Hang the Night With Stars:
And The Stars That Shine Above

She will hang the night with stars
so that I may walk abroad in the darkness without stumbling.
— Oscar Wilde, "De Profundis"


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Tell it to the rain and the stars that shine above that it's me you're thinking of, and that I'm your love—tell it to the rain.
— Petrillo/Cifelli (recorded by the incomparable Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons)
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"Apollo?" Athena's voice reached him through the gloom of the darkened room.

He thought about not answering her, but ever since the Destruction she'd been intent on closing the distance between them and that was not only comforting in and of itself, but meant that she wouldn't give up. "I'm here," he said. "What do you want?"

"You," she said, picking her way carefully towards him. His dark-adapted eyes could see the expression of concern on her face. "Bar said you took off out of the O Club like, well, actually he wasn't very refined. Basically he said you were running."

"Who?" Not that, at this moment, he cared who, but he preferred discussing that to his own messed-up life.

"Forget it, Apollo," she said acerbically. "It's not my love life I'm here to discuss."

"Mine doesn't need it." It was a feeble attempt, and he didn't expect her to believe it.

She didn't. She lowered herself onto his couch, her knee touching his shoulder. He was glad he'd gotten enough control over himself before she showed up that, even if he was still sitting on the floor, he was sitting with his back to the couch and no longer hiding his face in the cushions. "Then tell me," she said, "in twenty-four words or less, just why you're sitting on the floor in the dark?"

"Is there some reason I can't sit on the floor of my own quarters conserving energy?" It was, he knew, his last attempt.

After a brief pause, she said, "Eight words left."

He sighed. "Because I'm miserable." She waited. "I saw Starbuck kissing Cassie, in the O Club."

He half expected her to tell him he'd gone over the word count, but the little sister who had seemed to enjoy seeing him taken down a peg was gone. In her place was the one who put her hand on his head and said, softly, "Oh, Apollo. Does it hurt so much?"

"Yes," he said simply. It didn't occur to him to say it was Starbuck he was hurting over, not Cassie; something in Athena's tone said she knew that already. He'd wondered what she and Starbuck had talked about, why she'd given up on him instead of fighting with every formidable weapon she possessed—and they were many. He'd never asked. Now, he supposed he didn't have to. She was waiting for something else from him. All he could find to say was, "I know, I don't have any room to talk but... yes."

"Poor thing," she said, stroking his hair. "I'm so sorry for you."

He sighed and rested his head on her knees, catching her other hand in his left one. After a centon he realized she was wearing her long burgundy dress, the soft one that she looked so feminine in. "You were out," he discovered. "Does he mind being left alone?"

"He better be, and he better not," she said obscurely, adding, "but I repeat: I didn't come here to talk about me. I've never seen you like this, so unhappy. Not even after Serina died."

"Serina," he said consideringly, and then shared his dark secret with her. "I didn't love Serina as much as I love Starbuck."

"I know," she said, surprising him. "So did she. So do a lot of people... are you just now figuring it out?"

He nodded, unable to answer.

"Oh, Apollo. I wish I'd said something to you... but it wouldn't have stopped you, would it? There was Boxey."

"I don't know," he admitted. "Zac was so newly dead, and Mother... and Father's so unhappy. And..." he sighed. "I don't know."

"Poor thing," she said again, rubbing his shoulder. "Did you ever say anything to him?"

"Father? Of course not."

"No, idjit brother," she said, with a caressing touch of her old manner, "Starbuck."

"Also no, of course not."

"Why 'of course'?" she asked. "He's always loved you."

"Like a brother."

"Apollo," she said, her tone sharpening a bit, "Zac loved you like a brother. Starbuck loves Boomer like a brother. It's not the same thing at all."

"But it's too late, now," he said, hearing his voice catch. "Even if he used to, there's Cassie now."

"Cassie..." he couldn't quite tell what Athena's tone meant; to his shame, he didn't know her well enough. More briskly she said, "Starbuck's fond of Cassie, not as much as he used to be, but enough."

"It looked like more than fond to me."

She snorted, not at all delicately. "Men," she said. "Apparently some things are hard-wired. Apollo, take my word for it, it's fond. Which is, of course, enough to be going on with. I'm not saying otherwise."

"It looked it," he said again.

"I know what you mean," she said. "Starbuck may be a firm proponent of serial overlapping trigamy—"

He had to laugh at the phrase despite himself, it so perfectly caught Starbuck's lifestyle. But it was a short laugh, and it didn't really cheer him up any.

"—but he isn't one for public displays of affection. If he's kissing her in the O Club, you're too late."

"I could tell him..."

"Tell him what?" When he hesitated, she supplied, "That you love him? That you're sorry?"

"Yes."

She shook her head; her earrings chimed lightly with the motion. "Oh, brother mine, I'm afraid you can just tell it to the rain."

"Excuse me?" He wasn't familiar with that phrase at all.

She laughed a little at him, teasing but again with pure affection and no malice. It's an ill wind... he thought.

"I can't believe Starbuck never inflicted that song on you," she said. "Gods, Apollo, for three or four sectares a couple of yahrens ago you couldn't listen to a centare of commercial broadcasts without hearing it."

"Not my stations," he said.

"Snob," she said. "It was his absolute favorite, I don't know why, but it was. He used to sing it all the time... he must have cared more about your tastes than his own."

"Or yours?"

"Oh, no," she smiled impishly at him. "I liked it too. And I like hearing him sing..."

"So, are you going to tell me what it means? Though I think I can guess," he added wryly, "from context."

"Probably," she acknowledged. "You're not stupid. Usually." Then she began singing, softly. "You're crying now just like—" a half beat missed and she sang the next word with an emphasis that showed she'd changed it, "he used to cry before. Turn off the tears, boy, he doesn't care anymore. You can save all your lies, 'cause he's heard them all before: tell it to the rain and the stars that shine above that it's him you're thinking of, and that he's your love—tell it to the rain." He started to say something but she overrode him with the next verse. "He gave you love and he got nothing in return. How does it feel to feel what he had to learn? Don't say you're sorry, 'cause he's just not concerned: tell it to the rain—"

"They aren't lies," he said after a moment.

"Sweetheart, they might as well have been. Mightn't they? Honestly?"

He sighed. They might, and he knew it. He could remember Starbuck, miraculously back from the dead...Hey, hey, hey! Itís against regulations to hug a junior officer. Unless you mean it. He had meant it. But he'd been married already, and the look in Starbuck's eyes when he'd realised that... Lies. Though he'd never been able to tell anybody how angry he had been when he came out of his grief over Starbuck and found that Serina had pushed him, uncaring, into an early marriage... had she thought that with his wits—and Starbuck—about him, he might not walk into the snare even with Boxey as the bleating lamb, or had she just thought she could comfort him? He didn't know, she'd died too soon for him to find out, to even be able to guess. But Starbuck had died, come back, and then gone away from him... though from what Sheba had said about his willingness to die for Apollo... Sheba. The pattern beginning again. Lies. He sighed. How does it feel to feel what he had to learn? Like hell. It feels like hell.

"He doesn't really," he said and heard it turn into a question.

"Doesn't really what?"

Apollo opened his mouth and realized he didn't know.

"Cry? He did," Athena said softly. "Angry and embarrassed about it and like his heart was broken... which it was, after all. Get nothing from you? Apollo, you married Serina. That's a pretty definite rejection, even if he was three-quarters expecting it. Not care anymore... Well, he sure as hell doesn't want to."

"Hence, Cassie..."

"Hence, as you say, Cassie." She ran her fingers through his hair. "Appy," the old nickname was actually comforting, "you burned your bridges with him when you got married. And you dynamited the bank with Sheba, even if you've finally decided not. If you want him, you're going to have to swim. And you'd better be ready for him not to give you a hand up out of the water, to drag the metaphor out."

"Really, 'Theni? It's that bad?"

"I'm not going to say he's just not concerned," she admitted. "But can you give me one single reason why he should put himself back in harm's way with you? Once bitten, twice shy, and loving you has bitten him how many times now?"

Apollo didn't answer, but he could count... He sighed. "Have I lost him, 'Theni?"

She was quiet for a centon, and then she leaned forward, her long hair falling around his face and shoulders. "You might have," she said softly. "You might have."

He reached for her, and she held him while he cried.

the end

Hang the Sky with Stars
Silent Stars Stars That Shine Dark Enough

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