How could I have done that to him? To us? How could I have taken advantage of him like that?

He was so drunk last night, he didn't even know what was happening. I did, the fault is mine.

Look at him sleeping there, now that I've tucked him in. He's so beautiful. So young. So innocent.

Gods, please don't let him remember. Let him have been so drunk he forgets it all. Let him be able to stand to look at me when he wakes up.

'You shall not lie with a man as a woman.' Well, he didn't. He lay with me as a man. That's hair-splitting, but the Word's like that. Anyway, he didn't. I did. The guilt is mine.

He offered... luckily I couldn't. "You've taken too much out of me." Like my heart. Like my soul. I don't know if I can get them back. I don't think I want to. "Later. Some other time." In my dreams. Where he'll be safe from me.

Because he's innocent.

Gods, please. Please let him not remember.

Look at him pretending not to look at me. I know that face. It's his father's gift to him. It's his how-bad-I-am face...

He doesn't want it to have happened. He wants me to have forgotten it.

I can give him that.

But I can't forget it. I'll never forget it. Never forget his tenderness, his strength, his need; his body moving under mine, his voice—oh, gods, oh Bucko gods, oh Starbuck...

I gave him what he wanted then. I can give him what he wants now. It didn't happen. That's why I'm here in my own bunk though I'm sure I fell asleep in his.

It did, though, and I'll remember it for ever. I wish... I wish more had happened. I wish he'd taken me. A good thing he didn't, I guess; might have been hard to pretend about that. But still... "You've taken too much out of me." Not as much as he took from me. More than I even knew I had. He took my heart. Let him keep it; it's safer there. "Later. Some other time." I'll wait. And I'll keep my implicit half of that promise, too. He'll be the first.

He's the only.

But I can give him what he wants. It didn't happen. I can lie to him. I'm very good at that.

What he wants... always.

Starbuck stretched and yawned noisily. By the time he sat up, Apollo was at his locker, pulling out the day's uniform. "About time you woke up," he said, not looking around.

Starbuck yawned again and shook his head. "Some party, huh?"

"Yes. It was."

Starbuck peered at him through his uncombed blond mane. "I feel good. Did I get lucky?"

"Don't you always?"

He smiled lazily. "I'm just irresistible. It's a heavy burden but I bear it." He stretched. "Was she gorgeous?"

Apollo's eyes flashed hurt for just a micron and then it was swallowed up in relief. "Yes. Of course she was."

Starbuck regarded him for a moment, confident in his inscrutability. It wasn't your fault, Apollo. I'm the one who got drunk enough to let you do what I knew you'd regret. "Good," he said. "Must maintain my standards. I'll hit the shower and then we can head over to the mess hall for breakfast."

"Why don't you ever get hangovers?" That was plaintive but not suspicious.

"Just picked my parents well, I guess." He bounced out of the bunk and stretched.

"Well, hurry, or we'll be late to lecture."

"That won't do. Colonel Lardhead already hates me."

"He hates everyone. Of course, calling him 'Lardhead' isn't calculated to endear you to him."

"If he hates everyone, what's the point of trying?" Starbuck grinned and vanished into the washroom.

And they were back to normal. Where they stayed for a dozen yahrens.

Until Serina died.

Apollo woke up with a hangover. But feeling very good. How perverse is this? he wondered. My wife is dead... why do I feel so good? After all, he'd been in love with her. Or at least very fond of her... it seemed unkind to remember how angry he'd been with her for saying 'I loved him too' as she rushed him into an early ceremony while he was grieving over Starbuck's death. 'The funeral baked-meats did coldly furnish forth the marriage tables...'

Why had he thought of that? It wasn't apropos at all. A widow's marriage, yes, but to a man who'd killed her husband. Serina's husband had died long ago and he hadn't had a thing to do with it.

He worried that over in his mind as he got up and headed for the turbo wash. He yawned and looked at his reflection. Are those... when did I get those bruises? Did Serina... Abruptly he remembered, so abruptly he staggered and nearly fell over from the force of returning memory.

Starbuck. Starbuck had put those bruises on his shoulders, hanging on like a drowning man and moaning softly, whispering Apollo's name as if it were dangerous to cry out. Starbuck...

It was real. Shaken, Apollo examined the memory closely, and he knew it was real. His dreams of Starbuck were all much the same, built on that one fugitive encounter yahrens ago. This was too different. He'd never have imagined some of the things that had happened last night. He couldn't have imagined some of them. Who'd have known how erotic it was to have your finger sucked?



That quote was apropos after all. Serina had never loved Starbuck, she'd barely been able to tolerate his existence. There'd been a gleam of what he now knew really had been triumph in her eyes; she'd known her rival even if Apollo had been too scared to open his eyes and see the truth. It might take him a long time to sort out what he felt about her, but he knew now what he felt about Starbuck. What he'd felt for a dozen yahrens. And he wasn't a scared teenager anymore, overwhelmed by his father and his family and their expectations.

He hadn't actually been that scared kid for a long time. What he'd been—he beat his head gently once or twice against the wall at the stupidity of it all—was a creature of habit. Not scared of his father—well, not too scared of him. Just not able to think of doing anything he shouldn't do. And not able to think about who made those decisions, should, shouldn't. Can, can't. Will, won't...

Should? Can... Will.


He smiled at the memories, hazy though they were, and resolved to make a few more, as quickly as possible, that wouldn't be so fuzzy. New ones to go with the few he had now. The boy's. The man's...

And then more, as many as possible. For the rest of their lives.

Because he knew now that Starbuck was what he wanted. Who he wanted. Not Serina—though he was glad of Boxey, and maybe Boxey would make his father more amenable. Not that that was important. It would be easier all around if Adama was, but it wasn't important. Because he wasn't a boy anymore, and he wasn't going to let his father run his life. Not any more.

He was a man, and he was going to live his own life. He was going to do whatever it took to be as happy as you could be considering the war and the Destruction and the whole general mess the universe was in. Snatching some joy from the darkness however he could. Holding tight onto Starbuck, his light, his strength. His love. And if his father and the service didn't like it, well... tough. They couldn't afford to lose him and especially Starbuck out of Vipers, the last few sectons had proven that beyond doubt. And if he lost the Strike Captaincy, well, he'd survive it. Too much responsibility anyway, too many deaths on his head; it might be nice to relax and let Boomer do the worrying and the work, he was certainly capable of it. Starbuck enjoyed the responsibility-free lifestyle.

And then he stopped abruptly in the middle of the room with a sinking feeling in his stomach. Because, after all, Starbuck was gone.

What if Starbuck didn't want it? What if he just hadn't been able to say 'no' to Apollo last night? What if, because that was hardly likely, as much as Apollo thought he'd drunk, he'd just given in to help Apollo over his grief? What if this was just another one-night stand? What if Apollo was just another name on the list?

What if you calm down? Because Starbuck's list had never had men on it before, and Apollo knew that because he knew a lot about Starbuck's love life. Knew, in fact, way too much, much more than he'd really ever wanted to know... because, he understood at last, he wanted Starbuck not to have one.

Wanted to be Starbuck's love life. Had since that first night, and been too scared to admit it even to himself. Had been so glad that Starbuck didn't remember that first time. Or did he? Apollo's ambrosa-soaked memory obligingly delivered another bit: Starbuck's voice, a husky whisper, "I've waited so long for later..."

You've taken too much out of me... later. Some other time.

But if Starbuck remembered that, if he'd meant what he'd said last night, why was he gone now? Why had he left in the middle of the night?

Because, Apollo's little nagging voice promptly answered, he loves you. You know that, you always have. He's told you often enough. You've always chosen to make it brotherly, but even brothers give each other what they want. Like you did Zac; even though it hurts now you're glad he died doing what he wanted to do. Starbuck's just giving you what you've always told him you wanted from him: nothing.

"I am an idiot. I am the Emperor of Idiots," Apollo announced to the universe, and hurriedly dressed and went in search of the man he'd left his heart with.

And they lived happily ever after. Or at least a reasonable facsimile of 'ever after'. But certainly happily.

the end


Original Fantasy:
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