They put the crib between their racks, in the middle of the room. It’s not big – it used to be a storage closet, and even after they clean it, it smells a little like oil and rust. Hera’s crib is made of metal taken from broken wings, spare parts of the raptors and vipers that couldn’t be used. Galen and Helo sanded them down, welded them in place, padded the crib with blankets until it was soft and safe for her.
Galen doesn’t sleep until he can hear Helo stop murmuring to Hera. He sings to her a lot, quietly, tonelessly, just crooning the words to old Aerilon lullabies. Galen recognizes a few, but a lot are new to him, and even if they’re meant to comfort Hera, they comfort him, too, a little.
When she wakes up in the middle of the night, Galen’s always there first. She waves her fists and feet in the air, her red face curled up. When he lifts her, she folds her fingers around the edge of his tank top, presses her wet face into his neck.
Helo watches him, eyes catching the little light coming in through the hatch combing. “You’re good with her,” he says.
“Big family,” Galen tells him, rubbing her back. “Plus my sisters all have – had – there were a lot of babies.”
“You can get some sleep, you know,” Helo says, sitting up. “I can –“
“S’allright, I’ve got her.” Galen holds her booted feet in one hand, and Hera quiets a little.
Helo sits up and reaches over to touch her side, his fingers brush against Galen’s for a second and he smiles in the dark. “Sometimes, I can’t tell what she wants, you know? I try feeding her, or changing her, just holding her, but nothing works, You always get her to quiet right down.”
Galen ducks his head, brushes his cheek against the top of Hera’s head, “Just a burping this time. You pat her right between the shoulder blades until she’s quiet. ” Helo’s watching her with big eyes, and she’s a warm, sweet bundle in Galen’s arms, but he holds her out to Helo. “You want to hold her?”
“No, it’s okay,” Helo tells him, still rubbing her side. “Sometimes I worry that I’ll hurt her. She’s so little and I just – I can’t believe – “
“Yeah,” Galen says. “I know.”
Helo half laughs, and his hand drops back to his lap. “You ever – do you ever think that Sharon’s out there? My – her mother? She’s out there somewhere, thinking about her? Trying to get back here?”
Hera cooes into Galen’s neck, and Helo watches him with those big eyes, his face so open and the light from the corridor makes a stripe across the room. “I hope not,” he tells Helo honestly. “I hope I never see her again.”
Helo lies back on his rack and puts an arm over his eyes. “Yeah,” he says, “yeah.”