Part One

 

Puh.

It was an odd little sound, a breathy little sound. The sort of sound that might come from a small steam engine suffering a terminal decline.

Puh.

Apollo looked up from the computer screen, but Starbuck was apparently sitting quietly on the other side of the desk, staring up at the ceiling with a vacant expression on his face. Hands crossed behind his head and feet on another chair, he looked like he was settling in for a long snooze. Apollo eyed him suspiciously for a centon, but the lieutenant seemed far away.

Apollo turned back to computer screen. Fifty-six Ak-503LX laser rocket launchers, grade A condition…

Puh.

This time Apollo looked up fast enough to catch Starbuck at it. With every exhaled breath, the lieutenant was puffing out his cheeks, letting out the air with the sort of noise a bored child might make.

"Don't do that," he said, hitting the print button.

"What?" Starbuck asked.

"That silly puh-ing noise."

"I don't know what you're talking about," said Starbuck, genuinely puzzled. Then with sudden animation: "Look, Apollo! Something's coming through on the printer!"

He straightened up, watching the machine avidly.

"I know it's quiet, Starbuck, but it's not that quiet."

"Oh yes it is," said Starbuck, eyes still on the printer. "We haven't seen any action in sectons. There isn't even any filing to do and you're up to date on all the reports. What're you printing?"

"Weapons inventory for Colonel Tigh. It's not that interesting, Starbuck."

"Weapons inventory, huh?" Starbuck's eager tone slid away into weariness. "Why do senior officers like counting things?"

"To keep us out of mischief, I guess."

Starbuck sighed. "And it's not like there's anything else to do."

Apollo stacked the printed sheets, scrawled his signature on the last page and attached them neatly to a clipboard. He set it down on his desk, his fingers smoothing down the papers. He turned back to the computer screen on his desk.

Long silence, while Starbuck looked at the ceiling again and Apollo stared blindly at the blank screen.

"You're going to have to tell me about it sometime," said Starbuck.

Apollo shifted in his chair. They were alone in the duty office, getting toward the end of a long shift. It had been an uncomfortable day; the latest in a line of uncomfortable days, where Apollo had seemed more than usually moody and reserved.

"Tell you about what?" he countered.

"Apollo, I'm not blind and I'm not stupid. Despite popular mythology I don't do all my thinking with my gonads. Something's bothering you and you aren't talking to me about it."

"I don't have to tell you everything."

Starbuck gave him a hard look. "Oh yes you do," he said. "You always have."

"There's nothing…" Apollo started. He stopped, shrugged. "Leave it for now, Starbuck. I'll tell you when I can, okay?"

"No, it's not okay. I don't like being pushed out, Apollo. Not by you. It makes me feel like you don't trust me."

"It's got nothing to do with that!" Apollo looked away when Boomer and Jolly appeared. "What's up?"

"Slight problem with a couple of the troopers having a brawl. Do you want to come and sort them out?" Boomer grinned. "We pulled ‘em apart, but they need yelling at and you look like you need the exercise."

"You realise you're offering them up as a sacrifice?" asked Starbuck.

"Better them than me," said Boomer, unrepentant. "It'll be a nice treat for the captain."

"I'll stay here," Jolly offered. "I'm due on shift in a centar anyway."

Apollo shrugged and got to his feet. "Okay." He glanced at Starbuck. "I'll talk to you later, Starbuck."

Starbuck nodded. "Enjoy yourself," he said and settled back into his chair. "Good fight?" he asked Jolly.

"Naw," the big lieutenant said. "Everyone's bored and on edge. They threw a couple of punches at each other, but I don't think their hearts were in it. I reckon they were just looking for ways to pass the time."

"Been there and done that," Starbuck sighed. He glanced at the clipboard on Apollo's desk. "You hold the fort, Jolly. The captain forgot about this and he's supposed to get it to Colonel Tigh. I'll take it up to the bridge."

"Okay," Jolly said, easy as ever. He settled himself down for a long boring duty period.

Lord, but things were quiet.

 

 

I knew something was bothering Apollo, but he just wouldn't talk about it. He gets like that when something's on his mind, very quiet and subdued, like he's locking himself away behind high walls. Unmistakable sign, believe me. I know Apollo very well, better than anyone else, up to and including his family. In my expert opinion, the family were too prone to accept the dark melancholy moods as "just Apollo". His mother used to be the one to get him out of it. She used to worry about how quiet and withdrawn he got sometimes, but since she died in the Destruction the rest tended just to accept it and not do an awful lot to get him out of it. I'm decidedly more proactive. Apart from a genuine desire to see Apollo happy and smiling again, I figure it's easier on the rest of the world if it doesn't have Apollo glooming around like a morose thundercloud. There's no denying he can be awfully depressing at times.

It wasn't that I hadn't tried to make him talk, but even I had failed. Apollo denied that there was anything the matter with him at all, then when I carefully but gently demonstrated the untruthfulness of that statement - Balls, Apollo were my exact words - he made himself scarce, so that he wasn't around to field unwelcome questions. The only time I ever saw him was when we were on duty, and often there's too many other people about to talk to him properly.

I didn't like it when he withdrew behind the old barriers. He hadn't been this quiet and reserved since Serina's death. And that worried me. That worried me a lot. So I had to find out just exactly what was wrong.

Then, being a helpful kind of soul, I took some stuff up to Colonel Tigh on the bridge for him and I got slight hint about what was bothering him. A slight hint that had all the subtlety of being hit over the head with a ten pound hammer.

 

 

The bridge, as always, was a place of quiet, humming efficiency, the forty or so bridge personnel moving smoothly through their duties under the watchful eye of the commander. Starbuck would have hated to work there. He don't mind efficiency - in other people, anyway - but he couldn't be that quiet if his life depended on it. Apollo often said that the only way to get through a duty period without Starbuck babbling incessantly throughout, was to tie the lieutenant to a chair and gag him with his own flight jacket.

Starbuck thought that Apollo exaggerated. Besides, he felt it was the waste of a perfectly good situation, if Apollo saw what he meant, and there were other things that the captain could gag him with and they could both have some fun.

Not when we're on duty, said Apollo, but he looked wistful.

So it was more than enough that day for Starbuck to visit the bridge, wink at Rigel and Athena as he passed them on the way to the command dais and hand Apollo's clipboard to Colonel Tigh. That gave him all the exposure to command that his unambitious soul demanded.

"I was expecting Captain Apollo," the colonel growled.

"Little disciplinary problem on the troop deck, sir."

"What?"

"Two troopers relieving the tedium with a little brawl. Nothing serious sir."

Tigh grunted.

"Anything else, sir?"

Tigh shook his head, already deep in the list Apollo had toiled over all afternoon. Now, Starbuck did pride himself on turning out a snappy salute, so he gave the colonel one of the smartest and turned to go. That was when he was on the receiving end of a glance from Commander Adama.

No. That's not strictly accurate. That was when he was on the receiving end of a world-class glower from Commander Adama.

The Adama who commanded the last Battlestar. The Adama who led the refugee Fleet on its flight to safety. The Adama who was head of the Council. The Adama who just happened to be Apollo's father.

That Adama.

Starbuck shot him an under-the-lashes look. He considered that to be a useful talent, by the way – it hid what he was really looking at and looked cute as hell, especially with people like Apollo who were susceptible to cute. Starbuck was not reassured by what he saw.

Adama could always look stern. He looked then like he was carved out of stone. He did not look as if he were susceptible to cute.

Adama knew.

He knew and he'd had words with Apollo about it, and that was what was wrong.

Starbuck got out there fast. Very fast. Just in case Adama decided to have words with him about it too.

 

 

After I made my escape from the Bridge and Adama's basilisk glare, it took me about a centar to track Apollo down. He wasn't in the duty office, when I got back there, and Jolly said he'd only come in for a few centons after giving the two troopers to understand that any more brawling and they'd spend the next yahren picking space barnacles off every hull in the Fleet using nail tweezers. Boomer added that in his admiring opinion, Apollo was in fine form and most of the troops, recognising the storm signals, had sneaked out of his way and stayed sneaked. Strong sense of self preservation, most of them. They'd far rather face the Cylon horde than the captain in a snit.

If he was that irritable, looking for him was fraught with danger. But hey! I'm a man who likes risk, thrives on risk, laughs in the face of risk. Besides, I had to talk to him. So I trotted around to the OC and then his quarters, eventually running him to ground in the Alpha bay storeroom where he was lethargically checking over the Viper spares against the ship's manifest. More counting things for the colonel, I expect.

"Oh hi," he said.

Not too pleased to see me, I thought. Apollo was too high minded to mess around when we were on duty, no matter how much I yearned at him. But we were technically off duty now, and the secton before, he'd have locked the door and dragged me behind the crates to check on my manifest. Not today.

"I took that inventory up to the bridge for you," I said and closed the door so we didn't get disturbed.

"Oh?" Apollo was instantly wary, defensive.

"Uh-huh. I had a very uncomfortable few centons. There's a reason the commander's glaring at me. Apollo? A reason not unconnected to the fact that you've cut me out for the last few days?"

Apollo sighed, and I thought again how tired he looked. "I'm sorry. I should have talked to you."

"He knows?"

Apollo nodded.

"And he's not happy?"

Apollo shook his head.

"Shit," I said.

"Amen to that." Apollo turned to put the clipboard down, and I had to catch it as it slipped from his grip. "And shit to that, too," he said, crossly.

"And when were you going to tell me? We're supposed to have supper with him tonight!" I couldn't help but sound indignant. The thought of getting that glower in front of the rest of our friends and family was enough to panic anyone.

Apollo winced at that. "I know. I'm sorry. I would've told you, but it was so bad…"

His voice trailed away and I waited a centon, but he seemed lost in some hell of his own and didn't go on without prompting.

"So what happened?"

"Last secton, when we were on the Rising Star, remember?"

I couldn't resist it. The smile I gave him should have melted the bulkheads.

"As if I could forget." I reached for him and pulled him close, but he didn't relax into my hold the way he was supposed to.

He pulled free gently. "Boxey had a temperature, and he panicked. Dad, I mean. It wasn't anything, just he'd given Boxey too many mushies again, but he panicked and tried to get hold of us. The message he got back was that I was locked into a stateroom and not to be disturbed, so he asked for you. Same message. He worked out that it was the same stateroom and had a go at me when we got back."

"What did he say?"

Little by little I got the whole story.

Adama, it seems, had had plenty to say.

 

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