Part Seven

 

"You can't hide him. There's nowhere to hide him!" Todd gestured angrily with the laser for Apollo to move away to one side.

"It's just you and me, Todd. I told you I wouldn't let you touch Boxey. He's safe, you bastard. He's safe."

Todd saw the broken grille. For a micron he was so angry and furious that everything whited over, then he turned the laser on to Apollo. Apollo's exultant grin died as he stared down the little black barrel pointed at him.

"Were you afraid for him?" asked Todd.

"He's safe. I got him away." Apollo slid off the crate, standing to face Todd.

"Well, now it's time to be afraid for yourself, Angel. Very afraid."

Holding the laser out in front of him, Todd moved in close. He struck out, knocking Apollo off his feet with a vicious backhander that, manacled as he was, Apollo couldn't defend himself from. He went sprawling, and Todd raised the laser and coolly took a shot at him. Apollo's prone body jerked and convulsed as lightening crackled round him from the stun-beam, but, as every muscle in his body went into spasm, his throat was too constricted even to allow past the cry of pain and surprise.

Todd went past him, ignoring him, and jumped up on the crate.

"Kid! Come back here - right now - or I'll blow his fucking head off! Do you hear me? I swear I'll kill him! Kid!"

But Boxey was out of earshot, painstakingly counting his way through the seven-hundreds, and crawling persistently on.

"Boxey!"

Todd stared down the silent, empty ventilation shaft. He sent one wordless scream down the shaft and let off one laser shot in frustration. It reverberated uselessly in the shaft, disturbing nothing more than the echoes of Todd's screaming. Furious, Todd jumped back off the crate, and glared down at Apollo.

"You devious bastard!" he said, and kicked at Apollo's ribs.

"Uhh". All Apollo could manage was a soft moan of pain. He was dazed and disorientated, gasping for breath from the stun. The green eyes staring up at Todd were blank and showed no recognition, but the laser had only stunned him, scrambling every neural synapse, and would take a few centons to wear off. Apollo would be left with a crashing headache but he was essentially unhurt by the laser blast. His face, though, was already bruising where Todd had backhanded him.

Todd kicked out again, his boot connecting hard with Apollo's helpless body. For some reason, Apollo's very helplessness and inability to react infuriated Todd even more and he beat at Apollo viciously, kicking wildly at him. Apollo managed to get his hands up to protect his head, and Todd, screaming with rage by then, pulled his hands away, stretching Apollo's arms above his head. With one foot he stood on both forearms, stamping on Apollo's hands with his other booted foot, with every ounce of his not inconsiderable strength. For all his age and the damage prison had wrought, Todd was a lot stronger than he looked, and Apollo, still only half-conscious, screamed as the heavy boots crushed his hands and fingers.

It was several centons before Todd backed away, breathing heavily. He leaned up against the door, rocking backwards and forwards in rage and frustration.

It was all falling apart. The Angel shouldn't have been able to get the kid away. He wasn't supposed to do that! He was supposed to watch, helpless, as Todd raped the kid and taught Boxey what he'd taught the Angel long ago - that there was no escape when someone was bigger and stronger than you, and wanted you. That there was only one way to escape a beating, and that was by moving that hot little arse of yours until the man who owned you was satisfied, and came inside you, crying out with pleasure. The Angel had spoiled all that. Time to spoil the Angel.

Todd shoved the laser into his belt and went back to Apollo. He was moving now, almost conscious, moaning from the pain in his hands and ribs. Todd looked at him calculatingly. It would still be a few centons before the stun wore off, and when it did, Todd didn't want Apollo to have anything to help him. Todd bent down and tugged off Apollo's heavy combat boots, tossing them to one side. Apollo could kick all he liked, now, but couldn't kick in ventilator grilles or do any other damage. He pulled Apollo half upright.

"Get up," Todd said, shaking him roughly. "Come on, get up!"

 

 

It hurt, to be pulled to his feet, a sharp tearing pain in his chest lancing through him, making him choke. Still dazed, Apollo put up no resistance and for an endless time he stumbled along, Todd holding him up. More than once his knees buckled as he drifted into momentary unconsciousness. Each time that happened, Todd shook him and hit him, yelling at him angrily, words that meant nothing to Apollo, just angry sounds, full of danger and warning.

It seemed an eternity until Todd let him down and he could close his eyes against the agony in his chest and hands, and drift away into a dark that wasn't filled with angry words and where the pain was so far away it belonged to someone else.

An Angel, maybe.

 

 

Starbuck held up a hand to halt the team, listening intently in his headset. "Kyle," he said quietly. "He says he's just found Apollo's flight jacket."

"Where?" demanded Adama.

"Bottom of staircase 35. Where's that?"

They gathered around the schematic that Ford had somehow found himself in charge of. "Not far," Ford said "About two hundred metres to the left of us and slightly forward. We're getting closer then."

"Good," said Adama gruffly.

They'd made a fast trek the kilometre or more to the stern and started working their way forward. For a centar they'd moved slowly forward, checking every room and storage hangar, knowing that two other teams moved on parallel tracks to them. Occasionally they saw the others at the boundaries of their search area. This was the first real find, the first indication, apart from Boxey's escape, that Apollo was indeed down here somewhere.

"He'll be cold without his jacket," said Bree from the back of the group. She had her jacket buttoned to the throat against the icy air.

"I hope so," Jolly said with unusual seriousness.

They all knew what he meant, and they all agreed with him.

They all hoped that Apollo was still alive to feel the cold.

 

 

"I don't think that there's much chance of you getting out of here, you know. Why not give it up? They'll have sealed every entrance. There's no way out."

Apollo had managed to get himself half upright against a crate. They were in a huge storage hanger, hidden away in the depths of a pile of crates the size of a small cargo ship. Todd must have wormed his way into the centre of the crates and prepared this place as a back-up to the storeroom he'd chosen as Boxey's prison.

It was all Apollo could do to sit up. His broken hands were cradled uselessly in his lap, so painful that he couldn't bear to look at them, as if looking at the grotesquely swollen and bruised fingers made the pain worse. Every breath he took, a sharp pain stabbed into his left side, and every now and then there was the hot metallic taste of blood in his mouth. He was bleeding. Something inside was broken and bleeding, and only the cold kept him from bleeding to death.

"There's no way out, Todd," he said again.

Todd turned to face him. He was calm again, almost urbane. He came over and squatted down beside him. "I guess not, sweet Angel. What does it matter?"

"It'll be easier if you let it go, Todd. Boxey's gone. Nothing you can do to me matters now he's safe. So why keep it going? Why not call my father or Reese? Make it easier on yourself."

"What's it matter? I'm not going back to prison, Angel. Not for you. Not again. Besides I don't think your father will let me out of here alive, and, that being the case, all he'll find of you is something to lock in a box and space."

Apollo leaned his head back against the crate. "He'd never do that, Todd. He's a good man. An honourable man."

Todd laughed. "Honourable? Do you know how much he paid to make sure that your name was kept out it all? Child A, that's all you were. Child! The same child who walked into my place with a trick to turn. I took nothing you hadn't already sold. Nothing!. Nothing very honourable about that, was there? Either of you. A whore and a whore's father."

"I was hungry," said Apollo, speaking with difficulty. He clung to the memory of Starbuck holding him, telling him it hadn't been his fault.

"And so was I, for a sweet-arsed kid who'd do it for money." Todd laughed again, and leaned forward to kiss Apollo. Although he hadn't spoken much since they'd got here, he'd several times come across to Apollo and kissed and fondled him. This time he slid a hand down over Apollo's stomach, and caressed the hardening cock.

"You taste of blood," he said, licking Apollo's chin, from ear to ear, little licks along the full line of the jaw.

"I'm bleeding." Apollo tried to control his physical reaction to being touched, to force the erection to dissipate. He thought about the pain, the cold, the fact he was likely to die. Anything. "You broke a rib or something."

"Poor sweet Angel." Todd's other hand was smoothing Apollo's thick hair. "Sweet, pretty Angel. Do you think you'll die?"

"We all will."

"Smart. Today? Do you think that you'll die today?"

"Probably," said Apollo, weary.

Todd grinned. "Yes. Probably. And do you know how you'll die?"

"Choking on my own blood, seems likely." Apollo was getting very tired now. Too tired to care very much.

"Very likely. I think you're right, Angel. I think I broke one of your ribs and it's cutting into a lung. You really shouldn't do anything to exert yourself, you know, anything energetic, or it'll be very nasty. But you're going to be very energetic. I'm going to fuck you to death, Angel. How does that sound?"

"A fate worse than death."

Todd laughed and his hand gave a little, possessive squeeze. "You're loving it. You always loved being fucked." He sat back on his heels, taking his hand away. "But not quite yet. You're not playing your part, Angel."

"My part?"

"You're supposed to ask me what this is all about. So I can make my splendid speech."

"Oh." Apollo nodded. "I see. Like those bad Aquarian melodramas? Handsome hero bound hand and foot in the dark and cold dungeon listening to the villain explaining the plot to the dimmer portions of the audience? Better be careful, Todd. The hero always got the villain in the end, remember?"

"Being hero or villain depends on your point of view, Angel. Depends on your point of view."

A long silence while Todd thought about that and Apollo drifted, closing his eyes against the darkness, half stupefied by pain. He came to himself only when Todd was touching him again, lots of fleeting little kisses under his ear and down his throat that, for a micron, reminded him of Starbuck.

"I'll tell you anyway. Not because you're dim, but because I want to tell you before I let you die." Todd stroked Apollo's cheek almost tenderly. "When I escaped from Caprica, I had a new name, did the kid tell you?"

"Darus," Apollo said

"Yes. And soon after we set out on this epic journey of your father's, they asked for volunteers. Come and clean the Galactica, they said to us, for a pittance and a slightly better place to live than the smelly cargo ship you're living in now. So I did. Not for the pittance. That didn't matter. But because I knew who commanded the Galactica and I knew you'd be there too. I kept very quiet and still, you know, Angel. I did my job and lived my little life, and you rarely saw me and didn't recognise me when you did. You never knew that I was there. Sometimes they even assigned me to your quarters, did you know that? So I could touch your things, read your books, even jack off in your bed remembering what it was like to fuck you, and the noises you used to make and how fast you could move that hot little arse. And I'd have a good look to see what sort of man my sweet Angel had grown up to be."

"I hope I haven't been a disappointment," said Apollo.

"Well, we always expect too much of our children. Even of child A." Todd settled down beside Apollo, pulling him into his arms. Apollo bit back a groan as the movement hurt his chest and once again there was the taste of blood in his mouth. "Not very interesting until the day I realised that you and Starbuck were fucking each other senseless. Then I got to thinking about that. You remember what happened whenever you turned a trick?"

As if he would ever be able to forget. "You fucked me afterwards to remind me who owned me."

"That's my good boy! To remind you and get the right man's jism inside you. And there you were, screwing with Starbuck and never once remembering who owned you. Because I still do, sweet Angel. I still do. You never knew that I was there, but I owned you all the same. For two yahrens I've watched you and watched you. I've cleaned that office of yours, I've cleaned that bedroom where you fuck with Starbuck, I even cleaned the chapel the night before your wedding. I know you very well, Angel. The way a man ought to know his belongings."

Apollo said nothing. He was fast getting to the point where he wished that Todd would just get it over with.

"And after a while I started to remind you. And then I thought it would be fun to own the boy as well, and I watched him too, and talked to him now and again. Easy. I was enjoying the game, seeing you get so jittery every time you saw an angel."

"Is that why you only did it when I was around to see them?" Apollo roused himself to say. "There weren't any when I was in Life Centre with Starbuck."

Todd shrugged. "No point in wasting it on people I wasn't interested in."

"And Starbuck? Why hit Starbuck?"

"Angel! He was playing with something that belonged to me and hadn't paid!"

Apollo sighed.

Todd smiled and kissed him again. Apollo let him, not caring very much.

"But I enjoyed it, playing with you again. I had to clear up after myself once or twice, but I didn't care that much. I wanted to keep it going, watch you get more and more scared. I didn't want to take Boxey today. I'm not sure I would have done but for that message IFB put out that they pretended was from me. Who did that? You?"

"Bojay, I think.".

"Mmn. The sneaky little bastard might have done it, at that. He is not a nice boy for Child A to play with. Not a nice…." Todd broke off abruptly, tilting his head towards the sound he thought he'd heard.

Silence. Then it came again. The softest of footfalls.

"Damn. They're here. They got here too early." Todd pushed Apollo away, and scrambled to his feet. He had a small arsenal hidden away in there, and he checked it over hurriedly.

Apollo, suddenly hopeful, looked up, listening intently. He thought that he heard something too. But they needed to know he was there. They needed to know that he was inside this nest of crates.

Another small sound, the soft murmur of a voice. Still some distance away, across the hanger. Apollo couldn't shout: it was all he could do to get breath enough to talk to Todd. He didn't think he could shout.

Todd turned back towards him, a laser in his hand. "Not a sound, Angel. Or you die a lot faster," he said quietly

"I'm dying anyway, Todd, unless they stop the bleeding. What's it matter?"

Todd grinned. "What indeed? Okay, Angel, let's tell them you're here. Let them find us. Only I don't want you sneaking up on me while we have the traditional stand-off and your father tries to persuade me to give up and let you go. I'll have to keep you still, somehow."

He reached for another weapon, something Apollo had never seen before. Kneeling down in front of Apollo he put the muzzle up against the younger man's left shoulder.

"This should do it," he said, and fired.

 

 

"We're not getting anywhere down here," Starbuck said quietly to Boomer. "We could be down here for sectons and not see any sign of him at all."

"He's here somewhere, old buddy." But Boomer looked at the enormous hanger they'd just entered, the hundreds of stacked storage boxes. "We'll find him."

Starbuck just shook his head, despondent. He'd given up hope long ago, when they'd found Boxey and realised just how alone and helpless Apollo was.

"I shouldn't have let him come down here alone," he said quietly, sitting on the edge of a crate to catch his breath. He rested the laser rifle muzzle down on the floor and leaned his head on the stock.

Boomer looked anxious. Starbuck had been so tireless, so unfailingly persistent in this long, dark search, that he'd forgotten that the lieutenant had only been allowed out of Life Centre the day before. Now Starbuck was flagging, his exhaustion showing.

"You shouldn't be down here," he said. "Salik told you to take things easy."

Starbuck raised his head, his eyes wet. "He told me to avoid excitement, too. Fat chance." He rubbed at his eyes. "What'll I do, Boomer, if the bastard's wasted Apollo?"

What will any of us do? Boomer thought, miserable and cold and as despairing as Starbuck. Despite his best efforts to stay cheerful, he thought that Apollo was dead, that they just might stumble on his body somewhere in this cold hellish place, but that Apollo was gone.

"Don't be daft! Apollo will be fine, and we'll get him back, and you two will have some explaining to do to the OC after that kiss he gave you that everybody seems to know about already, and we'll celebrate like mad…" Boomer's voice trailed off and it was with an effort that he finished. "But you really ought not to be doing this, Bucko. You're not well enough."

"I'm fine." Starbuck got up, and shouldered the rifle again. "I have to be here. We'd better keep going."

"Well, when you fall over don't expect me to carry you and I'm not going to be the one to explain to Apollo just what…" Boomer broke off as the message came through on their headsets.

"Kyle's got something!" Starbuck's voice cracked with strain. "Where the hell's the Commander? Kyle's got something."

 

 

"I'd rather be back with Boomer and Starbuck and the others," said Cree. "I'd like to tell them who this guy is."

"They'll have been told," Meade waved at Kyle and headed off towards the next search zone.

"I can't believe it's Darus. He was really good about helping sort out the mess in the storeroom on Beta after it got trashed."

"So sweet," Meade agreed sarcastically. "Bastard. How the hell could anyone take a kid like that? It's a miracle the captain got him away."

She edged into the storeroom on Cree's heels, thinking of the tearful little boy she'd delivered to his aunt, the confidence with which Boxey said they would get back his father. She hoped that they would, that Apollo hadn't paid too dearly for getting Boxey out and that they got a chance at Darus. At Todd.

Cree looked around the hanger in disgust.. "Shit this place is enormous! You could hide the entire Cylon Empire down here and still take a secton to find it."

"Well, looking at it won't help. I'll take the right hand side. What about the stuff in the middle?"

Cree looked at the pile of crates and sighed. "Looks solid enough. Sing out if you find any way into the middle of it and we'll call up reinforcements."

They hesitated, naturally reluctant to be on their own, to separate even for a few centons in this dark, cold place. Although they'd die rather than admit it, they both felt vulnerable and young and scared, and half their desire to be back with Boomer and Starbuck and Jolly, was the feeling of children needing familiar adults around them to keep away the scary things that live in the dark. Kyle and the others were members of Blue, but not their own sub-squadron. They just didn't know them as well.

"We'd better get on with it," Meade said, reluctantly. "See you in a few centons."

"Take care," said Cree.

She gave him a tight grin. He'd said that half a dozen times now, each time they'd separated, and it was beginning to annoy her. She could look after herself, and she was twice the warrior he was. She promised herself that the next time he said it she'd club him down with the butt of her laser rifle, then she'd lean down and smile sweetly, and tell him to take care…

There was a sharp, loud bang from the middle of the huge pile of crates. The long and terrible scream of agony followed so hard on it that the two startled, frightened ensigns could have sworn that it was one single, dreadful sound.

 

 

"You'd better let me go," Hallam's voice was quiet. "I'm the only foot soldier here, and I'm the only one trained for this. I was still on active service until three yahrens ago. I've not forgotten how to do this."

"I'm going," said Starbuck. The story Cree and Meade had told them had him shaking with anguish and terror. .

"You're staying right here with me," said Adama.

"Apollo's in there somewhere. Apollo's screaming in there somewhere. I've got –"

"Enough, Starbuck." The look Adama gave Hallam weighed the man up, considered him. Adama glanced at Reese, who'd just joined them from level 19. Reese nodded agreement. "I'll be in your debt, Hallam."

"But I've got to go," Starbuck's voice rose with panic.

Adama put a strong hand on his shoulder. "You're staying here with me, or you go back up top to Life Centre. Your call, son."

"But -!"

"Shut up, Starbuck." Boomer pulled him away and put his arms around him. "Let Hallam handle this."

"I won't get too close," said Hallam, as Castor joined them. "This guy'll be edgy enough."

Castor opened the case he was carrying and lifted out a tiny self-propelled camera. "Used a remote before?"

Hallam nodded. "Infiltration missions, mostly."

Castor shot him a look of respect. "Then I don't have to run through how to use this." He handed Hallam the control pad and looked around the shadowy corridor. "It's keyed to transmit back to our hand-held computers. Light's not too good."

"I'll try normal light then switch it to infra-red. You should get something that way." Hallam tucked the camera into a pocket. He turned to the commander. "I won't put the captain at risk, but if I get the chance of a clear shot at this guy, I'll take it. I'd better make it clear that I'll shoot to kill and I won't give him any warning. We can't afford that if we want to get Apollo out alive."

"Fine by me," said Reese. "The Prison Barge is crowded as it is."

Under other circumstances Adama might have protested, but this was his son and time was most definitely running out. He didn't think it was Todd who'd been screaming.

"Whatever it takes, Hallam. Good luck."

Hallam nodded and slid around the door and into the hanger beyond. Adama watched him go, then turned to look at Starbuck's tired, sullen face. He put an arm around him.

"I'm sorry," Starbuck said. "It's just..." He broke off and ducked his head as his eyes stung.

"I know," Adama said. "Anything yet, Ford?"

"Not yet. He'll be as fast as he can be without alerting Darus. Todd, I mean." Ford watched the flickering screen avidly, not looking up. A couple of centons passed. "Something's coming through…"

Adama, Reese and Starbuck crowded round him. Boomer got himself beside Castor and watched on the sergeant's computer screen. But the little remote floating silently in the vast hanger behind them showed very little. There were deep shadows, amorphous shapes in the dim light, nothing that was easy to make out. They couldn't be certain of what they saw.

"Walls?" Castor said doubtfully.

"Crates, I think," Ford said. "I think he's got it moving into the stack."

The remote came to what was an indisputable crate, and floated up and over it. Hallam kept it at the higher level, kept it moving deeper into the stack. The remote caught a movement. Triggered to react to that, it floated towards what had caught the attention of its sensor. A shadow moving in more shadows. That was all.

"Switching to infra red." Hallam's voice whispered in the earpieces of their headsets.

Two somethings, glowing in the darkness. Two human shapes.

"They're there," whispered Hallam.

"They're both there," choked Starbuck. "Apollo's still there."

He was shaking badly. Adama's arm around his shoulders tightened, but the commander said nothing, not as relieved or as hopeful as the Lieutenant. No-one felt like reminding Starbuck how long bodies took to cool, even in this cold place. More than twenty centons after Meade and Cree had heard the screaming, and Apollo was still there. Whether he was still alive was a little more debatable.

Hallam closed the remote down. "This is useless. Wait. I'm going in a bit closer to take a look."

It was ten agonising centons before the tech ghosted silently through the door and rejoined them in the corridor.

"Well?" demanded Adama.

"They're definitely in there, inside the stack. The stack's hollow, with three spaces in there, like a series of three rooms, all interconnecting and leading from the first one. They're in the innermost space. There's only one way in, about half way down the port side of the stack. It's pretty narrow at first before it opens out into the first of the "rooms". Very defensible. He could hold us off for days."

"Apollo?" asked Starbuck, white faced.

"How far in did you get?" Adama asked at the same micron.

"I went in over the top. I couldn't see Todd - he was immediately below me and I didn't dare try and work my way around in case he heard me. Those crates are not all that securely stacked, and I could have brought one down. We'll have to be damn careful when we move in."

"Apollo?" Starbuck asked again, and this time Hallam couldn't avoid answering.

"I could see him. I'm sorry, Starbuck. I couldn't tell if he's still alive. But it doesn't look good. He wasn't moving and there's a hell of a lot of blood."

Starbuck looked away quickly. "Thanks," he said thickly.

"I'm sorry," the tech said again.

"Then we get him, this guy. We get him," said Jolly, and for once the big Lieutenant did not live up to his name. For once he looked quietly murderous.

The other warriors murmured agreement, and more than one looked hurriedly down at his or her boots to hide their expressions. Bree was crying openly.

Like Starbuck, Adama had looked away so that no-one could see his face. For a centon he had that sick feeling of terror in the pit of his stomach that he'd never felt in battle, but that he had felt sixteen yahrens before when he'd got the hysterical call from Ila to tell him that his son was missing, and which didn't leave him for over six sectars.

His hands were shaking badly, but his voice, when he spoke, was steady and authoritative. "How do we do this, Hallam? You're the expert."

"We don't have time for elaborate planning, and I've always found the simplest things work the best. I'd suggest that half a dozen of us go in over the back. We can get in over the crates while the rest of you draw his attention at the front, where the entrance to the room is. Once we're in above him, I should be able to get a clear shot at him."

Adama nodded. "Boomer, Giles, Greenbean, to go with you. The rest stay with me."

"Castor and Steffan and me with Hallam," said Reese.

"As you wish, Reese." Adama didn't care who went with Hallam. "But Hallam has command."

Reese grunted something that Adama chose to take as acquiescence.

"I need a gun," said Adama, although he hadn't personally fired a laser in anger for yahrens.

"Here," Starbuck held out a laser. "It's Apollo's."

Adama glanced at the pale face under the shock of blond hair. Starbuck was having a hard time holding it together, but Adama was relieved that Starbuck wasn't pushing to be part of Hallam's group. There was no way that the boy was up to a scramble over stacked crates five metres high.

"Thank you." Adama pushed the laser into his belt. "We'll need to give you a few centons start, Hallam."

"Ten," Hallam said. "We go now. "

He led the way, followed by his small team. Boomer briefly touched Starbuck's shoulder as he passed, his expression grieved.

Adama watched them go then turned to the rest of the warriors. "Lieutenant Kyle, please call Life Centre and have them get a medtech down here as fast as they can do it. Work out the fastest way of getting them here and your team to act as escort."

"Done, sir." Kyle signalled to his team to fall back.

"Jolly, you're in command of this team. Starbuck…"

"I'm staying," Starbuck said dully.

"Yes. Stay close to me, Starbuck."

Starbuck nodded. "We shouldn't have let him come down here."

"If he hadn't, Boxey would still be here, and God alone knows what that man would have done to him. Apollo would never have allowed that to happen. He'd never have forgiven himself."

"Did you?"

"No," Adama said quietly, sadly. "Never. I was out here on the Rycon. I wasn't at home on Caprica when he needed me and nothing I ever do will wipe that out. Whatever we find in that stack, Apollo was there when Boxey needed him. He won't have that failure to live with, and believe me, it's hard."

"He doesn't blame you." Starbuck told him. "He doesn't blame you at all."

"I blame myself." Adama shook his head impatiently. "I always will."

 

 

Never had ten centons passed so slowly. Ten lives, ten times ten lives passed in torment.

"Time to go," Adama said at last.

"Quiet or openly?" Jolly asked, marshalling the warriors with a gesture. They fell in behind.

"We go in openly. That way we might distract him enough so that he won't notice Hallam. Let's go."

A glance around, nods to wish each other good luck, and the warriors filed into the store chamber behind Adama and Starbuck. The place was enormous, their footsteps echoing back from walls and the crate stack in the centre. As he followed Adama into the narrow roofless tunnel that wormed its way into the stack, Starbuck glanced up to the ceiling fifteen metres above him. Far up in the shadows he could just make out the overhead rails and gantries that shifted this stuff around. It reminded him of the hangers on Alpha and Beta decks, but that there were no sleek little Vipers parked in the racks above his head. It was just as cold and shadowy, and as inhuman in scale.

The tunnel widened out into the first of the three "rooms" and Adama moved more slowly and cautiously as they walked across it, hunting for the narrow corridor on the other side. Once they reached the end of that corridor and in the second room, they'd be under whatever weapons Todd had with him.

Adama paused for a micron at the mouth of the corridor, looking out across the second of the rooms. For that micron he was afraid: once he stepped out, Todd could cut him down before he had the chance to move. Then he thought of Apollo, and how little time they might have, and he walked on.

"Hello Adama," said Todd quietly.

"Todd." Adama came to a halt, his voice as quiet and calm as Todd's.

"Darus, these days, as I'm sure you know. I don't suppose you're alone? No, I thought not. I'd advise anyone else with you to stay back, or they could get severely damaged."

"Do what he says," said Adama to Starbuck and the others. Then to Todd: "Apollo?"

"Oh, the Angel's a little hung up at the moment," said Todd and laughed softly. "Wings clipped, if you see what I mean, to make sure he doesn't get in the way."

Adama heard his voice coming from a long way away, and wondered who was using his mouth to speak. "Is he dead?"

"Well, he wasn't a few centons ago when I was playing with him. I don't suppose he'll last long, though, Adama. I thought you'd come for him yourself."

"Oh God," Adama heard Starbuck breathe behind him, but concentrated all of his attention on the man hidden somewhere ahead of him.

"I'd come for him from hell itself, Todd. I thought you'd have remembered that."

"I don't forget anything, Adama. I don't forget how you had me put away for ten yahrens. Ten yahrens! For that little whore!"

"I didn't make the law, Todd." Adama bit back the anger and fear, keeping his voice even and quiet.

"You had me locked up with some of the worst the Colonies had: murders, thieves, psychopaths. And they all thought that they were better than me, that there was some moral gulf between me and them, because of the label you had put on me. You called me a paedophile, Adama. Now that wasn't nice."

"Apollo was only thirteen, Todd. I didn't make the label. The law did."

"In the end I spent it all in solitary, to keep them from tearing me apart. Ten yahrens on my own, Adama. That's a long, long time. I spent a lot of it thinking about how I was going to get back at you. And when I got here…. man, you were in reach at last. I thought that all I had to do was wait for my chance. I thought I'd got it all worked out. I figured nothing would hurt you more than me getting back what was mine, getting back what I owned. I was going to keep the Angel, Adama, but I'd have let you have the kid back, Adama - another little Child A for you to live with."

"Apollo stopped you," said Adama, with heartfelt thankfulness.

"Well, he paid for it."

"And I won't let you keep Apollo, Todd. There's no way out for you. So we'd better talk. My life for Apollo's, is that the trade?"

"Your life?" Todd sounded slightly puzzled. "Why? I don't want you dead. Lord no! What's the point of that? I want you alive, Adama. In fact, I wanted you to live forever, all the time knowing you'd been too late to stop me getting at the kid and taking the Angel with me. Now that's what I call revenge. But he spoiled that. Not so sweet now he's grown up, the Angel. Not so sweet at all."

"Then if you've failed in that, Todd, why bother to continue with this? Let's talk about getting Apollo out of there, and what you want in exchange."

"I won't give up what's mine. Is Starbuck there?"

"I'm here," Starbuck pushed out past Jolly, to join Adama. "What do you want, Todd?"

"Mmn, I bet you were sweet too, Starbuck. Can't you say thank you? He's pretty good in bed, don't you think? All the training I gave him. You should be grateful."

"Oh I am, I am. I'd be even more grateful if you gave him back, Todd."

"And how grateful is that? Grateful enough to come back here and prove it?"

"Yes," Starbuck said, steadily and instantly. "Trade him for me, Todd."

"I might just think about it." Todd said, and laughed again. "He's pretty far gone. Not much fun screwing them when they're that far gone, but you seem lively enough, despite the little tap on the head I gave you."

"Very lively," Starbuck agreed, and took a step forward, shaking off the hand Adama put out to stop him. "Shall I come back there and prove it, Todd? I could do it any way you like it. Any way you like."

Todd laughed. "Oh I like, Starbuck. I like a lot. Ask the Angel – he'll tell you."

 

 

Apollo came up out of the darkness.

Slumped against the crate, the pain in his shoulder was shocking, so shocking he couldn't quite believe it. He had never felt anything like it before. He had never before realised that pain could become the whole world.

For a few centons after Todd had shot him, he wondered if this was what dying felt like: the agony and the shortness of breath, the feeling of being fixed, immovable. Then he had realised that he was fixed. Skewered to the crate, like a piece of meat pinned to a butcher's board. He'd raised his aching hands to his left shoulder. Something hard, metallic, had gone all the way through, spiking him to the wooden crate. His fingers could feel the wetness of blood. A lot of it.

After that there was just pain and darkness, in almost equal measure. Sometimes Todd had been there beside him, very close, holding him, stroking his cheek and talking to him, the voice that had haunted him for yahrens coming and going through the drifting dark. And sometimes he'd felt Todd's hands on him, stroking, caressing, touching, and the feel of Todd's mouth on his. And he heard Todd's promise that he'd be there when his Angel died.

Todd promised to take his last breath with a kiss.

No breath to protest. No strength to resist. Just pain and darkness, Todd's voice and hands.

Then other voices. Todd, louder, angry and bitter. His father, reasoned and calm, cajoling, trying to persuade, negotiating, hiding his terrible fear.

And Starbuck.

Starbuck? That was Starbuck's voice. Barely able to focus, Apollo turned his head towards Todd, seeing him in the dim light, standing alert and ready at the entrance to this place. Talking to someone. Talking to Starbuck?

He heard Todd laugh, heard the lewd, obscene description of what Todd would do to Starbuck when he came in to join them. And heard Starbuck's voice saying yes, right now Todd. Anything you like Todd, if you let the commander take Apollo out of here.

Todd and Starbuck? But Starbuck didn't know what Todd could do, how much he could and would hurt and maim. Starbuck couldn't begin to imagine how bad sex with Todd was. He had to stop Starbuck. He had to.

Somehow Apollo managed to shift so that he fell forward, his weight dragging the spike free of the crate. Somehow, too, clenched his jaw and managed not to scream, although the fire in his shoulder was almost too much to bear. He had to stay quiet. He had to. Pain was there to remind him he was still alive, to be borne in silence if he wanted to save Starbuck.

Struggling to his knees, choking down the sobs in his throat, he looked round helplessly for a weapon. Anything. But his hands were useless, fingers too painful and swollen to hold a laser. He looked down at them, still in the binders, in grim despair.

Useless. Bloody useless.

 

 

Intent on his conversation with Starbuck, Todd must have almost forgotten about Apollo, confident that the Angel was safely skewered to the crate. He didn't turn to look at him, didn't see or hear his sweet Angel fight to get to his feet. He saw and heard nothing until there was the sudden tightness of a chain around his throat as Apollo threw his hands over Todd's head and pulled back as hard as he could, trying to choke the life out of him.

Todd squealed, his finger tightening on the trigger of his laser as he dropped it to clutch with both hands at the chain of the binders, blasting through the crates. He tore frantically at the thin chain cutting into his throat.

Apollo grunted with the effort, got his knee into the small of Todd's back and leaned backwards, letting his weight do the work for him. The pain belonged to someone else, not him. To the Angel, not Apollo.

"Apollo? Apollo!"

"Apollo!"

There were frightened yells from outside, the sound of people rushing toward him, someone else dropping down into the space behind him. He ignored it all, concentrating on pretending that there was no pain in his hands, that it was the Angel's hands that hurt, not his.

Hallam was the first to reach him. The chain was lost in the folds of Todd's neck, the man's face purple-red with congestion. He was making foul choking sounds, spittle on his mouth, his fingers tearing at his throat to try and get at the chain.

"Let him go, Apollo," Hallam said his tone quiet and compelling. "Let him go. It's all over. We've got him."

Adama and Starbuck raced in together, Jolly and the rest of the warriors hard on their heels.

"Let him go," said Hallam. "Let him go. You don't want to kill him, son. Let him go."

For a micron Apollo didn't hear him, but Starbuck was there..., Starbuck was there. His grip on Todd loosened and as the man fell away, still choking and clutching at his mangled throat, Apollo focused on Starbuck.

"Apollo! Oh God, Apollo!"

His legs gave way before he could get to Starbuck. "Uuunnh," he said.

Starbuck leapt forward to catch him, and his father was there too, helping him to get to his knees. Starbuck dropped to kneel beside him, holding Apollo against his chest.

Apollo let him. Todd couldn't hurt Starbuck now. Not now.

 

 

Starbuck caught at Apollo as he collapsed. Adama jumped to catch at Apollo's left side, helping Starbuck to stop Apollo hitting the deck and between them, they got Apollo onto his knees, holding him upright between them. Starbuck frantically kissed Apollo's hair and face.

"Oh Apollo…"

"Thank God. Thank God," said Adama, pressing his lips against Apollo's forehead. "Thank God!"

He was frightened. Apollo was alive, but he looked dreadful, covered in blood. The left side of Apollo's battledress was soaked with it, front and back. Blood still seeped past the thin steel rod that was embedded in his shoulder. It went right through. Blood dripped off the section sticking out of Apollo's back.

"Keep him upright," he said urgently.

"Hold that bastard!" said Hallam, sharply to the warriors and security who were crowding into the room. He seemed to be having some trouble with his laser, glancing down at it and hitting the power pack with the palm of his hand before leaping across to help them hold Todd, catching the man in a painful arm lock.

"Hold him still." Ford pulled open an emergency medical pack, grabbing at dressings. "Lords! What a fucking mess!"

At Reese's barked command, the warriors and security guards backed off to leave a space around Todd and to give Adama and Ford room to see to Apollo. They looked on in a mix of horror and relief.

"How is it?" asked Giles.

"Shit." Greenbean stared in disbelief and anxiety.

"Dear God," whispered Adama, ignoring what was happening with Todd. "God, there's so much blood."

"Oh Apollo," said Starbuck, getting both arms around him.

"Boxey?" Apollo barely had breath enough to form the word, hyperventilating as he went into shock, but the terror and fear came through. "Boxey?"

"We've got him safe, Apollo. He's safe. He's with Athena. Todd didn't touch him." Adama stroked his son's bruised face comfortingly. "He's safe."

Apollo looked at him doubtfully, still frightened for Boxey's safety, then nodded, and managed a slight little grin for Starbuck. For a micron his eyes closed and he swayed, trembling in their hold.

"He's losing it," said Starbuck anxiously. "Can't you get that thing out?"

"No," Ford said, sharp with anxiety. "Pull that out and he'll bleed to death. It's keeping him alive at the moment, that and the cold."

"It goes all the way through," someone said in sick disbelief.

The rod had to be a couple of feet long. It stuck out of the back of Apollo's shoulder, a good six inches of bloodied steel, an inch in diameter.

Ford scowled as he probed gently at the wound. "Bastard used a rivet gun."

"A rivet gun?" Adama looked sick. "For repairing steel plates?"

Ford nodded, concentrating on getting the bleeding stopped. "Must have been a reduced charge. Otherwise it would have torn his arm off."

Adama smoothed back Apollo's hair with hands that were shaking with relief, and anguish, and anger at what Todd had done. "He's in manacles. Key?"

"Here." Castor had searched the still-choking Todd, held it out.

Boomer grabbed the key and raced to join them. "Geez," he said, taking in the damage to Apollo's hands. He took them gingerly in his, and pointed the key at the electronic lock. "This'll hurt, Apollo."

Apollo screamed when the binders came off, blood rushing back into the swollen hands.

"It's all right. It's all right," Starbuck said soothingly. "Everything'll be all right."

Apollo coughed and the corners of his mouth stained with bright red blood, bubbling obscenely as he struggled to breathe. Adama was sick with fright.

"We can't wait for that medic," said Ford, angrily. "He's bleeding internally as well. We'd better get him up top as fast as we can."

"Oh God," Starbuck breathed, giving Adama an anguished look.

"Can't walk," apologised Apollo, breathless.

"Not without your boots," agreed Starbuck, trying to sound cheerful. "Still, you're the only man I've ever known who looks sexy in socks."

"I'll carry you, little son," said Adama.

Apollo nodded. He managed to get a mutilated hand to touch Starbuck's face before drooping in their hold, limp and heavy.

"Apollo!"

"He's better out of it. We've got to get him upstairs." Ford studied the schematics. "Turbolifts 11 and 12 are about two hundred metres away. We'd better get moving. Be careful when you lift him."

"Nooo! You can't take him away again!" Todd's voice was a hoarse, pain-filled whisper. He kicked backwards, apparently catching Hallam by surprise. Freeing himself from Hallam's grip, Todd caught the old trooper's gun and took a wavering step forward.

"Commander!" Hallam yelled a warning.

Adama spun round, his hand jerking the laser from his belt. For someone who hadn't used a gun for a long time, he moved fast. Very fast. There wasn't any thought, just instinct, the instinct of a father fighting to defend and protect his son. He brought the weapon up and shot Todd full in the chest.

Adama felt a surge of satisfaction, something the civilised part of him recognised as primeval and ugly, but nevertheless something he exulted in as Todd fell against the crates of the far wall, thrown off his feet from the force of the blast. For a micron the contorted body twitched, then lay deathly still.

There was a centon's shocked silence. Everyone was staring, looking from the Commander to the still body slumped against the wall. Only Starbuck, after one glance, turned his attention back to murmuring comforting, loving words to Apollo, not caring that Apollo couldn't hear him. Hallam nodded, looking satisfied. Castor was the first to move, racing across to kneel down beside Todd.

Adama stared at the body of the man who had damaged the bright, energetic child beyond repair, then down at the laser in his hand, an expression of slight surprise on his face, as if he didn't really believe he'd just killed a man. He dropped the laser. Hallam looked at Jolly, nearest to him, and nodded towards the laser. Jolly calmly bent down and pocketed the evidence.

"Dead," Castor said, tone neutral.

"Good," Boomer said savagely. "I wish I'd been the one to do it."

"Bloody good shot," Meade agreed from the doorway, through the muted cheers and relieved laughter.

Castor gave Hallam a very knowing look. "I thought you were holding him."

"Must have dropped him. Oops." Hallam retrieved his laser and casually replaced the power-pack he'd palmed centons earlier. He met Adama's eyes and smiled thinly. "Sorry, Commander."

Adama shook his head, realising that Todd had effectively been unarmed. He might spend the next few sectars and yahrens begging his God's forgiveness, but he knew that even if he'd known that Todd's laser had been useless, he'd still have fired. And there was something so very satisfying about using Apollo's gun to do it.

"Don't be," he said. "I've wanted to do that for sixteen yahrens."

 

 

"False alarm?" Adama asked breathlessly as he came to a halt by the narrow bed in Life Centre. Despite the message that Apollo was recovering consciousness, when he got there his son was still lying relaxed and quiet, eyes closed.

"Naw. He was really awake this time. Only for a micron or two, but he knew it was me, then he went back to sleep." Starbuck sat on the other side of the bed, one of Apollo's hands in his. A thought struck him and he looked at the Commander in consternation. "You don't think that I bore him, do you? The he's so bored he'd rather sleep?"

Adama stroked Apollo's cheek gently. The bruises were fading now, but Apollo was still a sorry-looking object. Adama looked up and smiled at Starbuck.

"I don't think so for a centon, and neither do you. Apollo. Apollo! Come on, little son. Wake up."

"You have a choice here, beautiful." Starbuck added his cubit's worth. "Either you wake up and talk to us like a rational being - none of that mumbled nonsense we got this morning - or it's the cold sponge."

Adama looked pained. "Starbuck, I'm really very relaxed about you and Apollo, you know, but spare me the details of what you get up to together." And in response to Starbuck's bewildered look, he sighed and said: "All right. I give in. What do you do with the sponge?"

"Wake him up with it, of course. What did you think?"

"Nothing. Nothing at all." Adama turned hurriedly back to his son. "Apollo. Please wake up."

"Am awake," Apollo mumbled.

"At last!" said Starbuck, delighted, and bent over him for a kiss. "Stay with us this time, okay?"

"Okay," Apollo said sleepily. He lay quiet for a few centons as Adama and Starbuck vied with each other to hug him and welcome him back, smiling at them vaguely. It didn't last long. The smile vanished. "Boxey?" he said in alarm trying to struggle up. "Where's Boxey?"

"He's fine," soothed Adama. "You got him away. He's all right, Apollo. Not a mark on him, and Todd didn't touch him. Remember?"

Apollo stared wildly, taking a few microns to process the information. He relaxed slowly. "Oh. Oh, yeah." Apollo closed his eyes for a micron. "You're sure he's okay?"

"I promise. He was scared, that's all, Apollo, and he's worrying about you, but he wasn't hurt, and Salik's been incredibly good with him and started some counselling. He's doing just fine." Adama looked into his son's anxious green eyes and grinned. "Something tells me I'm about to go and persuade his teacher to let him out of school for the rest of the day. Would that convince you?"

Apollo nodded. "Please. I want to see him."

"All right." Adama hugged Apollo gently, got to his feet and headed for the door. "I'll be back as soon as I can. Don't tire him, Starbuck.

"I won't," Starbuck said, and grinned down at his lover. He snatched another kiss. "And how do you feel?"

Stupid question, he reflected. Both of Apollo's hands were grotesquely swollen, encased in clear plastic supports that ran from the middle joint of his fingers to his elbows. Beneath the supports his hands and fingers were purple with bruising. His left arm was strapped to his body, immobilise. But he was breathing. He was alive.

Apollo managed another faint smile. "Not too bad. I'm still here."

"Good, because you've given us an exciting few days. Something, I'd like to remind you, that Salik said I should avoid."

"Fun?"

"Let's say that Salik's spent the last few days in open-mouthed astonishment that anyone could have lost so much blood and still be breathing," Starbuck said brightly, and hid from Apollo the days and nights of fear and anxiety that he and Adama had spent. "You've probably made medical history."

Starbuck was barely exaggerating. By the time they'd got Apollo back up to level 4, all the excitement had come from their efforts to stop him from dying from massive blood loss from the huge wound in his shoulder. He'd been in deep shock when they'd met up with the medical team, half way to Life Centre. Appalled at the state Apollo was in, Salik had bundled him into a life-support pod for the remainder of the short journey, seriously concerned that he'd lose him before they could get him into surgery. Luckily Athena, forewarned, had got Boxey out of the way and he was spared the sight of his father still in the blood-drenched battledress and looking as if he were more than half dead. Salik had started the transfusions almost the micron they arrived, taking blood direct from Boomer, the first of over twenty transfusions needed to get Apollo through surgery. He'd been in intensive care for the first two days, seriously ill, but Salik had been cautiously confident that he could pull him through. Even so, things had been more than ordinarily dramatic.

All that Starbuck said was, "And you're now full blood-brother to half your pilots. The OC was queuing up to donate blood for you. You'll be fine, Apollo. The supports come off your hands in a few days, and though it might be while before you can use that shoulder properly, you'll be fine. Despite doing your best impression of a dying duck to scare us all."

"Glad I missed it," Apollo said. " Todd?"

"Dead. Your Dad killed him. Things got a bit exciting there, too."

"Oh. What happened?"

"Well, somehow he got free of the man holding him and tried to shoot you. Your Dad was faster, is all. In fact, your Dad's a bit of hero in the OC at the moment. Fastest gun in the fleet."

"That's what fathers are for." Apollo smiled slightly. "That'll make him feel better about things, I expect. Stop him blaming himself."

"Smart as well as pretty, I see."

"Yeah," Apollo said, but the smile was fading. "Does everyone know now?"

Starbuck sighed inwardly. This would need careful handling. "They had to be told something about what this was all about. All they know, and all they will ever know, is that Todd assaulted you when you were a kid and went to prison for it."

Apollo sighed.

"Apollo, I know what you're worrying about but all they felt about it was so mad that every single one of them volunteered to come down to find you. The same way everyone who could was queuing up to give blood for you. So far as they're concerned, Todd got what he deserved, only sixteen yahrens later than he deserved it."

"But they know…"

"And the most important thing to them wasn't what happened when you were a kid, but that you were in trouble and they were desperate to help." Starbuck over-rode whatever Apollo was going to say. "Now, I grant you that even the little they do know is maybe a lot more than you'd like, Apollo, but it's not too bad. What happened sixteen yahrens ago is over and done with so far as they're concerned and no-one's so crass as to want any more details. For some reason, they think the world of you, you know and have too much respect for you to want to talk about it. Bojay tried to stir it once, but he got well and truly kicked by the entire OC. Everyone believes that he sent that message to IFB, and no-one's talking to him. Sheba refuses to fly with him."

"She's okay, really," said Apollo.

"She is. I was only jealous when I thought that you were going to get it together with her. As soon as I realised it was my beautiful body you wanted and not hers, I was cool about her." Starbuck watched him carefully, hoping that Apollo could learn to live with everyone knowing even this much of his past. The anguished, painful confession was still very fresh in his memory, and he was scared that Apollo wouldn't be able to cope.

In the end, Apollo sighed. "I wish no-one but us knew, but I suppose you're right, and it's not too bad. Better than if he'd come to trial. He wouldn't have hesitated to let everyone know exactly what I was."

"Drugged and abused, is what you were, and don't you forget it."

"I suppose," Apollo said, and sighed again. He changed the subject. "How long have I been in here?"

"Five days."

"Five days? Lord. What else has been happening?"

"Not much. We've all been sitting about waiting for you to condescend to wake up. Oh, and everyone knows about us now."

Apollo gave him what can only be described as A Look. "Really? And how did that happen?"

Starbuck Looked right back. "Cast back your mind to your melodramatic little departure for the nether regions of this ship, Apollo. Who was it that flung himself on me and came over all unnecessary - in front of witnesses, yet! I don't mind being kissed that passionately, but I prefer a bit of privacy while it's happening."

"Oh. Yeah."

"Yeah. So now you're going to have that little talk with Boxey."

"Boxey knows too?"

Starbuck nodded, grinning.

"Oh boy." Apollo sighed. "Maybe Salik will say I'm too sick," he added hopefully.

"Not a chance. I got you something. I had a look through the ship's library and found you this." Starbuck put a reader on the bed. " Asking questions about sex: the answers every parent should know. Not the snappiest title in the world, but it might help. I read it myself. They don't get it too wrong. Bits of it sounded fun, in fact, and we might try them out when you're feeling better. And it might help Boxey get the terminology right."

"Terminology?"

"Yep. He's spent the last five days going round telling everyone who'll listen - that's most of the fleet - that I'm his Dad's boyfriend. Boyfriend! Boyfriends are aged sixteen and spotty! You've got to explain to him that I don't do boyfriends. I only do lovers."

"Plural?"

"Oh no. Singular. Very singular." Starbuck leaned down and kissed him again. "The only one, Apollo."

"Dad!" The screech came from the small boy bursting through the doorway to throw himself onto the bed to cling to his father with arms and legs. "Dad!"

"Careful!" said Adama quickly. "Your Dad's just woken up, Boxey. Be gently now."

"He's all right." Apollo managed to get his right arm around his son, holding him clumsily.. "Hello. You okay?"

"Now that you are." Boxey hugged his father tightly. "I was awfully scared, Dad."

"So was I, but everything's all right now. I'm proud of you for doing exactly what I told you to do. Well done."

"Starbuck says I'm an unnaturally good and obedient child, and it's all your fault."

"Starbuck says a lot of things," Apollo said dryly. He grinned at his lover over Boxey's head.

"I know. Are you better, Dad? Are you coming home?"

"Not just yet," Adama said, smoothing his son's hair. "He needs a few days rest in here and then he'll need looking after."

"I can do that. I can stay home from school and do that."

"Dream on," said Boxey's father, very firmly.

Boxey sighed and looked to Starbuck for guidance.

"You rushed the timing a bit," Starbuck told him. "What have I told you about slow, careful build ups?"

"Did you put him up to that?" Apollo asked.

"I'm merely an adviser," said Starbuck. "I do not instigate."

"Well, if I can't stay home to look after you, Starbuck could do it if he came to live with us. Couldn't he?"

Apollo smiled. "He could. We'll have to see about that." He looked at Starbuck. "Did you advise that too?"

"Well, I might have hinted." Starbuck looked pointedly at the reader. "I think we ought to leave you to it for a while."

"Why?" Adama asked, as he was pulled towards the door.

"It's time for The Talk," Starbuck explained. "Father-son stuff. Did you want witnesses when you were answering little Innocent's questions about where Thenie and Zac came from?"

"Good Lord, no!"

"And I bet you stuck to the birds and the bees, not the bees and the bees stuff Apollo's about to explain. Aren't you, Apollo?"

"Apparently." Apollo sighed.

"Can't I stay and listen in?" Adama said wistfully.

"Why? Don't you know it already?" Starbuck paused in the door. He remembered the sponge and gave Adama a cheeky grin. "Maybe not, after all. And Apollo, if you tell him that making love with me is "all right", you and me will have words. Understood?"

It wasn't often that Apollo got the last word. But he managed it then. "Starbuck! As if I'd say anything of the sort!"

"Good."

"No, I'd never say that. Honest I wouldn't. I'll just tell him that it's very nice, thank you."

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