Title: Changing of the Guard
Date Posted: 22 February 2006
Author: Van Donovan
Pairing: um. It's really gen, though you could read it as Laura/Billy (as I sort of do), or Dualla/Billy or even Dualla/Lee
Characters: Laura, Dualla
Word count: 1,047
Warnings: Spoilers up to episode 2x17 "The Captain's Hand"
Summary: Laura grieves over the dead.
Disclaimer: I own nothing. Title from the Bob Dylan song "Changing of the Guards". This is my first BSG fic.
The stench of the mortuary wouldn’t wash off her hands. It was embedded in her clothes, burrowed in her hair, entrenched right down into her very skin, and she didn’t have the time or the luxury to afford a bath yet. Billy was on a cold slab in a locker in the morgue, and she still reeked of his death.
Staring at her reflection in the mirror above her sink, Laura scowled. It was unseemly of her to react so emotionally to a single death. She had dealt with death nearly every single day since the first Cylon attack. She knew better than to let her emotions for one individual person cloud her thoughts.
Opening the door to the bathroom stall, Laura staggered back into the corridor of the Colonial One. She pressed a hand against the cool surface of the wall, needing it for support as well as guidance, as she walked back to the Presidential Suite.
Billy had been her aide. He had been her confidant, and the closest thing to family she had had left after the attack. Losing him was like not only losing her right arm, but a large part of her heart, as well.
The lights were dim in her office, and she moved to the controls, turning them up. Her eyes fell upon the chair Billy had frequently sat in while attending to matters for her. He brought her water before she knew she needed it, he handled her calls and appointments without questioning his job. He had pushed her wheelchair when she was unable to walk, held her hand when she had been dying, and he’d done all of it for nothing more than a thank you.
Had she thanked him enough?
Putting a hand to her mouth in thoughtful remorse, she turned away from his chair. Her eyes alighted on the whiteboard behind her desk. A cold, sharp pain gripped her heart and tugged viciously. “Oh, Billy,” she whispered, crossing to it.
The black numbers stood out in brilliant contrast against the whiteboard, and Laura focused on the very last digit. That last number was Billy. Other people had died during the assault on Cloud Nine, but the number she erased was Billy’s number. He was gone. Her hand shook as she raised the pen to change the figure, mentally subtracting the new deaths from the total.
She took a deep, calming breath, and wrote the new number down.
The marker clattered out of her hand, falling to the floor. Laura didn’t bother to retrieve it, just pressed her brow to the white board, tightly squeezing her eyes shut. The weight of twelve worlds and all of humanity rested on her shoulders, and she wanted nothing more than to crawl beneath her desk, and lament the death of one young man. A shuddering sob escaped her chest, and it felt for a moment like all the cancer was back, or had never left.
She longed for it to return: it was a pain she could deal with, understand and make sense of. It was all right for her to die, but not for him.
Laura straightened herself up, smoothing down her unwrinkled skirt. Her other hand went into her hair, brushing it, and the smell of death, aside. “Dualla,” she cordially said, composing herself. “How is Major Adama doing?”
Dualla looked tired. Her eyes were rimmed in red and her hair hung limp about her face, the curls they’d been set in having long ago fallen out. She closed her eyes tightly, pulling herself together, before replying. “He’s still in surgery, sir.” She approached Laura slowly. In her hands, she held a small, wrapped package.
“You were very close to Billy, weren’t you?” Laura questioned. The thought made her smile despite her grief. She was pleased to know that Billy had friends, loved ones even, who would remember him. Friends and loved ones who were more than just herself.
Dualla nodded. Her eyes were laced with pain, and Laura could guess that she knew why: Billy had died protecting Dualla. There was never going to be any way to fully understand and process that. “He loved me,” Dualla admitted, like it was a confession.
Laura’s smile pulled taunt across her face. Tilting her head, she kindly said, “Then he died protecting the woman he loved.”
Dualla closed the gap between them, pressing the package into Laura’s hands. “I think you should have this, Madam President. He kept it in his room.”
Laura noted the detachment and guilt hidden in Dualla’s voice, and recognized that now was not the time to offer the woman solace. She accepted the package wordlessly and carefully pulled aside the soft white cloth it was wrapped in. Inside was a wooden frame and Laura let out a faint gasp as she turned it over and was greeted by Billy’s smiling face beside her own.
Dualla drew to attention. “Serving you meant the world to him.”
Laura closed her eyes, trying futilely to keep her tears at bay. Regardless, her vision blurred when she opened her eyes, and she had to put a hand up to keep them from dripping onto the frame. “It meant the world to me to have him.”
Dualla nodded. “I should get back to Galactica, sir. I want to be there when Lee—Major Adama gets out of surgery.”
Laura composed herself, looking away from the picture and at the woman across from her. “Of course.”
Dualla turned to go.
“Anastasia?” Laura called.
Dualla turned back, her eyes filled with her own unshed tears.
Laura gave her another tight smile, raising the frame slightly. “Thank you for this, and for making him happy.”
Dualla returned Laura’s smile with a faint one of her own. She inclined her head in acknowledgement, then turned and departed, wiping at her own eyes as she did.
Laura waited until she was gone before circling her desk and sitting down in her chair. She set the frame up in the very middle, so she could see it easily from any angle. “You’re never going to be forgotten, Billy,” she said, stroking her thumb over the cold glass covering his picture. “Not so long as the human race still has life in it.”