Bojay was stretched out on his bunk when Starbuck got back, reading that mystery novel he hadn't finished over break. Starbuck paused a moment to appreciate the rangy form and those long legs and then walked over and poked him in the shoulder. "Hey, where you been?"
Bojay turned his head and grinned. "Where have you been?"
"Looking for you. Where were you all day?"
"Life Center, and then running errands over to the Celestra. You have a good patrol?"
"Nobody shot at us, if that's what you mean."
Bojay grinned and sat up, dangling his legs over the edge. "That always qualifies as good. You want to go get a drink?"
I want you to stop drinking so much, Starbuck thought but answered, "One. Maybe two."
Bojay pushed himself off the bunk and stashed his book in his locker. "O Club?"
They had two. By then it was nearly midnight and the club was starting to empty. But there were still too many people there for the conversation Starbuck was contemplating. Bojay glanced towards the bar but before he could suggest a third Starbuck leaned over the table, touching his wrist. "Let's get out of here."
Bojay lost interest in ambrosa, rising quickly to his feet. "Fine by me. Where do you want to go?"
"Our place." He grinned. "RC6."
"How romantic we are," Bojay grinned back. "An equipment storage closet."
"Well, we'd go broke renting a room every time."
Starbuck resisted the urge to wander down the path of linguistic nuance; it was a lot easier to decide not to argue about how accurate the words Bojay had chosen were. Still, he wasn't much looking forward to what he did intend to talk about.
RC6 was empty, not surprising at this time of night. Starbuck keyed open the closet and waved Bojay in, following him. He shut the door and locked it, and then turned around. Bojay had pulled rounders pads off the shelf for them to sit onseveral extras, tooand pulled off his jacket before sitting. Starbuck settled down next to him. "Boj," he said before the other man could speak.
"I have to ask you something."
Bojay raised an eyebrow. "That doesn't sound promising, but... What?"
"I want to ask you about that... relic of your misspent youth."
Bojay's hazel eyes clouded a little. He drew up his knees and rested his arms on them and sighed.
After a few centons of silence, Starbuck said, "C'mon, Boj. Talk to me."
He shrugged. "Not much to say. It is what it is. And it means what you think it means."
"I don't know what I think," Starbuck said. "I can't even imagine why you'd do it. Any of you, let alone all of you. What were you thinking?"
Bojay rubbed his hand along his arm where the brand lay hidden under the light brown material. "It was Rustam's idea."
Starbuck raised his eyebrows. "That guy?"
"Rustam's not an idiot, Starbuck."
"Deliberately burning yourself badly enough to scar doesn't strike me as the child of a very smart brain." Bojay ducked his head, grinning a little, and Starbuck added, "I mean, gods, Boj, didn't it hurt?"
"Thenfor Sagan's sake, why?"
Bojay wrapped his arms around his knees. "For belonging."
"I don't think I understand."
"It's a mark of belonging," he repeated. "It shows we mean it." His eyes flickered briefly in Starbuck's direction. "We did it together, all of us"
"She didn't have to prove it." He paused. "Or maybe we didn't want to ask her. I mean, she was already..."
Chasing Apollo, Starbuck thought. Spending time with Cass and Theni, and hanging out with Blue... Best of both worlds, our Sheba. He could see where they'd have shied from asking her to make that commitment. "So you...?"
"Rustam and Sohrab took a jacket patch from one of the shuttle pilots, paid someone on the foundry ship to copy the shield in metal. Told him it was a brooch for Shebawe gave it to her, in fact, later. I know she's got it, she's even worn it a couple of times." He shrugged. "Then we got a room on the Star one break. Had a little ceremony. Rustam went first, I did him. Then me next, and the rest of ushe did us. We got pretty drunk but even so, I think some of them might have jerked out, messed it up, if I hadn't been holding their arm... The smell was worse than the pain," he said quietly.
"Lords of Kobol, Boj."
He looked at Starbuck seriously. "It was important we do it. Especially all together like that, no one backing out."
"No one allowed to back out, you mean."
"Anyone could have."
"Like hell. Oh," he said quickly, "I don't mean you'd have held them down. But after you and Rustam did it, how could any of the others have backed down?"
"That was the point. It bound us together. It proved our commitment."
"Being Silver Spar," Bojay said patiently.
"There had to be an easier way to do it. Couldn't you just have got matching undershirts or something?"
"The pain was important, Starbuck. It proved we were serious about it."
"Okay, I sort of even see that. But... Sagan, Bojay, why did you feel you had to prove it?"
"So we'd stay together. No matter what."
"We weren't exactly... thinking clearly, I suppose. But becoming Silver Spar was important to us."
"That's what I don't understand. You were Silver Spar already."
"We're not," Bojay said. "We weren't, I mean."
"Silver Spar. Not really. Sheba made a mistake there, I think. She wanted to be Silver Spar Leader again, but..." He shrugged. "We weren't. Only the two of us were Silver Spar, the real one. The Pegasus one."
Starbuck hadn't ever though about that before, but it made sense. The Pegasus would have had four squadrons at Molecay, though maybe after two yahrens running she'd have been down someit wasn't like they had a pool of replacements or trainees. Or Vipers, for that matter. It wasn't reasonable to have thought all their wounded came from the same one. He nodded.
Bojay shrugged again. "Rustam used to be a squadron leader, Bronze Spar. The rest were Bronze, Iron, Copper... We're all Pegasus, make no mistake about that, but we aren't as tight as maybe we should have been."
Starbuck hated those present tense verbs. "You're all Galactica, now," he corrected.
Bojay snorted. "Yeah, that's right. We are... But we weren't all from the same squadron before. And there was a lot of intrasquadron rivalry on the Pegasus, a lot of 'Silver's the best and you're the rest'. It was, too. The Fleet Elite," he grinned, and then sobered. "Things were a little awkward, what with the others feeling like they were getting a bit slighted. Sheba worked to hold us together, but," he shrugged, "she didn't always do as good a job as she could have if she hadn't been rubbing their noses in it, reminding them they weren't really Silver, always saying 'Spar'. Or if Apollo hadn't been, every time he said 'Silver Spar'."
"You seemed tight enough," Starbuck said.
"We tried," Bojay answered simply. "But it wasn't easy. And now, with everyone scattered and Galactica's Silver Spar just her"
"That was kind of the point."
"Well, it'll work." But he didn't sound happy about that.
Bojay's eyes flashed, but all he said was, "He seems to get what he wants."
"Not always," Starbuck said.
"Often enough, I'll bet, Adama's son."
"He's been a lot of places where that wasn't much for him," Starbuck said. "He was only on the Galactica for three and half yahrens." Then he wished he hadn't been quite so quick to defend Apollo. Not to Bojay, any way.
"Sure," Bojay said, but his assurance was ironical. "Pure merit."
Starbuck paused. He wanted to argue the point, but it was off-topic, and he could tell that Bojay's emotions weren't disengaged, either. There was jealousy there, and it wasn't any the less because he was Bojay's lover now. It might be more, in fact, and until some day when he could convince them both that he wouldn't have been with Apollo if Apollo had wanted it, it was best to stay away from it altogether. So what he said was, "Everyone wanted Silver Spar broken up."
"I'm sure." That sounded like he meant it. "And you're getting your way."
"It's the best thing," Starbuck returned to his original assertion.
"For you. Not for us. Not that that matters."
Sagan. Which point to argue? "It is best for you."
"Felgar," Bojay said distinctly. "You didn't think so, when it was you."
"What do you mean?"
"After Semtek. When all you orphans from off the Falca were split up, scattered around the Fleet."
"That's not the same thing," Starbuck said, though it was true that he'd resented it like all seven hells when it happened.
"It is. We're orphans, like you were"
"Orphans? We're all orphaned," Starbuck snapped.
"It's not the same. You didn't have Molecay."
"Frack. We have Cimtar. We have the Destruction"
"We all have the Destruction. It's not the same, either, Cimtar and Molecay."
"No kidding," Starbuck couldn't help saying. "Cimtar was just everyone."
"Molecay was our everyone. And now," he swallowed, "there's eleven of us. Eleven. We lost Cain, and the Pegasus, and everyone we'd been with for two yahrens. It is not the same."
"No," Starbuck admitted. "No, it's not." He tried to find a way to say what he was thinking without sounding cruel.
Bojay didn't wait for him to. "You've got people from the Atlantia, the Columbia, the Pardiaand they're accepted. We're not."
"You didn't want to be."
"We didn't want to be here."
That sentence hung in the air between them.
"You are here," Starbuck said finally. "Whether you want to be or not, you are." He remembered Bojay complaining once that Standard had taken the Caprican pronouns, no way to tell if it was "you-one" or "you-many". Right now, he wasn't sure which one he'd meant.
"I want to be here."
And of course he'd meant "you-one". And for the first time he realized that sleeping with Bojay before they had this conversation had, in fact, been the right thing to do. It would give Bojay something tangible to hold, something to bind him... "I know," he said, and then retreated back to the topic at hand, the one that had to be settled sooner or later. "You're all here, and you have to integrate. I never thought it would be pretty, but"
"Whether we want to or not?"
"Yes." Starbuck leaned back and said, "Sagan, Boj, you know how it is. You always have to integrate. Especially now, when we're all there is."
Bojay was quiet a centon or two. Then he grinned, a twisted grin. "I know. Cain would have broken us a lot sooner than this."
Well, frack. Starbuck wasn't sure he wanted to be compared to Cain. Even unfavorably. "Nobody wants to break anybody," he said.
"Oh, sure," Bojay said. "You don't, maybe. Maybe."
"Well, okay," he admitted. "I wouldn't mind breaking Sheba. But the point's not to break you guys, it's to make you fit in."
Bojay was quiet for a while again. "I'd almost forgotten there are other ways to do that."
Starbuck breathed easier. "Well, there are," he said softly.
"So there are." This time his smile was genuine. "So there are."
Starbuck returned the smile, with interest. That was enough talk for now. Just one thing to say. "Bo?" He took a breath. "Dw i'n dy garu di."
"Your accent's terrible," Bojay said, "but I love you anyway."
"Do you?" He hadn't meant to ask that question, hadn't even really realized it was on his mind, but he did, he did need to hear the answer. And not in Cambrian either, even if it was Boj's hearth-tongue. He needed to hear it in clear, unequivocal Standard. He needed to know he hadn't made a terrible mistake, thrown away good friendships for something that wasn't real. He'd gone into this telling himself all he wanted was to get Bo back, but he'd wanted more. And now he needed to know he had it. "Do you really?"
"Do I?" Bojay stared at him. "You don't know?"
Bojay's clear hazel eyes darkened a bit at the tone and he reached out and touched Starbuck's cheek. "I do. Yes. I love you. Dw i, dw i'n dy garu di."
It did sound different when he said it, but Starbuck recognized it. He put his hand on Bojay's. "O hyd?" he whispered.
Bojay blinked at him in surprise, and then again as he remembered saying those words.
"There are such things as dictionaries," Starbuck managed.
Bojay looked at him a moment longer, and then, quite suddenly, surrendered. He turned, reaching out and taking Starbuck's shoulders in his hands, resting his forehead on Starbuck's. Starbuck could see himself in the ambrosa-colored irises not three centimetrons away, small and out-of-focus and seemingly very far away. He hoped he was as deep inside Bojay as he appeared to be. His lover's voice was low and intense. "Yes. O hyd. Am byth. Since forever. For forever. I love you, Buck. You're burned on my soul."
Starbuck sighed. And Bojay caught it in his open mouth a micron before kissing him.
The sharp taste of ambrosa in Bojay's mouth echoed his memory of Bojay's eyes. In the darkness behind his own closed eyes Starbuck hung on to his lover, shutting out everything but this moment, the feelings physical and emotional... He wanted to lose himself in sensation, in the proof that Bojay loved him, wanted him. That it wasn't all for nothing. That he'd won.
"Frack me," he said breathlessly when Bojay had to breathe himself.
The other man shook his head and kissed him again, silencing his protests. There was no reluctance in Bojay's mouth, or his hands, which were busying themselves stripping Starbuck's uniform tunic off his body, his jacket long since on the floor. Starbuck unfastened Bojay's tunic and pulled it off over his head, taking advantage of the moment to repeat, "Frack me."
Bojay shook his head. He tugged on the pressure suit and said, "We're changing before we go out anymore."
Starbuck didn't disagree, but even as he pulled his arm out of the tight sleeve he repeated his demand and followed it up by as passionate a kiss as he could come up with. But though Bojay had become more subordinate over the last half-yahren, never arguing with Apollo, he was as stubborn as he'd ever been. Emerging from the kiss with eyes glazed by desire he still shook his head and said, "No, damnit. Nest ti fi i rhegu wiethiau, Starbuck, I swear." Then he laughed even as he was shaking his head.
"You make me swear," he said. Starbuck had to laugh, too. "But no. I mean it. You were very insistent about lube. We don't have any." He pulled the other arm of Starbuck's pressure suit off and pushed him down on his back.
"You were paying too much attention," Starbuck said and then gasped, arching his back, as Bojay began nibbling on his nipple, his hand moving downwards along Starbuck's body. "Not," he added when he could speak again, "that that's a bad thing... oh, gods." It was the last coherent thing he could say for a while.
Afterwards, Starbuck turned inside the circle of Bojay's arms and lay half on him, half off, his face against Bojay's throat. He was exhausted. He couldn't remember a day as emotionally draining as this one: Getting cold-shouldered in the mess hall. Fighting with Apollo. With Boomer. Worry over Bojay and discovering he still had that knee-jerk distrust of the upper class, even when it was Apollo. Admitting if only to himself how badly he'd screwed up, how much he'd hurt so many people without even noticing. And then Jolly and Bean, an unlikely pair of saviors. And Robin. And Raimi and Opal, whom he barely knew, and even Giles who flat out didn't like Bojay. The argument. We didn't want to be here! Boj not denying that he still felt a connection to the other Pegasans... And not over yet.
Well, the day was, but the rest of it wasn't. There was more to talk about with Bojay. And please God with Boomer. And he knew there was more to come with Apollo, especially once the other man actually caught up to what he'd almost had hold of, that he'd been conned into a wholesale reorganization of the wing just so Starbuck could get them made wingmates again... Never mind that it should have been done sectares ago, that Starbuck's stated reasons were valid ones: Apollo was going to be furious. Well, Starbuck thought to himself, maybe it'll remind him he and I are more like oil and water than oil and vinegar. He sighed and, without opening his eyes, found Bojay's hand with his and drifted off holding it.
He drifted back as easily, unsure of how long he'd been sleeping or even if he had been, really. He probably had been, unless the towels draped over them had materialized out of thin air, but he was still not ready to get up and go anywhere. He still had hold of Bojay's hand; his lover's other was stroking his neck and shoulder gently. Under his head he felt the soft voice before he heard itBojay singing. He'd almost forgotten the way the man did that, almost unconsciously. In fact, sometimes he didn't even realize he was. Starbuck smiled: hearing Bojay sing like that was a good sign. He didn't recognize the tune, and the few words he caught he didn't know, though they were Standard.
"I've played it in my mind at least a million times rewinding to the world of" He broke off. "You're awake."
"Ummmm." Starbuck nuzzled his neck and lifted his head to kiss him gently, and then settled back. "I don't know that song."
"Did I wake you? Sorry."
"No, I like it. I like your singing. You're good."
He could have recited Bojay's answer with him, so he hadn't forgotten as much as he'd thought, just put it away from him. "No, I'm not; I'm passable."
"You're good," he insisted.
"I grew up hearing 'good'," Bojay said unemphatically.
"Whatever," Starbuck abandoned it. "What was that?"
"A singer I really like," Bojay said. "A Virgon named Cady."
"Oh." Starbuck remembered that name; one of Bojay's favorites, she'd never done much for him. "I don't remember that song."
"I ran across it on the Peggy."
Starbuck paused. He didn't like Bojay holding on to things from then, but, Hades, he'd been there four yahrens. And it was just a song. "You like it, huh?" he asked.
Bojay was quiet for a centon, his fingers making little circles on Starbuck's shoulder. "It was my theme song back then," he said finally.
"Really? Sing it." Bojay didn't answer and Starbuck raised his head. "Please?" he coaxed.
"Please?" Starbuck turned on the puppy eyes.
Bojay chuckled softly. "Shameless," he said. "Just remember what I said... Remembering the wind Kiss soft the evening's end I'm floating in a world of Where I want to be. I've played it in my mind At least a million times Rewinding to the world of Where I want to be."
Starbuck closed his eyes, listening.
"When we collide A universe of stars fill our eyes When we collide Like heaven has exploded inside. Suspended in mid-air Blissfully aware I'm drifting in a world of Where I want to be. There must be something wrong All gravity is gone Now I'm flying in a world of Where I want to be..."
The words seemed to hang in the sex-scented air. Starbuck was almost afraid to ask. "Where you want to be?"
"Hmmm... It's better than I dreamed it would be, too." Bojay kissed the top of Starbuck's head. "At least a million times... just close my eyes and come here. To you."
Starbuck pulled his hand free and hugged him. "I'm so sorry."
"For what? You didn't get me transferred, did you?"
"Then..." He shrugged.
"I didn't answer your letter."
"You didn't know."
"Why aren't you mad at me?"
"I couldn't," he said softly. "I needed you to stay as sane as I did. Needed to have you to go to, whether you wanted me or not."
"God, Bo." He tightened his hold. "You're where I want to be."
"And here we are. So it's okay."
"No." He sat up and looked down at Bojay very seriously. But then at the last micron he decided there was no sense in stirring things up again just now, so he changed what he was going to say. "You're where I want to be, but will it annoy you if I say this closet isn't particularly?"
Bojay laughed. "As a matter of fact, it won't. One of us needs to make squadron leader. For which read: you."
Starbuck snorted. "Like there's a dagget's chance of that. Let's go. I need a long hot turbo and a bed."
"Me, too." Bojay stood up, stretching and rubbing his lower back. "I wish it was going to be the same bed."
"And me, too, on that," Starbuck said, his gaze on the lean thigh at eye level. He reached out and touched the still-red scar. "This still bothers you," he said questioningly.
"A little. Not much. It's only been half a yahren, after all." He paused, and then dropped to crouch in front of Starbuck, his hand on the one still on his thigh. "What?"
Starbuck wasn't sure. Death, maybe; he'd always known death was out there, but until Molecay it had never touched him personallyexcept on such a deep level that it had shaped his whole life from before he could remember. And this man: this man was the first one to say "I love you" and mean it, the first one to die and leave him knowing who he was missing... He shook his head and rubbed the scar. "That had to hurt."
"It did. I don't recommend it, especially when they won't give you a pain-killer."
"They wouldn't?" Starbuck looked up at him.
"Nah... Some nonsense about bleeding to death."
"Medtechs. Go figure," Starbuck said. He hadn't realized the pain killer Cassie had given Bojay as they waited for the shuttle, after he no longer had to be on his feet, was the first one. He reached out and touched the scar on Bojay's chest, just under the left collarbone, the one with the matching exit wound on his back. "Listen."
"Do they bother you?"
"No," he answered quickly. "Not like that. But... yes. I meanYou've got enough scars. Don't get any more."
Bojay smiled at him. "I'll do my best."
"I mean it. No more. You're gonna run out of luck. And lives."
"Felixes have nine, they say."
"Yeah, well, you're not a felix." Starbuck closed his fingers over Bojay's scarred shoulderCylon scars, self-inflicted scar, several kinds of death and all too close. "You're pushing your luck, Bo. Be a little more careful."
"Hey," Bojay said softly. "I will. Relax." He touched Starbuck's cheek. "You're too worked up over this, Buck. I'll watch it. After all, my incentives are a lot better now."
Starbuck leaned in and kissed him. Can't hurt to reinforce it.
"Ummmm.... A whole lot better." Bojay sat back on his heels. "Buck... did you eat?"
"Eat. You know, food. Dinner? Because you didn't have that much to drink, but I have to tell you, you're just a bit squiffy."
"Maybe you're right." Starbuck considered that carefully enough to know it was right even before he concluded that he had, in fact, skipped dinner. "I might be. But I mean what I say."
"I know you do. But you'd better get some sleep. Maybe a snack?" he asked practically.
"I'm not hungry." Starbuck sat back and regarded him. "I may be drunk"
"but I mean it. I'm sorry if it sounded..." He wasn't sure. Officious? Bossy? Clingy? God, had he just been clingy?
"Don't apologize for caring if I live or die, Buck," Bojay said. "I like that. It gives me a nice warm fuzzy feeling. Nobody's felt like that for... well, a long time."
He had to be drunk, Starbuck decided as he heard himself say, "Sheba sure looked like she cared, back on Gamoray."
"Sure she did," he said, handing Starbuck his shirt. "I would have if it'd been her." He paused, hand on his pressure suit. "Should we put these on?"
"Hell, no," said Starbuck. "Just to walk to the BOQ? Look," he added to Bojay's dubious expression, "if we were tucked up in bed like good little boys we'd have to put them on if they woke us for an alert, right?"
Bojay grinned. "And what would you know about being a good little boy?"
Starbuck snickered. "I knew a few." He pulled on his tunic and reached for his boots. He kept his gaze on the buckles as he did them up. "You'd have cared about Sheba? I mean, we all thought you two were... but you said you weren't."
"Lovers? Not hardly, not even when we were fracking. But you can care if somebody dies without, you know, caring. We were wingmates. We'd been together four yahrens." He shrugged. "I don't think I'd have left the mission, but that's because I was more scared of Cain than she was."
Starbuck looked up at him. Did he mean scared like Starbuck was scared of Adama, scared of him professionally, or scared like, well, scared? But if he was scared why would he be, why was he, clinging so hard?
Bojay grinned a little crookedly. "If I'd gone on a mission with Sheba and let her get shot, the only thing that would have saved my head was getting the mission done. Assuming she didn't die, of course."
"Of course." And the pleasing image of Sheba dead was countered by the memory of Bojay in agony as they waited for the shuttle to arrive and for the pain killer Cassie finally administered to kick in, which it hadn't till they were well clear of the planet's surface. Half of him wanting to scream, the other half watching Sheba hover... He hadn't said anything then because he thought Bojay was with Sheba, but when he'd learned differently he still hadn't. Stop agonizing over your stupid mistakes, Bucko. You're doing just fine now. Starbuck picked up his jacket. "Let's go," he said.
Bojay tucked the bundle he'd made of their pressure suits under his arm and picked up the towels. "You know," he said, "considering what a lot of the past break we spent in bed, I am remarkably ready to get some sleep."
Starbuck grinned. "Yn wir," he ventured.
Bojay laughed. Then he opened the door and waved Starbuck through.
In the morning, Bojay wasn't there. Starbuck had, so long ago he couldn't remember a time before it, learned to sleep through the comings and goings of a lot of people, but he was distrurbed to think his mind would let Bojay walk out on him. Then he had to laugh at himself: Sire Melodrama, don't you think, Bucko? Boj is a morning person and he's not going to start hanging around the barracks waiting for you to wake up now any more than he ever did. That's all. And your subconscious knows it.
Plus he had to admit he was glad Bojay hadn't shaken him awake, the way he had used to when they were on furlon, demanding to know if he was planning to spend all day sleeping. At least, he was glad if he found the other man quickly, instead of spending the bulk of the day hunting through the battlestar, or even not finding him until they went on duty. He didn't think that would happen, not now, but... He shook his head to dislodge the worry and headed for the turboflush, and then to wash up.
He put on his uniformit was just so much simpler on the afternoon shift to do thatand headed to the Officers' Mess for breakfast. Or brunch, he supposed, but the mess served most things round the clock due to the 24/8 nature of the battlestar schedules. He'd always had to laugh when he'd seen vids or vidseries where five or six officers ran a whole ship, apparently always on duty, though there was the one where they actually had turned everything on the bridge off and gone to bed at night. Of course, that one hadn't been meant to be realistic.
He'd slept in so long there wasn't anybody else from Blue or Green left in the barracks. He wasn't sure if that was a good thing or not, but he decided not to worry about it until he got ignored or insultedafter all, it was pretty late. As it turned out, he got about the same number of casual greetings as he usually did at that time of day. The Mess was almost empty, in between meals, but a handful of tech types were huddled over kava and documents, and a few pilots were lingering over breakfasts almost as late as his. They were from Green, all of them; they nodded and spoke as he went past but didn't ask him to join them, but that wasn't new. Robin might have, but either she was long gone (unlikely, she slept late too) or had the sense to eat breakfast somewhere Giles wouldn't stand out. Assuming they were together, which, given the casual way Jolly and Bean had talked yesterday, they probably were. He settled in by himself and devoted his attention to his food.
He was almost finished when the conversation level changed enough that he started looking around, and saw Cassie walking across the room. She didn't normally eat in the Officers' Mess, but nothing prevented her from joining someone; she had before. The problem with that was that as far as he knew she wasn't seeing anybody, and not just not any commissioned body, any body at all. He watched her walk across the room, remembering how the sight had used to lift his spirits; it didn't anymore, and not even because she was beautiful, because there was too much history there. He hadn't lied to Bojay: they had slid apart, and considerably before he'd gone back to Bojay, for that matter. They weren't angry at each other, but on the other hand, they hadn't talked since then, either, not since that irritated exchange in the landing bay... three days ago? Three? That many? It seemed like much less... and much more. That conversation had been typical of the last few sectares, so he hoped she wasn't looking for him but not with any conviction, which was as well, because she fetched up at his table. "I want to talk to you, Starbuck," she said and sat down without waiting for an invitation.
"I thought you were working this morning," he said.
She shrugged off this proof that he still had her schedule memorized and said, "You have to go see Chameleon."
He stared at her, and then shook his head. "I don't have to do... well, much. I don't have to do that, that's for sure."
"Yes, you do," she repeated inflexibly. "You know you're going to have to sooner or later."
And he didn't care about his new-made resolution to stop putting things off, that was something that could easily wait a couple of yahrens. If not more. "You said that last secton. You didn't say why. You never do... and you've been pushing at me to do this ever since we broke up. I don't want to, Cass."
"I don't want to," he repeated. "I can only think of a couple of reasons for me to talk to him, and I won't like either one of them, will I? Why don't you just tell me?"
"Starbuck, you know why."
"Yeah. You promised him... I don't think he meant you to nag me into it like this."
"You're right," she said. "He didn't. But I shouldn't have promised him to keep quiet, so he's got to take the rough with the smooth."
"Like me? Look, Cass: the fact is I don't want to talk to him. I don't want to hear whatever he might have to say. And I especially don't want to hear whatever it is he doesn't want me to know. If he wants to tell me, he knows where I am."
"Starbuck..." She paused. "How can you say that?"
He laughed shortly. "How?" He shook his head. "Just forget it, Cass. I'm not in the mood to talk to him."
She shook her own head. "You can't avoid it forever."
"I can try," he said.
"Yes, you can. But you shouldn't, and you know it; that's why you're so annoyed. Especially now," she added, "you have to talk to him."
"If you're serious about Bojay, and Tara says you are"
"I'm so glad I'm not seeing you any more," he said involuntarily.
She grinned, also as if she couldn't help it. "Yes, but at least I tell her less than half of what she tells me." For a moment they looked at each other. He was remembering, and from the look in her eyes she was, too, how very good it had been when it was good. But the moment passed, and she returned to the topic at hand. "And she says you are, serious I mean, and that means you have to tell him"
"Get his approval? I don't think so," he snapped.
"No." She took a deep breath. "Look, Starbuck," suddenly she was cajoling. "He said he'd tell you... when you got sealed"
"To anybody, I suppose," she said, but her eyes had flickered. That was his fault: he'd told Chameleon he was planning onwell, thinking ofsealing with her. But if he could read her, she could read him; it was a good thing they'd parted more amicably than not. And she was honest, too, saying slightly ruefully, "And maybe that was a bribe, or a sop, and I shouldn't have agreed, I know, but still. The point is, Tara says Boomer says you've never said 'here to stay' before."
"Oh, just as well. But if you are now, then, well..."
"Well," she thinned her lips for a micron. "Then you should tell him so he can tell you."
"Why don't you tell me?" But he didn't wait for her answer; he'd heard it already, Starbuck, I promised... "I don't want to, Cass, and I'm not going to."
She blew a sharp breath through her nose. "You'll have to sooner or later, Starbuck."
"Later sounds fine to me."
"Don't be so petty," she said, and then stood up as abruptly as she'd sat. "You can't hide from it forever, Starbuck. Not now you know." Without waiting for him to answer she turned on her heel and strode away.
"Here you are."
Damn. He turned, but the words of reassurance died at the sight of Bojay's grin.
"Good morning," his lover said as he pulled out the chair next to him and sat down. "Sleep well?"
"Yes. I was going to tell you not to worry, but you don't look like you are."
Bojay's grin widened. "That didn't exactly look like something to worry about."
"No." Starbuck shook his head. "It's not. She's not."
"Which reassures me no end, though I must say," Bojay turned to watch Cassie leaving the room, "I was right. She is a stunner."
"Oh, yeah. Exactly right. Smack you right between the eyes so you can't even think..." He shrugged.
"The commander said the same sort of thing..." He broke off, even while Starbuck was trying to picture Adama ever doing so. "No, I tell a lie. He never did, not while I was around anyhow. Did say she was beautiful, bewitching, but never that he couldn't think straight when she was around. It was Sheba talked like that."
Of course: not Adama. "I thought she liked her." More importantly, Cass thought so.
Bojay shrugged. "I think she does. But she didn't use to... Sheba always had a thing about decorative women. She took it as an insult to her mother, the commander taking up someone whose only talents were looking good and" He broke off.
"There's more to Cass than that." Starbuck felt compelled to say that, but he did it mildly.
"Sure." Starbuck wondered who had provoked that, him or Cain. Bojay added, "And Sheba figured that out."
"After she saved your life."
Bojay shrugged. "Saving anybody's life would have done it. A sudden revelation of substance... So what was that about, anyway? What's she want you to do? I can tell you don't want to, but.."
Starbuck was quiet a moment. It wasn't that he didn't want to tell him, it was one of those things that had to come out and better sooner than later, but he didn't want to get into it here.
"Look, never mind," Bojay began.
"No. Just," Starbuck stood up. "Not here. Come on."
Bojay followed him into the corridor.
"What do you know about a man called Chameleon?" Starbuck asked after they'd walked a few metrons down the corridor. "Did you hear anything about him?"
"Sheba said a few things," Bojay answered after a moment's pause. "I don't know the ins and outs of it, though."
Starbuck laughed once, shortly. "I think the only person who does is Chameleon. I sure don't."
"And Cassiopeia?" Bojay suggested.
"Yeah. Her, probably. She knows more than I do, that's certain. How much more, I don't know." He took a breath. "He was running a con; that much was obvious to Apollo, and Boomer. I didn't see it, didn't want to, I guess."
"Sheba said." He paused. "Said she was sorry he wasn't your father... She meant it, too," he added. "She was still raw with losing hers."
Starbuck didn't like attributing human emotions to Sheba, but he had to nod at that. She'd seemed sincere when she'd talked to him afterwards. He nodded. "The thing is, that whole father bit, that wasn't the scam."
"Well, I wondered. I wouldn't have thought that he'd take the tests so readily if it had been. I mean, it would have proved him wrong."
"Right. But the scam wasn't that he was claiming to be my father when he wasn't. The scam was that he was claiming to be my father. I mean, he didn't really want to convince me he was my father when he wasn't; all he wanted was to get off the Star and onto the Galactica and away from the Nomen. Claiming to be my father was just a way to do that. He never thought he was, but he didn't care if he was proved not to be. Taking the test so readily, that made us think he was sincere about the claimwell," he added honestly, "it made me think it, anyway. But knowing he wasn't, if he'd really been trying to make me think he was, he would have found reasons not to. He didn't mind finding out fast, probably preferred it in fact, so he wouldn't get in too deep." The bitterness he could hear in his voice shocked him. He paused, avoiding Bojay's eyes.
Bojay spoke anyway. "Or you?" he offered.
"Or me," Starbuck agreed after a few moments. "Not his fault, I suppose, that I jumped so hard."
"Not much," Bojay half-agreed, and the poorly repressed anger in his voice cheered Starbuck considerably more than the poorly repressed relief in Apollo's or Boomer's ever had.
"Anyway," he continued more cheerfully, "he got what he wanted: off the Star and the Nomen arrested. And he was all sorry he wasn't my father, and all that, but I'd figured he never really thought he was. I mean, everything he told me that I could verify he'd probably gotten off that 'Warrior of the Centare' thing, and the rest he probably just made up; it wasn't like I had any way of checking it. So we had drinks a few times, gamed together some, and every now and then we run into each other." He paused again, and then said what he'd started believing. "More often than pure chance, too, I think. And now Cass is nagging at me to go and talk to him."
Bojay tucked in his chin the way he did when he was surprised. "Really? Why?"
"She won't say. But I gather he told her something that he made her promise to keep secret from me, and she thinks if I go over and bother him, he'll tell me what it is."
"She can't tell you?"
"She won't." Starbuck shrugged. "Like I said, she promised him she wouldn't."
They walked along the corridor for a few more metrons. Bojay was quiet, thinking about it; Starbuck was quiet, too, though he didn't know if his thoughts were paralleling Bojay's. Finally the other man said, "So why don't you want to? You think he won't tell you?"
"I think he will," Starbuck admitted.
After a few more centons of silence, Bojay said, "What do you think he'll say, then?"
Starbuck shrugged. "The way I see it, it can only be one of two things: there never was a dagget's chance he was my father, or he is."
"Is?" Bojay sounded startled.
Starbuck didn't look at him, gazing instead down the long corridor ahead of them. For the first time, he realized his feet had brought him towards the lift to the shuttle bay. "Yeah," he said after a moment. "Is. As in, the whole scam turned out to be true and instead of telling me so, he ran away." After all, that's what Tara had, not quite come out and said but certainly strongly hinted that Cass was hiding from him.
Starbuck looked sideways at him. His eyes, light brown today, were dark and stormy and his voice had been sharp, but Starbuck didn't think the anger was for him. He didn't say anything.
"You really think so?"
He shrugged. "What else could it be? I mean, I already know he's not my father, right? He has to figure that once I knew about the blood hunt I'd guess that probably there never was any chance he was, that it was all a scam. Which I did, until Cass started prodding me. That wouldn't be such a big deal."
"No," Bojay agreed slowly. "I suppose not."
"Well, it wouldn't be news anyway."
"No." This time the agreement came more quickly and surely. "But if he is"
"Yes. If he is..." Starbuck shrugged again. "You can see how that might be a bit awkward for all concerned."
"I thought he looked for you."
"He said he looked for me. That's not the same thing. And it's not like I was trying not to be found, Boj. I was in the same place the whole time, well after he says he started looking. Yahrens after."
"With a different name."
Starbuck cut that off. "If he wanted to find a blond boy from Umbra, he could have."
"I suppose so."
"Well, I know it. I've thought about it, and I figure he never bothered to try."
Bojay glanced ahead of them and nodded. "So, are you going to, then?"
Starbuck shrugged. "I don't want to."
"Then why are we here?" He gestured at the lift, now only a few paces away.
Starbuck met the concerned brown eyes and smiled, reluctantly but unable to help it. "Damned if I know."
Bojay grinned back. "Well, I don't suppose you have to. She doesn't rank you, after all; surely you can tell her to stop nagging you."
"You don't know her very well, do you?"
"She won't stop. Not unless we have a really bad fight about it, and that," he admitted, "I don't want to do." He hadn't always been able to keep his breakups cool and civilized, keep his ex-lovers friends. But he had so far managed to hang onto the ones he'd really wanted to. He didn't say that out loud, but he did the other reason. "And there isn't any place to go to keep away from her once we do that. We'll be running into each other all the time."
"True," Bojay said, his voice a bit pensive and his eyes drifting with memory. "Close quarters like this, you have to keep it agreeable if nothing else." He paused. "So?"
"So... I guess I'll talk to him. I mean, I could not and say I had, but she sees him as much as I used to, maybe more, and she'd know. And I do not want to be caught lying to her, even now."
"Oh?" Bojay raised one of his eyebrows. "Really?"
"She would kill me. No," he corrected himself. "That's not fair. She wouldn't kill me. But she'd be hurt and," he blew out a breath, "betrayed, and that would make her angry. I don't want her angry at me, I said that, but I really don't want to hurt her." He admitted that somewhat gingerly.
"As long as that's as far as it goes," Bojay said. "No, seriously, Bucko: I understand. And I'm glad you don't. I mean," he added, "it's a hopeful sign."
"Hopeful? Only if we break up. Which we're not. Right?"
"Right." Had Bojay hesitated? If so, he wasn't going to show it. "It's still nice of you."
"It is, isn't it?"
"Either that or cowardly."
"You'll get yours, Boj."
Bojay's eyebrows wiggled. "I hope so."
Starbuck laughed. "What's yours is mine. Or something like that."
"I hope so."
The intonation was enough different this time that Starbuck glanced sharply at the other man. There was an edge of uncertainty there, not, he supposed, surprising considering the last four yahrens, but it wasn't strong. Starbuck made the snap decision that it would be counterproductive to notice it. That would only feed it; better to behave as though there was no reason for it to exist, that it therefore didn't exist. "If last break didn't convince you, next one will," he said with a suggestive grin.
"I hope so." Third time, and it was the charm: Bojay's voice was almost a purr of satisfied anticipation.
Starbuck felt anticipation stirring inside him, as well. He looked at his chrono: more than three centares left till shift-change, nearly four, in fact. He had half intended to go and see Chameleon, but now it was absolutely the last thing he wanted to do. For a moment he wondered at that: he'd always loved sex, but even the promise of the best, most passionate sex of his life had never obsessed him the way Bojay did. And the sex had been better with a lot of people, with Aurora, with Cass... with Apollo. Still, he thought hastily, they'd get better at it, once Boj was used to making love with another man, once Starbuck learned his body, once... He paused. Once the urgency was gone, was that it? Or perhaps more likely the doubt and desperation. Once they believed it was forever. Was that it?
He blinked, realizing Bojay had said something he'd missed. "Sorry; phased out for a minute."
"You've been doing that a lot lately," Bojay observed, almost neutrally. "You didn't used to. You were always rock solid in the Here and Now."
Starbuck laughed a little. "I guess the Here and Now got a little bit less... enticing. I do seem to be thinking about There and Then more lately... But I think a lot of us have been. You know, this past yahren."
Bojay paused a moment, and then asked, a bit carefully, "Then? Is that 'then' ahead of us or behind us?"
Starbuck blinked at him. "You know, I hadn't noticed that before. It is ambiguous... And I bet it's not in Cambran, is it? Like 'ever'."
"You remember that?"
"Yeah. I remember that." He swallowed, reminded himself they were in a public, very public, hallway, and added, "The future. 'Then' is the future then."
"And it's more enticing than the present?"
"Well... it certainly has been until recently," Starbuck admitted. "And it is right at this centon, too."
"I thought you didn't want to talk to him."
Starbuck snorted. "That's not the future I'm thinking about, Bo. In fact, I really don't want that to be the future. Not at the moment. Let's grab the shuttle over to the Star instead."
"That's probably not such a good idea."
At least he sounded reluctant saying it, Starbuck thought. "Oh? Why not?"
"Because... you need to get your past sorted if your future is going to live up to your expectations."
Now that had the sound of something that meant a dozen different things. Starbuck elected to ignore all of them but the surface one. "I don't want to talk to him today."
"I know. But here we are."
"I told you, I didn't plan on coming here"
"Starbuck, if you put it off today, you won't even think about it until the next time Cassiopeia starts hectoring you about it."
"So, you should get it over with. The way it is now, you're lying to yourself and you know it, and you never did like that."
"I know what he's going to say, and I don't want to hear it."
"It won't make it less true," Bojay said gently, "not hearing it."
"Or not saying it. All it makes it is unsaid. Unheard."
He shrugged. "But, like you said: you know it. But you can pretend you don't. You can not deal with it. Live a lie. Tear yourself up over it, inside. In silence"
"Having things out loud isn't always better. A lot of the time you need... well, you need to be able to go on."
"I've spent a lot of time thinking like that," Bojay said. "It turns out it's not really true. Not most of the time, anyway. It's not like you have to work with him."
Starbuck shook his head. "What is this? Are you going to be nagging me to do things for my own good now?"
"I'm sorry," Bojay said immediately.
"Hey, hey," Starbuck reached out and touched his arm lightly. "That was kind of a joke."
They looked at each other for a moment, and then pulled apart as a couple of off duty techs pushed past them and punched for the lift.
"You used to need it," Bojay said.
Starbuck had to make an effort to remember what 'it' was. "Maybe," he said once he had. "But it wasn't you handing it out. As I recall, you needed it as much as I did."
"True enough." Bojay grinned at him. "Those were the days, Starbuck cariad."
"They were," he agreed, remembering what he'd thought the day before while flying with Boomer: Such a lovely place to visit, the long-ago. For one thing, you already knew how it was going to turn out. He thought about asking if that was the 'then' Bojay thought about, if he thought about a 'then', but considering the techs standing there, he didn't. Besides, he had the feeling Bojay's 'then' was actually a never, a non-existant time and place, and this wasn't the time or place to discuss that. "One of the reasons now stopped being quite so enticing."
The lift came. The techs got on; Starbuck started to but paused when Bojay didn't follow. "Hey, Boj, come on."
"But he's your..." he broke off, and then finished, "problem."
"Yeah, well, you're coming anyway."
"Holding up the show, lieutenant," one of the techs said.
Starbuck reached out and pulled Bojay onto the lift. "Come on," he said. "You're my wingman, remember? I need you watching my back."
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