Bitter Dance

solo: the first movement of the Dance sequence


I have gone from rags to riches in the sorrow of the night,
In the violence of a summer's dream, in the chill of a wintry light,
In the bitter dance of loneliness, fading into space...
I hear the ancient footsteps like the motion of the sea:
Sometimes I turn, there's someone there, other times it's only me
—"Every Grain of Sand", Bob Dylan

Apollo stood in the door of their suite and looked into the common room. It was empty. Of course. The light under the door to Boomer and Jolly's sleeping room wasn't showing. They'd probably turned in a centare ago, the sensible lads... He smiled bitterly to himself. They'd probably wondered where the hell he was. They would never have guessed.

He snorted. When they'd met earlier, Jolly hadn't even guessed that he was pissed off. Boomer knew that much, but wasn't entirely sure why. And neither of them would have believed he'd been in town the whole evening, at a bar, drinking.

He walked over to the wall storage unit on the far side of the common room and focused carefully on the red digits of the chrono on top of the unit. After midnight. Well, he had known that. He'd gotten back to the academy about ten microns before they shut the gates. "Cutting it close, Cadet-Colonel," one of the proctors had said. He hadn't known the man's name so he'd just nodded and went past without speaking. He'd heard the mutter behind him, known he was getting called Cadet Arrogant or Stick-up-the-Ass or something even less polite, and not cared. Much.

Frack, it wasn't like he didn't want to be charming, or remember everyone's name, or have enlisted men willing to throw themselves on grenades for him. But he wasn't his father, he didn't have that gift of ease or self-confidence or whatever it was. He might be the cadet-colonel, he might be destined for a commander's starburst, but he'd be feared rather than revered...

In that, like in so much else—so very nearly everything else—he was a failure as Adama's son.

For a moment, he lost the bright flame of anger that had been sustaining him most of the evening. He sagged against the wall and reflected that it might have been a good thing if he had flattened the Asp trainer on the runway two sectons ago. Zac was everything he wasn't: charming, cheerful, charismatic, everybody's favorite, didn't even get people mad at him when he deserved it... hell, the boy would probably be the most popular officer on any ship he ever set foot on. The ladies would love him, and he already loved them even though he was barely into puberty.

And, of course, if he had killed himself two sectons ago, he'd never have disgraced himself. And, the anger flared back into life, to what fracking end? He glared at the chrono.

Starbuck, of course, wasn't here. If he'd come in when Apollo had, the proctors would have laughed at him, called him by his name, made some tasteless comment... and he'd have laughed back, called them by their names, been just as tasteless, and probably have been able to sit out there with them and play cards, he so much had them eating out of his hand.

But by damn, Apollo wasn't eating out of his hand.

He'd straggle in, he always did. Apollo didn't know if the proctors let him in late or if he climbed the wall or what, but he was always there in the morning, sleeping like a baby. It was by-gods so unfair that he could do that. Not just that he could look so damned innocent when he was anything but, but that he could act like it. That he could actually sleep. That he didn't even get hungover (which Apollo knew for a sad fact he himself would be tomorrow). That he had so much fun being so irresponsible—and got away with it.

Sometimes Apollo wanted to be Starbuck so badly it hurt. No cares, no responsibilities, no one to make him feel like a failure all the time—only the degree of his failure was open to change. First in your class... with those marks in Political Philosophy?.. I don't see a single perfect range score here, you'd think you hadn't been target shooting your whole life... I thought you were supposed to be musical; you can't even get a girl around the dance floor once without stepping on her feet... Starbuck could fly. Starbuck could shoot. And Starbuck could pass his exams with good enough grades to graduate. And that was good enough for Starbuck, and there wasn't anyone else to care...

Hell, Starbuck could even dance. Gods knew where he'd learned it, but the girls lined up to dance with him. Even, Apollo snarled to himself, the horizontal tango, or rumba, or whatever... He just flashed that smile and never left alone.

Even now.

And that was why he was standing here, drunk and furious. Because Starbuck had left him sitting at the bar and gone off with that admittedly luscious brunette with legs up to here and breasts like ripe casabas and eyes that said "yes, yes" while her lips also said "yes, yes, now"...

And that wasn't supposed to happen any more.

Not now. Things were supposed to be different now.

And he shouldn't have gotten drunk, he knew that. Because he was way the hell too angry. Something could happen. Something bad... Apollo had suffered through a summer of increasingly disturbing dreams, having been foolish or generous or friendly or something enough to invite Starbuck to spend the vacation at the Adama summer estate. He'd had to watch his younger sister Athena make eyes at his friend, his little brother follow him around like a puppy, and his mother spoil him rotten. He hadn't minded all that, though, because Starbuck generally shook them all to spend his time with Apollo. And the beaches and the lagoons and the riding and the one-on-one triad had given Apollo all the material his libido needed to create romantic fantasies, though he never once had the courage, or the mental instability, to try to enact one of them.

What had disturbed him was the dreams, as opposed to the fantasies. The fantasies were always Starbuck's blue eyes filled with love, Starbuck's blond body yielded to his in passion, Starbuck and he, in short, as lovers. But the dreams knew better—whether him or Starbuck, his dark side or Starbuck's intransigent heterosexuality—and they were of violence, of forced coupling, in short, of rape.

Apollo hated and feared the violence of his dreams as much, if not more, as he longed for his fantasies to come true. So he spent the entire summer mostly inside his mind—dreaming his life away, his father would have put it had he been there—and doing nothing to so much as hint to Starbuck that he found the blond desirable. And when they'd gotten back to the academy, even though they were sharing a suite, there'd been enough discipline and distraction that Apollo had figured he could survive the final year.

And so he had, as the autumn turned into winter and the nights grew longer and colder. Until that damned Asp had developed a will of its own and he'd nearly killed himself trying to land it. Even after two sectons, the smell of aviation fuel could still send his heart racing into overdrive, make him think he could feel the heat of the flames through his pressure suit... He'd fumbled with the latches, his left hand clumsy with what proved to be two broken fingers, and then somebody had been standing on the Asp's fins, beating flames with one hand while undoing latches and buckles with the other, and then hauling him out onto the tarmac by main force, dragging him until he, too, stumbled and they'd both fallen, and Starbuck—he'd known it was Starbuck even through the smoke that blinded him—trying to cover him in case the Asp blew up.

When they'd let Apollo out of the Life Center a centare later, his hand healed and his eyes only stinging a bit, and his nerves still singing with tension, he'd taken that tension out on a strangely subdued Starbuck. "You could have gotten killed, you idiot!" he'd yelled at him.

And Starbuck had effectively shut him up with one simple statement. "I wouldn't want to live if you were dead."

Starbuck's blue eyes had locked with his, and then, as if they'd both always known that it would happen, they had walked in silence to their room, locked the door, and enacted a good quarter of Apollo's fantasies. And they'd done the same thing the next nine nights.

Until tonight. When that brunette had looked over her current partner's shoulder, locked her target acquisition system onto Starbuck, and sent the most unmistakable 'come-hither' with those big, improbably blue eyes that Apollo had ever been privileged to witness. He'd looked at Starbuck, expecting to see a laughing refusal, or a pseudo-sad refusal, or even the patented Starbuck Refusal Number Five: It's-My-Turn-To-Watch-Him-Or-I-Would... Instead, what he saw was the Starbuck Acceptance Number Three: Ditch-Him-And-I'm-Yours.

"Starbuck, what are you thinking?" Apollo had demanded.

"Where are your eyes, buddy?" Starbuck had answered. "I'd have to be dead to say no to that."

"What about me?"

"Find your own," Starbuck had said. "The place is full. Hell, take her partner."

"Starbuck," Apollo had hissed. "I thought—"

Starbuck looked at him. Then he looked back at the woman, too quickly for Apollo—who wasn't that good at the game, anyway—to read his expression, and stood up, jerking his head for Apollo to follow him. He paused in the shadows just outside the doorway, his breath making clouds in the chill evening. "You thought what? We're promised?"

"Well, not exactly..." Apollo said, startled. Starbuck had to know there was no way he had meant that.

"Well, I didn't think so," Starbuck said. "So, for crying out loud, find somebody else for tonight."

"Starbuck, I didn't mean promised, but I thought we were, you know—" he wasn't sure of the words. But he saw the flash of comprehension in Starbuck's eyes and felt a moment's relief.

Then Starbuck spoke, his voice low but as cold as the air. "You thought what? Not promised, no, of course not, because you can't do that. You have to be daddy's good boy. So how long do I keep myself for you while you follow your destiny? Four years, until we're both lieutenants? Or nine or ten, until you're a captain? Gonna be able to do it then? Or twenty, when you're a colonel? Or thirty, when you're a commander? Or forty, when your children are grown? Or sixty, when theirs are? Or eighty, when your father's dead? How long, Apollo? Ever? Are you ever going to commit to me?"

Apollo stood there, stunned. Of course he'd have to marry and have children; damn it, he wasn't an orphan, he was the heir of a house with property, with responsibilities, with traditions...

"Right," said Starbuck, and Apollo wasn't sure if he'd said that out loud or if Starbuck just knew him that well. "Well, I'm not sitting around on my butt while you court and marry and all the rest of it. You don't own me. You never will. Not if you won't." And he turned around and went back inside.

And Apollo followed to see him dancing with the brunette, and there were places on Gemoni where they could have been arrested for public indecency.

So now Apollo was far drunker than he ever ought to be, and waiting for Starbuck. And almost more afraid that he'd show up than that he wouldn't.

Because he'd never been this angry before in his entire life.

Starbuck did show up a half a centare later, whistling softly until he pushed open the door to his and Apollo's sleeping room. He clearly hadn't noticed Apollo standing in the darkness in the even deeper shadow of the storage unit. "So," he said upon discovering that the other bed was still untouched, "you got lucky too? Good." He started whistling again, some tune Apollo didn't know, and undressed.

Apollo stood in the darkness and listened to the familiar sounds of Starbuck's clothes coming off and being tossed in the general direction of his locker, his boots hitting the floor, and him climbing into the bed. His imagination delivered the visuals to go with the sounds, the sleek fair-skinned body, the rumpled tawny hair, the look of creamy satisfaction in the blue eyes... That last was the trigger.

The next thing he knew, he was staring at those eyes in the light of the two moons through the window over Starbuck's bed, and there was no trace of satisfaction in them. Instead, they were wide-pupilled with fear. He didn't remember getting there, but he liked it where he was, straddling the beautiful naked body, pinning the hands under his knees.

"Apoll—" Starbuck started to say, but Apollo tightened the grip he had on the blond's throat and the word turned into a gasp.

"Don't make a sound," Apollo said, low and savage. He shifted his weight, making sure that his knees were pinioning both of Starbuck's hands. He leaned forward and kissed Starbuck's pale, perfect shoulder, and then, without warning, bit hard enough to draw blood. Starbuck made a sound, a startled cry of pain, and Apollo choked it off almost as soon as it was begun. "No noise," he said, angrily. "You'll wake the others."

Starbuck's eyes widened more as he smelled the liquor on Apollo's words, and he tried to pull loose and say something. Apollo didn't want to hear whatever it was. He'd heard all he needed to hear earlier. He pulled the pillow from under the blond head. Starbuck apparently thought he was going to be smothered; he bucked desperately against the weight pinning him down and Apollo had to tighten his grip on the lovely throat in his grasp. Then he shook the pillow loose from the case and, starting the tear with his teeth, ripped the fabric in two. He carefully stuck half of it in Starbuck's mouth. "There," he said with satisfaction, "that'll keep you quiet."

He worked one end of the rest of the case under Starbuck's left wrist and slipped the other through to make a noose, and then, moving quickly and utilizing the leverage of his position and the hand-to-hand combat training he'd had most of his life, he yanked that arm up, threading the cloth through the metal bedstead and immobilizing it, and then, with his now-free knee strategically placed to pin Starbuck unmoving underneath him, brought the blond's right arm up to tie it off as well.

That done, he leaned forward and licked at the blood on Starbuck's shoulder. The taste was exciting and he sucked gently at the wound. Starbuck moaned softly, tensing. Apollo was annoyed. "I'm not going to hurt you," he snapped. "But you have to learn—you're mine. Mine."

Starbuck shook his head, his eyes suddenly hot. He pushed at the gag with his tongue, and Apollo stopped for a minute to pull it tighter and tie it around Starbuck's head. He threaded his hands through the thick tawny hair and licked Starbuck's ear, thrusting his tongue inside and nibbling on the lobe. This usually got a reaction from the other man, but now he pulled his head away and glared.

"Don't do that," Apollo warned. "You're mine. You know it. Why do I have to do this?"

Starbuck closed his eyes.

Apollo bent and kissed his throat, and then, as he got no reaction, grazed it with his teeth. He felt Starbuck tense and smiled. "I don't want to hurt you," he said, "I want to love you." If anything, Starbuck got tenser.

Apollo repeated, "You're mine, you know it," and began kissing and biting his way down Starbuck's neck and chest. He closed his teeth on Starbuck's nipples, relishing the tremors that ran through the body under him, but he didn't draw blood. There. He returned to the blond's shoulders for that, while his fingers pinched and twisted the nipples and scratched along the ribs. Starbuck moaned again, apparently against his will, and Apollo felt his cock start to throb. Not so drunk after all, he thought, and closed his eyes to look at the vision of Starbuck dancing with the brunette. He bit down again, savagely this time, and felt Starbuck arch underneath him, heard the cry that strangled against the gag, saw the image of the woman replaced by one of Starbuck's body writhing under his, bleeding and submissive and his... His hand moved further along Starbuck's body, closing on the cock, his fingers tightening around the shaft as he thought about it being plunged into the woman's body. "Mine," he said against Starbuck's throat over the moan he was causing, "mine, mine, mine..." and Starbuck's body bucked against the grasp, and Apollo lost his balance and toppled backwards across Starbuck's legs.

And suddenly, Apollo saw what was actually in front of him, not a dream or a memory. He didn't sober up, he was far too drunk for that, but he did wake up. "Oh, gods," he said, "Starbuck..." he scrambled up the bed, wincing as Starbuck flinched from him, and tried to untie his hands. The blond's struggles had tightened the fabric so that the knots were almost solid lumps. Apollo looked around frantically and then, with a burst of inspiration, grabbed one of his boots, which were lying by Starbuck's bed, and slung it into the window. Shards and splinters of glass went everywhere, and Apollo triumphantly grabbed one and sawed through the fabric.

The micron his arms were loose Starbuck was on the other side of the room, pulling the gag out of his mouth with one hand while he hefted their Triad Championship Trophy with the other.

"Starbuck?" Apollo started.

His voice was drowned out by Boomer's, on the other side of their locked door. "What's going on in there? Are you all right?"

Starbuck stared at Apollo, kneeling on his bed half dressed amid the glassy fragments of window pane sparkling in the moonlight, and then said, "I just had a nightmare and broke the window, Boomer. I'm okay."

"You're sure?"

"I didn't put my fist through it," Starbuck said in a very good imitation of his annoyed with himself and not wanting anyone to see him voice. "I'm fine."

"Well..." Boomer yawned. "If you're sure..."

"I'm sure, Boom-Boom. Thanks."

"Goodnight, then."

They listened until the other door shut. Then Starbuck said, "What the frack got into you? I ought to kill you."

"Okay," Apollo said. It sounded reasonable to him, looking at the blood on Starbuck's shoulders and the shadows on his throat that were going to be bruises in the morning. He waited for Starbuck to walk over and brain him, and then, while Starbuck stared at him, apparently deciding if he ought to or not, Apollo saw darkness rising to meet him and he slid gently into it, expecting never to wake up again.

But he did. And when he did he was filled with a driving urgency to get to the turboflush as quickly as possible. He was heaving his guts out when the memory of last night decided to present itself. The first result was to make him vomit even more, and the second was to make him wish that he could kill himself. He wondered if there was anything in their medicine cabinet that was poisonous, but he was too weak-kneed to get up and look. While he crouched on the floor, miserable and loathing himself, he felt a warm hand on his back, a cold towel on his neck, and smelled the pungent herbal remedy for nausea-cum-hangover that Boomer's grandmother had sent him 'now that you're a man'.

He felt like a worm, or worse, taking Boomer's help after what he'd done to Starbuck, but he had to get fit enough to turn himself in. The thought made him shiver and rest his head on the cold porcelain and whimper. His father was going to kill him. He was going to be expelled and then his father was going to kill him. He was going to be expelled, he might well go to prison, and then his father was going to kill him. He'd disgraced the whole family, his mother and Athena and Zac would hate him, his father would kill him, and Boomer and Jolly would never speak to him again.

And Starbuck...

Starbuck was probably already at the Commandant's. Or maybe not... he'd lied to Boomer last night, for some peculiar Starbuckian reason that normal people had no hope of figuring out. But he would never speak to Apollo again, either. He would probably never want to be in the same city with him again. Apollo jerked upright and immediately wished he hadn't. Starbuck might leave the academy over this. Gods knew, he didn't think anybody would take his word over Apollo's, and he might well be—was probably—right in that. Apollo had to find him... he moaned and Boomer's hands supported him as he dry-heaved for several centons. When he could, he pushed upright again, much more slowly.

"I have to find Starbuck," he said carefully.

"You ought to be about able to manage that," Starbuck said.

Apollo blinked and focused on the hand supporting him. It wasn't Boomer...

"Starbuck?" he asked incredulously.

"You are the most pathetic thing I've seen in yahrens," Starbuck said. "Gods, I swear I am never encouraging you to drink again."


"Are you safe to stand up? Because you really need a shower."


"Yes?" he said patiently.

"What are you doing?"

"I'm trying to sober you up so I can kick your aristocratic possessive butt from here to the river," Starbuck said acerbically. "Come on, into the shower."

"I didn't mean—"

"Frack. Of course you did, you asshole," Starbuck said almost conversationally. "You're one mean son of a daggit when you're drunk."

"I'm sorry."

"Yeah, you better be."

"I am."

"Stand here." Starbuck leaned him against the tiled wall and reached to turn on the water.

Apollo jumped and cursed as the icy stream hit him.

"Stand still," Starbuck ordered.

Apollo did. "Starbuck?" he asked after a minute.


"Are you all right?"

"Yes." He paused. "I started to say no thanks to you, but that's not exactly true. On the other hand, don't expect a lot of credit for stopping in mid-rape, okay? Not starting is a helluva lot better."

"I'm sorry. I was drunk."

"And who made you get that way?"

You, Apollo thought, but said nothing.

"And what part of 'you don't own me' don't you understand?"


"And you're paying for the fracking window. And the bed linen." Starbuck didn't sound too happy with him.

Apollo said, "Yes. Of course. Gods, Starbuck, I'm so sorry... I'll go to the Commandant as soon—"

"You. Will. Not," Starbuck said. "Clear? You understand that? It's one syllable words, but I don't know about you and them anymore."

"Why?" Apollo said, accepting the towel Starbuck shoved at him. "I mean, why not?"

"Because, you idiot..." Starbuck suddenly ran out of anger. "Because you did stop. Okay?"


"Look, you're a repressed, jealous, idiot, but I knew that. I shouldn't have been quite so short with you last night. I should have explained things better. And there's a war on, remember? You're going to be useful in killing Cylons. Plus..." his voice trailed off.

Apollo stared at him. "Plus what?" he asked finally.

"Plus... plus fracking nothing," Starbuck said shortly. "Get dressed." He slammed the door behind him.

Apollo dressed slowly. He felt like he was still drunk, except that his mind seemed clear. It was the world that was fuzzy. Starbuck especially. When he went out into their room, he saw that Starbuck had used two of his notebooks to cover the glass he had broken, but otherwise had left the room pretty much as is.

"You get to sweep up," Starbuck said. "Kava?"

Apollo swallowed to calm the roil in his stomach and accepted a steaming mug. "It's cold in here," he said inanely.

"Funny thing," Starbuck said. "Great holes in windows in the middle of winter tend to do that to a room."

"I don't know what came over me," Apollo said.

"Don't you?" Starbuck stared at him.

You're mine. Apollo lowered his eyes.

"I thought so. Apollo, I may be as crazy as you... I'm pissed as all seven hells at you, don't for one micron think I'm not. But I love you. I think. I never felt like this about anyone else." The blond cadet looked at the floor for a moment, and then back at Apollo. "But I don't belong to you. Not one way. I won't be your kept man, your toy or your mistress or whatever it's called. And I'm not going to sit around celibate, especially after we graduate and go our separate ways, waiting to see you again, not while you run around being the heir to the house of Adama and get married and whatever. You know that song—'All, Or Nothing At All'?"

Apollo winced, and then nodded. It was reasonable. It was expected. It was, really, better than he deserved.

"Well, I'm not quite that adamant," Starbuck continued. "But I do believe that what's sauce for the hen is sauce for the cock."

"Do you mean—?"

"Yeah, well, not today, believe me. Not for a while. You scared me, Apollo. You scared me bad. You put a hand on me today and I'll probably knock you into next secton. But... like I said, I'm probably as crazy as you. So, yeah. After a while."

"I don't deserve that," Apollo said humbly.

"No kidding. But don't you Kobolians say you pray to get what you don't deserve?"

"Something like that."

Starbuck stood up. "It's cold in here. Since today's a break, I'm going to town. With any luck, I may get into a brawl somewhere and have an explanation for these bruises."

"I'm sorry."

Starbuck looked at him, a strange light in his eyes and a twisted smile on his face. "I know you are. But you listen to me—"


"If I ever catch you getting drunk again, I will personally beat your brains in."


Starbuck left.

Apollo sat down on the bed, leaned his head back against the wall, and closed his eyes. And saw only empty darkness.

the end

The ProgramThe First DanceThe Second DanceThe Third Dance
The Fourth DanceThe Fifth DanceThe Sixth DanceThe Seventh Dance


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