Something Better [Battlestar Galactica]

Something Better
by Jennifer-Oksana
Fandom: Battlestar Galactica
Rating: PG-13
Spoilers: Home II
Pairing: Lee/Laura, hints of A/R and L/K
Disclaimer: Ron Moore’s the man with the master plan.
Summary: Because there aren’t any good answers in a situation like this.

He hadn’t meant to come here to get into a fight. Lee had gotten his fill of fighting with the president and his father when he’d reacted to the engagement announcement awkwardly, and from listening to Kara tell him he was being a jerk eight hundred times after that.

But here he was on Colonial One, watching President Roslin prepare for her wedding, and they were in the middle of a blazing row.

“So here’s the dumbest question of all,” Lee said finally, clenching his fists. “Why is it that every time I follow my gut, do what my heart says to do, you name the cliche about instinct, I end up standing next to you, Madam President?”

The president looked at him finally, and then very slowly sat down, taking off the bit of veil that someone had found for her. The bit of veil that she was supposed to wear in two days when she married his father.

“Good dumb question,” she said in a soft voice, fiddling with the delicate fabric restlessly. “Why couldn’t you have asked it before today, Captain Apollo?”

“I don’t know,” he answered, feeling shivery and a little hyper. “Do you love Dad?”

Her eyes slid up to look at him with that wry, dry humor that was a little bit rebuke and a little bit self-denigration.

“I care about your father deeply,” she said in a very precise tone. “And I don’t want to hurt him.”

“You’ll hurt him more if you marry him without loving him,” Lee said. “Trust me. He doesn’t want you to marry him out of pity.”

“It’s not pity, Lee,” she said in a stronger voice. “Gods, you can’t even say my name. How dare you inform me that I don’t love your father, I shouldn’t marry him, and that what I feel for him is pity compared to what I feel for you?”

“Because, Madam President, you’ve always kept me around to tell you the truth, even though you punish me every time you don’t like that truth,” Lee said bitterly, staring her down. “And it’s true. You don’t love Dad. You shouldn’t marry him. You will hurt him.”

The president came to her feet with a proud, sharp lift to her chin. Lee didn’t move, not even an inch. He didn’t even flinch as she moved closer to him and stared right into his eyes. Her eyes were as blue as his, though a little greener, and they were dilated.

“Tell me some truths, Captain Apollo,” she ordered, icy-voiced and gods-bogglingly attractive as she faced him down. “Let me hear these things I apparently keep you around for.”

Lee was on slippery ground — and knew it. Part of him wanted to touch her and let matters work themselves out naturally, but it was the same part that was pretty sure that President Roslin wouldn’t slap him in the mouth and tell his father. Most of him was still stuck on the last question, about why he couldn’t just say her name. His father could use the word Laura without a single blush; hell, he’d heard that shady son of a bitch Baltar use it in vain, but Lee was in the presence of the realest and most private Roslin of all and her name was too heavy on his tongue to use.

They were both breathing pretty hard, a clinical part of his brain noted. For not having any unsaid business between them.

“No one is asking you to make this sacrifice, sir,” he said, the words hissing in his ears. “I think you are fond of my father, but that you have decided a marital alliance with him will reinforce the unity you two have striven to maintain since Kobol. I think that it is possible you want the question of your personal life to remain absolutely unassailable now that you have a re-election to face, and that you are fond enough of my father to make him happy while protecting yourself in the face of a much less desirable affair ruining your chances.”

“Is that what you think, Captain Apollo?” she asked. “That I’m a cold-blooded schemer who hurts herself and those around to further her political goals?”

“You stopped talking to me after we came back from Kobol,” he said, the secret bitterness he’d held over it oozing out. “Not a word. Why? Because you were jealous of Kara.”

A spurt of disbelieving, dismissive laughter from her. “Yes, let’s take this to the theater of the absurd, Captain,” the president said in a tight voice. “Not only am I a cold-blooded politician exploiting your father for re-election, I am a jealous child who stopped talking to you because you kissed Lieutenant Thrace. You are the reason I live, you are the thing I fall asleep thinking about, and every decision I make is because of you. The man who will not say my name.”

“Don’t marry him,” Lee said, feeling a cruel, hot thing in his stomach crawling toward his heart. Painful thing, and yet he still could not say her name. “Please. Put it off a week. That’s all I ask.”

“That’s all you ask?” she asked, shaking her head. “You can stand here before me and tell me that’s all you ask. A simple favor: don’t marry your father the day after tomorrow. Of course, Captain! I’ll call him right now and tell him that you want the wedding postponed.”

And to Lee’s appalled horror, the president walked to her phone, daring him to follow her.

Worse yet, Lee knew that she’d do everything she’d threatened, pick up the phone and repeat all the stupid things Lee had just said, and then his father would ask what the frak Lee was thinking, saying that to his stepmother-to-be and it would be a thousand times worse.

“You are frakking worse than frakking Kara,” Lee said, taking the receiver away from her and replacing it. The president looked at him. “What the frakking hell do you want from me? To walk you down the aisle to my father? To smile while you lie to him and everyone? To pretend I don’t know that you don’t really want him?”

“And if the answer is yes?” she asked. “What if that’s how I need you, Lee? I need your support in this to get through the day after tomorrow. Your smile. Your silence.”

“No,” he said, closing his eyes.

“No what?” she said.

“No, Laura, I won’t lie for you,” Lee said, his knees feeling like they were going to buckle. Eyes still closed, misery bubbling in his gut, but he couldn’t. It would be worse than denouncing his father, somehow, saying that it was simply all right for her to become his stepmother with things unresolved.

“It’s not a lie,” Laura answered. “Your father and I have a better foundation than most marriages. I don’t expect him to make me feel sixteen again, Lee. He respects me. He loves me. You’d be surprised how good that feels at my age and in my situation.”

“But you don’t love him,” Lee said, the truth pounding in his head, drying out his mouth. “It could be okay, maybe, if I didn’t think…”

“Say it,” she said mercilessly. “You think that I’m in love with you.”

The words would not come. “I…” and Lee swallowed, tried to wet his mouth somehow, but even his lips felt dry, and his throat sore.

“Say it,” Laura repeated. The air was crackling with electric sparks, and every hair on Lee’s arms was standing on end.

It had to stop.

“I’m in love with you,” Lee said, opening his eyes and looking directly at her. “I think you’re in love with me. And I think it’s wrong to pretend that it’s not true.”

“You are not in love with me,” she said, her hands suddenly digging into the desk as she sprang to her feet. Lee could see that Laura was holding on hard; her knuckles had gone white. “Gods damn you. I don’t know what this is about, but I cannot believe you can say that to me now.”

“I’m in love with you,” Lee repeated, taking a few steps forward. “I know you don’t want to hear it, but I’ve been in love with you since forever. Since I met you.”

“No, you’re not,” she said, smacking her palm against the table. “And you are dismissed, Captain Adama.”

“Do you love me?” Lee asked, taking another couple steps. “Laura. Should I call you Laura? You got to rename me, after all — make me your Captain Apollo. I think I should get a name for you that’s all mine.”

“If you don’t leave this room, I will have you detained,” she said crisply. “As you have apparently either lost your mind, or you are trying to get me to kill you. Either way, Captain Adama, I am giving you a chance to stop now, walk out, and pretend you never said any of this.”

“Sometimes you have to roll the hard six,” Lee said, walking close enough so that he could put his hand over hers. “Arrest me.”

“You think I’m bluffing,” Laura said, picking the phone up again. “I assure you, Captain–”

This time he kissed her, half-sure that Laura Roslin would promptly hit him with the phone and have him put in the brig until she and Lee’s father were safely married. It didn’t matter. If she did, he’d done what he had to do.

And she wasn’t. Laura was kissing him back. Kissing him back so hard that Lee had to put an arm around Laura to make sure they didn’t trip and fall down.

The phone was dangling off the hook. Lee saw that, even as he put both arms around his president and put her on her desk, his tongue plunged deep into her mouth and her hands palming his back.

“So tell me,” he said, nuzzling at her throat. “Tell me you’re not in love with me.”

“Tell me you’re really in love with me,” she countered. “That you’re not trying to get back at your father, that you’re not trying to make Kara Thrace jealous. Tell me that you understand the risk you are taking right now.”

“I love you,” Lee said hotly into her ear. “And I want you very, very badly. But…”

He let go of her completely, stepping back and away even though every iota of him wanted to take her now, on the desk, until she screamed, to hell with consequences. Lee knew better than that.

“But,” Laura said sadly, smiling. “There’s no such thing as privacy on Colonial One, and I am engaged to your father. It’s not so simple as wanting, Lee.”

“I won’t lie for you, Laura,” Lee repeated. “You can’t marry my father.”

“I can’t marry you, either,” she pointed out, folding her hands in her lap. “And now look at the wonderful mess you’ve put us in, Captain. I had almost forgotten why I stopped speaking to you in the first place.”

Lee wanted to destroy something. Wanted to blow up a hundred Cylon Raiders, smoke twenty cigars, and get into a fistfight. Instead he bit down on the inside of his cheek, trying to pull himself together.

“This is what we both want,” he said, the pain almost distracting. “Why can’t we find a way to have it?”

“Because we are both honorable and practical,” Laura said in her political voice. “Because I’m too old for you, and you have a moderate Oedipal complex, and no matter how much we want it, it’s not good for anyone else. It would hurt too many people.”

Everything she was saying was true, but she glossed over their fear. They were afraid, of what happened if she lost her power and he lost his father and everyone they cared about turned on them. The terrible things might not happen, but if they did, would Laura be enough for Lee’s ambitions? For what he really needed?

Could Lee be worth the price a President Zarek or a President Baltar would cost Laura?

“So instead we settle for something good instead of something better,” Lee said. “Like we have all of our lives.”

She nodded, the pain clear in her eyes, in the way she was holding herself perfectly still.

“Exactly,” Laura said. “That’s how we save the world, Lee. It’s not as though either of us will be unhappy.”

She was right again. Lee wouldn’t be unhappy. There would be family dinners, and grandchildren, and plotting about how to manage things discreetly. If Lee turned away right now, he was not damning either himself or Laura to a bad life.

They would not be unhappy.

But the feeling of swallowing all this and walking away burned his throat. And Lee could not make himself turn away.

“No,” Lee said, the buzzing in his head starting to grow again. “No, that’s not good enough.”

“Don’t tell me,” Laura said, shutting her eyes tight. “Your instincts tell you to throw common sense by the wayside, right?”

Lee chuckled grimly. “You know me a little too well,” he said.

“Don’t,” she said. “I’m not holding myself together any too well, either.”

“So why not let go?” Lee asked. “Why are we so afraid of the consequences?”

“The day after tomorrow, I am supposed to marry your father,” Laura said. “That’s not a consequence to take lightly, Lee.”

“And I don’t take it lightly,” Lee said. “But I need you. Right now. Because I need to know if I can stand good enough when I can have better.”

Laura held herself perfectly still except for her eyes, looking him over like she was trying to see into his soul. Lee didn’t hold back. He looked at her as though he’d never see her again. As if he’d die if she told him no.

“Come with me,” she finally said, sliding off the desk and putting her hand in his.

He had no idea where she was taking him, and when Lee found himself in Colonial One’s bathroom, he gave Laura a funny look. She sighed, still holding his hand, and led him to a sink.

“What are we doing?” Lee asked.

“Testing your idea of better,” Laura replied. “I look my age under the lights. Look at me, Captain Apollo.”

He did. There were lines. There was sagging. When he brushed a hand against her cheek, it was softer and different from touching Kara or Dee.

“Fifty-two,” she said. “You keep not asking.”

“I don’t care.”

“I do,” Laura said. “There wouldn’t be children. Not between cancer and menopause. Nobody would believe you when you said this wasn’t to spite Bill. And it would end your political career, because you would be Mr. Roslin. I am older, wiser, and more powerful than you, Lee. Nothing you said would be your own, in other peoples’ eyes. And it would change your relationships with your father and Lieutenant Thrace forever, even if you do salvage them.”

“That’s an impressive list of why not,” Lee said. “Hasn’t managed to make you stop loving me, has it? It sounds like you’ve memorized it just in case you were weak.”

“I want you to be sure,” Laura said. “Because this isn’t something easy, Lee. Things could go very, very wrong, and I think I could bear anything except you hating me.”

Her voice almost broke, and Lee felt his heart beating much, much faster. She wasn’t crying — Laura didn’t cry — but she was trembling a little. A very, very little, which told him just how vulnerable she’d left herself in telling that last bit of truth.

“Don’t settle,” he said fiercely. “I can make you happy.”

Laura laughed, something of her sense of humor brightening her face. “Oh, gods, boy,” she said in a fast, breathy voice. “If it was just a question of you making me happy right here and right now…”

And she reached out, put a hand on his face, and drew him close for a slow kiss, one where hands found themselves settling against arms, against the small of her back, an arm looping around his waist, one leg twining around the other.

Lee had imagined kissing plenty of women. Kara still had a slight edge over Laura, but not even in his best fantasy with Kara, when he’d been crazy for her, had it felt like this, and not because this was the hot and bothered sex kiss of Lee’s dreams.

This was the kind of kiss that could break a guy because it was all about being in love, crazy, stupid love, the kind of love you were supposed to get over when reality hit.

And now Lee understood her fear, because the only thing worse would be hating her after knowing all this was true.

“I’m so sorry,” he murmured, half-dizzy, stroking her back. “I don’t know what I was expecting, but.”

“Don’t be that sorry,” she answered. “Weight, shoulders, lifted. More like draining an infected sore I kept pretending wasn’t there, but that’s not very romantic.”

Lee nodded with a rueful grin. “It’s good to know that you view me as a disease,” he said dryly. “What are we going to do?”

“Hope for the best with the honesty route?” she said. “I don’t know. There’s no good answer.”

“I’m here with you, whatever way you choose,” he said softly, pressing his face up against hers.

“Don’t be,” Laura whispered. “I am entirely capable of marrying your father, even now. Don’t let me do that to you without a fight.”

She brushed her mouth against his longingly, but pulled away, gave him a look that made the pit of Lee’s stomach flip-flop, and walked away.

And he didn’t know what to do next.

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