Meant To Be


Part One

Apollo opened his eyes in the dimness of his sleeping room and wished he were alone. But he wasn't, except in his soul, which was cold and afraid. He stifled his sigh and reached out to stroke his bedpartner's long hair. It wasn't her fault, after all.

She did sigh, reaching up to catch his hand and hold it for a moment against her cheek. "This isn't working," she said. "We aren't working."

He very much wanted to disagree with her, but he couldn't get the lie past his teeth. He didn't say anything at all.

After a moment, she sat up and looked at him. He looked back at her: long light-brown hair spilling past her shoulders; darker, almost russet eyes even darker in the dim light; an attractive face with a strong chin and arching eyebrows; short neck but with beautiful lines in her throat, and delicate collar-bones; pale, firm breasts with dark nipples... Her face was sad. He thought about reaching for her again, putting his hands on her lovely body; he knew enough by now that he could use his hands, and his mouth, to bring her pleasure, to make her tremble and cry out and dig her fingers into his shoulders and back, wanting more...

And therein, of course, lay the problem. All that he could do wasn't enough. He sighed and said it aloud.

"No," she agreed softly. "It's not. I think it never will be."

"I'm trying," he said. "Gods, Sheba, I'm trying—"

She put her fingers on his lips. "I know. I know you are."

He closed his eyes. "I'm sorry," he said.

"It's not your fault."

He opened his eyes again, looked hard at her. "It's not yours," he insisted.

"It's no one's," she agreed. "Except perhaps..."

When she didn't finish, he was glad. Bad enough to face the truth about this without going... where they might go. Where he couldn't. "I wish..." And now he couldn't finish.

"So do I," she said, a hint of smiling in her wistful voice. "I thought... Well." She shrugged; her breasts lifted and fell with the motions of her shoulders. He saw the beauty but that was all. "It doesn't matter now. It's not working. And it's over."

He'd feared that was what she was going to say. "Sheba, please. Give me more time. I want this to work out. Please?"

She sighed, biting her lip and closing her eyes. "Oh, Pollo," she said softly. "How much longer will you do this to yourself? It's not happening. You don't want me."

"I do," he protested.

"You want to," she nodded. "I know that's true. I know you're fond of me, you want to love me. But you don't. And I can't do this any more."

Apollo closed his eyes again, just for a moment; he couldn't bear the look in hers. He remembered the first time they'd gone to bed... They had kissed many times before and it had been enjoyable. Kissing wasn't new to him, and it had always been enjoyable. Or nearly. The time Sheba had kissed him goodbye, when he and Starbuck were going off to infiltrate the base star and get themselves killed, that had been sad. Soul-wrenchingly sad, the sorrow in her dark eyes... he'd known then how much she loved him and that if he came back he had to marry her. And he had, and he'd asked her, and she'd said yes. And then she'd thought they'd finally make love.

And that was new, but he'd read the books, had the obligatory courses, knew the mechanics, Tab A into Slot A... And gods how he'd wanted the fire, the passion the novels and the songs and the vids all promised. That the look in Sheba's eyes had promised...

He supposed now it was a good thing he hadn't told her he thought they should wait for their Sealing Night, like he and Serina had done (Serina whom he'd never slept with, and how would she have felt if he'd been like this with her, fierce and possessive Serina?). Sheba could leave him now and people might talk a little, wonder why, but if they'd been Sealed it would have crippled her life. She didn't deserve that.

He remembered how startled she'd been to find she was his first. He'd been ready to be defensive: morals weren't that rare, after all, and then he realized she'd been thinking of his wife. Not there when he married, to know how brutally quickly the Universe took Serina from him and Boxey, leaving them only each other for their cold comfort... And he'd never forget her arm around his back as he castigated himself for his failure, her gentle kiss on his cheek, her soft voice: "Come on, don't take on so. You'll get better. Were you perfect at everything the first time you tried it before now?"

"This is supposed to be natural," he'd said.

"Oh, pooh. I'll bet you fell on your gorgeous butt a dozen times before you took your first step. And didn't you run at the academy? Isn't running natural? And didn't you have a coach and trainers and practice all the damned time? You'll see. You'll get better."

And he had, in some ways. But in others...

"I'm sorry," he said again. It was inadequate but it was all he had.

"I know," she said, squeezing his hand. "But it's no good, Pollo, and it's not going to get better. And you know it. And I can't do this any more."

"I don't want you to leave," he said. "I need you." And that was unfair but he said it again anyway. "I need you, Sheba. Don't leave me."

She sighed, and he thought he saw a tear. "All right, Pollo," she said softly. "Let's try something."

"What?" He'd try anything she wanted.

"Come here—no, just sit up and let me hold you like this." She sat sideways behind him, her arms around his shoulders pulling him back against her and her knee on his hip. "Close your eyes and just sit here." She moved one hand up onto his throat, pulling his head back against hers and stroking him a couple of times. "Just relax. Think of a happy place. Somewhere warm and cozy, somewhere nothing bad ever happened... Where are you?"

It was odd; this was the kind of thing he resisted usually, but now in his need he tried hard to do as he was told, and he could actually see the red-tiled walls and dark floor of the kitchen on Naiacap, where the local cook had always had time and snacks and open arms for him when the babies were taking up his mother's time and his father was gone... "I'm—" he started.

"No, you don't have to tell me," she said. "Just be there. Just relax and be there and feel it." After a few moments, she said, "Is there a door?"

He nodded. A heavy door to the outside, for the winter storms. And a lighter door to the hallway to the main house, from the days when the kitchen had been its own building. Part of its value as a sanctuary, he realized, was that it was apart.

"You're waiting for someone," she said, her voice gentle. "Someone you love, someone you've been away from, someone you miss. But they're coming today, soon. In fact, the door is opening now. Sunlight is spilling in, as warm and golden as honey. Can you see it?"

He nodded. Her hand threaded through his hair and she rested her cheek against his. "Can you see him?" she asked.

And so convincing was the spell she'd been weaving that he could. And so lost in it was he he didn't realize what she'd said until too late. "I see him," he said, and then he heard himself, and bolted upright.

"You see?" she said, and he did. Especially that his treacherous body, that wouldn't react to her unless she coaxed it, had reacted to just the thought of him. "It's no good. You're in love with someone else, and it's not even another woman, and that's a positive screen I just won't beat my head against. It hurts too much and it doesn't even get you anywhere. I'm sorry, Pollo," she leaned forward and kissed his rigid shoulder. "I just can't. I just can't."

He found his voice at last. "Please, Sheba..."

"Pollo, you should tell him—"

"No!" That was savagely quick. He felt her startle back from him and tried to gentle his tone. "No. I can't. I can't ever."

"Poor Pollo. I think you should, but if you won't... But I can't stay."

"Please, Sheba." He turned to look at her and was appalled to see tears on her face.

"No," she said firmly. "I'm sorry. I love you still, but it wouldn't last. Love turns to hate, not indifference. You'll have to find someone else. I just can't."

"Sheba, I'm so sorry. I tried, you have to believe me."

"I know you did," she said. "You tried so hard it was painful to watch." She hugged him, quite unexpectedly; he felt her softness against him, that rounded body that was wrapped around such strength, and wished—no, prayed—he wanted her. But it was no more use now than it had ever been. "Goodbye, Apollo," she said, sliding out of the bed and grabbing her clothes. "Don't destroy yourself over this. You're such a good man, yes," she intercepted his expression and insisted, "you are good. And worth being loved. But you need someone you can love back. Really love. And that's not me." She turned to leave the room, and then turned back, slim and pale and, he knew it intellectually, beautiful in the dim light. "I wish it was."

And then she was gone.

Part Two

After she'd pulled her clothes on and herself together in Apollo's front room, Sheba went back to the barracks. She felt sad, no question about it, and she kept wiping tears from her cheeks, grateful that most of the hallways she had to traverse between Married Officers' country and the Bachelor Officers' Quarters were empty, but at the same time she felt a sense of possibility, something that had been missing for sectares now. She knew she'd grieve for what she'd wanted with Apollo, but she'd never really had it, after all. It had been illusion, so the loss wasn't real, either. Illusions were lovely, but you couldn't hold them... She'd get over it.

Especially if she didn't sit around and mope over it. "Get up and do, Sheba," she said to herself in an empty turbolift. "Just get up and do."

Boomer, she thought to herself as she walked down the hallway. He'd been crossing her mind lately while she wrestled with her Apollo dilemma, and now she mentally reached out and took his arm and stopped him, the better to appraise him. He was smart, attractive, brave, funny, steady... all the things Apollo was, if not as much so some of them. Plus, he was interested. He hadn't said anything—wouldn't while Apollo was involved—but she could tell. He'd even shown off in front of her once or twice. For her... Boomer.

She wasn't sure if she felt like laughing or crying as she came up to the BOQ, but she did know she didn't want to be alone while she did whichever it turned out to be. So she went in the far door, the one next to the lounge. She could hear the sound of a card game in progress; given the 24/8 nature of the job, she reflected, you could probably always find one going on. She paused in the hallway near the lounge door. Bojay was almost certainly in the game, sitting back and nursing his one grog (after two years at Gamoray the Pegasus pilots had gotten out of the habit of drink, alcohol not being a Cylon vice. Or virtue: Bojay was fond of a quote that ran Grog is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.) and, one ear cocked to the door, waiting for her. Like an older brother, she supposed. Maybe a slightly kinky one, but they hadn't slept together in yahrens and they'd gotten over the awkwardness sex can put between friends to become close. More than close: tight, and moreso than anyone else she'd ever had. He looked out for her, and she let him, and she didn't know what she'd do if she ever lost him.

A speculative thought crossed her mind and she let it grow while she leaned against the wall and waited for him to finish the hand and come out to check on her. Maybe there was something she could do...

Just over a sectare ago she'd made sure Apollo and Starbuck were both otherwise engaged and then she'd dragged Bojay and six bottles of grog up to the Celestial Dome. They'd sat, looked at the stars, drank, and talked, and later they'd lain on the floor, heads side by side and each other's right shoulders comfortable underneath. After a while Bojay, probably closer to drunk than was good for him, had asked how was her love life. She had been probably even closer than he, massing so much less, and she'd told him.

After a brief silence, he'd moved his hand up to touch her cheek gently. "It'll get better," he'd said finally.

Well, it hadn't. But she would move on, so it would. But at the time she'd agreed and then asked about his, and he'd laughed a little and said he was hanging in there. Sooner or later, he'd said, Bucko had to move on; he always did, it was hardwired... and then Bojay had sighed and said, "Though I think... maybe... he's taken a couple of hard hits to the heart. He might be settling this time."

She'd asked him what he meant; the tone of his voice was enough to alert her to the importance of it. He'd answered, as if only just realizing what he'd said, "Sorry, sweetheart; it's not mine to tell. It's just, I don't know but that you're better off than me." And then he'd turned the talk to something else.

She thought about that now, because she knew, of course, what was underneath it: Bojay and Cassie. How tangled and complicated life is, she'd thought before. Before he'd even met Cassie, Bojay had tried mightily to make Sheba see how self-destructive her hatred was. And then she'd realized that Cassie didn't only want her father's money, and then they'd both lost him... And —o gods she still had nightmares about it—Cassie had saved Bojay's life on Gamoray, saving Sheba's too. And then, Apollo began courting her, and Cassie went back to Starbuck, and Sheba realized that Bojay had fallen for the blonde medtech himself.

Sheba had experienced a brief but painful period of wondering why all the men she loved wanted that little tramp, and then she'd gotten over it, choosing instead to believe that there had to be more to Cassie than met the eye because the men she loved loved her. But Cassie wanted Starbuck, and Bojay couldn't compete. Wouldn't compete, at any rate. But now... Sheba turned the situation over in her mind. Not such a complicated knot after all. One little pull on the right piece of string, and vot-vot, as her mother had said. There you are.

The door opened from the lounge and Bojay came out. "You're early tonight," he said, trying to keep the concern out of his voice. Then he got a good look at her and stopped trying, brushing his fingers along her cheek. "Hey, what's this?"

She leaned into him, feeling the warm strength of him, and sighed. "We broke up."

"Oh, sweetheart, I'm so sorry."

She looked up at him and watched as his hazel eyes changed from concerned to confused.

"But you're looking very felix-in-the-creamery," he said finally. "What's up, girl?"

She didn't take his head off for the term—he was allowed to use it—and smiled. "Come on and I'll tell you," she said, taking his hand and tugging.

"Where are we going?" he asked, coming.

"The Rising Star."

"Mind if I ask why?" he said, willing to go blindly if she wanted.

"Because I broke up with Apollo," she said, pretending it was obvious.

It backfired on her. "Poor bastard," he said but he stopped walking.

She tugged but he didn't budge.

"Sheba," he said, closing his hand over hers, "you don't want to go over there and cause trouble. You'll be sorry later; let's go to the O Club."

"I'm not. But somebody needs to look after Apollo." She tugged on him again but he still wasn't budging.

"No arguments. But he won't want me there."

"Who?" Then she caught on. "No, Apollo's not there. He's here, in his quarters."

"Then why are we going there?" he asked, but he was walking again.

"Starbuck's over there," she said, "and he needs to be here."

Bojay didn't comment, but he was close enough to Starbuck to know the truth. In fact, it was he who'd told her on another night of probably too much to drink, back on the Pegasus... Then it sank in and he broke stride. "You broke up with Apollo over Starbuck? Apollo..?"

"Yes," she said, and damned if she didn't sniffle.

Bojay slung his arm around her shoulder and pulled her in to him. "I'm sorry, sweetheart."

"Better now than later," she said defiantly. "Anyway, I need to send Starbuck to look after him. He shouldn't be alone."

Bojay's interest in Apollo had never been great except as Sheba's lover. Now it had dropped to about minimal, she could tell. He said, "Okay, I see that. But couldn't you tell him?"

"I could. I can. I will... but somebody will have to take care of Cassie."

He was quiet for a couple of strides, and then looked down at her, tightening his embrace a little. "But what about you, sweetheart?"

"I'm okay," she insisted. "I'm a little sad, but it's not like I lost him, Boj. I never had him."

"You thought you did."

"I know. It does hurt... but I have to move on, sweetie. And I can't do that if I'm worried about him."

"If you need a shoulder," he said.

She leaned against the one he'd pulled her against and said, "I know where to find one. But come on, now, please? I am worried about him."

"Okay," he surrendered and they walked to the shuttle bay in comfortable silence.

On the Star they spotted the two gorgeous golden creatures in the second restaurant they tried.

"Have you a reservation, Lieutenant?" The headwaiter eyed Sheba's slight dishevelment with disapproval.

"No, but we're with Starbuck," Bojay replied glibly and ducked past.

Neither Starbuck nor Cassie looked particularly thrilled to see them. Starbuck eyed Sheba with a look that asked where was Apollo, and Cassie wore the expression of a woman who sees her evening going up in smoke.

Sheba ignored both looks and said, "Starbuck, I am so glad I found you."

"You were looking for me?" he asked, abruptly worried.

"Absolutely," she said. "Excuse us a minute, Cassie; Starbuck, come here." She pulled him to the side. "Apollo needs you."

His eyes blazed worry. "What? Why? What happ—" he broke off, glaring at Bojay, who was making harmless conversation with Cassie.

She tugged him around to look at her and said, "Yes, I broke up with him but not for Bojay. He's got nothing to do with it. I'm just not going to date someone, let alone Seal with him, when he wants someone else, passionately."

"What do you mean?" Starbuck had gone all unreadable.

"You know exactly what I mean, or you're denser than I think. Go take care of him before he does something stupid."

Alarm flashed in those bright eyes, and then he paused, looking over his shoulder. She liked him much better for it. "Don't worry about her," she said. "That's what I brought Bojay for. Just go."

He smiled then. "I'll get the tab when I leave. Look, Sheba... thanks. You know, I kind of, well—"

"I know. Normal if unnecessary. Go on."

He did.

Sheba watched him a minute, wishing, and then shook herself and rejoined Cassie and Bojay.

"Was that my date who just took off out of here as though the Hounds of Hades had just found out where he was?"

"Yes, it was," Sheba said. "Sorry, but Apollo needs him."

Cassie sighed. "Story of his life," she said. "Don't suppose he thought about the tab." She opened her bag.

"Actually," Sheba was glad to be able to say, "he said he'd pay it on his way out. He's not completely thoughtless."

"No. He's a lovely man," said Cassie. "He's just not mine. At all, is he?"


Cassie sighed. "I knew I'd never hang on to him. I'm not even sure why I tried. Oh, well. At least our last meal was good."

"And I'll be glad to take you home," Bojay said.

She glanced between the two of them. "I don't want to break up your evening."

"You're not," said Sheba. "I only let him come along 'cause he was worried about you."

"Really?" Cassie looked at Bojay speculatively.

"Yes," he said, happy enough to turn dragged into let. Sheba hid a grin and silently wished them happy. "May I?"

Cassie smiled at him, the kind of smile Sheba knew from the inside. "You may," she said, "but if truth be told, I'm not ready to go home just yet. Join me for drinks and dessert? Both of you," she added in a palpable afterthought.

"I will," Bojay said, sliding into the seat Starbuck had vacated.

"But I have something else to do," said Sheba. She met Bojay's worried gaze with a nod and he said, silently, that she should remember where he lived. She nodded at him again, said goodnight to Cassie, and left the restaurant, pausing only to ask the headwaiter, "I don't suppose you've seen Lieutenant Boomer tonight?"

Part Three

The door opened; Apollo heard it but he couldn't muster the energy to move. Or perhaps it was the interest. Boxey was staying over at a friend's and he wouldn't come in this late even if he'd gotten very homesick, which he wasn't likely to do. It might be his sister or his father... he waited where he was, in the dark, until they announced themselves. Or proved to be a burglar, who might just put him out of his misery and solve all his problems.

Then the door to his sleeping room opened, and he nearly did die. Just like Sheba's little trap: warm light spilling in over Starbuck's shoulders, turning his hair golden, emphasizing the shape of him... "Apollo?" Starbuck's face might be in shadow but the concern in his voice was plain as high noon. And as deadly as a solar flare.

"Go away, Starbuck."

"Why? So you can sit here in the dark brooding? Lights," he added.

"Off," Apollo said immediately, generating only a quick flicker of illumination. Which was, of course, enough for Starbuck's eyes, sharp as a wild creature's, to see more than he needed to: crumpled sheets, signs of two in the bed, Apollo naked and tear-stained. "Go away, Starbuck," he said again.

"Not just yet," Starbuck said after a moment. He walked towards the bed, and Apollo instinctively raised his knees and wrapped his arms around them. He didn't trust the blanket to hide his body's repeat treachery, and Starbuck could never see that, must never know. The blond paused for a couple of microns, and then sat, carefully, on the foot of the bed. "I got kind of worried about you," he said gently. "Sheba told me she'd broken up with you."

Apollo stiffened. Sheba... what had she told Starbuck? "Yeah," he said. "I'll survive it."

"I'm sure you will," Starbuck said. "But I want to help."

"You can't help."

"Why not?" Starbuck looked at him closely. "Sheba told me she broke up with you because you were... are... in love with someone else."

Apollo couldn't think of a thing to say to that.

"Look, Apollo," Starbuck said, sounding tentative, "I know this may not be the best time in the worlds for this conversation, 'cause you've just lost Sheba and I know you did want to Seal with her and I can tell you're upset. But..."

"You're right. It's not. Please go away, Starbuck." And definitely please don't move another millimetron closer on this bed.

"But I waited too damn long the last time and look what happened."

Apollo froze. What did Starbuck mean? He couldn't mean... That wasn't possible.

"Are you in love with someone besides Sheba, Apollo?"

Apollo felt pinned to the bed by that voice. He'd never heard Starbuck sound like that before. Starbuck was brash, confident, sure of himself always. This voice in the darkness was tentative, almost hesitant. He couldn't find his own voice.

"Who are you in love with, Apollo?" Starbuck's voice had gotten softer, but to make up for it he'd moved closer.

"Please... go away now, Starbuck," Apollo said, putting his head down on his knees so he didn't have to look at the friend he was so close to losing... the man he wanted instead of his promised bride.

"Apollo?" Starbuck said, and then his hand, so very gently, touched Apollo's tangled hair.

Apollo jerked away from the touch as if he'd been burned. He felt like he had. "Starbuck, for the love of God, please. Go away now."

"I love you more than I love God."

Apollo raised his head and stared. Starbuck sounded perfectly sincere. He had to have heard that wrong. "You what?"

"I love you more than I love God. Okay, I know that's not such a big deal, not from me, but it's true. I love you more than anything. God. The Universe. The human race. Life... I love you, Apollo."

"You can't mean that."

"I do. Who do you love? If it's not me, I'll leave. I promise: I've left before. But if it is... let me stay."

Apollo shuddered. His soul, cold and alone, was yearning for Starbuck like a plant for sunlight. But he couldn't. "Starbuck, please. Go away before it's too late. Before I..."

"Before you what?" Starbuck said when Apollo didn't seem able to finish it. "Love me? I want you to. I want to love you. I already do."

"But it's wrong. I shouldn't," Apollo said, finally admitting it out loud. "I shouldn't."

"But you do? Oh, gods, Apollo..." Starbuck's voice was hushed.

"It's not natural," Apollo said, one last feeble attempt.

Starbuck laughed. The sound was so pure, so alive, so quintessentially Starbuck it took Apollo's breath. "Not natural? Of course it's natural... ask Boomer."


"Sure. One of his bazillion cousins raised ovines. He told me once about a summer he spent on the farm, how they turn the rammets out into the flocks of yowes. They put dye on their chests, a different color on each rammet, to mark which ones breed successfully. You know, Mr. Green's yowes never got pregnant, Mr. Green turns into supper... and look at Mr. Red. He jumps the boys, not the yowes... I'm serious, Apollo. Boomer said one rammet in a dozen is flit. That sounds pretty natural to me, even if they turn into supper, too."

"But..." Apollo stared into the blue eyes so close to his he could actually see their color even in the dimness, not just remember it. "It's evil," he whispered and dropped his gaze.

And felt Starbuck's hand on his chin raising his head. "Is it? Are you? Am I?"

"No," Apollo said. "Not you... never you."


Apollo looked at him, almost shedding light as he sat there, certainly giving off warmth and love. "Starbuck. Can I..."

"What?" Starbuck said gently.

"Kiss you?"

"Of course." And Starbuck closed his eyes and parted his lips and waited.

Apollo took a deep breath and then leaned forward. Starbuck's lips were warm and yielding under his, even though he barely touched them. And gods, there was the fire, leaping inside him at no more than this, just a gentle touch of lips. Starbuck's mouth opened under pressure he wasn't aware of applying until it happened, and he gave in to the temptation, letting his tongue slip inside. Starbuck made a soft sound and Apollo froze, and then recognized it as pleasure, and the fire leapt higher. He kissed harder, feeling Starbuck leaning into him, and he slid his hands into the thick, soft hair, pulling the other man even closer.

Starbuck seemed to take that as permission to move, and Apollo felt his hands warm on his face, and then sliding down to his shoulders. His own hand was clutching Starbuck's tunic; he turned loose and took hold of Starbuck's shoulders instead. Oh, gods, here was the fire, here was the passion, here was every song he'd ever heard. Just a kiss.

His fingers found the fastenings at Starbuck's shoulder and met the slickness of a pressure suit. Starbuck pulled away, catching his hand. "You sure you want to go this fast?" he asked.

"I'm sure. Don't you?"

"It's just... you don't, you know. On the first date."

Apollo heard himself laughing, his head resting on Starbuck's shoulder. "In a way, we've been dating for yahrens, haven't we?"

Starbuck's voice warmed with amusement. "In a way... But look: you wait right here. Don't move." He pulled away and disappeared into the turboflush.

Apollo waited, a mix of impatience and sudden nervousness. When Starbuck was there, it was all right... He swallowed, trying to push away the fear. And then Starbuck came out, still wearing his trousers though he was carrying his tunic, pressure suit, and boots, all of which he dropped on the floor before kneeling on the bed beside Apollo. "No hurry," he said. "We've got forever."

He'd left the door open and the light spilled over his body. Apollo stared at it as if he had never seen it before, instead of centurons of times in locker rooms and showers and shared barracks spaces. He was beautiful. Not beautiful like Sheba, or a nebula, or sunset on Naiacap: this was the beautiful they talked about in books, the kind that grabbed your insides and wouldn't let go. He reached out a trembling hand and tentatively touched Starbuck's bare shoulder.

"Gods," he whispered, "oh, gods, Starbuck. You are so beautiful."

"I won't break," Starbuck said, putting his hand on top of Apollo's.

"You might. You look so... exquisite."

Starbuck laughed softly. "You usually tell me I'm carrying some extra weight."

"I don't know where," Apollo said. "You're perfect." And he leaned forward and kissed him again.

And this time Starbuck put his arms around him and pulled him close, and when Apollo had to breathe Starbuck drifted his lips and tongue along Apollo's throat and nibbled gently at his ear, and Apollo heard himself say, "Oh, gods; it's working."

And Starbuck said, "What is, love?"

"We are," said Apollo.

"Oh, yes," Starbuck agreed, his breath warm on Apollo's skin. "Because we were meant to be."

"Were we?" Apollo asked, pulling away a little though not letting go. "Were we really, do you think?"

"Of course we were," Starbuck said, laying his hand on Apollo's face and rubbing his thumb gently along his cheekbone. "From before the beginning of time, we were meant. Look how we fit. Look how our souls knew. Look how I love you."

Apollo closed his eyes and leaned, into that hand, into that warmth, into that love.

Into that home.

the end


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