Part Three

 

Apollo's voice broke when he told me what Adama had said about Zac and I pulled him close again. This time he let me, and for a long time I just held him and stroked his hair and told him that I loved him. And I was so angry with Adama for this, I could hardly speak.

He was always a religious man, Adama, but I hadn't had him figured for a bigot like that. He'd always seemed tolerant, never voicing an opinion one way or another about what humans got up to. I'd seen him before now, in the company of men who were openly in relationships with other men, and he'd been nothing but open and genial. Never a hint of the poison he'd poured out to Apollo. But then, none of them had been his son.

"He can't have meant it, Apollo," I said. "He can't have. He was just upset."

Although why I should try and defend the commander was beyond me. Oh, I know the real reason. I wanted Apollo more than anything, I wanted to give him everything. I couldn't bear it if by being with me he actually lost anything. Especially his father.

Apollo had always tried so hard to win Adama's respect and approbation. It's not that Adama's a hard man - at least, I didn't used to think so - but he set very high standards and Apollo's always done his utmost to achieve them and deliver. It drove Apollo to be the best at school and the Academy, I knew that, so that he always worked to graduate top, to win the sword of honour so that Adama would be proud of him. It drove him, when he'd been posted onto the Galactica, to be the best Strike captain ever and show that he was as good as his father, that he could win as much.

It was unbelievably cruel of Adama to say that he was ashamed of Apollo. It was the one thing Apollo had dreaded all his life, that he'd fail. Adama's look of sorrowful disappointment was a lot more than Apollo could bear, even when we were at school together and it was over nothing more serious than some mild trouble we'd got into. This outraged condemnation must have left Apollo reeling.

Apollo had been worrying over this for the last five days, and it was quite some time before he'd calmed down enough to talk. "He said some pretty uncomplimentary things about you, too."

"I bet." I could just imagine it. "That I broke Athena's heart and what makes you think you'll fare any better? That I'm untrustworthy, using you…" I stopped, seeing it in Apollo's eyes. "And Zac?"

He nodded. "You must have been listening in. That's not all." He was looking tired and thin and defenceless, and I held him tighter. "He said if I didn't end it, didn't stop seeing you, he'd do everything he could to get custody of Boxey, and take him away from me. He'd have the courts say I was an unfit parent, and that Boxey's in moral danger –"

I caught hold of both his hands in mine. "Apollo, he can't! It'd get laughed out of court. Same sex Sealings have been accepted for centuries, even if they aren't common, and where's the immorality in that?. He must have just been trying to bully you."

"Probably. But I couldn't bear to lose Boxey, and I can't bear to lose you…."

"You aren't going to lose either of us," I said. I was so angry at that moment that if Adama had appeared I'd have decked him, and be damned to the consequences. "We'll fight him every inch of the way. He'd just look ridiculous. And I can't seem him wanting this to get out."

Adama guarded his and the family's privacy jealously. He'd never take Apollo to court. It was just the tactics of a bully, hoping that Apollo would just cave in the way, to be honest, that he usually caved in and did what Adama wanted.

"I don't want him turning Boxey against me either," said Apollo forlornly.

"Apollo, we have got to stand up to him. We've got to. All right, I can understand that he was a bit upset at finding out the way he did, and that you hadn't told him yourself, but he has no right to say those dreadful things."

"Except that he meant them." Apollo rubbed fretfully at his forehead. "Shit, my head's thumping!"

"I'm not surprised, with all this stress and you bottling it up like that." I dug into the pocket where I kept my emergency hangover cures, and handed him two aspirin. "So what are we going to do?"

Apollo swallowed the aspirin and frowned. "I'm not giving you up, Starbuck. I've never been this happy, and I'm not giving that up, not for Dad."

"Attaboy," I said, encouraging the rebellion. "So?"

"So I don't really know," Apollo admitted, then he looked at me and said: "I'm sorry, Starbuck, because I've been really unfair to you."

"To me?" I was astonished. All he'd ever been to me was, to quote some poet, heaven and life and all delight.

Apollo nodded. "Keeping it secret like we did. You know why. I was scared that if everyone found out about us, it would make his life too difficult. He has a bad enough time with the Council as it is. So I've been very unfair to you, like I was ashamed of you. I'm not, Starbuck. And if that's the way he feels, if it's a choice between him and you, then you win. I'm not prepared to hide away what I feel about you just to protect someone who's so ashamed of me that I make him sick and he wants me dead. I'm sorry that I put him before you."

"Apollo, don't do anything stupid.."

"No, I won't, but I'm realising how stupid I've been. I'm giving up on being the Apollo he wants: I'm going to be the Apollo I want. And the first thing the new Apollo wants to say is that I love you and I want us to be together." Apollo looked at me uncertainly. "If that's what you want?"

That was the first time that Apollo told me that he loved me. I'd known it, but that was the first time he'd ever said it.

"More than anything in the world," I said and pulled him closer. I don't think that I ever wanted that centon to end.

 

 

"Why aren't we having supper with Grandfather tonight?" asked Boxey.

"Don't you like it with just me and Starbuck?" Apollo countered.

"Yeah, but usually we go to Grandfather's." Boxey looked around the Mess. "This is nice too, though," he added, wanting to make sure that his father realised that he appreciated the treat. "But won't he be upset that we aren't with him?"

Apollo glanced at Starbuck. "There's a bit of a problem with me and your Grandfather. Boxey. It has nothing to do with you and it doesn't affect the way he thinks about you and loves you. He loves you an awful lot, you know that, don't you?"

"Yes. I know. What sort of a problem, Dad?"

"I've done something he doesn't like," said Apollo. "It's nothing for you to worry about and it'll work itself out, but at the moment he's not very happy with me and isn't being very nice.. So we're better not seeing each other for a while."

"Oh." Boxey looked at his father over the rim of his glass of milk. "Have you said sorry?"

"No. Because I'm not. I said he didn't like it, Boxey, not that he was right. I think he's the one who should be sorry, and he thinks I should be, so we've a bit to sort out there. But whenever we see each other we just have another row, so I won't be going to any more suppers with him for while."

"Can I still see him?"

"Of course. He's still your Grandfather, and he thinks the world of you. You can see him just the same. It's just that me and Starbuck won't be there."

Boxey looked at the lieutenant. "Is he mad with you too, Starbuck?"

Starbuck nodded. " ‘Fraid so, kid. But that's nothing new. He's been mad with me, off and on, for about fifteen yahrens. I'm used to it."

"Oh," said Boxey again, and shrugged with the selfish disregard typical of children. Reassured about his own relationship with his Grandfather, he wasn't much bothered by what adults got up to. Their relationships were pretty incomprehensible anyway.

"There's something else I want to tell you," said Apollo. "You know, Boxey, that I've been on my own for a long time now, ever since your mother left us."

"I know. You aren't going to get Sealed to Sheba are you, Dad?"

"No." Apollo flashed a grin at Starbuck. "Why? Don't you like her?"

Boxey shook his head. "She tries too hard to be nice to me."

"He's smarter than you," muttered Starbuck, grinning.

Apollo just shrugged. "She's a bit bossy, isn't she? Well, don't worry. I've no intention of getting Sealed to Sheba. But I did want to tell you about someone pretty special."

Boxey's eyes narrowed as he considered the likely candidates. "Cassie's pretty," he remarked.

"She is, but it's not Cassie either. She's going out with Giles now."

"I forgot. What about Brie? She always smells nice."

"So she does," Apollo agreed. "But it's not Brie either."

"You'd better tell me, then," Boxey said.

Apollo looked solemn, and Starbuck grinned to himself as he watched Boxey's expression mirror that of his father. There may be no blood relationship, but Boxey was very like Apollo. Very like him indeed.

"I love someone very much, Boxey, and I want him to be with us, part of our family."

"Starbuck!" Boxey said triumphantly.

Starbuck grinned at him. "And how do you make that out?"

Boxey looked superior. "You two're looking at each other the soppy way that Aunt Athena looks at Uncle Boomer. I'm not stupid."

Apollo managed a laugh. "No, you certainly aren't."

"Are you going to get Sealed?" Boxey asked, interested.

"We haven't thought about it. But we do love each other, and when two people love each other they want to be together as much as possible. So sometimes Starbuck will stay with me in our quarters, and he'll be there when you get up in the morning."

"Okay," said Boxey, equably.

"And it means that you mustn't come into my bedroom without knocking first, Boxey. That's a private place for me and Starbuck, and you have to promise that you won't just come running in."

"Why?"

"Well, it's like when your mother was there with me. Adults do special things when they love each other and it's just very private." Apollo rolled his eyes desperately at Starbuck, silently begging for some help. Starbuck shook with silent laughter. "Well thank you for your support," said Apollo to him acidly, and to Boxey: "It's the kind of thing you'll understand when you get older, Boxey."

"Do you kiss each other?" asked Boxey-the-relentless.

"Er - yes," admitted his father, growing very pink.

"Yeuch! Uncle Boomer kisses Aunt Athena a lot. Those real big slushy ones." Boxey's disgust at this unmanly conduct was obvious.

"That's dreadful," said Apollo, without so much as a quiver of laughter in his tone.

"Revolting," Starbuck agreed and sighed. "Another good man gone."

"Do you mind, Starbuck? She is my sister. And you used to kiss her yourself once upon a time"

"Ah but I saw the error of my ways when I started kissing her brother instead." He gave Apollo a look he was careful to make extremely soppy.

Boxey obligingly made gagging noises and both men grinned at him.

"Does she like it, Boxey?" Starbuck asked, interest in someone else's sex life as high as ever, despite the excitement in his own.

"I suppose so. She goes pink and she makes some funny little noises when he kisses her and giggles a lot. Then when I say it's soppy, she says that he mustn't do that when I'm watching, and Uncle Boomer always laughs and promises me lots of mushies if I'll run away. I don't know why. Do you make funny noises, Dad?"

"Starbuck!" warned Apollo in an awful voice, and the lieutenant spluttered helplessly.

Luckily Boxey didn't wait for an answer. "Do you always have to kiss the person you love?"

"It's a custom," explained Apollo.

"It's disgusting."

Starbuck sobered when he saw Apollo's slight wince at Boxey's inadvertent echo of his grandfather's condemnation.

"I know," said Apollo, and he sounded thoroughly ashamed of himself. "I try not to do it, but it's sort of expected of you when you're with someone. Starbuck would be awfully upset if I stopped. He's got used to it."

"You can get used to anything eventually," said Starbuck sadly. "Especially if you have pretty low standards to begin with."

"Nice one" said his lover appreciatively.

Boxey sighed. "I didn't know you had to do it because you're together. Would you have done it, if you'd known? Got together with Starbuck, I mean."

Starbuck waited expectantly for the reassurance that his attractions were so supreme that nothing, but nothing, would have kept his lover from him.

"I'm afraid so," said Apollo, still sounding apologetic. "I couldn't really have got out of it without disappointing him."

"Dream on!" said Starbuck indignantly

"Well, I'm not ever going to do it."

"It's quite nice really," said Starbuck and smiled at Apollo. "You'll realise that when you grow up a bit."

"I bet," said Boxey, with all the cynicism of his eight yahrens. "Are you staying with Dad tonight?"

"I plan to," said Starbuck, this time avoiding Apollo's eyes in case he made a complete fool of himself in public..

"So are you okay about Starbuck being with us?" Apollo asked.

"Uh-huh. Starbuck's all right." Boxey grinned at the lieutenant.

Apollo looked at Starbuck and smiled. "I think so too."

 

 

"Door!" Apollo yelled from the bedroom as the chime went again. "Are you two deaf or something?"

Boxey grinned at me. The first night of me being officially with his father had worked out just fine. Boxey hadn't just accepted me being there, he'd revelled in having two of us to see him to bed and go through his nightly rituals with him. The only thing was that when Apollo and I did get to bed ourselves, we'd had to keep it quiet. Difficult, for two men who're natural screamers when it comes to sex.

Pillows muffle most of the noise, I found.

Next morning Boxey acted like I'd always been there. No curiosity, no problems. He just sat and chatted to me as I got breakfast in the tiny kitchen area, about school, his friends, me and his Dad teaching him Triad….. normal, family stuff. Like I belonged. This was the first family I'd ever had and I was enjoying the novelty. We'd heard the door chime but had been arguing over who had to get it.

Boxey gave in first. "I'll go," he offered, and ran to open it. "Grandfather!" .

Oh boy.

"Commander," I said, and I was quite pleased that I managed the usual nonchalance. It was a bit of an effort.

The Basilisk glowered at me. "Have you been here all night?" he demanded.

"Starbuck's going to be staying with us a lot now, Grandfather," said Boxey. "Dad's still getting dressed. He's so slow these days that me and Starbuck got the turboshower before him. I'll get him."

Adama's glower deepened. He looked very stern and very angry. This wasn't a kiss and make up visit, then.

"I wanted to talk to Apollo," he said.

"I'd say you already did," I said and turned back to my cooking. I wasn't going to let him get to me. "Sir."

"The command meeting's not for a couple of centars yet." It was Apollo, face cold and wary as he came from the main bedroom, still shrugging into his tunic.

"I wanted to talk to you about private things, not work," said Adama. "About where you were last night."

"I'm thirty," said Apollo. "Do I still have to tell you what I do in my off-duty time? Besides, I left a message for you."

Adama's scorn would have frozen fire. "A message! You didn't have the courage to tell me yourself."

"What's the point of another fight, spoiling my time with Starbuck and Boxey?" Apollo shot back, nettled.

"Do I understand that you're cutting yourself off from your family?" Adama's voice was very cold and calm. Not what you want to hear before you've had time to have breakfast.

"Not at all. You're the one cutting me out." Apollo was rubbing at his left temple: another stress headache. "You can't dictate to me how to live my life, Dad. Nothing gives you that right. Not as my father, not as my commander. You made it crystal clear you don't approve, so me and Starbuck thought that you wouldn't want to see us last night."

"Not together, no," said Adama, and turned the cold look to me.

"But we are together," said Apollo, stubborn as his father. "And I can't see how you expect me to come and have dinner with you after what you said."

Adama‘s face was expressionless. "And Boxey?"

Apollo reached out and pulled Boxey close. "Boxey knows all about me and Starbuck and he's fine about it."

"Really. We'll see."

Boxey was looking from one to the other in perplexity. "Is that why you're mad with Dad, Grandfather?" he asked curiously. "You act like you don't like him much any more."

"I suppose that's what he told you," said Adama scornfully "And that I wouldn't want to see you either."

Boxey frowned. "Of course not. He said you were mad at him, but that you loved me a lot and that I could always go and see you, any time I want."

I hope it shamed Adama, seeing the kid's bewilderment at this unexpected vein of spitefulness. He did go a bit red about the ears, but didn't apologise or make any other sign that he was sorry.

"I'll come and see you when you and Dad are friends again." Boxey tucked his hand into Apollo's.

"You might have a long wait," said Adama sourly and turned on his heel.

"Dad?" Boxey looked scared and uncertain as his grandfather left without another word being spoken. "Dad, why are you and Grandfather mad with each other? I thought he liked Starbuck, really."

"He said something that hurt your Dad very much," I said when Apollo didn't answer. He was staring blindly at the closed door.

"Isn't he sorry?"

"Not yet," I said and Boxey was quiet.

I put an arm around Apollo's shoulders, wanting to say an awful lot that I couldn't in front of Boxey. Apollo started when I touched him, as if waking up suddenly, and the eyes that refocused on me had been glazed and vague and very green, with contracted pupils.

"Come and eat," I said.

 

 

Apollo had never wanted to serve on the Galactica. Now he wished fervently for another ship - any ship -to escape to.

He'd always been concerned that everyone would think that all he ever achieved was because he was the commander's son, that nepotism had got him his captaincy, and that they were intent on establishing some sort of dynastic rule. When he was first posted to the ship, he and his father had thrashed out an agreement about how they'd treat their professional and familial relationships. Apollo, only half jokingly, usually referred to this agreement as the "Rules of Engagement".

Adama was very careful never to seem to favour Apollo. That was one of the Rules, that he was to treat his son the same as any other officer, and Apollo welcomed and accepted that. Sometimes Apollo thought that Adama went too far in the other direction, that he was so keen not to favour Apollo that he was unfair. Apollo was less able to accept that as easily, and it was the source of occasional friction between them. But it had the effect Apollo wanted. Most of the pilots had been initially suspicious of Apollo's appointment as Strike captain, but had quickly seen that the commander was anything but inclined to be easy on his son. Very few of them would be in Apollo's combat boots it they could help it. They all thought Apollo came under too much pressure for too little recognition.

Now Apollo sat in the command meeting, listening to a diatribe from Adama about his, Apollo's, inability to maintain basic discipline. Tigh had obviously passed on word of the brawl, and something that the day before would have merited no more than a minor comment or question about morale, now became a reason for carpeting the captain for not doing his job properly. Even Tigh showed his surprise at the meal Adama was making of it.

The rest of the meeting, mostly bridge crew and Boomer there as Apollo's deputy, sat in uncomfortable silence whilst the third in command was given a public dressing down. Apollo took it with apparent good grace, but he was so scrupulously polite in return, so militarily correct, that everyone in the room realised that a major row had taken place.

Athena looked from one to the other speculatively, raising an eyebrow at her big brother. He shook his head at her slightly and she turned back to watching their father's obvious anger. She had to know this was serious. His failure to show at supper, had all the hallmarks of a serious and unprecedented rift.

And a rift that was about to get deeper.

Apollo came out of the command meeting so angry that he was determined to get his relationship with Starbuck out into the open.

"Sure, I'll look after Boxey for you tonight. What are you up to?" Athena knew better than to ask directly what had happened with their father. She knew Apollo would just clam up and he appreciated her restraint.

"Me? I'm taking Starbuck dancing."

 

 

Apollo always tried to arrange the duty shifts so that as many warriors as possible got some free time at the end of the working secton, when there was more chance of entertainment and relaxation. Mostly they spent it in the bars and clubs on the Rising Star, in the casino or watching a Triad match or one of the more exotic entertainments. They tended to head back on the midnight shuttle, and it was pretty full when me and Apollo hurtled onto it just as the doors were closing.

Apollo tripped over his own feet and fell, laughing, into a seat.

"Hello!" said Jolly. "I didn't see you two on board."

"We weren't in the main entertainment centre," said Apollo, as the shuttle lifted off for the Galactica. I squeezed into the seat beside him.

"Starbuck missed a game?" Bojay asked with a raised eyebrow.

"I had more important games to play," I said, carefully avoiding Apollo's gaze.

Yeah, like get so overwhelmed with passion that I made love with him in a turboflush. We'd giggled about it like two naughty schoolboys for centars afterwards.

"So what low dive did you drag the poor captain to this time?" Giles asked tolerantly. I wondered how he'd escaped Cassie for the night, then realised she was probably on duty. It was quite a few sectars since I'd had her duty roster off by heart.

"It wasn't a low dive," said Apollo. "We went dancing."

" You went dancing?" There was a chorus of disbelief.

"I did," Apollo said, and he grinned at me. "Among other things."

"Where?" demanded Bojay. "I'd have paid to come and watch!"

"Down on deck six. And I'll have you know I can be a pretty mean dancer."

"You're not bad, I suppose," I conceded.

In fact, his two left feet problem had followed him off the Triad Court and we'd stuck to the slow smoochy dances where he couldn't fall over. Anyway, they're more romantic, and holding each other when we were dancing had turned us both on. That might have something to do with why we ended up locked in a booth in the turboflush.

"Nonsense." Apollo sounded hurt at my lack of appreciation. "There were queues forming to get me out onto the floor"

"It wasn't the dancing they were after, but your virtue. You're very pretty, Apollo. And you were flirting"

"I don't know how!" he protested.

"Deck six?" Greenbean frowned at that. "The only place I know of down there is a gay bar."

Apollo nodded. "Good music, cheap booze and pretty boys."

They all laughed.

"I'm with Bojay. I'd have given a secton's pay to see that!" Jolly laughed, the others joining in, as much at his infectious good nature as anything else, I'd say. Jolly's a man who knows how to laugh.

"Lords, Starbuck, you took Apollo to a gay bar?" Bojay was grinning.

"No. He took me," I said, looking at my lover.

We'd agreed that we weren't going to hide any longer, but I had the distinct feeling that Apollo was about to come out of the closet with fire and explosions. Well, I didn't mind. I loved him and wanted to tell the whole damn world about it.

"Well, where else in the entire fleet could I kiss you in public without stopping the traffic?"

"Kissing me is fine," I said into the jaw-dropping silence. "I'm not so keen on you flirting with that tall dark technician, Apollo."

"One dance does not a flirtation make," Apollo protested innocently, and looked around at his stunned officers. "What's the matter with you lot?"

"Lords!" said Giles faintly. "You and Starbuck?"

"Oh yes," said Apollo and grinned at them. "Hadn't you noticed?"

I looked round at them Every single one of them looked like they'd just been slapped around the mouth with a wet fish. Were they all blind? We'd both been doing the everything's smelling of roses routine for sectons.

"You know, Apollo, I don't think that they had." I stuck one of the inevitable fumarillos between my teeth. Just as inevitably, Apollo pulled it away. I let him. He didn't like kissing me when I'd been smoking and I was trying to give it up. If it came to a choice between smoking and kissing that mouth, I knew which one I wanted the most.

Apollo sighed. "Comes down to me being so reserved and stuffy, I suppose."

"Are you two serious?" croaked Jolly.

"Very serious," said Apollo. He grinned at me and took my hand, then looked at them consideringly. "A problem?"

"Not with me," Bojay was still grinning, wider than before. He probably had visions of finally catching Sheba's attention. Like I said, he's insensitive. He had to have no nerve endings left at all if she was what he wanted.

There was a general shaking of bemused heads.

"I think it's great," said Jolly. .

Apollo had staked his claim and I was a very, very happy man. I thought that I could laugh as well as Jolly that night.

"So do we," I said sincerely. "So do we."

 

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