Part Five

 

Adama grumbled as the insistent buzzer went again. He opened heavy eyes to focus on the chronometer beside his bed. Three o'clock in the morning. For a micron he felt irritation, then a rush of the now familiar anxiety. Apollo. It had to be Apollo.

"Lights, 30 percent," he said as he got hurriedly out of bed. The voice activated computer programme brought the lights up slowly. Adama shrugged into his robe as the door buzzer went again. "Open."

The door slid aside. A tall figure hesitated in the door way, outlined against the much brighter corridor lighting.

"Apollo?"

"No, it's me. Starbuck."

"Starbuck? What the hell are you doing here?" Adama's heart thumped. "Is Apollo all right?"

"He's fine. Well, he's blind drunk but I got him to bed and he's sleeping it off. Can I come in?"

Adama sighed. "Yes, you'd better." He walked heavily over to the seating and waved Starbuck into a chair. "You're sure he's all right?"

"He's sound asleep. It's more than I will be tonight."

Adama sighed. "He told you then. Thank God. I hoped he would. I wanted you to know."

"It nearly broke my heart," said Starbuck. He drew his sleeve over his eyes.

"It did break mine."

"Look, I don't want to leave him too long on his own. But I wanted to talk to you." Starbuck shrugged helplessly. "I don't really know what to do to help him."

"I'll come back with you. We'll talk there."

Starbuck looked almost pathetically grateful as Adama got to his feet. They walked to Apollo's quarters in silence. They were as dimly lit as Adama's but there was enough light to see that Starbuck had left the door to Apollo's bedroom open and Adama went in, quickly. Apollo had curled up to sleep, body curving around itself protectively, but his face was relaxed Adama gently brushed back the hair that had fallen over Apollo's face, bent down to kiss him. He went back into the living area.

He gestured towards the ambrosa. "Is there any of that left?"

"Some. Most of it's in Apollo." Starbuck managed a pained smile and went to get a clean glass.

"Is he drinking that much?" Adama asked.

"Nah. He really doesn't drink much at all. He's got no head for alcohol. But tonight I think he needed some extra courage to tell me, then something to drown all the memories afterwards."

Adama nodded. "I'm glad he told you. He needs you."

"But I don't know what to do," said Starbuck, handing Adama the ambrosa. "I don't want to believe it's all true. I can't bear to think of that happening to Apollo."

"Oh, it's all too true. How much did he tell you?"

Starbuck took a deep breath. "Everything, I think. About running away from home and selling himself, and Todd raping him and prostituting him."

"That seems to cover it," Adama acknowledged. "Did he tell you why he ran away?"

"Just that he was feeling a bit neglected and bullied at school, and was fed up with having to be responsible for Zac and Thenie all the time.".

"I think we forgot how young he really was. Ila always blamed herself for asking too much of Apollo, almost expecting him to fill in for me. He was just a child and she thought later that she'd loaded him with too much responsibility for the younger ones. We hadn't realised either that he was unhappy at school. All we noticed was the poor reports of his school work and his behaviour, and he was increasingly rude and difficult at home. He and Ila had had a massive row a few days before he went, over nothing at all really, and I made things much worse by sending him a rocket about how disappointed I was and he could forget the new bike I'd promised him for Yule. I told him he didn't deserve it and that when I got home he and I were going to have words."

"Oh."

"Except he wasn't there for Yule. He disappeared the day he got my letter." Adama glanced through at his son. "I don't think I'll ever forget the call I got from Ila. She was almost hysterical. It took me two days to get home. I don't ever want to live through anything like that again or the sectars that followed. We spent all the time we could looking for him, pushing the police to do something more active. It was a terrible, terrible time. To be honest, Starbuck, I'd have coped with it better if I'd been called home because he'd died. It would have broken my heart, but at least we'd have known. It was not knowing that almost killed us, not knowing if he was alive or dead."

"Yeah," said Starbuck, uncharacteristically awkward. He tool a gulp of his own ambrosa.

"He'd been missing over six sectars when we got the call from the police. We'd given up, almost, sure that he was dead. We couldn't believe he was alive, that we were getting him back. I don't think I breathed once in the trip to hospital, and when we got there…" Adama paused, shook his head at the memories. "He was in an appalling state. In life support, black and blue from a ferocious beating, critically ill with meningitis and with a pretty poor chance of surviving. He was a beautiful child, strong and so graceful, and.." He broke off again, looked through to the sleeping man beyond the sliding doors. "What I saw in that hospital bed was some pitifully thin travesty of my son. He looked so small and helpless. He looked so…so maimed. When they told us what had happened to him, I thought I'd die."

"I know." Starbuck put down his glass and pushed it around the table top with one moody finger. "I wanted to be sick, I was so angry and hurt and... and I don't know what."

He jumped up, going into the bedroom. For a centon he looked down at Apollo, then bent down to hug him fiercely. Adama found that more than touching. He even thought it was hopeful. When Starbuck rejoined him, Adama put a hand on the younger man's arm and smiled at him comfortingly, resuming the tale.

"We almost lost him again, Starbuck. He was desperately ill for days with viral meningitis, and when he developed pneumonia as well, we didn't think he'd live. It was a secton before he was conscious. Ila and I stayed with him at the hospital, night and day. He took sectars to recover and he was never the same afterwards." Adama smiled slightly. "He'd been such a noisy, energetic child. In fact, pretty much like what I imagine you were. But after this, he was never like that again. He was quiet and subdued, shy, remote and withdrawn, wary. Damaged. He lives behind some pretty dense barriers."

"I'd be psychotic."

"Well, we ended up there," said Adama, determined to be honest. "When he had to talk to the police and we found out the whole story, he got very withdrawn and didn't like us to touch him. He thought we were mad with him, that he disgusted us. He wouldn't eat or talk, and spent all of his time curled up on his bed. Even with trained psychiatrists, it took sectons for us to reach him. It took me sectars to convince him that we loved him just as much as before and that nothing could ever change that, and just as we were getting through to him, Todd's trial came up and we went through it all again. Dreadful time."

"He had a breakdown?" asked Starbuck, choking, voicing the word Adama couldn't bring himself to say.

Adama nodded. "Of a sort, I suppose," he said unwillingly.

"So we've got to catch this bastard, before he pushes Apollo into another one. That's what he's trying to do."

"I think so too," agreed Adama.

"You got me worried that you thought it might be him doing it himself."

"He'd never hurt you, Starbuck. We both know that."

Starbuck nodded and stared moodily through to Apollo. "So all this must have happened just before I met him."

"Yes. He was ill for a long time. When he went to Caprica Secondary, that was his first return to school in two yahrens. He just wasn't well enough before then."

"He came part way through a term," remembered Starbuck. "The only free seat was next to me – they always parked me in a front row desk, for some reason."

"I expect they needed to keep a firm eye on you," said Adama, gravely.

"I don't think you could have found two people less like each other. He was a bit of a challenge, you know. I could charm most anyone, even the teachers, but he'd look at me as if I'd just come out from under a rock - " Starbuck stopped, even laughed softly, although it didn't sound very sincere or natural. "Definitely a challenge to win him over. And now he's... well, you know."

"Yes. At least, I hope I do. I want him to be happy, Starbuck. I think you'll be the one to do it."

"So, what do I do, sir? How do I help him?"

Adama made a helpless gesture with both hands. "Just do what you're doing. Don't let it make any difference to how you feel about him or how you treat him."

"It can't," Starbuck said, and Adama smiled, reassured.

"If I didn't say it before, Starbuck, I'll say it now. I used to have grave doubts about you, but you're really very good for Apollo. Very good indeed."

"I love him," Starbuck said, simply. "But I'm worried about him too. All this is stirring up how he feels about what happened and about himself, and none of those feelings are what I'd call positive."

"I know. Like I said, it took me a long, long time - yahrens, I think, really - to convince him that him no-one blamed him or thought any the worse of him, but I don't think he ever really stopped despising himself or blaming himself. Quite common with abused children, but not much comfort to know that, for either of us."

"And the longer this goes on, the worse it'll be for him."

"I'd feel a lot better if he'd only let it out sometimes but he always did bottle everything up." Adama sighed.

"But he did break down tonight, at the end," said Starbuck.

"Did he?" Adama brightened. "That's good. That's very good."

"Then he drank until he passed out and I could get him to bed."

"Maybe that isn't so good, but to have you to confide in... that's what he needs."

"What he needs is for this bastard to be caught. And I'm going to move heaven and hell to do that."

Adama smiled. "You and me both, Starbuck. You and me, both."

 

 

"Come on, Apollo. Rise and shine!"

Apollo grunted and turned over, pulling the quilt up over his head.

Starbuck shook his head sadly. "You have to understand, Apollo, that this hurts me more than it hurts you. I'm only doing this for your own good." He gently eased back the quilt and took the dripping sponge from the bowl. "Last chance," he said

No response.

"Oh, but I'm going to enjoy this! Boy, is it going to make up for all those mornings when you threw me out into the uncaring cold."

Apollo opened one eye. "You use that sponge and you're a dead man, Lieutenant."

The rather glassy green eye closed again.

Starbuck stared in surprise, then carefully replaced the sponge. "How did you do that? Thirty microns ago you were in a coma."

"I still am in a coma. I like being in a coma."

"You are absolutely no fun at all," complained Starbuck. "I can't think why I love you."

There was a short silence.

"Neither can I," Apollo said in a muffled voice.

Starbuck didn't hesitate. The bowl and sponge went flying as he pulled Apollo up into his arms. "But I do, Apollo," he said firmly. "And if I get any more of that crap out of you, you get the sponge, okay?"

He kissed Apollo with a savagery that surprised them both, but couldn't possibly have left Apollo in any doubt at all about his complete sincerity.

"Okay," said Apollo, but he wasn't looking at Starbuck..

"And you can stop that too." Starbuck knew that shyness all too well. He didn't want an abject, grateful Apollo who would be hell to live with. "I hate it when you start playing martyr -"

"I'm not – "

Starbuck rolled on over Apollo's attempts at protest. " - I told you last night that it made no difference to me, and the only way I know to prove it is to shag you blind this morning. You on?"

Apollo grinned at that, looked at Starbuck properly. "You could try persuading me," he suggested.

"I will - as soon as we've sorted you out. You may be my one and only love, Apollo, but you taste absolutely toxic. Hung over, unless I miss my guess?" The green eyes staring into his were still decidedly glassy, wincing against the light. Starbuck didn't need an answer. "Don't nod. Your head will probably fall off. Okay. You spiked plan A. Time to move to Plan B. Here you are." Starbuck released Apollo after another quick peck and picked up a glass from the night table. It was full of a thick orange liquid.

"Oh no, I'll stick with the hangover. I've had that stuff before."

"And you know it works. Drink it, Apollo. Then we'll clean you up and you can come back to bed and I can remind you what fun is."

"No I can't. I'm due on duty in…" Apollo focused on the alarm, sat bolt upright in panic. "Starbuck, it's nine thirty!"

"I know," Starbuck said, serenely. "Stop panicking. You've got the day off."

"Day off?" repeated Apollo.

"Yeah. I went and got your Dad last night, and he took one look at you and decided that what you needed was a day in bed with your favourite lover. He didn't put it quite like that, you understand, him being a real gentleman and all, and he said to tell you that he wouldn't normally condone drunkenness on the part of his senior officers, but that's what he meant. Boomer and Jolly have this shift, and Boomer's enjoying the crazed feeling of power. So drink up and then you'll feel better."

"I'll throw up. I always do with that stuff."

"That's the point, Apollo. It gets rid of all that stale ambrosa in your stomach and leaves you capable of starting all over again."

Apollo looked dubiously at the glass in Starbuck's hand. "I wish you'd tell me what's in it."

"Trade secret." Starbuck really didn't want to gross out Apollo more than was strictly necessary. "But it works every time. Open wide."

"I'll drink it myself," Apollo said hastily.

"Ah you do remember the last time," said Starbuck, and laughed. He'd sat on Apollo's chest, held his nose and literally poured the concoction down his throat. He didn't want to dwell on the unpleasant consequences.

Apollo scowled at him. He took the glass and sipped at the contents gingerly. It tasted disgusting, and he said so.

"Of course it does," said Starbuck cheerfully. "That's how you know it's doing you good. All down, Apollo."

"Are you sure it's Boomer who's power crazed here?" Apollo grumbled, but did as he was told. He took a deep breath, and downed the liquid in one. "Oh God, that's foul."

Starbuck took the glass. "That'll be the raw eggs," he said wickedly. "Gosh, Apollo. I've never seen you quite that colour before. Matches your eyes."

Apollo just groaned, and threw back the covers. Starbuck smiled to himself as Apollo bolted for the turboflush.

"Works every time," he said, in satisfaction, and followed his love at a more leisurely pace.

He grinned evilly at the distressing scene in front of him, and went to start the shower running. By the time Apollo was finished, Starbuck, leaning casually against the wall and watching with interest, had everything ready.

"That's a very unedifying sight." He helped Apollo up. "Just as well the child's not here to be scandalised."

Apollo glowered, pale faced and sweaty. With Starbuck's support he staggered over to the basin to rinse his mouth and clean his teeth to get rid of the foul taste. And, incidentally, be more kissable when he felt a bit better, said Starbuck.

"Shower," suggested Starbuck.

Apollo nodded dumbly and let Starbuck take him into the shower cubicle. For a few centons he leaned up against the wall under the warm, delicately scented spray, eyes closed. Starbuck, who only had to shed his shorts, went with in him, on the basis that the warmth and Starbuck's hands would help humanise Apollo a bit.

"Better?"

"Much." Apollo opened his eyes and looked at Starbuck. He raised one hand to the Starbuck's cheek, sought reassurance. "You sure?"

"Never been surer. Love you to death, Apollo. That's all that matters."

Apollo sighed and relaxed at last. "I'm a very lucky man."

"And that's something I've been telling you for sectars. Yahrens, even." Starbuck snuggled in close, his soapy hands moving in long slow circles on Apollo's back. "And I'm willing to go into constant reassurance mode if it means that this ridiculous separation you imposed on me is over."

"It's over. It was just that I was trying to avoid telling you about Todd."

"I know. Still now I know, and later on today we'll plan on how we're going to nail that bastard to the floor."

"I hope we get the chance."

"We will. But I need some reassurance, too, Apollo. I want to make love to you, you know that. But not if it upsets you, or reminds you too much.. when you're ready, and not before."

Apollo pressed a hand against Starbuck's cheek. "Am I the only person in the world to know you, Starbuck? Most people out there would never believe how sensitive and caring you are."

"Well, don't tell ‘em," said Starbuck, alarmed. "I have a reputation to uphold."

"Undeserved. Don't worry, Starbuck. Making love with you was never a problem. It couldn't ever upset me. I love you. It's all right."

Starbuck frowned. "Drink affected your memory?"

"Don't think so. Why?"

"I was sure I'd explained to you last night that sex with me is a helluva lot better than all right."

"Maybe I need a demonstration," Apollo suggested helpfully. "To help me remember. It's been a few days."

"No brain, some people. So, I'm feeling very horny, you're feeling all right, we have the whole day ahead of us, thanks to your amazingly understanding Dad: when do you think you'll be feeling well enough for some very hot sex?"

Apollo laughed. "I thought that Salik told you to avoid excitement?"

"Medics don't know everything." Starbuck kissed him, then drew back, grinning. "What do you think this soap tastes like?"

"As enticing as that crap you made me drink, I should think."

"Worked, didn't it? I was thinking about licking you from head to toe, but, of course, concentrating my attentions somewhere about here…"

Apollo jumped and grinned as one of Starbuck's hands enclosed his hardening cock, the other sliding down between his buttocks to tease him.

"But not if it tastes all icky." Starbuck removed one hand despite Apollo's protests and switched the shower to rinse. "I'll make do with drying you off under here as usual."

Apollo hooked one hand around Starbuck's neck and pulled him closer, under the jet, fastening onto Starbuck's mouth like a leech. The kiss left them both breathless.

"Let's just pass on the drying off," Apollo said when they surfaced. With one hand he hit the shower controls and turned it off. The other was more intimately engaged with portions of the Starbuck's anatomy. Starbuck didn't complain.

They almost fell out of the shower, kissing madly like a pair of kids, not letting each other go. Somehow they ended up half way across the bathroom. Too fraught to think about making it to the bedroom, Starbuck pushed Apollo back until the captain half-fell, half-sat on the turboflush, and sat astride him. For a micron he pulled back and looked into Apollo's eyes.

"I love you very much, you know. More than I could ever have imagined." He cupped Apollo's face with his hands, his thumbs gently tracing the line of Apollo's mouth. "Come inside me, Apollo, please. I want to feel you inside me."

"Here?" Apollo's hands were enthusiastically pumping Starbuck's cock, his own pressed up hard into Starbuck's belly.

"Right this micron," Starbuck said. He kissed Apollo once, then let his mouth trail down the side of his lover's neck. He bit gently, grinning when Apollo moaned. "Hold still a centon…"

Standing and stretching he could just reach the medicine cupboard and the tube of lube that should be stashed there. Apollo took what Starbuck considered to be unfair advantage, getting a hand in between his legs and his still-wet fingers into places that had Starbuck moaning wordlessly.

"Shit, Apollo, that feels amazing," he said, bouncing up and down a little on Apollo's hand , trying to get those teasing fingers in even further.

Apollo grinned at him. "You look ridiculous. Like a frog, or something."

"Sex is a ridiculous pastime, when you come to think of it. Thank God we have a sense of humour about it." Starbuck continued his little bounces, getting one hand behind Apollo's neck to tug at his wet hair until Apollo tilted his head back enough for Starbuck to have a serious go at his throat.

Apollo purred, keeping one hand at the task of stretching Starbuck and the other at playing with Starbuck's cock and balls. Starbuck moaned into the throat he was nuzzling with his mouth, coating Apollo's cock with lube with a free hand.

"Now," he said, and half stood.

He settled back down again, this time with the blunt head of Apollo's cock pressing against his opening. Bracing himself against the familiar sharp pain, he rose and fell again, gasping as Apollo breached the tight anal ring.

"Oh Lord. That is pretty... damned... good."

He rose and dropped again, never quite allowing Apollo to leave him entirely, taking a little bit more of Apollo each time, on each thrust. He had his hands on Apollo's shoulders for balance, watching his lover's face flush with passion and desire. Apollo's hands on his waist felt hot, demanding.

"I love you," Apollo said softly, as Starbuck took all of him. "I love you, Starbuck."

Starbuck, revelling in the feeling of having Apollo in him to the hilt, paused and looked at him. He leaned down to run his hot tongue around Apollo's mouth before pushing it through the half parted lips.

"I know," he murmured when he moved his lips down over Apollo's chin and started licking and kissing his throat. "I know, Apollo."

He started moving again, sliding his hands down Apollo's shoulders and smoothing them across his chest to reach the nipples. He pulled each one gently, as far as they'd go, listening to Apollo's gasping. Apollo's hands ran down over his hips to cup his buttocks for a centon or two, massaging them, then slid around to enclose his cock and balls.

"A -pol -o!" Starbuck breathed into Apollo's mouth as Apollo pumped him to the same rhythm.

He was moving faster now, and Apollo was moaning, half in delight half in pleasurable frustration at barely being able to move. Then when Starbuck rose, Apollo half rose with him, grasped him around the waist and started to thrust hard, meeting him on each stroke. He was impaling Starbuck with each thrust, getting in as hard and as high as he could. At this angle, he was pounding on Starbuck's prostrate, not the gentle stroking rhythm he tended to favour, and Starbuck was almost whimpering, head thrown back now, eyes closed.

"Shit, you're so hot. So hot," Apollo gasped, as the soft channel he was creating inside Starbuck gripped and held him. "Oh God, Starbuck.."

He got one hand back onto Starbuck's cock and resumed pumping him hard, faster and faster now, harder on each stroke. Starbuck moaned and whimpered, wordless now, conscious only of that hard cock sliding in and out of him, the almost-pain of the pounding his prostate was getting and Apollo's hand gliding strongly up and down his erection. He came with a yell that must have sounded like a battle alarm, and shot up Apollo's chest.

"Geez!" He kept going despite the sudden post-sex exhaustion that had him gasping for breath. "Pull out, Apollo. I want to see you come."

"Try." Apollo gritted his teeth.

At the last micron he pulled all the way out, spasming all over Starbuck's cock and balls. Quick as lightening, Starbuck got his hand on Apollo's slickly gleaming cock and pumped it, wringing another shorter burst from Apollo's balls, then a third. Gasping, he rubbed it into himself, smiling dazedly into Apollo's eyes, watching the hectic flush fade back to the usual pallor. He loved watching Apollo come. It was the most wonderful thing in the world.

"Then you'll be able to taste yourself on me later," he said, and settled himself astride Apollo, cuddling in close and kissing him.

Apollo's response was incomprehensible, even to Starbuck's Apollo-attuned ears. It had the right tone, though. Starbuck was satisfied.

"Remember now?" he asked, when he got some semblance of normal breathing back.

"It's starting to come back to me. We may need to do this a few times before I'm sure I remember all of it though."

Starbuck ran gentle, loving fingers down Apollo's cheek. "Okay with me, Apollo. Told you, though, didn't I? Isn't that one helluva lot better than all right?"

 

 

"Oh come on!" Starbuck protested sleepily as the chime went again. "Who is this idiot? Can't he tell we don't want to be disturbed?"

Apollo was curled up next to him, still dozing. He muttered crossly as Starbuck moved and disturbed him.

The chime went again. Louder. Insistent.

"What is it?" Apollo surfaced enough to ask.

"Your bloody communicator," grumbled Starbuck, falling out of bed and staggering towards the living room. He glanced at the timepiece on the wall. Mid afternoon. Well, so far it had been a great day. He pushed the communicator into Apollo's slack hand. "Answer it, then I can go back to sleep."

Apollo sat up, yawning. "Sleep? You're definitely getting old, Starbuck. Only three times and you need to sleep?" He thumbed open the communicator. "Apollo."

"It's me, Apollo," said the commander not sounding in the least apologetic although given that he'd left the lieutenant in his son's quarters the previous night he had to have a fair idea of what the two of them were up to. "We need to talk. You'd better come up to the briefing room."

"What's happened?"

"He's gone public, Apollo. He's sent his latest message to IFB, complaining that you aren't listening to him. We need to talk. Everyone knows now that the angels are aimed at you."

 

 

"I'm sorry to have to disturb you, Apollo," said the commander. "It was necessary."

"I missed IFB," said Captain Apollo. "What was said?"

He and Starbuck slid into seats at the briefing table to Adama's left. Adama sat in his usual place at the head of the table. Tigh and Reese were both there, sitting opposite Starbuck and Apollo. Reese watched them speculatively, wondering why the lieutenant was there. Tigh watched Adama.

"It went out on the noon bulletin." Reese put a data crystal into the table-top communicator link. "Not, you understand, a voice message. That would have given us something to work with, something to analyse. All we have is a recording of a written message, keyed to cycle through on repeat. "

He turned the screen to face the two warriors and started the crystal running.

Hello, sweet Angel, why won't you talk to me? Does one of your pilots have to die before you talk to an old, old friend? Talk to me, sweet Angel. Talk to me. Hello sweet Angel, why won't you talk to me? Does one of your pilots have to die……

Captain Apollo frowned. He looked – Reese didn't know what he looked like, but he wasn't happy, that was clear. "Can you tell where it came from?"

"Transmitted to the IFB studio on the Equus from somewhere on this ship, by someone with access to the main communications net. That narrows it down to about six hundred personnel. God knows how we'll find which one of ‘em it was." Reese eyed Apollo grimly. "It would help if I knew what I was looking for," he said pointedly. "Is this genuine?"

"I don't know," said Apollo doubtfully. "But if you're asking if the messages and angel images have been aimed at me, then the answer to that is yes."

"I need to know," Reese said, not even trying to hide his impatience at the reticence that had hampered his investigation. If Adama hadn't been there, he would have been extremely forthright about it.

Adama looked up. For the last few centons he'd sat quietly, hands clasped on the table, and apart from one quick glance at his son's set face, he'd looked down at them steadily. "Apollo?"

Apollo nodded.

Adama turned to Reese. "You're looking for a white Caprican male, Reese. He'll be about sixty now. His name's Todd."

"Not on the lists," said Reese.

"No. He's not listed at all on any ship in the fleet, but he must be here." Adama, Reese saw, watched his son anxiously. "About fifteen yahrens ago, Todd went to prison, a ten yahren sentence without remission for serious sexual offences against a minor."

Apollo stared down at the table, his face flushed. Tigh looked sharply at him

"You," said Reese, joining the dots.

Apollo nodded. "I was just thirteen," he said with difficulty.

Starbuck, quite deliberately and openly, put an arm around him. Reese raised an eyebrow. That explained what the lieutenant was doing there, then.

"So," he said, "what you think is that this Todd was among the survivors and has waited for two yahrens to get his revenge on you?"

Apollo shrugged. "I guess."

"And the Angel?"

"His name for me."

Reese sat back, thought about it. "But why wait for two yahrens? That doesn't make any sense to me. He must be in that batch who've just come aboard the Galactica…"

"No. Apollo and I have talked about the only possibilities there, and he's sure that neither of them are Todd. He must have been here longer."

Reese grunted at that, reaching for the computer. After a couple of centons he hit the print button and looked up. "I make it nineteen possibles amongst the civilian crew." He handed Apollo the list.

"Sixteen. Barnaby and Hallam are the two we've already discounted. And it's not Callan, either. I don't know any of the other names."

Reese took the list back. "Two techs in Doctor Wilker's lab, one medical orderly... otherwise mostly general maintenance staff. We'll check them out."

Tigh spoke for the first time. "What's bothering you about that message, Apollo?"

"I don't know," said Apollo. "It just doesn't feel right."

Tigh swung the screen around, studied the message again.

Hello, sweet Angel, why won't you talk to me? Does one of your pilots have to die before you talk to an old, old friend? Talk to me, sweet Angel. Talk to me. Hello sweet Angel, why won't you talk to me? Does one of your pilots have to die before you talk to an old, old friend?

"It seems to be referring to yesterday's incident with Lieutenant Bojay's Viper," said Tigh.

"We checked that out," said Reese. "The techs told me that a wire shorted, that was all. It wasn't sabotaged."

Tigh's frown deepened. "But this suggests it was."

"I suppose he's laying claim to any incidents now, to build up the suspense." The commander rubbed at his eyes and sat back, squaring his shoulders. He kept his gaze on Apollo.

"Maybe, Commander." Tigh turned back to Apollo. "I wasn't aware that any of the messages had so far invited an answer or that you would know how to answer if you wanted to. "

Apollo looked up. "There's only been two written messages. The first in the OC just spelled out Sweet Angel. The second came when the duty office was wrecked."

"Hello, sweet Angel. Remember me," quoted Adama.

Apollo nodded. "Not really asking for an answer. A rhetorical question. And I don't know how to contact Todd. If I did we wouldn't be sitting here now." Apollo turned the screen again, studied the message.

"The duty office message followed this same sort of repetitive pattern," Reese pointed out.

"I know. But this one doesn't feel right." Apollo scowled. "It's too long. It doesn't sound like him, like Todd."

"We're saying it's a possibility that this one's faked? Who'd do such a thing?" Adama sounded appalled.

"Who saw the message left on the duty office screen?" asked Tigh.

"Me, the Commander, Reese when he came to see the damage. Oh, and Bojay. He was the one who found the duty office trashed".

"That bastard!" Starbuck spoke for the first time. "It would be just like the greaseball to do this to wind you up, Apollo. He said something yesterday on the flightdeck about answering him - Todd, I mean - so that he'd let up on everyone else. Remember? That was when we thought that it was sabotage. That fits with the bit of the message about the pilots."

Apollo protested. "I can't believe Bojay would do something like this."

"I can," said Starbuck. "He knows about us and has been making some snide remarks. Without knowing about Todd, he might reckon that it's someone out of your past, maybe jealous now, and is making some guesses. Bojay has full access to the comnet. He is one of the squadron leaders, after all"

"Why in the Lords' name would he do that?" demanded Tigh.

"You need to ask, sir? Bojay wants Apollo's job."

"And how would this help?" Reese asked, frowning as he tried to make the connexion.

Starbuck glanced at Apollo. "He looks for ways of undermining you, you know. Apollo. It would get people talking, speculating. And he was suggesting yesterday that you were cracking up. He might hope it would trigger something."

"I don't like angels, Starbuck, and, yeah, the thought of Todd scares me stupid, but I'm not thirteen any more and I am not out of my mind!"

"I know that. But you were pretty jumpy about all of this and he's the type to try anything, as long as it's underhand."

"We can't be sure it was him," said Adama, with his usual fair minded-ness.

"No-one else saw the message," said Reese, thoughtful. He didn't know Bojay well – he didn't know any of the warriors well, but he knew people. People were competitive, envious, malicious. His entire career was based on those sterling characteristics.

Apollo shook his head. "No. No-one. And we scrubbed it as soon as you saw it."

"Damn!" said Starbuck. "No-one else saw it, but Bojay told the whole of the OC about it, remember. They talked about it for days." He sighed. "Sometimes I'm too fair minded for my own good. Can we forget I just said that and just beat the pogees out of Bojay on general principle? He deserves it anyway."

"I think I'll talk to him," said Adama, grimly. "I need every pilot I can get, but if I find out that he did send this message to IFB, then I'll bounce him out of the service so fast his head will spin. He'll be lucky to pilot a fertiliser barge."

"They call them the shit wagons, Adama," murmured Tigh with a slight grin.

"Leave him to me," Starbuck said, eyes very cold. "I could use him for target practice."

Reese shook his head. "Problem is, we're just guessing. It could be Lieutenant Bojay, it could be this Todd. We've no way of telling."

"No," Adama said, and sighed. "What now?"

"I check out these sixteen names, and we see where we go from there. I think we ought to assume that this message is genuine, but we'll look into the possibility that someone, possibly Bojay, faked it to muddy the waters a bit."

Adama sighed and nodded, but before he could speak, Core Command paged him.

"Incoming message for Captain Apollo, sir," Omega said politely over the communicator.

"Internal?" Reese asked quickly.

"Yes."

"Patch it through here and try and put a trace on it," Reese ordered. "Just in case."

"Commander?" asked Omega.

"Please comply," said Adama. "Thank you."

"Done, sir." Omega's tone was neutral. He clearly wasn't used to being told to trace internal communications.

Hello, sweet Angel. Where's the cherub? Hello sweet Angel. Where's the cherub? Hello, sweet Angel. Where's the cherub? Hello, sweet Angel…

The message stopped abruptly.

"And what the hell does that mean?" demanded Reese.

"I don't know." Apollo frowned.

Reese snorted. "It's bad enough dealing with angels without this guy hauling in the entire heavenly population. Who is - was - the cherub? Your name for him?"

"No." Apollo's voice was steady

"No-one else at Todd's, Apollo?" Adama asked quietly. "No one that you'd both remember?"

"I don't think so. No, I'm sure there wasn't."

"Then how does this cherub fit in?" wondered Tigh. "Someone younger even than you were?"

Apollo shook his head. "No. I'm sure of that. There were others worked out of Todd's place, and some of them used nicknames, but nothing like that. I was the youngest, and I was the only Angel."

‘Worked out of Todd's place?' Reese carefully avoided looking at either Apollo or Adama. He wondered exactly what had gone on sixteen yahrens before, that the thirteen yahren old son of a Caprican blueblood ended up "working".

"So what does this message mean?" he asked. "Ideas?"

"I don't know," Apollo said helplessly.

"If the message isn't referring to someone from the past, who's the little angel? Who's the cherub?" Starbuck muttered.

Apollo went very, very still.

"The little angel?" The flush drained visibly from his face, leaving him chalk white.

Starbuck stared at him. "Oh no.."

"Apollo?" Adama looked puzzled, anxious.

"Boxey!" Apollo, shaking visibly now, threw off Starbuck's restraining hand and struggled to his feet. "I think he's got Boxey!"

 

Adama glanced over to where Apollo sat shaking Starbuck's arms. He could hear the soothing murmur of Starbuck's voice, watched as Starbuck pulled Apollo in closer, his hand stroking the thick dark hair comfortingly. He was reasonably sure that Apollo was too distraught to realise that anyone, even Starbuck, was there.

"More than two centars," he said, his voice almost a groan of frustration. "How the hell can the school not realise he wasn't there for two whole centars?"

"He's too like his father." Athena brushed back tears, straightened up. "He's quiet, Dad. Most of a teacher's attention goes on the ones like Starbuck."

"I've got my people asking questions," said Reese. "We're checking out the names on the list, trying to trace them. But that could take some time. There's probably nothing to do but wait."

"I don't think any of us are going to be very good at that." Adama put his head into his hands for a centon, sick with despair. He'd gone through this once already sixteen yahrens ago. He couldn't bear to go through it all again. And if Todd harmed Boxey, he thought it would kill Apollo, who knew better than anyone what it really meant. "My God, I thought he'd be safe in school."

"What's this all about, Dad?" Athena put her arm around his shoulders. "Who is this guy and why's he taken Boxey?"

"She doesn't know?" Reese asked, eyebrow raised.

"When this happened, she wasn't much older than Boxey is now." Adama rubbed wearily at his temples.

"I'm a lot older now," Athena pointed out tartly.

Adama nodded and, excusing himself to Reese, took her to the other end of the briefing room and told her, quietly and unemotionally, what had really happened when her brother had run away from home sixteen yahrens before. As she listened, she grew paler, the colour leaching from her face.

"Dear God," she said blankly, when Adama finished.

"Indeed. For a while I doubted there was one." Adama's faith had been severely shaken by what had happened to his adored eldest son. Although it had, in the end, endured, he understood perfectly Apollo's inability to believe.

"I always knew he was different after he came back," Athena said, shocked and visibly distressed. "But I thought it was because he'd been so ill. I can remember you and Mother rushing off to the hospital, and us not being allowed to see Apollo for sectons. But there was never any hint of any of this."

"Honey, you were nine. Zac was only seven. What could we tell you? It almost destroyed Apollo and he needed really careful handling afterwards. The last thing that would have helped would be him thinking everyone knew."

"And this man has Boxey? Oh God, what - " Athena looked across to Apollo, at the way Starbuck was holding him. Her eyes widened slightly as Starbuck kissed Apollo's hair comfortingly. "Is there something else I should know?" she asked pointedly.

Adama nodded. "Yes. They've been together for a few sectars now."

Starbuck face was intent as he talked soothingly to Apollo, his hand smoothing Apollo's hair. Adama saw the way that Athena stared. In all the concern over Apollo, he'd forgotten her own interest there. She might have won out against Cassie one day, but he doubted that even Athena would ever ask for odds on her winning out against Apollo. He felt a rush of compassion for her.

"I wonder what took them so long," she said regretfully, half to herself. "They look good together."

"They are good together, I think. All that ever kept them apart was Apollo and his memories of Todd."

She nodded. She walked across the room and bent down to kiss Apollo's cheek. He barely registered that she was there. Starbuck gave her a grateful look and she leaned down to kiss his cheek too. Then it was back to Adama to sit and hold his hand and wait.

And wait.

 

 

"We're on," Reese said, voice sharp. "Incoming message."

For the first time in a centar Apollo seemed to realise where he was. He sat up, eyes more focused and alert. Reese swung the terminal screen to face him.

"We've got a trace on. We'll find him, Captain. Here it comes…

Your desk drawer, Sweet Angel. Twenty centons. Your desk drawer, Sweet Angel. Twenty centons. Your desk drawer, Sweet Angel...

One again the message ended abruptly.

"He knows we're monitoring," Reese muttered, angry. "He's not giving us time to get a fix."

"It's a hand-held, anyway, Boss." Sergeant Castor looked up from his own computer screen. "Not so easy to trace as a fixed terminal."

"He's left something in the duty office for me," said Apollo

"Apollo, wait!"

But Apollo was already half out of the room, and all Starbuck and the others could do was try to keep up with him.

 

 

"So, how's it been?" Bojay asked.

"Quiet, quiet, quiet," Boomer said, stifling a yawn. "I'm glad you guys are taking over before I die of terminal boredom. Reds Five and Six are on point, Eleven and Twelve on long patrol and not due back for another six centars. Rest of Red's on standby until 20.00, when Silver Spar takes over. Blue's just back in from picket duty and as soon as he's checked in the boys and girls, Giles will be here to report in and explain to us how he managed to stay awake, it was so boring. Gillian has Gold out there now – and guess what. She says it's all quiet."

"I can live with a quiet shift," said Sheba, cheerfully.

"We did have one interesting centon. Blue Seven picked up something that seemed to be trailing along behind us, but Isometrics decided that it was some sort of anomaly, and Seven was reading her own ship's signature bouncing back onto her sensor array. But we've told Gold to stay awake and pay extra attention back there. Isometrics have been wrong before now, and I don't think we want to be jumped."

"That we don't," agreed Bojay. He took the clipboard that Jolly was holding out for him and read through it quickly. Just a written version of Boomer's verbal report, and he scrawled his signature at the bottom of the page. He handed it on to Sheba to sign.

"Apart from that, nothing else," said Jolly, taking the clipboard when Sheba handed it back and putting it neatly down on the desk.

"Apart from IFB." And Bojay grinned. "Now that was dramatic stuff, don't you think?"

"I'm not talking about that," said Boomer. "Apollo must be steaming."

"Then you're the only one who isn't. No-one's talked about anything else all afternoon. Between that and Apollo's unexpected absence today, the rumours are flying thick and fast."

Boomer gave him a very sour look. "Helped by you, no doubt."

Bojay's grin widened. "I'm enjoying the discussion."

"Leave it, Bojay. We none of us know what's going on and you're just stirring it." Sheba sounded bored. It wasn't often that she had anything to say against her old Pegasus shipmates, but she still felt enough attraction to Apollo to dislike hearing Bojay run him down.

"You wrong me," Bojay said, with a wide eyed innocence that had Jolly pretending to heave melodramatically into the waste paper basket. "I just want to get to the bottom of this little mystery so that no other pilot is put at the risk the way I was. Apollo knows something about what's going on, and it's not very -" He smiled. " - it's not very professional of him to put us in danger."

"He'd never do that, and you know it," said Sheba impatiently. "And -"

She broke off abruptly as the door burst open and Apollo hurtled into the room. He said nothing as he raced past them and pulled open the drawer of his desk.

"Wha- ?" started Boomer.

"Don't touch it!" Reese yelled from the door, and hurried across with Castor at his heels.

The four warriors scuttled to one side as the little duty office was suddenly filled to overflowing, staring in surprise as Adama and Athena came in, running. Starbuck was already leaning over the desk, staring into the open drawer, chest heaving with the exertion of trying to keep up with Apollo. Castor passed a sensor over the drawer.

"It's been wiped clean," he said in disgust. "One partial thumb print on the top left corner. Logged it."

"Now?" demanded Apollo and Reese nodded. Apollo lifted the small hand-computer out of the drawer.

"You've never seen it before?" asked Reese.

"No." Apollo held it in the palm of his right hand, opened it and used the stylus to switch it on.

"Give it here," Starbuck said, rummaging about in the back of the fixed terminal on Apollo's desk. He pulled out a tiny connexion and fitted it into a socket at the back of the hand-held. "It's linked in, now. It'll be easier to see when the message comes through."

Apollo nodded, and settled into his chair, all of his attention on the computer screen.

Reese glanced at the warriors. "Any of you notice the hand-held?" he asked.

"It was here when Boomer and me came on duty. I just thought it was Apollo's." Jolly looked nervously at Apollo's set face, at Adama's stony expression.

"Touch it?"

Both Boomer and Jolly shook their heads.

"You two?" Reese looked at Bojay and Sheba.

"We just got here." Sheba, too, watched Apollo with curious attention.

"What's going on?" Boomer asked Starbuck.

"Trouble. Big trouble."

Adama put a hand on Apollo's shoulder. "Anything?"

"He said twenty centons. We'll have to wait," Reese said from the door, where he had been talking quietly and urgently with another security guard. "If he isn't late."

"Is this something to do with the IFB broadcast, Bucko?" Jolly kept his voice down.

Starbuck's gaze swept over the warriors and back to Apollo. "No. We're pretty sure that was a fake." he said.

Boomer stared. "A fake? How do you know?"

"It was a nice try, but the details were wrong."

Bojay frowned. "But it was right about my fighter being sabotaged."

"You fighter wasn't sabotaged," Reese said as he passed, heading back to the desk to stand behind Apollo and watch the screen.

"Excuse me, but I think I'm in a better position to know about my fighter, even than the Chief of Security. I almost totalled it." Bojay sounded offended.

"The techs found a shorted wire." Reese didn't even bother looking at him. "It was an accident."

"An accident?" Sheba came to stand by Bojay. "Then if the Angel guy didn't rig Bojay's Viper, the IFB message doesn't make sense."

"It didn't anyway." Starbuck turned to look coldly at Bojay. "Not if it was from the Angel guy. But from someone who'd been saying pretty much that already -"

Bojay said nothing, looked back steadily at Starbuck but there was the faintest self-conscious flicker in his eyes.

"Right now, I don't have the time to bother with the spiteful, malicious, treacherous bastard who sent IFB the message," said Starbuck. "But believe me, Bojay, I'll tear you apart when this is over."

"Me? What's it got to do with me?" All injured innocence, Bojay looked around at the others, as if seeking support. They all looked at him, and then away. Even Sheba wouldn't meet his eyes.

"We all know what a spiteful, malicious, treacherous bastard you are, Bojay." Said Starbuck. "But that was a vicious trick to pull, even for you."

"I had nothing to do with it!" Bojay looked at Sheba for support, touched her arm to get her attention. The look she gave him betrayed how sick and shocked she was, and that she didn't believe him.

"Why think it was Boj?" she asked, forced through loyalty to speak up.

"The message said a lot of the things Bojay was saying yesterday," Starbuck sounded tired now. "And in almost the same words. The same, spiteful little words."

Sheba nodded. Almost the exact words. She looked at Bojay as if she'd never seen him before, and didn't like him much now she had. She shook off his hand and took a deliberate and telling step away, moving closer to Boomer and Jolly. Her action couldn't have been more symbolic.

"That's ludicrous!" protested Bojay. "At the very least, if I was going to send that message, I'd make sure it didn't sound like me. You can't prove I had anything to do with it."

Without looking round, Adama said coldly, "If I could prove who did it, I'd keelhaul them. Personally."

"And I might just help," added Athena. She did turn to give Bojay a contemptuous glance. "Especially if it's provoked the guy to take Boxey."

"Boxey?" Boomer moved forward fast, forgetting to be inconspicuous and quiet while the commander was around. "Shit, not the kid!"

Starbuck nodded, and turned back to watching Apollo, who was still staring intently at the screen.

"What's this all about, Bucko?" asked Boomer.

Starbuck glanced at Adama, who nodded, then joined his fellow warriors in the corner of the room ostentatiously ignoring Bojay. "It's a very long story, but more than fifteen yahrens ago the guy who's been doing all of this went to prison, a very long stretch. Apollo's testimony put him there. Now he sees it as pay-back time."

"But Apollo would have just been a kid." Like Starbuck, Sheba kept her voice down.

"Yeah. Thirteen when it happened. The trial was a yahren or so later."

"What charge?" asked Bojay.

Starbuck looked at him with withering contempt. "You know what charge, Bojay. You aren't stupid. Or do you just want me to say it out loud so you can enjoy it better?"

"Ignore him," Sheba said, making her feelings towards her wingmate crystal clear. She glanced at Apollo and sighed. "Poor kid," she said. Poor little Apollo. And the angel drawings?"

"Let's just say that angels are very significant, linked to what happened."

"Shit," sighed Boomer. "No wonder he was so antsy about them."

"And no wonder he couldn't talk about it," Jolly agreed, a sympathetic look for Apollo.

"What happened to Boxey?" Boomer, too, was watching Apollo, his concern obvious.

"Disappeared from school a few centars ago, just after the IFB broadcast. We think the guy wants to force Apollo into a meeting."

"And then what?" Jolly moved away from Bojay, putting some distance between them.

Starbuck shrugged. His voice shook. "Apollo's testimony put this guy inside for ten yahrens, no chance of parole. I doubt if he just wants to talk over old times. Bojay might just inherit Apollo's command."

"I think not," said a very icy Commander from the other side of the room. "Not under any circumstances.

Bojay, red faced but still maintaining his air of injured innocence, moved quietly and discreetly into the background. He looked appealingly at Sheba, but she turned her back on him. Instead, she walked up to Athena and put an arm around her, comforting. Bojay looked at the door, but there were too many people between him and it for him to make a unobtrusive exit.

Another strained silence fell. Apollo stared steadily at the screen, waiting for Todd, silent and waiting. His whole attention was fixed on the screen.

"He's through," he said suddenly, as the screen lit up and a message started scrolling.

Hello sweet Angel. Time to meet. Hello sweet Angel. Time to meet. Hello sweet Angel. Time to meet

Apollo used the main keyboard.

When and where? He hit the return key.

A centon's wait. No reply.

"Come on, come on!" he whispered impatiently, and sent the message again.

When and where? When and where?

Deck 21, staircase 12 in twenty centons. Alone. Unarmed. No communicator. And bring this with you. Deck 21, staircase 12 in twenty centons. Alone. Unarmed. No communicator. And bring this with you .

The message stopped.

"Deck 21's a possible," said Castor. "Hard to tell. He's moving about a lot between messages to stop me locating him."

"Decks 19 through to 21 are all storage decks." Reese brought up schematics on Apollo's computer. "No-one ever has the need to go there much."

Apollo unbuckled his laser and put it carefully on the desk, dropping his communicator down beside it. "He's making it easier. Twelve's the nearest staircase to the office."

"But you've got to get down fifteen decks," Boomer said, looking at him anxiously.

"I'll take the turbolift to deck 18 and go down from there."

"It's madness, Apollo. Please take me with you!"

"You can't go alone," protested Adama.

"I can do anything I have to do to get Boxey out."

"Starbuck's right, son. He's not set all this up to have a friendly little chat. You'll be in danger if you go down there!"

"He'll kill you, Apollo."

Apollo shrugged. "Maybe. But I can't leave Boxey with him. Not with Todd."

"I won't permit it," said Adama flatly.

"You can't stop me." Apollo put a hand on his father's arm. "Dad, sixteen yahrens ago, if you'd known where I was and what he was doing, what would you have done to get me away?"

Adama closed his eyes for a micron, then nodded. "Anything," he admitted. "Anything at all."

"Then you know I have to go. Boxey has to come first, you know that. And it's my fault - I should have warned the school. We should have guessed Todd would do this."

"We couldn't have known!" said Adama.

Apollo shrugged. "I've got to get Boxey out."

"Apollo!" said Starbuck, anguished.

Apollo shook his head at him and turned to Reese. "What's it like down there?"

"Like I said, 19 through to 21 are used only for storage. The decks are pretty much laid out like all the others, except there's fewer small compartments, more big storage hangers. But no heating, and emergency lighting only. It'll be cold and dark."

"Then I'll take a torch."

"I'll get one." Jolly was, as ever, unquestioningly supportive. He opened a small storage locker and found a torch, handing it to Apollo.

"Listen to me," Reese said, tone urgent. "Once you go down there, Captain, you're on your own and up against someone who will evidently stop at nothing to get to you. I just don't have the manpower to search three levels for you."

"There's a hell of a lot of pilots and techs who'll help," cut in Boomer. "Just tell us what needs to be done."

Reese looked at him consideringly for a centon, then nodded. "Okay. Get them all together and we'll talk them through what's needed. Apollo, I haven't got time to fit you with a wire so we can listen in, and he may spot it anyway, but we can give you this."

He opened a small box that he'd taken from the security guard at the door. At first glance what he took from it looked like an ordinary captain's rank pin.

"Tracer." Reese said. He unpinned one of the insignia from the collar of Apollo's battledress tunic, replacing it with the new one. He waved a scanner at it.

Castor nodded. "Activated and reading."

"Good. If this shows you're in one location for more than, say, twenty centons, then we'll move in."

"Not if it puts Boxey in danger!"

"We'll be careful." Reese unplugged the palm-top and held it out. "You'll need this. I doubt he'll be waiting at the foot of stair twelve. He'll use this to get more instructions to you. Good luck."

Apollo nodded. "Then I'd better be on my way."

Adama took a hurried step forward. He didn't say anything but for a centon he ignored everyone else there, and held his son close in an unusual public display of the affection that was seldom on show for others. Apollo hugged him back and then pulled Athena in close.

"Be careful, big brother," she choked out, and retreated back to Sheba's comforting embrace.

"I promise," Apollo said. For a long centon he looked steadily at Starbuck, then raised a hand to stroke the lieutenant's cheek. "I'll be back."

"You'd better be, Apollo." Somehow Starbuck managed a confident smile. "I remember what you promised me today and I've been short-changed by several centars. You owe me one."

Apollo's grin was thin and strained. "If not several."

"Well, as you so ungallantly pointed out earlier, I'm getting old. One's all I can manage these days. One's all I need, Apollo, as long as it's you."

Apollo's grin broadened. "Love you too, Starbuck."

He pulled Starbuck into his arms and leaned into a kiss that managed to be both passionate and loving, touched Starbuck's face again and was gone.

"Oh shit," said Starbuck, forlornly, as the door closed.

The warriors and security all stared, even Boomer, wondering what Adama made of that even more unusual public display. Half to signal what he did feel about it, half to comfort Starbuck, the commander took a step forward and put his arm around the lieutenant's shoulders.

"It'll be all right, son," he said with more confidence than he felt. "Now, we've got a lot to do to get down there to help him. Let's get to it."

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