Starbuck knew that tone. There's something I wish you'd do... "Yeah?" he asked, glad to hear it. "You want something? Just name it."
"Something," Bojay said. "I've been dreaming about it for more than four yahrens."
Starbuck felt a frisson of pleasure mixed with a bit of guilt. Not that it was his fault they'd been apart for so long, but he'd been quick to believe that Bojay wanted to leave... that his usual luck with relationships was holding. It was his fault that he hadn't made an effort to find out, hadn't written Bojay's mother asking her to pass on a word. But it was done, and he couldn't go back and undo it. He could just try to make it right from now on.
He bent his head down and kissed Bojay. "What?" he asked, wondering why the other man was hesitating, hoping it didn't involve pain. Starbuck wasn't at all sure he could inflict pain even if Bojay wanted it, but he guessed he could try. If that was it, which it probably wasn't. After all, nothing that Boj had done so far had caused pain or hinted at a desire for it, though there was that burn... "What do you want, Bo?" What have you been seeing when you closed your eyes and what did you say? Rewrote reality? And can I live up to it?
Bojay threaded his fingers through Starbuck's hair. "It's just... I've never forgotten what you looked like that day. That last day. Like something out of an old story, or a supernatural romance vid."
Starbuck blinked down at him. "What?"
"You knowor maybe not. You Capricans, so urbanized." He ran his fingers down the side of Starbuck's face and neck. "All water-dappled and bare-chested, with all that steam, like morning mist. All that light off the mirror and you so golden and startled, and as beautiful and terrifying as a Fay... You drove me out of my mind and scared me half to death and made me say something I'd meant never to say. And I never forgot that picture."
Starbuck's breath caught. No one had ever said anything quite like that to him before. And Bojay had been carrying that image around for four yahrens? Wow. When he could, he said, "I'm not that young any more. Or that blond. But if you want me to get wet, I can get wet. And this time you can stay. And if Greenbean shows up we can drown him."
Bojay laughed a little. "What I really want, though"
Starbuck leaned on his elbow and raised his eyebrows. "Yes?" he asked hopefully.
"You said the other day you'd wanted to haul me into the washroom?"
Sex in the turbowash? He could do that. In fact, he could hardly wait to do that. Hot water and slick bodies and... He sat up. "I'm going to turn on the water. Then I'm coming back out here, so prepare to be hauled."
One nice thing about the Star, Starbuck thought as he ran the water and got the temperature right, you could run the water in the turbowash as long as you wanted. Or at least as long as you had the cubits to pay for it. In the barracks, it had a disturbing tendency to go ice-cold after about ten centons. Very de-tumescenting, if that was a word. Also, of course, very public... Here, though, the hot ran a long time and the door locked. As he'd found out earlier, it was a recipe for a good time... He smiled in anticipation and stepped under the falling water to get nice and wetas he remembered that day he'd been fairly dripping when Bojay arrivedand tilted his head, pushing his hair back.
Starbuck opened his eyes. Bojay hadn't waited to be hauled. He was standing in the open doorway, looking at Starbuck. Gods, indeedor Lords, he'd forgotten exactly what that 'argle-thingie' meant. Bojay might be balding, and he might be as scarred-up as an old infantry sergeant, and he might never have been vid-star material to start with, but at this moment he was the most desirable person Starbuck had ever seen. Gods, I must be in love...
They stood there for several long centons, just staring, while hot water fell onto Starbuck's shoulders. Good thing this isn't a waterfall, I'd be freezing, he thought distractedly. Say something, Bucko... Fay. What do Fay say in situations like this? 'Don't be afraid'? No, that's angels. 'C'mere, mortal'? That's kind of over the top... He licked his lips and swallowed. "Don't just stand there," he said.
And Bojay didn't.
This kiss was maybe the best one yet. Starbuck wasn't completely sure what Bojay wanted so he let him take the lead. He'd never had an apter pupil, he thought before the other man's mouth and hands made coherent thinking pretty much impossible. And then Bojay went down on his knees in the water and began licking Starbuck's balls and, after a while, his cock.
"Oh, gods," Starbuck groaned. "Your four-yahren fantasy was to turn me into a gibbering idiot?"
Bojay paused, eliciting another groan. "Somebody beat me to it," he said, and then before Starbuck could answer, Bojay took his cock in his mouth.
Starbuck moaned with pleasure. One of his hands was tangled in Bojay's wet brown hair and the other braced against the wall. The hot water fell against his chest and stomach and spattered up into his face; his eyes were closed and every nerve in his body seemed wired directly to his groin. Every drop of water was like a love-bite. The whole universe was hot and wet and dark and pressing against him and enveloping him and driving him over the edge. When he went over, he cried out. And he didn't fall, he flew.
When he came down, opening his eyes almost reluctantly, Bojay was lapping at his throat, little laps like a felix. His hands were stroking Starbuck's back and astrum. "Ummmm," said Starbuck, running his own hand along his lover's back. "Any more old fantasies you've been carrying around? Anything else you want? Anything at all?"
Bojay raised his head and looked into his eyes. "You."
Starbuck started to say, 'You've got me,' when he realized what the other man meant. A shiver of pleasure ran down his spine; he wanted that as much as Bojay did, wanted the other inside him, wanted to be possessed. "Here?" he asked.
"Now. Tell me how."
"My pleasure," Starbuck said, and after the kiss, "Lube."
Bojay reached for the liquid soap; Starbuck pushed his hand away.
"Lube," he repeated. "Believe me: voice of experience here. Soap itches when it dries."
Bojay ineffectively choked back a snicker and ducked out of the stall. He was only gone a centon or so but it felt like an eternity; when he came back Starbuck pulled him into a kiss that would have lasted much longer if he hadn't been so hungry to have the cock prodding his belly be someplace else.
The lube was shockingly cool in all the heat of water and flesh and desire. A good thing, Starbuck realized; while he didn't mind it a bit rough sometimes that wasn't the best way to start Bojay off, and this got him lucid enough to be able to give decent instructions.
For which, when Bojay finally entered him, he was more grateful than he'd ever been for anything in his entire life. Past or, he expected, future.
And then he wasn't lucid any longer. He leaned against the wall, the water pelting down and Bojay driving into him. Cambrian words he didn't know washed over him, adding to the unreality and at the same time making it very real: he'd never make up words he didn't understand. The whole universe again narrowed down to just the two of them and this moment. Make me yours. Nomake yourself believe I belong to you. He grabbed Bojay's hand and pulled it to his reviving cock as his lover's assault on his prostate worked its usual magic. Believe it, he thought again as Bojay came, filling him with even more heat and wetness and bringing him to nearly simultaneous climax, I do. I do.
Somehow they managed not to fall over. But the next thing Starbuck was really aware of was the two of them sitting, legs tangled together, on the floor of the stall, hot water falling around them and on them and Bojay's hand stroking him. "Buck? Wyt ti'n go lew?"
"Okay?" Starbuck grinned at him. "More than okay, Bo. Never been better in my life." He leaned back against Bojay. "Got any more hidden fantasies? Of course, if you just want to keep doing this one it'll be all right with me."
Bojay grinned at him. "I'll remember that."
"You do that."
After a moment, he felt Bojay reach for something and then he smelled the sharp tang of shampoo. "We might as well actually wash while we're here," Bojay said, and poured some of the liquid over Starbuck's hair. He started to protest but the feel of Bojay's fingers massaging his scalp stopped him. After a centon he turned around enough to find the container and return the favor. Bojay closed his eyes and damned near purred like a felix when he did. They stood up to rinse out their hair and washed each other's backs and towelled each other off and crawled back into the bed to cuddle up.
Starbuck didn't remember falling asleep, but Bojay was shaking his shoulder. He knew it wasn't past noon yet. "Go away," he said.
"Hey, come on. Get up."
"Why? We've got centares yet."
"No, we don't. We have to catch the next shuttle." Bojay slapped Starbuck's knee lightly.
"Why? It can't be that late," Starbuck protested.
"Because neither one of us was smart enough to remember uniforms."
"Frack." Starbuck sat up and looked at his chrono. He'd hoped for another couple of centares, but if they had to get back in time to change they couldn't catch the 13:20. It would have to be the 11:80. "Frack, frack, frack."
"Yn wir," Bojay agreed. "Come on. I'm still not convinced this was something the captain is going to have approved of" Starbuck grinned at the typically annoyed-Bojay sequence of tenses (sometimes he wondered how the other man had ever gotten to be fluent in Standard) and shook his head at the pessimism "but I know he won't like it if we're late."
"Well, that's true." Starbuck got out of bed.
Twenty centons later he stood by the door and watched Bojay make a last sweep through the room in case they'd missed something when they packed. Starbuck didn't want to leave. He didn't really want to go back. As soon as they set foot on the battlestar it would be later, and all the stuff they'd been ignoring and shoving aside would have to be dealt with. And that, he admitted, is going to be no fun at all.
Bojay came up empty-handed. Starbuck watched him shrug into his jacket, Starbuck's jacket, and hoped like Sagan's last hope that two days of now would beat four yahrens of then and who knew how much later. That Boj had spent a lot of those four yahrens thinking about him gave him hope, but the rest of that time... you didn't end up with your ship's insignia burned into your arm by accident. And Cassie had never mentioned it.
Now now, Starbuck, he told himself. There's still a little bit of time before it's later. Enjoy it while you can. He bumped up against Bojay as they left the room and the other man looked at him, hazel eyes warming.
They got back to the barracks in plenty of time to change for duty, thanks to the extremely user-unfriendly shuttle schedules. Someone like Apollo had drawn them up, Starbuck had always thought: let's make sure people have to leave much too early or run the risk of getting back late. On the way back, Bojay had taken the inside seat on the shuttle, but he hadn't talked much. Now, as he stripped down prior to getting into uniform he wasn't saying anything at all though the rest of Blue and Green were chattering away as usual after a break.
Starbuck's eyes had found the Pegasus scar on his wingmate's shoulder even though the man stood with his left shoulder to the locker. How had he missed it before? Well, he reflected as he pulled on his pressure suit, Bojay was an earlier riser than he was, and was usually dressed and gone before Starbuck was even out of bed. They might have eaten with each other at breakfast the past secton but he hadn't seen Bojay's bare shoulder in ... four and a half yahrens.
Starbuck joined in the chatter, but he noticed that nobody was including Bojay in it. Not surprising, really; Rohan had said it the other night: Bojay was Silver Fracking Spar and nobody particularly liked him. Nobody had talked to him last secton, either; most were like Giles, if not so refreshingly obvious about it: here comes Bojay, I'm gone. Starbuck blew out a gusty breath: hard work on all sides.
Bojay glanced at him but said nothing, just returned to making sure his pressure suit was properly fitting him. Starbuck sympathized; he wasn't sure he'd have trusted one made in the fleet, either. The new pilots didn't have a choice, and didn't know any better, either, as far as that went, but the Pegasus folks did. And of course Cain hadn't sent their suits over any more than he'd sent anything else.
He picked up his jacket and leaned against the lockers, waiting while Bojay finished dressing. As the brown-haired man bent over, buckling his boots on, Boomer walked past, giving Starbuck a meaningful look. He wasn't the only one who was going to want to talk, Starbuck reflected, but he didn't intend to worry about it. It wasn't his style to jump up on the bunk and make an announcement, but it woudn't be long before people had it figured out. They'd used their own names on the Star, after all. And it wasn't like he wanted to hide it, either. "Grab some lunch?" he asked as Bojay stood up.
Bojay checked his chrono and nodded. They had about half a centare: plenty of time to get a quick bite at the pilots' mess. And a good thing, too, since they hadn't eaten breakfast. Starbuck felt himself smiling; he'd miss breakfast any day and twice on Firstday for what they'd done instead. Bojay looked up in time to see the smile, and he returned it. Anybody looking at him had to know how he felt about the man he was smiling at, and for just a moment Starbuck felt as they were still alone together.
He ached for what he'd been missing, all the wasted yahrens...
And then Bojay said, "Or did you just want to stand here till two?"
"Come on," Starbuck said.
In the mess hall nobody spoke to Bojay, either, except Jolly. But since he was constitutionally incapable of passing Baltar without saying "Hi, how's it going?" that didn't mean much.
Bojay nodded and answered in kind, "Fine, thank you, and you?" as Jolly went past.
It was, Starbuck thought, exactly what you learned in a language class. He had a sudden vision of twenty little Cambrian kids nodding at their instructor and chorusing, "Fine, thank you, Miss Whatever, and you?" He swallowed the bite of sandwich he'd just taken and asked,
"Did you learn Standard in school?"
Bojay looked at him curiously. "What?"
"Standard," Stabuck repeated. "Did you learn it in school?"
"Sure," Bojay answered. "From first yahren on. Plus instruction in Cambrian and Piscon and two others of our choice."
"Libran," Starbuck remembered.
Bojay grinned. "I was cheating. Two of my aunts were Libran; I pretty much already knew it. What about you?"
"Oh, we did everything in Standard at Umbra-Ten. Made us employable. I already knew Caprican. And you picked up a lot from the other kids..." He quieted for a minute, remembering the lengths some of the staff went to with kids who "insisted" on not using Standard or Caprican, and then shook it off. "I can get by in a couple or three." He grinned. "I can get into bed in more."
"Yeah?" Bojay's eyes, light brown again, lit with an amused challenge. "Too bad for you that's a skill you'll never use again."
"Don't be so sure, mon coeur," Starbuck said, "querido, kokhanny miy"
"Nghariad," Bojay said softly. "Ti'n perthyn i mi bellach."
"Probably," Starbuck answered the tone. "What does it mean? The teen perthin bit?"
"You belong to me now."
Starbuck swallowed. "Yes." He thought briefly, remembering off-the-cuff lessons. "A ti i mi."
"Ydw, o hyd," Bojay agreed. "Oh, yes."
Starbuck swallowed again and reminded himself they were just about to go on duty, not off. "Which reminds me, what were you saying this morning?"
Bojay stared at him in puzzlement a moment, and then raised his eyebrows and laughed shortly once. "No," he said. "No. Some other time."
"Really?" Starbuck bit his lower lip gently and wiggled his eyebrows. "Don't think I'll forget."
"We'd better go."
"How do you say 'coward' in Cambrian?"
Bojay ignored him, and Starbuck was still laughing when they got to the ready room.
Most of the oncoming and outgoing squadrons were already there. Starbuck noticed that Rustam, Nokio, and Tyrboth Red's and one of Gold's ex-Pegasans were standing together in a little group. Lu, Gold's other one, wasn't there; he was probably flying picket with his happy new wingmate. They eyed Bojay when he entered the room, but didn't seem too surprised that he stuck with Starbuck. Starbuck looked at them consideringly. Nokio's ex-wingmate was, of course, Robin, but he knew that Rustam and Tyr's wingmen had gone to Purple and Orange. Too bad we couldn't split them up entirely. As he watched, Dietra gave the high sign and Red and Gold dispersed.
End of the world: Apollo's running late. He grinned to himself.
He turned to see Rohan crossing the room, looking just slightly embarrassed. Starbuck concealed the sudden inclination to turn around again and walk off. Instead he nodded and said, "Hey, yourself. Looks like you survived."
"It was a close thing," the blond man said. "I wanted to thank you. If you hadn't gotten us back to the Galactica when you did... well, you know Apollo better than I do, Starbuck. We'd have been toast for his breakfast."
Starbuck wasn't inclined to give Rohan any sympathy, especially since he was now pretending that Bojay wasn't even there. "No big deal," he said. "You'd do the same for us."
"I guess... But what I mean is, well. You know how it is, Starbuck. That should have been my anniversary."
Starbuck said the right things, but he was wondering at there having been a woman willing to marry Rohan.
"So Vale said he'd take me out and get me drunk"
Rohan grinned a little. "Yeah... Anyway, thanks again, Starbuck."
"No problem. We didn't mind at all, did we, Boj?" he said deliberately.
"No," Bojay said, every bit as reluctant to be dragged into the conversation as Rohan was to have him there.
Apollo's arrival gave the Green pilot the chance to escape. Starbuck made a face at his retreating back and waited for Boomer to call attention before looking toward the front of the ready room, and dropped into his seat halfway through Apollo's "Be seated, gentlemen, ladies... Starbuck." The captain shook his dark head. "Nothing new and exciting from the morning meeting. Section leaders, I still don't have all the quarterlies; you know who you are. There's a long patrol out from Red, but nothing's come of it yet. Jolly, you and Greenbean will be heading out tomorrow for three days, so rearrange your social calendars." He looked at Green's half of the room. "Ryoga, you and Stella will pick it up after that. Today, Blue flies pickets; you'll find the schedule on the board. Green, ordnance inventory. Bojay" Starbuck stopped being grateful Jolly had drawn the short straw and looked at Apollo. "I need to talk to you, so stick around. Starbuck, you too. That's it, gentlemen, ladies."
The rest of the pilots left, talking. Starbuck was just paranoid eough to wonder what about, but he dismissed the thought to listen to Apollo tell Bojay to report to the Life Center.
"Life Center?" Bojay repeated, as though he was sure he'd misheard.
"Yes. Report to Dr. Salik."
"Yes, sir." Bojay turned and left, asking none of the questions that had to be on his mind, making no protest, just doing what he'd been told. It was very unlike him.
Or, at least, very unlike the old him. Come to think of it, the new one hadn't ever argued an order since he'd come out of the Life Center after the Pegasus had taken off again. Starbuck watched him leave and then turned to Apollo, not giving the captain the chance to say what he wanted from him. "What's going on?" he demanded. "Why'd you send Bojay to the Life Center?"
"Don't panic, Starbuck," Apollo said. "It's just routine. All the Pegasus people"
Apollo sighed. "Ex-Pegasus, then. Not that they want that ex on it as far as I can see. They're all getting a routine physical. None of them had any medical records when they came over and they were all injured, remember? Dr. Salik wants to compare them now to when they came. Bojay's the only one on this duty rotation, after all. All the rest already did."
Apollo looked at him curiously. "What did you think? Some underhanded way to get him tossed out of the service or something?"
Starbuck shrugged. Apollo wasn't normally that devious, but he couldn't forget the underhanded way Apollo's father had gotten Bojay out of the way before. Maybe all the ricos learned how to get their own way and leave no fingerprints. No. That wasn't fair. But before he could say so, Apollo sighed and shook his head.
"I don't like him, but I'm not getting rid of him. Lookcome into my office, Starbuck. We need to talk."
"Here comes later," Starbuck muttered to himself as he followed the dark-haired man down the short corridor.
"What?" Apollo turned to look at him over his shoulder.
Apollo looked skeptical but didn't pursue it. He sat down behind his desk and waved at the chair. Starbuck dropped into it and tried to look nonchalant, and then wondered why he was having to try. He was innocent this time, whatever it was. He relaxed.
Apollo knew him well enough to register the mood change. He glanced down at the desktop and then up at Starbuck, his green eyes opaque. "Couldn't find you last night," he said.
Starbuck was indignant. "That's not my fault! I told the OOD where I was on Eighthmorn."
"You were still there?"
Ah. Starbuck leaned back in the chair. "Yes, I was. If I'd come back I'd've said so. I do know the regs."
"If you'd thought about it," Apollo said. "You usually let your presence announce itself."
"Maybe," he didn't argue the point. If he was around the barracks everyone knew it. "But Bojay's a lot more hung up on the regs. We'd have notified the OOD."
"Yeah. He is." Silence followed that remark. Starbuck wasn't entirely sure what was on Apollo's mind. "He'd have to be, wouldn't heisn't that your line?"
His friend smiled slightly. "I suppose it is. It's just... Well. Boxey missed you at dinner."
Frack! Had he forgotten an engagement? He searched his memory but came up blank.
"Don't worry," Apollo read him easily. "You didn't miss anything, in the sense that you didn't show up where you were supposed to. Boxey wanted you to spend the evening with us since you haven't in a while"
"Hold it right there." He might let Boxey get away with that, he was only seven, but Apollo should know better than to try. "I was there just last secton. In fact, not even a whole secton ago. Fourthday, remember? We had reheated protein and tubers and watched that terminally awful vid he likes so much and and you tried to explain fractions to him"
"Oh, I guess so." Apollo's eyes sparkled suddenly. "And you told him that you'd learned to count one, three-to-two, two..."
Starbuck grinned back at him. "So I'm sorry I wasn't there, but I had other things to do"
"With Bojay?" Apollo sobered. "I heard you and he were in the Scarlet Lounge drinking at three in the morning."
"Unlike your witnesses, of course," Starbuck almost snarled, surprising himself. It was the tone, he realized, Apollo's equating what he and Bojay had been doing with his less savoury pastimes. But how could Apollo realize that he'd stopped passing time? Give a dagget a bad name and hang him.
"No, of course not," Apollo was answering. "They were drinking, too. But they weren't on duty. And of course you weren't either," he raised a pacifying hand. "But that's not like you, Starbuck. You might still be playing cards at three, but long before then you've generally picked your partner for the night and gone to bed."
Starbuck contemplated saying, 'We'd just got out of bed,' but didn't. Instead, "I don't remember my private life being yours to critique."
"Starbuck, don't be an idiot. I'm not... critiquing you. I'm worried about you. You're not acting like yourself." Apollo shook his head. "Besides, what did you tell me a couple of days ago? We're friends. I happen to care what happens to you."
"You still going out with Sheba?" He hoped to change the subject. It didn't work.
"You going out with Bojay?"
Well, there it was, out in the open between them. Starbuck looked hard at Apollo, trying to read that closed, still face and those shuttered green eyes. He couldn't; when Apollo went into postive-screen mode, nobody could. You didn't get a false reading, like Starbuck could project, but you couldn't tell what he was thinking. All you saw was the featureless shield. Frack. Starbuck sighed. "Yes."
That stirred something up in those eyes. "Starbuck," Apollo began and then broke off.
He'd sounded like he knew, but Starbuck answered him anyway. "Never more so."
"More than I am, which is saying a lot." Starbuck cocked his head. "What about you?"
"I answered you," he pointed out. He really didn't want to explore his feelings just yet, not with Apollo. He liked just feeling them, not putting them into words. And the last time he'd done that with Apollo, the other man had laughed at him, and while he was on the whole glad that he and Cassie had crashed and burned, it had hurt at the time. And being laughed at by everyone he'd talked to had not improved it.
"I don't know," Apollo said finally.
"You don't know? How can you not know? Either you are or you aren't, or you're too gally to tell her."
"I'm not sure, all right? I might..." He paused. "I talked to Boomer about her."
"He was more diplomatic than you, but of course when isn't he?" Apollo half-smiled. "He meant what you did, though."
Starbuck was glad to hear it. It wouldn't have been fair to say that Apollo didn't take his advice, but he was more prone to take it when Boomer was offering the same.
"The point is," Apollo went on after a moment. "Well, I thought about it. You're right, she doesn't make me feel like Serina did."
Starbuck's satisfaction was short lived.
"She doesn't make me feel like you did, either."
"I know. But you loved me. You told me so the other day. Oh, sure, you backed away from it as fast as you could and then started laying smoke down, but I heard you, Starbuck. You said it. You didn't mean to say it but can you honestly tell me you didn't mean it?"
Starbuck didn't tell him that. He didn't tell him anything.
Apollo smiled wryly. "I thought so. I don't know what I didI know it's too late now, Starbuck, don't worry that I'm going to try to break you up, even though," he added, "I think it's a really bad idea and maybe I should, but if I do it won't be to try and get back together. But I can't help wondering what I did wrong in the first place, why I lost you, why you started dating Athena. I know you didn't love her; you never did. She told me that's why she turned you down when you proposed; she thought you were just overreacting to the Destruction, but she hoped if she said 'no' you'd, well, get serious."
Sagan... Starbuck had thought Athena knew better. Sure, she'd acted jealous for a while but he'd thought she was just pissed off at him for going after Cassie before his proposal was decently cold. He thought they were friends now, just friends. He'd have to talk to her. Another thing on the pile.
Apollo was continuing. "I mean, I thought at the time maybe you'd decided you didn't really like being with a man, but that's not exactly true, is it? And it got to be pretty obvious, really, and pretty soon, like as soon as Athena left for her staff courses. So then I wondered if it was the sneaking around you didn't like, but you can be a very sneaky guy if it suits you and if it came to that there were a lot of other ways to handle that. Especially back then. So I finally decided it was just me. I mean, that you just didn't like me enough that way to keep it up. That I wasn't enough, that way. Which hurt," he admitted, his green eyes clawing at Starbuck more than a little, "but at least you were still my friend. But now... Was it him, Starbuck? Did you decide you were cheating on him because you were falling in love with me? So you went looking for the meaningless stuff again?"
Starbuck swallowed. This was vintage Apollo: so close to the truth and yet so completely wrong. He couldn't decide what to say. Fortunately Apollo didn't wait very long.
"And I didn't argue with you, or chase you, and you thought I didn't care so even when you thought he was dead you stayed away because you didn't want me to hurt you?"
Now that was too close for comfort. "Serina kind of featured in there," Starbuck said, buying a little time.
"That was two yahrens after Molecay," Apollo, as expected, pointed out. "But I did talk about marriage, I admit. That was part of it, too, wasn't it?"
Starbuck hesitated just a moment. Did Apollo really need to hear that he'd loved him so much he couldn't bear being put aside for the inevitable wife? That he was just not able to play Apollo's game, love somebody for a while and then do what you were supposed to do and to Hades with how you felt? The other man certainly didn't need to hear about his father's intervention in his love life. Either of them, really. Although... though Starbuck hadn't been sure he could ever forgive the commander's removing Bojay so that Starbuck would be there, vulnerable and available for Apollo, he had made the effort to stop Starbuck from being hurt later on. Maybe, he admitted now, maybe Adama hadn't really understood how much it was going to hurt Starbuck to lose Bojay. They hadn't been a public item yet. Hades, they hadn't really been any kind of item yet. And he'd never have been able to tell from Starbuck's reaction afterward, that was for sure. Maybe Adama had never thought Starbuck was serious until Apollo...
Whatever, Apollo didn't need to hear it. However slight and subtle it had been, it had been Adama getting his son a lover, as though he was still that painfully shy and socially inept teenager, incapable of managing his love life. Which he most certainly hadn't been... Apollo would hate that, hate everything about it even if it were as innocent as it could be. And he and his father were too close to come between them for no good reason.
"Starbuck? Was that it?"
"Yes," he lied, and embellished it with corroborative detail, some of which was even true. "Boj is Piscon, we couldn't be open. And when he was off in the Fifth Fleet, well, sleeping around on him wasn't that big a deal. I didn't expect him to be Celibate of the Sectare, either, and he wasn't. But falling in love?" He shook his head. "And after Molecay, well..." He let that trail off and then abandoned the topic and went for the real meat of it. "But now? I love him."
"Still... I know, I know. We barely talked. But I took a chance and got us made wingmates and now we're talking. More than talking."
Apollo got that look in his eyes that said he was getting too much information and then, obviously, he registered the rest of that sentence. "Starbuck"
And suddenly he knew exactly what to say. "The thing is, Apollo... well. I know what I told you, and I meant it. But it was over then and it's more over now... and it was never what I feel for Bojay, anyway. Funny ... I fell for my best friend twice. But you're still my best friend. I couldn't stand it if that was all Boj wanted to be."
Apollo sighed. He was accepting it, Starbuck could see. It had upset him more than a little but he'd get over that, especially once he got his teeth into trying to change Starbuck's mind about Bojay. And once he found a good woman who'd actually care about how he was feeling instead of how he felt. And speaking of that, "So Sheba doesn't love you."
"I did, and Serina did, and she doesn't make you feel like we did, so... And you don't love her." He shrugged. "What more do you need to know?"
"That's a hell of an assumption," Apollo said, though he sounded calm. "How do you know she doesn't? And how do you know I don't?"
Starbuck was biting back "Because she's not capable of love" when the second question took him by surprise. Felgar. It would be just like Apollo to actually be in love, seriously, for the first time in his life and to have picked someone like her. He swallowed. He couldn't think of any way to answer that that wouldn't stir up old memories that would hurt Apollo, but then the look in Sheba's brown eyes three nights ago watching Bojay and Giles and him fight with the civilians flashed across his mind and he knew for a dead certainty that there was nothing that could hurt Apollo as badly as marrying her would. Hadn't Matron always said Sometimes you have to be cruel to be kindthough he'd try not to be too cruel about it. He met Apollo's green gaze, shrugged, and said, "How long have you been going out with her? Six sectares almost, right? How long did you wait to marry Serina? With her you knew. With her you had it, you were in love. You may be working real hard at getting there with Sheba but aren't there yet. And unlike Serina, Sheba doesn't know how to get there. And she wouldn't like it if she did, though she probably does want you there. Head over heels and blind with it. So maybe you are halfway there."
Apollo's eyes flashed anger, but Starbuck knew him well enough to read the expression that crossed his face: it was himself he was truly angry at, for needing to be told the bad news. It wasn't in his nature to get angry at the messenger, even if he wanted to. Even if sometimes it seemed like he was, for that matter, if only for a short time. Starbuck understood it, but he braced for the explosion anyway.
It didn't happen. Boomer must have caught the brunt of it, Starbuck reflected in the moment before Apollo's calm answer came. And when he heard it, he almost wished for the explosion instead.
"Maybe I'm not there. But you are? With him?"
Frack. Apollo said 'him' the way most people said 'Baltar'. He never had liked Bojay but now... Starbuck rebraced himself. 'Later' was here with a vengeance. "What I just said to you? That you're still my best friend? I really want that to be true, Apollo. But it's going to be hard if you can't even say Bojay's name."
"Oh, I can say his name. Just like I can say mutinous dagget."
Double frack. The only good thing about that was that this wasn't just about him and Bojay. The word 'mutiny' hadn't passed Apollo's lips in half a yahren, but obviously it had never left his mind, just been pushed to a back burner to be simmered like a long-keeping soup stock. "He didn't commit mutiny."
"He intended to."
"He wasn't alone," Starbuck pointed out. "That whole ship thought Adama was out of line; Athena's told me Tigh wasn't happy with the bridge crew"
"They were the ones out of line," Apollo snapped. "They should all have been charged with mutiny. Or at least with gross insubordination. And the pilots were the worst."
Good. It's them now. He offered, carefully, "Pilots are usually the worst anytime, aren't we? I mean, we're the ones who actually fight. Excepting grunts, of course. Bridge staff isn't conditioned to strike back."
"Nobody is conditioned to commit mutiny. They just did it."
"Apollo, it wasn't mutiny. It didn't get that far."
"Not because he didn't want it to."
Them had lasted about two centons.
"Things weren't exactly normal for them"
"I hope not," Apollo said with heavy irony. "Shooting at us"
"He didn't fracking shoot at you!"
"He meant to. And I can't believe you're defending him."
"I'm not," Starbuck insisted. "Even if it wasn't mutinyand your father made that decision I thinkit was gross insubordination. No argument. Might have gotten worse; didn't; was bad enough. Okay. I agree with you. What I can't believe is this, this pretending you can't believe that a Warriora combat pilot and a ground combat veteranwould think of his blaster first thing when facing an enemy at his gates."
"Enemy? Is that what you think we were?"
"It's what he thought. And weren't you? What did you go there for? You know his commander was dead against that move, and you know he knew it" damn, now Apollo had him avoiding the name. "They all knew it. It was a threat to everything they'd made themselves believe for yahrens. What did Bojay say to you? Boomer told me. Don't you remember?" he challenged.
"I remember," said Apollo.
Fighting for our commander. And our lives. Starbuck could almost hear that, in the new Bojay's dangerous voice. And sure it was probably inexcusable, and sure Apollo had been somewhat preoccupied at the time, but couldn't he see that now for what it was? What it was a symptom of? The trouble it meant?
"It was mutiny," Apollo repeated inflexibly.
"In another centon we'd have been shooting. He'd have been shootingat us. At a superior officer carrying out orders."
Starbuck felt a chill. He didn't want to, but he couldn't help it. He hadn't been there, but Boomer had dragged him off to watch him get drunk after the whole episode was over. He'd been very unhappy that Bojay was one of their new crewmates, and halfway hoping that the man would die and more or less expecting Starbuck to agree with him. Starbuck, still too confused to make sense to himself, had been noncommittal and supportive while Boomer talked about the scene on the flight deck when he and Apollo had gone to pull fuel cells from the Pegasus and some of its pilots had tried to stop them. Led by Bojay.
"Sheba was there," he'd said. "Apollo could have talked her out of it. Anybody could have. She just wanted to register a complaint. It was that boray Bojay who made it serious. He got Apollo angrier than I've ever seen him, especially when he said Adama was the wrong man to lead the Fleet. He wasn't standing aside no matter what, and Apollo was coming through... It happened so fast, got out of hand so fast, I barely realized it before it was over. But I'm telling you, Bucko, somebody would have died right there if the Cylons hadn't chosen that micron to attack...." And later, "I don't even know what I'd've done, Bucko. They're humans. I don't know if I could kill them. He could have killed us. Apollo wouldn't have killed him and he would have killed us. He would have. I neverneverfelt anything like that. That bastard was ready to kill us both." He'd looked up, drunker than Starbuck had ever seen him. "I've never been so close to death."
"Come on, Boomer," he'd said, "you've been a combat pilot for a dozen yahrens. And what about yesterday, for Sagan's sake?"
"Death with a capital D, Starbuck. Death personified."
"Angel of Death," Starbuck had almost whispered. Then, louder, "But he didn't, Boom-Boom. You'd have done the right thing, you know it, but you didn't have to find out, because he didn't."
"Because the Cylons came."
"And his allegiance is with us against them."
"His allegiance is to Cain," Boomer had said.
And so now Starbuck said to Apollo the same thing he'd said to Boomer back then: "He was Cain's man, but Cain's gone." And he added, "He's a Warrior. Has he been insubordinate since?"
"Dumb insolent sometimes, but that's all," Apollo had to admit. "But he doesn't stop the rest of them, and he could."
"So could Sheba, and she doesn't. And she was on that flight deck. And along with Cain when Silver Spar shot up those tankers." He stopped himself before mentioning Gamoray, and the way Apollo had taken off with her and Cassie to find Bojay even though she'd said, and he'd agreed by not contradicting, that they wouldn't have time to stop for the wounded... or the way she'd wanted to go back to the Pegasus before they'd even started that mission. Once she'd admitted she wasn't under orders to come along, there was no reason to detain her; Bojay could have given them all the direction they needed, and would have, since the raid was Cain's idea. But Apollo hadn't wanted her to leave; he'd preferred taking her on the dangerous raid to letting her vanish with her father. And Starbuck knew why; he'd seen the look in Apollo's eyes when he saw Sheba's hologram in Cain's office, heard the tone in Apollo's voice when he'd said, "If I'd met that young lady I'd know it." Starbuck's own emotions had been numb enough that it had left him wide open to every nuance of his friend's...
He shook that off and continued, "Anyway, it's all hindsight, Apollo. You don't know he'd have shot, because he didn't. You've just convinced yourself he would have because it gives you more reason to hate him."
"It's not the sort of thing you do think at the time," Apollo countered. "That one Warrior will shoot at another. Mutinies happen but you don't think you'll be there when one does."
"And you weren't. They fought right beside us when the Cylons came in and he damned near died getting us in at Gamoray."
"Too bad he didn't." Dead silence followed that. Then, "Starbuck, I didn't mean that."
"You're talking to the king of 'Didn't Mean That'. Usually I almost did."
"Almost... Maybe. Starbuck, I just don't understand."
"And you aren't in the mood to, either. I think maybe we should continue this later."
Apollo sighed. "You're probably right." He glanced down then back up to add, "You're flying with Boomer today."
Starbuck got up and headed for the ready room.
"One thing, Starbuck."
Apollo's voice stopped him at the door.
"Don't think you've starbucked me, Starbuck. Because I remember our first time." A beat. "Your first time. Dismissed, lieutenant."
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