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Lullaby for a Stormy Night


Title: Lullaby for a Stormy Night
Words: ~2710
Characters: Helo, Sharon, Hera
Rating: PG
Setting: Several weeks after Rapture
Summary: Helo and Sharon seek the help of a psychiatrist in the face of difficulties after they’ve been reunited with Hera.
A/N: The title comes from Vienna Teng’s Lullabye for a Stormy Night, this song makes me cry like a baby. I think I named my last fic after a Vienna Teng song too… Apologies for any grammar things. It's late and this piece has really kicked my ass.


Karl slipped the top button of his uniform out of its slot before he even reached his quarters. Though he tried his best never to let it show on duty, he hadn’t gotten anything resembling a decent night’s sleep in weeks; ever the optimist, every time he got off duty he hoped that night would be the night he’d finally get some rest. As he opened the hatch, he knew that this night would not be it.

Sharon paced the floor; the bounce in her step was not one of joy, but rather a gentle motion, rocking Hera, who she kept clutched against her chest. Helo stood watching them for a moment-- the way Hera’s arms stayed to her side, refusing to cling to her mother, the way Sharon cradled her close, murmuring reassurances that failed to do so, the somnolent gaze she turned towards him as he stepped through the doorway into the room.

“Everything was fine. She was even smiling at me for a while,” she confessed; her voice rang battle-weary as he stepped forward to take their child into his arms. “Then someone started shouting in the halls and she just started crying again.” She sank down onto their rack, cradling her head between her hands. “I don’t understand it. Back on the baseship, she stopped crying when I held her. Caprica Six told me that Hera must have recognized me. But now-”

Helo traced a finger over his little girl’s cheek and saw her looking back up at him before her cries grow louder. Clutching one arm beneath her, the other around her side, Karl pulled her close and whispered a gentle rush of air. “Shhhh. It’s alright, Hera. Daddy’s here.” He let out a kind of sigh that made him cringe at the way he grit his teeth. He shook his head to shake the tension away. “Maybe she’s still sick. Should we take her to Cottle again? Maybe-”

“I did,” she cut him off. “He said everything was fine, the intestinal blockage is gone and she doesn’t have so much as a sniffle. And then he walked off complaining about how first-time parents get worked up over a case of the hiccups.”

Karl paced the floor, mimicking the motions his wife had carried out moments earlier- a light bounce in his step as he rocked their girl. “What did they say when you picked her up from daycare?”

Sharon folded her arms around her stomach. “Same as usual. She’s friendly and pleasant, she didn’t even cry when she was hungry.” She shut her eyes and drew the stagnant, recycled air deeply into her lungs, holding it as though she didn’t want to let it go. When she finally let out the sigh she so desperately needed, she looked up at him. “She’s not walking, Karl. Or talking.”

His pacing broke as he turned to face her. “What do you mean?”

“She’s eighteen months old and she can’t even stand up on her own; she isn’t even seeking out attention.”

He shook his head. “No… no, she’s… she’s different. Those… those are the milestones for human children. We don’t know-”

“If anything, being half-cylon would make her develop faster,” she snapped. “Not slower.”

Helo suddenly thought Hera felt very light in his arms and held her closer as though it would prevent her from floating away. He wanted to scream- to run down to daycare and tell them they are wrong, there is nothing wrong with his little girl, there couldn’t be. He wanted to cry- they’d had her back for weeks, weeks filled with sleepless nights, waiting to hear her tiny voice for the first time calling him ‘Daddy.’ He wanted to hold Sharon- let her know that it’s all right to shed the tears she’s holding back.

He didn’t even notice Hera had cried herself to sleep; his head throbbed with his racing thoughts.

---

Sharon piloted the raptor to Incron Vale herself. Adeline Freedman was supposed to be the foremost psychiatrist of the Colonies- or at least the foremost one to get out of there alive. They did not speak on the trip back to Galactica, except for Sharon to apologize for the inconvenience. They weren’t really ready to take Hera off the ship. Freedman understood.

---

Karl had Hera sitting on his lap, reading aloud a tattered old storybook. It was a piece of near-forgotten Adama history; the Admiral told Sharon it was something he’d hung onto from his sons’ youths and though the words never made it from his lips, she knew it was a kind of apology.

For the next half-hour Freedman just watched them. She said to forget that she was in the room and just to go about their lives as they normally would; she kept a notepad on her lap, the pen never ceased to make scratches across page after page. Sharon couldn’t forget, couldn’t ignore, couldn’t pretend. She held Hera in her arms as Karl read, her attention flitting back and forth between the child and the woman in the corner.

---

“Was it a difficult pregnancy?”

Sharon had to stifle her bitter laugh. “She’s half-cylon, of course it was a difficult pregnancy.” She watched for the effects of the sentence on Dr. Freedman’s face; though she shifted in her seat and turned her gaze to her notepad, she did not exhibit the look of horror Sharon had been expecting.

“Sorry, let me clarify. Did you suffer any medical complications or trauma during your pregnancy? Was Hera born prematurely?”

It was Sharon’s turn to feel uncomfortable now, her mind traveling back to endless days in a cell- before she was Athena, when she was an it. “Yes,” she started softly. “Early on, I almost had a miscarriage.” She felt her muscles go rigid at the next memory. “A few months after that… I was…” She wished Karl had not been putting Hera down for her nap; she really wanted to be holding his hand. “…assaulted by an officer from Pegasus. And Hera was born premature, there was an emergency surgery to save her. Karl and I were told that her lungs collapsed and that she had died.”

Freedman looked up from her notepad, eyebrows knit together. “I’m sorry?”

“Hera was taken from us.” Sharon said, doing her best not to hiss the words through clenched teeth. “The President ordered that her death be faked, to keep her away from me. They gave her to someone to raise her. I only found out she was alive about a month ago.”

Freedman didn’t reply. She simply scribbled another note on her pad.

---

“Absolutely not,” Tigh snapped.

Helo didn’t even turn to look at the outburst, keeping his eyes firmly fixed on the Admiral. “Sir, you know I wouldn’t ask you for something like this if it wasn’t absolutely necessary. She is the only one who can give us the information.”

“You’re not seriously going to consider-”

“Colonel,” Adama began over his protest, “arrange for two marines to escort Dr. Freedman to talk with the cylon prisoner.”

---

“I’m sure you understand that working with a child as young as Hera is a difficult task,” the doctor said after she’d spent an hour with Hera at the daycare. "I want to begin by telling you Hera is clearly a bright girl and despite her lack of verbal communication she does make eye contact and shows the capacity for shared attention which rules out some of the more… biologically based disorders which are harder to treat.”

“Doctor, please,” Karl pleaded. “If something is wrong just… please tell us.”

Freedman gave a sigh and removed her glasses. “Hera has had an impossibly difficult life so far. The woman she accepted as her caretaker died in the escape from New Caprica. On top of the separation, she was taken to an enemy baseship, where, according to the prisoner, she received no care, no affection, and grew extremely ill. Even though she was surrounded by peo… by cylons?... By people? She was essentially abandoned. As a result she’s missed several developmental milestones, and though it seems, Sharon, that she accepts you as her mother, it’s a purely biological phenomenon, not an emotional one. Hera does not see you, or anyone for that matter, as caregivers. That’s what seems to be what is preventing her from seeking attention or taking comfort.”

Helo turned to Sharon, feeling her hand reaching for his. Slowly, he covered her hand with his and raised her palm to his lips. As his kiss lingered, his eyes remained on hers making her a promise. They were soldiers, this was a battle, and they would get through it together. With an affirming nod, Sharon turned back towards Freedman. “What do we do to help her?”

For the first time all day, the doctor smiled.

---

Sharon lay propped up on her side in the dark, gently tracing the soft black curls on her daughter’s head as she slept. Karl had already passed into slumber as well, and smiled watching the two of them breathe as they lay peacefully side-by-side. They looked like a normal family; just a mother and a father and their child.

She fought against her heavy-lidded eyes to keep the illusion for just a little bit longer before morning brought reality crashing back to her.

---

“This is getting ridiculous,” Tigh grumbled as Helo made his way into CIC. “This is not the daycare for frak’s sake; get that kid out of here.”

“Language, Sir.” Helo snapped, his free hand covering Hera’s ear. “It’s only for a few hours while Sharon is out flying CAP. Her psychiatrist suggested that we keep Hera with us as often as possible, to promote stronger attachment.”

Tigh squinted his lone eye with a kind of rage bubbling behind it. “ ‘Promote stronger att-’ Captain, this is a Battlestar and we are at war. This is not the place for this kind of touchy-feely crap.”

Helo found himself fighting a smirk. “Her psychiatrist also told us that if children grow up with improper attachment they could become particularly destructive and excessively chatty.” He adjusted Hera on his hip and looked over at his superior officer, watching his lip curl up into a sneer.

“Just keep her out of the way.”

---

At the sound of the light hum, Sharon held a spoonful of algae towards the girl, who eagerly accepted the morsel. “Good girl, Hera.” She knelt beside the chair on which the little girl sat.

Dinner had taken almost an hour at this point. It was a little learning technique that the psychiatrist had told her. She’d worked with developmentally delayed children before and knew of a way to shape their speech with little rewards- first for sounds of any kind, then for meaningful syllables, and lastly for words.

Sharon dipped the spoon into the bowl of algae mash. “Mmm. Hera, can you say ‘mmmm’ again?”

She felt her breath catch in her chest as she waited, waited to hear the tiny humming noise again. Even an hour before Hera had been completely silent, and yet this tiny little buzz of noise was all she found herself wanting.

“Mmmm,” the small girl said, waving her hand towards the spoon.

Sharon released her breath as a smile spread across her face. “Yes, very good sweetie,” she said, giving her another spoonful. “Now, can you say ‘ma’? Maaaa.”

The pleased expression on Hera’s face quickly faded. Her features scrunched together as a few tears started to glimmer in the inner corners of her eyes. There was no sound, not even a murmur of a whine or the huff of a sob. Silence. Sharon fell back on her heels, heaving an exhausted sigh. “That’s alright, honey. Maybe, tomorrow.”

---

Helo wondered what it would have been like to have had Hera under other circumstance. To have a house, near a town, maybe even a park where the three of them could go as a family. As things were now, the only really family outing they could make was a visit to the rec room.

He heard a round of whispers go through the room as the family entered. With the exception of the CIC staff, people had only really heard about Hera, never seen her. He refused to let their idle gossip ruin this day for them, as he made his way over to the triad table and took a seat, keeping Hera on his lap. Sharon pulled up a chair beside them. “Whose deal?” she asked sounding calm and composed.

Hot Dog’s eyes darted around at the other players, before he wordlessly dealt out the cards. There was none of the typical jeers or goading that normally marked the beginning of a hand. That is, until Starbuck glanced over. “Your partner in crime?” she asked.

“You’ve seen right through my ruse.” Helo smirked. “She’s actually trained to check out everyone’s cards.” He ruffled the little girl’s hair and she buried her head against his chest.

He watched Kara stare at the little girl; her eyes were distant and her expression unreadable. He made a mental note to talk to her about it later.

---

“We have another meeting with Dr. Freedman in two days,” Helo said looking through the darkness at Hera who lay between the two of them, and Sharon frowned at the defeat in his voice. “She hasn’t made much progress has she?”

“A little,” Sharon whispered. “She’s making some sounds that aren’t crying. She was clutching at you during the card game. It’s something.”

He gave a sigh as he dragged a finger over Hera’s hand. “I wish we could have given her something normal… anything.” No sooner had the words escaped his lips than he saw a bright flash of light fill the room. “What the…?”

A loud crack rumbled right to his core as he bolted upright. “Are we under attack?” Throwing back the covers, he was about to bolt from the bed before he felt Sharon catch his hand.

“Listen,” she whispered.

Rain. He was hearing rain. The heavy patter of droplets pounding against glass. The roar of an angry wind whipped somewhere just beyond them. It smelled just the same as any storm he’d ever smelled before. Another flash of lightning filled the room, and for the briefest of moments he could see that they were no longer in their quarters. Rather, they all lay in a king sized bed, covered in a thick down blanket, in a large bedroom. White curtains hung over windows, as the shadows of trees danced just beyond them.

“Sharon, what’s going on?” he whispered breathlessly.

She sat up, the covers falling away. “We… cylons can project a new environment, separate from reality. I thought we could give Hera a normal night.”

The second rumble of thunder filled the room, and Hera began to whine softly.

“A thunderstorm, Sharon? She doesn’t need any more-” Karl’s reprimand ended abruptly when he noticed that though Hera was crying, she held her arms up to him. He could feel his own tears pulling at his eyes as he reached out, scooping her up into his arms and pulled her against his chest. She sobbed softly as he rubbed her back and murmured reassurances.

Sharon moved closer, her fingers stroking the soft curls on her daughter’s head as she spoke softly. “It’s all right, honey. Mommy and Daddy are here for you.”

“We always will be,” Helo whispered.

Hera hiccupped softly and rest her head on his shoulder. The dampness of her tears seeped through his shirt, cool against his skin. Sharon’s voice softly crooned a little lullaby as the storm raged on outside; the three of them sheltered, safe and secure together within their home. Helo could feel the exact moment that Hera drifted off to sleep in his arms because she no longer clutched at him.

Smiling, he gently set her down on the bed between Sharon and himself as they both lay back down. She pulled the covers over them, and a peaceful smile crossed over her lips. “It’s a start, isn’t it?”

Helo nodded in response as his eyes slid closed and he breathed an easy sigh.

Sharon kept the rain falling against the windows until they fell asleep.

Comments

( 26 comments — Leave a comment )
cailet_06
May. 10th, 2009 05:05 am (UTC)
Awesome story. I always thought the Agathon's did not get enough screen time. (It's also my own personal cannon that they had more children besides Hera,but that's a different soap box) Thanks for writing all these great stories!
rayruz
May. 10th, 2009 11:44 am (UTC)
I love the Agathons and I didn't realize how much I did until the end. The ending made me realize how hardcore all my slight ships actually were. (More Agathon babies = win. I personally wanna believe that Caprica and Gaius had a baby who grew up to marry Hera)

Also, thank you!

Edited at 2009-05-10 11:44 am (UTC)
ozma914
May. 10th, 2009 07:36 am (UTC)
Great story! I loved seeing mom and dad band together to be a family.

Isn't Freedman the name of the psychiatrist from M.A.S.H?
rayruz
May. 10th, 2009 11:44 am (UTC)
I actually have no idea, I was just going for a name that sounded uplifting. XD

I'm so glad you liked it.
ozma914
May. 12th, 2009 07:44 am (UTC)
I checked ... it's Syndey Freedman. I guess the M.A.S.H writers thought it was uplifting, too!
elzed
May. 10th, 2009 09:30 am (UTC)
Lovely and rather moving - I did wonder how Hera managed to survive her early childhood of trauma and separation... the reunion must have been very challenging...
rayruz
May. 10th, 2009 11:45 am (UTC)
I feel so bad for her, her life is so messed up. Glad you liked it.
trovia
May. 10th, 2009 10:27 am (UTC)
Aww. This was awesome and cute. It's nice that somebody finally tackled this story. I've been thinking a fic like this should be written, but since I know nothing about children, I could never do it myself. It can't have been easy for the Agathons after all that Hera went through.
rayruz
May. 10th, 2009 11:46 am (UTC)
I studied child clinical psychology this summer so I partially wrote this to prove to myself I can combine my geekiness and my academics.

Glad you enjoyed it.
trovia
May. 10th, 2009 12:27 pm (UTC)
I studied child clinical psychology this summer

That doesn't surprise me. It shows in the fic that you know what you're talking about. Even to me, knowing nothing about children at all. :) It's neat. I like it when a fic is grounded in reality like that.
millari
May. 10th, 2009 07:33 pm (UTC)
While I like Karl and Sharon just fine, I don't ship them at all, and I'm not usually interested enough in them as a couple to check out fic, but you intrigued me with the idea of Hera's psychologist. I've been curious about that ever since Helo mentioned it on the show to Kara.

This was very believable and touching. At first I was horrified at the idea that Sharon would be so clueless as to try and reassure her baby with a thunderstorm, but then I saw the logic and it really made sense. You also did a really good job with conveying the frustration and trauma that must have existed on all sides in the Sharon/Helo/Hera reunion. I'm sure it was not easy for them at all.

Great fic.
rayruz
May. 10th, 2009 08:17 pm (UTC)
This may be one of the best comments I've ever gotten. :) Thank you so much, I'm so glad you enjoyed it.
inperfectpeace
May. 12th, 2009 12:08 am (UTC)
Awwww, you know I loved it! You did a great job with the psychological issues behind Hera's return. I just love the Agathons. ♥
rayruz
May. 12th, 2009 01:10 am (UTC)
Thank you so much! I'm really glad you read this. I was worried for a while that I might have been pulling some of the psych stuff out of my ass. I didn't think I was.
neonstilettos
May. 12th, 2009 02:15 am (UTC)
Oh wow, *sml* for this fic! Great premise; I've never seen anyone else write about this before. Hera did have a pretty screwed up childhood. Very moving, and your knowledge of the topic at hand really adds to the story. Also, I love the Agathons forever.
rayruz
May. 12th, 2009 02:19 am (UTC)
This is what happens when you're writing a psych paper and then start watching BSG. Strange things. I'm glad you liked it!
raincitygirl
May. 12th, 2009 08:54 am (UTC)
Oh wow, oh wow, oh wow, this is an AWESOME fic!
rayruz
May. 12th, 2009 11:09 am (UTC)
:D Thank you!
sabaceanbabe
May. 13th, 2009 08:37 pm (UTC)
This is just beautiful. All of the interactions ring true. It was a fic that was just begging to be written and I'm so glad you did. And it's a sign of just how much Sharon wanted to make things right for her litle girl that she'd project, since she seemed so hell-bent on denying anything and everything Cylon to fit in with the humans.
rayruz
May. 15th, 2009 02:05 am (UTC)
I'm so glad you enjoyed it. The academic in me needed to do it and it can be a whiny bitch at times.
emmiere
May. 17th, 2009 08:48 pm (UTC)
Catching up on fic reading.

This is a really lovely look at the Agathons and at the process of helping Hera adjust. I have a secret love for the use of projections in fic, so I thought it was great how that was used as a tool to help her connect.

You're very prolific with the fic lately! I keep seeing your stories pop up.
rayruz
May. 17th, 2009 08:50 pm (UTC)
Beginning of summer break, it's my brain's way to unwind. A few summers back I wrote like....150 ficlets in three months. It's probably going to slow down a little bit now.

Anyways I'm really glad you enjoyed it!
rafikiven
Oct. 27th, 2009 01:17 am (UTC)
I really liked this glimpse into the family. I hope you'll write more Agathon fics!
rayruz
Oct. 27th, 2009 03:08 am (UTC)
:) Maybe some day I will. I'm glad you enjoyed it.
bellaaurora
Feb. 10th, 2010 04:39 am (UTC)
Gorgeous! I love the Agathons and Hera.
rayruz
Feb. 10th, 2010 04:42 am (UTC)
Thank you!
( 26 comments — Leave a comment )

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