part five


As predicted, Starbuck didn't take it well. He met Apollo in the corridor with Boomer, Trent, and Giles. All four were dressed in Warrior's jackets over civilian clothes, as they had been when they arrived, though they were wearing the little triskellion pins. Apollo read that as meaning we'll meet you halfway, though he wasn't sure that their half was the same as his. No matter, he chose to take it as a good sign.

Starbuck spoke before he could. "Look, Apollo, we already know we're confined to the section here; there're four guys outside the doors to keep us in. What do you want, our first-born?"

"No. It's... the commander would like to ask you if you'd give up your sidearms. Just for a few days," he added hastily. "Until things cool down."

"Disarm?" Almost reflexively his hand moved to rest on the butt of his blaster. So did Boomer's. Giles's had already been there. "No fracking chance. Not for anyone."


"No." Starbuck was angry now. "Disarm? What's next? Vipers and the tanker are already off limits. Confined to our rooms? Locked up in the brig? Put down, like a pack of mad daggets? We're not disarming. Period. End of discussion. Try to take our weapons and we will use them."

Déjà vu, Apollo thought. Except he didn't want to shoot back. "Starbuck," he said, "nobody's going to attack you."

"You don't know that. We were abandoned, weren't we? And we haven't been welcomed here by everyone—look at what they said to Seth. You don't know it, and I don't intend to lose someone. I know your problem: Tigh said you had to disarm us. We'll leave first."

"Starbuck, your Vipers are not—"

"We will leave first."

"All right," Apollo raised his hands in front of him in surrender. "It's not an order, Starbuck. It was a request. Keep your blasters."

"Why, thank you. I think we will."

"Just don't shoot anybody else or there'll be real trouble."

"Don't shoot at us, we won't shoot at you." And Starbuck turned on his heel and stalked off. Giles hesitated a moment, looking at Apollo as though he wanted to say something, but then he turned and followed.

"Leave?" Apollo said to Boomer. "Where in hell would you go?"

"It wouldn't matter. No place could be worse than where we've already been," Boomer answered.

"I don't understand you," Apollo said. "You came all this way and you're ready to leave before you've been here four days. It's like you'd rather fight than get along."

"Getting along hasn't been a big priority with us. We've kind of forgotten how."

"Don't you want to fit in? Don't you want to be part of the community?"

Boomer shrugged. "Of course we do. But we don't know how any more, and you're not giving us time enough to relearn it. You're asking us to take the last yahren and just lock it away and forget it. We can't. Apollo, you've spent the last yahren alive. With all the peripherals that come with that. Like hope. Like a future. Like children—I saw one, an actual child—and a community and structure. We've spent it dead. All right—" he held up his hand. "Not dead dead. But knowing that any centon we might die, and that the only thing that mattered was making that death count for something. Not putting it off so we could live, but picking the right moment, like when Koris and Felix caught the chance to take two basestars up. What a way to go—glorious! We're not afraid of dying, Apollo. We've accepted it. Dying done right is winning. Dying is our goal. And now I'm scaring you, aren't I? Of course I am. Ghosts always scare the living."

Apollo shook his head. "Scaring me? Kind of. You'd rather leave than work at fitting in. You'd rather break a man's neck than argue with him. You'd rather abandon civilians who need your skills and protection than stay and honor your duty to them. That is scary. The Boomer I used to know wouldn't have done that. The Starbuck I used to know wouldn't have thought of it."

"We aren't them."

"Yes, you are. Whatever's happened, it can't have changed you that much. Starbuck was just threatening mutiny. He was talking about shooting his way off the Galactica. That would just end in all of you dying. And don't tell me you're already dead, because you're not. And you know it, I can tell you do."

"Oh, Apollo," Boomer shook his head. "You don't understand, still. You're talking to me as if I were your man. I'm not. I'm talking to you because that's my function: I'm Starbuck's second. I'm supposed to point out problems and alternatives. If he chooses to listen to me, fine. If he doesn't, fine. But I'm warning you. I'm not on your side. I'm on his. And I'm not as close to you as you think I am. Oh, I can listen to you. I can hear what you say about civilians and the Fleet and need and duty and ... I don't care. Maybe I could learn to care again but right now the only thing I care about is Death. Vengeance. So, if he tells me to do something insane, well, I am mad. If he tells me to do something suicidal, what the hell, I'm dead already."


"Oh, I'll put it to him. That's my job. But he's not in the mood to listen. And I know, soldiers aren't supposed to have moods. But we're not really soldiers anymore. It's there, somewhere, underneath, but it's too far for us to reach just now. If we wanted to, which Starbuck doesn't at the moment. He just had to—" Boomer paused, bit his lower lip, and then said, "He just had to kill Seth. He just had to kill one of his people. Sending us off to die killing Cylons is one thing, we all agreed that was the way it was going to be. But he just killed Seth with his own hands to keep him safe from you, from your people. He's not in the mood to listen to you, let alone do what you want. He needs some time."

"He can have all the time he wants if he just stays put and doesn't cause any trouble. All of you."

"See, we kind of think that guy that tangled with Seth caused the trouble, like that mouthy one who hit Eliseadh."

"Maybe. But, Boomer, you know that was not just an overreaction. Just like you know, I don't care what you say, you know armed mutiny is not the answer. Shooting your way to your Vipers... It's suicide. You can't all be that crazy."

"You're right about one thing: I'm one of the reasonable ones. But you've missed the important thing: it's Starbuck you have to deal with. In the end, it comes down to him. We belong to him, and he to us. We won't let you take us and scatter us around, different squadrons, different ships even, Trent and Kestrel... We stay together, and we follow Starbuck. Period. If he tells us to shoot our way into the launch bay and off this battlestar and out of the fleet—we'll do it. Without a second thought. Some of us without a first... You can't scare us. We don't have anything left to lose."

"Are you serious?"

"Dead serious, Apollo. You'd better believe me, and you'd better convince Tigh. Disarming us is killing us, and a lot of you. You don't disarm people you trust, and if you don't trust us, why the frack should we stay here? You'd be better off just letting us go."

"Boomer, two people have died since you got here."

"And one of them was ours. Are you disarming?"

"That's not—" he stopped. "That's your point." He sighed. "Gods, Boomer. I don't know what to tell you. You're not fitting in, and we don't... we can't be flexible enough to accommodate you without being unfair to everyone who's been here all along, without losing control ourselves of what's not that steady a situation in the first place."

"You're in a hard spot," Boomer nodded. "But we don't care about your problems. Don't think we will. We can't. That's our problem."

"That sounds very pessimistic."

"We might fit in again," Boomer said. "Sort of. I don't know... Sometimes I feel this unfamiliar emotion, this... I don't know what it is. I mean, sometimes I just want to put you through the nearest window, but sometimes I know you're making sense. I'm angry, don't make that mistake, but..." he blew out a breath. "Give us half a yahren, Apollo. Maybe we'll get better."

"I honestly don't know if we have half a yahren to give you."

"Find it, or let us go," Boomer said simply.

"May I make a suggestion?" the old man said.

"Any time, Trent," Boomer said.

Apollo nodded. He'd have taken a suggestion from Muffy.

"This place," Trent circled his hand in the air. "It's set up for three teams. I know why we're in this set of rooms; it's the furthest away. But we could have been in any of them. You have no special teams. Unless you moved them all out, and not only do I think you didn't have time, these rooms don't look used."

"No," Apollo said. "We were going to an Armistice signing."

"Oh, right. Well, now you have a special team. Surely they were outside the regular chain of command? Had some leeway?"

"Not entirely," Apollo said. "But... it's an idea. Boomer, can you, can you find Starbuck? Can you just" he raised his hands in front of him and made a calm-down gesture "keep everyone here? Not let anyone go pushing, not today? Father's trying to think of a way to accommodate you."

"I'll keep everyone here, Apollo. For tonight. Unless we can't convince Starbuck to stay put, and I think we can. We don't want to be on our own again if we don't have to. No matter what we're acting like at the moment. But you have to convince Tigh and Adama to meet us halfway."

"I'm seeing my father tonight," Apollo said. "I'll talk to him."

"Disarm? Who the frack does he think he is?" Starbuck snarled as soon as the door shut.

"The Strike Captain," Giles said. "He's just doing his job."

"I don't want to hear you defend him." Starbuck was pacing the width of the room and he glared at Giles, who had settled on the foot of the bed.

"Don't worry," Giles said with a little laugh, "I can stop easy enough."

"Good." He reached the wall, turned and paced back, snarling. "Disarm. Then what?"

"I don't think they know. And I think we scare them. Maybe even make them feel guilty."

"Funny way they have of showing it."

Giles shrugged. As Starbuck passed in front of him he reached out and grabbed his sleeve. "Come here," he said. Starbuck shrugged away from his hold and Giles stood up and took a firmer one. "Come here," he repeated.

Starbuck held still while Giles pulled his jacket off, but then he pulled away again and resumed his pacing. Giles let him make a half pass and then stopped him again. "Sit down," he said. "You're as tense as tyllium steel and you're going to explode in about five centons."

Starbuck almost shook him off again but he knew his lover was right. He was wound way too tightly and now was definitely not the time for him to lose his temper. So he sat. Giles knelt behind him and began massaging his shoulders. Starbuck felt his muscles, almost unwillingly, begin to relax.

"Lie down," Giles said after a while, and this time Starbuck just did as he was told. Giles's hands were hard and skilled on his neck and shoulders, and he was throwing his whole weight into the massage. Starbuck grunted softly and closed his eyes.

"Why did Seth ask you to?" Giles asked after several centons. "Don't move."

"How do you know he did?"

"I know you. But I can't figure why he didn't just do himself. I would rather than ask you."

Starbuck laughed without humor. "Seth was afraid it was a sin."

"Hmmmm." Giles leaned a little harder into his work. "You had to."

"I know."


"I don't know."

Giles moved down to Starbuck's ribs. "Yes, you do. It hurts."

Starbuck grunted.

"Of course it does. It was different. Nothing was gained, no payment was extracted. He's just gone, and you did it. But it was the only thing to do. So let it hurt, but don't beat yourself up over it."

His hands felt good even through the fabric. The pressure of his knees against Starbuck's hips, his legs along Starbuck's. Starbuck began to relax for the first time in centares.

"He asked you," the soft voice that had never lied to him continued, "because he knew you would and he needed you to. It's all right. Hurt, but remember it's all right."

Starbuck began to reach for his blaster belt.

"Don't move, you'll just tense up again. Let me." Giles tugged on the belt until he could unbuckle it and then pulled it away and dropped it somewhere. Then he moved and began unbuckling Starbuck's boots. He tugged them off and began kneading his right calf. "Just relax. Everything's all right now. Let tomorrow's problems wait till tomorrow."

"And today's?" Starbuck couldn't help asking.

Giles leaned forward and stroked Starbuck's hair. "Let them wait, too," he said softly into the ear he uncovered. "Let everything wait. There's all the time in the universe." He resumed his massage.

Starbuck sighed. "Seth wanted us to stay here. He thinks we're redeemable."

"He might be right. We've got time to decide. Let it wait."

Starbuck sighed again. He was so tired. He hadn't slept more than a few centares in more nights than he could remember, and yesterday had been so stressful and today even worse, what little there had been of it so far...

"It will all keep. Sleep for a while."

"Ummmm," he agreed, moving his shoulders under the hands that had returned and were now stroking rather than kneading. Sleep sounded so good... "Giles?" Starbuck remembered. "What did you want to say?"

"Never mind. Later. This is virtually the macropedia definition of 'the wrong time'."

Starbuck was just as glad, but, "Are you sure?"

Giles rubbed Starbuck's shoulder. "Later. It, too, will keep. Sleep now."

"Wake me—"

"If needed. Don't worry."

Starbuck sighed and closed his eyes. "Stay here?"

"Don't worry," Giles repeated, kissing his shoulder blade.

Bojay looked up when Apollo entered the office. "Nothing at the morning meeting you don't already know about," he said.

"Thank goodness for small favors," he said, sitting heavily behind his desk.

"I chatted with Phoenix," Bojay said.

"Oh?" Apollo realized he should have done that already. "Thanks. What do you tell him?"

"That he'd better sit, hard, on Kelvin. And conspicuously. And I reminded him that women weren't in combat because all they could do was sex." He smiled, one of his less friendly smiles. "I offered to ask Athena to give Green a briefing on the topic if he thought they needed it; he didn't seem interested."

Apollo laughed. "I'll bet." He sobered. "What did he decide?"

Bojay gestured at the desk. "Letter of reprimand in his folder for a year, docked a secton's pay, extra OOD for two sectares, and confined to the Galactica for the same time. He wrote up the recommendation."

Apollo whistled. "You put the fear of the gods into him."

"I've no use for it. And Kelvin's an idiot. Besides," he added, "time's coming when we're going to have to break down and let women into Vipers on this battlestar, too."

Apollo nodded slowly and started looking through the files on his desk. This battlestar. Sometimes he forgot Bojay wasn't a Cimtar vet. He'd flown wing to a woman. A woman who'd been good enough to get target lock on Apollo.

Bojay... Apollo thought about him for a moment, remembering his early days, and how he, Apollo, had felt that he, Bojay, had been like a lupus, or a pardos, or some other wild creature loose on the Galactica. Just like the Ghosts. True, he hadn't ever gotten into a really serious fight, but still... Athena had tamed him, Athena and Adama, who had been quick to accept him... And now he was Apollo's second, his best friend, insofar as he could be said to have one these days. That was a good sign, wasn't it?

Of course, Bojay hadn't had reinforcements, and he'd never been anything less than militarily correct...

"What?" Bojay said, and Apollo realized he'd been staring at him. "Is there something wrong with my uniform?"


"Athena told you she's pregnant and you're deciding whether you want to kill me?"

"No," and then it registered. "She is?"

"She said she was going to tell your father and you tonight, but I thought she might have changed her mind if she saw you on the bridge," Bojay said. His tone was just a bit defensive, and Apollo realized he'd never really gotten over the way the they'd married. Which was ridiculous. Athena was happy, and that was what mattered. Envying her her luck was stupid.

"That's wonderful," he said, jumping to his feet and holding out his hand. Bojay took it, and Apollo pulled him into a hug. "That's really wonderful. Congratulations."

"Thank you," Bojay said. Then, when he was sitting again, he asked, "So why were you looking at me like that?"

"Like what?" Apollo temporized.

"I don't know, exactly. Like I was a puzzle you were trying to figure out. Without, I might add, much success."

"Sorry... I wasn't really even thinking about you."

"I'll bet. I'll leave you alone to worry that." He stood up. "Want some kava?"

"Yes, thanks." Apollo went back to his semiannual fitness reports, trying his best not to think about anything else.

"Hey, Boxey."

Boxey heaved a sigh and looked up. Jaxon was not his best friend. He wasn't even really his friend, except Miss Lyllat said all children were friends. "What do you want?"

"Is it true that Starbuck has braids in his hair, like a girl?"

Boxey had heard the name: early this morning his aunt had said to his uncle that something his dad was doing was "because of Starbuck, because he wants—", but then his uncle had seen him and they'd stopped talking about it. He didn't know who Starbuck was or what his dad wanted or was doing, though he bet it had something to do with his spending the night with his aunt and uncle twice in a row. And he knew his aunt was irritated by it. "I don't know," he said. "I've never seen him."

"Your dad has."


"My dad says—"

Boxey cringed inside. Jaxon's dad was always saying stuff and most of it was pretty hateful. Back when his aunt and uncle had gotten married, Jaxon's dad had kept saying Bojay ought to be broken for mutiny. That had really bothered Boxey till he finally asked his own dad what mutiny was and what parts they broke if you did it. That had been a hard time anyway, 'cause Boxey's mom had thought his aunt was being so romantic, but his dad had thought... Well, he wasn't really sure what his dad had thought but he'd agreed in that way he had which meant he didn't really agree. At least him and Uncle Bojay were friends now. But Boxey didn't want to hear what Jaxon's dad said.

"—your dad is subberting justice."

"What does that mean?" Amneris said scornfully. She was Boxey's best friend even though she was a girl. Sort of; some of the instructors called her a tomboy.

"That Starbuck terminated somebody."

"He did not," she said with all the authority of her own father, a Security watch commander. "He apprehended a fleeing criminal. And you mean subvert, anyway, you mongo."

Jaxon glared at her but didn't answer. Amneris had a quick wit, a sharp tongue, and two pretty good fists. He turned back to Boxey. "My dad says, all those freaks are dangerous. He says, the only reason they haven't all been locked up is that Starbuck used to be your dad's lover."

"What do you mean?" Boxey demanded.

"Your dad used live with that Starbuck, that's what I mean," said Jaxon.

"That's stupid," Boxey said scornfully. "He married my mom, didn't he?"

"So? My dad says he's dating Lieutenant Omega from the bridge now."

Boxey knew his dad was dating someone, because he showed all the signs other kids' parents showed. He didn't know who, yet, so he couldn't answer that. But, "Then why would he care about Starbuck?"

Jaxon paused. "He's just throwing his weight around, 'cause he's the commander's son."

"Don't you mean," Amneris said sweetly, "your dad says he's just throwing his weight around?"

"Yeah," said Boxey. "And anyway, my dad doesn't. He doesn't do anything anybody else can't."

"Does, too."

"Does not."

"Does, too. What about that stupid drone dagget of yours, huh? Drones aren't legal but your dad got one."

"Muffy's not illegal!"

"Is too!"

"Is not," Boxey insisted. "And he's smarter than you are, anyway!"

He never learned, Boxey thought, lying on the floor and looking up. He'd expected Jaxon to say 'is too' again, but instead, he'd hit Boxey. Amneris jumped in and punched Jaxon in the stomach just as he drew back his foot. He fell down and got up with his fists clenched. But Boxey knew better than to get back up and fight with him (he'd only lose), and Jaxon had learned two things about fighting Amneris: one, she fought dirty, and two, hitting a girl got him in much worse trouble than pounding Boxey did. Jaxon glared at him and said, "That what your dad taught you? Let a girl do your fighting?"

"Girls can fight," Amneris said.

"No, they can't."

"What's going on here?" Miss Lyllat demanded. "Boxey, get up off the floor."

"Girls can too fight, can't they?" Amneris appealed to adult authority.

"All too obviously," the instructor said. "You two, sit down. Jaxon, come over to your own group. I don't want any more trouble today! Not with everyone's parents coming in just over a centare! So sit down and be quiet."

"Girls can fight," Amneris insisted softly.

"You can, anyway," Boxey agreed. "Thanks."

"But? You don't think girls can fight?"

"My dad says," Boxey started and then giggled.

After a micron, Amneris giggled too.

"Is Starbuck one of those new pilots?" Boxey finally asked.

"Don't you know?"

"My dad sent me to my aunt's, and they don't talk much around me. Not about stuff he doesn't want me to know. Did he used to live with Starbuck?"

"Well, I think so. Back a long time ago, before the end of the world. It doesn't matter now, I guess."

Boxey thought about that. He didn't like it when his dad kept secrets from him. Sure, he hadn't sent him to the Orphan Ship when his mom died, like Jaxon had said he would, but he wasn't his real dad. He didn't have to love him 'cause they were blood kin (how many times had his mom grabbed him and shaken him and said 'If you weren't my blood kin I'd skelp you right into tomorrow, brat!' and it hadn't mattered, 'cause he was so she couldn't). Boxey considered it just being on the safe side to find out all he could. One thing his mom had taught him was that if he wanted to know something, he should go and find it out, just like she did. And he knew for certain it was easier to get adults to forgive you, especially if you gave them big eyes, than to get them to say you could do something...

"Do you know where they are?" he asked in a whisper.

"Who? The new pilots?"



"I'm gonna go see him."

"Boxey! You can't. What about the presentation?"

"It's not for a long time. And I'm just a stupid tree. I don't even have any lines."

"Well... I don't know if I should tell you."

"You have to," he said. "I have to see him. I think my dad wants to date him again, I think that's what my aunt and uncle were arguing about this morning... You have to."

She nibbled her lower lip and tugged on a strand of nearly-white hair.

"You could come," he invited. She hesitated. He said, cunningly, "My uncle said they have a girl fighter pilot."

"Really?" Amneris's green eyes sparkled. "Okay."

"Miss Lyllat?" he called. "Part of my costume's not here."

"Oh, Boxey, how could you do that?"

He got a little sorry-for-himself. "My dad sent me to my aunt's yesterday and I didn't know and my costume was at home and my uncle went and got it this morning but he didn't ever see it before and he left part of it and I just now found out."

"Well, I suppose we'll have to call your father..."

"He's not home, he's working. I could go get it." He batted his eyelashes at her.

"I don't know."

"I'll go with him," Amneris said. "I'll make sure he comes right back."

"Miss Lyllat! Dillon tore my costume!"

"Did not!"

"Oh," Miss Lyllat raised her eyes to the ceiling and called, "I'll be right there. Boxey," she said to him, "Can I trust you to come right back?"

"Yes, ma'am," he said. Miss Lyllat was so easy.

They managed not to giggle until they were outside and running down the corridor.

At the entrance to the Special Teams section stood two black-uniformed men. The children peered around the corner and then Boxey leaned up against the wall. "Oh, footy," he said. "They won't let us in."

"I know them," she said. "I'll talk to them and you can sneak past when they aren't looking."


"Just tell me what she looks like."

"Okay, I promise."

"Is my dad here?" he heard Amneris ask as he snuck past and into the next corridor. He was halfway down it when a door opened and someone said, roughly,

"Hey! What are you doing here?"

"Relax, Ilya," another man said, "he's just a kid. What are you doing here?" this one asked, dropping to sit on his heels.

Boxey looked at him. His hair, pretty short in a rough way like Moley's when his brother had cut it for him, was mostly black, except for a crooked white stripe on the right side. His skin was pulled up that way, too, stretching his eye a little, and much paler and funny looking, like a scar but really bad. The other one, an angry-looking blond whose hair was much longer, stood behind him, his hand resting on the butt of his blaster, which he was wearing even though the light blue clothes he had on weren't a uniform. Suddenly Boxey wasn't sure he should have come, but he plowed ahead anyway. "Are you Starbuck?" he asked.

The black-haired man laughed. "Not hardly. My name's Kestrel. What do you want Starbuck for?"

Boxey remembered his manners. "My name's Boxey. I want to see Starbuck."

"This isn't a zoo, kid," the blond said.

"Ilya, come on. He's just little. Why do you want to see him?" Kestrel turned back to Boxey.

"My dad knows him. My dad's Apollo," he added in case they didn't know. "He's the Strike Captain."

"You're his son? You've got his nerve, that's for sure."

"Ilya!" Kestrel smacked backwards at the other man's legs and nearly lost his balance. Boxey realized his right arm didn't work right as Ilya reached out and steadied him without comment.

He hadn't seen anybody disabled in so long he'd forgotten they existed. "What happened to your arm?" he asked.

"I got hurt," Kestrel said.

"Couldn't the doctors fix it?"

"We didn't have any doctors."

"Where were you?"

"In Hell," Ilya answered.

Boxey stared at him. "You were in Hell?"

"We were at Cimtar," Kestrel said. "It's much the same thing."

"Cimtar first, Hell second..." said Ilya. "Why do you want to see Starbuck?"

"I told you, my dad knows him. They used to live together."

Both men got very still, the way Uncle Bojay sometimes did. Boxey had learned not to say anything right off when he did that, so he waited.

"I don't know," Kestrel said after a centon, more like he was answering something Ilya had said than Boxey, except Ilya hadn't said anything.

"Well, I think so. I'll tell him you're here, kid." Ilya turned and walked off down the corridor.

Boxey watched him, and then returned to his new question. "Does it hurt? Your arm?"

"A little," Kestrel said. "Not much. Your dad used to live with Starbuck?"

"Yes. Was Hell awful?"

"It wasn't really Hell," Kestrel said. "We called it that because, yes, it was awful."

"Where was it?" Boxey had gotten a good look at Kestrel's hand now, and it was pretty awful, the fingers too skinny and curled up... He looked up into the man's grey eyes and got a little nervous at the expression there.

"It was..." Kestrel hesitated. "It was someplace really far away, Boxey."

"My dad was at Cimtar," Boxey said. "But the Cylons won."

"I know."

Something in Kestrel's tone told Boxey to stay away from that topic with him, just like Uncle Bojay wouldn't talk about Molecay. Footsteps gave him the excuse to look away. Ilya was back, with two men. One was medium height, with dark skin a little lighter than Colonel Tigh's and no hair at all. The other one had to be Starbuck: he was taller, with long dark blond hair and braids, just like Jaxon had said. Boxey stared at him. He was pretty good-looking, all right, but even with braids he didn't much look like a girl.

"You're Apollo's son?" he asked, coming down on one knee next to Kestrel.

"Yes. Are you Starbuck?"

The man smiled. "I am."

"Did you used to live with my dad?"

Kestrel drew in a sharp breath and glared at him, so Boxey knew he'd guessed right. They wouldn't have gotten Starbuck for 'somebody said he used to live with my dad.' They'd have just said, 'No, he didn't,' and sent him away.

"That was a very long time ago," Starbuck said finally.

"Are you going to now?"

The dark man raised an eyebrow like he'd been wondering the same thing. As Starbuck took his time thinking about the question, he said, "Does your father know you're here?"

"No. Who are you?"

"My name is Boomer. I used to know your father, too."

Kestrel stood up. "I didn't. Maybe we should—"

"Stick around," Boomer said. "It was a long time ago."

"Yes," said Starbuck. "It was. Why do you ask me that... what's your name?"

"Boxey. My aunt and uncle were having a talk this morning and that's what it was about."

"Oh. Well, I don't think so. It's been too long. I was very different back then."

Boxey cocked his head and decided to ask. "Is it 'cause you went to Hell and Dad didn't?"

Starbuck paused, and then said, "Yes."

"Were you really in Hell?"


Behind him, Boomer shifted but didn't say anything.

"I thought you had to be dead to go to Hell."

"We are dead," Starbuck said. "That's why your dad and I don't have anything in common."

"You're dead?" Boxey stared at him.

"We're all dead, Boxey," Starbuck said. He didn't show any signs of pulling Boxey's leg or in any way not meaning exactly what he was saying. "We died a long time ago. That's why we're called Ghosts."

"You're ghosts? Oh, wow... Really?"

Starbuck grinned and behind him Boomer shook his head, laughing.

Boxey looked at him carefully but he was laughing at Starbuck. Boxey said, "So you don't want to date my dad?"

"Did he tell you he wants to?"

"No," Boxey said disgustedly. "He never tells me anything like that."

"Well, I don't think he and I would get along any more," Starbuck said.

"Oh. Why do you have braids in your hair?"

"To keep my hair out of my eyes. Are there a lot of kids in the Fleet?"

"I guess so. There are a lot in my instructional center, and there's a whole ship of orphans."

"Orphans?" Starbuck asked, and the other three looked at each other. "They have a whole ship filled with children?"

"And one of old people," said Boomer, "and criminals... What else? And maybe you don't care about the prisoners, but just one lucky Cylon hit and you lose all the kids."

"The Cylons couldn't do that," Boxey said. "My dad wouldn't let them."

"Your dad can keep the Cylons from hitting any of the ships in this Fleet?"

"Well," Boxey hated to admit it, but even the Galactica had been attacked several times. He could remember the fire that had trapped him with Athena and Jolly and lots of others, could remember it vividly...

"Never think the Cylons won't kill you deader than dead if they get the chance," Ilya said.

"That's true," Starbuck said. "There's dead, like us, and there's dead and gone, like the Colonies. And the Cylons will never give up."

"We won't either," said Boomer. "But there are a lot more of them."

Boxey looked at them. Kestrel was rubbing his elbow, and all four of them looked... scary. Their eyes were cold and far away and they weren't looking at him at all. Dead and gone like the Colonies. Boxey hadn't thought about that awful day in a long time, but now it came back to him, the Cylon ships everywhere, bombs and blasters and buildings burning and Muffy running off and not knowing where his parents were... Suddenly he wanted his dad. He turned and ran.

"Boxey!" He heard Starbuck call but he just ran harder, past the two startled guards, who chased him a few steps before remembering what they were supposed to be doing. He forgot Amneris and the presentation and everything and just ran to his grandfather's as hard as he could.

Apollo spotted Athena walking down the corridor ahead of him when he got off the turbolift and hurried to join her. She smiled at him when he caught up. Knowing what he did, he thought she did in fact look radiant. He almost said 'congratulations' but decided not to let her know that Bojay had jumped the start and settled for, "You look good for someone who's been stuck with Boxey two nights in a row."

She was much less annoyed with him than she had been that morning. "Oh, he's not that bad, really. Bojay's not you, but he is your wing second, which gives him some clout with the kid."

"Glad to hear it." He shook his head.

"You had a rough day, I understand," she said.

"You could say that."

"Starbuck and the rest are not adjusting as fast as you and Tigh hoped, are they?"


She ignored the signal of the shortness of his answer. "I don't see how this can work out."

"It'll work out," he said firmly.

"Bojay says—"

"I don't care what Bojay says," Apollo cut her off.

Her pale eyes flashed anger. "It's not Boj's fault," she snapped.

"I never said it was," he responded before he could think to ask what wasn't.

Now there was a flash of triumph in her eyes, but all she said was, "Fine. But you could try acting like it. Just because he got through it and they haven't and might not."

He shook his head. "I don't know what you're talking about."

"I loved Starbuck, too, remember?" Athena shifted ground on him. "I wish he wasn't like this now, too. But he is, Apollo. You'd better start facing facts. That's not the same man you, we, used to know. Nor is Boomer. Nor any of them."

"You think I don't know that?" he cried. "You think I haven't noticed?"

"I think," she said almost gently, "that you're ignoring what you see, what you know. I think you need to pay attention to it. And," she added, "I think you're throwing away happiness to chase a delusion."

"Starbuck's not a delusion," he snapped. "Even if he's changed, he's still Starbuck. And he's real."

"I don't dispute his reality. Or your pain. But you're not thinking clearly, Apollo."

He cut her off. "That's none of your business, Athena. Like you told me when you decided to marry, it's my life. Not yours."

"And like you told me, love gives me an interest."

He capitulated suddenly. "Athena, try to understand. I've loved Starbuck for yahrens. I felt like dying myself when I lost him. And now he's back again. How can I not do anything I can to get him back?"

"And Omega?"

He shook his head. "I'm sorry about him. I never wanted to hurt him, God knows."

"He's loved you a long time."

"Athena, don't. I feel guilty enough about what I did to him."

"Guilty? Are you sure that's the right word?"

"I know what you're saying, and there's some truth in it, I admit it. But..." He paused, looking for the right words, trying to explain it to himself as much as her. Finally only one would come. "Starbuck."

She sighed and nodded. "I hope you're right," she said. "Gods know, I want you all to be happy."

"I know you do."

She smiled at him, a little sadly. "Come on, brother mine. I think we're going to be late for dinner if we don't hurry."

Apollo waited until after dinner to raise his subject. He had to concentrate on the small talk that accompanied the meal, but he thought he carried it off well. And fortunately Athena was looking at their father when she announced her pregnancy; Adama's unfeigned joy and surprise gave him plenty of time to seem just as surprised. He didn't have to fake the happiness.

"Nectar all around," said Adama, "to toast the new one. Except for you, of course," he looked at Athena. "I'm sure I have some juice."

She leaned against Bojay and smiled. "I'm sure you do, Father; you keep Boxey sometimes. And we're counting on you to keep ours, too. Not to mention you, Apollo."

"When he's Boxey's age," Adama smiled.

"Same here," Apollo said. "After all, I didn't inflict a baby on you."

"We'll see," said Athena. "At least I can continue to work."

"Oh?" Adama said, sounding surprised.

"I'm not a Viper pilot," she said. "Nothing in my job is hazardous, no extra gees or anything. Dr. Paye says I can work up to the birth."

"And afterwards?"

"Well, not right away, Father. But I'm not staying at home with nothing to do, and depriving the Galactica of a bridge officer. It's not like you can just get a replacement."

"No, I suppose not."

This was probably a good time to change the subject, Apollo thought, until Adama had a chance to get used to the idea, which he would. Especially since it was obvious Bojay had no intention of arguing the point.

"Father," he said, "I had an idea this afternoon. Well, to be honest, one of Starbuck's people suggested it, but I think it has promise."

"Oh? I'll listen to anything that has promise."

"Instead of making them into a squadron, which would mean finding more pilots and Vipers, and also involves problems with their non-combatants, perhaps we could assign them as a Special Team. They've been doing it for the past yahren, really, and it would stop us having to send pilots on ground missions."

Adama thought about it for several centons. Bojay got up and brought Athena some more juice, and poured himself another glass of nectar, raising the carafe in silent offering to the others, who, as he'd probably expected, shook their heads. He settled back down on the couch. Finally Adama said, "You're not taking into consideration that Special Teams are directly subordinate to the ship's colonel. I don't think that would work."

"No," Apollo was forced to admit.

"I have a great deal of sympathy for them," his father said. "They've been through a lot, and it's hurt them. But we can't yield to them, even in the apparently little things. Those are the things that cement authority."

Bojay nodded, making one of his rare contributions to what he always viewed as Adama-Apollo talks. "Everyone has been through a lot, though it's all been different. Many of the people here will resent favoritism, or what they see as favoritism. If Starbuck's people can get away with the little violations, everyone will want to. And there'll be no stopping it."

"Precisely," Adama approved. "But there's another solution. First, we accept that Starbuck inherited a certain level of command authority, and that his promotions of his sergeants is valid. If they're all officers, they can all resign their commissions."

"And then what?" Apollo asked, because surely Adama wasn't advocating writing them off.

"There is a long tradition of the military contracting with specialists," his father said. "We do that; we take the Ghosts on as contractors, house them where they are, and let them do what they are obviously very good at. With luck and patience and a lot of effort, they'll reintegrate. But that process will be long and gradual, if it happens at all: they can't be tossed back in and change overnight. As contractors, they'll be subject to common law but not military regulations, though I think we'll want to write that contract carefully. Starbuck can hire whom he wants, Trent or Eliseadh or Kestrel... and their equipment will be theirs."

"Father, that's a wonderful idea."

"I hope so. We need them, their skills and experiences. We don't need some of their attitudes, particularly the 'we're all dead already'—"

"Or the 'nobody is real but us'," Apollo nodded.

"No. But with time I believe they'll come back to us, if we reach out and show them we want them. I've spoken to the chaplains aboard the Galactica and they've agreed to speak out on this wrong-headed idea that anyone who was left behind, whether one of the Ghosts or not, was unworthy," his voice packed that word with scorn, "of being saved."

"Pernicious nonsense," Athena muttered, but before anybody could ask her to expound on that, the door opened and Boxey ran in, heading straight for Apollo and leaping onto him, holding tight and crying.

"Boxey? Boxey, what happened?" Apollo rubbed his back and then pulled him away enough to see his face. "What's wrong, son? Did someone hit you?" he asked, seeing the bruising starting to come up on Boxey's face.

"You won't let Cylons get us, will you?" Boxey sobbed.

"Cylons? Of course not," Apollo said. "What brought that up?"

"Cylons got the Colonies," the boy said, wrapping his arms around Apollo's neck. "Cylons killed everybody. They even killed the Ghosts and sent them to Hell."

"Who's been talking to you about that?"

"Starbuck said so."

"Starbuck?" Apollo couldn't believe Starbuck would deliberately terrorize a child. Or hit one. They were confined to their section, anyway... "How did you hear what Starbuck said?"

"I went there. I wanted to see him..."

Apollo carefully pulled Boxey's arms loose and stood up and handed his son to his father.

"Apollo, where are you going?"

"To talk to Starbuck. Really talk. I've been putting it off and I can't any longer. It's time to have some things out with him."


But he didn't wait to hear the rest.

Apollo strode up to the Special Teams area and angrily waved off the guards. He opened the door. "Starbuck!"

A couple of microns only, and Starbuck was in the corridor. "I thought you'd come."

"We have to talk. Now."

Starbuck nodded. "We can use one of these rooms," he said, "they're all empty."

Apollo waited until Starbuck had chosen one and then followed him in.

Starbuck negligently leaned against the desk, crossing his legs at the ankle and his arms across his chest. "How's the boy?" he asked, his voice light and casual. It would have fooled anybody who hadn't lived with him for four yahrens.

"How is he? Scared out of his mind."

"I was afraid of that, the way he took off."

"Did you hit him?"

"Hit him? Of course not," Starbuck lost his casual attitude in a hurry, taking a couple of steps in Apollo's direction before bringing himself up short. "He had that bruise coming up when he got here. How could you think I'd hit a little kid?"

"Somebody hit him, and all he'd say was he'd been here. And that you scared him talking about Cylons and being dead—Sagan, Starbuck, he's only seven! He doesn't understand metaphors."

"That didn't scare him, us being dead. He thought that was cool. Cylons, that scared him, and it's not like he didn't already know about them."

"Frack it, Starbuck," Apollo said, "I've done my damnedest to keep him from thinking about that. Kids shouldn't be scared all the time."

"Well, he wasn't scared when he waltzed in and asked me if I used to live with you. Said you never talked to him about important things."

"I don't need advice from you on raising my son."

"I'm not giving you any, I'm just saying what he said. Damn it, Apollo, I didn't go looking for him, he hunted me up. Wanted to know if we were getting back together."

"And what did you tell him?"

And suddenly the room was very still. Starbuck was within arm's reach, those blazing blue eyes staring into his.

"That I didn't think we'd get along. What do you think?"

"That I can't stand it any more, seeing you—" The anger wasn't gone, but it wasn't the only thing he was feeling. That one hug, so long ago, such a short time ago; Starbuck's nearness, his beauty, his strength, his anger, all their time together... He reached out and put his hand into that long hair. "I think I love you." He took a step forward and kissed him.

It was like an explosion as past and present collided in his mouth. He pulled Starbuck closer, feeling the hard length of his body against his own, wanting everything and now.

"Love me?" Starbuck said. "You don't trust me..." He broke off his words for another kiss, his hands dragging at Apollo's jacket. "You don't know me, how can you think you love me?" The words would have worried Apollo if they hadn't accompanied Starbuck's overbearing him onto the bare mattress of the bed. Starbuck paused long enough to shuck his own jacket and blaster and then kissed Apollo savagely, grinding his hips against Apollo's. "But if you want to be fracked," he almost snarled against his throat, "I can do that."

Apollo growled back, his hands scrabbling at Starbuck's shirt until he got enough of a hold of it to pull it over the other man's head.

And then the door opened and someone said, "Starbuck, that girl—Never mind. Sorry. Never mind."

Starbuck pulled away, fighting Apollo's hold. "Gi—" But the door was already shut. "Damnation!"

"Starbuck—" Apollo was sorry for Giles, but he'd lost. He might as well know it. "Come back."

"Come back? I don't know what the frack I'm even doing here in the first place," Starbuck snapped at him, evading his grasp and standing up.

"Starbuck—" Not holding him was a physical ache.

"I'm fracking a memory. I'd be better off jacking off in the turbowash." He grabbed his shirt and pulled it on.

"Starbuck, there's more here than memory," Apollo protested.

"Sure. You're sexy as hell. Even if I'd never seen you before I'd want you. But it's the memory making me think it could ever work. It's the past. It's dead. You're the one keeps saying I'm not dead, aren't you? You want to know why?" he demanded. "Giles. He's reality. Hells, Apollo, I can't even get to sleep without him. I'm not losing him for a memory, no matter how sweet." He grabbed his blaster and jacket and was gone.

Fracking a memory. Was that what it was?

Was that really all it was?

He sat up slowly, regaining control of his body and mind. Lust. Desire. And his memories making him think it was more than that. Was that all?

The door opened again, and this time Boomer stood there. At least, Apollo thought, all he'd lost was his jacket. And my sanity... but I think it's back. "You two burn it out?" he asked without preliminaries, without any of Boomer's customary shying away from getting into someone else's personal life. Apollo shook his head. Who the hell knew what was customary with Boomer now? "Yes," he said, finding his jacket on the floor and putting it on. "I think we did."

"Good. It's a complication we don't need. Giles is good for him."

"So was I, once."


Apollo sighed and stood up. "I'm going home."

"Good. You can take this girl with you."

"Which girl?"

Boomer shrugged. "She showed up right after your kid left. As soon as she decided we didn't chase him off, she wanted to talk to Eliseadh."

"Amneris," Apollo said with weary amusement. "She's Boxey's friend and a real tomboy. Wants to be a Viper pilot when she grows up."

"Yeah? She's fierce enough."

"She's a handful."

"Yeah?" Boomer said again. "If you don't take her home, Lynx and Hastur may adopt her."

A little idea stirred in Apollo's mind but he was too tired, too upset, too angry at himself and the Universe in general to pursue it just then. "I'll take her home," he said, then looked at his chrono. "Back to the instruction center, I mean," he corrected himself.

"Good. Kidnapping we don't need to be charged with."

"Amneris? Nobody would believe it." He followed Boomer to their briefing room where Amneris was chatting away with seven Ghosts. He didn't know who else was missing besides Giles and Starbuck, Trent and Eliseadh and Hastur and the crippled corporal were the only ones he could recognize yet and they were all there. He guessed, not caring much, that the black-haired one whose legs Hastur, on the floor, was sitting between was Lynx, but all he said was, "Amneris."

"Oh. Hi, Captain Apollo." She didn't even have the grace to look abashed. "Sorry," she said to the Ghosts, "I have to go now. May I come back, please?"

"Any time," Trent assured her.

She let them hug her, which wasn't much like her. Apollo noted they handled her like she was beyond precious.

"What were you doing there?" he demanded as soon as they were in the turbolift alone.

"Boxey wanted to come, so I came with him," she said.

"Why didn't you leave with him?"

"Because," she said, pointing out the obvious, "I hadn't gotten to talk to them yet."

"You shouldn't have, and your father is going to clobber you."

She shrugged. "He'll just yell and ground me. It was worth it. They're strange but they're nice."

"I'll bet your father won't agree," Apollo said, but he didn't pursue it. Let Amon deal with this changeling of his.

"Amneris!" The instructor bore her away in a flurry of scolding.

Apollo stood there looking at the seething mass of children and thinking. He didn't wish that Starbuck wasn't there, but... how fair was it to bring him back and make him so different? So unattainable? And how badly had he screwed up his own life? He was getting ready to go home, being only mildly interested in this presentation when Boxey was in it, when he heard his name. He turned and saw Bojay approaching. "What are you doing here?"

"I lost," Bojay said. "No, seriously, your father said he something to do. And Athena's at your quarters in case you decided to go there. We'd better get out front so we don't miss Boxey's big moment: I understand he's only onstage for five centons."

"And he has no lines," Apollo said. "I don't think we'll recognize him... He's here?"

"Sure," Bojay said. "He perked up right after you left... not that I mean that the way it came out. Your father calmed him down. Then he was afraid his instructor would get mad at him, so I brought him down here. She seemed to assume he'd run into me at your place so where he'd been just didn't come up."

"Just as well." Apollo sat down and wondered how long this thing was going to last. He'd made up his mind what to do.

Starbuck headed by blind instinct, not for their quarters, but for the shuttle bay. The old tanker; that's where Giles would go. He had no doubts, he knew the other man too well. Memories... damn. He could remember Apollo, so many things: the taste of him, the desire that drowned his sense when he saw that lean, elegant body; the victorious thrill of making him laugh on duty; furlons under alien suns... He could remember loving him. But memories of emotions weren't the emotions. And Apollo wasn't the only thing he could remember.

He could remember as though it was yesterday Giles's body trembling in his hands while Libris burned in the sky above them. He could remember a hundred nights when Giles brought him back from nightmares, many when he did the same. He could remember that hard, fierce soul in that tough, strong body wrapping him in warmth, making love to him as though it were the only thing in the universe worth doing. Turning in his sleep to be closer...

Sleep. He might want to frack Apollo, hell, he did want to. But he wanted to sleep with Giles. Live with Giles. Be with Giles...

He swore, hoping he hadn't screwed up, and overrode the turbolift controls—he wasn't sure which surprised him more, that he remembered how or that they hadn't changed the codes. And he evaded the posted guards by taking a circuitous route through the tech maintenance bays, a route which he'd used countless times in the five yahrens he'd been on the Galactica. Giles would know it better than he, he was sure. On the bay deck he made his way through a crowd of techs, barely noticing how quickly they got out of his way. He noticed even less when he was at the empty storage end where they'd tucked the tanker out of the way.

He saw Giles at the tanker. He'd guessed right. But he hadn't anticipated that Giles would be leaning up against its battered side, looking out through the shielded bay into the starfield, with his blaster drawn and resting on his bent knee. Cold fear swept through Starbuck. "Giles!" he called.

Giles turned sharply. Starbuck could see the tension in that compact body that he loved so much, the knuckles white on the blaster grip and the unnatural stillness that meant he was ready to run. "What are you doing here?"

Starbuck didn't waste time trying to explain what had happened. It wasn't edifying, and it was over. Instead he demanded, "What in Hades are you doing?"

"Getting out of your way." It was a simple statement.

Starbuck was startled. He hadn't expected that, though on reflection he wasn't sure why not. "What? Gi, you're not in my way." When Giles looked doubtful he elaborated. "I'm not going anywhere but you."

"Apollo," Giles started.


"The two of you." Now Giles was elaborating the obvious.

"That's dead."

"But still breathing?"

"No. That was..." he shook his head. "That was us burning it."

Giles shook his head slightly, biting his lower lip, but didn't speak.

"It's gone. Beyond recall," Starbuck insisted, and knew it was true.

"Not the way he's been acting. Not—"

"Giles, no," he shook his head, "Sure, we remember. But now... no. I scare him. And he sure doesn't want me around his kid."

Giles thought about that for a few centons. "It'll change," he offered.

Starbuck could hardly bear it. "Maybe. I don't care if it does. I don't want it to."


He would not let Giles put it into words, couldn't stand what he'd almost done. "Do you remember what you said to me, the first time you came to me, back on Bos?"

Giles shook his head. "I was winging it," he admitted.

Starbuck laughed, and then sobered. "Among other things, you said you needed me."

"It's true... But it doesn't matter. You and Apollo—"

"Gi—" Starbuck interrupted him. "It's reciprocal." And then, into the silence that followed, "Apollo and I have nothing in common any more. We're strangers. But you and I, we've been through all the hells side by side. We're the same. You've kept me as sane as I am—" Ah, good; that got him a little smile. "I need you to stay sane. I need you to stay alive. I just need you."

Giles's brown eyes, usually as uncomplicated as a dagget's, remained a little doubtful. "Apollo," he began and then paused.

Whatever he was going to say next, Starbuck didn't let him. "You know, if I were a sensitive guy I might start thinking I was being rejected."

"Well, we can't have that," Giles finally smiled. And closed the remaining distance between them, tossing his blaster onto a tool chest as he did. "You don't handle that well."

"No," Starbuck agreed, putting his hands into his lover's thick russet hair and looking down into his eyes. "I don't."

After a few centons Giles sighed softly, leaning into the embrace. "You handle me pretty good, though."

"Only if you stay put."

Giles looked up at him. "Not going anywhere you don't."

"Make sure you don't," Starbuck sighed and held him close, resting his chin on that dark russett hair, feeling life taking hold of him once more.

Apollo stood outside Omega's door indecisively for a couple of centons. He had no business being here, no business assuming—even hoping—that the man would take him back. But... Starbuck was right, as he so often was, even this version of him. Athena, too. And Boomer. And his father...

Everyone, in short. This Starbuck wasn't the same one who'd... died at Cimtar. Might as well use the word. It was the right one in a lot of ways. He and this Starbuck no longer had anything in common. More importantly, this one didn't want him anymore. There was a physical attraction, nothing more. Nothing less, but... Apollo couldn't live his life on only sex. Love was what he needed. To get, yes, and to give; the latter even more than the former.

He knew that he was still in love with the memory of Starbuck, the golden man who'd loved him back. He would probably love that man, at least a little, for the rest of his life. But that man was gone, with Thebes the almost as golden, and wouldn't come back. And it was time and past time for Apollo to stop dreaming of the past and live in the now.

And this time to really live, not run from life to someone like Serina.

Love. He'd seen it in Omega's eyes when he left him for the apparent miracle of Starbuck. Was it still there? He prayed it was, that he hadn't thrown away his best chance for happiness.

And then he signalled at the door.

In the several centons it took for the door to open Apollo lived through a dozen scenarios, all ending with the door shutting and him still in the hall. But when it opened, and Omega, sleepy-eyed and half-dressed, saw who was standing there, he was greeted with a smile and a "Come in."

They stood in the front room in silence for a centon and then Omega, blinking himself awake, offered Apollo something to eat or drink: "I can brew up some tea for you; it's no trouble."

"No, thank you," Apollo said. "I didn't mean to wake you..."

Omega smiled at him again, those dark eyes warming. "That's all right. I don't mind."

Apollo took heart from that. He'd been rehearsing what to say on his way up and out in the hall, but now he just let go and said, simply, "I've come back. If you'll have me, I want to stay."

"What about Starbuck?"

"We don't even know each other anymore," Apollo said. "It's over."

"Over for the moment? Or later, when things are different..." Omega let that trail off.

"Things will never be that different," Apollo said. "It's over. It's been over since Cimtar; I just wouldn't see it. But I know it now. You're real... If you'll have me," he repeated, "I want you."

And maybe Omega had known it, too, and been wise enough to let him find it out for himself, because there wasn't any doubt or anger in his eyes, only relief. And the love Apollo craved. Omega sighed happily and touched Apollo's face. "Have you? I'll always have you, if you really want me."

Apollo leaned into the touch and then reached up to pull Omega down for a kiss. "Want you? How about for the rest of my life?"

"That can be arranged," Omega said softly, his arms tightening around Apollo.

Starbuck and Giles walked back slowly, arms around each other.

A figure was standing near the Special Teams section, a figure in dark clothing in the shadows. They paused a moment and the figure stirred, and then stepped forward. Midnight blue and silver uniform, silver noble's medallion, silver hair... Starbuck kept his arm over Giles's shoulder.

Adama waited until they reached him. "Starbuck, Giles," he greeted them. "I think it's time, and past time, that we talked, Starbuck."

epilog: on the road to Earth

Adama looked around the briefing room. "It's confirmed that the Antarids are holding our long-range patrol hostage. Their demand that we turn over a jump-capable freighter is not acceptable. Negotiations are getting nowhere. Starbuck, have you had a chance to look over the schematics of the Antarid base yet?"

Starbuck nodded. "Yes, sir. We've identified the most likely places for the hostages to be, and teams Gamma-one, -two, and -three are ready to go. Because we need all three teams on the ground, we'll have to have cover from the regular squadrons."


He nodded. "Blue and Red are ready to go."

Starbuck nodded. "I'll be taking Gamma-one," he said. "Giles, Marcus, Eliseadh. I think we'll be the lucky ones. Just in case, though, Boomer's taking Two down with us and hitting the second choice, that'll be Monty and Dietra and the new kids, Cefyn and Ewan. And Lynx has Three in the tanker, Hastur, Ilya, and Kee. Their target's over here—" he tapped the overhead shot. "I don't think it's the right one, but we need to hit all three at the same time. We'd appreciate a helluva lot of distraction, Apollo."

"Count on it, Bucko," Apollo said.

"Then," Starbuck said, standing up, "we might as well get moving. No time like the present."

"Fine," Adama said. "It's in your hands now."

And it was. It all was. Things had worked out much better than he had expected when he'd talked to Starbuck that night nearly nine sectares ago. That they'd been excellent at special combat missions had been no more than he'd known. It was the rest that pleased him so.

Freed of the demands of military discipline, the Ghosts had been able to abide by the rules of civilization. Slowly, over sectons, they'd made a few friends, begun to do things with Galacticans, stopped clinging quite so much to each other. There hadn't even been a fist fight in three sectares, at least not one that merited a report to command.

The Ghosts had even grown: two women shuttle pilots had resigned their commissions to join them a few sectares back, citing opportunity to do something meaningful as their reason. There was more to it than that, but all Adama cared about was that it was tying the Ghosts more closely to the rest of them. That Dietra was a hot hand in a Viper didn't hurt, of course. Someday fairly soon his pilots, not to mention his colonel, would have to look at Eliseadh, Dietra, and Sheba as proof that women could outfly most of the regulars.

And most encouraging of all: the Ghosts, under Apollo's urging, had gotten involved on the Orphan Ship, and just this sectare had finally been cleared as fit parents. They'd brought fifteen kids home with them, settling them into the Special Teams section, and two more old enough to enlist had chosen to join them. They had regained their sense of community.

Adama watched them leave: Apollo in command, going first, stopping for a brief word with Omega, who watched his lover go into danger with supreme confidence, never missing a thing that was happening on his bridge; Bojay, leaving his wife and daughter, but moving surely to do his duty; and Starbuck, going into battle almost joyfully, taking most of his family with him to defend the greater number and, once again, intending to return.

They were going to make it. Adama smiled to himself. Thanks be to the Lords of Kobol, they were all going to make it.

the end

part 1 part 2 part 3 part 4 part 5


Original Fantasy:
  Autumn Afternoon | Ilya's Wedding | Something... | Last Corner | Morgans
Original Fan Fiction
Star Wars | Power Rangers | Real Ghostbusters
Battlestar Galactica | The A Team
Space 1999 | Alias Smith and Jones | Jurassic Park III
Go Back to List of Karen's Fiction