A Prayer to Aphrodite

This was insane.

She should stop now, but it was too much. The food and the wine and the music had opened something in Laura Roslin, something old and primal and overpoweringly sublime. She stared at Kara Thrace, who looked radiantly androgynous in the clothing they'd been given, and aimed. The pillow. Straight at her head.

Kara avoided the attack neatly, and caught Laura right across the midsection, sending her sprawling across the enormous bed in the suite the leaders of The Joining had provided for them. Laura rolled, sending half a dozen pillows flying as she got tangled in her own gown, laughing hysterically as the two women dissolved into a full-out pillow fight.

"Really presidential, Madame Sneak-Attack," Kara taunted as she grabbed the largest pillow, an enormous green thing that looked heavier than it was, and held it over Roslin's head menacingly.

Roslin tucked the filmy fabric between her knees and rolled out from her, nabbing a smaller, but easier to manage pillow as she did. "All's fair, Flirts With Strangers." She swiped at Starbuck, missing, and gasped as the younger woman lowered the enormous cushion over her face.

"Say uncle," Kara said, pushing hard. "Come on, Leader of the Human Race, say uncle."

"Uncle," Laura gasped. Her stomach hurt from laughing, something she'd done a lot of over the past three days.

Kara released her, tossing the pillow onto the floor and leaning back on to sit on her feet next to the older woman. The younger woman stopped short of crowing, her slim body erect, head held high, eyes sparkling with laughter, and a proud, almost arrogantly pleased-with-herself expression brightening her slender features.

"You fight like a girl," Laura gasped, still giggling.

"Damn straight, Madame Loser, and don't you forget it." Kara leaned over to grab her back pack, pulling a stogie from a side pocket. "Mind if I…?"

Laura rolled her eyes. "That's a disgusting habit."

"Not nearly my most disgusting habit, ma'am, if you don't mind my saying so." But Starbuck put the cigar back and leaned back on the bed, hands behind her head, long legs stretched out in front of her. "Now, this is the life."

Laura Roslin looked around her at the room she and Kara had been sharing since they arrived for negotiations with the Elders of The Joining. It had seemed amazingly tacky at first--a huge, oval room, the walls draped, womblike, in rich, dark fabrics. An enormous round bed dominated the room, which seemed to have no facility for work or study or even snacking. No, this room was meant for sleeping--or at least, being in bed. "It's a little…erm, Clouds of the Master's Grace for me," she said, shrugging.

Kara raised her eyebrows. "Why, Madame President. I would have never spotted you as the connoisseur of soft-core erotica." She grinned, taking in a deep breath. "You learn so many interesting things when you escort the President on diplomatic missions." With a nod, she added, "So are you into all forms of porn, or just the Master/slave stuff?"

Laura grabbed a pillow and slammed it into Kara's gut before lying on her back next to her. The bed was enormous and could have easily fit six adults. The Citizens of The Joining were believers in family, and had no understanding that two women would travel together without being related, either physically or spiritually. It had bothered Roslin at first, wondering at the propriety of sharing a bed with her security guard, but in the end it had turned out fine.

The president stifled a yawn. It had been a long three days, filled with agonizingly detailed formal protocols, endless rituals, and more food and comfort than either of them had known in ages. It seemed inevitable, to her mind at least, that the Colonial Fleet would eventually meet and establish contact with non-Colonial cultures. It was also inevitable, to anyone with even the simplest understanding of basic economy, that the Colonial Fleet needed resources, and one of the ways in which to acquire resources was through trade with other cultures.

Thus the trip to The Joining's home world, guests of their Council of Elders. Adama had argued, bitched, threatened, and cajoled, but she insisted on coming. The Joining was matriarchal, completely without men, and had been very adamant about negotiating only with the Colony's female leader. She'd considered bringing Elosha as her advisor, but Adama only agreed to let her go if she brought a bodyguard.

Starbuck. While Laura liked and indeed trusted Kara Thrace, she'd been uncertain how the girl would react in diplomatic situations and with cultures possibly very different from their own. To her great relief, Starbuck had risen admirably to the occasion. She was charming and funny, very popular with the Citizens of The Joining, who saw her as some blonde warrior goddess of exotic and exciting origins. Not to mention Kara was an excellent judge of character, and was able to get information informally that the pomp and ceremony rendered virtually inaccessible to Roslin.

Besides, Kara Thrace was wickedly funny, and a decent short-term roommate.

"I prefer my domination erotica soft-core," Laura replied smoothly, affecting the same nonchalant pose on the bed next to Kara, eyes straight up, head resting on folded hands. "I only like hard-core fluff."

That broke Kara up. "Permission to speak freely, Madame Roommate?"

Roslin made a long show of considering it. "Permission granted, Lieutenant Smart-Ass."

"You are nuts."

"Am I?"

"Yup," Kara said. "Then again, I'm certifiable."

"Who better to be my security guard, then?"

"Brilliant tactical choice, if you ask me."

"Well, you have to be brilliant to be president," Laura admitted. "Ask any president." She felt guilty, being sleepy with gluttony, but damn it, there had to be some perks to counterbalance the mind-numbingly monotonous burden of the presidency.

"I think I'm going to explode, Madame President. Was Citizen Arika really trying to get you to donate eggs to The Joining?"

"She wanted yours, too," Laura said. "She thinks you're a magnificent physical specimen, and that your DNA would add greatly to The Joining's genetic base."

"You politicians sure know how to flatter a person, don’t you?" Kara rolled her head over slightly, cheek pressed into a deep golden cushion as she faced the older woman. "So what did you say?"

"I respectfully declined." Laura rolled over, too, looking into Kara's face. Citizen Arika was right--Kara Thrace would definitely be a benefit to any gene pool. "I told them I'd ask you."

"You're kidding."

Laura shrugged. "It's not my decision to make. The Joining’s not a bad place, you know. I wouldn't mind knowing my daughters grew up with women like this, in a place like this." She frowned. "But I'm not about to risk introducing the genetic code for breast cancer into the gene pool of these good women."

"I know what you mean. But don't you think it would be weird, knowing they could record your DNA into their computers, frak with it, and produce generation after generation of your descendents, without you ever even seeing them?"

"It's not our place to judge their culture, Kara. Especially when they have traded so generously with us."

"Yeah, best not to piss off our temporary food suppliers, right?" Starbuck paused, considering the idea for a long moment. "I don't think I could do it."

"I'll let Citizen Arika know you've declined the offer?" Laura yawned again, squinting slightly as she did.

"Yeah." A tiny cloud seem to darken Starbuck's face for a moment, and her voice was quiet when she spoke. "It's not that I don't want to have kids, you know? I mean, someday I guess I'd like one. Or two. But to never know them?" She lifted her head slightly, punching the pillow to the exact right consistency, then said, "I couldn't do that."

They lay there silently for a long while, each lost in her own thoughts, resting in that big cloud of a bed that on a world so different from the metallic reality to which they'd been confined for months. Finally, Kara's question was barely a whisper. "Do you regret not having children?"

Laura closed her eyes, drawing in a deep breath. At Kara's age, she'd always thought 'someday.' Someday I'll settle down, or not, and get a house in the country, or the city, and have a kid, or two. I'll find the right man, or woman, and make a simple life together with him, or her.

But someday got replaced by the End of the World, and all the crap that followed. The war. Refugee status. Cancer. No, someday wasn't coming for her, and she found, to her amazement, that she felt nothing but relief. "No, I don't regret it. Given the circumstances, I'm glad I have no children to worry about."

"You have the whole human race to worry about, Madame Mother Figure." Kara's eyes were twinkling with the same good-natured insubordination she'd kept bubbling just under the surface throughout the trip.

Laura couldn't help but enjoy the fact that, at least when they were alone, Kara Thrace didn't give a flying frak about protocol. In public, she was the perfect soldier, respectful and courteous and polite. But out of the spotlight, Kara seemed to release that wound up energy inside her, and that release came out through a marvelous and decadent disregard for authority.

After months of having her ass kissed and playing political games and jumping through hoops to keep everybody from going for their neighbors' throats, it was glorious and liberating for Laura to be with someone who just was over the whole President of the Twelve Colonies thing. "Not tonight," Roslin said, with her own twinkle. "Tonight, I'm Laura of Caprica, sharing my last night of opulence with Kara of Caprica, as guests of the charming and generous ladies of The Joining. I'm nobody's mother figure tonight."

"I see the whore-house décor has brought out the vixen in you, Laura of Caprica," Kara teased. "Shall I find one of the nubile young Citizens who've been clamoring to teach you all about The Joining's hospitality since we arrived?"

"Oh, I don't know. There were so many nubile young Citizens to choose from…I'd hate to choose the wrong one…" Laura teased in response. "Or two… Or three of them…" She chuckled as Kara lifted her eyebrows in pretend shock. "Well, it could cause a diplomatic situation if I accidentally rejected the wrong lovely. I would have to choose very carefully."

"Well, everybody knows all presidents are brilliant.”

“True, but it's such a delicate choice. Maybe, I could just try to satisfy all of them.”

“I really don't even you could satisfy all of the young women who wanted to spend time with the exotic human leader who spoke so eloquently tonight."

"No, although when I was younger," she started, then laughed. Even with a stomach full of rich food and a head made sweet and sassy by wine, she couldn't pull off that lie. "No, when I was younger, I still would have wound up in my room with my roommate, talking about all the sex I wasn't having." She grinned self-deprecatingly. "Sad, isn't it?"

"Nice to know a leader who will admit to her limitations, ma'am." Kara had rolled over, facing up again, a huge grin on her face. "But I can't imagine you never went a little wild." She nudged Laura. "Come on, spill. Surely you had to hide some indiscretions when you joined political life?"

There was a short laugh, just this side of depressed, as Laura admitted, "Nope. When they came looking for scandals, all they found was a school teacher."

The young woman lifted a single eyebrow, casting an appraising gaze over Laura's face and body. "Seems a waste to me."

Laura blushed slightly, shaking her head. "No, not a waste. It's not like I'm virginal," she said, feeling for all the world like she was in a college dorm room, sharing secrets with a girlfriend, instead of the President of the Twelve Colonies talking to her bodyguard. "I just…never put all that much energy into my social life. My career came first."

"I can understand that." Kara grinned. "I, on the other hand, am very interested in my social life. What's the point of having a career if you have nothing else in your life to enjoy?"

"I enjoy lots of things--" Laura said.

"You won't be on your deathbed thinking, Gee, I wish I'd worked harder."

"Art--"

"And it's not like you have to settle down and marry them--"

"Music--"

"Nothing clears the head like a good roll in the hay--"

"Sex…." Laura coughed. "I mean, Literature. I was going to say literature."

Starbuck gave her that well-known look, the snarky smile that generally seemed to mean, Yeah, right. Liar. "If you say so, Madame President."

"Besides, it's not like I have the time or the opportunity to have…relationships…these days," she added.

"I'm not judging you, Madame President."

Laura lifted herself up on one arm, her long hair framing her face as she gazed at the young woman on the pillow beside her. Before she realized what she was saying, she'd already spoken the words in a deep, rich whisper. "Seems a shame to waste the bed, though."

Her eyes shut momentarily in horror at what she said.

Kara lifted herself slowly onto one arm as well, facing Roslin with a look of incredulity on her face. "Pardon me?"

Laura felt the blush forming at the base of her neck. She cursed the stupid Joining costume, which showed far too much of her pink and quickly reddening skin for her comfort. "I, uh…"

"Laura Roslin." Kara's face was lit with amusement, a huge grin widening her features. "Are you flirting with me?"

"I'm sorry. I meant no disrespect."

"You are." She laughed, not unkindly, but almost as if she'd won a bet with herself. "You are flirting with me. That's wonderful!"

"I…I'm sorry, Kara. It must be the--"

"Don't blame the wine," Kara said to her, her voice charged with intensity. She stared at Laura, still radiating a sort of excitement, but there was none of the jocularity that normally seemed to permeate her entire body. She spoke quietly, smoothly, and with more presence and authority than Roslin had ever seen the young woman show. "Are you seducing me, Laura?"

"It was inappropriate," Laura whispered.

"Frak inappropriate." Kara lifted a single hand to Laura's face, brushing a stray lock of hair from the older woman's chin. "Frak 'Madame President,' frak propriety, frak what should be and what shouldn't be."

Laura felt herself leaning into the young woman's touch, a thrill of something she'd thought long-dead shooting through her veins as Starbuck continued to talk in low whispers.

"Do. You. Want. To. Frak." Her palm curved around Laura's face, and the older woman moaned slightly, resting her cheek on Kara's hand. "Madame Bright Eyes?"

Laura looked at the woman lying next to her, her soft blonde hair, the angular face. Her full lips and delicate features. She thought of her healthy body, her strength and energy and enthusiasm, and felt a wave of longing deep inside her. A remembrance of longing, a remembrance of passion and freedom and grace.

"Yes," she whispered, her own voice hoarse and cracked with fear. "Please forgive me," she moaned as she pressed her lips into the palm of Kara's hand, kissing the flesh as her breath quickened in her chest. "Please forgive me."

"There's nothing to forgive," Kara said as she pulled the shivering woman into her arms, wrapping her in a strong embrace. Her breath was hot against Laura's ears as she continued, "There's no tomorrow, Laura. There's no tomorrow, and there's no yesterday, either. There's just right now. And you don't have to beg forgiveness for anything." She pressed her lips against Laura's throat, scraping her teeth lightly over the flesh where her neck met her shoulder, delighting in the shiver of excitement she elicited from the older woman.

Laura opened her eyes, and for a moment, she saw Starbuck bathed in a cloud of light so brilliantly golden that it made her want to weep. Time seemed to shift slightly, as if speeding up and slowing down, and everything else just faded into nothingness. Starbuck radiated golden light, pulsing energy illuminating her, transcendently beautiful. She shut her eyes against the blinding light, then opened them to find Starbuck staring at her, concern in her eyes.

“Chamalla?” Kara whispered. She knew about the treatments, knew that Laura occasionally had visions due to the medicine she took for her cancer.

She nodded.

“You had a vision.” She could almost see Kara gulping. “About me?”

“Nothing scary,” she whispered. “Just….” She kissed the tip of Kara’s chin. “Beautiful. Just beautiful.”

Kara relaxed visibly, laughing softly. “Yeah, beautiful. Nice to know it was nothing about snakes.”

“No snakes,” Laura agreed. She lifted her hand hesitantly, hooking the tip of her index finger in the collar of Kara’s dress. “Are we going to…?”

“Not getting scared now, are you?”

“No, just...let’s not wait too long.” Laura felt her nerves tighten. It had been a long time since she’d been with another woman. Hell, truth be told, it had been a long time period. And Kara was young. Beautiful. Strong. She leaned forward, pressing her lips hesitantly against Starbuck’s, tasting more than kissing, sensing her with the barest of touches. She could feel the shock of contact, the softness of her skin, smell the faintest echo of cigar smoke. It made her giddy, this closeness she’d forgotten, and she lingered there, exploring the girl’s mouth, finding every curve and nuance with her lips, the tip of her tongue, the slight scraping of her teeth.

Kara was beautiful, and it was okay, she rationalized as passion began chiseling away at her reserve. Kara was smart. Kara was experienced, probably more experienced than Laura, if truth be told. Kara knew what was coming, and she wanted this. Kara’s skin tasted like sweat, salty and tangy and clean, like hard work and fun. Kara’s lips tasted like cigars and late nights and ambrosia, sweet candy and long kisses. Kara’s body was hard, and her dress came off quickly, tearing in Roslin’s trembling hands.

“Frak.”

Kara was laughing at her, and Laura felt a wave of excitement, joy at this ridiculous pairing, this wonderfully spontaneous gift from the gods. She muttered a half-felt sorry, knowing full in her heart she was glad for the torn fabric, might even take a bit of it with her back to Colonial One as proof this dream really happened.

She leaned back, allowing Kara to pull the dress off her, less clumsy, no tearing. She felt awkward, too old, too saggy, too broken physically to be naked next to her young warrior, but Kara’s eyes gleamed with appreciation as she took a long, slow glance downward. “Sweet,” she whispered to Laura, her voice too sexy to be totally human.

What if she’s a Cylon, a little voice in her mind whispered. Are you sleeping with the enemy?

“What?”

“Nothing,” Laura said, pushing hard against Kara’s lips, pressing their bodies together as she claimed her mouth fiercely. To quiet the doubts. To quiet the voices.

She was top of the list. Adama made sure his top people were checked. Mouth to throat, hand on breast, drowning in her scent. Baltar cleared her. Her hands pushing Laura down, back into the pillows. Can’t trust Gaius. Something wrong with him. So very distracted.

“You’re distracted.” Kara stopped, pulling back hard and gathering her knees defensively against her chest. She looked hurt, and Roslin could have kicked herself. “You’re having second thoughts.”

“No,” she murmured.

“It’s not working for you.” Lips heavy and full. Frakking beautiful mouth.

Why the hell couldn’t she concentrate?

“No, it’s not that at all.” Laura shook her head gently, hoping to clear away her doubts and confusion. “I just…I haven’t done this in a while.”

She couldn’t decide whether the look of dawning realization on Kara’s face was insulting or charming. “Oh,” she said simply.

“I’ve been celibate since the attack on the Colonies,” she said, as if that needed mentioning. Of course, she’d been celibate. Colonial One was hardly a bastion of privacy, and even if it were, she hadn’t the time or the opportunity to have any real sort of social life.

“Well, yeah. You’re the president. Not like you have a whole lot of free time for fun.”

Laura looked away, unable to meet her steady gaze. “No, it’s not just that. I’ve been…single…for a long while. When my mother got sick, when I got sick—the first time, a few years back—I just….” She pushed her hair away from her face, sniffing in deeply. “I just stopped, you know. Just pulled away from it, and from everybody.”

“I can understand that. But it’s not the same anymore. You’re alive now, and you have to take advantage of it while—“ Kara stopped short, realizing what she was about to say.

“While I still can. While I still have the energy. Before the cancer eats at me, destroys me, kills me.” She wiped hard at her cheek, furious with herself for allowing this to get emotional. “My brain was playing tricks on me. Trying to convince me you were a Cylon.”

“If I were a Cylon, you’d already be dead,” Kara pointed out.

“It’s just a trick of my mind. ‘She’s a Cylon.’ ‘He’s really married.’ ‘This one’s just using you.’ My mind has been doing this to me for a long time. Every time I get too close. Every time it gets too real.” She smiled ruefully. “I’m sure this inspires a lot of confidence regarding my ability to lead, huh?”

Kara shrugged. “We all have our crap, right?” She leaned over, kissing Laura gently on the lips. “I’m not a Cylon. I’m not using you.” With a wicked grin, she added, “And I’m definitely not a married man.”

“No,” she laughed. “No, I’m pretty sure you’re not a married man. Oh, gods….” This was in response to Kara’s hand on her shoulders, gently massaging her neck, stroking her collarbone. “Uh, yeah,” she stuttered, losing her grasp on coherent thought as Kara’s lips joined her hands in a slow and thorough exploration of her throat. She sighed as her body began to respond, a slow rush of pleasure here, then a kick of lust to the stomach as the young woman found a particularly sensitive spot. "What were we talking about?" she choked as Kara's lips burned a path down her collarbone to the swell of her breasts.

"Who said we were talking?" Kara eased her downward slightly, flat on her back as the young woman began placing soft, nibbling kisses over her breasts. It felt delicious, the warmth of her hot breath on Laura's skin, her hair tickling Laura's face as she flicked her tongue across the right nipple.

"Talking is…" Laura yelped as Kara grazed the nipple lightly with her teeth. "Highly, um, oh….overrated…" She laughed at herself, trying to carrying on a conversation while a beautiful blonde was doing wonderful things to her breast. Laura closed her eyes, allowing herself just to feel for a change. Kara paid enormous attention to her nipple, sweet darting kisses, tickling it with the tip of her tongue, while her right hand pressed flat against Laura's belly, sending a flare of energy through the older woman's nerves. "Oh, gods…" Again, not the most original thing to say, but Kara didn't seem all that concerned with conversation. Her fingernails dug into the flesh just over Laura's solar plexus at the exact time her teeth bit down firmly on the nipple, and the older woman bucked in surprise. "OH, my gods," she laughed, running her fingers through Kara's short, boyish hair.

"You said that," Kara looked up at her with a hint of amusement in her eyes.

"I didn't think you were listening." It was hard to concentrate. Kara had abandoned the nipple and was kissing Laura's chest, the hollow above her collar bone, nibbling her shoulders, while gently pressing down on Laura's stomach, a slow, agonizing pressure to her midsection that made the older woman terribly, undeniably aware of her lower body.

She hated being passive, but she couldn't help lying there, luxuriating in the self-indulgence of being made love to. She closed her eyes, focusing her mind on the sensations, the feel of Kara's lips and teeth on her flesh, the pressure on her lower abdomen, the scent of the girl and the sound of her breathing, her tiny moans as she found another spot to torment with kisses and bites and licks.

It was hypnotizing, this basic human activity, this joining of flesh and spirit, and Laura felt herself lulled into a deep peaceful place, a place where all she had to do was feel and respond, with movements and moans and whispered endearments. It was bliss, utter release, a welcome death to the relentless weeks of hyper-responsibility she'd experienced since leaving Caprica.

It would have been perfect. It was perfect, until she felt Kara straddle her, felt her lean down to pay attention to her other breast, the neglected one.

The defective one.

She stiffened as Kara's hands brushed over the hard, unforgiving knot of tissue that defined her cancer.

Kara immediately pulled her hand away, and the spell was broken. Laura opened her eyes to see Kara staring at her, embarrassed, uncertain what to do or say. "Did I…hurt you?" she asked quickly.

Laura shook her head no, remembering deep to the core what made her celibate, what made her hide herself from the touch of another human. This horrid mortality of hers, neatly packaged in a hard tumor under her left arm, seemed an impenetrable barrier between Laura Roslin and the rest of the human race. She caught her lower lip between her teeth, struggling to regain her composure, to offer some comfort to the young woman who still straddled her, who shone above her like Artemis and Aphrodite all wrapped up in one beautifully flawed individual.

"It's okay," she whispered. "It always…unnerves people, the first time they see it." She avoided eye contact. "When my mother first contracted breast cancer, I couldn't look at my own breasts for a week after I first saw her tumor. It's like hearing someone you know died, and subtracting your own age from theirs." She smiled, a faint reflection of her standard political smile, intended to reassure and relax, failing at both tasks. "It's a normal response, Kara."

"I'm not afraid of it," Kara said softly. She leaned forward so that she was supported by her hands pressed into the bed around Laura's waist. "May I?" she asked.

Laura hesitated, uncertain what was being asked of her. Then she realized what Kara was saying. Instead of being repulsed, Kara was asking for permission to examine the tumor more closely. She shut her eyes, feeling more than just naked, and nodded her assent.

Kara leaned forward, lifting Laura's arm very gently and examining the growth. Laura didn't need to watch. She was intimately familiar with it, an ugly red reminder of her own mortality.

"This," Kara said after she'd studied it, "is cancer." She pulled herself up slightly, still leaning on her hands but moving until her face was close to Laura's. The older woman couldn't help but look directly into her eyes. "This is the enemy. Well, this is an enemy." She spoke slowly, as if teaching a lesson in anatomy. "It is not Laura Roslin. It is not Laura Roslin's body or her soul or her personality or her sexuality. It's cancer."

Laura found she was holding her breath. "It's so much a part of me now," she breathed.

"But it's not you," Kara insisted, leaning forward to kiss her tenderly. "It's not you. You are not defined by it."

"Are you sure?" It was barely a whisper.

"Positive." She kissed her again, this time more deeply, slowly, reassuringly. "You know what, Madame Bright Eyes?"

"What?"

Kara looked at her tenderly, the most beautiful expression of kindness in her eyes. "You're going to die." She shrugged. "We're all going to die, but you've actually got the ticket in your hand."

Somehow, hearing it spoken so plainly had a calming effect on Laura. She was going to die, and soon. It was basically a simple thought, despite the enormity of it. "I'm going to die," she agreed. She lifted her head slightly to find Kara's lips, brushing her lips over the younger woman's mouth, the tip of her chin, her throat. "I'm not afraid of dying," she added.

"Are you afraid of living?"

Laura felt the familiar kick in the stomach, the tightening around her solar plexus. Am I afraid to live? Is that it? Is it terror that forces me to keep my distance, to bury myself in my work, to wallow in the presidency that has consumed my life since the destruction of the Colonies? She rested her head back on the pillow, gazing up into her warrior's face. "Sometimes," she admitted. "But not tonight."

Kara smiled, and for the first time in a long time, Laura Roslin felt safe. She lifted her arms, her hands on Starbuck's shoulders, and brought her down slowly until she rested atop her. The muscular body was not as heavy as the men she'd been with, but not as light as the women either. Kara Thrace was her own person, a life force that seemed to defy categorization based on something as mundane as gender. Laura kissed her deeply, tightening the embrace, no longer content to be a passive participant in this encounter. One kiss led to another, a gentle scraping of nails down Kara's back intensified into a desperate clawing as Starbuck pressed her body hard against Laura's. They entangled themselves in each other, neither content to take the passive role, both determined to give the other the greater pleasure, a sensual competition that led not only to moans of delight, but to laughter. Deep, uninhibited laughter from both of them.

This is bliss, Laura thought as she kissed her way down Kara's stomach, tickling her lover's abdomen with her tongue as she moved steadily lower. Living with the full knowledge that death is near, and not giving a flying frak at all about it. She dug her teeth slowly into the skin over Kara's pelvic bone, laughing wickedly as the girl yelped.

Kara retaliated by weaving her fingers through Roslin's long hair and pulling, not hard enough to hurt, but definitely hard enough to get the older woman's attention. Try as she might, Laura could not help but sigh in pleasure at the sensation the act shot through her body. She frowned at Kara's knowing look, daring her to pursue it if she felt brave enough, knowing that it didn't matter if she did or she didn't. Tonight would be what it was, and tomorrow would be what it was. Kara was right. There was no use apologizing at all.

She shook her head slightly, and Starbuck released her with a raised eyebrow. Laura gave her what she hoped was a sexy "stern school teacher look" and said, "Now, Lieutenant Starbuck, that wasn't very nice."

"No, ma'am," Starbuck replied, stroking Laura's head gently, as if to cover up for the fact that she was surreptitiously nudging the older woman's face lower. "That wasn't nice at all," she said. "You gonna punish me?"

Laura couldn't help but laugh. "I like my domination erotica soft-core, remember?"

Kara snorted, and tapped the top of Laura's head lightly. "Goof. So, when do we get around to the hard-core fluff?" She hitched her hips slightly, just in case the very broad hint went over the older woman's head.

"Greedy thing, aren't you?" But her eyes were brilliant with desire, and Laura felt a thrill of anticipation for the act herself. She'd always preferred giving to receiving, regardless of her lover's gender. It gave her a sense of control, helped ease her way into the inevitable vulnerability of being made love to.

"Horny thing," Kara corrected, her voice hoarse as Laura trailed kisses down her pelvis to her hip, then down to her thighs. "Yeah, definitely greedy," she coughed as Laura bit rather hard into the soft flesh of her inner thigh. "Bitch," she whispered, with as much admiration and lust in her voice as amusement.

"Uh-huh." But Laura wasn't paying attention to the banter anymore. She closed her eyes, brushing her lips across the smooth, tight flesh of Kara's inner thighs, reveling in the utter perfection of this woman's body. She felt callous, superficial, but she was enthralled by Kara's sheer physical beauty, her powerful physique, her strength. She truly was Artemis and Aphrodite, all rolled up into one amusing, smart-assed woman.

"Please," her warrior goddess moaned, and Laura could deny neither of them any longer. She placed her hands on Kara's thighs, spreading her legs just a bit wider, and kissed her slowly. A heady rush of sense memory came back to her, college lovers, one serious female lover back on the first Adar campaign, nights of passion--both political and physical--rushing back to her, memories of adventure and heartbreak and sex.

She sighed, narrowing her focus, forcing her mind to concentrate on the here and now, to give her lover that courtesy. She concentrated on what was before her, the tender skin, slick with anticipation, sweet and salty to the taste. She concentrated on what her mouth was doing to Kara, exactly where she was kissing, licking, and scraping with her teeth. The places she herself liked to be touched, modified based on Kara's reactions, with adjustments and explorations to increase her pleasure. Before long, it became a meditation for her, a physical koan, a puzzle to occupy her soul. Kara's pleasure became her sole purpose, her greatest joy.

Laura found herself remembering a prayer to Aphrodite, and it echoed silently through her mind as she concentrated on Kara's clitoris, her rhythmic strokes matching the ancient rhymes she thought she'd forgotten.

Beautiful lover, angel of gold,

Sacred harlot, release my soul.

Goddess of pleasure, goddess of love,

Free my heart to soar above.

For the first time in her life, she believed in the gods, she believed in the ancient tales, and she believed, truly believed, that this woman was a messenger of Aphrodite. She moaned, burying herself deeper against Kara, tears catching on her lashes as she indulged her passion, burying her tongue inside of the young woman, tasting her pleasure, urging her higher.

It was a prayer. They were a prayer. Laura felt it in every cell, and she pulled back, replacing her tongue with two fingers, intensifying the pleasure, using her thumb to stroke Kara's clit in time with her thrusts. When Kara finally came with a hoarse cry of pleasure, Laura found herself in a state of ecstasy she hardly recognized, part sex, part rapture, part utter joy at being alive.

She carefully removed her fingers, struggling to catch her breath as she disentangled herself. After discretely grabbing some tissues from the nightstand to clean up, Laura fell on her back next to Kara, pulling the shaking girl to her, kissing her damp blonde hair and murmuring sweet sounds to her as she rocked her in her arms.

It was a long time before either of them spoke. Finally Kara drew in a deep breath, whispering, "Not bad for a school teacher."

She laughed, deep in her throat, and kissed the top of Kara's head again. "That'll teach me to be too proud of myself," she teased. Her throat felt raw, and she wished suddenly for a glass of water. But that would pass, and the pleasure of lying here with Starbuck was greater than her urge to get something to drink.

"Oh, I didn't say you had nothing to be proud of," Kara continued, kissing the hand she held, fingers intertwined, one knuckle at a time. "In fact, if I were you I'd be frakkin' selling tickets to the show."

"But you're not me," Laura laughed.

"Nope. I much more modest about my skills."

Laura nudged her hand against Kara's chin in a mock punch, then leaned over to bite her earlobe. "You, Lieutenant, are a first class brat."

"Nothing but the best for Madame La President." Starbuck wriggled in her arms until they were face-to-face. "That's my motto."

"I thought your motto was 'Frak 'em if they can't take a joke.'" She felt Kara's knee come up between her legs and gasped as the younger woman's thigh pressed hard against her sex. "Oh, frak," she groaned, embarrassed by the obvious arousal she felt at the contact.

"Why, Madame President! What have we here?"

"Kara…"

But the lieutenant ignored her embarrassed warnings, using her thigh to rub against Laura's sex, pushing her legs apart as she grasped the older woman's ass, increasing the friction.

"Kara, please…"

"Please what, Madame President," Kara purred in her ear.

"I have no idea," she admitted as she allowed herself to be drawn into the rhythm, quickening the pace as her body responded to the pressure between her legs. "Oh, frak, do whatever the hell you want."

"Heh-heh-heh…" Kara kissed her on the tip of her nose, then pulled her leg back, much to Laura's disappointment. "Spread 'em, Madame Bright Eyes."

Laura blushed furiously, but did as she was told. She chuckled, and was still chuckling was when Kara put her hand flat on her inner thigh. But when the young woman repositioned herself at the foot of the bed and gently lifted Laura's left ankle over her shoulder, Laura suddenly couldn't remember what had been so funny. All that mattered was Kara, and the scraping of her teeth over Laura's ankle, her nails scratching the arch of her foot, gentle massages, kisses.

It was as if every nerve in her body was suddenly on fire. Laura had never really considered her feet all that sensitive, unless of course she'd been in heels for five hours. But Kara was teaching her all about sensitivity, pleasurable, painful, erotic sensitivity. She moaned loudly as Starbuck started very gently biting her way up Laura's leg, paying special attention to the hollow at the back of her knee, a ridiculously sensitive area of her body that practically had Laura hitting the ceiling when Kara ran her tongue playfully over it. By the time she'd reached her inner thigh, Starbuck had raised the pitch of things almost beyond a place that Laura could stand. Her body was alive with sensation, and she was aching for release.

But when Kara spread her thighs and leaned forward, Laura felt herself tensing again.

"No?" It wasn't an accusation, just Kara making sure.

"I'm…not there yet," Laura admitted. She tried not to feel like a failure as Kara eased her way up to lie beside her. She enjoyed the giving of, but it usually took a few times with a lover before Laura felt comfortable allowing them to go down on her. She looked for any signs of hurt or disappointment in her young warrior's eyes, but found none. Kara kissed her deeply, easing her hands between Laura's legs and finding her wet. Not relinquishing her claim on Laura's mouth, Kara began to gently stroke her, finding with ease those places that most gave her pleasure. She continued to play with her, occasionally releasing her lips to whisper something shocking or risqué or downright raunchy to the older woman. Whispering in detail what she liked, inch by inch, about Laura's body. How she looked, how she felt, how it felt to make love to her. Whispering fragments of fantasies, erotic, funny, bizarre. Biting her neck, licking her ear, never relenting in her assault on Laura's pleasure. When she thought she could bear it no longer, Laura begged in a hoarse voice, "Please. Inside me, please."

It didn't take a second request. Kara thrust three fingers hard into her, curving them slightly to find that hidden spot that most lovers thought they could reach, but never did. Kara surprised her, foregoing the hard thrusting motion she'd expected and choosing instead to slowly open and close her fingers inside of Laura. It was deep and slow and try as she might, Laura couldn't urge her into fast and over with routine. No, Starbuck simply took her time, building her slowly from the inside, caressing her with each movement of her hand.

Eventually, Laura stopped struggling against her, stopped trying to control the pace. Eventually, Laura stopped being in charge. She closed her eyes, slowed her breathing. She concentrated in the silence that fell between them. She cleared her mind of shoulds and maybes, of all thoughts of will she, could she. She emptied herself, allowed herself to become hollow, and let Kara enter her, not just physically, but completely.

When orgasm came, it wasn't hard and fast, as it had always been for Laura. It snuck up on her, building slowly, easing her gently into release. Maybe it was the chamalla. Maybe it was maturity. Maybe it was Kara. But for the first time, there was no rush. There was no hurry up and come. Laura reveled in her orgasm, for the first time in her life, and it was amazing. She rode each wave of pleasure as it came, not trying to outrun it or capture it for later reflection.

And when it finally came to an end, it was more like the retreat of the tide than the harsh drop she'd always felt. She lay there, spent and exhausted and amazed at the wonder of it all. Kara eased out of her, and she rolled onto her side, facing away from the young woman. She felt arms around her, felt herself pulled back against a sweet, firm body, and sighed contentedly. When she finally found her voice, she sighed, "Your turn to brag."

"Not this time," Kara whispered, sending a thrill through her entire body as her warm breath tickled her ear.

"Suit yourself," she said as she relaxed against Starbuck, hugging the arms that held her so closely. "I'm good."

"Yes, you are."

"Satisfied," she corrected with mock annoyance. "You were…amazing," she whispered, her voice reflecting the absolute awe she felt for this woman. "Absolutely amazing."

"Don’t you forget it," Kara said, but her bravado was just an illusion. She held on tightly, nuzzling Laura's neck as she rocked her slowly. "This was good," she admitted.

"Uh-huh."

"Very good," she added.

Laura laughed. "Yes. What are you getting at?"

The shields, which Laura had almost forgotten, suddenly went up, and Starbuck's voice reflected the change. "Ain't nothing but the rain, Madame P."

Roslin frowned and turned her upper torso slightly so she face Kara without losing the embrace. "Are you alright?"

"Yeah, sure. Just great."

"Kara." Laura narrowed her eyes, her expression almost reflexive after so many years of spotting bullshit amongst her fellow politicians. She completed the turn until she was lying facing Kara, still in the other woman's arms. "Talk to me."

The younger woman looked slightly flustered, unable to meet Laura's steady gaze. "It's stupid, okay?"

"Nothing's stupid. Except guy humor." Laura was grateful for the chuckle that got out of Starbuck. "Don't abandon me now, okay?"

"Sorry. Just…" Kara rolled her eyes. "It's just I got this stupid thought in my head and I'm embarrassed to even repeat it, because it's just not gonna happen, you know?"

"What's not gonna happen?"

Kara drew in a deep breath, her lips pressing into a hard, thin line as she considered her words. "You and me. After we leave here. It's not going to happen, is it? Not again, and not like this."

Roslin felt her breath catch in her throat. It had never occurred to her that Starbuck would even want to continue this once they left The Joining. But now that the thought was there, her mind grabbed onto it. "It would be difficult," she said slowly. "My schedule, no privacy..." She saw the look in Kara's eyes and kissed her. "Difficult doesn't mean impossible. Just difficult."

Kara's look was incredulous. "You'd even consider it?"

"Why wouldn’t I?" She stroked Kara's hair, a sudden overwhelming wave of affection washing over her for this child of Aphrodite, this huntress-warrior-lover-friend. "We're obviously compatible. You know my secret, so I don't have to hide it from you. And, there's that silly little thing, oh, what is it? I like you. I enjoy your company, and I love the way I am when I'm with you. Why in the name of the gods wouldn't I at least try to make it work?" She kissed Kara's head, right where she'd been stroking the soft blonde locks. "Especially if you're interested. Are you interested?"

"I might be," Kara said slyly. "You are the first president I've ever frakked."

"And we all know presidents are incredible in bed," Laura teased.

"Just ask any president," Kara said, kissing her.

***

It took a few moments to get lockdown, and then another for Galactica security to clear them for exit. Billy and Lee were waiting as Starbuck cleared the hatch, then assisted Roslin out onto the deck. It was odd being back on the ship, Laura thought as she felt the now-familiar hum of the engines beneath her shoes. Starbuck addressed Captain Apollo briefly, winking at the President as she answered his questions with her usual tact.

She felt good. Rested, rejuvenated.

She was a goddamn walking cliché. Tired? Stressed? What you need is a good, solid frak.

Well, yeah, she thought, watching as Starbuck slid easily back into her on-ship persona. She couldn't help chuckle as the young woman saluted her, rakishly winking at the president as she returned to her duties.

It had been hard, extremely hard, to wipe the smile off her face that she'd woken up with. She didn't know how she'd manage it, but Laura Roslin was determined to live up to her promise that this would not be a one night stand.

"The Commander is waiting in his quarters to debrief you on the negotiations, Madame President."

"Debriefing. Sounds naughty," she caught herself murmuring under her breath. She stopped herself when she saw Billy's curious expression. "How are things on the home front, Billy? Any mutinies while I was away?"

"None worth discussing, Madame President," he said as they headed through the metallic labyrinth of corridors towards Adama's quarters. "How was your trip?"

She smiled, that enigmatic presidential smile that revealed far less and far more than Billy would ever understand. "Nice, Billy. It was…very nice."

End

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