never continued that sentence, choosing instead to gently brush her lips against Bill’s. She’d had a choice to make, and she’d made it. Making herself stay away wasn’t an option she’d consider anymore. They didn’t move, the simple press of their lips enough to communicate what they needed to know.
When Bill pulled back, she instantly missed the warmth of his lips, and looked into his surprisingly expressive blue eyes, a window to his soul. She felt all of her fears, her doubts, the depth of her feelings reflected in him, and for a moment, she wasn’t sure they could make it. She needed time and patience. He needed stability and trust. What to do with that?
Bill narrowed his eyes, deep creases forming on his forehead as he frowned, the thoughts swirling in his mind clearly upsetting him. She let him sort through them at his own pace, like he’d done with her, but with each second that passed, she was a little more convinced he was going to leave her like she’d left him. His eyes eventually gained focus again, and he gave her a smile that reminded her of Lee’s when he raised his hand in class but was unsure how she’d take his comment.
He took her hand, and placed it on his cheek, over the scar that marked his skin. The one that had made him flinch when she’d touched it. The one that had brought questions to her mind. “I was away a lot, as you know,” he started, looking down and away from her. “I didn’t make time for my family. I’d come back for a weekend here and there. Carolanne and I started fighting. We’d scream ourselves hoarse, throw the worst insults at each other. The kids were never in the same room, but we were so loud they might as well have been. I came back even less often, and when I did, I wasn’t even there. I slept on the couch, knowing she brought other men into our bed. She started drinking. I did too, at times, but I couldn’t fly drunk, so I quickly had to get a grip. Somehow, the fights got even worse then. She’d grab whatever was closest to her and throw it my way. This is the time a glass caught the side of my face.” Even though she’d sensed him working up to it and could see that he was mostly fine by now, Laura still let out a gasp, tracing the scar with her thumb, her index finger reaching just over the second one at his temple. No matter what he wanted everyone to believe, his heart was as soft as hers, and it made her stomach twist to think of him hurting like that. “I was selfish; every single time, I’d leave again. I’d avoid thinking how this was affecting the kids. I forgot Lee’s birthday. Twice.”
For once, Laura didn’t know what to reply. She’d wanted so badly to ask, back at the beginning, what was the deal with Bill’s marriage, with the kids being picked up from school later and later, finding his ex-wife passed out, and Lee doing things that he shouldn’t have to do at his age. But she hadn’t said anything. Neither of them were ready, or willing to share their burden. He was probably nervous about her reaction in the same way she was about his, she realised. He would have had a challenging time trusting her, wondering if she, too, would turn aggressive and cruel after a while.
Laura’s hand stayed on his cheek for a moment longer, before she lowered it down a little to rest on his shoulder, thumb coming out to stroke the side of his neck. “Eventually, we got a divorce,” Bill continued. “The kids had no one to turn to, no one but you, and I will eternally be grateful to you for that, Laura. All the dinners I could buy you couldn’t repay the attention and care you gave them…” he looked up into Laura’s eyes again, and she was reminded he was a military man, a strategist who could make a hard call if he needed to. “But if you come back, and then leave again, they’ll be hurt. And I’ve made enough parenting mistakes, enough selfish decisions for a lifetime.”
“I can’t promise that it’s all going to be okay, Bill,” Laura said with a frown, putting both of her hands back onto her lap.
“I know that.”
“I wish I could. But there will be good times and bad times. What I can promise, though, is that I’ll be there, and I’ll tell you. I want you. I want the future to be with you.”
Bill sighed, and after another tense moment, reached out again to take Laura’s hand, bringing it to his lips. The feel of it made Laura wish his lips were elsewhere instead. “I love you, Laura. I want my future to be with you, too.”
It wouldn’t be life without a leap of faith, a jump into the unknown, the thrill of taking a risk and hoping it’ll pay off, and in that case, they would both work to make it pay off. Everything good comes with the risk of losing it, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth having it at all.
“We could start over,” Laura suggested, looking around at the park, with the lush trees and vibrant flowers, and even the one squirrel who stopped and stared at her. She turned her eyes back to Bill. Nothing was more worthy of her attention. “Go slow. And when I say slow, I’m not talking about not having sex. That was frakking stupid.” A smile broke on Laura’s face when Bill laughed.
“I’m fine with that,” Bill said, his gaze falling on Laura’s lips when her tongue came out to wet them. She was sure she had more to say, more questions, more things to put out in the open, but frak, more of him was all she could think about. That kiss was nothing like the previous one, tentative, unsure - a question. Can we do this? This one was an affirmation, a sealing of promises, a reuniting of souls. We’re choosing this .
She licked and sucked at his mouth, ending up closer to him every time they shifted until she was halfway across his lap, and he winced when she bit a little too hard. “Easy, Laura,” he chuckled, and gently held her back, having to call upon his deepest reserves of self-control. He ran the tip of his tongue over his bottom lip and gathered a droplet of blood.
“Sorry,” Laura said with a small sigh.
Her confused mind didn’t know where to stand. Part of her was filled with giddy relief that he hadn’t pushed her away, while another part wondered what else could still trip them up. They settled with his arms around her and her head on his shoulders for a while, watching the squirrel bury a nut it would quickly forget about, and talking about all the things they hadn’t said before.
When light started to dim and both of their stomachs growled, they got up and made their way out of the park. Laura kept leading Bill the way she’d started earlier, before the stop in the park, and he still let her, patiently following.
The sun was almost entirely down for the day when they reached the house. They stopped in front of it, taking in the ordinary facade, the green door, and the mailbox of E. Roslin .
“This is my parents’ house,” Laura said, although it was as clear as day, taking the key of the front door out of her bag. Bill nodded, resting his hand on her back, an anchor.
Laura had lived by a set of rules, for years:
Do not interfere with your students’ private life . She’d tried to stay detached and protect herself. But she’d talked, shared, laughed with Lee and Zak more than she thought she ever could.
Do not fall asleep in someone else’s bed . She’d tried to make sure she wouldn’t get attached to anyone else. But Bill had made breaking that one so easy. She hadn’t wanted to escape, to leave the warmth of his embrace, the fire of his touch.
Do not, under any circumstances, let Richard frak you over again. Frak this one. He could do whatever the hell he wanted, she was done.
Do not let anyone into your parents’ house. She’d wanted to protect the memories, to make sure this would keep being their place, the house where she fought with her sisters over ridiculous things, the house where she’d told her dad he would be a grandfather. But she had only protected the pain of it.
Laura had broken all of her other rules without giving them too much thought; they’d happened in the moment, a quick decision, but this was the first one she willingly tore down. With a last glance to Bill, she opened the door and let him in, allowing past and future to blend together.
Phew, that was emotional! And a little more talking (and other things) in the next chapter
Laura showed him everything, and Bill’s head spun from the stories, the memories, the lives lived. He even saw the sonogram copy clipped to the fridge, and for the tenth time since they’d entered the house, he took his strong, bold, beautiful Laura in his arms.
Living with the constant reminder of what she’d lost must have been absolute hell, and Bill felt both intense pain, and admiration for the woman that held his heart. If he’d suddenly lost everyone he cared about, and an unborn child, he would have undoubtedly withered away. But not her, she’d picked herself up, kept going to school every day and being the amazing teacher that she was, even rising to headmaster when the opportunity presented itself. When he told her how floored he was by what she’d been through, Laura shook her head.
“What else was I supposed to do?” she replied, but welcomed the hug, and he stroked a hand over her hair. “Everything stopped for me, but the world didn’t.”
“You’re proving my point,” Bill said, but she didn’t listen. Of course she’d fight him even on the definition of strength.
“When I started living here, it made me feel better. My apartment felt so empty and sad, but here, I felt like a part of them still lived, and sometimes, I could pretend.” Bill tried to hold her closer still, his heart aching for her, but this time, she pulled away completely, his hand lingering on her side the only link left between them. “But I don’t want to do that anymore. Will you help me with the stuff I still have here? I don’t know what I’ll do with the house, but I just… can’t have a foot here and a foot there anymore.”
Bill was quick to nod. “Of course, I will. Whenever you want.”
Laura smiled gratefully, moving her hand to rest over his heart, in the tender way he’d come to adore. “Thank you. And you never know, maybe it will end in the same way as when you moved,” she winked, and Bill laughed, which only made Laura’s smile wider. He was certainly not going to complain if it did end the same way.
They kept moving around the house, and he asked more questions now, Laura’s stories touching upon her sisters’ piano lessons or the stunts they’d pulled to get one or the other out of the bathroom faster.
Walking into that house had felt like finally being allowed into Laura’s heart, and Bill had been invaded by a sense of contentment and pride that hadn’t left him since. He’d stayed silent at first, observing room after room that Laura showed him, burning to be worthy of the trust she’d put in him. He was still lightheaded from how the day had turned, from making his way past Laura’s defences and allowing her past his.
If they hurt each other now, it would be so much worse, with everything bared to scrutiny, to judgment. Laura didn’t look like she’d judged, though, which deeply baffled him. He almost wished she had, so he could hold on to the familiar feeling. He’d forgotten to tell her why Carolanne had thrown that glass at his face in the first place, he realised, that might be why Laura felt sorry for him.
“I asked her whether Lee and Zak were mine,” Bill said, while Laura had found some canned food for them to reheat and have for dinner. She turned to look at him, an eyebrow raised in question.
“This,” he pointed at his face. “Since she was with other people, I asked whether Lee and Zak were mine, or if they were some other warm body’s kids.”
Laura frowned and closed the space between them, holding a hand up to rest on his cheek once more. He found he actually liked it, now. And maybe now that he’d told her everything, she’d finally judge. “Oh Bill, do you really think so?” she asked, her eyes full of concern for him.
“I don’t, not really,” Bill sighed, and shook his head. “I was over the line. I was angry.”
“We all say things we regret sometimes. I don’t think it’s a reason to come to blows,” Laura said, her eyes narrowing at his answering shrug. “This won’t happen with us. We know better.”
“During our first date, you told me you thought about hitting parents,” Bill said to hopefully lighten the mood.
Laura gave his lips a quick kiss -and he wished she’d stay there longer- before she opened a drawer to look for the can opener. “I told you that in confidence,” she argued with a teasing grin. “Good thing I love you.”
Bill’s breath caught, his heart skipping a beat or two as the words spilled from Laura’s mouth. She didn’t seem to have realised that, giving a triumphant hum when she extricated the can opener from that drawer.
“Mmh?” he asked, hoping she’d repeat it. It was pure greediness at this point, but he hadn’t expected that, so he needed a replay of it.
Laura looked up, biting her lip as she now remembered what she’d said. For a second, he was afraid she’d pretend she hadn’t said it, but she smiled softly. “I said I love you. Did you really not hear me?” she asked, studying the controlled mask of his face.
“No, say it again,” Bill said seriously, but his eyes now danced with happiness, and his face eventually broke into a wide smile. He couldn’t be serious when she said things like that.
Laura huffed out a fake exasperated breath and poked his chest with a finger. “That’s quite enough ego boost for you.”
Bill grabbed her hip and pulled her close again, capturing her lips in a passionate kiss like he’d wanted to do the instant she’d first said it. She gasped as his tongue came out to taste her mouth and laid the can opener on the counter so she could wrap her arms around him. He was dying to show her exactly how much he cherished her, but had to forcefully tame down such thoughts for now. Later, when they’d be back in one of their apartments, not now, starving and pressed for time as he had to go home soon and relieve the babysitter.
“I suppose you earned it,” Laura breathed against his lips. “I love you, Bill.”
Bill smiled so widely it made his cheeks hurt, unaccustomed to such an expression, and he tried to pull her back to him, but this time, she resisted. He looked at her in confusion, but she just started kissing his jaw, and down his throat. “I love you,” she said again.
“I like what you do when you love me,” Bill commented, his throat vibrating under her lips. She grinned and travelled back up until their mouths connected once more.
When they parted and Laura was finally about to open that can, her phone rang, and she glanced at the screen. “Sorry,” she said, looking up again. “It’s Kate. I didn’t keep her up to date, I should probably do that.”
Bill nodded, although he didn’t release Laura from his hold - he wouldn’t do that until he had to. And, like that, he was actually close enough to hear the voice of Laura’s friend and make out a few words, remembering how she’d grilled him with questions about his intentions before allowing him to have any information on Laura’s state and location.
“Yes, we’re good,” Laura said into the phone. “Yes, I know you told me so. I’ll bow down to you tomorrow at the reading,” she laughed, a sweet sound that was one of Bill’s favourites from her. She must have angled her head differently or moved the phone, because suddenly he could make out whole sentences instead of random words.
“You don’t have to come to the bookstore,” Kate said.
“Of course I do. I’ll even get to see your adoring fans,” Laura replied.
“Don’t you want to see your adoring fan?”
“We can both come,” Laura said tentatively, glancing at Bill, who shrugged. He’d follow her wherever she went.
Laura cocked her head. “What?”
“Remember a while ago when I told you to get back on that horse, and you thought it was a sexual thing?” Kate asked.
Laura snorted a laugh, a faint blush rising up her cheeks. “You said that, not me,” she argued. “I never agreed with that imagery.”
“Details. But do that instead. Even though I still haven’t met him face to face, do that.”
“He’s… actually here right now,” Laura tried to hold back a giggle, and Bill looked at her, puzzled. Did the two of them talk about him in bed? He wasn’t sure whether to be flattered or insulted. He didn’t really listen to the end of the conversation as he wondered what they both had meant.
Laura’s blush hadn’t disappeared by the time she hung up, moving down her neck instead. “Sorry about that,” she said.
“Which part?” he asked, pushing his luck.
“The part of you being compared to a horse that I would, you know..”
“Yes.” Laura kissed him again, all the while giggling uncontrollably. “She’s happy for us.”
“So am I,” Bill said, stroking Laura’s arm up and down until he stopped and took her hand, intertwining their fingers. “I need to go home. I wish you could come, but…”
Laura nodded, reassuring him. They’d agreed to wait until they were more stable to tell the kids again, and she understood that. “I know. Maybe next weekend?” she asked, although that seemed too far away.
“I don’t work on Monday for Colonial Day, and the boys are going to an activity centre,” Bill said, hoping they could make that time because he definitely couldn’t wait another week to see her. Not after losing her and just getting her back. He wasn’t that strong.
Laura’s face brightened as much as his must’ve done, and he was struck with how breathtakingly gorgeous she was, once again. “I forgot Colonial Day. I’d love that.”
They forgot about dinner in the end, and left the house together. Bill felt a twinge of pain in his heart when Laura walked away, but this time, he’d see her again. She loved him. He smiled, like the lovesick fool that he unashamedly was, and went home.
Lee and Zak were nowhere near ready for bed when Bill arrived, too busy chasing each other around the apartment with toy guns. Zak had a remarkably good aim, if the two arrows that stuck to Lee’s back as he ran were any indication. They stopped when he arrived, and Lee squirmed and twisted to try to reach the arrows on his back.
“Dad, you were away a long time,” Zak said with a pout.
“I’m sorry,” Bill said as he took off his shoes. “I’m staying with you tomorrow, you can show me what you’ve been up to,” he reached the kitchen, then looked back at his children. “I hope you’ve eaten.”
“Yeah, she made us dinner,” Lee confirmed, finally reaching the tip of one of the arrows and yanking it off his shirt. Zak never stopped laughing as he watched his brother struggle.
“Good, then you should be hitting the shower,” Bill told them, going to open the fridge and see what he could feed his dramatically growling stomach. Luckily, there were leftovers of some kind of fish and rice dish the kids must’ve had. He put the plate in the microwave and walked to Lee, plucking the last arrow off of him so his son wouldn’t dislocate his shoulder trying to reach it. Zak frowned at him unhappily for ending the entertainment.
Lee narrowed his eyes, keeping them on his father as he sniffed, an expression of concentration on his face. “Dad?” he asked. “Why do you smell like Laura’s perfume?”
Bill’s cheeks burned, and he could only hope his darker complexion wouldn’t show too much of it. “I don’t,” he eventually said. The lie was so weak that even Zak, the less observant of the two, saw through it, but it didn’t matter. He didn’t have to justify himself.
He did smell like Laura, and he loved that. But maybe keeping their resuming relationship from his children wouldn’t work, after all.
“You do, dad,” Lee insisted, taking another step towards Bill to smell him again. “Is Laura back?”
It was too late anyway. Lee was sure of it, and barely awaited confirmation before a smile split his face. Bill deeply hoped he wasn’t going to regret this.
“Is she-” Zak started.
“That’s enough questions for tonight. I thought I told you to go to bed,” Bill interrupted with a pointed look.
Denying would probably have only encouraged the kids, so he didn’t respond to their question, hoping that he’d be able to count that in his favour - loophole, he didn’t actually confirm their suspicions? - if Laura was displeased by the turn of events. But she wouldn’t be, she’d wanted to see them too, had been sad that she couldn’t yet - Bill was the one scared for them to be hurt again. He had to admit he was scared for himself, too, but there was no way he would live without Laura now.
Unrelated to this story so feel free to ignore me ;)
I can't make up my mind so this is officially a poll:
I want to write a story where Bill and Laura have a baby together and are a family because I'm soft like that, and I think it could be really fun too. I had this ridiculously romcom-y idea of them being younger (30s) and having a drunken one-night stand. Then they'd have to try to work together when Laura gets pregnant (I see a potential of reenacting the scene from the miniseries of you take care of military decisions and I take care of the civilian ones with like I decide if I keep it or not and you may help with the everyday stuff if I want to let you and they'd shake hands lol).
This would be very silly and basically ugh we can't stand each other but we're having this baby (and oops we keep sleeping together) to oh I've fallen in love with the infuriating mother of my child, how convenient. (I think there was a movie with Katherine Heigl like that?)
I wrote a short sorta prologue and I keep going back and forth wondering if you all would like the silliness and pure self-indulgence of it haha so, the poll is open, let me know! :D (also this isn't my only romcom idea, so...)
They met on Colonial Day, and the day after that when Laura waited outside Bill’s office just like he’d waited many times outside her classroom. They resumed their practically nightly phone calls, too, which made the separation of the week easier to handle, having to wait for Saturday to spend more physical time together. The plan being to meet up early while the kids were practicing their respective sports, and then spend the evening together, the four of them.
Since Lee had figured out Laura was back, there was no use for her to stay away. And even though Bill told her both boys were excited to see her again, she still harboured a sense of fear that they’d resent her. More than that, taking it slow and avoiding putting pressure on their new relationship was flying out the window. This was going to work out, it had to.
So Laura made her way back to Bill’s place for the first time in the last month, holding a bag with different kinds of food and clothes for the night. She wasn’t above buying children’s love with cupcakes. Bill opened the door and kissed her silly when she arrived, and being with him was soothing enough to forget about the other worries, for a moment.
“Do you greet every one of your guests like this?” she asked when he released her, gasping for breath and licking her slightly swollen lips
“Only the special ones,” Bill replied with a grin, taking her bag so she could kick off her shoes.
“How many people are in that category?” Laura asked.
“Just you. Admission in that circle is tough.”
“What do you have to do?” Laura followed him into the kitchen where he dropped the bag. Then she wrapped her arms around his neck, and gave him another kiss that only served to magnify her need for him.
“I have to be desperately in love with you. Doesn’t happen every day,” Bill said with all the seriousness of a real rule, which made Laura’s smile brighten.
“I brought some treats for the children and for you,” Laura said, parting from him before she couldn’t, and the look he gave her made it clear that she was the only treat he wanted. She fished around in the bag and got out the plate of cupcakes she’d baked, some chocolates, cocoa powder, because she couldn’t be sure that Bill had any, and a can of whipped cream. “Last week, in the coffee shop, you had that drink in front of you, and you didn’t get to have it. I thought I might be able to recreate it.”
Bill’s expression went from curious to slightly amused. “I didn’t know you could make cappuccino.”
“I looked it up. It shouldn’t be that hard. And if I mess it up, we’ll have to find you another drink,” Laura replied with a wink. He had no idea what she was talking about, but was enjoying the ride anyway. The simple fact of having her move around his kitchen like it was hers was enough to keep his spirits flying high and nod to anything she said. One day, it could be her own, too, and this would be their everyday.
Laura started on the drinks, taking the milk out of the fridge and Bill sat down on a chair at the table after asking if he could help and being directed to this exact spot. He was content with just watching her, especially since she wore a short dress that hugged her body in all the right places and he freely got to admire her form.
“How was work this week?” she asked, derailing his thoughts.
“Finally got the Secretary of Education to agree with me. She’s almost as stubborn as you.”
“You wouldn’t have been better off with me then,” Laura said, pouring the coffee she’d just made into two cups. “That never would’ve happened anyway. Did you see that they’re opening an investigation and Richard is barred from running for president? I have to say, that feels good.”
Bill nodded, but never quite knew what to say about the man. He had nothing nice to say, that was for sure. More than once, he’d wished to go back and throw his fist at Adar’s face and hear a thing or two break. He’d fought the urge to do so in the Mayor’s office, but now, after learning the extent of what he’d done to Laura, he’d have liked to go back and not be reasonable. Probably a good thing he couldn’t turn back time.
Laura worked on the drinks for a few more minutes before she turned to him and set both mugs on the table with a frown. “I suppose this is more of a mocha than a cappuccino,” she announced. “I messed up somewhere.”
“It smells delicious, thank you,” Bill said, the heavy aromas of coffee and chocolate filling his nose, making him actually want to switch to mochas now. “Leaving that drink last week never mattered to me, because I got you back.”
“You’re still a sweet talker, aren’t you?” Laura smiled at him, bending down to kiss his lips. “Is that why you put so much sugar in your drinks?” she took a sip of her drink, and before he could reply, she straightened up again, striding to the fridge. “I forgot a copious amount of cream. It wouldn’t be your drink otherwise.”
The glint of mischief in her eyes was impossible to miss, and Bill’s heart beat a little faster in anticipation, wondering what she had in mind.
“Tell me stop,” she said, squeezing whipped cream on top of his mug. He watched it, and quickly told her to stop, but she kept going. He narrowed his eyes. She’d never had any intention of listening to him. When she decided she was done, she pulled the can away and set it on the table, eyes moving up to Bill’s with a cheeky grin. The mug was so full that the drink reached over the edge, held together by some sort of magic, which would surely be broken by any movement on the cup or the table. There was no way he’d be able to do anything without spilling.
"That's too much," Bill said in his most severe, military leader tone, just to see what she’d do. She regarded him with disguised surprise and curiosity.
“Let me help you,” Laura breathed softly, bringing her chair closer to his. She dipped her index finger into the cream and held it to his mouth. He complied to the unspoken order, and she watched his lips close around her finger with slightly darkened eyes. She took her finger back, leaving him with the rich and sweet taste of the cream.
She repeated the motion, but this time, spread the cream over his lips and licked it with her tongue, making Bill’s heart almost jump out of his chest. He was suddenly very grateful she hadn’t stopped when he’d asked her to. Laura’s tongue invited itself into his mouth next, chasing after the lingering taste, but retreated when he tried to caress it with his own.
Laura sat back in her own chair and slowly brought her mug to her lips, making Bill growl in frustration of having her pull away. She was playing with him.
So he played, too.
One finger dipped into the cream - not as elegantly as her, spilling some liquid on one side, but he couldn’t care less - and brought to Laura’s lips, which opened and eagerly sucked it into her mouth, tongue coming out to run along the sides of it.
Frak, that reminded him of Laura taking another part of him in her hot, wet mouth and overwhelming his senses with sensations he hadn't thought possible. His pants suddenly became tight and he gave a low groan.
Laura shot him an innocent look, emphasised by the slight widening of her eyes and a slow, coy smile. She was good. Bill shot her a smile of his own, his heart close to bursting with how deliciously playful she could be, how she'd chosen him to share those moments with. Just in case the Gods existed, he might have to thank them for bringing this beautiful woman to him.
They kept feeding each other cream and ravishing each other’s mouth, growing more intense and heated every time. At some point, Bill carried Laura from her chair to his lap, managing the incredible feat of not breaking the kiss while doing that. She reached for the hem of his shirt and pulled it up and away, and he did the same with her dress, kissing and biting at the lovely skin of her chest.
“There’s an hour until the kids come back, right?” Laura gasped, throwing her head back as encouragement and a way to give him more space to work with. He hummed in agreement but it ended up being something incoherent as his brain couldn’t focus on speech. It could have focused on speech, but that would have meant stopping what he was doing and taking his mouth off Laura’s skin, which wasn’t an option.
She took that option for him in the end when she stood up and held out her hand. Standing in his kitchen with nothing but her panties, he considered the idea of laying Laura down on the table and just taking her there, but the possibility of the kids walking in on them was a sobering one, so he took her hand and followed her to the bedroom.
Once again, he didn’t finish his drink, but once again, it was more than worth it.
The good thing about Lee and Zak being dropped back home by another parent was that Laura and Bill could stay in each other’s arms for as long as possible. As it were, though, they enjoyed this privilege a little too much and forgot to check the clock.
They were kissing languidly, hands softly stroking over skin, far from the heady impatience of earlier when the front door opened and closed.
“Dad, we’re back,” Lee called, and Bill sat up in bed, running a hand over his face.
“Bill,” Laura suddenly said with a giggle that made him fall just a little bit deeper in love with her. He turned his questioning gaze to her, but his eyes didn’t settle on her face, moving down her body, the same one he’d spent the last hour worshipping with his own. She didn’t say anything, waiting for him to come up to the right conclusion.
“Your dress is in the kitchen,” he caught on, and the way her teeth caught her bottom lip made him want to start the clock again and give them another hour.
“I wouldn’t mind if this wasn’t the first sight they had of me,” she gestured at her naked skin, and he could only agree. “And since you’re the one who took it off me, it’s only fair that you’d go and get it back.”
Bill dropped a kiss on her lips, and she ran a hand through his hair that stuck in many directions after the amount of pulling she’d done as he drove relentlessly into her.
This was his bedroom, so he had more clothes to wear, and Laura’s rapt eyes watched his body as he got dressed. She preferred when he took his clothes off, but this wasn’t bad either. When he left, she got up, stretched with a contented smile and tied half her hair up.
“I told the boys you stained your dress and needed to have it washed, and that’s why it wasn’t on you,” Bill explained when he came back.
Laura laughed as she took the garment and slipped it back on. “I’m not sure they’ll believe that. Your washing machine is in the bathroom.”
“Hopefully, they won’t have your logic.”
“Are you hoping that your children are dumb, Bill?” Laura asked, but she couldn't get through the sentence without laughing again, and Bill with her.
Bill took her hand and kissed it before leading them out of their bubble and into the living room. The nervousness that Laura still felt over reuniting with Lee and Zak dissipated when they beamed at her and launched themselves into her arms. Her vision became blurry with tears, and Bill’s hand stayed on her shoulder as she listened to everything that the boys had to catch her up on.
“I missed you too,” she whispered to them as they sat in a triangle on the floor. “What do you want to do tonight?” she eventually asked, once their stories had died down enough for her to get a word in.
“We should make a blanket fort so we could all be under it and watch Pirates of Picon 2,” Lee declared, which was really less of a suggestion and more of an order.
“I haven’t seen the first one,” Bill said, and Laura remembered this was the movie she’d watched with the boys on Lee’s birthday months ago. She wondered if Lee had suggested that particular sequel on purpose. It was fitting, after all. Two beginnings of a relationship, but so incredibly different.
“I’ll fill you in,” Laura promised. “It’s a good story. I think you’re gonna like it.”
“Yes, dad, you need the beginning, because then there’s Pirates of Picon 3 and 4 too,” Lee said.
“We’re watching one and heading to bed,” Bill said with a small smile and a shake of his head.
“How about we make team pizza and team blanket fort?” Laura suggested. “That way, it takes less time. I don’t know about you, but I’m starving.” The look Bill gave her made her ears burn. They both knew why.
The kids enthusiastically agreed, and Lee talked about structure and number of blankets with Bill while Laura took Zak to the kitchen and had him swear he wouldn’t eat all the toppings before they reached the pizza. He reluctantly promised, but tried to do it anyway.
“Will I be in your class next year?” Zak asked, as he threw pieces of ham onto the tomato sauce base.
“I don’t know yet. I have to meet with the other teachers and decide, and it will depend on the number of students we have overall,” Laura answered. “Would you like that?”
Zak nodded, taking the opportunity to stuff some ham into his mouth.
Laura smiled, the thought of it warming her heart. “You’d have to obey class rules,” she pointed out.
“I always obey class rules!” Zak vividly defended, a little too much to be believable.
“That’s not what Maya tells me,” Laura countered. He wasn’t that bad - a chatterbox, according to Maya - but if she was going to walk the line of teacher and father’s girlfriend that he sees in PJs, they would need ground rules.
Zak pouted and crossed his arms. “She’s lying?” he tried, but Laura shook her head. “I’ll try,” he compromised.
“I’ll let you know closer to the start of school, but I’m due to have fourth grade anyway,” Laura said, and Zak beamed in response.
When the pizza was in the oven, Zak joined Team Blanket Fort and Laura watched the three of them, her heart tightening. It was still scary, and she knew that the fear of losing them would never go away, but the joy of being around them now outweighed that ten to one. She sighed and leaned against the wall, watching the man she loved and the children who had wriggled their way into her heart build them a shelter for movie night. They argued about where should this chair go , and if you put on another blanket it’s gonna fall over , and it felt good. It felt right.
Bill eventually looked up at her, giving her the most tender smile as his thoughts mirrored her own. They were going to be okay.
Later, as the movie played and their empty dinner plates were discarded on the side, they huddled together, their world narrowed down to this little fort that held their family. Laura leaned back against the pillows, resting her head on Bill’s shoulder and he turned his head to kiss her forehead. He wasn’t paying much attention to the movie either, possessed by an overwhelming wave of safety, of love and family.
As Zak became tired and lay his head on Laura’s lap, her hand came up to slowly stroke his hair. The absent-minded gesture brought tears to her eyes, and she let them run free.
aaand we have gone full circle, back to fluff!
Despite what I initially thought and unless I miscalculated again, next chapter should be the last *cries*. This has gone way too fast, but that's what happens when you're obsessed and write 3k a day... No regrets.
Chapter 17: Hold On
And here we go! A small last one to tie everything up with a nice little bow!
(I'll be going back to it in the next few days to catch potential plotholes and errors, but this is it *sniffles*)
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
"It's been a crazy time, and sometimes it's still really challenging to be honest about what I'm going through,” Laura gave a sigh, shivering against a gust of cold wind. “but I wouldn't go back. I'm happy… Who would have thought three years ago when I met Bill that I'd find such a wonderful man and get to be part of his family? It feels like a gift from the Gods…” she smiled, taking a dry leaf from the plant in front of her and throwing it on the ground. “We went to a cabin in the mountains for the weekend before he left. It was so nice to be just us and the kids. I asked him to marry me, and he said yes,” her heart tightened as she wished the people resting there could’ve seen it. “You would've loved him. I really do.”
Someone walked past, and Laura glanced up at them before settling her gaze back on her family’s tombstone, with those names that had once meant she was alone. She’d been visiting the cemetery more regularly over the past two years, finding comfort in telling her family about her new life, hoping that somewhere, perhaps, they were listening. She felt stupid at first, talking to a stone, a bunch of gravel and some dirt, but Bill had encouraged her to try, and she found it actually made her feel a little better.
"It's Zak's birthday today. We’re having a party,” she continued. “He called me mom last week when he was excited about his game. I think it was an accident, and I didn't know what to say. His mother isn't around at all anymore, which is a relief for Bill, but I can't help feeling sad about it.”
Laura checked her watch, but another rush of wind blew her hair in her face. She pushed it away and tried it again. She really needed to get home if Zak was to have a birthday cake. She secured the plant she’d brought so it wouldn’t fall and left the cemetery, stopping by a bakery to pick up the viper-shaped cake before she headed home. She’d have made that cake herself, but it was way above her baking skills, which were already way above Bill’s own baking skills.
Going back to their apartment, she spent time hanging balloons and decorations and making sure the space was ready for a horde of children, keeping an eye on the clock. She hoped Bill wouldn’t be late. He’d spent the last two weeks in space, for the first time in a while, which meant she was alone and missing him dearly. Two weeks somehow felt like two months. Bill had been on the verge of refusing the job of showing pilots and instructors the new program, but she’d pushed him to, assuring the three of them would be fine without him. Being alone with the children had made her anxious at first, but in the end, it wasn’t different than usual, and she even suspected Lee and Zak had taken pity on her and avoided fighting as much as they usually did.
“Laura, do you know where my white shirt is?” Lee asked, coming into the living room as Laura stood on a chair to hang a Happy Birthday banner.
“Have you checked with all your other shirts?” Laura asked back with a grin and Lee rolled his eyes.
“Of course I have.”
“Check if it hasn’t been put with Zak’s clothes,” Laura said, a bit of a more serious answer. “You’re close in size, I might have got confused.”
Lee nodded and left towards his bedroom. A minute later, as Laura climbed down from the chair, he shouted “Thanks, I got it.”
It was another moment before the first guests arrived - some of Lee’s friends from middle school. Lee had got slightly jealous when they’d planned the birthday party, so he’d been allowed to invite some guests as well, nevermind that they threw a party just as big for his last birthday. Bill would probably beat himself up for missing two of them for years to come and try to compensate.
The second guest was for Lee, too, and the third was finally one for Zak. The fourth was for Zak again, but the fifth… the fifth got in the apartment on his own, and this one was for Laura. Bill only had time to drop his bag and open his arms before Laura stood between them, and he buried his face in her neck.
“Missed you,” he whispered into her hair.
Laura smiled happily, pulling back from the hug to take Bill’s face in both hands and kiss him soundly. She had only begun getting reacquainted with the taste of his mouth again when they heard a gagging sound behind them.
“Gross,” Lee complained, an almost-teenager now. It was more for teasing, and out of embarrassment of his parents groping each other in front of his friends.
Bill wrapped his arms more tightly around Laura, not letting go, which made Laura giggle against his lips. She took pity on Lee and stepped back. “I love you,” she said with one last kiss.
“Stay here, I’ll say hi to the boys and be back. I have something for you,” Bill said with an air of secrecy that had Laura narrow her eyes as he hugged Lee and disappeared down the corridor looking for Zak.
When it was two minutes after Bill left and he wasn’t back, Laura shrugged and walked to the kitchen, taking drinks out of the fridge and setting them on the long table for the children. She was popping a piece of candy in the form of a ring into her mouth when Bill came back, and he laughed at the sight of it.
“What’s so funny?” Laura asked, and seeing him laugh pulled a smile out of her, but a bemused one.
“I also have a ring for you. This one I’m not sure you should eat,” Bill said and took a box out of his pocket under Laura’s curious gaze. When he opened it and got down on one knee, Laura’s smile menaced to split her face in half, and her heart threatened to jump out of her chest. They had an audience, too, with Lee, Zak and the party guests having gathered there to see what was happening.
“Laura Roslin, I love you more than Lee loves being right and Zak loves Pyramid. Combined,” Bill said, and Laura couldn’t help a teary laugh. “Will you marry me?”
“I asked you already, Bill Adama, you're already mine,” Laura pointed out, making Bill give her a playful smile.
They’d been at a cabin in the mountains for a weekend, and Bill had been playing by the stream with the boys, building boats out of twigs and leaves and trying to get them to float. He'd looked up at her and she'd just known she would ask him right there and then. There was no one else but him. He’d said yes, after a second that seemed to last an eternity, and the boys had cheered and almost broken her eardrums.
“Yes, you did, but now I have a ring for you, so you have to say yes to me again,” Bill grinned at her, taking the ring out of the box, and Laura held out her hand for him to slip it on. She didn’t remember telling him what she liked, but somehow, it was perfect.
Laura shook her head as she beamed at the ridiculous man she was engaged to. “I’ll marry you then. But only because we’re engaged twice,” she declared, pulling Bill back up so they could seal it with a kiss.
More gagging noises, but they ignored them until the doorbell rang, announcing more arriving guests. Lee made his way to the door when it was clear the parents wouldn’t for a while.
“How did you get a ring?” Laura asked, resting her left hand on Bill’s chest so she could look at the jewel. “You were in space.”
“I have my secrets,” Bill said, and refused to tell her, no matter how many times she nagged.
“How did it go with the new program?” Laura eventually asked, once the euphoria of being engaged once again dissipated just enough to allow for other thoughts.
“I explained how all of it works. It was nice being back,” Bill replied. “It will be good to have flight simulators on the ships. You can never have too much practice.”
“Well, I missed you, and I’m glad you’re back,” Laura said, and they shared another tender embrace. “We should watch that this party doesn’t descend into chaos now. I’m sure you and I can celebrate later,” she winked and swore Bill’s gaze became slightly heated.
They went back to the living room, and greeted more children, soon being outnumbered ten to one. Most of the children invited were in Zak’s class, and therefore in Laura’s as well. They spent the first half an hour behaving perfectly, not a word above the other and sitting in a circle, which Laura found deeply amusing. She launched a game with them to get them comfortable and step out of the teacher role, and soon quiet turned into very loud, and she almost regretted the moment when they sat on the floor instead of the current stomping their feet and screaming. But Zak was happy, and that was all they’d tried to accomplish today.
The cake was a massive success, Zak’s eyes widening at the sight of it, and it even drew a few gasps from the otherwise unimpressed guests. Bill stuck eleven candles on it and lit them before he found his spot again behind Laura, wrapping his arms around her front. She smiled and intertwined the fingers on her ring hand with his. Zak took in a big breath, ready to blow his candles when Lee stopped him, and Zak deflated like a balloon.
“Did you make a wish?” Lee asked.
“But a good one?”
Zak frowned at his brother. “I don’t know, what’s a good one?”
“One of mine came true,” Lee said, not answering the question. “You need to think of a good one.”
The way he glanced at Laura when he said that left her intensely curious and wondering what this wish had been. Better grades? He’d been top of her class two years in a row, that would be a wasted wish. Before she could come up with any more theories, Lee spoke again. “When Laura was with us on my birthday, I wished she’d stay with us. And she’s here.”
Laura’s heart swelled, and she felt Bill hold her ever closer. Lee’s wish was hers too, every day, and she made it true. They all made it true.
Zak considered the response for a long moment before he nodded and blew out the candles under heavy applause.
Laura leaned back against Bill and he placed a loving kiss on her shoulder.
In the end, their world was everything they ever wished it to be. Yes, it was imperfect, sometimes unsteady, but every day, they chose to lean on each other.
A massive thank you to everyone who's come along for the ride! You all are rockstars. Knowing that you enjoyed it is everything :)
This is my first long work in the BSG fandom, so it's extra special to me (yes, I want to hit myself for only discovering the show in 2020, why do you ask? But I'm making up for that by writing loads now haha)