Too Long Nights

part three

It was one of those lessons you were supposed to learn as a child. Somehow, he hadn't. He always managed to work talking to his father up into the most horrifying prospect in the known universe, especially when he thought he had bad news. And, surprise surprise, it usually wasn't.

He'd built up to it by talking to Athena first, when she brought Boxey back. Boomer had been gone about a centare when his door opened and his son ran in. "Stick around a centon, 'Theni, would you?" Apollo asked. "I want to talk to you about something."

"Sure," she said.

After he'd settled Boxey in the service room with his supper, he'd come back out into the front room where she was sitting on his couch, leafing through something Boxey had brought home from school. "Gods, 'Pol," she said, "this must rot your brain after a while."

He smiled ruefully at her as he sat down. "It does, sort of... 'Theni, what do you think of Starbuck?"

She raised her eyebrows at him, widening her pale blue eyes. "Starbuck? In what context?"

"Just generally."

She snorted delicately. "I don't. Just generally. Not being you."

"What do you mean?" For some reason that spooked him, even though he was planning to bring it up himself.

"I'm not his best friend."


"Oh?" She raised her eyebrows again. "Apollo, what are you talking about?"

"Well... 'Theni, do you think Boxey really likes him?"

"Do I... Apollo, why in the worlds would Boxey pretend to like him?"

"Well, he pretended to like Sheba."

"I don't think they're the same... My gods, are they? Are you in love with Starbuck?"

"What if I said 'yes'?"

"I'd say 'Congratulations'. Are you? You are!" She leaned over and hugged him.

He relaxed in her embrace. He hadn't expected her to run screaming into the corridor, but he hadn't expected such instant, enthusiastic acceptance, either.

"I'm so glad for you, Apollo," she said into his neck, sniffling slightly. "Both of you."

"So you think Boxey really likes him?"

"I didn't mean Boxey, you fool," she said. "But yes, I do."

"I haven't talked to Starbuck yet," he admitted. "I don't know what he'll say."

"I think he adores you," she said. "You'll be good for each other. You'll give him some stability, and he'll keep you from getting old and stodgy. Plus, you're always anybody's biggest competition."


"Fishing," she accused him. "Yes, really."

Well, Boomer had as much as said so, but Athena had actually dated Starbuck. Apollo basked in the warmth for a few centons. Then he asked, "You don't think it'll be bad for Boxey?"

"What?" she asked. "Two loving parents madly in love with each other? No, I don't. His Uncle Boomer can teach him about girls... what Starbuck doesn't teach him, that is."

He had to smile at that, but only briefly. "Do you think Father will agree with you?"

She sobered. "I don't know, Apollo. He loves you, and he wants you to be happy."

"No matter what?"

"I don't know," she repeated. "Are you going to let him get the final word?"

"Don't we always?" he asked ruefully.

"Maybe we shouldn't," she said. "Look at you... you've done everything he wanted your whole life. Are you happy?"

"I'm not miserable... No," he admitted. "What about you?"

"I'm thinking about things," she said.

"You're worse off than me," he said, putting his arm around her. "I've got Boxey, and I really like my career."

"I like mine well enough," she said. "It's not glamorous, of course..."

"And he doesn't appreciate you."

"He can't help it. Neither can you. I've finally learned to live with it... So, are you planning to ask Starbuck no matter what Father says?"

"Yes," he said simply. "I just can't go on like this any more."

"Good. And don't worry about Boxey. He's crazy about Starbuck."

Which was certainly true enough. He could foresee being the heavy in the family...

He'd pawned Boxey off on Athena once again for the early evening the next day. This time she'd been more than willing to take him. Apollo had gone to his father's quarters after dropping his son at his sister's.

"Apollo," Adama said, surprised. "Come in, son."

Apollo sat down a bit constrainedly, turning down an offer of something to drink.

"Is something the matter, Apollo?" Adama sat down opposite him.

"No," Apollo said, staring at his boots. "Nothing's the matter. Actually everything's good. But I do have something to tell you."

Adama waited. He was good at that.

Apollo felt like a junior officer again, confessing some infraction of the rules. Which was marginally better than feeling like an errant child. "Father, I'm thinking about getting Sealed."

"Why, Apollo, that's wonderful news. I didn't know you were seeing anyone. Who is she?"


There was a silence. After a moment, Apollo raised his eyes. Adama was sitting quietly, obviously trying to process the information.

"I love him, Father. I have for a long time, really probably since we were at the academy together. I've never told him, but..."

"Your mother thought so," Adama said. Apollo blinked. "I came to agree with her, though I thought it was him... I thought you'd do better away from him, so I got you that assignment on the Aquila. Her captain told me..." he paused.

Apollo almost laughed. If his father had thought separating them would straighten Apollo out, it must have been a shock to hear that he'd actually had an affair with a man while Starbuck started chasing Athena... He didn't know what to say.

Adama sighed. "Then you married Serina, so I assumed that Fritz was wrong."

"He wasn't."

"I see... Starbuck has agreed to Seal with you?"

"Actually, I haven't asked him yet."


"I thought you deserved some advance notice."

"Not asking for my permission, are you?"

Apollo couldn't tell if his father was angry or not. "No, sir. I'm old enough not to need it."

"That's true... Well." Adama got up and poured two glasses of ambrosa. "Congratulations, Apollo."

"Thank you, Father," Apollo said, surprised.

"Surely you didn't think I'd fight you on this? You don't sound like I could change your mind, and I'm not at all sure I should try again. Perhaps I shouldn't have the first time."

"I... well..."

Adama smiled. "I like Starbuck. He's not what I ever wanted in a son-in-law—he's less what I wanted in a daughter-in-law—but I like him. And your mother loved him very much. I'll have to have a talk with him, of course; I won't have my grandson raised in an atmosphere of casual infidelity—"

"Please," Apollo said, "don't talk to him until I've had a chance to."

His father nodded. "Of course."

So, after all that... that was all there was to that. His father might not be planning on renting the Club Elite for their engagement party, but he wasn't against them, either. Your father really does love you, Apollo; his expectations are high, but he would love you whether you met them or not... How many times had his mother told him that? And he had never quite been able to believe it.

So now he was listening to Boxey chatter on about how wonderful it would be after he Sealed with Starbuck while they waited for Athena to take him for the third night in a row and wondered if there might be anybody on the ship who didn't realize how he felt, and why nobody had told him...

The door opened and Athena said, "Come on, Boxey, you and I definitely de trop tonight."

"What does 'duh tro' mean, Aunt 'Theni?"

"It's Aquarian for 'in the way', sweetheart," she said. "So let's go."

And then the doorsignal chimed and Starbuck came in.

"Your sister's in a good mood," he observed.

"Yes, she is... Starbuck, can I ask you something?"

Starbuck fixed him with an incredulous look. "Can you... of course you can, Apollo. Anything."

"Have you ever been in love?"

Starbuck glanced at him. There was an assessing look in his eyes. "You mean, madly, passionately, ready-to-get-Sealed?"



Apollo was quiet for a while, trying to decide what that meant. Starbuck wandered about the front room, adjusting knick-knacks: Apollo's decorations, Serina's bits and pieces, and Boxey's 'arts and crafts'. "Never?" Apollo said finally.

Starbuck shrugged. "Never worked out like that. Wasn't a good candidate for long time, and now I guess I'm out of the habit."

"Out of the habit?" Apollo couldn't help repeating.

Starbuck smiled. "Okay, never got into the habit."

"Getting Sealed shouldn't be a habit."

"Not likely to be," Starbuck smiled again.

Apollo shook his head. "What about Cassie? I thought you were serious about her, after you stopped playing around with my sister, anyway."

Starbuck shrugged and began moving a set of little carved animals Apollo had actually bought to give to his mother, setting them into some sort of order only the blond man understood. Apollo leaned against the storage unit on the other side of the room and watched Starbuck's hands. "Cassie," Starbuck said after a couple of centons, "had a notion people should get Sealed and perpetuate the human race. She got over it." He shrugged. "I was halfway inclined to go along but," he concentrated on precisely aligning two little equines, "it wouldn't have worked."

"No?" Apollo wondered why not. He hoped he knew why.

"I didn't love her. She didn't love me. Not a good way to start a marriage."

"I suppose not..." Apollo had a momentary flash of guilt. But he would have been a good husband to Serina, or at least he'd have done his damnedest.

"I think a lot of people are like Cassie," Starbuck offered after a moment. "Both ways... some are thinking about keeping the human race going—not that there seems to be much danger of the whole species disappearing, you ask me—and others are realizing that the old ways aren't the only ones."

Apollo had the feeling he was supposed to know what to say to that. He didn't.

"Sheba," Starbuck said casually. "Her father would have had a fit if she'd Sealed with Bojay... not that he's as unacceptable as some, but he wasn't worthy of her. In Cain's opinion." The carefully flat tone concealed Starbuck's hatred of the legendary Cain. At least it would have at one time; Apollo wondered if Starbuck still harbored that emotion. Starbuck was watching him sideways.

"She and Bojay love each other," Apollo said. He wasn't sure why they were having this conversation, but he figured he could bring it around where he wanted it to go. And it was the first time in what seemed sectares that he'd had an actual conversation with Starbuck, something that wasn't about inventory, or patrols, or gambling. He wasn't about to cut it off.

"Ummm," Starbuck said. "Sheba hated Cassie. I guess it must be hard to see someone step into your mother's place..." Halfway through that sentence something hit him, hard enough Apollo could hear it in his voice. He watched his friend mull it over and finally say, "You know, I had a talk with your father this afternoon."

Oh, really? Apollo thought. His father had promised to wait on him, but... was this another instance of him doing what he thought best for his children? He hated to admit it, but having Boxey had made him much more understanding of his father, more than any other thing that had ever happened. "What did you talk about?"

"The newbies, mostly," Starbuck said. He'd stopped messing with stuff and was leaning against the wall unit. "Is he thinking about—?"

Apollo laughed. "My father? No. Not him."

Starbuck raised his eyebrows. "Not him?"

"No," Apollo repeated. They'd gotten around to it a lot faster than he'd expected, thanks to Starbuck's fertile imagination. He'd always been the one who could come up with three dozen ideas while Apollo was still wrestling with the permissibility of number one... and Boomer had sorted the practical from the impossible. They'd made a good team, but he was definitely at a disadvantage dealing with Starbuck's quick mind on his own.

Before Apollo could say anything Starbuck had turned around and was aligning the spines of Apollo's handful of books. "Then I can only think of two places this could be going. Well, three," he added, "but I so much don't want that one to be the truth I don't want to think about it."

Apollo couldn't believe his ears. Was Starbuck about to confess he didn't want Apollo to be thinking about Sealing with someone? If Starbuck said it first, it would make all the difference in the world... Or, he brought himself up short, was he not wanting to hear a declaration from Apollo? "What's that?" he asked. "Tell me and I can deny it without your ever having to know it was so." Because he would, no matter what it was. Forcing anything on Starbuck, even knowledge, wasn't part of the plan. He held his breath.

"That Athena's talked you into doing something you don't want to do, namely, convince me to get back together with her."

Apollo laughed. He couldn't help it. Starbuck turned around again, a relieved expression on his face. "If 'Theni could see how happy you look," Apollo gasped, "she'd kill you."

Starbuck shrugged. "I thought she had better sense than that, but you never know."

Apollo shook his head. Enough of this, he thought. Just tell him.

"So," Starbuck asked, very casually. Only someone who knew him as well as Apollo would have been able to see how he was bracing himself for bad news, turning away again to move the bookend a few millimetrons backwards. "Is it you? You've been someplace else for a while now; who is she?"

Apollo crossed the distance between them and put his hand on Starbuck's, stilling their restless movement. Starbuck stared down at them and then at Apollo, his blue eyes wide with startlement. "It's you," Apollo said softly. "It's you. It's always only been you."

"Me?" Starbuck wasn't moving.

"You," Apollo affirmed. "Always. Been. Is. Will be. You. Whatever you say. Always only you."


"You," Apollo smiled. "What I tell you three times is true..."

Starbuck opened his mouth; Apollo could tell he was just going to say 'me?' again in that stunned voice, and he didn't want to hear it. Didn't want to give that doubt the power of three, didn't want Starbuck wondering anything at all. He leaned forward and kissed him.

Starbuck didn't move for another moment, and then he slid his hand out from under Apollo's and buried it in Apollo's hair, pulling him closer as he effectively removed any doubt Apollo might have had about his sentiments. Apollo leaned into him, making up for lost time and feeling all of his doubts and longings crystallize into pure happiness.

Eventually they had to breathe. They stood quietly for a centon, foreheads touching, Apollo's arms around Starbuck's waist and his hands on Apollo's shoulders. After a moment, Starbuck spoke, his voice husky. "Since when?"

"Forever." Apollo looked into those blue eyes and felt like... he didn't know like what. But he wanted it to go on for the rest of his life.

"Don't give me that," Starbuck said fondly. "It hasn't been forever."

"It has," Apollo said, not insistently, just stating a fact. "Since the first day I met you. Since before we met... I was just waiting for you."

"Apollo..." Starbuck said so softly he almost didn't hear it.

"What, love?" he asked when no more came.

"That's all there is," Starbuck said.

Apollo kissed him again, feeling Starbuck's hands close on his shoulders.

"So why didn't you ever mention it before?" Starbuck said some time later.

"I didn't understand it," Apollo said. "I thought we were friends. And then I didn't want to accept myself, that I could be like..." he paused, feeling the slight tremor running through them both, uncertain who had started it. "I tried to pretend I didn't want men, then when I failed at that I just tried to pretend I didn't want you—I didn't think you wanted me, after all."

Starbuck interrupted him with a quick kiss.

"Ummm... yes," Apollo tried to remember where he'd been. "Yes... Anyway, you always told me my imagination was sadly deficient."

"It is," Starbuck murmured.

"I like reality," Apollo murmured back.

"Me, too."

"I love you."

"I love you," Starbuck said.

Apollo didn't ask for how long or why he hadn't said anything. None of that mattered. Now was where it began and forever was how long it would last and nothing else, nothing else at all, mattered. At least not for this moment... "Seal with me, Starbuck," he said.


"Seal with me. I've got nectar and candles and I meant to be all romantic for you... Seal with me. I don't want to live without you in my life."


"That doesn't sound like a 'yes' coming," Apollo said. "You just said you loved me. Seal with me, Starbuck."

"Your father—"

"Said congratulations. Seal with me, Starbuck."


"Is so over the moon he can hardly talk straight. He adores you. As do I. Seal with me, Starbuck."


"Everything I'll ever want or need. Seal with me, Starbuck. For gods' sakes, Seal with me."

"Yes," he said. "I give up. I will. Do you ever give up?"

"I have," he admitted, looking into those eyes. "Not on this. Not on you. Not again."

"Apollo," Starbuck's voice sounded close to breaking. "Apollo..."

Apollo kissed him, hungrily and leaving no room for doubt about his own feelings. "Come to bed, Starbuck," he said. "Please..."

"Well..." Starbuck dragged it out, pretending reluctance, but his eyes were laughing. "Nectar? Candles?"

"Don't make me beg... They'll keep. I won't."

They undressed each other as if they'd never seen each other's body before instead of having shared dorm rooms and barracks and athletic facilities for fifteen yahrens. Apollo kissed Starbuck, easing him down onto the bed. "I'm not sure..." Starbuck said, almost whispering.

"What, love?" Apollo said. "Whether—"

"No," Starbuck put his hand on Apollo's mouth. "How."

"I must be the only person ever to have heard that," Apollo smiled, leaning down to kiss him deeply. "Don't worry, love. I know how." And he proceeded to show him.

When he felt the blond's body tense under his, and realized that fear had started to creep into the blue eyes only millimetrics from his, he swore at himself. Then he rolled over, putting himself underneath his lover, and gentled his hold. The tactic worked; desire returned to Starbuck's eyes and as Apollo gripped his thighs with his own, and they thrust against each other, Starbuck cried his name before he collapsed, trembling, on his chest. Apollo held him tightly. Gods, I wish Boomer and I had had that chat about gropes in the dark and 'cadet on cadet sex, regs against, not any' before that bastard put his hands on my Starbuck. He sighed. Not that I was ready then, or he was old enough. "Starbuck, love," he whispered.

"Apollo," Starbuck whispered back. "Sorry..."

"For what? Loving me better than anyone else?" Apollo ran his hands through Starbuck's fair hair, as he'd wanted to for five yahrens at least.

"You deserve more..."

"I don't want more. I want you. Starbuck, shhh. I don't mean to brag, but I've done it all. This was the best, because it was you. Believe me. However I get you, you're all I want. And we have plenty of time. All the time in the world. Sleep now, I've got you. And I'm not letting you go."

Starbuck let go a deep sobbing breath and closed his eyes.

"No hurry," Apollo said softly. "All the time in the world..."

Starbuck woke slowly. He took a few moments to think about the previous day and night... He could hear Apollo's breathing beside him, feel his chest rising and falling gently under his arm and his arm under Starbuck's head. Apollo... he still couldn't believe it. I guess I was wrong, he smiled to himself. This doesn't exactly look like 'straightest of the straight', does it. Though 'man in need of a stable family life' apparently applies.

He turned over carefully and looked at Apollo's sleeping face. Seal with me, Starbuck. Had he really said that? Over and over again? He did... And then, come to bed, Starbuck.

Starbuck frowned to himself. The fact was, he hadn't done very well by Apollo last night. Oh, Apollo said it didn't matter, but Apollo was the kind of man who'd say that. And mean it. But he shouldn't have to. Frack, that was fifteen yahrens ago. He ran his fingers gently along Apollo's chest, not trying to wake him but fairly sure he wouldn't mind being woken for sex. What man did? And Starbuck was a man who didn't like his partners to be left unsatisfied. Of course, it was harder for a man to be unsatisfied, but it wasn't really binary.

Not that Starbuck had ever actually tried to please a man. But he had a pretty good idea what was involved. And he knew what he liked when a woman did it, so it stood to reason that he'd like it when Apollo did it. And that Apollo would probably like it if he did it... when. This was Apollo. He loved Starbuck...

He kissed Apollo's throat, grazing the skin lightly with his teeth and soothing with his tongue. Apollo moaned softly, and the sound encouraged Starbuck. He moved further down along Apollo's lean body, using Apollo's reactions and his own memories to guide him.

Apollo had definitely woken up. As Starbuck reached his cock, pausing a moment before getting the nerve to lick its straining length, Apollo's hand found his hair. Starbuck carefully took Apollo in his mouth; the taste was pure Apollo, and Starbuck realized with a start that he was enjoying this. Cassie had claimed it wasn't unpleasant, and certainly he'd enjoyed it enough to let her do it for him, but it had always been, to his mind, something she did for him...

"Starbuck," Apollo moaned. "Oh, gods, Starbuck..."

With that encouragement, Starbuck took more of Apollo into his mouth. And Apollo's hand tightened in his hair and his hips thrust upwards—

And suddenly Starbuck was flashed, his blood sizzling and agony flaring along his nerves. He fought to escape the hands, the cruel cocks, the pain...

"Starbuck! Starbuck! Please, calm down. Love, Starbuck, it's all right, you're safe, please..."

Apollo's voice... That was wrong. Apollo's voice had been angry and baffled, not... not hurt, not scared. Starbuck blinked, coming back to reality. Apollo's arms were around him, Apollo's voice in his ear, and he was holding Apollo's arm hard enough to bruise him. Great... "I'm sorry, Apollo," he said, trying to catch his breath. "I'm so sorry."

"You're sorry?" Apollo demanded. "You're sorry? What in seven hells are you sorry for?"

"I can't..."

"Shhh, my love," Apollo said. "I shouldn't have let you try, shouldn't have made you think you had to."

"I want to," Starbuck insisted. "I just... I just couldn't."

"Starbuck, sweetheart, you don't have to. You certainly don't have to now. I told you, we've got all the time in the world." He was stroking Starbuck's back, holding him close. "It's not your fault, anyway."

"I'm sorry... I'll just," he paused a micron, not wanting to use any of the words he knew, not for Apollo. "You can take me," he offered. "Where I don't have to do anything—"

"Rape you? No, thank you," Apollo said, his voice gentle. "I only want you if you're enjoying it. Like last night."

"It wasn't enough," Starbuck said miserably. "I couldn't—"

"Frack," Apollo said angrily. "I was pushing you and I know how hard it can be the first time anyway, let alone..."

Starbuck tried to pull away. Apollo wouldn't let him. The unfamiliar strength scared him a little, reassured him more, confused him. "I'm sorry," he said again. "I shouldn't have let them—"

"It is not your fault," Apollo repeated. "It was never your fault. I can't believe you said that, Starbuck. You can't believe that. I won't let you."

"How do you intend to stop me?" Starbuck found himself asking. "It's the truth."

"It is not," Apollo said.

"That's not what you thought back then. You or Boomer."

Apollo let go of him, leaning back to stare with wide green eyes. "What the hell are you talking about?"

Starbuck shrugged. "I remember your voices," he said. "I remember how angry you both were."

"Angry..." Apollo looked at him in shock. "Starbuck, did you think we were angry at you? That we blamed you?"

Starbuck stared back. It had always been so obvious, especially when they'd never mentioned it. They'd just cleaned up after it, done his class assignments, and never left him alone for the rest of the semester...

"Starbuck," Apollo said gently, reaching out to touch his cheek, "you were flash-fried. Your perceptions were... off. We were angry as hell, as all seven hells, but not at you. For you. At them. Starbuck, Boomer came within a fingerbreadth of actually killing Frejor. I had to haul him off the bastard by main force. We didn't know what to do, what to say... but, gods, we were never angry at you. We never blamed you. If anything, I should have seen it coming, I should have seen it on the Triad courts—"

"You couldn't have," Starbuck said. "You weren't angry at me? Either of you?"

"Gods, no, Starbuck. Boomer loves you, you idiot. I love you... we were terrified and we screwed up, but it wasn't your fault."

Starbuck reviewed events of the past fifteen yahrens in the light of this new information and found nothing that contradicted it, and much that supported it... much that was, in fact, suddenly less confusing. He stared into Apollo's eyes, looking for the truth. They didn't falter before him, their clear green depths transparent with love. He sighed deeply, letting go of the pain. When Apollo reached for him, he went into the embrace without reservations.

"I love you, Starbuck," Apollo said. "I understand about the memories, the flash... I meant what I said. We have all the time in the world. We don't have to hurry." He laughed softly. "And I understand you'll be worth any amount of waiting."

"I'll give it my best shot," Starbuck agreed, and kissed Apollo. "I'm not used to complaints."

Apollo laughed again, tightening his embrace. "Gods, I love you so... you are the home of light, Starbuck. I'm home."

Starbuck shook his head. "We're home together, Apollo."

My world is on the couch, asleep. Almost my whole world... I love my father, my sister, Boomer. But the truth is, I'd sacrifice them, individually and as a group, in a heartbeat, for either of the two people I'm watching sleep right now. My son. My husband. Boxey sprawled across Starbuck, his dark brown hair across his eyes, sleeping the sleep of a child who is up way too late, overexcited and overfed, and completely happy. And Starbuck, as relaxed as I've ever seen him, but even asleep turned so Boxey can't fall off the couch, the book carefully tucked away—a man who never had his own things as a child... He's so strong; even in his sleep he's on guard. I can't believe how lucky I am.

A civil Sealing is so short compared to a religious one, but it has all the important things. I do. I will. From this day forward. Only to you. Forever. I know I'll never forget a word of it, even if I live to two hundred. And I won't ever forget what Starbuck looked like standing there. It wasn't just the dress uniform, though all the Lords of Kobol know the man who designed them had a prescient vision of Starbuck when he did. All the gold, the braid, the pectoral, that damned cape... how does he wear that without strangling himself? And the color makes his hair look chestnut... I've always thought he looked good enough to eat wearing that uniform. Now I can. How lucky is that? But it was more. It was the look in his eyes. On his face. The way he watched me. How lucky? Lucky, luckier, luckiest... Ever.

He was a little surprised (still) that Boomer wanted to stand with him. I was a little surprised that Father stood with me. Maybe I shouldn't have been any more surprised than Starbuck. We were, though. And more than a little at how many of the Strike Wing came to bear witness and welcome us afterwards. Jolly, of course, but Giles and Dietra and Greenbean, Sheba and Bojay looking like they might be next. Jenny and the other mechs and crew.And bridge and ops staff, too, Athena's friends like Omega and Rigel and Altair... Dr. Salik. Cassie. Colonel Croft. Chameleon. Siress Tinia. Sires Anton and Solon. Even more... Tigh performed the ceremony for us. Boxey carried the cord, and ran around underfoot and just generally was so hyperactive I thought he'd burn out long before he did. Thank all the gods he listened to Starbuck when he said daggets were out of place at ceremonies.

And afterwards, people kept coming up to us and wishing us happy, and dragging him off to dance... he's always told me I need to learn to dance. Perhaps now I will; I've got the incentive at last. Though I enjoyed watching him, especially with 'Theni and Cassie... I know Father did give him that 'no casual infidelity' chat, but I'm not worried. I've known him far too long. He doesn't give his soul casually. And he's given it to me... Lords of Kobol but it takes my breath to know that.

This morning he had a nightmare. Not exactly a flashback, but same cause. He couldn't believe, somewhere deep inside the part that heard it for way too long, that he was worth keeping. Now that he's got my ring—another shock, 'Theni gave me Grandfather Lykos's ring that Mother gave her for her husband—I'm hoping he'll believe it, down there. If not, I'll tell him again, every day, until he does.

Even after he does.

But now I think I'll go shift my son—our son—away from his papa (Boxey settled on that with some help from Cassie and Sheba) and put him to bed. Then I'm going to wake up my husband and put him to bed, too...

"Starbuck? Love? Wake up."

"'Pol?" Sleepy blue eyes looked up at Apollo. "Hmmmm...." he smiled. "I was having such a nice dream."

"Was I in it?"

"In it? You were it." He reached up and touched Apollo's cheek gently, and then caught his left hand in his, touching the plain gold band he'd slipped onto Apollo's finger earlier that day. "This is reality, right?"

"This is as real as it gets, Bucko," Apollo said, closing his fingers around Starbuck's hand.

Starbuck smiled at him. "I like reality."

"Me, too." Apollo tugged on his hand. "Come to bed, love. We've got tomorrow off, we can sleep in. If Boxey remembers to let us."

"Oh, captain, my captain," said Starbuck, allowing himself to be pulled to his feet. "The night can't be long enough."

"No," Apollo kissed him. "Never long enough again."

We both have known heartache and love that's gone wrong,
When the ghosts take the shadows and the night takes too long.
We've folded our hands when the cards were not strong,
But that wheel will keep spinning long after we're gone.
And the moon is so full, the stars are so bright,
And my touch is steady, my hand is light;
Look in my eyes, hold on real tight
And I'll waltz you, my darling, across Texas tonight.
I'll waltz you, my darling, across Texas tonight.
—"Waltz Across Texas Tonight", Rodney Crowell & Emmylou Harris
the end

part onepart two part three


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