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Chapter Twelve: Breathe

Title: Chapter Twelve: Breathe
Author: aka_plynn
Word Count: 2,581
Rating: T
Characters/Pairings: Adama/Roslin, Laura
Summary: As Laura's condition worsens in sickbay, she, Bill, and resurrected Laura try to decipher the connection between Hera and their Opera House dreams.
Artist: katamarann
Link to Art: http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v397/katamaran/BSG/divisionbell.jpg
Notes: This was a really awesome experience, and I am so grateful to have been a part of it. Big thank yous to mammothluv for her suggestions and beta-fu for this chapter!

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




Laura's footsteps made little noise against the expensive carpet as she rushed down the corridor. Panic shivered through her body and she risked a glance over her shoulder, but the hallway was empty behind her, and she pressed on.

A flash of movement caught her eye at an intersection and Laura followed, ducking around corners just in time to see her quarry disappear once more. She increased her pace, desperate to catch up, but it didn't seem to matter; she couldn't gain any ground and time was running out.

One last turn led Laura into a grand theater, and she gripped the polished railing of the balcony with trembling hands as she recognized Caprica in the aisles below. Baltar stood with her, and she bent to scoop up a small child. As they turned and walked into a blinding light, Laura's cry echoed against the marble walls. "Hera!"

Panting, Laura shot upright on her cot. "Everything all right, ma'am?" asked Private Ross through the speaker, and she nodded weakly and tried to slow her breathing.

"Just a bad dream." She hadn't dreamed of the Opera House in months, and when she had it had never carried such a sense of urgency. Her heart rate refused to settle, and Laura began to pace her cell, scrubbing her palms against her thighs as her mind raced. Her lingering feeling of unease only strengthened when the ship began to groan.

Something was wrong.

A sharp pain stabbed through her chest as the room lurched, and sparks rained from a snapped light fixture. Laura was dimly aware of Ross shouting, but as her body hit the metal floor the only word she could manage was, "Hera."

Sickbay

"Bill, I had that dream again."

He squeezed her hand, so small and cold in his own, and repressed a sigh. "That's all it is, Laura. A dream." A dream brought on by illness and stress and amplified by medication. He refused to acknowledge it as anything more.

Her scarf whispered against the pillowcase as she shook her head. "Hera," she murmured as her eyelids fluttered, and Bill's heart gave a painful throb. Her lucid periods were growing shorter and she had spent much of the morning drifting in and out of consciousness; it wasn't a good day.

He stood and pressed a kiss to her damp forehead. He had to squeeze his eyes shut to keep his tears from dropping. "Rest, honey," he said against her skin. "I'll be back later."

Her fingers tapped against his sleeve and her bleary eyes searched for his. "Ask her."

"What?"

She swallowed and tried to wet her lips. "She may see it too. Ask her."

Bill didn't ask who she meant; there was only one 'her' these days. He didn't want to say yes but wouldn't tell Laura no, not today. "Rest," he repeated, and when she closed her eyes once more he slipped through the curtain.

For a while he simply wandered his ship, unseeing and lost in thought, and gave only the briefest of acknowledgments to those who greeted him. He had been avoiding the prisoner—he resisted thinking of her as Laura—as much as possible, and he wasn't eager to make another visit, especially not to speak of these supposed visions. He paused in the hall outside of the small brig that housed her and took a long pull from his flask.

Inside, she was reading, seated on her cot with her legs drawn up. Bill dismissed Private Ross and she marked her place as he let himself into her cell. "Admiral," she said as she rose, and her wary tone both saddened and annoyed him. Everything about her caused an almost overwhelming cognitive dissonance, from the flush on her cheeks to the sight of her bare feet. Bill ground his teeth together as he tamped down both his jealousy of her health and his helpless, involuntary attraction; he had to make this quick.

"Do you have dreams of an Opera House?" he asked without preamble.

Her sharp gasp was all the answer he needed, and the liquor in Bill's stomach roiled. "How ..." she started, and then nodded slowly. "She has them too, doesn't she?"

Bill didn't answer. "Have you had any of these dreams recently?"

"Yes, a few days ago." She sank back down and sat gingerly on the edge of her cot. "It was different this time, more frightening. I think I was chasing the child—Hera."

Hera. Everything seemed to come back to her. It was getting more and more difficult to ignore the implications, and Bill was at a loss. He took a few aimless steps around the cell before facing her once more. "Do you know what they mean? Why you're having them?" he pressed, and hated the edge of desperation in his voice.

She shook her head, and the way her pin-straight hair caught the light made his heart ache. "I wish I did. All I know is that my only motivation was to protect the child." Her eyes tracked him as he started pacing again. "Something's happened, hasn't it? When I woke up from the last dream I couldn't calm down, and then it felt like there was some sort of explosion."

Bill studied her as he debated telling her about the kidnapping. He shouldn't trust her, and yet to some extent he couldn't help it. Cylon or not, it was Laura Roslin looking back at him. He let out a tired sigh as he rubbed his forehead. "Two days ago Boomer kidnapped Hera. She took a Raptor and jumped away too close to the flight pod. That was the explosion you felt; she tore a hole in the side of the ship."

"My Gods," she breathed. "Do you know where she's taken her? Bill, we have to go after her."

He tensed immediately at her familiarity and the insistence in her tone. "Just because a few Cylons have a couple of nightmares, visions—whatever the frak you wanna call 'em—I'm supposed to risk my crew for a single child?" He didn't bother trying to keep the bitterness out of his harsh laughter. "I do that and I might as well just shoot myself and save someone else the trouble."

He expected her to argue; Laura would have. But she dropped her eyes to where her hands were clasped in her lap. "I see."

Her lack of fight took the fire out of his growing anger, and Bill's shoulders sagged. Against his better judgment he sat down on the foot of the cot and braced his forearms on his knees. "I can't. The Fleet's barely holding together. It won't take much to spark an outright, Fleet-wide rebellion at this point."

She watched him for a moment before speaking again. "What happened?" she asked softly.

"Earth," he said, and gave a small snort. "What was left of it. Just about every last bit of everyone's hope died after that." He looked over at her and wondered if she could have any understanding of the despair Laura experienced in the dark days that followed the discovery. "Everyone just gave up. Everyone. And Tom Zarek leapt at the opportunity to seize power."

"Frakking Zarek," she muttered, and Bill couldn't help the pained chuckle her familiar words caused. "Clearly he didn't succeed, at least."

"No. Thanks to Laura." The corner of his mouth lifted as he remembered her voice, clear and strong over the wireless. "She escaped to the Basestar, threatened to nuke Galactica. She bought us enough time to fight back."

She let out a small hum, and Bill tried to ignore the surge of affection the sound always triggered. "Good for her. But the damage was done, wasn't it?"

Bill nodded. "Now the Fleet's practically split, and so is my crew. Half my best pilots are in hack, and a lot of good people are dead." He winced as a muscle in his shoulder twinged and he reached for his flask.

Before he could open it she reached over, plucked it from his hand and then set it on the small nightstand, out of his reach. She held his annoyed gaze evenly until he looked away, embarrassed. "It's not your fault, you know."

Like hell it's not.

He remained silent, twisting his ring around his finger with his thumb, and she continued. "There were probably a thousand reasons why things happened the way they did. You can't carry all of them, Bill. And punishing yourself is only going to make it worse."

She placed a hesitant hand on his shoulder, and he leaned into her touch without thinking. As soon as his mind caught up with his body he recoiled and stood, putting some distance between them and avoiding her eyes. "I should go."

"All right," she said, standing as well. "I'd like to speak with Laura about the dreams, if that's okay. Could you ask her to come by, please?"

The pain that washed over him must have been plainly visible, because her eyes filled with tears before he could shake his head. "She can't." He cleared his throat but his voice broke anyway. "She's in sickbay."

She pressed her fingertips against her mouth and closed her eyes, then nodded once. "I'm so sorry," she whispered.

He swiped at his cheeks and fumbled with the cell door, and he felt a measure of control return when it was once again closed between them. "I'll see what I can do," he offered vaguely, and then strode out of the brig while he still could, flask forgotten.



"Wait here."

Laura nodded, and the hood covering her head rustled with the movement. As if she was going to wander off with her hands and feet shackled.

Ten minutes before, her guards had entered her cell with the restraints and informed her that her request to visit sickbay had been authorized. Her relocation was timed to take place during the assorted funeral ceremonies being held for the victims of the explosion, and the hood put in place as an extra precaution against her being recognized in the halls. Thankfully, the catchpole was left behind.

Corporal Kubler spoke once more as he guided her forward with a hand at her elbow. "All right. You have twenty minutes; I'll be three feet away," he warned, and he pulled off her hood.

Laura fought to keep her shock from showing. Gone was the ill but still fairly intimidating version of herself that greeted her when she stepped off the Raptor mere weeks ago. In her place was a pale, drawn woman in a headscarf hooked up to more machines than she cared to count, who took shallow breaths that rattled like wet bones in a clay pot. She was nearly unrecognizable, but at the same time hauntingly familiar.

"I look like her, don't I?" she asked in a thready voice.

Laura lowered herself onto the metal folding chair at her bedside and reached out to wrap her hands around their cold, bruised counterpart. She shook her head, but she knew that the tears that fell fast and hot down her face belied her denial. It was uncanny.

"It's all right. I know," she rasped, and gave a barely perceptible nod. "I've seen it."

Laura took a deep, shaky breath and squeezed her hand with the barest of pressure. "Are you in any pain?"

She shook her head, and her mouth curved into a faint smile. "Cottle has me on the good stuff. Makes chamalla seem like baby aspirin."

She laughed softly, but it felt hollow and reflexive. "Good, I'm glad. Laura, I—"

She was cut off by a tap of a finger to the back of her hand. "Tell me about your dreams," she said in a firmer voice than before, and Laura nodded.

"I had the first one after my resurrection, on the Basestar. The Opera House reminded me of the one on the north side of Caprica City, where Richard had his inauguration. I saw an Eight holding a bundle, Hera I assume, and then I entered the main hall and saw Caprica on the stage. She saw me and shushed me, then I woke up. But my last one was different; I had it right before Boomer kidnapped Hera.

"In that one, I was chasing after something, or someone. I think I was also being chased; I felt desperate, like something was gaining on me." She paused, recalling the way her heart had practically pounded right out of her chest, and felt her pulse rate increase in sympathetic memory. "I saw Caprica and Baltar down below me, on the main floor. She picked up Hera, and they walked into a blinding light. Then I woke up just before Boomer jumped away."

The other woman sighed and nodded. "That one sounds like mine. I chase her, but never catch her," she whispered. "Caprica and Athena have these dreams, too. Hera may as well. I hoped you might know more about them."

Laura tried to see a connection other than their shared race, but came up with nothing. The Laura who had remained behind shared blood with Athena and Hera, but she and Caprica did not. What was their part in this? "I wish I did. The only thing I know is that we have to find a way to convince Bill to go after her. Cavil ..." She trailed off and shook her head. "We have to get her back."

"I know. And so does Bill." She smiled and gave Laura's hand a little squeeze. "He's just searching for a way to do it that won't upset the Fleet."

"I hope he finds it soon," Laura said, and she suppressed a shiver at the idea of that innocent child in Cavil's inhumane hands.

The women sat quietly for a few moments, simply watching one another, and the silence that fell between them lacked the awkward tension that had marred their previous conversations. Laura wasn't certain if her counterpart's growing warmth toward her was a side effect of her medication or her approaching end, but she appreciated it nonetheless. It was such a strange relationship: not quite twins and not quite the same, but far too similar and with too many shared experiences to not relate to one another. Laura's tears sprang forward again at the realization that she'd never get a chance to know if they could have become friends.

"Did you get the books?" she asked eventually, her voice little more than forced air, and Laura smiled as she wiped her cheeks.

"I did. Thank you."

"You should hurry and finish Dark Day," she instructed, and there was a mischievous glint in her reddened eyes. "I don't want to spoil it for you, but you'll love the twist."

Behind her, Kubler cleared his throat on the other side of the curtain. "Time's about up."

Laura stood, but she kept her fingers linked with her counterpart's. "I'm glad Bill let me speak with you. Thank him for me?" She didn't expect to see him again anytime soon, herself. Not with his Laura so sick.

The other woman nodded and gave her fingertips another weak squeeze, her eyes glassy with unshed tears. "It's nice to have a sister again," she whispered tremulously.

Laura squeezed her eyes shut as a fresh wave of grief passed through her, and she bent forward and kissed the other woman on her clammy temple. "Yes. It is."

Tags: chapter twelve, full story
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