Episode Four: The Trials and Tribulations of Parenthood

Disclaimer: BSG and the characters do not belong to me, and I make no profit from my scribblings.

Author's Note: Thank you to everyone who has left reviews on my stories! You are all wonderful! This episode has been my favourite to write overall so far; although it also kind of made me tear up a little bit and feel like an evil, evil person at certain points, and hopefully will do the same for you – if it doesn't then I've failed in my job :p I'm not saying bad things definitely happen (or definitely don't happen) in this episode, but they are in the air…


# # #

Part One – The Presence of Fear

Pain. Cramping, seizing pain, grabbing her abdomen and back in a vice and squeezing. Disoriented, Athena's eyes flew open and she reached for the source of the hurt, hands fluttering helplessly over her distended abdomen. Shocked out of drowsiness by the pain gripping her, Athena stared up at the ceiling and waited for the sensation to pass, hands pressed tight to her belly, unable to think properly while it engulfed her. A few more seconds and the sudden, painful cramp receded and the ability to think calmly returned. Oh gods. Athena knew what this meant.

"Karl – Karl!" She whispered urgently, not wanting to wake Hera, and reached across and shook him. As Athena tried to wake him, her mind was flipping efficiently through her thoughts, like the quick and automatic pre-flight checks she had done so many times. That was a contraction. It had hurt – she took a moment to let herself appreciate that yes, it had really hurt. She was either going into labour, or it was a false alarm. Her waters hadn't broken. She was a week away from her estimated due date – not too early, even if her due date wasn't quite accurate. She needed to go and see her midwife – she hadn't seen Ishay since they had left the anti-tech movement, but Landfall was too far away. Godsdamnit – today was the day they had been planning to go into Landfall, to stay there close to the hospital until the baby was safely born. The timing couldn't be frakking worse.

"Huh?" Karl stirred out of sleep slowly and heavily, blinking owlishly at Athena, and then instantly coming fully aware when he saw her worried expression.

"What? What's wrong?" Panic threading through his voice and she hushed him.

"I had a contraction. It woke me up." She whispered, struggling awkwardly up into a sitting position, waving off Karl's silently offered help. He boggled at her and then sat bolt upright, looking around him in a panic, as though he would find some solution to the onset of labour in a corner of the cabin.

"Gods, we have to –"

"Calm down! You'll wake Hera up." She hissed and laid her hand over his, and he stopped. Looked at her and waited, his first panic instantly replaced by calm. Karl had always listened to her, thank the gods – not one of those men who ignored and dismissed the people around them, but someone who actually stopped and listened. Right now Athena couldn't appreciate it more; the last thing she needed was a Gaius Baltar going into a panic.

"What do we do?" He murmured, eyes intense on her, fingers curling tightly around hers. Athena leaned over and kissed him instead of answering, soft and lingering on the lips. His hand buried itself in her hair, cradling the side of her head as he kissed her again, deeper this time.

"What do we do?" Karl asked again after pulling away, and Athena flung back the bedcovers, clambering out and stretching gingerly. Her whole midsection felt tight and heavy, and she was acutely aware of it as she waited nervously for the next contraction to seize her body.

"I don't know if I can make it into Landfall."

"No, we're not doing that. What if you have the baby on the way?"

Athena shoots him a look as she quickly dresses, feeling clumsy and large, as she has for the past two months, her muscles taut as she expected a contraction that hadn't yet come.

"I doubt that, Karl. It's not that far. But I think it would be safer to go to Ishay. She's closer, and I was seeing her before we decided to have the baby in Landfall – she'd be our best option."

Karl was up now, pulling his clothes on with hurried jerky movements, flashing her worried tight-lipped looks, as if he wanted to say something but wouldn't.

"Are you all right?" She asked him and he nodded brusquely.

"Just worried. Last time, with Hera…"

"This is different. I'm almost at term – it'll be fine."

"Yeah." He wasn't reassured; she could see that. But Athena didn't have the time or energy to waste on trying to make him feel better. At least he was keeping his worry to himself and not panicking like Gaius Baltar had.

Hera complained at being woken so early, the sun barely beginning to peek over the horizon as Athena bundled her up and Karl cooked breakfast. He hadn't wanted to – had said they should go now, a hint of panic in his voice, but Athena's contractions were around fifteen minutes apart and she thought they had time to give Hera breakfast at least. It was going to be a long day for Hera, with none of her usual routine, and Athena wanted her to at least sit down and eat a good breakfast. Athena picked at the food herself, but couldn't summon up an appetite even though her stomach felt hollowly empty.

"Mama, what's wrong?" Hera stared at her mother, bent over and hanging onto a chair as Karl laced up the little girl's shoes. Athena managed a smile.

"I'm fine, Hera. The baby's coming, that's all."

'Coming from where?"

The pain was rippling through Athena's belly, sharp and gripping, making her gasp, fingers curled white-knuckled around the chair back. This contraction felt stronger, and she couldn't speak for a moment as it cramped her muscles.

"From mama's tummy. Remember? We told you a few days ago. Now come on, Hera, sweetie. We have to go see the doctor." Karl told Hera, setting her on her feet and turning to Athena, his eyes grim and shuttered.

"Is mama sick?" Hera tugged at Karl's arm and he gulped and shook his head, visibly tried to calm himself.

"No. She's okay. We just need a doctor to help the baby be born. Are you all right, Sharon? Can you walk?"

Athena waved him off and bit her lip as the contraction ebbed away. Glorious relief. She straightened and nodded at him.

"I'm fine. We might just have to stop occasionally."

The sun was just beginning to throw pinks and golds across the sky as Karl latched the cabin door shut and they set off, heading toward the main dissident community where Ishay lived. Birdsong trilled through the still air, and Hera skipped and ran ahead of them, small feet silent on the ground, head twisting and turning this way and that to take in everything around her. Hera had no comprehension of what was happening, of course; just excited to be out in the forest this early, with the light filtering through the trees and bathing her skin with dappled pink. Ishay's cabin wasn't far, thanks the gods. The nurse and midwife lived about five minutes brisk walk along the ridge – it took longer this morning though, Athena clutching onto Karl's hand more for moral than physical support.

The shutters were closed, the cabin door shut, and Karl went up and banged on the door, calling Ishay's name. Hera sat down on the dirt, heedless of her clothes, and Athena didn't have the energy to tell her off. She felt like sitting down on the ground herself, just to get off her feet, but it would take too much godsdamned effort to get back up. Athena leaned against a tree trunk, breathing heavily, expecting another contraction to begin any minute.

"Anything?" She called to Karl, squinting at him, the rising sun in her eyes.

"I can hear –" He broke off as the cabin door opened and Athena heaved a sigh of relief and then winced, clutching her belly as it moulded tight around the baby within. Every contraction seemed to ratchet the intensity of the pain upwards, growing ever stronger. This one had been ten minutes after the last, if her counting off the minutes had been accurate – they were getting closer together. Gods, this was frakking awful already and it hadn't even been a couple of hours. She still had hours and hours to go. Possibly a day or more. Damn. Athena breathed in through her nose and out through her mouth, slow and regular, trying to pay attention to the clipped conversation going on between Karl and Ishay. The nurse/midwife was in a threadbare nightgown, a blanket thrown around her shoulders, bare toes curled over the doorstep.

Athena's contraction passed after a count of forty seconds – they were getting longer too – and she tuned in to the increasingly heated exchange between her husband and the midwife.

Karl was protesting, grim-faced and cold.

"She's in labour! You can't just –"

"Helo, I'm sorry but…" Ishay was looking down at her feet and speaking reluctantly, standing in the doorframe like she was blocking entry into her home.

"You can't do this."

"I can –"

"This is wrong. You know that."

"Helo, I'm going to have to ask you to leave."

"Godsdamnit, this is wrong!"

Athena hurried across to Karl's side, one arm supporting her belly.

"What's going on here?" She narrowed her eyes at the pair of them, glancing from one to the other. Whatever the frak was going on, it didn't sound good. Karl glared and gestured at Ishay,

"She –" He pursed his lips up and swore softly before he continued,

"She says she won't see you."

Athena blinked and scrunched her eyebrows together, shaking her head slightly,

"What? You won't… But…? Ishay?" She looked to the nurse for confirmation and the woman glanced up for a split second before dropping her eyes like Athena's gaze burnt hers.

"You aren't serious?" Athena asked, her face telegraphing her utter disbelief, Karl's hand finding hers. She held onto it tightly.

Ishay nodded; head still down and cheeks flaming red.

"I'm sorry, Sharon. But you aren't part of the movement anymore. You don't belong here. You belong in Landfall. I'm sorry, but –"

"Oh godsdamnit. You don't seem to understand the situation, Ishay. Sharon needs medical attention, and rather than you seeing her, you want us to walk all the frakking way into Landfall? This is godsdamned wrong and you know it." Karl flung at Ishay with icy, righteous anger, what little patience he had left hanging by a bare thread.

"Mama? What's –"

"Wait, Hera, mama and daddy are talking." Ishay couldn't do this. She couldn't really expect Athena and Karl to turn around and go all the way to Landfall could she? It was too far. The thought of walking downhill along the rough trails with contractions racking her body made Athena cringe.

"Ishay – you were my midwife. You were going to deliver this baby. I know you – we're friends. Why would you…?" Athena trailed off, not knowing what to say, furious and shaking with anger and fear as Ishay kept resolutely staring at her feet, shaking her head 'no' repeatedly as Athena talked.

"We aren't friends, Sharon. Not since you and Karl decided to abandon what you believed in – what I still believe in."

"You don't want to do this. I can tell." Karl interrupted calmly, voice low and controlled, flicking his eyes to Hera. Athena glanced back and saw Hera was watching from several feet away, little hands twined together and eyes round and worried. Hera might not fully understand what was going on, but she could tell it wasn't good.

Karl continued,

"Who told you to cut us off, Ishay? Was it Lee?"

Ishay indicated it wasn't with a sparse shake of her head. Karl tried again, keeping his temper with an obvious effort, jaw clenched and hand squeezing Athena's tightly,

"Paulla, then?"

A nod this time.

"That frakking bitch." Under his breath, and then to Ishay,

"You do realise she's not even in charge, right Ishay? She had no godsdamned right to tell you who you can and can't midwife for."

"Go down to Landfall, Sharon, Karl. You don't want anything to do with us – you sided with them. So let them help you." Ishay answered coldly, and Athena was struck stunned by the callousness of the nurse's tone.

"It's your oath, Ishay. You can't just –"

Ishay stared at the two of them, hand clutching her blanket tight around thin shoulders, eyes flat,

"You better get going." And began to close the door on them. Karl's hand shot out to stop it but Athena stopped him.


"Just leave it, Karl. We can't make her." Athena was already calculating how long it should take them to get down into Landfall whilst having to stop for contractions, wondering what they would do with Hera when they got there. There was no point in wasting time on convincing Ishay – she wasn't going to listen to them, that was frakking obvious. Paulla had whispered in Ishay's ear and she had drunk it up, just like everyone else; just like Athena herself had, for a while. Gods, she felt stupid about that now.

"Godsdamnit." Karl gritted his teeth and dropped Athena's hand, clenching his fists as though he wanted to break Ishay's door down and force her to deliver the baby.

"Damnit!" He stalked away from the door, shoulders hunched up as he fought to regain control of his anger.


Athena saw Hera was still watching and hurried to her daughter, taking her small warm hand; Hera's skin so silky soft, fragile fingers tight around Athena's.

"Karl. Stop it. You're frightening Hera."

He stopped in his aimless pacing and looked up at the two of them, apology crossing his face and pushing back the impotent anger, the bunching muscles in his jaw, the furrow etched between his brows the only signs of his frustration.

"I'm sorry. I'm sorry, Hera."

"We need to get going now. The baby won't be arriving anytime soon, but I don't want to be walking down to Landfall with these contractions any closer together."

"This isn't godsdamned right." He took Hera's other hand in his, their eyes meeting over their daughter's head, and Athena read sympathy and fear for her in his expression.

"I realise that, Karl, but that doesn't change reality." She said, bluntly pragmatic, and walked away from Ishay's cabin without looking back, secretly harbouring the hope that the woman would give in and call them back before they left. She didn't.

# # #

"Jake! Jake!" Romo sheltered his eyes from the early morning sun with his hand and yelled down the streets of Landfall from his doorway. Nothing. No sound of barking or elatedly charging paws galloping towards his master. Just silence.

"Have you seen Jake since I let him out to do his business?" He asked Redwing, disappointed when he got a headshake in return. Where had that bloody dog gone?

"Jake!" He yelled one last time at the top of his lungs and noticed Redwing cringe away from the noise. He felt like a bloody fool, standing there yelling for the damned dog.


Jake had been out half an hour now, which wasn't unusual for him, really. Everyone knew him around Landfall; he often got a cool drink of – non-alcoholic – juice at Joe's, Aphrodite who ran Trader's always gave him a few treats when he came begging, and the kiddies would play with him whenever they got the chance. Romo figured he'd give the dog another hour before he went out searching for him. And there would probably be no need – Jake would turn up grinning madly with his tongue lolling out, tired from gambolling about and stuffed full with the scraps he'd begged from people and ready to laze around for the rest of the day.

"I'm sure he'll turn up soon." Redwing offered and Romo nodded in return, smiled slightly at the LPO. He turned to go back inside – he had documents to sign off on that had been piling up for days. Gods, Romo hated frakking paperwork all the more now that it was handwritten scribblings on thick, slightly lumpy homemade paper.

"Mr President! Mr President!" A voice called out just as the door was swinging shut. A woman was hurrying down the street toward him, waving one arm in the air as though to get his attention.

Romo narrowed his eyes and squinted at the woman. He recognised her, but couldn't remember how exactly he knew her, or her name. He waited on the doorstep, Redwing flashing him an awkward glance and smile and Romo mirroring the expression, much to Redwing's discomfort.

The woman arrived in a cloud of bustling, harried, efficiency, panting a little, short-cropped grey hair mussed and glasses hanging from a fine silver chain around her neck.

"Mr President." She gasped and laid her hand to her thin chest, sucking in breath,

"I need to speak to you, urgently."

Romo blinked.

"I'm sorry. I don't believe I know you…?"

The woman ran her hands through her hair in a futile attempt to smooth it and then smiled crisply at Romo, held out her hand. He stared at it for a second before he took it and briefly shook. Shaking hands…well, you never knew where they had been. And these days, with toiletries at an all time low, hands were often not very clean.

"I'm Doctor Circe Nerys – from the hospital."

Romo relaxed. A doctor. Acquainted with hygiene. Excellent.

"Dr Nerys, of course. I remember you now."

"No, you don't." She flashed him a grin.

"No, I don't, I'm afraid." He admitted with a rueful smile,

"But that's beside the point. You said you had a matter of some urgency to discuss. Come in, please. How can I help?" Romo ushered her inside, his mind running through possibilities. It couldn't be for hospital supplies or equipment – the small hospital was awash with them since the trip up to the orbiting Fleet to retrieve the remaining medical equipment along with all the necessities for solar power generation. Could she perhaps need more personal supplies? The doctors and other hospital works were paid in necessities for survival, as were the LPOs and Councillors, which meant they were free to dedicate all their time to their jobs. Perhaps the doctors had decided their 'pay' was not enough. Romo couldn't think what else it could be.

He sat at the dining table and indicated Nerys sit too, folding his hands on the table in front of him. Nerys began speaking quickly, voice clipped and quick, reflective of her overall appearance.

"There is a problem, Mr President. Earlier this morning, I had an appointment with a patient. Liara Addison."

Romo nodded slowly, not sure exactly why a medical problem would concern him.

"She is fourteen, Mr President, and she is pregnant." Nerys said the words as though they had great import, and Romo furrowed his brow, confused.

"Well, she's a bit young to be having children yet, I would have thought, but… Congratulations? I fail to see…" He tried and Nerys sighed heavily and shook her head, rubbing one thin hand over her forehead in a gesture of weariness,

"No, no, no, Mr President. You see Liara does not want to remain pregnant."

"So what's the problem? Why is this a matter that needs my attention? It's very unfortunate, and my sympathies to, ah, Miss Addison, but isn't that a rather easily fixable situation?"

"Mr President! Laura Roslyn's anti-abortion law is still in effect! We cannot legally terminate the pregnancy, without the law being revoked first."

Romo sat abruptly back in his chair; face carefully blank as he ordered his thoughts. He had been completely unaware that the abortion law was current – for some reason he had assumed Gaius Baltar had struck it out. Obviously not. To be honest, it wasn't something that Romo had thought about at all, past the initial distaste when it was first ratified. He didn't have much reason to worry about women's fertility, neither being a woman nor having a romantic relationship with one – until now? He still wasn't sure what he classified his relationship with Manya as. He refocused on the matter at hand.

"I'm sorry, but are you telling me that all this time, abortion has been illegal?"

"It has, Mr President."

"Bloody frakking hell." He swore quietly, mind whirring, reprimanding himself for not noticing that earlier. He had flicked briefly through most of the relevant documents on the laws of the Fleet – and now the Colony's laws, too – but he must have skipped over that one.

"I had absolutely no idea."

"Well, you did inherit the Presidency at a rather rocky time, to be fair." Nerys commented with a small, dry smile, and continued hopefully,

"Can I take this to mean you are not in favour of the current law?"

"I am not." Romo replied simply. He was in favour of people not getting pregnant in the first place if they didn't want to be, but in the event that pregnancy occurred, Romo failed to see the problem with halting the process before it went any further. This had not made him popular on Gemenon. Most people were fiercely against abortion – when speaking of their personal opinions anyway. Before the Fall of the Colonies, abortion had been legal on all twelve worlds; although some worlds had been more judgemental about the procedure than others.

"Then you will help?"

"You want me to erase the law, then, Dr Nerys?"

"I do, yes."

"The problem with that, Dr Nerys," Romo steepled his fingers beneath his chin and stared thoughtfully over the doctor's shoulder,

"Is that such issues need to be approved by the Council. I could issue a Presidential order regarding the abolition of the law but…such a thing would not be conducive to my political career."

"This law is a serious, life-threatening danger, Mr President. I hardly think your political career being less favourable should influence your decision." Nerys burst out, and Romo admired her passion and forcefulness even as he shook his head regretfully.

"No, Dr Nerys. It is not as simple as you make it out to be. It never is as simple as you make it out to be. If I override the Council, it will detrimentally affect my standing with them, and make it less likely they will vote in my favour on other – just as important – matters. I have to follow proper procedure."

Nerys accepted that without showing any emotion, and asked brusquely,

"Which way do you think the council will vote, Mr President? And how soon can you hold a vote? I ask because it is a matter of some urgency. Miss Addison is at six weeks gestation, according to the ultrasounds, and the sooner we can terminate, the safer it will be for her. Time is of the essence."

Romo shrugged, lifting his hands palm up in the air in a gesture of uncertainty.

"We have a mixture of men and women, and conservatives and liberals on the Council, Dr Nerys. I would not like to guess –"

"But if you had to?" Nerys interrupted and Romo shrugged again,

"It would be a close vote, I think." He considered the people on the Council – yes, it would indeed be a close vote, although he was sure of only a few of them. He knew for a fact that Tercel would vote against revoking the law, and that Manya and Sarah would vote for, but other than that, he had very little to go on.

"And when?"

"I can call an emergency Council meeting this afternoon, but as to whether everyone will be available to attend at this short notice, I don't know. At the very least, I can present the motion today to the majority of the Councillors, but don't expect a decision until tomorrow, Dr."

Nerys nodded and leaned forward, faded blue eyes intent on Romo's, and he wished he'd put his tinted glasses on when he got up. At this present moment they were sitting unhelpfully on his bedside table. Godsdamnit. He held her gaze though, as she spoke.

"This is important, Mr President. I will not see a young girl's life ruined because the silly boy she was frakking didn't have the self-control to pull out." Her eyes were fierce on his,

"One little thoughtless mistake, by a couple of hormone-ridden teenagers should not equal a life of servitude unwilling. Liara Addison is a bright, thoughtful, kind girl – she could do great things; but not if she dies in childbirth, or is hindered by a baby she is not equipped to raise."

Romo was for one of the few times in his life, pinned by the woman's gaze as opposed to the other way around. Usually it was he discomfiting people, setting them off balance and seizing their attention. He disliked the sensation, but couldn't look away – refused to drop his eyes.

"I understand, Doctor." He said at last.

"I understand you completely."

"Thank you, Mr President." She got to her feet, spindly and tall, faded blue eyes sharp on his face, and Romo felt like a little boy under the sternly approving eyes of a particularly strict teacher.

"I appreciate your willing support."

"You are most welcome, Dr Nerys." Romo stood and accompanied her to the door in a gentlemanly fashion, inclining his head to her.

"I shall keep you informed of any developments as they happen, Doctor."

"Of course, you will, Mr President." Nerys told him with another of her small dry smiles, and then whisked off down the street toward the hospital, enveloped in that air of brisk agitation.

# # #

"Where's my cow? Is that my cow?"

"Nooo! No, no, no! It go BAAA! It a BAA!"

"That's right – It goes 'baa'. It's a sheep!" Was being read with great enthusiasm and all the right sounds from a dog-eared, tattered picture book.

"That's not my c –"

"Brendan Constanza?"

Hotdog looked up from the battered book with a jolt, embarrassed. He was suddenly overwhelmed by nervousness and his palms went all clammy. He wiped one hand on his pants – unable to dry the other hand, one finger clutched in Nicky's tight, hot grip.

"Ah, yeah. That's me." He assented and his hand unconsciously closed around Nicky's completely. So small in his.

"I'm Doctor Jasmine Charminder." She smiled down at him, expression meant to be reassuring, but it frakking wasn't. Not that it was her fault.

"And this must be Nicky." She continued, saving Hotdog from having to say it was nice to meet her or anything untrue like that. It wasn't nice to meet her.

"Hi Nicky. I'm Dr Charminder, but you can call me Jazz." She smiled at Nicky, took the chubby little hand Hotdog wasn't holding and gave it a little squeeze. Nicky smiled and babbled a jumble of toddler conversation – words that had meaning to Nicky, but were mostly too jumbled for Hotdog to understand them. Hotdog caught the word 'cow' in the mix somewhere, and a grin formed uninvited on his face. He loved that godsdamned book.

"Say hi, Nicky."

"Hi-hi." Nicky gave a little wave at the Doctor and then lapsed back onto the pillows of the hospital bed, tired and hot. He was so tired these days. Had no energy, and it was getting worse as time went on.

"I see you've been seeing Doctor Cottle. Well, he's busy today, so I'll be taking care of you, Nicky." Her words were obviously for Hotdog, but he liked the way she addressed Nicky, talking in calm, cheery tones. It was a nice change to Doc Cottle's bedside manner. Cottle was nice enough to Nicky, in a sort of mildly ignoring him kind of way, but he half-terrified Hotdog.

"Thanks." Hotdog said, at loss for what to say but feeling he should say something.

"Well, Mr Constanza, now that we have power, and all our equipment, we can run some tests that we weren't capable of doing before now. Would that be all right by you?"

Hotdog wrinkled his brow,

"What kind of tests? And what for? I mean, you know it's his kidneys, right? What else…?"

"Blood tests, today, Mr Constanza. And yes, we know it is Nicky's kidneys that aren't working properly, but tests might be able to help us ascertain why, which should tell us how exactly we need to go about trying to treat him." Dr Charminder was gently and simply explaining the details in a way Hotdog could understand, and that helped him feel better for some reason. Most of what Doc Cottle explained went straight over his head. Hotdog was a good pilot, and not a stupid person – or at least he didn't think so – but all that technical scientific and medical shit went straight over his head. He caught the use of the word 'try to treat him' though, and bit his lip, frightened for his son.

"Well that's good. Right?"

Doctor Charminder visibly hesitated and then nodded slowly,

"Knowing the exact nature of the problem is often very helpful in determining successful treatment, yes."


"I won't be able to tell you anymore until we've done the tests, Mr Constanza. I'm not comfortable with guesses when talking about patients' prognoses."

That didn't sound good. Hotdog looked over at his son, tiny on the bed and fear thudded through his body in time with his heart.

"O-Okay." He managed to respond to the doctor, not quite thinking straight. Gods, not a year ago Hotdog hadn't even known he'd had a kid, and now…. Well, now Nicky was the most important thing in Hotdog's life, and he was frakking terrified for him.

Dr Charminder was efficient and softly spoken, and Hotdog thought Nicky liked her. She let him play with her stethoscope, and gave him a sugar beet candy stick for being so good while she drew blood. Gods, that was the worst part. Nicky was old enough now to know what the needle meant, and he kicked and howled while Hotdog held him down, the doctor drawing the blood as quick as she could. Nicky's wails of betrayal, as Hotdog pinned him on the bed and tried to tell him it was all going to be okay, were heartbreaking.

And then afterwards, instantly forgiving and seeking comfort like all toddlers, Nicky crawled off the bed and into Hotdog's arms, sucking on his sugar beet stick and snuggling his head into Hotdog's chest. One little arm wrapped up around Hotdog's neck, his dimpled fist that held the sugar beet mashed into his mouth. Hotdog held him tight and thanked Dr Charminder quietly as she hurried off with the blood samples, and rocked Nicky back and forth with an easy motion that was becoming second nature now. Frakking hell. Only about nine months of being a dad, and then when it was finally starting to feel natural and normal to be a father, Nicky started getting sick again.

"Cow." Nicky demanded through his mouthful of sugar beet and hand.


"Alright, alright. Hang on a second." Hotdog snagged the book from the floor while juggling Nicky and being half-choked by Nicky's grip around his neck, unwinding the little arm from his neck, and turning Nicky around to look at the beloved book. He didn't want to read. He was terrified and his mind was filled up with all the things that the blood tests could show, all the worst-case scenarios pushing into the forefront of his mind. He wanted to go somewhere quiet and sit alone until he heard the news. But Nicky needed his dad.

"Dada, COW! Mooo, dada! Coooooww!" Nicky beat on his father's hand with his fist and grabbed at the book, trying to open it.

Hotdog swallowed hard and kissed the top of Nicky's head, his voice strangled with emotion as he read,

"Where's my cow?"

# # #

Author's Note: So, that's the beginning of the episode – and it's going to get much more intense from here on in. The episode will be focusing mostly on Romo, Helo, and Hotdog, and bad things could happen in the BSG 'verse this episode. Bad, sad things are indeed at great risk of happening… This is BSG after all; people can't stay happy for long without the afore mentioned bad things coming to get them *evil laugh*

Please leave a review and let me know what you thought of this chapter – I love your feedback!

Oh, and btw, does anyone know what the book Hotdog is reading to Nicky is, and who wrote it? 'Tis written by one of my very favourite-ist authors :D

Part Two – Inevitable Vulnerability will be up in several days (fingers crossed).