Dancing Lessons from God

part three


Apollo walked outside the shuttle and stretched, looking at the sunrise. It had been a long time since he had seen one, he reflected; this was a pretty one, neon red sun coming up through wispy gold and pink clouds. He wished Starbuck and Boxey were here to see it, then laughed. Boxey wouldn't have paid any attention, and Starbuck wouldn't have gotten out of bed.

"Morning, sir," Feist said, appearing from the other end of the camp, where some of the techs had started to serve breakfast.

"Good morning, Feist," Apollo said. He'd already learned that Fenrir and Feist, two otherwise dissimilar men, were both big on casual discipline. At least he was assuming it was them; Boomer had never been much on being called 'sir' every time he turned around. He supposed he wasn't either, come to that; Blue had its flight sergeants, but Jolly and Giles before their promotions, and Greenbean and Rafe still, rarely let the word cross their lips. Starbuck had corrupted them, he supposed, grinning to himself; his lifemate only said 'sir' when he didn't mean it. "Everything quiet?"

"Yes, sir; nothing moving with more brain cells than Wotan."

Apollo laughed. After three days he'd learned that the young pilot, who was Feist's wingman, wasn't quite the idiot Boomer had called him, but he was definitely Red's odd man out. For one thing, his was a battlefield commission, based on numerous eyewitness accounts of his ferocity at Cimtar, and he was only nineteen now, having been a brand-new corporal. For another, he was an orphan who'd grown up outside the barracks on Kevala, practically a service brat, but one acquainted, deeply, with the unorthodox way of doing things. It was Red's way to treat him half like a mascot and half like a little brother, and he seemed supremely content as much with the head-smacks as the hugs. In fact, he was at this moment trailing after Feist, and now said,

"Hey, I resemble that remark, lieutenant."

"You need to get some new material," Feist said. "Coming to breakfast, sir?"

"In a moment," Apollo said. They nodded and walked on, the white-blond boy chattering about something. Apollo looked around. They were camped on a beach, near a river, and sea avians were wheeling above his head, crying to each other. He wondered what they made of the intruders on the beach, or if they'd really even noticed. They reminded him, involuntarily, of Avi Avian, and he wished again that Boxey was here to see them. And the ocean.

He wondered how they were getting along on the Galactica. His wristchrono told him that, although it was dawn here, it was about midnight there. Starbuck would be heading back to the barracks, and Athena would be soon be getting ready to go to sleep. He wondered, suddenly, if she and Starbuck would have talked about the picture he'd put up in the front room. For that matter, she might have known; if she'd been at Cap City Base, as Starbuck thought, their mother would probably have told her she was going to Naiacap, and why... If Boxey was going to be interested in Ila, Athena could tell him more stories than Apollo could, he was sure. Mothers were closer to daughters than sons, weren't they?

He wasn't hungry, but he decided he should go and eat, anyway. The first day of an entirely out-of-sync schedule was the hardest. He hadn't slept much, but it would be another eight centares till planetary night... this world spun more quickly than Caprica had. And breakfast would keep him distracted from wondering how Starbuck had spent his evening. Because he didn't, really. Wonder.

Starbuck was, after all, an intelligent, grown man with a strong will. He had to know as well as Apollo why he'd been sent on this mission, and he was capable of going a day without sex. He was; he had in the past. Often. Complaining bitterly about it, of course, but still...

Six days might be pushing it, Apollo had to admit. No. Even six days... he might kill Apollo when he got back, but he could hold out six days. Apollo thought about that reunion for a few centons, and then decided that now was not the time or the place for that.

Instead, he went down and got something to eat, and talked with the head of the techs about the tests they'd be running today to determine if the marine life was edible and the water potable. The fleet had tankers half-full; if they could fill them here, it would be a good thing, and if they could harvest a mass of protein from the sea it would be better. Apollo felt a trace of guilt at hoping that the entire planet was poisonous, repressed it, and hoped instead that his father might prove mildly allergic to the sealife here. Feeling better, he went to find Fenrir and discuss security procedures.

This was going to be the most boring six days of his life, he could tell.

"What did you do to piss off the commander last night, Bucko?"

Giles was the first one who actually said anything to him about it, though he'd gathered his shares of black looks as the rest of Blue had come in. This afternoon, while they sat around and gathered dust and got bored out of their skulls, he figured he'd really hear about it.

"Nothing," he said honestly. "I have no idea what set him off..."

"Come on," Giles said. "Don't try Starbucking me. I know that tone. What happened?"

"I don't know," Starbuck repeated. "He came to talk to Boxey and... I think he was trying to get Boxey unsupervised so he'd have an excuse to take him."

Giles shook his head. "Well, that's pointless. I mean, Apollo will be back in a few days."

Starbuck shrugged. The car stopped and the two pilots jumped off and started walking toward their Vipers. "I don't know. Maybe he figures possession is eleven points of the law. Maybe he figures he can wear the kid down—though I've got to say my money would be on Boxey in that match-up—or maybe he just got pissed off 'cause Boxey called him a bully."

Giles snickered.

"Yeah, you think it's funny," Starbuck said.

"Bucko, only you could raise in-law trouble to such a pitch."

"All I want to know is, why me?"

"Hey, you're the one who fell for him," Giles said. "You had to know what came with him."

Starbuck stopped walking. Giles took a couple more steps before realizing, and then turned back. "Hey, Bucko, what's up? I didn't mean anything by that."

"I know," Starbuck said. "It's just... the flip side of it."

Giles stared at him a moment then shook his head decisively. "Don't start thinking like that, Starbuck," he said authoritatively. "Whether you knew or not, Apollo knew. Maybe not all the details, but the big picture. Hell, it's his family; he grew up with them. He knew. And he chose you anyway."

"Did he?" Starbuck asked, looking down into Giles's intense brown eyes. "Did he know he'd lose his rank, his position, his father? I don't think he did. I know he didn't, in fact."

"And what? You think he wouldn't have asked you to marry him if he'd known what it would cost him?" He grabbed Starbuck's arm at the elbow and gave him a little shake. "Don't sell yourself short."


"I mean it. You're not married yet. It would have been simple enough for him to back out of it—you wouldn't have sued him, after all—but he didn't. He thinks you're worth it. He's not the only one who would." Giles broke off but didn't let go. "So don't wimp out on him, Starbuck. If he's gonna give it all up, at least make sure he gets what he wants."

"Giles—" That was in a completely different tone as Starbuck thought he read something in the brown eyes looking up at him, something he hadn't expected to see.

"Look, Starbuck, just remember the captain—I mean, Apollo. The man loves you."

"Gentlemen!" Jenny interrupted them. "Are you flying today, or was that just a nasty rumor?"

"Yeah," Starbuck said, "we're flying." He climbed into his Viper and launched, taking up picket position, all on autopilot. Giles was the first person who'd sounded like he really understood what Apollo was doing. Boomer's reaction—I really hope you know what you're doing, 'cause if you're playing with him he could get hurt—had been more typical. Some people had been even more incredulous than that. But Giles seemed to feel that Apollo was making sense... It shook Starbuck. Aurora and Cassie, both had blown hot and cold over tying themselves down to him and, probably very fortunately, neither had been hot about it at any of the few centons he had been. Athena and he had come closer, but they were better suited to be friends than anything else... and he hadn't spoken to her in the last few days, thanks to Adama. He would have last night but now he couldn't, unless he called her or she came by the barracks, again thanks to Adama; he wasn't completely sure how he felt about that. But all in all, it had been pretty forcibly borne in upon him that while people understood him, or thought they did, nobody understood Apollo.

It had made him wonder if he was doing the right thing by the other man.

But now, Giles—He thinks you're worth it. He's not the only one who would. If Apollo wasn't the only one who valued him, and then maybe, just maybe, he was actually valuable.

And maybe, he realized with a start, he had a problem with his wingman he hadn't anticipated. Or maybe not a problem... he had to admit that if Giles felt like that after the way he'd treated him over the past two yahrens, especially the yahren after the Destruction, then there wasn't much he could do about it. He'd never encouraged him, and that was about all there was... Besides, maybe he was wrong. Maybe Giles meant that the way he'd mean it if he said it to Athena.

Whatever, he decided, he would just pretend like he hadn't seen whatever it was he had seen. Just go on like normal. Because Giles had also told him to stick with Apollo, so nothing was going to happen here even if there was something wondering about what it would be like if it did happen. Or something. Starbuck shook his head. He had bigger problems, or at least more immediate problems, anyway. Athena went on second shift on seconday, which meant that, assuming he could beg her into spending all of her off time with Boxey, he'd still have to find someone to watch him in the afternoon and evening for a couple of days. He still couldn't believe that Bojay had shown up, just like that, last night, and was willing, he said, to do it again today—or had been, before actually spending any time with Boxey—but Green, too, was on second shift even sooner, tomorrow.

Damn Adama anyhow, he thought.

"Uhhh, Starbuck?" Giles said. "You might want to switch to second channel."

Startled, Starbuck realized he must have said that out loud. He hit his channel selector and said, with feeling, "Oh, frack."

"Yeah," Giles agreed.

Simultaneously, Omega's calm voice came in on channel one. "Picket Blue One, did you say something? We had static; you were broken and unreadable. Please repeat."

Starbuck hit his transmission selector again. "Galactica ops, repeating message: all quiet, nothing to report."

"Thank you, Blue One. Ops out."

Changing channels again Starbuck said, "I knew I liked him."

Giles laughed.

"Hey, Gi—know anybody in Yellow who might like to baby-sit?"

"Yellow? Hmmm... off the top of my head, no. Doesn't anybody owe you money?"

"Not from Yellow. We never see them."

"True... Phyllia likes kids, but she's in Purple."

Starbuck ran a quick schedule check in his head. "Purple's off seconday, right?"

"Yeah. First Day and seconday - Yellow's who you need. They're off seconday and thirday."

"I know that," Starbuck said. "That's why I asked about Yellow first. But if Phyllia will do it seconday and somebody from Yellow thirdday, we'd be covered."

"Well, Purple will be coming in this afternoon; ask."

"Yeah..." Starbuck shook his head again. "Damn Adama."

Giles laughed again.

Purple and Yellow came into the barracks at four, still, after three days, snarlingly unhappy about losing the whole fracking evening. Today, of course, they ran into Blue's uber-pissed-offedness about losing their entire fracking day, and the lucky ones were Orange and Bronze Spar, who were on duty.

Correction. Silver Spar and Green, who were off and making themselves scarce, especially Green, whose last day of freedom this was before they started their six days of second shift, meaning on the new schedule, showing up in the barracks at eight in the morning—so for those who slept there, basically their entire secton would be spent here. They were not going to be happy... A couple of Purple pilots sat in on the game Starbuck had going with Jolly, Cree, and Brie; apparently Blue's superior suffering had, in fact, softened the other squadrons' feelings toward the proximate cause of their pain. At any rate, nobody seemed inclined to stuff Starbuck in the nearest airlock. Not yet.

Starbuck overhead Giles chatting with Phyllia and a couple of her friends, laying it on about Adama and getting very lyrical about poor little Boxey, all alone in the world. He wasn't really very surprised when Phyllia came up and leaned on him and said, "Starbuck, don't you worry about Boxey. Lalage and I will watch him when Athena's on second shift."

On his other side Lalage fluttered her eyelashes at him, apparently out of habit, and agreed. "The poor little thing! It's awful, just awful!"

"Well, thank you, ladies," Starbuck said. "We certainly do appreciate it. And I owe you one."

"Oh, don't you worry about that," Lalage said. "I'm sure we can think of something."

"Just don't forget, I'm a betrothed man," Starbuck responded in kind.

"Don't worry," Phyllia said. "We won't... we may ask to borrow your wingman, though."

"Well, now, that would be up to him," Starbuck smiled at them both and then at Giles. "But I certainly wouldn't get in his way."

"Are we playing Pyramid," said Purple's Dayton, "or are we running a dating service?"

"With Starbuck," said Jolly, "it's usually some of both." He looked around the table. "Cards, anyone?"

As play resumed, and the rest of the condemned pilots settled to kibitzing or occupying themselves with their own games or something, Sheba appeared in the doorway, followed by a couple of Silver Spar's other pilots. She looked around the room imperiously, her gaze catching on Starbuck for a moment, and then moving on; her lip curled but she didn't say anything. Instead, she turned on Flight Sergeant Rafael, who was sitting alone, as usual, reading something. Starbuck couldn't hear what she said, but Rafe's answer got him snapped at. He put his book down and snapped to attention while Sheba went at him.

Starbuck sighed. Rafe was Cree's wingman, but outside of his cockpit Cree had a well-developed sense of self-preservation that was at the moment keeping his ensign's nose buried in his cards. Frack. Starbuck stood up, laying his hand down, and walked across the room just as Rafael started to leave.

"Hold it, Sergeant," he said. "Sheba, run your own errands."

She stared at him. "Get lost, Starbuck," she said. "This isn't any of your business."

"Well, yes it is," he said. "Because the sergeant here is in my section. Not your squadron."

"He's still a sergeant. And an insubordinate one."

Rafe? Insubordinate? Starbuck blinked, and then said, mildly, "I've always found Rafael to be quite obedient... to his chain of command. Which you aren't in. Rafe, as you were. Sheba, run. Your own. Errands."

She glared at him. "Too bad Apollo isn't here to see how you conduct yourself when he's gone." Her eyes raked dismissively over Phyllia and Lalage, and then she turned and left.

"Bitch," Starbuck said conversationally. "What did she want you to do, anyway?"

"Find Lieutenant Bojay," the redhead said, picking up his book.

"You would know?"

"Not a clue. Sir," he added with a slow smile.

"Cut it out, or I'll have you up on insubordination charges."

Rafe sat back down and resumed reading. Starbuck went back to the table. "What did she say about me?" demanded Lalage, her usual flirtatious manner discarded.

"Nothing, really," Starbuck said. "She implied I was sleeping with you."

"I like that! You're practically a married man," Lalage seethed. "I'll rip her supercilious heart out."

"La, honey, please," Phyllia said. "She isn't worth prison time."

"Huh." The blonde snorted. "Vermin eradication isn't a prison offense, last I heard."

Jolly laughed, and as usual, the whole table was caught in the infectious sound in next to no time. Lalage and Phyllia wandered off and the game resumed, Giles sitting in the next time they dealt.

"What did the dragon queen want, anyway?" Cree asked, apologetically.

Starbuck didn't blame him for not wanting to take her on. He shrugged. "She's looking for Bojay. I think he's gone off her."

"Really?" Jolly said. "What makes you think that?"

"Last time I saw them together, she was calling Apollo dirty names in front of Boxey and I don't think Boj approved," Starbuck said. "Sometimes you have to hit him in the head to get his attention, but once you've done that, he can change his mind. I think she whacked him pretty good."

"What a shame," Giles said with spurious sadness.

"Yeah," said Jolly. "Bojay used to be an all-right guy. If he shakes himself lose from the Cain-is-Lord bunch, maybe he'll be back like he was."

"He's okay," Greenbean, surprisingly, put in. "I mean, I've got some friends in Green; they like him all right."

"Yeah," Starbuck said. "He's all right."

"Okay," Giles grinned. "Where is he?"

"How should I know? I'm not his keeper," Starbuck protested.

"Yeah, but I know that tone."

"Me, too," said Jolly. "What's going on?"

"Well, I don't know where he is," Starbuck said. "I just know where he was last night when she was looking for him."

"Give," demanded Giles.

"Baby-sitting Boxey."

"Oh, sweet Lords of Kobol," said Greenbean. "Is he on your side against Sheba?"

"And the commander?" said Jolly, sounding stunned.

"Actually," Starbuck said with scrupulous honesty, "I think he's on Boxey's side. But I don't know where he is now."

"Who'd have thought it?" Jolly asked rhetorically.

"Are we playing Pyramid," said Dayton, "or gossiping? And don't tell me: with Starbuck it's usually both?"

"Okay," said Jolly, "we won't. Cree, come on, it's your deal."

"I'm sorry, lieutenant," the instructor said. "We can't just hand over children to anybody who shows up asking for them, you must see that."

Bojay nodded. He did understand. It was Boxey who was complaining.

"But Bojay is supposed to watch me!"

"Don't whine," Bojay couldn't help saying, adding, "it's not her fault. She has to follow the rules."

"Rules are stupid, Pop says so."

Bojay snickered but said, "You'll notice he's following them, anyway."

"Yeah, but—"

"No buts," Bojay said, slightly startled at how easily bossing a child came. He looked at the instructor, who was eyeing him with a slightly different look. "Who is on the list?"

"Lieutenants Starbuck, and Athena," she said.

"Not the commander?"

"No," she said. "Lieutenant Apollo took him off... but he didn't put you on."

"Grandfather can't get me?" Boxey asked.

"No," Bojay said, wondering if the woman would really stand fast against the commander. "so that's all right. We'll just hang out here until your aunt comes. It shouldn't be but," he glanced at the chrono on the wall, "another three and half centares. Maybe four, if the person she's holding place for is late."

The instructor sighed loudly. "I do wish people would realize that we're an instructional center, not a care center."

"I'm sure they'd be more inclined to do so," Bojay said mildly, "if their own schedules weren't being jerked around so much."

"Please, Miss Lyllat," Boxey said, "can't you call Pop? Lieutenant Starbuck? He could tell you Bojay can pick me up. And who else is this secton, till Dad gets back." He smiled up at her, whining gone, all angel eyes and butter-wouldn't-melt.

"Well..." she hesitated, looking at the chrono herself; Bojay bet she had a date of her own. "I suppose... after all, these aren't normal circumstances. Where is he?"

"He's at the pilots' barracks," Boxey smiled up at her.

"All right," she decided. "I'll go call him." She disappeared into the office.

Boxey took hold of his arm. "Did Grandfather make Aunt 'Theni late?"

Bojay looked down at the boy. His eyes were big again, but dark with worry. Bojay knew, he just knew, he'd been right in keeping his life clear of kids... "No," he said, "at least not that she said. All she said was someone on second watch asked her to stay late and cover for him, and she owed him, so she asked if I'd pick you up."

"So now she owes you!" Boxey grinned.

Bojay found himself grinning back. Starbuck was definitely raising this kid, even if nobody had noticed it till this secton. But Bojay wondered how Apollo coped with these mood changes; the captain—ex-captain—had struck him as a somber, even dour, person. On the other hand, he wanted to marry Starbuck... maybe he was just hiding a wacky side. On second thought... Nah.

Boxey hadn't let go, but now he was swinging himself back and forth as though Bojay's arm were a tree branch; Bojay realized he had braced for the boy's weight without thinking about it. "Are you dating Aunt 'Theni?"

Bojay blinked. Dating was more... settled... than he'd thought of. But last night, sitting on that couch with her knee touching his and listening to her talk about her mother, well, he really hadn't wanted to leave. "I guess I am," he answered.

"Grandfather wants her to get a date, but I bet he won't like it being you," Boxey observed with what Bojay was beginning to figure out was his customary bluntness. He'd never met the boy's mother, but this had to be genetic; Goddess knew he didn't pick it up from either Apollo or Starbuck.

Fortunately, the instructor came out of the office before he had to answer that. "Lieutenant Starbuck gave me permission to release Boxey to you, Lieutenant," she said with evident relief.

"Good night, Miss Lyllat," Boxey caroled, tugging on Bojay's hand.

"Yes, good night," Bojay said, allowing the boy to pull him away. The woman was already shutting up the office; she wouldn't be five centons behind them.

In the corridor Boxey didn't let go, but snugged his hand inside Bojay's, who suddenly flashed back to his own childhood and the uncertainties that came with never knowing who you'd be with, the worries about losing your father. Frack, he thought, what have I let myself in for? But he reached down and picked the boy up, as if he'd been doing it every day of his life, and swung him up onto his shoulders. Boxey giggled and clung to his collar. "So," he said, "what do you do on seventhday after instruction? Go home and do your schoolwork so it's done?"

"No!" Boxey sounded outraged.

"Somehow I figured not. Rejuv center?"

"Yes, please," Boxey said.

Boxey ate two mushies and played a video game that involved lots of shooting. He seemed, for his age, pretty good. A couple of Green's pilots came in while Boxey was playing.

"Hey, Bojay," Dak said. "I hear Sheba's looking for you."

"Yeah? Well, don't mention you saw me."

Felicia smiled sympathetically at him; she was one of the Galactica's retread shuttle jockeys, a pretty good pilot but no friend of Sheba's. "Don't worry," she said, "we won't, will we, hon?"

Dak shook his head. "I've got no desire to get into that," he said. "Nothing personal."

Bojay shrugged and watched them lean over their vid game, Felicia giggling as Dak 'showed her how', with lots of hands-on.

"You're not dating Sheba, are you?" Boxey asked, pausing his game.

"No," he answered immediately. Whatever his relationship with Sheba had been, 'dating' had never been the right word. Not that he was sure what word had been right. He wondered what the boy thought about his father dumping Sheba for Starbuck. Maybe it was easier to see your mom replaced by another man?

"Good," Boxey said. "Aunt 'Theni would be really mad. Plus, she's mean."

"Your aunt?" Bojay asked a little apprehensively.

"No," Boxey shook that mop of dark brown hair. "Sheba."

"Oh." Bojay considered that. Yes, he decided, she was. Possibly a trifle loony, like her father, but definitely mean. Frack, how many kinds of idiot have I been the past few yahrens?

"What's a catamite?" Boxey interrupted that train of thought.


"That's what she called Dad," Boxey reminded him. "What does it mean?"

"Did you ask Starbuck?" Bojay dodged.

"Yes, but he just said she was a sore loser. What does it mean?"

"Ask your aunt."

"Don't you know?" Boxey challenged him.

"I know," Bojay said, "but if Starbuck wouldn't tell you, I'm not going to. Ask your aunt."

"It must be really bad," Boxey said with a certain amount of satisfaction.

"Don't use it."

"Not till I know what it means," Boxey agreed.

Bojay opened his mouth, and then decided not to get into it. He hadn't taught the kid the word, he hadn't defined it for him, and anyway it wasn't his kid. He was just doing a favor for... who was he doing it for, anyway? Starbuck? Athena? Boxey himself?

Or another little kid, twenty yahrens gone now?

He shook himself all over, like he was a dagget coming out of water. Frack this. "Come on, Boxey," he said. "Let's get to your quarters and wait for your aunt. You should change clothes, anyway, since we're going out to eat."

Athena turned the scanner position over to Mako as soon as he showed up and went to her quarters. She pulled four dresses out of the closet and rejected each one. Standing in front of her remaining wardrobe she wondered why this was such a difficult choice. For God's sake, it's just dinner! And with Boxey!

It didn't help. Everything she owned was too much or not enough. She supposed she could wear her uniform, but she didn't want to be Lieutenant Athena. Of course, she realized, he might be in uniform, but he hadn't been yesterday. This morning... She felt herself flush and her stomach tighten up a little as she remembered the feel of his shoulder under her hand.

Oh, this was ridiculous. She was twenty-six, not sixteen. She'd had much more under her hand than a man's shoulder—clothed, even! Just because he sat there, all adorably tousled and sleepy and let her go on and on about her mother... She grabbed the first thing to come to her hand and put it on. So it was that icy-pink dress even Apollo thought she looked good in. So what? She should wear something she didn't look good in?

And who was she trying to convince of what, come to that? She took a deep breath. This was just a dinner. With a nice guy who was being kind to Boxey. If it went somewhere... She took another deep breath and tried to remember the last time she'd felt like this. And couldn't. She brushed her hair and grabbed a wrap—damn the cold, anyway—and left before she could convince herself to change.

She let herself into her brother's quarters. Boxey and Bojay were sitting at the table in the service room, Boxey working on—she almost passed out—schoolwork while the Viper pilot offered the occasional correction. She stood and watched them for a centon. Bojay wasn't in uniform; his shirt was a cadet blue that, she observed when he glanced up at her, made his eyes look almost the same shade. Interesting, she thought. "Hi," she said. "I can't believe you're doing your schoolwork already, Boxey."

"Bojay pointed out I won't have to do it First Day night. He's helping with stupid verbs. We're almost done."

"I can wait," she said. "I'm not starving or anything." She sat down on Boxey's other side..

"This way," Boxey added, "I can have all First Day to myself. Well, and you." He returned to his worksheet.

"What about Temple?" she asked.

"I don't wanna go," he said. "I'm gonna be a heathen. Like Pop. And Bojay."

She looked at Bojay. "I'm a Diwest," he said. "Most Kobolians I know consider that heathen. But that was his idea."

"I don't wanna go to Temple if they hate Dad and Pop," Boxey said flatly. "And I'm not gonna. You can explain to Grandfather that I'm not going so you can't, can't you? Or get someone else to stay with me?"

Athena looked at him. This was all very hard for him, she realized suddenly. And Adama was making it much harder than it had to be. She had no idea what Apollo's reaction was going to be, though she did know that some Kobolians felt there wasn't any outright prohibition on same-sex marriages... it was such a mess. But she didn't think it was her place to make the decision. Any of the decisions. She could find someone to watch Boxey while she went to Temple; she'd heard from Starbuck already that he had people lined up for seconday and thirdday when she was on second watch. Maybe one of them, or maybe she could talk Boomer into cutting someone from Blue loose for a couple of centares, or even, maybe, letting Bojay out of barracks sitting...

Or maybe just not go, herself. She could miss a day. And it would be better for Boxey. Frack. This was making her head hurt. She really, really wished Adama wasn't being so completely boray-headed about this. So far she and her father had managed to pretend that there simply was no "Apollo problem" by pretending that there was no Apollo. Adama didn't ask her what she was doing with her spare time, and she didn't ask him why he was doing his best to destroy their family. She knew their father thought he was trying to save them all and she thought that he knew she was doing what she thought best. It was just such a mess...

"Hey," Bojay said softly. "You feeling all right?"

She looked into his concerned eyes and almost cried. Instead, she made herself smile (Omega's lessons in controlling emotion came in handy in the damnedest places) and said, "Yes. Just a little tired."

"After working an extra half shift, I'm not surprised," he said. "He's only got two more to go. Then we can go eat—unless you'd rather have something delivered?"

"No," she said. "I didn't get dressed up to stay in."

He grinned at her. "I'm glad... I'd like to be seen with you, looking like that."

She smiled genuinely at him. For the first time in yahrens, masculine appreciation seemed like a good thing, not a claim of some sort or, worse, a condescension.

Oh, Lord, she thought. A Diwest? Father won't appreciate that much, either... Hell. At least he's male. And churched somewhere. Father can lump it. Then she blushed, realizing how far ahead of things that decision was. What is wrong with me, anyhow?

Then Bojay stood up, picking up his dark brown jacket with one hand and reaching to pull her chair out for her with the other, and she remembered her impulse from last night, to do something about the nervous tension she'd felt in him. She decided she didn't give a rodent's hind end, as her mother had used to say. If Apollo didn't like him, if Adama didn't like him, if no one in the universe liked him but her and Boxey and Starbuck, she didn't care. She did like him. And it was time she did something for herself.

So she smiled up at him and took his arm as they walked to the turbolift. Even Boxey hanging on his other arm didn't spoil her mood. They were seated right away, and near a window; going to dinner with a squadron leader had its perks. Starbuck had always preferred the Rising Star, where the waiters found him "very pre-war" (whatever the hell that meant) and he got good service; in the O Club he was just another lieutenant. Eating here with her father (best service possible) or brother (damned good service) wasn't very, well, exciting. But she'd never had a meal in the O Club like this one.

Boxey, she noticed half-way through the meal, was being very well-behaved. Somewhat guiltily, she realized she'd been ignoring him; his behavior was a clue, to those who knew him, and she was his aunt, after all, that he was worried. After all, he was only a very little boy, stuck in a mess that wasn't his fault (for a change) and scared about things. She might have decided to do something for herself, but she couldn't really do it at Boxey's expense. So she asked him about his vid series.

He perked up and told her all about the latest developments in the ongoing saga of the much-chastised prophet Darius. She refrained from bringing Darius's religous leanings; after all, Boxey was seeing it as an adventure story. Then he asked her if she'd talked to Apollo, and she told him she had, which was true. Red reported three times a day. Apollo hadn't thought to leave a message for his son, but Athena wasn't his sister for nothing; she made up one that sounded pretty authentic, if she said so herself. She promised to give him a message from Boxey next time they spoke.

"You know," Bojay put in, "you can call the barracks and talk to Starbuck any time you want. He'll be there, after all, except on first shift."

"Can I really? Dad always said not to bother him at work." Boxey looked happier.

"Sure," Bojay said. "He's not 'at work'. He's just stuck in the barracks. And there's a ring-down if someone else calls. You go ahead and call him if you want. He'd like it."

Boxey sighed contentedly. "Okay. I will." Then he looked up and said, "Aunt 'Theni, is Dad a catamite?"

"What?" she demanded.

"Nobody will tell me what it means," he complained.

"Where did you hear it?"

"Sheba said it. Yesterday."

"That..." Athena bit off her own choice phrase, not wanting to have to explain it to a seven-yahren-old boy.

"What's it mean?" Boxey begged.

"It's a very impolite word for a young man who has an older boyfriend," she said finally.

"Dad's older than Pop," Boxey leapt on the flaw.

"Yes, he is," she said. "Sheba's not even accurate in her insults."


"I know what you're going to say, and you know better," she said. "You know perfectly well there are some words that mean things which aren't bad, or maybe not very bad, and yet your dad would tan your butt for saying those words."

"I know," he admitted.

"So if you use that word and get smacked for it, whose fault will it be?"


"Right." She grinned at him. "Somebody will smack Sheba one day."

"Somebody did, sorta," he said and gazed adoringly at Bojay, who looked embarrassed.

"See?" Athena said, and she smiled at the pilot, too, though she hoped not quite the same way.

They walked back to Apollo's together, and Boxey asked if Bojay was coming in before Athena could. She seconded it. Of course, Boxey was staying up late: it was seventhday, after all, no instruction for him in the morning. Fortunately, when she'd approached Omega about it the day Apollo had gotten sent off, he'd been more than amenable to her getting a day off for "family emergency". She'd hesitated to ask for the whole secton; she didn't want to hand Adama extra ammunition, but one day wasn't much. So they could both sleep late, not that she thought Boxey would. But he could get up and watch the vid, which Apollo had had the sense to install in Boxey's room, and not bother her.

So the three of them played Trango and ate ice cream until Boxey was yawning. Then Athena put him to bed, and she and Bojay were drafted into telling him a story. Which would have worked if they'd known any of the same ones. Bojay, it turned out, was a Piscon, as well as a Diwest, and that meant they didn't even have common children's stories. Although she thought that a bit odd, it was more important that they find a story to tell than figure out whose childhood was the weirder. They finally settled on a highly sanitized version of Kronos at the Cosmora Archipelago, which they knew from the Academy. Bojay's bits were bloodier than hers; she had to admit Boxey seemed more fascinated than appalled. Boys, she thought; I suppose Boj knows what works. She was glad it was dim in the room; she was fairly sure she blushed when she tried out the nickname, even in her mind.

Once they'd left Boxey's room, she rather quickly asked Bojay if he'd like to stay for a while longer, maybe have a drink.

"I'd like to," he said. "I don't have anywhere else to be." He paused. "I don't actually need a drink, though. Kava would be good," he added.

"Okay," she said. "I'll make some." He followed her into the service room, leaning up against the counter while she put the kava on. "I enjoyed tonight," she said. "And so did Boxey. Thank you."

"Any time," he said. "I mean that. With or without him."

She looked sideways at him. "I'll take you up on that," she promised.

"I hope so."

The tone in his voice was the last push she needed. "I don't say what I don't mean," she said, and took the step that closed the distance between them. She looked into his smoky hazel eyes and then leaned in and kissed him. She could feel his startlement, and then he responded, his hands warm on her face and then one of them sliding into her hair as he opened his mouth to her. She slid her own hands under his jacket, pulling him closer, feeling his desire. When they finally had to breathe, she stayed close, leaning against him, feeling his arms wrapping her in an embrace she wanted to last. She kissed his throat, bared by the open collar of his shirt, and heard him sigh under her lips. "Stay," she said.

"Goddess, Athena," he said, softly, hungrily; she kissed his throat again. "Boxey—"

"Boxey," she said, "knows about grown-ups spending the night. And Apollo even gave me permission. Besides, you'll be up before Boxey. Don't you have to be at the barracks by eight?"

"Damnit, yes," he said, catching hold of her chin and raising her face for another long kiss. "I don't," he added, finally, "actually want any kava."

"Good," she said, reaching out blindly to switch the brewer off.

The ProgramThe First DanceThe Second DanceThe Third Dance
<--return to previous part : The Fourth Dance : continue to next part-->
The Fourth DanceThe Fifth DanceThe Sixth DanceThe Seventh Dance


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