If you are going to walk on thin ice, you may as well dance

"You’re with me, Starbuck," says Apollo.

Starbuck's eyebrow rises at the peremptory tone.  "I know that.  But I thought we were leaving off telling the world until Boxey was old enough to—" he hooks his fingers into a pair of savage air quotes "—understand and accept your alternative lifestyle.  Personally I think you're just scared of what your father's going to say, but what do I know?"

Apollo stares at him until Starbuck shrugs.  "I meant," says Apollo, speaking slowly and carefully, as if to the mentally impaired, "that you're coming with me on this mission."  He pauses and adds, thoughtfully, "I'm not sure I'm worried about my father so much, but do you want to be the one to tell Athena?"

Starbuck takes a micron to consider that.  He wonders if his face whitens as much on the outside as he feels it does on the inside.  "No," he concedes.  "I hate to say this about your sister, Apollo, but she can be a bit intimidating when she loses her temper."

"I seem to remember that she got you and Cassie with the Viper tube cleaning system," says Apollo.  "She believes in direct action."

"I was always pathetically grateful that the blast with the steam purge lasted only a micron.  Getting out of the tube sopping wet and dripping with detergent was bad enough without getting steam burns in places where I'd never be able to put a medical dressing."

"Way I heard it, you did have a few steam burns in unmentionable places and the nurses were queuing up to apply the bandages."

"You've had every opportunity to see the scars," insinuates Starbuck.  "And are they there?  No.  You sister is scary, but she's not mad enough to commit grievous bodily harm."

"Until she finds out about you and me."  Apollo is gloomy, but justifiably so.  "Then I think it'll be murder she goes for.  Look, she and Boomer are getting awfully friendly.  You persuade him into marrying her and it'll be safe for us, too."

"You mean sacrifice him."

"It's for a good cause.  And in the meantime, you're coming with me and Boomer to Heladas.  Seems that there's a special interplanetary trade fair going on down there at the moment, and the Council's decided to send a delegation.  We need a driver for the shuttle."

"A trade fair?"

"On the ice, apparently, according to the broadcasts we intercepted.  Winters there are pretty fierce, and the lakes freeze solid.  So they build a fair out on the ice with hundreds of little trading booths and cheapjack stalls, and thousands of people milling about buying and selling."

"Buying and selling what?"

"You know," says Apollo, vaguely.  "Stuff."

"Stuff.  What you mean is that the Council's going on a shopping trip.  Oh no, Apollo.  You can fly them there.  You don't need me."

"Ah, but I do.  I'm the military attaché for the meeting.  I'm going to be too busy being militarily diplomatic to worry about such mundane things as flying shuttles.  You're drafted.  Go get your things together."

Starbuck scowls.  "I am not a bloody taxi driver!"

"You aren't thinking this through, Lieutenant.  We're going to be on Heladas for about three nights.  Nights away from this ship.  Nights away from Boxey, who will happily go and make his grandfather's life hellish for a few days.  Nights away from the Regulations."

"Right," says Starbuck, kicking himself for being slow.  He grins and nods.  Three nights with Apollo sound pretty damn good, and well worth carrying a Councillor's shopping bags for.
"Yeah, right."  Apollo smiles back.  "You aren’t usually this slow, Starbuck.  Someone must be wearing you out."

"Are you saying too much sex saps the brain cells?"

Apollo smiles. 

"Well, duh," says Starbuck.


"The hotel is carved out of ice and snow," says Starbuck, stunned.

It is, too.  The walls are built from blocks of ice and gleam a cold greeny-blue, the hotel lobby is filled with ice sculptures and the chairs are cast (or carved?  Starbuck isn't sure which) from ice.  There's a bar carved from ice , and the Heladasians serve up a clear, almost tasteless liquor that kicks like a mule and comes in glasses that are made from ice.  There's even a chandelier hanging from the ceiling.  Knowing his luck, it's probably made from ice as well.

Starbuck isn't sure whether to be admiring of or horrified by the myriad forms the Heladasians can create from frozen molecules of hydrogen and oxygen.  He's beginning to feel a little beleaguered by the stuff, though, and would give a lot, right then, for a pale pastel drink with a paper umbrella.

"No," says Boomer after a drink or two. "I'm from Leo. Leo was a tropical paradise, and while I don't mind a day wandering around an ice fair and drinking lots of mulled wine to keep me warm. I draw the line at sleeping on a block of ice. I'm going to sleep in the real hotel across the street where there are real beds and, you know, real heating."

"This place is an experience though, Boomer," says Apollo

"Not one I want, and  and not even fur sleeping bags are enough to make me stay here,  You two can do whatever you like. "

Starbuck is outraged. "What sort of friend are you?" But he's already distracted by the thought of Apollo and fur and Apollo and Apollo and fur…

"The fair weather kind. See you in the morning."

"That was very tactful of Boomer," observes Apollo, not doing anything to dissuade Boomer from leaving and giving Starbuck what can only be described as a come-hither look from the corner of his eye.  "Or it would be if he knew about us."

Starbuck's pretty pleased about the come-hither look, but as dubious as Boomer about a bed carved from (wouldn't you know it) ice.  He thinks about what he'll be doing in that bed.

He thinks first about kissing Apollo.  To be honest, he's been thinking about kissing Apollo pretty much all day, ever since the shuttle left the flight deck, so he's keyed up and so ready for it, he's aching.  He licks his lips to moisten them, a sort of checking that the tools are ready for action. 

He'll kiss Apollo's mouth first, of course.  He likes Apollo's mouth.  Apollo has a very nice shaped mouth and a full bottom lip that the Lords just made for nibbling on until it's kiss-swollen and juicy.  And then, as he's undressing Apollo he'll kiss as much warm skin as he can reach—always coming back to that luscious lower lip and keeping it at its best—and he'll especially kiss Apollo's neck, because Apollo loves that, and he'll lick and lick at the little hollow at the base of his throat, because Apollo really loves that.

And when he has Apollo naked, he has all that soft, warm skin to kiss again and lave and smooth over with his cheek, touching and kissing and using his fingers to tingle and soothe.  Apollo loves that too.  And then he'll suck on Apollo's nipples, teasing with gentle teeth because Apollo really, really loves that and has been known to tell Starbuck so.  Very loudly and with writhing.

And all the time he's kissing, his fingers will be smoothing and stroking; down along Apollo's sides, sliding over those slim hips, starting at Apollo's knees (he likes Apollo's knees) and dragging softly up the inner thigh to grasp the beautiful cock, and it'll be hard and straining and just begging Starbuck to lick and kiss and suck.  And while he's doing that he'll get Apollo ready for him.

And then.

And then.

And, probably, then again.

"You know, Apollo," says Starbuck, wriggling uncomfortably in pants that are suddenly waaaayyy too small, "I think there's a real danger we'll melt that damn bed."

"Starbuck," says Apollo. "I'm counting on it."

And he smiles.


1326 words                                                                      January 2009