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rocketfic | meeting halfway

Title: Meeting Halfway by Rocketchick
Rating: 15+ Pairing: Laura Roslin/Elizabeth Weir
Notes: Written for the Sweet Dreams and Flying Machines ficathon. My prompt comes from furies, who requested BSG/SGA Roslin/Weir: "women in power, men listening to their command." BSG: Set in an imaginary timeline some months after "Lay Down Your Burdens 1&2." SGA: Set sometime in season three.

It had been six weeks since a puddlejumper exploring the ruins of an ancient space battlefield had made contact with one of Galactica's shuttles -- six weeks since the startling discovery of forty thousand weary humans wandering the Pegasus galaxy, looking for Earth.

They'd been granted passage this far by discovery of a sort of gravitational slingshot built by ancient travelers, likely long extinct.

They all hoped the volunteers left behind led by Chief Tyrol would be able to destroy the device before the Cylons could follow.

The days since had been frantic with the discovery of their long-lost brethren, and the revelation that the Ancients were likely the wayward tribe of Kobol.

Their arrival in orbit of Atlantis set off an absolute firestorm for the researchers and scientists among them, as Rodney McKay alternately boggled at the enormous implications of it all and ranted about the refugees' having destroyed the piece of technology that was capable of flinging a vessel so improbably far. Even Hermiod seemed mildly impressed, as he developed ambitious (if annoyingly smug) plans to retool the Asgard anti-replicator weapon to affect Cylon technology as well.

After the commotion of greetings and diplomatic meetings and waves of shocked, utter disbelief that had crested through the tattered remains of the Colonial fleet, forty thousand souls were left to wait, to see if their journey had actually come to an end.

Laura Roslin stood on the open platform behind Atlantis' command center, breathing in the salty sea air. She had nearly forgotten that places like this existed. Even on New Caprica, the few days that hadn't been rainsoaked and dreary were bitingly cold. Only a few of their number had ventured beyond the tents toward the coast, and fewer of those had ever been seen again.

Once they'd retrieved the fleet and escaped the Cylons' grasp, she'd spent a time rather grimly certain that Earth was little more than a myth, and they would all die, hunted like dogs in the void between worlds.

Instead, the gods and prophecies conspired to remake her into a leader, and to conduct them all to Atlantis.

Elizabeth Weir was, in a word, fascinated. It was the most remarkable story she'd ever heard, and in the Pegasus galaxy that was quite a claim.

"Madame President," she greeted as she approached the other woman.

Laura turned deliberately away from her view of the sea, focusing on Weir's intense gaze. "Doctor Weir," she said in return. "Your ship is back from Earth, then?" It sounded so strange to say that, so matter-of-factly.

"The Daedalus just docked," Elizabeth confirmed. "I wanted to tell you..."

"Before you do," the president interrupted, "I'd like to say that on behalf of my people, I thank you for your generosity. I'd lost hope that so many displaced souls would ever find a world where we would be welcome, even for a short time."

"This is Atlantis. We're all displaced, here," Elizabeth said with a wry smile. "So we look out for each other. Besides, it turns out my government is quite interested in studying your ship technology, if you'll allow it."

"Does that mean we have a place to stay?" Laura asked, her voice brimming with ill-concealed hope.

"Yes," Elizabeth answered. "We can't guarantee that all forty thousand of you will be allowed passage through the Stargate, but..."

"Most of us will be perfectly content to make our homes here," the president said in a hurry. "On the continent, or within the city itself. My people are skilled architects and engineers -- we can help you maintain the city. And Admiral Adama has already requested to retain command of the Galactica and aid in planetary defense." She hadn't meant to spill all their bargaining chips at once, but she was suddenly, achingly tired of running away from home.

Weir nodded. "I was hoping you would say something like that."

"We can stay?" Laura asked, breathlessly.

Elizabeth grinned. "You can stay. Welcome home, President Roslin."

Somewhere during the wild celebrations that followed, Starbuck and Colonel Sheppard became thick as thieves -- to no one's great surprise. As a means of "cultural exchange," the two brash pilots made it a point to teach each other the finer points of their worlds' respective styles of gambling. One evening Weir strode into the mess hall only to be greeted by dozens of soldiers singing drinking songs, Colonial fleet shoulder to shoulder with Atlantean crew, nearly indistinguishable from each other. She'd stood in shocked wonder until Sheppard snuck up behind her.

"One big happy family," he muttered in her ear.

"This is... remarkable," she replied. "Will it last?"

His eyes twinkled as he grinned at her. "Drunken soldier bonding? Oh yeah. It'll stick."

And stick, it had.

Now, weeks later, as Kara eyed the gentle rippling of the Stargate's event horizon with faint trepidation, Sheppard bumped against her shoulder. "Cold feet, Thrace?"

"Hardly," she snorted, bravado instantly back at maximum.

"Good. See you on the flipside," he called, as he stepped into the glowing puddle.

Starbuck cast her eyes back over her shoulder, to Laura Roslin's attentive gaze. The President of the Colonies smiled and gave her best pilot a nod, then watched in raw anticipation as the first hundred members of her fleet entered the open passage to Earth. One by one, they stepped into the portal, away from her and the life they'd all shared.

They might meet again, but if they did, it would be different.

"After what I've been told about your prophecies, I must admit I'm surprised you're not making the trip," Weir said quietly as she stepped closer.

"I was destined to show my people the way to Earth, and I have," Laura replied faintly. "Now our paths diverge."

Elizabeth pursed her lips, unsure of how to respond to that. A moment later, a crewmember stepped out of the control room to get her attention. "Ma'am? Captain Thrace is requesting to speak with the President."

Laura took the proffered earpiece, and spoke into the microphone. "Captain Thrace? How's the weather on Earth?"

"It's... gray, ma'am," came Starbuck's dry response. Laura could hear her smirk from countless lightyears away. "I'm told it's nicer once we get out of the mountain. Colonel Sheppard is apparently planning to teach me what 'real' flying is."

The president smiled. "Well, don't kick his ass too much, Captain."

"Yes, ma'am. Thrace out."

Roslin returned the earpiece, unaware of Weir's scrutiny as she watched the stragglers file through the gate with a look of profound satisfaction. They'd made it.

"The settlement on the continent is going very well," Elizabeth said, for lack of any other excuse to keep standing next to her. "The Athosians are grateful for the supplies and manpower your people have offered."

"Yes, of course," the older woman replied absently. "You can't know what a relief it is," she mused. "You can't know how incredible it is to see the colors of your world... of this city... after so long in the dark." When the gate's event horizon winked back out of existence, she gasped, finding herself near tears. She turned to Elizabeth. "We are the ones who are grateful, Doctor Weir. Believe me."

"Well, will you join me for dinner tonight?" Elizabeth asked. "I'm told you have something called 'ambrosia' that I simply have to try."

That evening, Roslin arrived at the doctor's quarters bearing a slim, green bottle, and gamely offered a toast to their new alliance. She offered her glass, but didn't drink, instead watching with amusement as Weir took a sip and promptly began to cough.

"Madame President, the last thing I'd want is to insult you or your people... but do you actually drink this stuff?" Elizabeth asked, as she tried not to gag. Her eyes watered, and she decided the libation reminded her of wheatgrass juice with a Windex chaser.

Laura chuckled. "Well, when you're drifting through space with nothing to ferment but your dirty socks, you do what you can."

The younger woman cleared her throat and stepped over to her desk. "Well, I happen to have an extra bottle of wine left over from that little party Colonel Sheppard threw a few weeks ago. Care to try it?"

"Please," she answered, happily discarding the foul concoction that was her native drink.

For a few minutes they sat together mostly in silence, enjoying the respite from the busy, chaotic noise that was the typical life of leadership. By the time Laura was finishing her second glass of wine, she was feeling quite relaxed and just a little contemplative.

"It's admirable that you're willing to open your doors to so many who are so different," she said. "I don't just mean us, but the Athosians, and the scientists from Taranis, and... that large, well-armed fellow..."

"Ronon," Elizabeth supplied, smiling. "And yes, our mutual survival depends on cooperation and trust... which is invaluable, given that we're all pretty far from home."

"So. This is Atlantis, and we all belong together because none of us belong here."

"That's the general idea," Elizabeth agreed. "It's how we've started to make sense of this whole situation, anyway."

"I like it," Laura decided after a moment's consideration. She inhaled deeply, startled to realize that the bite of the sea air was no longer immediately noticeable. "I've never belonged anywhere before," she said. It was true; she'd had too much ambition to be a teacher, too much conscience to be a politician, and too much doubt to be the savior of her people.

Elizabeth chuckled. "Well, maybe we can change your mind about that."

"In a group filled with misfits and aliens, constantly in mortal danger, pulled between civilian and military rule," Laura said. "I already feel quite at home, thank you."

"We have our charms," Elizabeth said dryly. "Though I admit it's taken me a while to find 'home' here. Even now, I don't always feel like I'm part of the family."

"Mm. Sometimes being The Leader is very antiseptic... very isolating," Laura mused, while Elizabeth nodded in agreement. "Though if you're lucky, every once in a while you meet a crazy, disrespectful pilot who completely fraks up your world."

Elizabeth was still nodding, thinking fleetingly of John Sheppard, and how he tended to tilt her world's axis on a regular basis, and not always in a bad way. She came to an abrupt mental halt while calculating the older woman's context for such a statement. Lee Adama had struck her as a little unwound, sure, but "disrespectful" was definitely not a word that came to mind...

"Kara Thrace," she breathed, barely aloud. She suddenly recalled the intense, almost longing look between the two women before the captain had stepped into the Stargate bound for Earth.

Laura smiled sadly, and raised her glass in salute. "I hope Earth is treating her well." After a moment lost in fond, occasionally blistering memories, she noticed that the other woman was staring at her with an expression of fascinated amusement. "What?"

"That must be one hell of a story," Elizabeth observed with a smirk.

At that, Laura grinned, a smile that slowly transformed her entire face from the dour look of a stressed, exhausted leader into one of a beautiful, brilliant woman. Elizabeth found herself thoroughly charmed by the metamorphosis, implicitly understanding that this was not a phenomenon other people were usually allowed to see. Too often, being in charge meant being impersonal, and Elizabeth was betting it took a lot of nerve to stare down the President of the Colonies' "impersonal" facade.

"Now I'm even more surprised you didn't go to Earth," the doctor noted idly.

"Starbuck isn't someone you hold onto for long," Laura replied. "If you're lucky, you can grab a tiny bit of her for a few moments. But sooner or later, she'll be gone."

"Like quicksilver," Elizabeth said.

"And just as dangerous," Laura agreed with a smile. "But then, I always did prefer relationships with a little risk. Probably too much risk, in fact."

Elizabeth chuckled. "I've always been the opposite. Especially since I've taken this job... the more stable, the better."

"Hm. Well perhaps, Doctor Weir, we can help each other meet halfway," the other woman said, offering her glass in a toast.

Their eyes met and held for an oddly charged moment before Elizabeth raised her own glass, savoring the clink that sealed their new friendship.

"To meeting halfway," she replied.

Three weeks later, the Daedalus had returned again with the positive news that Earth's new residents were doing extremely well, and would be ready to receive another wave soon.

For her part, Elizabeth was beginning to wonder when she could safely dismiss the armed escort that had been assigned to Laura Roslin during her stay in the city. Not that the President seemed in the least bit fazed or annoyed by their ever-present vigilance, but surely it was a sign of cautious distrust that was no longer warranted.


She scowled, considering that as the other woman strode toward her office. Between Cylon sleeper agents, the fleet's thriving black market, questionable use of military assets, a rigged election, and rumors of hallucinogenic visions, there was plenty to distrust about Laura Roslin and the rest of her administration.

Yet somehow, Elizabeth couldn't help it; she liked the woman, and respected her fortitude and ingenuity. She was well aware that just a few years' earlier, her response might have been quite different. It was amazing what three years fighting for her survival in another galaxy had done to her previously rigid moral code.

It was a change she wasn't sure she liked.

"Doctor Weir," Roslin said by way of greeting. "I was wondering if we could visit the continent today."

"Of course," Elizabeth replied. "I'll ask Teyla to accompany us and give us a tour."

Within an hour they were walking through the bustling Athosian village, which had blossomed almost overnight into a full-fledged town. They noted the wary but cordial interaction of Colonial survivors with Teyla's people, as they all tried to feel out their respective roles and boundaries.

All three women paused to watch a spontaneous game of tag that had erupted in the middle of the road. Maybe a dozen children bobbed and weaved among busy adults, laughing and screaming in delight.

Laura had never expected to see something of such utter normality again. Beside her, Teyla pressed a hand to her shoulder, and they shared a smile.

Both of their peoples had found a home here.

"Teyla!" cried a voice from behind them. They turned to see a young Athosian man approach. He dipped his head respectfully in the general direction of Roslin and Weir, and then tugged Teyla aside by her sleeve. "We're still having problems with water rations," he said insistently. "The demand from the refugees is straining our reservoir."

"Reytan, we are all refugees," Teyla said mildly. The gentle reminder instantly calmed his agitation, and he sighed.

Laura stepped forward. "Isn't there another reservoir being constructed?" she asked.

"Yes," he replied. "But it won't be complete for many weeks."

"Several of our ships possess desalination generators," Laura pointed out.

Elizabeth nodded. "We found those on our survey of your fleet. However, none of those ships are able to land here."

"Would it be possible for the Daedalus to beam a generator from your ship to the village?" Teyla asked.

The other two women shared a look that said, "Why not?" and they both shrugged. "I'll have Rodney work with Hermiod," Elizabeth said, grinning. "He'll enjoy the challenge, once he stops whining about it."

Reytan expressed his gratitude and left to attend to the hundred other things that needed to get done in the village that day. Finally, Teyla led them to her favorite new building, the school that had been molded of discarded hull fragments from the fleet, merged with dark, heavy wood her people had gathered from the surrounding forests.

It did not escape Laura's notice that the structure itself was a metaphor for the synthesis of their people.

Every pair of eyes in the school was focused on the three women as they ducked into the doorway. Judging by the looks of awed reverence, they probably made an impressive triumvirate, their silhouettes backlit by the Atlantean sun.

Laura recognized her own people only by their grateful expressions as they nodded in greeting. "Do you think you might need another teacher?" she asked loudly, and they laughed.

"Madame President, you'll always be welcome here," a young teacher replied, before calling her pupils back to order.

When they left the school, a small group of adorned leaders awaited them. One tall man strode forward, sketching a respectful bow to Roslin and Weir. "Madame President," he began. "The Quorum believes it is time to hold another election."

It took a moment, but Laura actually began to smile. "The Quorum is probably correct, Mr. Zarek. Though they appear to be missing a representative."

His answering grin was just a little smug. "We've already begun the process of amending the Quorum charter to admit a member of the thirteenth colony. Assuming, of course, an Athosian would be willing to take the job."

"I'm certain we will select a suitable representative," Teyla chimed in from behind the president.

Zarek turned his most calculatedly charming smile on her. "Excellent. We'll begin preparations for the election at once."

He held out his hand to Laura, who took it and leaned in close. "Don't frak this up, Tom," she said, low enough for only him to hear.

"I wouldn't dare," he answered.

When she backed away to look at his face, she was surprised to see that for the first time since she'd known him, his expression was perfectly sincere.

"Will you be running again?" Weir asked cautiously, once they'd returned to her office. While the Colonial survivors were undergoing massive upheaval, surely the stability of their internal government was at a premium...

"I might," Laura replied. "Though the Quorum might have something to say about that. I sort of... ran unopposed, after the assassination."

While Weir had been reading furiously through the Colonial fleet's history as maintained in ship's logs and personal journals, she definitely hadn't gotten to anything about an assassination. She didn't bother hiding her surprise. "I'm guessing this was after your original succession."

"After my successor was discovered to be a Cylon sympathizer and was killed by his own advisor," Laura replied with a chagrined smile. "You'd think, with all the running away we were doing, we wouldn't have time for such intrigue."

If Elizabeth had thought the same, she didn't bother saying so. "Well, this segues rather nicely into a topic I've been meaning to broach," she began. "Given the wildly different histories of your people, our own, and the Athosians, I believe we may be in need of someone to serve as a liaison between our leadership structure and what eventually becomes of your leadership structure."

"An ambassador," Laura said thoughtfully. "Of course. I accept."

Elizabeth laughed. "You don't... that is, I wasn't necessarily..."

"Offering it to me? Of course you were. I'm the most logical choice," Laura replied, grinning at the younger woman's discomfiture. "And it means I get to remain here in the city, to properly... liaise. Correct?" She looked Weir over with hooded eyes.

"I-if that's amenable to you and your people," Elizabeth stammered, flummoxed by the other woman's wit and perceptibly suggestive tone. "One of your shuttles will have permanent access to our north landing pad, so you may come and go as you wish."

"Then consider it done, Doctor," Laura said as she stood, smoothing out the worn fabric of her favorite suit. "And you can make me another Athosian dish to celebrate."

Elizabeth stood as well, smiling in bemusement as the other woman strode out of her office.

Later that day, Laura arrived at the door to Elizabeth's suite, bearing a carefully-wrapped package.

"I brought you something," the older woman said unnecessarily, with a twinkle in her eye.

Elizabeth chuckled and invited her in, and took the large parcel out of her hands. She could tell immediately it was a framed picture of some sort, but took her time unwrapping it, savoring the look of anticipation on the other woman's face.

It was a child's painting, rendered clumsily but beautifully in hues of blue and green. Sun shone on a peaceful meadow, while delicate white buildings glowed in the distance.

"It's called 'Dawn of the Gods,'" Laura explained. "At least, that's what the original was called. It hung in the museum of Delphi."

"It's beautiful," Elizabeth murmured. "Thank you."

Laura's lips pursed, and she took a seat on the low couch near the windows. "When I was a little girl, my parents would take me to Delphi once a year to visit the museum. I would sit and stare at that painting for hours, telling myself stories of the people who lived there. They were all heroes, all knights on horses, all friends of the gods themselves."

Elizabeth sat across from her, holding the painting reverently and watching the other woman with intent, pale eyes.

"I've actually been there," Laura continued, pointing to the field depicted in the painting. "I grew up, I led my people to Kobol, and I've walked in that field. Then, on New Caprica, one of my students painted that for me, and told me that she imagined me walking there, beside the heroes of old."

The silence hung between them for a long moment. "This obviously means a great deal to you... I don't think I can accept it," the doctor said quietly.

Laura smiled sadly, not acknowledging the other woman's words. "Starbuck told me she saw the painting, when she returned to Delphi. It's still right where I remember it."

Elizabeth took a breath, then stood and disappeared into her bedroom. She emerged a moment later carrying a small pouch, which she presented delicately to the other woman.

"It's called an ikenga. My father gave it to me when I was very young, after he got it on a business trip. On the opposite side of my homeworld, people make them for good luck and prosperity. It's said to carry the spirits of your ancestors along with you, no matter where you go."

Laura opened the pouch to find a small hand-carved statue, which she turned carefully in trembling fingers.

"I would take it out, at night, and ask it to bring me dreams of faraway places," Elizabeth whispered, with a shy smile.

"I can't take this from you," Laura protested, feeling tears well in her eyes.

"You're not. Just like I'm not taking the painting from you. We can just... hold onto them for each other."

They looked at each other then, both near tears, both so burdened by the weight of history they carried -- their own memories, the history of their respective peoples, and the expectations of steering an entire galaxy.

It was a burden that was better shared.

"I'd like that," Laura said roughly.

Elizabeth only smiled.

It was hard not to hear them coming.

"Doctor, I don't think you realize the impact of..."

"Don't give me that, Doctor. I was treating patients while you were still drooling at your mama's teat."

"Be that as it may, it's a question of physiology..."

Elizabeth slowed her pace upon hearing the contentious voices coming toward her. In a moment Doctors Beckett and Cottle would round the corner and spot her, and she would no doubt have to play referee again while the two physicians debated some finer point of medical care.

She sighed and squared her shoulders, preparing for the onslaught.

Out of nowhere, an arm hooked into hers, tugging her off balance.

"Hey!" Elizabeth cried, as she was pulled to a small alcove behind a decorative plant.

"Shh!" replied Laura, who clapped a hand over the younger woman's mouth.

The women pressed together in the small space, each holding their breath until the squabbling men had passed them by.

When she was sure it was safe, Laura peered out into the hallway, and looked back at Elizabeth with a grin. "All clear."

Weir chuckled, but made no move to extricate herself from the other woman's warm proximity. "I must have missed the 'Conflict Avoidance' course when I was training to be a diplomat."

"Never underestimate the value of convenient foliage," Laura said sagely, as she flipped a leaf in the younger woman's direction. "You were going to stand there and let them bore you to death with some medical minutiae, weren't you?"

"I was going to listen to both points of view and try to help them reach a compromise, yes," Elizabeth said, mildly indignant.

"Doctor Weir, take it from someone who is older, and wiser, and has lost months of her life listening to Doc Cottle complain. That's a terrible idea."

"Compromise is too valuable to run away from just because it might be annoying to achieve at times. And call me Elizabeth, please."

"Not every argument is worth mediating, Elizabeth," Laura continued. "Sometimes people just have to argue because they want their voice heard, not because they actually have anything important to say."

"You can't just dismiss an argument without first judging its merit," Elizabeth scoffed.

"And if you spend all your time listening, you'll never be able to make an actual decision!" Laura fired back, settling in for a satisfying argument of her own.

Several minutes later, Rodney hurried down the hallway toward his lab, only to stop short when he noticed voices coming from behind the plant against the wall. "Elizabeth?" he called.

The leaves parted, revealing Weir and Roslin tucked comfortably behind them. "Yes, Rodney?" she replied.

He raised a finger and opened his mouth to say something, but thought better of it. "Never mind," he said, as he continued walking down the hall.

His pace quickened when he heard the distinctive sound of female laughter behind him.

Laura had given up on insisting that Bill Adama come to tour the city, despite her frequent trips to Galactica to share progress reports. When he announced two days later that he would be stopping in for a visit, she practically skipped all the way up to the control center to meet her friend and colleague.

He remained attentive but mostly silent while viewing the city itself; he'd never been a particular fan of architecture or computer technology, anyway.

He did, however, spare a smile for Laura, who positively glowed. She'd gone decidedly native since the last time he'd seen her, and the Athosian-style clothing suited her. She spent a great deal of time telling him about the village, and the school, and Doctor Weir's efforts to integrate their people as much as possible into the daily life of Atlantis.

The latter caught his attention especially. Laura was not one to be overly impressed with other politicians, so perhaps this Weir was a worthwhile ally after all... or perhaps it was not just her diplomatic skill that had made such an impression.

They finally arrived in her quarters, where the noon sun sparkled through the windows. She hummed while she set about making them both some tea.

"So. What do you think?" she asked, when she handed him a mug and sat down.

"I think... you look happy," he observed mildly. He didn't bother voicing his suspicions that her mood seemed to have a lot to do with the companionship of a particular diplomat.

"I am happy, Bill. You should be, too."

The admiral shrugged. "Maybe I just think it's all a little too good to be true."

"Still looking for Cylons in every shadow, hm?"

"It's not just that," he replied. "They're trying to protect this world and their own entire galaxy from the Wraith, Laura. We're not helping. Eventually they're going to realize we're more trouble than we're worth."

She shook her head. "We've given them Galactica and dozens of other ships. That means a great deal to them."

"Is it enough?"

"Enough for what?" Laura sat back, studying her colleague. "Bill, what is it?"

He sighed, pulled a photo out of his pocket, and passed it over to her. "This was taken this morning."

She looked at the picture and reeled in her seat. For a moment she thought she might be sick, and she pressed the heel of her hand against the coffee table. "Where?" she choked out.

"In the south market. I have Kat tailing him -- discreetly, for now."

"Tell her to kill it," she said icily. "Shoot it. Now."

Adama waited, watching her work to assimilate the news and gain control of herself. "It's not just our rules anymore, Madame Ambassador. And you can't give that order."

She glared at him, then stood and barked to his escort that she needed to see Elizabeth Weir, immediately.

"His name is Billy Keikeya," Laura explained. "He was killed almost two years ago."

"So you're saying he was really a Cylon," Elizabeth said. She studied the other woman for a moment, gauging her pallor. "And you didn't know that."

Laura swallowed against the sudden bile in her throat. "No. I didn't know that."

Weir stood and crossed around her desk, and propped one hip against its edge. "Well, the good news is that we've been carefully monitoring any possible Cylon carrier frequencies since you arrived. He hasn't transmitted his location anywhere. And we can hold him in a place where he will be unable to summon help."

"You'll need to take him by surprise," Laura said.

"We can do that," Elizabeth replied. She looked up as Sheppard and Ronon strode into her office, armed and ready for a fight. "Admiral Adama reports that the contact has been stationary for the last hour," she said, as she handed John a pad with the coordinates and his photo. "Take stunners, and make sure he doesn't see you coming."

"No problem," John replied. "He'll come in clean." He meant for the remark to reassure to Roslin, but was confused when she only stiffened further. He exchanged a puzzled shrug with Elizabeth, then grabbed Ronon by a sleeve and headed to the shuttle bay.

"We'll have him in custody soon," Elizabeth said, as she sat in the chair next to her friend. "Hopefully he'll be able to answer some questions for us."

When the other woman didn't respond, Elizabeth ducked her head to peer at her more closely. "Laura?" she murmured.

"He was like a son to me," Laura gasped, as she twisted her fingers together in her lap.

The force of her anguish and fury rocked Weir, who could feel her chest ache in response. "I'm sorry." She reached out and grabbed one of the other woman's trembling hands.

After a moment, the contact seemed to steady them both, and Laura took a deep breath.

"I want to talk to it," she rasped.

Weir noticed the choice of pronoun, but chose not to comment. "Of course."

He woke up in the cage usually used to hold Wraith prisoners. Weir, Roslin, and several other people strode into the room, taking positions spread out on the other side of the barrier.

Billy's face creased in an abashed frown as he studied his former mentor. "I remember this being the other way around," he said, gesturing to the prison.

"No, you don't," Laura snarled. "Just because his memories got downloaded into your brain doesn't mean you were there. It doesn't mean you were him."

He looked away and sighed. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to hurt you."

"That's all you ever intended to do, you mechanical bastard!" Laura cried.

Weir eyed her for a moment, and then addressed the prisoner. "I'm Doctor Elizabeth Weir, leader of the Atlantis expedition," she announced.

Billy nodded. "I know who you are."

"And we know what you are, so you'd better be prepared to give us some answers," she replied sharply.

His jaw worked for a moment, before he nodded again.

"How were you able to avoid detection in the fleet?" Elizabeth asked.

"Forty thousand people... not everyone paid attention to politics, and most were inclined to mind their own business," he said with a shrug. "I didn't do anything to arouse suspicion."

"How many other Cylons are here?"

Billy sighed. "I don't know."

"Aren't you all supposed to be aware of each other?" Elizabeth pressed.

"Maybe," he allowed. "But I don't know. I don't want to know. They abandoned me."

"Or maybe you just haven't been activated yet," Ronon sneered quietly, as he watched the prisoner. Billy paled a bit when he glanced at the dark, menacing form of the man who had captured him.

"Where's the other Resurrection ship?" Adama asked from the opposite corner of the room. He'd stood in the shadows, unnoticed during Weir's confrontation.

"There isn't one," Billy replied. "I was a remote prototype. The pod had been planted in the fleet."

"Where?" Adama demanded.

"On the Agamemnon," Billy said, resigned. "Aft cargo hold." He watched as three Galactica officers immediately went in search of the ship and its illicit hardware. "I was the only one, Admiral," he insisted.

"You just said you didn't know that for sure," Weir pointed out.

His head dropped forward in frustration. It was that one, small, familiar gesture that pushed Roslin to the edge.

"Shoot it," Laura said flatly. Everyone spun to look at her, and she returned their gazes evenly. "Destroy that thing."

Ronon looked happy to oblige, but Weir stepped in front of him. "We can't do that."

"It's a machine, and it will bring the Cylons here. It will let them get to Earth," Laura insisted, stepping closer to the other woman. "You can't let them have that chance."

"The Cylons aren't interested in Earth," Billy called, but no one was paying any attention to him.

"We've protected Earth from other threats in this galaxy," Elizabeth said evenly. "And Doctor McKay can keep him completely isolated from any Cylon communication here." She shot Rodney a look, silently asking him to confirm her assertion.

He looked at her blankly for a moment before catching on. "Yes! Yes, of course. No problem. This thing is like a giant Faraday cage, so no electromagnetic radiation can..."

"It's too great a risk," Laura said, interrupting the rambling technical explanation.

"At this time, I think it's an acceptable one," Elizabeth countered, aware of every pair of eyes in the room intently focused on them.

"Then you've just frakked us all." Laura turned on her heel and stomped out of the room.

Laura could hear Weir's footsteps behind her, but didn't acknowledge as much. She stalked into her quarters and smacked the controls to seal the door.

The barrier stood in Elizabeth's way for only a moment before she activated her security code.

The older woman practically shook with fury as she faced Weir, who calmly stepped into the room and let the door slide shut behind her.

"I understand this is a very personal issue," Elizabeth said. There was an undercurrent of steely resolve in her voice, and none of her usual placation as she moved deliberately into Laura's personal space. "But you're not alone anymore. We're here. We're your friends. We're going to help you, but you have to let us."

Laura scoffed and tried to spin away, only to be held still by strong hands on her shoulders.

"I'm your friend, Laura. I want to help you."

For a moment, the older woman couldn't seem to decide whether she was going to cry, lash out, or simply twist away from Elizabeth's hold. In the end, she merely sagged a bit, and closed her eyes. "I hate what those things have done to us. To me," she whispered. "I hate that they look like people I love."

Elizabeth relaxed her grip on Laura's arms, but remained close to hear the quiet admissions that were tearing themselves from the other woman's throat.

"It was some kind of holy war to them," she continued. "There were no rules, and innocent civilians and children were inconsequential. We had nothing capable of stopping them."

"But their agenda changed, on New Caprica?" Elizabeth prompted.

Laura nodded just a little bit, looking profoundly lost. "We never found out what they really wanted again. We just did what we needed to do to escape. We've been running ever since."

"Of course. You didn't have a choice."

"I'm sorry... for losing it, in there," Laura whispered. "Sometimes I hear these words coming out of my mouth... and I can't believe I've become a person who could say them." She exhaled a tiny, broken laugh. "Are you sure you want to be friends with someone capable of being a genocidal maniac?"

"Are you?" Elizabeth countered. "Ask me sometime about why the Wraith's numbers have thinned so dramatically in recent months. You haven't cornered the market on moral ambivalence, Laura. We've all had choices we never wanted to make."

"How do you live with it?" Laura murmured.

"I was starting to think I couldn't," the younger woman replied honestly, after a moment. "But I met a woman who'd been faced with the same kinds of unspeakable choices, and we became friends." She reached up, hesitantly running her fingertips across stray wisps of Laura's hair. "Despite everything, you're a good person, Laura."

"So are you," Laura replied immediately.

"You see my point, then," Elizabeth said with a smile. "Believing in you makes it possible to believe in myself again."

Laura trembled a bit under the burden of that admission, awed more by the faith of one woman than she had been by the dozens of people who had fallen to their knees and hailed her as a prophet. Her anger was drained, instead replaced by a desperate, urgent need to make the other woman comprehend the magnitude of the threat posed by their enemies. "You still don't understand. Those things tried to destroy us all, and they could be any one of us. What if Kara Thrace is really a Cylon? Or Bill or Lee?"

"Or you?" Elizabeth asked quietly, trying to feel her way through the haze of extreme loss and betrayal. When Laura didn't reply, she started thinking aloud. "I read in one of the fleet's logs that Sharon Valerii stayed behind with the Cylon occupation on New Caprica," she said, watching as Laura nodded in confirmation. "And that Karl Agathon stayed behind with her after finding their child."

"He was a fool," Laura rasped.

"Maybe. But he was able to see Sharon -- his Sharon -- as an individual, and not the face of the enemy." Elizabeth took a deep breath. "Before today, would you have said Billy cared about you?"


"Well, based on what I just saw, I think he still does."

At that, Laura reared away, practically growling as she felt her anger rekindle.

"You loved him. I understand that. And I understand why you're so hurt to know that he wasn't what he seemed," Elizabeth pressed. "But this Billy didn't destroy your world. He didn't kill all those people."

"He would have if he'd had the chance!" Laura roared. "He's one of them, and he'd happily kill us all!"

"How do you know that?! How do you even know whom to hate? Laura, the biggest traitor of the fleet wasn't even a Cylon."

"I don't need you to point out the inconsistencies of my logic!" Laura snapped.

"I think you do!" Elizabeth fired back.

It all just boiled over in that second -- all the anxiety and fear and worry for her people, combined with continued anger at their betrayal -- every conflicting emotion and attraction and timid hope piled on top of each other and finally overwhelmed her, and Laura gave in to the one impulse she'd had for weeks.

Which was how she found herself pressing Elizabeth Weir against a wall and kissing her senseless.

After a moment of shocked resistance, Elizabeth kissed her back, pushing the contact into a heated, dueling exchange that quickly left them both breathless.

They parted just enough to lean against each other, panting as they tilted their foreheads together.

"What if I was a sleeper agent, sent to destroy Earth?" Laura whispered roughly.

"You could be a Cylon, but you would never be my enemy," the younger woman answered, before leaning in to claim another kiss, this one sweeter, if just as intense as the first.

"Does this mean you're not going to throw us off your planet?" Laura asked when they parted again.

Elizabeth leaned backward, studying the older woman. "We don't cut and run on our allies, Madame Ambassador. And I don't cut and run on my friends."

Laura smiled in response, but the expression remained troubled. "There may be more Cylons out there."

"And the Wraith will come back," the doctor pointed out in reply. "But we can beat them both together."

Responding to the implicit challenge in Elizabeth's voice, Laura straightened, regaining her normal air of graceful dignity for the first time since she'd seen Billy's photograph. Her eyes narrowed as she looked Elizabeth over. "I still want to kill him," she said plainly.

"I'm still not going to let you."

"Okay," Laura agreed, before taking a moment to smooth out the other woman's tousled hair. "Let's get back to work, then."

They shared a smile, and left the room to face the galaxy's challenges -- together.

Continue to the next chapter, Halfway House.
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