"What’s this?"

"Well," said Starbuck.  "I couldn’t manage to scrounge enough flour to get you a proper birthday cake made, so this is the  best I could do.  Birthday fruit tarts."


Starbuck gave Apollo an odd look.  Sometimes the captain  could carry ingenuousness a touch too far.

"You know.  The stuff they make from ground up corn, or wheat, or whatever."

"Wheat?  Where the hell did they get wheat from?" Apollo looked curiously at the pastry.

"The Agri-ship?"  Starbuck said, thinking to himself that sometimes Apollo was definitely lacking in basic common sense.  Imagination was a concept the captain didn't allow to get a look in.

"I’m not that dense, Starbuck," said Apollo, leaning back in his seat and giving his Lieutenant a cold look.  "I meant, that I wasn’t aware that they’d managed to preserve any seed corn after the Great Destruction.  Last time I looked at the manifests, the techs on the agri-ship were manufacturing flour from a list of chemicals a couple of kilometres long, none of which bestowed anything in the way of taste or texture to the end product.  You’re sure that this is real?"

"A-pol-lo!  This is your birthday!  Would I get inferior confectionery for your birthday?"

"If you thought you’d get away with it."

Starbuck allowed his face to show his pain and chagrin, his bottom lip trembling, oh!, so slightly.  He knew it would only take microns for that to have its proper effect.

Ten microns.  That was all it took.

"I’m sorry, I’m sorry,"  Apollo said with a sigh.  "I’m an unfeeling brute and I don’t deserve you.  What’s the explanation?"

"Well, I guess it’s not real wheat, but it’s close enough and does a lot of the same things," Starbuck said, perking up again immediately he’d won his moral victory.  "They told me that they’d picked the stuff up from trading with the Khes.  Isn’t that on your manifest?"

"I hadn’t realised that they’d managed to grow enough of it to be useful.  Who baked it?"

"Jolly knows all the cooks.  I thought you’d have known that.  He owed me a few cubits, and arranged this to pay off his debt."

Apollo stared.  "You gave up money in return for this?"

Starbuck allowed the bottom lip to tremble again at the monstrously unjust imputation, and Apollo sighed again.

"Sorry.  Of course you did.  The most generous man alive.  I’m an unfeeling brute and I don’t deserve you."

"You said that already."

"I spend a lot of our conversations saying that."  Apollo grinned at him.  "I’m easy for you to manipulate and we both know it.  Okay.  It looks wonderful.  What’s in it?"

Starbuck looked proudly at the tarts that the mess steward had just served with an exaggerated flourish, as befitted the epitome of the confectioner’s art that they were.  Real pastry, real glazed yellow fruit sitting on real crème anglais.  A dream.

"A peach.  I could only get one peach between us, but it was a real peach, Apollo."

"You stole it," Apollo said flatly.

"Hey!  That’s a cruel word.  I just happened to be on the agri-ship collecting the flour – from another man who should know better than to keep on raising the odds when all he has is a piss-poor hand – and it fell off the tree as I passed.  It would have just got wasted."  Starbuck handed him a fork.  "Ignore your morals, Apollo.  Eat."

Apollo sighed.  "At least we can eat the evidence."  He took a bite of the tart.  "Oh, that’s good, Starbuck.  Really good."

"I know," Starbuck said, proudly.  "Jolly’s friendly chef managed to make three of them.  I ate the other one on the way here."

Apollo grinned.  He finished his tart and took a sip of wine, waiting for Starbuck to get through his second piece of confectionery that evening.  He pulled a face.

"What’s wrong?  Too sour?"  Starbuck was instantly anxious, wanting only the very best for Apollo’s birthday supper.

"Just the contrast with the wine," Apollo assured him.

"Yeah?"  Starbuck savoured the last mouthful.  "Yeah, maybe they are much too sweet.  What do you think?"

He was angling for praise and knew that Apollo knew it.

"Perfect," Apollo said.  "I like sweet."

Starbuck hitched his chair a bit closer, striving not to be overheard in the officer’s mess.  "Me, I like salty, Apollo." 

The look that he gave Apollo was sultry, wanton, abandoned.  A look that was shameless and lustful.  A look that promised that a great deal more was in store for the captain on his birthday than a sweet peach tart.

Apollo licked his lips.  "Me, too.  Oh believe me, me too.  Problem with having a kid, though, Starbuck, is the logistics."

"Logistics?"  Starbuck frowned.  "Oh, officer-speak for when and where?  Where’d you learn to talk like that?"

"It’s in the genes," Apollo opined.  "Dad was probably talking logistics to my mother all through her labour pains."

"Probably through conception," Starbuck muttered disrespectfully.  "That’s a man who never forgets he’s on duty."

"Well, not everything got passed down.  I’m not cloned from my old man.  Me, I know I’m off shift."  Apollo looked at him and slowly, slowly licked his lips again.

"What are you doing?"  Starbuck said, anguished, shifting uncomfortably in his seat as that lascivious little gesture lit the fires.

"Licking off the last, lingering, peachy sweetness, Starbuck.  What did you think I was doing?"

"I’d kinda hoped you were thinking logistics."

"Oh, that."  Apollo took the last mouthful of wine.  "That’s all sorted.  I didn’t get to be a captain just because I’m handsome and charming.  I got all the military training.  I’ve read the officer’s handbook."

"Even if we did have to get you the comic book version."

"Yeah.  I really liked the pictures I could colour in for myself.  Still, it paid off.  I can do logistics, if I take it slow.  I’ve left Boxey with the old man who never forgets he’s on duty.  All night."

Starbuck smiled.  "So…where?"

"My quarters."


"Right now."

"And?"  Starbuck asked, breathless.

"And you can lick off the last, lingering, peachy sweetness."  Apollo gave him an arch look. 

"You just did that."  Starbuck was a disappointed man.

It was then that military training showed itself.  As Starbuck said later, as he was licking the salty sweat from Apollo’s naked back and shoulders, it demonstrated that Apollo was wasted as a mere captain, that he was meant for greatness, for command. 

Apollo gave him a look as sweet as the confection he’d just eaten and glanced significantly down into his lap.

"Only from my lips, Starbuck.  Only from my lips…"