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A Different Life

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Young Willy Adama runs to the playground with his friends at the start of recess, racing to the nearest pyramid court to start their game.  His 4th grade team is comprised of him and 6 of his closest friends and they are taking on the 5th grade team today after a full week’s worth of smack talk from the older kids.  Willy huddles his team together where he serves as captain.  “Men, time to put up or shut up.  They may be bigger but we are smarter.  Victory on three – 1, 2, 3!” he yells followed by “VICTORY!” from the rest of his team.

Willy’s team takes an early lead and has the 5th graders on their heels.  An errant pass from the 5th grade captain lands way out of bounds, and Willy runs to retrieve the ball.  Nearby he notices a small red-haired girl that is arguing with a group of 5th grade boys.  A tall boy has a book in his hand that he is holding high above his head while the little girl jumps at it and yells “Give me back my book!”.  Willy turns to head back to the pyramid court, then decides better of it.  He throws the ball to his best friend and yells “Sub in for me, you can finish the last few minutes without me!”

Willy turns back to the group of boys teasing the little girl.  “Oh, what’s the matter Ginger, did you lose your book?” the older boy taunts. 

“Give her the book,” Willy says with as much authority as he can.  He knows this boy, he lives in the same neighborhood.  Nothing but a bully and Willy is sick of his antics.  This time Tony has gone too far, picking on a little girl that doesn’t even look old enough to be in school.

“Are you going to make me, Silly Willy?” the boy retorts. 

“Maybe I will,” Willy says as he stands as tall as he possibly can in front of Tony, looking him in the eye.  “Give. Her. The. Book. NOW!” Willy says through gritted teeth with his fists clenched as he glares at Tony.

Tony stares at Willy for a few seconds, then takes the book and tears it in half.  “Take your precious frakking book!” he yells as he throws the pieces at the little girl.  The other boys laugh as they all walk away.

The little girl runs to the book that was ripped in half and chases after a few loose pages that are threatening to blow away in the breeze.  Willy steps on a few of the pages, then picks them up and hands them to her.  “Here you go,” he says.

The little girl, obviously upset, grabs the pages from him then turns and stomps away.  “Leave me alone!” she yells.

“I’m just trying to help,” Willy explains.

“I don’t need your help!” she shouts as she sits on a nearby bench trying to put the pieces of her book back together.

He hears her sniffle and notices tears are falling down her cheeks.  He walks to the bench and sits on the edge, as far from her as possible, but close enough to make sure she is going to be OK.  He lets her cry for a while, then softly asks “What’s the name of your book?”.

She sniffles as she wipes tears from her cheeks.  “The Picon Boys – Mystery of the Sunken Treasure Chest.  My daddy gave it to me,” she says before she bursts into tears again.

“The Picon Boys!  I love those books!” he replies.  “Aren’t they too hard for you to read?”

“NO!  They are NOT too hard for me!” she replies angrily.

“I mean, I didn’t read those until 2nd grade and you don’t look that old.”

“I skipped pre-school and kindergarten and started in 1st grade this year.  I’m really smart,” she informs him.

“Wow, you must be.  I’ve never met anyone who skipped two grades before!” he says with a hint of admiration.

“What is your name?” the little girl asks.

“William, but my friends call me Willy.”

“I like William better,” she says.

“Then you can call me William.  What’s your name?”

“I’m Laura.”

“Hi, Laura, it’s nice to meet you.  I like Laurie better, can I call you that?”

“My mommy and daddy call me Laurie.  You can call me Laurie, too.”

“I can fix your book for you if you want,” William offers.

Laurie turns to him with wide eyes “You can?”

“Yeh, let’s go to the office.  I can tape it back together for you,” he says.

Laurie and William walk to the office where he takes her book, reassembles the pages in the correct order, then uses wide clear tape to hold the binding and loose pages together again.  She stands next to him observing everything he does in case she ever has another encounter with Tony again.

“There, this should hold it together,” William proudly states as he hands her the book.

Laurie’s face lights up when she sees it and she flings her arms around William in a hug.  “Thank you, William!” she exclaims as his face burns bright red.

“Um, you’re welcome,” he says uncomfortably as he tries to pull away.

Laurie senses his awkwardness and lets go, then holds her hand out to shake his hand.  William smiles and shakes her hand, then asks “Do you want me to walk you to your classroom? I mean just in case Tony is in the hallway.”

“I would like that,” she says.

William asks for a pass from the secretary since he knows he will be late for his class, then walks beside Laurie to her classroom as she skips happily next to him.  When they get to the door, she turns to him and says “Goodbye, William, it was nice to meet you.”

“See you around, Laurie.”

Chapter Text

Laurie sits on the bench at recess reading another book that her father gave her.  William is playing pyramid not far away with his team, casually keeping an eye on her, watching to make sure Tony leaves her alone.  He briefly leaves the court to get a drink of water and that is when Tony makes his move.

Tony grabs the book from her hands.  “Hey, Ginger, did you get a new book?” he teases as his friends smirk beside him.

“Give it back, Tony!” Laurie yells.

“Or what?  You going to sic your boyfriend on me?” he asks while his friends jeer.

Laurie narrows her eyes at him and crosses her arms in front of her.  “He’s not my boyfriend! Now give me my book!”

“Oh, I’m scared,” Tony says and pretends to shake in fear.

Just then Tony hears a familiar voice behind him.  “You should be scared,” warns William.  As soon as Tony turns to him, William tackles him, pinning him to the ground as he sits on his chest holding his hand open in front of his face.  “I’ll give you five seconds to give that book back,” William says.  “One.” William folds his index finger over his palm.  “Two.” He folds his middle finger down.  “Three”.  His ring finger moves down.  “Four”.  The pinky is next.  “Five”.  His thumb crosses over his fingers so now Tony is staring at a fist aimed directly at his face. 

“Fine, take it.  What’s so great about a damn book anyway?” Tony snorts in defeat.

“You’re so stupid you probably don’t even know how to read it,” Laurie quips.

William looks at her in surprise, then slowly gets off Tony’s chest and tells him to get lost.  After Tony slinks away, William sits down next to Laurie.  “Did you know he has trouble reading?”

“No,” she replies innocently.  “He really can’t read?”

“Not very well.  I think that’s why he bullies people so much.”

“Then he should try harder to learn.  I don’t like boys.  Boys are dumb.”

“Hey!  I’m a boy!” William points out.

“But you’re not like the others, you’re nice,” she explains.

“Laurie, do you have a lot of friends?  I never see you with anyone.”

“You’re my friend, William.  All the other kids make fun of me.  I think it’s because I’m not very old and I’m so smart.”

“I’m happy to be your friend,” he replies. 

“Good!  I like to watch you play pyramid while I read.  What do you want to be when you grow up?”

William’s eyes light up.  “I’m going to be a professional pyramid player!”

Laurie rolls her eyes at him.  “That’s what all the boys say, what do you really want to be?”

“If I can’t be a professional pyramid player, then I’m going to be a viper pilot,” he says as he lifts his arms in the air and runs around in front of her, pretending to fly his imaginary viper. 

Laurie giggles.  “You’re funny, William!”

“What are you going to be, Laurie?” he asks.

“My mommy and daddy say I can be whatever I want to be!”

“So what do you want to be?  A nurse?  A lawyer?”

Laurie wrinkles her nose at his suggestions and shakes her head.

“Hey, I know, how about President of the Colonies?” he laughs.

Laurie puts her hands on her hips and stares at him.  “Why is that so funny?  I can be president if I want,” she says matter-of-factly.

William stares at the sassy stubborn little girl in front of him.  “You know what?  I think you could be president someday,” he agrees.  “You have my vote, Madam President!”

“Thank you, William,” she says with her nose in the air and a small smirk on her face.  Suddenly her face breaks into a full grin and giggles begin spilling out of her.  Then the bell rings, and all the children head inside for their afternoon session.  “See you later, William!” Laurie says as she waves goodbye.

 

Laurie sits at her bench during recess every day, reading her books, and watching William play pyramid.  Occasionally he showboats for her, making up ridiculous dances when his team scores a point, or acting like he’s dying when he gets knocked to the ground - he likes to hear her laugh.  After making a nimble move, William calls out to her and looks her direction, only to be clobbered in the head by the pyramid ball and nearly knocked off his feet.

“Willy, pay attention!” yells his best friend Andy.  “Why are you always looking at that girl?”

“She’s my friend,” he states as he rubs the side of his head where it stings from the ball. 

“Why are you friends with a weird little girl?” Andy laughs.  “Is she your girlfriend?” he taunts.

“NO!” Willy replies with a disgusted look on his face. 

“Hey, team, maybe we should vote in a new captain so Willy can spend time with his girlfriend!” Andy shouts as the rest of the team laughs.

“I vote for Andy,” one teammate says, followed by another.

“Willy, you have my vote but you have to stop showing off while we play,” says another teammate, followed by another. 

“With my vote that’s 3 for me and 2 for you,” Andy says.

“I vote for myself,” says William, “so that’s 3 for me and 3 for you.”

“Jimmy, you’re the tiebreaker,” says Andy as he looks toward him.  “Who’s it going to be – me or Willy?”

“I vote for Willy but he has to tell the little girl to get lost.”

William’s heart sinks.  He loves being captain of the pyramid team, but he also enjoys having Laurie there watching him.  He and Andy have been friends since pre-school, but he has only known Laurie for just over a week.  He decides to ask her to sit somewhere else at recess, far away from his pyramid court, but maybe she will understand and they can still be friends.  He slowly walks to where she is sitting on the bench while his teammates snicker and follow behind him.  Other children notice what is happening and stop and stare at him.

“Hi, William!” Laurie says with a big smile on her face.

William frowns at her.  “Laurie, I need you to leave.  Can you sit on that bench over there by the gymnasium?”

“Why?” she asks with a worried look on her face when she sees his friends snickering behind him.

“You can’t watch me anymore.  They won’t let me be captain if you keep sitting here watching me.  But we can still be friends, just not at recess,” he whispers to her.

Laurie stares at William as a frown overtakes her face.  She slowly picks up her book and begins to walk to the bench by the gymnasium.  Several children snicker at her and Andy calls out “Take a hike, freak!” which is followed by several jeers and taunts.

It’s more than William can bear.  “Shut up, Andy!  I did what you asked, now shut your frakking mouth or I’ll shut it for you!” he snarls as he chest bumps Andy as a warning.

Andy looks at William then yells “Poor little girl, did you get your little feelings hurt?” as Laurie walks away, her head hung low.

“Andy, stop it!” William warns again.

Andy grips the pyramid ball, then leans back to throw it, aiming at Laurie.  Before he is able to release the ball, William lands a hard punch to his nose, knocking him to the ground as blood gushes down his face.  The crowd of children grows silent as everyone stares at William and Andy.  The silence is broken when Andy begins to cry.  “Dammit, Willy, why did you do that?  She’s just a stupid girl!” he shouts between sobs.

“She’s not stupid,” William says as he leans menacingly over Andy.

“But you’re my best friend!” cries Andy.

“Not anymore!” William shouts as he takes off running toward Laurie.

 

“Laurie, Laurie, wait!” he calls after her, but she continues to march away from him with her head down.

William runs as fast as he can to catch up to her and when he does, he sees how hurt she is.  Tears are streaming down her cheeks and she will not look at him, instead sobbing with her head down, clutching her book to her chest.

“Laurie, stop,” he pleads as he stands in front of her and places his hands on her shoulders.  “I didn’t mean it, I’m still your friend.”

Laurie lifts her chin and looks into his eyes with her lower lip puffed out in an angry pout.  “No, you’re not!  I hate you, William!” she screams and stomps away, crying uncontrollably.

Chapter Text

“William, finish your homework, then meet me in my study when you are done,” his father says when he returns home from school.

“Yes, sir,” William replies and heads to his room.  It had been one of the worst days of William’s young life and he senses it is about to get even worse because of his father’s tone.  The school principal had told them calls would be placed to their fathers after both William and Andy refused to tell him what the fight was about.  William was facing after-school detention for the next two weeks, and that meant no pyramid games, no bicycle rides, no nothing.  His father is a different story - he can only guess what type of punishment he will endure at home.  He pushes those thoughts out of his mind as he tries to focus on his homework.  For once he is grateful to have so much work to do, it keeps him from facing his father for a bit longer. 

He has trouble concentrating because he keeps thinking about how upset Laurie was and the way she looked at him when she said she hated him.  He realizes how ashamed he feels for hurting her, for siding with someone he thought was a friend.  He racks his brain trying to think of a way to make it up to her, to make her realize how truly sorry he is for what happened.  He finally finishes his homework and forces himself to walk to his father’s study, taking a deep breath before he knocks at the door.

“Come in,” his father says from inside.  “Have a seat.”  He looks at him with a very stern expression as he sits down in his high-back leather chair facing William from across the desk.  After a few moments of silence, his father says “William, are you going to tell me what happened?”

William fidgets nervously as he looks at his hands.  “Dad, I made a terrible mistake.  I hurt a friend today.  I feel awful.”

“Why did you hurt your friend?” his father asks.

“I don’t know, I guess I wanted to still be captain of the pyramid team, so I did what they wanted, and then everyone started being really mean and I couldn’t stand it anymore.  I tried to make it right but I just made things worse.”

“You broke Andy’s nose.  His father isn’t very happy right now.”

William drops his head.  “I know, sir,” he admits.

“Is pyramid really so important that you think you need to break your best friend’s nose so that you can be captain?”

“What? No, that’s not why I punched him,” William tries to explain.

“Son, I’m lost.  Why did you break Andy’s nose?”

“Because he was being mean to Laurie and he was going to hurt her.”

“Who is Laurie?  Why don’t you start from the beginning,” his father suggests.

William takes a deep breath and tells his father the entire story of when he first met Laurie, how Tony was teasing her, and that they became friends after he helped fix her torn book.  He tells him that he started goofing off during recess to make her laugh and that his friends had wanted to vote Andy captain unless he told Laurie to quit hanging around them at recess.  He admits he made the wrong choice under pressure from his friends and that he realized his mistake when everyone was so mean to her as she left the playground.  He explains how Andy was especially cruel to her and was going to hit her with the pyramid ball, so he punched him to make him stop.

His father leans back in his chair, looking considerably less stern.  “I think with some time, you and Andy can become friends again,” he says.

“No, Dad, I don’t want to be Andy’s friend anymore.  I don’t want to be friends with someone who is that mean.  I want to be Laurie’s friend.  But she told me that she hates me and I don’t know what I can do to make her understand how sorry I am,” William explains with a groan of frustration.

“Why is everyone so mean to her?” his father inquires.

“I think it’s because she’s really smart and she’s really young for her class.  She skipped pre-school and kindergarten and started in first grade this semester,” William tells him.

“You’re friends with a first grade girl?  A young first grade girl?” his father asks with a surprised expression on his face. 

“Yeh, she’s fun to talk to and she laughs a lot.  She’s kind of stubborn, though.  And she thinks boys are dumb, but she said I was different and nice.”

“In summary, you are telling me that you hurt the feelings of a young girl who has no other friends just because you wanted to remain captain of your pyramid team, and you punched your best friend in the nose because he was being a jerk and was going to physically harm her,” his father states.

“Yes, sir.”

“What are you going to do to solve your problems?” his father asks.

“I’ve already told Andy I’m sorry for punching him, but he shouldn’t be so mean to people.  I’m not sure about Laurie. Dad, she was so sad and the way she looked at me when she said she hated me, well, it really hurt inside,” he admits as he looks down at his lap.  “Maybe I can give her something, try to make her see how sorry I am.”

“That might work.  Do you have an idea of what to give her? What sorts of things does she like?” his father asks.

William thinks for a moment, then asks “Do we still have any of my Picon Boys books?  She really likes to read those mysteries.  I could lend her some of my books!”

“Picon Boys?  Isn’t that a little advanced for her?”

“Dad, she’s really smart.  She was reading a Picon Boys book when I met her.  I think she could be president someday!”

Joseph Adama leans back in his chair, an amused expression on his face as he studies his son.  “I believe there is a box in storage with your books.  I’m not one to tell you what to do, but I will make a suggestion.  Never lend a book.  Books are gifts.  Pick one that means something to you, and gift it to her.  Let her know how it was important to you.”

“I like that idea.  And I know which book I’m going to give her!” William exclaims.

“And, Son, no more fights.  After detention for the next two weeks, I want you to come straight home and tend to the garden.  Afterwards, do your homework.  No TV.  Do you understand?”

William gives him a surprised look.  He normally tends to the garden after school anyway, and then immediately does his homework.  The only real punishment is no TV, and he isn’t watching much of that anyway since the weather is so nice and he prefers to be outside.  “Yes, sir, I understand!  And, thanks, Dad,” he says as he looks at his father.

“You’re welcome.  I think Laurie is very fortunate to have you as a friend.  Please shut the door on the way out.”

 

William retrieves his favorite book from storage and sits in his room staring at the inside cover.  He holds his pen in his hand debating about what to write to Laurie.  Finally, he puts his pen to the blank page. 

“Dear Laurie,

This is my favorite Picon Boys book and I want you to have it. 

I’m sorry for what I did and I’m sorry I hurt your feelings.  Can you please forgive me? 

I will always be your friend, William.” 

After he closes the book and sets his pen down, he smiles at himself and realizes he feels a little bit better.  He walks downstairs and calls out to his father “Dad, I’m going to tend to the garden now.”

Joseph Adama is on the phone in his study speaking with Andy’s father.  He covers the mouthpiece with his hand and shouts back, “OK, son.”  He stands at the window watching William tend to the roses.  “What I’m saying, Larry, is that your son was bullying a small girl and was going to physically hurt her.  That’s the ONLY reason Andy got punched in the nose.  I have verified this information with other children at the playground so if you don’t want me to file a formal complaint regarding his bullying with the school, then you are going to drop this witch hunt.  Do you understand what I’m saying?”  He pauses for a moment as Larry stammers back at him.  “Good.  Do us all a favor and teach your son some manners,” he says before he slams down the receiver. 

 

Before William leaves for school early the next morning, he steps outside to the garden and picks a red rose, carefully removing the thorns.  He places the stem inside of the book he chose for Laurie and walks to her classroom when he arrives at school, which is empty except for her teacher.  “Mrs. Anderson, can I leave something for Laurie on her desk?” he asks. 

“Sure, William, that’s her desk right there,” she says and motions towards one in the first row.  “Don’t forget you have detention first thing after school and today you will be working in my room,” she reminds him.

William carefully places the book in the center of Laurie’s desk and stares at it briefly before he turns to leave.  “See you after school, Mrs. Anderson!” he says cheerily.

 

Shortly after final bell, William reports to Mrs. Anderson’s third grade room.  He is hoping to see Laurie, but when he arrives, most of the children have left.  “Mrs. Anderson, did Laurie like the book?” he asks.

“Yes, I think she did.  She had a big smile on her face when she opened the cover and realized it was from you.  That was very kind of you to give her a going-away gift,” she responds. 

“Going-away gift?  What do you mean?” William asks with a stunned look on his face.

“This was her last day, William.  Her family is moving and she will attend a different school.  I thought that was why you gave her a gift,” she explains.

His face falls when he realizes Laurie’s final words to him are “I hate you, William!”

“Is she still here?  Do you know where she is?”

“She was with her parents and I think they went to the office to speak with the principal about transferring records.  But you can’t leave, William, you’re in detention,” she reminds him.

“Please, Mrs. Anderson.  I have to talk to her before she leaves.  Please, I’ll stay twice as long, please just let me talk to her.”  Mrs. Anderson looks at William and takes note of how agitated he is.  “Please, I promise I’ll come right back after I talk to her, please let me go,” he begs.

His honesty and desperation to speak with Laurie touch Mrs. Anderson.  “You can go, William, but you come right back when you are done.”

“Thank you!” he exclaims as he runs out the door and down the hallway to the principal’s office.

When he arrives, he sees Laurie sitting alone in a chair outside the office as her parents speak with the principal inside.  “Laurie!” he shouts when he sees her. 

Laurie looks up from the book in her lap and stares at him.  He isn’t sure if she is happy to see him or if she wants him to go away.  Suddenly she smiles and says “Hi, William!”  She holds up the book, the one he gave her – “The Picon Boys – Mystery of the Haunted Battlestar”.

William smiles at her and is relieved that she is speaking to him.  “I didn’t know today was your last day.”

“We’re moving.  I’m going to a new school that has other kids that are smart like I am.  My mommy is going to start teaching there soon.”

“That sounds like a great school.  I’m sorry about what happened yesterday, I really am.  I never should have asked you to leave.”


“I forgive you,” she says softly as she smiles at him.  “I talked to daddy last night about what happened and I feel better.  He thinks you’re a good person because you still want to be my friend. Thank you for the book, I like it so far, but I don’t know anything about battlestars.”

“They’re really awesome!” William exclaims.  “Laurie, I think you’re going to make lots of friends at your new school.  But I’m going to miss you.”

“I’ll miss you, too,” she says with a sad look on her face.  “William, why did you give me a rose?”

“It reminds me of you.  You have red hair like the red rose I gave you.”

William kneels in front of her and looks directly into her eyes.  “Promise me that you will study really hard at your new school so you can be whatever you want to be someday, OK?  And make sure you make some good friends, it should be easier since they will all be smart like you.”

“I promise.  You’re the best friend I ever had.  Can I give you a hug?” she asks with a hopeful expression on her face.

“I suppose that won’t hurt,” he says as he holds out his arms.  Laurie flings her arms around his neck and places her head on his shoulder.  “You will always be my Laurie,” he whispers to her.

“And you will always be my William,” she whispers back.

Chapter Text

Music thunders in the large auditorium filled with hundreds of kids from each high school in Caprica City.  It’s the annual spring dance that honors graduating seniors, also known as the largest social event for grades 9-12 each school year.  Each senior has a red rose pinned to their shirt, making them easily identifiable and popular with the other students.  Seniors typically receive the most requests for dances, especially when modern songs are played that are geared toward couples dancing.  Traditional music is played half the time to allow younger students the opportunity to mingle and switch partners in the group dancing that commonly accompanies that type of music.  The auditorium is crowded and warm, the air thick with teenage hormones.

Laura Roslin stands with her friends off to the side as they scan the crowd for potential dance partners.  “Oh my Gods, Laura, I can’t believe you cut and dyed your hair!” her best friend Lily exclaims as she comes running to her from the doorway.  “How did you ever get your mom to agree to this?” she giggles as she jumps up and down with barely contained excitement.

“I didn’t bother to ask her permission!” Laura shouts above the music with a huge smirk on her face.

“And she still let you come tonight?” Lily asks with her mouth agape.

“She doesn’t exactly know I’m here,” Laura laughs.

“You’re such a rebel - you’re my personal hero, you know that?” Lily giggles.  “Let me look at you,” she says as she examines Laura’s blond hair, which is now cut as an angled bob, almost shaved in the back but long in the front and swept to one side.  “You’re wearing make-up, too!”

“You’re damn right I am.  I didn’t go to the trouble of saving my own money for a new hairstyle and color and then sneak out of the house so that I could show up without make-up.”

“This isn’t exactly your mom’s style of cosmetics,” Lily observes.

“That’s because I stole them from the market yesterday!” Laura says.

Lily’s eyes about pop from her head when she realizes Laura isn’t joking.

“If you get caught, you’re so dead,” Lily warns her.

 “I’m not worried, not at all.  Ladies, I’m going to the balcony tonight!”

“No way,” Jean says.  “Freshman girls don’t go to the balcony.  I bet you won’t even dance with a boy tonight – there’s no way you’re making out with one.”

“There was that one freshman girl last year that went to the balcony, and now she has a baby,” Tabitha informs them.

Laura narrows her eyes at her friends, a smile tugging at the corners of her mouth.  “Make-up isn’t the only thing I stole from the market.” She reaches in her front jeans pocket and pulls out two condoms.

“Oh shit, Laura, have you lost your mind?!” exclaims Lily.

The other girls crowd around her to look at the condoms. 

“I’ve never seen one up close and personal before,” Tabitha admits. 

“Can I hold one?” asks Sasha timidly.

Laura rolls her eyes at her friends.  “Maybe some other time, Sasha.”  She slips the condoms back into her pocket and turns to watch the crowd.

“Do you see anyone you like?” Lily asks.

Laura nods her head to the far corner.  “Over there.  I like the one in the blue shirt, the one with the longer dark wavy hair.  Something I can run my fingers through when we go to the balcony.”

Jean, Lily, Tabitha, and Sasha all look to the boy Laura has her eye on.  “Laura, he’s a senior!” Sasha says when she notices the rose he is wearing pinned to his blue button down shirt. 

“Ohhh, but he’s cute,” Tabitha says. 

“You won’t dance with him,” Jean says rolling her eyes and shaking her head.

Laura raises her eyebrows at her.  “You don’t think so?  I bet I can get him to come over here and ask me.”

“Nuh, uh.  Not happening,” Jean throws back at her.

“Watch me.  Lily, hold my sweater.”  Laura shrugs off her cardigan to reveal a backless blouse that is held together by two thin straps tied across the middle of her back, and two more tied behind her neck halter-style.  She chose this top to go with a pair of tight jeans and stiletto heels she has kept hidden from her mother.

“Your mom is going to kill you if she ever finds out about what you’re wearing,” Lily warns her.

“Whoa, Laura, you look smoking hot,” Sasha says.

Laura looks back over her shoulder at her friends.  “I know,” she says as she struts to the dance floor to join in the traditional dance that has just begun.  She dances with several partners, the whole time keeping an eye on the prize in the corner.  When she sees him step onto the dance floor to join another group, she quickly walks to the same group to join in.  The music starts to play and Laura makes eye contact with him several times, hoping he notices her.  She changes partners a few times before she eventually gets to him.  He twirls her around twice but before she is handed off to the next partner, she reaches out and steals his rose from him.

“Hey!” he calls after her, but it’s too late.  She makes eye contact with him again as she holds the rose to her nose while dancing with another boy.  When the music ends, she slips off the dance floor and walks back to her friends.

“You are so awesome!” squeals Lily.  “I can’t believe you did that!”

“Lily, try to act cool,” Laura orders.  “That goes for all of you.”

“How am I supposed to act cool when my mom makes me wear an ugly turtleneck sweater to a dance?” asks Tabitha.

“At least you have boobs to fill out that turtleneck sweater.  I don’t even wear a bra yet,” complains Sasha.

“Oh my Gods, Laura, here he comes!  He’s walking over here!” Lily shouts.

“Damn, Laura, he is cute.  Good job!” Jean says.

“Ladies – cool it!” Laura warns them again.  “Act natural!”

“Excuse me,” the young man says as he approaches Laura.  “I believe you have my rose.”

Laura stands up straight and squares her shoulders, making eye contact with him as she casually flips her hair to the side.  Her hands are behind her back, clasping the rose.  She can hear Lily trying to stifle a squeal of excitement and excited whispers among her other friends.  “What makes you think I have your rose?”

The young man smiles at Laura.  “You took it from me during traditional dance.”

“Oh, was that you?” she feigns any sort of recognition.

“Yeh, that was me,” he says with a nod, knowing that she’s playing games with him.  “You have it behind your back.”

“I do?” she asks innocently before she slowly turns around to show him her back, concealing the rose in her palm, stopping so that she is facing her friends who are staring at her with their eyes wide open and goofy grins on their faces.  Laura mouths “Stop it” to them when they start giggling.  She stands there for a few seconds hoping the young man notices her naked back and how her tight jeans hug her butt.

After she turns around to face him again, he asks “Can I please have my rose back?”

She whips the rose out from her palm and holds it to her nose.  “I suppose I could give it back, but I’d much rather dance first.”

He stares at her as a smile spreads across his face when he realizes her endgame is to get him on the dance floor alone.  “In that case, may I have this dance?” he asks and extends his hand to her in a formal gesture.

“Yes, you may,” she agrees as she takes his hand, noticing how large and strong it is.

They enter the dance floor just as a modern song begins to play, a slow song designed for couples dancing.  He places his hand just above her hip, the warmth of it on her bare skin sends a jolt up Laura’s spine.  She places her hand on his shoulder as they begin to sway to the music.  “What’s your name?” he asks.

“I’m Laura.  What’s yours?”

“Hi, Laura, I’m Billy.”

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Billy,” she says as she steps in a little closer to him and wraps her arm around his neck so that her hand is casually touching the hair on the back of his head.

Chapter Text

 

“Look at her go!” Lily says to her friends.  “She is on fire tonight!”

“She might actually do it.  She might actually go to the balcony with him,” Jean says in disbelief. 

“Did you hear his voice?” asks Tabitha.  “It’s so deep and masculine.”

“I’d hit that,” Sasha says.

“Sasha, do you even know what that means?” Tabitha chides. 

“Um, no.  What does it mean?” she asks with a dumbfounded look on her face.

 

“Where are you going to college?” Laura asks as she stares into Billy’s blue eyes. 

“I’m not going to college.  I’m entering the military academy and training to become a pilot.  I report the day after graduation.”

Laura looks at him surprised.  “That’s a dangerous job.  And there’s a war…”

“It is dangerous but it’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time.”

“Aren’t you afraid?”

“Kind of, but I think the military will train me to overcome my fears.”

“Do you have a girlfriend?”

Billy chuckles.  “No, I figure there’s no point since I’ll be spending most of my time in space soon.”

“Oh,” Laura says with a frown.

“What grade are you in, Laura?”

“I’m a junior.”

Billy stares at her and wonders why she is lying to him.  “No, I don’t believe that.”

“You’re right,” she smiles. “I’m actually just a sophomore, but the academic year is almost over, so I’m basically a junior.”

He shakes his head.  “I don’t think so.”

Laura wrinkles her nose at him.  “Ok, I’m a freshman,” she confesses.

“That’s better.  Why did you lie to me?”

“I was afraid you wouldn’t want to dance with me anymore if you knew I was a freshman.”

“That has nothing to do with it.  I want to dance with you because you’re a good dancer.”

“Thank you.  You’re really sweet,” she says as she presses up against him and slowly runs her fingers through his hair.  The song ends, and Billy steps back from her.

“Billy, I was thinking.  You don’t have a girlfriend, and you’re going away to the military academy soon.  Do you want to go to the balcony with me?”

He’s stunned by her forwardness.  Standing in front of him is one of the prettiest girls he has ever met.  First, she plays games with him, then lies to him, and then she offers herself to him.  She doesn’t act like a typical freshman girl, and he has no idea why she is behaving like this, but it concerns him.

“I’ll go to the balcony with you, but only so we can talk.  It’ll be quieter there.”

“OK, let’s go,” she grins as she pulls him along with her off the dance floor toward the doors that lead to the balcony.

 

“Jean, Jean, look!” Lily says as she hits her in the arm repeatedly.

“They’re going to the balcony!  She did it, she’s going to make out with him!” Jean exclaims.  “Un-frakking-believable!”

“Wow,” says Sasha in admiration.  “Do you think I’ll ever go to the balcony?”

“Only if you bring your brother to the dance,” Tabitha replies.

“Ew, Tabitha. That’s really disturbing,” Sasha complains as Jean and Lily high-five Tabitha.

Chapter Text

The balcony is dark and crowded with young couples, many already engaged in heavy make-out sessions.  The sloppy sounds of wet kisses and occasional moans of pleasure fill the air.  Laura and Billy round a corner and accidentally interrupt a couple lying next to each other on a patio chaise.  They walk a bit further past several other couples taking advantage of the outdoor furniture, until they come to a secluded area with a loveseat glider.  Before they sit down, Laura presents Billy his rose.  “Let me pin this on for you,” she offers.  Her slender fingers quickly undo three buttons on his shirt and she slips one hand inside to protect him from the pin she adjusts to hold the rose in place.  His skin is warm and she can feel the fine hair on his chest beneath her fingers.

“There, that should hold it in place,” she says quietly before she moves her hand across his chest and brushes his nipple with her fingers.  Billy grabs her hand and gently removes it from his shirt.  She stands on her toes and leans in to kiss him but he pulls away.

She looks at him confused.  “What’s wrong?”

“I’d rather talk, get to know you a bit,” he says, which isn’t a total lie.  He has no intention of making out with Laura but he feels compelled to stay with her and try to keep her out of trouble.  Several of his classmates would be more than willing to accept her advances and use her, then toss her aside and brag to everyone about their freshman conquest.  Billy sits down on the glider and motions for Laura to join him.

She seizes the opportunity and hops on his lap, straddling him, with her arms around his neck.  “Laura, I want to talk,” he says uncomfortably.

“We can talk like this, can’t we?” she says with her lower lip out in a fake pout.  She then pulls at the string behind her neck that is keeping her top in place and just as it begins to fall forward, Billy catches one side and pulls it up to keep her covered. 

“Please leave your top on!  I’d really like to talk first.”

“Well, OK,” she pouts at him.  “Can you tie it back up?” she asks as she turns around on his lap so that her back is to him.  As he ties the two strings together behind her neck for her, she casually reaches behind her and unties the other two strings across her mid-back.

“Laura!  Stop untying your top,” he orders her in frustration as she giggles at him.  Not willing to be outsmarted by her, Billy reties the strings into knots that cannot be easily undone.

“You’re no fun,” she teases.

“I’d rather that you sit beside me,” he says as he places both hands on her waist and gently pushes her off his lap.  “Just sit next to me, I can see you better that way.”

Laura sits down next to him and pulls her legs up under her so that her knees are touching his thigh.  “Better?” she asks. 

“Yeh, better,” he says, although he wishes she wasn’t crowding him so much.

“Do you have a smoke?” she asks.

“No, I don’t smoke.  I try to stay in shape since I’m going into the military.  You don’t smoke, either.”

“Yes, I do.”

Why is this girl lying so much? he wonders to himself.

“No, you don’t.  I’d be able to smell it on you a mile away and all I can smell is the perfume you’re wearing – no smoke.”

“Oh.  Do you want to make out now?”

“Why do you want to make out with me?  You don’t even know me.”

“Well, you’re really good-looking, and a good dancer, plus, you said you don’t have a girlfriend.  Since you’re going to the academy soon, I figure this might be one of your last chances to be with a girl,” she explains as she slides a condom from her pocket and waves it in front of him.

“What are you doing?” he asks, an alarmed look on his face.

“C’mon, Billy!  I want to have fun - dance a little, smoke a little, find a great guy, frak each other’s brains out, fall in love – pretty much what any girl my age wants.  Don’t you want to be with me?”

“You don’t act like any freshman girl I’ve ever known.  You don’t even act like any senior girls I know.  What’s up, Laura?  I’m not buying this act of yours.”

“You know what, Billy, if you don’t want to be with me then I’ll go find someone who does,” she sighs in disappointment, then walks away from him.

“Laura! Come back here, please.”

“What for?!” she asks him, her eyes flashing with anger.

“Talk to me.  There’s something going on with you and I think it might help to talk.”

Laura lets out a huge sigh. “Look, Billy, I just need to be with someone, I want someone to love me tonight,” she admits in frustration.  “I’m prepared, I’m ready,” she says decisively as she waves the condom in the air at him.

“You’re not ready.”

“Yes, I am!” she argues back, nodding her head, her eyebrows raised.

“No, you’re not,” he says emphasizing each word.

“How would you know?  You some sort of public service announcement that’s going to scare me with stories of diseases and unwanted pregnancies?  I’ve heard them all, Billy.  That’s why I have this,” she says holding up the condom.

“You know what - ” Billy starts to say, but forces himself to stop.  What he really wants to do is walk away from this problem child and tell her she can do whatever she wants as long as she leaves him out of it.   Something inside of him won’t allow to him do that, though, there’s something about this girl keeping him there with her.

“You aren’t ready, because if you were, you’d know that this,” he says as he grabs the condom away from her, “isn’t love.  This is 15 minutes of a good time for some guy looking to score and a bad reputation for you the rest of high school!  I’ve seen this happen to lots of nice girls and I hate watching it ruin them.  It’s not worth it,” he lectures.

“Go frak yourself,” she says with a sneer on her face.  She grabs at the condom in his hand but misses.  “Give it back.”

“No,” he says as he holds it away from her.

“Dammit, Billy, give it back!” she yells as she lunges toward him and grabs his arm.  He puts his free hand on her shoulder to put some distance between them.

Laura slaps his face in anger.  The force of it shocks him into taking a few steps back, and he stares at her as she pants in frustration, her eyes darkened with rage.  He slips the condom in his pocket, then touches his cheek which is bright red and stinging.  Laura steps toward him and he instinctively takes a big step back from her.  Her eyes grow wide at his reaction and begin to fill with tears.  “Billy, I’m so sorry,” she says softly as she holds her hands out to him, palms facing him.  “Can you let me look at it?” She takes a slow step toward him - this time he doesn’t move, but he hesitates to allow her closer.  “Let me see,” she says, slowly moving toward him until she can place her hand on his and move it away from his cheek.  “It’s really red, but I don’t see any blood or bruises forming,” she tells him as she gently rubs the tips of her fingers along the area where she hit him.  She feels horrible for striking him.  She drops her hand from his face, turns around, and walks away subdued.

“Laura, will you please come back here?” he asks in a raspy voice.

“No, I - I should go.”

“I’d still like to talk with you.”  He motions to the glider.  “Please, sit next to me.  Let’s try this again,” he offers.

Laura feels her night has already been ruined, all her big plans flushed away, so she agrees to sit with him. At the very least she can try to convey how sorry she is for slapping him and acting like a fool.  She’s curious about him – she had assumed most boys would have no problem taking her up on her offer.  But Billy seems different - sort of gentlemanly.

“Do you get along with your parents?” he asks.

Laura stares straight ahead, elbows on her knees, as they gently rock on the glider.  “My dad’s a good guy.  I like him a lot.”

“What about your mom?”

“Ohhhh, no, nope, no,” Laura huffs.

“I see.  I’m that way with my dad – we don’t see eye-to-eye,” he tells her.

“Is that why you’re going into such a dangerous profession in the military?  Running away from dad?”

“Maybe.  But I also scored really high on the flight aptitude tests in school, so I figured I’d give it a shot.  Beats going to law school like he wants me to.”

“Ugh, law school, that sounds really boring.”

“Doesn’t it?  I can’t imagine myself as a lawyer.”

Laura turns and looks at him with a small smile.  “I can’t really see you as a lawyer, either.”

“So do you pretend to smoke and pick up guys as a way to rebel against your mom?” he asks.

“I knew that was coming, and I deserve that,” she smiles and nods her head.  “Yeh, I pretend like I’m a bad girl and throw it in everyone’s face because I can’t stand my mom.  She’s constantly sticking her nose in my business and I’m tired of it.  I know how to push her buttons.  My dad tries to keep the peace and even tells her to back off sometimes, but it doesn’t stop her.  I’m sick of it.”

“You don’t think she loves you?”

She squints at him.  “Why would you think that?”

“You said you wanted someone to love you tonight.”

She thinks for a minute.  “I think she loves me in her own way, it’s just that it feels…suffocating since she constantly hovers around me. If I could find someone else to love me, then maybe she won’t need to feel like she has to always be in my business.  Maybe I could gain some independence.”

“Love takes time.  It’s kind of like this rose,” he says as he pats at the flower pinned to his shirt.  “Roses do not bloom hurriedly; for beauty, like any masterpiece, takes time to blossom,” he tells her.  “True love is the same way.  It takes time to grow, then becomes something beautiful.”

Laura drops her head to the side and looks at him.  “Do you always quote Matshona Dhilwayo?” she laughs.

“You’re familiar with the poetry of Dhilwayo?” he asks with surprise.

“Of course, he’s one of my favorites.  I wrote my thesis on him for my advanced poetry class last semester,” she says with a smug look on her face.

“Advanced poetry thesis as a freshman.  Now I’m impressed,” he says as she giggles at him.

They sit and talk for another 30 minutes, mostly discussing poetry and literature.  Billy feels like he is finally seeing the real Laura, the one that was hiding behind her rebellious façade.

“Should we go back to the auditorium?” he asks.  “I’d like to dance with you again before the night is over.”

“I’d love to, Billy.”

They return to the dance floor where they enjoy the last two couples dances of the evening, talking about books they enjoy and various museums they have visited.  Billy discovers that Laura has a wonderful laugh, one that warms his heart. 

 

“Oh my Gods, just look at them!” Lily exclaims.  “They look so good together!”

“Wow, they look like they’re already in love,” Sasha says dreamily.

“I’m so jealous,” Jean admits.  “I’d give just about anything to meet a guy like that.”

Then Tabitha chimes in. “You’re not the only one.”

 

The music ends and Laura walks with Billy toward her friends.  “Thank you for holding my sweater, Lily,” she says with a smile as she slips it on.  “Ladies, this is Billy.”

Lily jumps to the front of the group, her hand extended.  “Hi, Lily, I’m Billy!” she says.  “No, wait, I mean hi Billy, I’m Lily!”

Billy takes her hand and chuckles.  “Nice to meet you, Lily.” 

“I’m Jean,” she says with a wave.

“And I’m Tabitha,” she says as she shakes his hand.

Sasha stares at him and starts to giggle.  “What’s your name?” asks Billy.

“This is Sasha,” Laura says when Sasha responds with more giggles.

Billy takes her hand and places a kiss to the back of it.  “It’s good to meet you, Sasha.”  She proceeds to giggle even harder.

“Jean, is there any way you can give me a ride home?” Laura asks.

“Sorry, I’m going home with Tabitha tonight,” she says. 

“I can ask my mom if we can take you, but it’s kind of out of the way,” offers Tabitha.

“Laura, if you need a ride home, I’d be happy to drop you off,” says Billy.

“Are you sure it’s no trouble?”

“Not at all.  Let me get my jacket, then we can go.”

Lily can’t help but squeal after Billy walks away.  “So, how was it?  Is he a good kisser?  How far did you go?  Does he have a brother?”

Laura hums and smiles as she recalls her conversation with Billy.  “He’s wonderful.  Best dance ever.  Did you bring your camera?  We should get a group picture.”

When Billy returns with his jacket, Laura hands him the camera and asks if he would be willing to take their photo.  The five freshman girls gather together with their arms around each other, Laura in the middle, all beaming from ear to ear, mostly because they think Billy is so cute.  “Hey, Billy, can I get a photo of you and Laura together?” Lily asks.  He puts his arm around Laura’s shoulder, pulls her next to him, and they both smile big for the camera.  Laura mouths “Thank you” to Lily when she turns to leave.

 

 

“You can let me off here,” Laura says when he gets a few houses from hers.  “I’m going to walk the rest of the way.”

“It’s dark and it’s late.  I’d feel better walking you to the door,” he tells her, but he also wants to make sure she actually goes home.

Laura looks at him sheepishly.  “Um, my parents don’t know I went to the dance,” she confesses as she wrinkles her nose.  “I need to sneak in through my bedroom window, otherwise I’ll be in big trouble.”

“Alright, but I’m going to pull up and park outside your home and watch you until you get inside, just so I know you’re safe.  Wait here,” he says as he parks the car by the curb.  He exits the car and walks to her side and helps her out.  “I want you to have this,” he says as he takes the rose from his shirt.  He brushes her hair to the side, tucking it behind her ear, then places the rose there to hold it in place.  “Laura, you’re smart, and you’re gorgeous – don’t be in such a hurry to grow up.  I really enjoyed spending time with you once you started acting like yourself.”  He lifts her hand and brushes a kiss to her knuckles.

“Thank you,” she smiles at him, then turns to walk to her house.  As he steps off the curb to get back in his car, he hears her say his name.  “Billy?  You’re a great guy.  Be careful when you’re flying vipers - I don’t want anything to happen to you.”  She walks to him and places a quick kiss on his cheek.  “Take care.”

 

He pulls his car forward and parks near her house and watches as she sneaks across the lawn to a window on the first floor.  She slides the window open and just as she is about to crawl through, the light in the room comes on and Billy hears a woman yell “Laura, what the hell have you been doing?”, followed by a man saying “You have some explaining to do, young lady!”.  He sees a hand reach through and grab Laura by the back of her pants, pulling her into the room.

“Oh, boy,” he says under his breath, but at least he knows she’s home safe.

Chapter Text

Bill “Husker” Adama sits in a bar on Caprica with several other viper jocks.  Alcohol is flowing, toasts are being made, and stories of the cylon war are embellished – it has become a nightly ritual for him and the other pilots who have been discharged from military service as they wait for assignments aboard commercial freighters.

“Hey, Husker, why don’t we ever see you with a girl?” one of the pilots asks.  “Got someone special back home?”

Bill shakes his head.  “Nah, been too busy fighting cylons and saving your ass,” he replies.

“Are you kidding?  What girl would want to date that ugly mug?” someone shouts.

“You don’t know what you’re talking about,” a friend of Bill’s says.  “Husker is a hero.  He fought hand-to-hand combat with the cylons and those scars on his face prove it.”

“No kidding?”

“It’s true,” Bill says.  “Like I said, I was saving ALL of your asses.  Besides, I could have any girl in this place if I wanted to.”

“Prove it!” someone shouts.  Bill looks around the bar which is approximately half full of people.  It’s a fairly quiet night, probably because it’s a weeknight.  Most of the women at the bar are already with men, others aren’t really his type. 

“That one – corner table by the far wall,” someone suggests to which all the other pilots begin to snicker.  “Bet you a round of drinks that you can’t pick up the Caprican Goth Queen.”

“You’re on.  And I’ll take a double when I win,” he says as he slides from his barstool, drink in hand, and confidently approaches the woman.

Laura Roslin sits at her usual spot for a few hours each night in the bar on Caprica.  It’s a nice change from the library, which is way too stuffy and won’t allow her to smoke as she studies and does research towards her doctorate degree.  The bar can be quite noisy but she doesn’t mind because it’s the normalness of it that appeals to her.  People leave her alone most of the time, but tonight is an exception.

A man clears his throat.  “Excuse me, do you mind if I join you?”

Laura doesn’t even bother to look up from her book or acknowledge that he’s there.  Normally when she does this, the man will give up and walk away.  But this isn’t a normal man.

“What are you reading?” he asks, swirling his drink in his hand.  When she continues to ignore him, he reaches out and picks up a book from the corner of the table.  Her hand suddenly shoots out and grabs the book from him. 

“Please don’t touch my book,” she says firmly as she glances at him.  She’s struck by the fresh scars on his cheeks which are in contrast to the gentleness of his blue eyes.  She pulls a cigarette from a pack on the table and he quickly produces a lighter which he ignites with a flick.  She accepts the gesture, leaning forward to light her cigarette, taking the opportunity to examine his features further.  His hair is buzzed military style and that, combined with the wounds on his face, tell her that he was a soldier in the recent war.

“May I join you?” he asks again.

She slowly pushes a barstool toward him with her toes.  He places his drink on the table before he sits, then motions towards her pack of cigarettes.  She slides it toward him, then produces her own lighter and offers it to him.  “Thank you,” he says.

They sit in silence for a few minutes as Laura goes back to reading her book and taking notes in a large binder that she uses to compile her research in.  Bill watches her patiently and realizes that while she seemed dark and intimidating from a distance, she really is quite a lovely young woman to look at.  Her hair is obviously dyed raven black, and the heavy black eyeliner combined with the deep purple shade of lipstick contrast her pale, but flawless, skin.  Her nails are painted dark purple, possibly the same shade as her lipstick, and she has a small tattoo of a red rose on the underside of her right wrist that he noticed when she offered him her lighter.  Her eyes are a dazzling shade of green and shine out from beneath her dark eye makeup.  She is dressed in olive drab slacks that hug her slim figure with a 3/4 sleeve black t-shirt that has an outline of a rose on the chest.

“What’s your name?” he asks to break the silence.

She looks up at him, half-annoyed.  She knows where this is going, and occasionally she enjoys shooting a guy down in front of his friends.  Tonight is going to be one of those nights where she toys with a man like a cat with a mouse, only to toss him aside at the last minute and lose interest.  “The patrons here refer to me as the Black Rose, but I think your friends prefer Caprican Goth Queen.”

“Most of them aren’t my friends, and I don’t like either one of those names.  I’ll call you Rose.”

 

 

Laura goes back to her book and her notes.  She gives him some credit for his persistence – most men would have left already. 

“Tell me, Rose, do you only study Picon classical literature or do you read literature from the other colonies as well?”

“Lucky guess,” she tells herself.  A small smile tugs at the corners of her mouth when she replies.  “I also enjoy the occasional Mandel tome and sometimes Alda.”

“Mandel is top notch for Aquarian literature, but there are better Sagittaron authors than Alda,” he replies, letting her know he isn’t the dumb military guy she perceives him to be.

She slowly nods her head at him.  “Alright, you know your classic colonial authors.  Good to know you’ve read a few books.”

“Reading’s a mandatory skill for all viper pilots,” he informs her.

“Viper pilot – that explains the cockiness and swagger.  Was it a dare to talk to me?  Or is there some sort of bet?” she asks slowly, her green eyes piercing straight through him.

Bill takes a slow sip of his drink.  “A round of drinks if I don’t pick you up.”  He notices Rose glancing at the clock above the bar before she begins to pack up her books and binder. 

“Looks like your buddies win,” she says before she quickly walks away toward the door and leaves the establishment.

“Crash and burn!” one of the pilots yells, which is followed by raucous laughter from the others.  Bill returns to the area of the bar where all the pilots are gathered.  “We’re thirsty!” a few of them shout.

“Double or nothing!” Bill says.  “She’ll be back tomorrow night.”

Chapter Text

Bill arrives early at the bar and is surprised to see a few of the pilots have already gathered for the evening.  “Hey Husker, ready to flame out again tonight?” one of them asks as he points to the corner where Rose sits. 

“Don’t get your hopes up,” Bill replies.  “I’m getting an early start tonight.”  Once his drink order arrives, he takes it and walks to where Rose is seated.  “Good evening,” he says when he arrives at her table. 

Rose looks up and rolls her eyes.  “Another bet?  Or is this an attempt to heal your bruised ego?”

“Maybe I just like you.”  He looks at her curiously when she lights a cigarette.  The red rose tattoo that had been on her right wrist the evening before is no longer there.  Instead, there is a tattoo of a black rose on her left wrist.  She is wearing dark burgundy slacks and another black t-shirt, but this one has several outlines of roses around the v-neck.  A rose shaped silver locket hangs around her neck from a black cloth string.  She leans back in her chair and takes a long drag on her cigarette as he seats himself at her table.

“Just what do you think you like about me?” she asks, never breaking eye-contact with him.

He takes a sip of his drink, then lights a cigarette.  “You’re obviously an intelligent woman based on your reading material.” 

She brushes her hair behind her ear.  “Is that all?” she asks looking unimpressed.

“Beneath all your thorns, you are a beautiful woman.”

“My thorns?” she asks mockingly as she shakes her head.

“Yes, your thorns.  You’ve dyed your hair black, you wear dark makeup, dress in dark clothing.  The image of the rose is special to you, but your tattoos aren’t real because they’ve changed color and position.  You display your thorns prominently so that people will leave you alone.  But beneath all of that is a striking woman.  I can tell by your eyes and the way you carry yourself.”

She considers for a moment that she has underestimated him.  He obviously isn’t turned away by her appearance like most other people are, and he is certainly more observant than any man she has met in the past.  “Do all viper pilots double as psychologists?” she asks.

“Only the ones who went through the dual pilot training and psychology program at the academy,” he deadpans.  “It was a program developed especially for me and I graduated top of the class,” he says, puffing his chest out slightly to emphasize his pride. 

“Because you were the only student?” she asks with a hint of a smile tugging at the corners of her mouth.

“See, you are a smart woman,” he says with a grin.  Rose can’t help but smile at him as she shakes her head.

“What’s the bet tonight?” she asks.

“Double or nothing,” he replies without hesitation.  “But I don’t care about that.  Excuse me for a minute.”  Bill walks to the pilots, a much larger group by now, and orders two rounds of drinks on him.  The pilots slap him on the back and razz him a few times before he returns to her table.  “No more bets,” he tells her.

She slowly nods her head at him.  “Alright.  Why are you here every night?”

“I’ve been discharged from the military and I’m waiting for a freighter assignment.  That’s what all of us are doing – killing time.  Why are you here every night?”

“I’m working on my doctorate degree, and this is better than the library because I can smoke here.”

“Is that why you want people to leave you alone, so you can study?” he asks.

Rose smiles at him but doesn’t answer.  Bill notices that she glances at the clock above the bar – it’s close to 9:30. “Can I buy you a drink?” he asks.

She shakes her head.  “No, thank you.  I’m driving and need to leave soon,” she says as she begins to pack up her books and binder into the large black satchel she carries with her. 

Bill notes that this is the same time she left the night before and wonders what other commitment she has at this time of night.  “May I carry that for you?” he offers.

“It’s not necessary, I can manage.  But thank you,” she replies with a soft smile.  “Enjoy your evening,” she says before she leaves.

Chapter Text

Every night over the next few weeks, Bill sits with Rose at her table in the bar, slowly getting to know her.  She is quite guarded, not just with him, but with the other patrons as well.  It takes 5 days before he legitimately makes her laugh, a sweet sound to his ears and the way her eyes sparkle when she giggles is something he tells himself he wants to see more often.  A few days later she asks him to read from one of her classic books – she enjoys the soothing gravelly cadence of his voice as she closes her eyes and lets the spoken words wash over her.  A few days after that she lets him carry her satchel to her car when she leaves, which is always promptly at 9:30 every night.

The number of pilots that gather each night dwindles as they obtain their assignments on freighters and leave for space.  “Looks like all your buddies have better things to do,” she comments as she glances toward where they used to congregate.

“Most have gotten their freighter assignments and have left,” Bill says.

“Why haven’t you left yet?” she asks as she extinguishes her cigarette.

“Just waiting for the right opportunity.  Don’t want to make a hasty decision,” he admits with a smile.  The truth is he has turned down several assignments just so he can continue to spend time with her.

Rose glances at the clock and begins to pack away her books and binder for the evening.  Bill takes her satchel and walks to her car, carefully placing it in the back seat.  He then steps back and opens the driver’s side door for her, and as she moves toward it, he stops her.  He gently places a hand to her cheek as he gazes into her eyes looking for permission, or rejection, or any signal from her regarding what he is about to do.  When a small smile forms on her face, he places a gentle lingering kiss to her lips.

A happy expression fills her face when they break the kiss, but then her eyes become troubled.  “I need to tell you that I’m not exactly available,” she informs him.

Her confession surprises him.  “Oh, I didn’t realize you were seeing someone, or is it serious?”

“No, no, I’m not seeing anyone,” she replies as she nervously nibbles on her bottom lip.  “It’s just that I have certain obligations and responsibilities right now.  I do enjoy our time together.”

“Can I see you again tomorrow night?” he asks hopefully.

She smiles.  “I’ll be here.  See you tomorrow,” she says as she affectionately touches his arm before she gets in her car and drives away.

 

The next evening Bill joins Rose again at her study table.  He reads from one of her books while she studies and scribbles notes in her binder.  Suddenly he sets the book down and asks, “What obligations?”

“What?”

“You said you weren’t available because you have certain obligations and responsibilities.”

“Oh, just certain family things,” she says, not wanting to elaborate.

Bill wonders what family obligations and responsibilities she could be tied to since she isn’t in a relationship right now.  It occurs to him that maybe she has a child at home.

“Do – do you have a child?” he asks and then realizes maybe it’s too personal of a question.

“Oh, Gods, no, nothing like that,” she says.  “I watch after my little sisters, help out around the house, stuff like that.  It’s enough to keep me busy with graduate school and everything. I can’t afford to lose focus,” she explains convincingly, concealing the full truth from him.

Bill is relieved to hear her explanation, although he feels there is more she isn’t sharing with him.  “I like spending time with you,” he tells her as she begins to pack up for the evening.  Once again, he takes her satchel and walks her to her car.  “I’d like to keep seeing you,” he says, “We can take this as slow as you want.  Just a few hours every night like we have been doing –“ his words are interrupted when she suddenly smashes her lips into his.  She nibbles his bottom lip, inviting him to deepen the kiss, and he is completely powerless to her.  Their tongues tangle with equal parts curiosity and passion, the sensation of her firm breasts against him nearly takes his breath away, and he lightly pulls her hair back to expose her neck so that he can place soft kisses on her delicate skin.  He hears her hum in approval before she takes his face in her hands and stares into his eyes with a fiery gaze that ignites his soul.  More kissing, tongues dueling, bodies smashed together – it feels so natural, so right, so exhilarating, and he hopes it never ends. 

“What time is it?” she asks breathlessly. 

He glances at his watch.  “Almost 10.”

She pulls away from him with a distressed look on her face.  “I have to go.  I’m late.  I’ll see you tomorrow?” she asks.

“I’ll be here,” he promises.

 

The next evening Bill arrives at the bar at 7:30, which is around the time Rose normally pulls into the parking lot.  This time she isn’t there.  He seats himself at her table, their table, and patiently waits for her, but she never shows.

He returns the following evening, waiting at their table.  He leaves disappointed when she fails to show up again.

The next night he tries again and brings with him a single red rose, thorns removed.  The minutes tick away and at 9:30, he takes the flower to the bartender and asks if she knows Rose.  “You mean the Black Rose?” she asks.  “I know her.  She’s a very private person.”

“Can I leave a message for her?  Will you make sure she receives it?” Bill inquires.

“Sure, I can do that,” she says as she hands him a notepad and pen.

“Rose,

I’ve received an offer from a quality freighter and I’m shipping out tomorrow.  I had hoped to see you again before I leave, but I guess it’s not meant to be.  I have enjoyed every moment we’ve spent together and I can only hope when you look back at these last three weeks, you feel the same way.

All my love,

Bill”

He shakes his head, wondering why she hasn’t been at the bar the past few nights, but he can’t delay taking another assignment just so he can wait in a bar for a woman that may never return.  He folds the note around the rose and presents it to the bartender.  “Please make sure –“ he begins, but is interrupted by the woman.

“I’ll make sure she gets this – you have my word.  You’ve made her happy these past few weeks,” she tells him with a soft smile.  Bill glances at her nametag.  “Thank you, Jean.  I appreciate it.”

Chapter Text

“Sis, where have you been?  Mom’s been asking for you,” Sandra says as Laura washes the makeup from her face and removes the fake tattoo from her wrist. 

“I’m sorry, I lost track of time,” she replies.  “How is everything?”

“I put Cheryl to bed already, Dad’s exhausted, and Momma needs her pain pills – did you pick them up from the pharmacy?  She’s really been struggling tonight.”

“I have them in my bag.  Thank you for covering for me,” she says as she rinses out the washcloth and hangs it to dry.  She brushes her teeth to try to mask the smell of smoke on her breath, what little good it does, and then takes a deep breath as she looks in the mirror.  She smiles to herself thinking back to when she left the bar, kissing the man she had been spending her evenings with.  For some reason, she feels very safe with him and she’s looking forward to spending more time with him, even if just for a few hours each night.  She feels a little guilty, though, for allowing herself to get swept up in the moment making her late for her chores at home.  After changing into her pajamas, she grabs the bottle of pain pills, and heads to her bedroom. 

“Momma?  Are you asleep?  I brought your pain pills,” she says quietly as she enters the dark room.

“Laurie, I’m awake,” her mother manages to say between gasps. 

Laura pours a glass of water and takes two pain pills from the bottle, then adjusts the head of the bed so her mother is sitting up and can take the pills.  “Here you go,” she says handing her the glass and the pills. 

“It gets –“ she gasps “-harder and harder-“ another gasp “-to do this.”

Laura takes the glass from her and lowers the head of the bed back down so that she is partially inclined.  It helps her breathe easier if she isn’t flat on her back, something Laura discovered a few nights ago.  “How’s that?  Do you want it higher, or lower?”

“Just right,” she answers.  “I’m c-cold.”

Laura takes a blanket from the cot she sleeps on in the corner each night and covers her mother with it.  “Is that better, or do you want another blanket?”

“Can you –“ she says before she starts to cough and wheeze.

“I can sleep with you if that will help,” Laura offers as she climbs into bed and rubs her mother’s back trying to soothe the coughing fit.  When her cough subsides, Laura whispers “I love you, Momma.”

“Love you, too,” she says.

Laura awakens the next morning feeling well rested, which is unusual because her mother rarely sleeps through the night.  Her coughing fits have become more frequent the past few weeks and Laura has been waking up 3 or 4 times each night trying to soothe her.  But last night there were no coughing spells and she is grateful that both she and her mother got a full night’s sleep.

“Momma, are you awake?” she asks as she stretches her arms out and looks around the room.  The sun is shining through the curtains and the room is much like it was when Laura was a child, except for the hospital bed that her mother has been occupying for the past several weeks.  The shelves in her room are filled with her favorite books, academic awards and medals sit proudly in a trophy case on the far wall, and the pretty red rose wallpaper border that she hung her sophomore year gives the room a cheery feel.  When her mother had become bedridden, Laura insisted that she use her room because it was so much nicer to look at than Sandra’s room which was filled with posters of popular musicians and actors. 

The house is quiet, but she can hear the enthusiastic chirping of birds outside her window.  Laura had installed several bird feeders so that her mother could watch them from her bed.  One of their favorite activities is to sit together and try to identify the birds, figure out what each species prefers to eat, and then talk about when they will lay their eggs, looking forward to seeing the baby birds someday.

“Momma, how are you feeling?” she asks.  When she doesn’t get an answer, she rubs her mother’s back and then places a hand on her shoulder.

“Momma?”

She sits up in the bed and pulls on her mother’s shoulder, rolling her onto her back.  There’s a slight smile on her mother’s face, but she is limp.  She picks up her hand and squeezes it, then touches her face.  “Momma?!”

She no longer hears the labored breathing she had become accustomed to.  No more wheezing, no more rattling in her lungs, no more coughing.  All she can hear is the happy chorus of birds tweeting outside.

“Oh, no,” she says.  “No, no, no, no,” she repeats.  “No, Momma.  Wake up.  Please wake up.  You like the birds.”

Tears sting her cheeks as she lies down in the bed next to her mom, embracing her, stroking the smooth skin on top of her head.  “I’m so sorry, Momma.  I don’t want you to leave.”  She rubs her hands on her arms, trying to get a response from her, anything at all, but her mom lies there with that small smile on her face, looking more peaceful than she has looked in months.

Sandra opens the door to the bedroom, rubbing the sleep from her eyes.  “Laura, how is she this morning?”

Laura does not answer - she lies in bed weeping. 

“Daddy!!!!!”  Sandra cries at the top of her lungs.

Dave rushes down the steps just as Sandra collapses in the doorway.    He picks her up and places her on the cot in the room, then rushes to Laura and Betty in the hospital bed.  He knows.  He tries to pull Laura from her mother, but she fights him, hugging her mother to her even tighter.  Cheryl begins to cry upstairs, so Dave goes to Sandra and sits her up on the edge of the cot.

“Sandra, honey, look at me,” he says to her as she sobs with grief.  He brushes the tears from her face.  “Look at me, sweetie.  Can you go upstairs and stay with Cheryl while I take care of Momma and Laurie?  Can you do that for me?”

Sandra nods her head.  He helps her to her feet and hugs her before she goes up the steps.

“Laurie, honey, we need to call someone.  Can you come with me?” he asks quietly as he lightly touches her arm. 

“I can’t leave her.”

“I know it’s hard, but we need to call someone.  She’s moved on.  You took care of her better than anyone else could have.  It’s time to let her rest.”

“Daddy, I can’t,” her voice cracks from her sobs.

“It’s time to let go, sweetheart,” he whispers as he slips his arms under Laura and lifts her from the bed.  “I have you.  Hold onto me now, as tight as you want,” he says as tears fall from his eyes.  Laura buries her head into his neck and sobs the most gut-wrenching sobs he has ever heard. 

The coroner arrives shortly after Dave places the call and she removes Betty Roslin from their home. 

The next day Laura and Dave meet with the funeral home to make funeral and burial arrangements.  Laura is quiet most of the time, letting her father do the talking, occasionally nodding her head in agreement.  She barely hears what he says.

Two days after that Betty Roslin is laid to rest.  There is a large gathering of family and close friends at their house after the burial, but Laura feels like a ghost outside of herself watching everything happen in slow motion.  Sandra does a little bit better and interacts with relatives and friends of the family while keeping an eye on Cheryl, who toddles around happily like a normal 3-year-old.

The next day Laura moves her belongings to the basement of the home, unable to spend any time in her bedroom again.

 

 

Chapter Text

Garrison Freighter Day 1, 0800 hours: 

Eager new crewmen line up in the hangar bay reporting for duty.  Captain Reynolds, a portly man with a permanent sneer etched on his chubby face, walks down the line reading names and handing out assignments.  “Adama, William!” he barks out.  “Report to the galley for KP duty!”

It’s all Bill can do to not roll his eyes.  The Garrison is one of the best freighters in space but to be assigned to the galley is an insult, especially after his stint as a viper pilot in the cylon war.  “Sir,” he interjects, “Is there something else besides the galley?”

“Is there something wrong with the galley?  People need to eat.  Just be happy you aren’t on latrine duty,” Reynolds smirks.  “The war is over.  Do what you’re told.”

“Yes, sir,” Bill says deflated.  Upon reporting to the galley, he is assigned the duty of peeling potatoes.  Lots and lots of potatoes. 

His shift ends at 1800 hours and he makes his way to the crew quarters.  There is little privacy – urinals and toilets sit just outside of cages that house four bunks each.  Every fart is shared, every shit is smelled, every piss is heard by all 100 crew members.  Prison inmates have more privacy.

Frak Bill thinks to himself.  The man in the bunk above him jacks off and he’s not even discrete about it.  When Bill places his sheets and blanket on his bunk and lies down, a hand reaches down from above.  “I’m Barry, who are you?”

Bill stares at his hand – it shines with lotion and gods only knows what other fluids.  “I’m Bill,” he replies, avoiding shaking his hand.

“Nice to meet you, Bill.  Don’t suppose you have any lotion or lubricant?  I’m almost out.”

“Sorry, must have left that back on Caprica.  Excuse me,” he says as he retreats from his cage. 

 

Garrison Freighter Day 3, 1400 hours:

A mountain of potatoes sits before him.  He had just finished up all the peeling for dinner when the head cook had two more crates of potatoes emptied in front of him.  “Hash browns,” he says.  “Might as well get a head start on breakfast tomorrow morning.”

Bill sighs and goes back to work peeling potatoes, then grating them into hash browns.  It doesn’t pay to work ahead he tells himself. 

He finally goes back to his bunk at 1830 hours.  Barry is in full ecstasy tugging his junk and moaning loudly.  After a resounding grunt, his breathing evens out, and he leans over the edge of his bunk to stare at Bill.  “Hey, Bill, you have a girl back on Caprica?  Cuz I have this little honey that I can’t get out of my mind.  Blond hair, huge tits, an ass that won’t quit.  Every time I think of her I get hard as a rock.”

“You must think of her a lot,” Bill comments. 

“Yeh, I do,” Barry begins. He drones on and on about his girl, how hard he gets, and he laments the lack of lotion available in the freighter store.  Bill tunes him out, thinking back to his evenings with Rose. 

Garrison Freighter, Day 5, 1000 hours:

Next to the mountain of potatoes sits a mountain of carrots.  “You’re getting a promotion.  Today you will also peel carrots,” the head cook tells him, and he’s actually serious.  “You keep this up, you’ll be head vegetable peeler in no time.”

Bill questions what in the hell he is doing aboard this freighter.  The only thing that helps him pass the time is Rose.  His thoughts turn to her constantly, still curious as to why she never returned to the bar.  He replays their time together in his mind looking for clues, anything that may explain her absence.

At 1800 hours he checks out of the kitchen and walks back to his bunk.  Barry is standing in the corner with his back to him, jerking his hips and saying “That’s right.  Mmmm, that’s good.”  A man who bunks two cages down is on his knees in front of Barry, sucking him into his mouth, gripping his balls in his hand.  Bill lies down on his bunk and pulls the blanket up over his head.

 

Garrison Freighter, Day 6, 2200 hours:

“Bill, you awake?” Barry asks from the top bunk.

“Yeh, I’m awake.  What’s up?”

“You ever have a man suck you before?  I never did till yesterday.  I ran out of lotion so I figured what’s the harm.  It felt pretty good.  Not much different than a girl.”

“No, I never have,” Bill says, hoping this conversation doesn’t go any further.

“Bill, I was thinking.  You don’t have a girl back home, so if you ever want to, you know, have some fun, I’d like to try sucking you.  Since we’re friends and everything.  I’m telling you, it feels good.  You can even close your eyes and think of a girl.”

When did we become friends?  “You know, Barry, I actually do have a girl back home.  I wouldn’t feel right about cheating on her,” he replies, hoping that puts an end to the subject.

“Oh, OK.  It’s just you’ve never mentioned her.  And I’d like to try sucking a guy, so I thought maybe it would be good if it was you.”

“I’m going to see her when we return to Caprica tomorrow,” Bill lies. 

“Alright,” Barry sighs disappointedly.  “If you change your mind, let me know.  I’ve been thinking about it a lot.”

 

Garrison Freighter, Day 7, 1200 hours, Caprica shipyards:

“All crew members are allowed 5 hours shore leave but must return by 1700 hours,” the orders scream from the com.  “Anyone who doesn’t return is terminated from further duty aboard the Garrison.”

Well, that would be a shame Bill thinks to himself as he packs a bag and heads into Caprica City.  He has one destination in mind – the bar where he met Rose.  He tells himself he has nothing to lose and decides to go there, hoping she might make an appearance.  Anything is better than Barry following him around begging to suck his cock.  The man just won’t drop it and Bill is tempted to buy a crate of lotion just to keep Barry busy with pleasuring himself so that he won’t keep hitting on him.

At 1300 hours he arrives at the bar and sits at their table.  A few people mill about but for the most part, the bar is empty.  Jean, the bartender he left the note and rose with, arrives at 1600 hours.  He watches her intently as she clocks in and begins to wipe down the bar before the evening crowd shows up.  When she finishes her cleaning, he approaches her, determined to find out more information about Rose.

“Hello, Jean, do you remember me?” he asks.

“I delivered your note and flower a few days ago,” she says as she adjusts her bar apron and counts the cash in the register drawer. 

“Has Rose come back here, or did she ask about me?”

“No and no.”

“What’s her real name?  I’d like to get in touch with her.”

Jean studies him quietly for several seconds and he can’t tell if she is going to order him to get lost or share some pertinent information with him.  “Look, you made her happy but she’s not in a good place right now.  I don’t want to see her get hurt.  She’s already in so much pain,” Jean says.

“I don’t want to hurt her.  I want to make sure she’s alright,” he says, concerned about why Rose is in so much pain. 

Jean rubs her hand over her mouth as she considers the possibility of telling him Rose’s real name.  For three nights she watched him patiently wait at the table her friend had studied at.  Laura had confided in her that she liked this viper pilot and if it wasn’t for her commitment to her family, she would be open to pursuing a relationship with him.  He seems genuine, and even though she is very protective of her friend, she senses that this man can be trusted.  “Alright.  Her name is Laura Roslin.  I’ll write her address down for you.  But there’s something you need to know before you get in touch with her.”

Chapter Text

At 1730 hours, Dave Roslin answers a knock at the door.  Friends and family have been stopping by all week with food and offering their condolences.  In fact, they have so much food, he’s certain he has gained 10 pounds in the last 3 days alone.

“Hello, can I help you?” he asks when he doesn’t recognize the man standing at the door.  Bill holds a bouquet of white roses in one hand and a book in the other. 

“Dr. Roslin?  My name is Bill Adama.  I’m so sorry for your loss,” he says holding the bouquet toward him. 

“Thank you,” he replies taking the flowers from Bill.  “Betty loved roses – were you a student of hers?” he asks curiously.

“No, I’m a friend of Laura’s.  Is she here?”

“Yes, she is – what did you say your name was again?” he asks.

“Bill,” Laura says, standing 10 feet behind her father at the top of the basement steps.  “I thought you left.”

“I came back,” he states awkwardly.  Dressed in an oversized sweatshirt and leggings, her face is clean, untouched by the heavy makeup Bill had become accustomed to.  The dark circles under her puffy red eyes tell him she has recently been crying.

“Bill, have you eaten?  Why don’t you come in and enjoy some food – we have plenty.  You and Laurie can talk in the kitchen,” Dave says.  “Laurie, honey, please eat something.  I’m going to gain 50 lbs if you don’t start helping out with this food,” he says before he kisses her on top of her head, glancing at Bill while he does so. 

Laura grumbles in recognition of her father’s motive.  He’s been after her all week to eat more but the rock in her stomach won’t allow her to eat much of anything at all.  “Follow me,” she says before turning toward the kitchen.

Homemade pies, breads, dessert bars, and fresh fruit cover the countertops in the kitchen.  Laura opens the refrigerator, and it is filled with casseroles, meats, and vegetable dishes.  “What would you like?” she asks.  “We have a lot of everything.”

“What are you having?” he asks, then realizes that sounds like a sneaky way of getting her to eat.

“I’m not hungry, but I’ll fix you a plate and reheat it for you,” she offers.

 

They sit at the table with two glasses of lemonade and a big steaming plate of meatloaf and green bean casserole with bread and fruit cocktail on the side.  It’s by far the best meal Bill has had in months and he has trouble controlling the urge to gulp it down and ask for more.  As he waits for the food to cool to an reasonable temperature, he turns to Laura and pushes the hair from her face, tucking it behind her ear.  “I missed you.”

Her head shakes slightly as she closes her eyes, as if she’s trying to control her emotions from overtaking her.  “I didn’t expect to ever see you again,” she replies in a whisper, glancing down at his plate.

Bill takes a bite of meatloaf followed by green bean casserole.  “This is really good.  Sure you don’t want any?” has asks holding the fork out to her.

She shakes her head, then takes a sip of lemonade, averting her eyes from him.  “Why did you come back?” she asks quietly.  She assumes Jean gave him her contact information, something she may need to have a discussion with her friend about, but she is genuinely surprised that he followed through in finding her.

“Well,” Bill says as he eagerly eats his food.  “I reported for duty on the Garrison, got my assignment, and started to work, but it was really difficult,” he says with a frown.

“I can’t believe a viper pilot would have any difficulty working on a freighter,” she says, calling him out on his lie.

He holds a forkful of food out to her again, but she refuses.

“I had a lot of trouble focusing,” he tells her.

Still not convinced that he isn’t just bullshitting her again, she stares at him rather than respond.

“Laura, you should try this food, it’s so good.  I’m not just saying that to try and get you to eat something, it is really really good.”

She continues to sit in silence staring at him.

“I brought you something,” he says pulling the book toward her that he had set on the table earlier.  “This is my favorite book and I want you to have it.”

Searider Falcon.  Laura has never read it but has heard very good reviews of it.  “Thank you,” she says quietly.  “If you give me your mailing address, I’ll return it when I’m finished.”

“No, I never lend books.  Books are gifts.  This one means something to me and I want you to keep it,” he explains taking another bite of food.

A large tear trickles from her eye down her cheek, coming to rest along her jawline.  “You’re very kind,” she says, then takes a few minutes to compose herself while he eats.  “You came back to give me this book?”

“Not entirely,” he says.  “Can I have some of that pie?”

“Yeh, let me get a plate.” After placing a large slice of pie on a clean plate, she turns around and walks directly into Bill, who had followed her into the kitchen.

“I can’t stop thinking about you.  I miss you.  I came back for you,” he says taking the plate and placing it on the counter, then wrapping his arms around her.

She stands stiff in his arms at first, but he refuses to let go of her, instead rubbing his hand on her back, patiently holding her tight, hoping that she responds to him.  Eventually her arms move up to his back, lightly embracing him, then he hears her sob as she buries her face in his chest.  Shaking in his arms, she cries hard for several minutes, before suddenly pulling away from him.  “No, Bill, you’re just going to leave again.”

“Laura, look at me,” he says, a hand on her chin tilting her face up to meet his eyes.  “I’m not going anywhere.  I’m here for you.”

“What about your freighter assignment?”

“It’s over – the ship left an hour ago.  You are way more important to me.  I can find work in the city.  Come here,” he says taking the pie and pulling her by the hand to the table.  “Help me eat this.”  He takes a bite, then holds the fork to her.  She reluctantly accepts his offer and a meager smile forms on her face at the sweetness of the strawberries.  “It’s good, isn’t it?” he asks when he sees a hint of a smile on her face. 

She waits for him to finish his forkful, then eagerly takes the next bite he offers her.  “It is good,” she admits, watching him take another bite, remembering the feel of his lips the last time they saw each other.  She tries to push the urge to kiss him from her mind – it would be crazy to do that right now, with everything that has happened and as upset as she feels.  But here he is, sitting in her kitchen, comforting her, gifting her a book, and telling her that he came back for her.  The fact that he didn’t disappear for good after hearing from Jean about her mother is enough to embolden her to act on impulse.

“You need to try some of that casserole I had, that might be the best green bean casser-” He’s unable to finish his sentence because Laura’s lips are suddenly pressed against his, a wonderful distraction that causes him to lose his train of thought.  He forgets all about pie, green bean casserole, and crappy freighter assignments.  All that matters is Laura, the way her lips feel on his, the way they taste of delicious strawberries, the softness of her hair, and that fire she somehow has a way of igniting in his soul.  He doesn’t even notice Dave watching from the hallway, smiling to himself at the sight of his daughter behaving like a normal 23-year-old, something she hasn’t been able to do ever since she took over caring for her mother.

They break the kiss, then take turns finishing the pie. 

“Any chance I can get another plate of meatloaf and green beans?” Bill asks. 

She raises her eyebrows at him.  “Someone’s hungry tonight,” she comments on her way to the refrigerator.  Once the food is reheated, she returns to the table and sets it in front of him where he lets it cool for a few minutes.

“I’ve been eating military rations for the past several years.  Homecooked food is a delicacy when you’re military.”  He holds a forkful of meatloaf out to her.  “First bite?”

She stares at the fork, then opens her mouth and takes the food.  “Mmm, Bill, you’re right.  This is good!”

They take turns sharing the meatloaf and green bean casserole until nothing is left.  “Be honest with me - how are you doing, Laura?”

“I feel a little better now.  Could you -” she begins, then stops before she completes the question.

“Could I what?” Bill asks.

“Could you stay and read to me, from the book you gave me?  At least for a little while?”

“I’d love to.”

They move to a sofa in a small family room off the side of the dining area.  Laura pulls her legs under her as she rests her head on Bill’s shoulder.  The deep tone of his voice soothes her and she closes her eyes so that she can focus on the spoken words, denying her other senses the opportunity to distract her from the story.  Eventually her body relaxes enough to drift off to sleep, her head still resting on his shoulder.  He sets the book down and places his arm around her, letting her sleep peacefully against him. 

Bill feels a hand on his shoulder and looks up to see Dave standing behind him with a finger to his lips.  “Can you help me get her to bed?” he whispers. 

“I can carry her if you show me the way,” he whispers back. 

Dave helps Bill maneuver Laura so that she is easier for him to pick up, then motions for him to follow.  They walk down the steps to the basement where Bill gently places her in her bed.  He leaves the copy of the book on her nightstand, carefully bookmarked to the page where he sensed she was falling asleep, then follows Dave back up the steps.

“I can’t thank you enough, Bill.  She has barely eaten anything over the past week, barely even spoken since Betty passed away.  How long have you known each other?” he asks curiously.

“For about a month.  We met at the bar near the university,” he informs him.

“Ah, the one where Jean works.”

Bill nods.  “She told me how to find her.  I had no idea what Laura was going through until Jean told me this afternoon.  I wish I had known.”

“Do you have dinner plans tomorrow?” Dave asks.  “You’re welcome to join us, help us eat this food before it goes to waste, and spend some time with Laurie.”

“If it’s no trouble, I’d love to come back.  I’m going to stay with my family while I look for work here in Caprica City.  I’ll leave my number and address – can you please let Laura know?”

“I will.  Does 6 pm work for you?”

“I’ll be here.”

 

Chapter Text

Bill arrives at 5:45 pm parking in the street outside of the Roslin family home, waiting until it’s closer to 6 pm before he goes to the door.  The neighborhood is upper middle class consisting of large well-kept older homes, tall established trees in big yards, and meticulous landscaping that includes shrubs and beautiful flowers.  A collection of birdfeeders and a birdbath populate the area outside of a window on the side of the home.  As he stares at the house and looks around the neighborhood, he realizes it all looks somewhat familiar to him.  His attention is drawn back to the birdfeeders and the side window.

Slowly, he begins to connect some dots from his past:

Her name is Laura Roslin.  Laura.

Betty loved roses – were you a student of hers?  Laura’s mother was a teacher.

I think she loves me in her own way, it’s just that it feels…suffocating since she constantly hovers around me.  Did Laura feel like her mother hovered around her because maybe she was her teacher?

My dad’s a good guy.  I like him a lot.  Dr. Roslin does seem like a good guy.

He recalls the sassy girl that was looking for trouble at his senior dance, rebelling against her mother, stubborn and defiant, but underneath it all was an intelligent girl who loved poetry and literature.  The image of the young blond-haired girl comes back to him and her eyes, those beautiful green eyes.  He laughs aloud as he realizes that Laura Roslin may very well be the troubled girl that he took home all those years ago.

At 6 pm on the dot, Bill knocks at the door to the Roslin home.  When it opens, a teenage girl, maybe 15- or 16-years old stands before him.  She looks him up and down, unimpressed, not saying a word.  Finally, she grunts “Hmmph.  C’mon in,” and stands aside so he can enter.  “Wait here,” she grumbles, leaving the foyer.

He feels a tug at his left pants pocket and looks down to find a toddler smiling up at him.  She has straight dark hair, big beautiful green eyes, and a wide mischievous smile.  “Hi!” she says.

“Hello there,” he replies warmly, kneeling down to her level.  “What’s your name?”

“Cheryl.  Who are you?”

“I’m Bill.  It’s nice to meet you,” he says using two fingers to try and shake her hand. 

“Hold me,” she says flinging her arms around his neck.

He picks her up, then turns to find Laura smiling at him.  “I see you’ve met my littlest sister, Cheryl.  How are you, Bill?” she asks, placing a soft kiss to his cheek.  Cheryl takes her turn and kisses his other cheek, which is more like a sloppy lick than a kiss.

“I’m good,” he says startled.  “Kind of wet, but good,” he laughs, wiping the slobber from his cheek.

“Come here, sweetie.  Do you want to sit with me at dinner?” Laura asks, holding her arms out to her little sister.

Cheryl looks at her older sister suspiciously, then tightens her grip around Bill’s neck.  “No,” she replies firmly.

Bill whispers in Cheryl’s ear as she continues to eyeball her sister.  Suddenly she giggles, nods her head to Bill, turns to Laura, and holds her arms out to her.  “OK.”

Laura takes her, raising an eyebrow at Bill.  “I’m impressed.  You’re going to have to tell me your secret after dinner.”

Dave sits at the head of the table, Bill and Laura on one side, with Sandra and Cheryl across from them.  Cheryl insisted sitting across from Bill, smiling at him and making funny faces.  A large pile of pasta noodles sits in the middle of the table with a bowl full of meatballs and red sauce on the side, and a huge casserole dish filled with lasagna sits next to that.  They have fresh salad and breadsticks to complement the meal, and various homemade fruit pies for dessert.  Bill quickly polishes off a plate of meatballs and pasta before anyone else is even halfway finished.  Sandra smirks at Laura, prompting her to comment “Bill has been living off military rations for several years.  Would you like some more?”

“I’d take some of that lasagna, and maybe another meatball or two,” he says.  Suddenly a meatball flies from across the table followed by a loud giggle from Cheryl.  It lands in a splash of sauce left over on Bill’s plate, splattering it all over his shirt.

“I am so sorry!” Dave exclaims.  “Cheryl, don’t throw your food!” he scolds.

Sandra snickers at her little sister.  “Classic!”

“Gods, Bill, I’m sorry.  Daddy – can Bill borrow one of your shirts so I can get this stain out before it sets?”

“Sure, take a t-shirt from the top drawer of my dresser,” he says as he frowns at Cheryl, who is still laughing about the mess she made.  She’s quite proud of herself having landed the meatball perfectly in the center of Bill’s plate.

Bill follows Laura upstairs to her father’s bedroom where she retrieves a blue t-shirt from the dresser.  When she turns around, he has removed his stained shirt, holding it out to her.  She notices his muscular physique, skin taut over the well-formed muscles on his torso, and she glances away to hide the smile forming at the corners of her mouth.  “Uh, here, this should fit,” she says handing him the t-shirt before taking his button-down shirt to the basement laundry room to soak.

When they return to the table, Cheryl giggles some more and points at Bill, who points back at her with a phony angry look on his face.  Sandra stares heatedly at Bill - the t-shirt he’s wearing is a size too small for him, the sleeve openings tight around his well-toned arms.  Laura glares at her for being so obvious, then asks “Sandra, what’s new in school?”

“Nothing.  Same old boring school,” she replies still ogling Bill.

Dave clears his throat in an attempt to distract her.  “Sandra’s a freshman.  Why don’t you tell us what you’re practicing for the marching band festival?”

“Quit that three months ago,” she says.

“You quit marching band?” Laura says surprised, glancing at her father.  “What have you been doing after school every day for two hours?”

“Oh, you know, hanging out with friends, going to the mall, stuff.”

“You could have been helping out at home,” Laura admonishes her.

“Well at least I’m not chain smoking in a bar picking up viper pilots,” Sandra retorts staring at her sister.

“That’s enough, Sandra,” Dave warns. 

“Oh-oh,” Cheryl quips.

With an exaggerated roll of her eyes that she has recently perfected, Sandra asks “May I be excused?”

“Clean your plate, then you can go.  But I want you back here when we’re finished so that you can clear the table and load the dishwasher,” Dave says.

“Fine,” she scoffs as she gulps down the last two bites of food and abruptly leaves the table.

“Tell me, Bill, do you have any teenage siblings at home?” Dave asks with a smirk.

“No, sir, I don’t.  I can see how much I’m missing out on, though,” he replies winking at Laura.

“Daddy, I’ll talk to her,” Laura offers.  “I didn’t know that she quit marching band.”

“I think she needs a stern lecture from her father this time.  Can you please watch Cheryl for a few minutes?”

 

When they finish dinner, Laura cleans Cheryl’s face and hands, then takes her and sits on the sofa in the adjoining family room.  As soon as Bill sits down next to Laura, Cheryl crawls into his lap.

“Alright, spill it.  What did you say to her in the foyer?  I’ve never seen her be so agreeable,” Laura says.

“It’s kind of our secret,” he replies looking at Cheryl, making a silly face at her.

“She adores you.”

“I have that effect on women – it’s a burden I carry.”

“There’s that viper pilot cockiness,” Laura snorts. She lightly runs her fingers through his hair and gives him a sweet little peck on the cheek.

Cheryl points at a book on the coffee table and looks at Bill who picks it up and begins reading to her.  “Ten little kitty cats sat on the fence.  One jumped down and then there were nine.  Nine little kitty cats sat on the fence.  One climbed a tree and then there were eight.  Eight little kitty cats sat on the fence.  One caught a bird and then there were six.”

“No, there were seven!” Cheryl exclaims.

“Very good!  You’re smarter than I am,” Bill praises.

“I know,” she sighs shrugging her little shoulders.

Laura watches Bill in admiration as he reads this silly kid’s book to her little sister.  Cheryl is completely enthralled with him, looking at him with adoring eyes, and laughing at his purposeful mistakes.  She tells herself she’s going to have to thank Jean for giving him her contact information.  She had no idea that first night he approached her in the bar that a month later he would be sitting in her house charming her little sister after sharing dinner with her family.   

When Bill finishes the story, Cheryl snuggles against him, a huge yawn escaping from her lips. 

“I think someone needs to get her jammies on,” Laura says.  “Do you want me to carry you, or Bill?”

Cheryl grips Bill around the neck. 

“Do you mind?” Laura asks.

“Not at all.  Lead the way,” he says as he stands holding the sleepy toddler in his arms.

The nursery room that adjoins Dave’s bedroom is still decorated with ducks and bunnies from when Cheryl was a newborn. They had intended to change it to a literary theme after she turned two, but that’s when Betty became ill and the work was never started.  Bill helps change Cheryl into her pajamas, then Laura takes her to brush her teeth.  As they lay her down to sleep in her bed, Cheryl wraps her arms around Bill and gives him another slobbery kiss on the cheek.  “Night night,” she says smiling at him.

“Hey, don’t you have a kiss for your big sister?” Laura asks.

“No,” Cheryl says.

After Bill whispers in Cheryl’s ear again, she turns to Laura with her arms out and says “OK.”

Laura shakes her head in disbelief, noticing the confident smirk on Bill’s face.  She leans down for her slobbery toddler kiss and manages to secure a hug, too.  “Goodnight, sweetie.”

“Come with me downstairs, we can check on your shirt,” Laura says, clasping Bill’s hand as they leave the nursery. “Tell me how you’re getting her to do these things - I’ve never seen her respond to anyone like that!”

“I just promised to read her another story the next time I’m here.  That’s all it is – bribery,” he chuckles.

“Hmmm, that doesn’t work when I try it.”

“I told you – women love me.”

She tries to hide her smile at his smugness but it doesn’t work, a few small giggles giving her away. 

When they get to the basement, she pulls his shirt from the soaking sink, examining if for stains.  “This looks good, what do you think?  I’ll run it through the wash and dry it if you want to wait around for a while.”

“I can wait.  I was hoping to spend some more time with you.”  He looks around the basement which is cluttered with boxes of books and clothes hanging from various hooks and pipes from the ceiling.  “Has this always been your bedroom?”

“No, I moved down here a few days ago.  My bedroom was next to Sandra’s on the first floor but that’s where…” her voice trails off, eyes glassy with tears.

He wraps his arms around her, pulling her into a firm embrace.  “I understand.  Would you like some help making this more of a bedroom than a storage room?”

“I’d like that.  It’s sort of a cave right now.”

He walks through the basement examining the location of the windows and if there are places that can be brightened up.  Framing for a couple of rooms is already in place, but the basement was never actually finished when the house was built.  “We could put walls up here,” he says pointing to an area near a corner, “and that could be your sleeping area.  The egress provides some nice natural light.  We could either put some flooring down or use area rugs to make it feel more like a real bedroom.  Out here we could put a desk and a few chairs along with some better lighting so that you can study.  As long as your dad approves, I can do the work for you if you’d like.  It looks like you already have plumbing for a bathroom so we can also put that in.  All of this would add value to the home, too.”

“You’d do that for me?” she asks. 

“Yeh, I like doing stuff like this.  But we need to get your dad on board.  It seems so dark and depressing  – I don’t like to think of you spending a lot of time down here,” he says.

“He’s probably done lecturing Sandra by now – I’ll get him.”

When she returns with Dave, Bill walks him through his ideas.

“I think all of these are fantastic ideas but I insist that we pay you.  I can help out so that we don’t need to hire anyone else, and Laurie and Sandra can help, too.”

“You don’t need to pay me, I’m happy to make this a livable space.  I wouldn’t mind some more dinners with your family, though,” Bill says, winking at Laura.

Chapter Text

Over the next three weeks Bill and the Roslin family turn the basement into a finished space.  It has a corner bedroom with natural light from a window well that Laura and Sandra cleaned the debris out of, something that had been neglected for the past year while Betty fought cancer.  Laura chooses some red curtains that can darken the space for sleep, and she and Sandra paint the walls eggshell white, neutral enough for a future guest room.  Laura picks out a colorful bedspread with matching pillows to give the bedroom a burst of color, a bedtable with a bookshelf underneath, and a lounge chair with a lamp so that she can sit and read quietly.  The laundry room and utilities are framed away from the rest of the basement.  A family room occupies the main space with a sofa, television, and a desk in the corner where Laura can study.  The bathroom is on the far side of the basement and is completed into a ¾ bath with a large vanity and mirror, plus a sizable linen closet.  They install hardwood flooring and strategically place area rugs to give the space a cozy feel.  New lighting is added in the family room and bedroom and includes dimmer switches that can be adjusted depending on the activity or mood.  The livable spaces are light, bright, colorful, and tastefully decorated. 

As they work together on the basement, several flirty glances are exchanged between Bill and Laura, and the occasional kiss or two is shared when they are alone, which is never for very long.  A soft touch to his arm, a gentle hand on her back, an ornery little slap on the butt – any opportunity they have to touch each other is taken.  They both enjoy a spontaneous make-out session in the parking lot at the hardware store where they sneak away together for supplies one afternoon.  Laura even suggests that they only buy half of what’s on the list so they can have an excuse to return again soon, but Bill knows her father will see right through them and reminds her that the sooner they finish the basement, the sooner they will be able to spend time alone with each other.

“Gods, Bill, this is so much better,” Laura says as they snuggle on the sofa in the basement the evening after they finish the work.  “You did a great job with this.  We really should pay you.”

“You already have – I’ve eaten more than my fair share of food.  In fact, I’m going to have to start working out at the gym regularly because of all the food I’ve eaten.  And I got to spend time with you, that’s the main thing.”

 

She leans in close to him and places a soft kiss on his lips, followed by another, then another kiss, more passionate than the first two. 

He tucks her hair behind her ear so that she can look into his eyes.  “I need to come clean about something,” he says looking into her dazzling green eyes, the ones he finds irresistible, especially when she laughs, or when she wants to kiss him some more.

She kisses him again, something she’s decided is her new favorite activity.  At this point he could tell her he’s a cylon and she wouldn’t care, so she ignores him.  She has him all to herself, no little sisters around, and a father that has probably already gone to bed for the evening.  She hasn’t felt this way about anyone in a very long time, so she keeps kissing him, hoping he gets the hint. 

“Laura, I really need to tell you something,” he says pulling back from her and stroking her cheek, a serious look on his face.

His tone and demeanor command her attention.  “Bill, what is it?” she asks, her voice worried.  “Is this something really bad?”  She sits up perfectly straight, bracing herself for something awful. 

“No, it’s not bad, just an odd coincidence.  I don’t want you to feel uncomfortable, because I’m not.  But I do need to share something with you.”

“Alright, go ahead,” she says cautiously.

“Ten years ago, I met a girl -”

“Oh, my Gods, you have a child,” she interrupts.  “That’s why you’re so good with Cheryl!”

“No, I don’t have a child.  Let me finish.  Ten years ago, I met a freshman girl at my spring senior dance.”

Laura covers her mouth with her hand, fearful of what he’s going to say next.  Her mind is a flurry of horrible possibilities.  Did he hook up with a freshman girl when he was a senior?  What happened to this girl?   Did he get arrested for having sex with a minor?  But how would he have gotten into pilot training with a record?  Did he get a sexually transmitted disease? 

“She was rebellious and looking for trouble, but I danced with her and talked with her, and we wound up having a nice evening after a rough start.  I drove this girl home and she snuck in through the side window because her parents didn’t know she was at the dance.  Her name was Laura, and as soon as she climbed through the window, her parents were waiting for her.”

Her hand drops from her mouth and she stares at him in utter disbelief.  This scenario had never entered her mind. “Billy?” she whispers.

“Yeh,” he says nodding his head.  “So, you are the same Laura.  I was pretty sure that first night I came to dinner with your family.  Your neighborhood seemed familiar and I kept noticing the birdhouses by the side window and it jogged my memory.  Is this too weird?” he asks watching her sit silently with her mouth agape.

She slowly shakes her head, a smile tugging at the corners of her mouth.  Before he can say anything else, she throws her arms around him in a warm embrace, kissing him everywhere on his face.

“This all makes sense now,” she says before planting several more kisses on him.  “You were so easy to talk with at the bar,” she pauses for a few more kisses, “and I felt so safe with you.  You were a perfect gentleman at the dance and kept me from doing something really stupid.”  This time her lips find his, kissing him passionately, holding him even tighter.

“So, you’re alright with this?” he asks when they break the kiss.

“Gods, yes,” she sighs taking his face in her hands.  “I always wondered what happened to you.  I watched the news and read the papers looking for anything about viper pilots with the name Billy or Bill, and I cringed every time one of them was injured or killed.  I didn’t know your last name so I never knew if it was you.  Oh!  Wait here,” she says before she scurries off the couch and into her new bedroom.

When she returns, she holds out a book of Dhilwayo poetry, carefully opening it to a middle page.  “I still have it – your senior rose.  I pressed it between the pages of the poem you quoted me.  Do you remember?”

Roses do not bloom hurriedly; for beauty, like any masterpiece, takes time to blossom,” he quotes from memory again, just like he did on that night 10 years ago.

“That’s right,” she says, kissing him deeply, running her fingers through his hair that has grown out thick and wavy.  Her hand caresses a path from the back of his head to his neck, and down his chest where she unbuttons the top button of his shirt.  “Bill, stay with me tonight,” she whispers, then kisses him before he can answer, unbuttoning the next button.

“What about your sisters and your dad?” he asks between kisses. 

“They’re all in bed,” she mumbles before kissing him again and unbuttoning his shirt the rest of the way.

“But won’t your dad be upset?” he manages to say before she smooths her hands on his chest, causing a tingling inside of him that makes him feel so incredibly alive.  Her lips find his again for another heated kiss.

“He won’t even know,” she says, trying to push his shirt off his shoulders.

“He’ll know when he sees my car in your driveway in the morning,” he replies.

“Bill, shut up and kiss me,” she orders, kissing him fiercely, trying to make him understand how worked up she is.  “We’re both adults, and he likes you.”

When she moves her lips to his neck, he relents.  His hands find the buttons on her blouse and he starts to undo them, taking his time, enjoying her lips nibbling at his neck and shoulders.  Just as he undoes the last button, a light comes on at the top of the steps.  They both sit up straight wrapping their shirts around them, hoping whoever is coming down the steps doesn’t notice that the buttons are undone.  Laura grabs the book of poetry and opens to a random page and begins reading aloud.

“Oh, sorry, hope I’m not interrupting,” Dave says sheepishly.  “I need to throw in some laundry so I have something to wear for work tomorrow.  Laurie, can you put it in the dryer when the wash cycle ends?”

“Sure, Daddy,” she replies, not taking her eyes off Bill, who is biting his lips together trying to suppress a grin.

“Bill, will you be joining us for dinner tomorrow night?  You’re always welcome,” Dave says.

“Actually, I was hoping to take Laura out for dinner tomorrow,” he replies.  “If you would like to go,” he tells her.

“You mean a real date?  With you?  No work, no paint, no studying?”  She can hardly contain her excitement.

“No surly teenage sisters,” he says quietly so only she can hear him.  Her eyes twinkle as she giggles at him.

“I’d love to.  What time will you be picking me up for our first official date?  I need time to get ready.  I wouldn’t want to disappoint you.”

“How about 5 pm?”

“That sounds good.  Where will we be going?”

“It’s a secret.”

“Ohhhhh, a secret.  Will a casual dress be sufficient for our date?”

“That will be perfect.”

Dave smiles to himself at the easy banter Laura and Bill have with each other.  He’s been worried about her ever since she turned inward while taking care of her sick mother.  After Betty’s death, Laura seemed to be sinking further into a deep depression, until Bill stopped by that one evening.  A few weeks later she is a completely different person, laughing, smiling, and interacting with people around her.  His mind feels at ease watching them flirt with each other, and he doesn’t even care that their shirts are unbuttoned.

“I’m going to bed soon.  Goodnight Laurie, goodnight Bill,” he says as he walks up the steps.

When the door closes at the top of the steps, Laura bursts out with laughter.  “Oh, my Gods, you should have seen your face when my Dad came down the steps!  You looked like a middle school boy who just got caught feeling up his girlfriend!”

“I did get caught feeling up my girlfriend - that was a close call!”

“Yeh, it was kind of close.  But I’m sure he didn’t notice anything,” she laughs, trying to reassure him.

“He most certainly did notice.  Your dad’s not dumb - he just decided not to say anything.  I’m grateful he didn’t throw me out!”

“Oh, my goodness, Bill, he would never do that.  Like I said, he likes you.  Now, where were we?” she says trying to push his shirt from his shoulders.

Bill pulls her face to his, planting a long, slow kiss on her lips, stroking her jaw with his thumb.  Her tongue traces his bottom lip, and she eagerly welcomes his tongue when it swirls around hers.

The door opens at the top of the steps and the light switches on, interrupting the sensual moment between them.  “Laurie, honey, when you put my clothes in the dryer, can you use the unscented dryer sheets?  I don’t want to smell like flowers tomorrow.”

Laura presses her lips together looking at Bill, waiting for her dad to finish speaking.  “OK, Daddy.  No flowers tomorrow.”

“Thank you!” Dave calls down the steps, then turns out the light and shuts the door.

Bill shakes his head and laughs.  “Do you think he’s gone this time?”

“Gods, I hope so.  So much for privacy!  I’m his laundry bitch tonight.”

“I should put a lock on your bedroom door.  At least that way nobody can walk in on us.”

“Good idea - can you do that soon?” she asks.

“I’ll pick something up this weekend and stop by.  Shouldn’t take long.”

“Are we calling it a night?”

“I hate to say it, but I think we should.  I wouldn’t want to keep you up late and make you tired for our first official date.  You might decide to cancel on me.”

“Why would I do that?  Are you lousy in bed?” she asks, taking her chances with a provocative question, the corners of her mouth turned up slightly in a small smirk as she waits for his response.

“Did you actually just ask me that?  You asked a viper pilot if he’s lousy in bed – think about what you just did.”

“Oh, I’m thinking about it.  I’m thinking about lots of things,” she says, letting her unbuttoned shirt fall open.  She leans forward toward him, giving him a tantalizing view of her cleavage.  “What are you thinking about?”  She moves in close for a kiss, then turns her head away, letting her lips lightly brush his face and neck.  It’s a teasing maneuver and she can tell he’s having second thoughts about leaving for the evening.

He grabs her under her arms, lifting her onto his lap so that she is facing him.  In one swift move, he pushes a bra cup aside and kisses along the top of her breast, then flicks his tongue against her nipple.  She gasps, letting her head drop back, enjoying the sensation of his lips on such an intimate part of her body, and when he takes her nipple between his teeth, a soft moan escapes her lips.

The door at the top of the steps opens and the light switches on.  “Laurie, don’t forget, no flowers,” Dave calls.

Laura stares at Bill, her lower lip in the cutest pout he has ever seen.  “Yes, Daddy, I got it!  No flowers!” she yells back.

“I guess this means I should be going,” Bill says disappointedly. 

“I swear to the Gods, if there was an award for poorest timing in all the colonies, my dad would win it,” she grumbles.  “I’ll walk you out,” she says standing and buttoning her shirt.  When they are fully put back together, they walk up the steps and past Dave, who is reading on the sofa in the family room off the kitchen. 

“Goodnight, Dave,” Bill says. 

“I’ll be right back, Daddy.  I’m going to walk Bill to his car.”

After a few more passionate kisses, Bill gets in his car, reminding her that he will pick her up at 5 pm the following night.  She returns to the house where Dave asks her to join him on the sofa.

“I’m sorry, Laurie.  I know you were trying to get some alone time with Bill and I think I messed it all up for you.”

“Well, maybe you could try being less obvious,” she says in a frustrated tone, the anger noticeable on her face.  “Bill and I are adults.  I lived on my own for two years before I moved back in to help take care of Momma.  It’s not like I haven’t had other men in my life.”

“I don’t know what got into me.  I’m relieved to see you happy again.  I guess I’m sort of clinging to you as the only other adult in the house right now.”

Her face softens at the realization that he wasn’t just being an overprotective father with her.  “What do you mean?”

“I have a toddler and a cranky teenager.  Your mom and I made a pretty good team raising you girls, but now that she’s not here, I don’t have anyone to talk with about things.  I shouldn’t be putting you in that position.  You have your own life; I don’t want to hold you back.”

“You aren’t holding me back.  I’m here because I want to be here, I want to help.  But I also want to date, and I like Bill, I like him a lot.  Some privacy would be nice.  We need to find a balance.”

“Part of me thinks you should move back into your own apartment so you can focus on finishing your doctorate degree and have your life back.  The other part of me is scared to let you go because I know I need help taking care of your sisters.  Promise me that if this gets to be too much for you, you’ll let me know.”

“I promise.  And you’re OK here tomorrow night without me?” she asks.

“Yes.  Sandra has a date so until her curfew, it will be Daddy and Cheryl time,” he says.

“You’re going to be exhausted!”

“You’re right about that, but I’m looking forward to it.  Some mindless toddler play is just what this old man needs.”

“You’re not even 50, Daddy.  You aren’t old,” she says giving him a hug.  “I’m going to bed.  You have a good night.”

“Thanks, Laurie.  Love you.”

“Love you, too.”

Chapter Text

Laura answers the door at 5 pm on the nose.  Earlier in the day she had visited the salon, deciding to go back to her original color, or as close to it as the stylist could get after wearing her hair black for the past year.  The red wrap dress she chose for the evening hugs her curves and when she sits a certain way, it falls to the side giving a perfect view of her long slender legs. Her dark heavy makeup is replaced with lighter make-up that emphasizes her natural beauty and brightens her eyes.  Some strappy heels complete the ensemble.

“Hi, Bill,” she says breathlessly, giving him a peck on the cheek, then carefully wiping away the smudge of lipstick left behind.  She laughs to herself as he stares at her, drinking in the sight of her.  She grabs a clutch sitting on the foyer table.  “Are you ready?” she asks, eager to get their first date underway.

He nods his head, still speechless.  “You look handsome tonight,” she compliments him, trying to persuade him to speak.  He’s dressed in tan slacks with a blue button-down shirt that matches his eyes.  “I love this color on you,” she comments as he takes her hand in his and walks toward his car.  When she still doesn’t get a response from him, she asks “Bill, are you alright?”

“I’m great,” he replies, unable to take his eyes off her.  “Your hair…”

“This is pretty close to my natural color.  Do you like it?” she asks, worried for a second that he may not and that maybe she shouldn’t have changed her appearance so drastically.  However, she didn’t want to hide her natural look anymore, especially not from him.

He steps back, looking her over from head to toe.  “You’re the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen.”

She rolls her eyes and her cheeks grow warm from a blush spreading up from her neck.  “I think you’re exaggerating.”

“I’m not.  You’re stunning.”

“Well, thank you, Bill.  And tonight, I’m all yours,” she flirts, kissing his lips before she climbs into the car as he holds the door open for her.  Any other man she may not have believed, but she can see the sincerity on his face and it makes her heart flutter.  “Where are we going tonight?” she asks when he gets into the driver side.

“A favorite place of mine called JJ’s – they serve traditional Tauron food specializing in noodles.  It’s not overly fancy but it’s good food, good people, and a great atmosphere where we can dance.”

“Sounds wonderful, but I should warn you, I’m not up on my Tauron food.”

“Understandable.  We can order samples of several items and then you can decide what you like.  I have a few recommendations if you trust me,” he says with a sly smile.

“Implicitly.  Let’s go!”

 

It’s a warm, muggy Friday night and the restaurant has a long line out the door of people hoping to grab a table.  In addition to traditional indoor dining, there is outdoor patio dining as well as a large deck on the second floor with tables overlooking a park-like setting of large trees, colorful flowers, and a pond filled with ducks and geese.  The second level also contains a dance floor that extends out onto half the balcony.  A slight breeze blows across the park into the restaurant carrying with it the aroma of roses and lilacs.   

“Don’t worry, we have reservations,” Bill says when Laura sees the line of people waiting for a table.  “The owner is a friend of the family.”

A waiter seats them at the corner table on the balcony which offers an unobstructed view of the surrounding landscape.  “May I take your drink order?” she asks.

“What is your wine selection?” Laura asks.

“Everything is Tauron.  Do you have a preference?” the waiter asks.

Laura smiles hesitantly at Bill, letting him know she has not had Tauron wine before.

“We’ll take two glasses of sweet red, and two glasses of ice water,” he tells the waiter.  “The sweetness of the wine will balance out the spiciness of the noodles.  The ice water is if you’re brave enough to try the hottest noodles,” he informs Laura.

 

An older woman approaches from the bar carrying their drinks.  “Bill!” she exclaims as she sets their drinks in front of them, then leans down giving him a big hug.  “It’s so good to see you!” 

“JJ, this is Laura Roslin.  Laura’s finishing up her doctorate at the university.  Laura, this is Jennie Jorgenson, otherwise known as JJ, owner of this establishment and family friend for as long as I can remember.”

JJ shakes Laura’s hand and they exchange greetings.  “Now I know why you requested the best table tonight!  Pretty and intelligent!” she exclaims bumping Bill in the shoulder.  “Laura, if you ever want to know anything about Bill, you let me know.  I’ve known him since he was a tiny baby.  He was my favorite to babysit.”

“I might take you up on that sometime, JJ,” Laura says with a laugh, winking at Bill.

“How long have you two been dating?” JJ asks.

“This is our first official date, but we’ve known each other for a few months,” Laura replies.

“Are you kidding me?  It took him two months to ask you out?” JJ asks in disbelief.

“I’ve been helping her father finish the basement in their home and didn’t get around to asking her out until we were finished,” he offers as an explanation so that Laura won’t have to explain about losing her mother.

“I see,” JJ says.  “I was surprised when you called for a reservation because I thought your father told me you were working on a freighter.”

“I was, but now I’m doing something else.  Wasn’t the right fit,” he explains. 

“Where are you working?” JJ asks, full of questions tonight.

“Well, I’d like to make a toast.  I am starting a new job next week as the military liaison to the shipyards here in Caprica City.  Here’s to military employment!” he announces raising his glass to Laura’s, who beams at his news. 

“Oh, Bill, that’s wonderful!” Laura exclaims, relieved he has found secure work.  She knew he had several interviews but either the job wasn’t right for him or he wasn’t experienced enough. 

“Honey, I am so proud of you!” JJ says hugging him again.  “I need to get back to work but if you need anything tonight, let me know.  And it’s all on the house!”

“JJ, you don’t need to do that,” Bill says.

“Sweetie, it’s good to have you home.  Let old JJ take care of you and Laura tonight.  You just relax and have fun!”

After JJ walks away, Laura asks “How long have you known?”

“I found out yesterday.  And this is a really good job.  I’ll keep my military rank and benefits and while technically I’m employed out of Picon, I will be stationed here.  A few days each month I’ll attend meetings on Picon, but never for very long.  I’ll also be involved in military intelligence and that might take me away for a few weeks a couple of times a year, but it’s an opportunity for me to stay up to speed on my flying skills and get promoted.”

“This sounds amazing, I’m so happy for you.  Have you been involved with military intelligence in the past?” she asks, wondering exactly what Bill was involved with during the war, which he has never spoken much about.

He pauses like he wants to say something, but then swallows his words.  “I can’t comment on that, even now that the war is over.  But I will tell you that I am a good pilot, and that’s not just run-of-the-mill pilot cockiness talking.  I’m very good at what I do.”

“I’m proud of you.  To your new job,” she says raising her wine glass again.

 

Bill orders a variety of noodles as part of a sampler.  There are two kinds each of mild, medium, hot, and crazy spicy noodles.  The waiter explains to Laura that it’s best to start mild and work her way up and to have plenty of water on standby.  “Would it be possible to get a pitcher of water, just in case?” Laura asks, causing the waiter and Bill to laugh at her request.  

“It’s no problem, ma’am.  I’ll bring one over.”

She starts with the mildest, not really knowing what to expect since she’s only eaten Tauron noodles once, and she was a small child at the time.  She nods her head as she savors the mild flavors.  “This is good.  It’s really subtle, but good,” she says.

“Take a sip of water before you move onto the next one,” Bill recommends.  “The spice doesn’t build as fast if you cleanse your palate between samples.”

“Mmm, good idea,” she says taking a drink of water.  “Aren’t you going to have any?”

“I will, I just want to see which ones you like first.  Try the next one, if you’re ready.”

After another sip of water, she takes a noodle from the second sample.  “Oohhh, this one’s even better.  Definitely spicier, but not too spicy.”

She pauses between each sample to drink some water like Bill advised, then eagerly tries the next level of spiciness.  After working her way through the medium flavors, she boldly tries the hot level.  “This isn’t as hot as I thought it would be,” she comments when she swallows the noodle.

“Wait for it,” warns Bill.

A few seconds later, her eyes begin to water as she feels a heat rising up from her stomach.  She coughs and grabs for the glass of water in front of her, which is almost empty.  Bill slides his full glass to her while he refills her glass, watching her carefully, a small smile on his face.  She downs half of his water in a few gulps before she speaks.  “That was unexpected!  But it’s good, I just need to be better prepared.”

“You can stop here if you want.”

“No, I think I want to try one more,” she says, suspecting Bill probably eats the hottest noodles in all the colonies.

“You sure?  Your face is kind of red, and you have tears in your eyes,” he chuckles, clearly amused.  “You don’t have to try another one.”

She takes another long drink of water and contemplates throwing in the towel, but then convinces herself to live a little.  Finding the smallest noodle in the next sample, she pops it in her mouth, chewing it and swallowing it as quickly as she can.  With the glass of ice water in her hand, she waits for the heat, which is delayed a little longer this time.  But when it hits her, it hits her hard.  Like an inferno boiling up from her stomach through her sinuses and her eyes, it doesn’t quit, barely phased by the ice water she gulps down.  Her cheeks are burning red and a few tears roll down her face as she reaches for the second glass of water, trying to put out this fire.  It finally begins to subside after she empties the second glass, enough that she can stop drinking and take a deep breath.

Bill’s eyes are huge as he watches her fight her way through it and he can’t help but admire her boldness.  “Are you OK?”

“Yes,” she chokes out, her throat still tight.

“Try the wine, the sweetness will help calm the spice,” he says holding her wine glass out to her.

She clears her throat after taking a sip of the sweet red wine and finds her voice again.  “That was intense.  Do you eat these often?

“As often as I can.  I grew up eating spicy noodles almost every day – it’s one of the things my dad and I have in common.”

“That’s right – he’s an attorney and you don’t always see eye-to-eye,” she says.

“You have a good memory.  We get along better now.  It helps that I have a successful military career.  He was determined to have me go to law school even if it was after the military, but when I came home with military commendation, he realized that I had become my own man.”

“I feel like you know a lot about me, but I don’t know much about you.”

“You know more than you realize.  Viper pilot, fought in the war, didn’t enjoy freighter life, loves carpentry work, spicy Tauron noodles, Searider Falcon, and the classics, hates the idea of law school, protector of rebellious teenagers –“

“And an amazing kisser,” she giggles.

“An amazing kisser who is thoroughly enchanted by his lovely date this evening,” he completes the thought.

In previous relationships, she never felt comfortable with public displays of affection.  But this relationship, this man, is unique.  With no hesitation, she leans in and kisses him, lingering on his lips, feeling her heart race, forgetting about the few hundred other people at the restaurant. 

Her lips taste like sweet red wine and spicy Tauron noodles, a combination that Bill loves.  But most of all, they taste like her, and he resists the urge to suggest they get dinner to go so that he can whisk her back to his parents’ house and kiss her in private, in private places, and nibble at her skin.  Ultimately, they will wind up there, his parents having gone to a spa on Virgon for the weekend, but for now, he is determined to romance her, spend time with her, and dance together.

“Are you ready to order?” he asks.

“Would you think less of me if I order medium noodles?” she asks coyly.

“No, that’s a good choice.  If you aren’t used to the spice, it can get to you.”  He waves at the waiter and places the order.  “Maybe you can work up to the hot noodles over time.”

Two plates of medium noodles arrive a few minutes later, and as they enjoy their meal, they share stories of their childhood.  Bill tells her of his middle school dream to become a professional pyramid player until he found out spicy noodles were not part of the strict athlete diet.  Laura speaks of her aspirations to be a veterinarian or a doctor until she discovered in a high school biology class that the sight of blood made her nauseous.  Their conversation is effortless, sprinkled with laughter and several stirring glances.

The band begins to play at 7 pm, just as they are finishing their noodles.  The smokey chords of blues music fill the air with a mixture of lively songs followed by slow songs.  “Shall we?” Bill asks holding his hand out to her.  They twirl on the dance floor to the lively beats, her hair flowing in waves with each turn, a beautiful smile on her face.  Occasionally his hand grazes across her waist or she lightly touches his back during a turn, their potent chemistry on display to those around them.  More couples help to fill the dance floor on the slow songs, and Bill and Laura dance so close together their bodies blend into a single movement, in perfect time with one another.  They sway together and watch the sun set at 9 pm, sparkling colors reflecting off the pond.

“Mmmm, you really are an amazing dancer,” she hums in his ear, her body tingling from being pressed against his.

“Different from the last time we danced,” he comments, a playful smile on his face.

“Definitely closer, more sensual,” she agrees, her fingers playing with the waves of his hair.

“And you aren’t trying to take your top off.”

“That’s true.  I’m hoping to take all my clothes off for you tonight,” she purrs, locking her eyes with his when the music ends.

“Let’s get out of here.”

 

They arrive at the Adama home at 9:45 pm.  Once inside, Laura excuses herself to freshen up while Bill settles on a leather sofa in the family room where she joins him a few minutes later.  “Your parents have a lovely home,” she remarks.  “I love these big older homes with the original woodwork.  Did you grow up here?”

“I did and I feel very fortunate.  I met a lot of people in the military that grew up in bad neighborhoods or in small apartments and I never realized how good I had it until I heard them talk about their childhoods.  I may not always agree with the cases and the people my dad defended, but it kept a roof over our heads, food on the table, and I had two parents to come home to every day.  That’s more than a lot of people have.”   He places his arm around her and pulls her to him, lightly brushing his lips against hers.   “We’re finally alone.  We have the whole place all weekend – my parents went to a spa on Virgon.”  They spend several minutes kissing each other, slowly at first, then more passionately as time goes on.  He nips at her earlobe, then kisses a trail from there across her jawline, and down her neck. 

“You have the best lips,” she murmurs, slipping her hands to his chest and unbuttoning his shirt enough to slide a hand inside.  His heart pounds as her fingers dance across him exploring his skin and muscles.  He wants to reciprocate but can’t figure out how to slide his hand inside the top of her dress.  “Here, it’s easier if I stand,” she says, planting herself before him.  “It’s tied right here on the side.  Just pull, like unwrapping a gift,” a flirty smile on her face.

It is that simple.  As soon as he pulls at the bow, her dress unwraps itself and hangs from her shoulders.  She’s clad in a black lace bra and panties underneath, and he sits awestruck as he contemplates his next move.  Her fingers run through his wavy hair, and he responds by placing light kisses on her stomach, brushing his hands along her thighs, being gentle but thorough in his attention.  Her skin is soft as silk and smells of roses, making him eager to explore her body further.  His fingers tease along the top of her panties, gauging her reaction, and when she hums in approval, his kisses travel lower down her abdomen, eventually arriving on the outside of her panties.  After each gentle kiss his eyes look up at her, exploring her face, watching for signs that she is ready for him to go further.

Suddenly her hands grip his head.  “What was that?” she asks, her eyes wide staring down at him.

A jingle of keys and the jiggling of a lock at the front door, just a few feet away, leaves them little time to compose themselves.  Laura quickly wraps her dress around her, ties a hasty knot, and sits down next to Bill, shoving a pillow in his lap to hide his arousal.  They both stare at each other, unsure of what to do.

His father walks through the door first, carrying a suitcase, followed by his mother carrying an overnight bag.  “Son, I thought you were going out tonight,” Joseph Adama says when he sees Bill sitting on the couch with Laura.

“And I thought you were going to Virgon for the weekend,” Bill replies, annoyed.

“We were but your mother isn’t feeling well so we came home.”

“Bill, I’m sorry, I’m running a fever and have a bad headache and would much rather sleep in my own bed tonight,” she says.  “Are you going to introduce us?”

“Mom, Dad, this is Laura Roslin.  Laura, this is my mom Evelyn and my father Joseph.”

Laura stands and shakes Joseph’s hand.  “Hi, Laura, you can call me Joe.”

“I’m not going to shake your hand, Laura, in case I’m contagious.  I’m going right up to bed now.  It was nice to meet you,” Evelyn says, waving at her as she walks up the steps.

“I’ll be up in a few minutes, dear,” Joseph calls after her.  “I am so sorry.  If I had known you were here, we would have just gone to Virgon.  Laura, do you live in the city?”

“I do.  I’m finishing up my doctorate at the university, then I want to teach.”

“I hope to see you again.  Have a good night,” he says before he takes the luggage and goes upstairs.

“Unbelievable,” Bill says, shaking his head, rubbing his hands vigorously across his face.

Laura giggles at their bad luck.  “Oh, my Gods, are we ever going to be alone?  It’s like there’s some cosmic force keeping us apart right now.  Where is your bedroom?”

“Upstairs, right next to my parents’ room,” he groans, collapsing to the back of the sofa and staring at the ceiling.

“Why don’t we try my place?  Daddy has put Cheryl to bed already, and by the time we get there, Sandra should be home and in bed.  It might be our best option.”

“Let’s go.”

 

Chapter Text

They arrive at the Roslin house at 11:30 pm.  “That’s strange, all the lights are on,” Laura observes.

When they enter through the front door, Laura hears her father talking loudly on his phone in the kitchen.  “Have you seen her at all tonight?” he asks, followed by a pause.  “Do you have any idea where she may have gone? Uh-huh, OK.  Well, if you do see her or think of any place she may be, please give me a call.  I’ll be up.  Thanks.”

“Daddy, what’s wrong?” Laura asks walking into the kitchen with Bill.

“Sandra hasn’t come home, and she isn’t answering her phone.  Can you think of where she might have gone?  I’ve called all over town, including the boy she supposedly was going out with, but it turns out he’s home sick with the flu.  Where could she be?”

“Have you checked her desk or her computer?  Maybe she wrote something down.”

“No, I’m just so worried- all I’ve been doing is calling around.”

“You keep making phone calls, I’ll check her room.  Bill, I’m sorry.   If you need to go, I understand.”

“I’ll help you and Dave.  Maybe he can stay here and you and I can go out looking for her.”

“That’s a good idea.  Let me look through her desk first.”

Laura rifles through Sandra’s desk, looking for anything that might be a clue as to where her younger sister is.  She turns on the computer and as she waits for it to boot up, she finds a flyer about an underground rave in the warehouse district, a high crime area, that runs until 3 am.  I am going to kick your ass little sister if I find out you went to this, she says to herself.  As she turns to leave the room with the flyer in hand, the bedroom window slides open and Sandra attempts to crawl through.

“Sandra!” Laura exclaims, rushing to the window and pulling her sister through.  “Where the hell have you been?”

“Oh, heyyy, sisssster,” Sandra slurs, swaying on her feet.  “Thought you had a big date tonight with big Bill,” she says, then giggles.

“Gods, you’re drunk!  Are you high, too?  What have you taken?”

“Hmmm, lil’ blue pillssss,” she says holding her hands in front of her face with her fingers pinched together to show Laura how big the pills were.  In her heightened state, her hands are fascinating to her and she stares at them amazed as she spreads her fingers wide.

“Sandra, Sandra!” Laura says, snapping her fingers in front of her face.  “What else?”

“I dunno, maybe some reds, quit being mean,” she says pushing Laura’s hands from her face.  “You sssuck.”

“Laura, I just talked to someone at the school and they said there’s a party in the warehouse district that a lot of the kids were going to,” Dave says as he walks through the bedroom door.  He sees Sandra standing near the window and runs to her.  “Where have you been?”

“Whoa, Dad, no ssssudden movementssss,” she says holding up her hands.

“Oh, my Gods, you reek like whiskey,” he says when he tries to hug her.

“Daddy, I think we need to take her to the emergency room as a precaution,” Laura informs him, placing a hand on his back.

“Why?”

“She took some pills, too, and I don’t know what they are,” Laura says.

“Sandra?!” he says stepping back from her and looking into her dilated eyes.  “No, honey, why would you do that?” 

“Why not?  Oh, great, the boyfriend is here, too,” she says when Bill appears in the bedroom doorway.  “C’,mon in, Bill, we were just putting the FUN in dyssssfunctional!”

Bill can see from where he is standing that Sandra is in an altered state.  Besides her slurred speech, her eyes are dark and unfocused, and she is swaying as if the room is spinning around her.  “How are you doing, Sandra?” Bill asks with the intention of getting a better idea of how high she is.

“Goooood,” she replies.

“I was just saying that I think it would be wise to take her to the emergency department since we don’t know what types of pills she took,” Laura tells Bill.

“Nooo, I just need to sssleep,” Sandra comments and tries to crawl into bed.

Bill shakes his head at both Dave and Laura.  “Don’t let her fall asleep.”

“Sandra, honey, we’re going to take you to the hospital to make sure you’re OK,” Dave says putting his arm around her, encouraging her to walk with him.

“Nooo!” she exclaims pushing her father’s arm off her.  “I’m not going.”

Dave decides to try the stern father approach next.  “You’ll do what I say, young lady,” he says in a serious tone, gripping her around the shoulder and forcing her to move.

“Don’t touch me!” Sandra yells pulling away from him.

“We need to find out what these pills are and if you’re in danger,” he tries to reason with her.  “I want you to be safe.”

“Frak you!” she retorts stumbling backwards out of his reach.

Laura’s blood boils at the words her sister directed at their father and without a second thought she marches over to Sandra and slaps her hard across the face.  “Don’t you dare talk to him like that!”  She stands directly in front of her little sister glaring at her, her eyes darkened with rage.  “I mean it, Sandra.  I don’t ever want to hear you say that again!”

“Hmmmph.  Frak you, too, sisss,” she sneers.

Laura raises her arm to slap her again when Bill stops her and Dave steps between them.

“Uhhh, I don’t feel good,” Sandra says before falling to the floor in a limp pile of whiskey-soaked clothing.

Bill quickly slides past Laura and cradles Sandra’s head off the floor.  “Sandra, are you with me?  Can you hear me?” he asks loudly.  She opens her eyes and rolls them into the back of her head and nods but is unable to speak.  “Where is the nearest hospital?” he asks Dave.

“About 5 minutes from here.  I’ll call an ambulance.”

“No, I think we should take her in my car, it’ll be quicker.  I’ll drive, and I need you to hold her upright in the backseat and try to keep her awake.  Laura, you can either stay here with Cheryl or wake her up and bring her in Dave’s car.  But we need to go, NOW.  Dave, grab that trash can and bring with in case she starts vomiting.”

Bill scoops Sandra up in his arms, her eyelids fluttering and drool coming from her mouth.  He rushes to his car and places her in the backseat next to Dave, who leans her against his chest and presses a hand on her forehead to keep her head upright.  As Bill looks over his shoulder backing down the driveway, he tells Dave to make sure she is still breathing.

Dave shouts out directions as they speed toward the hospital, arriving in well under five minutes.  Bill jumps out of the car and opens the back door.  “How is she?”

“I – I can’t tell if she’s breathing!” Dave says panicked. 

Bill pats her face, noticing the unusual amount of foam trickling from her mouth.  He quickly pulls her from the car and runs into the emergency department, telling them that she has overdosed and isn’t breathing.  Some nurses and medics place her on a stretcher and rush her into a room, blocking Dave and Bill’s view of the ordeal.

“Sir, are you her father?” a nurse asks Dave.  “I need you to come with me and answer some questions.  Are you a relative?” she asks Bill.

He shakes his head.  “Then I need you to wait in that area over there,” she says pointing to some chairs in a starkly furnished room.  Bill takes a seat so that he can see the emergency room entrance and the hallway that Dave disappears down with the nurse.  The fluorescent lights flicker and buzz and other than the handful of uncomfortable outdated chairs, there is a small coffee table with an assortment of magazines, the newest of which is from four months ago while the war still raged on.  “Terror on board Galactica” screams the cover of one magazine.  “Cylon boarding party wipes out thousands” reads the subtitle.  He reaches for the magazine but then decides better of it, choosing instead to turn it over so that he won’t be tempted again. 

“Bill, how is she?” Laura says rushing toward him with Cheryl in her arms.

“I don’t know yet.  They took her into a room and your dad is with a nurse answering questions.  Here,” he says holding his arms out.  “Give me Cheryl.  The nurse’s station is over there if you want to check for an update.”

Laura hands him Cheryl, who is curled up in a blanket, half asleep.  She then walks to the nurse’s station while Bill sits in a chair with Cheryl, who stirs slightly at being jostled.  “Sorry, sweetheart, I know you’re tired,” he says soothingly.  “Are you warm enough?” he asks.  She nods her head, closes her eyes, and snuggles against his chest.  He holds her in his arms, swaying slightly, and places kisses to the top of her head.  “Go to sleep.  I can hold you all night if you need me to.”

 

“What do you mean you can’t give me an update?!  I’m her sister!”

“Ma’am, she’s a minor and we can only give information out to a parent or legal guardian.”

“Then take me to my father,” Laura orders.

“He’s filling out paperwork right now, but you can wait for him in the family waiting room,” the nurse says, motioning to a larger waiting room further down the hallway. 

“Fine,” Laura says between gritted teeth.  She walks to the family waiting room, which is so crowded with couples all around her father’s age that there is no place to sit.  Some of the couples sit staring silently into space while others gaze absentmindedly at their phones, and some are trying to be discrete while wiping tears from their faces.

A nurse appears at the entryway looking the couples over until her eyes come to rest on a balding gentleman and thin woman in the corner.  She walks to them and kneels, asking them to come with her to a private conversation room directly across the hallway where they will meet with the doctor.  Laura watches the man put his arm around his wife and then follow the nurse into the room, shutting the door behind them.  Shortly after, a doctor wearing scrubs pauses outside the doorway, his hand on the lever.  He rubs his free hand over his eyes and blinks a few times, takes a couple of deep breaths, then stands up confidently and enters the room.

“Some night,” a man standing next to Laura says quietly.

“What?” Laura asks, his words not registering because she is trying to hear what the doctor is saying behind that closed door.

“These damn raves.  I wish they could find a way to shut them down,” he says.

“Is that why you’re here?” she asks.

“That’s why we’re all here,” he says nodding at the crowd in the room.  “I heard they were passing around buckets of pills and kids were taking handfuls, plus all the alcohol, and then there were dealers, too, selling illegal stuff. 

“My sister’s here, she’s 15,” Laura says.

“My son is 17.  Had his stomach pumped and appears to be fine, but they will probably hold him for a while to make sure.  This is the second time in the past two months we’ve had this happen, so I think the hospital is going to recommend in-patient treatment at some facility.”

“I’m sorry,” Laura says weakly, wondering what exactly her sister has been doing for the past year while she was so focused on caring for her mother.  All those times she thought Sandra was at marching band practice, the dates she supposedly went out on, the times she said she was spending the night with a friend – all those things are now suspect in Laura’s mind.

“NO!” a man yells from behind the closed door.  A woman begins to cry loudly and a sick sinking feeling, a familiar one, grips Laura.  She knows that cry and the horrific pain that goes with it, and it sucks the air from her lungs. 

“Miss, why don’t you take one of those seats there?” the man standing next to her asks.  “You look kind of pale,” he says taking her by the arm and guiding her to a chair.

Laura watches the door to the room open and hears the doctor say that a grief counselor will join them shortly, then the doctor turns and walks down the hallway with his head down.

Keep breathing. We won’t need a grief counselor. Sandra will be fine.  She repeats these phrases over and over in her head, calming her nerves and willing her sister to recovery.  I can’t lose you. Laura looks down at her hands when the grief counselor enters the room across the hallway, her right hand still hurting from slapping Sandra so hard.  Frak you, too, sis.  Sandra’s last words to her haunt her mind.  This can’t be how this ends.

“Laurie?”  She is so wrapped up in her thoughts that she doesn’t notice that her father came into the waiting room and sat next to her.  “They said she’s going to be fine.  She had her stomach pumped and is conscious now but they are going to keep her overnight for observation.  Her vitals are looking good and they are doing some bloodwork.”

“Thank the Gods,” Laura sighs, looking at her father with watery eyes.  “Can we see her?”

A frown appears on Dave’s face before he speaks.  “She told the doctors and nurses that she doesn’t want to see either one of us, and, given her state of mind, they think it’s best if we wait.  They don’t want her agitated.”

Laura closes her eyes and swallows hard, the pain in her heart of her sister’s refusal to see them almost too much for her. 

“Laurie, we can see her tomorrow.  When she has some rest and sobers up some more, she will change her mind, I’m sure of it.”

“Tell me again that she’s going to be alright,” she says shakily.

“She’s going to be alright.  We’re all going to be alright.”

“Can we stay here tonight?”

“Well, I need to talk with you about that.  I’m going to stay.  But I think you should take Cheryl back home and try to get some rest.  I can call if anything changes, just make sure you have your phone volume set loud enough to wake you up.”

“I want to stay, too.”

“I know you do, honey, but I prefer that Cheryl sleep at home.  This isn’t any place for a little girl.”

Laura nods her head in understanding, wiping a tear from her face.

“There’s one other thing.  Sandra has asked to speak with Bill before he leaves.”

“Why?” she asks, confused.

“I don’t know, but if he’s willing to talk with her, I’d like for him to.  He could at least tell us how she is, tell her how much we love her.”

She nods her head in agreement.  “I’ll talk to him.  He’s with Cheryl in the other waiting room.”

 

If she didn’t need to talk with him about visiting Sandra, Laura would gladly let Bill rest in the small chair with Cheryl snuggled against him.  The sight of the two of them cuddled together is just what her heart needs and she pauses a moment to commit the image to her memory.

“Bill,” she whispers, gently touching his face. 

“I’m awake,” he replies.  “Just needed to rest my eyes.”

“That’s called sleep, Bill,” she says.

“How is she?”

“She’s going to be fine.  I need to talk to you, though.  Can we lay Cheryl down if we push these two chairs together?”

Bill stands carefully, trying not to wake Cheryl while Laura sets a chair right next to the one he had been sitting in.  After placing Cheryl across the chairs, Laura pulls Bill toward the entrance to the room.

“They pumped her stomach but are keeping her overnight for observation.”

“Have you spoken with her?”

“That’s what I need to talk with you about.  She’s refusing to see me and Daddy but has asked to speak with you.”

“Why me?”

“I don’t know, and don’t feel like you have to.”

“I’ll talk to her.  What should I say?”

“Can you tell her that Daddy, Cheryl, and I love her?”

“I can do that.  Anything else?”

“Just that they don’t want her agitated, so if she starts getting upset, you should leave and let the nurse know.  Check in at the nurse’s station and they will take you to her room.  And, Bill, thank you,” she says, giving him a quick kiss before he walks to the station.

 

The room is dimly lit except for a monitor that records vital signs.  Sandra lies with her back to the door, curled up in a fetal position clutching her stomach while a large bag of fluids pumps through the IV placed into her arm.  When Bill enters the room, he sits in a chair facing her near the head of her bed.

She stares at him for a long time, not saying a word.  He notices a tear trickle from her eye, so he hands her his handkerchief.

“Thank you,” she whispers, dabbing at her eyes.  “It’s hard to talk, my throat hurts,” she whispers, coughing afterwards.  “You might need to move closer if you can’t hear me.”

Bill picks up the chair and moves it right next to the bed so he is just inches from her.  She reaches out her hand to him and he gently takes it between both of his.

“Thank you,” she says squeezing his hand.  “I thought I was going to die.  Doctor said if you would have called for ambulance it would’ve taken too long.”

Bill nods his head at her and squeezes her hand.  “Can I ask you something?”

“Yes.”

“Why don’t you want to talk with your father and sister?  Your family loves you so much.”

“I’ll talk to them tomorrow.  It’s just that-” she stops to cough, and tears flow freely from her eyes.

Bill stands and rubs a hand against her back trying to soothe her.

“It’s just that I’m so ashamed,” she says when her cough subsides.  “I’m trying to figure out what to say to them, to apologize.  Please tell them I love them and give Cheryl a hug from me.”

Bill smiles at her and brushes her bangs from her eyes.  “I will.  Sometimes the simplest words are the best ones.  If you sincerely tell them you’re sorry and that you love them, that’s all it will take.  I should let you get some rest now.”

Sandra nods her head at him.  “Goodnight, Bill.”

“Goodnight, Sandra.”

 

When Bill returns to the waiting room, he finds Laura and Dave seated next to each other, not far from where Cheryl peacefully sleeps on the makeshift bed they had created for her.

“How is she?” Laura asks, walking to him and hugging him in the doorway, Dave close behind her.

“Much better.  She’s coherent but is having difficulty talking because her throat is irritated from having her stomach pumped.  She’s getting some fluids through an IV so hopefully she will feel better in the morning.”

“Did you give her our message?” Laura asks.

“Yes, I told her that her family loves her.  She told me to tell you that she loves you, too, and to give Cheryl a hug from her.  She plans on speaking with both of you tomorrow.”

A relieved sigh leaves Laura’s lips and she hugs her father.  “We’re going to be alright, Daddy.”

They embrace for a long time, eyes closed, small smiles on their faces knowing that Sandra will be OK.  “Laurie, I think you should take Cheryl and go home now.  Sleep in my bed so that you are close to her if she wakes up.”

“I will, Daddy.”

“Bill, can you please give them a ride?  You can use the car seat from my car,” Dave says.

“I’ll transfer the car seat,” Laura says, taking the keys from Bill.

When Laura disappears out the door to the parking lot, Bill turns to Dave, placing a firm hand on his shoulder.  “How are you doing?”

He shakes his head, sighing heavily.  “I never saw this coming.  Sandra seemed to be the one that was handling things so well when Betty got sick.  I should have been paying more attention to her.  I thought her crankiness was normal teenage stuff - Laura was quite rebellious as a teenager, but nothing like this.  A colleague of mine recommended a family therapist when Betty transitioned to in-home hospice but I turned it down and now I realize that was a mistake.  I imagine the hospital may have a few recommendations for us, too.”

“Family therapy could be helpful.  You have a lot going on with three girls at very different stages of their lives and everyone is grieving in their own way.  They lost their mother but you lost your wife, your partner, so you might think about talking with another therapist that specializes in that for some one-on-one counseling with you.”

“That’s a good idea.  I’ve always thought I could handle everything on my own, but tonight has proven that I need some help, some guidance.  Maybe don’t say anything to Laurie yet, though.  I want to be the one to tell her.  I had recommended that she see a counselor at the university when she moved home to care for her mother, but she refused.  I’m not sure how open she will be to it now.”

“I won’t say anything, but if you need help convincing her, let me know.”

“Car seat is transferred, are you ready, Bill?” Laura asks walking back into the emergency department.

“I’ll get Cheryl.  Come here, sweetheart,” he says lifting her into his arms.  “Your sister asked me to give you a big hug,” he tells her, holding her up to him and giving her a gentle squeeze.  “You ready to go home and sleep in your bed?”  A sleepy smile forms on Cheryl’s face and she wraps her arms around his neck, resting her head against his shoulder.  “Looks like we’re ready now.”

 

Chapter Text

They arrive home shortly after 1 am.  Bill carries Cheryl to her room and gently places her in her bed, careful to cover her with her favorite blanket, tucking a stuffed animal under her arm.  When he leaves the nursery, he sees Laura sitting on the edge of her father’s bed looking completely exhausted.  “How are you doing?” he asks sitting next to her, placing his arm around her waist.

She closes her eyes and shakes her head, trying to find the right words to express how she feels.  The words never come, so Bill pulls her to him, resting his chin on her head.  After a few minutes, he places a kiss on her forehead.  “You should try to get some rest.”

“I know, I’m not sure I can.  I don’t even know what to say.  Thank you, Bill.  I’ll walk you out,” she says tiredly.

“I’m not leaving, not after everything that happened tonight.”

“You don’t have to stay.”

“I know that.”

“I’ll get the car seat out of your car, then you can go,” she says, standing and walking to the bedroom door.

“Laura,” he says, quickly closing the distance between them and catching her wrist, gently pulling her to face him.  “I’m not leaving.  The car seat can stay in my car.”

“I don’t want you staying because you feel some sort of obligation to stay.  You’ve done enough for me and my family already.  I want you to go,” she says sternly.

“Listen to me – I’m not going anywhere and it’s not because I feel obligated to stay.  Please change out of your clothes and get ready for bed.  Once I know you’re in bed, I’ll go sleep on the sofa in the family room.”

“Fine.  I’m too tired to argue.  Stay with Cheryl while I get a nightshirt from my bedroom.”

When Laura returns a few minutes later, she’s wearing a long t-shirt and leggings and has washed the make-up from her face.  She takes a blanket from the closet and lies down on her father’s bed, pulling the blanket up to her neck.  Bill kisses her cheek and tells her goodnight, then walks down the steps to the family room.  The sofa isn’t long enough for him so he scrunches his knees up to make himself fit, and the throw he uses to cover himself doesn’t cover much of him at all, but he decides it isn’t any less comfortable than sleeping in a rack on board a battlestar.  He dozes off quickly but is awakened 20 minutes later by a soft touch to his cheek.

“Laura?  What’s wrong?” he asks.

“I can’t sleep.  Every time I close my eyes I see myself slapping Sandra and it makes me sick thinking that might have been the last thing I did to her.”

“Don’t think like that.  She’s OK and will hopefully be home later today.”

Laura nods her head repeatedly, convincing herself that her sister will be fine and will be home soon.  “Bill, I’m sorry.  I was rude to you upstairs.  I have a bad habit of pushing people away when it comes to issues with my family.”

His fingers brush against her cheek, then he tilts her chin up to look in her eyes.  “I want you to know that I’m here because I care about you, not because I feel obligated.  We need to get you up to bed, you look really tired.”

She smiles weakly at him, knowing that he has good reason to be worried about her.  This time she doesn’t argue with him or try to push him away like she did earlier.  When they arrive at the bedroom, she hesitates in the doorway.  “C’mon, I’ll tuck you in,” he says pulling at her hand leading her toward the bed.

“Would you stay with me?  Just to hold me?” she asks.  “I can let you borrow some of Daddy’s sweatpants if that will make you more comfortable.”

“Sure,” he says nodding his head.

“The bathroom is over there,” she says pointing at the wall opposite of where the nursery is.  When he returns, he hangs his pants and shirt on a hook on the back of the bedroom door, then slips under the blanket next to her on the bed, wrapping his arms around her and pulling her to him so that her head is resting on his bare chest.  “Is this better?” he asks quietly. 

“Yeh,” she whispers.  A few seconds later she yawns, and he feels her body relax into him, her breathing becoming deep and steady as she drifts off to sleep.

 

Laura awakens at 8 am still curled up against Bill, his arms wrapped around her in a tight embrace.  After sleeping in his arms for almost 7 hours, she feels incredibly well rested and optimistic about the day.  A light snore rumbles from inside of him and she turns her head to look at his face, smiling when she sees how calm he looks in his slumber.  She rolls away from him putting some distance between them to gain a better view of his face, but his arms instinctively pull her back, causing her to giggle softly to herself.  She had no idea he was an expert cuddler, but she likes it, especially the feeling of waking up in his arms.  Her lips find his for a sweet little kiss, causing him to stir and his eyes to open.  “Good morning, beautiful,” he says when he sees her adoring gaze.  “How did you sleep?”

“Mmmm, wonderfully,” she replies, playing with the hairs on his chest.  “How did you sleep?”

“Fantastic.  I like waking up next to you.”

“Me, too.  I’m glad you didn’t let me chase you out of here last night.”

“It’s going to take a lot more than that to get rid of me.”

“That’s good to know.  I was only planning on keeping you around a little bit longer anyway,” she teases.

“Is that right?  I’m sure all my other girlfriends will be relieved.”

“Other girlfriends?  How many other girlfriends do you have?”

“Dozens, so many I can’t even keep their names straight.”

“I know what you mean.  I have so many phone messages asking me for dates that I can’t even place faces with names anymore.”

“You should keep track of them in a planner, Linda.”

“You think so?” she asks, an amused smile on her face.

“Or are you Lisa?”

She rolls on top of him and playfully stares into his eyes, a mischievous grin on her face.  “What’s my name?”

“Louise?”

She slowly shakes her head, placing a soft kiss on his lips.

“Lulu?”

“Lulu?” she giggles.  “Did you really date someone named Lulu?”

“No,” he smiles back.

She sits up so that she is straddling him, her hands on his chest, the pads of her fingers lightly tracing circles along his muscles. “Say my name,” she whispers, her sparkling eyes staring deeply into his.

He delays his response for several seconds, imagining what it would be like waking up with her every morning.  Her oversized nightshirt hangs off one shoulder, and a mess of red curls are spilled along it contrasting with her porcelain skin.  Her fingers continue to tease at the hair on his chest as she waits patiently for him to respond.

“Come here,” he says, gently tugging at her arms until she is lying on top of him again, a few inches between their faces.  He sweeps her hair to the side before he says “Laura,” in a husky tone that creates a warmth in her chest that flows all the way through her body.  The urge to taste those lips that just uttered her name in such a sensual way overtakes her.

“Again,” she commands when he breaks the kiss.

Laura,” he whispers wrapping his arms around her and suddenly rolling her over so that he is on top of her.  As he kisses her again, his hand slides up under her nightshirt, and she giggles, trying to squirm away.

“I hate to tell you this, Bill, but over there,” she points toward the nursery, “is a little girl that is going to wake up any minute, and she’s going to be hungry.  And when Cheryl is hungry, Cheryl is grumpy.”

“Now I know how my parents felt when I was 3,” he sighs.  “One more kiss?”

“One more kiss,” she agrees.  He intends for it to be a light, chaste kiss, but when she nibbles his bottom lip and draws him into her mouth, he pulls her further into him, running his hand up her leggings and under her shirt while his other hand has a firm hold on the back of her neck.  They break the kiss when they hear a little voice in the nursery ask “Daddy?”.

“Do you have any idea what you do to me?” Bill groans, rolling to the side so that Laura can stand.

Glancing at the bulge in his sweatpants, she gives him an innocent look.  “I’m just making sure you don’t forget my name again.”

 

Cheryl sits at the table in the kitchen, swinging her legs off her chair, sipping milk, and waiting for the pancakes that Bill and Laura are making.  Laura puts three place settings on the table while Bill flips the last pancake.  “Where’s Daddy?” Cheryl asks when she notices that his place setting is absent.  “Where’s sister?”

“Sandra is…sick, so Daddy took her to the hospital last night,” Laura explains, trying to carefully choose her words.

Her little legs stop swinging and her eyes grow huge as she stares at Laura.  “Sick like mommy?” she asks, tears filling up her eyes.

“Oh, no, honey, not like mommy.  Sandra is getting better and will be home soon, probably this afternoon.  I didn’t mean to scare you.”

Cheryl sits motionless, unconvinced that Sandra isn’t sick like her mother had been.

“It’s kind of like when you have a bad cough and a runny nose.  You’re sick, but then after a few days, you get better.  It’s like that kind of sickness.  She’s coming home and she’ll be fine.  I promise.”

That explanation seems to satisfy Cheryl. “OK.  Can I have a pancake now?”

“Would you like a big pancake, or a little pancake?” Bill asks, standing beside her with a platter full of various sizes of pancakes.

“A big one!” she shouts.  He finds a reasonably sized pancake and plops it on her plate. 

“Would you like butter?” he asks.

“Yes, lots of butter.”

“Syrup?”

“Yeh.”

“Maybe you could put a meatball on top,” he teases.

“Nooo, yucky!” she giggles.  “You’re funny!”

“He is funny, isn’t he?” Laura asks her, making a silly face. 

“Why do you kiss him so much?” Cheryl asks before taking a big bite of pancake.

“Yeh, why do you kiss me so much?” Bill asks, joining in the fun.

“Well, I like him a lot and when two people like each other a lot, they kiss a lot,” Laura replies, proud of her simple explanation.

“I saw you kissing him in Daddy’s bed,” Cheryl grins at her.

“I thought you were asleep!”

“I was watching you,” she giggles.

“Oh, that’s just wonderful!” Laura exclaims, making eye contact with Bill who’s trying not to laugh.  “What did you see?” Laura asks, wondering how long her sister was spying on her.

“You sat on him, then you laid on him, then he laid on you, and you were kissing, and he didn’t have a shirt on.”

Laura scrunches her eyes and wrinkles her nose, turning her face to the side to try and hide her expressions.  Bill can’t contain his laughter any longer, snickering while he eats his pancakes.

“I’m going to tell Daddy,” Cheryl informs her.

“Why would you do that, sweetie?  Bill and I weren’t doing anything wrong.”

“If you buy me ice cream, I won’t tell Daddy.”

Laura’s jaw drops at Cheryl’s request and she looks at Bill, who is equally shocked at her attempt at bribery.

“That’s what Sandra does.  I get ice cream if I don’t tell you or Daddy.”

“Does Sandra do that a lot?” Laura asks, suddenly suspicious.

Cheryl leans forward toward her big sister and whispers, “Shhh, it’s a secret.”

 

After finishing up breakfast and clearing the table, Laura sits Cheryl in the adjoining family room with some toys so that she can talk to Bill in the kitchen.  “I have a bad feeling about this,” she confesses.  “I don’t like that Sandra has been bribing Cheryl to keep secrets from us.”’

“I don’t like it either, but hopefully it isn’t anything too serious.”

Their conversation is interrupted by Dave calling Laura’s phone.

“Daddy, how is she?” Laura asks when she answers the call.  A smile forms on her face as she listens to his response, and she touches Bill on the arm and nods her head, whispering “She’s coming home sometime after lunch.”

After pausing to let Dave talk, she asks “What?  Why are the police talking to her?”  A serious expression replaces her smile as she listens to her father’s explanation.  She turns from Bill and walks a few steps away from him.

“What did the counselor say?” she asks, nervously biting her lip, looking at the floor.  She barely notices when Bill places his hands on her shoulders, offering his support.

“No, I’ll do it.  I’ll be OK.  And she won’t be released until I report back to you?”

She pauses, listening to her father’s instructions.  “Bill’s here, I’ll be alright.  Talk to you soon.  ‘Bye.”

 

Laura takes a deep breath before giving Bill a rundown of the conversation.  “The police are talking to her because there were over three dozen overdoses last night and so far, six people have died.  When the police broke up the party, people ran, and they’re trying to get information on who organized the rave so that they can bring charges against them.  A counselor has been speaking to her this morning, too, to determine if - ” her voice cracks before she can finish the sentence.  Bill takes her hands in his, stroking his thumbs over her knuckles, and she takes a few deep breaths to calm herself.  “They needed to determine if this was an accidental overdose or a suicide attempt, but from what Sandra has told them, it was an accident.  She said she only drank at the party and didn’t take any pills until her ride home when the other kids in the car were taking some.  Gods, Bill, they were drunk and high and out driving around,” she states, shaking her head at the all the awful things that could have happened.

“The hospital won’t release her until we check her room, bathroom, and my old bedroom for any drugs or alcohol that she may have hidden.  She told the counselor she doesn’t have anything like that here, but the counselor says kids often lie about these things and a responsible adult needs to thoroughly check the premises before she can be released.”

“I can help you.”

“Thank you.  But I need to take the lead because I’m most familiar with our bedrooms and all the possible hiding places.  I hid cigarettes in high school,” she says sheepishly. “I definitely wasn’t the best role model.”

“Should we get started?” he asks.  “I can at least watch Cheryl while you look, then maybe I can do a final sweep – fresh eyes from someone who isn’t familiar with the rooms.”

“I might as well get this over with.  Let’s start with Sandra’s room, then we can do the bathroom, then my old room, and anywhere else we can think of.”

She searches Sandra’s room and is relieved that she doesn’t find anything except for an open box of condoms, which is something she wasn’t expecting.  Bill does his sweep and doesn’t find anything either.  The adjoining bathroom between the bedrooms is next, and other than some old antibiotics and over-the-counter pain reliever, they find nothing.

She hesitates before opening the door to her old bedroom.  Bill holds Cheryl in his arms, both of them watching Laura, her eyes closed, attempting to force herself to open the door.  “Are you alright?” Bill asks, placing a hand to her back.

“I haven’t been in here since I moved downstairs after the funeral.  It’s silly, I know, but I need to do this.”

“Take your time.  I’m right here behind you,” he says, noticing Cheryl has tightened her grip around him and buried her head into his neck.

Laura turns the doorknob and steps into her old bedroom.  The sun streams through the curtains making the room cheery and bright.  Her mother’s hospital bed is no longer there, and some old children’s books still dot the shelves in places, along with some of her awards that shine from her trophy case.

“Are you OK?” Bill asks.

“Yeh, I am,” she says surprised. “I forgot how nice this room is.  Look,” she says, pointing at the wallpaper boarder filled with images of red roses.  “I hung that border the year after your senior dance.  Your rose meant a lot to me.”

She begins by searching through her old desk, while Bill sits with Cheryl on a small chair in the corner.  Her dresser is next and is empty except for a few items of clothing that don’t fit anymore.  Next are the bookshelves and trophy case, then the closet, all of which are empty except for a few of Laura’s possessions.  “I’m not finding anything,” she says, glancing around the room again before her eyes come to rest on a metal box sitting on a high shelf.  “I wonder…” she says, then retrieves a key from her desk.

“Uh-oh,” Cheryl says, slapping her hands over her eyes.

“Bill, that’s not good.  She only says that when she knows Sandra’s in trouble,” Laura warns.  “I kept Momma’s medication in this lockbox and put it up here out of Cheryl’s reach.”  She places the box on her desk and uses the key to open it.  There are two nearly empty prescription bottles inside, one for an anti-nausea drug and the other for a stool softener, and nothing else.  “Oh, Gods,” Laura says shaking her head.  “There was an almost full bottle of opioid pain relievers in here, I had just filled it the day Momma passed, but it’s not here now.”

Cheryl spreads her fingers and peeks out at Laura from behind her hands, and as soon as Laura turns to look at her, she covers her eyes again.  “Cheryl, look at me,” Laura says, trying to pry her hands from her eyes.  “It’s OK, I won’t be mad.  Did you see Sandra take something out of this box?”

Cheryl shakes her head back and forth, hands still covering her eyes.

“I need you to look at me and tell me,” she says, pulling at her hands.  “This is really important.  Do you know what happened with this box?”

“It’s a secret,” Cheryl whispers.

“You know what, sweetie?  Sometimes it’s OK to tell a secret because it can help someone.  And I think this is one of those times.  You won’t be in any trouble.  You would be helping Sandra.”

“She’ll be mad at me,” she says, removing her hands from her eyes.

“Did you see Sandra take something out of this box?”

“Yes.”

“Do you remember when?”

“Last night.”

“Thank you,” Laura says, taking Cheryl into her arms and giving her a reassuring hug.  “I’m very proud of you for telling the truth.”

Cheryl places one of her little hands on her sister’s cheek.  “I miss Mommy.”

Tears sting in Laura’s eyes as she looks into the innocent face of her 3-year-old sister.  “I know, honey.  I miss her, too.” 

Once the metal box is locked up and placed back on the shelf, the three of them leave the bedroom. Laura places a call to her father to report on the missing pills while Bill takes Cheryl to the family room to play.  She doesn’t mention the box of condoms because Dave is upset enough about the pain killers, plus she would rather speak with Sandra herself about it.  She wonders why Sandra never talked with her, something she had always done in the past.  They used to be best friends, talking about boys, clothes, school, movies, whatever they could think of.  She tries to remember the last time they had a good sisterly conversation and realizes it was shortly before her mother became ill.

 

“Zooooommmmmm,” Cheryl calls out, her arms straight out from her sides while Bill flies her through the air, one hand gripping her legs and his other hand on her torso so that she can balance and maneuver her pretend viper through space.

“Asteroid field!” he exclaims, weaving her and ducking her out of the way of potential danger.

“What are we doing?” Laura asks with a warm smile when she sees them playing in the family room.

“I’m a viper pilot!” Cheryl squeals.

“It was her idea,” Bill explains.

She wanted to play viper pilot?  Are you sure it was Cheryl that wanted to play?” Laura asks with a smirk.

“Well, I wanted to play, too.  I think she’s bored with these toys.  She’s really smart, you know.”

“Do you need some new toys, sweetie?  I guess we never had your 3rd birthday party.  Maybe we can have a belated birthday party so that you can have some presents.”

“Yehhhh!!!!!” Cheryl shouts, clapping her hands.

Laura’s phone rings and she glances at it to see that her father is calling. “It’s Daddy.   Maybe Sandra is on her way home!” she says excitedly before she answers the call.  Her enthusiasm causes Cheryl to clap her hands some more and forget all about playing viper pilot for the time being.

The expression on Laura’s face changes from joy to worry and she quickly leaves the room so that Cheryl won’t overhear her conversation.

 

“Laurie, the police just arrested her!” Dave informs her, exasperated at the turn of events.

“What - why?!”

“She used the pain killers to gain admission into the rave and then they were put in bowls that kids passed around.  It was like a prescription drug pot-luck.  They’re charging her with possession and distribution of a controlled substance.  I need to find a lawyer right away because she has a hearing later today and if I can’t find someone to help us, she’ll spend the weekend in juvenile detention.”

“Oh, my Gods!” Laura exclaims.  “Did they already take her?”

“Yes, and she was upset and crying.  She’s scared, and so am I!”

“Bill’s father is an attorney.  I don’t think he’s the kind we need, but he might know someone that can help.”

“I feel like we’ve asked so much of him already, but I can’t stand the thought of Sandra in detention!  She’s never been in trouble before.  They arrested several kids here – somebody said the police are making an example of them to try and crack down on these illegal parties.”

“Let me talk to Bill.  I’ll call you back in a few minutes.”

When Laura explains the situation to Bill, he immediately pulls his phone out and calls his father before she can ask him to.  Joe gives Bill the name and number of a good juvenile attorney that specializes in drug and alcohol arrests, and Laura passes the information on to her father.

The attorney meets with Sandra and Dave 30 minutes before her arraignment and tells them that since she has no prior arrests and is an excellent student, there’s a good chance she won’t have to go to the detention center, but she will have to wear a monitoring device on her ankle at least up until her trial.  After further discussion, they decide to enter a plea of no contest to see if the judge will sentence her immediately so they can avoid the stress of a trial.  The judge considers her circumstances, that she lost her mother to cancer recently and that she helped care for her mother and younger sister during the time her mom was ill.  It helps that she maintained her grades during that difficult time.  She apologizes for her behavior and when the attorney states that she is willing to attend personal and family counseling, the judge sentences her to 8 weeks with the ankle bracelet to include weekly drug and alcohol testing, followed by 40 hours of community service work to be completed before school starts again in the fall.  He also warns her that if she ever shows up in his courtroom again, he will not be so lenient. 

Before they leave the courthouse, Sandra is fitted with the ankle bracelet and Dave is given information regarding its usage.  She is allowed to leave the house occasionally, but Dave must call a number first with details of who the responsible adult is taking her out, where they are going, and an estimate of how long she will be gone.  All other times she is to stay within 500 feet of their home, so she will have to complete the rest of the school semester online.  If she leaves the boundary without permission, she will be arrested again and sent straight to the juvenile facility for the remainder of the 8-week period.  He’s told to drive her straight home once they leave the courthouse.

On the way, he gives Laura a call to let her know the outcome of the arraignment and that they will be home soon.  Laura relays the news to Bill.  While she had hoped for an outcome that didn’t involve house arrest, the fact that Sandra is safe is enough to make her relax.

“You OK?” he asks. 

“I am.  I’m not sure how I’m going to react when she gets home, though.  I want to hug her for a long time, and then I want to scream at her for a long time.”

“I think you just described what it’s like to parent a teenager,” Bill comments.  Laura purses her lips together and nods her head at the realization that Bill’s assessment is correct. “The main thing is she’s safe and she’s coming home.  Start with the hugging, save the screaming for some other time,” he advises, gently rubbing his hands up and down her arms in a soothing manner.  “She’s been through a lot in the past 24 hours.”

“You’re right.  I’m relieved that she’s healthy and on her way home.  That’s what I’m going to focus on… for now.”  Laura takes a deep cleansing breath, holding it while she looks at Bill pensively.  “Come here,” she exhales, wrapping her arms around his neck.  “Thank you, for everything,” she says before brushing her lips against him.  Her tongue finds his for a lazy tango, then she breaks the kiss and nuzzles her face in his neck. 

In that same husky tone that made her melt when he said her name early in the morning, Bill whispers in her ear.  “Laura, Cheryl is watching us again.”

Laura looks to the side and finds Cheryl standing a few feet from them, studying them intently.  “Hey, girlie.  Do you have some toys to play with?”

“You kiss funny.  Why is your tongue in his mouth?”

“Oh, my Gods,” Laura says under her breath.

“Why do you put your tongue in my mouth?” Bill asks innocently.

Stop it,” Laura orders, narrowing her eyes at him and lightly slapping his shoulder. 

“I’d really like to hear your explanation,” Bill continues, trying not to smirk.

Laura is saved by the sound of the garage door opening.  “I’ll deal with you later,” she says pointing at him.

“Promise?” he asks.

Chapter Text

Dave enters the kitchen first followed by Sandra close behind him, her eyes downcast because she’s ashamed to look at her sisters.  An uncomfortable silence fills the room as Cheryl crosses her arms in front of her staring at her sister, while Bill places a supportive hand on Laura’s back.  It’s obvious Sandra isn’t going to be the first to say anything, so Laura steps toward her and places her arms around her, gently pulling her into an embrace.  “I’m glad you’re home,” she says, which brings a small smile to Sandra’s face.

“Um,” Sandra stammers as she steps back from Laura to look at her, tears staining her cheeks.  “I’m so sorry!” she blurts out before choking up.

Laura pulls her back into a hug, letting Sandra sob on her shoulder.  “I was so stupid… I said terrible things… I stole Momma’s pills… I know how you must hate me…”.

“No, Sandra, no, I don’t hate you.  I could never hate you, don’t ever think that,” Laura says in a reassuring tone.  “I love you.”

“I love you, too,” Sandra squeaks out between sobs.

Laura takes Sandra’s face in both her hands, smiling at her, letting her see the love on her face.  She glances to her side toward Cheryl, who is still standing with her little arms crossed in front of her watching the teary reunion between her two older sisters.

“Hey, Cheryl, I’m sorry I got you mixed up in all of this,” Sandra says.

“You did something bad,” Cheryl states in an accusatory tone, her lower lip in a pout.

“You’re right, I did something really bad and I got into a lot of trouble, and I’m sorry.”

Cheryl narrows her eyes at her older sister.  “I’m mad at you!” she declares before she turns and stomps away.

“She hates me,” Sandra states before she begins to cry again.

“Sandra, look at me.  She’s 3 - she doesn’t understand what’s going on.  She never stays mad for very long, so hang in there.  She will forgive you,” Laura explains.

Sandra nods her head several times.  “I hope so.”  Her eyes fall on Bill and she walks to give him a hug.  “Bill, thank you again.  I’ve always been kind of a jerk to you, and you don’t deserve that.  I’m sorry.”

“I’m glad you’re OK,” Bill whispers to her, before they break the hug.

Sandra looks hesitantly at her father, older sister, and Bill.  “I was in a holding cell for two hours, so if you don’t mind, I’d kind of like to take a shower now,” she says.

“Probably a good idea,” Laura says with a smile.

“I smell bad,” Sandra confesses.

“I was trying not to say anything,” Laura quips, playfully bumping Sandra’s shoulder.

Sandra leaves the kitchen to take a long hot shower, trying to wash the grime of the past 24 hours off her.  After Laura talks to Bill, he offers to go to the store to purchase the lock for her bedroom since he had promised to install it over the weekend.  Having missed her father for almost a full day, Cheryl demands that he hold her.  Laura takes the opportunity to break it to him that Sandra has been bribing Cheryl to keep secrets from both of them.

“What has she told you to keep secret?” Dave asks Cheryl.

“I saw her take something from mommy’s room,” she informs him, which Laura explains was the opioid pain relievers.  “I saw a boy in her room.”

“Do you remember when you saw him?” Laura asks.

Cheryl shakes her head. 

“Anything else?” Dave asks with a concerned sigh.

“She took a bottle from there,” Cheryl says pointing at the liquor cabinet.

Laura retrieves her key to the liquor cabinet so she and her father can determine what’s missing.  “There was a full bottle of rye whiskey in here,” Dave says.  “It was a gift from a coworker but your mother and I didn’t like it so we put it in here thinking we would give it to someone else someday,” he says shaking his head.  “She must have figured out a way to pick the lock or else she made a copy of one of our keys.  Gods, I’m so disappointed in her,” he says quietly so only Laura can hear him.

Laura imagines he said the same thing about her that night she snuck in the window after Billy dropped her off from the dance.  Instead of feeling anger toward Sandra, she empathizes with her.  “Are you OK, Daddy?” she asks, a gentle hand on his arm.

He nods his head.  “Cheryl, can you remember any other secrets?”

“One time we went in a car with her friend.  He drove fast.  She gave him that bottle.”

“Was he drinking from that bottle?” Dave asks alarmed.

Cheryl nods her head.  “So was Sandra.”

“Oh, my Gods!” Dave exclaims, barely controlling the rage he feels knowing that Sandra and a friend were drinking and driving with Cheryl in the car.  “I don’t even know who she is anymore!” he yells, shaking with anger.

“Daddy, try to calm down,” Laura says, placing her arm around him as he walks away. 

Bill returns from the hardware store to find Laura speaking quietly with Dave, who is visibly angry, something he hasn’t witnessed before.  “Laura?  Is something wrong?” he asks.

She nods her head at him.  “Can you please watch after Cheryl?”

Since it’s such a beautiful day, Bill decides to take Cheryl outside for some fresh air.  They kick a ball around in the grass, and he’s impressed by Cheryl’s ability to aim and control the speed of her kicks at such a young age.  When she tires of kicking the ball around, they switch to throwing a toddler size pyramid ball to each other.  Her throws are just as impressive as her kicks and she’s extremely accurate with either hand.  “Do you have a favorite pyramid team?” he asks her.

“No.”

“How about you cheer for the Picon Panthers with me?”

 

Dave barely slept at the hospital, so Laura convinces him to go up to his room and rest.  She reminds him that the counselor advised against confronting Sandra with anything upsetting until they begin counseling sessions, which are to start the next day.  “Hopefully, I can control my anger better after a good nap.  Did you have any idea that Sandra was in this much trouble?  Was I just blind?”

“No, I had no idea - we were both blind.  I’m looking forward to family counseling so that we can all work together and deal with these issues.”

“Me, too.  We should have been doing this all along but I really thought we were coping.  Can you please keep an eye on her and Cheryl while I rest?”

“I will.  But I don’t think Sandra’s going anywhere – I’m pretty certain she doesn’t want to go to juvenile detention after her experience today.  I think I’ll tell her to leave her bedroom door open, just in case this boy tries to show up again.  We should get rid of all the alcohol in the house, too.  The only thing I ever drink here is the occasional glass of wine with dinner, and I don’t think I’ve seen you drink at all in weeks.”

“That’s a good idea.  Most of it can probably be dumped down the drain.”

“I’ll take care of it.  Get some sleep.”

 

By the time Laura goes back downstairs, Sandra has showered and changed into clean comfortable clothing.  She sits on her bed braiding her wet hair so that it doesn’t hang in her face.  Laura knocks at her bedroom door.

“You can come in, I’m dressed,” Sandra responds. 

“Daddy is resting upstairs so you’re stuck with me,” she says, entering the room and sitting on the edge of the bed.

“How is he?” Sandra asks.

“Tired.  Upset.  But he’s looking forward to getting started with family counseling tomorrow – I think it’s a good idea, too.”

Sandra nods her head at her sister.  “I think it’s going to be hard.  I’m kind of scared.”

“I’m sure there will be times that it’s uncomfortable for all of us, but the counselor is there to help us and guide us through it.”

Sandra nods her head again, then sits silently on her bed, averting her eyes from Laura. 

“So, let’s see it.”

“See what?”

“I heard you have a new fashion accessory, little sister,” Laura says with a small smile.  “Where is it?”

Sandra pulls the left leg of her sweatpants up to reveal her monitoring device. 

“Huh.  It’s not as big as I thought it would be.  What happens if you try to take it off?”

“I go to jail,” she bluntly replies.

“Well, try not to feel too bad about it.  There was a time I’m sure Momma and Daddy would have loved to put one of these on me.”

“Yeh,” Sandra snorts.  “I doubt that.”

“No, it’s true.  It was my freshman year of high school - they didn’t trust me.”

“What’d you do?  Get a B in a class?” Sandra asks rolling her eyes.  “You’ve never done anything bad in your life.  Everyone knows your daddy’s favorite.”

“OK, first thing is daddy doesn’t have favorites.  He’s been relying on me because I’m the oldest, not because he’s playing favorites.  The second thing is I treated Momma like crap from 7th grade through 9th grade, and I broke her heart.  Then I did something incredibly stupid, and Daddy was disappointed in me for a long time.   I could see it on his face every time he looked at me, and it took a good two years before he trusted me again.”

“Gods, what did you do, Laurie?” Sandra asks, her curiosity in overdrive.

“It was my freshman year, at the spring dance honoring all the graduating seniors.  You were only 5 so you may not remember, but there was a night where Momma and Daddy yelled at me and you came into my room and slept with me because I was crying.”

“I do remember that.  You never told me why you were crying.”

Laura then tells her the story of how she stole makeup and condoms from the market, got her hair cut short and dyed blond, put on way-too-sexy clothing for a 13-year-old girl, snuck out of the house, then tried to seduce a senior boy at the dance.  She explains how their parents were waiting for her in her room when she crawled through the window and how the condom fell out of her pants pocket after she changed into her pajamas.

“You were trying to get laid at 13?” Sandra asks, shocked that her older sister isn’t as perfect as she always thought.

“I was on a mission that night.  Thankfully, the boy I tried to seduce saw right through me and didn’t take advantage of me.  He kept me from making a dumb mistake.”

“What happened to him?”

“Can you keep a secret, at least until I have the chance to tell Daddy myself?”

“I thought we weren’t keeping secrets anymore,” Sandra replies.

“We aren’t, but I think Daddy should hear this from me.  I just haven’t had time to tell him yet, because I didn’t find out until a couple of nights ago.”

“OK.  So, what happened to him?”

“He’s in the backyard with Cheryl right now,” Laura says quickly.

“WHAT?!  Are you serious?” Sandra asks.

Laura nods her head at her sister.  “Yup, he mentioned it a few days ago when the basement was finished.  The house looked familiar to him that first night he came for dinner.  He wasn’t sure I was the same Laura so he waited until the basement work was completed before he brought it up.  I even still have the rose he gave me after the dance.”

“Wow, Laurie, that’s kind of…romantic if you think about it.  Almost like you’re destined to be together.”

“Hmmm, maybe,” Laura replies, considering for a moment that maybe they truly are meant to be together.  What are the odds that she would meet such an upstanding young man on the night she was willing to give it up to a boy?  What are the odds his pilot buddies would dare him to pick her up at a bar 10 years later, when she was at the lowest point in her life?  And what are the odds he would not only stick around every night in that bar just to spend time with her, but then quit his freighter assignment to return to look for her?

“Hey, Laurie, where’d you go?” Sandra asks with a grin.  “You’re thinking about him, aren’t you?”

“Yeh, I was,” she admits, a blush creeping up from her neck.

“Are you in love with him?” Sandra asks.

“Oh, n- it’s too soon, we’ve only had one date,” Laura stammers, her cheeks bright red now.

“I suppose.  What’s he like in bed?”

Sandra’s directness catches Laura by surprise, but she recalls how they used to talk about boys and dating before her mother became ill.  She decides to keep this line of communication open with her because she misses talking with her little sister like this.

“Well, to be honest, we haven’t slept together yet.  I mean, he was here last night but we actually slept, we didn’t have sex.”

“You haven’t had sex with him?  Why not?”

“We were close a couple of times, but we keep getting interrupted.  The first time Daddy kept bothering us, and then last night his parents came home, which is why we came back here late.”

“Way to go, Dad,” Sandra smirks.

“I know, right?” Laura laughs.  “He felt bad about it.”  They both relax more as they chat, and since they are on the subject of boyfriends and sex, Laura decides to take the opportunity to find out more about Sandra’s romantic life.

“So, is there anyone that you’re involved with?”

Sandra lets out a loud sigh.  “You found the condoms, didn’t you?” 

Laura nods her head in reply.

“His name is Theo, he’s a junior.  But I don’t think I’ll see him anymore. He’s the one…” her voice trails off.

“Were you with him last night?”

“Yeh.  It was his idea to go to the rave.  I don’t really like him that much anyway.  And he’s terrible in bed.”

“First times can be disappointing,” Laura comments.

“He wasn’t my first.  My old boyfriend Brent was my first.  I slept with him when we found out Momma had cancer.  I was hoping it would make me feel better, but it didn’t, and it was kind of a bad experience.  I was finally relaxing and starting to enjoy it a little and then he was done.  Then he rolled over, put his clothes back on, and took me home.  We tried it a few more times, but it was the same.  It was like I was just there for his pleasure and he didn’t even think about how I felt.”

“My first time was very similar to yours.  I think it takes boys a while to figure out that they need to make us feel good, too, and then to figure out how to do that.  Unfortunately, some of them never figure it out,” Laura says shaking her head.

“Have you been with a lot of guys?” Sandra asks.

“A few, but probably not as many as most girls my age.  I was young for my class, you know, and lived here my first two years of college.  I was only on my own for two years before I moved back home.  I was a virgin until I got to college.”

“I’m not surprised.”

“Hey, what’s that supposed to mean?” Laura asks, insulted but amused.

“I didn’t mean anything by that.  It was hard for you to meet guys going to the nerd school, and then you were so young, too.  You probably didn’t have much opportunity until you moved out of the house.  So, how many guys have you been with?” she asks again.

“Why do you want to know?”

“I’m just curious.  Can you count them on one hand?” she asks with a wide smile on her face.

“Yes, one hand.  And that’s all I’m going to say.”

“Aren’t you worried that you won’t be experienced enough for Bill?  I mean, he’s a pilot that fought in the war.  He’s probably been with hundreds of girls.”

“I doubt he’s been with hundreds.  At least I hope not,” she says with a frown considering the possibility that he has had dozens of women in his bed. “I wasn’t worried about being experienced enough until now.  Thanks a lot, little sis!”

“Don’t worry about it, sis.  I see the way he looks at you.  The fact that he hasn’t run away from this family screaming means he genuinely cares for you.”

“We truly are a shit show, aren’t we?” Laura laughs.  “One thing’s for sure, Cheryl has him wrapped around her little finger.”

“Cheryl has ALL of us wrapped around her little finger,” Sandra corrects her.

Chapter Text

Laura,” Bill growls into her ear, his muscular body covering hers, the tip of his arousal poised at her entrance.  Her fingers twist in his hair, pulling his face to hers so that she can taste her juices on his lips. 

“Please, I need you inside of me,” she begs in a whisper when they break the kiss. 

Tenderly stroking her cheek with his thumb, he smiles down at her, gazing into eyes still darkened from her climax.  “You’re so beautiful.”

Because of him, she feels beautiful.  From the seductive glances they’ve shared over the past several weeks, to the tender kisses when they say goodnight, and the way he just used his talented lips and tongue between her legs making her fall apart, his attentiveness makes her feel cherished.

With her legs wrapped around him, she tilts her hips to invite him in.  His lips devour hers as he carefully enters her, and they quickly find their rhythm, rocking back and forth until they both reach ecstasy, crying each other’s names during their mutual release.

“I love you, Laura.”

 

Laura’s eyes pop open at the harsh sound of her alarm clock.  It’s 6 am Sunday morning and she has a busy day ahead of her with the family therapist stopping by to do individual screening sessions followed by a family session.  She had promised her father that she would prepare breakfast for everyone and get some house cleaning done before the therapist arrives.  She resets the alarm clock for 6:10, lying alone in the dark recalling the intense dream that she was unceremoniously awakened from.  Is this what teenage boys feel like when they have a wet dream?  Her hair is plastered around her neck, having worked up such a sweat frakking Bill in her dream.  She pushes her hair up off her neck and shoulders so that it cascades across the pillow, then rests her hand on her forehead, recalling the sensation of his lips between her legs.

The house is extremely quiet, her father and Sandra still exhausted from the events of Friday and Saturday, and Cheryl asleep in her toddler bed upstairs.  Even though it was just a pleasant dream, her body is still quite aroused, so she pulls her nightshirt over her head and removes her panties.  Her hand brushes against her nipples which are hardened into firm peaks from her dream lover’s attention.  Her back arches as she pinches one nipple, twisting it slightly to find that fine line between pleasure and pain.  In her mind, his lips are on her again, biting, licking, and sucking gently at her.  Her hand then traces the path he took in her dream, traveling from her breasts to between her legs, where she finds herself soaking wet.  She imagines her index finger is the tip of his tongue, slowly circling her swollen clit, then slipping inside of her, and back to her sensitive nub.  A moan escapes her lips while she teases herself, a few seconds later her body is hit with waves from her climax, cries of joy stifled by her hand clamped firmly on her mouth.

The alarm clock blares again, sounding harsher than the first time.  She can’t delay her morning chores any longer, so she grabs her robe from the end of her bed and walks to the bathroom on the other side of the basement.  After a quick shower and shampoo, she stands in front of the mirror naked while brushing her teeth.  Her cheeks are rosy-red, probably from the hot shower, or maybe because she is still aroused from her dream and self-gratification.  Her imagination takes over again – this time Bill is standing behind her, pulling her hips to him.  Leaning over the vanity to brace herself, she gives imaginary Bill a heated glance over her shoulder as he positions her to be frakked from behind.  Her fingers find her clit again, teasing herself into another release, this time her whimpering pleasure muffled by her towel.

This is ridiculous.  I’m never going to get anything done today.  She climbs back into the shower, turning the water as cold as she can stand it, forcing herself underneath the showerhead to put out the fire inside of her.  It doesn’t work.  Now she’s cold and aroused, and imagines Bill wrapping his warm arms around her to cuddle, kissing her tenderly on her neck.  Just my luck the day I’m speaking with a counselor is the day I’m horny as a cat in heat. 

It’s been over a year since she has been with a man, deciding to break it off with Richard, one of Jean’s law school classmates, when her mother was diagnosed.  Or maybe Richard initiated the break-up?  She can’t remember and it’s not important.  He was probably the best lover she ever had, but he wasn’t all that great, preferring to receive oral rather than give anything in return.  In fact, he expected it every time they were together, and she suspected he preferred it to frakking because he always said she was embarrassingly loud during intercourse, but with his dick in her mouth, she couldn’t make much noise.  Still, she put up with him and gave him what he wanted because he was ambitious and on a fast track to success, possessing the type of personality that charmed people into getting what he wanted without them realizing how manipulative he was being.  He’s the type of man 22-year-old Laura thought she wanted, but so much can change in a year.  Now she has a man in her life that is intelligent, kind, considerate, and has a generous spirit that is rare in people.  She has needed to borrow Bill’s strength a few times, and he has never asked for anything in return.  She’s so incredibly turned on by him that if she doesn’t get him into bed soon, she’s convinced her body may explode.

At 6:45 am, she’s dressed and ready for the day while her family still sleeps.  An idea pops into her head, a bit of a risk, but one she’s willing to take.  She sends a quick text to Bill:  Can you be at my house in the next 15 minutes?  She then slips her phone in her pocket and goes upstairs to clean the house and throw a breakfast casserole together.  After pouring all the alcohol from the liquor cabinet down the drain and pitching the bottles in the trash, she moves to the living room to pick up Cheryl’s toys, but finds the room nice and tidy.  In fact, it looks as if the whole area has recently been cleaned, not leaving her with much to do since the casserole is baking away in the oven.  She checks her phone for messages but there is still no response from Bill.  After setting the table, she decides to unlock the door from the driveway to the garage and sends Bill another text:  Please come in through the garage – the door is unlocked.  Since the cleaning has already been completed, she decides to check the clothes hampers in each bathroom and start some laundry, hoping it will distract her long enough until Bill arrives.

At 7:20, she sighs in disappointment – he hasn’t arrived yet, nor does she have a response to her texts.  Sandra walks into the living room and joins her on the sofa.

“The casserole smells really good,” she comments to her sister.  “Have you made coffee yet?”

“No, I was just going to start it,” Laura replies.

“I’ll do it, as long as you don’t mind it a little stronger than usual.”

“That’s fine, thanks.  Did you clean up out here last night?”

“Yeh, I did.  I woke up after midnight feeling sorry for myself so I decided to get up and help out with the cleaning rather than wallow in my bed.  Hope you don’t mind.”

“Thank you,” Laura replies.  “Sounds like Daddy is in the shower.  Good timing – everything should be ready in 10 minutes.”

Sandra notices the empty liquor cabinet and the bottles in the trash while she works in the kitchen.  She realizes her father and Laura must have figured out that she took a bottle of whiskey and are waiting to confront her with it during family counseling.

“Laurie, I’m sorry,” Sandra says sitting down next to her again.  “I stole some whiskey from the liquor cabinet last week.”

“I know, sis,” Laura says squeezing her hand.  “We can talk about it when the therapist is here.  I don’t think any of us want to get all worked up before our individual screening sessions.”

“Okay.  Should I tell Daddy before the therapist gets here?”

“I think you can wait.  He already knows.”

“How was he?”

“Upset.”  Laura doesn’t share that she and her father know more of the details, trying to follow the advice of the therapist to wait until counseling begins.  “Try not to worry about that now.  Let’s have a pleasant breakfast so that we’re all in a good state of mind when the counselor arrives.”

“Okay.  I’ve missed you, Laurie,” Sandra says.

Sandra’s odd declaration makes Laura wonder, but before she can ask her to clarify her remark, their father enters the living room carrying Cheryl, dressed in an outfit her grandparents had given her for her 3rd birthday six months ago.

“Today, Cheryl has decided it would be best to be dressed as a bear,” Dave announces, placing Cheryl on the sofa next to her sisters.  “Because it’s a good idea to be dressed like a bear when a family is starting therapy.”

Laura laughs at her father’s inability to reason with Cheryl, who can be very demanding and opinionated.  “You know what?  What other day are you going to dress like a bear?  Why not dress like a bear on the day you start therapy?  I love that idea!” Laura exclaims, smiling at Cheryl and winking at her father.

“I’m with Laurie,” Sandra says.  “Cheryl’s the cutest bear in all the colonies.  Why not share that with the therapist?”

Cheryl looks at Sandra, a little smile forming at the corners of her mouth.  Then she quickly crosses her arms in front of her and looks away.  Laura senses Sandra’s disappointment that Cheryl is still mad at her, so she gives her hand a reassuring squeeze.

The timer dings for the oven and they all move to the kitchen for their breakfast.  Dave notices the garbage is full of empty liquor bottles.  “Maybe I’m being paranoid, but I think I’ll take this out to the dumpster so that the counselor doesn’t see all these bottles.”  He pulls the full trash bag from the bin, replaces it with an empty bag, then steps into the garage to toss the garbage into a dumpster just off the driveway.  When he returns, he is visibly angry.

“Sandra!  Did you have a boy in here last night?!” he shouts.

Sandra stares at him wide-eyed, then glances at Laura, who looks just as shocked at his anger.  “No,” she replies nervously.

“Then why was the door to the garage unlocked?  Who did you have in here?  What were you doing?”

“I wasn’t doing anything.  I got up and did some house cleaning in the middle of the night, but that was it.  I swear I wasn’t doing anything bad,” she tries to explain, tears welling up in her eyes.

“Daddy - she’s telling the truth.  She did all the cleaning last night.  I had nothing to do this morning except make breakfast and start some laundry.”

“Why was the door unlocked?”

“That was my fault,” Laura says.  “I unlocked it this morning.”

Her father looks at her expecting an explanation. 

“I unlocked it for Bill, in case he came by,” she confesses.  “I was the one having a guy over.  But he never got my message because he never came over.”

“Oh,” Dave says, obviously embarrassed.  “I’m sorry, Sandra, I shouldn’t have jumped to conclusions.”

“That’s okay, Daddy,” Sandra says, walking to him and hugging him.  “I understand why you might think that.”

While they are sharing a father-daughter hug, Bill suddenly walks through the door from the garage, out of breath.  “I’m sorry – I slept in and didn’t get your text until about 20 minutes ago.  Is everything okay?”

“Yes, Bill, we’re all fine.  Daddy, I’m going to talk with Bill downstairs.  Go ahead and start breakfast without me.”

Sandra sneaks Laura a knowing glance as she walks with Bill to the steps leading to the basement.  Laura takes him into her bedroom, shutting the door and locking it.  “I’m sorry, I should have texted you again and told you not to come.”

“I’m relieved that everyone is okay.  What did you need?”

“Um, this is kind of embarrassing now,” Laura stammers trying to explain.  “I asked you to come over earlier because…well…I really missed you.  Wait, that sounds clingy, doesn’t it?”

“I missed you, too, but I thought I wasn’t supposed to be here today since it’s the first day of counseling.  It surprised me when I woke up and saw that you texted so early.  I thought for sure something was wrong.”

“I guess it was too early to expect a response.  We’ve come close a few times recently and I woke up with some pretty strong…desires this morning, I’d had this dream that we were together and it was so real, my body actually ached for you, so I thought if you could come over before anyone else woke up, maybe we could be together,” she rambles.

Bill slowly figures out what she’s telling him.  “So, you wanted me to come over earlier this morning while everyone was still asleep and-”

“I wanted to tear your clothes off and frak you senseless,” Laura interrupts.  She slides her hand up his chest, resting her palms on him, feeling his heartbeat beneath them.  “My dream was so vivid.  When I woke up, I could still feel your lips on me, so I decided to try and make it a reality.”  One of her hands grips his t-shirt, twisting it into a knot in her fist.  Her other hand moves to his back, then slips inside the elastic band of his sweatpants to rest on his bare ass. 

“We shouldn’t start something now, the therapist…” he points out, shaking his head.

“Of course not, I know that,” she says, but her actions tell a different story.  Her hand moves from his chest to the back of his neck, gently tugging his face to hers.  She smashes her lips into his, parting them and probing with her tongue.  Her other hand moves from squeezing his bare ass to inside the front of his sweatpants, where she finds his firm erection, stroking the full length with her hand.

“Laura, we can’t, not now,” he groans, finding it extremely difficult to resist her advances because he’d like nothing better than to frak her senseless, too.  He pulls away from her and gently extracts her hand from his pants, kissing her palm, then holding her hand firmly.

“I’m sorry, I know we can’t.  Do you think we could go to a hotel tomorrow night?  I don’t know how much longer I can wait to be with you.  I kept thinking about you this morning while I was playing with myself, but it’s not the same to climax alone.”

He hadn’t suggested a hotel before because it didn’t seem very romantic to him to frak in a bed that hundreds of others have already frakked in.  But the image in his mind of Laura naked in her bed, thinking about him as she touched herself and brought herself to orgasm is more than enough to persuade him to find a hotel for Monday night.  “I’ll find a place for us tomorrow.”

“Thank you.  Uh, you should probably go because I’m incredibly hot and bothered again but I don’t think we should frak with my family so close by – I’m kind of noisy,” the last part said in a whisper.

“I can’t go upstairs yet,” Bill says glancing down at the bulge in his pants which has grown even larger after Laura’s admission that she is a noisy lover. 

She eyes his bulge, her tongue slowly tracing her bottom lip, then a playful grin spreads across her face.  “I can take care of that for you,” she offers, a twinkle in her eye.  She leads him to her bed where she sits on the edge and positions him in front of her, then she slides his sweats down just enough to free his cock, taking it into her mouth. 

 

“Must be some conversation,” Dave says as he, Sandra, and Cheryl are finishing up their breakfast.  Laura’s plate still has the full serving of breakfast casserole which had been steaming hot at first but now has cooled and spread across the plate.

Sandra decides to distract her father, who is noticeably uncomfortable with Laura’s absence and the idea of what she and Bill may be up to alone in the basement.  “Daddy, is that what you’re going to wear for counseling today?”  There was nothing wrong with his attire, but Sandra and Laura learned a long time ago that their father frets about his clothing and has little fashion sense.  When their mother became ill, they both helped him shop for slacks and shirts that could be mixed and matched so that he would never clash if they weren’t available to help him choose his clothes.

Dave becomes alarmed at Sandra’s question, realizing he may have committed some unknown fashion faux pas.  “You don’t like the red shirt with the black pants?”

“Well, it’s okay, but red seems like an aggressive color for therapy.  I think blue is more calming, maybe with tan slacks or grey slacks.”  Since she’s making this up on the spot, she has no idea if her dad is buying into her reasoning.

“Oh.  I guess that makes sense.  Can you watch Cheryl while I go upstairs and change?”

“Sure, Daddy.”  After placing his fork and plate in the dishwasher, Dave goes to his room to look for different clothing, a task Sandra knows will take him several minutes since she planted the idea in his head that calming colors would be better for today and her father tends to overthink things.

“Hey, Cheryl, do you want some more milk?” Sandra asks.

Cheryl stares at her like a little bear cub stares when it is confronted with something new.  She raises her hands and curls her fingers imitating bear paws, then grimaces to show her bear cub teeth, followed by her best “Raahrrrrr” growl.

“Well, at least you’re talking to me again, sort of.  So, do you want some more milk?”

Cheryl nods her head this time.

 

The expressions on Bill’s face are something Laura will never forget.  At the beginning, there is genuine shock that she is so brazenly doing what she’s doing, then his expression switches over to resignation, and finally bliss as her mouth and tongue find those sensitive areas unique to him.  That’s when he stops verbally protesting and starts verbally encouraging her while he holds her hair with his hands, stroking along her cheeks and jawline with his thumbs.  He completely surrenders to her, letting her control what’s happening, which is a complete change from any other man she has ever done this with, including Richard, who was prone to ramming himself down her throat.  This is the first time she truly enjoys pleasuring a man orally, knowing she has control over him, delighting in the fact that he is allowing her time to explore him with her mouth and tongue, hearing his tender words of encouragement, and then watching him lose control. 

She pulls his sweats back into place, then brushes light kisses long his abdomen and up to his chest as she stands.  “It’s safe to go back upstairs now,” she informs him with a satisfied smile on her face. 

His gaze lands on her mouth right before he pulls her into a deep kiss, surprising her.  No man has ever kissed her afterwards, not without telling her to brush her teeth and gargle first.  He continues to kiss her passionately while his hands roam over her body before finally moving up under her shirt and attempting to lift it over her head.

“What are you doing?” she asks.

“I’m not leaving here until I take care of you,” he says tossing her shirt on the reading chair in her room. 

“I don’t expect you to-”

“I know,” he interrupts. “I want to,” he explains, unclasping her bra, letting it fall to the floor.  “Get on the bed.”

“Not yet,” she replies, pulling his sweatshirt over his head, then wrapping her arms around his neck, pressing her bare breasts into him as she parts his lips with her tongue.  His skin is so warm against her sensitive nipples that she swears jolts of electricity are shooting through her.

“Bill, what are we doing?” she asks after breaking the kiss.  “Are you sure you want to do this?  The therapist will be here-”

“Not for another couple of hours.  Please, Laura, get on the bed.”

The second she lies down, he’s over her, kissing her lips with a passion she has never experienced before, then he moves to her breasts.  His attention is better than in her dream, nibbling at her skin, causing her to hum her approval which he finds endearing.  He strips off her slacks and panties and gently places her legs over his shoulders as he settles between them.

 

Sandra places cellophane over Laura’s untouched plate, popping it into the fridge.  Cheryl crawls away on all fours toward the living room, making bear noises along the way, Sandra watching her while wiping down the table.  “We are so screwed today,” she says quietly, hoping her little sister’s bear fascination is a phase that will end before the therapist arrives.

“Is this better?” Dave asks, appearing in the kitchen wearing light tan slacks with a bright blue shirt.

“Dad!  Impressive!  That’s a good look on you.  When did you get that shirt?”

“It was one your mother bought me a long time ago – I just never wore it because I thought it was too bright for the classroom.”

“It’s a great color on you.  You should wear it more often.”

Dave looks around the room and realizes his other daughter is absent.  “Is Laurie still downstairs with Bill?”

“Yeh, but I’ve got things handled here.  Don’t worry about it,” Sandra tries to convince him.

“I’m going downstairs to get her.  They’ve been at it long enough,” he says, turning to leave the room.

“Dad – why would you do that?” Sandra asks following him.  “I told you I’ve got things handled here, you’ve changed your clothes, there’s nothing else to do but wait.  Let her and Bill have some time together.”

“I don’t like the example she’s setting for you and Cheryl.”

“What example?  She’s in her room with Bill, none of us are in the basement.  Why do you think she asked him to put a lock on her door?  And, besides that, Cheryl is pretending to be a bear today, so I don’t think she cares what Laurie is doing right now.”

“I don’t like it,” he repeats, moving toward the basement steps.

“Daddy, no!  Don’t you see the way they look at each other?  It’s like how you and Momma always looked at each other.  You can’t expect Laurie to live at home and not have a life.”

Dave opens his mouth to argue some more when he’s interrupted by his phone.  “It’s the therapist.  I’ll take this upstairs.”

 

Laura uses her pillow to muffle her screams, Bill bringing her to a level of joy she never knew possible, the tears running down her cheeks proof of that.  He lingers between her legs placing soft kisses, letting her ride her waves of ecstasy until she is calm again.  Kissing his way back up her body, he is surprised to see the tears in her eyes.  “Hey, what’s wrong?” he asks brushing a tear away, concerned that maybe he hurt her.

“Nothing, nothing at all,” she replies, smiling up at him.  “Kiss me.”

He gladly complies with her request, and when he breaks the kiss, he asks “Why are you crying?”

“I’m so happy.  Gods, I must look stupid right now,” she giggles.

He’s perplexed by her comment because as he’s looking down at her, all he sees is beauty and he wonders what it’s like to possess such elegance and not be aware of it.  “You’re breathtaking.”

“I wish the therapist wasn’t coming today, I’d ask you to stay here with me,” Laura remarks.

Bill sighs.  “Nothing would make me happier than staying in bed, making love with you all day.  Unfortunately, today isn’t that day,” he frowns.

Making love. The term resonates through her, touching her heart.  She considers the possibility that she has never made love with anyone before.  The first two guys she dated in college were convenient, but not special.  The possibility of love never entered the equation with either of those men.  At one time, she thought she loved Richard, but she realizes now she loved the idea of Richard, not the man himself.  His expectation of blow jobs, ridicule of her noisiness, and infidelity should have made her walk away, but she inexplicably kept trying to make it work with him, convincing herself he was a good catch.  Richard was the man everyone thought she looked good with, not the one who made her happy, although she couldn’t see it until now.

They silently cuddle in each other’s arms for the next several minutes, sharing tender kisses and gentle caresses.  “Where are you, sweetheart?” Bill asks, lightly brushing his fingertips on her cheek. 

“Hmmm?” she responds, still considering his words: making love.  Can you make love if you aren’t in love?

“What are you thinking about?”

Her ability to overanalyze things is what took her far in school, but oftentimes she considers it a curse inherited from her father.  Richard used to chastise her for overthinking things, telling her to stop thinking and just do what she’s told.

“I’m sorry, Bill, I got lost in thought.”

“You don’t need to apologize,” he replies, a curious look on his face. “You’re sexy as hell when you’re thinking.  That’s one of the things I love about you.”

Did he just say he loves me?  The first time she told Richard she loved him, he forced a smile on his face, patted her on the shoulder, and kissed her forehead before saying goodnight.  It was a full month later before he told her he loved her, too, right after she gave him what he described as the best blow job he ever had.   It’s dangerous to get hormones confused with true emotions. “It doesn’t bother you that I overanalyze things?”

“No.  I admire your ability to do that.  You’d make a great war tactician.”

Laura bursts out laughing at him.  “That’s a great compliment to tell your girlfriend!  I’m sure all my friends will be jealous of such a romantic declaration!”

“You don’t like my compliment?” he asks, feigning disappointment, the upturned corners of his mouth giving him away.

“Oh, I love your compliment!  It might be my favorite compliment ever!  But on a romance scale of 1 to 10, I give it a negative 3!”

“You just broke my heart, Laura,” he replies, turning his face away to hide his grin.

“Ohhh, such a delicate man,” she says, pulling his chin to face her.

Bill gazes into her sparkling green eyes for a moment, contemplating his words. “I discovered you because of a dare. Your intelligence kept me coming back to you and our conversations pulled me in.  Your kiss lit my soul on fire.  Our week apart from each other left me feeling empty, I had to search for you.  I found you in a dark place, but you’ve clawed your way out. You’re the most brilliant, compassionate person I’ve ever met.  If I had one wish, I’d want to see the universe through your eyes, even if just for a single day.”

Laura stares at him, trying to figure out if she should cry, kiss him, or a combination of both.

“Your lips taste like strawberries whenever we kiss-“

She opts for kissing him.  “Gods, Bill, I’m getting all turned on again.  You should go,” she says breaking their kiss.

He rolls on top of her placing gentle kisses along her jaw.  “No, Bill, you need to go.”

“We still have time,” he murmurs glancing at the alarm clock. 

“Hmmm, how much time?” she purrs as his mouth nibbles its way down her neck.

“Enough time for this,” he replies, sliding down her body and placing her legs over his shoulders again.

 

 

When they finally emerge from the basement, Laura walks Bill to his car, wanting desperately to stay in his arms all day but knowing he must leave before the therapist arrives.  “Give me a call later, or sooner if you need to,” he tells her before he drives away.

When Laura returns to the kitchen, she notices her father is absent.  “Where’s Daddy?”

“He took a call from the therapist and I think he’s in his office.  Kind of sounds like he’s cleaning.”  Sandra gives her sister an expectant look.  “So, how are things?”

“Things are good.”

“How good?”

“The best they’ve ever been,” Laura giggles before she takes a sip of coffee.

Cheryl crawls past her to the living room where she sits on her hind legs pretending to scratch the sofa like a bear cub scratches a tree.  “Are we pretending to be a bear?” Laura asks nodding at Cheryl, who growls her response.

“Yes, we are,” Sandra sighs.  “I’m sure the therapist will be impressed.”

Cheryl bares her teeth and snarls at both her sisters, then crawls further into the living room.

“Hmmmm, maybe if we both act like bears, too, she’ll snap out of this soon,” Laura suggests.

 

When Dave enters the living room, he sees all three of his daughters crawling around on the floor, growling at each other and pretending to swat at things with their bear paws. “Oh, this is just great!  Have we all lost our minds?!” he exclaims.

Laura crawls to him, motioning with her head to follow her behind the kitchen island, then pulling him down to sit on the floor out of sight of her sisters.  “I thought if we pretended to be bears with her, then she might snap out of this before the therapist gets here,” she whispers.

“Is it working?”

She shrugs her shoulders.

“I suppose it’s worth a shot,” Dave sighs, then crawls on his hands and knees to the living room to join the rest of his pretend bear family.

 

Chapter Text

“Thank you for joining me on short notice, Jason.  I was handed this family case late yesterday and wasn’t informed until this morning that there is a child under the age of 6 in the home, so I need your expertise for her screening,” Dr. Evans says as they both walk to the front door of the Roslin residence.

“I’m happy to help.  What do we know about the family?” he asks.

“Dad is 48, university professor, widowed last month, wife had breast cancer, 3 daughters, oldest is Laura age 23 – a PhD student at the university, child under house arrest is Sandra age 15 – overdosed at a rave, youngest is Cheryl age 3, attends Primrose Daycare,” Dr. Evans summarizes as she looks through the file.

“Does Sandra have priors?”

“No, sounds like this was out of character for her and an accidental OD.  She’s an excellent student.  Court ordered monitoring device for 8 weeks, mandatory weekly drug and alcohol testing, individual and family counseling, and court ordered community service.”

“Were they in counseling while their mother was ill?”

“Doesn’t look like it.  Mother was in-home hospice, she died in this house.”

“What are they doing?” Jason asks, pointing at the large picture window beside the front door.

Cher-bear sits in the corner using an old purse as a pretend pot of honey in her lap, using her little bear paws to dip inside for the sweet treat, then licking the imaginary nectar from her hand.  Her family of bears circle around the coffee table, roaring at each other, until Papa Bear stands up on his knees waving his paws in the air, letting out an authoritative growl.  Laura-bear and Sandra-bear crawl away in fear, each hiding behind a different piece of furniture.

“Well, this is something new,” Dr. Evans snorts before ringing the doorbell.

 

“They’re here, they’re here!” Dave says in a loud whisper, motioning with his hands for Sandra and Laura to stand up.

Sandra and Laura turn to each other, saying “They?” simultaneously.

“Oh, my Gods, look at Cheryl,” Sandra whispers to Laura.  The pretend honey pot is flung to the far side of the room, and Cheryl is crouched on all fours, snarling in the direction of the front door.  Laura’s hand immediately covers her mouth, unsuccessfully trying to halt a loud drawn-out snicker.  “If I look at her I might laugh so hard I pee my pants!” Sandra exclaims, grabbing Laura’s arm, joining her in snickering.

“Don’t look at her, Sandra, don’t.  Oh, my Gods, she’s foaming from her mouth!” Laura says, laughing loudly.

“Girls!” Dave says in a loud whisper before he opens the door.  “Get control of yourselves!”

“Okay, okay, deep breaths, Sandra, deep breaths,” Laura coaches, breathing with Sandra.  “Don’t look at her!”  A few giggles are shared between them as they stare at each other but then they quickly regain enough composure for Dave to answer the door.

“Hello, you must be Dr. Roslin?” Dr. Evans asks.

“Yes, hello, come in.  Please call me Dave.  Which one of you is Dr. Evans and which one is Dr. Little?”

“I’m Dr. Evans, you can call me Jenny, and this is Dr. Little.”

“Nice to meet you, Dave, please call me Jason.”

“Come in.  This is Laura, Sandra, and….” When he looks toward Cheryl, he sees her pawing at the ground, drool dripping from her lips.  She charges at the therapists on all fours, loudly growling, trying her best to scare these strange people away.

Laura lets out another loud snicker, followed by Sandra, both of them giggling in each other’s arms as they watch their sister go from docile honey-eating cub to full blown rabid bear.  “I have to pee!” Sandra exclaims, jogging away from the scene down the hallway toward her bathroom.

“Me, too!” Laura exclaims, following her.

“This little bear cub must be Cheryl,” Dr. Evans comments.

“Yes, I apologize for her behavior.  She is sometimes suspicious of new people, and it has been an eventful weekend,” Dave says, blushing from embarrassment.

“Of course.  Jason will be conducting her screening because he specializes in children ages 2 through 6,” Jenny informs him.

Dave leans down to pick Cheryl up, but she scampers away growling and crawls behind a chair in the living room.  “Cheryl, come here!  You can play bear again when we’re done with counseling,” he says chasing after her.  Every time he gets near her, she runs away and hides in a different location.

Jenny looks at Jason with a tiny smile.  “Good luck with that one.”

“I enjoy a good challenge.”

 

When Laura and Sandra get to the bathroom, they run inside and shut the door, then double over laughing about the crazy antics of their little sister.  “Did you see the foam on her mouth?” Laura asks.

Sandra places her palms on her cheeks, pulling them down and grimacing, trying to imitate the expression on Cheryl’s face.  “I don’t even know how she does that foaming thing!” she laughs.

“I think it’s kind of like when little kids blow bubbles with their spit,” Laura explains, trying to do it herself but failing.  “I guess I don’t have enough spit.”

“Probably because you used it all this morning!” Sandra quips.

Laura’s jaw drops open and she smacks her sister in the arm.  “I can’t believe you just said that!”

“Ow!  Move out of the way, I need to pee,” Sandra says, sitting on the toilet.  “You’re not denying it,” she says watching her sister stare at her reflection in the mirror, fussing over her unruly hair, which wasn’t so unruly until Bill came over.

A quick glance from the corner of Laura’s eye to Sandra, followed by a “No, I’m not” comment, confirms Sandra’s suspicions.  “You’re very perceptive for a 15-year-old.”

Sandra stands next to her, washing her hands at the sink.  “I saw his eyes when you came upstairs.  They were glassy and your hair was a mess.  Plus, I never heard your bed squeak.  You’ll have to give me pointers because Theo told me I wasn’t very good.”

“Hmm, I’m not sure about teaching my little sister how to master the art of the blow job.”

“Bill must have amazing self-control.  Took you long enough.”

Laura can’t stop a wide grin from spreading across her face at the memory of Bill between her legs from just an hour ago.

“Ohhhh, those that give shall receive,” Sandra says, observing the look on Laura’s face.

Laura glances at her sister, confirming her suspicion again.  “My turn to pee.”  When she finishes, she stands next to her sister, washing her hands.

“You might as well teach me, I’ll be 18 before Daddy ever lets me out of the house again.”

Laura knows there might be some truth to that assessment, having deeply disappointed her father her freshman year.  She dries her hands, then turns to Sandra, placing her hands on her shoulders.  “Love you.  Are you ready to talk with the counselor?”

Sandra nods, a worried look on her face.  “I’m nervous.”

“I know.”

“Will you hold my hand?”

“Hmmm, I suppose.  I guess I did see you wash them this time.”

Sandra shakes her head.  “You can be so gross sometimes.”

They leave the bathroom hand in hand, walking back to the foyer where the two therapists wait.

 

Dave is still trying to wrangle Cheryl in the living room, attempting to coax her out from underneath the sofa with a piece of chocolate.  “We’re ready,” Laura says to Jenny. 

“Alright, Dave, can you please come back?”

He gives up on Cheryl and joins everyone in the foyer.  “I’m going to start with Dave, then go by age so Laura, then Sandra.  Jason can talk with Cheryl, if she’s willing, but I ask that no one else be present if you are comfortable with that, Dave.  We’ve found little kids are more likely to speak freely without family present.  Once we have spoken with each of you, we will take a short break, then we can begin the family session.  Today I am here mostly to get to know you and to observe the family dynamic, so don’t expect the world to change with just one session.  These things can take some time before everyone becomes comfortable.  After the family session, I will touch base with you, Dave, before we leave.  Any questions?”

All three of them shake their heads.  “Well, if you do think of any questions or have any that you are not comfortable asking in front of everyone, you can bring them up during the individual session.  Where is your study?”

“Upstairs, on the right,” Dave replies.

 

 

“Jason, would you like me to try getting Cheryl out from under the sofa?” Laura offers.  “Sometimes she listens to me a little better than Daddy.”

“Sure.  Sandra, you’re welcome to try, too.”

“She’s mad at me.  Probably better if I just go to my room now and wait for my session.  I have some reading to get caught up on for school.”

Cheryl reluctantly crawls out from under the sofa and into Laura’s arms once Sandra leaves the room.  “Sit with me, Cher-Bear,” Laura says, placing her on the sofa next to her.  “Jenny and Jason are here to help us.  They aren’t the kind of doctors that give you icky medicine or a shot.  They just want to talk.  Does that make sense?”

Cheryl slowly nods her head.

“You can talk about anything.  Maybe you want to talk about bears,” Laura says, pointing at the kids book about bears on the coffee table that was part of the gift from her grandparents, “or maybe you want to talk about bananas,” she says, making Cheryl grin, “or maybe you want to talk about those yucky boogers that come out of your nose when you have a cold.”  Cheryl wrinkles her nose in disgust and shakes her head back and forth.  “Do you think you can talk with Jason?”

She quickly shrugs her shoulders and glances at him.

“Okay.  I’m going downstairs now, but if you need anything, let Jason know, or go to Sandra’s room.”

 

 

“Does it matter where I sit?” Dave asks.

“Wherever you are most comfortable, or you can stand,” Jenny says.

Dave seats himself behind his large wooden desk which he had just cleaned that morning.  It had been quite messy, which is its usual state, so he opened the drawers and had pushed the clutter from the top of his desk into them since Jenny had requested a private area for all of their sessions.  He didn’t want to make a bad first impression so he quickly dusted his office and placed some books back on the shelves which line the room, then opened the blinds to let some sunlight in.  It looks like a completely different room to him now.  Jenny seats herself in a leather wingback chair across from him.

“Where do we start?” Dave asks eagerly.

“Tell me about your family,” Jenny smiles back, pen poised in her hand ready to take notes on the clean steno pad in her lap.

“What would you like to know?”

“Anything you want to tell me.”

Dave takes a deep breath and begins.  “I’m a history professor at the university, been there for over 20 years.  Laurie, my oldest, is a doctoral student in literature and education.  Sandra is a freshman at Caprica East, and my baby girl, Cheryl, goes to Primrose.  And I’m thinking you already know all of that,” he says, realizing the folder with his family’s name on it contains several sheets of paper, probably with all the basic information he just shared with her.

“I do already know that,” she smiles.

“I’ve never done this before,” he admits.  “Um,” he says, unsure of what to say.  “Would you care for anything to drink?”

“Maybe later.”

Dave thinks for several seconds, trying to gather his thoughts.  “I don’t know how any of this happened.  Laurie went through a rebellious phase as a teenager, but Sandra seemed to take things in stride.  One minute she’s my well-adjusted teenage girl, and the next she…” he pauses, sharply inhaling before he finishes his thought. “She overdosed in my arms.”  He rubs his hands along his clean desktop, staring down at them.  “If Bill hadn’t been there, I don’t know what would have happened.”

“Who’s Bill?” Jenny asks curiously.

“Laurie’s boyfriend - Bill Adama.”  Jenny scribbles his name down in her steno pad.  “He said we’d get to the hospital faster in his car rather than wait for an ambulance.  The doctor said that was a life-saving decision…” his voice trailing off.   “Are you sure I can’t get you something to drink?”

“No, I’m good.”

“You know, I – I just worry that I failed Sandra somehow.  And I’m worried that I’m going to fail Cheryl.  I don’t want anything like this to ever happen again.  I’ve never been a good disciplinarian.”

Jenny scribbles in her notes while Dave watches in silence.  “What are your goals for family therapy?” she asks.

“I want Sandra to get better.  We all need to get better.  I need to figure out how to trust her again.”

“When you say ‘we all need to get better’, is there anything specific?”

“Better communication.  Better at seeing issues before they become major problems.”

“Anything else?” she asks, looking up from her notebook.

Dave shakes his head.

“Okay.  Can you please send Laura up next?”

“Sure,” he says, then leaves the room.  He sends Laura a quick text before disappearing inside of his bedroom.

 

 

“Hi, Cheryl.  Do you think we can talk?” Jason asks, gently seating himself on the sofa next to her.  She looks at him suspiciously, crawling to the far end of the sofa away from him.

“Are you happier sitting there?” he asks.  She nods her head, still analyzing him.

“So, you like bears?”

Her expression changes from suspicion to disdain, and he’s almost certain she rolls her eyes at him.

“I guess that was a pretty stupid question, wasn’t it?” he chuckles.

She nods her head.

“Maybe I can read you some of this book,” he says, reaching for the children’s book All About Bears.  He opens to the first page and begins to read in a soothing sing-song voice he normally uses for this particular age group of children.  “There are many kinds of bears.  Some are brown, some are black, some are white, some are red.  Do you know what bears eat?” 

When he glances at Cheryl, he notices her sitting with her brow furrowed and her arms crossed in front of her.  She slips off the sofa, marches to him, grabs the book from his hands, and flings it across the room behind her.  Then she calmly returns to her end of the sofa, where she points at a textbook on the other side of the coffee table.

“You want me to read this book?” he asks, to which she nods.  He pulls the book towards him:  Advanced Zoology for College Credit.  “Are you sure?”  She nods her head again.  A page with a folded down corner catches his eye, so he flips to it to find a chapter on bears.  “The red bear is native to Aerilon but migrated to other colonies with the help of early humans 1000 years ago.  While the main staple of its diet is the leaf of the de- decid…”

“Deciduous,” Cheryl says as he stumbles over the word.

With his eyebrows raised, he continues. “…deciduous gumba tree, it is also carnivorous, hunting lesser mammals to balance its diet.  It is the smallest in stature of all bear species.”  He pauses to look at Cheryl, who is absorbed in what he is reading.  “Do you know what deciduous means?”

Cheryl looks at him amused.  “Do you know what it means?”

“I’m not sure.  Can you tell me?”

Cheryl sighs at him, rolling her eyes.  “It means it loses its leaves annually.”

“That’s right.  You’re a very smart girl, Cheryl.”

“I know.”

“Hmm, you don’t look like a red bear.  I think you’re a brown bear.  Maybe a grizzled bear?” he asks, thumbing ahead a few pages to read the description.  “The grizzled bear is aggressive and notoriously hungry and has been known to kill and eat humans that have strayed into its path in the mountains of Sagittaron.  Care must be taken when hiking in Sagittaron mountains in the fall for the grizzled bear is adding weight prior to a 4-6 month winter hibernation.  One must avoid the mountains in the spring when the grizzled bear awakens, starved for its next meal.” 

Cheryl stares wide-eyed at him.  “Are you a grizzled bear?” he asks.

She nods her head.

“Are you hungry?”  She responds with another nod of her head.  “Let’s see what you have in the refrigerator.”

 

“Do you prefer Laura or Laurie?” Jenny asks when Laura seats herself on the sofa in her father’s study. 

“I prefer Laura, although my family likes to call me Laurie.”

“How are you today?”

“I’m great,” she replies, her mind flashing back to her sexy morning with Bill.

“Tell me about your family.”

“Hmmm, I’m assuming you already know the basics.  Daddy’s a good guy – I’ve always been sort of a daddy’s girl.  For the longest time I’ve wanted to be a college professor, just like him.”

“You are well on your way to that goal.  You’re almost finished with your PhD and you’re only 23?  That’s kind of young.”

“Oh,” she says rolling her eyes.  “I skipped two grades, started school as a 1st grader when I was 4.  I was an early reader,” she explains.  “Sandra was, too, but she didn’t skip grades.”

“You seem close with her.”

“I was, I mean I am,” she says, a confused look on her face.  “I feel like we haven’t been close for a while, not until a few days ago when all of this happened.  Now we’re talking again.”

“So, at one time you were close, then you weren’t, but now you feel like you are again.  What happened when you weren’t as close?”

Laura thinks for a moment, remembering that she had figured out that she and Sandra hadn’t really talked much after her mother became ill.  She shakes her head.  “I don’t really know.  You should probably ask her.”

“Okay.  What about Cheryl?”

“I feel I need to explain that Cheryl is stubborn and can be kind of grumpy, she has everyone wrapped around her finger, and most days she is a bright, curious, little girl, but today isn’t one of those days.  Maybe it’s the recent tension in the house or maybe it’s because there are two strangers in the house today, but whatever the reason, she isn’t acting anything like her normal self.”

“That’s a relief,” Jenny replies.

“Ha!  You’re right!” Laura laughs.

“There’s a big age difference between you two.  You’re old enough to be her mother.”

“Yeh, I suppose.  I guess sometimes I treat her more like my child than my sister.  Daddy needs the help,” she mentions as she tries to analyze Jenny’s comment.

Jenny nods her head as she scribbles in her notebook.  “Tell me about Bill.”

“Oh!” Laura exclaims, not expecting Jenny to bring up someone who isn’t a member of the family.  “He left before you got here,” she blurts out.

“Did he spend the night?”

“No, that’s not what I meant,” she replies, frustrated she would say something that could so easily be taken out of context.  “It was a miscommunication on my part - he came over this morning because he thought something was wrong, but nothing was wrong, and we talked for a while, then he left.”

“Do you love him?”

“You know, it’s way too early for that.  We’ve only had one official date, but we’ve known each other for a few months,” she calmly explains.

“But you have feelings for him?”

“I’m sorry, I thought we would be talking about my family?” Laura replies, wanting to get off the subject of her relationship with Bill.

“This screening session is so I can get to know you.  It sounds like you are in a relationship, so I’m trying to learn something about that.”

“Yes, I’m in a relationship.  And…” she begins, thinking about what to say next.  “And I have feelings for him,” she says confidently.

“Are you having a sexual relationship with him?”

“What does that have to do with anything?!” Laura practically yells, appalled at the question.  “I’m not going to answer that,” she says, a blush creeping up her neck while she stares defiantly at Jenny, who scribbles in her notebook.

“You don’t have to answer.”

“Good!  Because I’m not going to,” she huffs, crossing her arms and legs.

“What are your goals for family therapy?” Jenny asks, getting the unmistakable hint from Laura that the topic of Bill Adama is off-limits, at least for now.

“I want Sandra to get better, I want Daddy to quit being suspicious all the time and mind his own business, I want Cheryl to quit acting like a bear, and I want you to stop asking me about Bill,” she replies in quick succession.

Jenny purses her lips together meeting Laura’s stare.  “Anything else?”

“No.”

“Can you please send Sandra up?”

“Yes, I’ll stop by her room now,” she says, then abruptly leaves the room.

 

Sandra answers the knock at her bedroom door, finding a very flustered Laura standing before her.  “That bad, huh,” she says.

“She was asking me if I was having sex with Bill.”

“Hmmm, Daddy.  What did you tell her?”

“That it was none of her business.”

“How did the rest go?”

“Fine.  She asked for you to come up.”

 

“You can sit anywhere, Sandra,” Jenny says when she enters the study.   Sandra sits down in the wingback chair opposite her.

“How are you today?”

“I’m doing okay.  I hear you pissed off my sister, though.”

“Apparently I did.”

“She’s always been private about her boyfriends.  Her last boyfriend was a jerk, funny that his name is Richard, you know, as in DICK.”

“You didn’t like him much.”

“Try not at all.  He basically used her for blow jobs, then dumped her when Momma got sick.  He was an arrogant narcissistic pig.  I kept telling her she could do better.”

“Is Bill better?”

“Like night and day.  I didn’t like him at first, not because of anything he said or did.  I was jealous – thought he was taking Laurie away from us.  But now I can see how wrong I was.  He’s a really good guy.  Kind of hot, too, HUGE muscles in his arms.  I wonder if he has a brother?  They’re in love, but I don’t think either one of them realizes it yet.  Leave it to Laurie to fall in love with a viper jock.  Sorry, I ramble when I’m nervous.”

“What makes you think they’re in love?”

“My mom and dad loved each other a lot.  Laurie and Bill look at each other the same way Momma and Daddy looked at each other.  And a lot of little things.  They always try to touch each other, not groping, just little touches here and there.  He’s really patient with her, which is good because Laurie can be stubborn.  She gets that from Momma.  She’s also very analytical, which she gets from Daddy.”

“What do you get from your parents?”

“I’m outgoing, more like Momma.  I’m also impulsive which….I don’t know.  Maybe that’s just because I’m a teenager.  I’m smart, but both my parents are smart.  Daddy worries about how things look to everyone else.  I sort of just go with the flow, so I’m probably more like my mom overall.”

“Tell me some more about your mom.”

“I miss her, every day.  I don’t think I’ll ever stop missing her,” she says softly.  “When I was little, we used to all go to an ice cream shop at the mall on Saturdays and we could order whatever we wanted.  Laurie would get a double scoop of chocolate every time and Daddy always got vanilla, but a single scoop because he was worried he’d get fat.  Momma would let me order next, and I always got something different.  Maybe it was a scoop of chocolate and a scoop of a new flavor, like banana.  The next time I’d try raspberry and lime, or whatever else I hadn’t tried before.  She would get something different and then we would share with each other and laugh about how horrible some of the flavors tasted together.”

“That’s a nice memory to have.”

“I have so many more.  When I was 8, we used to stay up late on Friday nights and we would watch those old black and white horror movies from hundreds of years ago.  She’d make popcorn and we would sit together under a big blanket with the lights out and try to scare each other, even though the movies weren’t very scary.”

“What about Cheryl?  What can you tell me about her?”

“I was so excited when I found out I was getting a younger sibling.  She was an accident, you know.  I don’t think my parents ever intended on having a child in their 40s, so they were really surprised.  I was happy I wasn’t going to be the baby anymore, and I knew Laurie would be off to college soon, so I wanted to be the big sister like Laurie was my big sister.  I think Daddy wanted a boy, and who can blame him, being in a house full of women.”

“Do you get along with Cheryl?”

“Usually.  She’s mad at me right now.  I, uh, I did some things…” Sandra begins to say, then stops and nervously fidgets with her hands.  “Are you going to tell my dad what I say in here?”

“No, this is just between the two of us.”

“Good.  I’ll tell him eventually, but I’m not ready yet.  But maybe I can practice with you first.”

“Sounds like a solid plan.”

“I was bribing Cheryl with ice cream to keep her mouth shut about some things.”

“Do you want to tell me anything specific?”

“The first time I bribed her it was because she saw a boy crawling out my window in the morning.  That was my boyfriend Theo.”

“Did he spend the whole night?”

“He showed up around 2 am and was drunk.  I let him in to sleep it off, he left probably around 8 am.”

“Did you have sex with him?”

“If you consider a blow job sex, then I had sex with him.”

“Are there any other times you bribed Cheryl?”

“She saw me take a bottle of whiskey from the liquor cabinet.  It had been in there forever so I didn’t think Daddy would miss it because he never drank any.  Uhh, okay, the next one is hard for me,” she stammers, her fidgeting at an all-time high.  “I was home with Cheryl alone and Theo came over for the bottle of whiskey I stole and he convinced me to go for a ride with him.  I couldn’t leave Cheryl by herself, so I put her in the backseat and tightened the seat belt the best I could since he didn’t have a car seat for her.  We drove around town and we…we drank some of the whiskey.  I think Theo was a little drunk before he got to my house so with the extra whiskey, he got really drunk and was driving erratically.  Cheryl was scared and crying so he took us home and-”

“I’m going to stop you right there.  That is an extremely high-risk behavior, and not just risky for you, but you endangered the life of your little sister.  I know you are smarter than that.”

“Am I smarter than that?  Two days later Cheryl saw me take Momma’s pain killers from Laurie’s old bedroom.  Theo took me and a bunch of friends to a rave where we got hammered and took pills on the way home.  I almost died.  If I’m so smart, why did I do that?”

“That’s something you will be able to figure out in your individual therapy.  But I’m glad you told me these things.  Being open and honest is important to achieving successful therapy.  Is there anything else you would like to share with me before we proceed to the family session?”

Sandra shakes her head quietly.

“What are your goals for family therapy?”

“I want to be able to tell my father and Laurie what I have done.  It’s going to be difficult, but I’m hoping you can help me with that.  I want to talk about Momma without it being all weird.  I want to find a way to be Cheryl’s big sister again.  And I want to stop doing stupid things.”

“Okay.  This was a good conversation.  Could you please let Jason know he can come up now?  I will confer with him while the rest of you take a break, then we will start the family session.”

“Thank you for listening to me ramble.”

“You’re welcome.”

 

 

“Hey, Jason, did you get the little bear to speak?” Jenny asks when he sits down at Dave’s desk.

“As a matter of fact, I did.  Guess what the first word was that she said to me.”

“Hmmm, I’m thinking it was ‘NO’.”

He shakes his head.  “Try ‘deciduous’.”

“What?  Are you serious?  She must have heard someone else say that word recently.”

“That’s what I thought, but then I asked her if she knew what it meant, and she gave me a definition worthy of a dictionary.”

“Huh, interesting.  So, you’re thinking high ability?”

“Yes, but I’d like to have some more sessions with her before making that determination.  Do you think her father would be open to that?”

“We can bring it up with him after the family session.  I wouldn’t be surprised if she is high ability.  Both of her sisters are bright and it’s obvious Dave is intelligent.”

“What’s your take on the family from the individual sessions?”

“Dad is extremely uncomfortable with this, Laura has a temper when it comes to her viper pilot boyfriend, and Sandra wants to desperately talk about what happened with her mother but it’s pretty obvious that neither her father nor Laura want to do that.  When I asked them to tell me about their family, the only one who mentioned the mom was Sandra, and she talked a lot about her.  I’m thinking if we can get them talking about what happened and teach them some coping skills, then Sandra will be on the right path.”

“Oh,” Jason says disappointedly. 

“Do you have a different opinion?”

“No.  Laura has a boyfriend who’s a viper pilot?”

“Yes, and she became very defensive when I asked about him.”

“Damn.  I thought maybe when this was all over, I’d ask her out.  She’s really pretty.”

“If you weren’t my cousin I’d write you up for that.”

“Good thing I’m your cousin then,” he replies with a grin.  “Think we’re ready for all of them?  Do we need some coffee before we start?”

“Maybe just a glass of water.  I want to get everyone in here and see how they all interact.  I’ll let you know if you need to take Cheryl out of the room.”

“You’re the boss.  I’ll go get them.”

 

Laura, Sandra, and Dave sit on the sofa in Dave’s office.  Jenny is still seated in the wingback chair from before while Jason stands nearby, keeping an eye on Cheryl who sits alone in the other wingback chair.

“There aren’t really any ground rules for this, but I do ask if someone is talking, please be polite and try not to interrupt them.”  She looks at the three on the sofa.  “You all look nervous.”

“We just don’t know what to expect,” Dave says.

“You like to be able to anticipate,” Jenny says to Dave.

“Yes, I guess I do.”

“When was the last time you did something unusual, something spontaneous?”

“This is the first time I’ve worn this shirt,” Dave says proudly.  “I always thought it was too bright, but Sandra suggested I wear blue today, so I decided to give this one a try.”

“Daddy, the only reason I told you to change your clothes was so I could distract you from interrupting Bill and Laurie in the basement.  I knew you’d take forever trying to pick out the perfect outfit, because you suck at fashion and worry about appearances,” Sandra informs him.

“You manipulated me, and I fell for it.  That’s just great,” he says.  He thinks back to all the times Sandra and Laura have questioned his clothing and realizes they both have conspired against him numerous times.  “Laurie, you’ve done this, too, haven’t you?”

“Guilty,” she replies.

“You both know it will never work again, right?” Dave asks.

“Yeh, we know.  I’m surprised you never figured it out,” Sandra says.

“I feel like an idiot.”

“Daddy, we don’t do it to make you look stupid.  Like today, you were so bent on chasing Bill out of Laurie’s room, and I think you need to leave them alone, so I distracted you.  You like Bill, I like Bill, and it’s obvious Laurie likes Bill.  What about you, Cheryl?  You like Bill, right?” Sandra asks.

Cheryl, still dressed in her bear costume, looks around the room, first at her family, then at Jason, then at Jenny directly across from her.  “Laurie puts her tongue in Bill’s mouth,” she states matter-of-factly.

Sandra’s eyes light up and she begins to laugh loudly, while Laura closes her eyes, face beat red from embarrassment.  “Oh, that’s just great!” Dave shouts.  “Do you see why I said Laurie’s setting a bad example?  Gods!”

“You said I’m a bad example?!” Laura shouts back, angry her father would say such a thing.

“Daddy, she’s not a bad example!  They are adults, so what if Cheryl saw them kissing?  What’s wrong with that?” Sandra asks.  “It’s not like we never saw you and Momma kissing.”

“We were married!  That’s different!”

“What about all those times we saw you having sex?” Sandra argues back.

“When?  When did you ever see us having sex?” Dave asks, certain that Sandra is trying to distract him again.

“ALL. THE. TIME,” Sandra replies.  “Right, Laurie?”

“Yeh, Daddy, we saw you and Momma having sex a lot.”

“Why didn’t you ever say anything?!” Dave asks.

“Like we’re going to bring it up at lunch – ‘Hey, can you not have sex so much because we’re tired of seeing it?’  How were we supposed to bring that up?” Sandra asks.

As they continue to argue amongst themselves, Jenny and Jason notice Cheryl slip quietly from her chair and sneak around to the other side of Dave’s desk.  She opens the bottom drawer on the right and pulls a few pieces of chocolate from a box.  After popping them in her mouth and chewing them up, she goes back to her chair, her family still arguing.  Jenny nods at Jason to take Cheryl from the room, so he guides her out to the hallway, shutting the door behind him.

“Stop, STOP,” Jenny interrupts, trying to get control of the chaos.  “Please stop talking!” she says, raising her voice.  “Everyone take a deep breath.”  She leads them in a breathing exercise, taking a deep breath, holding it for 5 seconds, then exhaling slowly.  “Good, that’s better,” she says.  “Do any of you realize what just happened?”

“We’re all arguing,” Dave says, giving his two daughters a warning look to let him speak.

“No, that’s not it.  Think harder,” Jenny orders.

All three of them look at her dumbfounded.  “I’m lost,” Dave says.

“The youngest member of your family, the one who has spent most of the day pretending to be a bear, spoke one sentence in here, creating chaos among you.  While you were arguing, she slipped over to Dave’s desk, took some candy out of the drawer, ate it, and sat back down.  Did any of you notice?”

“Ohhhh, she’s good,” Sandra says, glancing at Laura.  “She manipulated all of us!”  While she sits on the sofa in admiration of her little sister, Laura feels guilty that Cheryl has already learned to not only manipulate their father, but her and Sandra as well.

“Wonderful.  My baby girl knows how to manipulate us already,” Dave shakes his head.

Maybe I haven’t been setting a very good example.  “Daddy, if it bothers you that much, I won’t have Bill in my bedroom again.  When he comes over, we can stay in the living room, and no kissing with Cheryl around,” Laura offers, hoping that will assuage her father and some of her guilt. 

“I don’t know, I don’t feel right about that either.  We’ll figure something out,” he says, offering a small smile in Laura’s direction, who is frowning at the thought of never having Bill in her room again.

“We can start winding down this session for today,” Jenny says, moving to the door and asking Jason to bring Cheryl back in.  Sandra grins at Cheryl, giving her a thumbs up when she climbs back into the plush leather chair.

“Dave, do you think this family therapy will be helpful?” Jenny asks.

“Yes, I think we will gain some valuable insight into how our family functions and how to improve some things,” he replies in his university professor voice.

“Okay, good.  What about you, Laura?”

“I think it can help,” she replies without elaborating, wanting the session to end so she can die of embarrassment alone in her bedroom.

“Sandra?  What are your thoughts?” Jenny asks, sensing Laura wants to crawl out of the room.

Sandra sits staring in the distance at nothing in particular, her brow becoming more furrowed the longer she stalls her answer.  Her delay concerns Laura, who gently touches Sandra’s arm when she begins to fidget. 

“Do you think this family therapy will be helpful?” Jenny asks.

Sandra shakes her head slightly, blinking a few times, then clearing her throat.  “No,” she says weakly.

“You don’t think this will be helpful?” Jenny asks, surprised at her response.

“No, I don’t think this will be helpful,” she says quietly, fidgeting some more.

“Can you explain why?” Jenny asks.

Cheryl stares at her sister intently, recognizing that Sandra is struggling to find the words to explain herself. 

“I think it’s obvious,” Sandra replies.

“Sandra, you need to be clear,” Dave says sternly.  “This is court ordered.  You don’t have a choice.”

Jenny holds her index finger up at Dave.  “Let her speak.  Don’t interrupt.  What’s obvious, Sandra?”

“I can’t believe neither of you can see what the big issue is,” she says, looking at her father and Laura.  Laura tries to take Sandra’s hand, but she pulls it away.  “No, Laurie, I don’t need to hold your hand!” she says angrily.  “Gods!  Why can’t either of you see this?” she says with an anxiety-riddled laugh.  “You are two of the most intelligent people I know, but you can be so dumb sometimes!”

She looks at both of them again, who stare at her wide-eyed, oblivious to what she is hinting at. 

“You seriously don’t know, do you?” Sandra asks, wondering how they can be so blind.  When she doesn’t get a response, she yells “MOMMA. DIED.”  With her jaw clenched, she turns to her father, who looks away.  “She died right here in this house exactly 38 days ago and none of us ever talk about her.  Why don’t we talk about her?  We need to talk about her – I need to talk about her.  I’ve needed to talk since she got sick, but you were so busy with work and taking care of her and Cheryl, and worrying about Laurie, that you never had any time left for me.  And you,” she says turning to Laura, “you were so frakking depressed you dyed your hair black and wore goth makeup to scare people away.  You didn’t talk to anyone except Momma.  And after she died, you couldn’t even go into your bedroom anymore so you moved to the basement.  I needed you to stay in that bedroom!  I needed you to be there so we could talk like we always used to, but you hid downstairs from everyone.  If Bill hadn’t showed up a week later, you would probably still be down there in the dark starving yourself to death!  And when you did finally come up out of the basement, you only wanted to spend time with Bill and I thought I had lost you forever.”

Tears stream down Laura’s face as she watches her sister melt down in front of everyone.  She was never able to admit it to herself until now, Sandra’s words forcing her to open her eyes.  Their sisterly talks didn’t end because Sandra quit coming to her.  They ended because Laura herself had shut down, pushing everyone out of her life.  And when she did finally open back up, she didn’t spend any time with her sister.

Jenny nods at Jason, indicating that he should remove Cheryl from the room.  As he’s guiding Cheryl to the door with his hand on her back, she suddenly breaks free from him and runs behind the desk.  When he follows her, she runs behind Jenny’s chair.  He continues to chase her as Sandra unloads.

“After Momma died we had the funeral and then I was back in school two days later, like nothing ever happened.  Everyone stared at me and I couldn’t stand it.  I needed someone to talk to, so I went to that support group at school for kids that have lost a parent but it didn’t help.  Most of the kids there had parents that were killed in the war.  Momma didn’t die during battle, she wasn’t a war hero.  She died a slow, agonizing, death and we all had to watch as the-” Sandra’s voice catches as she thinks back to her mother,  “-as the beautiful life in her eyes grew dimmer and dimmer and she became so weak she could barely hug any of us anymore,” she says, beginning to cry.  “And those other kids couldn’t understand that.  That’s when I met Theo.  His dad died of lung cancer but he didn’t know how to cope either, so we started drinking together thinking it would stop the pain.  But it didn’t, it just made me so I didn’t care anymore.  That was the only way I knew how to cope because the only other two people who understood what I was going through weren’t talking.”

Cheryl continues to evade Jason, moving around the room, hiding behind and underneath various pieces of furniture.  Just when he thinks he has her, she darts past him, out of his reach.

“I need to talk about Momma.  Cheryl needs to talk about her.  If we don’t, how will she ever remember her?” Sandra asks, sobbing.

Upon hearing Sandra’s question, Cheryl makes a beeline across the room and climbs into her lap, throwing her arms around her neck, hugging her as tight as she can.

“I’m so sorry, Cheryl.  I’m so, so sorry,” Sandra cries in her little sister’s arms, rocking both of them back and forth.  Dave places his hand on the back of Sandra’s head, pulling both of his youngest daughters to him, kissing each of them.

“We will end the session here,” Jenny says quietly.  “Dave, Jason and I would like to speak with you before we leave.”

“Of course,” Dave says, nodding his head. 

“Come here, Cheryl,” Laura says as she stands and holds her arms out to her.  Cheryl shakes her head and clings to Sandra even tighter, so Laura helps her up from the sofa.

“You’re getting so big,” Sandra says, straining to stand with her little sister hanging onto her.  She, Cheryl, and Laura then leave the study, shutting the door behind them.

 

“I have a short list of counselors available for individual therapy for Sandra,” Jenny says, handing Dave a slip of paper.  “You may have to call a few to see what times they have available for in-home visits and what works best with your schedule, but she needs to get started this week.”

“Uh, thank you,” Dave replies, still affected by Sandra’s meltdown.  “Would you happen to know of any counselors that I can speak with?”

“I can put together a list and email it to you later today.”

“Thank you, I appreciate that.  Would you have a recommendation for Laurie, too?”

“Of course, I will include that with the email.  If all of you sign releases, then your individual therapists and I can share notes with each other.  Do Sunday afternoons work well for family therapy?” Jenny inquires, reaching for her planner.

“Yes, anytime 2-4 probably works best for everyone,” Dave answers.  “Do we need to have someone else here to watch Cheryl?”

“That leads me to our next discussion.  Would you be open to Cheryl continuing individual counseling with Jason, maybe for the first half of family therapy, then she can join everyone for the second half?”

“Is there something wrong with Cheryl?” Dave asks, fearful of the response.

“No,” Jason says with a warm smile.  “I think she may be high-ability, and I’d like to spend some time with her so that we can work towards an intelligence assessment.  She needs to become more comfortable around me before that can happen.”

“Oh,” Dave says, pleasantly surprised.  “We are talking about the same little girl that acted like a rabid bear today, right?”

“Yes, one and the same,” Jason replies with a laugh.

“You got her to talk to you?”

“I did, and she has a very good vocabulary.  I’d like to play some games with her, designed to see how extensive her vocabulary and understanding really are.  There will also be some spatial games and puzzles to test the analytical part of her brain.  And, of course, the usual drawing and building games.  We try to make these things fun for the child so they relax and become more comfortable before we go to standardized testing,” Jason explains.

“Betty and I had decided against testing Laurie and Sandra when they were little.  Laurie skipped a few grades and then went into a gifted academy, which had its pros and cons.  We decided to place Sandra in traditional school with her age group, but I know she’s bored.  Thankfully, she can get college credits while in high school, so that helps.  I’m not sure what I’d do with the testing results if it turns out Cheryl is high ability.”

“You wouldn’t have to do anything with them, the results can be for your information only if that’s what you choose.  But there is a fairly new academy that started 8 years ago for very high ability children.  They don’t have traditional grade levels or classrooms and children are kept with similar age kids.  There are dozens of educational opportunities at this academy and children are never pushed into subject areas but are encouraged to learn, explore, create, and grow.  It’s extremely competitive to get into this academy because they have a firm limit on the number of children allowed in each year.  Intelligence testing is a key part to admission, and if you have a recommendation from the right child psychologist, you have a very good chance of having your child admitted.”

“Are you one of the right child psychologists?”

“Yes, I am.”

“I don’t know.  This is the type of thing I would have discussed with Betty.”

“It is extremely competitive to get in and I’ve only met with her once, so she may not meet the intelligence test requirement.  What we could do is work toward that, then do the test, and see what the results are.  If you change your mind at any time, then we can stop. Also, the minimum age for entry is 4, so Cheryl isn’t quite there yet.”

“What is the typical percentile for the IQ test requirement?”

“They’ve never taken any child under the 98th percentile.”

“Oh,” Dave laughs, relieved.  “Sounds like a long shot.  I suppose it can’t hurt to do the testing.”

“Good, I’m looking forward to spending some time with her.  We will see you again next Sunday at 2.” 

Chapter Text

Bill Adama had the reputation of being the calmest viper pilot under pressure, which is what kept him alive during the war.  But when it comes to family and people he cares about, his cool demeanor oftentimes disappears, and worry takes its place.  When he leaves Laura’s house Sunday morning, he decides to take a drive to clear his head. 

Approximately six blocks from her house is a 24 hour café, its bright neon sign blinking at him as he drives toward it.  He’s certain his mother and father have already had breakfast, so he stops in to have some coffee, eggs, and toast, and discovers that the food is excellent despite the rundown appearance of the restaurant.  It’s an older area of town with signs of revitalization, including a park undergoing new landscaping, some older brick buildings being updated and turned into office space, and small specialty shops specializing in vintage and antique items dotting the area.  There are signs advertising an outdoor flea market that will open soon, and a bicycle path runs through the area and around a small lake.  He spends some time exploring the location and decides to ask Laura to join him for coffee later when she calls him after therapy. 

When he arrives home, he finds his father in his study, sipping tea as he goes through paperwork for his upcoming cases.  “Where’s Mom?” he asks.

“She’s still not 100% over this flu bug, so she went back to bed after breakfast.  Hopefully, she’ll feel well enough for work tomorrow,” his father replies.  “How are things at the Roslin house?  You left in a hurry this morning.”

“It was nothing – just a miscommunication.”

“How’s Laura?”

“Laura’s great,” he replies, recalling her soft whimpers of pleasure in his mind.

“She’s very pretty.  And she must be quite intelligent if she’s almost done with her doctorate already.”

“Yeh, she is, both pretty and intelligent,” he says, remembering the sparkle in her eyes as she looked up at him, and the serious but adorable look on her face as she was lost in thought in his arms.

Joe smiles to himself, recognizing that his son is very smitten with his girlfriend.  “Oh, I almost forgot.  A courier brought an envelope for you,” he says, reaching for a large manilla envelope and handing it to him.  “Probably your military itinerary for the week.”

Bill opens the envelope, pulling out a letter and the itinerary.  He frowns when he discovers that he is to report for training and meetings on Picon Tuesday through Thursday.  The transport leaves at 6 am Tuesday, and he won’t get out of work before 6 pm Monday. 

“Is something wrong?” Joe asks when he notices the expression on his son’s face.

“No, but I’m going to need to give Laura some bad news.  We planned on spending tomorrow night together but it looks like I’ll need to pack so I can leave early for Picon Tuesday morning.  I won’t be back until Thursday.”

“That’s a bummer,” Joe says, sensing Bill’s disappointment. 

“Would you be able to help me with something when I get back Thursday?”

“Does it involve me and your mother leaving the house so you and Laura can spend some time together?”

Bill laughs.  “No, it does not.”

“Then I’m happy to help you.”

 

After Dave shows Jenny and Jason out, he goes to the kitchen to help prepare lunch for his family.  Sandra and Cheryl are sitting on the sofa in the living room, talking and giggling at each other, while Laura watches from the kitchen island where she is busy making sandwiches for everyone. 

“It’s good to see Cheryl talking to her again.  What can I help with?” Dave asks.

“You can chop some salad for us,” Laura replies, unable to take her eyes off her two younger sisters, who are happier than she’s seen them in several months.

“Have they been like this the whole time since you left my office?” Dave asks.

“Yeh, they have,” Laura replies with a small smile.  “Daddy, I’m sorry.  I feel responsible for what happened with Sandra.  I wasn’t there for her, or you, or even Cheryl.  I was so caught up with how miserable I felt that I didn’t make room for anyone else.”

“Honey, this isn’t your fault.  We have all been struggling in our own way.  You know, Bill saw that.  He talked with me about it at the hospital the other night.  He’s very smart.  He’d make a great son-in-law someday.”

“Daddy?!?!  We’ve been on one date!”

“Sorry, that didn’t come out right.  I’m just saying if you were to choose to have Bill in your life long-term, I wouldn’t be disappointed.”

“Oh, Daddy,” Laura sighs, shaking her head.  “Just stop talking and cut some tomatoes and cucumbers for the salad.”

 

As they sit together enjoying their lunch, Sandra and Cheryl continue to bond.  “Do you remember when we used to go to that ice cream shop in the mall?” Sandra asks her father and Laura.

“I do,” Laura says, the memory bringing a smile to her face.  “You and Momma always got the weirdest flavor combinations.  And then you two would sit and laugh until you both got the hiccups!”

“I was thinking that in a few months, maybe we could take Cheryl there,” Sandra says.  “You know, when I can leave the house again.”

“I think that’s a wonderful idea,” Dave says.  “What were those weird flavors your mom got that one time that made her so sick afterwards?  I think it was peanut butter, and what was the other one?”

“Egg.  It was peanut butter and egg,” Sandra says.

“YUK!” Cheryl grimaces.

“They have normal flavors like chocolate and strawberry, too,” Sandra informs her.

“Do they have toppings?” Cheryl asks.

“Lots and lots of toppings,” Laura says.

“Can we go now?” Cheryl asks.

“You can go with Daddy or Laura, but I have to stay home.  I can’t leave the house for a while,” Sandra tries to explain.

“I want you to go, too,” Cheryl replies.

“We all might be able to go.  They said if I call the monitoring device officer ahead of time, you could leave the house for brief periods,” Dave says.

“Really?  You’d let me do that?”

“I think we can do that for a quick family outing.  Let me call and see if I can get permission.”  He excuses himself to the living room to place the call.  When he returns, he smiles broadly.  “We have an hour, so we need to go now.”

“Yay!” Cheryl shouts, clapping her hands.

 

The Sweet Treats shop is filled with patrons this Sunday afternoon.  “We might have to get this to go depending on how fast the line moves,” Dave says.  There are two families ahead of them in line, both with several small children who can’t seem to make up their minds about flavors and toppings.

“Daddy, are you getting vanilla?  And are you getting chocolate, Laurie?”

“I guess we’re that predictable,” Laura chuckles, looking at her dad.

“Can I take Cheryl over to look at the flavors and toppings?  That way we can order quickly when we get to the front of the line,” Sandra says.

“That’s a good idea, go ahead,” Dave agrees.

Sandra leads Cheryl by her hand through the crowded shop toward the freezer showcasing all the flavors.  “Do you need me to read you the flavors, or do you see a color you like?” Sandra asks.

Cheryl points to a berry-colored ice cream in the back with large chunks of chocolate.  “Raspberry truffle,” she says.

“Mmmm, that sounds good.  Do you want any toppings?”

After a quick look at the toppings bar, Cheryl grins at her sister.  “Guess!”

“Sprinkles?  Nuts?”

Cheryl shakes her head, still grinning.

“I give up.”

 

“Girls, we’re next,” Dave calls to Sandra and Cheryl, who rush back to join him and Laura in line.  “Did you both decide?”

“I’m having a scoop of orange and a scoop of chocolate, no toppings,” Sandra says.  “And Cheryl wants raspberry truffle but she won’t tell me which topping.”

“Can you tell me, Cheryl, because we need to order,” Dave says.

“Guess!”

Dave, Sandra, and Laura all take a guess, Cheryl shaking her head at all of them. 

“Just tell us, sweetie.  We can’t hold up the line,” Dave says.

“Duh, gummy bears!”

They place their orders to go since they spent so much time standing in line.  As they walk to the car, Laura joins stride with her father.  “Do you ever get the impression that Cheryl thinks we’re all stupid?” she asks.

“Yes.  And I would like to talk with you about some things that Jason mentioned to me after the family session, things about Cheryl.”

“Is she okay?” Laura asks in a worried tone.

“She’s fine.  He thinks she may be high ability.”

“Was it the growling or the foaming at the mouth that gave him that impression?” Laura asks, rolling her eyes.

“She spoke to him.  But let’s talk about this when we get home.  I may need your advice.”

 

After finishing their ice cream at home, Dave pulls Laura aside and shares with her his conversation with Jason and Jenny regarding Cheryl.  While he’d be surprised for her to test in the 98th percentile on the IQ test, he does suspect she may test above average, and wants Laura’s thoughts on sending Cheryl to a gifted academy like she attended. 

“Academically speaking, the gifted academy was good for me, even though I was young for my class.  I found my group of friends, though, but most were a few years older.  I guess my problems with attending the academy didn’t really have anything to do with the academy itself,” she explains, trying to be careful what she says.

“I remember.  It got better for you when your mother went back to teaching elementary.”

“It did.  I just wish I wouldn’t have treated her so horribly – she just wanted what was best for me.  If I had it to do over again…” she says wiping a tear from her face, “…I wouldn’t be such an ungrateful spoiled brat to her.  Gods, Daddy, I said and did some awful things to her.  I wish I could take it all back,” she sniffles.

“I know, I didn’t mean to upset you.  Your mother was proud of you,” he says placing his arm around her shoulders giving her a little hug.  “Do you think Cheryl would thrive at a place like that?”

“I do.  I certainly don’t see her attending a regular school like Sandra goes to.  Cheryl’s unique and I worry kids might pick on her at a normal school, kind of like what happened to me when I went to a regular school those first few weeks.”

“I agree.  Thanks for your input – maybe I can stop worrying now.”

“You’ll never stop worrying, Daddy, don’t kid yourself.  Have you thought about asking Sandra what she thinks?  She has the regular school perspective.  Might not hurt to ask her.  And she might like to be included.”

He nods his head as he considers asking Sandra for her input.  “That’s a good idea.  I’m not going to interrupt her now, though, since she and Cheryl are talking and having fun.  Maybe tomorrow before I go to the Dean’s dinner.”

Laura’s face falls when she realizes she forgot all about the annual spring dinner with the Dean that her father must attend.  “Oh no, I totally forgot about that!  You need me to stay here and watch Cheryl and Sandra tomorrow, don’t you?”

“Yeh, I do.  I’m not leaving Sandra in charge, not for a long time.  Did you make plans with Bill?”

Laura closes her eyes and nods her head, disappointed that she will have to ask Bill to cancel the hotel room.  “I need to call him so he can cancel reservations.”

“Or if you move the reservation up, maybe you could be done with dinner and back before I have to leave.  I don’t usually need to be at the Dean’s house until 7:30.”

“Huh?  Oh, we weren’t going…um…it’s not a restaurant.”

“Well, whatever if it is, if you’re done and home by 7:30 then…” he stops when he notices Laura’s face turning bright red.  He finally realizes that her date with Bill doesn’t involve food or a movie or anything of that nature.  “OH!  Sorry.”

How many times can I possibly be humiliated in one day?  “I’m going to call him now,” she says, holding up her phone and walking toward the basement steps.  “Is it okay if I see him for a while tonight?”

“Yes, please, go, have fun, do whatever.  Sorry I screwed up your plans for tomorrow.”

 

Bill arrives at their home an hour later after taking care of a few errands.  He asks Laura to wear something comfortable so they can take a walk together to the coffee shop he found earlier that day. 

When they leave the living room walking toward the foyer, Cheryl makes kissing noises and wags her tongue at her sister, while Sandra sits behind her pushing her index finger in her mouth, simulating a blow job.  Laura glowers at her sisters and blushes when she realizes her father notices their shenanigans.

Once they are outside, Bill asks curiously, “Did you tell Sandra about this morning?”

“How did you see her?  Do you have eyes in the back of your head?”

“I wouldn’t be a good pilot if I didn’t notice things around me.”

“I suppose.  No, I didn’t tell her – she figured it out because of the blissed-out look on your face and my messy hair.”

“Why was Cheryl sticking her tongue out?”

“Cheryl announced to everyone today that I stick my tongue in your mouth.”

“Gods, did she really?” he laughs.

“I’m glad you think it’s funny.  I was embarrassed beyond belief.”

“It’s kind of funny.”

“It’s not funny when your dad says you’re setting a bad example.”

“Ouch, I’m sorry.  Did he really say that?”

“Yes, and I feel bad about it because I think he’s right.  I told him I wouldn’t have you in my room anymore and that we won’t kiss when Cheryl is around.  He said we’d work something out, but I have no idea what that will be.”

They stroll along the sidewalk holding hands, enjoying the beautiful weather and fresh air.  “I’m sorry I had to cancel our plans tomorrow night.  Were you able to get a full refund on the hotel room?” she asks.

“To be honest, I had already cancelled it.”

“Why?”

“When I got home earlier today, there was a letter from the military along with my itinerary for the week.  I have to leave for Picon at 6 am Tuesday morning and I won’t be back until later Thursday.  And since tomorrow is my first day at work, I doubt I can leave before 6 pm, and I need to pack.”

“Oh.  So, I’m not going to see you until Friday,” she says, feeling deflated.

“Maybe Thursday depending on when I get back.”

“You know what, that’s okay,” she says confidently.  “I need to spend some quality time with my family, so that will be a good time to do that.”

“You haven’t mentioned anything about therapy today.  How was it?”

“Intense,” she exhales.  “I don’t know that I want to get into specifics.”

“You don’t have to.  Whatever you’re comfortable with.  I don’t want to pry.”

“I realized today what a mess I was while Momma was sick, and then after she died.  Would you think I was weak if I said I wanted to see a counselor for individual therapy?”

“No.  I’ve seen a therapist before.”

“Really?  What for?  Wait, I guess that’s none of my business.”

“I don’t mind telling you.  Pilots are often evaluated because there is such a high degree of burnout.  You have the constant stress of combat, long hours, and you witness death and destruction frequently, so it’s not unusual for pilots to become squirrely and take risks they wouldn’t normally take.  Sometimes they recommend a few weeks downtime, but the worst cases get grounded indefinitely.”

“Were you ever grounded?”

“Me?  No.  But I saw plenty of good pilots, people you wouldn’t expect to burn out, suddenly go off the deep end and get grounded.  And the trigger wasn’t usually anything that happened during the war, they would be fine in the cockpit doing their jobs, but then they would get a letter from home that something bad happened, maybe someone was really sick, or a boyfriend or girlfriend wanted to break up, or a death in the family, and that was enough to push them over the edge.”

“I admire anyone that can do what you do.  I can’t imagine being under that much constant pressure and in life-threatening situations.  I don’t know how you do it.”

“The military prepares you for it.  I don’t recommend that lifestyle unless you’ve had intense training.”

“Is this the café we’re going to?” she asks when she sees the neon sign flashing in the distance.

“Yeh, I had breakfast here this morning.  It doesn’t look like much, but the prices are good and so is the food.”

“I’ve been here before but it was a long time ago.  They used to have the best fresh salads.”

“They also have homemade pie, too.  If you’re hungry, we can get some,” he offers.

“No, I had ice cream for dessert after lunch.  If I eat pie, I’ll get fat.”

“Hmmm, but chubby Laura would still be cute,” Bill replies.

“You will never meet chubby Laura.”

“Do you want to split a piece?  I was hoping to have some.”

“No, that’s okay, Bill.  You go right ahead and have that pie yourself.”

“Maybe I’ll become chubby Bill.”

“You can’t become chubby Bill, you won’t fit in the cockpit anymore.”

“That’s true, but there would be so much more of me to love.”

“Like how much more?”

“Like this,” he says holding his arms out from his sides, puffing his cheeks, and walking stiff legged down the sidewalk.

“Hmmm, I prefer chiseled sexy Bill.”

“So, you only love me for my body?” he asks, one eyebrow cocked, daring her to respond.

He’s sure tossing the word ‘love’ around freely today.  “Did I say that?  I said I prefer chiseled sexy Bill.”

“Must be my rugged good looks that you love.”

“Maybe it’s your humble attitude,” she snaps.  “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to…let’s just go inside and get some coffee.”  She lets go of his hand, pushing the door to the café open and stepping inside.  Once they order their drinks, they seat themselves at a table on the patio sitting in silence until their blended coffee drinks arrive.

“I feel sort of off after everything that happened today,” Laura says.

“Do you want to talk about it?”

“No, I’m trying to make sense of a lot of things.  My analytical side is in overdrive right now,” she replies with a weak smile.

“If there’s anything I can do, let me know.  I’m here for you and your family.”

She places her hand on her forehead, pausing for moment, then dragging it down her face to reveal a frown.  “I think that’s part of the problem I’m having.”

“What do you mean?”

“You’re always here for me.  You rescued me at the bar when we first met.  Then you rescued me again when I was depressed after Momma died.  The other night, you rescued Sandra.  I don’t want the basis of our relationship to be you constantly having to rescue me or my family.”

“That’s not how I see our relationship, Laura,” Bill replies warmly.

“But that’s how I see it, and it doesn’t feel right to me.”

“What are you saying?”

What am I saying?  How did I go from complete happiness in Bill’s arms this morning to feeling weird and uncomfortable about our relationship hours later?   “I need to figure some things out.  I don’t want to be the type of woman that needs a man around when things don’t go right.”

 “Are you…are you breaking up with me?”

“No…I don’t know,” she sighs.  Am I breaking up with him?

“Can I say something?”

“Go ahead.” Please stop me from doing what I’m about to do.

“I don’t think you’re the type of woman you described – that’s not what I see when I look at you or when I spend time with you.  You are an intelligent person and a loving daughter who has been dealing with some extraordinary events in your life recently.  I’ve been there to help with some of that, but that’s not why I stick around.  I’m not waiting for the next bad thing to happen.  I’m here because I like you, I respect you, and I want to have a relationship with you.”

“Bill, I hear what you’re saying, but I think I want to take a break.  I need to know I can handle things on my own.”  Why am I doing this?  Why did I say that?  Laura feels like she’s standing five feet away watching a woman that looks like her say things to Bill she never thought she’d say.

“Listen – I’m gone most of this week.  Before you make a decision, can we agree to meet this Friday evening and talk this through?  Take this week to think about things, spend time with your family, do what you need to do, but then let’s sit down and talk again.  Can we please do that?” he asks, almost begging.

“Bill,” she says as a tear rolls down her cheek, “I’ve made up my mind.”

Chapter Text

Laura slips through the front door of the Roslin house, hoping her family doesn’t hear her. 

“Laurie!  Come here!” her father yells from the living room.  “We need your help putting this puzzle together.”

She quickly wipes the tears from her cheeks before she walks to the living room, a fake smile plastered to her face.  She hopes her family doesn’t notice her emotional state, having jogged back from the coffee shop alone, crying the entire way. 

“Did Bill leave already?  I thought maybe he could help us, too,” her father says.

At the mention of Bill’s name, tears well up in her eyes.  Sandra immediately notices her sister on the verge of crying.  “Laurie, what’s wrong?” she asks nervously.

After swallowing hard, Laura informs her family that she and Bill broke up.  “I don’t feel like doing a puzzle right now.  I’ll be in my room.”

Sandra, Cheryl, and Dave all stare at each other, shocked that Laura’s relationship with Bill is over.  “Wait!” Sandra yells, running to the basement steps before Laura can get there.  “What happened?”

“I don’t want to talk about it.”  I don’t know what happened.

“Why did he break up with you?” Sandra asks.

“He didn’t.  I broke up with him.  Let me go to my room,” she says trying to push past Sandra, who has the doorway blocked with her arms and legs.

“No, no, no, no,” Sandra huffs at her sister.  “You’re not doing this again.  I’m not letting you do this.”

“Move. Out. Of. My. Way.” Laura says, angry at her sister.

“NO!” Sandra shouts.

Dave considers intervening like he has in the past when there were disagreements in the house, but this time he decides to let things play out.  He’s as shocked as Sandra that Laura would break up with Bill.  He asks Cheryl to go to her room, but she refuses.

“Sandra, I’m upset, and I need some time alone,” Laura says calmly.

Sandra grits her teeth, slowly shaking her head at Laura.  “I don’t think so, sis.  I’m not letting you hide in the basement again.”

“I’m not hiding, I need to think,” she explains. 

“Bullshit!  You’re gonna go down there and the only time we’ll see you is at meals or if Cheryl needs a bath.  What are you gonna do next?  Dye your hair black again?”

“Shut up!  This isn’t any of your business,” Laura informs her, angry at the accusations Sandra is throwing at her.

“Like hell it isn’t!  I’m not going to watch you shut down and mope around again!  You do the same frakking thing every time someone tries to get close to you.  You push them away and hide!  Tell me what happened!” she demands.

“I am way too dependent on Bill.  I need to learn to handle things on my own and I can’t do that with him around.  Now let me go to my room!”

“Laurie – he loves you.  All of us can see that.  And you love him-”

Laura shakes her head vigorously.  “No, stop saying that.  Everyone needs to stop with the stupid love remarks and marriage comments.  I’m not going to be disappointed again.”

Sandra coughs at her sister’s response.  “Is that what this is about?  Richard frakked you up so bad that you’re scared to love someone else?”

Laura shakes her head, looking away from her sister.

“That son of a bitch messed up your head and you can’t even see it!”  Sandra glares at her sister, disgusted at what she sees.  “You’re so weak.”

“Sandra, shut your mouth!”

“Or what?  You going to slap me again?”

“Girls!” Dave interrupts, knowing full well that Laura may strike Sandra again.  “Your sister is watching all of this,” he warns. 

“Fine,” Sandra says, walking away from the basement doorway.  “Your pity party awaits,” she says gesturing to the basement.  “Will we see you for dinner later, or are you going to start starving yourself again?”

“Be grateful that Cheryl is watching,” Laura mumbles when she walks past Sandra, slamming the door behind her as she goes to the basement.

 

Sandra immediately walks to Cheryl, wrapping her in a hug, apologizing for what happened.  “I wish you didn’t see that.  I’m sorry if I scared you, but sometimes our sister needs a kick in her bony butt.  Daddy, I’m sorry.  I hate the idea of her becoming all depressed again and I don’t understand why she can’t figure this out.”

Dave sits in silence watching Sandra cuddle with Cheryl, thinking about the things she said to her older sister.  Laura had moved home to care for her mother and help out with her sisters over a year ago, but he wonders how much fell on Sandra’s shoulders while he was at work and Laura was depressed.  “Can you watch Cheryl while I talk with Laurie?” he asks.

“Of course.  We’ll stay right here and work on the puzzle, won’t we Cher-bear?”

Before he goes to the basement, he places a kiss on the top of Cheryl’s head, then Sandra’s.  “I love you both.”

 

When Laura is upset or stressed about something, she cleans and organizes.  Once the chaos around her is under control, she feels she can better handle the chaos inside of her.  When Dave walks into her bedroom, he finds her organizing her closet, sorting out old clothing that can be donated. “Laurie, we need to talk.”

“Daddy, I want to get through these clothes before bedtime so I can drop this off at the church this evening,” she replies, busily rummaging through the closet that she had just put her clothes into a few days ago when her room was finished.

“Sit down, Laurie,” he says firmly, recognizing that she is avoiding a conversation by pretending to be busy.

“Daddy, I-”

“I’m not giving you a choice.”

“Alright,” she says hesitantly, sitting down in her reading chair.  She can’t remember the last time her father used that tone with her.

“Why do you feel like you’re dependent on Bill?”

“Daddy, I don’t want to get into this with you.  It’s between the two of us.”

“Laurie – please talk to me.”

“Gods, you sound just like Bill.  Do you want to meet up Friday night for a conversation, too?  Really, I need to learn how to handle things on my own.  I don’t need Bill’s help or your help.”

Stubbornness is a trait Laura inherited from him.  In the past, he would have gladly handed this issue to his wife, but now he wishes he hadn’t relied on her so much to deal with these types of problems with their daughters.  He decides to try a different approach, to reason with her.

“I can understand why you want to learn to handle things on your own.  What I don’t understand is why you have to break up with Bill to do that.”

“It will be easier if I’m not tempted to go running to him every time I have a problem.”

“Have you gone running to him in the past?”

“Not necessarily running to him, but I have leaned on him when I probably shouldn’t have.”

“When?”

“When we first met, at the bar, I didn’t want to talk to anyone, but he kept coming to my table and chatting with me every night and I finally gave in.  When he came to the house a week after Momma died, I let my feelings for him take over.  And then with Sandra the other night.”

“He saved Sandra’s life.  I’m grateful he was here.  And those other two times you mentioned, at the bar and after your mother died, he came to you of his own volition.  Why does that bother you so much?”

“I don’t know, it just does,” she says quietly.

Dave is exasperated that Laura can’t come up with reasons for her behavior.  He thinks back to Sandra’s comment about Richard.  “Your mother never liked Richard, said she was uncomfortable with your relationship with him, but she never told me why.  I always let her handle guy problems that you and Sandra had, and I regret not being more involved.  What did Richard do to you?”

“He didn’t do anything.”

Denial. “Then why did Sandra say he frakked you up?”

She shrugs her shoulders in response.  “Sandra’s kind of frakked up herself, you know?”

Deflection.  “We’re not talking about Sandra.  I want to know about you and Richard.  Why did you break up?”

“I don’t know.  It doesn’t matter anyway.  It wasn’t meant to be.  Are we done?  I need to get back to this otherwise I’ll be up all night.”

Dave watches her go back to sorting through her closet, removing some clothes from hangers and tossing them in a pile on her bed, and putting other clothes further back in the closet.

“Did Richard ever harm you physically?”

“What?  Gods, no.  Do you really think I’d stay with someone that was doing that to me?  Did Sandra tell you that?  You need to get on her about telling lies.”

“She didn’t tell me anything about Richard.  I find it odd you won’t discuss him or Bill.”

“Why are you so obsessed with my relationship with Bill?” she yells. “It’s bad enough you get the counselor to grill me about my feelings, now you have to do it, too?  Can’t everyone mind their own business?”

“I didn’t ask Jenny to grill you.  I mentioned Bill’s name during my session because he saved Sandra’s life, she asked me who he was, and I said he was your boyfriend.  That’s it.”

“Right, Daddy,” she replies unconvinced.  “I thought you’d be happy about this.  You said yourself I was setting a bad example.”

“I shouldn’t have said that.  I just wanted you and Bill to be more cognizant that there is a curious 3-year-old in this house.”

“Now you don’t have to worry about it.”

“Why won’t you talk about what happened?”

“I told you – I need to learn to handle things on my own.  That’s all this is.”

Dave watches her go through the final few items of clothing hanging in her closet, then she begins sorting through her shoes.  “I’m giving you an ultimatum,” he says, frustrated he can’t get her to open up to him.

“DAD!  Pleeeaase,” she groans.  “I need to get this done!”

“If you are going to live in this house, then you are going to see a counselor for individual therapy starting this week.”

“Is this your tough love speech?  You need my help with Sandra and Cheryl, especially now that Sandra’s under house arrest,” she points out, certain her father will back down.  While she has already decided to do individual counseling, she doesn’t like that her father is forcing her into it.

“I’ll figure something out.  I need to learn to handle things on my own, too.  Jenny is emailing me a list of counselors tonight.  I want you to pick one and get an appointment for tomorrow or Tuesday.”

“I don’t want to see another counselor.  Today was bad enough.”

He stares at her, not wanting to say what he is about to say.  “Then find another place to live.  That’s the best way to learn how to handle things on your own.”

Laura stares at her dad trying to call his bluff, but he is just as stubborn as she is.  “Fine!” she exclaims, reaching under her bed and pulling out a suitcase.  “Let me pack some clothes, and I’ll be on my way.”

He watches her slowly start to pack, like she’s expecting him to change his mind and ask her to stay.  Instead, he says “I’ll wait upstairs.  Leave the donation clothes on the bed.  I can bag them myself and take them to the church.”

Dave slowly ascends the steps, hoping Laura will change her mind and agree to get counseling, but all he hears is her slamming things into her suitcase.  He joins Cheryl and Sandra at the puzzle table in the living room. 

“Daddy, are you okay?” Sandra asks when she sees the defeated look on his face. 

“We’re going to need to have a long talk,” he says softly, hoping that Laura will still change her mind.  After a few minutes, she appears at the top of the basement steps carrying a suitcase and overnight bag.  She glances in the direction of her father, then walks past the living room toward the front door.

“Laurie!”

That’s it - he’s asking me to stay.  She turns and looks at her father expectantly.

“Give me your key.”

“What?  Why?”

“You don’t live here anymore.”

“But what if I need to get some more of my things?”

“Then you can be a responsible adult and call me to set up a time to get them.”

Sandra and Cheryl look at each other in total disbelief. 

Laura sets her suitcase down and quickly removes her house key from her keychain, setting it on the table in the foyer.  Without looking back, she picks up her suitcase, flings the front door open, and marches away toward her car.

Dave walks to the front door to close it and notices Laura has already backed down the driveway.  He watches as she enters the street and drives away.

“Daddy, what happened?” Cheryl asks.  “Where’s Laurie going to live?”

Chapter Text

Jean finishes her online spin class which she participates in from the comfort of the deck of her 1-bedroom apartment near the law school she attends.  A recovery beverage awaits her in the refrigerator, along with several text messages and a handful of emails from the university on her phone.  As she sips her beverage and reads her texts, she hears a knock at her door.

“Hi, Jean,” Laura says when the door opens. 

Jean looks her up and down, noticing the suitcase in one hand and the overnight bag slung over her other shoulder.  “Hi, Laura.  You look like shit.”

“It’s good to see you, too.” 

Jean takes a slow drink of her beverage, giving Laura the side eye as she tilts her head back to finish off the last few drops. 

“Can I come in?”

“Do you need a place to stay?”

“I do, at least for a few days.”

“My place, my rules.”

“I’m alright with that.”

“Then come in,” she says, stepping aside so Laura can carry her luggage through the door.

She places her bags behind the door, out of the way in the modest apartment.  “This is cozy,” Laura remarks as she looks around the room that contains a small loveseat, coffee table, dinette for two, and a tiny kitchen in the corner.  She walks to the loveseat and sits down.

“It’s quiet and the only thing I can afford this close to the law school.  Most of us don’t have a parent that works at the university so that we get free tuition.”

“Oh, Jean, I didn’t mean I don’t like your place-”

“I know you didn’t mean anything by it.  I think it’s small, too, but once I graduate the end of this summer, I’ll be able to afford a bigger apartment, or maybe I’ll buy a townhome or a house.”

“Sounds like a wonderful plan.  I envy you that you’ve stayed on track to graduate.”

Jean watches Laura, who sits quietly staring at an inexpensive painting on the wall, fidgeting with her hands.  She patiently waits for her to say something, but she never does.

“What happened?”

Laura closes her eyes, then pinches the bridge of her nose, sighing and trying not to cry.  “I’m not sure.”

“Okay, Laura?  My place, my rules.  I don’t have the time or the patience to drag the details out of you.  You know my rules:  no stalling, no bullshit, and no whining.  Tell me why you are here.”

“Well, my dad sort of threw me out of the house.”

“Really?” Jean asks, amused that Dave would do such a thing.  “That doesn’t sound like Dave.  What did you do?”

“He wants me to see a counselor and I refused.  He said I couldn’t live at home anymore.”

“Why after all this time would he kick you out of the house for not seeing a therapist?  He didn’t do that before.”

“I need to start at the beginning.  You know I’ve been seeing Bill, and you know about what happened to Sandra the other night, right?”

“I do know about Bill, but I’ve only heard rumors about Sandra.”

Laura takes Jean through the events of the past 72 hours, including details of family therapy that she doesn’t really want to relive, but forces herself to disclose since she is following Jean’s rules.  She includes her conversation with Bill and how she felt disconnected from herself when she broke up with him and then the argument with Sandra and subsequent conversation with her father.    

“So, you broke up with Bill even though you didn’t want to, and you had already decided to see a therapist but when your father gave you the ultimatum, it pissed you off, so you let him kick you out.  Is that right?”

“Yeh.”

“You’re an idiot.”

“You’re not supposed to judge!  Your rules!” Laura exclaims.

“It’s not a judgment, it’s a fact.  He asked you to do what you had already decided to do.  Pick a therapist and go see them.”

“He didn’t ask me, he told me I had to.”

“He’s your dad, parents do things like that.  Dave isn’t a prick, he wants you to do this for your own good.”

“I hate that he was going to give me a list to choose from, a list from that family therapist I don’t like.”

“So, find someone else!  I doubt he would care if your therapist came from that list.  You told him you need to learn how to handle things on your own – finding your own therapist is a good place to start.”

“I’m not going to crawl back to my house.”

“Well, you can’t stay here for very long, this place isn’t big enough.  Where else are you going to go?”

“I may have to stay with some other friends for a while-”

“What other friends, Laura?  I’m the only one you’ve kept in touch with for the past 18 months.  Do you even know where Lily is anymore?  Or Tabitha?  When was the last time you talked to Sasha?  Are you just planning to show up and expecting them to take you in after you blew them off for the last year and a half?”

“No, I guess not.  If I have to, I can try giving Richard a call.”

Jean looks at her friend like she has lost her mind.  “Oh, that’s a brilliant idea!  You told Bill you don’t want to be the type of woman that runs to a man when she has a problem so you break up with him, but now you’re going to run back to Richard of all people, the biggest prick in the colonies.  That’s worthy of a standing ovation!  Bravo!” Jean says, standing and clapping her hands. “If you hurry, you can buy yourself some kneepads and chapstick before the store closes.  Richard will want to make up for lost time.”

Laura has no response because she knows Jean is right.

“You’re not the type of woman that runs to people every time she has a problem.  You run away from people, Laura.  That’s why I’m the only friend you have left.  You don’t even have your family now.  And Bill - I can’t believe you broke up with him!  I watched him come to the bar for three nights in a row waiting for you after your mom died.  I felt bad for him because I could see how upset he was that you weren’t there, but he kept coming back.  I almost told him about your mom that final night he was there, but I decided not to, thinking I was protecting you.  But you don’t need to be protected - you have a great big shield of armor around you that nobody can break through.  Bill’s the one that needs to be protected from you!”

Laura closes her eyes, Jean’s words stinging her so badly that she can’t look at her friend anymore.  “Are you done?” she asks through gritted teeth.

Jean snorts her response.  “For now.”  She retrieves a laptop from her bedroom, placing it in front of Laura on the coffee table.  “Find a therapist, preferably one you can talk with tomorrow.” 

Despite Jean’s abrasive nature, she has never led Laura astray or turned her back on her.  She is her oldest friend, and now her only friend.  Over the next 30 minutes, Laura searches for a therapist with immediate availability.  She narrows it down to two:  the first specializes in dealing with the loss of a loved one, and the second specializes in relationship trauma, trust, and intimacy issues.  “Do I dare ask your opinion?” she looks toward Jean.

After reading the descriptions, Jean looks at Laura with a smirk on her face.  “Can you see both?”

“Insurance will only pay for one.”

“What do you think?” she asks, clasping her hands together in front of her, giving Laura a look like she’s stupid for even asking her opinion because the answer is so obvious.

“Relationship trauma, trust, and intimacy issues – here I come,” Laura mumbles, clicking the link to set up her appointment.

“Good - I think you just had a breakthrough.  Let’s have some wine,” Jean says in a much more friendly tone, motioning for Laura to follow her the few feet to her tiny kitchen.  “I have some sweet fruity red and a dry white.”

“I’m feeling more dry white tonight,” Laura replies, so Jean pours each of them a large glass.

“To Laura – may she figure out what the hell her problem is,” Jean says holding her glass up in a toast.

“To me and my idiocy,” Laura toasts.  “I suppose you want me to call Bill now and set up a time to talk Friday night.”

“You can do that tomorrow night – baby steps,” she winks at her.

“It might help to have a therapy session under my belt before I call him – I honestly don’t know what to say or if he’ll even talk to me.”

“How about ‘I’m a big frakking idiot.  I’m in therapy now thanks to my incredibly intelligent friend Jean, who is single, so if you have any single friends, please introduce her to them.’  And then apologize.”

“That might work,” Laura says, the corners of her mouth turned up in amusement at her friend who has never been scared to give it to her straight.  I should have come to Jean sooner.

“I’m going to do something I don’t normally do, Laura,” Jean says setting her wine glass on the counter and then taking Laura’s and doing the same.  She pulls her into a firm hug, whispering “I’m proud of you” in her ear, before letting her go and taking another sip of wine.

“Wow, I wasn’t expecting that.  You rarely hug people,” Laura says surprised.

“Don’t let it go to your head.”

“I’ll try not to,” she says glancing at the clock on the wall.  “It’s getting late.  What time is your first class tomorrow?”

“Nine, and I need to shower before bed.”

Laura looks at the small loveseat trying to figure out how she’s going to fit herself onto it.  It was barely comfortable to sit on.

“No, not the loveseat.  I have a big bed.  You can sleep with me, just like when we had sleepovers in high school.  Grab your luggage,” Jean says walking to the back of the apartment.

When Laura gets to the bedroom, she realizes it’s as large as the rest of the apartment.  “This is huge!  I wondered where you studied,” she says noticing the desk in the corner. 

“Bathroom is in there, you can set your luggage on this chair.”

Laura quickly brushes her teeth and combs through her hair, changes into a t-shirt and leggings, then crawls into bed.  Jean showers and dries her hair, then seats herself naked on the edge of the bed while she rubs lotion onto her legs and elbows.  Once she’s finished, she pulls back the covers and lies down.

“What are you doing?!” Laura asks.

“Going to sleep.  What’s the problem?”

“Where are your pajamas?”

“I don’t wear any.  Gods, you’re such a prude.”

“But I’m here next to you.”

“You don’t still spoon people when you’re sleeping, do you?” Jean asks.

“I told you I only do that because Sandra used to sleep with me when she was scared.”

“If I wake up in the morning and you’re spooning me, I’ll throw you off the balcony.”

Laura places a pillow between them before she turns out her light.  “Just to be safe – I don’t have any place else to go.”

 

Chapter Text

Bill doesn’t try to run after Laura when she flees the patio of the coffee shop.  She had tried to get rid of him a few nights before when he took her and Cheryl home from the hospital, but he refused to leave and if he had it to do over again, he would still insist on staying.  Less than 48 hours later, she slammed the door on their relationship, and he realizes as she’s running down the sidewalk, she isn’t running away from him but from a bigger problem in her life.  Sure, he can chase her down and try to force her to talk, but it will likely make things worse.  Sometimes when you really care about someone, you have to let them go. 

His chest feels heavy as he walks back to the Roslin house to retrieve his car, debating about knocking on the door once he arrives, asking to speak with her again.  Maybe the jog helped clear her mind, maybe he could get through to her if he gives it one last try.  He slowly walks to the front door and as he is about to ring the doorbell, he hears Sandra yelling at Laura.

Is that what this is about?  Richard frakked you up so bad that you’re scared to love someone else?

That son of a bitch messed up your head and you can’t even see it!  You’re so weak.

He pulls his hand away from the doorbell and slowly walks to his car.  When he returns home, he goes to his father’s study where he finds him still pouring over paperwork.  

“Bill, I wasn’t expecting you back this quickly,” Joe says before he notices the anguish on Bill’s face.  “What’s the matter, son?”

“Laura broke up with me.”

“You’re kidding!  I’m so sorry.  Do you need to talk about it?”

“Yeh, I do.”

He tells his father about walking with Laura to the cafe, how she ran home before she even finished her drink, and what he overheard Sandra say as he hesitated at the front door.

“Do you know anything about Richard, who he is?” Joe asks.

“No, this is the first time I’ve heard anything about a guy named Richard.  But it’s obvious Sandra has no use for him, and I didn’t hear Laura arguing back.”

“Laura’s had a rough time for a while.  Assuming she had a bad relationship with Richard and possibly a bad break-up, and her mother becoming ill and passing away, then Sandra overdosing, it’s a wonder she’s even able to get out of bed in the morning,” Joe says.  “Do you know what you’re going to do?”

Bill sighs, slowly shaking his head agonizing over what happened.  “I don’t want our relationship to be over.  I have very strong feelings for Laura but I don’t know what to do when she won’t listen to me.  I suppose I should take my own advice and think about things this week before I make a decision.”

“Do you still need my help when you get back Thursday?”

Bill pauses for several seconds as he considers his plans for Thursday evening.  “Yes, I have definitely made up my mind about that.  I would appreciate any help you can give me.  And I think I’ll go ahead and pack tonight.  I might go out tomorrow after work, check in with an acquaintance of mine.”

**

Dave closes the front door and locks it, questioning if he did the right thing with Laura or if he should give her a day to cool off, then call her and try to reason with her.  He rejoins Sandra and Cheryl in the living room, seating himself on the floor next to them at the puzzle table.

“Daddy,” Sandra says softly, but he doesn’t look at her, his mind at odds with his heart about watching his first-born storm out of the house.  She reaches for his hand and holds it, then Cheryl places her hand on top of theirs.  “Daddy, what happened?”

He closes his eyes, searching for the right words to explain what went on in the basement.  He can’t find any, so he says “I decided it’s best if Laurie lives somewhere else for a while.  I don’t want either one of you to worry.  Laurie is an adult, and I will figure out a way to make this work without her.  The first thing we need to do is decide what to eat for dinner.  Why don’t both of you come look in the fridge with me.”

After seeing the sorry state of meal options available to them, Dave decides to order pizza delivery.  He asks Sandra if she would mind helping him with an online grocery order later once Cheryl goes to bed.

“What about your Dean’s dinner tomorrow?” Sandra asks.

“I’ve gone every year for the past 23 years – I don’t think it’s a big deal if I skip it once.  It’s pretty boring, just a bunch of us history professors chatting with the Dean.”

When the pizza arrives, they sit at the kitchen table, all of them occasionally glancing toward Laura’s empty chair.  “We need to do a better job of communicating with each other,” Dave announces.  “I don’t want either one of you to be afraid to talk to me about anything.  Even if you think I’m really busy, please come to me and let me know what’s on your mind.  That’s one of my goals for family therapy – better communication.  I want to know how you feel about things.  I promise I will listen.  I may not always have the answers, but between me and the therapists, maybe we can figure some things out.”

“I’m sad that Laurie’s gone,” Cheryl says picking at the pepperonis on her pizza.

“I’m sad about that, too,” Dave says.

“Did you tell her to leave?” Sandra asks.

“Not exactly.  I told her that as long as she was living here, I wanted her to see a counselor, just like the rest of us, but she didn’t want to.  She packed her bags and left.”

“What else did you talk about?” Sandra asks.

“That’s something you and I will discuss later.  I have a few questions for you.”

“Am I in trouble?”

“No, you’re not in trouble,” he smiles, reaching for her hand. “I think you may have some insight into what’s going on with Laurie and I would like for you to share it with me.”

“Can I sleep with Sandra tonight?” Cheryl asks out of the blue.

“Daddy, can she?  I don’t mind,” Sandra says eagerly.

“Sure, but you can’t stay up all night giggling,” Dave smiles at Cheryl.

Cheryl lets out a big sigh and rolls her eyes.  “Okay,” she says disgruntled.

“I’m really tired, so I don’t think I could stay up late anyway,” Sandra says, trying to convince her little sister that giggling all night isn’t an option.  She throws in a yawn to see if it will prompt Cheryl to yawn, too.  It works - after Cheryl yawns, Sandra says, “You should probably get your pajamas on.”

Cheryl narrows her eyes at her sister.  “You tricked me.  Now I’m tired.”

“Daddy, if you leave the plates on the table, I’ll clean them up after I get Cher-bear changed.”

“You don’t have to do everything.  I’ll help you with Cheryl, and I can clean up the kitchen.  Maybe you can stay with her until she falls asleep, then we can talk in the living room.”

Once Cheryl is changed into her pajamas, Sandra takes her and lies down on the bed with her while Dave loads the dishwasher and wipes down the table.  He’s surprised when Sandra joins him on the sofa just a few minutes later.  “She went right to sleep.  I’m amazed she wasn’t grumpy since she was so tired.”

“It has been a long day for all of us.  I have some questions for you, but if we don’t get through all of them tonight, we can talk tomorrow.  I’m taking time off until I can get someone to stay at the house with you during the day while I’m at work.”

“I get it.  It’s going to take a while to earn your trust back.”

Dave nods his head, acknowledging that it definitely will take a lot of time before he trusts Sandra alone again.  He’s not willing to risk having her go to juvenile detention because of a bad decision.  “What can you tell me about Richard?”

“He’s a dick.”

“Can you be more specific?”

“He’s a giant dick.”

“That’s not what I meant.  Your mother didn’t like him but never told me why.  They broke up around the time she became ill, so I didn’t worry about it after that.”

“They broke up because mom got sick.”

“What do you mean?”

“When mom got sick, Laurie went to Richard hoping he would comfort her and help her through it.  He broke up with her because he said it would be too much of a downer to have a girlfriend whose mom was dying, and he was worried what that would do to his image.”

“You’re right – he is a giant dick.  I always thought she got so depressed because your mom was sick, but that was only part of it, wasn’t it?”

“Yeh, Richard sent her right over the edge when he abandoned her.  She was never in a good place with him anyway.”

“How so?”

“Do you really want to hear this, Daddy?  It’s not good.”

“I need to know.  I can’t help her if I don’t know, and she refused to talk about him.  Said he didn’t do anything to her.”

“Huh!  Figures she’s still trying to cover for him.”

Sandra explains that when Laura first started dating Richard, he was charming and swept her off her feet.  She was head over heels for him and thought he felt the same way, too.  He took her to banquets, law school functions, and other social events and people would remark how great they looked together and what a wonderful couple they made.  He liked having her by his side because she was intelligent and could talk on the same level with the faculty and law students, plus she was pretty and smitten with him.

“Let’s just say that one of the early red flags with Richard is that he was into receiving, and not so much into giving,” Sandra says, uncertain of how to describe Laura’s sex life with Richard to her father.

“I’m not sure what you mean.”

“Dad,” Sandra says looking him straight in the eye.  “Richard loved blow jobs, but he rarely gave anything in return.  He expected it every time they were together.  Didn’t you ever wonder why Laurie wore long pants all summer?  Her knees were always scarred.”

“Oh,” Dave says, rubbing his hands over his eyes.

“Do you want to hear more?”

“Yes, give me a minute.”  He continues to rub his hands on his face trying to shake the image of his oldest daughter being used like that.  He curses himself for not asking his wife about Richard when she had reservations about Laura’s relationship with him.  “Okay, keep going,” he says drawing in a deep breath.

“Once he started getting what he wanted from Laurie, he began cheating on her, but he always had an explanation that made it sound innocent.  Like ‘That girl you saw coming out of my apartment was studying with me’ or ‘She’s an old friend and we were just talking about the old days’, stuff like that.  Laurie convinced herself he was telling the truth, because he would act charming and attentive whenever she saw something suspicious.  But then he would sometimes make rude comments to her.”

“Like what?”

“Do you remember when she went on that diet about 2 months after they started dating?  They were at a party, and she said that she liked another girl’s dress.  Richard told her it wouldn’t look good on her because she wasn’t as skinny as the other girl.  She started a crash diet because she was afraid he thought she was fat.  And he never liked that she would analyze things like you do, Daddy.  He used to tell her to stop thinking and just do what he said.  There were lots of other things - sometimes he’d talk down to her in public, ridicule her in front of strangers.”

By this time, Dave is having trouble controlling his anger toward Richard.  “I’m not sure I can hear any more of this.  Why did she stay with him?”

“Because whenever she tried to talk to him about his behavior, he would turn on the charm again and give her flowers and stuff.  He’d tell her she was imagining things and to quit being paranoid.  He did just enough to keep her coming back to him.  She told him she was in love with him, and he didn’t even say it back.  Not until a month later when she gave him a fantastic blow job.”

“Why didn’t her friends say anything to her?  They had to see what was going on.”

“That’s the other thing – he didn’t like her friends, said they were immature and she had to decide between him or them.  I don’t think she’s seen or talked with anyone except Jean for over a year.”

“I thought they quit coming around because your mom was sick.”

“She stopped seeing them before Momma ever got sick.  He cut her off from them, all except for Jean and that’s only because she’s a classmate of his, so he couldn’t really keep them from seeing each other.”

“I’m not a violent person but I want to knock this guy’s teeth in right now.”

“I want to kick him in the dick.”

“You kick him in the dick, then I’ll punch him in the face when he’s falling to the floor.”

“Daddy, I’m impressed.  We make a good team.”

“I hate to ask, but is there anything else?”

Sandra scrunches her face, thinking through everything Laura had shared with her about Richard.  “He tells big lies.  He told Laurie that he had a full ride athletic scholarship as an undergrad, that he was on a boxing team and he only lost a couple of fights.”

“That skinny guy was a boxer?”

“That’s what I thought.  I searched online and found the team rosters from the past 10 years but he was never on the team.  He told Laurie that he went to law school because he couldn’t enter the military due to a boxing injury, but I think he went to law school to avoid being drafted.  Laurie asked him about the rosters.  He got mad and told her I should mind my own business and that he was sick the day team photos were taken.  He blew up at her and asked why she didn’t trust him, made her feel bad for even asking him about it.  I looked at fight results over several years but couldn’t find his name.  He was never a boxer.”

“Did your mom know this?”

“She did.  I helped her research several things about him online.  He always told Laurie his family was wealthy and that they owned multiple homes, that he won all sorts of academic and athletic awards in high school, that his family was friends with President Watanabe, all these outlandish things that sounded too good to be true.  That’s why Momma started looking into him.  We could never find anything to support his claims.  I think he makes stuff up to sound important.”

“I think you’re right.”

“He made Laurie feel like she wasn’t good enough for him, so she was constantly going out of her way to please him, to make him happy.  Her self-esteem took a big hit, especially when he dumped her.”

“And I just let her walk out the door tonight,” he states with a frown.  “I had no idea what she was going through with Richard.  Do you think Bill knows any of this?”

“I doubt it.  I understand why you told her to see a therapist.  She’s needed someone to talk to for a long time.  Momma tried to tell her she deserved better than Richard, but I don’t think she believed her.  I think she’s afraid that if she falls in love with Bill, he’ll hurt her just like Richard did.  And since he dumped her when she was already so down because Momma was sick, it amplified the pain she felt.”

“Oh, Gods,” Dave sighs, covering his eyes with his hands.  “Do you think I should call her right now and tell her she can come back?”

“I don’t know.  Do you know where she is?”

“She’s staying with Jean.  I texted her after I called for the pizza and she confirmed a while later that Laurie is safe and staying with her.  Said she’s following her rules, whatever that means.”

“Daddy, are you being sneaky?  Does Laurie know that Jean is texting you?”

“Not that I’m aware of.”

“She’s safe with Jean, so maybe let her cool off and think about things for a few days.  Jean won’t let her whine or make excuses or wallow around, so this might be just what Laurie needs.”

“I’ll check in with her every day just to make sure Laurie’s alright.  Now my next question – how are you?”

“Tired.  Maybe we can talk more tomorrow.  I want to get up early to get started on schoolwork, and then maybe we can talk after lunch.  Do you know when I start individual therapy?”

“I’ll find someone and make an appointment ASAP.  Are you sure you’re okay right now?”

“Daddy, stop worrying.  I’m going to bed, snuggling Cheryl, and if either of us have any problems, I’ll wake you up.”

Chapter Text

Jean puts the finishing touches of makeup on her face, her hair tied up in a slick bun, dressed in one of her best power suits for her law school class.  Laura is still half asleep while Jean searches through her closet for the right pair of heels to wear with her outfit.

“Uggghhhh, can you be any louder?” Laura groans from the bed, hit in the face with a wet towel a few seconds later.

“Get up, lazy,” Jean orders.  “There are towels in the linen closet in the bathroom.  I’m leaving a key by the coffee pot in the kitchen.  Make sure you lock up when you leave – I don’t need my stuff stolen.”

“Whoa,” Laura says sitting up in bed looking at her friend.  “You look amazing!  If I saw you on the street I don’t think I’d recognize you.”

“Part of the final year of law school is looking the part of an attorney.  I don’t always dress like a bartender.”

“I love you, Jean.”

“Let’s not make this weird, Laura.”

“Says the woman who slept naked next to me last night.”

“Whatever.  Listen to me,” Jean says, sitting on the edge of the bed next to Laura while she places the shoes on her feet.  “When you talk to the therapist, tell them exactly what you told me last night.  You can’t hold anything back.  Try to get the facts out before you get too emotional, then you can talk about how you feel.  You need to do this, Laura.  Your life has been on hold for too long.”

“I will,” she says quietly, wondering about Jean’s last comment. 

“I’ll be back after lunch, but then I work at the bar from 3 to 9 tonight, so I won’t be home until around 9:30 or so.  Pick up after yourself – it doesn’t take much for this place to look a mess.  I don’t have any food in the fridge, so you’ll have to go out to eat.”

“I can pick up a few things at the store after my therapy appointment.  If you think of anything you need, text me and I’ll get it.  It’s the least I can do for letting me stay here.”

“Wine.  I can always use more wine.  I’ve gotta go.  Good luck today.”

Laura follows Jean to the front door, carefully locking it behind her. 

Your life has been on hold for too long.

In the close to 15 months since Laura’s mother’s illness, Jean has gone from wide-eyed law student to a shrewd and determined woman, working her tail off at the bar to help pay her tuition, all while maintaining high enough grades to make law review.  Unlike Richard, she doesn’t need to brag up her life outside of academia or schmooze faculty with namedropping and saccharin compliments.  Her accomplishments speak for themselves, and her professors respect her intelligence and integrity.

Laura’s other friends have all entered the work force and are established in their careers now.  Tabitha manages several businesses, while Sasha runs an art gallery on Virgon.  If she wants to see Lily, she only needs to turn on the television for the 6 pm news every night while she works the anchor position for the station from Picon.  She looks around the small apartment where she is staying as a temporary guest, a guest that has no idea what she will do in a week when she is no longer welcome.  Everyone around her has moved on with their lives, even Bill has found a job that suits him well. 

Bill.  She doesn’t recognize the crazy woman that stubbornly broke off her relationship with him, that same stubborn crazy woman who wouldn’t give in to her father’s ultimatum even though she had every intention of seeing a therapist anyway.  The minute she got close to Bill physically and emotionally, she began to pull away, her thoughts plagued with memories of that frakwit Richard and how he had treated her.  Richard lives in her head rent free and she can’t seem to chase him out, instead striking out at those around her, punishing them for Richard’s indiscretions.  It’s not fair – not fair to her, not fair to her family, not fair to the people she cares about.  She expected him to be there for her when her mother became ill – that’s what people in love should do, support each other.  But Richard was just pretending, and when it became inconvenient for him to pretend to love her any longer, he walked away, and she felt stupid and ashamed.

She committed herself to caring for her mother, out of love, out of guilt, out of shame for allowing a man to treat her like shit.  She was able to explain away her inability to complete her doctoral thesis by taking on her mother’s home hospice care - the university would never have allowed her to extend her graduation timeline due to the fallout from a bad relationship.  But a dying parent?  They didn’t hesitate to give her all the time she needs to finish.

For everyone around her, life goes on.  They move ahead, finish school, find careers, get married, buy houses, start families, adopt dogs and cats, buy houseplants, plant gardens.  But here she is in a tiny apartment that isn’t even her own, her thesis set aside weeks ago, no graduation date in sight, no job prospects, no boyfriend, and now no family.  The only thing she has to look forward to is therapy today, and family therapy Sunday if she’s even allowed in the house again.

It’s not that my life is on hold, I’m not even living anymore.

She glances at the clock and realizes she only has 90 minutes before her therapy appointment.  She pulls a towel from the linen closet, then steps into the shower, trying to wash 18 months of guilt, shame, and sorrow from her body.  She knows it won’t work, but maybe she can convince herself that the therapist will help with the rest.  This is someone new after all, not that nosey bitch Jenny that kept asking about her sex life.

After drying off, she combs through her wet hair, deciding to let it air dry.  She doesn’t bother with makeup, thinking she wants to be as naked as she can be to the therapist, not having the energy to put on a front today.  She pulls on her most comfortable pair of leggings, a v-neck t-shirt, and a light jacket before she grabs the apartment key and her purse, heading out to the nearest fast-food restaurant for a quick breakfast and some strong coffee.  She goes to the therapist’s office straight from the restaurant, arriving early enough to fill out the forms needed to satisfy the insurance company.  After turning in the paperwork, she waits until her name is called, approximately 5 minutes later.  She takes a deep breath and follows the receptionist back to the therapy room.

**

Bill reports to the main office at the Caprica shipyards at 0800.  Up first is a tour of the facilities, including his office, which is a large corner room of a secure building with windows overlooking the shipyards and several bookcases, along with encrypted file cabinets where he can store classified military documents.  The tour takes up most of the morning and in the afternoon, he meets with several captains, pilots, and other key personnel.  Keeping track of all their names and ship assignments will be a challenge, so the shipyard superintendent suggests a mnemonic for Bill to use to keep things straight.  After all the meet and greets, he spends some time setting up his computer calendar and personal email account, finishing up right at 1800 hours. 

Decision time.  He packed his bags for Picon the night before, which allows him approximately 4 hours of free time before turning in for the evening.  His cell sits on his desk before him, and he stares at it while he debates about what he should do next.  Should I call Laura?  Would a text be better?  Should I wait until I get back from Picon?  Or should I try to forget about her?  He doesn’t like the last question, feeling nauseous at the thought of never seeing her again.  He decides against contacting her, grabs his car keys, and heads toward the university district.

He arrives at the bar at approximately 7 pm.  It’s a Monday night so there aren’t very many patrons and he easily finds a seat at the center of the bar where he orders a beer.  The bartender this evening is a woman he doesn’t recognize, but he remains in his seat sipping his beer, watching for Jean.  Just as he is finishing up his drink, she appears from a storage room from the back of the establishment, carrying a case of beer bottles which she places in a fridge underneath the bar.  She whispers in the ear of the bartender, then approaches Bill and asks him to join her at a table in the back corner.

“I have a 15-minute break.  How are you, Bill?”

“I’ve had better days.  Have you spoken with Laura lately?”

“I have.  I know what happened.”

He stares at Jean, trying to decide what he should ask her, the words failing to come to him.  “Maybe I shouldn’t be here.”

“What do you need?”

“How is Laura?”

“Stubborn, idiotic, wounded.”

Wounded.  “How long has she been wounded?”

Jean glances at the table, trying to calculate the precise moment Laura became a different person.  “About 16 months,” she replies, her eyes meeting his.

“What was she like before that?”

“The real Laura, the one I’ve known since I was in elementary school, is intelligent, loving, warm, caring, sensitive, strong, determined, fierce, beautiful…and stubborn.”

“Guess she’s always been stubborn,” Bill chuckles.

“Yeh, she gets that from both of her parents, but don’t ever tell her I said that.”

I won’t tell her you said that, if I ever do see her again.  “What happened to change her?”

“Richard, then her mom’s cancer, but mostly Richard.  It was the perfect storm of ugly events.  I’m not going into details – that’s for her to tell you when she’s ready.”

“What if I decide I don’t want to see her again?” the words barely making it out of his mouth.

Jean offers a worried frown, looking at this man that deserves to know the real Laura, not the frakked up version she has become.  “She’s staying with me – probably in my apartment right now reading a book or having some dinner.  Dave took her keys from her so that she can’t go home.”

“That doesn’t sound like Dave,” Bill says shocked at the information.

“I was surprised, too, but it needed to happen.  She saw a therapist today.  I don’t know how it went because she wasn’t there when I got home after class, but I’m sure I’ll hear about it later.  Bill, the real Laura is worth it.  You only saw glimpses of her.  The person you saw yesterday isn’t her at all.”

“Do you think…do you think she’ll ever get back to being that person you knew?”

“I know she will - she’s too fierce to lose herself completely.  She’ll fight her way back and when she does, she’ll be a force.”

 

**

After therapy, Laura stops at the store to purchase a couple bottles of wine, some salad mix and dressing, yogurt, granola, bread, and since she forgot to look at what Jean had for pots and pans, a cooked rotisserie chicken that she can cut up to add to the salad.  She doesn’t return to the apartment until after 2 pm when Jean has already left for work.  Sitting alone at the table, she has a bowl of yogurt with granola, thinking about the therapy session.

She was surprised that her therapist is a man, Dr. Skylar Weigel.  She knew a Skylar once in middle school and Skylar was very much a girl, and since there wasn’t a picture on the website when she made the appointment, she assumed this counselor was a woman.  Dr. Weigel recognized her uncertainty upon meeting him and offered to refer her to a female colleague who had appointments available later in the week, but she decided it was more important to get started immediately.  Her family therapist is a woman and Laura can’t stand her, so maybe a male therapist will be better.

She found Skylar to be very easy to talk to and a good listener.  He wasn’t constantly scribbling in a notebook or glancing at the clock.  Laura followed Jean’s instructions, starting with meeting Richard and what their relationship was like, her mother’s illness and death, meeting Bill and her relationship with him, and then everything from the past few days.  It was a lot to get through in the first session, so Skylar suggested she return at the same tomorrow.  Before she left, he told her that she was an incredibly strong person, and that everything she had gone through in the past 18 months was as much as many people experience over the course of their lives.  He’s confident she can get her life back on track.

It felt good to talk to someone about the past 18 months and she realized as she was describing the events that parts of it sounded unreal.  She told Skylar she felt stupid describing everything Richard put her through, wondering why she couldn’t see how he was using her while they were together.  A couple of times she became angry, referring to Richard as a motherfrakker and a few other choice names, especially when describing how he would berate her in front of strangers or how he would twist things around and always blame her when something went wrong in his life, even if she had nothing to do with it.  Like the time he didn’t make law review, blaming her because he said she wasn’t supporting him enough, which distracted him when he was going through the application process.  “The reason I couldn’t focus was because of you, Laura!” he had yelled at her.  The truth was she spent a lot of time on her knees ‘relieving stress’ he liked to call it, as he supposedly worked on the application, except that she was certain he was watching porn on his laptop because the few times she turned her head, she caught glimpses of naked women on his computer screen.

She’s eager to return to therapy tomorrow, wondering if it’s something she can do a couple times a week, or if insurance will even cover it.  When she was asked if she wanted Skylar to share notes with Jenny, she declined, at least for now, telling herself she wants a better understanding of why she acted like a lunatic with Bill before sharing that information with Jenny and her family.

Bill was right.  I should have taken the week to think about things and agreed to meet Friday night.  Have I frakked things up enough that he won’t ever talk to me again?  She glances at her phone, bringing up the last text message she sent to Bill: Please come in through the garage – the door is unlocked.  She considers texting him, apologizing, asking if they can still meet Friday, but then she decides it would be better to wait until after the next therapy session. 

Rather than place her dirty dishes in the dishwasher, she decides to wash them by hand, not really having anything else to do to pass the time.  After she dries them and puts them away, she begins to clean the entire apartment, which doesn’t take long at all given the size.  The bookcase in the bedroom next to Jean’s desk contains a few novels, ones Laura has already read, and several law school texts which she has no interest in, but since she is bored she runs her fingers along the spines of the books, reading each title and the author.  Law and Ethics, by Joseph Adama.  The text sits right in the middle of the shelf and is an original edition.  She assumes it must be used for one of Jean’s classes and, while she has little interest in the subject matter, she takes the book to the small deck of the apartment. Sitting on the stationary bicycle, she lazily pedals along, thumbing through the book and stopping to read a paragraph every so often.  Gods this is boring she thinks to herself after reading several passages.   

The balcony overlooks the west end of campus and student foot traffic has died down since the majority of classes are finished for the day.  Perhaps it’s the boredom, perhaps it’s the incredibly uncomfortable bicycle seat, or perhaps the jog back to her house on Sunday left her body wanting more, but whatever the reason, she feels an urge to go for a run.  She takes the book back inside the bedroom and before placing it on the shelf, she opens the front cover, intending to flip through the pages quickly, a sensation on her fingertips she loves as an avid book reader.  A handwritten message catches her eye: 

Jean,

Thank you,

Thank you,

Thank you!

Bill Adama

Chapter Text

Dave arranges for the parents of one of Cheryl’s daycare classmates to take her to Primrose and back home each day, not wanting to disrupt her routine any more than necessary.  Once she leaves, he researches the list of therapists for Sandra, ignoring those that are male because Sandra would only agree to speak to a male therapist if he was ‘really hot’, and a really hot male therapist is probably the last thing Sandra needs right now.

“Come on, Daddy!  Find me a hot male therapist!  You’re never going to let me date again so I might as well have a sexy therapist,” she tries to reason with him to no avail. 

Sandra’s attitude doesn’t bother him as much as he thought it would, because it is very much like her to say something like that, far removed from the girl that overdosed in his arms a few days ago.  “My sweet young lady, you are in therapy to talk about your feelings, not flirt with the therapist.  I will find you a female counselor willing to come to the house in the afternoon after you finish your schoolwork, preferably a younger one that will be in more in touch with your generation.”

“Oh, alright,” she grumbles, unhappy that she will be stuck with another female therapist.  “But at some point we need to get more testosterone in this house, and I’m not talking about that guy Jason.  I saw him checking Laurie out, and that can’t happen.  She needs to get her act together and get back with Bill.”

“Sandra,” he says placing his hands on her shoulders.  “Do your schoolwork.  We can worry about Laurie later.”

While Sandra works on her online classes, Dave sets up an appointment for Wednesday afternoon for her.  He then looks through the list of counselors Jenny recommended for him, but he isn’t enthusiastic about any of them.  Either they are really young and he can’t imagine they have any idea what it’s like to be widowed, or they are female and he would much rather talk with a man.  He spends some time searching for therapists online when he finally comes across Dr. Stephen Carey who has written a book titled Parenting After the Loss of Your Spouse.  Dr. Carey is taking new patients, but does not do in-home visits, so Dave calls his older sister Sara to ask if she’ll stay with Sandra while he sees the counselor on Thursday morning.

“I’m so sorry, Dave, this is the first I’ve heard about Sandra.  If you need me to stay for a while, I can.  I work remotely and only need to be in the office one day each week, so if you could cover that day, I can be available for the rest,” Sara offers.

“That’s too much to ask, I don’t want to pull you away from Mark.”

Dave hears Sara let out a long sigh, a habit of hers whenever she has bad news.

“What aren’t you telling me, Sara?”

“Mark and I are getting divorced.  We’re both still living in the house but I’ve been looking for an apartment because there is way too much tension with both of us here.  I haven’t said anything to you because you just lost Betty and I didn’t want you to worry.”

“I’m sorry to hear this.  Is there any chance you two will reconcile?”

“No.  We’ve been doing marriage counseling for the past 2 years, but it hasn’t helped.  We didn’t realize until the kids left the nest that we had grown so far apart.”

“You’re welcome to stay with us for as long as you want, but don’t feel like you have to.”

“Dave, I would love to stay and spend time with you and the girls.  I can keep an eye on Sandra while I work, you can get back to your job, and it gives me the opportunity to look for a more permanent residence.  I need to get out of my house – we’re at the stage of our divorce where we’re trying to divide up assets and Mark keeps badgering me about it every night but I’m not comfortable discussing anything without my lawyer present.  If I can stay with you for a while, it not only helps you out, it helps me out, too.”

“Okay - I like this idea.  When can you be here?”

“Is this evening soon enough?  I’m not very busy with work today, so I can use vacation time and pack.  I want to be gone before Mark gets home.” 

“I’ll see you this evening.  Thank you, Sara.”

 

At noon, Dave and Sandra put the grocery delivery away, then make some sandwiches and fruit salad for lunch.  “How are online classes?” Dave asks.

“I’ve already finished everything through Wednesday.  I can finish the entire week if I go back online this afternoon.”

“I hope you’re not planning on laying around watching tv the rest of the week.”

“No, Daddy, geez.  TV is boring anyway, nothing’s original anymore.  I was thinking about making a scrapbook for Cheryl so that she has something to help her remember Momma.  I could use some pictures of when we all grew up and then when Cheryl was a baby, and I can include stories that Momma wrote, drawings we all did, stuff like that.  I can give it to her for her 4th birthday.  That will keep me busy for a while because I’ll have to find all the stuff for the scrapbook, then do a layout on my computer, and eventually send some things to the printers.  I want it to be epic, and since I have 8 weeks of being stuck here, I can get a lot of it done.”

“That’s a really good idea, honey.  If you need help finding some things, let me know.  We have a lot of old photo albums in storage.  How are you able to get an entire week’s worth of school crammed into one day?”

“Because most of school is sitting around a classroom doing nothing.  If I could work at my own pace, I’d probably graduate in another year.”

“What do you do all day besides sit around?  Aren’t you bored?”

“I usually wind up helping other kids that are struggling with the material.  It’s either that or hang out with the druggies in the back of the room.”

“You should be having a better experience than that.  Do you want to go to school somewhere else next year?”

“I’m used to it.  But it would be kind of nice to have more challenging material and be around other kids that are interested in learning.  So many of them at my school just go through the motions and don’t really care about grades.”

“Do you think Cheryl would be bored going to regular school?”

“Definitely - don’t send her to a regular school.  She’s really curious about the world around her and needs a school that will help her explore that curiosity.  Regular school is about getting everyone through the basics and that will be a miserable experience for her because it won’t be challenging.  She’s already figured out how to manipulate all of us – can you imagine what she’ll be up to if she’s bored to tears in a regular school?”

“You just scared the hell out of me,” Dave says wide-eyed at the thought of a very bored Cheryl.  “Jason thinks Cheryl is high ability.”

“Of course, she’s high ability!  She’s higher ability than all of us, even Laurie.  You don’t need a therapist to tell you that.”

“I guess you have spent the most time with her over the past year.  Jason is going to give her an IQ test once she warms up to him.”

“That’ll be interesting.  I can see her sandbagging it and answering every question wrong just to give him a hard time.”

“Do you really think she’d do that?”

“Yes, so you might want to tell her ahead of time that you expect her to give him the correct answer if she knows it.”

“I’ll mention it to Jason.  By the way, Aunt Sara is going to stay with us for a while.  She’s arriving tonight.”

“Did she finally dump Uncle Mark?”

“How did you know that?”

“Duh, it’s pretty obvious they have nothing in common.  Whenever they celebrate holidays with us, they barely even look or talk to each other.  Never sit next to each other either.”

“Guess I hadn’t really noticed.  They’re getting divorced and she has been wanting to move out of the house for a while, so she’s going to stay here until she can find a permanent place.  She works remotely so she can keep an eye on things here while I go back to work.  But I’m going to arrange to be here on Wednesdays because that is when you have individual therapy and I want to be available to you in case you want to talk afterwards.”

“Hot male therapist?” she asks eagerly.

“No.”

**

It has been several weeks since Laura has been on the campus of Caprica City University.  She used to love walking to her classes past all the fountains and sculptures that decorate the landscape.  As she does some light stretching before starting her run, she mentally creates a map to follow so that she can run near her favorite fountains and the lovely rose garden on the east side, avoiding the student apartments on the northern end of campus.  While she has no idea if Richard still lives there, she decides she doesn’t want to chance bumping into him in case he does still reside there.

The run is a short one, approximately 4 miles from beginning to end, and it takes her past the College of Education building where she used to have an office when she was teaching undergraduate courses her first year in the doctoral program.  As she runs past the vine covered building with the marble columns, she hears a familiar voice call out “Laura?  Laura Roslin?”

She turns to see her committee advisor walking down the steps of the building. 

“Oh, my Gods, it is you!” Dr. Galloway exclaims hurriedly walking toward Laura as she takes a rest.  “It’s good to see you again!  I was so sorry to hear about your mother.  How are you doing?” she asks with a look of concern.

Laura holds her hand up to let Dr. Galloway know she’s catching her breath, offering her a small smile.  When she is finally able to speak, she takes a sip of water from the small canteen strapped to her waist.  “Hi, Dr. Galloway!  I’m staying with a friend of mine near campus and thought I’d run through for old times sake.  How are you?”

“I’m good, and I’m thrilled to see you!  Have you given any thought to when you might return?”

“No, not really,” Laura stammers.

“Maybe it’s too soon, I didn’t mean to sound like you need to rush back.  It would sure be great to see your research again, though.  Just between the two of us, our current crop of doctoral students are sort of underwhelming in the research arena,” she whispers.  “Your research is above and beyond what any of them are doing.”

“You know, Dr. Galloway, I’ll think about it.  I’m not…I’m not really do anything right now, so maybe I’ll pull my notes out and at least see where I’m at.  I might have a slightly different perspective after taking the past several weeks off.”

“If you do, please give me a call.  I’d love to start working with you again.  And if you’re still interested in going into academia after graduation, let me know.  We have a few people that will retire by the end of summer so some positions will open up, plus we just received budget approval to add a new faculty position that you would be well-suited for.”

“Thank you, Dr. Galloway, you’ve piqued my interest!  I will be in touch next week.”

“I’m in my office on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons if you’d like to stop by.”

“I’ll do that,” she says, glancing at her fitness tracker.

“Oh, I’m sorry, I should let you get back to your run.  I remember how you’re so passionate about running!  I didn’t mean to keep you.  Have a good evening!” she says walking away toward the parking lot.

Laura resumes her run, going over her research in her mind and what Dr. Galloway said about faculty positions opening up.  Over the past year, she had only worked on her research part-time, mostly at the bar in the evenings, and she hadn’t made as much progress as needed.  Then when her mother died, she set it aside completely, intending to get back to it in a few weeks, but now it’s over 5 weeks later and she has yet to touch it.  She makes a mental note to look up the deadline to declare for summer graduation after she finishes her run.  For the first time in weeks, she’s excited about the possibility of finally finishing her dissertation, graduating, and getting a real job.

After returning to the apartment, she takes a quick shower, followed by a meal of salad and rotisserie chicken she bought earlier, then she borrows Jean’s laptop.  According to the university website, she has a full month to decide if she wants to apply for summer graduation, so she’ll have to retrieve her notes and laptop from her basement bedroom.  She peruses the College of Education webpage which has been updated since she last looked, paying special attention to the research topics of the doctoral students, shaking her head at several.  After looking through all of them, she feels even more compelled to finish her degree.

For whatever reason, she decides to type “Richard Adar” into an online search engine.  The very first item listed is from a local newspaper dated last Friday, an engagement announcement.  A picture of Richard and his bride-to-be stare back at Laura, and she recognizes the woman as the one he claimed was an old friend chatting about old times the morning she stopped by early to surprise him with breakfast and coffee.  That was just 10 weeks into her relationship with him, and now he is engaged to that same girl, Miss Mandy Merriweather, daughter of the Secretary of Labor, niece of the former mayor of Caprica City, and heiress to the vast Merriweather mining fortune.

You have GOT to be frakking me!

If it wasn’t so ludicrous, Laura would be seething.  Mandy is something of a mousy girl, so there’s no way Richard would have had her by his side to schmooze faculty.  He often spoke of going into politics and Miss Merriweather is his ticket into that world.  Laura stares at their photo feeling sorry for Mandy, wondering if her knees are as bruised as hers used to be.  She’s not mad that Richard has moved on, it’s more of a relief.  I was just a pretty girl that he could show off to everyone and then take home to suck his dick.  Good luck, Mandy.

 

Chapter Text

When Jean returns to her apartment at 9:25 pm, Laura has already crawled into bed and is reading one of the novels she found on a bookshelf in the bedroom.  “How was work, honey?” Laura asks when Jean enters the bedroom and strips off her clothes.

“Cute, Laura.  I’m going to shower, then we can talk.”

Jean follows the same routine as the previous night, putting lotion on her legs and elbows before crawling into bed naked next to Laura, who has already situated a large body pillow between them so there won’t be any accidental spooning.

“Really, how was work?”

“Not very busy tonight, so I’m low on tips.”

“Why did Bill give you a book that his father wrote?”

“Were you snooping around my apartment?”

“I was bored.”

“He’s secretly in love with me.  We were waiting to tell you.”

Laura snorts a laugh at the thought of Jean dating Bill.  “Nice try.”

“Why’s that so funny?  You broke up with him and we’re dating now.  Probably fall in love, get married, have twelve kids…”

“Twelve kids?!”

“Yeh, because we’d constantly be having wild sex.  At least twelve kids.” 

Laura wrinkles her nose at Jean, shaking her head.  “Why did he give you a book?”

“Because he was thanking me for giving him your name, your address, and telling him why you never came back to the bar.  He stopped by the bar a few times while he was working on your basement and then showed up with his father’s book one night.  He says he likes to gift books to people to show them his appreciation.  I think he’s very sweet and he’s intelligent, too.  You’re an idiot for breaking up with him.”

“I am an idiot for breaking up with him.”

“Have you talked to him about meeting up on Friday?”

“I’ll do it tomorrow.  Therapy went well today and Skylar suggested I come back tomorrow morning.  He’s sure I can get back on track with my life.”

“He?  You’re not holding anything back from him, are you?”

“No.  In fact, when I was telling him about Richard today, I realized how stupid it all sounded and I got mad and started calling Richard names, and it felt so good to talk to someone about everything.  Skylar is a really good listener, he’s not judge-y and mean like you.”

“Which is precisely why I would make a lousy therapist.”

“Guess what else I found out today?”

“You know I don’t like these games.  Just tell me.”

“Richard is engaged.”

“Seriously?!  What idiot would marry him?”

“Try Mandy Merriweather of the Merriweather family that has all the money from their mining company.  Her uncle was mayor at one time and her father is Secretary of Labor.”

Jean leans her head back, howling with laughter.  “Oh, my Gods!  That bastard is going to wind up in politics!  There’s no way he can make it as a lawyer, so he’s marrying rich and making political connections all at the same time.  You’re okay with this, right?”

“I am more than okay with it.  Good riddance.  He was cheating on me with her – when I saw their engagement picture, I remembered her coming out of his apartment early one morning when I stopped by unexpectedly.  He said she was an old friend, but obviously she wasn’t.”

“Have they set a date?”

“They have, next month.  Pretty quick.  Think she’s pregnant?”

“Leave it to him to knock up a billionaire heiress.  Or maybe he wants a quick wedding before she figures out what a turd he is.”

“Maybe.”

“What else did you do today?”

“Did a little grocery shopping, went for a jog, bumped into my old advisor, snooped all over your apartment, stuff like that.”

“Find anything interesting besides the book?”

“No, you’re really boring.”

“I’m kind of busy.”

“I’m thinking of getting my research notes and laptop from my house.  Maybe apply for summer graduation, but I have a little time to decide.”

“Did this therapist give you an extra dose of motivation while you were in there today?  Because I kind of assumed you would never get back to your dissertation.”

“No, my advisor told me she’d really like to work with me again and that my research was way better than the current doctoral students.  I looked through the college webpage and she’s right, nothing is groundbreaking.  She also said some faculty positions will open up the end of summer and there’s a new one that I’d be a good candidate for.”

“Sounds like some stuff might be falling into place for you finally.”

“About that – would you be willing to let me live here for a while?  I’d pay half the rent, buy the groceries, do the laundry, do the cleaning-”

“Why don’t we just get married?  Sounds like you want to be my housewife.”

“You’re not my type.  I know that breaks your heart.”

“Let’s see how this week goes first.  I might consider it.  I can honestly say the first night wasn’t horrible.”

“That’s almost a compliment, Jean.”

“You must be softening me up.”

 

The next morning is a similar routine as the day before with Jean dressing in a suit, informing Laura she has a morning study session followed by a lecture series she must attend in the afternoon.  Tuesday is her off night from the bar, so she usually spends time studying quietly in her room in the evening.  Laura has therapy again, has planned another run around campus, and then will decide the best way to approach her father about retrieving her research from the basement.

After a quick breakfast of yogurt, granola, and coffee, Laura dresses and goes to her therapy appointment.  She spends the session mostly talking about how angry she felt the day before when discussing Richard, and she tells Skylar how she discovered Richard is now engaged.

“I can’t believe I fell for all of his lies.  He was never happy with me but I convinced myself it was all me, that I needed to try harder.  I feel so stupid thinking back about it.”

“Don’t be so hard on yourself.  While I can’t give a definitive diagnosis for Richard since I’ve never met him, from the description of his behavior, I would say he is a narcissist.  Narcissists are incapable of truly loving someone, people are objects to them, a way to get something they want.  They tend to prey on warm, compassionate people because those type of people are very trusting and see good in others.  The narcissist lovebombs you at the beginning so that you fall in love, then once they have you hooked, they start to manipulate and control a little bit at a time.  No single thing seems odd on its own, but when you look back over the entire relationship, all those little things add up to something huge and unpleasant.”

“That sounds exactly like Richard.  This girl he’s engaged to has family in politics and they are extremely wealthy.  He has always wanted to go into politics, and he brags about having money, although I question whether he actually has any at all.  I don’t know that I can believe anything he told me.”

“A lot of narcissists tell lies to make them sound more important than they really are.  You might have even noticed some things not adding up but convinced yourself that there was a reasonable explanation.”

“Yeh, he always said his family had a ton of money, but he lived in a crappy student apartment and drove a car that was always falling apart.  I just thought he lived in student housing to be closer to the law school, but I could never figure out why his car was in such bad shape.”

“Our time is about up for today.  Is there anything else you want to talk about before you leave?”

“I want to contact Bill and ask to meet Friday night.  Any advice on what I should say?”

“Being honest is the best advice I have.”

“So, tell him I’m an idiot and ask if he will let me speak to him face to face Friday?”

“You’re not an idiot.  You acted the way you did because of trauma you experienced in your relationship with Richard.  None of that was your fault – Richard took advantage of you and used you.”

“My best friend that I’m staying with calls me an idiot.”

“Best friends rib each other, insult each other.  My best friend refers to me as Dr. Doofus most of the time.  I guess that’s the best insult Dr. Frak-wad can come up with,” he says with a grin.

Laura giggles at the thought of what Dr. Doofus and Dr. Frak-wad must be like when they get together.  She makes another appointment for next Tuesday, then goes back to Jean’s apartment and changes her clothes for her run.

During her run, she thinks about Bill and how he must be deep into training on Picon.  She’s only been to Picon a few times herself, not really having any reason to go there since it is largely military.  When she was little, her father gave a lecture there about the history of the colonies so she and her mother joined him and made a vacation out of it.  She remembers seeing so many people in uniform, way more than she had ever seen before, and she wonders what Bill must look like in his uniform, pressed neatly, buttons polished, standing at attention, his deep blue eyes in a steady gaze.  It’s something she hopes to see in person someday.

Her thoughts of Bill distract her enough that she deviates from her planned run, her legs instinctively taking her past the history building where her father’s office is located, a place she used to run past daily when she was a full-time student.  Her fitness tracker indicates it’s almost noon, so he’s likely in his office having lunch.  I don’t know what to say to him.  She pushes past the building, running toward a greenspace area filled with students having picnics and studying in the shade of large oak trees that line the perimeter of the grass. 

Stop running away. Before she gets to the greenspace, she turns and jogs around a fountain, heading back to the history building.  After catching her breath and taking a couple of sips from her canteen, she enters the building and walks down the long hall to her father’s corner office at the other end of the building. 

“Dr. David Roslin, Professor of History”, the sign on the wall reads.  His door is slightly ajar, and when she peers through, she sees him sitting at his desk absorbed in reading term papers.  He hears a weak knock at the door.  “Office hours aren’t for another hour yet,” he replies annoyed.  Laura pushes the door open further and without looking up from the term paper he says, “Come back in an hour!”.

“Hi, Daddy,” she says softly.

Dave looks up from the term paper, shocked that Laura is standing in the doorway of his office.  He blinks a few times to make sure he’s not imagining her there.  Laura stares back at him, uncertain if he’s happy to see her, or if he’s going to yell at her, or maybe even tell her to make an appointment to come back since he’s busy.

“Laurie!” he exclaims, standing and closing the gap between them, throwing his arms around her.

“I’m sorry,” she whispers as he hugs her firmly, the tension between them from two days ago completely dissolving away.

“I’m happy you’re here,” he replies, hugging her even tighter for a few seconds before he steps back and kisses her forehead.  “What brings you by?”

“I wanted to talk to you about getting my research and laptop from the house,” she replies.  “And to tell you I’m staying with Jean for a while.”

“Are you thinking about finishing your dissertation?”

“I need to reacquaint myself with it first, then I’ll make a decision.  I bumped into my advisor yesterday - she was happy to see me and wants to work with me again.  Gave me the motivation to consider summer graduation.  Apparently, there are some faculty positions available after summer semester.”

Dave beams at her, his hands gently gripping her shoulders.  “You know I’m biased about that.  It would be great to have another Dr. Roslin on campus.”

“Maybe that will happen.  Or maybe I’ll wind up doing something else.”

“How are you, Laurie?”

“Better than I was two days ago, that’s for sure.  Daddy, I’m seeing a therapist.  I had already decided to see one before you gave me that ultimatum, but I was too stubborn to admit it.  While I’m not ready to tell you everything yet, I am talking with a counselor and after just two sessions, I’ve realized what a relief it is to have someone who is there to listen and help put things in perspective.  My relationship with Richard was toxic and has impacted my life in a very negative way, plus everything that was happening with Momma.  I think it’s good that I’m out of the house now.  I feel like I was hiding there and using our family issues as an excuse to not move forward with my life.  I know that puts you in a difficult position, though, especially now that Sandra is under house arrest.”

“I’ve handled that.  Aunt Sara moved in with us last night and she intends to stay until Sandra is able to be on her own again.”

Laura looks at him surprised.  “What about Uncle Mark?”

“They are getting divorced.  She needs to get out of the house, I need someone to stay with Sandra, and it turns out she works remotely most of the time anyway, so I let her move into your basement living space.  If you decide to move back home, we can move Sara into your old bedroom next to Sandra’s.”

“Oh.  That worked out well, didn’t it?  I’m hoping to live with Jean for a while, split the rent with her.  It’s a small place but it’s by campus and if I decide to finish my degree, it’ll be very convenient.  I’ve missed being here and I’ve missed Jean.  She’s always had my back and I should’ve been talking to her more.  I’m going to try to reconnect with Tabitha, Sasha, and Lily, too.  We have a lot of catching up to do.”

“I think that’s a great idea.  Have you…” Dave hesitates.  “Have you talked to Bill?”

Laura shakes her head, dropping her gaze to the top of her father’s cluttered desk.  “Not yet.  He’s on Picon for training through Thursday, so I was thinking of texting him an apology and asking if we could talk face to face Friday night like he initially wanted to do.  I made a big mistake and I wouldn’t blame him if he doesn’t want to talk to me,” she says frowning at the latter possibility.  “How are Sandra and Cheryl?”

“Good.  Sandra starts therapy tomorrow and she is blazing through her schoolwork.  I’m keeping Cheryl in her normal routine by sending her to Primrose every day,” he replies.  “I start seeing my own counselor on Thursday.  Are you planning on family therapy Sunday?” 

Laura considers it for a few seconds, then says, “Yes, I think I should be there.  I don’t want to talk about Bill, though, and I’m not ready for my therapist to share information with Jenny.  I don’t like her.”

“I’m okay with that.  Do you have plans for dinner tonight?  Your sisters would love to see you as would Aunt Sara, and you could pick up your laptop and notes.  I promise we won’t pester you about Bill.  I may have to muzzle Sandra, though.”

“Daddy, I’d love to have dinner with everyone.  I’ll be there at 6.”

Chapter Text

Bill is ready for a drink just halfway through his first day of training on Picon.  Most of the presentations so far involve things he already is aware of, making it difficult to focus, his mind drifting to the conversation he had with Jean the night before. 

Bill, the real Laura is worth it. 

… she’s too fierce to lose herself completely.  She’ll fight her way back and when she does, she’ll be a force.

He has no doubt that the real Laura is worth it.  But how long will it take her to fight her way back?  Will it only complicate matters if he tries to have a relationship with her when she so clearly hasn’t recovered from her previous relationship?  But if he isn’t there to support her, will he lose her forever?

He sits alone at a table in the conference room after filling his plate from the buffet style lunch provided to the attendees.  His mind goes in circles thinking about Laura and he’s becoming exhausted from the turmoil it’s causing.  He doesn’t even notice when someone approaches his table, standing by his side.

“Can I join you?” a man’s voice asks.

“Sure,” he says, looking up to a see a tall slender man in a military uniform with a plate of food.  “Kind of boring this morning,” the man mumbles as he sits down, then takes a bite of food.

“Very boring.  Hopefully, this afternoon will be better.  Either way, I’ll be ready for a stiff drink tonight.”

“Me, too.  I know a couple of good places – wanna join me?”

Bill looks at the man who is close to his age, considering his offer.  “Sure, why not.  I’m Bill Adama.”

“Nice to meet you, Bill,” the man says extending his hand.  “I’m Saul Tigh.”

 

**

Laura arrives at the house shortly before 6 pm, freshly showered and choosing to go with the natural look she adopted the day before, make-up free with air-dried hair.  She brings with her a list of items that she intends to retrieve from the basement, including more of her shoes and clothing, her notes and laptop, the Searider Falcon book Bill gifted her, the Dhilwayo book of poetry with the rose from her freshman year, along with several other books so she has something interesting to read in her free time.

It feels strange to Laura to have to ring the doorbell when she arrives at the house.  When Aunt Sara answers the door, she pulls her into a warm embrace.  “It’s good to see you, Laura.  How are you?”

“I’m doing alright, Aunt Sara,” she replies stepping into the foyer. 

“You look good.  I always liked your natural hair color the best,” she says with a friendly smile. 

Cheryl comes running out of the bathroom toward the living room with her arms straight out from her sides pretending to be a viper.  When she sees her big sister standing in the foyer, she breaks her trajectory and runs to her as fast as she can, launching herself into Laura’s arms. 

“Laurie!  Guess what I am!”

“A viper?” she asks, giving her a big hug.

“Yeh!  I’m going to be a viper pilot just like Bill! Where is he?”

“Sorry, sweetie, he’s not coming tonight.  Maybe some other time.”

“When?”

“I don’t know.  He’s on Picon right now,” Laura informs her, hoping that will stop her questions.

“Put me down, I want to fly some more!” Cheryl demands, then zooms away into the living room.

“Hey, sis,” Sandra says walking from her bedroom.

“I’ll let you two talk,” Aunt Sara says excusing herself.

“Hi, Sandra.  How are you?”

“I’m great, really great.  Since I can’t leave the house, Daddy set up some revolving dates for me, kind of like speed dating, so I constantly have boys coming over.  I found a really nice guy.  Thinking about getting married soon, having a couple of kids, you know, the usual stuff.”

“That’s awfully nice of Daddy to do that for you.”

“He’s a good dad, a really good dad, the best dad ever.  We’re lucky to have him,” she says tilting her head to the side and looking at her older sister bashfully, unsure if Laura will forgive her for arguing with her about Bill and Richard.

“I think so, too.  Come here,” she says holding her arms out. 

“I’m sorry I was such a bitch to you the other day,” Sandra says hugging her.

“Don’t apologize.  You were right.”

“Girls, dinner’s ready!” Dave calls from the kitchen. 

Laura and Sandra walk hand in hand to the table where Dave is placing a large bowl of spaghetti and homemade meatballs.  “Daddy, you’re wearing an apron!” Laura exclaims with a chuckle.  “Can I help you with anything?”

“No, I’ve got it all under control.  You are the guest tonight, so please have a seat.”  He places a basket of breadsticks on the table next to a lettuce salad, then removes his apron and seats himself at the head of the table.

 

**

The afternoon training sessions aren’t a whole lot better than the morning ones, and Bill finds himself constantly thinking of Laura.  One minute he worries about her, the next he’s angry with her, then his pride takes over and he thinks he should walk away, then he cycles through all of the emotions again.  He’s sick of feeling this way, so he finally makes a decision.  I don’t need this - I have to forget about her.

“Should I change into civilian clothes before we go out?” he asks Saul immediately when the training ends for the day, ready to get started for his life post-Laura.

“You will definitely want to wear civvies.  We can take a cab to a nice little strip club on the other side of town.  Lots of hot single women hang out there hoping to meet pilots, so make sure your swagger is on full display.  Strippers, music, dancing, drinking - it’s a guaranteed good time.”

“That’s exactly what I need.  I’ll meet you in the lobby in 15 minutes.”

 

**

“Aunt Sara, are you dating anyone yet?” Sandra asks as she passes her the breadsticks.

“My goodness, no, I’m not even divorced yet,” she replies.

“But you can still date.  I can help you create a profile on a dating website, maybe Senior Singles, or you could try some of the others, too.  It might be harder to find guys your age on the other ones, though, but maybe you want a younger man?” Sandra asks.

“I haven’t even considered dating.  I’m not sure I’d want to get married again.”

“You don’t have to look for a serious relationship – maybe just some hookups for casual sex,” Sandra states matter-of-factly.

“Sandra!  Drop the subject!” Dave warns.  He then narrows his eyes at his middle daughter, looking at her suspiciously.  “How do you know so much about dating websites?”

“Well…I may have looked at a few.”

“You’re not on one, are you?” Dave asks worriedly.

Sandra stares at her father realizing he is going to be very upset with her response, so she tries to preface it in a way that might temper his anger.  “In the interest of being open and honest and promoting better communication among us family members, yes, I created a profile on one.  My friends and I share it and use it to chat with men, but we pretend that we’re a 25-year-old law student and we only chat, we don’t meet for dates.” 

Laura chokes on her food at her sister’s confession.  Dave grimaces at Sandra, then takes a deep breath and looks at the ceiling trying to control his anger. 

“Take it easy, little brother,” Sara says placing a supportive hand on his arm.  “Looks like your hair just turned a bit grayer.”

“Why would you do something like that?” Dave asks Sandra, then clenches his jaw awaiting her response.

“I don’t know,” she replies quietly.  “I guess we’re just bored.”

“You do this at school?”

“Yeh.”

Cheryl chimes in with a well-timed “Uh-oh.”  Laura stares at her and shakes her head for her to be quiet.

“Excuse me,” Dave says, abruptly leaving the table.

“I’ll talk to him,” Sara says, following him out of the dining area and up the steps to his office.

“Sandra, my Gods – what were you thinking?!” Laura scolds.

“I don’t know.  We just wanted to have some fun, see what it would be like to flirt with older men.”

“You’re deceiving them and you’re way too young!”

“But we don’t meet them!  They’ll never know!”

“You and how many friends share this account?”

“Five of us.”

“What if one of the five of you decides to go ahead and meet some guy because they think he is charming?  And what if that guy turns out to be a creep?  You girls aren’t experienced enough to know how easy it is to be deceived on these websites.  You might think you’re chatting with a nice 20-year-old guy but he’s actually some 40-year-old sex offender looking for his next victim.  I know you’ve heard horror stories in the news about this.  It’s not a game!”

“But that’s why we agreed to never meet them!”

“No, Sandra, this isn’t okay,” Laura says flustered at her inability to make her sister understand.  “Some of these creeps know how to track your location through your phone if you’re chatting with them on the app.  What would you do if one of them showed up at the house because he tracked you here?”

Sandra’s eyes widen as she considers the possibility that one of the men she has chatted with might track her.  “I didn’t know they could do that.”

“There’s a reason they don’t allow anyone under the age of 18 on those websites.  You have to be so careful when you use them, and most kids don’t think about any of that.  Delete the account right now and then delete the app from your phone.”

“Okay, I will,” Sandra sighs, taking a bite of food.

“Now, Sandra!”

“Alright, geez, I’m doing it right now!” she says, pulling out her phone and logging into the account, turning the screen to Laura so she can see.

“Is that my picture?  You used my picture for your fake profile?!”

“I’m sorry!  We needed someone pretty so we’d get more chat requests.”

“For frak’s sake, please tell me you didn’t use my name, too!”

“Wellll…just your first name.  We made up a last name,” Sandra replies nervously.

“Give me your phone.”

“Why?”

“I want to see the profile.”

Sandra slides her phone across the table, then places her hands over her eyes, waiting for her sister to explode.

“Laurie Adama?!  Gods, Sandra!” 

Laura continues to the “About Me” section of the profile to read the fake biography.  “I’m Laurie - a 25-year-old sexy and single law student looking for a good time!  When I’m not going to law school, I work as an exotic dancer to help pay my tuition.  I love literature, long walks on the beach, and giving lap dances to the right man!  Request a chat if you think you are my Mr. Perfect!”

“Oh…I can’t even…Sandra….” Laura seethes, glaring at her sister.  She suddenly stands, taking the phone,  marching up the steps to her father’s office.  “DADDY!!!!!!” she yells on the way.  When she arrives at his office, she flings the door open to find her father sitting at his desk, Aunt Sara sitting across from him.  “You need to see this!” she says angrily, setting Sandra’s phone in front of him.

“I’ll go watch Cheryl and Sandra,” Sara says, quickly leaving the room.

“Look at this!  She used my picture and my name and wrote this fake profile!  What if someone sees me on the street and recognizes my photo?!”

Dave looks at the picture and the profile, then slams the phone down on his desk and yells “WHAT THE FRAK?!” loud enough that everyone at the dining table downstairs hears him.

Sara finds Cheryl sitting quietly at the table eating her spaghetti while Sandra sits with her hands over her face sobbing.  “Sandra, honey, tell me what you did,” she says sitting next to her and putting her arm around her shoulders.

“I keep frakking everything up!  I can’t do anything right anymore!”

**

Bill and Saul find front row seats near the center of the stage and order a couple of beers from the topless waitress.  The strippers are warming up in their robes, getting ready to begin their routines for the night.  Bill glances around the large room which is barely half full.  “Not many people here tonight.”

“Things’ll pick up in about an hour.  If you don’t show up early, you don’t get good seats, and I’m telling you, this place has the best strippers so you definitely want front row.”

Over the next hour, people start trickling in and at 8 pm, the first stripper takes the stage.  By this time Bill and Saul are each on their third beer, feeling happy and relaxed but not quite as buzzed as Bill would like to be.  They watch the stripper as she gyrates against a pole, eventually removing her top, and crawling along the stage in front of the crowd while patrons stuff money in her g-string.

“They get better as the night goes on,” Saul says.  “The newer ones start off each evening, then the skilled, more experienced ones close the place down.”

As they continue to watch the less experienced strippers dance and writhe around the stage, they swap war stories and chug more beer, eventually switching to shots of whiskey.  Another hour passes, and now both Bill and Saul are fairly drunk, cat-calling the strippers, even some of the male ones.  A thin red-haired young woman takes the stage next, wearing a red fishnet body suit with thick straps in just the right places to hide her nipples and private parts.  Bill inhales sharply when she marches to the pole right in front of him, locking eyes with him as she slides her back down the pole with her legs spread open toward his face.

“You like the red-head, huh?” Saul smiles.  “Excellent choice.”

I really do like the red-head.  The stripper continues to slide up and down the pole, all the time watching Bill’s eyes which are hungrily feasting on her body.  She drops to the stage slowly crawling to him on her hands and knees, crooking her finger at him to lean forward, inviting him to stuff some money in the netting by her left breast.  He roles up a bill and places it as close to her nipple as possible while gazing deep into her eyes.  He swears he sees a twinkle there that reminds him of Laura, or maybe it’s just the beer goggles he’s wearing along with wishful thinking.

She crawls across the stage and back, gathering up twice as much money as any other stripper so far, then crawls back to Bill and rests on her knees in front of him, her legs spread wide.  She pouts at him, runs her fingers through his thick hair, then pulls his face between her legs gyrating her hips toward him, stopping short of touching him.  He rolls up another bill to place in the fishnet between her legs, but she stops him, biting her finger, signaling that she wants him to place it there with his mouth.  He slips the bill between his teeth, then carefully slides it into the fishnet between her legs.  She wiggles one eyebrow at him when he finishes, then blows him a kiss.  Before she exits the stage, she shoots him a sultry look over her shoulder.

“I think she likes you,” Saul snickers. 

“She reminds me too much of someone.  Not sure I want to pursue her tonight.”  I have to forget about Laura.

“Got a red-headed girlfriend back home?”

“I had a red-headed girlfriend back home, up until a couple of days ago,” Bill says, slamming the rest of his drink and ordering another, irritated with himself for getting caught up in watching the red-headed stripper.

“Well, there are plenty of other women here tonight to help you move on.  The three over there in the corner have been watching you for a while.  Not a red-head in that trio.”

Bill turns around to see a blond and two brunettes eyeing him from across the room.  He stops the waitress and tells her to buy them the next round of drinks on him.   When the waitress delivers the drinks to their table, she points to Bill as the man who paid for them, who then holds his whiskey up toward them in a toast.  They eagerly grab their drinks and quickly walk across the room toward him.

“Hey, there, thanks for the drinks,” one of the brunettes says.  “I’m Christy.  This is Carly,” she says pointing to the other darker haired brunette, “and this is Carolanne,” she points at the blond.

“Nice to meet you, ladies.  I’m Bill, this is Saul,” Bill says, letting his eyes wander over the three women.  All of them are wearing skintight dresses with plunging necklines.  Carolanne has a short dress that barely covers her ass while Christy and Carly wear dresses that are slightly longer, but not by much.

“Hi, Saul,” they all say in unison.

“Are you both military?” Carolanne asks, placing her hand on Bill’s shoulder.

“We were both viper pilots during the war,” Bill replies.

“Ohhhh, viper pilots!  Did you hear that, ladies?” Carly asks with a huge smile on her face.

“We did.  What brings you men here tonight?” asks Carolanne, leaning into Bill while he places an arm around her.

“Just wanted to relax and have a good time.  What about you?” Bill replies, searching Carolanne’s face and liking what he sees.

“Same thing,” they all giggle.  “Maybe we can help each other out?” Carolanne asks while Christy leans into Bill’s other side.

“This next one’s mine,” Saul says suddenly, pointing at the stage.

“You mean your favorite?” Bill asks.

“No, she’s my girlfriend.”

“Guess we’re all just going to have to share you, Bill,” Carly says, placing her hand on his upper thigh.  When he doesn’t try to stop her, Christy and Carolanne each place a hand on his leg, too.  Carolanne, the more adventurous of the group, lets her hand gently slide between his legs, checking out his manhood.  He turns and gives her a roguish look, letting her know he approves.  He lets his hand drop to her ass, giving it a squeeze, and pulls her in for a kiss. 

Saul’s girlfriend turns out to be the best stripper of the night, having amazing strength and flexibility working the pole in front of them.  Saul hoots and hollers at her, as do Bill and the three women surrounding him, all of them stuffing money into her g-string at the end of her routine.

“She’s frakking hot, Saul,” Bill says slapping him on the back. 

“I know, and she’s all mine,” he says proudly.

“Does she want to party with us later?” Carolanne asks.

“She’s not into sharing me,” Saul replies, which causes all three women to pout.

“She could party with us, and you could watch,” Carly offers with a coy smile.

“I’m not into sharing her either, but thanks for the offer,” Saul replies, kissing the back of Carly’s hand.

“I have a hotel room near the base,” Bill whispers in Carolanne’s ear, who places a gentle kiss to his neck.  “We can take a cab and party there.”

“Give us a minute to freshen up first, then we’ll be back,” Carolanne says, gesturing for her friends to join her in the ladies’ room. 

Shortly after they leave, Saul’s girlfriend joins him.  “Who’s your friend, Saul?” she asks, taking a long sip of Saul’s whiskey.

“Ellen, this is Bill.  Bill, meet Ellen.”

“You’re fantastic, Ellen!” Bill says smiling at her, giving her a quick kiss on the cheek.  “Best one of the night!”

“Thank you, Bill.  Looks like you made a few friends tonight.”

“Have you decided which one to take back to the hotel?” Saul asks.

“Who says I have to choose?  My room has a king size bed and I plan to use every inch of it.”

“Well!” Ellen exclaims, her eyes lighting up.  “I like your style, Bill,” she says winking at him while she takes another sip of whiskey.

Saul looks at his new friend impressed.  “Think you can handle all three?”

“I know I can.” 

 

Carolanne, Christy, and Carly all stand before the mirror in the ladies’ room touching up their makeup and messing with their hair.  “Ladies, I have a favor to ask,” Carolanne says turning to them.  “I really like this guy.  Any chance I can talk you out of going with us?  I want him to myself.”

“Ahhh, nooo, Carolanne!  I like him, too,” whines Christy.

“I’ll owe both of you.  I can bail on the next two if you let me have this one.  I have a good feeling about him.  Please?” she begs.

“Christy, we both bailed on one for you last week.  You owe both of us.  Let her have him,” Carly says.

“Oh, alright,” Christy says.  “Good luck.  But I want all the details tomorrow so I know what I missed out on.”

 

Carolanne saunters alone back to Bill who is still chatting and laughing with Saul and Ellen.  Putting her arms around him, she nips at his ear, then whispers, “Would you be upset if I want you all to myself tonight?  I’ll make it worth your while.  You can put it anywhere you want.”

Bill pulls back to look in her eyes, the heat in his gaze reflected back at him.  “Let’s go,” he growls.  Goodbye, Laura.

 

Chapter Text

It’s only 11 pm but after multiple bottles of beer and way too many shots of whiskey, Bill is feeling more drunk than he has felt in quite a long while.  If this were six months ago, he would still be coherent, pleasantly buzzed, and staying for a few more rounds of drinks.  Of course, if this were six months ago, he would have insisted that all three ladies accompany him back to his room.  Never lacking in the stamina department, he would have given each of them a night to remember.

But tonight is different, a night where each drink he slams down his throat dulls the memory he has of a certain red-head that pervasively invaded his head throughout the day, a little pain in his heart following each and every thought of her.  If drowning himself in booze is a logical way to force her from his mind, then frakking a random stranger will certainly chase thoughts of her away forever.

As he and his frak-snack blond stand outside of the club waiting for a cab, he struggles to remember her name.  Kerri?  Carol?  Kelsey? Chrissy?  It doesn’t really matter as long as I forget about HER.  The blond is extremely friendly, busying herself with nibbling on his ears, then running the tip of her tongue down his neck.  He doesn’t even realize she has unbuttoned his shirt until he feels her hand on his bare chest.

“Mmmm, Bill, we’re going to have so much fun tonight,” she purrs, kissing his lips and parting them with her tongue.  The cab pulls up and Bill, being the gentleman he is, opens the door for her to crawl in.  Once inside, he tells the driver their destination, then he and the blond become better acquainted with some deep tonsil-probing kisses.  She suddenly straddles Bill’s lap, familiar giggles escaping her lips as she leans her face down to kiss him again. 

“Laura, we should wait until we get back to the hotel,” he mumbles between kisses.

She pulls back from him, a nonplussed look on her face.  “I’m not Laura, sweetie.”

“Ohhh, yehh, sorry, I mean…. Caroline,” he says, proud that he finally remembers her name.

“Carolanne, sweetie,” she corrects him, running her fingers through his thick wavy hair.

The cabbie taps on the glass divider between him and the backseat.  “No sex in the cab.  I need you two sitting side by side otherwise I’ll have to pull over and let you out.”

“He’s no fun,” Carolanne whispers, her lips forming a pout.  She slides off Bill’s lap and sits next to him, then runs her hand up between his legs feeling his erection grow.  “Someone wants to come out and play,” she teases, sliding his zipper down.

“Not in my cab!” the driver yells tapping on the glass again.

“What can we do?” she snaps back at him, her sudden anger causing Bill to sit up straight and pull his zipper up.

“Kiss.  You can kiss.  That’s it,” he replies.

She grabs Bill’s face with both her hands pulling him into a deep sloppy kiss, her tongue probing every inch of his mouth.  It’s erotic as hell but it’s not what he really wants.  He breaks the kiss, then runs his thumb along her bottom lip before placing a soft sensual kiss there. 

“You’re so sweet,” Carolanne purrs, the cab pulling into the hotel parking lot.  “You want to take it slow and easy?”

“I don’t want to hurry.  I want to make love to you all night, Laura,” Bill replies.

Carolanne suddenly slides across the backseat to put some distance between them.  “I told you I’m not Laura,” she says angrily.  “Say my name.”

Say my name.  The memory of the night he spent with Laura after bringing her and Cheryl home from the hospital flashes in his mind at those three words:  Laura’s straddling him, her delicate hands on his chest, fingers teasing his muscles, beautiful green eyes staring into him, red curls spilled along her bare shoulder.  He recalls wondering what it would be like waking up next to her every morning.

Bill stares at the blond across from him as the cab comes to a stop near the hotel entrance.  “I’m sorry, I can’t do this.”  He hands the driver double the amount of fare, then looks at the blond and says, “I’ve covered your ride back to the club.”

“You son of a bitch!” she yells, slapping him hard across the face, scratching him with her fake nails so that tiny droplets of blood trickle from his cheek.

“Hey!  No fighting!” the driver yells.

“I’m leaving.  Take her back to the club,” Bill orders the driver.  He stumbles from the cab rubbing his cheek, looking at the blood on his fingers.  He’s certain it stings but he’s drunk enough he can’t really feel it.

“What do you suppose that’s about?” Ellen says as she and Saul pull up in a cab, having just witnessed Carolanne hitting Bill.  Saul pays the fare as Ellen approaches Bill, the cab with Carolanne driving away as she hurls insults at him.

“Bill, are you okay?” she asks when she sees the blood on his face.

“I…I don’t know,” he says, stumbling away from her toward the hotel entrance. 

“Whoa, there, Bill, you’ve had a lot to drink,” Saul says placing Bill’s arm around his shoulders to help him walk.  “Ellen,” Saul says, nodding for her to do the same with Bill’s other arm.  “Let’s get him up to his room.”

“I can’t get her out of my head,” Bill groans as they guide him to the elevators.

“Who, Bill?” Ellen asks gently.

“Laura,” he replies with a hint of sadness.

Saul makes eye contact with Ellen.  “He broke up with a red-head a few days ago.”

“That would explain all the whiskey he was knocking back,” Ellen surmises.

“I’ve got you, buddy,” Saul says to Bill.  “We’ll get you to your room so you can sleep this off.”

When they arrive at his room, they immediately place him on his back on the edge of the king size bed.  “Saul, why does he have a nicer room than you?” Ellen asks looking around.

“I don’t know, what difference does it make?” he replies.  “Help me get his clothes off.”

Bill’s shirt is already unbuttoned and untucked from Carolanne’s ministrations in the cab, so Ellen easily slips his shirt off while Saul holds him up.  She then undoes his belt buckle and slides his zipper down when Saul says, “You would have to do the pants, wouldn’t you?”

“I’m just trying to get him undressed, Saul!”

“Do his shoes first!  We can’t take his pants off before we take his shoes off!”

“Oh,” she replies, quickly pulling the shoes from his feet. 

“Pull his pants off while I lift him up,” Saul orders.

Saul pulls Bill’s waist up and Ellen quickly slides his pants down, accidentally pulling his boxers down partway, exposing all of Bill’s privates.

“Laura,” Bill sighs.

“Oops,” Ellen says when she realizes what happened.  “Um, oh…oh my,” she says eyeing Bill’s erection.  “I bet he can handle three women,” she remarks with a flirty smirk.

“Gods, Ellen!” Saul says pulling Bill’s shorts back into place.

“Well, you know, I wasn’t expecting him to be that…. well-endowed,” she tries to explain to Saul’s glare.

They role him to his side and place a waste basket at the edge of the bed in case he vomits.  Ellen covers him with a blanket from the closet and they leave a lamp on near the desk where they have left his clothes folded in a neat pile.

**

The Wednesday morning training sessions are a mix of things Bill already knows with a few new items peppered in, enough so that he has to pay closer attention which is a challenge due to the throbbing headache he is suffering from the previous night’s drinking binge.  Ironically, his pain is a relief to him because his mind isn’t constantly wandering to Laura.  He alternates drinking coffee and water all morning to flush the alcohol from his system and keep him awake for the afternoon session.  Lunch is another buffet and after he fills his plate, Saul joins him at a table in the middle of the conference room.

“Feeling any better?” Saul snickers.  “How many shots did you do last night?”

“I lost count,” Bill grumbles, popping a couple of pain relievers with his meal.  “You and Ellen take me to my room?”

“Yeh, tucked you in all nice and cozy.  Looked like a baby sleeping when we left.”

Bill snorts at his description.  “A nice, big, drunk baby.”

“Do you remember anything else?” Saul inquires.

Bill touches the scratch on his face, the image of the blond screaming at him and striking him flashing in his mind.  “That woman hit me, yelled at me.  I had to get away from her.”

“What happened?  You were both so friendly when you left the club.”

What did happen?  His memory is hazy, but the longer he chews his food and thinks, the more information about the previous night comes back to him.  “Oh!” he finally exclaims.  “Gods,” he says shaking his head.

“Are you going to share that information?” Saul presses.

“I’d rather not.”

“Okay,” Saul says poking at his salad.  “Does it have anything to do with Laura?”

“Did I say something to you and Ellen last night?” Bill asks, surprised that Saul knows her name.

“You mentioned not being able to get her out of your head, then said her name a couple of times.  She the red-head you broke up with?”

“Not exactly.  She broke up with me,” Bill replies.

“She’s not into 3-ways, 4-ways?”

“I don’t know, we never had sex.”

Saul looks at his friend perplexed.  “All that commotion last night over a woman you haven’t even slept with?”  He chuckles and shakes his head.  “You’ve got it bad for her, don’t you?”

“I’m trying to forget her, but every time I turn around, something reminds me of her.”

“Let’s try another place tonight – maybe you can meet someone else.  Unless you don’t really want to forget Laura.”

“I need to forget her,” Bill replies quickly.  “I have to.”

“Alright,” Saul replies, looking at Bill suspiciously because of his insistence to forget Laura.  “Ellen and I will stop by your room around 6.  She has the night off.”

“I’ll be ready.”

 

For the afternoon sessions, Bill is taken to the base where he meets with some military higher ups.  Security is tight for these meetings and only a handful of the trainees are allowed to attend.  First they are searched, then cell phones and other electronics are taken from everyone before they enter the secure meeting room.

The meetings focus on the cylons, the recent war, and the fragility of the armistice with them.   A large part of Bill’s job will be to gather information from civilian captains about any suspicious activity they witness on their flights, even if it is something minor.  Bill will interview these captains and other witnesses, compile reports, and communicate with the military about the findings.  He may occasionally be asked to go on some civilian flights to further an investigation and if there is extreme suspicious activity, which the general referred to as level 4, he may be temporarily stationed on a battlestar to aid in black ops missions.  When the general opens the meeting to questions, the liaison from Virgon asks how many levels there are.

“There are six levels.  Level 0 is no suspicious activity, and we hope that most ships will report level 0 after each run.  Levels 1 through 3 are low, medium, and high suspicious activity and you will be provided examples of each in our training tomorrow morning.  Level 4 is extreme suspicious activity.”

“What’s Level 5?” Bill asks when the general pauses.

“The armistice is broken and we are at war,” the general grimly replies.

 

It’s 5 pm by the time the meetings end, then it’s a good 15-minute trip back to his hotel room.  After a quick shower and shave, he dresses in tan slacks and a blue button-down shirt, what he refers to as his “lady-killer” outfit since women always remark how his blue eyes match his shirt.  He steps back and looks in the mirror after carefully running his fingers through his hair, then realizes he’s wearing the same outfit from his only date with Laura.  It doesn’t matter.

He reaches for his phone to check the time, then remembers that it had been turned off at the base when it was taken from him.  After turning it back on, messages and notifications begin to appear and he glances at them as they pop up, looking for any that need an immediate response.  One text message causes him to catch his breath:

I’m sorry.  I made a mistake.  If you’d still like to talk, I’ll be at the café Friday evening at 7 pm. 

 

Chapter Text

Laura returns to Jean’s apartment at 9 pm, finding her sitting in bed propped up on some pillows reading a law journal article for a presentation she is required to give at semester’s end.  “You were gone a while.  How was dinner with the fam?” Jean asks.

Laura lets out a resounding sigh as she strips off her clothing and tugs on a t-shirt and leggings.  “Dinner was fine, right up until we discovered Sandra created a profile on a dating site using my picture and the name ‘Laurie Adama’ so that she and her friends could chat with older men.”

“No shit!  What was she thinking?”

“That’s what I asked her!  And, get this, apparently by day I’m a law student and by night I’m an exotic dancer so that I can pay my tuition, plus I love to give lap dances.  They’ve chatted with well over 100 men in the last month, and there are over 2000 views of my profile, plus hundreds have saved it as a favorite!  Gods!  I’m still so pissed off talking about it.  Daddy had to leave the room he was so mad.”

“What if someone sees you and recognizes you?  Especially now that you’re around campus – I’m sure there are tons of college students on those dating sites.  Maybe even a few professors.”

“Ahhhhh!! Don’t tell me that!” Laura exclaims slipping into bed.

Jean doesn’t respond, instead flipping the page on her journal article. 

“I’m sorry, are you studying?  I can go in the other room if you need me to,” Laura offers.

“I’m about done – I just wanted to read through this again so it’s fresh in my head when I sleep.  Helps me retain things.”

“I’ll be quiet.”

Jean continues to study while Laura reaches for a book on her nightstand to occupy herself until her friend is available to talk again.  She doesn’t read the book but stares at the pages pretending to read while her mind wanders.  Laura Adama.  Sounds weird.  Laurie Adama.  Sounds better.  Laura Roslin-Adama.  That has a nice ring to it.  She tries to imagine herself as an exotic dancer wondering if she has the flexibility to work a pole like the dancers she has seen at the few strip clubs she has visited.  I bet you have to be in really good shape to do that every night.  There’s a place a few blocks from campus called ‘Flirty Fitness’ that teaches enrollees how to pole dance, mainly as a way to get in shape, but some people have progressed enough that they dance at clubs for extra cash.  Maybe I’ll ask Jean to check it out with me.

“Laura?  Are you there?” Jean asks placing a hand on her shoulder.

“Huh?”

“I’ve been talking to you for the last minute but you’re spaced out.  I’m done reading.”

“Oh, sorry.  I was thinking.”

“Yeh, I recognize the look.  What are you going to do about the dating profile?”

“Daddy and I looked into the rules and regulations and decided it’s best to report it as a fraudulent account.  It’ll be removed by the administrators and all the people who have interacted with the profile will be notified that it was fake.  They will also block all the IP addresses that logged into the account so that they can’t create another one.  We thought that was better than just deleting it.  But Daddy is going to notify the school that Sandra and her friends did this while in class.  She won’t give up who her friends are that accessed the account, but the school may have a pretty good idea who they are.”

“I know she’s not in school for the rest of the semester, but that could get pretty ugly for her when she goes back in the fall.”

“Not sure Daddy wants her to go back to that school.  He has time to figure that out, though.”

“Other than that, how was everything else tonight?”

“Good.  Cheryl was happy to see me, and it’s always good to see Aunt Sara.  Daddy even cooked the meal, wore an apron and everything.  He tried to give me back my housekey when I left, but I asked him to hang onto it a bit longer.  I don’t want to be tempted to run back there if something doesn’t go right.”

“Hmmm, Dave in an apron…” Jean says with a small smile on her face.

“Don’t tell me you still have a crush on my dad.”

“Of course I do, especially now that his hair has gotten a little gray around the temples.  You know how I like older men.”

“No, Jean, it’s just wrong.  It was funny when you were a teenager, but now it’s sort of disturbing.”

“Why?  We’re both adults.  He’s young enough he’ll date again someday.”

“We’re not talking about my dad dating.  It’s too soon.”

“Yeh, it’s too soon right now, but a year from now it won’t be.  Your dad’s hot, Laura, and he’s smart and has a career – he’s a good catch.  I’d be surprised if he doesn’t remarry someday.”

“We’re not talking about this.”

“Laura, what’s the problem?  He’s going to date again someday.  He’s around women all the time since he’s a professor.  At the very least he’ll wind up banging a college student or two.  Everyone needs to get laid.”

“Ewww!  No, Jean, stop!”

“Do you remember that time I went on summer vacation with your family in high school and we saw him and your mom having sex?  The guy has stamina.  I watched them for at least an hour.”

“Be quiet.”

“I’m just saying – if he’s still single in a few years, I may invite myself to a few family dinners.  I could wind up being your stepmom.  Then I could kick your ass for real.”

Laura drops her head back and laughs out loud.  “Then I’d never want the housekey back!  I’d never go home again!”

“You wouldn’t want to see your twelve half-siblings?”.

“You’re trying to get rid of me!  If you don’t want me to move in with you, just say so!”

“No, actually, now that I think about it, I want you to move in with me.  That way I can see Dave more often,” Jean laughs, unable to keep a straight face anymore.

“Are you serious?  I can move in with you?”

“Sure, but let’s do it on a month-to-month basis.  You’ll have to fill out an application and get on the lease.”

“I’ll do it tomorrow.  Thanks.”

“It hasn’t been horrible having you here.  But I’m still crushing on your dad – I wasn’t kidding about that.”

“Hmmmm,” Laura grumbles, giving her a dirty look.

“Have you contacted Bill?”

“No, after the dating site fiasco, I was so angry I didn’t think it was a good time to contact him.  And now it’s getting late, so I’ll wait until tomorrow.”

Jean gives her friend a disapproving look.

“I know what you’re thinking, but I’m not delaying this because I’m scared.  I mean, I am nervous about contacting him, but I also want to be in the right frame of mind.  I’ll do it tomorrow and if I don’t, you can yell at me.”

“Do it before 3 – I work 4-10 tomorrow.”

“Alright, before 3.  I promise.”

Jean rises from the bed and strips off her clothes, then climbs back under the covers.

“I was hoping you were going to leave your clothes on tonight,” Laura says sinking down into the bed and placing the pillow between them.  “Don’t be afraid to try something different.”

“Or you could try something different and sleep naked,” Jean replies after yawning.

Laura narrows her eyes at Jean’s back, trying to force her to feel her stare.  When she gets no response, she says, “You talked me into it.”  She quickly strips off her clothes and pulls the covers up to her chin.  “Now we’re both naked.”

“Goodnight, Laura.”

 

**

They both gasp for air after breaking their long, passionate kiss, their foreheads pressed together while lying next to each other.  When Bill’s eyes meet hers, they smile softly at one other, then his hand on the back of her neck pulls her face to his again for another sensual kiss.  His hand brushes from her neck down her side to her leg, where he lifts it gently over his hip, allowing him to enter her while he stares into her eyes.  She wraps her arm around him, melting into him as he establishes a rhythm with his thrusts. 

“Bill?” she asks with concern.  “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing’s wrong.”

“Why are you so mushy?” she asks, pressing her hand into his back and noticing it easily sinking into him. 

“I ate a lot of pie and got chubby.”

“At the café?”

“Yes, I’m a regular there.  I eat an entire pie every night, sometimes two.  Is that a problem?”

“No, it just seems like you got chubby really fast.”

“Because I eat the pie really fast.  You could eat pie with me, then we could both be chubby.”

“I can’t pole dance if I’m chubby.  Nobody will give me money to pay my tuition.”

“Maybe after you graduate you can start eating pie with me.”

“I will.  I like pie.”

“So, you’re okay with chubby Bill?”

“Yes.  I love you, chubby Bill.”

Laura tightens her grip around him as his thrusts increase in intensity, her body building toward her climax.  Suddenly, she’s hit in the head with a pillow.

“What the frak?” she yells, her eyes popping open to see Jean glaring at her from her side of the bed.

“You better not be having that sex dream about me!” Jean yells back. 

“Ugghhhh!” Laura exclaims, her arms and legs wrapped around the large pillow separating her from Jean.  “No, I was dreaming about having sex with Bill, and he was fat because he ate a lot of pie.  Dammit, you woke me before my orgasm!”

Jean gives her a blank stare for several seconds before speaking.  “I don’t even know what to say to that.  When is your next therapy appointment?”

“Shut up.  It was just a weird dream.  Go back to sleep.”

“Nahhhh, it’s almost 6 so I think I’ll get up and go to the library.  That way you can have some alone time with pillow-Bill.”  She stands and pulls on a robe before walking to the bathroom.  “And if you have any trouble having an orgasm with your pillow lover, there’s a vibrator in the top drawer of my nightstand.  The toy cleaner is in the medicine cabinet for when you’re finished.”

Of course you have a vibrator in your nightstand.  Laura hugs the pillow closer after Jean shuts the bathroom door, closing her eyes hoping to return to her dream.  Unfortunately, she’s wide awake now so she gets out of bed, pulls her t-shirt and leggings back on, then heads to the kitchen for breakfast.

**

“Sandra, get up,” Dave says trying to pull his daughter out of bed.  “You need to shower and finish your schoolwork so you’re ready for the counselor this afternoon.”

“I’ve finished my schoolwork for the entire week.  Let me sleep,” she groans pulling the covers over her head.

“You can sleep for another hour, but then you need to get up and do something.  You’re not going to lie around feeling sorry for yourself all day.”

“Whatever.  Nothing else to do,” she mumbles.

“You can help me with some grading.  And you can start working on the scrapbook you mentioned.  Or get some exercise.”

“Ah,” she coughs flinging the covers from her face and turning to look at her dad.  “Are you saying I’m getting fat?”

“No, that’s not what I’m saying.  Lying around doing absolutely nothing isn’t healthy for anyone of any age let alone a bright 15-year-old who tends to get into trouble when she’s bored.”

“Then give me my phone back so I’m not bored.”

“No, not for a while.  Show me you can be productive around here and we’ll discuss your phone again in a few weeks.”

As he’s about to leave her room he hears her mumble, “You’re such a hardass.  Momma never would have taken my phone away.” 

It stops him in his tracks and he covers his mouth with his hand to keep from snapping at her.  He then turns back toward her bed, grabbing the covers and pulling them off her.  “Get up!  Now!  Don’t you dare try to manipulate me like that again!”

“Fine!  I’m getting up, see?” she says standing from the bed.  “I’ll go take a shower!”  She stomps to the bathroom slamming the door behind her.

“Everything okay in here, Dave?” Sara asks poking her head inside the bedroom door.

Dave stares back at her letting out a long sigh while shaking his head.  “It’s gonna be a long day.”

“She’s really good at pushing your buttons and she knows it.  Don’t back down.  She has to learn that you are the disciplinarian now.”

“I just hope she gets through this phase soon.”

“I hate to tell you this but it’s probably going to get worse before it gets better.  She’s an angry teenager.”

“Do you regret coming here?”

“No, I wish you had called me sooner.  Your family’s in crisis, little brother.  Makes my problems look trivial.”

“Is Cheryl ready for daycare?  Her ride will be here soon.”

“About that…” Sara says just as Cheryl crawls on all fours in her bear outfit, growling past the door.  “She insisted on the bear costume and as soon as she put it on, she quit talking.”

“I’m not going to fight with her about it today.  If she wants to be a bear, she can be a bear.  Maybe the daycare can do a better job handling it.”

“Alright, I’ll load her in the van when it arrives, then I’m off to work.  Call me if you need anything, or if you just want someone to talk to.  I can spare a few minutes here and there.”

“I will.  Thanks, Sara.”

**

After an early morning run followed by a lengthy shower, Laura situates herself at Jean’s desk and begins looking through her dissertation notes and the draft she was working on before shelving it over a month ago.  Gods, I sound so pretentious.  If she plans on graduating in the summer, a good half of what she’s completed will need to be rewritten.  Looking back through her notes again, she uses a different color pen and begins to scribble even more notes in the margins, hoping that by doing so, she can figure out a different direction to take things.  Her research had solely focused on reintroducing classic literature to high schoolers, something that had been abandoned years ago in favor of more modern literature.  But modern literature is watered down and has a very contrived feel to it, whereas classical literature teaches a stronger lesson.  By why just high schoolers?  Why not introduce it to middle schoolers and maybe even upper elementary?  Some of the subject matter will still need to be watered down, but maybe the novels can be rewritten in a way to be more age-appropriate so that they create discussion about content.  She wants children to think, communicate, debate, and problem-solve.  The idea of rewriting classic novels intrigues her, so she decides to email her advisor to set a time to talk on Thursday afternoon.

Jean returns to the apartment as Laura is finishing up lunch.  “Have you contacted Bill yet?” is the first thing she says.

“No, I’ve been looking over my research and coming up with different ideas.  He’s in training right now anyway.”

“Laura!  You promised you’d contact him before 3.  Send him a text.”

“I still don’t know what to say.”

“Keep it simple.  If you want to meet with him Friday, let him know.”

“Hmmmmmm,” Laura hums as she pulls out her phone and clicks on Bill’s name to send a text.  She types for a little while, then stops and thinks, then types again.  “Alright, how about this?” she asks showing Jean the text.

“I like it.  Short and to the point.  It leaves it up to him if he wants to see you again, makes you sound less needy.”

“Good.  I’m sending it now.  And I’m not needy.  If I screwed it up enough that he doesn’t show, then I’ll move on with my life.  If he does show up, I can at least tell him how I feel about him, even if it’s the last time we see each other.”

“How do you feel about him?”

Laura takes the last bite of her salad and chews it slowly as she thinks.  She never does answer Jean’s question.

**

“Sandra!  Your counselor is here,” Dave calls from the foyer. 

Sandra appears at the doorway to her bedroom where she has been sulking for the better part of the morning after her father tried to task her with some simple grading of multiple-choice history exams.  As she graded, she sighed loudly, made annoying sounds, and sometimes even commented that his students were stupid.  After 10 minutes of her attitude, Dave informed her that she lost another week of phone privileges and when she protested, he threatened to take her phone away for the remainder of the 8 weeks of house arrest.  She stormed from his office down the steps to her bedroom, slamming the door and turning up the music streaming on her computer.  He repeatedly told her to turn the volume down, but she dug in her heels, so he came into her room and nonchalantly removed her computer.

“I need that for school,” she informed him.

“You said you were done with schoolwork for the week.  You can have it back Monday.  And if you slam another door in this house, I’ll remove your bedroom door.”

She spent the rest of the morning plotting her revenge against her father, until she fell asleep on her bed and was awakened by him at lunchtime.  She refused to join him at the table so he placed her sandwich in a container and put it in the fridge.  He then brought his grading from his office to the kitchen table so he could catch her if she tried to sneak food.  “You can either sit at this table and eat, or you can go hungry.”  She chose to go hungry.

 

“Hi, Dr. Roslin, I’m Charlotte and I’m here to see Sandra.  How is she doing today?”

“It’s nice to meet you, Charlotte.  You can call me Dave.  She’s being very defiant today, expending a lot of energy to get under my skin.”

“I see.  Is there a place where Sandra and I can meet in private and, preferably, not her bedroom?”

“My office upstairs, on the right.  Good luck.  I’ll be down here grading papers.”

 

Forty-five minutes later, Sandra stomps down the steps to her bedroom, carefully shutting the door.  Charlotte slowly comes down the steps with her briefcase, meeting Dave in the foyer.

“How’d it go?” he asks.

Charlotte purses her lips as she shakes her head.  “She didn’t say a word to me the whole time.”

“I honestly don’t know what to do.  Can you give me any advice at all?”

“Is there anyone she will listen to?   Maybe another family member or a teacher? This is court ordered therapy, so if she isn’t willing to participate, she’s going to wind up in juvenile detention for the next several weeks.  I told her that and it didn’t even phase her.  Keep a close eye on her.  Here’s my contact information,” she says handing him a business card.  “I don’t have to file my weekly report with the judge until Monday so if you can convince her to speak with me before then, even just for a few minutes, then I can tell the judge we had a satisfactory first session.”

“Can you wait here for a few minutes?  I want to give it one last try before you leave.”

“Sure, this is my last session of the day and we finished early since she refused to talk.  I can wait around.”

Dave goes to Sandra’s room and shuts the door behind him.  When he sits on the edge of the bed, she rolls away from him to avoid looking at him. 

“Do you want to go to juvenile detention?” he asks her, staring at the back of her head.  When he doesn’t get any response, he says, “Because if you do, tell me right now.  I’ll tell Charlotte to file her report with the judge immediately and you can be placed there tonight.”

“You’d actually let them take me to juvenile detention?!”

“I won’t have a choice!  If you don’t talk to the counselor, the judge will send you to detention for the next several weeks.  There’s nothing I can do to stop that.  Sandra, I don’t want you to go.  Cheryl doesn’t want you to go.  Neither do Laurie or Aunt Sara.  So, if you don’t want to go, talk to the counselor.  She’s still in the foyer.  What’s it going to be?”

Sandra rolls over to face him, staring him down to see if he’s bluffing.  When he doesn’t budge, she says, “Fine.  I’ll talk to her,” and walks out of her room and up the steps to his office.

Chapter Text

Bill decides at the last minute to stay in his hotel room Wednesday evening rather than go out drinking another night with Saul and Ellen.  He stares at his phone wondering if he should respond to Laura’s text but can’t decide what to say.  A large part of him wants to meet with her, tell her how he feels, but maybe she isn’t ready for that conversation.  Another part of him is angry that he allowed himself to fall for a girl so quickly and so thoroughly that he can barely think straight throughout the day.  The foolish part of him considers not going, this would be the same foolish part that thought large amounts of whiskey and sex with a stranger would make him forget about her.  He decides to turn in early, delaying making any decision regarding Laura until returning to Caprica and speaking with his father.

The Thursday morning meetings are chock full of new information and Bill is grateful he isn’t hungover because he can barely keep up even after a good night’s sleep.  They finish at 11 am, early enough that he can catch the noon transport back to Caprica.  His only regret is that he won’t get to say goodbye to Saul and Ellen, although he’s certain he will see them again soon since Saul will be helping out with investigations until he is assigned a more permanent position.

He returns home at 3:30 pm and goes to his father’s study where he finds him working on a case study for a legal journal.  After a brief description of the last three days on Picon, Bill informs his father that he heard from Laura, showing him the text message.

“Oh, good.  I’m sure you’ll be glad to see her again.”

“I’m not sure I’m going, Dad.”

“Why wouldn’t you go?  It’s not like you to stay away out of spite.”

Bill massages his temple with his index finger while he sits across from his father in a large chair in his office.  “I spent some time on Picon trying to forget about her,” he says dragging his index finger from his temple to the scratch on his cheek.  “Convinced myself it was the best thing for both of us.”

“Oh?  Did it work?” Joe asks, eyeing his son’s response.

Bill shifts in his chair, closing his eyes and recalling his failed encounter with the blond.  “No.  Not at all.  What should I do?”

“You know I won’t tell you what to do.  But ask yourself, what’s the downside of going?”

Bill doesn’t want to answer that question, the thought of it giving him an uneasy feeling in his gut. “If I don’t go, then it’s over for sure.”

“That’s not what I asked.  What’s the downside of going?  Why not go even if it’s just to obtain some closure and say goodbye?”

“I don’t know,” he sighs knowing his father is trying to lead him down a path he is reluctant to travel on.

“Be honest with yourself - I think you do know,” Joe says quietly.

Because it hurts more than it should.  Because when I see her I’m going to want to hug her and hold her and if she rejects me again, I don’t know what I’ll do.  “Are you going to be able to help me tonight?” Bill asks, changing the subject.

Joe smiles to himself before he responds.  “Sure.  After dinner, okay?”

“That works,” Bill replies before leaving his father’s office. 

 

**

Laura meets with Dr. Galloway Thursday afternoon and presents her new idea regarding her research.  While Dr. Galloway likes the idea of rewriting some of the classics so they are more age-appropriate, she doesn’t think Laura will have time to complete her dissertation and present a rewritten novel with it.  She suggests choosing a few passages from a novel and rewriting them for middle school and upper elementary to illustrate her point.  Together they develop a list of passages from various novels that she can choose from.  For the first time in over a year, Laura is extremely excited about her research topic, and when she leaves her advisor’s office, she decides to share her news with her father.

His office door is ajar when she knocks on it, pushing it open enough to slip her head inside.  “Daddy!” she exclaims, eager to tell him her news.  “Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t realize you were talking to the Dean,” she says stepping back into the hallway.

“Laura!” the Dean calls, “Come in!  We were just finishing up.”

“Are you sure?  I can come back later,” she offers.

“Come on in, Laura!  Dave, if you could let me know by the end of next week, that would be great.  I’ll talk to you then.  It’s good to see you again, Laura,” the Dean says as he leaves Dave’s office.

“Good to see you, too, Dean Stockwell!” she calls after him.  “Daddy, is this a bad time?  I can always come back if there’s something you need to do.”

“No, this is great.  You seem excited,” Dave comments.

“I am!  I met with Dr. Galloway and told her about my new ideas for my dissertation and now I have a plan of action that I’m really eager to start on!  I think I’ll write for a week and see how it goes, then if it looks like I’m making good progress, I’ll apply for a summer completion date.”

“Laurie, that’s wonderful news!  I haven’t seen you this fired up about your research in a long time.  It’s very refreshing and I’m happy for you.”

“Daddy, it feels good - really, really good.  The other news I have is that I filled out an application to be on the lease of Jean’s apartment and it was accepted this morning, so I have a place to live for at least a month.  Hopefully she doesn’t kick me out after that.  But if she does, I’m sure there will be openings in the same building since the semester will be over, and I could always get a place by myself.  The rent is cheap there because the apartments are so small.  I’ve applied to teach a couple of undergrad courses for the summer semester and that should be enough money to cover my living expenses.”

Dave sits back in his chair, a broad smile on his face, staring at his first-born child who seems so completely different from even a week ago.  “You have no idea how happy I am for you right now, Laurie.  Things are finally coming back together for you.  I’m so proud.  Your whole life is ahead of you.”

She lets his words sink in, giving her confidence and warming her heart.  “I hope you didn’t get into trouble with the Dean for skipping the dinner the other night.”

“I didn’t.  But he was hoping to speak with me about something Monday night, which is why he stopped by today.  He offered me the position of Dean of Research.”

“Daddy!  That’s amazing!  When do you start?”

“It would start with the fall semester after the current Dean of Research retires.  I’ll have to think about it.  I’m not sure I’m ready to give up teaching.”

“You wouldn’t be able to teach at all?”

“Probably just one class per semester.  But I would have more time to focus on my own research, maybe even write some books that I’ve had on the backburner for quite a while.  And I could retire early because my salary will double.”

“Double?!  I didn’t realize it was the big of a jump in pay.  If you don’t take the job, I will!”

“I’ll mention that to the Dean if I decide to turn it down.  We can swap out one Dr. Roslin for another Dr. Roslin.  Can you stay and chat for a while?”

“Sure, Daddy.  Is something wrong?”

“It’s just nice to hear good news for a change.  I’ve missed talking to you like we used to do when you were on campus.  What else is new?”

“I’m running every day.  I didn’t realize how much I missed it until I started again.  And I’ve quit smoking.  I go back to the therapist on Tuesday, and I’m actually looking forward to it.”

“Are you free for dinner on Saturday night?  I thought it would be a good idea for you to stop by again before the next family therapy, you know, since things didn’t go so well with your sister the other night.”

“That’s a good idea – I’ll be there at 6.  Is she giving you a hard time?”

“That’s an understatement, but don’t worry about it.  I’m learning to handle it.  I have my own therapist now and he specializes in parenting after the loss of your partner.”

“Mine specializes in relationship trauma, trust, and intimacy issues.  Do you like your therapist?”

“We’ve only had one session but so far, so good,” he replies before a small frown forms on his face.

“Are you sure you’re okay, Daddy?  You seem kind of down.”

“I don’t want you to worry.  And I certainly don’t want to bring you down.”

“We need to communicate better as a family – that’s what you told the family therapist, right?  Please tell me what’s wrong.”

“It’s Sandra.  She’s angry with me about contacting the school and her friends’ parents.  She knows how to get under my skin.  I took her phone away from her and she tried to manipulate me by saying your mother never would have done that and I lost my temper.  Then the day got worse from there.  After behaving like a brat instead of helping me grade papers, she stormed off and played loud music on her computer, so I took it away from her.  Then she refused to eat lunch and she also refused to speak with her therapist, sitting mute on the sofa in my office for 45 minutes.  The therapist told me if Sandra didn’t take part in therapy, the judge would send her to juvenile detention for the remainder of the 8 weeks.  I managed to convince her to talk to the therapist for a good 20 minutes after that, but she is still angry and punishing me.”

“Do you know what Sandra told me the other night when I first got to the house?  She said you were the best dad ever.  That’s how she really feels about you.”

“I’m not so sure.  I tried to hug her last night while I was making dinner and she just stood there stiff as a board, didn’t try to hug me back.  No expression on her face.  Didn’t even tell me goodnight when she went to bed.”

“She’s trying to get you to back down and give her phone back.  You did the right thing.  It’s good that you hugged her because it shows her that even though you’re upset with her behavior, you still love her unconditionally.  Daddy, are you taking any time for yourself outside of work?  Maybe you should have dinner with me one night a week, or with a friend - just to get away.  Maybe we could go to a boxing match like we used to, or a pyramid game.”

“You sound like my therapist,” he chuckles.  “Do you want to have dinner with me next week?  Maybe Wednesday night – that’s my work-from-home day so it would be good to get out afterwards.”

“It’s a date!”

**

After unpacking, doing some laundry, and putting his clothes away, Bill decides to turn in early again.  It’s a clear night and the stars twinkle brightly through his bedroom windows making him reminisce his time in space as a viper pilot, back when relationships were simpler, if he could even call them relationships.  Endless patrols, constant battles, shared quarters, and shared bathrooms don’t really allow for anything serious, but sex is always readily available.  Sex was all he was looking for on the dare when he met Laura.  He’s not even sure how he went from wanting to get laid to starting a relationship and then developing feelings for her.

He recalls Saul’s words to him at lunch Wednesday on Picon:  All that commotion last night over a woman you haven’t even slept with?  You’ve got it bad for her, don’t you?

If he wasn’t so miserable, the irony would make him laugh.  I haven’t even slept with her!  Pre-Laura Bill wouldn’t have gotten so drunk at the strip club.  That Bill would have taken at least one woman back to his hotel room, bent her over his desk, and made her howl with pleasure before moving onto the next one.  Problem solved, Laura would be gone from his life forever.

He pulls his phone from the nightstand and clicks on the text from her.  After staring at the message for a few minutes, he finally begins to type:

I won’t be there.  I thought I’d let you know so you don’t waste a trip.  Goodbye, Laura.

His thumb hovers over the “Send” button as he rereads the text, once, twice, then again, and again.  I can’t do this.  He deletes the message and sets his phone back on the nightstand.  It was my idea to meet again – I’ll go. 

Chapter Text

It’s a busy but uneventful day for Bill at the Caprica shipyards on Friday.  He gathers reports from captains and crew members, answers several emails he received while on Picon, and spends some time practicing the mnemonic device to remember names, which he is determined to do because he feels that people will find him more approachable and are more likely to share information with him if he takes the time to know them personally.  He doesn’t give much thought to his impending 7 pm meeting at the café other than to make sure he leaves work on time to go home and change his clothes into something more casual. 

Laura goes on an early morning run after a quick breakfast, then dives into her research and the notes she took from her meeting with her advisor.  Like Bill, she doesn’t give much thought to the café meeting until Jean returns at 2 pm to get ready for work. 

“Do you know what you’re going to say?” she asks as she changes into a skintight pair of jeans and a low-cut v-neck t-shirt, both good for amping up the tips for the evening.

“No.  I’ve decided not to drive myself crazy trying to overanalyze this.  I’m going to wing it, speak from my heart.”

“Are you sure that’s a good idea, Laura?  It’s quite a bold step for you to go in without a plan.”

Laura sighs at her friend knowing she’s challenging her.  “If I overanalyze this, then I’ll get my hopes up, and if things don’t turn out according to my hopes, I’ll be devastated.  I’m speaking from my heart tonight.”

Jean, satisfied with her response, replies, “Alright.  You can do this.  Do you know what you’re going to wear?”

Laura walks to the closet and pulls out a yellow sleeveless summer dress with a low neckline and a green sundress with thin straps and a much more modest neckline.  “What do you think?  I plan on wearing those sandals with either one,” she says pointing on the floor to her side of the bed.  She holds both dresses up under her chin so Jean can examine her.

“I like the green – brings out your eyes.”

“Good, I was leaning toward the green, too.”

“Laura, whatever happens, if you want to talk to night, please come to the bar.  I won’t get off work until after 1 am but I do get a couple of breaks tonight and we can talk if we need to.”

“Thank you.  I’ll probably just come back here and read and go to bed.  You don’t need to worry about me.”

“Worry, me?  That’s not worry.  I know you’re a good tipper and I need the money,” Jean replies with a smirk.  Laura walks to her friend and gives her a hug.  “I mean it, Laura.  If you need to talk, don’t hesitate to come to the bar.”

**

 

Laura arrives at the diner 15 minutes early hoping to get her iced coffee ordered and find a place to sit on the patio.  Once she completes her order, she looks toward the patio to discover it is filled with people already, probably because the weather is so enjoyable.  None of them appear to be leaving soon, so she scans the interior of the restaurant and sees a few booths open in the corners.  Just as she receives her coffee, Bill arrives, her heart swelling at the sight of him.  She offers him a small smile, but he turns to place his drink order at the counter, then stands with his back to her while he waits.

She chooses a wraparound booth in the far corner away from people so that they have a more private place to talk.  “At least he’s here,” she mumbles under her breath.  She makes herself a promise that no matter the outcome, she won’t shed any tears.  Once Bill has his coffee in hand, he joins her at the booth, sitting near the edge, almost like he’s afraid to be near her.

“Thank you for coming tonight,” she begins.

“It was originally my idea to do this, so I felt obligated to be here,” he replies coolly.

“I understand,” she says with a frown glancing away, nervously taking a sip of her drink, his comment stinging her.

When he notices her discomfort, he says in a conciliatory tone, “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said that.”  He turns his gaze to her and they lock eyes, but she’s unable to read what he’s thinking.

“I – I want to say a few things, if you’re willing to listen,” she says hopefully.

He nods his head, his blue eyes piercing straight through her.

She reaches toward his hand, then thinks better of it and pulls hers away.  “Like I said in the text, I’m sorry.  I don’t want to make excuses, but what happened didn’t have anything to do with you, it wasn’t because of anything you said or did.  I was in a bad relationship with a man named Richard up until Momma got sick and because of things I went through during that relationship, I sometimes behave in ways that don’t make a lot of sense.  I’ve seen a counselor twice this week and he has helped me put some things in perspective already, but I know I still have a lot of work to do.  Also, I’ve moved in with Jean – we share an apartment near campus, and I’m pretty sure I’m going to start back to school this next semester.  My plan is to obtain my doctorate at summer commencement.  I’m getting my life back,” she says confidently.

Bill stares at her blankly, not saying a word.  I’m glad you’re getting your life back on track.  But it hurts to sit here.

“Um, how was your trip to Picon?” she asks hoping the ice between them will break.

“Good,” he replies, taking a sip of coffee, biting his lips together afterwards while he scowls.

“How is your new job?” she asks trying to get him to open up.

“Haven’t really done much yet other than training,” he replies, purposefully keeping his responses brief.  I don’t want to chit-chat.

“Do you think you’re going to enjoy it?” she asks trying to prod him into a lengthier response.

He doesn’t reply but continues to look at her with that same blank stare that she cannot read.  Why are we here?

“I hoped we could talk for a while,” she says disappointedly before taking another sip of coffee.

“Laura, is there anything else?” he asks in an impatient tone.  Just give me a sign that you want to be with me.

Her heart sinks at the distance between them and she realizes that their relationship must truly be over. It feels like a hard punch to her stomach, the kind that doubles you over and knocks the air out of your lungs at the same time, and she can sense that she needs to get it over with before she breaks down.  She takes a deep breath before wrapping up their visit, telling herself to be grateful that she can say goodbye to his face.  “Okay, well, again, I’m sorry, I know I screwed this up…” she says shakily.

You did screw this up.  You screwed me up.

“I have really strong feelings for you…“

I have strong feelings for you, too.

“This sounds crazy because we haven’t known each other long…”

I’ve known you long enough that this hurts like hell.

“What I’m trying to say is I love you…”

“Laura?” he says quietly, trying to interrupt her rambling.  Did I hear you correctly?

“I’m so sorry I hurt you, I want you to know I love you…” she says again, her voice catching as she begins to cry.

“Laura,” he says louder when she continues to ramble.  You love me.

“Dammit, I said I wasn’t going to cry, but here I sit and tears are running down my face, so I guess this is goodbye,” she continues to ramble as Bill’s heart pounds in his chest.  “I need you to understand that I do love you, and I hope you find someone that isn’t a mess like me because you deserve to be happy…”

“Laura!” he says loudly, as she continues to ramble, looking down at the tabletop.  He finally takes her chin with his thumb and index finger, gently turning her face toward his.

“I’m saying goodbye, I’m so-”, but she can’t finish her sentence. Bill’s lips are pressed against hers:  a single, gentle, lingering kiss, similar to the first time their lips met.  When he finally pulls back from her, she leans toward him chasing after his lips, not wanting the kiss to end, not wanting their relationship to be over.

She hadn’t noticed he was holding her hand, gently rubbing his thumb in soothing circles on the back of it.  She looks into the blue pools of his eyes which suddenly seem very warm.  After brushing a tear from her cheek, he leans in and places another soft kiss on her lips. 

“Laura,” he breathes in a husky tone.  “I love you, too.”

“I love you, Bill.”

He tries hard to suppress his laugh, chuckling instead.  “I know, that’s the fourth time you’ve told me in the last minute.”

“I want you to understand that I love you.”

“I do understand because I love you, too.”

She places her hand over her mouth, staring at him as he beams at her, wondering if this is just another dream and she’s going to wake up after Jean throws a pillow at her face.  “Can you kiss me again?”

“I plan on kissing you a lot,” he replies before embracing her, kissing her deeply.  When they break the kiss, Laura still has her eyes closed, the corners of her mouth turned up in a very content smile.  He can’t resist kissing her again.

A waitress clears her throat, startling them.  “Are you going to order anything to eat?” she asks annoyed with their public display of affection.

Laura looks to Bill.  “I haven’t eaten yet, have you?”

“No, let’s order.  I’m so hungry I could eat an entire pie all by myself!”

Laura lets out a loud drawn-out snicker at the thought of chubby Bill from her dream.  “Can we get a couple of menus?”

“Sure, be right back,” the waitress says.

“What’s so funny?” Bill asks.

“I’ll tell you later,” she giggles.

 

The food arrives quickly once they place their orders.  Laura dines on a fresh salad with strawberries and walnuts while Bill enjoys a steak with vegetables on the side.  They decide to split a piece of apple pie with vanilla ice cream drizzled with caramel sauce.

“Just so you know, I’m not worried about getting chubby because I’ve started running again,” she informs him.

“I belong to a gym now, so I have a feeling I’ll be enjoying more of this pie,” he replies.

“Bill, are we together again?” she asks, wanting to make sure she isn’t misreading the situation.

“Do you want to be together?”

“Yes.”

“Me, too.”

After he pays for dinner, Bill invites her to go for a walk around the small lake in the area that is being revitalized.  He drives her car to a visitor parking lot next to an older brick building that has been turned into business space, just a few steps away from the walking and bike path that travels the perimeter of the lake.  As they stroll together hand-in-hand, they enjoy the fountains that have been installed in the lake, the laid-back atmosphere of the revitalization, and, most of all, each other’s company.  He fills her in on some of his training, at least the non-confidential parts, and when she asks about the scratch on his face, he admits he had too much to drink one night but leaves out the finer details.

“I’d like to show you something,” he tells her when they complete their walk around the lake.  “Do you need to go home or can you stay for a while?”

“I’m free all night.  Jean’s working late and I was probably going back to the apartment and reading for a while before going to bed.”

Bill takes her hand and guides her around the side of the brick building where he punches in a code on a keypad to unlock a heavy steel door.  He leads her down a dark hallway to an old freight elevator, the kind where you pull the iron gate across before it lifts you up.

“Bill, where are you taking me?” she asks suspiciously.

“You’ll see,” he says with a twinkle in his eye.

They take the lift all the way to the third floor, stepping out into a barren hallway with brick walls and an old hardwood floor.  On one end of the hallway is a huge steel door, the other end another brick wall, and halfway down the side wall hangs a large wooden loft door.  Bill punches in another code in a keypad by the loft door and after hearing a loud click, he slides it aside.

“Is this yours?” Laura asks, stepping into a large room with high ceilings, a small kitchen in a corner with a sizeable island, and a huge open area next to the kitchen.  The opposite wall has floor to ceiling windows with arches at the top, all of which overlook the small lake.

“I signed the lease, got the key codes, and moved in last night,” he replies. 

“This is amazing – it’s so big!” she exclaims.  “You can afford this?”

“I get a monthly housing stipend from the military and the developer of this property gave me a rent discount since I fought in the war.  This place is less expensive than many of the smaller places I looked at.  And it has a lot more style.”

“It really does have a lot of style.  I love older buildings like this.  The hardwood floors, brick, and huge windows are beautiful.  But, Bill, you need some furniture.”

“Maybe you could help me with that?” he asks.

“Uh, yeh, I’d love to help you decorate!” she replies enthusiastically.

“Let me show you the rest of the place,” he says, first pointing out a half-bath off the kitchen next to a large pantry, then leading her down a long hall on the opposite end of the loft.  The first room he stops at is a big bedroom with its own bathroom and closet.  Further down and across the hall is the master bedroom, which is even larger with a huge walk-in closet and bath with a large shower, separate soaking tub, and dual vanity.  This is the only room with furniture, Bill’s father having helped him move his bed into it the night before, along with a dresser, nightstand, a few lamps, an old chair, and his clothing which fills approximately a third of the massive closet.

“You don’t have a roommate?” Laura asks gazing into the room.

“No, no roommate.”

“But why do you need a second bedroom?”

“It can be a guest room, or what I originally thought of when I first saw this place last Sunday morning was that I could put a desk in it and you could study there if you decided to finish your doctorate.”

“You were thinking of me,” she says recognizing how hurt he must have felt when a few hours later she broke up with him.

“Always,” he replies standing close enough behind her that she can feel the heat radiating from him.

“We’re all alone here?” she asks, very aware of how close his body is to hers.

“Yeh, we’re all alone,” he answers gently placing his hands on her shoulders.

“How many people know you live here?” she asks as he brushes her hair to the side.

“Just me,” he says kissing her ear, “my parents,” a soft kiss is placed on her neck, “the developer,” he says followed with a kiss on her shoulder, “and you,” the zipper on the back of her dress gently tugged.

She closes her eyes enjoying every second of the sensation of him undressing her, her breathing becoming heavy as he maneuvers the zipper down her back.  With a small shrug of her shoulders, her sundress falls to the floor and she carefully steps out of it, removing her sandals as she does so.  After turning into his arms, she untucks his shirt from his pants, sliding her hands underneath and pushing it up over his head.

He wraps his arms around her pulling her close against him, brushing gentle kisses along her forehead, her cheeks, and finally her lips.  “Laura,” he murmurs between soft kisses.

“Mmmh?” she replies caught up in the moment.

“I’m the only person that lives on the third floor.”

“Mmmh, that’s nice.”

“You can be as loud as you want,” he informs her looking into her eyes as she realizes what he’s hinting at.

“That’s good.  You remembered,” she responds biting her lower lip and giggling while she unbuttons his pants and lets them drop to the floor.  He unclasps her bra letting it fall next to his pants.

“Can you stay here with me all night?”

“Of course.  But don’t expect to get much sleep,” she replies with a sultry smile.

Chapter Text

“Good morning,” Laura murmurs against Bill’s chest, lying with her face pillowed against him listening to the drum of his heartbeat.  It’s almost 9 am but after spending the entire night losing sleep, never able to leave each other alone for more than a quick nap, they don’t mind spending extra time in bed as long as it is with each other.

“Good morning, my love,” Bill replies running his fingers through her long tresses that are fanned out across his chest and abdomen.  She rolls halfway on top of him resting her chin on his chest, glancing up to his face so she can watch his expressions as she kisses her way from his chest, down his stomach, to his growing arousal between his legs. 

“I can’t get enough of you,” she admits before flicking her tongue on that incredibly sensitive area of his cock that she discovered overnight.  His hips buck at the sensation and she stares up at him with mirth in her eyes and an impish grin.  “Too much?” she asks sitting up on her legs and straddling him before slowly sinking onto him.

“Just right,” he replies watching the sheer joy on her face as she rides him, her perfectly round breasts swaying to their mutual rhythm.  He adores the noises she makes while they make love – the soft sighs and quiet hums at the beginning, followed by the crescendo of gasps, encouraging words, and commands to ‘go faster’ or ‘don’t stop’, then the quietness she experiences right before she explodes with her climax and screams his name.

His thumbs tease her clit slowly bringing her along until she closes her eyes and becomes quiet, her inner walls clenching around him.  This time she lets out a low moan as she runs one hand through her hair and down her body until it comes to rest on his chest. “Oh, Bill!” she exclaims reaching her peak, the waves of her orgasm driving him over the edge.

“Come here,” he says, gently pulling her down on top of him so they are face to face.  He uses his thumb to trace over her lips causing her to smile.  “I love you, Laura Roslin.”

“I love you, Bill Adama,” she replies in a whisper, pressing her lips against his, allowing herself to feel the pure happiness of being with a man that genuinely loves her back.  Are we staying in bed all day?” she asks just as her stomach growls.  “Guess I worked up quite an appetite overnight.”

“Sounds like it,” he chuckles.  “Do you like omelets?”

“Mmm, I love omelets.  Where are we going?”

“You’re staying right here – breakfast in bed for you.  I’ll make us both some omelets in my kitchen.  Anything you don’t like?”

“Maybe nothing too spicy.  Surprise me with the rest.”

He returns 15 minutes later with a plate filled with a large omelet, two bottles of water, and a single fork.  “Sorry, I only have one plate and one fork, so we’ll have to share.  Here,” he says holding a forkful of omelet at her.

“Mmmm, good job,” she says taking a bite.  “What’s the meat?”

“Mild sausage I picked up at the store, Tauron seasoning.  I added mushrooms, tomatoes, and cheese.  I have some hot sauce if you’d like some.”

“I’ll pass on the hot sauce but the rest of this is pretty good.”

They take turns eating the omelet then Bill delivers the plate and fork to the kitchen before returning to the bedroom.  “I’m going to shower,” he announces then turns and holds his hand out to her.  “It’s big enough for two if you’d like to join me.” 

 

It’s 11 am before either one of them is dressed and ready to face the day, having made love in the shower until the water ran cold.  Showering with her lover was something new to Laura, never having lived in a place with a large enough shower to accommodate an amorous adventure, and she thoroughly enjoyed it but found herself wishing for a bigger hot water heater.

They plan to stop by Laura and Jean’s apartment so she can change her clothes into something more comfortable for furniture shopping and so Bill can see where she lives.  Laura had sent Jean a text around closing time of the bar letting her know not to worry about her overnight absence, but she didn’t elaborate.  They drive separately so Laura can leave her car at the apartment complex since she and Bill intend to spend the entire weekend together, neither one willing to let go of the other now that they have reunited.

When Laura enters the apartment, she finds Jean sitting at the small kitchen table eating lunch and studying a law journal.  “There you are,” Jean says.  “How’d it go last night?”

“Well…” Laura says stepping aside so that Bill can enter the apartment. 

Jean smiles a smug smile noticing how content her friend appears and how she and Bill are standing so close together.  “It’s about frakking time!” she exclaims jumping up and embracing her friend, then Bill.

“Thank you, Jean,” Bill says, “for everything.”

“You’re welcome, Bill.  And instead of another book, maybe I could pick your father’s brain sometime?”

“I can make that happen.  He likes talking with law students.”

Laura looks at them both suspiciously, unaware that Bill had a conversation with Jean the day after she broke up with him.

“You didn’t tell her about our talk?” Bill asks surprised.

“Nah, she needed to figure things out on her own,” Jean replies.  “Bill came to see me last Monday at the bar,” she informs Laura.

“I should have known.  I can’t believe you didn’t tell me,” Laura lightly chastises her.

“There’s lots you don’t know.  Your dad texted me before you ever came over last Sunday.  Asked me to let him know if you showed up here and that you were safe.”

“Did you set up the chance encounter with my advisor, too?”

“No, that was all you.  I’m sneaky but not that sneaky. Are you mad?”

“No.  I can’t be mad at people that love me and worry about me.  And you were right about everything you said to me last Sunday.  I needed a kick in the shorts and who better to do that than you, Jean?”

Laura gives Bill a tour of the apartment which takes less than a minute due to the lack of square footage.  “Laura, where do you sleep?” Bill asks when he notices just one bed.

“With Jean.  I put a pillow between us so I don’t accidentally spoon her.”

“Guess that means I won’t be spending any nights here.  Good thing I have my own place now,” he says.

“That is definitely a good thing,” she says changing out of her clothes into something more casual.  “I’m having dinner with my family tonight – do you want to join us?” she asks as she packs an overnight bag and grabs another change of clothes for the therapy appointment on Sunday.

“As long as it’s okay with your dad,” he replies.

Laura had already texted her father to ask if there was room for one more at dinner, to which he replied in the affirmative.  “He already said yes, but I didn’t tell him it was you.  Thought it might be a nice surprise.  He was sort of torn up when he found out what happened last Sunday.”

“Have you told Bill what Sandra did?” Jean asks walking into the bedroom.

“Oh, no, did she get into trouble again?  Is she okay?” Bill asks, his voice thick with worry.

Laura seats herself on the bed next to Bill and explains about the fake dating profile Sandra created using her photo and the name “Laurie Adama”. 

“What the hell was she thinking?” Bill asks.  “That could be kind of dangerous for you if someone recognizes you from the photo.  What’s the security like in this building?”

“Not the best,” Jean quickly replies.  “Lots of break-ins since I’ve lived here.  Mostly just petty theft, nothing violent.”

“I don’t like this, Laura.”

“Bill, really, I’ll be fine.  I carry pepper-spray with me whenever I’m on campus and I always have the door locked when I’m here.”  Her words do nothing toward putting him at ease.  “If it makes you feel any better, you can come to my door when you pick me up, and then walk me back to my door after you drop me off – my personal military escort.”

“Are the laundry facilities in the basement?  Don’t go there alone,” he says.  “I’d rather have you do your laundry at my place.”

“Yes, laundry is in the basement, but I promise I won’t go there alone, right Jean?”

“Um, yeh, sure,” Jean says knowing that Laura isn’t at all concerned about going to the laundry room by herself. 

“Is that your clothes hamper?” Bill asks pointing to a bin near her side of the bed.  When she nods her head, he walks over and picks it up.

“What are you doing?” she asks.

“We’ll do your laundry at my place tonight.”

 

Once they drop off the laundry and Laura’s overnight bag at Bill’s loft, they set out on foot to the shopping area nearby.  Bill had noticed a couple of consignment furniture stores when he initially checked out the area and since his first paycheck is another week away, he hopes to be able to save some money by picking up some quality used furniture.

The first store they browse through doesn’t offer much for large furniture, but they do find a dining table, a coffee table, and an end table.  The second store they visit has sofas and chairs and they quickly find a large brown leather sectional with some matching area rugs.  Bill also finds a huge desk and matching chair.  They decide to return to the first store and purchase the three tables, then purchase the sectional, rugs, desk, and chair from the second store.

“This will look great in your place, Bill,” Laura says running her hands along the soft leather of the sectional.  “We just need to get some lamps and shelves for books, then plates and silverware.”  The clerk that is helping them informs them of a storage room in the back that has those smaller items, so they quickly walk through it before they leave, finding a couple of bookcases and two lamps to add to their purchase.  They arrange for everything to be delivered Sunday while Laura is at family therapy.

They return to Bill’s loft at 3:30, happy with what they accomplished in such a short amount of time.  They decide to wait and shop for kitchen items after family therapy on Sunday.  “What time do we need to be at your dad’s house for dinner tonight?” Bill asks.

“Dinner’s at 6 but I’d like to be there around 5 so I can talk with Sandra.  We didn’t end on a high note last Tuesday when I was there.”

“So, we have around 90 minutes,” Bill says placing a kiss to her lips.  “Any ideas how we can pass the time?”

“Oh, I have a few,” she replies with a devilish grin.  “And they don’t involve doing my laundry.”

**

They walk the six blocks to the Roslin home, arriving just after 5 pm.  Before they ring the doorbell, Laura turns to Bill.  “Thank you for coming with me.  I love you.”

Bill responds by pulling her in for a passionate kiss.  “I love you, too.  Ready?” 

She nods her head, then rings the doorbell. 

Dave calls from the kitchen, “Sandra, can you please get the door?  That must be Laurie and Jean already.”

Sandra grudgingly emerges from her room where she has been sulking all week.  When she answers the door, she stands there stunned looking at her older sister and Bill with their hands clasped together, appearing happier than she’s ever seen them.  She steps to the side allowing them to enter and Laura swears she sees a small smile form on Sandra’s face but she looks away from them in an attempt to hide it. 

“Let’s go tell Daddy,” Laura whispers leading Bill by the hand to the kitchen where her father is preparing dinner.  “Daddy,” Laura says while he peers into the oven with his back to her. 

“Just a minute, honey, I’m trying to figure out if I need to put a drip pan under this casserole.”

Laura and Bill look at each other both grinning and waiting for the moment that her father turns around.  Dave opens the oven and inserts a drip pan on the lower rack before he turns around to speak to Laura.

“Bill!  Oh, my Gods!  It’s so good to see you again!  Are you the plus one tonight?  I thought you were bringing Jean, Laurie!”  He notices them holding hands and looking very content.  “Are you…together again?” he asks hopefully.

“We are together again,” Bill says looking lovingly at Laura.  “How are you doing, Dave?” he asks shaking his hand.

“You two just made my whole day,” Dave admits.

Laura excuses herself to talk with Sandra while Dave and Bill sit at the table.  “My sister Sara is upstairs with Cheryl, they should be down soon.  When did you get back together?” Dave asks.

“Last night.  We met at the café a few blocks from here and talked.  Dave…I want you to know that I’m in love with Laura.”

“I can see that, and she loves you, too.  It hasn’t been that much of a secret, but I think she needed some time to figure things out.”

“We both did.  And now we’re in a very good place with each other.”

**

Laura lightly knocks at Sandra’s bedroom asking if she can come in.  She finds her sister lying on her bed facing the opposite wall, so she seats herself on that side of the bed next to her.  “Hey, little sis,” Laura says brushing Sandra’s bangs off her face.  “How’s it going?”

Sandra sits up next to her sister, glancing at her with a slight smile.  “So, you and Bill together again?” she asks.

“Yes, we’re back together.  And you were right, we both love each other.”

“I’m happy for you, Laurie, and for Bill, too.  I really am,” she replies nervously, fidgeting with her hands.

“How have you been?  Tell me what’s going on.”

“I was really mad at Daddy for a few days and I was a jerk to him, but I’m getting kinda tired of it.”

“Have you apologized to him?”

“No, I’ve been avoiding him.  I think it makes him sad.”

“Look, I’ve told you how horrible I was to Momma from middle school through my freshman year.  I regret every second of that, if I could take it all back I would in a heartbeat.  She’s gone now but I think she knew how sorry I was before she passed.  Daddy’s all we have left.  Don’t make the same stupid mistakes I made.  It’s not worth it.”

“I know.  What should I do?” she asks wiping a tear that falls from her eye.

“Maybe start with a hug?”

“After I hug you first,” she replies putting her arms around Laura and hanging on for several seconds.  “I’m so happy for you and Bill.  And, Laurie, I want details.  I’m living vicariously through you now.”

Laura chuckles at her sister’s attempt to be nosy.  “We’ll see.  He is definitely wonderful, the most wonderful man I’ve ever known. C’mon,” she says standing and pulling her sister up with her.  “Let’s go give Daddy that hug.”

When they get to the kitchen, Dave is standing in front of the oven again peering in at the casserole.  Laura nods at Sandra to go to him so she slowly walks up to him, then flings her arms around his neck, resting her head on his shoulder.  They embrace for a long time and Laura can see the tension melt off her father as he holds Sandra tight.

Sara and Cheryl enter the kitchen and upon seeing Bill, Cheryl runs to him with her arms outstretched and leaps into his lap.  “I’m going to be a viper pilot just like you!” she exclaims.

“You are?  That’s great!  Maybe I can be your flight instructor!”

“Hi, I’m Sara, Dave’s sister.  You must be Bill?”

“Nice to meet you, Sara.”

“I want to fly!  I want to fly!” Cheryl yells, demanding Bill to hold her in the air and fly her around.  When he takes her to the living room and her make-believe asteroid field, Sara turns to Laura and offers her a thumbs-up, mouthing the words “He’s hot!” to her.  She pulls Laura aside so Bill can’t hear them.  “Oh, my goodness, Laurie, I may have to rethink my stance on dating.”

“This one’s taken, Aunt Sara.  You’ll have to find your own,” Laura giggles.

“Does he have any brothers?”

“You’re not the first person to ask me that.  No, he doesn’t.”

“Damn.  I really like his rugged good looks.  And look how he is with Cheryl – she adores him.  What I wouldn’t do with a man like that…”

Laura looks at her aunt with her eyebrows raised.  “Been a while, Aunt Sara?”

“Just a few angry pity fraks with Mark the past couple of years, that’s all.  Not even worth mentioning.”

“We need to find you a date.  Maybe Daddy knows some single faculty he can set you up with.”

“I don’t know that I’m willing to trust my brother’s judgment in setting me up.  And I think a faculty member might be kind of boring.  Unless he’s young, then I might be interested.  Or do you know any single grad students?”  Laura looks at her aunt trying to figure out how serious she is about a younger man.  “I’m 50 years old and I’m getting a second wind now that I’m away from Mark.  I just want to have a good time.  I don’t want a serious relationship.”

“Sandra got you thinking about it last Tuesday, didn’t she?”

“Indeed, she did.  And since I don’t live with Mark anymore, I won’t be subjected to endless questions about where I’ve been or who I’m seeing.”

“You should check out the bar where my roommate works.  That’s where I met Bill.  Lots of younger guys there since it’s so close to the university.”

“When can we go?”