Title: Shelter From the Storm
Posted: begun 13 March 2006, posted here 18 April 2006
Author: Van Donovan
Written For: LJ User tellitslant for the LJ femslash06 challenge
Characters: Laura, Dualla, minor: Cottle, Lee, Karl
Pairing: Laura Roslin/Anastasia Dualla
Rating: PG-13 / Teen
Word Count: 4,487
Warnings: Spoilers through the end of season two.
Disclaimer: I don't own any of these characters and am not connected with the show. I'm just a fan. The title comes from the Bob Dylan song of the same name. Note to Tellislant: I hope you liked this. I almost went the "easy" way and wrote a short PWP Laura/Maya, but decided I wanted to write a story I wanted to tell, so you get this instead. I had a lot of fun writing it. I hope you enjoy it.
Thanks: to the mods of the LJ community femslash06 for hosting this awesome event, and to LJ User data_warrior for playing a most excellent beta.

“This isn’t where we should have to come to honor the dead.”

Dualla had been staring at the cold floor but lifted her head and turned toward Laura who was dressed in one of her casual dress suits. “Mada--Ms. Roslin,” she greeted, getting to her feet.

Laura waved her hand dismissively. “You don’t have to rise for me,” she kindly said, twisting her mouth into a smile. Her eyes fixed on the morgue lockers before them.

Dualla nodded but remained standing. “I was just leaving.” Her eyes returned to the floor as she navigated past Laura and toward the door.

Laura’s gaze shifted to follow the Petty Officer. “I’m sure they appreciate the visit.” Off of Dualla’s expression, Laura inclined her head toward the morgue lockers. “The dead. These civilians appreciate knowing they’ve not been forgotten.”

Dualla’s eyes glittered for a moment as she fixed her gaze on Laura. Then she quietly said, “They’re building a cemetery on New Caprica.”

Before Laura could reply, Dualla had slipped out of the morgue.

“I’m not willing to have these bodies entombed on that . . . that rock!” Laura announced.

Doctor Cottle didn’t look up from the paperwork he was reading over on his desk. In a slow tone, he simply replied, “You’re lucky we didn’t cremate them immediately after death and send them over to Cloud Nine as fertilizer.”

Laura stared down at the doctor from across his desk, trying to compose herself. “They should be buried on Earth,” she emphasized.

Cottle at last looked up at her. He studied her face for several moments before setting his pen down. “I don’t think we’re going to make it to Earth.”

Laura leaned forward, her eyes narrowing as she spoke. “Gaius Baltar will only be the President for a few more years, at best. When he is voted out, or his term ends, we will resume our previous course toward Earth.”

Cottle folded his hands on his desk, sitting back to appraise her. “You’d have me wait eight years to bury those people? Ten? Twenty? How long until we find Earth, Laura?” He lowered his eyes, returning to his paperwork. “I shouldn’t have kept them this long.”

“Markus,” Laura said, her tone softer, “please try to understand.” Her head shook sadly as she spoke. “The way we treat our dead reflects on how we are as a people.”

Cottle sighed but didn’t raise his eyes. “You need to give the boy up, Laura,” he replied in a cold, even tone.

Laura straightened, drawing to her full height. She tilted her head affronted, and then the fight ebbed out of her. “He’d want to be buried on Earth. They’d all want that.”

Cottle sighed. “They’d want to be with their families,” he replied. “And that’s never going to happen.”

“Billy was my family,” Laura insisted. “And I will not be buried down there.”

Cottle lifted his eyes from his paperwork again, fixing them on Laura. “You’re barking up the wrong tree no matter how you look at it,” he said. “And I’m sure you’re only here because the President and Bill have both denied you already.” He studied her face. “I won’t be your advocate, Laura. You don’t have any power now.”

Laura pursed her lips, glaring at the doctor. Then she looked around his office quickly before turning around and stalking out.

Dualla was sitting in the morgue again when Laura visited a week later. She began to rise to her feet but Laura placed a hand on her shoulder and squeezed it gently. “Stay,” she softly said, “I’d like the company.”

“I’m on duty in ten,” Dualla quietly replied.

Laura nodded, mostly to herself, and stared at the morgue lockers. The room was cold but she resisted wrapping her arms around herself. “Even with all the space, in all the universe, it’s only when I’m standing in this room that I feel small.”

Dualla didn’t reply. She was silent for a long time, letting Laura’s words melt into the air. Then she said, “I heard you don’t want him buried on New Caprica.”

Laura looked down at Dualla, a vague expression of surprise on her face. She quickly regained her composure, removing her hand from Dualla’s shoulder to cross her arms before she even realized she’d assumed the self-conscious pose. “Dr. Cottle told you, I presume?”

Dualla shrugged. “Word spreads fast with such a small crew left.” She paused before adding, even softer, “Lee told me.”

Laura took a deep breath and held it before slowly letting it out. “What do you think?”

Dualla bowed her head in thought. “Billy was born on Caprica but his family was on Picon during the attack.”

“So you think he’d be happy be buried on the cold rock they’ve arbitrarily named New Caprica?” Laura asked. Her tone was dark.

Dualla looked up at her with a deep sadness in her eyes that showed how very uncertain she was about everything. “I don’t know, sir. I don’t know anything.”

“But?” Laura prompted.

Dualla sighed. “I don’t think he’d want to stay in the morgue.” Dualla looked away from Laura. “It isn’t peaceful here.”

Laura rubbed her hands along her biceps, trying to ward the chill off. “No, it isn’t,” she agreed. “But there’s no peace on the land, either.”

Dualla rose to her feet. “I have to report back to duty now, sir.”

They looked at each other, and Laura managed to give her a smile before she left, though she wasn’t sure how she managed it.

When Laura arrived the following week she brought with her two small tin cups and a thermos of hot tea. She didn’t say anything to Dualla when she handed one of the cups to her, just poured the liquid out and watched the steam waft into the air. “I thought we ought to drink to the dead since we have no mementos to bring.”

The small smile that the usually reserved Dualla returned her filled Laura with greater warmth than the tea itself did.

They drank in companionable silence for a time, Dualla seated, Laura standing beside her. Their eyes were fixed upon the locker labeled B. Keikeya, though on occasion Laura let her eyes drift along the other indexed names of deceased civilians.

“Thank you, Ms. Roslin,” Dualla said after she finished her tea.

Laura accepted the cup as it was handed back. “Please, you can just call me Laura.”

Dualla nodded. “Have they come to a decision?”

There was no need to ask what she was referring to. “The ground is hard and unyielding. Until they can break earth an easier way, there has been little incentive to move the dead out.” Laura peered down into her cup thoughtfully. “It will come to pass, though.”

Laura again brought hot tea to their next visit. It was a welcomed distraction to staring, and the warmth was much appreciated in the cold room. Laura scheduled her visit earlier so she could spend a little more time with Dualla before the other woman had to report back to duty.

In a way, Laura was surprised they didn’t talk about Billy. He was the one real link the two had to each other, and he was why they both came to this room, week after week. But they rarely spoke of him. She sensed Dualla had her own reason to avoid the subject.

Laura respected the silence; Dualla’s presence every week was more than enough for her.

“You look tired,” Dualla said after finishing her tea.

Laura was surprised at the observation. Meeting Dualla’s gaze, she noticed weariness in her eyes as well. “As do you,” she replied.

Dualla folded her hands in her lap, holding her cup. “Three days ago Gaeta moved to Colonial One to serve as Baltar’s advisor.” Dualla leaned back in her chair, sighing. “They’ve assigned a lot of his duties to me until they can get his replacement properly trained.”

Laura nodded, thoughtfully. She chose not to dwell on Baltar. “They aren’t training you for the position?”

Dualla smiled wryly. “They’re going to transfer me to the Pegasus soon. I think I’m up for a promotion.”

“Congratulations,” Laura replied with a nod of her head. “Is there going to be a ceremony?”

Dualla shook her head, smiling more genuinely now. “No. No one would attend.”

Laura returned the smile. “I would.”

Dualla rose to her feet, handing the tin cup back to Laura. “I won’t come next week.”

The smile faded from Laura’s lips. “Why not?”

Dualla was still smiling. “Kara and Sam are getting married.” She inclined her head. “You ought to come.”

“On New Caprica?” Laura asked, turning away from Dualla. She set the cups and thermos on a ledge so she could pace.

Dualla watched her casually. “You haven’t been down yet, have you,” she pointedly stated.

Glancing over her shoulder, Laura met Dualla’s gaze. She felt caught in a trap and quickly looked away, finding solace in the small file that displayed Billy’s name. “No, I haven’t.”

Dualla crossed to Laura, placing a hand on her shoulder. “Consider it.” She departed leaving Laura standing there in thought.

They met on the Pegasus to travel down to the surface together the following week. Laura’s expression was tired and worn, but Dualla smiled for her, trying to put her at ease. Karl and Lee arrived on the flight deck a short time later to fly them down to the surface in one of the Raptors.

Lee smiled tightly at Dualla when he saw her, before noticing Laura. The look of surprise on his face proved he hadn’t been expecting her. “Roslin,” he said amiably. “Dee mentioned you might be going with us.”

Laura smoothed down her skirt, nodding. “I thought it was about time I made landfall.”

Lee gestured to Karl. “It’ll be Karl’s first time down, too.”

Laura smiled genuinely at Karl, reaching out to shake his hand. “It’s good to know I’m not the only one who has been resisting the colonization.”

Karl gave her a warm grin but didn’t let on as to his reasons for having stayed on board Galactica; everyone knew, anyway. “Well, shall we get going then? Kara’s not the sort to wait for us if we’re late.”

After the wedding, which had been simple yet lovely, Laura slipped away from the crowd. The service had been held at the dip between two knolls, beneath a tent that had been erected to keep out the bitter wind. She ducked out of the tent, uninterested in the loud noise and flowing liquor. Instead, she carefully climbed her way to the top of one of the hills and stood facing the wind, squinting into the gale.

The land stretched out bland and grey in every direction but the one behind her. There was grass and stunted plant life, but all of it seemed sickly and unsaturated. The wind was strong and cold, and smelt faintly like sulfur, but Laura had to admit that there was a certain pleasure to be had, letting it blow through her hair. Not even on Kobol had she really allowed herself that luxury.

The wind was loud and her thoughts were deep so she did not hear the approaching footsteps. Dualla’s voice was soft when she spoke, so it didn’t startle Laura. “I thought I’d find you out here.”

Laura opened her eyes, turning her head to look at Dualla. The wind blew her hair into her face. “I thought you’d be inside all evening.”

Dualla folded her hands behind her back and stood facing the gale, closing her eyes. She took a deep breath before speaking candidly. “Lee’s hard to tolerate when Kara’s around.”

Laura returned her gaze to the unchanging landscape but nodded her head in understanding. She understood even more than she let on. “You’re a very strong person,” she said with confidence.

Dualla’s eyes fell to the ground immediately, like the compliment had burdened her. She said nothing to push the compliment away but it was clear she didn’t agree.

“I mean it,” Laura said, stepping closer.

Dualla didn’t look up, but she replied, “Have you ever made a choice that you later regretted, but had to keep living with the choice you made so it wouldn’t haven been chosen in vain?”

It had been cold since they had arrived on the surface, but only at Dualla’s words did Laura feel a chill creep along her spine. The wind blew Dualla’s carefully curled hair around, obscuring her face, but Laura focused on her anyway. “We all make the wrong decision once in a while,” she finally replied. “Knowing how to rectify it is what separates the fools from the wise.”

Dualla’s hands clenched at her sides before they rose to pull the hair out of her eyes so she could meet Laura’s gaze. “Do you think I’m a fool?”

Laura granted her with a soft smile. “I think asking yourself that means you can’t be one.”

Dualla managed a small smile in return but said, “That wasn’t an answer.”

Laura focused on a distant, twisted tree stump. “I don’t think you’re a fool.” One of her hands rose to pull her hair out of her eyes. “Do you think I am?”

Dualla studied Laura’s profile. “No. I know you’re not.”

Laura met Dualla’s gaze and therein found her smile again. “See? You’re strong.”

Dualla smiled brighter, turning away from the wind so she faced the tent city the people had erected. “It’s cold up here,” she noted.

Laura turned too, watching the wind whisk away the smoke from the many burning fires across the city. “It is.”

Dualla reached out and took Laura’s hand in hers. “Come on, I want to show you something.” She tugged gently and before Laura could resist, Dualla was pulling her along, down the hill and back into the city proper.

They came to a stop before a large tent, nearly identical to many of the others. Laura looked questioningly over to Dualla but the other woman was just smiling at the door flap. “Class must be in session,” she noted, gesturing to the closed door. “We probably shouldn’t interrupt.”

Laura stepped back, releasing Dualla’s hand. It dawned on her suddenly that they were at one of the tiny little schools that had been set up throughout the city. Laura had been advising several of the prospective teachers on educational matters but she hadn’t yet seen any of the schoolhouses or heard in detail about their condition. “It’s a schoolhouse,” she said, surprised.

Dualla looked at her, smiling more. “Maya’s,” she replied. “She talks about you a lot.”

Laura gave Dualla an incredulous look. “You come here often?”

Dualla shrugged. “No, but Maya and I became friends recently.” Dualla didn’t elaborate on how. Instead, she moved around the tent, leading Laura behind it, to what served as the playground.

Laura reached out, grabbing Dualla’s hand to keep her from entering the schoolhouse. “I’m not ready for this yet,” she whispered.

Laura received a confident smile from Dualla and a warm squeeze of her hand. “It’s all right.” She stepped forward pushing the tent flap aside.

The classroom was silent as all the students inside had their eyes riveted on Maya who was teaching from a board at the front of the classroom. The subject matter was fascinating: Maya was discussing the original colonization of Caprica and the other eleven colonies.

Laura and Dualla stood in the back of the classroom observing until Maya dismissed the class for the day. The students filed out, playful and laughing, and only then did Maya notice her guests. She smiled brightly at them. “What a pleasant surprise!”

Dualla moved forward to hug Maya. Then the two women turned to look at Laura who was standing rather self-consciously at the back of the room. “I hope we aren’t bothering you.”

Maya’s smile was brilliant. “Not at all.” She moved to give Laura a hug as well. Laura returned it, but stiffly. “You’re acting shy,” Maya noted. “It’s not like you.”

Laura returned the embrace more genuinely. “It’s been awhile since I’ve been in a classroom, that’s all.”

Dualla found Isis sleeping in her crib, and gently stroked her cheek while the other women spoke. “All of this exists because of your lobbying,” Maya said. “If anyone belongs here, it’s you.”

Laura ran a hand through her hair, smoothing it down, while nodding. “Thank you. I’m flattered.” She stepped up beside Dualla, to look down at the baby.

Maya soon joined them. “But?” When Laura wasn’t forthcoming with more information, Maya rested a hand on her arm. “We need more teachers. You’d have a place down here, if you came.”

Laura smiled tightly at that, fixing her eyes on the baby. “I appreciate that.” She lifted her eyes looking from Maya on her left to Dualla on her right. “I really do.”

“You belong here, on the ground, with the people who love you,” Maya said. “Not on a ship surrounded by the cold, unfeeling military.”

Laura gave a sharp look that silenced Maya. Her eyes dropped, focusing on the baby, the union of a cylon and a human, and she stepped back. “I was the Secretary of Education,” she said. “That’s what I do.”

Isis stirred, waking groggily, and Maya directed her attention to her, scooping her up to coddle. “Well, the option is always going to be there.”

Laura nodded. “Thank you,” she said again. Her eyes returned to Dualla. “We should be getting back to the ship, don’t you think?”

Dualla seemed at a loss for how to reply, but there was no mistaking the look in Laura’s eyes. This wasn’t entirely how she had intended the visit to go. “Of course.” She smiled quickly at Maya. “Thank you for seeing us. Isis looks so healthy.” She stepped forward to kiss the baby on the brow.

Maya stood by the crib and watched them leave.

Laura put her head in her hands when they finally boarded the Raptor back to the Pegasus. Dualla sat beside her, thigh to thigh, and studied her, concerned. “Are you all right?” she asked.

Laura lifted her head, straightening her back. She nodded, staring unseeing at the opposite side of the ship. “I’m fine,” she said. “Just tired.”

Dualla fell silent for some time before quietly mumbling, “I’m sorry.”

Laura straightened, looking at her. “What for?”

“I shouldn’t have made you go to the schoolhouse.”

Laura smiled, placing a hand on Dualla’s knee. “It’s not that.” Their eyes met, and Laura tried to express her feelings through them. “I’m just reminded of how far we’ve fallen, and how much we’ve lost.”

“Can’t you be the Secretary of Education and a teacher?”

Laura nodded, smiling sadly. “I suppose I could. It’s just,” she took a deep breath, “strange to go back to that--” she trailed off.

“After being the president?” Dualla finished.

Their eyes met again, and Laura nodded, conceding. “I feel foolish, trying to hold on to the vestiges of it. I never asked to be president. I’m free of that burden now. I should be happy. Relieved, even.”

“Come have a drink with me, back on Galactica,” Dualla said. “You work too much and don’t relax enough.”

Laura was surprised at the offer. “I don’t know that I should really be—”

Dualla raised her hand, covering Laura’s mouth lightly with it. “Trust me.”

They drank in Laura’s stateroom back on Galactica. It was small but private, unlike the barracks. The room might have been uncomfortable if Laura had been forced to live in it before the cylon attack, but she had very few possessions and much of what she’d been given had gone to Gaius when he’d assumed the presidency.

Dualla poured the ambrosia she had brought into two of Laura’s delicate glasses. They sat together, side by side, on Laura’s simple twin bed, sipping their drinks.

“I’m glad I went down to the surface with you today,” Laura said into the silence.

Dualla took a sip of her drink, smiling. “It’s been very nice, getting to know you better.”

“I would like to know when you transfer to the Pegasus,” Laura said. “And if there is a ceremony for your promotion, I would like to attend.”

Dualla laughed softly. “Thank you.” She swirled the liquid in her glass. After a moment of hesitation she added, “I didn’t want Baltar to win.”

Laura looked up, surprised at the statement. “There were many who didn’t.”

Dualla met Laura’s gaze, then quickly looked away. “I knew about the ballots on the Zephyr,” she whispered.

Laura didn’t understand, or didn’t want to, at first. “What?”

Dualla stared into her drink. “The ballots. I knew they had been switched.” She paused a moment, and when Laura said nothing, Dualla added, “I did it. I made the change. Colonel Tigh took the brunt for me but I made the actual switch.”

Laura put her free hand to her mouth. “Oh, Gods,” she whispered.

Dualla sat up straighter. “I knew what the risks were and I accepted them. I’ve made bad choices before, but that isn’t one I regret. You should have been the president.” She swallowed. “I’m sorry.”

Laura shook her head quickly. “No, no. I’m the one who should be sorry. I told . . . I was the one who gave the go ahead. I was naïve and didn’t realize how far Tory could reach. I knew Colonel Tigh had been involved, but I had no idea you had, or anyone else.” She pressed her palm to her mouth.

“He only asked me because he knew I was sympathetic and would do it. All of those he involved knew the risks, and thought it was still worth it.”

Laura looked at her, eyes pleading. “Why?” she asked from behind her hand.

Dualla smiled warm and strong. “Because you hold us together. You’re an amazing leader and the people need you.”

Laura looked away, ashamed. “And now I’m hiding in my room, the reluctant Secretary of Education.”

Dualla set her glass down on Laura’s nightstand, reaching out to touch her leg. “They still need you. We all do.”

Laura looked down at the hand on her leg, then up into Dualla’s eyes. She felt a strange tug in the pit of her stomach. “Anastasia,” she breathed.

Dualla pulled the glass of ambrosia from Laura’s hand, setting it aside easily, without looking away from her. Then she used her hand to lightly brush the curls back from Laura’s face. “You can’t give up. You have to keep fighting, living.”

Laura took in a deep breath, letting her eyes close as Dualla stroked her thumb over her cheek. Her voice was faint when she spoke. “I feel weaker now than I ever did before. Even dying, I had my will.”

Dualla leaned forward and kissed Laura. It was chaste, with her lips just brushing Laura’s. She pulled back to judge the reaction and saw that Laura had closed her eyes in anticipation of the kiss. “You’re strong,” she whispered. Her hand curved to cup the back of Laura’s head. “Strongest person I know.”

Laura let out her breath, shuddery and soft, then opened her eyes, found Dualla’s and kissed her back.

It was easy, and warm. Laura hadn’t thought on it, hadn’t imagined that there was much room left in the world for romance and love. Yet, as Dualla eased her back on her bed, she realized she’d been wrong. Perhaps President Roslin hadn’t had room for anything outside of her work, but Laura did.

Laura was still warm and loving beneath her hard veneer. She had closed off much of her inner self the day she had learned she had cancer. It had worked in her favor when she had become the president, but it wasn’t working now. It was destroying her.

Dualla pulled up from kissing her, peering down at her through long lashes. “Laura?” she questioned softly. Her light eyes spoke volumes, asking questions and permission all at once.

Laura let her hardness crack and fall away as she nodded. One hand rose to pull through the curls Dualla had set in her hair for the wedding. “We’ll be strong together.” Her hand gently brought Dualla’s face down so they could kiss again.

In the morning, after waking and untangling and finding their clothes, they went back to work, smiling to each other as they parted. Two weeks later, they went down to New Caprica again. It was raining when they arrived but neither minded at all. It meant the streets were largely clear of people and made navigation much easier.

Hand-in-hand, Dualla led the way through the city, passing schools and hospices, makeshift restaurants and recreation centers. They walked past the tents toward where the real buildings were being erected. There were few, as materials were hard to come by and the ground was hard and unyielding. The sight of human buildings on New Caprica filled Laura with a sense of pride and hope.

She didn’t want to be on this rock, didn’t want to see humanity stagnate on this planet, and yet she could love her people here, despite their flaws. The people would thrive and live, even if the conditions were harsh, and she could take pride in that. She had brought them this far while they were weak. Now they were strong and could weather this cold planet.

The buildings were dingy and slick grey, darkened by the rain and mud. Dualla squeezed Laura’s hand as they stood looking out at them. “Beautiful, in a way, aren’t they?” she asked.

Laura nodded. “I was thinking the same thing.”

Past the buildings was a low flat land, covered in grass. They started there, easing their way between machinery that lay on the field. The grass was grey and damp and matched the hue of the sky almost exactly. The wind blew at them, unrelenting now that the tents and building buffers had fallen away.

Yet, they stood proud on the flat land, Laura squeezing Dualla’s hand just a little tighter than Dualla was squeezing hers. The earth here had recently been dug up and replaced, and simple monuments had been erected. Row after row of them stood against the blowing gale, glistening in the rain.

“Here,” Laura said, leading the way down the rows. They found Billy in the sea of his peers, and knelt by his side.

Laura cried while Dualla genuflected in respect. When she finished, she put her arm around Laura, drawing her close. “He’s at peace now.”

Laura nodded, smiling tightly. She raised a hand to the one Dualla had around her shoulders, squeezing it reassuringly. “It’s been such a very long time since I’ve been so relieved and happy. Thank you.”

. fin .

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