Disclaimer: As always I do not own Battlestar Galactica and if I wanted to make any money out of this I would probably starve.
Author's note: This is my third story in my attempt to explore Helo's relationship to every character on BSG. The scene I am describing is a scene I have wondered about ever since Hera was returned to her parents. We saw Helo confront Roslin and Adama, but in the end it was Cottle who confronted them with the supposed death of their child. Yet Sharon tells Helo that they need to take Hera to Cottle without blinking an eye and the matter is never addressed again. Therefore, I decided to take matters into my own hands.
A Matter of Trust
"I think we need to talk Doctor." Captain Karl Agathon's voice was low as he turned to Galactica's medical officer. "In private would probably be best." Cottle gave an almost inaudible sigh and nodded, gesturing towards an empty bed in the other corner of the room, hidden from view by a white curtain. Before following the older man, Karl looked at his sleeping wife and daughter for another moment. After Sharon had brought back both Hera and a Six from the Cylon ship, things had been a bit hectic on Galactica.
Security had rushed the blonde Cylon to the prison cell, while Sharon and Karl had rushed their little girl to the ship's hospital. Cottle had recovered his composure fast upon seeing the toddler. Karl had fleetingly thought that he must have been briefed by the president, but worry had soon overpowered the cold fury that still cursed through his veins every time he thought of Laura Roslin. Hera had been fussy, her stomach hard as a rock, but Cottle had seemed to find a cure for the whimpering child in almost no time. He had insisted on Hera spending the night under observation though, so Sharon had made herself comfortable on one of the hospital beds with Hera resting peacefully on her stomach. "She immediately knew who I was", Sharon had told her husband quietly, while she stroked the little girl's dark locks. Karl only hoped that his half-human, half-cylon daughter would get used to him just as easily.
Now mother and daughter were sleeping deeply, the stress of the day having finally caught up to them. Karl could have stood there watching them forever, but first he really needed to talk to the doctor. When he joined Cottle behind the curtain, the white haired physician had already lit a cigarette. At first, Karl was a loss for words. There were many things he wanted to say to the man and even more things that he wanted to ask. He finally decided on a straight forward approach to the problem. "How can we ever trust you again?" Cottle remained silent, seemingly waiting for Karl to continue. The newly appointed XO took a deep breath.
"We know that Roslin ordered you to replace our daughter with a dead baby. We know that you would have never betrayed our trust like this on your own accord. I guess we even know that Roslin thought she was acting for the best of the entire fleet. But what I do not know, is how I can ever trust you again." Karl had to pause, to collect his thoughts and calm his voice, which had raised in volume the more he had spoken. Cottle was still smoking his cigarette, apparently sensing that Karl was not done yet. "The relationship between a patient and a doctor should be a relationship of trust. The relationship between a father and his daughter's doctor needs to be based on an even deeper trust. How can this be possible after what happened here? How can we leave Hera with you when she is ill? How can we trust in anything that you tell us about her, after you were able to look us in the eye and tell us our baby had died? Did you sleep well that night? We did not sleep well. Sharon did not sleep well for many, many months. Is it not against some medical oath to exchange a healthy, living baby with a dead one? And where did the dead baby even come from?" Karl paused as a scary thought formed itself in his tired head. "Did Roslin order you to kill a baby so that you could have somebody to replace it with?"
Cottle made an annoyed sound in his throat and dropped the remaining cigarette stub into an ashtray that he had apparently taken with him. "Do not be ridiculous Captain Agathon. The baby we replaced your daughter with had been born prematurely on one of the cargo ships. Just two days after his birth he caught a bad case of pneumonia. He did not have a chance. And for your information, Captain, he was born a week before Hera." Karl's eyes widened for a moment. "It was a boy?" Cottle frowned at him, already lightening his second cigarette. "I hardly think that is the point now." he responded gruffly. Karl shook his head to force himself to concentrate, yet it seemed to take a lot of energy to push the thought of the dead infant out of his mind. "Why did you not try to keep Roslin from doing this? Do you have any idea of what we have gone through?"
Cottle inhaled deeply and blew out fine rings of blue smoke. When he finally answered his voice was a little less harsh than before. "Laura Roslin thought the child to be a great risk for the fleet's security at the time. It was her jurisdiction to deal with the problem. I did not like it, but you know full well how the system works. I had my orders. You also must not forget that the child itself was at a great risk at the time. Was Roslin's choice unethical? Yes, of course it was. But as the child's doctor my duty was to make sure her health was insured. And I know how this must sound to you, but at the time Roslin believed – and I agreed with her – that Hera was going to be safer if everyone suspected her to be dead. And please remember, that nobody really trusted your wife at the time. It was only logical for her to be under the impression that Hera was dead."
Karl's lips tightened as he listened to the doctor's last words. "But why did you not tell me? I was an officer of the colonial fleet; the president could have trusted me." Cottle shook his head at the younger man. "If you took the time to think about what you just said for two minutes, you would easily come to the conclusion that we could have never done that. There are many reasons for that, but I will only name the two most striking. Firstly, most members of the crew still referred to you primarily as the Cylon lover at the time of her birth. Roslin had no way of knowing if your love for Sharon was strong enough to eventually tell her about it and ruin the entire scheme. And secondly, it would have been a situation you could not have handled. No, hear me out before you say anything. You could not have handled it and it would have been inhumane on our part to ask that of you. Could you really have looked at the grieving mother of your child every day and not said anything? You must remember how depressed, almost catatonic your wife acted in those first weeks afterwards. Because you were both grieving, you could turn to each other for comfort. Had you known about Hera's whereabouts you would have been forced to keep a secret that would have ultimately destroyed you, your relationship and who knows what would have happened if someone had somehow found out about it from you. No, the time was not right for you to raise this child aboard Galactica last year." While he had spoken, the doctor's cigarette had slowly burned out. Cottle seemed to consider lighting it again for a moment, but opted to pull his third cigarette out of his breast pocket.
Karl closed his eyes for a brief second. Rationally, the doctor's words made perfect sense. He trusted that in time both he and Sharon would come to accept the decision that had been made to protect the fleet as well as Hera. But at the moment, he was not looking for rational answers. "You still have not told me how we can possibly trust you again. My instincts tell me we will all have to rely on each other more than ever in the times ahead. And I need to be able to trust you – especially, where my daughter's life is concerned." Cottle rubbed his eyes. When he spoke again his voice held the familiar harsh edge Helo had heard many times before. "What do you want me to say? There is nothing I can say. When it comes to anything Cylon related, no answer holds true for long. Your child is still a danger to this ship and to the fleet and quite possibly also to you and your wife. You do not know what she will turn into once she is old enough to actually cause damage. I do not know what to expect either. I can only tell you this: as this child's doctor I will do everything in my power to keep her healthy. And you will just have to trust me on that."
Cottle once again shook his head, a bitter smile forming on his face. "I very much doubt I will play a large part in this child's fate in the future anyway. If you want to have trust issues, I suggest you take them out with Roslin. I have a feeling that my part in the conspiracy is done." Karl ran his fingers through his short hair with fatigue. "So I am guessing what you are telling me is that I should just suck it up and live with it?" Cottle's expression turned even grimmer than before. "I am sorry Captain. We all do what we have to do." The younger man thought this over for a second. "Yes. I firmly believe that we all do what we have to do." For the first time since the beginning of the conversation, his features softened a little. "Thank you for helping her so quickly back there, Doc. Without you we probably would have been pretty much at a loss as to what to do." Cottle nodded curtly. "I was only doing my job. Without having to break some medical oath I might add."
Karl's eyes were already focussed on his sleeping family again. "I guess it would be ok for Sharon to stay here tonight?" Cottle sighed. "By all means; I highly doubt she would leave, even if I ordered her to." Karl smiled. "You might just be right about that." He turned to join his family again, but suddenly a thought occurred to him and he stopped in mid-movement.
"Just one last thing: what was the boy's name? I did after all release his ashes into space and I would like to know." For the first time this evening Cottle looked as exhausted as Karl felt. "Benjamin. His name was Benjamin."
It was well past midnight when Helo finally left the hospital. He knew he needed to get some sleep, but after the turmoil he had experienced over the last couple of days he had been reluctant to leave his wife and baby girl. Having to shoot one's wife, not knowing if she would ever return to you was definitely not something he could recommend to anyone. In a way, both of them had returned to him from the dead this afternoon and Helo felt he needed the constant reassurance of being close to them to know they were indeed alive. Sharon had still been sleeping deeply when he had gotten up to leave for their quarters. Hera had stirred in her sleep once, whimpering softly. She had soon relaxed though, when he had rubbed her little back with gentle, soothing motions. He had a feeling he was going to be good at this.
Their quarters were of course empty and for a moment Helo felt a pang of loneliness. He wanted them to be here with him, to spend their first night as a little family. A small smile played around his lips. Of course they would need a crib for Hera: toys and bottles would also be necessary – not to mention a ton of fresh diapers. His smile widened. He had never changed a baby in his life, but he could not wait to try. He had missed so much with her, her first laugh, her first word, probably also her first steps. She looked big enough to be able to comfortably walk on her own. But she was still small enough to need diapers and Helo was determined to become the best diaper-changing daddy in the history of mankind.
A strangled sound somewhere between a sob and a laugh escaped his lips and he had to sit down on the couch. Daddy… he was finally going to be a daddy. The thought had seemed to be forever lost to him only two days ago. Against his will, his eyes drifted towards the spot, where he had shot Sharon the day before. Security had been able to clean up the blood on the wall but for a moment, Helo was sure he could still see it. The image was enough to send him over the edge. All of a sudden the whirlwind of emotions inside him could not be contained any longer and he hunched over, put his head between his hands and started to breathe in short, almost painful gasps. His eyes were squeezed shut, his hands balled into fists. After a while his military training kicked in though and he slowly regained control of his breathing.
He sat like this for a long time, his tired mind barely able to form a coherent sentence out of the many thoughts flittering through his head. When he finally felt at least somewhat in control again he slowly stood up and changed his uniform into a t-shirt and sweat pants. He was about to sit down on his bed to lie down, when a clear thought suddenly hit him. There was something he needed to do and only he could do it. He was going to tell Sharon everything tomorrow. She would ask him to repeat every single piece of information Doc Cottle had given him and would be willing to do so – everything except one.
The hallway was almost empty as Karl Agathon slowly walked through the ship. He had not bothered to change his clothing and he trusted that nobody was going to mind. When he reached his destination, his feet slowed down as if they had a mind of their own. For the men and women on board Galactica this part of the corridor had become a place of mourning and solace after the Cylon attack. Karl had stood before the hundreds of pictures on the wall many times before, but he had never added a picture of his own to the memorial. Even after Hera they had not put her picture on here. Of course they did not have a picture to begin with, but the thought had not even occurred to either of them. On this night, however, Karl Agathon had something to contribute.
With almost shaking hands he reached into his pant's pocket and pulled out a little piece of paper. It was only a small piece, torn from one of his XO reports in haste, but it would have to do. With great care, Karl selected a spot on the wall and added the paper to the memory of friends and family lost to all of them. When he was done he stepped back and bowed his head. He had never considered himself to be an overly religious person, but now he felt that a prayer to the Lords of Kobol was probably the right thing to do. He prayed for all of them; the dead, the living, Sharon, and Hera. Slowly Karl Agathon raised his head again and focused on the small piece of paper, taped between the photo of a smiling young man and a photo of a young woman holding a small child. The paper contained only one word.