Neither of them sleeps well. Galen stares at the ceiling, mostly, or sometimes shuts the curtains he’s strung up around his bed and looks over the schematics for the Blackbird, trying to find a way to manage a Laura II. Something better, something faster, something harder to break. He traces the lines of the hull over and over again with his fingers, and listens to Helo breathing slowly, deliberately, until his eyes burn and shut.
Helo talks a lot – he’s always been good at that. He talks to himself, to Hera, and sometimes he talks to Galen. Not just about the day, or the way his raptor felt when he was on CAP, or something Starbuck said. He talks about his parents, he talks about Aerilon, he talks about the future, he talks about Hera’s, he talks about Caprica. He talks about Sharon.
He isn’t afraid to ask questions, and in the dark, Galen can even answer them sometimes.
“You still angry at me?” Helo asks him.
Yes, every day, he thinks, and shifts onto his side. You should have stayed with her, you should have come back to Galactica instead of being a hero, you should have never touched her, you should have gotten to her first, you should have been here when she died the first time, she should have broken your heart instead of mine. She should never have loved you.
Helo watches him, waiting, unafraid and neutral, and Galen sighs, and then he says, “Some days. “ and he thinks We’re the same. I can’t blame you for that. “It doesn’t matter, though. It isn’t – it’s not like it used to be.”
Helo nods, rubs his head a little and lies back on his bed. Galen watches him over the crib.
“Before the attacks, when Sharon – Boomer --,” he catches himself, and Galen almost laughs, because it isn’t like Boomer and Sharon were different people, like Helo’s Sharon was any less Boomer or his Boomer was any less Sharon. “When you two first started – when you started seeing each other, I was surprised. I was jealous, because I’d thought that we – me and her – I thought we were going somewhere. I cared about her. I didn’t hate you, though. You were a good guy. You treated her right. I respected that.” Helo turns his head, and almost smiles. “I just really frakin’ wished she’d picked me.”
He thinks of Sharon in the weeks before she died. He thinks of her lying on the white hospital bed, the bandage strapped across her cheek, her brittle voice and her hard eyes. He thinks of how she looked when he walked away.
It takes some time, but Galen manages to say, “Maybe she’d have been happier if she had.”
“Hey,” Helo says softly. “Hey.”
Galen shakes his head. “I couldn’t help her. Before she – before the first Sharon shot Adama, she was so scared. She knew something was wrong, knew she was going to do something, and I couldn’t help her. I left her alone, and she tried to – she shot herself, you know. “ He sits up and runs a hand over his eyes. “I couldn’t help her, so I left her. You wouldn’t have.”
“We don’t know that,” Helo tells him. “You did your best. You did what you could –“
“I left her, and she was scared,” Galen says flatly. “I wasn’t what she needed. You were. You never left her. You were there until the end, and she knew that.”
“That why you’re here now?” Helo asks him, leaning up on one elbow. He reaches a long arm over, touches the top of Hera’s head. “Trying to make up for that?”
Galen looks over at her, snoring lightly as she sleeps. She’s kicked the blankets off her legs, and without thinking about it, he reaches over and pulls them up, tucks them around her round body. “Part of it, I guess.”
“And the rest?” Helo’s voice is sharp. When Galen looks up, Helo’s watching him closely.
“When I was on Kobol,” Galen says slowly, “I thought I was going to die. I didn’t know about Sharon and Adama – I didn’t know she was a Cylon. I didn’t know anything, really, except that people were dying, and I thought I was next. I was – I hoped it would be me next, instead of Cally or Baltar or hell, even Crashdown. There was a toaster coming, bullets everywhere, and I thought, ‘Okay. Okay,’ just like that.” He shakes his head. “It didn’t seem like – there wasn’t a reason to keep going. On Pegasus, too. It just – I was tired. I thought if I could just stop, you know? Just stop and rest and not have to worry about getting back up.”
On the crib, Helo’s knuckles whiten and his jaw tightens. “You wanted to die.”
“When she died, I was there. I don’t know – I don’t know if you know about that,” Galen says, looking down again. “She was – we were in the hallway. She was wearing handcuffs, they were taking her to the brig. They would have executed her anyway, it was just – sooner. She was scared. She was looking up at me, and she –,” he breaks off, because he hasn’t talked about this, he can’t talk about this, not even here. Not even in the dark. “Anyway, since then I haven’t – I’d wake up. I’d go on shift. I’d work until I could keep working, and I’d get back in my rack. Then I’d do the whole thing again. It didn’t matter. I didn’t matter. “
“Listen to me, Chief,” Helo says. “You matter. You have people who care about you. You have people who need you. You have to keep going, no matter how frakked up it is. No matter how hard.”
“I know.” Galen looks up, his mouth quirks to the side. He touches Hera’s knee through her thin grey blanket. “She makes it easier. She makes it – worthwhile.”
“I wasn’t just talking about Hera,” Helo tells Galen. He lets go of the crib, and wraps his hand around Galen’s forearm, shakes it a little. “I couldn’t fraking do this without you, so don’t you dare give up on me.”
“I won’t,” Galen promises, and he means it and Helo squeezes his arm one last time before letting go. They stare at each other a moment, and Galen feels almost like he’s seeing Helo for the first time – no, not Helo. Karl. And Karl’s just as scared as he is, just as frakked up, just as confused. Karl needs him, like Hera does, and he’s watching Galen with big eyes, like he’s expecting Galen to bolt. So Galen nods his head, just a little – says, without a word I’m here. I’m standing with you. and Karl relaxes, smiles and rubs his chin – a silent thank you. Between them, Hera stirs and her eyes flutter open, and she sucks in a breath, and as she starts to whimper, Galen and Karl turn toward their daughter.
Previous installments here, here, and here.