… songs... always in a minor key, fraught with sadness, yet full of quiet resignation and pathos.

A Lute of Jade by Launcelot Alfred Cranmer-Byng.



The sky looks like a bruise: plum-purple shades off into green and yellow, scythed through by the sun.  The light glances off his cheekbones as he turns his head, outlining each ridge and the sides of his face with gold.

Last night… no, not last night but the one before… the night before last, the light was dimmer, coming from the shaded lamp beside his bed.  The gold was dulled as if tarnished, but what it did, how it lit his face and slid into the hollow under his cheekbone and down the line of his jaw—that remains the same. 

While I watch, the little hollow darkens into shadow while the line of gold deepens.

It's beautiful.  He's beautiful.

He has nice cheekbones.  I've heard Athena say more than once that she can forgive Apollo a lot of things—being so close to their mother, getting all the Commander's attention, having Zac hero-worship him—but she finds it hard to forgive the cheekbones.  I think she's joking, but it's hard to be sure because I've seen her stare into a mirror and pinch despondently at her own, trying to make them stand out better, sucking in her cheeks to get a better definition.  She usually laughs and shakes her head and says half-admiring, half-envious things like : Apollo will still be beautiful when he's eighty, damn him or He could have skin like worn leather and those bones would still be beautiful or just a sigh and I hate it that he's prettier than me.

Of course, she doesn't know that he also has my attention and worship and closeness.  I don't know if she will forgive that any more or less than she forgives the cheekbones.  I'll flatter myself and say Less, Starbuck, of course it's less.  But I don't know, really.  Athena's a hard one to understand and for all her naiveté when she first arrived on the Galactica and I first knew her, like the rest of us she's grown older and colder.  Like the rest of us, her priorities have shifted.  I don't know that I'm a priority of hers any more.

She's not here, anyway.  Apollo's the one who's here.

She's not my priority and she never was.  Apollo's my priority and he always has been.  It's just taken us both a long time to realise it.



Everyone's bones are more prominent now, I've noticed.  Apollo's no exception.  There's not so much to eat as there used to be and whatever extra rations he gets, Apollo gives to Boxey.  He's not starving—none of us are—but there's no luxury any more, no excess, no culinary delicacy to be savoured.  There's just enough

I noticed the prominence the night before last.  When he tilted his head back so I could kiss his throat, the light edged the side of his neck and shadow pooled in the hollows between the sinews and around his clavicle bone.  The little bones jutted out more than they used to, pressing up hard against the skin, catching the light. 

I had my hands around his face as I kissed him, holding his face between them, smoothing my thumbs along his jaw and letting my fingers knead through his hair. He likes that, does Apollo.  When I first knew him, he was skittish about being touched, nervous and gauche and unsure of how to respond; now he revels in it.  So when I let my hands flow down the side of his neck and out across his shoulders, he sighed and let his head fall back on the pillow, stretching out his neck to let my lips follow the course my hands had already mapped out on his body.

The little bones were hard, the skin stretched and tight over them.  I let my fingers trace their shapes, smoothing up over the bone and sinking into the warm hollows, up and round and down and round again, over and over until I had licked my way down his throat and out along the bone, tongue taking the same route: up and round and down and round again, over and over. 

The bones didn't taste any different, sitting where they are just below the skin, than the little hollows beside them.  Perhaps there was a touch more salt in the hollows; a little of the sweat that gleamed in the soft lamplight had gathered there, maybe.  I licked the hollows more than once to try and be sure but couldn’t be certain. 

It didn't really matter then.  It doesn't matter now.

But I wondered that something that looks so fragile, could still be so strong.



Much as I’d like to, I can’t see how this sun would glint off those little bones; not in this place and not now.  We aren't alone.  The camp is just over the rise and I can see some of the others walking along the lakeside.  They're a long way off, but I think it's the girls, as much from the way the figures walk and their closeness as from any other clue.  

They're a long way off, but too close.

So all I can do is this.

I can tell him that it isn't our fault; it isn't our fault the people here died and it isn't our fault that our own people died.  He won’t listen, not at first, but I can tell him.

I can turn to face him and watch the sun strike him with gold, and see the bruised sky like a halo behind his head. 

I can reach out and put my hands on his shoulders, wishing I could feel the little bones through the thick cloth of his jacket and if I press hard enough, I think I can. 

I can slide one hand, my right, up over his collar and let it rest on the side of his neck, cupping his head, my thumb under his jaw and fingers moving in the soft hair at the nape. 

I can lean forward and rest my forehead against his, not kissing him, not yet; waiting until he's found himself again.

I can kiss him then, when he's ready; I can kiss his eyes and his face and his mouth, tasting the salt from his tears. 

I can let him hold onto me and shake for a little while, as he remembers Caprica and Siress Ila and Zac.  And Serina, I suppose.

I can hold him, feeling his breath warm and soft against my face, his heart thudding against my chest. 

I can hold him until it feels everything's melted and that no-one, least of all me, can tell where he ends and I begin. 

I can hold him until the shaking stops and he sighs and turns his face to rest his cheek against mine, and peace comes, and quietness. 

I can feel his lips moving and I can guess, I know, what it is he's saying, imprinting word after word on me until it sinks into my skin and muscle and bone, and until all we are, is as bruised and molten as the sunset.

I can wonder how something that is so strong, can sometimes feel so fragile.



1,200 words.
August 2009

The title's a sort of pun.  The clavicle bone – which is the first to start ossifying and the last to finish – comes from the Latin for 'little key' – hence minor key.   And music in a minor key is usually thought to be a little melancholy or mysterious, or even ominous.