I never would, never could,
Never will ever kill what's between us
So let's try again
We'll start a brand new dance
Between old friends"Brand New Dance", Paul Kennerly
Apollo woke up to find Starbuck in his bed. And such was his nature that almost the first thing he thought (after a wordless surge of love and an incredulous 'he's here') was: be careful what you wish for, Apollo, you just might get it. Because 'in his bed' was a bit of an understatement.
Starbuck was once again a tangle of bare limbs and bed sheets, but now that tangle was not only resting on top of Apollo but sprawled out over some three-quarters of the available surface of the mattress. He had his answer, anyway: Starbuck was a cuddler. Every time Apollo had waked during the night, Starbuck had been holding on as though he were afraid it was Apollo who was going to get up and leave... Frack. Maybe it wasn't cuddling. Maybe it was a symptom of Starbuck's ingrained insecurities, and one he'd been fighting with Apollo all these years because he couldn't afford to depend on Apollo. Because Apollo couldn't be there for him.
He'd used to get angry when Starbuck showed any of that around himbecause deep down he knew it was his responsibility, as the one Starbuck loved, to help him? Maybe, he could admit that now. It was Boomer who'd at least stopped him doing that by telling him, "You can't blame Starbuck for not shaking it off, Apollo. We're all of us in thrall to what we learn when we're too young to be critical, the stuff we take for Word. 'Give me a child until he is seven and I'll show you the man', isn't that what they say? And Bucko barely remembers seven, you know that, and nothing before then. The post-traumatic amnesia took anything he might have had of good memories, and what he's got all tells him the same things: people leave, he's not valuable, and death is everywhere. Sagan, Apollo, sometimes I wonder he's sane at all."
Boomer had considerately refrained from enumerating all of Apollo's little childhood quirks, but Apollo had done that himself and admitted that he was being too hard on Starbuck. But in his new mood, the one that had won him Starbuck still here, he knew he'd let his best friend, his loverhis lifematedown pretty badly on this, yet another, score. He put his hand gently on the tawny mane resting on his chest and sighed.
Starbuck opened one blue eye, or at least that was all Apollo could see through the blond hair covering his face. "What's that for? And don't say you're sorry for something," he added quickly, "because unless I'm very badly wrong about what time it is, I don't have time enough to distract you properly from still another apology."
"You don't," Apollo agreed. "I was just thinking about waking you up. Boxey will be up any centon"
And as if he were Diabolus and the speaking of his name had summoned him, the child himself came bouncing through the door to the sleeping room at that very moment, calling, "Da-ad."
Starbuck rolled over and stared at the ceiling as Apollo said, "Boxey! How many times do I have to tell you you are not to come in without askingand getting an answer?"
"Sorry, Dad, but I spilled juice on my shirt and don't know what to wear to school."
Apollo rolled his eyes. "When did you do this?"
"Well, yesterday, when I was putting my clothes out for this morning."
"Then yesterday is when you should have mentioned it."
"Okay. But I don't know what to wear."
"I don't care. Wear anything." A muffled snort from Starbuck made Apollo reconsider those words. "I'll pick out something in a few centons," he amended.
"Okay. Hi, Starbuck. You spent the night this time," Boxey said with devastating accuracy.
"Good morning, Boxey. Yes, I did."
"Are you going to spend the night all the times from now on?" Boxey asked artlessly, leaning on the foot of the bed.
Apollo couldn't decide which he wanted more: to die himself, or to kill Boxey. "He's going to move in with us, actually," he said. This wasn't how he'd wanted to open this topic with his son, but one thing he'd learned in the past yahren: children often derailed your plans. He was going to ask how Boxey felt about it, but he didn't have to.
"Really?" The boy's big eyes lit up and he flung himself onto the bed, scrambling up to hug Starbuck. "You're going to live with us? For ever?"
"Yeah, kiddo, your dad talked me into it," Starbuck ruffled Boxey's hair. And got away with it, too, Apollo noted.
"Dad," Boxey turned to hug him next, "are you and Starbuck getting Sealed?"
Apollo paused. How to explain to Boxey the ramifications of homosexual civil marriages and the Church's stand on
Starbuck said, almost casually, "Nope. Sealing is a religious ceremony and two people of the same sex can't get Sealed. We're just getting married."
"Oh," Boxey said. He pulled loose from Apollo and settled between the two men, taking their hands and putting them on his chest and both his own hands on top of them. "Does the Church not like it?"
"Dunno," shrugged Starbuck. "I'm the wrong person to ask. I'm a heathen."
"You are that," Apollo said, relishing the feel of Starbuck's hand under his. And Boxey's on top... this was how it was meant to be, he decided.
"What's a heathen?"
"What Starbuck is," Apollo said. "You've noticed he's never at Temple, haven't you?"
"Oh. Can I be a heathen?" Boxey hated getting up early on First Day.
"Over your grandfather's dead body," Apollo heard himself say.
Boxey considered that. "Well, if Grandfather has to die, I don't want to."
"Good boy," Starbuck said with suspicious sincerity.
"When are you getting married, Dad?"
"I don't know," Apollo said. It was a good thing his hand was on Starbuck's, else he might have missed the sudden, fleeting stillness that possessed the blond. Apollo realized then that he could lose Starbuck just as simply as he'd gotten him. It wouldn't take much. He'd let Apollo off the hook for the first question, but this one... Apollo explained his answer as much for Starbuck as Boxey. "See, I don't know anything about purely civil marriages. I don't know how long you have to wait, or how much paperwork there is. And we have to make sure our schedules will match up"
"Don't you make the schedules?" Boxey asked.
"Not mine. Colonel Tigh makes mine" and who the hell knew how he felt about it, as far as that went. "And people might want to come, so we have to give them some warning... I don't know how long. As soon as we can, though. Maybe a secton or so."
Starbuck had relaxed again. "That sounds about right," he agreed.
"But you'll stay here anyway?" Boxey asked anxiously.
"Yes, he will," Apollo answered, and was rewarded by smiles of pure happiness from them both. "Just try and leave," he added.
"Yeah, just try," Boxey echoed. "We love you, Starbuck... what will I call you?"
Boxey sighed at grown-up obtuseness. "I can't call you Dad, because Dad's Dad, and if I call you both Dad you won't know who I'm talking to."
"Oh. I don't know, there are plenty of words," Starbuck said.
"What did you call yours? Before he died?"
"I don't remember mine," Starbuck said gently. "I don't know what I called him."
"Oh. I'm sorry," Boxey leaned against Starbuck's shoulder a centon, and then looked at Apollo. "You call Grandfather 'Father'. Should I call Starbuck that?"
Apollo was taken aback. It was reasonable enough, but
"I don't know," Starbuck said dubiously, "that always sounds awful formal to me. I'm not a formal kind of a guy... What about 'Pop'?"
"Pop," Boxey tried it out. "Pop. Dad and Pop... Okay, I'll say Pop."
"Pop it is," Apollo agreed, "though that makes me think of backstages and" he broke off.
"And what, Dad?"
Starbuck was snickering again. He was going to be no help at all, Apollo could see that. "Nothing, Boxey," he said. "Just, men who sit at theater backstage doors are usually called Pop."
"Pops, Apollo," Starbuck corrected. "Pops. And I'll tell you all about backstage when you're old enough, Boxey. Right now, I think you'd better go try your hand at picking out your own clothes. One of us will be out in a few centons."
"Okay," Boxey said, crawling out from under their hands when Apollo showed no signs of wanting to let go of Starbuck. "Is it still a secret?"
"Just for today, Boxey," said Apollo. "I have to talk to Grandfather before you start telling the whole Fleet."
"I do not. But I'll wait till tomorrow to tell anybody." He went out.
"For what? Oh... look, I know all your little quirks, Apollo, just like you know mine. Hell, we've been basically living together since we were seventeen, haven't we? And that word triggers a good half of yours. Pop is fine with me."
"I love you so much," Apollo said, tightening his hold on Starbuck's hand and leaning over to kiss him.
"Ummmmm," Starbuck said, pulling away reluctantly. "Nice... but for some strange reason I doubt the child will stay out for as long as it would take to follow up on that properly."
Apollo sighed. "You're completely correct. I'll use the turbowash first and try to make him presentable."
"Sounds good." But he didn't let go of Apollo's hand, biting his lower lip as he looked for words. Apollo waited. "Did I... push? Just then? About marriage? 'Cause you said that about moving in and I figured, with Boxey, I mean, you'd want it regularized"
Apollo wasted a micron or two cursing his earlier hesitation and another cursing Starbuck's sense of inadequacy but finally managed to interrupt him. "No. You were completely correct. If that actual word didn't get said last night, it's only because I thought it was understood. That it went along with 'commitment' and 'for as long as we both shall live' and 'in the sight of God and the congregation assembled', though I guess that one's out... Which was my problem there. I was stuck on how to explain the Church to Boxey." He grinned at Starbuck, especially at the relief in his eyes, and added, "Apparently that wasn't as important as the vital question of what to call you."
Starbuck returned the grin, releasing Apollo's hand. "Well, no. That's a daily matter, after all. Anyway, I read a book about kids once, and it said to make sure you matched your answer to the actual question. Like," he amplified when Apollo raised his eyebrows questioningly, "when he asks where he came from, don't tell him about sex if 'Caprica City' will satisfy him."
Apollo laughed. "I'll bear that in mind. I think I read too much into him, sometimes."
"Well," Starbuck said, "he hasn't got your complicated genetic makeup, that's for sure. His mother was a single-minded person and the odds that his father was anything like yours..."
"I'm not sure if you're saying my son is simple or I'm neurotic," Apollo teased.
"Who says those are alternatives?" Starbuck riposted.
Apollo swung a pillow at him, laughing, and then climbed out of bed and headed for the turbowash. Much as he'd like to believe otherwise, Boxey was more than capable of dressing himself... in something completely horrible. As he stood in the turbowash, he wondered why Starbuck had read a book on children, decided he'd ask him someday but not now because the answer was probably depressing, and then admitted to himself that Starbuck probably wasn't exactly right about their knowing each other's quirks. True, they'd been sleeping together on and off for nearly a dozen yahrens, and living, if not together, in each other's pockets in close military quarters for a large part of that time. But Starbuck had been paying attention, and Apollo hadn't. He'd been far more preoccupied with trying to possess the other man than understand him, though in his defense, he rallied a bit, that didn't mean that he didn't understand him. Just that he didn't understand him as well as he understood Apollo.
Well, he thought as he dried himself and went back into the sleeping room to get dressed, that can change. And will. He looked at Starbuck, who was apparently sound asleep again, and smiled affectionately. Now that I know I can have him by loving him.
"Get up, you," he said as he put on his shoes. "Turbowash is free and if you're not out for breakfast in twenty centons I'm sending Muffy after you."
"It would terrible of you to deprive your son of his pet," Starbuck said without opening his eyes. "Or would it?" That sounded speculative.
"I hate that thing almost as much as you," Apollo said hastily, "but not even your credit is good enough to withstand daggitcide."
"Dronicide," Starbuck corrected.
"Mufficide. Engineering an accidental death, now..."
"I'll take it under consideration," Starbuck promised and sat up. He stretched, pushed his hair out of his face, and got up.
Apollo watched him, appreciating his grace and blond beauty and his own good luck, and admitting to himself the existence of a second and reprehensible motive for his original plan of 'letting' Starbuck sleep in while he dealt with Boxey. Old habits die very hard, unless you really wanted them to. Or had made them be a conscious choice every time and not a habit at all. Vide Starbuck...
He shook his head at himself, reminded himself there was a huge difference between the profitable activity of acknowledging one's past mistakes and learning from them, and the unprofitable one of indulging oneself in an orgy of remorse over them, and went out to see what Boxey was doing.
Starbuck beat the deadline out to the service room, so Apollo didn't get to... have to... send Muffit II in after him. Boxey complained to Starbuck about the shirt his father was making him wear but went off to school in happy possession of a secret. Apollo just hoped he'd actually keep it long enough that Adama wouldn't hear about it via HALLINT instead of his son. Oh, well, it was a probably-needed incentive to talk to his father right away instead of putting it off.
"What's that sigh for?" Starbuck asked.
"Thinking about talking to my father," he admitted. No point in dissembling; Starbuck knew that wasn't going to be something he was looking forward to. He added, to minimize it as much as possible, "And Colonel Tigh. And Sheba. And, well, lots of people. You've got your own list, right?" He heard the touch of jealousy in his voice, but couldn't help it. And it was just a touch. And he had a right to that much, didn't he?
Starbuck smiled at him. "I made a list of who I don't have to tell. It's shorter."
Apollo appreciated the teasing. It reassured him he hadn't screwed up their lives irredeemably. "Maybe that announcement on IFB is the best way, after all," he suggested.
Starbuck shrugged. "It's your family," he said. "But I don't think your father would appreciate hearing it on the news."
"Yeah, I was just thinking of HALLINT, myself."
Starbuck laughed. "Hall, rumor, secretary... it's all more reliable than official channels, that's all you can say for it."
"Secretary... no, I don't want to know."
Starbuck looked wounded. "Don't tell me you never pumped Tigh's yeoman for intelligence," he said.
"What would that be?" Apollo was diverted. "YEOINT? Or YEOMINT?"
"YEOINT, I would imagine, but I've always heard SECINT."
"Whatever," he returned to the issue at hand, "I expect I should talk to him first thing."
"Want me to come?"
Apollo considered. Adama might be more restrained with a third party present. Or he might just light into Starbuck. And even if he was restrained, it would be better to let him get it off his chest rather than have it fester. He thought. Maybe it would be better to make him think about it before he let loose. Assuming he would. Either think or let loose... Apollo's head hurt trying to sort it out. "Do you want to?"
"Honestly? No." Starbuck looked at him with candid eyes. "He likes me, at the moment, but he hated me dating Athena and he's really going to hate me dating you."
"I'm afraid you're right... Well, okay, I'll see him by myself."
The meaning of his words hit Apollo then. He likes me at the moment... Another loss for Starbuck. And a threat, too. Because Starbuck had certainly grown up knowing he had no defenses against someone like Adama, on any front. Which led to another worry, which was would Adama try to take some sort of official, military reprisal against either, or both, of them? Apollo sighed and said, "Well, you can always support us by gambling."
Starbuck blinked in surprise, and then, following the thought, laughed ruefully. "If it comes to that, you have to stop getting on me about stacking the deck."
"If my next meal depends on it, I bet I can learn to appreciate it," Apollo said.
"Probably not," Starbuck said. "I just won't tell you." He flashed a quick smile and said, "I'll probably have to switch out of Blue, but it shouldn't be any worse than that. I mean, it's legal, after all."
Apollo nodded. He hadn't thought of that, but it was true. Chain of command... "You can go into Red," he said. "Boomer can handle you."
"Or me him." Starbuck finished his kava. "You're talking to your father and Tigh, then?"
"And Athena," Apollo offered.
"Oh, she'll be the easy one. I'll talk to Boomer, then, and Cassie... want me to let Sheba be in earshot?"
Apollo so wanted to take him up on that, and equally wanted to know why Cassie came second after Boomer. He squelched the second thought and said, "No. Or whatever, I guess. I mean, she and I don't have any real understanding... I suppose I should tell her myself, though, shouldn't I?" After all, it wasn't fair of him to obsess over Cassie and dismiss Sheba. Or, for that matter, he had to admit, to pretend like he didn't know Sheba wanted to Seal with him, even if he wasn't sure how much she loved him and how much she loved his father's son.
"Yes, probably. But first things first." Starbuck moved to sit behind the terminal in the front room, logging on. "Let's see if we can get some kind of time frame, here..." Apollo watched him. Starbuck pretended that computers hated him, but he could generally get what he wanted out of them... even silicon loves him. "Oh, my."
"We could get married tomorrow."
"What?" Apollo crossed the room to look at the screen over Starbuck's shoulder. "Only a twenty-four centare wait?"
"To run a records check... I guess the civil government is more efficient than the Church."
"Less traditional, anyway," Apollo said. "No word of mouth... Well, we're off tomorrow, too. Do you want to do it tomorrow? Or wait? We're off two days together next secton, we could take a sort of honeymoon..." He hoped he didn't sound reluctant.
"I think next secton would be better," Starbuck said. "Unless you want to get married before you tell your father?" He grinned at the conflicting emotions that were obviously playing on Apollo's face. "Seriously, tomorrow's kind of rushing it. Why don't we go on and put in the application and make an appointment for next fourthday, say nine? Then we can tell people everything at the same time."
Apollo could picture Starbuck insouciantly saying, 'Hey, Apollo and I are getting married next fourthday at nine, we'd love to have you come' and letting that serve as his entire announcement... He wondered if he could get away with that when he talked to his father. No fracking way, was his reluctant conclusion. But it would certainly help to have the license and appointment in hand when he did talk to him. And Starbuck probably knew that.
Well, that was okay. He was willing to take all the help he could get with this. "Sounds good," he said. "And you can move your stuff in today, too. Gonna need help?"
Starbuck shook his head. "I don't have much," he said. "More uniforms than anything else. I can get it."
"You take as much room as you need," Apollo offered. "Anything you've got like pictures, put 'em out. This is your home, now, too." The look on Starbuck's face took his breath for a minute. "What, love?" he asked quietly.
"Never had a home before," his lifemate said. "Just a place to live..."
He wrapped his arms around Starbuck and held him tight. "You do now. You hear?"
Starbuck brought his hands up to hold Apollo's arms. "I hear."
Apollo tightened his grasp for a minute. "Starbuck," he said hesitantly, wondering why he'd never asked before, "was it bad? The orphanage, I mean?"
Starbuck shrugged. His voice sounded neutral when he answered. "It wasn't bad. It wasn't good. It wasn't anything." He smiled wryly. "Fifty or sixty kids per adult worker... nobody got any one-on-one time. Boxey got more this morning than any of us would get in a half-yahren, maybe a whole yahren if you weren't getting into trouble."
"And you weren't?" Apollo retreated a little into lightening the mood.
"Trouble is something I learned from you."
"That's unfair!" he protested.
"But true. You were such a challenge."
"I refuse to take responsibility for that," he said, and then came off his fake dignity to genuine seriousness. "But I promise to give you all the one-on-one you can handle."
"Ummmm," Starbuck closed his eyes and rubbed his cheek against Apollo's. "I'm gonna hold you to that."
A little reluctantly Apollo let go. "Come on," he said. "We'd better get going if we are going."
"Yes," Starbuck agreed, a trifle shakily. "Let me grab a jacket. Isn't it a bit perverse," he added over his shoulder as he went into the sleeping room, "that we live in an artificial environment and it's always cold enough for jackets?"
"It's for the computer equipment, you know that," Apollo said. Because of Boxey, he kept his quarters several degrees warmer than the battlestar's ambient temperature, but he'd spent so much of his life on warships that he really didn't notice the cool.
"That's what I mean. The machines are more important than we are."
"Starbuck, you can always put on a jacket. The machines can't exactly strip down any." The banter felt good and they kept it up all the way to the personnel office, where they stared down the incredulousbut prudently silentclerk and put in their application for a civil marriage license and an appointment with a recording official to make it legal. The clerk recovered herself enough to remind them that if they wanted anything besides witnessing and notarization, anything ceremonial, they'd have to do it themselves. They thanked her and left, going their separate ways: Starbuck heading toward the barracks and Apollo the bridge.
Athena glanced up at him when he came onto the bridge. He was in mufti, so nobody took any official notice of himone of the little confusions that came from being the commander's son as well as his second officer. But his sister's pale blue eyesinherited from some long-forgotten ancestorwidened and she spoke into her headpiece. Apollo caught the movement as the officer in charge of the bridge, the tall dark Omega, turned his head to look and then said something brief into his own headset before turning his attention elsewhere.
Apollo had always envied Omega his ease in his position. Not only did nothing ever seem to discompose him, he was the master of his job. They sat together on many staff meetings and other briefings, and Apollo had never seen the flag officer asked something he didn't at least give the impression of having anticipated. In some ways, he thought Omega would have been a better son to his father than he was... but then, he understood that Omega came from a fairly demanding family of his own, though he'd seemed comfortable there, too.
But he doesn't have Starbuck, he thought. And, though he hesitated to gloat over it, he knew the flag officer had lost his children, while Apollo had Boxey. It was another example of things balancing out, he supposed, not that he was much of a philosopher. Nonetheless, he was conscious of a sudden impulse to ask the man for his advice. Not that he intended to; the one thing Omega was more than quietly competent was aloof. Athena complained that even people he'd been fairly friendly with before were held politely at arm's length nowadays, and, though they'd gotten along well enough, Apollo had never been among his circle.
"Hi," Athena said.
He jumped. For some reason, he had neither noticed nor expected her arrival.
"What's on your conscience?" she asked.
He remembered Starbuck's prediction that she'd be the easy one to tell. He could use a little moral support, so he said, "Actually, got a centon, Theni?"
"Yes," she said, "I just got ten when I saw you show up. I thought there might be a problem with Boxey?"
"No. Not him." As she raised one of her dark eyebrows he continued, "Can you get next fourthday off?"
"A secton from tomorrow? Yes, I think so... what do you mean, 'off'?"
"Come outside for a centon," he asked. She followed him out curiously.
"Okay, Apollo, give," she said. "What have you got up your sleeve?"
He looked around, caught himself doing it and swore silently. The secret was over. His sister was looking at him expectantly. He took a deep breath and said it out loud to someone. "I'm getting married."
"Married?" she repeated incredulously. "Sheba would never so quickwhich means it isn't her, which means you're probably going to die next fifthday. Can I have your stereo?"
He laughed; he couldn't help it. "No, but you get my son."
"Oh, gee, thanks. Just what I've always wanted... Well? I know you're serious, 'cause you've got that cervus-in-the-headlights look, so who?" Her eyes widened and she opened her mouth, looking absolutely stunned. "Oh. My. Gods." She was almost squealing with delight. "Starbuck?"
It was his turn to feel pole-axed. "How did you know?"
"That you're getting married? I didn't, of course. That he's crazy in love with you? He told me."
"Oh, after he asked me to marry him," she said.
That was who... He dismissed it. He'd already known they'd dated, it didn't change anything. Besides, Starbuck had said she'd turned him down. Anyway, something else suddenly made sense. "Is that why you gave him such hell about Cassie?"
"Well, of course. Even if you were going to fall in love with Serina that didn't give him an excuse to play around with her emotions. He was exactly what she falls in love with, the shallow little... but that's beside the point. He could have hurt her. At least that's what I thought before I got to know her better. She's really not very vulnerable; even though she's fond of him, she's not going to be broken up about this. Insulted, maybe, but not broken hearted. Not that I care, after the way she treated him. Why are you laughing at me?"
"Because you're so partisan and so fuzzy about it at the same time."
"Well, I like that," she said, punching him on the arm. "You see if I keep Boxey for you to have a honeymoon."
"Will you? Please? Pretty please? With chocolate on top?"
"For Starbuck's sake, yes," she said. "If he hadn't told me to keep off the topic with you I'd have rung a peal over your head sectares ago. Before you Sealed with Serina."
"It probably wouldn't have done any good," he admitted. "Just made me angry."
"Probably," she agreed. "He said so. I asked him why he was in love with you."
"What did he say?" he asked shamelessly.
She snorted. "Egomaniac. Well, he said you were in love with him, and I said it certainly seemed like it, and he said I should have more sympathy with your problems."
"And so you should," he said.
She snorted again. "Fat chance, brother mine. I know you too well. And your problems, for that matter... But I am glad you've made this decision. He really does love you."
"I know," he said softly, remembering the wondrous light in Starbuck's eyes.
Athena cocked her head and smiled at him, like she hadn't in a long, long time. "You've got it pretty bad for him, too, don't you, Appy?" She used her childhood nickname for him, and at the moment it didn't irritate at all. "I wish you both very happy. And I will certainly come to your marrying." She hugged him then.
He returned the hug. "Father's likely to disapprove," he said.
"Likely? You really are the master of understatement. I don't care. He's not putting me in the middle. You two are my only family and I'm keeping you both. If he disowns you, you won't mind if I still talk to him, right?"
Well, she'd telegraphed the answer she wanted clearly enough. "Of course not," he said.
She nodded. "So, if he doesn't want me talking to you, he's the one who's chasing me away. Anyway, if he disowns you, I'll be all he has left."
That was said with a certain probably involuntary satisfaction. Apollo smiled at her. "Then you'll be in the pilot's seat. Take him for a ride."
"That's not what I meant," she protested, and then, because she was an honest person, admitted, "Not entirely or even, I hope, mostly, anyway. I hope he accepts it."
"Me, too. But I doubt it."
She hugged him again. "Are you going to tell him now?"
He nodded. "Wish me luck."
"I'll have the firefighters standing by," she promised. "Good luck."
He grinned down at her. "Thanks, little sister. I hope you're as happy as I am someday."
"I know you do. Now get on before you lose your nerve."
He acknowledged her hit with a rueful nod of his head and went back onto the bridge. As he crossed the floor towards the raised command position, Colonel Tigh came down to meet him.
"Apollo? Something the matter?"
"No, sir," he said. Might as well get it over with. "I'm still scheduled for next fourth- and fifthday off, aren't I?"
"If you were, you are," Tigh said. "I haven't made any changes to senior staff schedules in the last few days. Planning something?"
"Yes, sir. I suppose actually I should inform you," he realized. "Officially, I mean."
"I'm making a change in my personal status," Apollo heard himself fall into official terminology with the colonel. Tigh was one of his father's oldest friends, but his manner wasn't easy with subordinates. After all, he was the executive officer, which meant the heavy. But even with his old friend Adama's young children Tigh had always been formal. Now he merely raised an eyebrow and waited, his dark face still and uncommunicative. "I'm getting married."
"Married?" Like Athena, Tigh picked up on the term immediately; unlike her, he confirmed his guess. "Not Sealed?"
"No, sir," Apollo said. "On next fourthday. To Lieutenant Starbuck," he said before Tigh asked. "I suppose you can consider this his notice, too."
Tigh's face remained still but his dark eyes showed some emotion. The problem was, Apollo hadn't ever seen enough examples of Tigh's feelings to be able to name the one he was seeing now. "Come talk with me, Apollo," he said.
"Sir, I'm not going to change my mind," Apollo began.
"No, I didn't suppose you would. But come talk with me, anyway." There was steel in the soft voice, but there was something else as well, and Apollo found himself following the older man into the briefing room. Tigh leaned back against the long table and said, "This isn't official, Apollo, but No. First, congratulations. I hope you're happy, both of you. It's not going to be easy, but you are two of the stubbornest men I've ever met, and if you put your minds to it you should do pretty well."
"Thank you, sir," Apollo said, more than a little surprised.
"Call me 'Tigh'," he said. "This isn't official. Far from it. Have you considered what you're going to do if your father takes the tack I suspect he will, and tells you that one or the other of you will have to quit flying Vipers?"
Apollo blinked in real surprise. "No. I mean, how could he do that?"
"He'll cite fraternization regulations, and they'll be on his side."
"But he assigned Serina as my wingman!"
"Yes. But, in case it escaped your notice, she was a woman. Also, you weren't actually Sealed with her; he can say he meant to reassign her afterwards but..." Tigh shrugged. "He can also point out that there was a state of emergency on, and regs were suspended. He won't need to, but he could. The Council will likely back him, some of them anyway. Enough to make it very unpleasant if you try to fight it."
"But," Apollo said, "I mean, I know we can't be in the same squadron, because I'm the Squadron Leader, but out of the Wing altogether?"
"Apollo, you're Strike Captain. You're in charge of the entire Wing."
Apollo thought about it. "I don't suppose you need a new operations officer?"
"I have a great deal of sympathy for you, but I'm not putting you in over my staff with no more experience than you have. I've always had qualms about the Strike Captain being third in command anyway."
"Well, the Lords of Kobol know I'm not ready to take your place," Apollo admitted. "But I could put on blue and come in junior to your flag officer, couldn't I?"
"If you want to do that, yes, you could."
"Thanks. And we both know Boomer is more than ready to be a Strike Captain."
"Yes," agreed Tigh. "Might I suggest?"
"If you're willing to lose position, you could stay in brown. We could promote Boomer to Strike Captain and give you one of the other squadrons. As long as you and Starbuck aren't in the same squadron, the regulations have no problem with your being married."
"It'd be hard on Boomer unless I took a grade reduction as well as position," Apollo pointed out, feeling a surprising amount of relief. "And it would be criminally irresponsible to take Starbuck out of the Wing."
"I agree. You'd be willing to become a Lieutenant again?"
"Is that so surprising?"
Apollo nodded. "Yeah," he admitted. "It surprises me, too. But it's not like I'm quitting. Under normal circumstances one of us would be transferred to another ship in the battle group. If they're going to push it, this is the only reasonable solution." He hoped that Starbuck would see it that way. But the only other ways out were for Starbuck to go into opswhich would be a waste of his talents and bore him to deathor one of them to resign his commission. And that would put a probably intolerable strain on their marriage before it began.
"You are going to be happy," Tigh said. "Adama's not."
"I didn't think he would be."
"He's going to be furious. Trust me on this, Apollo: he's going to be madder than you've ever seen him. He's my oldest friend, and I love him dearly; we've been like... well," he smiled suddenly; it transformed his face. "I was going to say you and Starbuck, but I suppose I'd better say you and Boomer. But there's a whole part of my life I've never let him get near; never even let him get a hint of. I suppose he's told you about the woman I loved?"
Apollo nodded. The subject had come up once or twice when they were children: why hadn't Tigh ever married?
"Tell me," Tigh sounded curious. "When he told you, was it noble? Or idiotic?"
"Noble," Apollo said, surprised. "And sad."
"It was usually idiotic when he braced me about wasting my life..."
"And you weren't?" Apollo guessed.
"No," Tigh smiled again, this time with a sad fondness. "I wasn't. His name was Ruel, and he was an Arian. He taught middle-school; he was very good at it. But Ariana isn't quite as liberal as Caprica, especially not for children's teachers. And he had elderly parents to support. And the service didn't use to be happy at all. Oh, it wasn't against the regs, but I'd have never made colonel if I'd been open. So we both had reasons to keep it quiet."
"How long, Tigh?" Apollo asked quietly.
"Sixty-seven yahrens. He died in the Destruction, trying to save his pupils. If he'd lived, I'd have said to hell with it all and brought him on board the Galactica. As it is, well," he shrugged.
"Thank you. But we had a good life. Better than we could have hoped for as youths. But your father would not have accepted it. He still won't, from you or me, though I'll be happy to tell him if you think it would help."
"No, thank you, Tigh," Apollo said, touched. "I appreciate it, I do, but... he's going to need to be able to count on you if he loses me."
"That's true." Tigh was able to say that without sounding vain.
"He's very important to the Fleet," Apollo said. "It's probably safe to say, he's crucial."
"Some would say that about you."
"I brought back the damned course coordinates," Apollo said. "That's all. He's the one that holds us together. I don't want to hurt him... But he doesn't have to lose me over this. It's his choice."
"In a manner of speaking."
"Do you think I shouldn't?" Apollo asked, even though he was afraid to hear the answer. If Tigh said yes, then Apollo would have to consider it, and that could so easily cost him Starbuck...
"No." Tigh said. "I don't. I think we need to loosen up. As a people," he added to Apollo's disbelieving stare. "There's no reason to believe the Lords of Kobol couldn't tell you and Starbuck were in love eight sectares agoyou were, weren't you?"
"And they didn't blast the two of you. In fact, they saved your life and sent you home with the coordinates. And it's not like they didn't have a nice heterosexual choice in Sheba. I think I can put the argument that they approve. Or at least, that they don't give the proverbial tinker's damn."
Apollo grinned in relief. "So, if he says anything about fraternization, I'll just tell him I've already stepped down. In fact, I think I'll tell him anyway."
"Are you sure?"
"It'll be a sure-fire way to prove I'm serious. Plus..." he considered what he was thinking and then said it. "I'm tired, Tigh. I can't keep this up. It's such a strain, and not just on me. On both of us, and Boxey. And you know there are people who accuse Father of setting up a dynasty. Well, having Boomer as Strike Captain will take that weapon out of their hands, especially when I'm handing another one to his enemies."
"You're long-headed for someone so short in the tooth," said Tigh. "For what it's worth, I think you're making the right decision though I'll be sad to see you step down. You're a very good Strike Captain."
"Boomer will do a good job."
"Yes," Tigh agreed with dismaying alacrity. "Especially with your brains around to pick."
"Besides," Apollo grinned at him, "it's regulation."
"Yes. As you say, it's regulation." He held out his hand. "Congratulations all the way around. I'm sure you'll be very happy. I almost envy you."
"He'd drive me insane inside a secton." Then Tigh smiled that transforming smile again. "But what a way to go."
"On that note, I think I'll go see my father."
|The Program||The First Dance||The Second Dance||The Third Dance|
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