Apollo made an excuse to go to the bridge on his next shift. Athena spotted him and avoided him, which wasn't enormously surprising given their last conversation. What was surprising was that everyone else did their level best to do the same. The only two, in fact, who didn't were Omega, the last man on the Galactica Apollo actually wanted to talk to, and Tigh, who, mercifully, intercepted him before he had to. But he'd seen it with his own eyes: the man was wearing captain's insignia.
He must have documentary evidence on somebody, was Apollo's involuntary thought as he stalked back to his own office. Nice for some people.
Four more requests for transfer were on his desk. And he couldn't delude himself that the ones who hadn't asked were happy, they just thought being in Blue Squadron outweighed it. He didn't really know what to do. The situation was his fault, but that was beside the point. The situation existed, and had to be dealt with. He couldn't transfer three quarters of his pilots; for one thing, he didn't know if he could find replacements for them. He didn't know if he'd want pilots who wanted in, as far that went. But nobody was going to take Starbuck off his hands.
Frack. How did this get so out of hand?
"I think it's because you've been spending the last few days hiding in here," said Boomer.
Apollo stared, and then realized he must have said that out loud. "Who asked you?"
"Sorry, I was under the impression you were," Boomer said. "Forget I said anything, if that's how you want to play this."
"Why are you here? Want a transfer, too?"
"No," said Boomer. "I don't. I worked too hard to get here. Just don't try to put me in the middle of this, because I won't go."
Apollo regarded him with mixed emotions, but gratitude won out. "Thanks, Boomer."
"For nothing." That didn't sound like formula. "Anyway, while you were out, Starbuck left a message."
"Left a message? Where the frack is he?"
"Where he's supposed to be," Boomer said neutrally. "Viper bay. Scheduled inventory."
"Oh. Oh, right. So, what's the message?"
"New contact number. I logged it." He waited, but when Apollo didn't say anything, he shrugged and left the office.
Apollo found half a dozen things to do before he checked the number. As he'd suspected, it was Omega's.
That was hardly a surprise, except that Starbuck would move in with anyone, but for some reason, it infuriated Apollo. I have to do something about this, he thought. I have to stop him.
He caught himself in mid-thought. Stop him? Stop him from what? He wasn't sure. Frack that. Of course he was sure. Stop him from destroying the squadron, what else. Not that he was sure what to do with him; he hadn't committed any actual breach of discipline, if you didn't count the fight in the barracks, which Tigh had already settled. And which wasn't that serious anyway...
He had to find someplace to put him. Frack. He'd worry about it tomorrow. Tonight, he'd see if his father had any suggestions.
When he got home, he changed quickly and went to collect Boxey from his after-school care. "Hi, Dad!" Boxey called, running out and then stopping. "Where's Starbuck?"
"He's not here. I told you he wouldn't be here. We're going to your grandfather's for dinner tonight."
Boxey brightened right up. He loved Adama, and Adama doted on him. He darted down the corridors and Apollo followed more slowly, thanking the Lords of Kobol that Serina and her first husband had produced a child as... he broke stride for a centon. What was he thinking? As well-bred and acceptable, was what he was thinking. As perfect a grandson.
"Come on, Dad!"
Apollo looked down the hallway and smiled. So, where was the crime in that? Sure, Boxey had been Serina's first attraction for him. And of course he thanked the Lords of Kobol that Boxey was a suitable grandson for his father, because otherwise... he shook his head sharply. Otherwise he'd have had to fight his father about marrying Serina, and he hadn't had to, and that was a good thing. And that was all that was.
Boxey rang at the door. It was opened by Athena, dressed for going out. "Hi, Aunt 'Theni! Is Grandfather home yet?"
"Not yet," she smiled, ruffling his hair. "I'm waiting for him, too... come on in. 'Pol."
"'Thena," he kissed her cheek and followed his son in.
Boxey pulled his game set out of the cabinet Adama kept it in and began setting up. "Aunt 'Theni," he said, "are you eating dinner with us? 'Cause you're dressed up better than Dad is."
"No, Boxey, I'm going to a party. I'll let you and your Dad give Father the message for me."
He cocked his head at her. "Aunt 'Theni, are you mad at Starbuck, too?"
Apollo didn't look at her.
"Mad at Starbuck?" she said. "No, honey, I'm not mad at Starbuck. Why?"
"Dad is. A lot of people are. Why? Did he do something bad?"
Athena sat down on the table and looked at the boy. "No," she said deliberately. "He didn't. Some people don't like what he did, but it wasn't bad."
"What did he do?" Boxey asked.
"Nothing much. Do you remember Flag-Captain Omega, my friend that you met last sectare?"
Apollo glared at her over Boxey's head. She ignored him.
"I thought he was a lieutenant."
"He was, but he got a promotion."
"That's good," Boxey said. "What about him?"
"He and Starbuck are friends, too," Athena said. "And Starbuck got tired of living in the barracks, and Omega didn't want to live by himself anymore, so they're roommates now, and it's annoyed some people."
"Why?" Boxey persisted. "Is it because Captain Omega is a blue-suiter and Starbuck is a fighter pilot?" He blushed suddenly. "Not that there's anything wrong with"
"Being a fighter pilot?" Athena laughed. "No, there isn't. And yes, it's something like that. It just annoyed a lot of people."
"Well, that's okay. Starbuck annoys a lot of people all the time, doesn't he?"
Athena looked at Apollo and then said, "Yes, he does. It'll blow over and then I'm sure you'll be able to see him again. 'Pol, tell Father I'll be out all night, at Lyra's, and I'll talk to him tomorrow. I can't keep Cassie waiting."
Apollo went to the door with her. "Athena, you shouldn't tell Boxey"
She interrupted him. "Apollo, he's your son and you'll raise him as you see fit. No arguments from me. But do not look to me to explain your decisions to him. You do that on your own, too." She went through the door without a backwards glance.
Apollo followed her, letting it shut behind them. "Athena, I'd appreciate it if you didn't have... I mean, when Boxey is with you... I mean"
She cut him off. "Apollo, my friends are my friends. I won't invite people you don't approve of to associate with your son, but I'm not going to tell him they aren't. I work with Omega. He comes to my place sometimes on business. If you want me to send Boxey into the sleeping room, you tell me what I tell him: your father hates the Flag-Captain? Your father doesn't want you associating with 'blue-suiters'? What?"
"Flag-Captain," Apollo dodged the question. "What's that, anyway?"
"That has nothing to do with this. How long have you been in the military, anyway? You can't even confirm a battlefield brevet in less than two sectons."
"She's right," Adama said. They both jumped; intent on their argument, neither of them had even noticed their father's approach. "That promotion was decided several sectares ago. It was not Tigh's impulsive decision. Only his timing was his own. Why are we standing in the hallway having this discussion?"
"Boxey's inside," Athena said. "I wanted to tell you that Cassie and I are staying at Lyra's tonight after the shower. If you should need me."
"Have a good time," he smiled at her and went inside.
"What do I tell him? Or do you need time to think about it?"
"Oh, don't tell him anything at all," he snapped at her and went inside himself.
Starbuck got home before Omega did the next evening. He caught himself thinking that and was brought up short. Was this home? He stood in the front room and looked around. Was this home? Was this what home felt like? He'd never been home before... only been where he was living. This didn't feel like the orphanage, like the academy, like the barracks... but was it home?
Or was it just something that would do till home came along? Assuming it ever does, of course. Which is asking a helluva lot of my life.
At the moment, he hoped it was home.
He sat on the couch, dropping his jacket to the floor, and laid his head on the back of it. He had never seen Apollo so angry in his life. No, not angry. This wasn't angry. When Apollo was angry he was lit up with it. Passion blazed from his green eyes, and put a glow on his skin, as if there was a fire inside him. Even if he was too angry to talk, he was ardent with it. This was not Apollo being angry. This was Apollo being something cold and distant.
This was Apollo calling him into his office and telling him he'd been 'detailed'nice wordto be Commander Tigh's personal pilot for the next three sectares. Which basically means sitting around for days until something happens, and then transporting him to a barge and sitting around till he wants to come back. Adama's idea. Apollo loved it. No arguments.
On the bright side, he got to sit around in his own little office. Which meant he'd avoid the cheerful company of his fellow pilots. And he could certainly live with that. Word choice deliberate.
The door hissed open. He didn't move.
"So." Omega's voice said he'd heard. Well, of course he'd heard; he was flag-adjutant to Starbuck's new boss. "How'd it work out today?"
"Oh, just fine. I could pose for the ad campaign: Become a Colonial Warriorit's not just a job, it's a five-yahren Adventure!"
Omega regarded him for a centon, and then sat down next to him, bumping him over companionably. "You know," he remarked, "I'm no stranger to the deflected question."
Starbuck snorted. "You never deflected a question in your life. You just refuse to answer, get all flag-adjutant and raised-eyebrow... You've always been like that, haven't you? Born to be a flag officer. They can't teach that."
"Nicely done," Omega said. "And that's what I meant, actually... I've heard more young warriors try to put me off than you could imagine. Granted, you're the best, though this isn't really up to your standards, but you're not getting away with it, Bucko. What else is wrong?"
Starbuck looked sideways at him, the grave, classically handsome face, the patient dark eyes looking directly at him, the elegant hands at rest in his lap, the body language that said, I'm not going anywhere, talk to me, I want to hear you... He caved. He couldn't hold out against that. He reached for his jacket and pulled the leaflet out and handed it over.
Omega gave it a cursory glance, crumpled it, and tossed it into the trash. "And that felgarcarb bothers you why, exactly?"
Starbuck shrugged. "I don't know. It's not like I haven't heard it before. It's just..." He paused. What was it, as Omega had said, exactly, that bothered him? It really wasn't the words, he had stopped listening to the wordsdamned to perdition or worthless orphan, whicheveryahrens ago even if the source could still rip out his heart sometimes. Maybe it was where he'd found it, tucked into his Viper. He gave Omega another sideways glance; how odd was it that of the two of them, it was Omega, the man whose picture was in the macropedia next to the entry for "aloof", who was the one whose superior officer went out on a limb for him, whose coworkers ranged themselves solidly behind him, and whose subordinates put themselves on the line for him... even if they were saying the same words to him in private... "Frack," he said tiredly, "I just don't know. What are we doing out here, anyway? Saving humanity? Not necessary. How many planets have we gone past that were lousy with humanity? Saving this particular little bunch of humans? I guess I'm just not sure any more that's worth dying for. Or even doing without the dying."
Omega was quiet for a moment. Then he sighed and, tucking his left knee under himself, reached out and pulled Starbuck into an embrace. Starbuck sighed as well, settling himself into the hold, Omega's legs alongside his and his back against the taller man's chest. He put his hands up and laid his own arms on top of the ones that cradled him. They weren't the right arms but they were the arms that were here, the arms that offered him what he needed, and he accepted it, them, taking a deep breath and relaxing. If he couldn't hold out against 'talk-to-me' eyes, 'let-me-hold-you' was irresistible. He'd yield to that with people who had only a temporary, if strong, interest in his body and who were more annoyed than not with the person inside itor even that there was a person inside. When it came from someone who cared, regardless of how much or how little, it could kill him and he'd die happy.
Which, of course, made it so easy to get hurt, so easy to be left wounded and alone. Too easy...
He closed his eyes and rested, surrounded by warmth and affection, physical and emotional. Time got away from him; he didn't have any idea how long they'd been sitting there when Omega sighed and, resting his chin on Starbuck's hair, asked softly, "May I say something personal to you?"
It could have been funny, given the past secton or their history before that. It could have been, but it wasn't. Without opening his eyes Starbuck answered just as softly, "Yes."
"Have you considered that, maybe, he's jealous?"
"Perhaps you should."
"Megs, honestly... jealous?" He didn't think he could wrap his mind around that concept. He wasn't sure he wanted to try.
"His behaviour has been classic."
"Classically deranged, maybe."
"There's a very strong element of derangement in love, Starbuck," Omega said seriously. "Trust me on this, I know whereof I speak."
"Yeah? Well, he's never acted like this before, no matter how much I shoved my love life in his face."
"You were never with a man before. As far as he knows. Knew."
"Meaning, as far as he knew, there was never a moment when he could have had you, and now he knows he could have. Allowing for the natural egotism of healthy love, that is. At the very least, now he knows he could have tried. Now he knows you were available."
Starbuck considered that. It was true, at least as far as it went. He'd occasionally, very occasionally, made a joke about it, but Apollo had never taken him seriously for more than a centon or two. His reaction to the jokes had kept Starbuck keeping them only jokes... He shook his head. "No. This isn't jealousy. This is him despising me."
"Despising somebody," Omega agreed. "But himself, I think. Again, something I know a little something about."
Starbuck caressed Omega's arms while he thought about it. "You mean," he said carefully, trying to treat it as a philosophical problem with no immediate application to his life, "if I had made a pass at him"
"He would have killed you."
"All things considered, you're probably right."
"He's been far too well brought up... but now, I think, he's having emotions he doesn't know how to deal with. So he's dealing with them very poorly."
Starbuck thought about it some more. "You could be right... So now"
"Can you have him?" Omega hit the gold. "I don't think so."
Starbuck sighed heavily.
"I don't mean, it's a bad idea," Omega clarified. "I only mean, I don't think it'll profit you to ask. He's from the wrong kind of family"
"How is it different from yours?" Starbuck asked without thinking, and then flinched internally.
"They're alive." Starbuck stroked his arms again, but, unlike a yahren ago, the dark-haired man was finally able to contemplate that as a simple fact. He shrugged and continued, "They're far more important and far more rigid than mine ever were, too. It's difficult to escape your family even if you aren't living with them in conditions like this. When your father is not only a living legend and the savior of your race, but also your commanding officer, it's mostly likely nigh impossible. And if he's also a devout Kobolian patriarch of the old school, well," he sighed. "He never stood a chance."
Starbuck thought about how quickly Athena had fled the possibility of creating the desire to cross her father; how Apollo had driven himselfstill drove himselfto please Adama; how Zac had quite literally died trying to find out if he was at least a satisfactory son...
"Besides," Omega added, "a man who'd seal with Sheba, a person whom my limited acquaintance with makes me glad it is limitedunless she improves with greater exposure?"
"She does not," Starbuck said automatically, trying to process the beginning of that sentence. Seal?
"I thought so. Such a man isn't a man ready to acknowledge his feelings, let alone act on them."
"Seal?" Starbuck managed to say. "With Sheba?"
"You hadn't heard yet? I know you're out of the loop..."
"I can't be that much out," Starbuck protested. "I mean, I'd've thought she'd've put it on IFB."
Omega turned his head slightly to rest his cheek against Starbuck's head. "I'm sorry. I suppose he hasn't made it public yet. Athena told me today that her father told her that he, her brother I mean, had told their father last night that he was going to. I should have realized he'd have to ask his father before he asked her. I'm sorry," he said again, and tightened his embrace.
"He keeps getting sealed."
"He keeps running to women who"
"Take over? At least Serina was..." he tried to remember her, but she'd really only been Boxey's mother who stalked Apollo like a bounty hunter, single-minded and ruthless; she'd hated him but never got near enough to him that he'd known her at all. The best he could come up with was, "At least she wasn't a vicious bitch who goes out of her way to cripple the less fortunate." He sighed. "I suppose Sheba will take care of Apollo, though, if he's her ticket to paradise. And she's hardly the maternal type, so she'll have to keep Boxey alive." That was only half a joke.
"I am sorry."
"I know." He rubbed his cheek against the soft blue of Omega's uniform. "I know."
"I thought you might like to think of him as"
"Eating his heart out over me?" Starbuck made it into a joke.
"Something like that," Omega answered gravely.
"Well, it's better than thinking of him as despising me, that's for sure. Thank you."
"It was nothing. Omega's Advice to the Lovelorn."
"Lorn," Starbuck said, "the story of my life." That, too, was supposed to be a joke, but it didn't come out as one.
Omega freed one of his arms and cradled Starbuck's face in his hand. "Let me help?"
Starbuck looked up at him. Warm dark eyes that knew what pain was and that mouth which could comfort in so many ways more than verbally. He closed his own eyes and leaned into the warm hand. "Please," he whispered.
"Of course," Omega whispered back and leaned down to kiss him.
Apollo woke up, bolt upright in his bed and covered in sweat. He sat there for a moment, trembling, and thenfrack! He scrambled for the turboflush, tangling one foot in the spread and falling but managing to make it before he lost the entire expensive meal he'd eaten on the Rising Star that evening. Sagan, he thought, sitting on the chilly floor and leaning his head against the wall, I didn't have that much to drink...
Although, he remembered, practically everybody in the restaurant had wanted to buy them a drink and toast their happiness...the children of two living legends united, the future in good hands. And he had looked across the table at Sheba's shining face and realized he was going to be sealed with her, he really was, and he'd accepted every drink he'd been offered.
He swallowed experimentally and thought about getting up, but decided not to risk it. Besides, for some reason this seemed an apt place for sitting just now. He closed his eyes and tried to remember the end of the meal, how he'd gotten back here... He couldn't. All that would come was a hazy memory of thinking that she wouldn't want to be his wingman at any rate, and then another one of those stabs of anger at Starbuck for leaving him needing a wingman... He shook his head to clear it. That was a mistake.
When he could, he leaned back against the wall very carefully and vowed not to move again till morning. Thank the Lords of Kobol Boxey was at his father's tonightAdama had been even more willing than usual to take the boy, anything to facilitate Apollo's plans for the evening... Boxey. Boxey needed a mother, that was for sure; a boy needed a mother, a woman's influence around him... Cain was Adama's old friend, and Adama had practically invited Sheba into the heart of his family when her father had gone off with the Pegasus... actually, there was no 'practically' about it. He remembered Athena, who hadn't particularly cared for Sheba then and seemed to like her less nowmaybe after they were sisters that would changehe remembered her saying that Adama had certainly opened up with uncharacteristic alacrity... 'Theni's eyes on been on Starbuck when she'd said that, a Starbuck who'd been by himself in a shadowed corner of the O Club, watching the party, a Starbuck who had almost seemed to know he was being talked about as he apparently got his second wind and plunged back into the celebration, not to reappear until two days later, with that smug smile... Apollo wondered now who he'd been with, but that was displaced by the memory of his father's response to his sister. "I knew her father," he'd said as if it were self-explanatory and then, following her gaze, he'd added, "Starbuck never had a family; Sheba's lost hers. Who do you think is more in need?"
He still didn't know. He knew who had clung to him and who pushed him away, and he knew who had always been there and who was pursuing her own ambitions... which was good. He didn't mind she loved Silver Spar more, no not more, just as much as, she loved him. He didn't mind her having a career, he'd been proud of Serina's career, it would be best if his wife had something to do besides wait for him to come home, there was a war on after all...
Boxey liked Sheba. He'd said she was 'okay', which was a tribute from him, he still didn't warm to strangers that easily. Apollo tried not to remember the rest of the conversation he'd had with his son that morning, yesterday morning now he supposed, but he was too exhausted to fight the memories. The whole day came back to him, and longer: every bad move he'd made, beginning with his inexplicable irritation over Starbuck's night out with Omega. Somehow, he knew, that was the key to why he was now sitting on this cold floor, shivering and worn out and sick and scared. He couldn't understand himself. He'd never cared before (oh, really? asked the little voice he always tried to ignore) if Starbuck went to the Rising Star looking for women. Why it had bothered him so much that he was going with Omega he didn't know (oh, really?). It wasn't as if he wanted to go himself, and it wasn't as if he could have guessed...
And once he knew, really, what else could he have done? Not been so precipitous, or so public, with his reactions, of course, tried to keep the whole thing under wraps so the squadron didn't suffer. Squadron? It was worse than that. He wasn't the only person from the Wing getting cold-shouldered by the operations staff, the rift between brown and blue, usually not quite semi-serious, was deep and getting deeper. He flinched, remembering some of his own comments over the past few days. If he didn't want all Viper pilots tarred with Starbuck's brush, then he shouldn't have been attacking Omega's uniform... and he knew, if he faced itand he was too tired to run from itthat the flag-captain was anything but a coward. The one time Apollo had been stuck on the bridge for an entire Cylon attack, he hadn't felt like he was "safe at ringside while someone else ran all the risks."
Your Aunt Athena is safe on the bridge, Boxey, the Cylons can't get her...
And that brought up that morning's conversation with Boxey. "What do you think of Sheba?"
"She's okay, Dad. She's a good pilot, isn't she?"
"She's a very good pilot. Do you like her?"
Boxey shrugged. "She's okay... why?"
"What would you think if she and I got sealed?"
Boxey had looked at him with those big eyes that had seen more than a child's should. "Are you?"
"I want to."
"So does she," Boxey said. "Grandfather likes her. I guess it'll be okay... She'll be my step-mom, huh?"
"You know I loved your mother. But"
"I know," Boxey said, sounding a little bored. "Like she did my other dad before she sealed with you. Life goes on... Dad?"
"Is that why Starbuck didn't come live with us?"
"What?" Boxey flinched; Apollo hadn't mean to yell like that. He tried again, "It's okay, son, I'm not mad, but what do you mean?"
"Well, Aunt 'Theni said he got tired of the barracks and that's why he and Omega"
"Captain Omega," Apollo didn't want his son on a friendly basis with that man.
"Captain Omega," Boxey sighed, "are sharing quarters. He could have moved in with us, but not if Sheba's moving in. Am I going to have to call her 'Mom'?"
"I don't know. We'll talk about it, all three of us. Now go to school."
"It's early!" Boxey protested.
"Go anyway. I have a lot to do this morning." And he had. Like calling Starbuck into his office (and ignoring the stiff way he walked and the rather colorful bruise on his cheek, the voice pointed out, not to mention the wariness in his eyesand that's new, isn't it, hmmmm?) and implementing his father's suggestion. "You like living with the blue-suiters so much, go work with them for a while. Out of my sight... our sight. Maybe I can stitch this squadron back together again." He wasn't sure if he'd actually said that, or just thought it, but he might have. He'd been saying a lot of things lately he wished he hadn't... "he and Omega didn't actually need to go to the Rising Star and get drunk before they climbed into bed after all... who asked you... shut up; I don't want to hear it...I thought I knew him; I was wrong..."
(Hey, don't forget the big one, nagged the voice. Don't forget, 'Father, I want to seal with Sheba.')
Automatically Apollo rejected that. He did want to seal with Sheba. It was perfect. His father approved; frack, his father had been pushing them together since the Pegasus had returned. Her father approved...
(So you make your life decisions based on what your father wants? Actually, I guess you do. You didn't want to be a Warrior, and here you are, a Strike Captain. And you did want to be a singer, and you scribble the occasional song in the middle of the night and never tell anyone. And you didn't want to marry Serina, but you did... at least you got a grandson for him out of it.)
"Shut up." He was surprised at how bitter his voice sounded. That he was talking to himself wasn't that surprising; he'd argued with this voice for yahrens before it had gone away, back his first term at the academy.
(So now you seal with Sheba. Because you know she'll say yes, and nobody else even suspects you're interested. And because you thought you saw something scary in your father's eyes last night? Who's no-guts now, Strike Captain?)
"Boxey needs a mother."
(Why? You had a mother.)
"What the frack are you insinuating?"
(Oooo, big words. I'm not insinuating, I'm saying.)
"I thought you stinking little voices were supposed to push us away from our animal natures," Apollo said desperately. "Push towards the good."
(How do you know I'm not? Why do you assume that?)
"Because this is wrong."
(Why? Because everyone says so? You want a mother's wisdom? Try this: 'Oh, 'Pol, if all your friends were jumping off the Pons Tibra bridge, would you?')
"The Books say so."
(No they don't. Any more than the regs do. They don't mention it, one way or the other. You just assume that since they don't say, Blessed are the different, that they mean, Damned are they.... Where is it written, Blessed are the normal, Apollo?)
(Cogent argument. You're at your best in the dead of night, aren't you?)
"I am not listening. I am not like that."
(Oh, no. Of course not... Apollo, wake up. Ask yourself why you were so damned angry about it. Why you lashed out at Starbuck like that. Why Omega was so different from fill-in-the-blank-as-long-as-she's-female. Go ahead. I dare you.)
The chill was creeping into his bones. He sat there, trying very hard not to think.
(Okay, then. Don't. But what about your dream?)
"No..." But it was too late. The dream that had woken him from a dead sleep, that he'd been trying so hard to forget, was back. He didn't remember his dreams, usually, but this one...
Apollo wept.He was inside a temple, filled with light and flowers and music. Everyone was dressed in white. He was facing his father, who was robed as a Kobolian priest-king, and Sheba was by his side. He was fettered, too, light chains, silvery, golden, something shining... from him to his father, to Athena, to Boxey, others reaching into the air and vanishing and yet linked to something, constraining his movements. And not his only. Each person in the temple wore fetters, almost unknowingly, almost willingly...
His father held more chains in his hands reaching out to bind Apollo to Sheba. Apollo wanted to step back, but he couldn't... Sheba was reaching for the chain that linked him to Adama, a predatory smile on her face, and then she wasn't Sheba any more, she was Serina, wearing the same smile as the pyramids of Kobol darkened the sky and the onlookers assumed the garb of warriors, brown and tan and blue, and Serina grasped the chains in her small deceptively delicate hands, and Apollo's heart was breaking for the absence of Starbuck...
And then there was no one there at all but him, his chains stretching into the darkness, and he tried to follow them home but he didn't seem able to move, and then there was a flare of gold in the distance and Serina/Sheba was there, and then he realized that it wasn't either of them. It was Starbuck, gold and warm and welcoming. And unfettered. His feet moved and he ran to Starbuck's side. He saw, for one short moment, the smile that Starbuck saved for the few he trusted, the love in those blue eyes that looked into his soul and knew him, and he felt, for an even shorter moment, the trusting weight of Starbuck leaning on him, and then, suddenly, like a sharp pain, he felt his chains tighten, pulling him away, and he went, abruptly.
And he watched Starbuck falling, eyes desolate, and he fell not to the ground but over the edge, into the deepest Abyss, a golden gleam in the blackness. Apollo wanted to call out, but again he couldn't move. And then Starbuck was caught in midfall, and he turned to cling to the man who'd caught him... dark hair, midnight-blue and silver, broken fetters... Starbuck held him and looked at Apollo. Apollo looked away; when he looked back Starbuck was gone and it was Sheba standing there, smiling.
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