Starbuck woke up feeling languorous and contented. In the first still-drowsy microns he couldn't remember where he was or who he was with, but then it came back to him. Bojay... this was Bojay in his bed. Finally... he sighed happily.
Beside him Bojay made a little sound. Starbuck froze, recognizing it even after so long; in the absence of anything more from him, Bojay settled back into a deeper sleep. Carefully Starbuck raised himself on his elbow and looked at him. He was curled up on his side, facing Starbuck; his right arm was doubled up under his head and his left hand reaching out. Starbuck ignored the mark on his shoulder and concentrated on memorizing the rest of him.
Asleep, his long, light-colored lashes rested on his cheekbones, giving them a little more prominence than they had when he was awake. He looked younger, asleep; a little unlike himself with all the cynicism gone. More like Starbuck remembered him... Though that intriguing little slant was gone from the corners of his eyes with his eyelids closed, the rest of him was the same, just a little more battered by the yahrens. That soft brown hair, cropped short enough to tame most of its tendency to wave except for the forelock and where it turned under along the nape of his neck, was now in tousled disarray. Starbuck resisted the urge to thread his fingers through it, or run them along the neat, lobeless ear now mostly revealed, and kept using nothing but his eyes. The straight nose, the slightly cleft chin, the long throat, the lean chest and the inviting shadows cast by the blanket.
Starbuck pulled his eyes away from those shadows before he forgot his resolution to let Bojay sleep and reached out to touch, just barely, the back of his lover's outstretched hand. Bojay murmured softly and turned a little, closing the distance between them somewhat and, with the motion, giving Starbuck something else to think about. Another scar, a small one, high on the back of his shoulder. Starbuck's vivid imagination instantly presented him with the picture of a Cylon bayonet piercing all the way through. A new emotion possessed him, fairly strange to him: frighteningly intense fury. When he was mine, he didn't get hurt! From Sarabahandra all the way to Galsa I kept him safe! Another reason to hate Sheba, as if he needed one...
He took a deep breath and reined in the rage. Settling down and moving closer, he slid his hand under Bojay's and took light hold. Even in his sleep, Bojay reacted, his clasp tightening.
When Starbuck opened his eyes again, he was looking into eyes the color of old ambrosa, centimetrons away. He smiled sleepily.
"You're still so damned pretty it almost hurts to look at you," Bojay said softly.
Bojay shook his head and touched Starbuck's face lightly. "I can't get used to it," he said. "Having the right to look at you like this. Touch you... No matter what was happening, if I could close my eyes I could rewrite reality. But now reality is" he broke off, looking uncertain.
"Yes," Starbuck said. "It is." He put his hand on top of Bojay's where it now lay between them and for a few centons they lay like that, foreheads touching. Then Starbuck's stomach growled, reminding him that he'd hadn't eaten much at breakfast as well as skipping lunch. "Sorry," he apologized, "but I'm"
"Starving? Me, too." Bojay sat up. "Can we get room service?"
They could. By the time the food came, they'd gotten out of bed, hit the turbowash, and pulled on their shirts and trousers. Starbuck didn't know how Bojay felt about it, but he'd never been comfortable with public displays of affection, even in casual or meaningless relationships. And even a room-service waiter was public.
On the other hand, he reflected as he watched Bojay pay the waiter and put the dishes onto the kava table, he had really missed Bojay's casual touching when he'd lost it after Jolly's joke. Was that because he'd still been thinking they were only friends? Or because he'd thought he'd found the relationship that wouldn't end, so he didn't mind advertising it, setting himself up for an equally public loss? And how much had that loss, when it came, reinforced his dislike of stray caresses? (And had that fed his partners' doubts?) He didn't know.
He didn't know, either, how over his upbringing Bojay was. They probably ought to talk about that cousin of his. Later, he thought, and sat down on the floor and reached for the grog.
Bojay settled down on the other side of the table. At first they just ate, but before long the silence began to get to Starbuck. Where once he hadn't needed to talk to Bojay, now that old feeling of communion was gone, shredded by the events of the last four yahrens. Until it was regained, he needed to hear the other man's voice. And Bojay answered him with an alacrity that argued he felt the same.
Of course, Starbuck had already figured out that they didn't need to talk about the future. Not today, not tomorrow. Like Bojay had said, concentrate on now. Though 'now' hadn't lasted long enough yet.
So, ironically enough, they talked about old times.
A carefully selected subset of old times, anyway. Not Galsa, nor anything connected to it. Certainly nothing after Galsa. Sarabahandra, Plisessy, Polon, Franchotcampaigns and furlons and the long times in between; Hafez and Onyx and Towse and those two lunatics they'd gone diving with on Plisessy and the colonel they'd pissed off so badly on Arorix... Do you remember? and Dear gods, will you ever forget?
Starbuck lost track of time. At some point Bojay had brought out his bottle and they'd had a couple of drinks each, but they were nowhere close to drunk. Bojay was leaning on the table, his legs stretched out underneath, one foot touching Starbuck's, talking about the time they'd hidden in the asteroid field. His eyes had gone a sort of smoky blue...
"Hey," Bojay nudged him with his foot. "Fleet to Starbuck. Where are you?"
Starbuck blinked and realized he'd missed most of whatever Bojay had been saying. "Sorry. I'm here."
"Yeah? What was I asking?"
Starbuck shrugged. "Who knows? I was looking at you."
Now Bojay blinked. "Really? I'd have thought that was my excuse."
He was too well aware of what he looked like to protest that, but at the same time he couldn't let it pass. "I'll always buy it, but don't think you're not worth looking at. You are. Trust me."
Bojay blinked at him again and then leaned over the table and kissed him. Starbuck capped the bottle and then gave himself up to now.
This time he let Bojay keep the initiative when he took it. The other man crouched over him, taking his time, letting his mouth drift along Starbuck's body, coming back to the places that got the most reactions. And his hands were busy, too. He might never have been with a man before, but he knew what he liked. For that matter, he knew what Starbuck liked, considering some of their furlons... and gods, was he proving that! Starbuck moaned with desire, clutching at Bojay. He bit back the plea, wanting Bojay's mouth on him but not wanting to push, but he couldn't stop the moans.
And then Bojay stopped exploring, or teasing, whichever it was. Carefully he took Starbuck's cock into his mouth, almost too carefully in fact. Starbuck fisted his hands in the sheets to avoid grabbing his lover's head and choking him, but he couldn't prevent himself from thrusting, seeking the end to the pleasurable torment engulfing him. After only a few centons, Bojay lost his tentativeness and Starbuck lost control, swimming in the sensation. Bojay wasn't skilled, but he was Bojay: Starbuck had never in his life felt like this. He couldn't even think to warn Bojay before he came...
When he could move again, he found Bojay nuzzling his throat. He slid his hand along his lover's throat and kissed him, tasting himself in Bojay's mouth. The combination, himself and Bojay, was a stimulant like nothing he'd ever experienced before. Growling, he rolled them over and wasted no time, going straight for Bojay's cock.
Afterwards, they lay together under the blankets, sated and drowsy. Starbuck felt Bojay's head resting on his shoulder as they drifted into sleep. He hadn't expected to spend so much time sleeping, but he hadn't had a day like this one in, well, yahrens. He tightened his arm around Bojay, hoping he hadn't made a mistake. Not that he was regretting one micron of the day, but he did know that fights with a lover were the worst kind. And once this break was over, they were going to fight, he was pretty sure, once this little bubble of now was burst and later intruded. After all, for each piece of evidence he'd had that Bojay loved him still, he had two that Bojay was still on the Pegasus in spirit...
He sighed and nuzzled Bojay's slightly damp hair. Oh, well, it was too late to change his mind now. Not that he really wished he had.
Not that he wished he had at all.
When he woke, Bojay was stretched out beside him, on top of the covers and dressed, with his book. Starbuck heard a page turn and after a moment he nudged Bojay's ribs with his elbow. "What is that, anyway?"
"The Language of Night," Bojay answered. "It's a mystery."
"Ah. Did the butler do it?"
"I doubt it..." Bojay bookmarked his page and set the book on the table next to the bed. "You awake? Let's go for a walk."
"What time is it?" He found his chrono. "For Sagan's sake, Bo, it's three in the morning."
"You can't be sleepy."
Starbuck opened his mouth to protest then said, "Oh, why am I even pretending?" and got out of bed. "I knew you were going to want to do this." He looked into the bag and realized Bojay had unpacked it while he was sleeping. He crossed over to the closet.
Bojay got off the bed and came over to get his jacket. "You don't mind, do you?"
"Of course not," Starbuck said, pulling on his shirt. "I don't mind stretching my legs." He looked up and grinned. "Especially considering you never could spend twenty-four centares in a room."
Bojay grinned at him. "So I get a little stir-crazy..."
"Yeah, a little walk isn't much sacrifice to keep you sane."
"If only it was that easy," Bojay riposted. "Or is that your line?"
"It's mine," Starbuck nodded. "But it helps if you realize it."
Bojay feinted a punch. Starbuck ducked it, feeling exhilirated. He grabbed his own jacket. "If we're going, let's go," he said.
He followed Bojay down the hall, letting the other man set the pace and pick the direction, content to watch him and listen to him talk about that hotel they'd stayed for a furlon in on Polon, comparing it unfavorably to the Star. "Except of course for the garden."
Starbuck could take gardens or leave them, but the one at Golden Head had been rather remarkable. And every time he'd misplaced his wingmate, that's where he'd found him; like someone fifteen yahrens younger, Boj had climbed every odd, twisted tree on the property. It had been a good furlon: Starbuck had played inside and Bojay outside and they hadn't had much trouble finding women to play with... Starbuck grinned to himself. It was too bad they hadn't figured themselves out yet, they could have had more fun with less work.
Though they'd had plenty of fun, as he remembered it. He wondered what had happened to that hotel, and then decided he didn't want to know. He chased the thought away by asking, "Hey, where we going?"
"Must be someplace still open," Bojay responded. "Thought we could get a couple of drinks or something."
"Oh, someplace is open," Starbuck said. "The Star's always rising, never setting." How could he have been here for more than half a yahren and not know that?
A couple of Green's pilots were at the bar, drinking heavily, when they went into the lounge. Starbuck was glad they weren't from Blue, a nod in their direction was enough. He and Bojay settled at a small table and ordered drinks and an order of salty chips. The vidscreen over the bar was showing footage of the Heart of Pylla, blue and green and golden stellar clouds and glowing gases. Starbuck remembered back when they'd first started their voyage they'd shown planetary footage, but within a couple of sectares nothing was ever shown but space. He supposed it had been too depressing, but right now he was glad: Bojay against the Pyllar Nebula was as gorgeous as anything he could want to see.
Though he wished the other man wouldn't drink quite so much. And he was aware how that sounded, coming from him, but Bojay had never drunk all the time, never drunk alone. He'd drunk on furlons, to get drunk anyway; the rest of the time he'd have one or two and quit. All this drinking, it was new and worrisome. On the other hand, Starbuck thought, Boj wasn't getting even half as plastered as Rohan and Vale, who might need help getting back to the shuttle bay.
Frack. Was that a responsible thought pushing its way out? But they couldn't stay here, 'cause as soon as they passed out they'd be tossed out and someone would steal every cubit they had left. And if he called the Galactica they'd get written up. He sighed.
"What's that for?" Bojay asked.
"Those two," Starbuck said. "We should put them on a shuttle and call someone in Green."
Bojay shrugged. "If you want to."
"Want's probably not the right word," Starbuck said and got up. Bojay followed him over to the bar. "Hey, Vale," he said. "You guys going back soon?"
"What's it to you?" Vale asked, though not belligerently.
"You look like you need a hand," Bojay said.
"Frackin' Silver Spar," Rohan said with careful enunciation. "Don't need no help from Silver Frackin' Spar. Can get back on our own."
"Starbuck's not Spar," said Vale. "Starbuck's Blue."
"Frackin' Blue." Rohan was an equal-opportunity drunk. "Don't need help from the Captain's Own either."
"Bojay's Blue, too." Vale giggled and began singing off-key. "Am I blue? Am I blue? Ain't these tears in my eyes telling you? Am I blue? You'd be, too"
"You're not Blue. You're Green. And Bojay's Spar," Rohan contradicted him.
"Spar. F'rever and ever. Silver Pegasucks." After which pronouncement Rohan closed his eyes and laid his head down on the bar.
"Either way," Bojay said, "you two do need help. Or a room."
"Two rooms," said Rohan without opening his eyes.
"Whatever," Starbuck said. "Come on. Next shuttle's leaving soon. You two need to be on it."
"Sure, Starbuck," Vale nodded. "Wha'ver you say. Le's just finish up these."
"Don' need frackin' Spar," Rohan insisted.
"That's okay, Rohan," Starbuck soothed him. "I'm not in Spar, you know me."
"Yeah, you're okay." Rohan wrapped his arm around Starbuck and patted his face. "You're okay, Starbuck. Poor Starbuck, Spar-stuck Starbuck." He giggled.
Starbuck was mightily tempted to leave them both, but instead he hoisted Rohan to his feet and steered him towards the door. Vale downed the rest of his wingmate's drink and followed, Bojay trailing him without touching. In the bay, Starbuck deposited Rohan in the shuttle, shoved Vale inside after him, and got the copilot's promise not to let them off before the Galactica. Then he came back into the bay and said, "Let me call the barracks, get someone to meet the shuttle."
Bojay didn't say anything until Starbuck had signed off with an audibly irritated but compliant Ryoga, and then he said, shortly, "Smart man, that."
"Ryoga?" Starbuck asked, catching on too late.
"I've known smarter."
"Maybe..." Bojay headed out of the lounge.
"You want to go back to the lounge?" Starbuck asked, following.
"No. Let's go back to the room."
Starbuck was agreeable to that. Still, "Rohan was drunk."
"In vino veritas."
"I doubt he was drinking nectar."
"Cheap ambrosa's no different. Just faster."
"Forget him," Starbuck said. "He's an idiot."
"I'd be glad to." Bojay turned into the corridor leading to their room and quickened his pace, opening the door before Starbuck had a chance to answer him. And when the door shut behind Starbuck, the other man turned and kissed him, hard.
That beat talking about Rohan seven ways from First Day. Starbuck leaned into the embrace and let Bojay push him down on the bed, his hands scrabbling Bojay's shirt out of his waistband. Bojay's mouth was hungry on his, his hands eager. And then Bojay rolled them over so that Starbuck was on top and pulled away long enough to say, "Frack me."
"Bo" Starbuck was torn.
"You brought lube," Bojay said, almost accusingly. "You know how."
"You were gone. I thought you were"
"I don't care where you learned it, or when. Just do it."
Starbuck had about a micron to decide what to do. His body was definitely casting an 'aye' vote but his mind wasn't so sure that Bojay was really ready. On the other hand, turning him down, especially after that snitrat Rohan... "If you're sure," he said, leaning down and kissing him.
Bojay held on tight. "Take me. Make me yours," he said when he could.
"Oh, gods," Starbuck said. He did know how, and he set about it with no further hesitation, stripping off Bojay's jacket and shirt at the same time and wriggling out of his own while kissing his lover's throat and chest. By the time they were both naked, Bojay was moaning with need. Starbuck found the lube on the table next to the bed and grabbed the other man's shoulder, barely noticing the Pegasus mark. "Roll over," he said. "It'll be better the first time."
Bojay rolled over and Starbuck crouched between his legs, sliding a well-lubricated finger along his astrum, leaning over to say, "Trust me. I won't hurt you."
"I do," Bojay said, "do it. Now."
"If you change your mind, just say," Starbuck said and pushed his finger inside his lover. Bojay tensed but didn't say anything; as Starbuck moved his finger around Bojay began to relax and then Starbuck found his prostate and he cried out, raising his hips to meet the probe. "Good?" Starbuck asked, and,
"Gods, yes," Bojay said. "Oh, gods, Buck..."
When Starbuck entered him he did it slowly, carefully, but there was no real resistance. It was as well, because being inside Bojay undid all Starbuck's own restraint. He thrust almost frantically, his hand on Bojay's cock, and they came almost together, collapsing to lie with Starbuck's arms holding Bojay as close as possible and Bojay's hands tight on Starbuck's arms. Centons went by before Starbuck was able to move, and then he didn't want to, only kissing Bojay's shoulders.
"Gods," Bojay said softly. "I love you, Buck. I love you."
"I know, Bo." Starbuck held him close. "I know. I love you."
"Don't move. Don't go anywhere."
"No," Starbuck said. "I'm not going anywhere at all."
This time Starbuck woke first. Or at least, he thought, Bojay was still asleep. He looked at his bedmate and hoped he believed Starbuck instead of Rohan... Rohan was an idiot, but unfortunately he'd only been saying what a lot of pilots believed. And, if Starbuck was honest, it was what he believed himself: the Pegasus pilots were still their own little clique.
He stared up at the ceiling. It wasn't new. He'd felt it from the beginning, known that was why he'd had to isolate Bojay as much as possible. All of them, really, though Boj was the only one he gave a damn about. He'd known it wouldn't be easy, after all. Known they were clinging together. Spar. Forever and ever....
No. Not forever, not if I have anything to do with it, he told himselfor the universe firmly. Still, maybe, but not always. Period. End of conversation.
And Bojay wanted it, he reminded himself. That was that had been about. Make me yours. He smiled, remembering, but sobered again. Bojay wanted it, but he wasn't there yet. There was a lot of work to do still... That pile marked 'later' was a damned big one.
And something else had gone on it, too, he realized. What had Boj said? I don't care where you learned it. Or when. But he hadn't said he didn't care from whom... Starbuck sighed softly and wondered if there was any chance in Hades of getting his lover and his best friends to even like each other.
Later, he told himself and almost laughed out loud. He reached over Bojay and looked at his chrono: ten centons before eleven. He slid out of the bed and used the turboflush and put on his shirt and trousers. Then he ordered lunch sent up at twelve fifty, figuring Boj would probably be awake by then. Then he stood indecisively in the middle of the floor and wondered what to do. A problem with being over thirty: you really did need something else. After a moment, he picked up the book and sat down in the chair, putting his bare feet up on the bed. He looked at the page Bojay had bookmarked.
Jassi snorted and then nearly choked as nectar went the wrong way down her throat. When she looked up, Sire Ivorin was glaring at her. His expression effectively banished her laughter and she felt a chill. "Dear," her mother said mildly, "try to behave like a lady."He flipped to the beginning and read
Stellisford Park was an old house, and though the stone facade was mellowed with age and looked graceful and comfortable, from the first moment Jassi walked through the massive doorway, what she felt was cold and unwanted. The house knew she was an unwilling resident and it resented her presence almost as much as she resented being there.
He put the book down. Not much chance of his getting caught up in that story. Back to his old friends, then. He got up and found his deck of cards on the shelf in the closet and settled down at the little table with them. He was in the middle of his second game of Twelve Roads when a little sound made him look up. Bojay was awake, leaning back against the head of the bed and watching him intently. "Memorizing me?" Starbuck asked.
Bojay smiled slightly. "Updating the image," he answered.
"Pretty much the same as it always was. Just a bit darker."
"You with a deck of cards," nodded Bojay. "All you're missing is a fumarello, a drink, and a girl."
"You can edit the girl out."
"I am, even as we speak." He paused. "What do you mean, darker?"
Starbuck heard the serious question under the light tone, but he felt like keeping the conversation light for the moment; no point in hashing over all the things that had happened since they'd been separated. Not now. Besides, he hadn't meant anything serious when he'd said it. He grinned. "The hair. I'm not quite so blond as I used to be."
Bojay grinned a bit ruefully at him. "At least you still have all yours. I'm going to look like my grandfather in another ten yahrens."
"In the words of the song," he tried to remember the lyric that what's her name had loved so much a couple of yahrens back, "Honey, I don't care: I ain't in love with your hair. If it all falls out I'm gonna love you anyway."
Bojay smiled, and then said, lightly, "Thank you for not singing it."
"I'd forgotten what Sagittans you Cambrans are about singing," Starbuck said, joining the mood.
"I love you, but you can't sing."
"Ha, ha," Starbuck said, adding, "Just promise me you won't do that thing where you grow it real long on one side and comb it over the top."
Bojay laughed. "I may not have that much left, but if I do, I promise."
Starbuck grinned. "I can always shave mine and keep you company," he offered.
"Lords, no. I'm not in love with your hair, either, but that would be a crime."
"You're going to make me vain," Starbuck mock-protested.
Bojay laughed out loud. "Way too late for that."
"Are you insinuating I'm vain already?"
"Not without reason, maybe, but... yes. You're the vainest man I've ever met." Bojay's voice changed slightly as he finished that sentence.
Starbuck wondered who he'd just thought of but didn't ask. Instead, "Maybe? Not without reason maybe?"
Bojay laughed again. Then he got out of bed and, picking up his clothes, headed into the turbowash. When he came out he sat down on the other side of the table, tucking his feet up underneath him. "Are you hungry?"
"I already ordered up lunch," Starbuck said, playing a card.
"Good." Bojay leaned over the table and pointed. "Move."
"I saw it," Starbuck said untruthfully.
"So, this grandfather of yours... pretty bald, huh?"
"Most of the men on my mam's side are," Bojay admitted.
Something stirred in Starbuck's memory. "You know, I knew that. You showed me a picture once... tall old coot. Blue eyes."
"That was him."
"Looked pretty virile."
Bojay grinned. "He was that, too."
"Well, if I have to choose between you at a hundred with hair or virility, I know which I want."
Bojay grinned briefly. "You really think we'll still be" Starbuck was preparing to answer 'together?' but Bojay crossed him up. "alive at a hundred?"
After a few centons, Starbuck shrugged. "Who knows? I plan on giving it my best shot."
The door signal chimed while Bojay was thinking. Starbuck got up and brought in the meal. By the time he had the food and ale out, Bojay was nodding. "I'd pretty much figured to be dead in a few yahrens, but I have to admit, I like the notion of sitting somewhere in a rocker with you and bitching about young people. I know you don't think we'll find Earth, but I guess the Senior Ship will do."
"It beats the alternative," Starbuck nodded. "And maybe we'll find a nice empty planet before we're too old to appreciate it."
"You?" Bojay raised his eyebrows. "Appreciate an empty planet?"
Starbuck had to laugh. "Well, every now and then I do miss fresh air."
Bojay joined the laugh. "I wonder," he said after taking a drink, "what Earth will be like. Would be like... Is like?"
Starbuck shrugged. "Who knows? Maybe they never had a Dark Age; maybe they're so technically advanced it'll all seem like magic." He shrugged again. "Or maybe they got stuck there and haven't even had a Revivesence yet."
"We could be gods."
Starbuck snickered. "I don't see Adama going that route... Too bad, in a way."
"They're probably more or less like us," Bojay said.
"Probably. Though if they're just one world, and if they haven't been at war for the last millennium, they might actually not be as far along as us. Peace doesn't make for the same rate of advancement as war."
"A little edge. Like older brothers. That'd be okay."
"It would sure beat finding out they were way ahead of us, thought of us as barbarians," Starbuck agreed. "Not that I think we're going to find out either way."
"I know... One thing," Starbuck changed the subject slightly, "I'd like to shake the Cylons for good before we get there."
"You don't shake Cylons," Bojay said, making Starbuck wish he'd picked a different topic, "you have to kill them. Nothing else works."
"Whatever," Starbuck avoided the argument. "As long as no one expects me to be an agrist."
Bojay snorted ale across the table.
"What?" Starbuck pretended to be wounded.
"I can just see you, up at the crack of dawn, feeding the poultry, hitching up the team to go plow..." Bojay shook his head. "Not."
"Good lords," Starbuck said in all seriousness. "Surely you had machines for that." They had never really gotten into the routine of the agrostation in their discussions of Bojay's home furlons; after all, he hadn't been expected to work when he was there. He'd mentioned animals, but Starbuck had more or less assumed they were sort of pets, or maybe food sources.
"No machine is as reliable as a good pair of equines," Bojay said, obviously quoting.
Starbuck shivered theatrically.
Bojay grinned. "I like equines. I'm not crazy about plowing, but I always did like riding. Playing, my tad always called it. Fortunately my cousins liked working around the station."
Cousins. Starbuck wondered if one of them was the one who'd gone to prison, and would Bojay talk about him. Well, if he didn't want to he was certainly capable of turning the conversation, and Starbuck didn't have to be blunt. "They lived with you?"
"Um-hm. My uncle was dead, before I was born. Aunt Glenna was my mam's sister, came and lived with us, she and her three kids. I don't think my tad was that pleased, not after Gareth was arrested, but it was my grandad's place, so..." Bojay shrugged. "Anyway, modryb dda ydy ail fam, a good aunt's a second mother. And Gavin and Brenna were more agrists than me or my sister. Gareth was always off to the city, come back when he ran out of money. He'd stay for a few sectares, dazzle us little ones, and then..." He shrugged again.
So much for, would Bojay talk about him? "You liked him."
"Yeah," said Bojay. "I did."
"So what happened?"
"You know, I never really knew. I was eleven when he was arrested. I'm not even sure who he was with; I think it was a touristhe was in Ripa when it happened, on the other side of the planet. All I know is, he went to prison and died there. After three yahrens, five sectares, and fifteen days."
"Died?" Starbuck said. "In prison? You mean?"
"We never really found out what happened. I heard my aunt and my mam talking when she'd come back from visiting him... He got beat up a lot, but I don't know if he got killed or killed himself or if it was just an accident. You know, 'we didn't go to kill him'. Nobody gave a good damn about what happened, of course, and as for telling my aunt anything, nobody was all that worried about her feelings, either." He was quiet a centon or two. "She thought he killed himself; I don't know if she was right."
"Oh, yeah." He grinned wryly. "It set off another good round of sermons, too."
"You don't think the preachers could resist it, do you? Nothing quite like sitting in chapel secton after secton and hearing your favorite cousin used as the bad example... And worse for his mam and his sibs, too. Gavin promptly knocked up his girlfriend, which didn't much please anyone either, since he was nineteen and she was a yahren younger, but at least it proved he wasn't cyff."
"Anyway, the way I saw it, if he did kill himself all that about his going to hell for doing it was redundant; they'd already said he was going to hell for being cyff in the first place. And I guess prison was hell enough. Either way."
"Not your fault."
Starbuck remembered how it was Bojay who'd taught him you could say 'I'm sorry' without meaning it as an apology. He sighed and reached to touch the other man's arm. "I know. I'm sorry anyway."
Bojay blinked at him. Then he smiled almost shyly. "Sorry, myself," he said. "I think I'm out of that habit. Anyway, it sure turned me purely to girls."
"I was at PMA before I was even comfortable stripping off in a locker room. Of course, there were a lot of guys there like me. Uncomfortable, I mean."
"Flit, too, I'll bet," Starbuck said. "Me, I never did anything but I didn't mind showing off when I was a teenager."
"When you were a teenager? You'll be showing off when you're a centenarian."
"I hope," Starbuck grinned but it was almost automatic. He'd just watched a new thought appear: he hadn't been interested in guys at the academy, hadn't wanted anything to do with being treated like he, in his not-so-enlightened youth, had treated the women he slept with (he'd learned better). And he probably wouldn't have slept with Apollo anyway: the cadet-colonel? That would have smacked too much of getting there on his back. But Apollo had never even hinted at it to him. It wouldn't have taken much to see Starbuck wasn't interested, and Apollo was even then a keen observer even if he didn't like what he was seeing, but never a hint, not even when they were on furlons after graduation, stationed on different ships... Not until Apollo had come to the Galactica and then, within a couple of sectons, not just a pass but a fairly confident one. Who'd been dropping hints in the captain's ear? The man who'd sent Starbuck's presumed lover away in the first place?
"Hey." Bojay shook his shoulder lightly. "What?"
"Sorry," he apologized automatically. "Just thinking about might have beens."
Bojay shook his head. "Waste of time. If the last four yahrens taught me anything, it was that it's hard enough to handle what's actually happened."
Starbuck raised an eyebrow. "What did you tell me yesterday?"
"Well," Bojay looked embarrassed. "I didn't say I'd learned it... It went on at Caprica Military Academy?"
"Sure," Starbuck said. "No regs against cadets having sex with each other, as long as they were both eighteen. For that matter, some guys fracked instructors, and there were regs against that. But not me; I was a ladies' man." He grinned. "Till you."
"Oh, you weren't the first I ever fracked, obviously, but you were the reason. You woke me up, made me want it. Made me want you... I don't know what would have happened if Cain hadn't wanted a wingmate for Sheba, if we hadn't been too damned good for our own good"
"What do you mean?"
"He wanted an Angel of Death, and Adama felt like giving him one." Starbuck shrugged slightly. "I don't know what would have happened if neither one of us had gone"
Bojay snatched at that phrase. "Neither one? What in Hades does that mean?"
Starbuck blinked in surprise at the tone. "He actually didn't care which one of us he got. It might have been me."
"What does that mean?" Starbuck wished he hadn't asked as soon as he did; that was pushing it, he knew.
Bojay shrugged too casually. "You'd have hated it," he said. "But if we'd neither of us gone? I suppose I'd have had to tell my family I was taking out Caprican citizenship. They would probably have preferred thinking of me as dead."
Starbuck couldn't let that go. "Their loss would have been my gain, that's for damned sure. And anyway, maybe they'd have accepted it."
"Maybe. Funny, isn't it? I know you always envied me my family, but sometimes I envied you your freedom."
"Always the way, isn't it? But some of those letters you let me read, those people wouldn't have let go of you easily."
"Maybe not. It's all moot now, anyway." Bojay straightened up and reached for the deck of cards. "Know how to play two-handed yermolash?"
Apparently enough was enough. Well, Starbuck pretty much agreed, at least for the moment. "No."
"Good. Maybe I can win a few hands before you figure it out."
Starbuck did start out losing. But by the time they got tired of two-handed yermolash, he'd rectified the situation and Bojay owed him seven hundred and fifty-two thousand cubits. They switched to pyramid, and Starbuck's winnings climbed to two million, four hundred and seventy thousand, three hundred and fifty cubits.
So it was pretty much a profitless afternoon. Bojay refused to be drawn into a meaningful conversation. He played his old game, which he'd always played well and much better than Starbuck: no matter what Starbuck said Bojay simply continued on his chosen topic as if Starbuck hadn't said anything at all. It was metrics better than when he retreated into silence, but Starbuck sometimes wanted to scream.
Especially since Bojay's chosen topic was old vid series that the Pegasus had lost yahrens out of, particularly a couple which IFB had decided to keep up with new casts and writers.
So when Starbuck asked, "Why'd you decide to go to PMA anyway?", Bojay answered,
"So I gather that Carabbas has managed to get his hooks into a councilor?"
"Just bored with the farm? Or what?"
"Another councilor, I mean, 'cause of course he's had Omaron in his pocket for yahrens."
"What did your father think?" He'd never asked that before, even knowing that Bojay was the only son.
"What I really don't understand," Bojay said, "is, three yahrens ago Flavia was swearing to gut Paxel with her teeth if he spoke to her again and now they're getting Sealed."
Starbuck gave up. "You're way too wrapped up in that series," he said. Then, before Bojay could respond, "Besides, it's all so simple. That boray she was promised to"
"The one who was cheating on her with Carabbas's niece? The idiot one? What's his name, Rodolfo?"
"Right. Not the Ranger that Carabbas had tortured to death, except that really he's imprisoned on that island."
"So he's still there?"
"Yeah." Starbuck leaned back and gestured. "But Flavia thinks he's dead. I'm talking about Rodolfo. He turned out to be part of the Caraberi Cartel."
"Yep. And he was personally responsible for Felis's death."
Bojay looked dumbfounded.
Starbuck grinned. "So, when Flavia found out, of course she was appalled and swore revenge on him, but Count Carabbas, who turns out to be his uncle, tried to have her killed, and Paxel rescued her, which made her reconsider her earlier opinion."
"Carabbas is Rodolfo's uncle? But that means Melara is his sister!"
Starbuck laughed. "Yeah, that wasn't one of CBC's best storyline moves, which is why Rodolfo kind of disappeared when IFB took over. But then again all of Seventh Moon is implausible, if you ask me."
"Implausible?" Bojay asked with what Starbuck hoped was mock indignation.
"Yeah. Implausible. I mean, twelve degrees of separation is one thing. On Seventh Moon it's more like two."
Bojay snickered. "There is that."
"Eye of the Pyramid is much better."
"So what's up with Gold Team on that show?"
"Gold Two and Three are replacements, and Gold Four thinks Gold Two doesn't deserve the job. Plus Three is sleeping with Red One and is pissed off that she was transferred..." Starbuck shrugged. "The real problem is with One: his brother was killed in a fracked-up mission and he's out to get Blue and Control."
"Control? Well, that explains that decision he made last secton."
And so it went for the whole afternoon. After dinner they lay on the bed together and watched IFB. That was something new, sharing a bed with a lover and watching the vid instead. But, and he was really glad Bojay had admitted to it first, before they even left the Galactica, four times in a day and a half was as much as he could manage. Anticipation and memory colored the moment, but his married friends were apparently correct: you couldn't go at it like leporids all the time. Still, it was nice, just being together, no need of any kind. Like friendship, only more. What was that quote? Maybe love is friendship plus...
IFB was showing highlights of the Fleet Triad Championships from last yahren. Starbuck wasn't entirely sure watching them was a good idea, but Bojay knew he was an addict: it had been just about the only thing they hadn't done together. It was easier to watch and hope Bojay was more paying attention to him in his matches than noticing who his partner was than it would be to try and justify not watching.
His own mind was wandering a bit. Sharing a platonic bed and watching vids: who had he done that with? Boomer. Bojay, back in the old days. And Apollo, long ago and more recently. Of course, in the last yahren or so, it had been Apollo and Boxey more often than not. Sometimes he'd even wondered what was on Apollo's devious mind, for devious he was even if he cultivatedprojected, anywaya straightforward image. Was he trying to convince Starbuck he really wanted to be part of a family? Not much convincing was necessary, if it came to that, but Apollo didn't really mean it. And whenever Starbuck started to think he did, all he had to do was remember where Boxey had come from. Or, if he started to convince himself that Apollo was content with adopting kids instead of fathering them, wait till the next day and look at Apollo and Sheba.
An elbow in the ribs was accompanied by, "Fleet to Starbuck."
"Sorry," he said. "You say something?"
"Nothing important. What's on your mind?"
"Nothing," Starbuck said. My ex-lover was definitely not the right answer. "I've seen this about twelve times, that's all."
"Unless we rent a vid, that's all there is"
"This is fine."
"Then I was just wondering, wasn't that a foul?"
"Yes," Starbuck said emphatically.
Bojay laughed. "You remember the games that well?"
"My ribs remember Ortega that well," he answered.
Bojay snickered. "You do look like you're going to end up black and blue."
"As somebody not twelve metrics from here once said, 'that's right, laugh at my pain'."
"As I remember," Bojay pointed out, "I was still bleeding at the time."
"True," Starbuck acknowledged. "You were..." He reached out and gently ran a finger along the other man's nose. "No permanent damage, though."
"No," Bojay agreed softly.
He looked back at the screen, but not before Starbuck saw shadows moving in his eyes. He might have pursued that if he hadn't been so, frankly, relieved to get out of the conversation without explaining what he'd been thinking about himself. How would he have felt about Bojay if he'd still been with Apollo when the Pegasus was found? Could he have still been with the captain after so many yahrens? Would the Destruction have made the other man willing to go public, or would it have still pushed him to someone like Serina? Starbuck didn't think either of them would have tried to stay together if Apollo was getting married... Why was he even thinking about it? It was like wondering how he'd have felt about Apollo if he'd known why Bojay was gone, or if he'd have punched Apollo back at CMA if he'd made a pass back then. Impossible to know and a pointless waste of time.
Apollo was his friend. They'd worked too hard, both of them, to keep it like that after Starbuck had so precipitately broken it off. And didn't that prove it? Apollo hadn't argued with him. He'd even said it himself: I don't expect fidelity. Didn't expect it, and didn't promise it either. What was important was the friendship. And Bojay. And keeping them both. Which meant not jeopardizing this new relationship by thinking about the old one, at least not when Bojay was with him, for Sagan's sake.
"Hey," Bojay tapped his shoulder. "Where are you?"
He sounded a bit worried. Starbuck gave him one of his best smiles. "Nowhere. Really. Just thinking about things."
Bojay looked at him a bit dubiously. Once that smile wouldn't have fooled him, but it had been a long time. "You didn't use to phase out like that so often. Am I boring you?"
"No. Anything but." He yawned. "Guess I'm just tired."
"It is late." Bojay toggled off the remote. In the darkness that enveloped the room he slid down next to Starbuck, turning on his side and putting his arm over Starbuck's middle.
Starbuck hooked his own hand over Bojay's arm and in a couple of centons the other man was asleep. Starbuck lay there listening to his even breathing and knowing he didn't want to be anyplace else. So why was he thinking about Apollo?
As usual, when he broke down and asked it directly, his mind answered him: because in many ways his life would be a lot simpler if he'd kissed Apollo in the Learning Center two days ago (two? is that all?) instead of going to look for Bojay. He laughed to himself, feeling his lover's arm tighten slightly around him. Since when do you prefer simple, Bucko?
Besides, even by then he'd put way too much work into salvaging Boj. No way in all seven hells was he quitting now. No matter what.
And he had a feeling that what was going to be pretty hefty.
He stroked the arm across his midriff. Worth it, he thought and closed his own eyes.After a minute he found himself wondering when was the last time he'd gone to sleep, sober, next to someone else sober, without having fracked them first. A long time... and it had, he realized, most probably been Bojay then, too, though going to bed sober hadn't been their usual m.o. on furlons. Not that they were always ripped, by any means, but ambrosa had certainly been their beverage of choice. Not since then, surely...
The quote he'd been looking for earlier surfaced. Not 'love is friendship plus'; 'love is friendship caught on fire'.
Caught on fire, he thought. That was exactly what had happened between him and Boj that day in the Life Center turbowash: fire. And it was what hadn't ever happened between him and anyone else. Not Aurora, not Athena even though she was the only one he'd ever asked to Seal with him, not Cassie (though he might have if Cain hadn't shown up), and not Apollo, cool fireproof Apollo. Sparks had flown, but he'd never caught fire. Passionate friendships had remained, at the end, friendships. Only Bojay had ever burned in his veins.
Gods, he thought. I can't lose him now. I'll turn to ash without him. He tightened his hold. I can't lose you. I won't.
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