but my smile still stays on
Fandom: Battlestar Galactica
Disclaimer: Ron Moore, not me.
Summary: I’ll top the bill, I’ll earn the kill, I have to find the will to carry on…
The mirror reflected a woman Laura Roslin didn’t quite want to recognize anymore, and not just because of the trouble of keeping her hair some shade of red. That was becoming its own disaster; the few boxes of red hair dye, quietly requisitioned by the Roslin Government, were moving closer and closer to some freakish shade of strawberry blonde, and yet to give in and go grey was almost unthinkable.
Ice water in her veins, Tigh had told her, right after she’d slapped him for the suicide bombings. Zarek committing official murder to protect her power and keep her hands clean. Baltar screaming after her about the many times he’d saved her life as she left the room. Bill’s recent speech about getting soft. Everything was going off the rails, and gods, who was she, anyway?
A different woman might have cried, Laura thought, looking at herself in the mirror. Laura had done most of her crying over real tragedies — the cancer, losing Maya and the baby, Billy. Looking at herself and realizing she had gotten not even hard as much as petty…and what else had walking out on Baltar’s pleas been but petty, cheap revenge for throwing her in jail and taking her ship but petty?…was no tragedy. Just the truth.
The woman in the mirror could take a newborn from its parents to protect humanity. The woman in the mirror could betray women’s humanity for political expediency. The woman in the mirror could work with men who would send people to blow themselves up in public. The woman in the mirror would commit genocide right back. And worse yet, Laura could see where she had begun from the Laura who had once been. Maybe the Laura Roslin of today was harder and harsher than the Laura Roslin who had told her president and her lover she’d fight him to the death over her Secretary of Education job — Richard had to know she knew where the bodies were buried — but she wasn’t alien.
It was possible — even likely — that Laura Roslin had always been a slumbering dragon, a ruthless pragmatic monster who had never been forced to discover just how far she’d go. That Laura could have done all these things without the Cylon genocide of the Colonies. If she thought it was necessary.
Laura was so very good at necessary.
And worse yet was that the woman in the mirror was right. If Laura Roslin had a regret, it was that she hadn’t stolen the gods-damned election properly. That was the hard part, not the choices, but that every monstrous act, every hideous crime Laura committed was a choice she believed in. A choice that she could justify, even when it was an evil choice, when it was a horror.
Laura leaned forward, scrutinizing her face. Had she looked petty or cold, turning her back on Baltar and the Cylons? It had been a misstep, a very human misstep, that came from her idiotic gut reaction to Gaius Baltar. Everyone else, she could deal with coolly, at a distance, even frakking Bill and his new-found decision that their affair had caused the Occupation and they were Very Bad to have done it.
Baltar made her murderously angry. Baltar made her dream of wrapping her hands around his neck and smiling, her best diplomatic smile, as she watched him yelp and thrash about ineffectually.
It was the only thing he was any good at, after all. Ineffective, noisy thrashing.
Laura tilted her head and put one hand around her own throat, feeling her pulse underneath two of the fingers, steady and unmoved by her bloodthirsty fantasies. And shuddered.
“Madam President,” someone said, respectful but sounding far away. “Are you all right? Do you have a sore throat?”
Laura’s hand moved away from her throat guiltily and she tried to smile sheepishly. “Just an itch,” she lied. “Did the admiral send you?”
“Yes, sir,” the young soldier said, looking at her strangely but with respect. “He said that the negotiations may last longer than thought, so you could use his quarters, or perhaps rejoin them in the conference room.”
“I’ll use the admiral’s quarters,” Laura said immediately. As disadvantageous as it was to keep away from the meeting, her mood was too uncanny. Baltar had her acting like (a human, her brain supplied) a petulant teenager, and she’d be better off recovering herself somewhere not so public. “Thank you.”
Gods, so strange. Off somehow, like the balance of her world was coming apart. And it wasn’t just Baltar. To hell with Baltar; it was the air that felt strange. Something was coming, and she was…she was possibly a prophet, wasn’t she? That was what the Scrolls of Pythia said, even though she was no longer dying.
Bill’s rooms were much the same as they had been yesterday and the day before and the week before, even if she had no more right to the bed than any past lover. Laura sat down next to his desk instead, head too full of tangents to form a thought.
It’s all going to go wrong… was the bad no-good thought in her head. If Baltar survived, who else could have?
Sometimes people became chess pieces in her head. Baltar survived, of course — he was useful to the Cylon. And Hera? Laura had never been able to look at the child without feeling something that made her very, very certain that the Cylons could not have her, not even the young woman who was her mother. She was a game-piece the Cylons should not have had.
And maybe didn’t have, but Laura was suddenly almost sickeningly sure that the child had survived, and that her next job was to retrieve Hera. To retrieve the Eye of Jupiter (and Chief Tyrol, he had served as a beacon of hope before, he had created the blackbird ship, he had had a vision that had exposed Brother Cavil, he was part of the puzzle), and locate the child.
Protect her. Laura’s purpose was to protect the child the way it was to protect all that remained of humanity. That was her destiny, that was the only thing that made her slow descent into the ice worth it.
Gods, Laura was cold. She wished, suddenly, that she wanted all those simple things that Bill Adama had so passionately wanted. Family, love, to be the mother where he was the father.
This was not her family. She protected all of them, she fought and lied and let out the monster who had always been Laura, but they were not her family. Not even Bill had honestly wanted to keep her from the dragons; they needed her to do the horrible things and the hard things and make it look easy.
The horror of it, the thing that made Laura unable to focus, to think of what the next, the best thing to do with the Cylons was, was that she secretly didn’t want them to be her family. Bill had worried to her about Tigh, about Captain Thrace, about Lee and his wife, and Laura had listened, had given advice, but she hadn’t done anything else. She wasn’t even the person her staff turned to for comfort.
And she’d never minded that.
But it was suddenly so strange to Laura that she didn’t mind, that it actually irritated her when a known lunatic traitor tried to gain her sympathy, not because he was a lunatic…but because Baltar reminded her that she wasn’t interested in forgiving or loving anyone.
These people, her people…were all strangers.
Laura tilted her head back. So many strangers, and even this choice she could justify. If none of them were close, she could make choices that would be sanity-crippling if she loved them. It had been a subconscious choice, one to protect herself and everyone else.
But nobody was like that. Even Baltar, the traitorous bastard, had had friends — that Gaeta had been half in love with him. He was in love with the Six. All of them had connections, even the Cylons…except for Laura, who played at connections and kept everyone far away from whoever she really was.
It wasn’t human and the truth of that was akin to panic in Laura’s stomach.
“Madam President,” Bill’s familiar voice said. “Are you all right? Ensign Napolitano thought you looked distressed earlier.”
“I’m fine,” said Laura, opening her eyes and looking at Bill thoughtfully. “How did the meeting go?”
“As well as a Cylon-human meeting ever could,” Bill replied. “Not very well.”
“Lovely,” Laura said. “Baltar went back with them, I assume.”
“He did,” Bill said. “What got him so crazy about you, anyway?”
Laura shrugged. “He’s a guilt-ridden sociopath?” she asked. “I have no idea, Admiral. So tell me the gory details, please. We have decisions yet to make, and not a great deal of time to make them in.”
He nodded and sat down, and Laura wondered what it would be like to be conflicted about Bill. To think she should tell him things because they had been lovers. Or because he’d like to know.
So strange! And yet, she was glad that she wasn’t conflicted.
Laura listened quietly as Bill began to started to recount the meeting. Her next moves would depend on this, and the game wouldn’t stop just because Laura realized she would do anything to win, sink to any depth, become whatever monster she had to be, because in this game winning was the only thing.
Laura knew games, and she knew this game would not be won with anything less than total commitment and her whole self, soul and heart and body.
And Laura accepted that, even as the sea change began to remind her that she had perhaps lost more than she wanted to admit.