"Peace; pray you now,
No dancing more.
Sing, sweet, and make us mirth;
We have done with dancing measures: sing that song
You call the song of love at ebb."Mary, queen of Scots, "Chastelard, a tragedy", Algernon Charles Swinburne
Apollo lay on his bed, his shoulders resting on the wall, catching his breath and looking at the darkness behind his eyelids. He didn't like the view, so he opened his eyes, looking for the light, knowing the source burned more surely than a sun.
At this precise moment, Starbuck was a tangle of bedsheets and bare limbs, his hair an equally tangled tawny mane hiding half of his face. Among the several qualities he shared with felixes, though, was that poses which on any other human would have looked awkward or even ridiculous, on his body were graceful. If Apollo hadn't been so completely sated, he'd have felt desire. As it was, the emotion that settled over him was a great deal quieter and deeper.
Starbuck was falling asleep. He always did. Apollo stayed awake longer, but then he tried to. He usually talked to keep himself awake; it didn't bother Starbuck, who had in fact once, in an unguarded moment, confessed that he liked hearing Apollo's voice as he drifted off, made him feel it was safe. Apollo had decided to discard the notion that he was soporific and, focusing on the 'safe' comment, to take it as a compliment. The problem wasn't, after all, that Starbuck slept; it was that he always woke enough before Apollo to be long gone once Apollo did wake up. He wanted to wake up to Starbuck in his bed just once, but the one time he'd mentioned it, some yahrens ago, Starbuck had looked at him through his long eyelashes and said, sleepily, "You know how to get that."
Apollo had flinched away from that answer and never raised the topic again. Sometimes he wished Starbuck would just beat the felgarcarb out of him, but instead the blond never even directly alluded to Apollo's actions that night back at the academy. Every three, four sectares he made some indirect reference, like that one, and Apollo would again be overtaken by a guilt that all of Starbuck's inexplicable forgiveness couldn't banish. He didn't want to think about that, but he did, because it was an important check on his jealousy.
And that was almost funny. When he'd promised himself with Serina, Starbuck's jealousy had been the talk of the Wing, though that had been mostly attributed to her trying to usurp his position as Apollo's wingman and the rest to her ill-concealedthough to tell the truth Apollo hadn't noticed it until after she was dead and people weren't quite as careful to make sure he wasn't in earshot when they talkedcampaign to relegate her husband's best friend to his bachelor past. She thought Starbuck both a bad influence in a moral sense and a taker-up of his valuable attention... if only she'd known how right she was, he thought, looking at his bedmate and resisting the urge to run his hand through the tawny hair. Only when Starbuck was asleep could you pet him...
Or at least, only when he was asleep could Apollo pet him. He'd been privy toactually, had walked in ona conversation between Athena and Cassie some sectares back, in time to hear Athena admitting to the petite blonde that yes, Starbuck had been the "best man I've ever had in my bed: plenty of foreplay, thorough and considerate, three or four orgasms, and lots of after-cuddling, and now that you've gotten pointers on how to handle Sheba you'd damned well better get your butt back out in the hallway and signal at the door, you hear me, big brother? Don't even make me change the keycode or you'll be looking for a new baby sitter."
He hadn't even tried to explain that he'd thought she'd be asleep that time of night, he'd just obeyed. When he'd come back in, poor Cassie hadn't been able to look at him. Of course, he'd only met Athena's eyes because he'd known she'd make his life miserable for sectons if he couldn't... she was a hell of a sister to be saddled with sometimes.
He looked at Starbuck, who was burying his face in the pillow, and wondered if Starbuck was different with women, or just with him. Not that he wanted more foreplay, and four orgasms had been beyond him at sixteen, but after-cuddling... that he did want.
"Funny," he said, though he only realized he'd said it out loud when Starbuck turned his face toward him.
"What?" yawned Starbuck.
Apollo thought quickly. He couldn't say 'that you don't want to be touched after sex', that would probably lead to an argument and Starbuck's even earlier departure. He said, "Life."
"Oh, gods, Apollo, I'm not up for philosophy..."
"Don't bother. I'm not talking to you, I'm not really talking at all, I'm just talking..."
"Good..." Starbuck murmured; evidently that had made perfect sense to him. He yawned again.
"I wish you'd stay the whole night," Apollo said on impulse. "You're off tomorrow."
"I can come back."
"You don't usually want extra effort."
"What I don't want," Starbuck said, opening one blue eye and looking at him, "is to feed that possessive streak of yours."
That shut the topic down. Again. Apollo sighed.
Starbuck closed his eye and burrowed into the pillow. "I will," he said after a centon.
Apollo accepted it. "After Boxey leaves?"
"See?" Starbuck yawned and turned over, putting his back to Apollo.
"Or before. If you can face him at breakfast, by all means, feel free to show up. I wish I didn't have to."
Starbuck didn't answer, just hunched a shoulder at him.
"Gods, Apollo," Starbuck said. "No wonder you're always in such a bad mood... don't you ever sleep?" He rolled over on his back and stared at the ceiling for a centon, and then, while Apollo was still trying to decide what to say next, he sat up and crossed his legs at the ankles under the blanket, wrapping his arms around his raised knees. "Okay. You want to actually talk. Okay." He yawned and shook his head sharply. When he looked at Apollo his eyes were awake. "What are you sorry for now?"
"Everything," Apollo said inadequately.
Starbuck shook his head again, this time in rueful amusement. "Everything? That's a very comprehensive apology, even for you. And I rather doubt that 'everything' is even your fault."
Apollo had to smile. Then he said, "Well, then, for, you know. Being me."
"Being you. That's better. But even so, I doubt most of it's your fault, either. And little enough of what is needs an apology."
"Starbuck, you know what I mean."
Starbuck regarded him seriously. "Okay. I accept your apology, and I forgive you."
"Just like that?"
"How else?" Starbuck yawned again. "Sorry. I'm awake."
"Why?" Apollo asked.
"Because you're talking to me."
"No. Why just like that?"
"Aren't you sorry? You said you were. If you're sorry, I forgive you. Isn't that how it works?" Starbuck looked at him with candid blue eyes.
Apollo felt his breath catch in his throat, and very suddenly, just like that, in the half-light of his sleeping room with the scent of sex and sweat on the sheets and his skin and Starbuck's soul within reach, he experienced what he'd often read about and never felt before. The entire universe seemed to pivot around him, presenting him with a entirely new perspective on everything. And especially on Starbuck.
"If 'it' is love," Apollo said, "that's how it works."
"What else would it be, you idiot?" Starbuck asked fondly.
And Apollo opened his mouth and listened to what came out, trusting his instincts the same way he trusted them in a Viper, the only place he'd ever felt at home. The only place except at this man's side. "Starbuck, did you ever think about getting Sealed?"
The corners of Starbuck's eyes crinkled as he grinned. "Yeah. A couple of times."
That startled Apollo a little. He'd thought maybe once, though he knew Starbuck had never actually asked Cassie.
"The first time," Starbuck was continuing, "it was on impulse. After the Destruction. But fortunately she had her feet on the ground and turned me down. And then, well, you know. Something better came along and she lost interest. I'm not really sure what I was thinking either time."
"So you're not sorry?"
"Nah," Starbuck shook his head. "It works out."
Starbuck grinned again. "You're not trying to fix me up, are you? Or are you thinking about Sheba?"
"As little as possible," Apollo admitted.
"Then you're in trouble."
"Not if she could see me now."
"True..." He smiled, a quick flash of teeth in the dim light. "Want me to call her up?"
"No." Apollo looked at him. "You didn't answer my question."
"Would I? Maybe. To the right person. Trying to get rid of me?"
"No," Apollo said quickly. "Just the opposite."
Starbuck raised an eyebrow but didn't say anything for a few centons. Then, quietly, "You?"
Apollo swallowed. "Yes. I love you."
"Are you saying 'commitment'?"
"Huh." Starbuck thought about that for a centon or so. "You mean, no more wives? No more structuring your private life for public approval? No more picking your lifemate to please your father?"
Apollo winced internally, but they were certainly fair questions. "Yes," he said again.
"For as long as we both shall live? In the sight of God and the congregation assembled?" Starbuck quoted.
"Yes," Apollo affirmed. "If you want, I'll call IFB right now and make a public announcement."
"Not necessary... That conversation we had before Serina. You mean that? You mean, just me?"
"Not 'just' you," Apollo objected to the adverb. "Only you. No one else but you."
Starbuck looked at him for a long centon and then nodded. "Yes," he said, and, lying down, laid his head on Apollo's shoulder and put his arm around him. "I will." He yawned again and kissed Apollo's throat once before relaxing into apparent slumber.
Apollo stared at him. He felt stunned, shocky even. He had a nearly overpowering urge to shake him awake and demand... something. Was it that easy? Could it have been that easy all along? Just ask him? He hadn't planned on saying anything at all tonight, and then, having brought it up, had been prepared for a major deal. Days, maybe sectons, of discussion, argument, groveling, begging if that's what it took. And it wasn't even ten centons... just ask and get.
He could remember, as clearly as if it had been said yesterday, what Starbuck had said to him that night at the bar, the night that had laid down all the ground rules for their relationship. "You don't own me. You never will. Not if you won't." He'd mistaken what it was Starbuck had meant by "not if you won't", but Starbuck had set him straight on that, even if he hadn't already figured it out... But he'd sure as hell meant that about not being owned.
Then, to his even greater dismay and causing his stare to turn from shock to horror, his ever-faithful memory delivered the question that had preceded Starbuck's ultimatum of a dozen yahrens ago: "Are you ever going to commit to me?"
You don't own me. You never will. Not if you won't reciprocate. Not if you won't be mine.
Reciprocation. That was all Starbuck had ever wanted. It was that simple, that easy.
He had never thought of that before this, because he couldn't admit it was possible. As long as he didn't admit it was possible, they didn't have to talk about it. Because if they talked about it, he would have had to justify his behavior. You didn't have to justify not doing something that wasn't even possible... He had a need, or thought he did, to be morally superior, to tell himself that he was carrying out his duty. Even when the Destruction rendered all those duties meaningless. Or at least so much less important they might as well have been meaningless. And all the while, Starbuck was struggling with his own need, so much simpler. So much more basic. Just to be himself. A person. Not a mere adjunct, swallowed up, living just to be what Apollo needed with nothing for himself.....
Apollo swallowed. There were only two ways Starbuck could have dealt with the Apollo of their senior yahren if he wanted to be a person. He could have had nothing more to do with him, or he could match him. If Apollo was going to have women, then Starbuck would, too. It wasn't Starbuck's fault that the Apollo of that time hadn't been able to understand what was offered. Or accept it if he had.
He swallowed and looked at his betrothed. Then he stroked Starbuck's shoulder and bent over and kissed him. "Starbuck," he said softly.
"I'm sorry," he said, thinking even as he did that he hadn't said it so much before in his entire life. "For being so"
Starbuck sat up in a swift movement and stopped the apology in mid-word by the simple expedient of kissing Apollo. His arms went around Apollo, pulling him close, and Apollo forgot what he was going to say as he clung to the blond.
When Starbuck finally pulled away, Apollo caught his breath long enough to say, "What?" That was all he could get out before Starbuck kissed him again.
When Apollo could think again, he was flat on his back and Starbuck was nibbling on his ear while his hands found equally, if not more, enjoyable occupation further down his body. "What are you doing?" he managed to ask. It wasn't possible that Starbuck could actually be capable of another round this soon... could it? He hoped he was wrong.
"If you're going to keep me awake," Starbuck breathed into Apollo's ear, punctuating with nips, "then I'm going to get something out of it. Plus find something a little more useful for you to do with that mouth than continually apologize."
Apollo moaned his agreement as his own hands discovered proof positive that he was indeed underestimating Starbuck's recuperative powers. He closed his hand around the stiffening cock, and then, taking Starbuck's meaning, he pushed the blond onto his back and began kissing his way down his chest. He lingered on the nipples, teasing Starbuck with tongue and teeth, very lightly, while his hand rolled the blond's balls gently against each other. Starbuck shuddered under him, throwing his head back and moaning. The head of his cock nudged Apollo's chest lightly, and his hips thrust upward as he sought some relief. Apollo yielded to the need and left his nipples, sliding down along his belly in one quick lapping motion to take his cock into his mouth with no preliminaries.
"Gods, yes, Apollo," Starbuck said, his voice hoarse with need and one of his hands clenching in his lover's hair. "Yes..." he pushed upwards into the willing mouth.
Apollo braced himself on Starbuck's thigh with his right hand, working his left under Starbuck's hip to push a finger inside, pinioning the blond between two pleasurable torments. He could tell that, remarkable powers of recovery or not, Starbuck was going to last a long while. He worked his mouth up and down on the cock, his finger finding the prostate and stroking it in counterpoint. Starbuck shuddered under his ministrations, crying out in soft sobbing breaths that made a divinity out of Apollo's name.
When he came, finally, it was in a long climax of arched back and clenched astrum and hands tangled in Apollo's hair and sheets and a wordless cry of pure pleasure. Apollo swallowed hot, salty, precious essence of Starbuck, and then gathered his limp, almost boneless lifemate into his arms, pulling the sheets around them and holding Starbuck close. After a long wordless time, Apollo wasn't sure how long, Starbuck stirred, burrowing into the hollow of Apollo's throat and sighing. Then he spoke. "Now," he said softly, "I am going to sleep. Good night, love."
Apollo cradled him and laughed himself into his own dreams. And for the first time in a long time, tomorrow was a promise.
|The Program||The First Dance||The Second Dance||The Third Dance|
|The Fourth Dance||The Fifth Dance||The Sixth Dance|
|Autumn Afternoon | Ilya's Wedding | Something... | Last Corner | Morgans|
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Battlestar Galactica | The A Team
Space 1999 | Alias Smith and Jones | Jurassic Park III
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