Casualty of War
by Judith Allison
Word Count: 2,812
Series: Battlestar Galactica
Summary: Adama makes his move on Roslin after Colonial Day and gets more than he bargained for. Predictable cancer angst; makes a good story.
Spoilers/Disclaimers: All characters belong to their creators. I've just toyed with them a bit. No spoilers. We've all seen the entire first season more than once.
Reliving the Myth of Pythia was not her desire. Yet, she was not beautiful anymore, just determined to get this dwindling band of humans to a mythical planet.
The doctor had given her the bad news, and like all things, she had borne up under it. Always the trooper, always ready to face the adversities in her life. Laura Roslin, President, wanted to stand on a mountain-top and scream until reality went away.
Laura Roslin's whole world had turned upside down with the Cylons as it had with the rest of the fleet. Her life had shattered into a million pieces before the bombs fell.
Why had the doctor told her? She could taste her anger at the news. She could feel the pain of it, the sickness that came with the alternative treatments - the kamala extract that made her dizzy, woozy, delirious and nauseous. The doctor had provided medicines to deal with it to a certain point, but in the dark, long hours as they flew threw space, while others slept, while others dreamed, she cried. It wasn't a howling, hysterical rant, just a quiet catching of her breath, as she remembered that she was most likely doomed and already dead. Not killed at the Cylon's hands, but dead just the same.
Cancer stalked her nightmares while it ravaged her body. She had no relief on either front. During the day, she smiled and took care of business; at night, she wretched in the privacy of her cabin and mourned her inevitable passing. The leader will die of a wasting disease. That's what she'd been told. Reliving the Myth of Pythia was not her desire. Yet, she was not beautiful anymore, just determined to get this dwindling band of humans to a mythical planet.
And now, she wasn't even on her own ship. On the Galactica, people were not used to seeing her wander the halls at night, looking for solace, looking for a place of refuge from the fear that walked beside her -- silent and ever present.
Adama had called one of his never-ending meetings, and as he droned on and on, she'd allowed herself a moment of womanhood, watching him make marks on an easel, fleet rations, fleet fuel, fleet whatever. As he talked, her vision had roved freely over his body. She didn't care about these things. She wanted something human to hang on to. Something tangible. Something real. And, so she allowed herself a fantasy. He was muscular, toned and tight. Coiled, ready to pounce at a moment's notice on anybody who threatened the Fleet -- his fleet, his people, his responsibility.
Laura sighed slightly shifting her position in her chair, and Gaius leaned over to and touched her arm. Somehow, without speaking about it, he sensed something was wrong. Ever since taking the position as Vice President, he had swung between near-lunacy to intense attention to detail. Sometimes, he seemed so distracted; at other times, his attention was uncanny.
"I'm fine," she whispered, never taking her eyes off the speaker. If Baltar knew why she'd sighed, he'd probably be less worried. If Adama had cared or heard her sigh, he would be both embarrassed and flattered. Yet, for a moment, in that moment, she'd forgotten about the cancer, about death.
Adama seemed to be winding down. Then he did something else she'd expected; he invited her, no, them to dine with him.
"Of course," she obliged, hence leading to her staying the night in the guest quarters. At least no wild animals had turned up in her hallucinations. Only small things, dark things that lurked at the periphery of her vision. She ignored them and drank some more wine with dinner.
Adama seemed to be watching her, in a way, that made her at once giddy and uncomfortable. It must be the wine, she chided herself as she walked back to her quarters. But he had made a point of saying it was too late for Raptor escort back to her ship. And she hadn't exactly disagreed.
She dressed slowly in a pair of sweatpants and a T-shirt -- perhaps, it wasn't Presidential, but it was comfortable. She needed to walk, and slipped out of the guest quarters and into the hallway.
Half thinking about the ride back to her ship, Laura nearly collided with the Commander of the Galactica coming around the corner.
"I was just coming to see you." he muttered, eyes looking past and over her shoulder. It was unusual, because he always seemed to be starring intently at whoever was speaking.
"I was going to take a walk. Was there something you needed?" Now that is an odd choice of words, she thought to herself. She started away from her guest quarters.
"Yes, I had a couple questions for you."
"Yes, Commander?" Laura continued to stare at him; Adama continued to stare down the hallway.
"Could we step into your quarters for a moment? You can call me William. I think we've been through enough together, don't you?" Laura didn't answer caught up in her own thoughts. Thoughts of what it would look like flooded her mind. She pushed them away.
"Certainly, Commander." She stepped back opening her door and re-entering her quarters. It was awkward, but that was only because of what she was thinking....what she wanted. Laura pushed those thoughts away as well. She was a cancer patient, wasting away and undesirable. Even if he had come with that purpose, just the act of seeing her naked would take away his passion.
Not that I am a hag, Laura thought quickly, but with breast cancer, I'm not far from it. Wasting diseases had a tendency to mar any beauty a man might see. She pushed the thought away with the others and bagged her feelings of attraction for Adama. He'd probably come to talk about fuel consumption in the fleet. That's all. The man never thought about anything else.
She turned to face him, Laura Roslin, President of the remainder of humanity. "What can I do for you, Commander? More questions about water or fuel problems?" She realized as she spoke that he wasn't carrying any notepads or briefing papers.
Adama looked somewhat taken aback, then righted himself and looked purposeful again. "Do you think we could sit down?"
"Of course, Commander." She sat down on the two-seater sofa the guest quarters provided. "Now, what's this all about?"
Adama sat on the other half of the two-seater. "You can call me, William." Surprised her again. She'd expected him to sit on the chair across from her, and why the sudden first name basis? She didn't answer. He was close and she could smell him. He smelled good. The kamala must be getting to her. She wasn't supposed to have any hormones left in her state.
For a moment, Adama looked at the floor, then he raised his dark gaze to meet hers. She felt it again, that almost overpowering wave of -- she cut off the rest of the thought. She had cancer. She'd be dead in a year. But she wasn't dead now, frak it all to hell. She was very much alive, and he smelled so frakkin good and looked even better.
Their eyes met again, and Adama seemed to gather confirmation from their silent exchange. "I wanted to ask, well, time is precious...." He stopped.
Yes, time is so precious, Laura matched his verbalization in her mind. Adama never stumbled. He was always forthright, determined and purposeful.
"I thought you might feel something for me." He looked away.
Laura was stunned. What had she just heard? What??? Close your mouth, girl.
"Like how?" That was the best you could come up with?
"I could be mistaken, but I get the feeling there's a lot you aren't saying."
Frakkin A on that one buddy. Tears fell from her and she looked away.
Adama looked at her reassessing the situation. "I could be mistaken." He was rising to leave. "Excuse me."
"Wait," Laura managed. "You find me attractive?"
"Well, yes." Adama replied, "very attractive. I always have, but we haven't had any time to explore anything, but now with the end of Colonial Day, and a little respite from the Cylons, I thought I'd ask."
Adama was standing in the middle of the guestroom obviously unsure of his next move. Laura smiled at him thinking about his dilemma. He'd fought off Cylons, given people orders, taken no flack from anybody for these last months. Now here he was standing in the middle of her room, wondering whether to stay or leave. He was, if nothing else, a gentlemen. And true to form, he felt he might have erred and was running for the hills.
"Stay." In that word, she'd felt herself reattaching to the world again.
"May I ask why you're crying then?" Adama asked. "I realize that I'm not young and handsome like Apollo, but I didn't think my attentions would cause you such pain to make you tear up."
"Oh, no." Laura felt foolish and knew she sounded even more foolish. These past few months had been so grim, so painful. The prospect of a man, any man looking at her like a woman was such a relief. How could she tell him that without sounding like a complete imbecile.
"So much has happened." she began. Again, the tears came.
Adama sat back down on the sofa and fished up the box of regulation tissues from the guestroom night table. Fortunately, some things never changed in guest quarters: tissues, regulation book of the Lords of Kobol prayers, map of civilian authorized areas...things like that.
He handed her a couple tissues. "Then, if I'm not the ugliest thing you've ever seen, why are you crying?"
Laura realized that his voice had acquired a softness she'd heard before when he was talking to his son or Starbuck during the quiet moments between battles. She'd only heard it a few times, and now he used it with her. She smiled at that.
"Why are you smiling? I admit, I like that better than the tears."
He must think I"m an absolute idiot, Laura groaned inwardly.
"I never expected a man to want me again." Oh frak, did I just say that?
"Why, you're a handsome woman."
"Don't call me handsome, Commander. Men are handsome. Horses are handsome. Handsome women are women with brains who are ugly." She snapped at him, months of pent of anger coming to the fore.
"Beautiful, then, with brains." He smiled at her. "Beautiful to an old war dog like me."
"You are not an old war dog or war horse, before you throw that one out there. You are attractive, and I find you quite handsome." Okay, so this conversation was moving along quite rapidly now. Laura felt she had to slow it down.
He laughed and leaned back on the sofa. "So, Madame President, tell me what you really think of me?" He was still watching her, and she felt suddenly warm.
"I see where your son gets his charm, Commander."
"You think you can call me, William?" Laura didn't answer.
He continued to smile, watching her. "We are not children." Adama said finally. "I find you quite attractive, and if you feel similarly, then maybe we could take this further into a relationship."
"Such romance." Laura felt suddenly playful, although only the Lords of Kobol knew why.
"I don't mean I came here to hop your bones. I came to talk with you and see if you're amenable." Adama cleared his throat again.
"Why do you keep looking at me?" she scoffed.
"Because I think you're pretty." Adama cleared his throat. "I am also in the habit of looking at the people I'm in conversation with. And, I like looking at you. Besides, at any moment you may go back to crying, so I need to be ready with a strategically placed tissue or two."
Laura laughed out loud before catching herself. Then Adama began to laugh, putting his arm on the back of the sofa. She was aware of it, but only leaned back against the back and his arm. "I didn't know you had such a sense of humor."
"I'm known to be witty from time to time. But don't let the junior officers know it." Laura laughed again. It was good to feel like this again, and he wasn't quite the stiff upper lip sort she'd imagined him to be.
Without warning, he leaned in and kissed her, gathering her up into his arms with a softness that surprised her, pressing her lips gently as she felt him pulling her close. His kiss reverberated in her mind and for a moment it took her breath away. He began to caress her in all the right places, and for a long, languorous moment, she forgot that she had breast cancer and that she was dying.
But only for a heartbeat. She pushed back against him, feeling the heat, feeling the lust and the inevitable fear. What if he found her disgusting? What if this build-up crashed and burned under the weight of her disease.
Adama backed away looking at her puzzled.
"I have something to tell you." Tears welled up again.
Adama sighed and grabbed the box of tissues. "Okay, I'm ready." Laura laughed at the gesture, and the fear and pain eased a bit.
"It's not fair to you to get into a relationship with me." There she'd said it. She waited for a response. Adama appeared to be waiting for more of an explanation. In the silence, he lobbed a single "Alright" after a moment or two had passed between them, then more silence. Clearly, he wasn't going to settle for the one sentence brush off.
"I am ugly in places, and you may find it disheartening to be with me at times." Laura delivered this statement and waiting for a reaction. Disheartening? Did I just say disheartening? Oh Lord.
Adama scratched his ear, then said "Okay."
"Aren't you going to say anything else?" Laura spat out a bit frustrated.
"You don't want to be in a relationship with me?" Adama asked.
"No, that's not what I said."
"Then, what's the problem? I've been looking at you, and I think you're beautiful."
"Stop saying that. I have a disease, lumps."
"Is it contagious?"
"No, it's not contagious! It's killing me." Tears overflowed and she couldn't hold them back. She wasn't Presidential. She was just in pain and scared out of her mind. "I have breast cancer and it's killing me." she cried degenerating into what she felt was near-hysteria. She felt him gather her back into his arms, and the months of pain she'd held inside came out in wracking, uncontrollable sobs. Adama held her until making soft cooing sounds and whispering that it would be all right until she regained a semblance of control.
"Why didn't you tell me?" he inquired gently, kissing her wet cheeks.
"I just did tell you. And I know you won't want me like this."
"It doesn't matter." His answer was quick, determined. "When did you find out?" he probbed again.
"Shortly before the Cylons blew our world apart."
"Oh God, you poor, woman. You haven't told anybody?"
"I don't want your pity. It's been on a need to know basis. And, not many people need to know this. I'm telling you because, I don't want you to be shocked. "
"You don't have my pity, but like it or not, you now have my help and my friendship. You've had that."
"I just don't think you'll want me as a woman."
"Just because you have cancer, doesn't mean you're less of a woman to me. If a man thinks that, he's less of a man."
"Now you pity me?" Laura's reaction hurt; she felt the pain like somebody was boring into her chest.
"Oh, frak no. I couldn't pity anybody as fiesty as you. With cancer, you're a handful. Lord knows what you'll be like when you're healthy again. And if the Lords don't see fit to make that happen, then we'll deal with the time we have." He thought I'd be healthy again, and he'd still be there if I couldn't make it back.
"You are so strange, Commander."
"Don't you think you can call me William yet? I mean, you've ruined my jacket, made hash out of my senses and used up more than your share of regulation tissues."
Laura laughed. "I can call you, William."
"Listen, can I kiss you, or are you going to start blubbering again, woman?"
"What about my breast? It's a bit disfigured, lumpy."
"Have I showed you my left buttock? Flying accident. Large gash. I generally wear long swim trunks."
"I don't think I've seen that."
"Well, you probably will see it before I'm through. I don't expect any jokes about it, either."
He smiled at her and leaned in to kiss her again. "You going to start crying?"
"No, William." Laura laughed.
"Much better," William smiled at her.
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