DISCLAIMER: Battlestar Galactica is the property of Glen A. Larson, Sci-Fi Channel, R & D TV, Sky and NBC Universal.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
SEQUEL/SERIES: This story follows As Dust.
SPOILERS: Set last half of 1st season.

The Last Time
By Celievamp


"I will find you, Laura."

The dream (if it was a dream) haunted Laura. She had not been able to forget the woman. Every detail of her face, her dress, her voice seemed imprinted on her memory. She had spent several hours searching the database for her to no avail. The woman was not listed amongst the survivors. No one like her was.

It was not impossible that she had been missed in the census. Her people had been thorough but it was possible that she had been missed.

Laura hung on to that belief. She could tell that Billy was worried about her and that he must have said something to Lee `Apollo' Adama, her erstwhile liaison officer, and perhaps to Gaius Balthzar. Adama was more solicitous and Balthzar more twitchy than ever. They came to see her together: an unlikely alliance.

"Your assistant said you were looking for someone," Adama said, sitting down opposite her. "You were scanning the census database. But you didn't find who you were looking for? Are you sure they survived?"

"Someone approached me. A few days ago. A woman, tall, blonde, very striking in appearance. She - " Gaius made a strange strangled sound which he covered with a cough.

Laura glanced at him. He did not look well. His hollow eyes were ringed with sweat, his skin pale, his hair stringy and unkempt. He did not meet her gaze, his eyes darting around the room, his lips moving imperceptibly as if he was vocalising to himself. Gaius Balthzar had promised many things but had so far fallen far short on his promises. She knew that Adama did not trust him. "She claimed knowledge of the Cylons."

"She didn't go through your staff?" Apollo asked.

"No. No one else seems to have seen her," Laura said. "There is no record of her arriving at my ship or leaving afterwards. Nor can I find any record of her in the system." She smiled. "It is something of a mystery."

"Are you sure." Gaius said suddenly. "Are you sure you did not dream or imagine her... the medications... your medications... for your condition... are quite powerful. Side-effects. I imagine." He glanced at her and then away again, his gaze seeming to focus on something only he could see. His lips twitched, moving soundlessly.

Laura stared at him. She had told very few people of her cancer - her doctor, Billy and Lee Adama. Not Gaius Balthazar. She was very certain that none of them would have betrayed her confidence. Yet the strange woman (the Cylon agent as Laura was certain she was) and now Gaius seemed to know. How was that possible?

Adama frowned, glancing at her and then at Gaius, surprised perhaps that having sworn him to secrecy she would tell someone as unreliable as Dr Balthzar. She met his gaze, trying to convey without words that she had not told the scientist anything about her condition. "I haven't seen any sign that the President's mental state has been affected by her condition or her treatment," he said. "Ma'am, are you thinking that this woman could have been a Cylon agent, perhaps even one of the human forms that have tried to infiltrate Galactica in the past?"

"Yes," she said bluntly. She shifted her attention to Balthzar again. "Which brings us to the question of your so-called detector, Dr Balthzar? Where is it?"

He winced, glanced to the side again. "Production difficulties - the raw materials I need are in short supply. I am in the process of erm. rethinking, re-envisioning the entire." He jerked. "Its production is still my primary concern, Madam President, be assured of that. I have run some trials with satisfactory results. Quite startling in fact."

"Then I won't keep you from your work any longer. And Dr Balthzar, my medical condition is my own private concern and I would be obliged if it stays that way. For your information I am not taking any medications that would affect my mental state."

"My... my pardon, Madam President. I."

"I'll escort you back to the Galactica, Dr Balthzar," Adama said, ushering the man out of the room before he dug himself any deeper. "As the President said, you're a busy man."

As they left Laura froze, the whisper of a voice just at the edge of her hearing. "Cylon agent or figment of your imagination? What will they believe of a dying woman desperate to cling on to power?"

There was no one there. She was alone. A flash of blood red dress and blonde hair on the edge of her peripheral vision. She turned to face it, but there was no one there.

Another energy sapping day, but with a happy ending. One of their best pilots, Kara Thrace, the almost legendary `Starbuck' had been recovered after being MIA following a run-in with a Cylon patrol. She had in fact more or less rescued herself, commandeering and hotwiring a Cylon craft to make her triumphant return. Just in time. In an absurd gesture of sentimentality Adama senior had kept the search going for far longer than he should, compromising their resources and their defensive capabilities in the search for the young pilot. Roslin was very glad that the young pilot was retrieved. Every loss was a tragedy, particularly one who burned so brightly as Kara Thrace. But Adama's cry of never leaving anyone behind rang hollowly in her ears. How many had they left behind on the ships not capable of FTL travel? How many billions condemned to death on Caprica and the other colony worlds?

If this was how it was supposed to be, the Lords of Kobol had a lot to answer for.

"The Lords of Kobol are myths to frighten children. I was sent by the one true God. His Chosen."

Roslin shivered. This was impossible. "Why are you here? Why me?"

The woman sat down opposite, took hold of one of Laura's hands. Laura tried to pull back but found it impossible. The woman trailed her long fingers over Laura's hand, the movement soothing, almost sensual.

"Why you indeed, Laura Roslin? Think of the path, the coincidences, the chain of events that had to occur to get you to be President, to put you in this place, in this time. I told you who I was when I last came to you. You know what I am from your researches since. I know you've been trying to find me, even though I said it was not necessary, that I would come to you. And here I am."

Without her spectacles she looks young, more vulnerable. I can see why she prefers to hide behind them in public. We Cylons are not the only ones to wear a mask of humanity. I stop tracing my fingers over the fine bones and ligaments of her hand and bring it to my lips. Softly, I kiss her palm, pressing her fingers to my cheek. "Do I seem a figment of your imagination?" I asked.

"You don't exist. What else could you be?" she whispered.

"You would prefer to believe me an hallucination, a figment of your diseased mind and body than a true visitation. Interesting. Do you say your prayers, Laura Roslin? Do you believe in the Lords of Kobol. You swore to uphold their laws at your inauguration. Was that a lie?"

"What business is it of yours if I pray and which gods I favour?" Laura asked, her voice harsh. In truth she did not know. School teachers and politicians could not afford to be seen as any less than true believers in the Lords of Kobol. Unbelief was not an option though Laura Roslin's faith had withered and died in her mother's sick room, watching her die of the same cancer that was now killing her.

"These things are important. Faith is important, Laura. Without faith, we are nothing. That counts for humans as well as Cylons. We are built in the image of faith, we are the hand of God in his universe, the embodiment of His will and desire. And He desires you to live, Laura Roslin. He has commanded me to you to ease your way."

I reached out, stroked a heavy lock of hair back from her brow. "It is not too late to accept our offer. You betray nothing and no-one by doing so. Your people will continue to benefit from your leadership, your vision. You see so clearly, Laura, so very clearly. And you must see clearly for us all, now."

Suddenly Laura found herself in the deep forests that blanketed the reserves on Caprica. There were things in the shadows, human or Cylon she could not tell. Either way she could not let them find her. She started to run through the trees and then there was a bright light and the woman stood there, holding out her hand. "You will be safe with us, Laura, I promise you. And there will be no more pain, not unless you choose to experience it."

And then she was lying on the grass with the woman beside her, her red dress gone, her pale limbs almost glowing in the rich silver moonlight. Laura wanted to hide her wasted cancer-ravaged body from such beauty, she was not worthy, but the woman would not permit it. Her kisses were cool on Laura's skin but seemed to set her burning deep inside. It was so long since anyone had touched her like this. She had devoted her life to the service of others, as a daughter, a teacher, a carer, a politician. How long had it been since someone's lips whispered over her skin, someone's hands touched and teased her flesh? She did not know. But nothing, nothing in her life had prepared her for this. She stared up into the Cylon's dark eyes. "Don't make me choose like this," she whispered. "Don't show me this then take it away again when I wake."

"You've already made your choice, Laura, or you would not be here. When you made that choice I do not know. A moment ago, an hour, a day, maybe you've always been living by that choice and have only just recalled it. It is not given to me to know these things. I am but a tool." The woman smiled, almost sadly and for the first time Laura saw a glimmer of humanity in her gaze.

"You believe that you return to your God and are reborn when you die," Laura remembered what Adama had told her of his interrogation of the Cylon spy in the munitions dump.

"Yes," she said.

"If that is the case, why are you offering me eternal life?"

"That is what we have. Our bodies die, are destroyed but our souls live on in God's light. You will be the same as us. And you will be your own self. You are so special, Laura. So very special. But that is for the future. In this time and place we will take away your disease, your pain." She kissed her way down Laura's body making her feel things that she had not felt for far too long.

"Will you stay with me?" Laura asked. "Will I see you again?"

"Of course," the woman said. "You are my... cause, my duty, my mission. I will stay as long as you need me. I will do whatever you want me to do."

"Just love me," Laura whispered. "Here and now, real or imagined. Just love me, make me feel again, just in case it's the last time."

The End

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