Note: this was written before the second half of season three. Although it's set in the future, some story elements are now AU. Companion piece "Prophecy" is in the same time period, with Kara and Leoben.

- - - - -

He walks her home every school day. Sometimes just the two of them, more often with Nicholas Tyrol and his younger brother, who was in a nearby daycare. Galen is apologetic about the inconvenience but Karl doesn't mind. He enjoys the four of them walking down the sidewalks. He holds Hera's hand, Nicholas holds her other hand and Karl hoists the little one up near his shoulder. It fills in some of the blanks of Hera's own infancy. Hera chatters, mostly in English, and Nick tries to keep up. He's learning quickly as well; the competition with Hera, a grade ahead, keeps Nick fiercely alert for new words he could use to show off in front of his crush. Karl smiles to himself over the two of them, so tiny but so bossy in their own ways. He's glad they get along; he had worried that Hera would lose all of her Colonial heritage and this contact eases that fear. The weather has turned much colder and they're all bundled up in second-hand coats. The kids are fussing with their mittens, their cheeks bright red in the cool air.

- - - - -

Karl. Karl Agathon. He had to get used to it. Helo was someone else, someone who flew ships, someone with a beautiful, loving wife. Karl belongs to the ground. He doesn't stutter anymore when he introduces himself—at least not because of his name. Now he stutters and stumbles with this new language, feels taller and more awkward than he has in years.

The last time he had seen Sharon she was sitting in their cramped room aboard Galactica, flightsuit already on and mostly zipped. She was fingering her dog tags while Hera was running around the room, babbling in a nonsensical language, laughing over repeated syllables and sounds. Helo was grateful that they'd had a lull after they recovered Hera, precious time to get to know her and start to feel like real parents. Now Sharon was flying again and Helo didn't want her to go. He had tried to convince the Admiral that she wasn't needed but even he had to admit to himself that she was important to the success of the mission. He worried about her. Sharon slid the dogtags inside her shirt and picked up Hera, cuddling her for a moment.

"I wish you didn't have to go," he said.

She replied with a hint of humor and sadness, "Well, I'm 'an important military asset'."

He smirked. "I appreciate your assets too, Lieutenant Agathon."

She quirked a tiny smile at him and covered Hera's ears. "Hey, watch it."

He leered. "I am watching it." She laughed and he leaned in to kiss her. As he pulled away Hera grabbed his nose and made a crowing giggle.

- - - - -

The good days: When he comes home to the small apartment the government is helping him rent he smiles at the beautiful mess. Hera's dirty socks always clutter the floor and her drawings are taped haphazardly to the formerly blank walls. Schoolbooks litter the kitchen table; they have to shove them aside to eat breakfast and dinner. He thinks about all that Sharon has missed--Hera talking in complete sentences, finding Earth, looking for clean socks for Hera to wear to school and all the everyday stuff that now fills his life. He misses her.

- - - - -

He's standing next to Tyrol watching the children wobble around on the ice. One of Karl's teachers at job training invited him to bring his daughter to the ice rink and Karl managed to get an invitation for Galen's older son as well. Tyrol holds onto his younger son and laughs at Hera and Nicky's antics as they learn to balance on the thin blades. Karl says, "So, you want to give skating a try?"

Galen looks surprised at the idea, then shakes his head and grins. "Nah, I'd just fall down."

"Well, yeah, that would be the fun part... for the rest of us, anyway." They turn to watch their kids. Hera finally found her center of balance and eagerly explained to Nick what to do. "It's a good thing Nick doesn't mind being bossed around."

"Yeah, I think he's had enough bossing around from Cally to make him used to it." After mentioning Cally's name, Tyrol's face looks strained.

"Any news on when she'll be out?"

"Maybe another month or two. The cylon she attacked didn't press charges so that makes it easier."

- - - - -

He tried a date, once. Racetrack (no, Margaret) had been subtly flirting with him for a while and he thought that dating another Colonial would be easier than trying to date someone from Earth. It was a mistake. Being around Margaret just made him think more of Sharon. Karl Agathon wants a woman in his life but Sharon's Helo wasn't ready for that yet. After their disastrous date Margaret avoided him at first, then gradually relaxed again. The last time he saw her she was giggling about her new boyfriend who loved her Colonial accent. "Earth boys are easy," she said, laughing. A few other women agreed.

- - - - -

They didn't recover her body. Sharon, Lee Adama and the raptor were bits of matter floating in dark space. Sometimes he felt bitter that the pilot who was least accepting of her ended up mingling with her forever.

- - - - -

A copy of the model Kara knew as Simon from Caprica came to examine the Colonials shortly after they arrived at the detention center. As soon as it entered the room Helo felt the reaction like a wave. The Simon model looked at the crowd--those who had been on New Caprica recognized him the fastest; they cowered or looked ready to do violence. The cylon yelled something, his tone angry. He turned and caught a glimpse of Dee and walked up to her. Her eyes opened wider as he spoke to her, voice low but intense. She stood up straight, at attention, and stated her name and rank, looking past him instead of at him. His anger seemed to dissipate, replaced by some unidentifiable emotion; he walked slowly out of the room. Helo looked back at Dee. She was holding her fists to her mouth, shaking. (When did she stop wearing her wedding band, he wondered.)

After the Simon model left they tried to explain to the rest of the medical team about the cylons but the language barrier was too great. Later, as they learned English, some of his friends tried again to describe the cylons and why they were so dangerous. The government officials acted like they took the information seriously but nothing changed. The Doral model still shows up on television from time to time, citing business efficiency studies and stating how to best invest money. Those who were most insistent about the danger posed by the cylons stayed in detention the longest. Maybe if Baltar had been with them, or if the Admiral had made it, they could have been more convincing.

Karl was strangely, perversely relieved that Sharon didn't live to make it to Earth. She would never have to be a 'military asset' again; no one would use her to prove the existence of cylons. He was even more grateful that by the time the Colonials learned enough English to communicate no one had mentioned to the authorities that his daughter was half-cylon.

- - - - -

Karl meets up with old friends regularly, mostly former pilots; they exchange exaggerated, comic stories about life on Earth. Usually the first topic is an update on any sleeper cylon sightings. This doesn't take long because they've seen only four models, with no duplications. A Cavil model preaches at a large church on the north side of the city. The Simon model still works in a military hospital. The Shelley Godfrey model, who recovered quickly from Cally's fury, is a bank employee. Doral appears regularly on television. Karl hasn't yet revealed his glimpse of a Leoben walking with Kara; he figures that's her news to announce.

"We ought to get some weapons and just blow them away," Hotdog (no, Brendan) mutters. They're walking around a shopping mall, because it's warm and dry.

"Right, because the people here are just lined up to hand us guns," retorts Margaret.

Karl says, "They're all sleeper agents anyway. I think things might get worse if they were killed and downloaded."

"Besides, if you want to go back to the detention center or maybe jail for trying to kill something that looks human then you're a frakking idiot." Margaret continues lecturing Brendan.

They finally move on to another topic--job training. Some are almost finished, including Karl. He wonders if he could find a job with hours as flexible as his training classes. Who would walk Hera home from school each day if he couldn't?

Margaret's telling him something about going dancing while the rest of the group talks about new foods they like; Brendan suddenly interrupts all of them. "Look over there," he hisses. They all turn and see a Leoben walking nearby. Brendan points with his finger and says quietly, "Bang."

Margaret slaps his hand hard. "Stupid flyboy." Karl glances down at Kara. She looks worried.

- - - - -

He goes running some days. After he and Hera eat dinner he walks her to Tyrol's nearby apartment to do her homework, then heads outside. When he first started he could feel the aches of each muscle, out of shape from the detention center's cramped spaces. It's better now. He runs for blocks, feeling the cold air make his throat ache. With the familiar rhythm, the patterns of step after step he feels his limbs relax and stretch. Sometimes when he runs he purposely empties his mind; other times he thinks of running with friends. He remembers running with Kara on Galactica, chasing each other through narrow metal corridors, laughing at the almost-collisions with unwary crew members. He remembers how much he and Sharon ran together on Caprica, limping and cursing, hoping (he thought) to escape from the Cylons. He's grateful that his anger over her deception was gone before Hera was born; glad that he could welcome his daughter into the world without regrets; relieved that Sharon knew he forgave her. Running helps him sleep better.

One time his job training class was cancelled at the last minute. Hera was already at school so he went to the subway station and took the next train to the end of the line. He went up the stairs and started to run, past shops and offices to neighborhoods of boxy houses. He ran and tried not to wonder if now he was crossing the barrier between allowed and not allowed, if anyone was keeping an eye on him and where he went. He had hoped to see open fields or hills, anything but this dull sameness of city, which was all that any of them have seen since they arrived. Finally giving up, he collapsed onto a park bench across from a church and stared at the gray sky overhead until his heart slowed enough for him to stumble back to the subway entrance.

- - - - -

The bad days: He worries that Hera will tell him that she saw Mommy, or one of Mommy's sisters. He misses Sharon so much it has become almost a physical ache and he wonders if it would be so bad to find another copy.

- - - - -

They've been on Earth long enough to miss their traditional festivals and holidays. The few remaining Elders have started working on how to coordinate their days with Earth's common calendar; Tyrol's helping with the plans. Karl's surprised at Galen's religious side. They'd hardly talked about religion before getting to Earth, even when they were both in hack aboard Pegasus certain they were going to be executed soon.

Karl's babysitting Galen's kids during the meeting. After carrying Galen's younger son, already asleep, to the couch, Karl wanders back in the kitchen. Hera and Nick are drawing on large blank pages with their crayons. Hera's dark head is bent over her paper, tongue pushed to the side of her mouth as she concentrates. Nick peeks at what Hera is drawing then looks undecidedly at his own creation. Karl makes some popcorn while they draw, and when it's ready the two kids stop to eat. Hera isn't insisting on English tonight.

"I dreamed I was floating last night," Hera says to Nick.

"Floating? Like in the air or in water?"

"In the sky. It was dark." Hera picks up a black crayon and starts filling in a new paper at the corner.

Nick looks jealous for a moment. "Cool," he says.

"It was really cold. I didn't like it." Hera looks for a different color. "Daddy, can we go to a farm this summer?"

He's not surprised at her question. She and Nick talk about animals constantly; when they pick out videos at the library they nearly always choose something with animals. "Hera, we're not allowed to go outside of the city yet."

Hera looks at him and smiles. "We will."

- - - - -

Galen and another family are having a Colonial kids' sleepover. Galen asked Hera to come to give Karl a break; a small favor, he calls it, in return for Karl's help while Cally's still in detention. Karl decides that he wants to have an evening out with Kara. He's been avoiding seeing her one-on-one; Kara was empty long before their home world was destroyed and he feels the void, wants to fix it for her but knows that he never could.

In the bar Kara chose they sip from mugs of beer. It's not his favorite beverage but they're not looking for quality right now. Kara tells him about her classes; they see each other in the halls sometimes before and after English class but their job training courses are in different schools. Kara's complaining about one of her teachers. He asks her, "So have you punched him yet?"

She snorts, then narrows her eyes at him. "No. I wouldn't get put in hack, I'd get put back in the detention center. So I'm... restraining myself."

Karl laughs. "You, restrained?"

She smiles back. "Yeah, I know. Frakkin' ironic, isn't it."

The constant stares irritate both of them and the last straw is when someone whispers, "Go learn English." He's not sure if he should worry that Kara will hit someone or be dismayed that she won't. They pay the tab and find a liquor store. The man behind the counter stares at their shiny government-issued id cards, then shrugs and lets them pay for the alcohol. They walk back to Kara's tiny apartment and drink straight from the bottle.

He wakes up with his back aching against the uneven armrests of her sofa. Kara's sprawled on his chest, a small puddle of saliva connecting her mouth to his shirt. He sees the empty bottle on the coffee table, near her boot-clad feet. Small muddy pools are on the floor, evidence of the slush they walked through coming back late last night. He carefully sits up, moving her while trying to avoid creating more twinges in his back. She stirs to wakefulness while he goes to the bathroom to find some aspirin. Walking back he averts his eyes from her brightly-colored walls; the shapes and colors she painted were nightmarish enough without a hangover. He goes back to the couch and flops down beside Kara.

"Somehow this isn't as much fun as it used to be," Kara says in a gravelly voice. He laughs, then winces and touches his head gingerly. She looks at him, face serious for a moment. "Do you still miss her?"

Typical Kara, starting a new topic unannounced. "Yeah, every day."

"Would you want her back?"

"No. At least, not... you haven't seen a copy of Sharon, have you?"

"No." She stops talking and looks thoughtful. He remembers seeing Kara with Leoben a couple of weeks ago, the two walking down the street side by side. Their strides matched; they were carefully not touching each other. He doesn't know what demons this would assuage or bring to life; Kara's never easy to predict.

"I don't need another copy of Sharon, because we were complete and it's not going to be her. But not everyone would feel the same way."

She doesn't say anything in reply, so he pulls her close and hugs her tightly for as long as she lets him. When she finally pulls away, he ruffles her short hair and teases her about drooling on his shirt.

- - - - -

The really bad days: They're stuck here. If the cylons are activated, if there are more in other cities, if others come and attack, they're still stuck here--ships confiscated, damaged and mostly out of fuel. He wonders if finding an Eight and being with her would afford some protection for him and Hera.

After Hera falls asleep he walks quietly in her room, sits on the floor and watches her breathe. He doesn't let any moisture leak from eyes, in case Hera wakes up.

He wishes he were a cylon. Maybe he would know if an Eight was his Sharon. He thinks that if he is a cylon he has had two lives so far; the first on Caprica, the other here on Earth. Everything else was just a dream. Only something got lost during the download. Now he's missing some programming.

Fin