Word Count: 6,984
Characters/Pairings: Adama/Roslin, Laura, Tighs
Summary: Upon Earth, Bill and both Lauras experience life and loss.
Link to Art: http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v
Notes: I'm honored to have worked with some of the best writers in fandom to create this massive tub of Cylon goo. Thank you to the writers, betas and readers. Hopefully we rocked this piece.
Chapter One | Chapter Two | Chapter Three | Chapter Four | Chapter Five | Chapter Six | Chapter Seven
Chapter Eight | Chapter Nine | Chapter Ten | Chapter Eleven | Chapter Twelve | Chapter Thirteen | Chapter Fourteen
Of all the Twelve Colonies of Kobol, there had been none so green and alive as this new world.
They landed south of the geographic equator, on a large continent lush with vegetation and life. The expansive grassy plains were the perfect place to temporarily land what ships they could, unload them, then relaunch them into orbit. Lee's idea to spread the people out across the world was quickly embraced by most, with the rest coming around shortly thereafter. For a civilization cooped up inside of ships for the past several years, the chance to be as far away from each other as possible was very appealing. Most decided to split into their respective groups while some set out on their own, likely never to be seen again.
The core government and military command settled on the continent for the time being to plan the ultimate dismantlement of their society. A part of Laura felt turmoil at the idea of separating the people. The other part knew that this was the best way. It was like she had been divided again.
Two days after Kara Thrace brought them home, Bill and the other Laura gently helped her from her seat on the Raptor that bore her here, one on either side of her. Bill offered his arm and steadied her as she stepped off the wing and onto solid ground. She barely had the strength to stand, much less move, but she was determined to journey out into the new world under her own power. On unsteady feet she walked away from the craft, Bill's strong arm around her waist to support her, Laura's hand holding hers. She breathed in the fresh, clean air as deeply as her lungs could manage before slowly sinking to the grass below. They tried to right her again but she waved them off, clutching her fingers around the verdant life below her. She turned her face toward the sun and laughed wryly.
"See?" she called to imperfect Gods. "I made it."
Her memories from her childhood on Caprica were still fresh in her mind, despite the march of time and the intrusion of the reality of her existence. Her family's backyard, the one on Hestia Street, the one surrounded by softly whispering trees that sang lullabies in the wind, that was what she thought of in this moment. They had a stone patio in the center of the backyard, ringed by her mother's beloved flower planters. It was where the Roslin family gathered on warm spring nights and cool autumn afternoons to share their time together. The fire pit in the center of the patio was the focal point of their whole backyard, where stories were told, marshmallows were roasted on sticks, and her father gave her her very first sip of beer from a bottle when she was thirteen. At fourteen, Alex Parnoff, a fast-talking Libran boy two years older than her, tried to get his hand under her shirt around that same fire pit. When she was fifteen, she let him. A few weeks later, they moved out of the neighborhood, and she never saw Alex nor sat around an open fire again, not even on Kobol.
She also remembered the moths that would flutter into that dangerous light and die in the blaze. There were dozens of fires dotting the landscape tonight and, like a moth, she was drawn to this one. She could already feel the heat against imagined diaphanous wings.
Now, as she watched Laura Roslin, the one who had lived an entire lifetime for the both of them in the three years since she died in sickbay and was reborn as two, she wondered if she was also thinking about times long ago with an overly eager boy around the fire. Bill lay back on a pile of lumpy gear, half-reclined and holding her in his arms. The cancer that rotted her all too human body was in its final stages, causing her lungs to deflate much easier than to inflate, giving the gathering fluids that much more of a chance to drown her from the inside. She could hear her wheezing from several yards away, her breathing labored and shallow. Death lingered far too near.
Bill noticed her first, standing on the very edge of the circle of light that the fire created. He watched her through narrowed lids for several moments, unblinking, as if he was considering what to do about the distance between them. He finally tightened the hand that held Laura's gently, rousing her from a light sleep, and whispered into her ear. Laura sat up a bit and shakily put on her glasses, which had been cradled in her hand. Bill kept his arm around her, shifting himself to envelop her more securely, to protect her.
Laura picked her way across the slightly uneven ground, guided by the flickers of shadows across the clods of dirt and brush, until the warmth from the fire became a singeing heat. Her leg still thrummed and ached from the bullet that had brought her down, that should have crippled her permanently. Instead, after three days, she had little more than an angry red scar and a small limp. Her body was perfect, and the machine in her wanted to remain that way. It didn't feel fair.
They both watched her silently as she approached, and she waited until Laura gave her a smile of recognition before lowering herself slowly to the ground on the other side of the fire from where they sat. She stretched out her injured leg gingerly and waited.
"How are the stars here?" Laura asked her in a croaking voice.
She was startled by the question and her head tilted in a silent query.
"The stars," Laura insisted, lifting her eyes up a little toward the darkness. "Bill can't see them without his glasses and ..." She stopped to let out a weak cough, bringing her hand up to her mouth. Bill frowned and asked her if she needed anything, but she waved him off. "Bill can't see them without his glasses," she repeated in a hoarse voice. "And I can't see them at all."
She looked up at the dark canopy of the sky, dotted with crystalline sparkles and smiled. "They're beautiful here," she said quietly. "I remember how Mother used to say ..."
"The sparks from ... the fire create new stars," Laura completed for her with a little smirk. She looked around at the landscape, dotted with campfires, and sighed. "There'll be ... a lot of new ones tonight."
She could only nod in reply as the image of her mother's arm around her shoulder on a chilly night came back to her vividly. It was a nearly perfect photographic memory, one of the side effects of being awakened as a true Cylon. For every good memory, there was an equally painful one to accompany it. The birth of her sisters and the joy of her parents, the deaths of them all, realizing she had hopelessly fallen for Richard, letting go of her dreams of a life with him. It was a cruel balance.
"Why don't you come ... around to this side?" Laura suggested to her, waving her hand. "Fire's too bright. Hard ... to see you through it."
She slid herself across the ground until she was seated a few feet from Laura and Bill, the latter only watching silently. He kept his arms wrapped around her protectively, a red plaid blanket draped over their legs. She could see the flash of uncertainty that crossed Bill's face and looked away from him to break the tension.
"Have you decided ... what you're going to do?" Laura asked in a wheezing warble. "Where you're going to go?"
She shook her head and tucked an errant strand of hair behind her ear. "Not far, I think," she replied. "Ellen wants me to stay close to her and Saul."
Laura managed a snort of amusement, a weak smile spreading across her face as her eyes rolled skyward. Bill's cheeks rose also in a sad smile, and he shook his head. "You're a far ... braver and more tolerant ... woman than I," she said in a breathy laugh.
She smiled a bit sadly and looked down at her hands. "Ellen and I both had a lot of time alone to come to terms with things," she said.
"So you have," her counterpart grunted as she shifted her weight against Bill, wincing in pain. A fitful cough stirred from her lungs and Bill immediately reached for a canteen to offer her a drink. Laura waved him off and shook her head. "Honey, I'm okay," she whispered. She took in a few deep breaths to steady herself and patted Bill on the knee. "Can you give ... us a few minutes?" she asked him.
Bill looked at her with a frown, his eyes shifting back and forth between them briefly before nodding and carefully leaning her forward to move from behind her. "Can you ..." he said in a murmur, glancing upward and gesturing with his free hand.
She nodded and scooted closer to the frail woman between them, slipping her arm around her shoulders to support her. Laura immediately leaned into the stronger, warmer body beside her, sighed heavily, and wheezed a quick little chuckle.
"What's so funny?" Bill murmured, a little smile playing at his lips as he brushed his hand over hers. Even by the ruddy light of the fire, she could see the paper-thin texture of her skin, stretched over too-prominent bones.
"Nothing," she whispered. "Everything." Laura looked over at Bill and waved her hand, more a flick of the wrist than a gesture. "Go stretch your legs, Bill. I promise ... I won't go anywhere. Not yet."
He seemed to struggle with the idea of leaving her, glancing between them before nodding. "Just call me when you want your pillow back," he said with a grunt as he stood up and dusted his pants off.
That earned a lighthearted laugh from both women. As the two Lauras tucked themselves into each other, he caught the eye of the one who would live to see many more days. She felt sharp guilt at being the one who would survive, while his version of her wasted away. His jaw clenched tightly and she could see the shimmer of tears in his eyes before he turned and left them alone.
"How's he taking it?" she finally asked when he was out of earshot.
Laura shrugged and sighed weakly, the rattle of fluid in her lungs shockingly audible. "We don't talk about it," she whispered in reply. "Never have. Always ... ended in an argument," she said with a quirk of her lips.
"Arguing with Bill? I can't imagine," she said with a wry grin, earning a breathy laugh.
"He's changed a lot."
"I can see that." She smiled back.
"But he's stubborn," Laura said slowly. "Too stubborn to ... see that he has a lot of living to do yet." She stopped and drew in several shallow breaths, ones that she realized were the beginnings of quiet sobs.
She tightened her arms around her counterpart, her sister, she realized with a pang of heartbreak, willing her own strength into her. She let her lean on her for support, never letting go or relenting until Laura's hitching breaths slowed and she composed herself.
"Sorry," she murmured, wiping under her glasses with a trembling hand. "I won't cry in front of him. I shouldn't ... do it in front of you either."
"Don't be," Laura said. "Gods, I wish ..." She sighed and blinked back tears. "I wish you hadn't blown up that damned Hub. Maybe we could have ..."
"No," her sister interrupted. "It had to be done. You know that."
"Maybe Ellen and Saul and Galen can think of a way to transfer ..."
Laura physically started at the implication, shaking her head and smiling bitterly. "You know I would never let you ... do that," she rasped. She turned slightly and looked up, her eyes almost clouded with the approach of death. "I want you ... want you to see it for me. Live for me. Can ... you do that?"
Tears streamed down her face as she nodded and stroked Laura's cheek with the backs of her fingers. It had come in a macabre full circle as she remembered doing the same for Mother. Holding and comforting her to the end, though Mother had not been cognizant. Before their bodies were split into two, she remembered wishing selfishly that there was someone who would do the same for her as her own cancer took her life. She had vague memories of people holding her hand in sickbay, but no one really did what she was doing right now for herself. A mother to daughter. Sister to sister.
She folded her arms around Laura and held her, sighing as she felt the other woman's arms slide around her as well. "Yeah," she finally whispered, blinking back tears. "I can do that." She turned and pressed a gentle kiss to her temple, her lips lingering for several moments.
They sat in companionable silence for quite a while before she saw Bill moving in the shadows, just outside the light of the fire. Realizing she was taking far too much of their limited time together, she waved him over and carefully extracted herself from the ground and the other Laura's embrace. Bill took her place as Laura's caretaker and the two settled back into each other.
"I'll see you tomorrow?" she asked Laura hopefully.
Bill's face darkened as the sick Laura huffed in amusement. "Maybe," she replied.
She watched their two hands folded together, his larger ones completely enveloping her small, pale ones. He turned to press a quick kiss to her temple in the exact same place she had and felt her heart break for them. It wasn't right that her last hours be spent broken and unable to enjoy this new world with him.
"I want to try something," she blurted out to the two of them. "I don't know if it will work. Do you trust me?"
She didn't wait for either of them to respond. Leaning over, she slowly reached out for the two of them, noticing how Bill stiffened as her hand touched his. Laura only regarded her curiously, a little cock of her head the only indication she had any idea of what was going on. With one hand on his and the other carefully covering hers, she closed her eyes and tried to feed her energy to the two of them, to facilitate the vision. She wasn't quite sure what to expect.
She heard Laura's breath quicken. "Can you see it?" she asked her twin.
It was Bill who answered with a wondrous gasp, "Yeah."
They stood in a field of golden wheat much like her own projection on the Basestar, a gentle breeze coming off a lake nearby. The cabin before them looked so natural that it appeared to have been set in place by the Gods themselves. Gauzy curtains twisted and billowed in open windows, and an open front door invited them home. Laura's sickly appearance had been replaced by a healthier form, hair tousled and free, burgundy dress clinging to her hale body.
"I don't know how long you'll be able to hold onto this," she told the two of them, her voice echoing hollowly, as if she weren't there with them. This was their projection, not hers. She was simply the conduit. "Make the best of your time."
She took a step back from them and dropped her hands, severing the connection. In the real world, they both smiled and held each other a bit closer by the firelight.
"Was this how you pictured it?" Bill said in wonder as they stood in the open doorway of the cabin.
Whitewashed walls and a shiny wooden floor, solid furniture with intricately carved details and photos and mementos on every surface. "Yes," Laura breathed with a smile. She tugged him by the hand as she walked slowly around the large room, taking in every detail. Her photo with Billy stood on a table beside Bill's photo with his sons. Bookshelves lined one of the walls, a large stone fireplace set in the center of them.
"No kitchen," Bill noted with a chuckle.
"I never really put much thought into that," she admitted. "I was too busy missing my gourmet kitchen on Caprica." Her free hand traced the contours of a carved rocker by a rear window, one of a matching set. She inhaled deeply, marveling at the lack of pain and the abundant energy she felt.
"What's back there?" Bill asked slyly, pointing at the open door that led to the other room in the house.
Laura smiled and gave his fingers a little squeeze. "You know," she teased. She took a step toward the door and suddenly squealed when she felt a strong pair of arms scoop her up. She threw her arms around Bill's neck and threaded her fingers through his hair.
Bill carried her effortlessly into the bedroom and set her down on the large bed that stood against one wall. Sunlight streamed through the window behind it, making the thick white linens glow in the light. Laura grinned broadly as Bill leaned over her and nudged her nose with his, one hand buried in her hair. He stopped his descent as his eyes flickered to the curls in his fingers, his bottom lip dropping wordlessly. He frowned as he took in her healthy body, smiled as he made contact with her eyes again.
"I don't know how it works either," Laura supplied for him, her hand coming up to trace her hair gently. "I don't know how you can see it. It's ... it's a Cylon ability." Her eyes closed briefly and she swallowed, feeling the weight of reality crushing her spirit.
He shook his head and smiled gently. "Doesn't matter," he said softly. He leaned forward again and kissed her with fervor, lowering them both onto the bed together.
It lasted long enough for them to spend one last night together. When they closed and opened their eyes, on a mutually made decision to face reality, the sun was at least an hour over the horizon. Laura squinted in the bright light and shielded her eyes from the glare. Bill grunted as he stood up and helped her to her feet, murmuring that they should seek the shelter of the nearby tent. The thirty-odd steps were among the most difficult of her life and she nearly collapsed, Bill's strong arms carefully lowering her to the ground. He laid the blanket back over her legs and took her hand in his, stroking the paper-thin skin with his thumb.
She never really recovered her breath from the short but arduous journey from campfire to shelter. She could feel her lungs as they seemed to get smaller and smaller, her breaths growing more shallow.
"Have you seen ... her today?" Laura managed to say after some time.
Bill looked around briefly and shook his head. "No," he said. "Maybe she'll be by later."
Laura's cheek twitched upward. "Maybe," she replied doubtfully, echoing Laura's dodge from the night before. She considered her next words carefully, not wanting to upset him. The last thing she wanted was for their last precious minutes together to be filled with uneasy tension. "After I'm gone," she said slowly, "I want ... I want you t-to build it."
Bill turned his head to her and smiled sadly. "Only if you help me pick out the spot," he rumbled, giving her hand a gentle squeeze. It was the closest thing to an admission from him that she was about to leave him behind.
"And I want ... you to k-keep the door open," she whispered. "Don't ... turn anyone away."
He looked down at their entwined fingers and sighed heavily. "We're not talking about the cabin anymore, are we?" he said, his voice thick with emotion.
Laura reached over with her free hand and covered his. "Maybe we are," she said softly. "Maybe ... we're not." She chuckled hoarsely before her lungs spasmed painfully. Bill offered her a drink from a canteen, but she shook her head. She took a few moments to catch her breath again. "Every moment of ... every day is a gift," she whispered. "You told me ... that on K-Kobol."
Bill nodded and looked into the distance solemnly. "I did," he agreed.
"Always ... remember that," Laura breathed. She squinted at the herd of animals on the horizon. "Now ... I know there's ... a pair of binoculars here s-somewhere ..."
And that was the last they spoke of it.
It was near noon when she saw Bill carrying Laura's dying body across the plains to a waiting Raptor. She watched them from the shade of a tree where she had spent the morning apart from the rest of the survivors. No one seemed to notice she was even there. They were too concerned with beginning their own new lives to see that she was about to begin hers. No one cared about the woman who looked just like their dying leader, who sat under the shade of an umbrella-like tree, wearing donated military fatigues and a sad expression.
She had stayed away from Bill and Laura intentionally, wanting their time together to be their own. Though it pained her greatly, she had watched them from afar all morning, not moving from her spot until she saw Bill carrying Laura toward the Raptor.
Her eyes flooded with tears as he stepped onto the wing and ducked inside, emerging a few moments later to meet Kara and Lee, who had rushed from a nearby tent. She wanted to run to them, to grieve with them, but her feet were anchored to the soil stronger than the tree that sheltered her. This was their time. She was their mother, their friend. Not her. It was ironic that she was dealt the better body but her sister was dealt the better life. She loved and was loved in turn. She envied her.
Bill embraced Kara and Lee in turn and stepped back into the Raptor. She could see a tiny hand against the canopy. The Raptor lifted into the air and spun about. She felt a jolt of recognition as Laura's hand slid upward on the glass, her face turning slightly toward her. Her own hand trembled as she raised it in tribute. They said their goodbyes wordlessly as the craft began its journey to the east.
She made her home, such as it was, to the west, near Saul and Ellen and another hundred or so other refugees. She was regarded with quiet curiosity, bordering on morbid fascination. It was the children who opened up to her first, the adults slowly coming around over time. Some of them would never trust her and kept their distance. Most had come to grudgingly accept the fact that their President had been a Cylon all along. Laura had shepherded them to this new world before leaving it. That had to count for something. Everyone got a clean slate here.
She slept under the stars for the first few weeks, then with Saul's assistance built a makeshift lean-to that kept the occasional rains at bay. She never had the urge to build anything more permanent like the rest of their neighbors. This grassland would not be her final place. She was restless, eager to see the world.
Laura never ventured more than three days outside of their camp, and never without telling Saul and Ellen where she was going. Several people had been lost to the larger carnivores of this planet, and at Saul's insistence, she carried a worn military pistol and a pocketful of bullets. She never had to use it, thank the Gods. Her muscles still remembered the kick from the single shot she'd fired what seemed like a lifetime ago.
The signs of human life were everywhere, once she knew where to look. A burned out campfire here, a footstep there. Occasionally, she saw a cairn piled high with stones. Each time she came across one of these graves, she paused to pay her respects and check the name scrawled onto a stone or carved into a piece of wood. She never saw the names she dreaded to see the most.
Her journal quickly filled with sketches and notes of her travels. She intended to catalog everything she saw and touched as a rough lesson to future generations. She lamented the loss of everything they had ever known, but she understood that it was for the best. In a few decades, their histories would be lost, their stories would become only myths, to be altered and embellished and ultimately forgotten over time.
Once, in the early fall, she thought she saw Lee far in the distance, his walk determined yet easy, with a pack slung over his shoulders and a long staff steadying his gait. She called out to him, but he kept walking, either because he wasn't who she thought or she wasn't who he wanted to see. She considered running after him, ultimately deciding that he needed to live his own life. It was a blessing to see him, though.
She thought about Bill and Laura often. She knew that Laura hadn't lived much longer than it had taken to fly the Raptor over the mountains in the distance. She wondered if he was alive, if he was well. Saul grumbled occasionally about going to find him, but Ellen always stopped his wanderlust with a gentle touch to his arm and a whisper in his ear. Both of them had changed so much over the years that she felt herself genuinely a part of their dysfunctional family. She was their sister just as she had been Cheryl's and Sandra's and even Laura's. Their shared journey of rediscovery bound them together, which was why leaving them would hurt so much.
Do Cylons dream?
It was a question that she'd often wondered after learning that they had been created in man's image. Do they sleep? And if so, do they dream?
She did. She had dreamed asleep and projected awake. Memories, coping mechanisms, whatever they needed to be at the moment.
Her dreams had been filled with faceless enemies, chasing her through corridors and hatches and always cornering her in an airlock. Those dreams ended with the harsh buzzing of the warning klaxons and the feeling of the air being sucked from her lungs. She had dreamed of bombs falling from the sky on Caprica and seeing children blasted into oblivion in a storm of fire and debris. She seldom projected any more, her world filled with color and life again.
Dreams were sometimes triggered by memories, the facts of the event distorted by the imagination. So when Kara Thrace came to her in a dream the first time, she brushed it off as a tiny trace of a memory. After she awakened from the second dream, she thought about the events of the past few days, whether there was something in her routine that brought Starbuck into her mind. During the third dream, Kara finally spoke, with her characteristic smirk that showed that she was smarter than anyone else in the room.
"You ready to listen?" Kara asked as she stood inside Galactica's cavernous hangar bay, a hazy glow blurring her form slightly.
Laura could only silently nod, unable to form words in response.
"I went into the sun with him," Kara said as she looked toward the bright sun that suddenly filled the sky, impossibly replacing the ceiling of the bay. It grew larger and hotter as they seemed to approach it. She turned and gave Laura an emotionless gaze that spoke with the wisdom of ages. "You should do the same."
Laura wanted to remind her that space flight was no longer possible, that they'd given up their ships and celestial travels in favor of a grounded existence. "How?" she managed to say, though she never heard the words come from her mouth.
Kara only smiled and turned away.
The next morning, Laura gathered the few possessions she had real use of, a change of clothes, her journal and pen, her knife and gun, ripped a page from the back of her journal, and left Saul and Ellen a note. Then she began walking.
Headed into the sun.
Ellen would search for weeks for her and finally give up and grieve the loss. Saul only looked toward the sunrise and nodded his grudging approval. He knew what lay in the east.
On the first day, the sun was strong in her eyes, filling the entire prairie with light. She had left before the break of dawn, moving always toward the fire on the horizon that drew her. Always toward the sun, until it peaked overhead, then away from it. There were no shadows in the flat land she had been living in. No trees, no hills and gorges. Just miles and miles of endless light and color. The air was hot and hazy that day, and the horizon blurred between land and sky. Her journal remained blank on that day.
The next morning, she followed the wide river upstream toward the east. The sound of running water filled her ears, and during the heat of the day, she stopped at a shallow pool created in the bend of the river, stripped off her clothes, and plunged in, letting the cool water wash the day's dust from her body. Always wary of what could be in the water, she didn't linger long, giving herself a few minutes of calm tranquility. She had always had an affinity for water, from the sea to the fountains of Caprica City to the pools of whatever posh resort she treated herself to in her younger days. When she emerged some time later, she felt cleansed, both body and spirit.
The river divided into streams, and she followed one on the third day, where grasses whispered on the wind and tickled her fingertips as she let them drag low, reminders of the fields of Aerilon that she had projected while on the Cylon ship. The sound of the leaves singing in the trees she passed by and rested under during the heat of early afternoon made her smile. Bushes bore sweet berries, which she picked and ate along the way, packing extras in her bag for later. She filled her journal with sketches of leaves and fruit and gnarled roots that bore the scars of time.
The clouds that had darkened the night sky gave way on the fourth evening, filling the air above with stars and finally revealing the fullness of the single moon. By the light of the fire she built for warmth and protection, she dotted her journal with seemingly random star patterns, then playfully drew lines between them on a whim. She named the constellations after the crude shapes they made. The Hunter. The Bull. The Dragon. The Twins. On and on until twenty sheets of her journal were filled with lines and dots and scribbled names. She would have to start writing in the margins soon.
On the fifth day, migratory birds filled the sky above her, their voices a cacophony on the wind. Small birds and large birds, flying in dark clouds that moved with a singular mind and long graceful V-shapes that never deviated in course. Always east, like her. As she descended into the valley, she came across a lake filled with graceful pink birds standing in the shallow marsh and dancing for one another as they vied for mates to carry on their lines. Life would always continue, for them and hopefully for humanity. She drew their elegant necks and hooked bills and pressed long feathers within the spine of her journal. She recorded their tracks in the mud and the span of their wings. Always a teacher, always a student.
Six days after she left what remained of their civilization, she came across the great herds of the valley. Animals taller and faster than she, some with huge gray bodies and comically long noses, some with long necks that reached up to grasp the leaves from the tallest trees. Where there were herbivores, there were predators, so she walked with her gun in hand and the safety off. The one time she saw a big cat ahead of her path, its teeth longer than her own hand, she stood stock still until it moved on in its pursuit of a herd of deerlike creatures. She knew that she was an easy target and didn't relish the idea of coming all this way to end up as someone's dinner. She crossed the narrowest part of the valley that day and began the somewhat treacherous climb up the broken rocks that made up the rim, always pushing east.
As the sun fell from the sky on that sixth day, after she crossed the plateau that divided one valley from the next, she came across a solitary human being.
And then there were two.
He thought she was a play of the haze, an apparition in the late afternoon light. His mind had been playing tricks on him for a long time, a result of the utter desolation he had out here. Sometimes he thought he could see Laura standing just over the edge of the horizon, could smell her on the warm breeze, feel her touch ghosting against his skin at night. He wanted her to be here more than anything. And now that she was, he felt the bitter taste of bile in his throat. This wasn't the way he wanted it to be.
It wasn't her.
She stood at the top of the rocky outcropping, not moving, waiting for him to acknowledge her. He didn't. Instead, he turned his body away from her and balled his fists together, shutting his eyes against the sight. He heard the crunch of gravel as she moved closer, then stopped. Another crunch as she shifted on her feet.
"What are you doing here?" he said angrily, his throat constricting.
"I'm not quite ..." she tried to begin, her own voice thready. "Not quite sure." Another step. "I just started walking."
"Well you can turn right around and head back," he said sharply. Her movement suddenly stilled.
He could hear her draw in a shaky breath and exhale slowly, the resignation clear in the heaviness of the sound. He immediately regretted his harshness and turned to look at the ground at her feet, unable to meet her eyes. "I'm sorry. It's been a long time ... out here." He dragged his eyes up slightly, to the dirty and frayed hem of her pants, the holes in the knees. Her hands trembled as they dangled at her side.
"I understand," Laura said softly, ducking her head. "It was a bad idea, coming here."
"S'okay," he mumbled. His eyes darted to the rocky mound at the top of the hill. "She said you might find me sometime. I think she wanted you to."
He saw her relax a bit, a little smile tugging at the corner of her lips. She lifted her head and looked up the hill toward Laura's grave. "How long did she ..." She couldn't finish the question, her eyes darting back up the hill, and her lips pressing together.
Bill swallowed thickly and looked up at the clouds as they turned purple against the late afternoon sky. "Long enough to find this place," he replied.
"Can I go see her?"
The question caught him off guard and he looked up at her sharply. Her face had thinned a bit since he'd last seen her and made him recall the sharp angles of his Laura's face in her final days. Instead of the pallor that robbed his Laura's skin of warmth, hers was a sun-darkened golden tone that took him aback. The contrast between the two of them was strong, yet he could still see the same spark in her eyes.
He finally cleared his throat and nodded. "Of course," he said, watching as she made her way up the hill. Once she reached the cairn, she slowly dropped to her knees and touched the rocks, bowing her head. He turned away to give them their privacy, his heart aching.
Her throat was raw from emotion and reading aloud from the pages of notes she'd taken over the past several months, telling Laura stories of this beautiful planet. She described the animals and the scent of the flowers she'd encountered. Told her about the few people she'd come across who she remembered from the Fleet, how they were building their new lives. Explained the few tentative exchanges between the colonists and the primitive, yet curious natives. It grew dark quickly, and she relied on her memory and dredged up her skills as a teacher and orator to tell every story she could pull from her mind. Her fingers gently arranged the purple flowers that the wind had moved, noticing they were still quite fresh. She wondered if he replaced them every day.
When the moon had passed full and bright over the sky, and the horizon was beginning to turn a warm purple, she finally ran out of words and looked back down the hill to where Bill had remained since she arrived, sitting on a large rock. He was halfway between her and the crude stone structure she'd only given a passing glance as she arrived that afternoon. With a sigh, she closed her journal and set it down atop Laura's grave, closing her eyes wearily. She needed to rest.
The crunch of earth was a little surprising. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Bill slowly walking toward her, hands thrust into his pockets. His hair had grown and lightened over time, curling around his shoulders a bit wildly. She'd noticed that afternoon that the warm olive of his skin was now a dark tan, making the white that bleached his hair so much starker in contrast. He had at least a week's worth of beard growth and she remembered wistfully how fastidious he'd always been about shaving.
"She wanted to see you before ..." he said, breaking the awkward silence. He took a deep breath and gathered himself before speaking again. "There wasn't any time. We didn't have time."
He reached into the buttoned breast pocket of his well-worn fatigues and pulled out a silky piece of fabric, the pattern mottled in the early morning light. "This belonged to her. It was a gift from a friend." He held it out and beckoned her to take it.
She stood up on aching legs and touched the end of the fabric, sliding it between her fingers. She watched the way his eyes followed her hand on the scarf. "I shouldn't take this ..."
"No," Bill said gruffly, shaking his head. "She wanted you to have it."
Laura could only nod as she took it from him and pressed it to her cheek. "Thank you," she finally said. She clutched it to her breast like it was the most precious treasure in the world.
Bill climbed slowly onto the rocky outcropping nearby, and she followed behind him, keeping her distance. He settled himself onto the edge and laced his fingers over one knee. "Why did you come out here?" he asked after a few moments.
She considered it as she took cautious steps forward. "I don't know," she finally replied. "I don't even know what I expected to find, really." She noted the set of his shoulders, the inner conflict that marred his face. "If you want me to go, I will. I can go set up camp off that way," she offered, nodding her head toward a copse of trees to the north. "If you don't mind, I'd like to rest a day before heading back."
"You don't ..." Bill stopped and shook his head as he looked out over the valley. "You don't have to go," he said, carefully choosing his words. "You can do what you want. I won't say anything one way or another."
She smiled and appraised him thoughtfully. "You have changed," Laura chuckled. To have William Adama keep his opinion to himself was new to her. Bill only shrugged and kept his eyes on the horizon. She decided to take a chance and climbed onto the rocks beside him, easing herself down a few feet away. His body tensed slightly, then relaxed with a heavy sigh.
"I sit here every morning," he rumbled. "Rain or shine."
"I'll bet the sunrises are amazing," Laura replied, studying the riot of color that splashed across the sky. "Like looking into heaven."
A hitch in his breath startled her, and she turned to see tears stream openly down his cheeks, a gentle expression replacing the turmoil that had marred his face since she arrived. He exhaled slowly and closed his eyes.
The sun broke over the mountains as she returned her gaze to the horizon, setting the entire world on fire. Laura's heart ached at the sheer beauty of it.
"Why don't you tell me more about her?" she breathed hopefully, watching the light awaken the valley.
For the first time since the beginning of her new life, she saw Bill smile, an honest, joyous smile. He opened his eyes and stared directly into the rising sun before turning his gaze to her.
"You remind me of her."