Part Four

 

"You just stop right there, Starbuck!"

Athena put out a hand firmly into the middle of Starbuck's chest as he attempted to get by her. The lieutenant looked faintly scared and obeyed.

"Hi, Thenie," he said weakly.

"Don't you ‘hi Thenie' me, you …you Starbuck, you!" Athena was in dangerous mood. The flat hand on his chest became a finger jabbing painfully into his ribs. She looked Starbuck up and down, pursing her mouth into a hard, disapproving line.

"Aw, Thenie..." Starbuck flashed her his most charming smile.

"Stop that!. It's your fault they've had a row, isn't it? If the rumours I've heard are right."

"He told you himself, when he asked you to baby-sit Boxey last night," said Starbuck defensively.

Athena brushed this aside as mere detail. "I want to know one thing, Starbuck. When did all this start?"

"The night you and Boomer got engaged. Honest." Starbuck put everything he had into the innocent tone of voice, the guileless expression in the blue eyes.

Athena deliberately narrowed her eyes at him, enjoying his nervous flinch. "You are so unconvincing when you try to sound sincere, Bucko. Lucky for you, that's what he said. If I ever found out that you were seeing him at the same time as me, I'll….I don't know what I'd do but you wouldn't like it. And it would make you pretty useless to Apollo." Then considering she'd punished him enough, she grinned at him slightly. "It's okay, Starbuck. But don't you dare let him down the way you did me, or you and me will have words. Apollo's nowhere near as tough as me."

"I won't," said Starbuck fervently. "It's pretty serious, ‘The."

Athena gave him a measuring look, then nodded. "Okay. Come and tell me all about it. I'm not on duty for half a centar and you can buy me a coffee. And I want to know what happened between Apollo and Dad."

Her lips tightened. She hated asking Starbuck, but her father had brushed off her careful enquiries and she knew it was pointless asking Apollo. Her brother could give a clam pointers on reticence.

Starbuck, protesting impotently, was borne determinedly off to the mess-hall and deliberately wedged into a corner seat where he couldn't escape.

"Well?" she prompted. "Dad's not pleased, I take it?"

"You could say that," said Starbuck carefully. "He said some pretty foul things to Apollo when he found out. Like what we're doing is filthy and perverted, and about being ashamed of him –"

"Oh no!" Athena breathed, grasping as quickly as Starbuck how hard that must have hit Apollo. Her own relationship with her father was less rocky than Apollo's – but then, Adama's expectations of her were lower.

Starbuck nodded. "I know." He paused, and with a shyness that she realised, surprised, was quite genuine, he asked, "Do you feel the same way, Thenie?"

"No," she said. "I'm not entirely surprised, to be truthful, Starbuck. I wondered now and again if you went out with me because I was the closest you could get to Apollo. But I'm a bit surprised at Dad reacting like that. I've never heard him sound that intolerant."

"Yeah, but this is his son. And me. I'm not exactly the light of his eyes, now am I?"

"He's been known to disapprove of you at times," Athena acknowledged, then she sighed. "The trouble is, Starbuck, that Apollo has always been his favourite. He tried to hide it, but Zac and me always knew. We never blamed Apollo, and it wasn't a case for envying him. Dad always expected so much of him, and poor Apollo had to try so hard to deliver all the time that me and Zac were quite happy to let him take all the crap and skim along in his wake. Dad had great plans for him, you know, about taking the Galactica one day, a kind of dynastic succession. Still does - I don't feature in that at all."

She could feel her mouth tightening again and she made herself relax. Her father's preferences annoyed and hurt her, no matter how indifferent she pretended to be. It was one reason she'd struck out on her own with Boomer. She came first with Boomer.

"Is that why he was so keen on Sheba as a daughter in law?" Starbuck asked. "Two great military dynasties being brought together?"

"I think so, and because Cain was one of his best friends. You've spoiled that little plan, Bucko."

"I wonder if she's heard yet." Starbuck looked quickly around the mess.

Athena shrugged. "Don't know - I haven't seen her. But the whole ship's talking about it this morning, Starbuck. If she hasn't heard, she'll be the only one."

"And your father?"

She winced. "He'll hate this. Apollo usually gives in to him. To defy him so openly - no, he won't like this. It'll just make things worse."

"You mean he'll be embarrassed that his son's having an affair with a nameless orphan," said Starbuck trying to sound as if that didn't bother him

"I suppose. But it wouldn't matter who it was with, Starbuck. He's a very private man. He hates our family affairs being public knowledge."

"Yeah, but it would help if he hadn't always thought I was after everything I could get," Starbuck muttered bitterly.

Athena said nothing.

"You think religion's got in the way as well?" said Starbuck after a centon.

"It won't have helped. We're Kobolian, don't forget. Dad takes that pretty seriously, even if me and Apollo don't. I can't say that gay sex has ever cropped up in conversation, but he will have a moral view on it. He won't like it."

"Somehow, I guessed that. But, Thenie, I've seen him with people like that guy who's captain of the Alcestis - what's his name? Theo. That's it. They were chatting together at the Council reception last sectar and he didn't act like that disgusted him. And Theo's living with two other men at once, and one of them's barely out of school."

"But neither of whom are Apollo," she reminded him. "I don't think Dad would get too judgmental about someone who wasn't close to him. It's different when it's family."

"Maybe you're right. He's been trying to bully Apollo into behaving, you know. He's been threatening to try for custody of Boxey."

"He won't really do that. He'd never want his row with Apollo to get that public. Besides, Boxey runs him ragged. He'd never be able to cope and he knows it."

"Doesn't stop him hurting the hell out of Apollo by shouting about the moral danger he thinks Boxey's in. As if Apollo would ever hurt that kid!"

"I know." Athena sighed. "Still, it could have been a mistake being so open about this It could make things a lot worse, you know. Dad can be a bit overbearing when he wants something. I'll bet he thought that as long as it was just him and Apollo who knew, then he could still persuade Apollo into doing what he wanted and marrying Sheba. By going public, you'll really have rattled his cage."

"So what do we have to look forward to?" said Starbuck gloomily. "More of your father making Apollo's life hell?"

"He'll come round," Athena said, but she was trying to convince herself of that. "He loves Apollo, really, no matter how disappointed he is at the moment. I think he'll come round if you two really are together."

"Oh, we really are. As together as it gets." Starbuck gave her a tight grin. "But he'll have some explaining to do."

He told her what Adama had said about Zac. She stared, feeling the jolt as an almost physical blow beneath her ribs. He couldn't have said something so unbearably cruel! Not to Apollo, who'd agonised over Zac's death and blamed himself so much for it, who'd feared Adama's blame so much he could barely look his father in the eye for sectons afterwards.

"He can't have said that!" she protested, aghast.

"Tell that to Apollo."

"Well, he can't have meant it the way it sounds. He must have just meant that he wished Zac was still alive."

"Probably," Starbuck agreed. "We all do. Who wouldn't? But we both know what happened at Cimtar, Thenie. The way things fell out, it was either Zac or Apollo who came back. You can imagine what Apollo felt about him saying that. Even if that wasn't what he meant, the commander might as well have told him outright that he'd rather it was Apollo who'd died."

Athena leaned her face in her hands for a centon. Things were even worse than she'd thought.

"I'll talk to him," she said at last. "Now I know why he wouldn't talk to me about it yesterday. He must be so ashamed of himself."

"You think?" said the cynic opposite her.

 

 

I was used to being one half of a couple. Usually though, that was a pretty transitory affair; something that might last for a few sectons before I moved on to someone else. Now and again, someone - Athena, or Cassie - lasted longer. But not for ever. None of them had been for ever. I wasn't exactly held up to the young as a shining example of romantic fidelity.

Now, though, I was half of a different kind of couple. For the first time ever I was openly with another man. That was new - although I'd had affairs with men before, I'd been very discreet about those. But more important, for the first time ever, I'd moved out of my quarters and in with my lover. For me, that was signalling that this was something very special, signalling my commitment.

Commitment - now that was scary. The scariest word in the entire lexicon.

Kind of fun, though. Especially when Boxey was asleep and we'd stacked those pillows up to stifle the noise.

No-one ever said anything to me about my past reputation, although there were more than a few raised eyebrows and grins hidden behind hands. No-one ever believed that I could be serious about anything, much less love. If I could have been cloned, my clone would have been out there taking bets on how long I'd last in this one. Everyone was watching us to see what happened, and not all of them were friendly.

And yes, I do mean the female Juggernaut. She wouldn't even talk to me. So there I was: openly with the man I loved, deliriously happy, having constant great sex and Sheba wouldn't talk to me. An unexpected, but welcome bonus.

You might have guessed that I don't like her much. Maybe because Adama took her straight in and I still felt a bit like I was there on sufferance, an adjunct of Apollo, even after fifteen yahrens. Maybe because Adama had spent almost two yahrens trying to get her married off to his son. Maybe because she's got too much of old Cain in her for comfort. Maybe because I've got sensitive hearing and that whining voice gives me headaches. Who cares why? So far as I'm concerned, it's a morally defensible view to have and I don't need reasons.

Well, Sheba's sulking apart, after the first couple of sectons, the talk died down. Most people were fine about us. Most people accepted us.

Not the commander, of course.

I don't think Adama ever said anything to Apollo about the fact that everyone knew we were a couple. But he couldn't miss the fact it was public knowledge now. Hell, it even made IFB.

I do know that he and Apollo didn't speak at all unless it was about work. Whatever efforts Athena made to get them talking to each other failed miserably. Worse than that, Adama seemed to look for every opportunity to make Apollo regret his decision to stick with me.

It seemed to me as if he wanted to punish Apollo for daring to defy him publicly. I thought he was deliberately making Apollo's life a misery, piling more and more work on him then complaining that he couldn't handle it. He'd demand reports that had Apollo up all night slaving to finish them, and then they'd sit in the commander's intray, unread, for days and sectons afterwards. He'd demand drills and exercises that kept Apollo working eighteen centar days to plan, and then publicly tore him to shreds over how poorly planned and executed they were. He was on Apollo's case constantly, piling on the pressure and constantly carping and criticising.

Apollo said that nothing much had changed, that I was reading too much into it.

Well, maybe. All I know is that the Great Commander, the leader of our people, the saviour of humanity, the man revered throughout the fleet for his faith and goodness, was acting like a bully and a bigot.

 

 

"Maybe we should have postponed this match. You're not exactly paying attention to the game." Starbuck put out a hand to pull Apollo up off the court floor. "You oil your hands or something? Try and keep hold of the ball."

Apollo just scowled at him.

They were playing a pre-season friendly against Regan and Brent, two security guards they'd beaten easily in the past. Today the position was reversed. That had been the fourth time that Apollo had lost his balance and hit the deck, and they were only half way through the first third of the match. Regan had scored twice. Apollo had missed so many chances that Starbuck had asked him if he was playing in some completely different game to the rest of them.

"If you aren't up to this - "

"I'm all right," Apollo snapped at him irritably.

"Yeah, that's why you keep falling over," Starbuck agreed. He watched as Apollo walked over to their side of the court ready to restart the game and frowned. Apollo was limping noticeably, his right leg dragging slightly.

He caught up to Apollo. "Apollo, you okay?"

"Must have pulled a muscle or something," said Apollo.

"Hurt?" Starbuck brightened as he saw a way of getting out of the match with honour and reputations intact.

"It doesn't hurt. I can still play."

"Oh. Well, just try to play in this game, okay?"

Starbuck sighed as Apollo turned away, and joined him shoulder to shoulder at the central circle, facing Regan and Brent. The referee glanced around to make sure that the four men were ready, then dropped the ball.

Apollo lunged forward to get it, hands closing around the ball. Starbuck was already past Brent, ready to take the catch as Apollo twisted to toss it to him. Then once again the ball slipped from Apollo's grasp and Regan, seeing his chance and exploiting a weakness, slammed hard into Apollo's right leg, knocking the captain flying and taking the ball. The big guard had scored again before Apollo, dazed, had even realised what happened.

"Your problem is you're getting old," Regan said to him as he got slowly to his feet, and glanced at an irate Starbuck who was glowering at his partner. "Or not getting enough sleep," he said, and grinned.

 

 

"We're going to be in real trouble when the season opens," I said.

I was getting a bit worried about the upcoming Championships. On his current form, we'd be lucky if we just got creamed all over the bulkheads, but I tried to stay reasonable, not accusing or indignant. Apart from the fact that I didn't want to hurt Apollo, it doesn't sound good to have someone my age whining like a spoilt brat. If I wasn't careful I'd end up sounding like Sheba.

Apollo grunted and pulled on his tunic.

"You've no form at all, Apollo. I know your Dad's getting to you."

I took a closer look at him. He was squinting against the lights of the changing room like they were hurting his eyes, and rubbing at his forehead again. These stress headaches were almost a permanent feature of his life these days.

"Are you okay?"

"Fine," he said and sighed.

I handed him the aspirin. He had to be living on them now.

"This isn't doing you any good," I said, sitting on the bench beside him.

He shrugged. "There's nothing I can do about it, Starbuck. It's gone beyond him just being mad about it all. He really does think I'm so foul and disgusting that it's like he's disowned me. So far as he's concerned, he doesn't have a son any more. Just a captain he doesn't like or approve of."

"And who he's overworking. Look. Apollo. things are getting ridiculous. He's on your case all the time."

"What can I do about it?" Apollo sighed and leaned against me. "He's in a position of power, here, Starbuck. It's not like we could transfer somewhere else. I just have to live with it. And it's just so feeble letting him get to me like this."

"He's stressing you out of your head."

"That, I know," said Apollo and grinned at me. "But I'm a big boy now, Starbuck, and a warrior. I'm supposed to be able to handle it."

"By living on painkillers for the headaches?"

He sighed. "Leave it for now, Starbuck. I'm sorry about the game. I'll try harder, I promise."

"Apollo, it's not the Triad. You're really getting me worried."

"I'm fine," he said. He glanced at his chronometer, and I knew he didn't want to talk about it anymore. "Come on. If we hurry we can pick up Boxey from school and take him out to supper somewhere. My treat, to make up for losing the match."

Okay, for now I'd shut up. But I was getting worried about him.

"Well if you're paying, you're on."

We got up off the bench and I was reaching for my flight jacket, when suddenly he was falling against me. If I hadn't caught him, he'd have hit the deck.

"Apollo!"

He was slumped against me. "Sorry, Starbuck," he mumbled, his voice slow and the words slurred. "Dizzy."

"Just hold on to me." My heart was thudding with fright.

There was no-one else in the locker room, damn it, who I could send for help and I didn't dare let him go. I was taking his whole weight. But it was only for a centon. Then he sighed slightly and straightened up. I didn't let go of him, though.

"Sorry," he said, and his voice was normal again. "I must have stood up too quickly. I'm fine."

"The hell you are! Did you bang your head in one of those falls back there?"

He'd taken a few nasty falls during the match and I was worried he might have done some real damage. But he seemed better.

"Don't think so," he said and managed to grin at me. He was pale, but otherwise looked pretty much as usual. "And if I did, you always tell me I can't damage something that thick. Really, I'm okay. I was just a bit dizzy. It's nothing."

"You almost scared me out of a yahren's growth," I said, not knowing whether to be relieved or not.

"Stop fussing, Starbuck. I'm fine. Let's go and get Boxey. I thought we might take him out for supper."

"We've done that bit," I said, surprised. "Your treat, you said."

He looked puzzled for a micron, then grinned at me, and he seemed to be perfectly all right. "Shit, I must have banged my head if I offered to pay for you. Let's go, then."

Well, he seemed all right.

 

 

"Captain."

No response.

Boomer looked sideways. Apollo was sitting in the chair next to him, staring down at the table, eyes unfocused and face expressionless and remote.

"Captain!" Adama's voice was hard with impatience as he glared down the briefing table at his son.

Boomer surreptitiously dug Apollo hard in the ribs.

Apollo jumped, and came back from wherever he'd been.

"Wha..?"

"Try and keep awake, Captain," said Adama icily. "The lives of over a hundred pilots depend upon you. They might have more confidence in your ability to protect them if you don't sleep through the briefing meetings."

"I wasn't asleep, sir." Apollo's face was still expressionless, but Boomer thought that there was a fleeting look of fear in the wide green eyes.

"Well in that case you can tell me what it was we were talking about.".

Silence. Apollo stared back up the table at Adama.

"I thought not. Well, for the captain's benefit Colonel Tigh will repeat what he had to say about the isometrics data on the system we're just entering. And Captain Apollo, I want to see you after this meeting."

Apollo sighed. "Yes sir."

 

 

Boomer caught up with me when I got back off patrol with Jolly. Apollo was my usual wingmate, of course, but he hadn't been flying for a secton or so. He said he was too busy, so I was filling in whenever there was a gap in the schedule.

"Starbuck!" Boomer yelled from across the deck and beckoned me over.

I waved back at Boomer and slid out of the cockpit to the tarmac on the flightdeck.

"Good flight?" Jenny asked as she took my helmet.

"Medium to boring. I wish I hadn't given up smoking."

"If I'm thankful to the captain for nothing else, it's for not having to clean fumarillo butts out of your Viper anymore," she said, unsympathetic to the last. "And at least you don't smell now."

"Smell?! I don't smell!"

"You did. Stale smoke. And now…." She leaned over and sniffed delicately at me. "Mmmn. Cologne and the scent of a man who had very hot sex just before he went out on patrol. Far nicer."

I went red.

Me! Starbuck-the-Cool! Red as a gawky first yahren cadet.

 

 

"There's something wrong with that boy, Adama," said Colonel Tigh.

Adama scowled, but Tigh stared back, sucking it up. They went back yahrens, right back to when they were two raw recruits in the Academy. They'd served together on a number of ships in the Colonial Fleet before coming together to the Galactica. Yahrens. A lifetime.

It meant Tigh could speak to Adama as a friend, often say things Adama wouldn't hear from anyone else. And Adama wouldn't snap at Tigh, much as he would like to.

So he huffed instead, amusing the other man, although Tigh was careful to hide it.

"Other than his desire to ram his living arrangements down everyone's throats? If he concentrated more on his duties and less on his private life, he wouldn't be in this situation."

"That's what I find so puzzling." Tigh settled into his seat on the other side of Adama's desk. "Look, Adama, Apollo's one of the best I've ever served with. He's dedicated, smart… a damn good Strike captain. His performance the last few sectons just isn't like him at all. There has to be something behind it, and I find it really hard to believe that it's because he and Starbuck went public. We didn't notice anything before they did, and from what you told me they'd been together for some time. Nor can I believe that he's doing it to hack you off. I know you two fought, but it's just too childish for him to be acting up like this. It's just not like him. He'd have had to have some complete character change."

"He's not the son I thought I knew," said Adama sourly. "So maybe he has."

Tigh bit back the obvious retort. Childless himself, he had no illusions about the family relationships of others. He thought that it was very seldom that people saw beyond their safe, comfortable image of their sons, or fathers for that matter, and the revelation that they were wrong usually took some adjusting to. He was worried because the adjustment Adama and Apollo were going through - if they were adjusting at all, which seemed, on the face of it, to be unlikely - was threatening operational effectiveness. Given the fleet's precarious position, that was dangerous. They were still fleeing for their lives, after all.

"Adama, he wouldn't do anything that would risk his pilots' lives and the fleet they're protecting, and you know it. There has to be something behind it."

"Called Starbuck, I think," said Adama coldly.

Tigh sighed and gave up. Adama was just unapproachable on this. The Lords alone knew how this could ever be resolved.

"He's waiting outside." Tigh glanced at Adama and decided that he'd be staying. He might not be able to move Adama on this yet, but he could stay and see that Adama didn't get too overbearing. There wasn't much else he could do except chip away at Adama until the commander was more reasonable. "I'll get him."

Apollo came in when Tigh beckoned from the office door. He was limping slightly, and looked tired. Adama's mouth drew down into a thin, disapproving line as Apollo came to attention and saluted.

"Commander," said Apollo.

"Well, Captain, perhaps we'll start with you explaining your disgraceful conduct in the briefing meeting. The Lord knows where we'll finish. Begin."

 

 

I could hear Jenny giggling all the way across the deck. When I got through de-contamination and joined Boomer, she was still giggling, sharing the joke with the other ground staff, and I was still embarrassed.

Me! Embarrassed by a girl!

Well, maybe I was pleased as well. I was having hot sex - giving it , too - and I guess I was getting a bit complacent about that. Smug, even.

"Did you hear what she said to me?" I asked Boomer. "I can't believe - "

"Starbuck, what's wrong with Apollo?" Boomer cut straight through the felgercarb.

That stopped me short. "Why?"

"He's up in the commander's office getting another disciplinary interview, that's why."

Oh no. Not again.

"What happened this time?"

Boomer shrugged. "I don't know. It was like he blanked out in the briefing meeting. I thought he'd dozed off at first - that's what the commander thought too - but his eyes were open. He just wasn't looking at anything and he definitely wasn't listening to what was going on. Of course, the commander jumped him."

"Shit."

"You said it, buddy. Look, I know that the commander's got it in for him just now, but he's not doing himself any favours."

I nodded. "I know. It's been over two sectars since we went public. You'd think the commander would have got over his bad temper by now."

Boomer shrugged. "It really put some fire up his exhaust, Starbuck. Even Athena can't talk to him - and she's tried. She's tried hard."

"It would help if the commander would leave him alone to get on with it."

"Would it? Starbuck, I'll be really honest with you. I've never seen him like this. I've been covering for him for sectons now, covering up the lapses, the lack of concentration, the forgetfulness. It's not the first time he's blanked out like that, Starbuck. He's driving me nuts. I've enough work of my own to do."

"He's pretty stressed," I sounded defensive even to myself. "The commander hasn't let up on him at all."

"At the moment he deserves it," Boomer said grimly. "He's not doing his job."

 

 

"Bad?" asked Athena. She'd been waiting in the corridor outside the commander's private office, to offer what comfort she could. She put her hands on Apollo's arm.

"I suppose." Apollo sighed and shrugged helplessly.

"You should make Starbuck let you get some sleep at nights," she said in an attempt to lighten the atmosphere.

He looked at her and she was startled and horrified to see that the green eyes had a sheen of tears in them. "That's what he said. He also seems to think I've been drinking."

"Drinking?"

"He said I was incoherent," said Apollo, and shrugged again, battling to hide the distress.

Athena said nothing. There was nothing she could say.

"I've had over two sectars of it now, Thenie," he said. "I can just about cope with the way he is in private. Okay, I know he despises me and there's nothing I can do about it. But he's got so he can't separate it from work any more, and he looks for every opportunity to humiliate me in public."

"I don't think he despises you - "

"That's what the man said. I've got to assume he meant it." Apollo rubbed at his face with his hands. He looked so weary that Athena felt a jolt of fear. "It's getting ridiculous. He just looks for things to yell at me about. I just got bawled out for hurting my leg in Triad. It's not against Regs to play, but it seems it is against Regs to get injured. Like I did it on purpose? He's getting so unreasonable and he just won't leave me alone. It's pretty hard, Thenie."

"I know." Athena put a hand on his arm. "For what it's worth, Appy, I don't think he meant it to go on this long. I don't think he could have meant those things he said to you, and I think he's ashamed of having said them. But always in the past when you two had a row, you were the one to make the first move to end it. I'll bet he was expecting you to do that this time and he's still waiting."

"You've spent too much time around Starbuck," said Apollo.

"Betting, you mean? Maybe, but I think I'm right. If you were to try and talk to him. - "

"No." said Apollo it flatly, not allowing argument. "He started this, Thenie. He has to end it. I'm not going running to him begging for forgiveness when I don't think I've done anything wrong. You might be right about that's what I did in the past, because all the time I wanted him to be proud of me and approve of me. Not any more. I failed miserably at that - he said so. That's all there is to it."

Athena bit her lip. It had been a long shot, and her sympathies were with Apollo anyway. She thought that Adama was behaving unreasonably.

"I'll try to talk to him again," she promised.

"I don't think it will do any good. I'm getting to be as stupid as he thinks I am." Apollo sighed and tried to grin at her. "Still, there are compensations."

"Starbuck?" she asked, and smiled at his nod. "Despite it all, you're happy then?"

"Very. I love him a lot, Thenie."

She nodded. She had too, once, but she'd got over it. Then she smiled suddenly. "Does he still wake up horny?"

"Athena!" Apollo was profoundly shocked.

"He was mine before he was yours, big brother, remember? I used to set my alarm a centar early to take advantage of it."

"A-then-a!"

She laughed. "People say we're a lot alike, you and me. I bet you do, too."

Apollo grinned at her, and she laughed back, satisfied. It maybe wasn't quite the method her mother would have chosen to get her eldest child out of one of his melancholy moods, but it had proved just as effective. She hoped her mother would have been proud of her.

 

 

Things just got worse.

In the past Apollo was reasonably able to manage his stress. Oh, he could get a bit antsy at times, and everyone knew when to disappear in case they found themselves swabbing the flightdecks or looking for solium leaks, but mostly he coped. Now, though, he wasn't managing at all.

The headaches got worse, and those little lapses in concentration and memory were more common. I lost count of the times I ended up telling him something twice, or three times or four. It drove the pilots crazy, and quite a few of them didn't hesitate about cornering me in the OC and telling me how infuriating it was. Everyone knew that he and Adama had fought big-time, of course, and most of them were sympathetic. They could see the toll it was having on him. They commented to me on how slow and tired he was all the time, but only a few made obscene suggestions about how he got that way. Most of them were too worried about him for that.

And it's true what Boomer had said, that he wasn't doing too well with work. Like Boomer, the pilots covered for him. All in all, they were a pretty loyal bunch. It wasn't enough, though. I said that Adama had high standards. He did, and we all tried to reach them. But Apollo was failing, and failing visibly. Adama pulled no punches in telling him so.

It got so that he couldn't eat: every time he tried he threw up. He had more dizzy spells and the Triad injury didn't clear up. His limp was even worse, and when he was tired his foot dragged. He stumbled often, usually over nothing at all. We didn't even bother entering the Triad contest this yahren. He knew he wasn't up to it.

He was stressed out of his mind, but nothing I could do could persuade him to see Salik. He thought he'd have to learn to handle it. He didn't see that Adama was going to change his mind about us, and we'd have to live with it.

My fault. I should have made him go to Salik.

 

 

"Where the hell have you been?" Boomer demanded as the captain arrived at the duty office. "You missed the briefing meeting and the commander's howling for your blood."

"Missed it? How could I have missed…" Apollo looked blankly at the clock on the wall.

Ten o'clock.

Ten?

"And why the hell weren't you answering your communicator or the door chime? I was almost late myself trying to find you!"

"But I don't understand." Apollo stared at the clock as if he could will it back a centar and a half. "I got up as usual, got Boxey off to school, left to come here... It can't be ten!"

"It is. Where's Starbuck?"

"He's on early patrol with Greenbean. He's due back soon." Apollo fell into his chair, his hands trembling a little. "I must have fallen asleep."

"And you didn't hear me ringing the doorbell?"

Apollo shook his head.

"You're in deep, deep shit, old buddy," Boomer said, not unsympathetic.

"And what's new about that?" Apollo propped elbows onto the desk and buried his head in his hands. "What the hell am I going to do about this?"

"He said he wanted to see you, as soon as you turned up." Boomer hesitated, then said: "He's put me in command, Apollo."

Apollo went very still, then sighed. "Am I suspended?"

"I guess." And this time Boomer's sympathy was obvious. "But he just said that he wanted to see you."

"Then I'd better go and get it over with." Apollo stood up, leaning heavily on the edge of the desk.

Boomer watched him limp to the door, and shook his head. "You ought to see Salik. That leg of yours is getting worse. It's sectons since you did it."

"You sound like Starbuck." Apollo paused and added, trying to keep his voice steady: "Good luck with it, Boom-boom."

"I'm sorry, Apollo."

Apollo grinned at him tiredly. "Don't be. You can't do a worse job of it than I am."

 

 

Even muted through the walls, I could hear the sound of Adama's voice, although not the words. This one was a real bawling out. I couldn't hear Apollo. I guess he was just standing there, taking it.

Boomer had met me from patrol again, told me what had happened. This was getting beyond a joke. I was going to get Apollo to see Salik if I had to drag him there. Adama had near enough driven Apollo into a breakdown: he had to let me take him to see Salik, or God alone knew where this would end.

When Apollo came out he looked stunned and helpless. He didn't seem surprised to see me there at all.

"Well?" I asked.

He looked at me, and I realised then how frightened he was. "I don't know," he said.

"You don't know what?" I came and put my arm around him. He was shaking.

"I don't remember," he said miserably. "I don't remember why he was yelling at me."

"You don't remember?" No-one forgot a bawling out from the commander. The more fanciful said it was seared into the soul.

"No," said Apollo helplessly. "I know he was mad at me, but I don't remember why."

"You missed the Command meeting this morning," I reminded him, seriously frightened now.

"The Command meeting?" He thought about it. "Oh yes."

"What did he say?"

"Suspended for a secton without pay," said Apollo. He'd remembered that bit all right. Well, it had never happened to him before. He was the best Strike captain the Galactica had ever had, bar none. He'd never been in trouble until his father started showing his vindictive streak.

"Then that's enough." It scared the hell out of me. Apollo was getting really ill. "We're going to see Salik. Right now."

What really worried me is that he didn't protest. That really, really worried me.

 

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