by Jennifer-Oksana

You're starting to realize nobody knows this woman. At all. You thought she was one of those stiff-upper-lip pseudo-aristocrats like frakking Adar, that condescending stuffed-shirt son of a bitch. But it's starting to look like Laura Roslin's her own woman, and one that doesn't care much for anyone or anything except her own larger plan.

And that flash of admiration you had on Cloud Nine when she was facing you and death down with quiet competence is definitely back, and it's definitely attraction, too. There's something there, some charge, that has you intrigued.

Meanwhile, she thinks you're murderous pond scum, and the boy can't decide.

The boy's interesting. He's on a hell of an adrenaline rush, and from what you've heard, he's due it. Looks like he's become his own man last few days, telling Adama where to shove his militarism, and that's got him keyed up and ready to strike when she's not calming him down.

You've started wondering if they're lovers. It's not that they behave like lovers. Instead, it's the way they're keyed to each other, the way she can just put one hand atop his and that restless twitch in his eyes slows and stills. He goes from agitation to calm with one approving gesture.

You know how he feels.

Evie could do that. Evie, who's been dead as long as the Adama kid's been alive, with her honey-blonde hair and heavy-lidded eyes and the way she could sing for you. Nobody ever asks you about Evie, about the Sagittaran girl whose life and death were the fault of a corrupt and decadent government that did not care. They'll ask you everything else, but not one question about the woman who was at the very center of your life.

No nineteen-year-old boy should save his wife's life and then be forced to watch her die anyway, you think, and it gives you chills because you usually hear Evie say it. Evie and her sweet voice that's as real to you as anything. Tonight, it's Laura Roslin saying it, and you can almost feel her smile sympathetically as she does.

"Tell me now, Mr. Zarek," is what she actually says to you, looking at you with angry, accusing eyes as she sits next to you. "What do you get out of this?"

"The honor of your presence," you answer with a wry smile. "A chance to tell that militaristic son of a motherfrakker Adama where to shove it, and that drunken running dog of his, too."

"Of course," she says dryly. "Next question. Why do I fascinate you so much, Mr. Zarek? Every time I look up, you're staring at me. And I don't think you think I'm a holy woman, so don't let's waste time on that."

She gives you a twisted glare of a smile and you sigh. "You remind me of my wife," you say, starting with a truth. "The way you are with the boy."

Apparently, this is the wrong thing to say. "Captain Apollo is an advisor and an ally. There's nothing untoward going on," she says briskly.

"I didn't mean it that way," you protest. "I was trying to pay you a compliment. Evie was the kindest woman I ever knew. She could calm a man instinctively. That's all I meant."

"Thank you," she says coolly, but her gaze is over on her Apollo. So, not lovers. Yet. "So I remind you of your wife? Why? Did she look like me?"

You force yourself to laugh. "No, Evie was a blonde," you say. "Pretty little thing, big brown eyes, and she sang the old songs. We were poor Sagittarans, Madam President. In most ways, she wasn't at all like you."

"I know the history," she says, but she's softened some, even though she's still watching the boy and sitting with ramrod straight posture. "Some tragedy, yes? She died."

"She almost drowned in the lake -- ah, our local lake," you reply. "The radiation got her, because turns out that lake was fed by an aquifer that ran too close to nuclear waste that Picon got to dump on our world. Have you ever watched someone die of radiation poisoning? Meanwhile, the company that killed her didn't pay a dime. They'd put up signs, you see."

Her gaze is slowly drawn back to you and she wets her lips quickly before answering. "I am sincerely sorry for your loss, the way I am sure you are sorry for the losses of those families who were the victims of your revenge."

Back to the aristo ball-busting bitch, but you're getting a little more of her from the nonverbal gestures. There's a certain kind of longing in her, a longing that only women have, that makes a man want to promise the moon and stars if only he can satisfy it.

"Are you afraid of me?" you ask her quietly.

"Should I be?" she asks just as quietly, and you're surprised how arousing her contempt and defiance can be.

"No," you say honestly. "I admire you."

She meets your eyes for half a second, and you start to admire her even more, because the woman's one of the greatest flirts in history, and she's managed to keep anyone from realizing except her victims. She can turn her longing on you in a split second and suddenly it's you who wants, because now you want her to look at you again. To say your name with admiration.

Or with desire. Either way.

"I see," she says, a half-smile of contentment just touching her lips. Another successful conquest, but realizing that you're enchanted has made you bold.

"What about you, Madam President?" you ask. "What do you get out of this? Everyone else has a good reason, but what's driving you? The gods? The promise of eternal immortality? A hidden lust for power? What makes you want to be the salvation of the people?"

It's worth it to watch the rapid flash of emotions cross her face and drain it of color before she gets it all back under control.

"I have nothing else to want, that's why," she lies. "I've given myself to the gods and I get to die giving directions. And I've accepted that. I simply want to do something worthwhile before I die."

"Bullshit," you say. "You could have whatever you wanted, dying or not. You know that right now, if you said the word, I'd share your bed tonight. The boy would die for you. Anyone you want is yours. The people fall at your feet. So don't sit here and tell me you have just given in passively. There's not a bit of you that gives in."

Then you see it -- fear. The dilation of her pupils, the shiver that's turned into a head toss. She most certainly does want something, but whatever it is, she will not ever speak its name.

Instead she forces the conversation into an absurdist dead end. "Are you trying to seduce me, Mr. Zarek?" she asks icily.

"I believe I'm the one who's been seduced, Madam President," you say with an easy smile, coming to your feet and taking her hand. "Get some sleep. We'll have a busy day tomorrow."

The boy is alert now, and the look he gives you almost makes you laugh. If you touch her again, he'll kill you. He doesn't even know why, really. He's probably rationalized it away as a side effect of choosing democracy and liberty and needing her as an avatar of all that. There's probably a pretty little girlfriend who's going to be crying herself to sleep now, knowing that no matter what he says to her, he belongs to Roslin.

You feel sorry for him. At least you understand that what you're feeling is the need to hear her call your name, over and over, as she claws at your back until she draws blood.

Maybe she wants more from him. You she wants almost nothing from. To stay out of the way of whatever democracy she's set up, to keep them alive until she's invincible.

You walk away, but out of the corner of your eye, you can see him asking her something, and she shakes her head. He breathes easier, nods, puts a hand on her upper arm.

She's not invincible yet. You may not know everything she wants, but you know damn well that she needs the boy, and that he's confused and aching to prove himself to his father and to his lover-to-be. It's not hard to see a disaster in the making there.

It's so hard to get what you really want in this world. For anyone.

So it shouldn't surprise her that what she wants, she can't have. And if you're going to help that along, well? It's not like that will surprise her, either.


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