Babylon II: Personal Companion to the Special Senator of the Twelve Colonies
by Jennifer-Oksana

Babylon II: Personal Companion to the Special Senator of the Twelve Colonies; Or, Inara Serra's Newest and Most Difficult Job by Jennifer-Oksana ( Fandom: Firefly/Galactica Rating: PG-13 to slightly R-ish Website: Pairings: Lee/Laura, Jayne/Kara, Kaylee/Tyrol, with bunches of UST. Disclaimer: Not mine. Ron's, Joss's, not mine. Summary: Zoe, Mal, et cetera, discover that being political advisors is more difficult than it looks; Lee doesn't like separation, and Kara finds out Jayne's good at scratching itches.

Inara had quickly learned that while there was both prestige and money in being a Companion along the fleet, from both Alliance and Colonial parties, it was toeing the fine edge between Companion services and prostitution, and it was starting to wear.

So when Zoe called Inara with the request she return to Persephone, Inara was already half-inclined to take the job just to escape her current one.

When Zoe suggested that the work would be with Senator Roslin, Inara was interested (to say the very least), but curious.

"Why would President...I mean Senator, they still call her president out here... Roslin need my services?" Inara asked.

"Can't much say," Zoe said. "Senator doesn't like her business out over the cortex, what with the Cylons and all. Will you come?"

"Of course, but..." and Inara paused. "How's Mal?"

"Happy as a little boy with too much crime to do," Zoe said. "He gets to fleece folk regularly, and Senator Roslin relies on him. I think he'll be glad to see you, though."

So it was that Inara Serra, registered Companion, had returned to the estate of Senator Laura Roslin on Persephone, wearing a gold and black embroidered choli and blouse to annoy the Anglophiles of Persephone. Of course, walking up to the estate, Inara felt the veiled insult -- such a small house! Built for a country squire, not the leader of an entire people! -- but noted, with a smile, that the line of folk who were awaiting audience with the Senator was well over a quarter-mile long, and some had clearly slept in that line.

Especially when Inara noted that at least one of the supplicants was an extremely wealthy merchant who never did his own begging, and she was allowed to waltz past the lot of them.

Zoe was waiting for her in the drawing room. She looked just the same but for the small dinosaur hanging from a delicate charm bracelet. Smiling broadly, Inara gave her a hug, and was glad when Zoe smiled and hugged her back. The hurt of Wash's death was less somehow, though it was more open now, Inara could tell.

"About damn time," Zoe said, taking them up the back stairs to the senator's bedroom. "You heard any of the scuttlebutt?"

"Only that she's taken to her bed as some sort of ploy," Inara said. "The folks outside are getting a bit restless."

"Ploy my ass," Zoe said. "Senator had a near-miss four days ago. Almost lost the baby, and then we found she's lost weight the last two months and ain't sleeping."

"What?" Inara asked. "I hadn't heard that. And I've spoken to both Adamas this week."

"She's not sharing," Zoe said. "Senator doesn't show weakness in public. Won't even let us tell Lee, in case the wave gets intercepted. So I decided to ask help for her. Your talents came to mind."

"My talents," Inara said, twisting her mouth thoughtfully. "The Colonials don't really understand Companion work. To say nothing of her husband. Do you really think I'm going to be much help?"

"Captain Adama's not here," Zoe said. "So he waives his say. And I say you're needed. Go in and talk to her and see if you disagree."

Inara entered the room, full of misgiving and wishing she hadn't cut her hair, because her fingers were twitching to twist it about. The Colonials were so puritanical, and the services of a Companion were misunderstood by many Alliance men. What could she really offer this woman?

"Senator Roslin?" Inara asked, walking closer to the bed, and hiding the ache that twisted when she saw the much-changed woman. Laura Roslin's eyes were shadowed and hollow, and her hair was dry, dull, and brittle-looking. Zoe was right: the Senator needed someone, and Inara could provide any number of personal services that the Senator needed. "Laura?"

"Inara," said Laura, holding out her hands affectionately and smiling. Smiling back, Inara took them. "Zoe told me that I'm to submit to anything you tell me to do, unless I feel it damages my martial vows."

"You're not well enough for a sexual encounter even if I thought that was the answer," Inara replied, ignoring the exasperated little sigh that went with Laura's smile. "A true Companion, however, knows that the physical body must be well-treated to soothe the soul and balance the psyche, and those treatments are varied. Now, take off your clothes."

Laura almost refused, but she was clearly traumatized by what had happened to her, and she did was Inara said without complaint. Inara, still appalled at how brittle Laura was, promptly called for massage oil, candles, and any number of small items. Inara then was allowed to give the senator a real and lengthy massage, though instead of being drawn into conversation, Laura stared at one of the lit candles silently.

"Have you asked Lee to come home?" Inara finally asked, working on the other woman's hands and wrists.

"Every week," Laura replied dully. "He's not at liberty to leave yet. Why? Has Simon told you that he's needed?"

"Well, Senator, something is needed," Inara said tartly. "You are severely touch-deprived, Laura. That's not good for you, especially considering that you went from near-constant physical contact with your husband to bi-weekly waves without any substitutes for his presence. And I agree with Simon that the lack of physical touch is contributing to your mental state and exacerbating the shock."

Laura blinked. "Is that your expert opinion, Inara?" she asked, rallying a little of her own spirit. "I'm not touched enough?"

"Companions are given psychological training," Inara said. "And it's a fact that humans need touch. A pregnant woman under as much stress as you are needs even more, not none at all. I wish Kaylee were here -- she'd be more than willing to give you exactly what you need. She's good at touching and is also very pettable."

Senator Roslin's eyes went wide as she considered the full implications of the statement. "Inara," she said. "Are you genuinely suggesting that I need to pet someone? Or be petted? I admit I feel almost human again, but..."

"I'm entirely serious," Inara said. "Someone needs to cuddle with you regularly."

"Cuddle? With me," Laura said, shaking her head. "Inara, I have enough demands on my life. I do not need to force some poor soul to..."

Inara, noting that Mal and Laura were clearly kindred souls when it came to sheer stubborn contrarian behavior, ran her still-oily hand up Laura's spine before running her fingers down one of her arms. With a slight gasp, Laura shivered and stilled.

"See what I mean?" Inara said smugly. "We're going to make an arrangement, you and I. I'll be your personal Companion until you're delivered and Captain -- sorry, Lt. Commander -- Adama comes home."

"A personal Companion?" Laura asked. "My husband will throw a fit. In fact, he would be quite appalled I'm even entertaining the notion."

"And I think Lee should come home if he's got a problem with it," Inara said, finding that she was really in favor of this idea. Zoe was right; she was needed here, and it would help clarify the Companions to the Colonial fleet and make them some allies. "I'm not suggesting union if it would be a strain on your marital relationship. Though given the way you react to good sex, I think you should consider it."

"INARA!" Laura said, blushing. "Gods. Everyone knows too much about my sex life."

"You need to be touched," Inara said. "Hair brushed, hugged, petted, massaged, and maybe kissed every day. I can get Simon to sign off on it. Doctor's orders, you need loving. This isolation is bad for mother and baby. Also, if you don't start thinking about it, I'll tattle about the near-miss to Kaylee and then everyone will know."

"You're blackmailing me!" Laura said with an appalled gasp. "And you're cheating by telling me it's good for the baby."

"I'm definitely cheating," Inara said smugly. "You're vulnerable and tired, and really, really need to be loved. And we love you, Laura. It's not just professional regard. Zoe loves you, I love you, Billy asks after you every day and so does Dee, Mal worships the ground you walk on, Kaylee loves you, Simon frets over you being stubborn...wo de ma, even your servants like you."

"Oh, Inara," Laura said, suddenly sniffling. "You're trying to get me to cry."

"No, bao-be, don't cry," Inara said, rushing to get a robe on the senator and ease her to a better position for sitting or sleeping. "I don't know why your fleet is crazy, but you're shiny. Why else would I offer to be your Companion? It would be an honor and a pleasure to serve you in whatever capacity you asked."

"How about as a friend?" Laura asked.

"Of course a friend," Inara said. "But as I've said, Companions are professionals. I'm offering the things your handsome young men are supposed to be good for. You need a wife pretty seriously right now, Senator."

"I have Mal," Laura pointed out, trying not to be unkind. "He does all right."

"As a public husband," Inara said. "But I'm not worried about the public senator. I saw the line to get in here and she's very well off indeed. I am worried about Laura, who needed her husband or a decent substitute two months ago."

"This is madness," Laura answered in Chinese. "You've half-convinced me, you know. I keep thinking how much I miss Lee. About how I miss waking up with him."

"Then let me help," Inara said, realizing that she meant every word. She wanted to be Laura's Companion, and if she secretly hoped the senator would change her mind about union, it was nothing worse than when Mal was being unaccountably jealous about Lee Adama. "It will be an honor to work for you."

"We'll see how you feel about that in a month or two," Laura said, pulling her sheets up. "But...bring me a preliminary contract and I'll see how I feel later."


Mal, of course, was much harder to persuade than Laura, who was practical, lonely, and probably already thinking of ways to turn Inara's companionship into a political coup. He was Mal, after all.

"Are you nuts?" Mal asked. "You're acting as Companion to the good senator? Contracted and everything? Without so much as a word to me or that no-good husband of hers?"

"I'm not frakking her, Mal," Inara said contemptuously. "And the price is an honorarium, to make sure people understand it is a completely professional relationship."

"And now you're using their slang," Mal said. "What in the hell does Senator Roslin need a Companion for, professionally, if not for sex?"

"Touch, Mal. Emotional companionship," Inara said. "Friendship. To be adored privately as well as publicly. Her people have abandoned her to a remarkable degree, and yet expect her to be as effective as she was in the black. It's our job to stand in for her husband -- you in public, and me in private. She wasn't eating half what she should have, you know."

"Useless frakking Colonials," Mal said, shaking his head. Inara noted that he, too, had picked up the slang, but didn't deign to mention it.

"Well, in part it's because she had very few she was close to," Inara said practically, thinking of the number of duties she'd agreed to do. "I've arranged the transfer of a small Marine honor guard, but of her own people, Laura was close to Billy and Lee and the admiral. So that makes our friendships even more vital."

Mal swore. "Gorram useless, all of them," he said, looking dyspeptic. "So you're playing husband to the senator in private. What's that mean in terms a man can understand?"

"Think of how Kaylee and I used to behave," Inara said. "Hair-brushing. Small talk. Lots of fresh fruit and vitamins. Massage. Meditation. Hugs, as simple as it seems."

"And that's your new job, huh?" Mal asked. "What about me? Should I be touching Senator Roslin, too?"

"Yes," Inara said. "For heaven's sake, Mal. You're a dear friend and she's nearly five months pregnant. Offer her your arm. Kiss her hand. Be a gorram gentleman."

She expected him to bridle, but to Inara's surprise, Mal simply nodded. "That's easy enough," Mal said. "Too damn easy. Why haven't we been doing it before?"

"Because we're idiots," Inara said. "No wonder Senator Roslin's been depressed. There must be much, much more touch therapy. And the return of husbands if possible. Soon."

"No matter how useless," Mal said, looking off into space, and for a moment, Inara almost wished she hadn't come if the price was watching Mal's face when he was jealous for someone not her.


Of course, the joke was that the first request Laura Roslin made of her Companion was that Inara share her bed most nights. Given that the senator had said there was not even to be discussion of union, Inara found herself surprised and a little confused.

Things made more sense when Inara found herself woken by a blood-curdling shriek at three in the morning the second night of sleeping over.

"No...I don't want to...please...STOP IT!" Laura screamed, forcing Inara awake and setting her pulse racing. "No, no, please, I'll be good, just stop..."

"Laura," Inara said, touching the other woman gently on the shoulder. She was drenched in sweat and tossing and turning fretfully. "Laura, wake up."

With a huge, shaking sob, the senator-president seemed to shake out of her nightmare, and when Inara took her hand, it was ice cold despite the sweat. But her eyes weren't open and she wasn't speaking.

"Laura, wake up," Inara said again, her heart still thudding quickly. "You're having a bad dream."

Another sob, and Laura was suddenly clutching Inara tight, coming to full wakefulness with a jolt and cry of panic.

"Do you know where you are?" Inara asked, stroking the other woman's hair uneasily.

"I'm all right," Laura said, still clinging, breathing slowly calming. "The remnants of my visions. Sometimes they remind me of what the end..."

"Shh," Inara said, worried and soothing. "You go back to sleep. It's all right. You're safe. I'm right here."

After fifteen minutes of petting and soothing, Laura fell back to sleep, and after another five, so was Inara. They woke up fairly entangled, and after a moment of brief embarrassment, Inara realized she didn't really mind.

And if Laura minded, she kept her own counsel on it.

"Do you get them often?" Inara asked the next day, eating a bowl of millet tea. "I was frightened that you were ill."

"I get them sometimes. Usually not when the bed's shared," Laura said. "When the Cylons took me, there were experiments. The lingering effect has been flashbacks. Nightmares."

Inara was reminded of River suddenly, an image of Simon holding her in his arms and promising her she was safe flashing through her mind. Just as suddenly, it struck Inara that Laura Roslin was at least as much a psychic as River was. And a cold flash -- had Laura been the one to remind her of River just now?

How powerful could she be? Inara shook her head. That wasn't something she wanted to think.

"You have a nice bed," Inara said, smiling crookedly at Senator Roslin. "I don't mind sharing it with you."

Had She couldn't have. Could she?

"Good," Laura said with a sigh. "I'd been sleeping well until Bill dragged Lee back to Galactica. And once I had to send Billy to Parliament, I got so isolated. And when I get lonely, it gets dark."

Inara nodded. "And that's why I'm here," she said, trying to shake the feeling that there was more going on here than met the eye.


Loneliness was sitting on Serenity and seeing your wife's face across hundreds of thousands of miles, dressed like a native in a gray silk tunic with pale blue and gold embroidery. Laura had explained they were called salwar kameez, and they were much more comfortable than the other options she had for maternity clothes that still were respectable.

Lee believed her. But it still made her seem further away, that she was choosing foreign maternity clothes with others. With, it seemed, her personal Companion. The fleet had picked up that rumor fast, and soon Alliance and Colonials alike were asking Lee what his wife needed a Companion for, and Lee had asked himself the same question more than once.

"A Companion?" he said again, trying to wrap his head around the idea that Laura had hired a courtesan to take care of her. And was flaunting both Inara and Mal at every opportunity. "But you're both women. You're a married, pregnant woman. And now you're sharing the bed?"

"Dr. Tam has been very insistent that I get enough human physical contact," Laura said serenely, fiddling with her scarf. "I've been told I need to be petted, held, and made much of. Even Zoe's gotten into the act with the hair-dressing. And Mal does this thing to the back of my neck that's good for preventing headaches."

Mal. And of course the good captain had no problems with touching his wife, either. "I see," he said, trying not to seethe visibly. "Inara shares your bed, Mal gives a knockout neck massage, Zoe plays with your hair, and I get twenty minutes twice a week on the cortex."

"Come home," she said, sighing. "And then you can brush my hair, massage my neck, and share the bed."

"Gods, I wish," Lee said bitterly, thinking of the slow progress of getting Alliance defenses to his father's standards. "You do look better. You were starting to look a bit worn. Now you're practically glowing."

"I'm being well-tended," Laura said wryly. "If I sigh for too long, someone is immediately promising me tea or strawberries or asking if I need a nap or a massage. Between that and my real job, I don't have much time to be worn out anymore."

Lee snorted. "And I'm sure that soon, someone will drag you off for another dressmaking appointment," he said. "Because, of course, Madam Senator Roslin must be properly garbed for afternoon tea."

"Does it bother you terribly that I'm wearing semi-local fashion?" Laura asked, fiddling with the scarf again. "Even Billy's adopted a few styles of theirs. And I sent you and Kara and your father clothing in the latest courier package."

Lee smiled. "If you sent Blue Sun t-shirts, I'm going to be the envy of Galactica," he said. "Jayne's worn his around and the girls all want one."

"You know, I do seem to remember sending three," Laura said, smiling brightly. "And I'll save all the formal wear for when you come home. Even though I think Kara would look wonderful in some of the clothes Inara and Zoe try to put me in."

Coming home. His father was still largely wary of the Senator and Mr. Roslin (as people had it) and really, did not want Lee staying permanently on Persephone. Either of them, though it was clear Laura thought of her estate as home and Galactica was no place for a baby.

The thought of the baby, and seeing wife and baby, made the jealousy bubble up in Lee over again. That Mal and Inara could share so much of her life and him so little was painful, and yet he could hardly wish them gone.

"I miss you," he said. "I miss you so much."

"And I miss you," Laura said in a warm, rich voice that was shaded with sorrow. "I love you. Come home to me."

"As soon as I can," Lee promised, and like every time, he wished soon was sooner. "Love you."


The bi-weekly wave done, Laura logged off the cortex and turned it off (networked computers still rather giving her the creeping horrors), thinking of all the things that went unsaid between herself and her husband. There had been no mention of the near-riots between the Alliance and Colonial militaries, nor what she was sure was a seething rumor mill about the President and her personal prostitute, or about Adama's recent public statement that he felt that Colonial settlers would not full integrate in this generation.

But Laura didn't begrudge Lee for minimizing that turmoil. She hadn't mentioned the kissing, after all.

Inara had convinced her of the kissing and it was reminding Laura that she DID miss sex, even now, and Inara had been banished away from the bedroom for those moments when Laura needed privacy and her actual husband.

But there had been one incredibly dangerous kiss in the morning, as Laura had been coming out of a dream of her well-beloved husband. Fortunately it had been her husband, as Laura had no desire in ever, ever discussing the others who made occasional appearances with anyone. Much the way Laura had never asked about Kara or the other pilots and how one handled military stress and close quarters, Lee never needed to have thought to ask about what Mal did to Laura, or Billy, or Inara, or or gods help them all, his father...had done in those downright pornographic visitations.

They had been getting extraordinarily vivid. Laura had blushed for two days after the dream she'd had of Mal, who in her dreams was very fond of feeding her strawberries before dropping to his knees and pleasing her for hours. Especially given the way he'd called her sweet nothings in Chinese and she'd called him things that did not bear remembering.

But as for dangerous kissing. Lee had been stroking her stomach as he made love to her, and Laura was so close, so she'd rolled over to embrace the warm, sleeping body next to hers. Still asleep, practically, it hadn't been hard to reach out and kiss Lee with all the promise of making those dreams into reality.

Lee who did not have enormous dark brown eyes, and didn't know how to do something with her tongue that had actually managed, when combined with the trailing ends of the erotic dream, to cause a highly embarrassing climax.

Inara had been very polite, of course, allowing the senator a few moments of privacy. And Laura was equally polite, until they'd both burst into laughter at the strained atmosphere.

"You are dangerous when you're aroused," Inara said. "Did you really just..."

"I did, and I'm so embarrassed," Laura said, propped up on an elbow and stroking her stomach to feel the baby kick. "You just did this thing and I -- well, you were there. It happened."

"I know," Inara said. "I didn't mean to kiss you back, but it's hard to say no when someone sticks her tongue down your throat as convincingly as you did. Whoever you thought I was was in for a morning in bed."

"Lee," Laura said. "I was still practically asleep, and the dream was so real, and then I realized -- gods, I'm so sorry, Inara."

"What would have been worse would be if I hadn't enjoyed it," Inara said smugly. "I am your personal Companion, after all. These are the perils of the job. And I did finally get a kiss."

"Tease," Laura said with a sigh. "I miss him, Inara. It's starting to be physically painful."

"I know," Inara said, tying back the curtains as she noted the time. "And yet he's not the only star of your early morning dreams."

"What?" Laura asked, putting her hand over her eyes again.

"You talk in your sleep," Inara said, getting out of the bed to bring the senator her robe and let the light in via the smart-blinds. "Of course, it was quite a shock to hear you tell Mal that he was a glib-tongued pirate. For a second I thought he was in the bed and I was about to be very put out."

Laura groaned and sat up. "Maybe we should reconsider where you sleep," she said. "I'm about to die right now."

"From what?" Zoe asked, opening the door.

"Pregnant lady dreams," Inara said. "Madam Senator Roslin has a very active nocturnal libido, it turns out."

Zoe smiled slyly. "I seem to remember that before Lee was shipped out, there were some problems keeping it confined in daylight, too," she said. "Have things gotten worse?"

"She's dreaming of Mal," Inara said. "Imagine how lonely your bed would have to be for that."

"Mal? Wo de ma, woman, ain't you got enough pretty boys to dream of?" Zoe asked. "I knew we should bring that boy of yours home. Next thing we know, Jayne'll find himself starring in a turn."

Laura was trying not to burst into laughter or shriek like a teenage girl, but the idea of having sex with Jayne Cobb, the man who had actually told her once, over dinner, that he'd heard she'd had sex with God and if she had, was she willing to give him a try and tell him how he compared? Broke her.

"And when that happens, you have my permission to send me back to Galactica, because I will CLEARLY have lost my mind," Laura said. "Jayne. By every lord of Kobol, my own gracious self, and the love I bear my husband, I will never be that desperate."


Starbuck wasn't sure what was worse: the crick in her neck, her hangover, or checking the snoring lump next to her and realizing that yes, she had in fact frakked Jayne Cobb.

Possibly more than once.

Possibly she had even liked it, if the state of disarray in Jayne's bunk said anything for the quality of the frakking.

Of course, last night was still sort of hazy. Serenity had hosted a mixed party of sorts, bunch of pilots from Galactica and the best of the nuggets from the Alliance. Some kind of morale-building exercise and Serenity was good neutral ground for those.

The booze had flowed like water, the music had been good, Jayne actually had real tobacco in his cigars, and Starbuck had taken three pompous Alliance assholes for their very boots at cards. Of course, that one had taken offense at being hustled by a mere Colonial, and pulled out a gun.

Jayne had dropped him with an elbow to the face.

The brawl had been sweet as hell, Kara remembered, even as she lifted Jayne's arm and noted that there were at least four loaded weapons on the floor of Jayne's bunk. Lee had taken a good head-butt, but then Mei-Mei had kicked a few assholes and it had been over fast.

"You sneakin' away?" Jayne's muzzy voice asked as Starbuck looked for her boots.

"Trying to," Kara said sheepishly.

"Try quieter. I got a hangover I'm nursin' here," he said, much to Starbuck's relief.

She managed to get herself dressed, and as Kara left Jayne's smelly, gun-ridden bunk, she wondered what the old man was going to say about this many Galactica crew slumped around Serenity. Her, River, and two other pilots had apparently spent the night, and as Starbuck passed Kaylee's door, she got a hell of a shock.

Chief Tyrol and Kaylee, kissing each other goodbye, arms wrapped around waists and shoulders. Kaylee who, as far as Starbuck remembered, was dating that Simon guy, who was (of course) working for Roslin now and was back on Persephone.

"Never knew any man who got so turned on by a good engine turbine before," Kaylee teased, rubbing Tyrol's back. "I'll have to have you look at the way I got our containment field jury-rigged."

Tyrol chuckled. "I'll take that bet, Kaylee," he said, and Starbuck flattened herself to the wall before either saw her. It'd be plain mean to get in their faces, and Starbuck didn't feel like answering the question about where she'd been sleeping.

Jayne. Frak her, why Jayne? She was going to be the laughingstock of Galactica.

"You stink like cigars," River said, sitting in the Raptor with a smirk on her little, eerie face. "That's what happens when you do sex with Jayne."

"Were you watching?" Starbuck asked, suddenly remembering Kaylee's stories about trying to hide her sex with Simon from River and largely failing miserably. "That's not polite."

"You kissed him front of everyone. Jumped into his lap and stole all his poker winnings," River said, and Kara could vaguely remember that part. "That's when Apollo went home. Reminded him that his lap hasn't been jumped lately."

At least Lee was not around to hear of Kara's latest stupidity. Also, Kara didn't feel that bad for Lee's lap and didn't want to say so. "Hey, River?" Starbuck asked. "Are you going to tell everyone I frakked Jayne?"

"Why would I tell?" River asked. "That's no one's business. Besides, everyone probably already knows. Not like with Kaylee and the Chief."

"And that's another secret you're keeping, Mei-Mei," said Starbuck severely. "It's not your business and you know it."

"I know," River said placidly. "Jayne is easy to get into bed, you know. Girls are girls to him. So he'll scratch your itch and forget."

"Did you and Jayne..." Starbuck said.

"Not your business and you know it," River said, a delighted smile on her face. "Just thought you should know, you know. About Jayne. It's no sin, using what he's got to give."

Tyrol, dragging the two errant pilots along with him, was walking up to the Raptor, and Kara yawned, feeling her head was already two sizes too small today. River smiled indulgently.

"Good party, huh?" said Birch, trying to look less stupid than usual. "Good booze."

"Yeah," Starbuck said. "And I have a good hangover, so why don't we all just be quiet until we get to Galactica, okay?"


Persephone had its down points, but none were quite so heinous as those officious heraldic butlers who felt the need to announce Laura's full rank and title before she entered a party.

Especially when it was her own party.

"Madam Senator Laura Roslin, President of the Twelve Colonies of Kobol and Special Representative of the Twelve Colonies of Kobol to the Parliament," the man began, "Escorted by Captain Malcolm Reynolds and Inara Serra."

"Now that's a name," Mal teased as she entwined her arm with his and nodded to the gathered guests below. "Do I get a title, too? I could be Captain Malcolm Reynolds, Master of Serenity and Personal Representative to the Special Senator, and all-around folk hero. Just to make sure Jayne don't steal my thunder."

"Or maybe," Inara said with a snort, "You could just be Mal Reynolds, professional title maker-upper."

"I ain't seeing you complainin' about how you're the senator's very own personal Companion," Mal said, grinning as he rounded on Inara. "I just think, to keep things fair and equal, I need a title, too."

Inara snorted. "Fair and equal. Who does most of the intelligence-gathering at these events, Mal?" she said, smiling and bowing to an elderly gentleman from Beaumond.

"The senator, I reckon," Mal said, enjoying the wide-eyed look of high dudgeon come into Inara's eyes. They hadn't had a good bickering in a while, and he always did enjoy the color it brought to her cheeks.

"Children," Laura said calmly. "Flirt on your own time; we have work to do. Billy tells me that two backers of the settlement on Onyx are trying to change the terms. Find out what's going on the planet and who's pressuring the backers. Mal, I want you to press on the anti-Articles movement and where the spark is."

"And you?" Mal asked.

"I have investors," Laura said with an exaggerated gesture toward three lean, sour-faced women in suits. "They want to build a tylium refinery on their moon and serve as the stop-point for tylium production in the sector. So I can't gather tonight."

"That's a waste of your pretty dress," Mal said. Laura smiled unevenly, but it was true that Laura's gown was very beautiful -- it was a specially-made but increasingly too-small cheongsam of a rich burgundy, with grey leaves running down one side. She matched it with grey satin opera gloves, and most remarkably, a net of platinum and tiny diamonds to catch up her hair in a chignon.

"My feet are sore," Laura confessed with the grace of a woman six months pregnant and showing enough to remind people of it. "I should be off them as much as possible."

"Then we sit you down," Inara said, steering her senator to the nearest divan. "You behave yourself. Mal will get you something to eat, and don't let your temper flare."

"What temper?" Laura asked innocently. "Have you ever known me to raise my voice?"

Mal chortled. "It's not a hot temper, but you have been known to throw things. And to plot brutal death and ruin for those who cross you," he added. "You behave, Madam Senator, on behalf of that bun in your oven."

"I'll try," Laura said with a sparkling smile. "I want a mango lassi, please. Something to cool down this temper of mine."

Inara and Mal both nodded and fled together to go find the senator something to eat before catching each other's glances again.

"Scared of her?" Inara asked quietly.

"You ain't?" Mal replied.

"Point," Inara said, going one way as Mal went another.


Lee was staring up at the ceiling on his rack when Starbuck crept into the pilots' bunks. He did not look happy, and Kara cringed.

"Sorry," she said. "It got late."

"That's fine," Lee said distantly. "Someone asked me today how I felt about the President's Companion. I said it was her business. It took me a moment to realize that I just said it was all right that my wife is living with a prostitute as long as she's all right with it."

Starbuck started to laugh. "Don't forget to add that she's pregnant. Your PREGNANT WIFE has a Companion," she said. "And Lords only know what horrible decadent Alliance habits she's picking up on Persephone. Dressing like them, talking like them, giving up on her much-younger husband in order to be squired about by that whore and the rebel captain."

Lee choked. "What?" he asked. "Are people really saying that? That Laura is attracted to Mal? Mal?"

Starbuck broke off in mid-guffaw. "Lee, you can't didn't know that?" she asked. "Are you jealous of Captain Reynolds?"

"No, I'm happy that Laura's half a system away and being petted by Inara and squired about by Mal," Lee said, face reddening. "That's exactly how I wanted to spend my first year of marriage. Frak me."

"Sorry, can't help you there. I frakked Jayne last night, and I have a limit," Kara replied, causing Lee to roll over and look down at Kara, who shrugged. "What?"

"Jayne? Did he grunt?" he asked dryly.

"Actually, Jayne is less of a joke than you might want to believe, Apollo," Starbuck said, smirking. "I mean, he's a rude hateful man-ape, but he can frak pretty good. Lest we forget that you are doing your mom."

Lee made a noise that would have been called a shriek in a woman, and then took his pillow to Kara's head. Starbuck, squeaking and giggling, retaliated, and soon a full-scale scuffle had broken out.

"Take it back! She's not my mom!"

"You are a dirty motherfrakker who's jeaaaaalous," Starbuck trilled. "And now she has a Companion and a pirate and doesn't need her babydaddy."

"Says the Jayne-frakking reject," Lee replied, ducking a hard slap from Kara. "If he's good, I'd hate to see bad."

"Speaking of, do you have to call her Madam President or Madam Senator when you're naughty?" Starbuck said, squirming as Lee pinned both arms behind her back. "Do you get ruler-slapped?"

"Oh, you're dead. DEAD!" Lee said, as they wrestled their way to the floor. "I'll ruler-slap you!"

"Lee! Lee, let go -- oh, you like that?" Kara replied, finding an angle to start tickling Lee's knees, where he was completely easy. "Who's the man now?"

"Um, sir? Sirs?" Hot Dog asked, interrupting. "Admiral Adama wants to see you in his office."

"Both of us?" Kara asked breathlessly, still holding Lee's knee in a death grip.

"Yes, sir," Hot Dog said. "Having fun?"

"Apollo's sad because he forgot his pregnant wife, who has a live-in Companion now because he's a bad husband," Kara said, standing up and helping Lee to his feet.

"Starbuck's sad because she frakked Jayne," Lee said pithily. "We decided it was a draw."

Hot Dog, eyes enormous, nodded silently.


The meeting with his father had been surprisingly inane for a necessary meeting, and it was only after Starbuck was dismissed that Lee realized that it might have been a way for his father to save face.

"Sir, may I have a moment of your time?" Lee asked.

"Of course," Bill Adama said as Starbuck gave Lee a funny look, but left anyway. "What's on your mind, son?"

"My family," Lee said. "I know that I'm needed here, sir, but..."

"You're worried and jealous and miss her," his father said succinctly.

"We need to discuss the transition," Lee said. "When I retire from the fleet. Starbuck needs some experience as CAG, sir, and we're going to have to talk about who'd be a good go-between."

Lee hadn't missed that look of outraged disappointment that crossed his father's sober, heavy face. "Retire?" he asked. "Quit, you mean. You intend to abandon your duty."

"I intend to return to my wife and child, as I told you I meant to when I accepted this assignment, sir," Lee said, sitting up straighter.

"And your career means nothing to your wife?" Bill asked, glaring at his son through his glasses.

"Are you serious, Dad?" Lee asked. "I'm not going to be sitting on my hands once I get to Persephone, by any means. From what I can tell, Laura needs help, and once the baby comes, I'd like her to be out of the spotlight for a little while."

"What you'd like and what Laura wants are apt to be two different things if you tell her to retire," his father pointed out. "She's not going to stop until she's reformed this government, even if it means she has to run it herself."

"Which is all the more reason I need to return to her," Lee said. "Or would you prefer your grandchild be raised by servants and indifferent tutors? You've made it quite clear you're worried about Colonial assimilation. If the most prominent Colonial child of the first generation after landing is raised like a rich Alliance brat, what message does that send, sir?"

His father stared at him, clearly perturbed. "I'd like if Laura came back to us," he said. "You may not believe it, but I miss her nearly as much as you do, and I hate watching her parade around in those ridiculous clothes with no one except Reynolds and Miss Serra to help her. I could use her counsel and advice, as well."

"She's not coming back that way, Dad," Lee said. "So why don't you come with me? If the Alliance can't figure out how to fight Cylons after this much time, it's not going to make much difference in a firefight, is it? They have to learn, too."

Bill Adama's face darkened slightly, and he looked at his son evenly, giving away very little of what he thought of his son's assessment of the situation.

"All right," he said. "You make arrangements, and I will clear you for leave when you think that this fleet can spare you. I trust you enough, Lt. Commander Adama, to expect that you won't abandon your duty because of your personal needs."

"Thank you, sir," Lee said, not without a hint of bitterness. "And will you come with me to see my only child's birth?"

"If I can be spared, I can't think of anything I'd like to do more," his father said. "Are we finished, Lee?"

"I think that covers things," Lee said, coming to his feet and saluting. "Thank you for your understanding, sir."

"Thank you for yours, Commander," his father replied graciously.

Lee didn't think his father was going to like the decisions he made, but at least, this time, he had listened before they were made. And he would have wonderful news for Laura the next time he saw her on the cortex.

The thought of his wife's face when she heard he was coming home at last was enough to make Lee's step lighter as he walked toward the hangar deck and the eight hour patrol he was about to fly.

For his family. And for his duty. Because Lee Adama knew both.


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