...And A Time For Sleep


Starbuck's asleep.

How many times have I sat up, watching him sleep? The Lords of Kobol have counted them, perhaps. I haven't. I've been too busy memorizing them to count them, and failing to keep each time separated from the others... some few stand out and others just run together into one long time of watching Starbuck sleep. Always ready to come up with an excuse if he woke suddenly, to feign sleep if he showed signs of waking slowly, to be busy with something, anything at all, if he'd dropped off unexpectedly and woke again the same way. Those naps he'd take after long nights back when we were young... I could never wake him. I always let him sleep.

How many times? I suppose I could guess. How long had I known him? A dozen yahrens? That seems right... no. Thirteen, going fourteen. Thirty, almost thirty one, and I was seventeen when we met. He was sixteen. I think. He thinks. Who knows? God--and He's not telling, as Starbuck used to say. It's hard to remember how long. When I met him, it was as if I'd always known him. Was waiting to meet him, had met him before I was born... sometimes I catch myself turning to ask him if he remembers that summer we spent on Naiacap, when it rained every day but the ocean was so warm we didn't care, and the flowers bloomed like fever dreams and filled the whole island with scent and the lizards were like jewels in the trees, and what was the old man's name who told us the stories of the spirits of the springs, and then I remember, and it's always a surprise, that he wasn't there, that that was me and 'Theni and not him, that it was yahrens yet before I met him.

It always seems as if he was there. Always there. Like a stone thrown into a pool that sends ripples in all directions, Starbuck is in my memories before as well as after he actually arrived... exactly as if I had no life without him in it.

How many yahrens did it take me to understand what I felt for him? Much too long. I used to watch him sleeping with an inchoate longing, a formless unthinkable desire--not one I didn't want to think, but one that I truly couldn't think. I never heard my father condemn the love of a man for a man, but also I never heard him mention it. I didn't think it was possible... as you don't wonder if you might fall in love with, oh, the wind. A star. I thought I loved him like I did 'Theni. Like I did Zac. Like I did Boomer. Like a friend, like a brother. That I watched him for the pure pleasure of something beautiful. At night in our dormer room, relaxed as he never was awake, that always-present edge of wariness sloughed off... in my presence, only in mine, and how that warmed me, and how I told myself that pleasure, that trust, is why I watched him. Or when he slipped into a dream in the warm sun, like a felix grabbing for a little extra comfort, and pleasuring the eye the same way, sleek and graceful and golden in the sunlight.

When I began to understand it, I feared it. I didn't want to let him know--how could I live if he were gone? How could he stay if he knew what I wanted? Not that I knew exactly what I wanted, myself, but I knew I wanted to touch him. I knew I wanted to wake him. And I knew he'd leave if I shattered that trust. And this desire, this sickness inside of me would shatter his trust. How could he sleep in my presence knowing what I wanted?

That's when I started watching him sleep knowing that if he ever caught me, it would be the end. Of our friendship. Of my life. That's when watching him--in the barracks, on away missions, in shared hotel rooms on leaves, by alien oceans under strange suns--became a secret. I always had a book with me, and while he slept I'd sit with it open on my knee and never read a word unless someone else came, or he stirred and woke. The greatest novel ever written couldn't compare to learning over again the way his hair moves in the breeze, the shape of his shoulders against sheets, the secrets of his golden body catching moonlight and shadows.

Mind, I watched him when he was awake. But awake, even if no one else could see it written all over me, what I wanted, even if we were alone somewhere, it's not as good. Oh, awake he's beautiful, of course, awake he can take my breath so completely I feel as if I'll die if I don't look away. But awake he notices things. Awake he can read me if I don't hide from him behind my father's heritage. And awake he's like quicksilver, or the wind, or a song half-remembered. Asleep he's there. Asleep you can fool yourself into thinking you can hold him. Starbuck was always in and out of people's lives like... well, like the wind. Like starlight. There, not there, gone just as you've gotten used to it. Just as you realize you need it forever. Just as you know you can't possibly have it. Like a wild avian, just out of reach, or like the White Stag from the old tales, on the edge of your sight, teasing you to follow, leaving you lost when you try to hunt him down. Only when he's asleep does it seem possible to catch him, make him yours... But if you tried, he'd wake. If I tried, he'd wake. And leave. And I would be lost, wandering in the darkness forever.

When did it all change? That's an easy one. When he was lost to us. Dead. Killed by Cylons. And my life was over, too. I was dead, too. No one knew it, then. I still breathed. I still walked. I still talked. But I was made of ashes and unshed tears, not flesh and blood. The air I breathed was bitter. The thoughts I had were black. The dreams I had were worse. I married. Before his death I'd hidden from him, from myself, in her. She wanted me, and I saw her as a safe place to conceal my self from the eyes of the world. From his eyes. Now she pushed and I went, a thing of no volition, no life, no wants or needs or hopes. What did it matter what happened to the undead, unliving body? My soul was hunting his.

That's when I knew there was no wrong in what I'd felt. That even if he didn't want me the same way, what had been between us was love. And love is always from the gods. Diabolus can't create it.

And I knew, too, that Starbuck had loved me, perhaps as I loved Zac not as I loved him, but how could I have never seen that with all the lives he slipped through, searching for whatever it was he needed and couldn't find, he stayed in mine? Thirteen yahrens he stayed in mine. Thirteen sectons was a record for him with anyone else...

And I knew that I couldn't live without him.

And he knew it too. And he came back. Came back from death's own kingdom to save me.

I never wanted her to die. With him back, even marriage to her was suddenly good, as everything was good. But she did die.

And I knew it was my fault, somehow, for marrying when my heart was gone with someone else. When my soul wasn't even in the vicinity of my body any more. When I didn't love her.

It was Starbuck who told me I was wrong. Starbuck who told me her death was not on my hands, any more than the billions of others who had died in this war, this war that was thirty times as old as I am.

And it was Starbuck who held me that night when I finally slept, for the first time since he had gone.

When I woke, he'd fallen asleep. And this time when I watched him, I understood. Myself. My love. My dreams and needs. And I still wanted to touch him, to wake him, to make him mine, but now I knew I didn't have to. And most of all, I didn't have to fear wanting to. That what I had was enough. That enough is as good as a feast.

And watching him, easy in myself for the first time in nine yahrens or more, I didn't see him wake. Didn't see him watching me watching him until it was too late to hide from him.

And so I learned another truth: that he didn't want me to hide from him.

His lips weren't the first lips I've ever kissed, though they'll be the last, but his body was the first to show mine how to love. He learned my secrets and he showed me his, and I thought I'd die from him. Then I knew I'd live from him. Just the glory of him, in my bed, in my arms, in my body. In my soul.

In my life. Forever and forever.

So now's he sleeping. And I'm watching him. The yahrens since that first night have only made the sight of him more dear. The faint scars on his once flawless body point the reminder of the number of times Death has tried to part us--of the promise we made each other before God and the people assembled to witness, till death us do part--and the number of times It has failed.

Someday It won't fail. I pray to die first; I've thought him dead and know I couldn't go on without him. I pray most that we go together, in each other's arms, asleep.

I reach out and run my fingers through his hair, silver now with more than moonlight. He stirs, turns over and those eyes, as blue tonight as they were in our youth, open and look at me looking at him. He smiles.

"Come to sleep, Apollo," he says.

I will.

There is a time for many words and a time for sleep. -- Homer

the end


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