Note/pseudo-warning: For those of you who have not seen my recent work in other fandoms, I'm doing these 'non-het' canon AUs in all my fan writing. I've simply gotten tired of trying to come up with reasons to keep Our Heroes (whoever they might be) out of each other's beds at least enough to allow the het encounters detailed in the series/movie/whatever.

Note on the Academy: A secondary source (Encyclopedia Galactica.) states the course of study is 7 yahrens long, but the show never said one way or the other and many things in this source are contradicted. I have chosen to set Academy study at the normal college time of 4 yahrens, but without long summer breaks, as there is a war on. In one of my more contradictory moments, I did adopt as canon notations in the same source about Apollo which said he graduated from the Academy two yahrens prior to Starbuck, but that he stayed on as a viper instructor prior to being transferred to the Galactica. Boomer is listed as graduating the same year as Starbuck (2 yahrens after Apollo) even though Starbuck is older than both Boomer and Apollo.

A Note on Time: After some debate with myself, I have decided to use the measures of time given in the show. There was some inconsistency in their use, but I'm taking the most common interpretations. However, from what I can tell, either the word 'day' or 'month' is missing from the BG vocabulary.

Because a centare (hour) is longer than a centon (minute), I have opted to see the 'are' ending as a sign of greater time than 'on' and make a sectare a month, as there seems to be general agreement that a secton is a week. I'm going to use 'day' for day.

Ambushed By A Pair Of Green Eyes

By Anne Higgins (



Strike Captain Apollo stalked through the corridors of the Galactica. He should have been in the landing bay preparing to launch his viper, but his wingman hadn't seen fit to met him in the duty office as planned.

Apollo wasn't worried -- Starbuck had a habit of being late -- but he was irritated. Too irritated. He had to calm down or he'd take out all his worry about the armistice on Starbuck. It wasn't his husband's fault the majority of the Council of the Twelve had opted to trust the Cylons when every fiber of Apollo's being screamed it was a mistake. Starbuck even agreed with him, although his doubts weren't nearly as strong as Apollo's.

Despite the fast approaching launch deadline, Apollo slowed his steps, forcing himself to relax as he eased back on his speed. It was a routine patrol -- even if it was technically the last patrol anyone would ever have to fly during a state of war. A thousand yahrens of war coming to an end today. If nothing went wrong. His stomach churned, not for the first time in the sectares since the Cylons had sued for peace.

Like Commander Adama, Apollo could not bring himself to believe what generation after generation of humans had dreamed of was about to happen. Of course, many had not taken his doubts seriously. He might be the leader of the illustrious Blue Squadron and strike commander of all the Galactica's viper squadrons, but he was also Adama's son. Despite his service record, his concerns were dismissed as the son supporting the father. Ironic since Apollo suspected he felt uneasier about this than Adama. If that were possible.

'Balance of the universe, my love,' Starbuck had told him. 'Times like this keep you from getting too comfortable about being Adama's kid.' Apollo had laughed -- one of the few times he had since all of this began -- and Starbuck had looked very pleased with himself. Comfortable being Adama's son, now there was a very unlikely concept.

Apollo adored his father and knew his father loved him dearly, but Adama cast a long shadow. Commander of the Galactica and Caprica's representative on the Council of the Twelve, Adama managed the feat of being a living legend with great poise and dignity. Others would say Apollo handled his status as eldest son with equal ease, but underneath it all was a quiet sense of anxiety about ever measuring up and an acute sense of embarrassment about all the fuss paid to him. According to the vids, there wasn't a teenager on all of Caprica who didn't go into deep mourning when he or she found out he was married. Of course, Apollo didn't believe that for centon. He figured all the teenage angst really hit when a hormone-crazed kid got a look at Starbuck and realized *he* was off the market, too.

Reflecting on the ridiculousness of his life did what deliberate effort had failed to do, and Apollo approached the door to his quarters calmly instead of spoiling for a shouting match.

The sweet, earthy smell of Starbuck's favorite brand of fumarello greeted him when he entered, making it a simple matter to track his missing husband to their bedroom. There he found Starbuck half-dressed and in the middle of an awkward pause in some conversation with Apollo's younger brother.

Giving Starbuck a look which clearly said he was fortunate Apollo was not a jealous man, he asked, "Hey, Starbuck, what are you doing? We're going on patrol."

"Ahh. ..." came the less than articulate answer. A very good thing he wasn't a jealous man. After all, Zac was very handsome and a lot more fun to spend time with than his uptight oldest sibling.

Zac jumped into the fray, "He can't make it. Starbuck's not feeling well."

"Oh?" His brief flash of concern vanished as his normally glib husband stumbled around any sort of coherent sentence. Adding this to the squirming Zac was doing, Apollo came up with an answer almost as unlikely as Starbuck having an affair with Zac. But it did seem to be the only logical explanation, so he opted to play along.

"Well, that's kind of short notice," he said, watching his brother out of the corner of his eye. "I mean with everybody not wanting to go on this patrol. Everybody wants to celebrate the armistice. I wonder who I'll be able to find." Definitely, the right answer. He might have been upset about it if his brother weren't doing such an anxious little dance. Instead it made him want to smile. "Yes, Zac? You have a suggestion?"

"Ah, come on, " Zac pleaded. "I mean I've studied the coordinates from here to the Cylon capital. My ship's read to go!"

Apollo fought a grin with limited success. "Well, that's lucky, isn't it, Starbuck?"

"Yeah, that's a real stroke of luck."

He couldn't tell anything from his husband's tone, so he looked at Zac again. "Well, I guess you're just going to have to pull Starbuck's patrol with me."

Zac whooped for joy, then ran for the door as if he were afraid Apollo would change his mind if he lingered for a single micron. Watching his flight, Apollo chuckled, then turned to share his amusement with Starbuck, but found himself staring at his husband's back. A very angry looking back. "Oh, now, that's not fair," he blurted out. "How was I supposed to know you wanted me to say no?"

Starbuck deigned to look at him. "Am I ever happy when you fly with anyone else?"

Lords, save him. "No," he admitted. "But Zac's my little brother." He didn't say the rest because it was silly. They both knew as much. It didn't change how they felt, but saying 'he's not someone I want to have sex with' gave their ... quirk far too much reality.

Starbuck's stony expression did not ease up, but his arms went around Apollo, pulling him close to his bare chest. "He's inexperienced," he murmured into Apollo's ear. "He can't protect you."

Apollo's head started to spin. Ten yahrens. They'd been married for 10 yahrens. They should be growing bored with each other, thinking about getting unsealed, but he still loved and wanted Starbuck with every fiber of his being. "I'll be fine," he answered. "It's a simple patrol. The only source of danger is signing a peace treaty while we're on it."

"Don't," Starbuck hissed, his breath a warm caress against Apollo's temple. "Don't try to soothe me with something you don't believe."

"But I'm a fool. Ask anyone." The lovely bare torso called to him, and he caressed the nearest shoulder with his lips. "Go to the officer's club, love. Drink, blow a secton's worth of our pay at pyramid, enjoy yourself. When I get back we can celebrate my foolishness in private."

He held his breath and hoped. If Starbuck insisted, he'd tell Zac he'd changed his mind, but he hated the thought of hurting his brother.

Starbuck sighed. "All right. I guess I deserve this. I know you're no better at telling him no than I am, but I tried to make you do the dirty work."

A finger under Apollo's chin gently raised his head up, then Starbuck kissed him. A soft, loving touch which quickly deepened. No, no, no, no. Apollo groaned, and Starbuck's hands cupped his ass, pulling him hard against his very aroused husband. Possession and passion, not love. He should object, but it was how it all started, and it didn't surprise him when he found himself on the bed, Starbuck on top of him.

He groaned again. "I have to leave," he protested, but did nothing to escape Starbuck's embrace.

"So you do." Starbuck's hand closed around the tube of lube on the nightstand. "I'll make it quick."

"Thanks," he muttered dryly, but his heart was pounding at the thought. Hard and fast. Just the thing to take their minds off the craziness they'd have to endure during the next few centares.

Starbuck stood on the observation deck and watched his least favorite sight B Apollo's viper loading into the launch tube when his own wasn't going into the next tube. Stupid attitude. He knew it, and it caused him no end of irritation to have it, but he'd never been any good at denying his baser urges and Apollo brought several of them out. The only saving grace was he had a similar effect on Apollo. From the day they'd met.

He listened as the vipers roared out into space, shook his head, then did what Apollo had told him to do while he waited B go to the officer's club. Normally one of his favorite things to do, but it wasn't nearly as much fun to play pyramid without his long-suffering husband at his side, moaning about Starbuck's latest systems. One of the true joys of life. He smiled slightly, but it faded when he walked into the club. Alone. Frack.

Ignoring the pyramid game going on in the center of the room, he headed for the bar. He opened his mouth to order an ambrosia, but at the last micron decided he wanted to keep a clear head and ordered a fruit juice instead. The look the bartender gave him almost made him smile, but he was too deep in a mood to come out of it that easily.

"Starbuck!" Boomer greeted him with a volume that lived up to his name. "What are you doing here? I thought you and Apollo were on patrol."

He sighed. Might as well get it over with. "Zac took my place."

Boomer stared at him. "He what?"

"Zac wanted to go on the patrol, and I agreed to let him."

"You agreed? What did he do? Put a laser to your head?"

Frack. He supposed he didn't have anyone but himself to blame. He'd never been able to come close to hiding how he felt about someone else serving as Apollo's wingman. He wanted exclusive claim to the title, wanted the same fidelity as a viper pilot he got in their bedroom, and he had it as much as the realities of life in the fleet allowed. Which was most of the time, but most of the time wasn't good enough. Not by a long shot.

He didn't trust anyone else to properly look after Apollo. Drove him crazy when they had to check out the new pilots or some other temporary duty forced them to fly without each other. Hazards of being squadron captain and his second-in-command. Frack. "Leave it alone, Boomer," he warned, more than a little in the mood to take out his frustration on someone else.

They'd officially been roommates their last two yahrens at the Academy, so it didn't surprise him when Boomer opted to avoid the storm and stopped teasing him. He patted Starbuck on the arm. "He'll be okay, buddy."

"Yeah, sure. Peace in our time and all that." He sighed. He was almost tempted to try to explain there was more involved than worrying about Apollo's safety. It had to do with sex, fidelity and how they loved each other. How they had fallen in love with each other 10 yahrens ago.

Fateful Decision (End of Starbuck's Second Term)

Starbuck walked into Dean of Admission's office. A simple act, but the culmination of a lot of thought. In some ways the answers he had found had surprised him. While one of the few among thousands who had applied to the Academy on Caprica to be accepted, he'd never been certain this was the correct life for him.

A professional wagerer had seemed a more likely future. Or even something with a more dubious legal sanction. It had certainly been the direction he'd been heading before a Siress Hestia had convinced him he was more than a pretty face and a glib tongue. While he'd had his doubts, he'd not been fool enough to turn down her offer to sponsor him. Unfortunately, shortly after this term had begun, she'd been killed while on holiday by a Cylon raid. No more easy rides for him. He could raise the needed cubits himself if he took a yahren off and hit the gambling circuit, but a part of him whispered he'd never come back if he did.

He'd spent long centares thinking about it. About the thrill of sitting in a viper simulator. If a mock up was so exciting, what would the real thing be like? He'd never know if he walked away now. In the end he'd decided it was a regret too big to swallow in his later years.

A man had to know his own nature, especially a conman B even an amateur like himself. It was quit forever or keep going. He knew it. And there was a way around his lack of funds that didn't involve his skill at pyramid. He wouldn't even have to reapply with a less than sterling career swerve on his record. The old 'Two for One' Policy. Two yahrens in the service for one yahren of Academy tuition. He had two yahrens of instruction to go, which meant four yahrens of service. As a soldier, not an officer.

Not an appealing prospect to someone who liked every taste of the good life he could get. But, to his surprise, he found himself thinking it might be worth it. A centare ago, after a sleepless night, the last of his doubts had faded away.

His decision made, he'd come here as soon as the office was open. There wasn't anyone else waiting, and the office assistant allowed him to go right in.

Sire Plato was working on his computer terminal when Starbuck entered. He caught the first four names of what he assumed was the in-coming class. Abraham, Apollo, Arianne, Ariel.

Plato shut down the screen. "What can I do for you, Cadet?"

Starbuck took a deep breath all too aware his future would be determined by the next few centons. "I wish to request a service leave of absence."

(4 Yahrens Later)

Ensign Apollo. He wondered if he would ever get used to the sound of it, then smiled at himself. He'd wondered the same thing when he'd become Cadet Apollo, and he'd gotten accustomed to that soon enough.

No, musing on such things was a delaying tactic. He took off his jacket and stared at it. He was officially a Colonial Warrior now, and destined for posting on the Galactic. Fleet policy B all close kinsmen were assigned to the same command. It was thought one served better when he or she knew a loved one's life was also involved. If Athena and/or Zac followed him into the service, they, too, would be under Adama's command.

He'd known this basic fact for as long as he was old enough to walk, yet, now that he stood on the brink of it, he found he was not ready. He loved his father. Very much. And not once in his entire life had Adama made him doubt his father's pride in or love for him. But how could anyone stare at Adama's footsteps and not feel overwhelmed?

He needed more time, needed a way to find a path that was his own and not a mirror of the one his father had walked at Apollo's age. The Academy had given him his answer. Although he'd never flown in combat, he was considered an extraordinary pilot, shattering records every time he climbed into a simulator or an actual viper.

None of that had made much of a difference to him. After all, most of the simulator records had been less than five yahrens old B held by a Cadet Starbuck. Hard to get excited about overcoming something so young. He smiled slightly at the quirks of record breaking. He might have gotten a swelled head if Starbuck had set those records a thousand yahrens ago, but it was no big deal as it was.

He shook his head, another diversion to delay the inevitable. He stopped pacing and stared at the companel. He'd been offered the chance to stay on at the Academy as a viper instructor for a few yahrens. The time he needed; the difference in his record he wanted. But not an easy decision. There was a war on. Many would see his acceptance as cowardice. Many more would question the suitability of a non-combat experienced pilot teaching anyone anything.

No, not an easy decision. But he'd made it. Now, he had to tell his parents. His father. Who loved him. Had always been proud of him. Praying he hadn't finally done something to change all of that, he sat down, activated an outside link, then said, "This Ensign Apollo requesting a channel to the Galactica."

Friends and Lovers (Starbuck's Third Term)

Oh, frack. If he never saw another shuttle craft as long as he lived, Starbuck decided he'd die a happy man. While he knew he'd had to endure this tedious mode of transportation for less than 30 centares, his backside kept insisting 30 yahrens had passed. At least he'd finally made it to Caprica.

His last tour of duty had been on an outpost on the galaxy rim. He'd appreciated the remoteness when it had meant a certain freedom to bend rules, allowing him access to viper simulators and frequent opportunities to pilot the now hated, but once beloved shuttle crafts. Instead of coming back stale, his piloting skills would be more than a match for his fellow third-term cadets. Not that he could tell anyone. Freedom to bend rules meant keeping his mouth shut after the fact, so no official notations on his record. A minor disadvantage. Then came the trip home.

No direct flights. Or anything resembling a comfortable one. He'd crammed himself into a host of slow moving vessels with hard seats in an effort to get back to Caprica. Even then, he'd landed on the wrong side of the planet and had needed to hop a ride on a series of three shuttle crafts to get where he was going.

He could have wept with joy when he looked up and saw the Academy landing pad filling the forward view screen. Home at last. Or at least the closest thing to home he'd have for the next two yahrens.

With great restraint he managed not to trample any of his fellow passengers in his haste to get as far away from his assigned seat as possible. Once free of the confines of the craft, he collected his things and caught a transport to his dormitory. He'd gotten his housing particulars along with the orders releasing him from active duty. He even knew his roommate's name.

When he arrived at his room, he took a great intellectual leap and assumed the pleasant-looking man sitting at one of the two desks belonged there. "Boomer?" he said, tossing his gear on the unmade bed.

"That's me." He was greeted with a smile and a handshake. "You must be Starbuck."

"Guilty as charged," he answered with a grin. He looked at his bunk and his stuff, contemplated unpacking, then decided he was due something less boring after all he'd been through. "I'm hungry. You up for dinner?"

Boomer nodded. "I was waiting for you. Figured having to eat alone was a poor welcome."

"Boomer, I think I like your style," Starbuck said, slinging his arm around the man's shoulders. "Now, let's go find some food."

To his delight, but not really his surprise as it was a great place, his favorite eatery was still in business. The menu hadn't even changed. He considered it a good sign when Boomer announced it was his favorite place to eat as well. Didn't seem like compatibility would be a problem. Even given the positive start, the evening was amazing.

They bonded over dinner. He couldn't think of a better word for it. By the time they headed back to their room, he'd told Boomer more about himself than he'd ever told anyone. They'd discovered a lot of common ground, too.

While not an orphan like Starbuck, Boomer told him he'd been a wild child for much of his life, and his family had moved to Virgo shortly before his first term. The expense of traveling to the outer planets had made visits impossible, and he'd not seen them since starting his studies.

Starbuck grinned at him. Happy and a little worse for wear after one too many ambrosias, he announced, "Well, buddy, you can consider me your kinsman from now on."

Boomer shook his head and laughed, but the gleam in his eye told Starbuck they were both thinking the same thing B the computers had done a good job of matching them. A miracle, they both announced, given the losers the computer had assigned each of them during their first two terms.

"Mine dropped out. Couldn't hack the pressure." There was a distinct 'thank the Lords' in Boomer's voice, but Starbuck already knew he wasn't the sort to say such a thing.

"Don't know about mine. He left for home before I transferred to the fleet, and neither of us cared enough to try to get in touch." He shrugged, and put it behind him like a million other things before.

When they got back to the room, Boomer helped him stow his gear and make the second bed.

With a huge sigh of relief, Starbuck eased his poor stiff body between the

sheets. He had one micron to think a bed had never felt so good, then sleep closed in.

His good mood from the night before let him wake up with a smile. A quick breakfast, then he logged on to his computer for the first time. His high spirits evaporated the instant he saw his course schedule. "Frack! I don't believe this felgercarb!"

"What's up?" Boomer asked, leaning over his roommate's shoulder.

"They've assigned me to the beginning viper class for evaluation and retraining!"

Boomer looked from the screen to Starbuck then back to the screen. "Isn't that SOP? You have been away from the Academy for four yahrens."

Starbuck glared at him. "That doesn't mean I let my piloting skills go to Hades." He was gearing up for a long rant, but Boomer held up his hand in a 'stop' gesture.

"I'm too young to hear the sordid tales of your life in the service. ... Most people are." He grinned, then pointed at the screen. "Besides, you'll like the instructor."

Frowning, he moved his glance from the course title to the instructor's name. Ensign Apollo. He considered another attack of outrage. "An ensign?"

"Commander Adama's son."

Starbuck snorted, refusing to be impressed. "Daddy keeping sonny boy all nice and safe at the Academy?"

"That's the rumor." Boomer shrugged. "But I've meet him a few times and he doesn't shrike me as the type to go for that. Besides, he's good, Starbuck. Damned good. Broke all the simulator records."

Records Starbuck had set in the two yahrens before he'd taken his leave of absence. "Not for long."

Boomer smiled again. "One other thing -- he's pretty."

His interest piqued in spite of himself, Starbuck turned his full attention to his friend. "'Pretty'?" He'd never been much for celebrity gossip, but he'd seen a few images of Apollo over the years. As he recalled, the boy did have a certain potential, but Adama's family didn't rate much coverage on the rim, so he had no idea what Apollo looked like now.


"How pretty?"


"Hmm, well, at least the class might not be a total loss."

Apollo checked the roster for his first class and found himself looking at a familiar name. Starbuck. "But are you *the* Starbuck?" he asked the computer screen.

"Please clarify question," the all too helpful computerized voice responded.

Oh, frack, he'd forgotten the damned voice response system was on. If there was one thing he couldn't stand this early in the morning it was a perky computer. He almost switched it off for the pure satisfaction value, but he did want to know the answer to his question, and asking saved him from keying it in. He sighed. "Display records of Cadet Starbuck."

The information flashed up on his screen. Yes, same man. Not good. He couldn't see a man who had set, however temporarily, several school records, being too pleased about finding himself being assessed by the instructor of the beginners' class.

Lords, just what he needed to deal with during his very first class. There had to be some way around this. Some way to help both of them, but classes started the next morning. It didn't give him much time, and Starbuck's record told him next to nothing, although he did find himself admiring the image. "I'll bet you have a killer smile," he whispered.

"Clarify question."

"Oh, switch off," he snapped, absurdly angry with it for interrupting his musings.

The green light on the terminal went red, leaving him in blissful silence, but what next? He couldn't access Starbuck's fleet records, and he knew enough about the way of things to guess what he needed to know wouldn't be in them. No, he needed the unofficial stories, but that meant using connections he felt uncomfortable about having, let alone taking advantage of them. But, no, there wasn't any other way.

He glared at Starbuck's image. "I hope you appreciate this," he growled, then turned toward the companel.

Starbuck got to class a few centons early and took a seat across from the door. One of the best things about the first day of any class was checking out the cadets, and he was determined to take every silver lining he could find during this one.

Beginning viper class. What a load of felgercarb. A pretty blonde cadet's arrival cut off his impending sulk, and he gave her his best smile as she took a seat near the center of the room. She smiled back, but he didn't beckon for her to join him. After all, he hadn't checked out the rest of the class yet. He'd decide on seat-mates after he'd assessed everyone.

The blonde was still in the front running when a man in an ensign uniform entered the room. Dark hair, tanned skin, good build .... 'Boomer, you lousy son of a daggit, you lied to me. That man isn't 'pretty.' He's fracking gorgeous!'

He was in the middle of planning several private maneuvers with the man when Apollo looked up. The prettiest green eyes he'd ever seen held his gaze for a micron, then moved on to the next cadet, but it was long enough for Starbuck's stomach to flutter. Oh, he wanted this one. Badly.

The last cadet arrived, and Apollo began the standard 'first day of class' spiel, a variation of which everyone would hear in every class they attended. Some things never changed. Of course, as it allowed him to pay attention to the lecturer instead of the lecture, he decided this was a very good thing indeed.

"And that about sums it up," Apollo concluded after 15 centons. "I hope you'll all do me the favor of not telling me how my 'hello speech' stacks up against everyone else's." He smiled -- a near breath-taking sight that left more than a couple of cadets sighing. Starbuck was too experienced for such behavior, but he almost made an exception.

Those who weren't sighing chuckled at his mild joke, and Starbuck saw relief in those green eyes.

"Now, before I let you go ... Cadet Starbuck?"

More than happy to be singled out by Ensign Gorgeous, he stood up. "Yes, sir?"

"My assistant's transport was delayed so I don't have anyone to help me with the First Class Flashy Display. Think you remember enough to handle it?"

He grinned. "I've got your back, Ensign." 'And a very pretty back it is.'

Apollo returned the smile and gestured toward one of two instructor's simulators.

Eager to feel even a 'toy' stick in his hand again, not to mention impress the pretty man, Starbuck wasted no time climbing in. "I thought I'd run the Kessra Sequence," Apollo said over the 'ship-to-ship' com.

Solid enough battle drill, but not really very flashy, and Starbuck could hear a tinge of regret in Apollo's voice. "Nah, run Glenfitic Seven," he answered, knowing he was naming a battle too complicated for a cadet who hadn't seen the inside of a simulator for two yahrens. He'd have some explaining to do, but he wasn't about to step on Apollo's first Flashy Display.

"You sure?" The hope in the voice made him grin again.


"Okay. Thanks."

A moment later, he was given permission to launch and sent his 'viper' hurtling out of its launch tube in perfect sync with Apollo's. One of the reasons he was so damned good on the simulators was once he'd launched he never let himself think the battle was anything less than absolutely real. Today he had to give his brain one further order before giving himself over to the simulation -- no showing off. If he showed up Apollo, getting to do more than guarding the lovely back would be out of the question.

He soon found he need not have had any fears on that score. Boomer had been right about one thing -- Apollo was damned good. Delighted, he settled back to put on a great show.

They used the first sequence to get to know one another. Standard procedure for simulator runs where one could have a different wingman every class. The reactions required were standard, the room for individual variation small.

Loop up and over to get behind an opponent. Come in high to avoid destroying a viper while dealing with a Cylon on its tail. Hundreds of precise moves done swiftly and accurately -- the difference between life and death could be a micron of indecision or a sloppy maneuver. First thing any cadet learned; first thing too many pilots forgot.

More and more random factors came hurtling at them until the battle they fought bore little resemblance to the event the simulation had initially mimicked. And they handled every last thing thrown at them. Starbuck couldn't believe how well they flew together. They needed no more than a few words to grasp the strategy the other wanted to try, while their vipers all but made love to each other. Around and around each other. A mating dance in the midst of fighting off those who threatened them.

The end of class chime startled Starbuck halfway through a complicated spiral maneuver and the Cylon closing in on him blew his viper to atoms. "Frack!" he hissed, but took some comfort in seeing Apollo's viper meet a similar fate. But only a little. A large part of him did not like seeing his pretty man blown up even if it wasn't real.

He would have stood up and acknowledged the applause if not for the erection pushing against his zipper. Oh, yes, it had been a lot like making love. To his amused delight, Apollo didn't do more than to shift up onto his knees to thank, then dismiss the class.

While the cadets filed out of the room, Starbuck took the time to run the simulator's shut down sequence, but he didn't bother to find any further reason to delay standing up once he was alone with Apollo.

Confident his erection had company, he walked over to the other command simulator and leaned against the side. It gave Apollo a nice view of both his merriment and his equipment. "That was fracking incredible," he said, ignoring both the rank and the parentage attached to the green eyes studying him.

Apollo didn't look away, but his cheeks flushed. "Yes. ... It was." He smiled faintly, then stood up himself, verifying Starbuck's suspicions his wingman's reaction to the simulation had been identical to his own.

Starbuck didn't move back as Apollo stepped out of the simulator, and the two men found themselves with less than an inch separating their rock-hard cocks. "If I kiss you, we'll both come."

"Starbuck." Apollo's breath against his lips nearly pushed him over the edge.

He almost did it, and would have happily grinned at anyone he met on his way back to his room to change out of his damp trousers, but the simulation had left him feeling protective as well as aroused. With a sigh, he stepped backwards, but smiled to take any sting out of the retreat. "I've got three centares before my next class. Buy me a cup of coffee, Ensign. I feel the annoying need to get to know you better."

Apollo handed Starbuck a cup of coffee and not for the first time wondered what the hell he was doing. His fact gathering yesterday had proven very fruitful, and he'd known Starbuck could handle anything the simulator could throw at him. He'd also been warned Starbuck had an unconventional style and was a notorious heartbreaker.

Yet Apollo had invited him back to his quarters. He had to be out of his mind. But Starbuck was so beautiful, and what they'd done with the simulators had left Apollo with an ache he desperately needed to ease.

Starbuck smiled his thanks as he took the cup of coffee, then glanced around the small set of rooms Apollo called home. "I appreciate you bringing me here so we could talk in private, but I have to warn you, getting me out of here with your virtue in tact will be a problem."

Direct and said with the expected killer smile. Apollo considered being offended for form's sake, but he'd asked him here. Denying the reason why would be pointless. Besides, the sunlight streaming through his window made Starbuck's hair gleam like spun gold. He opted for amusement and chuckled. "Lords, I guess I have been coming off like some blushing virgin, haven't I?"

Starbuck smiled. "A bit. I take it you're not?"

Apollo shook his head. "Close, but not quite. And I think I'll be very unhappy if you don't take advantage of me."

A tsking sound answered him, the Starbuck added, "And you an officer, while I'm merely a lowly cadet."

He snorted, then opted to tell Starbuck where he stood. "When I was told I had a third-yahren cadet in my class I decided to check you out." He took a sip of his coffee. "And not just with the Academy."

"Daddy or Daddy's friends?"

"Both. It seems you have a reputation. Well, two."


"Yes. You're considered a good man to have around in a crisis."

He nodded to acknowledge the compliment. "I can guess the other one."

"Is it true?"

Starbuck gave him a pointed look. "You have to ask after I practically took you in the middle of your classroom?"

"I expected it. I'm your type."

"Tall, dark and handsome?"


Starbuck laughed, then pounced, pulling Apollo into an embrace. "Scream now or prepare to be taken advantage of."

"You talk too much," Apollo answered, then kissed him.

Soft, warm, the perfect amount of pressure -- a good kisser. But Apollo wanted more than lips. All too mindful that he was the instructor, and Starbuck the student, he opted against taking the lead. Instead, he groaned softly, his lips parting.

True to his reputation, Starbuck swiftly took the hint, and with lips, teeth and tongue, he set about ravaging Apollo's mouth.

Lords, his head was spinning, but he wanted even more. Skin, he decided. He wanted lots of bare skin. He tugged at Starbuck's tunic, and once again the cadet proved quick on the uptake and launched his own assault on Apollo's uniform, The next thing he knew they were lying on the bed, their upper halves bare.

Bliss hovered in his future, then to his dismay, Starbuck sighed and pulled back

Apollo's arms tightened around him. "What's wrong?"

"Poor planning. Boots."


"As in 'boots must come off.'"

"Oh. ... Yeah." Apollo squirmed out from underneath him and scooted down to the foot of the bed, then went to work removing the heavy -- and in Apollo's opinion, overly elaborate -- boots issued to anyone from cadet on up. A joke older than anyone could remember went something like it took less than a secton to learn all one needed to know to be an officer, but it took four yahrens to get the boots off.

Starbuck propped himself up on one elbow to watch Apollo and grumbled to himself. Apparently, he hated it when he forgot about the damned things until after he'd gotten himself and his partner all hot and bothered. But they were too heavy and had too many edges to risk leaving on. Odds were they'd been designed by some sour old fossil who never got any.

Apollo resisted the impulse to laugh. "Starbuck?"


"Do you always talk to yourself when you're about to ravage someone?" he asked, pulling off one boot, then going to work on the other.

"Part of my charm."

"What charm?" he asked, dryly, but slipped off the second boot.

"Oh, that hurt," Starbuck moaned, clutching his chest as if fatally wounded.

Apollo smiled and leaned in to kiss him.

"Don't." Starbuck stopped him.


"Boots. As in 'your boots.'"


"Be right back." Given he undoubtedly had far more practice at stripping lovers, it didn't surprise Apollo to find himself bare of boots and the rest of his uniform in less time than it had taken him to get one of Starbuck's boots off.

Starbuck stood back and made a show of admiring the view. "Beautiful from head to toe."

Apollo blushed, but watched with avid interest as Starbuck got rid of his own clothes. "You are, too. ... Beautiful, I mean."

"I like a man with good taste," he answered with a smirk. He gave one particular piece of Apollo's body a smoldering look. "How about I find out if you're one of them?"

The blush deepened, but his cock grew even harder and his hips lifted up off the bed.

"I'll take that as agreement," Starbuck swooped down to capture Apollo's erection.

Moist, warmth surrounded him. He groaned loudly in appreciation, but a few centons was all he could stand before he felt the beginnings of orgasm stir. "Starbuck," he gasped in warning.

With a soft moan of regret, Starbuck abandoned the cock and stretched out on top of Apollo. "Hang on, gorgeous," he murmured in Apollo's ear. "We're for a ride."

Apollo obeyed, clinging to him as Starbuck began to trust, cock sliding against cock. After a centon's worth of thrusts, both tightened in orgasm, their mingled seed a warm gush between their bodies.

Shifting enough so the bed bore the brunt of half his weight, Starbuck collapsed.

Gasping, Apollo offered no resistance when his lover snuggled him close. Oh, that had felt ... like again. Lords, he'd lost his mind. He'd heard all the warnings, had no reason to doubt every tale he'd been told, yet here he was already half in love. Stupid, stupid fool. He closed his eyes tightly against any emotion that might be in them. Bad enough to be a fool, Lords, spare him the humiliation of Starbuck knowing it.

A fingered caressed his jaw. "When do you teach your next class?"

"This afternoon," he answered, annoyed with the breathlessness in his voice, but the opportunity to relay a few facts helped him get the rush of post-coitus out of his eyes. Or at least he hoped it would. "Right after I get you approved."


"As my assistant."

"I thought you had one."

"I lied. Like I said, I checked you out." He smiled. "Knew you could fly, and I could use some help. But either way I'll get you transferred to the advanced class."

Starbuck chuckled. "And here I thought you were bent on seducing one of your students."

"I merely gave into the inevitable gracefully."


He opted for honesty. "Because you want me for my body, not for who my father is." Apollo smiled. "Besides, I've never seen prettier green eyes."

Starbuck laughed and pulled him close.

Apollo let his lungs fill with Starbuck's scent and prayed he would survive the inevitable pain this one would cause him.

No One Else

Apollo powered down his simulator and watched his shapely 'wingman' climb out of her own 'viper.' She gave him a friendly smile, then sauntered over to Starbuck with the sort of confidence only the 'incredibly beautiful and all too aware of it' possessed.

The conversation that followed was a rerun of one he'd overheard countless times before. She wanted Starbuck. The details varied, but the outcome she desired was obvious. He had to grant she had a better set up then most -- a sectonend at a cottage on a lake.

He wanted to interrupt, to remind Starbuck that his family owned an estate on a lake. But, of course such interference would violate the odd rules governing their relationship. Such as it was. He sighed knowing he wasn't being fair. They'd spent every other sectonend together for the three sectares since they'd met. Undoubtedly the longest relationship Starbuck had ever attempted, but the aggravating son of a daggit continued to date others the other half of the sectonends. Which left him standing here, pretending not to hear yet another seduction. Frack. Sometimes he wished he was comfortable seeing more than one person at a time. At least this sectonend he'd have something better to do than running evaluations to take his mind off what Starbuck might be up to at that lake.

Gathering his lecture notes, he slipped out the door, leaving Diana to do her work. And if she somehow failed, there would be at least another half a dozen men and women who'd happily take her place. She really didn't have much of a chance, even if it did irritate him to watch her try. Starbuck didn't date anyone who was in one of Apollo's classes.


Speak of the son of a daggit. He stopped and waited for Starbuck. Apparently it was time for the usual casual mention of other plans for the sectonend. As if Apollo weren't bright enough to pick up on the every other pattern after all of this time.

The corridor was empty, and he allowed himself the luxury of not struggling as Starbuck pulled him into his arms. A kiss captured his lips, and his brain shut down at the jolt of pure pleasure. When he came to his senses he was still in Starbuck's arms, gazing into his eyes with what he knew had to be a dazed look on his face. A timely reminder of why he put up with all of Starbuck's anti-relationship felgercarb.

Starbuck smiled at him. "Hey, gorgeous, you free this sectonend?"

Apollo blinked. A kiss had never effected his hearing before. "Excuse me?"

"Are you free this sectonend?"

"What about the lake?" What was he doing? Starbuck looked confident enough, but inside he had to be gibbering in fear. Two sectonends in a row with Apollo had to have taken on the proportions of a marriage ceremony in his skittish lover's mind. Giving him a hard time was not a good idea. But he was confused and uncertain of how to react. Perhaps all Starbuck wanted to do was switch sectonends.

A hand cupped his face, giving him a reassuring caress. "I guess maybe I'm ready to admit I'd rather spend the time with you."

Apollo sighed happily and snuggled deeper into his lover's arms, then he remembered. This sectonend. Frack! "Starbuck, you're timing is awful."

"You have a date?" His arms tightened around Apollo. There was fear in his voice, not anger or incredulity.

Although it would serve him right if he did, Apollo opted not to toy with him. "No. I have to work."


"Sire Virgil donated two new vipers to the Academy. I've been ordered to give them a shakedown run."

"If there's two, we can do it together." He nuzzled Apollo's neck. "I am your assistant."

Lords, he was in trouble. "My assistant was supposed to have 'other plans' this sectonend."

He felt Starbuck stiffened. Big trouble. "You're taking the vipers out with someone else."

"Professor Juno assigned another pilot to assist me when I told her you weren't available. Starbuck, I tried to stall her, but she wanted it done as soon as possible and that meant this sectonend."

"You could have told me."

The unfairness of it made Apollo jerk away from him, an easy feat since Starbuck did nothing to keep him in his arms. He felt a flash of regret, but mostly he was angry. He'd tried so hard to understand all of Starbuck's fears about too much time together and this was the thanks he got. "I didn't think I had the right," he snapped.

Starbuck's eyes flashed with his own anger, and he didn't seem to hear what Apollo had said. "Who?" he demanded. "Who's flying with you?" His voice held all the outrage and anger of a betrayed lover demanding to know who had violated the fidelity of their bed.

Until that moment, Apollo would have done everything he could to prevent Starbuck from finding out the answer, but he was too angry to hold his tongue. *He* wasn't the one bedding others every chance he got. All he was doing was following orders he'd felt sick about. "Ortega," he snapped, then spun on his heel and stalked away.

"Apollo! Come back here!" Starbuck shouted after him, but he kept walking and his lover ... his ex-lover did not follow.

Fury knotted Starbuck's stomach as he paced back and forth through his room. "Damn, the man!" he spat again. It had almost become a mantra in the centare since he'd stomped home after his fight with Apollo.

"Which one?" Boomer asked, apparently tired of the show.

Starbuck whirled around to glare at the man sitting on his own bed. His world was crumbling and Boomer was ... studying. "Apollo! That son of a daggit is going to fly with Ortega!"

To his amazement instant comprehension and sympathy did not replace the neutral calm on his roommate's face. "Didn't you hear me?"

"They probably heard you four floors down, buddy. Now, why don't you settle down and tell me what the problem is."

Starbuck stared at him. Had everyone lost their minds but him? "Bad enough he's flying with anyone else, but Ortega. ..." The man was the biggest pain in the rear thruster Starbuck had ever known. He turned everything into a competition. Starbuck couldn't think of a single thing Ortega would like more than to take Apollo away from him.

Boomer shook his head. "I don't get your problem, Starbuck. Apollo doesn't like Ortega any more than you do."

"Then why is he flying with him!?!"

"Because he was ordered to. For Sagan's sake, Starbuck, we're talking about vipers, not beds."

"It's the same thing!" he snapped back.

Boomer gave him a long, incredulous look.

Starbuck waited for his roommate to tell him he was an idiot and mentally prepared his arguments about how it felt to fly with Apollo.

"Well, then, I guess you better stop raging about something Apollo can't control and find a way to fix it."


"You don't want Ortega flying with your man, find a way to prevent it. One that doesn't involve breaking any laws."

"You never let me have any fun," he muttered, but his rage cooled enough to get his brain working again. Boomer was right. There had to be a way around this.

He sighed. If he'd stayed calm with Apollo, he could have charmed him into making the fuss to get the assignment changed. He'd pretty much slammed the door on that possibility. Frack.

What was left? Besides death and mayhem. Oh. A smile slipped across his face.

"Why does that expression make me nervous?" Boomer asked.

"You said no breaking any laws. You as careful about the rules?"


He scooped up his pyramid deck and grinned.

Apollo groaned when his alarm chime sounded even though he was already awake. If there had been some way to keep this day from dawning. ... But there wasn't, and he had his orders.

With a sigh he got out of his bed, took a turbowash, then dressed. He wasn't certain how he'd gotten through the last two days of classes. It hurt to see Starbuck and not have the right to touch him. Worse, he'd deliberately walked away from that right. But what other choice had he had? He loved Starbuck, but he couldn't allow him to demand things of Apollo he would not give himself.

He'd been over it and over it in his head, and knew he had the cold comfort of being right. It didn't make the pain go away or make it easier to act as if nothing were wrong around the cadets they instructed. But they'd done it. They might be miserable with personal relationships, but they both had a knack for keeping up a good front. Time and emotional distance would do the rest. Maybe someday they'd even manage to be friends.

His eyes burned as he got out of his transport and walked over to the two vipers. It gave him no satisfaction at all to see Ortega was right on time. He wasn't any fonder of the man than Starbuck, unfortunately Professor Juno didn't share the opinion. Ortega was one of her favored students, and breaking in a new viper a rare treat. Or at least it would have been with the right wingman. This ... this was exactly what he'd told Starbuck it was -- work. Unpleasant work at that.

He glared at the boots on the far side of the viper, then forced out, "Cadet Ortega."

"Couldn't make it," Starbuck said, stepping out from behind the spacecraft. "You'll have to settle for me."

A whirlwind of emotions made him dizzy and he leaned against his own viper to steady himself. A hand touched his face, but he didn't have the strength to flinch away. "Oh, Lords, Starbuck, where did you hide the body?"

He wasn't quite kidding. Ortega had the dubious distinction of being one of the few people Starbuck hated, and he'd viewed this viper flight as evidence Ortega was after something Starbuck considered his alone. Murder wasn't likely, but it was all too easy to picture Ortega bleeding and locked in some storage closet.

Starbuck grinned. A feral, satisfied sort of grin, which did nothing to reassure Apollo. "It might have come to that, but he was dumb enough to try to bluff me with nothing more than a half-pyramid."

Half-pyramid? Bluff? "You ... won this," he gestured at himself and the vipers, "playing pyramid?"

A nod answered him.

"Are you out of your mind?" Apollo bellowed, then dropped his voice to a hiss. "If you'd been caught gambling they would have kicked you out of the Academy!"

Starbuck shrugged. "Small price to pay."

Apollo turned away from him, sick to his stomach over what Starbuck had risked. "Damn it, nothing would have happened here but a day's work. Preventing that wasn't worth any price at all."

"Isn't it?" Starbuck's arms went around him, pulling him back against his torso and away from the cold metal he'd been leaning on. "Tell me you don't feel the same way I do. Tell me you can stand the thought of flying with anyone else."

Apollo flushed. It was stupid. Worse, silly. He couldn't give in to such ridiculous notions. He couldn't. "I ... would prefer to fly with you." That sounded reasonable, didn't it?

Starbuck sagged against him. "Okay. So I've been an even bigger ass than I figured. Look, I made a mess of things, then made a bigger mess trying to fix them. Let me call Boomer. He can do the flight with you, and I can spend the day trying to ... grow up."

Boomer? The warmth vanished, and Apollo whirled around to see Starbuck walking away from him. "Starbuck?"

He stopped, then turned and smiled. "Hey, it's okay, gorgeous. You want to forgive me after the job is done, I'll spend the next two sectares making all this up to you. I just ... don't want to fly now."

"But I want you to." They were in the military. They'd never be able to cling to this obsession, but. ... "Please. I don't want to fly with anyone else."

Starbuck gave him a doubtful look, so he added, "Ever."

"Thank you, Lords," Starbuck muttered with a glance toward the heavens, then he returned to Apollo. His hand cupped Apollo's right check. "I know I'm not good at this relationship felgercarb, but I'll do better from now on. I promise."

Apollo smiled. He hoped so, but it was hard to reconcile a heart hoping for eternity and a lover who wanted to run for the next galaxy whenever something whispered of commitment.

"I'm sorry I hurt you. I ... I ... lo-"

Apollo silenced him with a kiss. He didn't want those words as part of an apology. He wanted them offered up as a gift, not an obligation. When their lips parted, he glanced at the waiting vipers. "Make love to me, Starbuck," he whispered, drawing back from his lover.

Another smile, then Starbuck slipped away to climb into the second viper.

They went through the systems checks quickly and without incident. Satisfied Apollo activated his ground control link. "Academy Control, this is alpha flight leader requesting clearance to launch."

"Affirmative, alpha flight. Launch when ready."

Switching his communications to ship-to-ship, he asked, "Ready, Starbuck?"

"Yeah, but just one thing."


"I guess I'm not ready to say it, but I feel it."

Apollo smiled. "Me, too." Maybe there was hope for them after all. "Now, launch."

Incredible. Absolutely incredible. Starbuck guided his viper into another attack run, knowing Apollo would be in perfect position behind him to take care of anything he missed. If they'd made magic with the simulators, he didn't even know a word to describe the rapport they had when flying real vipers.

Despite some very elaborate, tricky programming designed to thwart them, they hadn't failed to destroy a single target drone. This run proved no different than the 10 before it. What he missed Apollo destroyed or vice versa. It was like ... a symphony. Music. Magic.

"Apollo," he whispered, his voice husky as a blast from his turbolasers destroyed the final drone.

"Oh, Lords," Apollo groaned, his ship rolling up and over to take the lead.

"Control, this is alpha flight."

"Go ahead," Boomer's voice answered, cheering evident in the background.

"Hey, buddy, what are you doing there?" Starbuck asked, curiosity giving him mild relief from the weeping erection messing up the line of his already disgraceful uniform.

"Enjoying the show like everyone else. You two are amazing."

Starbuck smiled. A pity even the most challenging simulations never quite managed to match up to the real thing. Otherwise, he and Apollo would have had a good shot at wining the war all by themselves.

"Boomer," Apollo said, "we ... um, need a little time alone."

A chuckle, then, "Amazing and crazy. I'll see what I can do."

Alone again communications-wise, Starbuck glanced at the viper next to him. "Your uniform in as bad a shape as mine?"

Another groan. "I came twice. On the verge of another one."

"Me, too."



"We will ... get over this, won't we?"

"Probably. Real war isn't arousing."

"Lords forgive me, but thank the heavens for that."

Starbuck laughed, then heard the crackle of control coming back on line. "Boomer?"

"You're lucky day, hotshot. The general consensus is that a performance like today's deserves a little indulgence. Just have the vipers in the hanger before midnight."

"Thanks, buddy," Apollo answered. "Alpha flight signing off. Starbuck?"

"Right beside you."

"I know a place."

"Lead on."

Apollo streaked off toward the horizon with Starbuck in hot pursuit. He found the symbolism of it all quite enjoyable. 'You can run, my lovely, but you can't escape me.'

Sunset had been threatening when they'd left Academy air space, but Apollo kept going until they'd reached a mountain range entering mid-day. "There, we can land in that meadow."

"Perfect," Starbuck all but purred. "Race you down." Since he'd started his dive as he'd spoken, naturally he won. He'd popped his canopy and scrambled out over the viper's wing then dropped to the ground by the time Apollo's own canopy rose.

He ran to Apollo's craft and let his lover's descent to the ground bring him into Starbuck's arms. A long, searing kiss restored the illusion of sex to its proper place -- flying was damned good, but oh, Lords. ... -- then Apollo drew back and whispered, "Boots."

"Oh, frack!" Starbuck snapped, and stalked off to a nice piece of sloping ground. Muttering all the while about what he'd do if he ever got his hands on the moron who had designed their stupid uniforms, he set about getting rid of his boots and everything else between himself and his goal of naked with Apollo.

The near giggling to his left lightened his annoyance at the interruption, and he pounced the moment Apollo had achieved an equal state of undress. Warm soft flesh over hard muscle enfolded him, pressed up against him.

He kissed, licked and sucked every inch he could get to, all while Apollo did the same. They should have gotten into a tangled mess, but they were too in sync for such a comedy of errors. He feasted on nipples while Apollo nuzzled his neck with an equal hunger. Their hands roamed freely, and their hips fell into a rhythm guaranteed to make their dueling cocks explode with satisfying results. Satisfying, but not enough.

Starbuck drew back and looked into his lover's eyes. "I want you."

"You have me."

He caught hold of his flight jacket, then pulled a small tube out of a pocket. "No, I *want* you."

Apollo stared at the tube. "Pretty sure of yourself, weren't you."

Uh oh. Evasive maneuvers time. "Maybe. But I was also prepared to do some very serious groveling."


Starbuck gave him a loving look of encouragement. And if there was something in his expression indicating he had been very patient with his near-virginal lover even if it had meant avoiding Starbuck's favorite way of making love, well, he could hardly help that. He had, after all, earned his dubious reputation. "Please?"

Apollo's eyes narrowed. "Kiss me again first."

"First, during and after," he promised and dove down to claim the delectable mouth, heading off the faint hint of an impending pout. His mouth and free hand kept Apollo very busy while his other hand slowly prepared his lover's entrance. Not only their first time, but the first time ever for Apollo, Starbuck was all too aware that if he didn't make it good, it could be their last time as well. A very depressing, but inspiring thought. However, he really wasn't worried. His pragmatic, disgustingly responsible Apollo was also one of the most sensual lovers he'd ever had. All he needed to do was treat him right, and he knew Apollo's body would respond.

"Starbuck!" Apollo shouted, lunging against him with enough force to indicate he would have leapt to his feet if not for Starbuck's weight holding him down.

He smiled smugly, resisting the urge to waggle the finger inside Apollo again. "Yes?"

Apollo gave him his best 'don't be a bastard' glare. "Do. That. Again."

"By your command," he teased, and jabbed his finger upward.

Apollo howled, his body wrapping around Starbuck's like a living blanket. A very aroused living blanket.

Starbuck bit his ear. "Now, you know why I like this so much," he murmured, poking away as he added fingers and adjusted limbs.

Apollo moaned, wailed, groaned and cursed with each push against his prostate. He was much too far gone to even notice when Starbuck's cock replaced his fingers. Hips thrust, bodies merged, parted, then merged again.

Apollo came with a near deafening scream, then lay gasping beneath Starbuck as he, too, climaxed.

"I knew you'd be wonderful," Starbuck whispered into the ear he'd been toying with.

Dazed, sated and breathless, Apollo didn't answer. He merely stared up at Starbuck with eyes full of love. Green eyes that shouted 'forever.'

It didn't frighten Starbuck even if he wasn't quite ready to admit he saw it. But there was one thing he was ready for. "No one else, Apollo."

Apollo scowled. "You know there hasn't been."

He smiled, kissed Apollo's forehead, then whispered words he'd never said before, "No, I meant for me. No one else, but you."

The First Family of Caprica

Apollo stared at the vid screen in dismay. "But, mother, ..." he groaned in the same pleading tone everyone who had ever had to deal with an obstinate parent eventually had to use. It had the usual results.

"None of that, Apollo," Ila told him. "My mind is made up."

Had he thought obstinate parent? His mother was so far beyond obstinate as to enter the category of 'force of nature.' He took a deep breath to calm himself, then tried again. "I told you. He can't come."

"Why not?"

He'll head for the hills. Sneak off to another galaxy. Flee into subspace. Disappear, vanish, run, leave. None of which he could tell his mother. If she got it into her head her precious son was being used or otherwise mistreated, she wasn't above having Starbuck hunted down and ... at the very least castrated. And Apollo had a vested interest in keeping that part attached.

"Mother," he whined. Much as he might hate it, there really wasn't another word for it.

"Apollo, don't whine."

He hated her. Her and every mother who ever drawn a breath. The ludicrous plea for her to be reasonable was on the tip of his tongue when the very last thing he wanted to hear assaulted his ears -- the door opened.

"Oh, good. He's home. I can ask him myself," his mother's image beamed over his shoulder dashing any hopes that some serial killer had broken in.

"Greeting, Starbuck."

"Siress Ila," his lover answered, stooping down beside Apollo, which would put his face instead of his stomach on their caller's view screen. "What have you been saying to Apollo to make him turn ... orange?"

She chuckled. "I merely told him to invite you for Yule-break."

"Ah, time to check out the boyfriend."

"Oh, long past time. I've been very remiss in my maternal duties."

Starbuck snickered. "There is one small problem. I don't really want to leave Boomer here alone during break."

"I should think not! Just bring him along. He'll give you the illusion of safety."

This time Starbuck laughed. "I would never feel safe around such a dangerous woman, but we would be honored to visit your home."

Apollo sat listening to all of this and wondering if he were having some sort of near-death experience. It all sounded so calm. So reasonable. Two words he would never have chosen to describe either his mother or his lover. Or maybe it was all a plot to drive him mad.

He'd had his suspicions for the two sectares since he came out of the turbowash to find Starbuck happily chatting away with the formidable Siress Ila. If he lived to be a thousand, Apollo would never forget the smile his mother gave him after he'd shooed Starbuck away from the companel. Pure 'was there something you wanted to tell me, dear?' He'd muttered something about Starbuck being his roommate and tried to change the subject. All while Starbuck laughed in the background. With very little effort, Apollo was certain he could learn to hate both of them.

"Wonderful!" Ila answered. "I'll expect all three of you in two sectons Oh, and Apollo, try not to turn so orange. It really isn't a good color for you." Her image winked out. His mother certainly knew how to stage a fast retreat when she was winning.

Silence descended on the room. Apollo considered it a very good thing. Doors opening as lovers ran for their lives were never silent. Afraid to look at Starbuck and see impending flight in his eyes, he stared at the now blank view screen as he said, "It wasn't my idea."

"I didn't think it was."

"I tried to get you out of it."

"I'm sure you did."

"But she's so impossible once she's made up her mind."

"I've noticed."

"It's your own fault, you know. I told you if you didn't stop answering my companel, you'd get caught."

"I live here. I have a moral obligation to answer the companel."


Starbuck laughed, then stood up, pulling Apollo to his feet along the way. He hadn't quite stopped laughing when he kissed Apollo, but it was a nice kiss all panic considered. "She's interfering with the plan, isn't she?"

"What plan?" he muttered, snuggling close.

"Your 'if I pretend things aren't serious, he won't cut and run' plan."

"Oh, that plan."

Lips pressed against the top of his head. "It's a decent plan, Apollo, but you didn't factor in my superior intelligence."

"I didn't?"

"No. You see, I'm such a genius that I figured out things were serious when I moved in with you."

Apollo shifted to allow Starbuck to see his scowl. "You did not. You saw that purely as a means to have sex more often."

"Welllll. ..."

"Starbuck. ..."

"Okay, maybe at first. But I did figure it out a sectare or two ago."

Apollo waited a micron, but Starbuck didn't say anything else. He didn't even seem on the verge of thinking about saying anything else. Starbuck might think of things as serious, but he obviously wasn't ready to say he loved Apollo. And something inside Apollo couldn't relax until he heard the words. He managed a smile. "Mother always did have a good sense of timing," he said, then noticed he was being guided across the room. "Why are we headed for the bed? I have work to do."

"Later," Starbuck insisted, pushing him down onto the mattress. "First, I'm going to make love to you until you look all red and beautiful again instead of orange. Then you can work."

"And what will you be doing while I'm working?" 'Checking out the flight schedules for the first ship off-world?'

Starbuck smirked. "I'll be telling Boomer where he's spending Yule. I wonder what color he'll turn."

Apollo kissed him just to shut him up.

"Now, props are very important, Zac," Starbuck told the kid listening to him as if he had the wisdom of the ages to pass on. He took out a fumarello, but didn't light it before putting it in his mouth. "I smoke whenever I'm playing. I tap this, fiddle with it, chew on it, etc." He demonstrated each maneuver as he listed it, then grinned as Zac's attention focused on the fumarello. "See, you aren't looking at me any more. Makes you less likely to figure out what I'm thinking. Secret is to make certain you have no pattern in using your prop. Needs to be totally separated from your mood."

"Are you telling me that's why you always have that weed in your mouth?"

He glanced at Boomer. 'Ah, amateurs.' "Case in point. My friend here thinks I start smoking when I have a bad hand, then can't figure out why he ends up losing all his spending money."

Boomer glared at him, but couldn't say all the nasty things Starbuck was certain he wanted to because of the kid.

Zac grinned, then frowned. "But Momma won't let me smoke. What can I use?"

"Candy. You'll drive everyone crazy trying to figure out when you eat one type versus another. I'll help you work out a system."

"I don't believe this!"

Boomer jumped, but Starbuck merely winked at the giggling child sitting to his right. "Something wrong, Apollo?" Lords knew he tried to sound sincere, but it was damned difficult when his lover stood there looking the very picture of outraged indignation.

"'Something wrong?' Whatever would give you that idea? You're only teaching my little brother how to play pyramid." This was said in a tone of voice one might expect to hear had Starbuck been teaching Zac how to have sex with animals. And not very attractive animals at that.

Focusing on how beautiful Apollo was when throwing a fit, helped Starbuck from dissolving into gales of laughter. "That I am. And he's a very good student, too."

Apollo glared at him. "Mother will kill all of us."

He had to bite the inside of his lips to pull off the deadpan attitude he wanted. "I doubt it. She was sitting in until she decided Athena needed something else to do." It wasn't the card game Ila had whisked her teenage daughter away from, but Boomer. The girl had developed a crush on Boomer the moment she'd laid eyes on him, and her attentions had been making the man very nervous. Rightfully so. Athena had the same look in her eyes Apollo had turned on Starbuck the first day they'd met, and Starbuck had accepted his fate.

"Mother sat in."


Apollo's scowl shifted to the small pile of cubits in front of Starbuck. Well, half-cubits, half-hard candy. Couldn't expect the kid to play with real money, could they. "How much did you lose to her?"

"A little."

He sighed. "I'm going to be buying your coffee for the rest of the term, aren't I?"

"Being a kept man has always been one of my goals."

"What does 'kept man' mean?" Zac asked.

"It means your brother buys his coffee," Ila answered, sweeping past Apollo, then sitting down at the table.

"Oh." Zac gave them a suspicious look indicating he thought there must be something more to it.

"Are you joining us, dear?" Ila asked, glancing at Apollo. "I was just about to take your Starbuck for all he's worth."

"All right, Ila, no more letting you win to be polite," Starbuck answered, shuffling the deck. It was all the warning he was prepared to give, and her smile told him she was aware of what he'd been doing and stopping was acceptable. He really did like this lady. Although he felt guilty about it, he couldn't help being relieved that duties had kept Commander Adama from returning to Caprica for Yule. A little divide and conquer would serve him well with Apollo's intimidating parents. With luck, Ila would adore and support him by the time he had to deal with 'daddy.'

"Lords, give me strength." Apollo scowled at Starbuck. "Sometimes I wonder why I love you." The words had no sooner left his mouth when Apollo's eyes widened and his face paled. Obviously, the 'l' word had not been something he'd intended to say out loud.

Starbuck smiled at him, feeling oddly comfortable about saying it for the first time in this place, in front of these people. "I love you, too. Now, go away. You're ruining my concentration, and I have some suckers to fleece."

Ila smiled. Boomer gaped. Zac giggled. Apollo fled. And Starbuck won the next six hands.

Apollo retreated out of the house. Not a long journey. His parents could have had the most opulent home on the planet, and it wasn't small by any means. He and his siblings each had their own room, and there were four guest rooms, but most of the other Councilmembers had lavish manors with 20 or more guest rooms. His parents preferred simple elegance to gross overstatement, but the estate grounds were very nice. The small lake gave them a source of recreation and a buffer against those who wanted to intrude on their privacy. A refuge against the craziness of his life. When he was a child, he had chosen one particular large, flat rock to serve as his perch as he contemplated things.

Today, he all but collapsed down on the familiar hard surface, then stared out at the water. He was losing his mind. No question about it.

Dizzy, almost sick with relief. But at the same time, he was having a great deal of difficulty accepting. Starbuck had said it, but had he meant it? A way to save face for Apollo in front of the others? True sentiment? What?

He groaned and buried his face in his hands. He'd spent so much time longing for this day and now he found himself more off balance than ever. Not that he could blame Starbuck for misrepresenting things.

Apollo's family ate those they disagreed with for breakfast. Technically, Caprica, like the other eleven Colonies, had one representative on the Council of the Twelve. The truth was Ila and Adama were a team. She handled the politics on the home front, while he dealt with off-world matters. The fact she was known as Siress Ila was a tacit acknowledgment of this reality. A spouse of a Councilmember was known by the member's name. She should have been Siress Adama, as he would have been Sire Ila had she been on the Council. Some archaic nod to the days when one spouse was considered more important than the other. But the planet's populace refused to accept such a tradition. Officially she might be Siress Adama, but popularly no one called her anything but Siress Ila.

Most days his heart was so full of love and pride for his parents he didn't know why it hadn't burst long ago. But at times they intimidated even him. No, he couldn't blame Starbuck for taking the easy road around his mother, but what if he hadn't? What if he had meant it? Lords, what did he do now? "Starbuck," he sighed.

"Right here."

He jumped, but a warm embrace slipped around him and kept him from getting to his feet. To his amazement, Apollo found twilight looming. He must have been out here for centares. "Is my family destitute?" he asked, surrendering to the pressure trying to pull him close.

"No, I was in a benevolent mood."


"Mmm. It's not everyday I tell someone I love them." His lips pressed against Apollo's temple. "In fact I've never done it before."

He meant it. Thank the Lords, he'd meant it. "Felt good?"


Apollo shifted around, a big enough romantic to want to see his lover's face. "I love you, Starbuck. With everything I am, I love you."

Starbuck kissed him. "And with everything I am, I love you, too." He smiled, and Apollo waited for him to break the mood, but he kissed him again instead.

"So very, very much," he murmured against Apollo's skin. "I'm sorry I made you wait so long."

"No, love, you didn't make me wait long." He looked at Starbuck with wonder. All the man's life he'd been alone, avoiding commitment or anything remotely resembling it, yet in less than a yahren, he'd said the words. And Apollo had been awed by his parents? "So brave, so handsome." He caressed his lover's cheek. "My Starbuck."

"My Apollo."

They kissed, and for the first time Apollo wasn't afraid 'forever' might be in his eyes.

The Heart-throb of Millions

Starbuck glanced at the time and frowned. "Where is he?" he demanded of the universe.

Boomer chose to answer. "He'll be here as soon as he can, Starbuck." He glanced at his own date. "Maybe we should go ahead and order."

Salome smiled. "No, we can wait a while longer. It's always so awkward when someone arrives halfway through a meal."

Starbuck gave her an appreciative smile and decided he hated her. She was pretty enough. Nice on the surface, but she grated on his nerves. Of course, he suspected he might be holding the fact she wasn't Athena against her. The way he had it figured, if he had to get snared by that family, the least his best friend could do was get snagged too. A slightly unreasonable attitude given Athena was barely a teenager, but it was his attitude and he was keeping it. Which lead to-

"Cadet Starbuck?"

Interrupted mid-mental rant, Starbuck took a moment to move his expression from annoyance to neutral before he looked up at a lovely and familiar face. "Yes?"

Lyra of 'Caprica Live' gave him one of her famous smiles. A beautiful sight but not enough to distract him from the cameraman standing behind her. "I wondered if we might have a word with you?"

He blinked in confusion. A word? With him? Starbuck was the first to admit he had a healthy share of ego, but it didn't cover why a vid-reporter would want to talk to him. But she had asked for him by name. "What about?"

Her smile took on an indulgent, near patronizing quality. "Apollo, of course."

Apollo? He stared at her for a micron, then the cubit dropped. It was easy to forget within the Academy environment, but he'd taken a near-celebrity as his lover. Apparently the odds of discovery had finally tipped in the press' favor. Now what? And why in Hades hadn't he thought to prepare for this?

He glanced helplessly at Boomer, but could see his friend looked as off-balance as Starbuck felt. Mentally he sighed. When in doubt, stall for time. "I really don't think it would be appropriate," he said, glancing around the restaurant. "I wouldn't want to disrupt anyone's dinner."

Another smile. "Well, why don't we go out on the street? We wouldn't bother anyone and it would give this place a nice bit of publicity." Her hand closed on his arm, urging him upward.

Frack. Not wanting to make a scene by jerking his arm away, he stood, but he had no idea what he should do. For all he knew, Apollo didn't want him to admit they had a relationship, let alone that they were living together. A pity it was too late for a resounding chorus of 'Apollo who?'

She turned him toward the doorway, then cursed softly, while he silently cheered. Apollo stood by the maitre de station staring at them with the calm expression Starbuck had learned always hid a raging fury.

Extracting his arm simply by hurrying ahead of her, he moved to Apollo's side, silently pleading with his lover to do something. Quickly.

The smile Apollo gave him was slight, but reassuring. The one he turned on Lyra was broader, but lacked sincerity. "Greetings, Lyra. What can I do for you?"

"I'd like to have a little chat with the two of you."

"Not tonight." He took Starbuck's arm, and Starbuck noticed the camera light indicated it had switched on. "I believe you have the vid-number for my family's publicist. Now, if you'll excuse us, we have friends waiting."

They walked back toward the table. "You realize you have your arm linked with mine and they are filming it, right?" Starbuck muttered.

"Um hum. Gives them something to broadcast, but not too much."

"Clever. Speaks of experience."

"They used to pursue me all the time when I was a kid," he said, sitting down at the table with a nod of greeting to Boomer and Salome. "Apparently I was the heart throb of every adolescent with more than one hormone."

The smirk on Salome's face confirmed things for Starbuck. No, he did not like her. At all. A pity it would take years before Athena would be old enough for Boomer to notice her.

"It all tapered off when I entered the Academy. I wasn't dating or doing anything a hundred other cadets weren't doing. Made for boring copy." He caught hold of Starbuck's hand and gave it a squeeze. "I should have guessed you'd change that. I'm sorry I didn't warn you."

Starbuck squeezed back. "I'll forgive you eventually. Question is, what do we do now."

Apollo sighed. "Order dinner. When we get home, I'll have a few calls to make. I can probably stall things off until end of term, but. ... Starbuck, we'll probably have to do at least one interview to make them all go away again."

"Oh." Frack. Just what he wanted -- his private life splashed all over the vids. Then again, it would give him a chance to say 'the boy is mine' to anyone with a pathetic enough life to be watching. Small consolation, but consolation nevertheless. "What ever you think is best."

Apollo walked into their quarters to find Starbuck working on his computer. A frown of concentration on his face, he didn't acknowledge Apollo's arrival.

"Starbuck?" he said, tapping his lover on the shoulder to claim his attention long enough for a 'hello' kiss. When their lips parted, Starbuck gave him a smile, then went right back to work. "What are you doing?"

"Sorting my mail."


"I have over 3,000 letters in my inbox. I have to sort them or I'll never be able to find anything."

"3,000 letters?"

"Um hum." He glanced at Apollo. "And I have you to thank for it. Apparently, our little walk across the restaurant aired last night."


"That's one response. Others were more creative." He sat back and indicated his folder list. "Now, I'm putting all the death threats in this one. Cross-typed by preferred method. My favorite so far is the one which said I should be chopped into tiny pieces and each piece sent to a different part of the galaxy."

"Death threats. ..."

"Mmm. I think you labeled yourself a washed-up heart throb prematurely. My existence seems to have broken several hearts."


"Then there is the 'not good enough for him' folder. No real menace, but apparently I have a shifty smile."


"You said that. Of course, there are a few letters from people thrilled you've found your true love. But not many."

Lords. Starbuck's address would be easy enough to figure out. It was always a cadet's name plus the Academy extension. Apollo didn't know whether or not to be grateful for that. Were it difficult to find, the main Academy address might have been overloaded with all of this 'fan' mail, which would have gotten them both into trouble. But at least his lover would have had some buffer between himself and the insanity of being involved with Apollo.

Starbuck pointed to another folder labeled 'Good Taste.' "Now these are from those wise enough to realize I'm better looking than you are, and they are switching their affections to me."

At another time he might have laughed or been annoyed, but right now he was too afraid. "Starbuck. ..." He wanted to ask 'am I worth all of this?' but his voice trailed off, unable to form the words.

"There are quite a few intriguing offers in there. Several promise to treat me in the style I'd like to be accustomed too." He gave Apollo a long, sad look. "A pity you're too noble to buy my love."

Absurdly, hope surged within in. "No, I'm not! I could --"

Starbuck swiveled around in the chair and silenced him with an incredulous stare. "Apollo?"

He bit his lip and turned away. Starbuck loved him. He *knew* that, but Apollo had lived so much of his life longing for, if not obscurity, at least a lack of fame, he found it difficult to believe anyone who didn't have to would willingly accept it. If only he had anticipated all of this, but he genuinely had believed his time in the Academy had made him old news. Although Lyra wasn't the sort to have to scrounge for stories. Damned, fool.

He'd let hope blind him, hadn't he. If he pretended no one would care, then he could really be the sort of person who could take another's arm and walk across a room without anyone noticing. He'd wanted to prove to himself ... to Lyra ... to Starbuck that a story about him or his love life would fall flat from a lack of interest. Instead he'd proven the opposite. Now what should he do?

Maybe if he gave Starbuck some time to adjust. ..."You ... could move back in with Boomer for a few sectons," he said around the lump in his throat.

Arms slipped around him and lips pressed against his neck. "I'm sorry, Apollo. I shouldn't have teased you." He turned Apollo around to face him. "You seemed so certain in the restaurant, I forgot how much you hate all of this."

He kissed Apollo -- a long, gentle, reassuring touch. "I love you," Starbuck reminded his lover. "I'll admit this is all a bit overwhelming, but I'm not going anywhere. Got it?"

"Got it," Apollo answered, sagging against him, his body limp with relief.

"Good. Now come help me file the letters offering to have my baby," Starbuck said, drawing him toward the bed, not the desk. "Did you know guys could do that?"



"Shut up and make love to me."

With a smirk of triumph, Starbuck obeyed.

Life was not fair. Starbuck had always known it, but fate seemed determined to make certain he knew it beyond all doubt. For instance, he'd passed his third-term with flying colors (especially after Apollo helped him with his math), and what was his reward? He had one secton to 'relax' with Apollo's family, then he had to endure an interview for 'Caprica Live.'

He didn't even want to think about how much mail he'd get after playing the dutiful boyfriend on camera. Worse, he couldn't see how anyone could consider it relaxing to meet Apollo's father. Starbuck had given considerable thought to having a nervous breakdown ever since Apollo had informed him Adama would make it home to see his family during end-of-term break. He'd dragged Boomer along for support (not to mention the amusement value of watching him squirm as Athena gazed lovingly at him.)

He'd sought endless assurances from Ila. Yes, she was certain Adama would love him. And maybe he would. As his son's lover. But Adama would also be their commanding officer when he graduated and they were posted to the Galactica. He would judge Starbuck on his ability to keep Apollo alive as well as his ability to make him happy. Frack, it was enough to make a man almost regret that fleet policy demanded he be Apollo's wingman. Almost.

All in all, none of this aggravation seemed like proper compensation for being a brilliant cadet. Apollo snorted at the latter, but had a tendency to make passionate love to him whenever he pouted about the former. Naturally, he pouted all the more, but all too soon it had been time to leave for the family estate.

When he wasn't positive he was having a nervous breakdown, Starbuck enjoyed himself giving Athena courting tips and chasing Zac through the woods. Once he noticed Apollo was looking pale around the edges and used it as an excuse to whisk his lover off for a nap with most satisfying results. Although he could have done without discovering Apollo was also worried about the rapidly approaching meeting.

He spent the last centare of 'life as he knew it' charming Ila. She gave him many an amused look, which kept growing in proportion as she noticed how hard he was trying not to scowl at her.

The klaxon signaling the moment of doom had arrived took the form of Athena squealing, "He's here!"

The family ran for the door. Boomer held on to Starbuck to keep him from running out the back. Depending on how things went, Starbuck made a mental note to either thank or kill his friend later.

The great man walked in like any other father coming home after work. Except he wasn't any other father and work had kept him away for close to a yahren. Adama. Commander of the Battlestar Galactica and Caprica's representative to the Council of the Twelve. It all gave a lowly cadet the genuine desire to bow to him or flee in terror.

Starbuck hung back with Boomer while Adama's family ran to greet him with shouts of delight and radiant smiles. While he watched with a mixture of trepidation and concern, Adama kissed, hugged and beamed at his children, then gave his wife a smile and kiss so full of love it made Starbuck feel warm inside to see it.

"Father, I want you to meet my friends," Apollo said once he was released from his father's embrace.

"That mean it's too late to run?" Starbuck muttered.

"'fraid so," Boomer answered in an equally soft whisper, but he looked reasonably calm when he stepped forward to shake Adama's hand as Apollo introduced him.

'Oh, great, save me for last.' Starbuck made another mental note to give Apollo a long glare first chance he got.

"Cadet Boomer," Adama said, "welcome to my home."

"Thank you, sir. You have a lovely, gracious family."

Adama beamed at the compliment, and Starbuck despaired. Frack, he should have coordinated flattering lines with Boomer for he had said almost exactly what Starbuck had planned to.

"And you must be Starbuck."

Guess so. Nearly frantic he reached to take the offered hand but glanced at Apollo for reassurance. The hope shining in Apollo's eyes as he glanced from his father to his lover, soothed Starbuck and he couldn't help but give Apollo a loving smile of his own.

The hand shaking his shifted into a warm clasp, and he met Adama's gaze without flinching, no longer feeling like a lowly germ in the presence of greatness, but a man sharing a knowing gaze with another. 'I love him.' He gave the Commander a smile. "It's an honor to meet you, sir."

It was going to be all right.

Starbuck woke up in the middle of the night. Ila had not insisted on giving them separate rooms, allowing him the comforting warmth of Apollo's body nestled against his own, but it wasn't enough. Something was bothering him. But he couldn't quite figure it out.

After half a centare of trying to get back to sleep, he decided to get up for a while. He eased from the bed, pausing long enough to give Apollo a reassuring nuzzle when he murmured in protest. To make up for the absence of his own body heat, he carefully tucked the covers around his sleeping lover, then pulled on his trousers and a robe.

Out the room, down the stairs and through the back door. Once outside he lit the fumarello he'd worried throughout Zac's latest pyramid lessons. Two of Caprica's three moons were full, providing plenty of light for him to walk down to the lake behind the house. Liking the view, he sat down on Apollo's rock to enjoy the water and a star-filled sky.

Not particularly concerned by the passage of time, he didn't know how long he'd been there before he heard footsteps approaching. He tried to hide his disappointment when he looked up to see Adama, not Apollo, but the Commander's chuckle told him he'd failed.

"Am I so terrible, Starbuck?"

"No, sir."

"But I'm not Apollo."

"No, sir."

Adama sat down beside him. "Couldn't sleep?"

"More like I woke up and couldn't go back to sleep."

"A call from the Council woke me up. And you?"

'Not sure.' Honest, but not something he wanted to admit. He settled for the lessor of the things weighing on his mind. "Worried about the interview I guess."

"Understandable. It's not easy to talk about intimate matters on camera." He smiled. "I still prefer to avoid it when I can."

For a few centons they sat there together, watching the moonlight dance in the ripples of the lake. Adama broke the silence. "I've heard a lot about you. Not all of it from my son."

Starbuck sighed. "A reputation can be such a pain in the ... rear thruster."

"Is it unwarranted?"

"No, probably exaggerated, but not unwarranted."

"Not exactly the words a father wants to hear."

Adama sounded amused, so Starbuck opted against panicking. "You'll have to forgive me, Commander. I've never been involved with anyone long enough for them to consider bringing me home to meet their families, let alone actually getting there."

"Yet here you are."

"Don't I know it. I have to admit part of me is gibbering in terror. I've always been allergic to relationships."


"I was ambushed by a pair of green eyes."

Adama laughed and clasped his shoulder. "I know that feeling well. After all, he has his mother's eyes."

So he did. The same eyes as Adama's wife of almost 30 yahrens. "Snared you with one look?"

"Completely. I believe 'gibbering in terror' would be an accurate description of how I felt at the time."

Starbuck laughed with him. "I have to admit I'm a little surprised, though. I thought Apollo got his serious side from you."

"He does. Ila's very much the free spirit, but she's also a woman who knows what she wants."

"And she wanted you."

Adama smiled. "Yes. I didn't think a career officer had any business marrying at all, let alone non-military personnel. But she was patient with me. Let me hold to my 'damned fool notions' right up the moment I knew I could never be happy without her."

"So you married her," he whispered the words with a sigh of relief. Ila had Apollo's eyes. Ila, Adama's wife. He knew what he wanted now. Embarrassing really. He'd never have believed himself one to go for such old-fashioned felgercarb, but the very idea made the ache inside him vanish. "Excuse me, sir, there's something I have to do."

He was on his feet and running for the house before Adama could say a word. Apollo. He had to see Apollo. Now.

The house was ablaze with light as he burst inside. Vaguely he knew he was yelling his lover's name over and over, but didn't care. Everyone should be up. Everyone should hear. He laughed as he paused at the foot of the stairs and looked up at a host of wide-eyed, half-dressed people. He might have suffered a twinge of guilt if Apollo hadn't hurried down the stairs, catching hold of his arms. "What's wrong? What is it?"

"Nothing," Starbuck announced, then yanked him into a kiss.

Apollo pulled back, looking at him in utter confusion. "You woke everyone so you could kiss me?"

"No, I wanted witnesses."

"For what? Starbuck, I don't understand."

"Neither did I. But I do now." He reached up and cupped his lover's right cheek. "Apollo, will you marry me?"

Apollo blinked, stared a micron, then answered, "Yes." This time Apollo kissed him. A long, lingering 'would have led to other things if some idiot hadn't wanted witnesses' sort of kiss.

A hand clapped him on the shoulder, and Starbuck reluctantly drew back to see a matching hand resting on Apollo's shoulder. Adama beamed at them both. "Welcome to the family, Starbuck," he said, then gave them both a kiss on the forehead.

It proved some sort of signal, for with screams of joy the rest of the household descended on them in a hugging, kissing, back-pounding swarm that left Starbuck laughing until he was breathless. His ribs ached by the time he managed to reclaim his hold on a grinning Apollo.

Adama brought his euphoria slamming back into reality. "Well, my love," he announced, giving his wife a hug, "it seems we have a wedding to plan."

A gleam beyond happiness entered her eye and doom closed in

Starbuck groaned. "How big a fuss are you going to make?"

Ila and Adama both gave him tolerant looks. "He's our first child to marry, Starbuck," Adama answered.

"And Adama is the Councilor of Caprica," Ila added.

Frack! In growing horror he listened to their plans. Finally, he grabbed Apollo's hand and fled up the stairs when the discussion turned to whether or not their wedding should be a public holiday.


Apollo caught his balance as Starbuck all but flung him into their room, then watched with amusement as he barred the door. "That won't stop them, love."

"No, but it makes me feel better!" Starbuck advanced on him, and Apollo retreated until he fell back against the bed. His lover simply crawled on top of him. "How long?" he demanded, glaring down at Apollo.

"'How long' what?"

"Until we can get married."

"Umm, well, a wedding at this level of society using takes about a yahren to plan."

"A yahren! I don't want to wait a fracking yahren!"

"You don't?"

"No! I wanted to be married by the time we went back to the Academy!"

Apollo managed not to laugh. "You thought you could marry the son of the Councilor of Caprica within two sectons?"

"No, I thought I could marry Ensign Apollo within two sectons."

"In this case, love, I'm afraid the two are hopelessly inseparable."

Starbuck's glare increased in wattage, then he flopped over to lie on the bed and sulk.

"Now, love, be reasonable," Apollo pleaded, snuggling up against the unresponsive body. "We can't give them grandchildren, but we can give them this."

Starbuck sighed, then adjusted his position enough to hold Apollo. "I suppose you're right. I just don't want to wait. Maybe it's silly, but I. ..." He shrugged, unable or unwilling to put it into words.

But Apollo understood. No matter how wonderful things had been, Apollo hadn't been truly happy until Starbuck had said 'I love you' to him. Having heard those words, Apollo needed nothing more to be reasonably certain Starbuck would never leave him. Marriage was Starbuck's touchstone. Even if Apollo did have the impression his lover had figured all of this out about a micron before he'd come bursting into the house.

"All right," Apollo said, getting off the bed while eluding the arm trying to keep him there. "Come on."

"Where are we going?"


"'Downstairs'? Why would we want to go downstairs? They're making ... plans!" He spat out the final word like some horrible curse and Apollo laughed, then took his hand.

He kissed Starbuck lightly on the lips. "Trust me, my love."

Starbuck found himself right back where he'd started from when Apollo coaxed him down the stairs. They'd all gone mad, he decided.

Ila and Adama were in the midst of an argument about details. Boomer was trying to convince Zac that two bachelors like themselves might as well call it a night and head back upstairs. And Athena sat nearby gazing at Boomer with wistful 'wedding' eyes. The worst thing was, Starbuck had no one to blame for all of this but himself.

He should have known there was a reason people proposed in quite, intimate settings. But he'd been overcome by impulse and the memory of how right it had felt to tell Apollo he loved him in front of his family. Frack, he could be such an idiot! He fixed Apollo with his best 'and why have you dragged me back down here?' glare and waited.

Apollo gave him what he considered a very condescending pat on the arm, then cut into a long discourse on why the Temple was a better choice than the Grand Hall, "Father."

To his credit, the commander wasn't so carried away as to miss the sound of his son's voice. "Yes, Apollo?"

"Could you stop arguing long enough to marry us?"

"Certainly, son. Zac, would you run upstairs and get my medallion?"

Obviously delighted to have something to do, Zac raced out of the room.

"But ... but ... " Starbuck sputtered, then glared. "Apollo, you said-"

"I said we have to have the wedding. I never said we couldn't already be married."

"Of course not!" Ila said. "After all, his father and I didn't wait." She gave Adama an accusing look. "If your mother had had her way, she'd still be planning our wedding."

Adama shuddered. "Don't remind me." He looked thoughtful for a moment. "This does give us an obvious date for the wedding."

She brightened. "One yahren from today. They can renew their vows while everyone else thinks they're getting married. What a wonderful twist!" She gave him a kiss as a reward, then glowered. "But I still say the Grand Hall is the better location."

"Ila, be reasonable. This is a religious ceremony. It should be at the Temple."

"But there's more room in the Grand Hall. For guests and vid crews."

"Vid crews?" Starbuck's mouth jerked as if it were thinking of developing a twitch.

"A necessary evil, I'm afraid," she said, giving his hand a sympathetic pat. "But at least you'll have a lovely tape of the ceremony."

Apollo gave Starbuck a long look. "Mother, could you stop telling him all this stuff until he's married me and has to stay with me?" He was obviously only half-joking.

He pulled Apollo into his arms, then kissed him. Once he'd finished reassuring his lover, Starbuck turned a glare on the man's parents. "If I have to put up with all of this felgercarb, I expect the biggest wedding festival this planet has ever seen."

Ila smiled, gave him a kiss on the cheek then said, "I think you can count on that. Just you make certain you graduate. I want you both to wear your dress uniforms. His father and I will take care of everything else."


Zac skidded into the room and held up the medallion which served as Adama's symbol of both his position on the Council and as an official of the Church of Kobol.

Adama smiled at him. "In a moment, Zac." He gestured for the family to gather around, Starbuck and Apollo before him.

He clasped them both again by the shoulder, then his hands dropped away and he began, "The words I'm about to speak are the most powerful in all the universe. They seal a union between these two men which is not only for now but for all the eternities."

Starbuck turned toward Apollo, crossed his wrists and clasped the hands reaching for his. Oh, Lords, his heart was pounding, threatening to burst with more love than he'd ever thought possible for anyone, let alone himself, to feel for another.

The cool metal of Adama's medallion began to wrap around their wrists.

Starbuck tightened his grasp on Apollo. Last chance for his beautiful ensign to come to his senses and Starbuck wasn't taking any chances.

Apollo gripped back, his eyes shining, reassuring Starbuck he wasn't going anywhere.

"Starbuck, Apollo, under the eyes of the Gods, bound by the symbol of the fates of the Lords of Kobol, I declare you sealed."

Done. It was done. He leaned forward and whispered "Forever" against the soft lips he loved so well. A beat of his heart, then they sealed their fates with a kiss.

Marital Bliss (Starbuck's Fourth Term)

Apollo settled into the indicated chair, then gave Starbuck a reassuring smile. Not that he needed to. Starbuck's case of interview-jitters had vanished in the wake of their marriage. It seemed to have given him a way to put all of this nonsense into prospective -- if he could face down the Cylons in life or death combat, he could handle a reporter out to make something out of his past. In fact, Starbuck seemed more at peace than Apollo.

Frack, he hated all of this. Uncomfortable with the two reasons the press pursued him -- his parentage and his looks -- he'd learned to handle them, but had never been at ease with all the attention. He doubted Starbuck would have any problems with today or any other day. The thought was re-enforced by his husband reaching over and giving his hand a squeeze to soothe him.

The irony of it almost made Apollo laugh, and he used the feeling to manage a smile for Lyra as she took her seat in the interviewer's chair. She hadn't wanted Apollo here, which had led to the obvious conclusion that she intended to try to cause a scandal over Starbuck's sexual reputation. She could still do it with him here, but it wouldn't be as effective, so naturally she resented Apollo's presence.

She got her cue and smiled. "Good evening and welcome to Caprica Live."

Apollo listened to her intro spiel and thought of how little had changed. Same emphasis on everything he hated about his unwarranted popularity, same nausea twisting inside of him. He wanted to run, but smiled his hellos to the viewers instead. Later he would remember he did that much, then she turned her attention to Starbuck and the massacre began.

Starbuck palmed open the door of their quarters and ushered Apollo inside. "Home again, my love," he said, giving him a smile. Home for one more yahren, then they'd trade this small set of rooms for even smaller accommodations aboard the Galactica. Some times Starbuck couldn't help but wonder if he'd lost his mind. He adored creature comforts and yet he'd chosen a life guaranteed to provide him with very few. Of course, it had also netted him a very handsome husband.

A very handsome, very stunned husband. Resisting the urge to chuckle, he guided Apollo over to the bed, then stripped him of boots and uniform. "I wish you'd stop looking so amazed, love," he said, ridding himself of his own clothing. "It's starting to get insulting."

Apollo looked up at him. "You made her sound like an idiot."

"She *is* an idiot. A scandalmongering idiot." He'd been most pleased with his performance. Lyra had tried to put a spin on every question about his past, but he'd deflected each veiled attack with a charming answer. She'd looked shrill, he'd seemed suave. He'd announced their engagement in the midst of her implication that a man such as himself could never commit to anyone. All in all, a battle well fought and won. Now, he wanted to collect the spoils of victory.

He pushed Apollo back onto the bed, then crawled up over him so he could stare down into bewildered green eyes. "Kiss me," he ordered, and Apollo obeyed. Hot, warm, delicious mouth. And all his. Forever. He'd have danced for joy if he wouldn't have had to abandon the bed to do so.

"But how did you know what to do?" Apollo asked the moment his lips were freed.

Starbuck sighed in exasperation. "Natural talent."

Apollo gave him the 'don't try to con me' look he'd managed to perfect shortly after he'd started dating Starbuck.

"Okay, so your mother gave me a few pointers," he admitted, nibbling on Apollo's earlobe between words. "But I've always known how to charm or disarm other people. It *is* a natural talent."

Apollo scowled at him. "I always get sick to my stomach."

Starbuck murmured sympathetically, letting the sound be a caress against Apollo's throat.

"Guess I'll just have to settle on being the better pilot."

Starbuck froze. It was true enough -- although not by much -- but honor demanded retaliation. "You'll pay for that," he hissed, his fingers snaking down to Apollo's ribs.

"No!" he gasped before the first touch, but Starbuck was not in a merciful mood and the tickling began.

Apollo howled. Starbuck tickled.

Apollo tried to squirm away. Starbuck followed.

The laughter and squirming turned to writhing, then wrestling. Somehow, Apollo ended up sprawled across Starbuck's lap, his delectable backside a temptation no man could resist.

He brought his hand down hard on the smooth white flesh. Apollo yelped, his body thrusting with the impact, his cock settling between Starbuck's thighs.

They both froze a moment, then Starbuck eased himself into a sitting position and stared at the red handprint on Apollo's flesh. Gently his fingers soothed the mark, but Apollo's hips lifted, pushing up against his hand. "Are you sure?" Starbuck whispered, not wanting to break mood, but needing to be certain.

"Yes," came the faint, but immediate reply.

Slipping back into the game, Starbuck seized one of Apollo's wrists, and pinned it behind his back to keep him in place. "Take it back."

"No! I'm better!"

Starbuck's free hand slapped down onto the unmarked buttock, then added a second print to the other. His blows scaled down to provide a stinging warmth rather than pain, he peppered the squirming bottom with smack after smack.

Each time his hand lifted, so did Apollo's hips in a silent plea for more. 'Ah, love, so much tension in your beautiful body.' For Apollo's sake he would have liked to have kept going, but also knew he had to stop for the same reason. Classes started tomorrow and that meant a lot of time seated in a simulator. Apollo seemed beyond remembering the discomfort he might face once the pleasure ended.

He gave him one more smack, then began to caress and soothe the flesh he'd warmed. Apollo whimpered, the cock pressing between Starbuck's thighs leaking with the pleasure his touch inspired.

Apollo's hand fumbled in the top drawer of the nightstand, then held up a tube of lube. "Starbuck," he pleaded, "Oh, Lords, take me."

That he could do. He didn't use much -- the need for lengthy preparation and copious amounts of lubrication was long gone. As he shifted around behind Apollo, he pulled his husband's hips up.

Apollo spread his legs and lowered his torso to the bed, then moaned with pleasure as Starbuck sank into his body. "Hard, Starbuck. Do it harder," he begged, a faint yelp sounding each time Starbuck's balls impacted with the bright red bottom.

Starbuck bit his lips. The spanking had aroused him to a painful degree, but Apollo needed a long hard ride, and Starbuck couldn't conceive of disappointing him. He reached beneath Apollo to cup his groin, but Apollo's hands caught his wrists and guided his touch to the hardness of his nipples instead.

Sweat began to glisten on Starbuck's skin, his mind to shut down to a degree where he had to fight to prevent his climax while thrusting over and over again into Apollo. He almost sobbed with relief when he heard the change in Apollo's breath which always heralded climax. His fingers closed, giving the nipples trapped between them a hard pinch.

Apollo came with a scream. Starbuck followed the collapsing body down to the bed, gave one final thrust, then his speed spurted deep within Apollo.

It took him a centon or two to catch his breath, then he shifted to the side and gathered Apollo into his arms. He didn't speak, but he held his husband close as panting became breathing, then breath slowed into a sated near purr. No need to ask how he felt -- the tension was gone, the body he held nearly humming with happiness. Knowing that it surprised him to hear the words, "Are you all right?"

He blinked, then it dawned on him Apollo had been the one to ask. "Why wouldn't I be?"

"I ... I'd fantasized about it, but I never thought. ..."

"You'd need it?" Starbuck kissed the top of his head. "You've always had a tendency to surrender to my whims, Apollo. This isn't a shock."

"And you don't mind?"

"No, not as long as you don't ask me to really hurt you." Starbuck considered the situation a micron, then added, "Or return the favor. I had enough of having my backside warmed in the orphanage." He said it with a rueful chuckle, letting Apollo know it had been well-earned punishment, not abuse.

"I won't. I don't want either. I just needed to. ..."

"Surrender." Starbuck smiled, then kissed his temple. They were both damp with sweat and the strands of hair tasted of salt. "You, my love, are a brilliant pilot and strategist. I have no doubts at all about which of us will lead the charge through the ranks."

"Starbuck --"

"Shh. I'm aware that I'm damned good at both things, too, but you are a genius. Take your due, Apollo, and let me handle you and the press while you master the fleet."

"I love you, Starbuck."

"I love you, too. Now, let's pretend to drift off to sleep while we pass out."

Apollo laughed, cuddled close, then they slept.


Apollo was polishing up last term's notes for his current class, when Starbuck came home. He walked through the door with that sort of slinking quality Apollo had come to recognize as 'up to something and you're not going to like it.'

His eyes narrowed in suspicion even as he gave Starbuck the usual hello kiss. "What have you done?"

"Nothing. Why do you ask?"

"Have you ever heard the expression 'don't try to pull one over on a conman?'"


"Well, it applies to a conman's spouse as well. Talk."

Starbuck gave him a 'you're no fun at all' look, then said, "Well, I did sort of sign us up for something."

Lords help him. What had he gotten them into now? "Starbuck. ..."

"It's nothing to worry about."

"Starbuck. ..."

"I just couldn't stand that smug look on Ortega's face for another term."

Ortega? Smug look? Apollo groaned and considered bashing his head repeatedly against the nearest hard surface. His head or Starbuck's. "You signed us up for the Triad matches."

"Well ... yes."

He glared at Starbuck even though he really should have known. They'd not been secure enough in their relationship during sign up last yahren, but they had often played Boomer and his teammate outside of the competition. Apollo had considered it good exercise and a way to help Boomer and Giles practice. Starbuck had thought they were good enough to have won the tournament if they hadn't been ineligible.

He'd gone on and on about it. Especially after Ortega's team had taken the championship. Starbuck might have won him, but he'd yet to forgive Ortega for almost flying with Apollo. "You could have asked me."

"You would have said no."

He couldn't really argue with that. "Perhaps it's because I don't want to play." All he needed was the fuss of a championship on top of everything else. All he wanted was to finish the term in as much obscurity as possible. A foolish hope since their wedding would be the event of the yahren, but he could dream, couldn't he?

"No, you like to play. You even like to win. You're just such a vain son of a daggit that you don't want your picture taken with helmet-hair."

Apollo made a face. He couldn't really deny that either. He hated the way the thing flattened out his hair. "No."

"Apollo. ..."

"Go away."

"Apollo. ..."

"I said no."

"You aren't looking on the bright side of all of this."

"There's a bright side?"

"Yep. There's more to the gear than the helmets."

He snorted. "Not much more."

"My point exactly." He gave Apollo a lingering leer, then gestured at his own pleasing form.

Apollo made the mistake of picturing his husband in said lack of gear and his mouth went dry. "Oh."

"Yes, 'oh.' And need I remind you how much more often we'll be using the gear if we play in the tournament?"

His groin stirred, adding its approval to Starbuck's plan. Desperately, he latched on to the flaw in the plan. "But I'll have to wear the helmet more often."

"So keep it on during any and all pictures. I guarantee you no one will be looking upward anyway."

He blushed. Not over the image of himself, but because he knew his eyes tended to linger lower whenever Starbuck was suited up. "Someday, I'm going to learn how to say no to you."

Starbuck whooped in triumph, then rewarded Apollo quite generously for the rest of the evening.

The next day Apollo went off to teach his classes with out-of-date notes and a smile on his face.

They won the championship with the first undefeated record in Academy history. Apollo wore his helmet in every post-victory image. Starbuck wore a smirk.


The Gambling Incident

Starbuck grinned around his fumarello and ignored Boomer's glare. Even knowing the 'prop trick' his friend couldn't quite bring himself to ignore anything Starbuck did. Which was why he normally lost. Starbuck almost always won.

Of course, he didn't really have much competition. He glanced around the table they'd set up in Boomer's room. Well, technically it was their room as Starbuck remained his roommate in the Academy records, despite living with Apollo for all but the first four sectares. Boomer liked the arrangement as it gave him the luxury of a room of his own. Starbuck liked it because it gave him a place to set up the sectonly pyramid game. Apollo tended to fuss if he held it in their own quarters.

Tonight's game, like most of them, was far from a challenge for Starbuck, but it did allow him to keep his skills from going totally to Hades. Which was why he'd allowed himself to be talked into giving these 'life in the real world' lessons when a couple of cadets had cornered him at the beginning of the term. He'd seen their reasoning -- the Academy trained them how to face an enemy, but didn't do much in preparing them for other aspects of life in the fleet.

He considered it a matter of duty to teach them the realities of life. Apollo insisted on believing he was merely noting the weaknesses of potential opponents. Starbuck smiled to himself. Well, that too.

"I'll call and raise you 10," he told Boomer.

Boomer glanced at his cards, glared at Starbuck again, then said, "I fold."

His performance was echoed by Gemma, Plato and Orion. Achilles gave him a hard look, then said, "Call, and raise you 15."

Having nothing more than a half-pyramid, Starbuck might have folded, but the kid had picked up the habit of blinking too much when he was trying to bluff. Deciding he must not have anything better than a quarter-pyramid, Starbuck said, "Call."

The kid flinched, then laid down his cards. Yep, quarter-pyramid. "Looks like I win," he said, showing his own cards. He opened his mouth to begin his assessment of the game with the hyper-blinking, when the door jerked open with the whine of a lock-override.

Frack! He sighed watching Academy security spill into the room. Apollo wasn't going to be pleased. At all.

Starbuck stood in front of Sire Icarus' desk and tried to look impressed. Not an easy task. The man owed his presidency of the Academy to one sterling trait -- he was the son of Sire Uri, a prominent member of Caprican society.

Of course, much of what Apollo had or would have was often dismissed in the same manner so Starbuck supposed he should be less quick with his acceptance of 'common knowledge,' but Lords!

Icarus had the look of decadence about him. Soft and pasty in appearance. Like his father with more hair and smaller jowls. It made his posturing difficult to take seriously. The idiot was actually prancing around the office as if his security forces had prevented some sort of heinous crime instead of breaking up a game of pyramid.

Starbuck tuned out the lecture on the immorality of gambling -- it was that or laugh since it wasn't a well kept secret that Sire Uri had an interest in several off-world casinos. Instead he reflected on how one decision could effect many. In another time he might be standing here desperately trying to think of some way to avoid expulsion and the ruin of any hopes of a career in the fleet. Perhaps his argument would have focused on the anti-gambling rules being in place to protect cadets younger than himself. Then he'd shift to his flying scores and imply, while humbly acknowledging Academy conditions were hardly the real thing, that, what with a war on and everything, the fleet could ill afford to lose him over an indiscretion. All while being as charming as possible.

He considered the plan and decided, yes, it probably would have saved him. But he didn't need it. While he had not discarded his own ... world-view, he knew some responsibility came with being a member of Commander Adama's family. He might not like it all the time, but he accepted it and made his decisions accordingly.

A silence descended on the room and he found himself the center of attention of several expectant looks. He gave his fellow 'disgraces to the uniform' a warning glance. He was about to take care of the situation, which would make an enemy of Icarus and his family. No need for the rest of them to do anything beyond slink off in silent gratitude. Cheering, crowing or otherwise posturing would do no one any good. He knew Boomer wouldn't be a fool, but he wasn't so certain of the others.

"Your pardon, Sire Icarus," he said, "but a mistake has been made. We were not gambling."

Icarus huffed, "You deny you were playing pyramid?"

"No, sir. But the Academy rules prohibit wagering for monetary gain, not the game of pyramid. We were playing for points, not credits."


"Yes, sir. We used the values from the dice game played by children." He smiled slightly. "I believe you will find your security people confiscated noting but a series of handmade scorecards." It had been Apollo's idea -- keep score, don't throw anything out on the table that could be easily exchanged for cubits. Starbuck had seen the sense of it, even if he had missed the feel of tossing something on to the table. Even Zac's candy.

Icarus looked confused, the rallied, "Winnings can be awarded on the basis of points."

"Yes, sir," he agreed, "but winning the points itself isn't against the rules." He stopped, waiting. He could humiliate the man by beginning the list of games -- cards or otherwise -- played on point systems, but he hoped it wouldn't be necessary.

To his relief, Icarus proved himself a fast enough thinker to go no further with the argument. "Why would anyone bother to play pyramid for points?"

"Because in the fleet the game is played for credits, and these cadets didn't want their first game to cost them a secton's pay." To Starbuck it was all fairly obvious, but, then again, he wasn't the off spring of the rich and powerful. ... At least not as far as he knew.

Figuring there was no great reason to make a *dire* enemy versus a mere enemy, he did not allow such thoughts to show on his face. All the time spent bluffing at pyramid served him well as he molded his expression into something he trusted conveyed the expectation of great wisdom. Of course, >great wisdom' wasn't needed. Just a man who knew when he was beaten and could give in with style if not grace.

To his surprise, Icarus proved himself such a man. "Very well, cadet. It seems no violation of the spirit of our rules occurred. However, it would have prudent of you to inform campus security of your impromptu lessons. It would have saved us all a great deal of inconvenience."

"Yes, it would have. I do apologize for the oversight, Sire Icarus," he said, willing to accept that much blame. He'd have to tease Apollo later for not thinking of it. AI will make a point of doing so in the future."

"Very well, dismissed." The picture of a man deprived of a great triumph, he turned his back on them and moved toward his desk.

Starbuck left, knowing the others would follow. Fearing laughter from the youngsters, he motioned for them to stay silent until they'd made it outside. Sure enough, they >kids' erupted into a mixture of sneering and chuckles the micron they were away from the building.

He didn't feel like celebrating, though he knew he might have in another time, another place. Right now he felt the lingering tension of a disaster adverted. Icarus had been too disappointed for this to be about a bunch of cadets caught breaking the rules. Grounds for expulsion to be certain, but often it meant nothing more than a lot of groveling and a black mark in a cadet's record.

No, he'd suffered the fame of his known relationship with Apollo, and now he'd had a look at those who saw him as a way to hurt his husband and family. No, he didn't feel like celebrating.

He declined Boomer's suggestion of a drink and watched his >co-conspirators' disappear into the night. Starbuck found himself fighting the urge to run while he walked back to the rooms he shared with Apollo.

His husband emerged from the bathroom as Starbuck entered. Wearing nothing but a towel and the glow of one fresh out of a turbowash, the sight of him would normally have inspired Starbuck to throw him onto the bed and take him. But arousal, like triumph, was far from his thoughts. "Apollo," he whispered, nearly overwhelmed with relief at finding him home.

Concern darkened Apollo's eyes. "What is it, love?" he asked, reaching for him.

Starbuck let himself be enveloped. Held. Comforted without even being asked to explain the need. Famous, a pawn others might use, all by virtue of who he loved. But he did love. With all his being. He loved and was loved in turn. And, for him at least, that made everything all right.

The Wedding (End of Fourth Term)

Apollo scowled at his image in the mirror. His hair looked flat, the cape of his dress uniform refused to hang right and he would have sworn the ornate metal fastening had tarnished during the two sectons since Starbuck's graduation from the Academy.

A laugh behind him, made him turn his glare on Starbuck. "What?" he demanded.

"You are so fracking vain, Apollo," Starbuck teased him, his arms sliding around his husband's waist to ease the sting. "Maybe you should marry your reflection instead of me."

"Very funny," he grumped. "You'd be agitated, too, if you had to walk into a room with someone as beautiful as you." While he was dark and dull, Starbuck seemed to glow with sunlight. His hair outshone the bright metal adorning the cape and his eyes glowed with laughter.

His words earned him a gentle kiss, then Starbuck drew back and said, AI know exactly how you feel. I married a man who is so gorgeous, I some times feel like a washed out dullard."

A flush of anger swept through Apollo. He didn't like it at all when anyone belittled Starbuck. Even the man himself. He opened his mouth to launch a hot protest when he caught the look in Starbuck's eyes. Oh, no. He might have set himself up, but he did *not* have to walk into the trap. "Okay, you win. We're both beautiful."

Starbuck laughed. "That we are." He stepped back and out of their embrace, then offered his arm to Apollo. "Let's take our gorgeous selves out there and break a few hearts."

Apollo smiled and took Starbuck's arm. A small part of him was amazed Starbuck wanted this and felt he should point out that this was the last chance to back out. Their secret marriage could be easily and quietly ended. After today's public spectacle nothing would be simple or less than an utter mess. But the wisdom of microns earlier kept him silent. If Starbuck hadn't figured it out for himself, Apollo wasn't about to let him get away now.

His parents were waiting for them when they emerged into the corridor. Ila kissed them both on the cheek. There was the slightest hint of smugness about her smile as she turned to take Adama's arm. "Our guests await, my dearest," she purred. "Shall we begin?"

Adama's smile was fond, signaling he had lost the argument about where to have the wedding with good grace. After all, Apollo's mother had been right -- the Grand Hall was bigger and all of Caprica had wanted to attend the wedding. Although Apollo knew most were far more interested in the festival afterwards than the very brief ceremony. Wagers had set the odds high the party would last a full secton, although Apollo knew formal arrangements had been made to provide entertainment for no more than three days, while today was the only official planetary-wide holiday.

He shivered slightly as they approached the main doors. It all tended to overwhelm if he thought about it too much. Starbuck drew him closer in silent reassurance.

Starbuck. His beautiful husband. Married. Within centons billions instead of a handful would know what they were to each other. He'd enjoyed the secret, but the public declaration pleased him as well. They belonged to each other. Had from the day they'd met -- even if it had taken Starbuck more time to accept it. 'Mine,' he thought and saw its echo in Starbuck's eyes. 'Mine.'

The orchestra finished a piece, then began the grand march Ila had selected as the doors opened to admit the wedding procession.

Apollo focused on the back of his mother's head and stepped forward. The walk up the aisle took five centons -- twice as long as the ceremony would. The whole galaxy would know? Hades, the whole galaxy was here! His stomach churned as they reached the dais where the High Priest of the Church of Kobol awaited them. He had to force himself to turn to face the assembly and felt a similar twitch of reluctance in Starbuck's arm.

Absurdly comforted by Starbuck's nervousness, he let out the breath he'd been holding, then listened as the priest spoke, "Will the protector of Starbuck consent to relinquishing her responsibilities to Apollo, the man to whom he has consented to be married?"

It was the more formal version of the ceremony and appropriate for the occasion, but Starbuck had no protector. He braced himself for an awkward silence; Starbuck's arm stiffening.

"Yes." Ila announced, her voice full of pride and affection.

Starbuck trembled and his eyes gleamed as he cast a look of equal devotion in her direction. Apollo had never loved his mother more than in that micron.

"Will the protector of Apollo consent to relinquishing his responsibilities to Starbuck, the man to whom he has consented to be married?"

"Yes." Adama answered this time, then removed his medallion and offered it to the priest. It was not necessary as the priest could have used his own -- a copy of Adama's, but no less sacred. Yet it allowed his father to have a hand in the performance of the ceremony as well as play his role of protector.

It pleased Apollo, and Starbuck was smiling as they turned to face each other. The priest repeated the words Adama had said a yahren earlier, the cool metal wrapped around their wrists. And it was done.

"Forever," he whispered and kissed his husband for all the galaxy to see.

Epilog (Present)

Starbuck lost himself in the memory of their wedding kiss. With so many watching, it should have been awkward, but in the brief touch they'd silently reaffirmed a love precious and wonderful. His mind had echoed, 'Forever' when Apollo's lips had prevented a spoken answer and. ...

The thought brought him back to the present with a jolt. 'Forever.' The two of them forever. No one else. No one. And yet, here he sat. Alone. While Apollo flew the final patrol of the war with his little brother.

It irritated him that he was so agitated about it. He was 10 yahrens older than the possessive cadet who had made flying part of his bond with Apollo. No, he never liked Apollo flying with others, but he should have been far beyond being this upset over it. Yahrens beyond it. But he wasn't. At least not today. Hades, he felt as if he'd watched Apollo fly off with Ortega, not Zac. For Sagan's sake, why was he reacting with such jealously? Starbuck was too old for this sort of felgercarb. Even the jealousy felt odd, like it was mocking him at the same time it twisted his insides. Taunting him for being a fool ... for letting familiarity with old emotions blind him to the present.

Of course. He stood up abruptly, then stalked out the door.

"Where are you going?" Boomer asked, running after him.

"On patrol."

"Starbuck, they won't let you launch. They're too wrapped up in protocol and keeping everything just right to allow an unscheduled launch."

He was spinning a story in his head about a malfunctioning stabilized. Would need a short flight to check it out and would be vaguely backed up by his absence on Apollo's patrol. It might get him out the launch tube, but one way or another he was going. "I was wrong, Boomer," he said, resuming his march to the viper bays. "It isn't just about possession or how we fell in love. It's about loving someone so much and for so long his instincts become your own. Apollo's allowed himself to be talked into thinking of his suspicions as some quirk. But something's wrong."

Starbuck shook his head, furious with himself. His mind cleared of the past, he could see how he'd tried to soothe Apollo when he should have joined him in his worrying. When even his husband hadn't seemed to share more than a dim echo of his concerns, how could Apollo trust his instincts? "Until that damned treaty is official, we're in a state of war, and I let my husband fly off with a kid too green to cover his back. Until we're at peace, one we know is going to hold, I'm going to be where I belong."

Boomer sighed. "All right, but I hope what ever story you're coming up with can cover both of us."


"Zac's my wingman." Boomer answered falling into step beside him.

Starbuck opened his mouth to protest. Apollo had asked Boomer to consider flying with Zac instead of Jolly for a sectare or two. The usual mixture of teaching the new pilot a few things about real flying and assessing his skill, but Boomer had not officially agreed. Starbuck reconsidered when he caught the look in Boomer's eye. If Starbuck had a need to be with his husband, Boomer had the need to be with his friends. "You feel it, too, don't you?"

Boomer shrugged. "Let's just say I've learned that the crazier you sound the more likely you are to be right."

Starbuck shook his head in bemusement, but even that tinge of humor faded when they settled into their vipers and he requested permission to launch. He gave them a modified version of his original story -- Apollo had gone on patrol without him because of a wobbly stabilizer, and he now needed clearance to do an in-flight systems check. Boomer was going along as a precaution against critical system failure.

Instead of giving them the hard time he'd expected, Colonel Tigh granted them immediate permission to launch. The 'good luck' tacked on to the end of the clearance sent a chill up Starbuck's spine. Something *was* wrong.

"Control systems transferring to viper craft," Rigel's voice announced. "Launch when ready."

Starbuck sent his viper roaring out the launch tube and turned to the heading he and Apollo had logged for the patrol. "I'm coming, Apollo," he whispered. "I'm coming."


End note: I know this seems like a cliff hanger ending, but it really isn't. I do hope to write 'what comes next' but I figure I'll have to invent some adventure we didn't see as I don't see much of the pilot changing because of Apollo and Starbuck's relationship. Apollo bonded with Boxy first, so I find it reasonable to assume he would have ended up with a son even without the romance, etc.

The one change I do think would be a direct consequence of the above mess is that Starbuck and Boomer would arrive in time to save Zac, who would remain Boomer's wingman, but, again, that wouldn't necessarily effect the pilot to a great extent.