Word Count: 2,818
Characters/Pairings: Adama/Roslin, Laura
Summary: The Lauras try to reconcile their nearly incomprehensible bond and Saul talks Bill through his conflicts.
Link to Art: http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v
Notes: Many thanks to mmegiry for being a fantastic beta for my chapter and to all the authors and cheerleaders and betas involved in this project. And a big thank you to icedteainthebag and mmegiry for organizing everything. I'm so happy to have had a small part in this fic and so impressed with everyone who participated!
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
It had been a long time since Bill had sent her to the brig.
They had moved Boomer to her own cell; Laura liked to think it was because the Admiral worried for her safety, though she personally knew Boomer meant her no harm. But the absence of another being had left her lonely, hour after hour in her solitary space.
Laura asked Antigone, the younger and seemingly more sympathetic of her guards, to get a request to the Admiral. She was almost certain the message would get to Bill, but she didn't realistically expect anything to come of it. She wanted answers, though, and it was the only way she knew to get them, so she took a shot.
To her surprise, hours later, the door to the brig opened and her copy was marched in. She was in full shackles with a catchpole around her neck, just as Laura herself was earlier. There were three guns trained on her back but she stood tall. If she was surprised at where they'd brought her, she didn't show it. The guards shoved her into the cell with Laura, the guns trained on both of them when the cell door was opened, and then her shackles were removed. The extra Marines exited, leaving just the two of them and two guards.
Laura studied the copy carefully. She looked healthy. Her hair was long and straight. Her skin had a pink hue that Laura hadn't seen in the mirror in what seemed too long to remember. She felt a strong jolt of something—revulsion, or maybe jealousy—deep in her stomach.
The copy remained silent, staring straight at Laura, seemingly waiting for her to speak.
Now that it had sunk in, one question was at the forefront of her mind.
"How can a Cylon have cancer?" she asked.
She was clinging to hope for something; she wasn't sure if it was a miraculous Cylon cure or for the woman across from her to admit that this was all a big ruse and she was not a Cylon after all.
The other Laura smiled ruefully. "I had that question myself. You've heard of Graystone Industries. The Centurions at Graystone were attempting to create Cylons who appeared human. You ... we were a prototype created by the Centurions before Ellen gave them the technology needed to create the models we're familiar with now. There were a few glitches that weren't worked out until the later versions, it seems." The other Laura's voice betrayed the same bitterness Laura felt upon hearing the explanation.
"I don't believe you," Laura said firmly. It was too convenient, this woman showing up at the time when she could do the most damage. This had to be a trick. "Bill …" She paused, because she wasn't sure she had the right to call him that anymore. "The Admiral thinks I might be a sleeper agent."
The other woman shook her head. "You aren't. As far as I know, you aren't. Boomer and her programming ... that was all Cavil, and he didn't even know you were a Cylon until he found the body I'm in now on the Resurrection Ship. The Centurions wouldn't have had any reason to program you that way so long ago."
"But, if I'm a Cylon ... my family." She could picture her father and mother, her sisters. She could still feel the pain of losing them and the strength with which they loved her and she them. That had to be real.
"Ellen tells me you ... I ... we—sorry, I still have trouble with the Cylon pronoun usage—were adopted. Ellen claims that the Centurions who created us were surprised that we survived. None of their other attempts had. They realized they couldn't properly care for us in the middle of the war and decided it would be best to place us with a human family."
"You believe Ellen Tigh?"
"More so than Cavil's version of events." The other Laura practically spit the man's name; her disgust was unmistakable. "There's no getting the truth from him, just lies and misdirection. As far as I can tell, Ellen is telling the truth. Not that she isn't capable of lying to me, but I don't believe she has a reason to."
Laura swallowed hard, a useless attempt at quelling the fear and disgust that had been rising in her throat ever since this other version of her walked on board Galactica. The thought of being created by the Centurions, and of them caring for her enough to place her with a human family ... none of it made sense to her. She felt nauseous and she wasn't sure if it was the cancer, the chamalla, the information or the fact that she was stuck in the brig staring at her Cylon copy.
She leaned over, resting her head in her hands, and did her best to breathe slowly through the waves of nausea. She felt a hand on her back, gentle and reassuring, until she remembered who it was. Sitting up straight again, she shrugged the hand off her back.
"I'm fine," she muttered. "I don't need your help."
The copy was looking at her, and she could read every emotion behind familiar eyes. Frustration, sympathy, pity. It rubbed her raw. She could not stomach the idea of the secrets this woman surely knew. She turned her head and focused on the blank wall of the brig instead.
She couldn't help remembering another time she was here. Before Kobol, before she trusted Bill, before Bill made the mistake of trusting her.
That thought brought his face swimming before her. His shock and confusion were another blow to her already exhausted mind.
Bill was hosting Saul in his quarters. They were halfway through their second drink before Bill managed to ask the question that had been eating away at him since he became coherent enough to think again rather than just move on autopilot. "Did you know?" he asked. He stared down at his drink instead of looking directly at Saul.
"No," Tigh said. "And, from the looks of her when the second Laura stepped off that Raptor, she didn't either."
"That's what she says," Bill said. "The copy says they were some kind of prototype, that she never knew what she was." This time he glanced up at Saul. His friend was studying him carefully.
"You believe her?" Tigh asked.
"I don't know. Should I?" Bill couldn't help the accusatory tone of his question. Saul lied to him about being a Cylon not so long ago, too. He'd begun to wonder if it would be easier to count the people he'd allowed himself to love and trust who hadn't turned out to be Cylons, rather than those who had.
"Wish I knew," Tigh said. "Sounds plausible to me. Don't see why she'd lie."
Bill could think of a thousand reasons she'd lie. It was why his desire to believe her made him so frakking angry.
"Chief seems to think this Cylon material could help repair Galactica." It was an abrupt change of subject, but if Saul realized Bill was avoiding further talk of Laura, he didn't call him on it. Bill tipped his flask to fill both his and Saul's glasses once again.
Instead of answering, Saul turned the question back on him. "What do you think?"
"I think no matter how hard we're trying to make nice, I can't stand the idea of Cylon technology covering every inch of my ship or the idea of the Cylon crew that would be necessary to complete the work." Bill paused, taking a drink before continuing. "But I also think I can't let the old girl die. This is our ship, Saul. She's seen us through a lot." His voice wavered but, as always, Saul was decent enough to ignore it.
"I've had the best years of my life on this damn ship. Hell, apparently, I've had the best years of a couple of lives," Saul said, with a cheer Bill could tell was forced.
"You think I should do it," Bill replied.
"Not my call. But, if you ask me, it sure as shit couldn't make things any worse," Tigh said, his amusement real this time as he downed the remaining liquid in his glass.
Bill felt the beginning of a genuine smile on his face as well. Raising his glass, he said, "I'll drink to that."
Laura once felt at home on Galactica, more so than Colonial One. Since she'd woken up on the Basestar, all she'd wanted was to get back here to her Fleet. In a way, it did feel a little like a homecoming, despite getting tossed in the brig immediately upon her arrival. She hadn't expected anything less than that, after all. But, much to her dismay, there was a small part of her that longed to feel the now-familiar thrum of the Basestar surrounding her.
In an effort to push that feeling aside, she studied the woman across from her. Laura could remember cancer clearly, could recall the fog in her brain created by the chamalla and the certainty of death close at hand. She stopped fearing those things once she'd learned to accept that she was a Cylon. Even when Cavil told her she wouldn't be able to resurrect, she'd had a reasonable expectation that she'd never face cancer again. Seeing the signs of the illness she'd avoided so clearly in the woman across from her was like a slap in the face.
She got the perfected body, and the woman across from her was paying the price for both of them.
She hadn't tried to help since her copy had rebuffed her attempts earlier. They'd shared a life up to a point. They were almost the same but, in the eyes of her counterpart, she was the bad guy. She was the one who brought President Roslin's already desperate situation crashing down around her.
She couldn't fault the other woman for her anger. She'd lashed out too. She could remember the shock of realizing what she truly was with the clarity of a punch to the gut.
She studied the walls of her cell and remembered her time here before Kobol, remembered the anger in Bill's eyes when he was confronted with what he saw as her betrayal. She saw the same look in his eyes when she stepped off the Raptor but, later, when he came to visit her cell, there was something else behind it. He looked at her like she had ripped something precious away from him. She was certain that something was the woman who was sitting across from her now, trying desperately to catch her breath.
She'd had her doubts when Cavil first told her of the other Laura's romantic relationship with Admiral Adama, but there was no doubt in her mind now.
He loved her.
"What are you going to do about the President?" Tigh finally asked.
Bill felt sick to his stomach at the reminder of Laura, two Lauras, sitting in his brig.
"Can't keep her locked up down there forever. I don't think you want to either," Tigh continued.
"How can I ..." Bill trailed off. He wasn't sure what he meant to ask. How could he deal with the woman he loved being a Cylon, or how could he deal with the fact that she was dying? That there was some perfectly healthy copy of the woman he loved but the one he actually loved was still dying?
"You learned to work with me again and I'd like to think we're friends again," Tigh said, as if it were the easiest thing in the world. As if it hadn't nearly torn this Fleet apart, nearly torn Bill apart. As if it still couldn't. As if Laura still couldn't.
He was balancing on the edge. He was almost certain, one way or another, she'd be the thing to push him over.
But, whatever she was, whoever she was, there was no denying she was in his blood now. Her absence was an almost physical pain to him. Even with Saul there to distract him, he could feel it pressing in on him.
He thought he'd prepared himself to say goodbye to her. But even just being away from her, knowing she was in the brig and likely as hurt and confused as he was, was too much to bear. He was faced with the reality of what he'd always expected. There'd be no way to be prepared when it came to losing her.
Living without her wasn't a possibility.
"Does Billy know?"
Her Cylon counterpart's mention of Billy was a shock, though Laura should have expected it. It's what she would have wanted to know. The obvious affection in the her copy's voice as she said Billy's name brought up a grief that was always painfully close to the surface no matter how hard Laura tried to bury it.
The other Laura continued. "I'd like to see him. To try to explain."
"Billy passed away," Laura said, unable to keep the emotion out of her voice.
The other woman gasped, her hand flying to her chest in an automatic gesture of shock Laura knew well. The pain was obvious on her face for only a few moments but Laura recognized it, knowing its depth all too well. She was reminded of her own hand bracing her against the cold wall of Galactica's morgue, her breath coming in shallow gasps, a loss she thought she might drown in.
Her urge to comfort the other woman surprised her but there was such a familiarity in her grief that Laura couldn't help the urge. "There was a hostage situation," she said. "He died bravely."
The copy nodded, her face now impassive. Laura recognized the emotion underneath only because it so closely mirrored her own.
Laura was deciding whether to reach out to offer some physical comfort when the decision was made for her. They were interrupted by the echoing sound of feet moving down the corridor alerted her to someone's approach. She wasn't surprised to find that it was Bill.
He dismissed the Marines from the room and asked them to wait out in the hallway. Her copy remained seated in the other corner of the cell, eyeing Bill with a wary interest, but Laura stood up and met his eyes.
"Do what you need to do, Bill," she said before she could lose her nerve. "With both of us. You need to keep this quiet. It would destroy the Fleet. It would give all the lunatics looking for a chance to sow discord just the opportunity they need."
He looked at her with disbelief, but she continued. She had to. Her feelings aside, this was the right thing to do.
"People are expecting me to die, Bill. It would be easy enough to ..."
The sound of his hand slamming against the wall stopped her mid-sentence.
"Damn it, Laura! I'm not putting you out the frakking airlock."
Laura flinched, but didn't shrink back. She watched as he pulled a key from his pocket and unlocked the cell door. "You're coming back to my quarters with me." He briefly directed his attention to the Cylon copy. "You'll stay in this cell under guard until we figure out what to do with you, but you won't be harmed."
The walk back to Bill's quarters seemed to take an eternity. She had so many questions, but they all seemed too small or too big. So she walked silently by his side until they were safely in his quarters with the door shut behind them, and then she asked the only question that mattered. "Why?"
"Laura." He put a hand underneath her chin and tilted her head so he could look directly at her. They were close enough that she could smell the alcohol on his breath, but she could tell his judgment wasn't clouded. She saw a steady determination in his eyes that she knew all too well.
The hand under her chin moved up to her face, and he traced her lower lip with his thumb. It felt rough, warm, familiar. "You and I may not have much time left. I may not know what all of this means for you and me, and for the Fleet. But I know you Laura." His eyes were now bright with unshed tears. She felt the responding sting of her own tears rising.
The obvious affection in his voice now, after everything that had happened, caused the aching tension in her head to recede. It wasn't gone completely; it never was lately. Her body was failing; she could feel it. She didn't have many good days left. But the tension that had filled her almost evaporated under the assurance in his words.
He loved her.