Section One : Happy Families

 

 

1.1 Good Grooming

 

So many things that changed his life came from Pieter or through Pieter or by way of Pieter or because of Pieter. It was Pieter who found the nickname, silly as it was.

There came a time when it was the only name he had. And that, too, was because of Pieter.

 

 

 

"It's a bit of a mouthful," agreed Pieter, half-listening to Apollo's complaints. He turned out Apollo's schoolbag onto his desk and was picking through the accumulated detritus to find the datapad he wanted. "But it's not too bad."

"It's dreadful," said Apollo. He turned off the datapad he was using and handed it over to Pieter. "It's this one you want."

"Thanks," said Pieter. He looked down at the schoolboy clutter on his desk and sighed.

Apollo swept it all pell-mell back into his bag. "No-one else I know has such a crap name. They all have decent names. Like yours."

"Not the way I spell it," said Pieter, grinning. "The way I spell it gives it a certain sophistication and finesse."

"They gave Zac a decent name," said Apollo, resentfully.

Pieter hid a grin. "So they did. Athena's is more like yours though."

"She doesn't count. Girls don't mind silly names. She thinks it's romantic."

"She's only eleven," said Pieter, amused. "I bet she can't even spell romantic. What brought all this on?"

Apollo flushed. "School," he said, succinctly.

"Ah," said Pieter. "What are they calling you?"

"Polly," said Apollo, in deep disgust. "I hate it. Zac has all the luck."

Pieter had to look away. When he was sure he could control his voice he said, coaxingly, "What's Zac done this time, except have cool name? He isn't calling you names as well, is he?"

"He broke a vase that Mama liked, trying to play Triad in the house. It was one someone gave her as a Sealing present. She got mad."

"Well, I can see her getting upset about that."

"She wasn't mad at Zac. She's never mad at Zac. He's her baby. She was mad at me, instead. She yelled at me for centars - like it was my fault! She said I should have looked after him better." Apollo dropped the bag to the floor and kicked at it. "She's always yelling at me. She never notices me except when she wants to yell at me."

Pieter said, tone carefully judged to convey the exact opposite of what he was saying: "Apollo, that can't be true."

"Yes, it is. She never wants to know anything. She spends centars asking them what school was like, but she never asks me. She never wants to know about what I doing. She just tells me to go upstairs and do my homework."

"She's very busy, you know, looking after the three of you and with being a member of the Caprica Senate. Your Dad – "

"Oh, he's never here," said Apollo, scornfully. "All he ever says in his letters is that I have to help Mama. And last time he was home and I said I didn't want to look after Zac, he said I had to do as she tells me. I don't see why I should look after Zac. He's always breaking things."

Pieter laughed, amused by the resentful face that popped up to glare at him. "Well, I can't do much about your mother's vase, or her wanting you to be responsible for the kids, but we can do something about the name. How about – " he paused and thought about it. "How about Phoebus?"

"That's just as bad!"

"It was one of the God Apollo's extra names. It means Brilliant."

"Which I am," said Apollo.

"Really? That's not what you told me your maths tutor called you."

Apollo flushed. "You don't teach me maths," he said.

"Because I can't add up. Neither can you, apparently."

"I mean," said Apollo, "that I try harder here. I like history."

"And you're very good at it. If you weren't, I'd be wasting my time." Pieter smiled at him. "I only teach special students, Apollo."

"Phoebus," said Apollo, glowing under the praise. "The Brilliant."

"We can call you Phoe for short."

"I can't spell it," said Apollo, grinning at the game, good-humour restored.

"We'll spell it F-E-E," said Pieter.

Apollo tilted his head on one side. "Okay," he said, agreeably.

"Good. Now get out of here, go home and do some work. You have that exam to study for. You need to study some philosophy for next time, please. Stop groaning and remember your history - philosophical discussion in the early Colonial period got very lively at times. Remember what happened to those whose philosophy didn't exactly match state policy?"

"Yes," said Apollo. "I talked with Uncle Jerry about what you said, by the way. He said that you were quite right, and hemlock is out of fashion as what he called the state's assassination device of choice. He wasn't even sure if anyone knew how to distil it any more."

"I'm sure there's a recipe somewhere," said Pieter.

"Uncle Jerry said I was better off not experimenting. He said that these days you can get the same paralytic effect from a good ambrosa and tranquillisers, but he wouldn't recommend that either and for me to take it on trust. He's as funny as you, sometimes."

"I hope you mean a compliment by the comparison," said Pieter, laughing.

Apollo grinned back. "Of course!" He hesitated. "Pieter, have you thought some more about tutoring me afterwards?"

"I was hired to give you extra tuition for the scholarship exam, that's all - "

"Oh," said Apollo, and chewed on his bottom lip.

"But I think we can work something out," said Pieter. "I don't want to lose my favourite pupil."

At the huge smile he got for that promise, he smiled back and put an arm around Apollo's thin shoulders to administer the usual farewell hug. The boy leaned into it, his slight body moulding itself to fit. Pieter felt a sudden warmth and despite all his resolutions, he deepened the hug. For the first time he dropped a quick, chaste kiss on the top of the boy's head. Apollo pulled away.

"Get going," said Pieter in his normal voice, and putting his hands behind his back to hide their trembling.

Apollo looked faintly puzzled, but to Pieter's relief, he didn't seem alarmed. Apollo smiled. "See you day after tomorrow," he said, and slung the bag over his shoulder.

Pieter watched him go.

 

 

Apollo came to Pieter two days a secton for extra tuition, after school. He was the school's star pupil when it came to subjects that interested him. As Pieter had already noted, maths didn't; but Apollo had a passion for history that amounted to genius. It was a pleasure to teach him.

Apollo said nothing at their next tutorial about that quick little kiss to the hair. It was as if it never happened. He had his usual moan about his family which Pieter listened to with sympathy – Zac was a particular bugbear, delighting in teasing his elder brother, and serious Apollo didn't like it – and they settled in to another quiet centar of intensive study and review.

Pieter wondered at the end of it, if it was too early to repeat the hug, if he'd scared the bird away; but Apollo came to him as naturally as breathing. Pieter risked another kiss, using a hand to smooth down the unruly black hair. Apollo smiled happily and hugged back, before gathering his books together and heading for home.

Again, Pieter watched him go. This time he smiled.

 

 

"Apollo! Where's Zac?"

"Mmmn?" Apollo reluctantly took his attention from the datapad to focus on his mother.

"I said, where's Zac?"

"Dunno," said Apollo. "I haven't seen him for – "

"I told you to keep an eye on him. I thought I could trust you, Apollo. Go find him."

"I'm busy. I've got this essay to do for Pieter."

"Apollo!"

"Duncan can go look for him. I have to finish this. I have to. It's for the exam."

"Go and find him," said Ila, a measurable pause between each word.

There was no arguing with her in this mood. Apollo sighed, pushed aside the datapad and stamped out of the house.

"Let that door slam and you are in big trouble," his mother said coolly, following him to the kitchen and to the door that led into the garden – if something so extensive could be called a mere garden.

Apollo closed the door with an elaborate care, keeping his back turned to her. He hoped the horrible little tyke had fallen off the cliff or something.

"Zac!"

No answer. Apollo went off into the garden, alternately yelling Zac's name and hoping his annoying little brother had been kidnapped or—

"He's up a tree," said Athena, appearing from nowhere.

"How do you know?"

"I dared him," said Athena.

Of course she had, agreed Apollo. Good idea. And?

"He can't get down." She smirked at him, a self-satisfied little smirk.

Apollo sighed again, established which tree in question was playing host to Zac—he hoped it might be permanently—and sent her to get their mother and Duncan and a ladder. Zac was about a dozen feet up when Apollo located him.

"It's not that high," said Apollo critically, craning his head back. "I've been higher up than that. I reached that branch – there."

Zac glanced up to where Apollo was pointing, clung tightly to his branch and said nothing. His eyes looked very dark even at that distance, the normal bright blue almost invisible.

" 'Course, you're not as tall as me. I guess it seems a really long way down, huh? A really, really long way down."

"Apollo!"

He jumped, not having heard his mother's arrival. Ila folded her arms and stared at him. "Since you're so good at climbing trees, go up and make sure he doesn't fall off. Duncan will be here in a centon."

"He won't fall."

One hand unfolded to prod a hard finger into Apollo's shoulder. "You were supposed to look after him, not torment him. Get up that tree and start looking."

"I'm not his nursemaid!" Apollo rubbed at his shoulder. She'd hurt.

"You're his big brother and you should look after him better. Go hold him on."

"Shit!" muttered Apollo.

"I heard that! We'll talk about your bad language after you get Zac down from that tree."

Apollo glared back. He was almost as tall as her now, and he felt a little flare of satisfaction when something like unease flickered in her eyes.

"Now," she said.

He didn't move for just long enough to make it plain that she didn't scare him any and that she couldn't make him. He turned away to pull himself up into the tree when he saw Duncan in the distance. Duncan was bigger than him and could make him, so it was only prudent to do what was expected. It took him a couple of centons to reach Zac. He decided that he wouldn't risk their combined weight on the branch, reaching around the trunk to clamp a hand on Zac's arm.

"Scared?"

Zac nodded. Despite his bad temper, Apollo felt sorry for the brat.

"You'll be down in a centon."

"Athena said you'd come for me," said Zac. "She said you wouldn't just leave me."

"You're a pain in the astrum, brat, but I guess not."

Duncan, grinning, slapped the ladder up against the tree trunk. Five centons of coaxing later, and Apollo was below Zac, guiding his feet onto the ladder rung when Zac—accidentally, he always swore—trod heavily on Apollo's fingers. Apollo yelled and pulled his hands away, and lost his precarious balance.

 

 

Apollo's school was a good one, one of the very best in the city. Set in the centre of a rich suburb, the majority of its students came from wealthy families. That was reflected in the school itself: the best buildings, the best facilities, the best classrooms. And where it had to, it could call upon the best specialist tutors for students who needed it, or merited it. Tutors like Pieter, one of the youngest ever professors at the Kobolian Institute.

The school was grooming Apollo for academic success in a scholarship normally intended for students yahrens older than he was.

Pieter, though, was grooming Apollo for something entirely different. It wasn't on the normal curriculum at all.

 

 

"It wasn't funny," said Apollo. "He broke two of my fingers."

"It all looks fine now," said Pieter, hiding his amusement as well as he could. He took the maltreated hand in his. "If a bit bruised."

"Uncle Jerry fused the bones back together. He said until the unlikely day I ever grew wings, I should stay out of trees. But it wasn't me! It was Zac."

The indignation in Apollo's tone almost set Pieter off again, but he controlled himself rigidly. "It must have upset your mother, you getting hurt," he insinuated.

"She didn't notice. She was too busy fussing over the baby." Apollo scowled.

Pieter shook his head sadly. "You mean, she didn't kiss it better?" He raised the fingers to his lips and performed that ages old ritual.

Apollo went very still. He stared at Pieter, reddening.

Peter, keeping the smile on his face, released Apollo's hand and picked up the datapad from the desk in front of them. "Right then," he said briskly. "Revision time."

"I hurt my leg, too," said Apollo.

 

 

"You'd better not say anything," said Pieter, settling the dressing over the cut on Apollo's calf. He let his hands hold the leg, smoothing over the soft skin behind Apollo's knee. He didn't offer to move the hand higher, although he had to force himself to go slowly. "People misunderstand, you know. Our secret."

Apollo nodded. "Okay."

Pieter smiled, and for the first time he brushed the boys lips with his. Apollo stared when Pieter pulled back, raising an uncertain hand to touch the mouth Pieter had just kissed. He didn't look alarmed, only confused.

"Remember. Our secret," said Pieter, and took his hands away from Apollo's leg, and as if nothing at all unusual had happened he grinned at his star pupil and pushed the datapad into his hands. "That's enough distracting me from work. Let's get started."

 

 

"You're late home!"

"I had my study period with Pieter."

"They seem to be getting longer and longer."

"The exam's soon."

Ila watched him cross the kitchen to the refrigerator. "Why are you limping?"

Apollo gave his mother a cold look. "Yesterday, Zac stood on my hand and I fell out of the tree."

"I remember," said Ila. "I was there."

"I hurt my leg."

"I hadn't realised that—"

"No. I'm not Zac. I don't expect you to notice."

Ila had to fight not to roll her eyes in exasperation. "Did Jerry see to it?"

Apollo looked right through her, then grinned. He looked... he looked sly, she decided.

"It got looked at," he said.

 

 

Really, it was proving easy.

Apollo was vulnerable. Outwardly, no-one would guess it, but he was. Outwardly he was one of the most privileged children on Caprica, eldest son of rich parents, wanting for nothing.

But Apollo felt out of place in home and school, solitary in both places. He resented bitterly the amount of time that his mother gave to the two younger children, the apparent lack of interest she had in him and his affairs, caught as Ila was between the children and her burgeoning career in local politics. Apollo laboured under a strong sense of neglect. Materially he had everything he wanted. Emotionally, though... well, there was the vulnerability that Pieter could exploit.

Pieter had done this before. He knew how to feed every little feeling of exclusion and hurt, so that Apollo came to view him as the one source for comfort and affection. It didn't take much. A raised eyebrow that he would be sure to let Apollo see; a certain inflection of the voice when Pieter referred to Apollo's family; a different, warmer, inclusive inflection when referring to himself and Apollo, creating a world that was just the two of them; a hug, and now the little kisses. All of it carefully paced and timed.

What he had to do was create the emotional dependency. Then he'd get what he wanted and the kid would be glad to give it.

 

 

"Apollo, I want you to look after the children for me for a couple of centars tonight. I have to go to a meeting."

"No," said Apollo, flatly.

Ila turned from the counter where she'd spread her papers. "What?"

"I told you last secton. Pieter's taking me to a lecture at the Institute tonight. Professor Liam's talking."

"Tonight?" Ila frowned, both at his tone and an errant memory. Apollo had mentioned something.

"I told you," said Apollo. He bolted down the last of his breakfast. "Pieter's bringing me home after. Duncan and Hanna can do it."

Their housekeeper didn't even look up. "It's our night off," she said.

"You'll have to do it, Apollo. It's only for a couple of centars."

"I'm going to the lecture." Apollo grabbed his schoolbag. The glitter in his eyes was malicious. "You'll have to find someone. I've got something more important to do."

"Apollo!"

But he was gone, the door banging behind him. Hanna looked up and smiled ruefully at Ila.

"They're a helluva problem at that age, but I do remember him telling you, Ila. He's been looking forward to it for days. I think he's told me about every day this secton."

"He never mentioned it again to me, or I'd have remembered," said Ila crossly. "Why didn't he say?"

Hanna pursed her lips and said nothing, shaking her head.

"He's getting out of hand," said Ila. "I wish Adama was here."

"Oh," said Hanna. "I think Adama will find him a bit of a handful as well."

 

 

"You were fine." Pieter twitched the datapad out of Apollo's slackened grip. "You know you did great in the written exam and you know this stuff backwards, so stop worrying." He glanced at the door behind which sat the Viva panel, who would grant the scholarship now that the interviews were over. "Did they press you on that theory about the First Migration Wave?"

"Professor Liam did, just like you said." Apollo sighed, a deep sigh of relief. Pieter know he was glad it was over.

"I thought he'd really push you on that – it's his period. But you've accumulated a lot of evidence to support it. I'm proud of you."

"Thanks," said Apollo, shyly.

Pieter put an arm around him, and when Apollo raised his head, he quickly kissed him. Apollo's lips parted for him, and he just touched Apollo's tongue with his. Apollo sighed.

"I'll drop you at home," said Pieter, as if nothing had happened.

Apollo was quiet, all the way out to Osaiya. When Pieter pulled his hovercar up at the gate of the huge old house, Apollo gathered his things together and hesitated. "Can I come as usual on Fifth-day?"

"I'd like you to," said Pieter. "There's still a lot of work we can do."

Apollo smiled. "Okay." He hesitated a bit more, and waited.

Pieter leaned forward to hug him. This time, Apollo, sweetly and shyly, let his lips just touch Pieter's cheek. Pieter turned his head to take the kiss properly, and rested his hand on the small of Apollo's back, letting it slide under the boy's shirt to the warm skin beneath and pulling Apollo a little closer. Apollo let Pieter guide him closer for an instant and Pieter knew he was hard. Then Apollo pulled away and was out of the car in a flash, standing by the gate and clutching his bag in his arms, his face red.

Pieter released the clutch and drove away, looking in the rear view mirror and watching Apollo watching him.

 

 

It was amazing how easy it was to signal the direct opposite of the actual words being said. All it took was a slight inflection of the voice, a slight twist of the lips. "They'll be really pleased, I'll bet."

Apollo smoothed the papers with trembling fingers. The eyes he turned to Pieter were impossibly green and bright. "I did it," he said, again.

Pieter smiled. "I told you. You're important and special. Of course you did it."

Apollo blushed at the praise. "What does it mean, deferred?"

"You're only fourteen," said Pieter. "You won't need to take up the Scholarship until you go to university – the Kobolian Institute, in your case, I'd guess – so this yahren they'll give the scholarship to whoever came second and you'll take the one in three or four yahrens. Seems reasonable. Just don't lose that paper!"

Apollo looked stricken. "He won't let me go to the Institute! He wants me to go to the Academy. He won't let me."

"It's yahrens away. It'll sort itself out. He and your mother will be really proud of you."

Apollo shrugged. "I dunno. They don't much care."

"They cared enough to pay for me," pointed out Pieter.

"That's just money. Money doesn't matter."

Unless you don't have it, of course.

"I'm glad they spend it on your lessons, anyway."

"Yeah, but all I've had is grief since, because I want to study when she wants me to take care of the kids. It's not like they can't pay someone to take care of them. I'm just handy." Apollo folded the precious paper carefully. "She doesn't take that much notice. She spends all her time with Thenie and Zac."

"I assume she believes that you're too old, and the little ones need more of her attention," said Pieter, using that doubtful inflection again, the one that put everything Apollo's family did into the worst possible light.

Apollo hunched his shoulders. "They don't care, much. That's all."

"Well, I'm proud of you." The tone was warm, intimate, putting up the barrier that held the outside world away, that created the Pieter-Apollo world that was for them alone.

Apollo looked up at him through those impossibly long lashes, a gleam of green all Pieter could see of his eyes. "You're different."

"I care about you," said Pieter. He reached out a hand and Apollo came to him, naturally. "Very much. You know how much."

Apollo nodded.

"You're pretty special. Very special to me."

Apollo looked up and smiled. "Will you - ?" he paused, and reddened.

"Still our secret?"

"Yes," said Apollo.

When Pieter kissed him, the boy's mouth parted under his, granting him entrance, tasting him. Pieter put one hand on Apollo's back, putting on a gentle pressure to guide the boy in closer, the other slid carefully up under the boy's teeshirt to rub slow circles on Apollo's chest and stomach, dipping a little lower on each circle. Apollo, when he pulled away, was flushed and panting, eyes wide.

"Do you want to know how special?" asked Pieter, watching carefully for signs of distress.

Apollo nodded mutely. Pieter pulled him closer and kissed him again, and this time his hand fell onto the boy's trembling thigh, moving upwards in long, lazy sweeps, carefully moving to the inner thigh on each sweep. Apollo gasped out loud, and parted his legs.

"Should I stop?" asked Pieter, his hand curved around the thigh, the very tips of his fingers only a fraction away from the untouched cock.

"No," said Apollo, eyes so wide Pieter could drown in them.

Pieter smiled, and his hand moved to cover the boy's genitals. He squeezed gently. Apollo made a funny little mewling sound and clung to him, lifting his mouth to seek Pieter's as the same time that his hips rose to press his groin against Pieter's hand.

There really was nothing nicer than a well-groomed boy. Nothing.

 

 

1.2 Parental Rights

Commander Adama was glad to get away from the Atlantia.

He normally loved every centon of his working life, but he'd had an unexpected visitor, one who'd made the Atlantia momentarily uncomfortable for him and rushed him into taking his leave earlier than he'd intended, just to get away.

Having old Commander Kronos as a guest aboard the Atlantia, taking the old man from Hephaestus to Oxford base and his last posting before retirement, had been a very mixed blessing. Adama hadn't been under such sustained criticism for everything he did, when he did it and how he did it—they never, thankfully, got into the why: Kronos was the man for following orders, not worrying about the motivation—since just after he'd married Ila more than twenty yahrens earlier, when he'd still been Colonel Adama spending a yahren-long posting on the Rycon, under Kronos's command, to have the final pre-promotion shine put on him.

That had been a difficult yahren. The polishing process had been very successful, of course – he'd been in command of the Battlestar Atlantia for the last fifteen yahrens and had commanded the Patroklus destroyer before that – but working with Kronos had been quite the experience. While Adama had the greatest respect for the old man, he'd vowed when he took the Atlantia that he'd be a slightly different kind of commander. It was, he felt, possible to temper discipline with humanity, if you tried hard enough. Adama had spent the last couple of decades trying and, he hoped, pretty much succeeding.

He did not relish having the old man regress him back to a period when he still had to prove himself to an exacting taskmaster. He had left Kronos at Oxford base with alacrity and retreated back to Hephaestus and home to get the taste out of his mouth.

Ila and the children weren't expecting him for another couple of sectons, but Kronos had proved quite the motivation for taking his leave a little earlier than he'd planned. He didn't tell them he was coming. In truth, he didn't have time, but it was nice to be able to surprise them, dropping his kitbag in the hall and sneaking into the big kitchen to remark that is was a sad thing that a man could come home after nearly a yahren away and have no-one there to meet him. Ila's reaction was everything he could wish for.

That was something else Kronos had taught him: the value of surprise. And even if Ila was hardly the enemy, she knew the equal value of a timely capitulation. Adama enjoyed his welcome home.

He was no man's fool, Adama. He had, of course, chosen the time of his attack with military precision. He loved his children, but he was immensely pleased that all three were safely trapped in school until manoeuvres were satisfactorily completed.

 

 

The rest of the day was not quite as satisfying. It's always difficult to adjust to the quiet time following a superb military victory. It takes a little while for the adrenaline to subside.

Time, and a discussion about your difficult teenage son . That does it. Every time.

"I'm glad you're back. Apollo's impossible at the moment."

"He's the age for it," said Adama, pulling at the civilian clothes that always felt so uncomfortably strange after so many sectars in uniform.

"I tell you, Adama, I'm tempted to put him up for adoption. He's driving me crazy. He's rude and disobedient, and he's nearly bigger than me! I never know where he is, he's got into the habit of coming in whenever he likes. He certainly doesn't come straight home from school." Ila hesitated, then said, "The Principal called me a couple of days ago. Apollo's been cutting classes."

"What?"

"Every Third-day and Fifth-day. He has history on those afternoons and of course since he got the scholarship, I suppose it isn't very useful to him." Ila shrugged helplessly. "Even if he doesn't need the lessons, the Principal – quite rightly! – expects him to be in school."

Adama kneaded one temple with his fingers. Didn't his ungrateful children think he had enough problems to deal with at work? It would annoy the frack out of him if he couldn't get any respite at home. Apollo was acting worse than the defaulting ensign Adama had disciplined just before he left. "How long has he being doing this?"

"Since he got the scholarship."

"We should never have let him do that. He's far too young and now it's gone to his head."

"He did incredibly well, Adama."

"I know he did, but that's beside the point. What did he say when you talked to him about it?"

"That there was nothing they could teach him—"

"Arrogant little beggar," said Adama.

"—and he had better things to do than waste his time there." Ila turned from her dressing table, the ravages to her delicate make-up repaired. "At first, the school thought he was working in the school library, so they didn't worry too much. Then they realised he wasn't in school at all. When I talked to him, he pretended that he was doing some work of his own in the library at the Kobolian, but I don't believe that. You can always tell when Apollo's lying. He's no good at it. I know he has some friend or other that he spends a lot of time with, but he's very secretive about who that is or what they're getting up to."

"Probably nothing much," said Adama, doubtfully. He remembered his own teenage forays into the folly of fumerello smoking behind his grandfather's barn in company with his equally foolish cousins. Apollo was probably doing something just as stupid, but ultimately as harmless.

"He's getting very difficult, Adama."

Adama kneaded at his temple again. "I'll speak to him."

"It's Third-day. He'll be late." She looked close to tears. "I'm losing control over him."

"He's fourteen, love. He's testing the boundaries. I'll just have to make bloody sure that he knows they're still there."

 

 

But reminding Apollo about the boundaries set on his behaviour didn't happen quite as soon as Adama would have liked. By four the two youngest had been brought home from their nearby primary school, collected by Duncan as normal. Duncan was able to keep a secret, so finding their father waiting for them at home was as great a surprise as Adama could have liked and he enjoyed immensely the next loud and energetic half centar.

Of Apollo, there was no sign.

At the latest he should have been home at six, even allowing for the extra tutorial with Pieter. At seven, Adama was getting seriously concerned and by half-past, he had twice driven with Duncan the route Apollo would have to follow to get home from his school, always supposing that Apollo was coming from that direction. Duncan, discreetly, let it be known Apollo's late arrival home was not an unusual occurrence.

"Ila told me," said Adama, very thoughtfully, going back into the house to report, yet again, that there was no sign of his eldest son. He tried to tell himself that at least it wasn't dark, that it was early summer and would be light for centars yet. There was no danger.

The two youngest children were almost ready for bed when Apollo came in a half-centar later. The only signs of his presence were the banging of the external door and a vague, incoherent yell that may have been words, evidently intended to announce his arrival, and the clatter of feet on the stairs. Adama glanced at Ila and went straight upstairs.

He didn't get the same joyous response from his eldest child that he'd had from his two youngest. Apollo was as surprised as his two siblings had been, but didn't look terribly pleased when his father followed him, uninvited, into his bedroom. If anything, he looked downright displeased.

"Dad!"

"You're late," said Adama.

Apollo, still clutching his schoolbag, shifted his weight from one foot to the other, uneasy. "When did you get home?"

"A great deal earlier than you did. Where have you been?"

Apollo hesitated. "Friends."

"Without telling your mother where you were?"

Apollo flushed and scowled. "Has she been complaining? She keeps telling me I'm old enough to do lots of things."

"Not being out at all hours without her knowledge. It's after eight."

Apollo muttered something. It sounded suspiciously like a complaint that all he seemed to be old enough for was to look after the kids when Ila didn't want to, and it was enough to get Adama launched, lasers blazing. By the time he had covered what was and what most definitely was not an acceptable way for Apollo to speak to and of his mother, Apollo cutting classes without permission, Apollo seeing friends who hadn't been approved by his parents, Apollo getting home at unacceptably late centars, and Apollo being generally rude and unco-operative and heading for a sharp chastisement that was likely to be painfully physical, he had to stop for breath and Apollo had retreated back to the wall beside the window, still clutching his bag and was staring, wide-eyed, at Adama over the top of it.

"There had better be an improvement in you, am I understood?"

Apollo nodded, mute.

"Good. Get some supper and go straight to bed. I'll talk to you properly in the morning."

Adama returned to the rest of his family, still seething. He caught only a glimpse of Apollo again that night, when his eldest son put a cautious head around the door to the family room. Adama, a child on each knee and Ila beside him, saw him first. He shushed Zac gently.

"I told you to go to bed, Apollo, and I meant it. Now."

Apollo, face settled into sullen resentment, retreated without a word. Adama, rubbing again at his temple, almost wished he was back twenty yahrens and back on the Rycon. Even Kronos was less of a headache.

 

 

Breakfast was a less than comfortable meal.

Apollo didn't make an appearance. Ila, looking more worn than Adama liked, shook her head when Adama raised a questioning eyebrow.

"Sulking, do you think?" he asked.

"Of course. You were a little hard on him, last night," she said. "It was your first night back, after all."

"He deserved it," said Adama. "He scared you and he was rude. And I don't like him sulking like this. It's childish."

"He doesn't see that much of you, Adama. And it wasn't very nice, last night, without him there."

Adama hesitated. Apollo's resentful expression had come back to mind several times in the half centar he'd spent with the two youngest children before they'd gone to bed. Each time, he'd wondered if he'd imagined the hurt that the resentment seemed to have masked. He'd thought a couple of times of going into Apollo's room to make peace; he'd even stood in the hall outside Apollo's closed door, but everything inside the room was quiet and in the end he'd left his son to reflect on his sins, deciding to forgive and forget and readmit Apollo to the family fold at breakfast and to offer then the greeting hug he'd withheld the night before.

"I suppose I was," he admitted now. "I don't like disobedience and rudeness, and he didn't used to be like that. I can't work out what's got into him."

"Testing the boundaries, you said, " said Ila, with a wry smile. "It's normal, you said."

"I might have known you'd think it was my fault!" said Adama, and dropped a kiss on her hair as he left the room to go upstairs and hurry Apollo down to breakfast. He was surprised to see that Apollo was in the main hall, heading for the door, ready for the outside world and with his schoolbag over his shoulder.

"Apollo!"

Apollo, one hand already on the door mechanism froze, and turned. If hunger had driven Apollo out of his room, it had clearly had no effect on the resentful sulking. The young face that was raised to his as he joined Apollo was sullen, the mouth in an unpleasant line, the eyes wary. Adama tried to ignore it. It was a new morning, a new beginning. He'd say no more about the previous evening. Instead, he smiled and held out his arms and kept his tone cheerful and affable, not confrontational.

"Where are you off to? I was beginning to think you'd never get up!"

Apollo took a step backwards, evading the embrace Adama was offering, ending up pressed defensively against the wall, clearly determined to avoid physical contact. "School," he said.

Feeling a little foolish, Adama let his arms drop. "Not without breakfast," he said.

"I'm not hungry."

"You need your breakfast first, Apollo," Adama repeated, more firmly. "Come on."

Apollo hesitated. The wary green eyes stared into Adama's, looking for something. What, Adama didn't know.

"I've not seen anything of you yet," said Adama, coaxingly.

It was the wrong thing to say, and he knew it almost before the words left his mouth. It might have been entirely Apollo's own fault that he'd been sent to bed early in punishment, but somehow he realised Apollo wouldn't see it that way. Apollo's eyes flashed with anger.

"It's not like you actually wanted to," he snapped back.

"Of course I do—"

"You were doing all right with Zac and Thenie last night!" Apollo turned and slapped his hand against the door mechanism. "It looked like I was being missed."

Adama's hand closed over Apollo's arm. "I said, not without breakfast," he said, proud of the way his voice remained even.

"What are you going to do? Force feed me?" Apollo pulled free, the resentment melting away in the flash of temper. "I'm not hungry, and I want to get to school."

Adama looked down at him just long enough to ensure that Apollo understood that if he chose to, he'd stop his son leaving. Apollo tensed visibly. He'd got the message.

"You're upsetting your mother," said Adama, in the cold voice he used on troopers who were up before him on report or charges. He had never yet chastised any of his children with physical force. He'd always considered that was the last resort of failure, and he hadn't got there yet. But he was suddenly very tempted. This confrontation was infuriating and his palms were itching.

"When?" retorted Apollo. "What chance do I get for that when she doesn't see much of me either?"

They glowered at each other.

"I'm rather disappointed in you," said Adama, after a centon of letting Apollo squirm. "You've been getting a lot of leeway as you've grown up, but if you're going to behave like a child, then we'll treat you like one. Is that what you want?"

"I'm not a kid!"

"Then stop acting like one! Your mother has responsibilities, and she has the two young ones. She looks to you to help. I expect you to be more responsible and help her, not upset her like this."

"Sure," said Apollo, bitterly. "I do realise that all I'm needed for is to caretake Zac."

Adama took a very deep breath. "I'm going in to get my breakfast. It's entirely up to you if you eat or not. Evidently hunger adds to your sense of ill-usage, but that's not my doing and I really don't intend to waste my home leave feeding your martyr complex."

Apollo's face was expressionless again. "I'm going to school."

Apollo was through the door before Adama could stop him. Adama's mouth tightened. They'd have to have a little talk when Apollo came home, he decided, watching as Apollo's run slowed to the ungainly slouch that seemed to afflict all teenagers. His son stopped and turned on the path, facing Adama.

At that distance, Apollo evidently felt it safe to up the ante. "Nice to have you home, Dad. Nice of you to want to see anything of me, but it'll take me a while to get used to that idea. Nice of you to be proud of me getting that Scholarship, of doing well at school, all the good things I do, but hey! Who tells you about those, eh? And what do they matter when you can just yell at me about something?"

"You and I will discuss this, this evening, Apollo," said Adama, and he meant it as a definite threat.

"And you'll yell at me then. I get it." Apollo turned around and started again for the gate.

"And get home on time!" Adama roared after him.

"Normal, you said, I think," said Ila when he rejoined her in the dining room after a few centons in the hall attempting to recover his composure. He was quite bewildered by how fast everything with Apollo had blown up into a fight. "We could hear you both from here." She nodded at the two younger children. Athena seemed unconcerned, but Zac's eyes were wide.

"Yes," said Adama, sourly. "Normally infuriating."

 

 

"I'm glad you're here Jerry. You may be all that stands between me and the gallows. What is the penalty for murdering your first born son?"

Doctor Jerome laughed. "In your case, having Zac step up to fill Apollo's shoes. Not a choice I'd want to make, personally."

A medical practice in the affluent suburb of Osaiya was a profitable thing, professionally and personally. It meant that the doctor in question was – well, one of us, the right kind, speaking the same language, a member of the tribe. At ease with the Osaiyan residents in consulting room or drawing room, Doctor Jerome – universally known as Jerry to friends and patients alike - was the friend and confidante of many of the families he served. He was indeed one of them.

His clinic was the sort of place that many a general practitioner could only dream of, housed in an elegant building in the green and leafy centre of the suburb and surrounded by equally elegant buildings where the other professionals that Osaiya needed – its bankers and financial advisers, its investment consultants, even its lifestyle advisers – made their fortunes. Jerry was a wealthy man among wealthy men.

His juniors took the bulk of the workload now and thanked the Lords nightly that their lines had fallen in such pleasant places. Jerry saw the patients he wanted to see, the ones he counted as friends. They could rely upon a relaxed and pleasant consultation in comfortable surroundings over a cup of tea or caff before Jerry, with the delicate tact that betrayed his precise, surgeon's touch, steered the conversation onto whatever ailment (slight, imaginary, distressing or embarrassing) was the real reason for them being there. He knew his people and he used that knowledge well.

If he was known throughout Osaiya as the best doctor in the city, he was equally well known for being the best of family friends. He was friendly with many families, but he was the closest friend Adama had in or out of the military. Childless themselves, Jerry and Klara had always been very fond of the three Adaman children. He'd been a part of their lives since they were babies; he'd delivered Athena and Zac, a distinction that Athena was prone to use against her elder brother who'd been born before the family moved to Osaiya. When Klara died and he was left alone, the attachment had strengthened. He loved all three as if they were his own. He spent almost at much time at the Adaman family home as he did at his own, more lonely house, a ten-centon drive up the coast. It was inevitable that he should make an early appearance on Adama's return home on leave.

Now he said, still laughing, "Do I want to know about it?"

Adama shook his head. "Probably not." But almost instantly added, "Did you know that Apollo's been cutting classes at school?"

Jerry trod a fine line sometimes. Agnostic himself, he had what Adama, a practising Kobolian, considered to be a moral code of some ambiguity, although even Adama admitted that Jerry applied it consistently. Jerry had a clear idea of what he could talk about, and what he could not. Now he sought for words that would alert Adama to what he saw as Apollo's growing unhappiness without betraying Apollo's confidences, such as they were, too far.

"I know that he has occasionally," he said, carefully, "from what Ila's said."

"Try twice a secton, every Third-day and Fifth-day. The day I got home, he didn't get back here until almost nine. We had words about that."

"On your first night back?" asked Jerry, rather dismayed.

"And yesterday. Well, yesterday ended as badly as it began, I can tell you."

Adama told Jerry quickly about the scene in the hallway and its aftermath. Apollo had, surprisingly, returned home that day, if not at the earliest possible time, at one that was reasonable - "It's Fourth-day," Ila had said when Apollo had appeared. "Today isn't usually a problem." – but that was possibly the only positive in the day. They had had the little chat that Adama had threatened.

As Adama explained to Jerry, he'd had very clear objectives for their discussion. The gist of it was Adama making crystal clear that Apollo would be home at the right time every day and that he'd stop, immediately, cutting lessons at school. He was used to giving orders and he had no intention of allowing Apollo to disobey them.

"And what did he have to say for himself?" asked Jerry, wondering how to express his scepticism that Apollo would be amenable to being ordered around like a recalcitrant trooper.

Nothing, apparently. Adama didn't know what Apollo's views were, because his son didn't voice any. Apollo had listened in silence, responded in monosyllables whenever a response was demanded of him, and sat throughout the entire evening even more taciturn than Adama expected of a moody teenager. No-one had enjoyed the atmosphere. Even Zac was subdued, his every advance to get his adored elder brother's attention ruthlessly snubbed. That too, had earned Apollo a rebuke for his treatment of his brother.

At this point in the narrative, Jerry said, frowning, "He's rather jealous of Zac, you know. Zac and Athena take up a lot of Ila's time."

"They're younger," said Adama. "That doesn't excuse his behaviour."

But it may explain some of it, thought Jerry. But he was trying to find that fine line to tread that would offend no-one. "He's a little lonely, I think."

Adama merely snorted. "Today's Fifth-day," he observed.

Jerry glanced at the chronometer. "It's not that late, Adama."

"Oh he's home. He got here about a half-centar ago, just before you did."

"Well, then – "

"The principal called me just after lunch. Apollo cut his classes again this afternoon. He's upstairs right now reflecting on the fact that I've grounded him for the next sectar."

"I suppose one out of two isn't acceptable?" Jerry sighed when he saw how well that was received. Poor Apollo. "Adama, have you thought about asking him why he's doing it?"

Adama snorted again. "He says that they can't teach him anything in history that he doesn't know. Conceited little beggar."

"Accurate, though. He did marvellously well in that scholarship exam." Jerry sipped at his ambrosa, eyeing Adama over the rim of the glass. He pushed gently. "As I expect you've told him."

Adama said nothing, his expression cold and angry. Jerry sighed again, wondering if anyone other than him had celebrated that success with Apollo.

Apollo himself appeared a centon or so later, closely followed by Zac, as usual. He studiously ignored his father, but came to say hello to Jerry, rather with the air of a condemned man seeing a potential saviour. Jerry grinned at him, relieved that he was required to be the universal uncle, not act in loco parentis and try and impose any sort of discipline. Despite Adama's cool disapproval, he hugged the boy in greeting.

"How did the Triad match go yesterday?" he asked.

It was as if someone threw a switch, and the barometer swung instantly from foul weather to fair. Apollo beamed at him. "We were awesome! Me and Ferris creamed them. You should have been there, Uncle Jerry."

"I would have been if your school wouldn't insist on such bad planning when they're scheduling matches. I can hardly leave my patients waiting while I come to watch you play."

"I'm going to play Triad like 'Pollo," announced Zac.

"You'll never be as good as me, brat," said Apollo, and laughed.

"I might get to the next game," said Jerry, seeing an opportunity for Adama. "When is it?"

Apollo was still glowing with excitement. "Seventhday. That would be good, if you could come."

Adama, who'd been looking increasingly annoyed, asked, "What Triad match?"

Zac was either too young or too indifferent to care about the atmosphere. " 'Pollo's going to be the champion, Dad. He's great." He adored Apollo visibly, waiting for some return of approval, but Apollo, wary and closed up again, was eying his father sidelong.

"You didn't say anything," said Adama.

"You didn't ask," said Apollo, sullenly. "I figured it wasn't important to you."

He walked away, Zac in his wake, leaving Adama staring after him. Jerry regretted suddenly being there. He hadn't missed the difference in Apollo's attitude when he spoke to his father, and he knew that Adama wouldn't have missed it either.

"You know how much he loves Triad," he said, a little apologetically.

Adama stared at him.

"Oh come on, Adama! You get a letter every secton from the family – I'd bet my practice on Apollo having only two topics to talk about. All he's interested in are history and Triad."

"I have to ask if he's playing? He never thought to mention it?"

"He's fourteen, Adama. He's a teenager, and he's getting as much mileage out of it as he can." Concerned at the blatant display of hostility, Jerry found himself saying things that even to himself sounded like excuses for Apollo's behaviour, torn between sympathy for a father and son who knew each other so little and some annoyance at Adama, who at least ought to be able to handle it better. "That means he'd be offended no matter what you did. If you ask, you're nosing into his privacy and if you don't ask, you're not interested. You can't win. He's punishing you for his hormones. It's only natural."

Adama gave him a considering look. Jerry thought that there was a hint of jealousy there. At least, he hoped he did. If Adama could see that he needed to do something to repair fences with Apollo, it was a step in the right direction.

"You speak with some authority," said Adama.

Jerry grinned. "The psychology of adolescence isn't exactly an arcane science, you know. Except to parents, maybe."

"How do you know? You don't have any of the little darlings."

That might have been a low blow, except that Jerry was born to be a much loved uncle with no parental responsibilities, and he was more than happy with that. "I'm a doctor, Adama. We have to read a lot of textbooks, some of which I even remember." He smiled at Adama's sour expression. "And like any good doctor, I keep up to date. It's like reading maintenance manuals for the latest hovercar – you never know what new little gadget they've come up with."

Adama looked across to the open windows. Zac was running in circles around Apollo, shouting happily, while Apollo stood in the middle of the lawn and brooded. "Maintenance manual? I think I must have thrown my copy away with the packaging."

Ila appeared into view, scolding Apollo for letting Zac run around in the heat. Jerry looked at Apollo's sullen face, seeing the child's unhappiness even at that distance. It astonished him that neither Ila or Adama saw it for what it was.

"Pity," he said. "I think you're going to need it."

 

 

"I think," said Adama, on Third-day of the following secton, "that I'll take a walk up to Apollo's school today. I want to be sure that young man is doing exactly what I told him to do."

"I wish you two would make it up," said Ila, sighing. "It's not very pleasant for the rest of us."

Adama snorted and wondered, not for the first time, what possessed him to agree to have children at all.

The long secton had dragged for all of them. Adama had found it impossible to relax out of commander mode, given the prevailing atmosphere of resentment and tension that fairly radiated out of Apollo. Apart from a brief visit to Zac's school for a sports afternoon, to see his youngest win the egg-and-spoon race (Zac bragging horribly about his victory afterwards gave Adama some much needed amusement), he seemed to be spending all his time waiting for Apollo to do something to annoy him.

As it happened, Apollo had returned from school each evening scrupulously on time, although moody and resentful about it. Adama had relented enough to let him go out to meet his friends at the secton end. He'd assumed that Apollo was with his cousin Jason, but at Chapel on Tenth-day—Apollo attending with more than his usual sullenness and greeted by the priest, Father Diogenes, with unflattering astonishment ("I can't always get him to go," Ila had said, a redundant confession in the circumstances)—Jace had denied ever having seen Apollo. "I never said I was seeing Jace," Apollo had said, when challenged, and Adama had to admit that was the literal truth. Apollo had shrugged and not answered when asked who he had been with. Adama still didn't know all of Apollo's friends, and that worried him.

"It was a good idea you had, putting him up for adoption," said Adama. "Maybe we should put them all up for adoption and head south to the Islands for a secton or two. If they're very good, we might take them back when we get home."

"The last time we went to the Islands I came back pregnant with Athena."

At which point Adama winced and announced that a trip to the school to speak to the principal and check on Apollo was one way of making sure he was being obeyed and one way of reinforcing orders. He'd learned long ago that his juniors often needed to have orders repeated and then needed strict supervision to ensure compliance.

"And when did Apollo enlist?" was all Ila said.

It annoyed him slightly. Jerry had said something very similar the previous secton. It was beside the point. The point was that Apollo had had his boundaries redrawn and it was Adama's duty as a responsible parent to make sure that his son kept to them.

Adama walked to the school, enjoying the early summer weather, revelling in having his feet on solid ground and having something other than recycled air to breathe. He arrived just after the noon bell went. The green lawns outside the school were thick with pupils, and it took him a centon to spot Apollo. His son was alone, no unknown and potentially unsuitable friends in evidence, jogging towards the gate, his bag over his shoulder.

Adama was a hundred metres away and had no chance of preventing it. Apollo speeded up and reached the gates at the same moment as the white hovercar did. He was in the passenger seat almost before it stopped.

Adama caught a glimpse of Apollo's face. No longer sullen, he was smiling and looked excited. But what really stopped Adama dead, was the way that Apollo leaned forward and kissed the driver of the car.

Full on the mouth.

His son was kissing the man driving the hovercar, and Adama could only stand there and stare as the hovercar accelerated past him where he stood, shaking with helpless anger, in the shade under the trees.

 

 

"A white car? It could be Pieter, I suppose," said Ila, doubtfully.

"Have you met him?"

She blinked at his tone. "A few times. He seems very nice."

"Apollo seems to think so, too," said Adama, and went to collect his car and go and find his son.

 

 

"Again?" asked Apollo.

Pieter laughed. The boy was insatiable. He rolled over, trapping Apollo under him, legs tangled together. The boy's cock was hard against Pieter's thigh. Pieter trailed a hand down the smooth cheek, letting his fingers slide into Apollo's mouth.

Eyes gleaming, Apollo sucked on them, using his tongue to wet them thoroughly. He was wearing nothing but the thin tee he'd had on under his school uniform. Pieter liked him to keep it on. It was incredibly sexy with the hem of the tee just brushing the top of the boy's tight little arse, and Pieter liked the way that when he'd sucked Apollo's nipples into hard nubs, they jutted up against the fabric.

He took his fingers away and kissed Apollo as he insinuated his hand between their bodies, sliding wet fingers down between the boy's legs. Apollo's thighs parted readily, the slight body arching under him as he wormed a finger, and then two, into the hot, velvety channel. Apollo was still wet from the first time, but the tight muscles needed teasing into looseness before Pieter could get his cock in again and fuck the boy until Apollo was incoherent and glassy eyed and sobbing for breath.

The way that Pieter liked him.

Apollo, already on his back, bent his legs. Pieter got his hands onto the insides of the knees, forcing them down to rest on Apollo's shoulders, tilting the boy's entrance up to just the right angle. He pressed the head of his cock against it, listening for the little whimper from Apollo that always made him hotter and harder, and pressed smoothly in. The boy stretched to take him, biting his lip against the burn, making those lovely little mewling sounds. Pieter pulled out until the ring of muscle caught a the head of his cock, making him shudder with pleasure, and slammed back in again until he was hitting the rhythm that pleased him most, and Apollo was writhing under him, the sharp, shallow breaths matching Pieter's, his hands around his own cock, stroking himself to the same beat.

Pieter leaned down to kiss him. Oh yes, this was definitely how he liked Apollo.

His star pupil.

 

 

1.3          Darkness Descending

"We knew the hormones were kicking in," said Jerry.  "We said so, remember?"

Adama growled something, incoherent.

"He can be a bit cheeky sometimes, too.  He's really too much of a handful for Ila to manage, not with the two younger ones taking up so much of her time."

"Kicking in with a vengeance!" Adama managed.

"Yes, he's at the difficult stage," said Jerry mildly.  He watched Adama's pacing, thinking over the story he'd been told.  Apollo had changed dramatically in the yahren that Adama had been gone, and he thought that Adama was having difficulty making the adjustment from dealing with the change from the bright and still amenable child he'd left behind to the moody adolescent he'd been faced with on his return.  That Adama couldn’t see that the rudeness and sulkiness came from anger wasn't that much of a surprise, he supposed, even when Jerry had hinted at it, but it was a shame that it hadn't made Adama think a little harder about how to handle the boy.  He still wondered what had possessed Adama to return home after a yahren's absence and instantly light into Apollo.  It was obvious that Apollo was smarting from it, was hurting about it, and while it wasn't necessarily right to base everything on what an angry teen would or would not appreciate, riding roughshod over the boy wasn't likely to improve matters. 

And to top it all, a sick anxiety gnawed at him.  He'd thought for sectons that Apollo was brooding over something.  This was worse than anything he could have imagined.

But all he said was, "But for all that, he's still Apollo.  He's rather more sensitive, you know, than Athena and Zac rolled together.  He reacts more.  And he's more easily hurt than you'd expect."

"Hurt?  What does he have to be hurt about?  There's not many kids, even at that school, with as much as he has."

"Materially?  I dare say.  But he doesn't have you around for much of the yahren, and then when you get back, suddenly it's all out war.  And Adama, don't take this wrongly, but I've thought for the last few sectars that he and Ila aren't getting on too well."

"I noticed."  Adama stopped at the window and leaned his forehead against it for a centon. 

"It's what I said the other day, Adama.  He's feeling left out.  She hasn't a lot of time to devote to him, you know."

"She has her work at the Senate and the younger ones to look after!" started Adama, defensively.

"And he doesn't think that leaves much time for him."

Adama turned from the window. "You always spoiled him," he said, tiredly.

Jerry bit back a sharp retort, and kept his tone even.  "I give him a little attention, yes."

The look he got showed that Adama hadn’t missed the implication in that.  "I'll deal with that later.  This is... this is... shit, Jerry, what the hell is possessing him?  What should I do?"

"There's not a thing you can do on your own.  You don't even know where to go looking.  Even if Apollo is with this man, it could be perfectly innocent.  You know that he's been getting extra lessons."

"Apollo kissed him!  I didn't imagine it, Jerry.  I saw it.  Whatever Pieter—"

"If it was Pieter."

Adama was almost at the teeth grinding stage.  "Whatever this man is teaching Apollo, it has nothing to do with history."

"There's still nothing you can do on your own.  The police, Adama.  They're the only ones who can trace Pieter and see if Apollo's with him."

Adama nodded.  "Will you help?"

"Of course I'll help," said Jerry, distressed and scared for Apollo, terribly scared for Apollo.  "Of course."

 

 

 

It wasn't that late, although Apollo knew the school had probably told his parents that he'd played truant again.  He'd be in very, very deep trouble by the time he got home.  So deep, that it was almost worth staying.  After all, his father could only get so angry.  There had to be a limit to it.

And it wasn't as if they really cared.  They'd all looked very cosy together the night Dad had got back, the night he'd been shut out, not wanted, not part of it, unwelcome.  The old man would find some excuse to shout, no matter what Apollo did - it was all he'd done since he came home.  Apollo should make it worth his while.

They'd had more fun in the shower. Apollo enjoyed the cleaning up sessions, although not nearly as much as what he was cleaning up from.  Pieter had loved him three times that afternoon, and he was aching a bit, feeling each twinge as he moved.  He liked it, though.  He liked the special feeling it gave him when Pieter got inside him.

"Can I stay?" he asked.

Pieter laughed.  "No.  You've got to get home."

"They won't miss me."

"Yes they will.  You know, we agreed this when you called me the night your father came home.  You can't stay here when he's expecting you home.  We don't want him finding out, Fee."

Apollo flinched at the image that brought to mind.  "No."

He got dressed.  Pieter hadn't bothered, just wrapped himself in a robe as he stripped the bed of its soiled and smelly linen.  Apollo liked that smell.  Sex and semen, Pieter had said, the very first time he'd loved Apollo, the very first time Apollo had realised how important he was to Pieter, the best smell in the world.  Pieter had touched him and kissed him until he'd come all over Pieter's hands, and he'd inhaled the sharp scent of his own semen, somehow more potent, stronger than when he touched himself in the shower.  Pieter had laughed, and spread the jism over his own hard cock before kissing him again and turning him over onto his side.  For the first time Apollo had felt that big cock pushing up into him, claiming him, hurting him until he whimpered, making him scream and gasp as it brushed up against that funny little place inside him that Pieter had found only centons before with his fingers when he got Apollo ready for him.  And all the time as Pieter moved in him, hard against his pliant flesh, there was the smell in his nostrils, hot and salty and tangy.  Apollo really loved that smell now.

Pieter came back from the laundry room, leaning against the door and smiling at him.  Apollo smiled back.

"I don’t know when I'll get away again," he said, pulling on his jacket. 

"We've got our normal study period in a couple of days.  Other than that, call me when you can.  You've got the comm unit."

Apollo nodded.  The small mobile comm unit had been a present from Pieter, another secret, and most nights they called each other after Apollo had gone to bed, touching themselves while they talked.  Pieter made a game of it, telling Apollo exactly what he would do the next time, and he'd laugh for ages if he made Apollo come while he was talking.  Apollo tried hard to come each time.  He liked to make Pieter laugh.  He liked it even better when he could hear Pieter come, over the link.

"I'll call you tonight," he said, and slid into Pieter's arms for a goodbye kiss. 

The house entry bell sounded.  Peter tousled Apollo's hair, grinning, and let him go, stepping over to the bedside comm unit.

"Yes?"

"Professor Pieter?"

"Yes."

"This is the police, Professor.  Please open the door."

Alarmed, Apollo stared at Pieter in frightened surprise.  "Police?"

Pieter made a shushing gesture.  "What's the problem?"

"It would be better if we discussed it inside, sir.  Please open the door."

"I'll be there in a moment."  Pieter closed down the link.  His eyes were wide and dark, and he was breathing rather hard.  "What the fuck do they want?"

They stared at each other.  Apollo didn’t know what to say or do.  It wouldn't be a good thing for him to be caught here by anybody, especially the police.  Not a good thing at all. 

Pieter jerked his head towards the bathroom door.  "Stay in there and stay quiet until they've gone."

Apollo nodded and scrambled to obey, catching up his schoolbag and cramming his things into it while Peter went slowly downstairs.  He looked around quickly to make sure he hadn't forgotten anything, closing the bathroom door quietly when he heard the outer door of the house open and the faint sound of voices.  He retreated to the far wall, sliding down to sit on the floor between the flush and the turboshower.

The voices were louder, coming from the upper landing and then the bedroom he'd just left.  The closed door muffled much of the sound, however hard Apollo listened.  He was listening for Pieter.  The other two voices weren't known to him; the police, he assumed.  The sound rose and fell, going from conversational to confrontation.  Pieter was sharp and angry, almost shouting, the lower rumble of those two unknown voices.  And then another voice, angry as Pieter's, angrier and louder.

Apollo stopped breathing.  He drew his knees up protectively, and rested his forehead on them, trembling, feeling sick.  He stayed very still even when the door was wrenched open and that last angry voice was there again, just above his head.

"Come out of there," said his father.  "Right now."

But Apollo couldn’t make his legs work. 

He didn't even try, just sat staring up at his father, dumb with anguish and fright.  Adama said something else, impossible to make out in the buzzing in Apollo's ears, but the tone was impatient, disgusted.  He jerked Apollo to his feet and propelled him back into the bedroom with a hefty shove between the shoulder blades.  Apollo stumbled, brought up hard against the edge of the bed.

He had time for just one quick, frightened look at Pieter, seeking help and reassurance and finding only the mirror image of his own fear in response.  Pieter was as frightened as he was, face almost colourless, staring back at Apollo.  Adama caught Apollo by the arm and tugged him away, out into the hall and all the time Pieter stared and stared, his mouth a thin line, eyes darkened with fury and warning.  And even when Apollo couldn't see him any more, his last sight of Pieter cut off by the wall, Apollo felt that hot, dark, warning gaze burning into him all the way down the stairs and out into the street.

 

 

 

The police were very gentle.  Maybe too much so, in Adama's view.

"Take it easy with him," murmured the sergeant, catching hold of Adama's arm and forcing him to let go of Apollo.  The boy stumbled again, and they both caught hold of him to stop him from falling.  "It'll be all right," the man said to Apollo in a cheerfully ordinary voice.  "It'll be fine."

Adama scowled.  How in Hades would it be all right?  In his mind's eye there was the stripped bed, the teacher in nothing but a robe, his damned son cowering in the bathroom.  How in hell could all that ever be all right?

"We'll just get you to the office and sort all of this out.  Mind your head."  The sergeant guided Apollo, still mute and stunned, into the back seat of the nearest of the two squad cars.  Adama slid into the seat beside him.  Apollo stared at him like he was a stranger, eyes so enormous in his thin face that it looked unnatural, and squeezed himself right into the corner against the other door, as far away as he could get.

After that one glance, Adama looked away.  He was shaking with anger, fear, disgust – he didn’t really know what he felt, everything and nothing.  He just couldn't believe that Apollo, that any son of his, could be so lost to everything that was decent.  What in hell had happened to change the boy like this?  What was wrong with him that he could stoop to something so foul and disgusting.

He found he was glaring at Apollo again.  The wide green eyes were glazed and he wasn't sure that Apollo had really realised what was happening, then he saw the slight body press itself even harder into the corner of the hovercar seat, trying to put more distance between them.  Apollo was shaking uncontrollably.

He did nothing to close the gap, staring at Apollo and trying to see even a vestige of the child he'd thought he had.  There wasn't much recognisable in this soiled and filthy... he caught his thoughts fast, and turned away, taking a deep breath.  There wasn't any point, not yet.  He had to understand what in hell Apollo thought he was doing, before he could deal with it.  If he could bring himself to deal with it.

The car pulled away from the kerb.  Adama glanced over his shoulder out of the rear window, just as they brought out Pieter.  Adama watched until the car turned the corner, and his sight of the man who had corrupted and despoiled his son was cut off abruptly.  He turned his gaze back to Apollo and went back to wondering what was left of his son in that man's catamite.

The police sergeant twisted in the front passenger seat and looked from Adama to Apollo.  His voice was both cheerful and gentle.  "It won’t be long.  Apollo, isn't it?"

Apollo focused on him briefly, but said nothing, still trembling.

The man reached out a hand and patted Apollo's arm.  "Apollo.  Don’t worry -  we'll be at the office in a few centons, and we need to talk to you about what's happened, and then your dad can take you home, all right?"

Adama saw the sideways flash of green, the sidelong glance he got.  Apollo did not seem reassured.  If anything, the trembling grew worse.  And well it might!  This was no childish prank, no mischief that could be got over with a talking to or some other mild discipline and quickly forgiven and forgotten.  This was sin, pure and simple, something so disgusting that it was all Adama could do not to tremble himself, to keep the words of shocked contempt behind his teeth.

"Commander," said the sergeant, very softly.

Adama turned his attention away from Apollo cowering in the other corner and looked at the policeman.  The sergeant looked slightly exasperated.

"He's pretty distressed," said the man. 

"He should be," said Adama, unable to stop himself.

Apollo turned his head away and stared out of the window.  The policeman's expression deepened.

"He's only a kid," he said.

"And one who knows better."

The sergeant gave him a hard look, that Adama returned with interest.  The man sighed, patted Apollo's arm again and turned back in his seat.  "Couple of centons," he said.

They had to pull Apollo out of the squad car when they arrived.  Adama got out first, and leaned back in to reach for his son, his ire growing when Apollo threw off his hand and shied away as if he expected a blow rather than help.  In the end, the sergeant coaxed him into moving, when Adama's commands failed to get any reaction other than that unnerving, fixed stare.  Apollo was still unsteady on his feet, but he got the sergeant between him and his father and kept him there, clearly more at ease with the stranger.

Yes.  The police were far too gentle.

 

 

 

It wasn't a cell, but a comfortably furnished room that they took him to.  Still sick and shaky, Apollo didn't take in many of the details at first, only dimly aware that it was a comfortable sofa that he was sitting on, that the walls were bright, the windows unbarred.

His father— Apollo turned his head to look for him.  Adama was standing by the window, his head bowed, not looking at him.  But he must have felt Apollo's gaze because he looked up, and Apollo cringed inwardly at the fury in his father's eyes, the sick feeling making the acid come up into his throat.  He choked slightly and swallowed it back down, turning away quickly to avoid Adama's look, and put his schoolbag, which he'd clutched hard to his chest all the way there, down onto the floor beside his feet  His hands shook uncontrollably.  He had a sudden longing for his mother.  He knew her better.

The policeman was back, taking a seat opposite Apollo.  He looked kind.  At least, he didn't look so angry that it made your insides curl with dread.

"Apollo, I'm Sergeant Rufius.  You can call me Rufe – everyone else does around here."

Apollo swallowed and nodded, not able to think of anything to say.

"I know it's all a bit scary, but you're not in trouble, do you understand?  We just need to talk this through and sort a few things out, but I want you to understand that it’s not you we're mad at."

Apollo's eyes slid from Rufius's kind face to his father and back again.  Not in trouble?  Not with the police, maybe, although Pieter had always said that they would be, that they had to keep it a secret.... 

"What were you doing at Professor Pieter's house, Apollo?"

Apollo licked dry lips and tried to speak.  It took a couple of tries.  "Tutor," he said, and with more confidence when his voice finally worked, "He's my tutor."

Over by the window, his father snorted.  Apollo jumped at the disdainful sound, and the sergeant said, ignoring it, "What does he teach, then?  Me, I had to have extra tuition in maths."

"History.  He tutors me for a history scholarship."

"You got that sectons ago," said Adama, from the window.

Apollo shot him another look, and then looked back at Rufius.  He wanted to cry.  He could feel the dry heat at the top of his nose, the stinging in the corners of his eyes, but he wouldn't.  He wouldn't.  Not in front of his father.

Rufius just nodded.  He didn't sound shocked or disgusted or any of the things Adama was.  "Do you often have lessons at the Professor's home?"

Apollo, cautious now despite the man's cheerful friendliness, thought about what he should say.  "Sometimes.  Sometimes we can't always use his office at the Kobolian."

"Why's that then?"

Apollo shrugged, not answering.

"All right," said Rufius.  "We'll leave it there for the moment.  Let's talk about today, shall we?  Your father said that you cut lessons at school to be with the Professor. That's not the usual arrangement for your extra lessons, is it?"

Apollo bit his lip, the dry feeling increasing.  He blinked to clear his eyes, wishing he was alone so he could cry and get it over with.  His hands, still shaking a bit, felt damp and he wiped them on his trousers.

"Your Dad said that you'd been cutting classes every Third and Fifth days.  That's curious, Apollo, because that just happens to coincide with the Professor's free time from his teaching and research duties at the Kobolian Institute.  We checked that up, you see, a little earlier."

Say nothing.  They can't do anything to Pieter if you say nothing.  Apollo hunched one shoulder, the one nearest his father, and looked down at his shoes.  There was a scuff mark on the left one, he noticed, staring at it hard.  He wondered when he'd done it.

"Have you been seeing him at secton-ends, too?"  After a long silence, Rufius said, gently, "I think you have been, Apollo.  I think you've been seeing the Professor outside of your tutorials for a few sectars now, haven't you?"

Apollo continued staring at his feet, listening hard, but trying to pretend that he wasn't, that he was more interested in the scuff mark on his left shoe that if you turned your foot, looked a bit like the hieroglyph for the word djed, a bit squashed, maybe, but quite recognisable if you squinted at it.  Djed meant a lot of things - pillar, strength, backbone, fertility – depending on all the other hieroglyphs around it.  Of course, on its own you sometimes had to guess which one it meant.

He felt his mouth start to tremble, and he raised one hand to cover it, so they wouldn’t see how scared he was. 

"Maybe we're wrong, Apollo, and there's nothing to worry about.  But you see when you look at that pattern, and look at you and the Professor... how old are you now?"

That was safe to answer, maybe.  "F-fourteen.  F-fourteen and a half."  He wondered where the stammer had come from.  Maybe it was because his mouth wouldn't stop trembling.

"Fourteen and a half.  The age of consent is eighteen, Apollo.  So when we see the sort of pattern that you and the Professor make, we worry that he's maybe doing something he shouldn't be, and that you're too young to realise that what he's doing is wrong."

Anger flashed through Apollo.  "I'm not a kid!"

"You're only fourteen.  Not a kid, maybe, but not that grown up, either.  It's my job to see that the Professor doesn't hurt you."

"Pieter would never hurt me!"

"Oh, I'm sure he wouldn't want to," said Rufius.

"I'm important to Pieter.  Of course he wouldn't hurt – " Apollo broke off abruptly, clamping his mouth tight shut.  Say nothing!  Say nothing and they can't hurt Pieter.

"Does he tell you that, that you're important to him?"

Silence.

"Apollo, this is really very important.  I do understand that you're very loyal to the Professor and that you're very fond of him, but I have to be sure that he's not doing anything he shouldn't be – "

"You kissed him, when he picked you up from school.  I saw it," said Adama, coldly angry.

Apollo looked at the hieroglyph again.  He twisted his foot, wondering if the shape of the scuff mark  would change and what the new shape would mean if it did.

"You're not exactly helping here, Commander," said Rufius.  "Please leave this to me."

Adama snorted again.

But Apollo wasn't going to say anything more.  They could ask and his father could bully, but he wasn't going to say anything that they could twist into hurting Pieter, and through all of Rufius's questions that seemed to go on for centars, he stuck to his guns and said nothing at all.  Even as the questions got carefully and gently more explicit and his father's angry interventions more threatening, he let them float away from him no matter how much his face burned or his hands trembled because he was scared and on his own.  Instead, he looked at the hieroglyph and he thought about Pieter, and he worried.

At last the sergeant sat back, and sighed, rubbing the back of his neck with his hand.  "All right, Apollo.  I don't think there's any point in asking you anything more just now.  I'll talk to you again tomorrow.  We're going to get a doctor to take a look at you and make sure you're all right, and then you can go home."

Apollo looked up quickly at that, his heart thumping with fright, startled back into speech.  "I don't want a doctor.  I don't want to go home."

Adama stared at Apollo as if he'd never seen him before and didn’t like what he was seeing now.  "Apollo, you'll do as you're told.  I'm losing patience here."

"I don't need a doctor.  I'm not sick."

"The doctor just needs to check that you've not been hurt," said Rufius.  "It won't take more than a few centons."  He stood up.  "There's a small examination room in this suite.  The doctor's waiting in there."

Confused, Apollo picked up his things when he was told to and managed to get to his feet unaided.  He was a lot steadier than before, but he still hurried to put the sergeant between his father and himself.  It felt safer.

The examination room looked pretty much like Uncle Jerry's.  Apollo was seldom sick enough to need Jerry's professional ministrations, but he'd been there a few times, the last time to get the bones in his broken fingers fused when Zac had stamped on them.  The doctor wasn't Jerry though.  He was younger, for a start, and he smiled too much.

"Apollo, isn’t it?  Let's take a look at you..."  He ushered Apollo behind a screen. 

Apollo glanced at the treatment table and, reluctantly, put down his bag.  "Why do I need to see you?"

The doctor smiled again, making Apollo shrink back against the wall.  He didn't like the man's constant smiling.  "We just need to make sure that you haven't been hurt," he said.

Apollo frowned.  "Of course I haven't been hurt."

"Let's make certain of that, shall we?  You'll need to undress so I can examine you properly.  It won't take long."

Apollo took a very deep breath.  He wasn't stupid.  He knew that after he'd been with Pieter his backside was sometimes reddened and sore for a day or so, he knew now what this doctor and the policeman were going to be looking for.  They were looking for something to hurt Pieter.  Pieter had said they had to keep it secret.

"No," he said, flatly.

"Apollo—"

"No!"  He pushed past the doctor rudely, sending the man off balance and the screen went flying.  He glared at his father and the sergeant over the wreckage.  "I won't."

"You'll do as you're told."  Adama was livid with rage.  He looked at the doctor.  "You have my consent to proceed, Doctor."

"Don't touch me!"  Apollo backed himself up against the opposite wall.

The doctor hesitated.

"Get on with it," snapped Adama.

"Well, there's a difficulty there," said the doctor, rather apologetically.  "Although he's still a minor, according to Ministry of Health guidelines he's old enough to have any medical intervention, examination or treatment explained to him and he has the right to agree or refuse it.  You can only over-ride that, Commander, in a life or death situation."

"You mean that you won't examine him?"

"I mean, that I'm reluctant to open myself up to a charge of sexual assault," said the man, acidly.  He'd stopped smiling, at least.

Adama threw his arms up in despair.  "Where in Hades are you people coming from?"

"We've rather more experience with abused children than you have, Commander," said Rufius, rather coldly.  "And, if your suspicions are correct, that's what Apollo is.  I did tell you how often we’ve seen this reaction and why."

"Yes," said Adama.  He glowered at Apollo.

"I believe your family doctor is in the waiting room?  Apollo may be more comfortable with him."

Apollo backed off a little further, but the achey and trembly feeling inside him grew steadier.  When Jerry appeared in the doorway, looking as troubled as Apollo had ever seen him look, Apollo sprang across the room to hurl himself into the only place he felt safe.  Jerry put his arms around him quickly.

"I won’t!  I won’t!  I won't let that man touch me!"

Jerry's hold tightened for an instant.

"He won’t allow a physical examination," said the police doctor.

"That's his right," said Jerry.

"You as well?" snapped Adama.

Jerry didn’t answer.  He gave Apollo a little shake until Apollo looked at him.  He was still Uncle Jerry, kind and understanding.  Kinder than his father.  "Will you let me take a look at you, Apollo?"

"No," said Apollo.  It was harder to refuse Uncle Jerry, but he had to protect Pieter.  No matter what, he had to keep quiet and keep their secret.

Jerry sighed, but he still didn't look angry or disappointed.  "Apollo, if you and Pieter have been together, what he's done is wrong.  It's wrong legally, because you're under-age, and it's wrong morally.  He can't be allowed to do that.  It has to be stopped before he hurts someone.  Please let me examine you."

Apollo closed his mouth, hard, and stared back.

"He won't admit to anything," said Adama.

Sergeant Rufius shrugged, and nodded his head towards the door, inviting Adama outside.  Apollo, still clinging to Jerry like the drowning man to the straw, listened intently to the low mutter of voices. 

"There's no evidence, Commander.  The bedlinen was already in the laundry and any physical evidence there has been lost.  If Apollo won't co-operate, we won't be able to hold the professor for more than 75 centars for questioning before we'd be forced to release him."

"They were in the man's bedroom—"

"Yes, and I'm as sure as you are that he's been abusing Apollo, but all we have at the moment is circumstantial evidence and supposition.  All he'd need is a good lawyer – he always does his laundry on Third-day afternoons when he's free, he'd just spilled something on his clothes and had to change, and the boy asked to use the flush before leaving his tutorial.  Unless Apollo will tell us what happened and allow an examination and for samples to be taken, I don't think we have a case that will stand up."

"And he gets away with it!"

"He'll get a bloody good fright and I'll be putting his name on the Sex Offender's Register as a potential risk.  We'll keep an eye on him."

"Well, that is reassuring," said Adama, so acidic that Apollo twitched.

Rufius sighed.  "Take your son home, Commander, and see if you can do anything to find out why he might have been a target for this man, and why he won't talk to you about what's going on.  That might be more productive than having a go at me.  It might just do Apollo some good, as well."

 

 

 

Adama's hovercar was parked outside the police station.  He was so angry that he couldn't say anything, to either Jerry or Apollo.  He'd stalked out of the offices ahead of them, not looking at his son.  Jerry sighed, tucked Apollo's trembling hand under his arm and followed in Adama's wake.

"I don't want to go home!" Apollo whispered.  "Please, can I come to your house?"

It was difficult for Jerry to deny the child's appeal, but he had to think about Apollo's good.  It would be disastrous to connive at breach with Apollo's family, disastrous for everyone.  "No, but I'll come back with you and your dad.  You have to talk to him, Apollo.  You have to sort this out with him.  I'll do what I can to help, I promise."

Apollo's eyes were on Adama's rigid back.  "He's so mad."

Adama glanced over his shoulder at them.  "Hurry it up.  I've wasted enough time on you today, Apollo, and I'm not inclined to waste any more."

Jerry felt Apollo flinch.  "Adama!" he said, snapping back with unusual temper.

Adama's eyes were hard.  "Just get a move on."

Jerry patted Apollo's hand consolingly. 

"He doesn't want to talk to me.  He just wants to yell at me.  That's all he ever wants to do."  Apollo looked up at him, and Jerry's heart squeezed with sympathy.  This was one unbelievable hell of a mess, and the child looked like a ghost.  "Anything else is just a waste of his time."

Jerry shook his head, but they were at the car and he had no time to say anything, even if he could think of anything comforting to say.  Instead, he did what he could to mitigate the worst of the journey back to Osaiya.  He sent Apollo scrambling into the back seat as soon as Adama opened the doors, then calmly appropriated the keys, twitching them out of Adama's grip.

"I'll drive.  I'm in less of a temper than you, and I'm less likely to drive us off a cliff on the way home.  No, Adama; the front seat.  Leave Apollo alone for now."  He stood his ground in front of the back door, aware of Apollo huddled on the seat behind him, staring Adama down until the icy blue eyes shifted focus.  Adama looked over Jerry's shoulder to glance at Apollo.

"All right," he said, with surprising submission and one more piercing glance at his son.

The journey back to Osaiya was silent.  Adama ignored them both, staring out at the passing scenery, keeping his head turned away.  Apollo was curled up on the back seat, not quite foetal, but far too close to it for Jerry's comfort.  Apollo's distress, though, didn't prevent him moving fast when they got to the big house on the cliffs.  Almost before Jerry stopped the car, Apollo was out of it and running for the house and Jerry guessed, the (illusory) safety of his room. 

"Apollo!" roared Adama.

Jerry shook his head.  Adama had no idea.  Really, you'd think the man would know better: he did command the a battlestar with over three thousand warriors serving on it.  You'd think that would give him some experience in dealing with people, even people embodied in a teenaged son.

"Leave him be for a bit," he said.  He reached over to the back seat and picked up the bag Apollo had abandoned.  "You need to talk to Ila and decide how you're going to deal with this. 

"It'll break her heart."

Jerry nodded.  "It'll upset her, yes."

"I don’t know how to tell her.  Or what.  That our son has been so completely polluted by that man that he has no sense of decency left?"

Jerry frowned at him.  "You did hear what the sergeant said before you went to Pieter's house, didn’t you?  How men like him—if Pieter has indeed seduced Apollo—how men like that groom and manipulate children?"

"Fine.  So I tell her that our son's stupid, as well.  Well, that's true enough, God knows.  He has to be stupid to allow this to happen."

"Apollo is not stupid.  He's a child, with a child's emotional reactions to everything."

"He's old enough to know better.  I expect far better of him than this, Jerry!  I expect him to be responsible and help and support his mother, not cause her all the problems he has over the last few sectars.  And now this!"

"You mean, you expect him to fill in for you while you're away?  Now, that's stupid, Adama.  He's not old enough to take on that sort of responsibility.  It's not fair to ask it of him."  Jerry's hands gripped the schoolbag tight for a micron.  "And if that's the case, if you're expecting Apollo to have an adult's reaction and reasoning and responsibility, then what right have you got to object if he has an adult's reaction to sex?"

"Don't be ridiculous!  He's not an adult."

"At last!  You've remembered!  He's a child.  And one who seems to be as confused about his role in this family as you seem to be.  If he's a child, why do you persist in asking him to be responsible for his siblings and supporting Ila, when what a child needs is for the adults around him to be responsible for him?  All Pieter had to do was work out that Apollo was looking for attention, for some reassurance that he was important to someone other than as a free caretaker for Zac, and there was his key.  He probably took sectars of careful preparation. Adama, just why do you think Ila's had so much trouble with Apollo recently?  Pieter's careful manipulation, I'll swear."

"And do you think he's not important to me and Ila?" demanded Adama, two unhealthy spots of colour on his cheeks.  "For himself?"

The colour came from sheer bad temper, thought Jerry.  He and Adama had never quarrelled before, but he had Apollo to protect and he wasn't afraid to provoke Adama if it got him thinking more sensibly about his son.  "I'm sure he is.  But is Apollo sure?"

"He should know it without needing to be told!"

Jerry blew out a long, exasperated breath.  "I was not exaggerating this morning when I told you how he feels about Zac and Athena, and the amount of attention they get from Ila and how little time she has for him.  I wasn't exaggerating when I told you he feels left out.  And you've not done one thing since you came back to alter his perception of things.  You tell me, Adama.  You've been home a secton today.  Just how much time have you spent with him – other than yelling at him and lecturing him like you'd lecture a defaulting warrior?  Just how much time have you spent with him making him realise that he's loved and important?"

"Oh it's all our fault, is it?"

Jerry gave it up, hoping that some of it would get through when Adama was calmer.  He got out of the car.  "You're his parents.  Who else should I blame?"

Adama glowered.

"Oh, go and break the news to Ila!" said Jerry in complete exasperation.  "I'm going to see to Apollo.  I'll try and get him to let me examine him, all right?"

"All right," said Adama, grudgingly.  He hesitated.  "I may need your help," he said, even more grudgingly.

He did, too.  Jerry let Adama tell Ila himself, waiting uncomfortably outside Ila's sitting room.  He had quite a task in helping calm the atmosphere when a harassed Adama called him in to deal with Ila's disbelief and near-hysterics.  Calming her until she was merely crying in bewildered distress meant that it was almost a half-centar before he could climb the stairs to go and see what, if anything, he could do with the son.  The way he'd left Ila sobbing in Adama's embrace didn't bode well.  He hadn't been able to do much for the mother.

Apollo seemed to be wary of letting Jerry into his room.  He couldn't lock the door of his bedroom, but Jerry's habitual respect for others kept him outside until Apollo gave him permission to enter, and he waited patiently until Apollo opened the door and, reluctant, let him in.

"All right?" asked Jerry.  He put Apollo's bag down on the floor and sat on the edge of the bed, looking Apollo over.  He had his medical bag with him too.  He noticed that Apollo it eyed with suspicion.  "Have you been sick?"

Apollo nodded.  "I felt sick all the way home," he admitted.  He sat in the middle of his bed, his back to the headboard, plucking idly at the quilt  "I still do."

He looked it, chalk-white and with little beads of sweat gathering on his lip and at the corners of his eyes.  He rubbed at his eyes to get rid of it.

"It's been an upsetting sort of day," agreed Jerry, with the wry grin and the raised eyebrow that usually had Apollo snorting with laughter.  Not this time.

"Where is he?"

Rightly interpreting this to refer to Adama, Jerry said, "With your mother.  She's really upset by all of this."

Apollo let his mouth twist.  "Does she remember who I am?"

Jerry just looked at him thoughtfully until he had to drop his eyes.  Apollo stared down at the quilt, watching the patterns his hands made as he pulled at it.

"Now that's the sort of smart remark I'd expect from a Kobolian professor," said Jerry, after a centon.  "Was that something Pieter said to you?"

Apollo hitched his shoulders up in an irritated shrug, refusing to meet Jerry's eyes. 

"I expect it was," said Jerry.  "He's a clever man, your Pieter.  Very clever."  He swivelled around until he was sitting beside Apollo, his back against the headboard, shoulder to shoulder.  "There's a lot of things that bother me about this, Apollo, but let's concentrate on the most pressing.  You're only fourteen, you're not grown.  I know you said Pieter would never hurt you, but he's a lot bigger than you are.  Even if you were the same age and size as him – well, two men having sex together can still cause a little bit of physical damage because that isn't what the rectum was designed for.  What I'm worried about is that Pieter might have done that, without meaning or wanting to."

His face scarlet, Apollo shook his head.  "I never said that he did anything –"

Jerry smiled at him, but sadly, wishing the child would trust him.  "We aren't daft, you know.  And your dad did see you kiss him.  The truth, now – are you sore?"

"No!"

"And there's no bleeding?"  Jerry rode out the glare Apollo shot at him, staring back, refusing to let it go.  "If you think you're old enough for sex, Apollo, then you're old enough to talk about it.  Have you been bleeding?"

"Of course not!" snapped Apollo.  "Pieter would never hurt me!"

"So you keep saying."  Jerry looked at him steadily for a centon, then nodded.  "All right, I'll believe what you're telling me about not being physically hurt, but remember that I'm your doctor, all right?  You can come and talk to me whenever you need to."

"So you can find something to harm Pieter!"

"If he's not done anything he shouldn't, then what could harm him?  I'm sorry that you don't trust me, but you might remember that I've never told on you yet."

"This is different," muttered Apollo.

"It's more serious than other things you've told me about," agreed Jerry.  "But I took an oath to protect my patients' confidences and I won't break that."  He fished up his medical bag.  "I'll give you something to stop you feeling sick.  Just a little shot."

Apollo let him press the hypospray against his neck, his eyes watering momentarily against the sting.  He blinked hurriedly.  Jerry thought it sad that the child was too terrified to cry, even in front of him. 

"What's going to happen to Pieter?" he asked. 

"Well, I heard what the police sergeant told your father and I'm willing to bet that your hearing's better than mine."  Jerry put the hypospray away.  "They'll hold him for the three days for questioning, I suppose."

"Then they'll have to let him go."

"Unless he confesses," said Jerry wryly. "I expect that he knows you won't say anything."

"I don't have anything to say," said Apollo.

Jerry sighed and shrugged.  "Well, you might have to think of something.  Your Dad's coming up here in a few centons to talk to you – "

"To yell at me."

"I hope not, given the amount of time I've just spent talking to him and your mother.  He's just arranging for Thenie and Zac to go to your Aunt Alicia's for a few days, and then he wants to see you." Jerry eased himself off the bed and picked up his bag.  He stood for a centon, looking down at Apollo.  "You should talk to him, you know.  He's mad at the moment, but he needs to understand what was going on, what you feel about everything."

"They don't care."

"They care very much, but—" Jerry hesitated, then said, very gently.  "I know how out of things you've felt.  You told me. Why can’t you tell him?"

Apollo shrugged.  "He's never here, and he's not interested anyway.  As long as I do what I'm told, it's like I'm invisible.  They only see me when they want me to look after the kids, or if I've done something they don't like, and they can yell at me.  They're not interested.  Even when I tell her things, she doesn't listen.  She never asks.  He doesn’t either."  Apollo went back to pulling at the quilt, letting his fingers tangle in the fabric and pulling them free again, over and over.  "They don't like me much, I think.  They only want the other two, like the night he came home and they didn't want me there."

"That's nonsense, and you know it."

But Apollo only shook his head.  "I'm scared," he said, with difficulty.

"I know."  Jerry dropped his bag and reached down to hug him.  "I know.  I would be, too.  Just tell him the truth, Apollo."

"I wish you were my Dad, instead of him."

"That's nonsense," said Jerry, charmed despite himself.  "You have a perfectly good father of your own if the pair of you could only realise it." 

Apollo jumped suddenly in his embrace and pulled free, scuttling backwards and pressing against the headboard.  He brought up his knees protectively.  His face, already pale, whitened.

Jerry stiffened slightly.  Ah.  This was not the most opportune moment for Adama to walk into the room, uninvited.  With a fleeting sense of resentment at being pushed into this ridiculous piggy-in-the-middle position, Jerry straightened and turned.  "Adama!  For heaven's sake, you almost gave me a heart attack."

Adama looked from one to the other, silent and very, very forbidding.  He'd heard, then.  Jerry glanced just once at Apollo's terrified expression, then drew Adama out of the room with him, closing the door firmly behind them. 

"A few things before you start," said Jerry.  "First, he still won't let me examine him, but I did give him a shot to control the nausea.  He's been throwing up."

"A luxury I haven’t allowed myself yet," said Adama, acidly.

Jerry gave him a sharp look.  "And there were a couple of things he said."

"I heard," said Adama.

"Not that.  That was just because he's frightened and I'm less intimidating than you are."

"He has every reason to be frightened!  Of course he's frightened – he's been caught out.  This is a little more serious than just playing truant from school."

Jerry said, calmly, biting back a sharper response, "Adama, that is a child in there and one who's frightened for Pieter and frightened of you.  That's not a good combination and I hope you take a centon to think through what it means for handling him."

Adama snorted.  "Apollo ought to be thinking hard about the consequences of all this wicked folly, and I'm not convinced your indulgence is helpful."

"Indulgence?"  Jerry stopped, took another calming breath and let it go.  "All right.  Two or three other things he said that you ought to be aware of, just to reinforce what I've been trying to tell you.  One is pure Pieter, I expect – when I told him that his mother was upset, he asked me if she remembered who he was."

Adama reddened.  "Ila's still sobbing her heart out down there while he makes clever, insulting remarks – "

Jerry cut in quickly.  "It was Pieter, Adama.  For the Lords' sake, think straight!  That has to be Pieter, a sample of some of the poison he's been subtly pouring into Apollo over the last few sectars, but I've told you that it wouldn't work unless Apollo himself was feeling left out and insignificant.  And he is, Adama.  He just said to me that he feels invisible, unless you and Ila want him to do something like look after Zac, that you're not very interested in him otherwise.  He even said that he didn't think you liked him very much."  Jerry shouldered his medical bag.  "If you want my advice, although I doubt that you'll take it, is that you go in there and do what I was doing when you came in."

"You think he deserves to be hugged, do you?"

"I think he needs it," said Jerry, and turned away.  "I'm not convinced he's going to get it."

 

 

 

It was just like Uncle Jerry to try and intercede for him.  Apollo knew he would, that's why Jerry was talking to his father outside first.  And it was just like his father to come barging in, and if he didn't like what he heard, well, it was his own fault for not knocking and if he heard the truth it wasn't Apollo's fault if he didn't like it.  He'd far rather Uncle Jerry was his dad.  At least Uncle Jerry knew he was there.

Adama still didn't knock, the second time he came in.  Jerry had gone, as one piercingly quick look told Apollo before he stared back down at his knees, drawn up close to his chin.  He put his arms about them.  It felt safer, being all huddled up like this, as if he made a smaller target.

His father didn't yell, that was the first thing.  Apollo didn't think it was much of an improvement, really, because his father's voice made him feel cold, like he was out in the winter rain, and it was all he could do not to shiver or bolt for his bathroom where he could at least lock the door and lock Adama out.  He wished he'd thought of that before, giving the bathroom door a sideways, longing glance.

"This is a bit of a mess," said Adama in the cold voice.  He turned the chair from Apollo's desk and sat down in it.  Apollo watched him without lifting his head, looking up through his lashes.  His father looked as cold as the voice, as if he was made of ice.  "I never thought that I'd ever say that I was ashamed of one of my children, but I am today.  Bitterly ashamed."

He paused, as if to let Apollo respond, but Apollo just shivered in the chill and said nothing.

"I trusted you, you see.  I trusted that you were old enough not to be a bother to your mother, even to help look after the family while I wasn't here, and I thought I could rely on you.  I was wrong, though.  You obviously can't be trusted to stay out of trouble."

Apollo bit his lip.  He kept his face cast down, still watching his father through his lashes.

"And that's quite some trouble you've found.  Would you care to explain to me exactly what you think you were doing with that man?"  Adama waited, then said, even more coldly, "You don't seem to have any trouble telling your Uncle Jerry that you were feeling angsty and neglected.  I wonder why it is you can't tell me.  I don't suppose it would be something to do with all of this?" 

Adama's hand swept around to indicate a room that had a lot of things in it that made Apollo the envy of his friends at school; everything from his own vid-player to the state of the art sound system that had been his fourteenth birthday present and had cost something close to the entire economic output of one of the smaller Colonies.  Of course, his father hadn't actually been there to spend the birthday with him, but he had signed the cheque.

"Anything you've ever asked for, you've been given."

Apollo couldn't look at him any more, even through his lashes.  He turned his head away, resting his cheek on his knees.  He could feel them trembling.  All of him was trembling.

"No, I find that one hard to believe."  Adama paused, and even though he couldn’t see him now, Apollo was sure those cold blue eyes were boring into him.  "What possessed you, Apollo?  What in Hades possessed you to do something so – so disgusting?  Your behaviour's been disgraceful, not only with that man but your rudeness towards your mother."

Apollo closed his eyes.

"Jerry thinks that man got some influence over you.  I'm surprised at that.  Your teachers all say you're bright, so I don't understand how you could be so stupid as to listen to him.  I didn’t think you were so weak."

Apollo wondered if he should say something.  But he didn't think that his father would ever understand, and he didn't know if he could find the words to explain.  It would just make things worse.  Once you said something, the words made it true, made it real.  Words weren't always clear, it wasn't always easy to make them say what you wanted everything to mean.  And even when the words were clear, when *I love him and he loves me* couldn't mean anything other than what you said, they weren't always wise.

Words trapped you.

And if you weren't very careful, they could be used to trap those you loved.

His father had evidently given up.  "I don't know how we're going to sort this mess out, Apollo, but for the time being, you're confined to your room.  You will not leave here without my express permission, and without someone to escort you.  If you can't be trusted, I've no other choice."

That did make him look up and speak.  "School—"

"You aren't going back there.  It's obvious they've not managed to instil any discipline into you, and you won't listen to your mother any more.  I'll find some alternative where you will be taught obedience to the rules and you'll get some discipline hammered into you, if that's the only way to do it.  I can't trust you to stay away from that man, and I can't trust you to obey us, so I'll just have to get you someplace where you're out of his reach."  Adama stood up, ready to go.  "And where you can't upset your mother," he added, grimly.

He waited for Apollo to say something, but Apollo had turned his head and put his cheek against his knees again.  He concentrated on the feel of his pants leg against his cheek and wondered if the trembling inside would ever stop.

"I am bitterly disappointed in you, Apollo.  I would really like you to think over your behaviour before I see you again."  Adama shut the door behind him with a sharp little sound that snapped and chilled and sounded like ice breaking.

For a centon or two, Apollo sat very still, thinking.  Despite the shot Jerry had given him, the nausea was rising again.  It was all the fault of words, he knew.  After all, once you said something, the words made it true and real.  But he was caught between the I love him and he loves me truth he'd thought he'd known and the one his father saw.

His mouth shaped the words.  Ashamed.  Disgusting.  Disgraceful.  Not to be trusted.  Stupid and weak.  Disappointed.   And from earlier: a waste of time.

He scrambled up from the bed and hurled himself into the bathroom.  He barely waited to get out of his clothes before getting under the shower, trying to wash away the words that, for the first time since Pieter had kissed him all those sectons ago, made him feel dirty.

Previous Chapter

Next Chapter