Part Two

 

It all started sectars ago at one of our regular sort-of-family suppers, when Athena made an announcement that inadvertently led to a rocking of the universe.

I say "sort-of-family" for a reason. Adama's got two children left, Apollo and Athena. Zac, his youngest, died at Cimtar, when this whole damn mess began. I'd liked Zac. He was almost as much my little brother as he was Apollo's, and it cut me up hard that the kid didn't make it out of his first fight with the Cylons. But Adama adopted a few others to extend his family again when Zac had to leave us.

Me, he'd known since I was at school with Apollo, and I'd always had some semi-official place in the family. We went back a long way, me and Adama, and we'd got off to a rocky start, but we'd grown easier over the yahrens. I don't deny though that there were still times when that cold stare could make me feel fifteen again and like I'm leading Apollo off the narrow path of virtue and into a little peccadillo that would have us both in front of the Principal getting a semester's worth of detention in one fell swoop. Adama always thought I was a bad influence on his precious eldest son, and I suppose there's some truth in the rumour.

When we got to the Academy, Boomer joined us. Adama once asked Ila if she'd adopted Boomer and me when his back was turned. He reckoned that throughout the Academy yahrens, he fell over the three of us every time he turned around. I'm not saying that he minded. It's just that he's a logical man and he thought we had to be infesting his house for a reason. He just wanted to know what it was.

Once we'd started on our long journey towards Earth, Sheba became one of us. I think Adama and Cain were a bit like me and Apollo. They'd been friends for, oh, a couple of centuries or so, and when Cain's daughter got left behind when her father took off in the Pegasus again, Adama took her into his family, made her welcome as one of us. It was an open secret that he hoped that this would become a permanent relationship. He watched Sheba and Apollo eagerly, hoping that she'd be the one to help Apollo get over Serina's death.

So when it came to the family supper once a secton, Sheba, me and Boomer were there as of right. Boxey, Apollo's stepson (although Apollo never remembered the 'step' part – Boxey was his son, pure and simple), was always there too, usually being spoiled rotten by his grandfather. Tigh came along often - he was there that night - and sometimes my girlfriend, Cassie, if she wasn't on duty in Life Centre. Cassie was there too that evening, though she got there a little late, and she and Sheba were grinning at Athena a lot. The three of them obviously had some little girly secret they weren't sharing with us crude, rough men yet.

It was a special occasion that night anyway, even before Athena hi-jacked it. A couple of sectons before, Apollo had been on his way back from an inspection on the Ramesses when the cadet flying his shuttle had come into the flightdeck way too fast and tried to bury the shuttle in the far wall. The cadet proved for himself, the hard way, an immutable law of physics: shuttles do not bounce. The crash barrier absorbed most of the impact and the cadet and his flight instructor came out of it with nothing more than a few bruises and a spectacular dressing down from Colonel Tigh that we could hear clear to the troopdecks. It was a little more serious for poor old Apollo, minding his own business in the back of the shuttle. He broke four ribs and his right arm and proved for himself, again the hard way, another immutable law: heads coming into hard contact with door stanchions invariably come off second best.

Dr Salik fused the broken bones easily enough, but Apollo was out of it with severe concussion for seventy two centars. We were all pretty scared. Salik huffed and muttered his way through the first day, looking pretty grim, and had Apollo inside a life support capsule. It wasn't until more than a day after the accident that Salik relaxed a bit and said he'd be all right. Salik could say it all he liked, but no matter how often the quacks say someone's okay, if that someone is unconscious for three days and they mean a lot to you, you get a tad anxious. Adama virtually lived in the Life Centre the whole time and me – well, I got chased out to do one patrol and I handled that so badly that Boomer, who was Apollo's second, downchecked me from duty so I could spend my time where I belonged, glued to Apollo's bedside until he woke up and demanded to know why I was malingering there.

I've noticed that Apollo often shows his emotions by threatening to put me on report. Odd.

But by the supper, he was fully recovered and Salik had just said he could return to duty. So Adama held the supper to celebrate, and we spent the first two courses plotting Apollo's revenge on the two delinquent pilots. The cadet was scared enough of Apollo to begin with – Apollo calls it healthy respect, and who dares argue? - and Lieutenant Callan, the flight instructor had spent the last two sectons fatalistically arranging his affairs, kissing his wife and children goodbye and telling everyone he was preparing to die. Given that Apollo was determined that Callan would be flying the shit wagon on its run to the agri-ship with "fertiliser" for the next yahren, he might have preferred death. Unless they'd lost their sense of smell, he wouldn't be kissing anyone again.

I don't know if Athena got bored with that conversation or whether she was working to some timetable of her own, but she ruthlessly interrupted Apollo's colourful description of what he was going to do to the cadet and spilled the beans. She got up after we'd had dessert, and went to stand by Boomer.

"Get it over with, hot shot," she said, dropping her hand on his shoulder

Boomer couldn't go pale, of course, but I swear that his dark skin went a little grey. "Er…" he mumbled, giving Adama a scared, sideways glance. "Thing is… Athena and me….I mean…."

Well, he didn't need to say more. Everyone yelled and cheered and leapt up to kiss Athena and shake poor old Boomer's hand. We'd all seen it coming, of course. You can't go around with that dazed expression on your face, like the whole world's golden with sunlight and everything's smelling of roses, and people not cotton on to the fact that a Sealing's in the air.

Then I saw the expectant look that Cassie gave me, the ‘why don't we?' look that I'd once got from Athena herself the night that Apollo and Serina, prodded by Boxey, announced their engagement. And I could see the way that Sheba was looking at Apollo, like she was hoping that there was some truth in the old saying about one wedding breeding another.

Like I said, me and Apollo have been friends half our lives. We went through school and the Academy together, served as Warriors together, played Triad together, still the best team in the whole damn fleet. Hell, they don't even separate our names, but kind of slide them together in some strange kind of fusion. We're Starbu'n'pollo or Poll'an'starbu'. Meet me and my conjoined twin, kind of thing.

So I could feel his sudden sense of panic, same way as he could see mine. We didn't even have to speak about how we'd deal with it. It was instinctive. We did what good friends always do in such circumstances: we stuck together like glue so that neither one of our stalkers could get either one of us alone. And we got gloriously, noisily and resoundingly drunk in a desperate effort to disgust them.

Well, it worked. When we reeled off to Apollo's quarters - still sticking together in case one of the girls tried a flanking movement if we separated - we'd got through the entire evening without coming even close to falling into the marriage trap. We were pretty damn proud of ourselves, I can tell you.

When we got into his quarters, we were giggling like kids. We'd enjoyed ourselves, I think, confounding the enemy. We agreed that I'd lay low there with him for a centar or two, just in case Cassie was preparing an ambush for me back at my place, or Sheba was prowling the corridor outside waiting for me to disappear before making a move on Apollo. So we investigated the contents of another bottle of ambrosa, while we sat on his sofa and talked about nothing much at all, the way old friends do.

Now, I'd tried to be suitably mortified by Athena's announcement. She evidently expected me to feel a pang or two of regret at what I'd lost, and I'd had a bit of difficulty at the supper in looking morose enough to satisfy Athena while not looking so morose that I pissed off Cassie. Takes talent, but I managed.

I sat on that soft sofa, looking at my best friend, knowing that I'd lied to both Cassie and Athena without actually saying anything. I'd lied when I'd feigned melancholy to Athena, and lied when I'd smiled conspiratorially at Cassie, a smile that said I don't mean this, but it's her big night and it's expected of me but you know that you're the one .

Because neither of them was the one. Apollo was.

For yahrens, I've told myself that there's loads of reasons why it would be stupid, fatal even, for us to become lovers. It's a kind of mantra, something to recite whenever I'm tempted to make a move on him. I'm too casual, Apollo's too intense. I've never lasted with anyone for more than a few sectars, Apollo's into commitment in a big way. I want fun, Apollo wants love. I like to be free, Apollo needs security.

That night I took another slug of ambrosa, and forgot the mantra. Maybe it was the drink. Maybe it was just that seeing Boomer and Athena so happy - and they were, thank God - made me want a little piece of happiness for myself. Maybe because I came so close to losing him in that crash, and that had scared me to death. I finally realised that time was too precious to waste reciting mantras.

I looked at him for a long, long centon. He's not hard to look at. Not hard at all. Really, he's beautiful: dark hair, high cheekbones and those amazing green eyes. I came to a decision that was to change our lives for ever.

"Apollo?"

He looked up and grinned at me, and something inside my chest melted like marshmallow.

"Know something? You're prettier than either of ‘em," I said and hurled myself onto him.

He yelped in surprise when I caught hold of him and kissed him, then I heard the ambrosa glass hit the wall across his quarters as he freed up his hands, and he was holding me so tight and close and kissing me back so hard that I could hardly breathe.

I don't really remember falling off the sofa and onto the floor, but that's where we ended up. Luckily alcohol's a muscle relaxant, and neither of us copped so much as a bruise. We rolled around, kissing madly and tearing at each other's clothes. Our first lovemaking was on the floor of the main room, and God, he felt so good as he came inside me, his big beautiful cock making my arse clench around it and we both came yelling. Our second time was on the floor of Apollo's bedroom, when I had him, and there was nothing in the universe as wonderful as the hot tightness of his arse as it closed around me. We didn't actually make it to the bed until the third time.

God, it was fun, and wonderful and loud, our first time together. Oddly enough, while copious amounts of alcohol had broken down yahrens of restraint, it did nothing to impair performance. We were as energetic as a pair of teenagers who'd just discovered the benefits of testosterone. We didn't get a lot of sleep. And we were very, very noisy.

When we woke up next morning and did it again - hey, it was a choice between sex and breakfast. No contest. - Apollo got a fit of the giggles. Lucky that Boxey stayed over with his grandfather , he said to me when he got his breath back . I can't believe the noise we're making ...

Equally luckily, the Galactica had been well built and her designers had factored in efficient soundproofing. Otherwise the neighbours would have been filing complaints for days afterwards.

So there we were. Lovers. We made love at every possible opportunity: in storage cupboards, in dark launch tubes, in the Celestial Dome. I hadn't realised it could feel like that. I'd never have believed that such passion and tenderness existed.

I was disgustingly cheerful. Even Boomer, who was pretty chirpy himself, got to wondering what was going on, but I just gave him a pitying look for having settled for Athena while I'd won the jackpot with Athena's brother. Apollo went around with a permanent grin on his face too. That was a bit unusual. Apollo could be a bit moody, and the change in him did not go unnoticed. Bojay asked me it the real Apollo had been kidnapped by aliens, leaving us a look-alike android instead. Bojay always was an insensitive nerd.

It was me making him happy. That gave me one hell of a rush, all the time. All I wanted was to feel that naked body next to mine, to kiss him and touch him, to hold him forever. All I wanted was to love him.

I don't think I've ever been so happy.

 

 

Athena's and Boomer's Sealing was attended by everyone who was anyone in the refugee fleet. Thinking about it later, Starbuck concluded that Adama and his children more or less counted as aristocracy in what remained of humanity. It was the society wedding of the yahren. Everyone wore their best clothes, with the military resplendent in dress uniforms and medals, everyone had a lot to eat and drink and thoroughly enjoyed themselves. It was a bright spot in the otherwise grim battle for survival as they fled from the Cylon threat.

Athena looked gloriously lovely, triumphant. Boomer looked stunned at the sight of her, like he'd been run down by a Cylon baseship. But, said Starbuck in his speech afterwards when he was making the bridal toasts, the silly grin on Boomer's face seemed to say that he didn't really mind and if the baseship wanted to come back for another pass, he'd just stand there and wait for it. Sweet, Starbuck pronounced in a tone that had both bride and groom gunning for him.

Starbuck stood behind Boomer as he and Athena joined hands, and the priest took the great star-medallion and ceremoniously wrapped the chain around their wrists, the symbol of the Seal. He was watching the ceremony with his usual devil-may-care nonchalance when he glanced up and caught Apollo's eye. Quite suddenly, he found himself wondering what it would be like to be holding Apollo's hand like that as the priest bound them together for ever, what it would be like to make his promises of love and fidelity to Apollo. When Apollo smiled at Starbuck across the chamber from where he stood with Adama, the lieutenant's heart turned over.

He knew then that he was in deep.

Very, very deep.

 

 

I'd ended it with Cassie the day after that fateful supper. It had been a bit messy, and she was sore about it all. After all, she'd invested quite a bit of time in me and it had all turned to nothing. But she's a good sort, and she stayed friends. I think she guessed about Apollo and me. I think that, somehow, she knew. I think somehow, she had always known. She started dating Giles soon after and they came to Athena's and Boomer's Sealing ceremony as a couple.

Anyhow, the point is that after the ceremony the guests were drinking nectar and toasting Athena and Boomer. Adama was beaming and jovial, and he put an arm around Apollo's shoulders.

"And when are you going to make me a proud and happy father, son?" he asked, and looked pointedly at Sheba.

Damn me, but the girl actually simpered and looked expectantly at Apollo. Everyone looked at Apollo.

Me too. I wondered what he'd say and do, how he'd deal with it. We were being very discreet, but I didn't want him to give Sheba any attention at all even as a smokescreen. I wanted him for myself, even if no-one guessed yet that we were an item. I really didn't want to share him.

Apollo stared back at them like a frightened rabbit caught in a Viper's laser-sights, eyes wide with terror. The glass he was holding in his right hand slipped and went crashing to the floor, spilling the wine down Sheba's skirt.

You could hear her screech half way across the cosmos. Impressive tone and volume. The girl obviously had a fine pair of lungs.

Apollo was apologetic and blamed himself for his clumsiness, and I was reminded how gauche he'd been when he was younger. Whenever Apollo was embarrassed as a kid, his hands and feet always seem to expand to something several sizes to big for him to manage, and what he didn't fall over, he dropped.

Maybe Adama remembered too because mercifully he didn't pursue his idea, and after Sheba had been cleaned up and pacified, the talk moved onto more general things. Apollo looked relieved, and headed for the safety of the corner where the male warriors were gathered. They spent the rest of the after-Sealing party eyeing up the girls and calculating their chances of pulling one. Apollo spent it cowering behind me and any other warrior he could coerce into acting as cover, and whimpering whenever Sheba came within five metres of him.

Okay, okay. I'm exaggerating. But only a bit. Sheba's one very scary lady. She scares me. She has a very determined way about her, does Sheba. Genetics, I reckon. She's better looking than old Cain, but she's damned like him. I can imagine few fates worse than being married to a female Juggernaut.

Although I didn't exactly get his undivided attention - he was too busy being nervous - at least she wasn't getting it either. And, much as she wanted him, I didn't think she'd ever get what was mine. It wasn't Sheba he took home to bed with him that night. Much later, wrapped close and tight together and just drifting into sleep, I teased him about tossing his wine all over her. He was a bit defensive, swore it was an accident, but we both laughed about the look on Sheba's face as the red, red wine cascaded down her skirt.

We laughed a lot when we were together. For maybe another couple of sectars after the Sealing we were completely happy, spending whatever time we could manage together. It wasn't often that I got to spend the whole night with him. If you ever wanted a living definition of a responsible parent, you only had to point to Apollo. Boxey came first, and I wouldn't have it any other way. Any time with me had to be fitted around Boxey. So what nights we had together were pretty special.

Odd how loving someone changes you. We used to squabble a lot, about anything and everything. Nothing serious, just good-natured bickering that used to drive poor old Boom-Boom mad trying to keep the peace. But this was too precious and I think we were both too happy. The closest we came was over Triad. We're both competitive and we liked being Champions. Apollo suddenly seemed to have developed two left feet, neither of which belonged to him and over which he had limited control. I've never seen him take so many falls or drop the ball so much. Luckily the real season was over and we were only playing friendlies, because even Boomer and Giles managed to beat us. Not by much, but Boomer was smug for a secton afterwards.

So, Triad was the only thing we'd fight over, each berating the other for clumsy moves or fumbled passes. Then, if we were lucky, we got to try a few passes of a different kind. Never fumbled those. Sex with Apollo was never clumsy. Heaven, maybe.

We even managed the odd night together, like the night Apollo parked Boxey on his father and we took off for the Rising Star. We told Adama we were going to play Pyramid, so that's why we went. To play Pyramid.

Of course.

What else?

Well, yeah. That as well.

 

 

"There, just there…" Apollo moaned softy as Starbuck's fingers, well lubricated, moved gently into his body.

Starbuck grinned as his finger tip brushed against that magic little spot and Apollo's whole body bucked frantically.

"Oh there ," he agreed, watching delightedly as Apollo writhed and made those sharp little animal noises of wordless pleasure. "That does seem to do the trick…."

 

 

I love making love with Apollo. Any time, any where. He's always pretty hot for it too, so I don't often have to beg. Unless he remembers that he's the captain and I'm the lieutenant, when he makes me beg a lot. He claims its one of the perks in being my senior officer. Power mad, that man.

That night on the Rising Star he was really hot. I'd managed to get us a Stateroom and we were locked away in it. Normally we made love in his place or mine, or locked storage rooms, in shuttles, or the Celestial Dome. With the exception of the Dome, which at least has bloody good views when you can drag your eyes off Apollo's body, I wouldn't exactly describe any of these places as romantic and luxurious. The Galactica's an old war ship. She's grey and utilitarian and she smells like old socks. The planners reckoned on stiffening military backbone with privation, I guess, working on the theory that anything faintly soft and luxurious sapped the moral fibre.

The Rising Star, though - now that ship's a sybarite's dream. The planners there wouldn't have recognised moral fibre if it came with a brass band and a neon sign twenty metres high. The Star was the newest, classiest passenger liner, launched just before the Destruction, and a cruise on her cost more than the Gross Domestic Product of many a small planet. She was seriously, sensuously, silkily sumptuous.

Okay, she's a bit more battered now with a lot of refugees living on her full time. But there's still a couple of decks where something of the old lavish lifestyle remains and you can hire a piece of it, for a price. That stateroom cost me my Pyramid winnings from the previous two sectars. I'd been saving up for this, and I was going to get my money's worth.

When we got into the stateroom, Apollo glanced around, taking in decor, the satiny bed, the romantic candlelight and the bottle of nectar waiting in its ice bucket, and whistled appreciatively.

"For me?" he said with a grin. "I suppose I ought to say thank you."

He grabbed my hand and threw himself onto the bed, pulling me with him. No-one could ever say that the Galactica's Strike Captain couldn't sort out his priorities, couldn't get focused on the essentials. That's military training, for you. Set your objective and go for it.

Sex first. Appreciation of interior design, second. Or third or fourth.

That bed was unbelievably soft and clinging. Nothing there to absorb the energy when we were bouncing around on it, naked and grappling together urgently. I spent our first lovemaking of the night with my face pressed into a pillow, so I know just how soft it was. How inviting. How luxurious. How completely lacking in any vestige of moral fibre.

And not the faintest smell of old socks.

When we'd recovered a bit, it was my turn to make love to Apollo. Like I said, he was hot. It had been a few days since we'd managed to get any time together, and jacking off thinking about each other might have kept us going through those days of deprivation, but was no substitute for the real thing. He'd barely come inside me before I was all over him, fingers in that pretty little arse, mouth wrapped around the long, beautiful cock that had just pounded my prostate into achingly wonderful submission.

Given that he'd just come, it was very gratifying to see that my ministrations had him coming again, this time into my mouth as I concentrated on licking, kissing and sucking his cock and finger-fucking him to get him opened up for me. I swallowed down his hot, thick saltiness, listening to him moan and gasp, and thinking all the time how much I loved him and wanted him.

"You know," I said. "At our age we aren't supposed to have the recovery time of kids of seventeen. Must be love."

"Uuughh," he said, intelligent to the last.

I laughed and flipped him over onto his stomach - it was time he found out for himself how soft those pillows were - and started kissing the back of his neck, keeping my fingers in his hot, tight arse. Now his moans were muffled by the pillows as I started on one of his favourite moves, kissing him the full length of his spine, every inch touched and caressed by my lips and tongue as I worked my way down his body. By the time I'd got to the curve at the small of his back, he was incoherent. There'd been the odd half-protesting "Starbuck!" when I was still as far north as between his shoulder blades, but they'd died away into soft murmuring sighs and moans before I'd got to his waistline.

When I slid out my fingers and the kisses had worked their way down the cleft in his buttocks all the way to heaven, he was ready. He was pushing urgently against my tongue as I licked him, and I felt the tight anal ring soften enough to let me flick my tongue inside. When I straddled him and pressed my cock up against the opening I'd softened and stretched with mouth and tongue and fingers, he opened up to me so easily, letting me slide inside him.

I went slow. Not because I was afraid of hurting him - he was too relaxed and he was ready. I knew I wouldn't hurt him. No, I went slow because I wanted to make it last for as long as I could, that wonderful feeling of acceptance, of trust. He loved me and trusted me enough to open up his body to me, to let me penetrate him and love him, and I wanted that centon to last for ever.

So it was only slowly that I was swallowed up by him, and I took my time getting to the point where I was fully in, his warm, round buttocks pressing into the curve of my groin.

He hadn't hurried either, not pressing back to get me in faster. Sometimes it scared me, how in tune we were. He knew what I was thinking and wanting, even without me having to tell him. He'd let me go at my own pace, letting my needs drive us.

Gods, but I loved him.

 

 

Keeping the moves slow and powerful, Starbuck pulled back and thrust forward again, angling the thrusts to stroke against his lover's prostate. He'd rolled Apollo onto his side, pushing his legs apart and sliding home. The perfect position for a long, slow, lovemaking.

Apollo wasn't complaining, anyway.

Starbuck slid his hand over Apollo's jutting hip and stroked down the taut groin to wrap his fingers around the hard cock that he found there. He took a moment to grin to himself about how hot Apollo was that night, then lost himself in the slow, deep strokes into Apollo's body, sliding slowly in and out, conscious only of the feeling of his testicles meeting the firm skin of the round buttocks tucked neatly into his own groin, the feeling of the smooth back against his stomach.

Apollo moaned softly, clenching the muscles in his arse to pull Starbuck in tighter on every forward thrust, relaxing them as Starbuck pulled back.

Starbuck nuzzled Apollo's neck, kissing him under one ear.

"Just about there, wasn't it?" he said as his cock surged home again. Apollo's long-limbed, slender body writhed against his and another wordless moan reached him. "Yeah, just there. Does the trick every time."

 

 

"Dad!" Boxey jumped up from the breakfast table and hurled himself onto Apollo as if he hadn't seen him for a sectar. "Did you have a good time? Did you win lots of money?"

"On one of Starbuck's systems?" Apollo hugged his son and they shared an understanding grin. Boxey adored his Uncle Starbuck but had as few illusions about him as his father did.

"Did you lose lots, then?"

"Not too bad. I think I came out about even. Your pocket money's safe this secton, at least." Apollo put Boxey down and turned to grin at Adama. His father, he thought, was looking rather grim. Oh-oh. "Was he good?"

"I was sick," Boxey said proudly, before his grandfather could speak. "Twice."

"Twice, huh?" Apollo ran his fingers through his son's tumbled brown hair, smoothing it. "There wouldn't be a few choco-mushies at the bottom of this, would there?"

Boxey was suddenly and spuriously innocent and virtuous. "I'm not saying. Grandpa said not to."

"Blabbermouth." Apollo turned the grin on to his father. "I've warned you that he'll eat them until he throws up, Dad. Was he a bit of a nuisance?"

There was no answering grin. Adama's stare was cold and unwelcoming. "He has a talent for it."

"Grandpa says that being a nuisance is the only talent I've manifested so far," Boxey was evidently quoting verbatim. "He says it's your fault and I've inherited it from you. The triumph of – what was it, Grandpa?"

"Nurture over nature," said Adama, so cold the icicles shivered.

Puzzled, Apollo mentally reviewed the state of his soul. It was obvious that he was the one in disgrace, rather than Boxey, but he wasn't aware that he'd done anything to annoy his father for sectons now. Their relationship could get a bit edgy, sometimes it was very difficult to separate the personal and the professional, and they occasionally showed such an inability to communicate that Apollo thought they could be talking two entirely different languages, but they usually got on pretty well. Better than they had when Apollo was Boxey's age, if truth be told, when his father was a slightly scary almost-stranger who appeared in his children's lives for a few sectons each yahren.

"Well in that case I'd better take you off his hands and get you to school. Ready?"

"I can't go to school! I've been sick!"

Apollo said nothing, kept his face straight. Brown eyes stared into green, then Boxey sighed and turned away, defeated.

"I'll get my things. You're no fun, sometimes, Dad."

"That's my only reward," said Apollo.

"Athena's coming to get him. I want to talk to you," said Adama then, and nothing in his voice and tone suggested that it was a pleasant chat he wanted.

"Is something wrong?" Apollo asked.

"When the boy's gone," said Adama, still grim, and Apollo subsided into an uneasy silence that lasted until Athena's cheery arrival a few centons later.

"You owe me for this," she said to her brother. "Did you win last night?"

"Sort of," said Apollo, but he didn't feel too sure. His father's manner was getting to him.

Boxey emerged from the spare bedroom with his schoolbag. "Bye Grandpa. Bye Dad." Another crushing hug for each of them. He tucked his hand into Athena's. "I was sick last night," he told her confidingly.

"Great!" the perfect aunt enthused. "How many times?"

The door closed behind them.

Apollo looked at his father's stern face and waited. Whatever this was about, to ask would be to betray nervousness, put him at a disadvantage. Dealing with his father in one of these moods he needed all the advantage he could get. Far better to let Adama open the battle.

"Boxey wasn't very well at all last night."

"You spoil him every time. You know mushies make him sick." Apollo parried that stroke lightly and waited for the next one.

"He had quite a temperature. I got worried enough to try and call you back."

Nothing subtle about that. That was a full scale frontal assault. Apollo's stomach lurched and plummeted down to his combat boots.

"No need, really," he said, just for something to say whilst he tried to get his thoughts together.

"Just as well, it seems. You weren't in the Chancery, or in the entertainment lounge, or any of the bars. It took me some time to track you down, but eventually the Maitre'd said you were in a stateroom, with a companion. Naturally, I thought it was Sheba, so I asked for Starbuck. The Maitre'd must have thought I was a madman."

Apollo sought a diversion. "Sheba? Why Sheba?"

But Adama wasn't to be diverted. "I'd hoped that what I'd thought I'd seen these last few sectars was wrong. But I think I was right. You were in that stateroom with Starbuck."

Apollo sighed. Well, it had to come out some time. And if his father had noticed that he and Starbuck were getting closer, then this should be easier.

"Yes," he said.

But Adama had no intention of making any of this easy. "Why?"

One bitter, angry monosyllable.

"Why do you think?" said Apollo.

Adama just glared and Apollo sighed and gave in.

"You know why, Dad. Me and Starbuck have been lovers for a while now."

"Lovers!" The scorn in Adama's voice cut at Apollo. "Lovers! You were in that room for sex with another man."

"Yes," said Apollo wincing internally at the edge of contempt and disgust. Oh, but his father was not pleased. Not pleased at all.

Adama was evidently trying hard to stay calm, but that matter of fact monosyllable had him reddening with anger.

"Yes? That's all you have to say?"

"I think so," said Apollo, wary, still trying to work out how to handle this. "What else is there to say?"

Adama lost his fragile hold on his temper. This was unusual. He was normally very calm and controlled, always aware that his anger could be cold and implacable, and careful not to let it get the better of him. Even as he spoke, Apollo realised he was provoking his father into a rare display of fury.

"Believe me, Apollo, I've got quite a bit to say! Not least, what the hell do you mean by parking your son on me, lying to me about what you're up to, and sneaking off to get yourself sodomised by that… that Starbuck?"

"Dad!"

"Shut up! I haven't finished yet. I want to know what you think you're doing. I can't believe that you could do this. That you could forget yourself to this extent, sink that low. I can't believe that you're as depraved as all that."

"Depraved?" Apollo repeated wonderingly. He thought for a fleeting micron of the intense pleasure that making love with Starbuck gave him, the feeling of loving and being loved, of not being alone and lonely any more. Depraved?

"I thought you'd got over your infatuation with him when you were fifteen. I always knew he was a bad influence on you. It was excusable then, but it sure as hell isn't now! There's no excuse for this kind of disgusting behaviour."

Apollo, whose hold on his temper wasn't normally anywhere near as good as his father's control, managed to stay calm. He tried to ignore what his father had actually said. "I'm sorry you found out this way, Dad…"

Once again Adama steam-rollered over him. "Oh, I can quite understand that you were too ashamed to tell me yourself, Apollo. You deserve to be ashamed. I thought we'd brought you up better than this!"

"Look, I can understand that it came as a bit of a shock to you, but …"

"A shock? Well, you could say that. You don't think that I'd be pleased, do you, to find out that my son's favourite recreational activity is being buggered by other men? Thank God your mother never knew about it. It would have broken her heart."

"Man," said Apollo, losing the battle. He'd adored his mother, and that jibe had really hit home.

"What?"

"I only get buggered by another man. Singular, not plural." Apollo took a deep breath, fought down his temper. "And I think we'd better talk about this some other time, when you've had time to get used to it.."

"And when do you think that will be? We'll talk about it right now. I want you to know exactly what I think about this…"

"I think I've got the idea." Apollo was furious himself now. "What the hell gives you the right to talk to me like this?"

"I'm your father, remember, though I'm ashamed to admit it. I have every right to tell you that your behaviour's disgusting, morally repugnant, revolting. No, Apollo, you're disgusting. You disgust me. I'm so ashamed of you that I can barely stand to look at you. What you're doing is filthy and perverted, and it makes me sick to think that you're my son. Dear God, what a son!" Adama was red with fury, not pausing to think about what he was saying. "And to think I was hoping that you and Sheba - but no decent woman would even look at you."

"Sheba has nothing to do with this. She's never had anything to do with this, except in your imagination. And who I sleep with is my affair!"

"Is it? Is it, indeed? And what about Boxey?"

Apollo blinked. "What about him?"

"What about him? Are you so lost to any sense of decency? Do you think I'll agree to let me grandson be brought up by a filthy…"

"That's enough! Leave Boxey out of this. I'd never do anything to hurt him and you know that."

"You won't get the chance," said Adama. "If you don't end this obscene affair now, I'll do everything I can to get custody of the boy myself, and make sure that you can't come anywhere near him. I won't have him put in danger because of you and the despicable things you do with Starbuck. You aren't fit to be his father."

Apollo could only stare at his father in disbelief. "You can't mean this."

"Oh I mean it. And you better think long and hard about this, Apollo. That man has been nothing but grief to our family. Zac's dead because of him. He almost destroyed Athena and he's made use of you since you were at school together. He'll drop you as fast as he dropped Athena, when it suits him and you're a fool not to see it."

Apollo shook his head and headed for the door.

"I haven't finished with you," said Adama, harsh with anger.

"Oh yes you have." Apollo's voice trembled with suppressed hurt and shock. "I definitely think we're finished. I'm sorry that I disgust you that much. I'm sorry that the only important thing about me is apparently who I sleep with. I'm sorry to be such a disappointment as a son."

"I'm sorry too," said Adama coldly. "I'd thought better of you than you'd indulge in this kind of foul affair. I expected better of both my sons." The coldness deepened. "I wish it hadn't been Zac at Cimtar."

Apollo froze, and turned to look at his father, not entirely certain he'd heard it right. He stared into his father's angry face. Adama blinked first, evidently realising what he'd said. His face reddened.

"Apollo…" he began.

"No," said Apollo. His hand reached for the door mechanism. "No more."

Out in the corridor he leaned against the cold metal wall for a centon, his face in his hands.

He couldn't believe that his father had effectively just wished him dead.

 

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