Fandom: Battlestar Galactica
Pairing: Lee/Billy, hints of Lee/Laura and Billy/Laura, as well as Billy/Dualla.
Distribution: lists, standing orders, others by permission.
Disclaimer: Ron Moore, Sci-Fi, et cetera, not me.
Summary: Don’t chase ghosts.
He sleeps with Billy Keikeya after Laura’s funeral. Because they understand.
The priestess gave a long, disjointed eulogy about how wonderful and mystical and virgin-martyr Laura was, and Lee’s trying not to laugh, because he thinks he loved Laura Roslin, and that was not the woman he loved being sent to eternal rest. If she was a plaster saint with no desires of her own, then he’s a Cylon.
“That was the biggest load of fracking crap,” Lee mutters to Billy at the wake, with people like Tom Zarek whooping and wailing about the great loss to the Colonies and the people. “Laura would have fallen over laughing. Politely. But she would have laughed.”
Billy swallows; Lee knows they’re almost the same age, but Billy seems a decade younger from time to time. It’s the curls; it’s the bad shirts and ties. It’s the way he holds back, as though he expects to be sent on an errand at any moment.
“She had lost her mind in the end, from the pain and the drugs,” Billy says softly. “She spent most of her time raving. They don’t mention that.”
Lee is privately glad they didn’t; it scrapes too close to the secret he’s got sitting right under the skin.
“Hey, do you want to go somewhere?” Lee asks artlessly. “I can’t stand to be at the wake of the Holy Prophet Roslin when it’s Laura who’s dead.”
He keeps using her name as though he used it a lot. This is a lie. Until almost the very end, he called her Madam President like everyone else.
Billy nods, and they find themselves in a small corner of Galactica, sharing a stolen bottle of whiskey that smells like it belonged to Colonel Tigh.
“She told me I didn’t know anything about women,” Billy says, hand in his hair. “I guess I didn’t, at the time, but I almost shit myself, having the president tell me I didn’t know about women like she was my mom or my aunt or something.”
Lee chuckles. “She was so mad at me when I told her that she needed to stop using the chamalla and lead the frackin’ people, she told me I was worse than my father. Almost threw a book at me,” he said. “I don’t know who all these people knew, but it wasn’t really Laura, was it?”
Billy nods slowly, and he’s sad, like he’s going to cry. “I had to find earplugs at the end,” he says. “She cried so much, begged me to make it stop, and I couldn’t. Couldn’t even look her in the face. I wanted to help her, but I was so afraid that someone would find out…”
“I know,” Lee says.
“It was you. I know that,” Billy says.
Lee gives half-a-nod. “I had to face her at last,” he says. “And she was lucid at the moment. I’d spent two hours holding her hand and listening to her talk. She was calling for someone.”
She had been calling for him. Over and over. “Lee, please,” she’d say and her voice caught in his chest. “Please just listen to me one more time, Lee. I’m so sorry. I did what I had to do. I still believe in you, Lee. I love…”
Billy swallows and swallows hard. “Thank you,” he says.
Lee hates hearing that, but he knows exactly how Billy feels. When her eyes finally opened and met Lee’s, round and awake suddenly, how the keening and the wailing had boiled away to a whisper-sob and then even, measured breath.
“Captain Apollo,” she murmured, voice weak but undeniably in control of itself. “Have you been here all this time?”
“Yes, Madam President,” he said. “I’m sorry I haven’t been around more.”
“Saving the world, I imagine?” she asked, so soft that Lee had to keep close to hear. He nodded.
“I still should have…” but she reached up and put her hand on his mouth.
The way Lee is putting his hand on Billy’s mouth. Billy is crying now, big racking sobs that tear out of him.
“Fracking Cylons,” Billy manages to say. “Fracking gods. How could anyone do that to a person? Why would they kill her? Why would anyone want to kill her so much? She was just trying…frack.”
Lee doesn’t try to say anything. He pulls Billy in for a hug, even though Adama men aren’t really huggers, but when Billy latches on, Lee can hear the boy’s heart pounding.
Lee’s heart was pounding that hard when Laura’s hand reached out and seized his wrist.
“I need you to do something for me,” she said. “Will you?”
Billy’s tear-damp face is pressed into Lee’s shoulder, and Lee’s crying now, too, crying hard. Their mother — not your mother, Lee’s guilty conscience says — is dead. That’s how people will treat them, two boys who have lost a mother-substitute who was kind to them.
“She asked me to forgive her,” Lee says, listening to the sobs slow down. If it were anyone else in the fleet, Lee would have been dead from shame by now. Anyone except Billy — and of course, President Roslin herself.
The pills rattled loudly in the translucent bottle as Lee carried it back to her bedside. They sound brittle, worse than even Laura’s agonized breathing.
“This is so stupid,” said Laura weakly.
“This is a bad idea,” Billy mutters.
Lee has — had — an answer for them both. “We’re not doing anything.”
Billy snorts. “Are you serious?” he asks.
Lee realizes that they are in the strangest position of his strange life, clutching and crying and pressed against each other like lovers.
Three pills fell out of the bottle. Tiny blue pills, not even the size of Lee’s thumbnail put together, and Laura’s hand wrapped around them greedily.
“Are you sure about this?” Lee asked.
“I don’t have much time,” Laura said. “I don’t want to die alone, and it comes on me so fast…”
“I wanted her to stop me,” Lee says as they struggle to their feet and head for Lee’s rack.
“She had her mind made up,” Billy says. “If you hadn’t done it, she would have asked me. She doesn’t change her mind.”
If only it had been that simple.
Water. There was water, not very cold. He had helped her sit up so she could swallow them, one by one.
“How long?” Lee asked.
“Twenty or thirty minutes before I fall asleep, maybe an hour until heart and respiratory function shut down,” Laura replied. “You know, I wish I had said good-bye to Billy. He won’t forgive me. He shouldn’t.”
Billy grabs at Lee, hard and desperate. The moment is fevered, and Lee doesn’t quite know how they went to sharing memories to kissing, but there’s so much he doesn’t understand.
“Does it hurt?” Lee asked, holding her hand, which was dry and slightly warm. Her thumb kept rubbing circles on the back of his hand.
“Yes,” she said simply. “I’m glad you’re here.”
“I wish there was something I could do,” Lee answered.
She gave him one of those bittersweet, quirky smiles. “Oh, sweetheart,” Laura said, and Lee’s eyes went wide. “It’s enough that you’re here and I know you’re here, and that I got to see you one last time.”
“Laura,” he said, unable to say much more than that. “I don’t know what to say.”
Billy doesn’t talk. He just grunts and groans, and Lee is glad for that. He doesn’t want to accept what he’s doing. Not that anyone would grudge a man some need to feel alive in the face of such a devastating, unfair death…
“Captain Apollo, please don’t make this worse by trying to be polite,” Laura said. “It isn’t important anyway.”
“Not important?” Lee asked, his voice cracking. “What’s not important?”
It doesn’t get much beyond naked and touching until they’re both spent and miserable. Neither of them knows what to do with another man; it’s not a normal situation. Billy should be with Dee, Lee thinks. But Dualla didn’t know what it was like.
Lee does. And it’s good to be near someone who understand what he’s feeling. Someone who knows it’s important.
“Not in the long run,” Laura said. “I’ll be the dead, beloved prophet who gave the people hope and lead them to Earth, and you’ll be the hero you were supposed to be. The part where I was a dying middle-aged woman in love with a man half her age will be forgotten. Because it’s not important to the story.”
“Frack the story,” Lee said. “I care. I love you, too. Frack the story. Live. We can get the doc.”
But the story can’t be fracked. It’s why he’s got Billy holding on to him like they’re both drowning, slippery skin and the stink of sweat and dirty boots and inadequate showers. Because Laura is right, the way she always is, serene and almost holy and aggravating in all of that.
This is the story of a prophet’s death. People are supposed to mourn her holiness, not her smile. Not the way Captain Apollo sounded like an endearment and a badge of honor in her mouth.
She shook her head, but those eyes were anguish, and her fingernails dug into his hand.
“Oh, gods,” she whispered, throwing her head back. The veins were stark against tissue-thin skin. “It isn’t fair.”
“Let me call Doc Cottle,” he said.
“NO!” she cried at him. “You have to let me…I can’t…it hurts so much, Lee. I can’t stand it anymore. I can’t.”
“Stay with me,” he begged. He didn’t even know if he loved her the way she loved him, or if that was even in her mind to tell him. He just knew that she needed to stay. That he needed her to stay.
“Always. I am always with you,” she replied, putting a cold, dying hand on his face, over his heart. “But I can’t stay like this anymore. I can’t. Please don’t ask me that.”
Billy puts on his clothes after, but he doesn’t leave. He half-crouches in the corner and tries his best not to cry, looking like a wounded animal.
“We should find Dualla,” Lee says awkwardly. “Do you want…?”
“She called for you the whole time, you know,” Billy says. “Every day. For every time she begged me to stop the pain, she begged you to come back, that she was sorry.”
“I know,” Lee says.
“She was so private, up until the end,” Billy says. “When she was awake, she’d ask if she’d said anything embarrassing. And she knew she had. It drove her crazier.”
“I’m sorry, Billy,” Lee says.
“She’s not in pain anymore,” Billy says flatly, standing up. “And she’s done what she wanted, hasn’t she? Gods help the man who tries to discredit the Holy Prophet Roslin. Damn it. Damn it and damn her for doing this to us.”
“I’m so tired,” she said, fifteen minutes after swallowing those pills. “I think…I think I might sleep now. It’s been so hard to sleep, because of the pain. Will you keep watch, Lee?”
He nodded, not trusting himself to speak.
“Oh, Lee,” she said in the last echoes of that warm, trustworthy, and ultimately seductive voice of hers. “Forgive me?”
“Nothing to forgive,” he said as her eyelids fluttered shut in weariness and relief.
A half-smile touched her face, but she didn’t answer.
It had taken her half an hour to die after that. Lee waited the whole time, and when that last breath sighed out, he felt for a pulse and didn’t find one.
Very carefully, he had let go of her hand, kissed her on the forehead, and pulled away.
“Good-bye,” he said.
“I’m sorry, Billy,” is what he says. Because nothing he says can be enough. She should have said good-bye to him, and Billy’s just a little more broken because Laura is gone, and he loved her, too, and she’s lost to scripture and myth now, out in the big deep black of space.
They don’t mention it ever again, the crying and the kissing and the angry words. Lee knows that’s for the best, and the emptiness of his grief shrinks a little more after that.
But he never quite forgets, and when he runs into Billy after, they can’t help but share a bit of that void in the glance between them.
They understand each other. That’s enough.