(Amusingly, I neither drink tea nor take bubble baths.)
Rating: PG, barely
Word count: 1686
Spoilers: Lay Down Your Burdens, Unfinished Business
Three weeks since Baltar had pulled her aside at the ground-breaking ceremony. Not that she’d told anyone what he said to her. But someone had obviously seen her following one of Baltar’s assistants into Colonial One before the ceremony, and drawn their own conclusions.
Three weeks since Laura Roslin had had a moment alone. Somewhere along the line, it had been decided that she’d been threatened, and was in need of a bodyguard, or a witness. When she ventured out to the makeshift pub, Sam Anders was there offering to buy her drinks. She hadn’t even met Anders until a month ago. When she went to use the communal (and also makeshift) bathrooms, the new Cally Tyrol coincidentally walked in thirty seconds later, talking about this and that and children and babies. Maya had volunteered to help organize the new schools the afternoon after everyone had recovered from their post ceremony hangovers.
Tory Foster’s behavior hadn’t changed a bit. Tory had spent the four months since landfall offering increasingly flimsy excuses to be in Laura’s presence. She thought Laura didn’t notice.
On one of the three summer days (if one defined ‘summer’ as ‘not winter’) this planet decided to offer, Laura woke with the intent of Getting Away. That morning, she stepped out her tent wearing stolen cargo pants, stolen work boots, and a stolen bright orange t-shirt proclaiming “I cheer for Picon Planetary State, and whoever is playing U Picon.” Casual, but decidedly not Laura-casual. Personality subsumed by necessity.
Walking out of her tent, Laura slipped to her right, and just before making her escape between two tents, heard her name called. Her new name. Her former title. Her station.
“Where are you heading off to?”
Kara Thrace, standing outside what served as a mess tent, smoking a local cigarette with a (former) lieutenant whose name Laura had known and had since forgotten.
“It’s a lovely day, for once. I thought I’d take advantage and go for a swim in the lake.” A vague hand gesture indicated which lake Laura was heading towards.
Kara had to move closer to hear Laura’s quiet voice. It was a trick Laura has used for years. Speak quietly, and other people have to pay closer attention to catch everything. Run your sentences together and opponents were half a second behind. Take your advantages where you can get them. Laura couldn’t stop seeing every situation as a ploy, an opportunity, couldn’t stop trying to be one step ahead of everyone else.
Kara passed her cigarette to Laura, who hesitated a moment, then took a deep drag, giving Kara the time she needed to figure what she was going to say. Gods, why had she quit smoking again? The odds of the New Caprican flora having the same chemical and addictive properties as the cigarettes Laura had grown up with were slim, but the mere act of inhaling the smoke brought a euphoric haze over her mind. She filched another drag before passing the cigarette back to its owner.
“Mind if I tag along? It’s been years since I’ve been swimming in anything. Other than booze.”
Kara Thrace was a horrible liar. Laura offered half a smirk and an agreeable shrug in response. Kara was less obtrusive and more companionable than most of Laura’s other self-assigned guards, and Kara was the last person on the planet to stand on ceremony. It was refreshing.
“Let me tell Sam where I’m going,” Kara said as she tossed the butt into the sand at her feet. “Sam! Sam!” Anders was a good 200 feet away, explaining wire stripping to the rapt eight year old standing near a broken generator. Kara saw no need to walk when her voice could carry the distance just as easily. “I’m going swimming with the president-“
“Laura. We’ll be back by dusk.”
A raised eyebrow. “We will? I don’t recall saying anything of the sort.”
Kara had somehow made a career of pointing out the flaws in other people’s plans. “Well, ma’am, I’m going to be back by dusk, as I have no desire to be eaten by some unknown predator. And you will be back by dusk, because I have no desire to be eaten by the Tyrols, the junior teacher, the organizational queen, or the old man.”
“So you need to have me home by curfew or my father will never let you see me again?”
“Well, then, let’s stop wasting time.”
Kara Thrace had absolutely no idea where they were going. She was going to have to rely on Roslin in order to make it back to the settlement. So much for bringing her back safely.
“This isn’t the way...”
“The sun’s on the other side of the lake this time of day.”
Of course it was. Time to try another tact.
“Won’t you burn after five minutes of sitting in the sun?”
Kara sighed and gave up for the moment.
They walked further along the lake until they came to a spot that met Laura’s unstated criteria. While Kara sat herself down on a pair of conveniently situated rocks, Laura surveyed the terrain. Apparently satisfied, she sat down on half of Kara’s rock and started to unlace her boots. After the boots went Laura’s pants, and the hideous shirt, leaving her in pale pink panties and a white camisole. Those items, at least, had belonged to Laura from the get-go. She dreaded the day she had to forage for underthings amongst the population.
Laura stood and strode for the water. She walked quickly into the water, ignoring the glacial chill in favor of the refreshing feeling of being (mostly) alone in the quiet.
Laura flipped into a lazy backstroke, and glanced back at the shore. Kara was still sitting on her rocks, scanning the treeline.
“Aren’t you coming in?” Laura asked after several minutes passed.
“In a little bit. I’m enjoying the sun for now.”
Laura didn’t believe that for a minute, but let it slide. For now. For the next thirty seconds, maybe. Laura Roslin always got her way.
“How long has it been since you’ve been swimming?”
“How many years?”
“Oh...I don’t know...” At Laura’s pointed stare, Kara stopped hedging. “28 years. I don’t know how to swim.”
“Doesn’t the Academy require cadets to take swimming lessons?”
Kara laughed. “What decade are you in? The Academy ditched that requirement before I was born. What’s the point of knowing how to swim when the only water you encounter is in storage containers?”
Laura silently fumed at the fact that most of her knowledge of Academy life was from the cadet the dated (frakked) when she was in college. She made a mental note to correct that oversight as soon as she could. Perhaps on Bill’s next trip down. Bill got nostalgic when he was stoned. But that was a task for later. There were other things to accomplish today.
“Okay. Strip. I’ll teach you.”
“You’re here. I’m here. I won’t have a bodyguard who can’t rescue me when I’m attacked while swimming.”
“How did you know about that?”
“I’m not oblivious.” Laura thought for a moment before continuing. “I’m not in any danger, you know.”
Kara sighed again and reviewed her options for half a second. “No, ma’am, I don’t know. You never said anything. We had to draw our own conclusions.”
Laura considered that while staring at Kara. “Fair enough. Now, get in the water.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Kara said with a smirk. She quickly stripped to her panties and sports bra and jogged to the water.
“Holy shit!! That’s freezing! Were you going to warn me?”
“No. You get used to it. It won’t kill you.”
Laura swam over to where Kara was standing in the waist-deep water. “Come over here where the water’s deeper. I promise you can still touch the bottom. I won’t let you drown.” She tugged Kara over to a deeper section of the lake where her feet wouldn’t get tangled in the bottom of the lake. “Now, your body floats naturally, so it’s just a matter of not fighting the water and coordinating your arms and legs. I know you need to be coordinated to fly your ships; you can do this.”
“I have more muscle mass than a normal person. I’ll sink.”
Laura gave Kara an exasperated look. “Now you’re just being difficult.”
Kara grinned impishly. “Yes, I am. Is it working?”
“No. You’ve just emboldened my stubborn side. And I have many more years experience being stubborn than you. So stop fighting and follow me.”
Kara gave up and tried to mimic what Roslin was showing her.
The two of them finally climbed out of the water when the sun was low enough in the sky that the wind started to kick up, making it too chilly to stay damp for long. Both women made a beeline to where their clothes lay in the sun. Laura draped her camisole over a tree and stood with the ugly t-shirt in her hand, trying to let some of the moisture from her skin drip off before dressing.
Laura was surprised and delighted to hear her actual, given name from someone’s lips without prompting. Maybe, with time, she could get people to stop looking to her as The Answer and start seeing her as a person. She turned to find a hesitant Kara Thrace standing a step away from her.
“I just wanted to thank you for teaching me to swim without mocking me…much.” With that, Kara closed the distance between the two of them, placed her right hand on Laura’s cheek and gave her a soft kiss.
Laura was frozen for a moment, stunned, wavering between pleased and embarrassed. She decided to go with pleased when she realized she was faintly blushing from something other than the sun.
“It was my pleasure. Maybe next time I can teach you the breast stroke. Or how to sun yourself on a rock so you don’t freeze your ass off.”
Kara laughed. “I look forward to it.”