This is a birthday fic for frakcancer . I started writing it as I know she has a deep love for Cottle and Bill. Somewhere along the line, however, it started to write itself (in record time) and maybe became a little self-indulgent for myself and my beta queen. So frak -- if I went off-course too much, forgive me, but I hope you still enjoy it. (And I know it's not your birthday until Saturday but we won't see you then.)
And even though it’s not a straight Laura and Bill fic (however, there still are plenty of a/r references – I can’t help myself), I fell in love with this fic – hard. In fact, it’s now officially my favourite thing I’ve ever written and I’m crossing my fingers everyone else will like it.
Thank you once again to kastari for her magical powers as a beta (her wand turns things like gas into butane – lol).
Title: After the Smoke Clears
Characters: Cottle, Bill Adama, Ishay
Not my characters/not making money
Using one of his scalpels, he cut through the seed’s outer shell. He squeezed its inner flesh into a stainless steel kidney dish and used the back of a spoon to crush it to an almost liquid.
Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out his last pack of cigarettes, flipped open the lid and counted the contents – four. Sadly the cigarette fairy hadn’t visited during the night. He knew some of Baltar’s community were experimenting with tobacco farming. He could get lucky if they got a crop to grow before he died but he wasn’t holding his breath with that frakkin’ idiot in charge of agriculture.
Laura Roslin would be flipping in her grave if she knew the younger Adama and Lampkin had allowed Baltar to be in charge of anything.
Not that Lee Adama seemed to care about making too many decisions once Kara Thrace ‘disappeared’ shortly after they settled. Rumour had it that she was taken by one of the larger feline animals that roamed the grasslands. He had observed that most of the predators on this new Earth chose the extremely young, old or sickly to hunt, and since Kara fit into none of these categories, he didn’t buy this theory.
Lee had since left, trekking north on a personal odyssey to find some meaning in existing and living, when so many others had died.
Of the thirty odd thousand citizens that survived when Adama and Roslin found this planet, only approximately 2000 remained in the initial camp – the rest opting to spread out around the new Earth.
Here, there were three tents brought from the Galactica that were used for public gatherings. Individual residences were huts constructed out of mud bricks, thanks to some innovative thinking ex-architect. There was no official name for the village as such, but unofficially it was known as New Delphi.
Romo Lampkin stayed and was still probably the most influential member of their basic society they had. Lampkin was no Laura Roslin, but at least he was fair and the community generally ran as smoothly as one could hope.
He pulled out cigarette number four, held it under his nostrils and inhaled, savouring the sweet nicotine scent for almost a full minute. Next, he pulled out his lighter and shook it to ascertain how much butane remained. Enough for his last few he hoped. He had a fireplace in his hut, and there was a continuously burning fire set up in the centre of the camp, so he didn’t technically need the lighter. However, the ritual was no longer just about smoking a cigarette. The entire process was now a religious experience.
He placed the cigarette between his lips, lit it and sucked the smoke in – long and smooth. His body relaxed immediately. He could feel the glow of satisfaction travelling through his old bones. He eased into his second drag, drawing it out for as long as possible.
On his third drag, he leaned back and closed his eyes. This was as close to an orgasm that he could hope to get. It wasn’t like the female survivors were lining up to date the crusty old doctor of the settlement.
He flicked some ash into a Petri dish and slowly rolled up the left sleeve of his shirt. He inhaled, letting the tobacco permeate his system one last time, and watching the glowing orange tip burn down to the filter. Now there were three, he mused.
Fortifying himself, he gripped the cigarette and ground it into the skin of his forearm. He had just finished letting out a small groan of pain when a distinct feminine Leonis voice startled him.
“Ishay! What the hell are you doing?”
“What am I doing? What are you doing is a better question. Have you lost your mind?” Her voice got shriller with each new sentence.
“Can’t a man live out retirement in some relative peace?” he grumbled.
“Where do you keep your water?” She moved to the area of his hut that he had set up as a kitchenette.
“I don’t want any water,” he snapped. “Get me that kidney dish.”
He watched as she picked up the bedpan and sniffed the contents.
“Burn salve. I hope. Today is the final stage of my experiment.”
“You burned yourself deliberately to test a plant’s healing properties?”
“It seems a more likely explanation than self-mutilation, wouldn’t you think?”
She walked over and used the spoon to gently lather some of the red mixture onto his arm.
“And what if this gives you some sort of allergic reaction? Did you think of that?”
“If it does, you’ll know not to use it on anyone else.”
“You seem to be breathing okay,” she said. “There doesn’t seem to be any swelling at the wound site or in your face. How’s it feel? Any tingling sensations, itchiness?”
“Ishay I was a doctor for almost forty years. I think I can diagnose my own symptoms.”
She tentatively touched the cream with the tip of her index finger and softly rubbed more onto the burn. He forgot his pain for a minute as he studied her hands. Secretly he’d studied them before, of course -- from a professional point of view. They were perfect surgeon hands – steady, graceful and delicate, with long fingers. He had, on more than one occasion, unprofessional thoughts about her hands as well.
“How’s it feel?” she asked again.
“Not completely fantastic but I think the cream is working and soothing it some.”
She stood and moved over to his kitchenette again. She found the small stainless-steel can he used as a boiler.
“Where do you keep your water?” she asked again.
“Over there.” He pointed to a bottle in the corner.
She poured some into the container and hung it above his small fireplace. She then found two mugs and the fragrant herbs they had substituted for tea, and spooned a small amount into each.
Waiting for the water to boil, she stood beside him again and studied his arm.
“Have you got something I can use as a dressing?”
He growled with impatience at her fussing but, nevertheless, directed her to where he kept some clean dressings he’d salvaged from sickbay.
“Next time you decide to use yourself as a guinea pig, let me know beforehand.”
He grunted as she wound the bandage expertly around his arm.
“What did you want anyway?” he asked after she had poured the tea and sat down.
“Why are you here? In my hut? No one’s been hurt have they?”
“No, no. Can’t I just visit you?”
“Since Saul and Bill left the camp, the only visits I get involve blood, rashes or,” he lifted his arm slightly, “burns.”
“I’m not sure I know why. Given your hospitality is almost as famous as your bedside manner.”
He grunted at her sarcasm and took a sip of the tangy beverage.
“I drew the short straw,” she said. “Romo assigned me the task of ensuring you attend the anniversary celebrations.”
“I told him I wasn’t going. I’ll be in no mood to party. You of all people should know why.”
“Because it’s a year since she died. I know. I remember.”
“And yet you still expect me to smile and make small talk to the likes of Gaius Baltar?”
“She spent nearly four years trying to find us a home. We have one now. Do you think she would be happy to know you merely eke out an existence? We’re not serving her memory any if we don’t actually live.”
His response was simply another grunt.
“So you’ll attend the celebrations?”
“As long as no one decides to call it Founder’s Day.”
She stood and placed her mug back in his kitchenette.
“I think it’s safe to say you won’t have an allergic reaction now,” she said. “How’s the pain?”
“On a scale one to ten? About a five. Which is probably not too bad for a self-inflicted cigarette burn.”
She merely nodded and left without a formal goodbye.
He immediately reached for a cigarette from his pocket. He almost, by habit, lit it before he realised what he was doing. He closed his eyes and swore against every female he had ever encountered in his long life.
He didn’t see how he could have ignored tonight’s festivities even if he’d wanted. Nearly the entire ‘township’ was in attendance, as well as several people who had settled in the outlying areas. Five men, all probably in their early twenties, sat in the corner playing some sort of rudimentary percussion instruments. He would have had no chance of sleeping tonight with this ruckus.
He nodded politely to the few familiar faces he recognised. Apart from Lampkin, Baltar and Ishay, he knew two marines, a galley chef and a deckhand from Galactica who remained in the initial settlement. He did a double-take when he saw another familiar face in the crowd. It was one he certainly hadn’t expected to see tonight.
Though standing alone, the man was receiving more than one curious look. Even he couldn’t help but stare for a minute.
“You make a man feel old, Adama.”
His old friend chuckled, patting a now non-existent stomach. “I hope Laura still recognises me.”
“Knowing her, she’d probably give you a lecture about how you should have given up alcohol years ago that included at least one ‘I told you so’.”
They stood in silence for a while, watching the youngsters dance, remembering the woman they lost a year ago.
“I didn’t expect to see you here, Bill,” he finally said.
They lapsed back into companionable silence again when Bill never answered.
“Admiral! You came!”
Ishay appeared from somewhere and greeted Bill. His blood pressure rose when he took in her appearance as she stood before them – a loose dark blue dress that swirled as she swayed to the music. It was as far away from her sick bay scrubs as she could get.
“Layne, I told you. Call me Bill.”
She giggled like a teenager. He felt quite miffed when she never even acknowledged his presence. She’d done her duty for Lampkin and asked him to this soiree, but talking to him was obviously not on her agenda for the evening.
“Layne!” someone else called. A young man approached her. She smiled broadly and next moment was dancing.
He stared, trying to connect the Ishay he knew from Galactica’s sickbay to the young carefree woman who was dancing around and laughing.
“You ever wonder why Layne Ishay never moved to a different settlement?” Bill asked.
“What?” His question was sharp and rude. He tried to keep calm. He shouldn’t take his foul mood out on Bill, especially considering the date.
“Most experts were spread out. One medic to each settlement. Yet, somehow, this settlement has a medic as well as a doctor. Ever wonder why?”
“I leave the philosophising to the likes of Baltar.”
Bill just snorted.
“You need somewhere to stay tonight?” he asked. “You can hardly walk back to your cabin.”
“No, walking around at night it not the wisest. That would be good, Sherman. Thanks.”
“It’s no palace.” He had no sooner made this comment when Ishay returned from the dancing area.
“Admiral,” she said. “Would you like to dance?”
He was shocked when Bill accepted. He watched for a few moments before his impatience at their display got the better of him and he stalked off in search of what refreshments the party had to offer.
He lit his hut’s fire as soon as they returned from the party. They had arrived on the planet during winter, and even though the days on this continent were still quite warm compared to some areas, the temperature dropped considerably at night. He handed Bill one of his two animal skins that had been allocated to each person from the designated hunters of the settlement, before hanging his boiler in the fire to make them tea.
He sat down near Bill, staring into the mesmerising flickering of flames.
“Heard from Saul?” he asked, breaking the silence.
“Not for a while. He and Ellen are still at that settlement about five days north of here. There’re about a thousand people there. They sometimes send traders down to Baltar’s farms and they pass by with a letter.”
“You don’t ever get lonely Bill? You don’t want to come down from your hill and live here – in the settlement?”
“No. I can’t leave Laura, anyway.”
“I’m sure she would understand. You could still visit her.”
“No. I never loved anyone like Laura.”
“She loved you.”
“Yeah. Don’t know how that happened. I do know one thing. If I had my life to live over, I wouldn’t have waited so long to tell her.”
“She would have known without you ever telling her.”
“I also wouldn’t have waited so long to act on it. I know I should be thankful for the time we did have, that not everyone finds love like that, but I wish we could have shared it longer. If I had a second chance, I wouldn’t be so slow. I’d just grab the woman and kiss her stupid before she had a chance to resist.”
“Now you’re dreaming, Adama,” he said. “The Laura Roslin I knew would have slapped you down figuratively and literally if you’d have done that.”
Bill chuckled. “You’d be surprised.”
He awoke late the next morning to the sound of whispered voices. It took him a moment to remember where he was and who he was with. Who was Bill talking to?
“Isn’t a man allowed to sleep in occasionally around here?” he snapped.
“Morning, Sherman. Would you like some tea?” Bill asked. “I just made some for Layne.”
Layne? Why the frak did everyone keep calling her Layne? He knew it was her name, but not only did it not suit her, it temporarily confused him every time someone said it. To him, she would always be Ishay -- plain and simple.
“Bit early for morning visitors, isn’t it?” he grumbled some more. Neither of them answered his question and they both went on talking as if he wasn’t there.
He walked out the back to the separate area that served as a bathroom. He was sick of her just acting like he didn’t exist, he thought, as he relieved himself. He knew he was no longer her boss but they had worked together for six years. One would think she could at least say hello now and then.
He returned to the main area to witness her hugging Bill. He physically flinched, feeling like someone punched him in the stomach. If he hadn’t seen it with his own eyes, he would never have believed it. Bill Adama had moved on from Laura Roslin after merely a year of mourning?
He remembered Bill’s words from the night before. If he had it to do over again, he wouldn’t waste any time. It made sense and he shouldn’t begrudge Bill making a new relationship, but he wished it wasn’t with Ishay.
He didn’t want to see her hurt. She deserved happiness. He wasn’t sure if she’d be able to get that from Bill. Ishay would always be second to Laura Roslin in the competition for Bill’s affection.
She might make him angry and frustrate the hell out of him on a regular basis, but she deserved someone to love her completely.
“I have to go. It’s a four hour walk, and, even though it’s cooler at the moment, I still don’t relish walking in the middle of the day,” Bill said. “Thanks for the bunk, Sherman. Come and visit us soon and we’ll return the favour.”
It wasn’t until he lay down to sleep that night that Bill’s words registered in his mind. Come and visit us soon and we’ll return the favour. Ishay was obviously moving out to live with Bill.
Once a week, he ran a clinic out of one of the main tents. Considering he only had the most basic medical equipment, the days were usually a round of nutritional advice, counselling or recommendations of rest.
Today the waiting time for the queue of patients was longer than normal. The reason being he was flying solo. Ishay was nowhere in sight. He wondered if she had gone to live with Bill without even saying goodbye.
Finally, as the sun started to set, he bid his last patient farewell. He patted his pocket. Today might be the day he smoked number three. His temper had not improved over the course of the day and his bedside manner had been questionable to say the least.
After tidying the tent, he returned to his hut exhausted. A delicious scent that made his stomach rumble hit his senses as he walked in. He frowned at the pot simmering on his fire.
“Hello. You look terrible.”
He spun around at the sound of her voice.
“I wouldn’t look so bad if I’d had someone acting as a nurse,” he snapped.
“I know. I’m sorry. I needed some time by myself this morning. Had to make some decisions,” she said, gesturing to the ground near the door. Her possessions were heaped in a small pile.
“When were you thinking of moving in?” he asked.
“As soon as possible,” she answered.
“I see,” he said, slowly walking to his bathroom. He felt tears prickle in his eyes. The last time he had cried was over Laura Roslin. Women were the devil’s spawn, he thought as he splashed some water on his face.
After he had composed himself, he returned to the main living area and she handed him a bowl.
“I’m not hungry,” he said. It was true. A few moments ago his stomach had talked to him encouragingly about this stew but now he thought he would be sick if he even consumed one spoonful.
“Maybe you should lie down, have a rest for a while. When you wake up, you might feel like eating.”
She took the bowl away and spread out his bedding. He just stood there, staring.
“Ishay, I don’t want to sleep, Godsdammit!”
She frowned at his harsh words. She was crouched beside his bed, obviously hesitant about what her next move should be.
“I thought you would be happy I was moving in,” she finally said.
“Happy? Happy? Why the frak would I be happy about it? Laura Roslin was his wife!”
“Laura...” She shook her head slightly, confused.
“Yes! Laura Roslin! You know, the President of the Twelve Colonies. My favourite patient! A woman I thought you were friends with!”
“Doctor,” she said calmly. “Who do you think I’m moving in with?”
“You think I’m moving in with Bill Adama?”
His mood did not improve when she smiled broadly and muttered that he was a stupid old fool under her breath.
He and Bill sat side by side next to Laura’s grave. He’d arrived at Bill’s cabin just after lunch, the trek taking him almost six hours. No wonder Bill looked in good condition, considering the hills that he climbed on a daily basis.
He pulled out his cigarette packet. They had just finished dinner. It was as good a time as any. He took out his last two cigarettes, handed one to Bill and put the other to his lips.
“What’s this?” Bill asked.
“The last two cigarettes in my possession.”
“And you’re letting me have one? Is this the early stage of dementia?”
“Number three was smoked post-coital. Best Godsdamn tasting cigarette I’ve ever had in my entire life.”
“These are celebration cigarettes,” he said.
“Yep. In about six month’s time, you’re going to be an uncle.”