You've always wanted more than you were supposed to out of life. And you've been willing to sacrifice to get it. But, somewhere along the line you stopped thinking the things you wanted would happen. You never stopped working and fighting for them, to do that would have been unacceptable, but you began to believe you'd always lose.
You hoped but you didn't expect.
You didn't expect to be able to watch your daughter play on solid ground with a sky above her head. But you're here. The grass is wet with dew and it's tickling Hera's bare feet. Hera's laughing and the sound fills you with a joy so big you think your body might not be able to contain it.
This is why you didn't give up.
You think sometimes about the million choices you've made. The times you could have wavered but held your ground. The times when everyone around you doubted you, even hated you. The times your body and heart were so tired that you didn't think you could go on for one more minute.
But you did go on.
Right now, you feel a certainty with your entire being that it was all worth it. Every difficult choice you've made in your life, every time you suffered. You can’t find it in you to regret any of the pain or struggle because it led you to this. Your feet are firmly planted on solid ground and your daughter will know her mother and her father and what it's like to watch a sun rise above her every morning.
Your daughter will have a childhood and memories that are hers and hers alone.
Earth is quiet. That's the best way to describe it. After the initial excitement dies down, it's just quiet. People are eager to live their lives without the constant threat of total annihilation around every corner.
There are ceremonies both to celebrate the living and their future and to mourn the dead and the sacrifices they made so that future would be possible. And then people retreat to their separate corners and go about trying to make lives for themselves. It's hard work but, for the most part, it's calm and peaceful.
You're used to pushing, used to never slowing down. But you're still now, you and Helo lying on the ground with Hera between you, one tiny hand grasping each of yours. All three of you looking up at the stars.
A new start under a new sky. This time you'll get it right.
You and Helo are helping to build shelters. They aren't much, just simple structures to keep out the occasional rain and wind. The climate here is mild so far.
You keep Hera close and take turns playing with her while the other works.
Today you spot an Eight watching from a distance. Most of the Eights, in fact most of the cylons, keep their distance from you. For all the talk of forgiveness from both humans and cylons, the cylons will never consider you one of them again.
You accept that. You made your choice years ago. You haven't wavered; you've never had time or room for doubt. Still, you think often of your sisters, the ones that are here and the ones that aren't.
(A long time ago you stopped thinking of them as copies. You're different. Whether it's something in your wiring or as simple as the choices you've made, you aren't all the same.)
Maybe this is what Boomer wanted too. The two of you were cut from the same cloth after all.
But you were so obviously different.
Boomer could never pick a side. She was torn apart by threads tying her to two warring factions. You made a choice to be Athena, to be a Colonial officer. Maybe it wasn't even a choice. You knew where you belonged.
There are rumors that the Eights are all picking new names for themselves. You hope they have a chance to find what you've found.
As peaceful as things are, you don't stop fearing for your daughter entirely. You never will. You've lost her too many times for that.
Whenever someone you don't trust approaches Hera, your hand automatically reaches for your sidearm before you remember where you are.
Everyone, excepting a few security forces, has relinquished their guns. It's part of starting over. Not even Helo knows you have a gun and ammunition hidden in the bottom of your pack. It may not be in the spirit of new beginings but when it comes to protecting Hera you could give a frak about that.
You know not to leave anything up to chance. You know not to trust anyone but yourself to protect her. You won't let her down again.
You've killed for Hera and you've died for her. There is nothing you won't do to keep her safe.
There are animals that often rush past the area where you’ve set up camp, big golden creatures with long elegant necks and powerful legs that propel them by in a blur of movement and a thunder of sound. Hera bounces up and down with excitement whenever they speed by, tugs on your pant leg until you lift her up so she can get a better look.
One day, you're preparing dinner when Hera grabs your hand and silently points, urging you up a slight incline. When you reach the top she motions down to the valley below you. There they are, nearly twenty of the animals. They are still now, grazing. It's the first time you've gotten a good look at them. They're beautiful.
Hera's small hand is clenched tightly around two of your fingers. You look down to see her eyes wide and mouth open in awe. It's as pure a look of joy as you've ever seen.
A smile brightens your own face in response to your daughter's happiness and that smile only widens when you realize you were the one she wanted to share this with.
Galactica was home in a way that the baseships and Caprica never were. You fought hard for that home and you miss it sometimes.
You wake up in the middle of the night, your whole body itching to feel the hum of the ship around you, only to be confronted by the still, quiet Earth night.
You can't help thinking then about the old man. He's up on a mountain building a cabin. No one has spoken to him since he buried the president. As much as you yearn for the talks you used to have and as much as you want to know if he's okay, you know to leave him. If you lost Helo and Hera, you'd seek solitude too.
Your eyes roam the shelter until they land on Hera asleep on her cot. You snuggle closer to Helo and close your eyes. You'll get used to this soon enough.
Out of all the cylons, only Caprica Six and Ellen speak with you regularly. You know their interest is in Hera and not you but you welcome their visits anyway. Hera should know both her cylon and human families.
Ellen visits often, occasionaly with Colonel Tigh in tow. (You'll never be able to think of him as Saul, no matter how many times he tells you to call him that.) Ellen is fascinated by Hera and, to your surprise, very good with her.
It's strange to think Ellen Tigh is in essence Hera's grandmother. You say so to Helo after one of Ellen's visits. The two of you start laughing and can't stop every time you look at each other for the rest of the day.
It's a new feeling, this kind of happiness.
You and Helo haven't ever laughed like this. Helo and Boomer did, before the end of the world. You have the memories but it wasn't you. These memories will be yours and no one else's.
You aren't naive enough to think life on Earth will be easy. But you're content in the moment to have a life of your own and time and room for real happiness with your family. There is uncertainty, yes, but it's laced with a hopefulness that you haven't felt since you were pregnant with Hera.
Your daughter has been through so much in her short life but, unlike you, she doesn't know what it's like to die. You have memories of hundreds of deaths and rebirths, memories of every Eight inside you. You're glad Hera will only experience death once.
Maybe that's why she's so adventurous, why she seems to have no fear.
That night Hera falls while playing and breaks her arm. You see trying to climb a large boulder and you rush toward her but she's falling before you can reach her. Her scream tears through every molecule of your being.
Doc Cottle and any other medical personnel are miles away so you set the bone yourself and put on a splint fashioned out of a tree branch and a hastily torn up shirt while Helo holds Hera's hand.
Somehow you keep your hands from shaking even as the tears stream down Hera's face. You keep a reassuring smile on your face and your voice is calm as you repeat over and over again, "You'll be okay. Mommy and Daddy will take care of you."
You've had a lot of practice keeping calm under pressure. You're reminded tonight that's invaluable as a mother.
It both frightens and excites you that Hera is so fragile. You'll never forget the horror that filled you when Hera was taken nor will you forget the grief, the way everything in you shattered, when you believed she was dead. That feeling and the love that fills you now assure you that you are so much more than simple circuits and wires, no matter what anyone else may say.
It's certain that all of you have limited time on this planet you're making home. You and Hera and Helo are all on equal footing now. You've all got just one life in front of you. The knowledge thrills you.
Later when you're all settled down for the night, Hera now calm and resting peacefully, you delight at the blush you can see on your daughter's cheeks in response to the chill of the night air. You swear you can feel the blood coursing through your own veins.
Hera doesn't stay down for long. Just a day later, she is running and jumping again. Helo makes a move to slow her down but you hold him back.
"Let her," you say. You want her to be fearless.
She's been through so much but, if it's left any scars, she doesn't show it. She still takes on life at full speed. You like to think she's a little like you that way.
Your daughter is the future. It's a big destiny for someone so small and breakable. But you know with absolute certainty that Hera will live up to it. You often see a look of fierce determination in her eyes that mirrors so closely the feeling that's kept you going, kept you fighting for Hera, for Helo, for yourself.
Hera has a sweet nature. (She's like her father that way. You smile at the thought.) But, she'll be a warrior when she needs to be. You hope she doesn't have to fight as hard as you have but you know she'll be able if she has to.
And, as long as you're breathing, you'll be right beside her.