There are many reasons for wearing dress uniform, and almost as many universes to wear it in. Apollo in dress blues.

 

 

Ritual


The Anointed Sequence

"Well, what do you think?" 

"About Daddy’s little boy?"  Starbuck turned his head slightly to glower at their new captain. 

Boomer's gaze followed Starbuck's.  At least Captain Apollo, who was talking to Colonel Tigh a few metres away, seemed to be missing the hostile looks Starbuck was giving him. 

"Who else?"

Starbuck snorted in a highly significant way.  "Oh how I wish I had a daddy to look after me," he said.  "Then maybe I could be a captain and get that many medals."

Boomer grinned at him, thoughtful.  Never was a truer word said in jest.  Some days, Starbuck wore his war orphan status like a banner. 

"And I hate wearing dress uniform," Starbuck added crossly, forcing a finger inside his collar and pulling at it ruthlessly.  "Especially for him."

"But you look so lovely in it," said Boomer, and swooned at him, batting his eyelashes.

"Shut up, you fool."  Starbuck grinned, but like it was forced out of him and he laughed when all he really wanted to do was throw a temper tantrum.  "You tell me why we should get all dressed up like this to welcome him to the Galactica!"

Boomer sipped at his ambrosa.  "Well, there’s mindless tradition.  The military’s full of mindless tradition.  And we traditionally get pleasantly mindless on ambrosa giving new officers a formal welcome.  You got one yourself."

"But I deserved it.  And I was welcome.  He sure as hell isn’t."

"He’s not deaf, either," Boomer warned.  Out of the corner of his eye he could see their new Captain looking towards them.  He couldn't read the expression in those eyes.  It was an odd combination, green eyes and hair almost as dark as Boomer's own. 

"So what?  He can’t imagine he’s everyone’s favourite little boy, can he?  And he can hardly put me on report for telling the truth."

"He could put you on report for being improperly dressed."  Boomer nodded at the lopsided row of medals on Starbuck’s left breast.

"I couldn’t get the bloody things straight."

"That description of the battle honours given to you by a grateful and adoring people will probably get you cashiered." 

Starbuck shrugged.

Boomer hesitated for a centon or two, wondering if it was worth while speaking up.  Starbuck was hard work sometimes, all emotion and damn little sense.  "Listen, why not give it a rest?  He hasn’t actually done anything to you."

"Crawler."

"Can it, Bucko.  I’m no more boot-licking than you are, but you haven’t given him a chance.  You can hardly blame the man for who his father is."

"I can try."

"Very fair minded of you." 

Starbuck only shrugged again, but he touched Boomer's arm in apology for the accusation of crawling to the ruling classes. 

"All he’s done so far is reorganise the squadrons slightly.  Hardly a capital offence."

"There was nothing wrong with the way Sim had us organised," Starbuck snapped back.

"Things are already running smoother," said Boomer.  "He knows his stuff."

Starbuck sneered.  "You really are crawling!"

"And you, old friend, are begging for a fist to be applied to the end of your nose.  Time to grow up, Bucko.  I know you’re sore over Simonitz—I liked him, too—but so far the new one’s not done anything that makes me think that we’ve been short-changed."

"Except that we’ve been stuck with the Commander’s son!"

"And the person making the most outa that is you, Starbuck.  He's not played on it."

Starbuck glowered for a moment, then said, grudgingly: "He can fly anyway."

Boomer agreed.  Apollo had spent his first few days going out on patrols with the squadron, watching and assessing them, rating them—another reason for Starbuck’s resentment.  Starbuck reckoned that he was the best pilot in the entire Fleet, bar none, and he complained loud and long about snotty-nosed commander’s sons daring to grade his performance.

"I’d like to see how he shapes up in a real battle, though," added Boomer.

"That’s the trick, now, isn’t it?" said Starbuck, then, sounding alarmed: "Hell!  He’s on the way over.  See you later."

"Starbuck!"

But Starbuck was gone, pushing into the crowd of pilots and disappearing as fast as he could do it, but Boomer had no chance to run for it.  Apollo was already beside him, watching Starbuck disappear. 

"Is he allergic to me, or something?" he asked, tone mild as if he were just asking for the sake of getting the information.

"Er … he needed to … er … you know… go."  Boomer waved a hand vaguely groin-wards.

Apollo raised his eyebrows and suddenly looked all too much like his father.  "Odd, that, Lieutenant Boomer.  I know I’m still trying to find my way around this ship, so I might be wrong, but I'm pretty sure that the ‘flushes are in the other direction."

He waited.  Boomer wished to the Lords of Kobol that the alert would sound.  But the bloody thing was always quiet when a man needed it most.  He stared at Apollo's amused expression and Boomer made some mental resolutions to cream Starbuck all over a bulkhead then tear him into little pieces and stamp on them.  And when he'd done that, thought Boomer savagely, Starbuck and he were going to have words. 

Apollo said, mildly enough, "You didn’t answer my question."

Boomer tossed back his drink.  What did the man expect him to say?  That they were overwhelmed with delight that The Management had foisted the Commander’s son on them?  That they didn't know how easy things were made for someone like Apollo and how hard the rest of them had to work to get recognised and promoted?  Hell, Apollo had only been in the yahren ahead of Boomer and Starbuck at the Academy, and look at him, a captain already.  Did he really think he got there all by himself?

"It’s just about adjusting to changes, that's all," he said.

Apollo nodded, glancing towards the Commander.  "For me too, Lieutenant.  So is it me he’s allergic to or the family connexions?  Because if it’s family he wants, he can have some of mine.  I’ve a younger brother that I’d pay to have taken off my hands."

Boomer grinned reluctantly, recognising the desperation that reminded him of himself and Mikey, when Mikey had done something when they were kids that made Boomer go and beg his parents to make him an only child.  Happened about three times a secton, as Boomer recalled. 

"Bad?"  he asked.

"Zac is Something Appalling.  It was bad enough when his main problem was being more destructive than a Cylon taskforce, but for the last four yahrens he’s been overdosing on testosterone.  Not a pretty sight, I can tell you."

Boomer's grin broadened.  It sounded like Mikey and Zac could be clones.

"I’ve a sister, too…"  Apollo paused, then shook his head.  "Naw.  On second thoughts, offering your sister to someone with Starbuck’s reputation is probably not a good idea.  I’ve a spare great aunt, somewhere.  He can have her instead.  She shaves more often than I do and she’s well past childbearing age."

Boomer laughed aloud, surprised at the humour.  "That was fast work.  Hearing about Starbuck, I mean."

Apollo signalled to a passing steward and snagged two full glasses of ambrosa.  He handed one to Boomer.  "I got a very thorough briefing from Colonel Tigh," he said.  "I always like to be prepared.  It saves disappointment later."

"Does it work?" Boomer asked, seeing that Starbuck had returned but was staying out of the way, over the other side of the Officers Club with Jolly and Greenbean.

Apollo smiled and looked to where Starbuck was pointedly ignoring both of them.  "Not always," he said.

 

 

 

Matrimonial


Mask Sequence

Of all the ceremonies and events Troy had attended over the yahrens, this was the one that he'd never expected to see Starbuck struggle into his dress uniform for. 

And struggle was the right word.  Even pushing forty, Starbuck was a graceful, confident man, secure in his own attractiveness; all lazy nonchalance and devil-may-care insouciance.  But today… today Starbuck was stumbling around dazed and wide-eyed and clumsy, looking like a leporid caught in a Viper's searchlights.  It was a wonder he'd got his pants on the right way around.

Starbuck hands were trembling so much that Troy, shaking his head sadly, had been forced to stand his second father in a corner and rebutton the dress-jacket, straighten the (very impressive) row of medals on Starbuck's left breast, and resettle an epaulette that threatened to drift down Starbuck's right shoulder blade.  And all the time Starbuck stood there and shook and trembled as if he had a palsy.

"I remember the first time I saw you in this," Troy said.  "I'm impressed that it still fits after all these yahrens."

Frightened blue eyes sought his and Starbuck made a gagging sound that Troy chose to take as a request for elucidation.

"Just after the Destruction, when we went to that resort on Carillon, remember?  They were going to give you and Dad and Uncle Boomer some medals and then the Cylons caught up with us, and it all got a bit exciting."  Troy's ruthless fingers wrenched the collar into place despite Starbuck's strangled choking.  "You were dressed up in these and I remember thinking how wonderful you all looked.  I wanted to be a warrior so bad that day."

Starbuck's voice sounded scratchy.  "And you wanted Apollo for a Dad, I remember that.  You followed him everywhere like a puppy."

Troy grinned at Starbuck cheekily.  "Well, I knew if I was going to get a new dad it wasn't going to be you.  Mom said she didn't trust you as far as she could throw you and Dad would be the better bet."

"He was the best bet.  Besides, he couldn't run as fast as me."

Troy laughed and nodded.  "He didn't stand a chance.  The way you don't stand one now."  He stepped back and eyed his handiwork.  "You'll do."

Starbuck nodded and stared at him until even Troy began to feel uneasy.  "Boxey—"

"Hey!"

"Right.  Troy." Starbuck swallowed visibly.  "Look, you don't mind about this do you?  You're all right with it?"

"Mind?  Starbuck, you and Dad have been together since I was—what?  Seven?  It's about time you did this.  I mean, I can understand that there were a lot of problems when he first came back—" Troy allowed his voice to trail away.  "Funny, I can remember it better right at the beginning, when it all first happened and Mom was still alive and she wanted to marry Dad and then her getting killed.  But after she was dead, and when Dad disappeared like that… well, that gets a bit hazy."

"You were only seven, and it wasn't really that long after your mother died." Starbuck took a hitching breath.  "It broke your heart."

"And yours."  Troy gave him a smile he knew was sad.  "I didn't realise why then, of course, being only seven.  What was it like when he came back?"

"Dreadful," said Starbuck unhesitating.  "Terrible.  Frightening.  Wonderful."

"All he had was you, I know, until people got used to him being Masked and accepted that it really was him.  Did you ever doubt it?"

"No," said Starbuck, and grinned.  He looked calmer.  "He's changed, of course he has, but he's still Apollo."

"Yeah.  Still my dad."  Troy glanced at the chronometer on his wrist.  "We'd better get going soon.  Uncle Boomer said the blushing bride—that's you—had to be on time or he'd skin me alive."

"Did he?" said Starbuck.  He straightened and pulled at the hem of his jacket and took a deep breath.  "Would you rather have been your Dad's groomsman, rather than mine?  I think it surprised him when I asked you."

"I don't think he minds," said Troy.  "I think he knows why."  He hesitated, because Starbuck was calmer now and he didn't want to disturb that too much.  "I know Grandpa loves him and Athena and Boomer, I know they do, but when he went… you know."

"With them."

"Yes, with them.  When he vanished to finish off becoming a Lord of Kobol, or whatever, it was you and me then, wasn't it?  I mean, I know they love him, but it wasn't the same, not the same as for you and me."

Starbuck nodded.

"When he made them bring him back, he came back for us."

"So he did," said Starbuck, sounding much struck. 

"So," said Troy, "it has a certain symmetry that appeals to me."

"And you're sure you're okay with it?"

"It's about time that you two made honest men out of each other."  Troy chuckled and added, "I love the way that these days the Church is very keen to do what he wants.  Half the priesthood must have volunteered to bless you two, in the hope that some of the Lordness thing rubs off."

"You are a very cynical young man.  You didn't get that from Apollo."

"No, that's the outcome of your nurturing.  I don’t think you can legitimately complain, you know."

Starbuck shook his head.  "No complaints.  You've turned out all right."  The bright blue eyes had a distant expression.  "I think I'm nervous," said Starbuck, in a very surprised tone of voice.

"It won't be so bad."

"Well, no, I guess not.  At least, not now I've put my foot down about the vows.  I'd rather marry the Cylon Imperious Leader than recite bad love poetry on my wedding day."  Starbuck sighed.  "I never thought I’d ever find myself saying those three words, either.  Frack, but that's scary."

"Too late to back out now," said Troy, once more looking at the chronometer and wondering if he'd ever be able to get Starbuck out of there and to the church on time.

"Is it?" asked Starbuck.  "I guess it is."

Troy grinned at him.  "How does it feel to be getting married to my Dad, Starbuck?"

"Dreadful," said Starbuck.  "Terrible.  Frightening."  He started to smile.  "Wonderful."

 

 

 

Ceremonial


Phoebus Redux

"You don't look as though you get to wear that often," said Adama, reaching out to twitch the heavily braided jacket into place, sneaking in the chance to rest his hand on Fee's shoulder once the jacket had been adjusted to his satisfaction.

Fee let him, ducking his head to try and hide the slight, shy smile.  "How do you know that?"

"You don't look that comfortable in it."

"Frontier Guard isn't big on ceremony," said Fee.  "The only time I wore dress before was last yahren, when the Captain put these on me."  His hand brushed the tiny lieutenant's pins in the jacket collar. 

"I'd have liked to see that," murmured Adama, with real regret.  He'd only had a second-hand account of the short ceremony on the Whistlejacket at which Mavinne had pinned the two little devices into his son's collar.  He glanced across the room to where Captain Mavinne stood.  "I have to say she doesn't look any more comfortable than you."

"Like I said, we don't do ceremonies much.  She doesn't like them either."

"You've had medals before," said Adama.

"Sure, and what happens is that the Captain says something at morning briefing and that's it."

"What does she say?"

"Usually something like 'well done and the medals are in the post', and that's if she's feeling chatty."  Fee shrugged. "I'm told that once she handed out some of the pretties and all she said was 'here you go'."

After a micron of waiting for a punch-line that didn't materialise, Adama nodded. "I'm delighted to know that the Guards have sense of occasion, then."

"A sense of perspective, I think," corrected his son, sounding thoughtful.

"That, too," said Adama. 

Fee's glance went to the raised dais where, in a few centons, the President of the Council of the Twelve was going to pin a Starcluster to his chest.  "Do you want a bit of Guard perspective?  My orders for today said that we're to be feted by the Powers That Be over our heroism on Draco-Epsilon-3, a ceremony to recognise our courage and mark the Council's appreciation.  You didn’t hear what Samn said about when we got here."  Fee grinned at him.  "You'd gone off to hobnob with the Powers and missed the reunion."

"I watched it from a distance," said Adama, who'd given his son some time with the Guard company that Fee called home.

"Very wise.  Samn's translation is that we're going to get a sparkly bit of tin for being too effing stubborn to get effing killed the way everyone effing expected us to be, but at least we'll get a effing free drink out of it.  He thought that the effing buffet looked promising too."

Adama laughed.  "It is a bit of a circus," he agreed.

Fee wrenched at the jacket, undoing all of Adama's good work in getting it straight.  "I feel like a maypole, all ribbons and braid.  At least," he added, a hand going out to tug at Adama's uniform, "we don't have to wear daft little capes."

"But you have far more braid."

"Yes," said Fee, and sighed, poking at the knot of silver braid at his left shoulder and looking dispirited.  "I think I'd rather have got the medals in the post."

Adama smiled.  "How will you get through today then?  With gritted teeth?"

"I'll probably have ground them down to the bone by the time this is over," agreed Fee, cheerfully.  "I'd almost rather be back on Bloody Drack."  The shy grin broadened into a smile.  "They've let the civilians in."

Adama turned and watched as his family, with all the unconscious entitlement of class and wealth and upbringing, went unhesitatingly to the seats in the front row.  They caught sight of where Adama and Fee stood and waved, confident and thoroughly at home.

Fee commented on it, obliquely and sotto voce: " Alex is more about finding a space than claiming it, you know," he said as his lover was borne along in his mother's wake.  Alex, Adama noticed, looked rather overwhelmed, but Ila had been overwhelming Adama for almost thirty yahrens now and he still hadn't had enough.

After a centon, Adama answered the slight note in Fee's tone that seemed to signal a need for reassurance.  "He's looking much better, I think.  Jerry says he's recovering well."

"I know.  He still does too much, though."  Fee looked rueful.  "I can hardly complain about how dedicated he is to Fenice, because we both know I'd have OD'd yahrens ago if he hadn't sorted me out, but I wish he'd let Marcus take over most of it."

"That's not how Alex works and you know it."

Fee's little choke of laughter was almost inaudible.  "Yeah.  I just… he's older than you, you know."

"By several yahrens," said Adama, dryly, and smiled reassurance when Fee glanced at him sidelong.

An interruption came from people Adama had never seen before; a civilian couple about his own age.  They looked at Fee hopefully.  "Lieutenant Phoebus?" the man asked.

Fee took a micron to react.  "Yes, sir?"

"We were hoping to see you here," the man said.  "You knew our son.  You were there on Draco when he died."

Adama shot his son a sharp, sidelong glance.  Despite his best efforts, Fee had lost a quarter of the company on Draco-Epsilon-3.  He had been on Draco when a lot of people had died and Adama was sure that weighed on him.

Fee's expression was sombre.  "I'm sorry for your loss," he said, and his sincerity redeemed the trite phrase.  "If I can do anything…?"

"We just wanted to be sure… I mean, the notification we got from Captain Mavinne didn’t say very much about how Hansen died, but we know that you'd know.  You were his sergeant then, weren't you?"

The stiffening of Fee's shoulders was perfectly visible to Adama.  Adama half expected Fee to hang his head and wrap his arms around himself defensively, but all that happened was that Fee's right hand brushed at the front of his jacket.  Adama remembered the torrent of words in which Fee had told him about the last centars on Draco, out-numbered and under fire, and he thought he knew what it was that Fee was brushing away.

"I was, sir, yes," said Fee, with only a slight tremor of the voice to betray his feelings, whatever they were. 

Adama stood silently.  Fee didn't wait to give the man time to frame his painful question, and Adama heard his son's shy, quiet voice telling these poor people the story of their son's death, telling them what they wanted to know without making them ask.  He told of being under constant fire from a people who didn't have the Colonial level of technology—"They still use shells and explosives, stuff like that."—and of watching Mavinne's shuttle take off as a Drack gun started up.  Lieutenant Hansen had been caught in the first blast. 

"He died instantly," said Fee, going to the heart of what these people wanted to hear.  He said, very quietly, "It was a piece of shrapnel.  It hit him in the temple… here.  It was over in an instant.  He couldn't possibly have known.  I'm really sorry that I couldn't bring him home for you, really sorry."

Adama forced down the urge to speak, to do something that would get the little tremor out of Fee's voice, that would stop the torture as Fee stoically endured the couple's thanks and gratitude.  He slipped a hand under Fee's elbow, as unobtrusively as he could, to signal closeness and support; and he shook hands with the man and the tearful, but restrained, wife, and watched them walk away with a very sincere relief that they'd stopped tormenting his son.

Fee's face was downcast.  "Shit," he said, still very quiet.

"I'm so proud of you," said Adama in a fierce whisper.  "So very proud.  You did very well, both then and now."

"It blew his fucking head off.  I had his stupid fucking brains all over me."  Fee's hands brushed at his jacket again.  "Stupid fucking idiot…"

"You did well," said Adama firmly.

"I wasn't looking forward to today," said Fee, his eyes still on his boots.  "But I wasn't expecting that."

"I know you didn't get on with him—"

"I despised him," said Fee, crossly.  "He wasn't right for the Guard.  I despised him and I replaced him, and if he'd been a couple of feet to the left he wouldn't have taken the shrapnel meant for me, and it would've been my stupid head that got torn off—"

"Calm down, Apollo!  Calm down."

Fee sucked in an angry, audible breath and Adama, moving casually but quickly, blocked him from the view of most people in the Hall.  "You didn't miss much," said Fee after a couple of centons in which he got the shaking under control.

"What?  Miss what?"

"You said you wanted to be at the ceremony where she gave me Hansen's job after I let him get killed.  It wasn't much of a ceremony.  Not like this.  You didn't miss much by not being there."

Adama said, carefully, "Oh, I don't know.  I think for me it would mean even more.  Oh don't get me wrong—I'm so very, very proud of you and to see you up on that dais with Samn… well, I'm looking forward to that, son.  But I would have liked to be there last yahren.  I think that that's when Fee got the place to where Apollo would have been if Apollo had never become Fee to begin with, and that I'd have liked to see."

"I'll never be in that place," said Fee, sounding tired.

"You're already there."  Adama put his hands on Fee's—Apollo's—shoulders.  "I think I've almost got Apollo back, don't you?"

His son's green eyes met his.  Looking troubled, Apollo looked beyond him to where Alex sat with Ila and the children.  "Fee can't disappear that easily," he said.

Adama nodded.  Fee had seen and done too much, had had too many bad things done to him, to ever disappear.  Apollo would always be Fee.  He smiled, seeing the colonel in charge of proceedings start their way to get the show on the road.  He didn’t have much time to say what needed to be said, so he had to get this right.  He let his hands lie heavy, and squeezed hard.

"That's all right," he said.  "I love you both."

 

 

 

Sepulchral


Mapping the Genome

"You don’t have to come, if you don't want to." 

Apollo kept his tone gentle and tried to keep the tiredness out of it.  He'd had no sleep the previous night, what with keeping vigil in his quarters and with so many people sitting with him.  When Boxey had woken up crying, Apollo had quite welcomed the long centar he'd spent in Boxey's room with the child on his lap, soothing him back into sleep again; apart from making him feel less useless and helpless (that Boxey would accept no-one else and had even petulantly slapped away Cassie's comforting hand had done more for Apollo than he could safely articulate), it had got him away from the sad, shocked faces of his family and friends. 

"You could stay here with Dietra or Cassie if you like and I'll come and get you when it's over," he said.

Boxey's face was downcast.  He'd had one hand clamped onto Apollo's arm for balance while he'd pulled on his shoes, and now he brought up his other hand.  Apollo looked down at the child's thin fingers, white against his dark sleeve, and for a centon misgiving warred with guilt and grief.  He bent down when Boxey tugged at him.

"Will I have to look at her?" asked Boxey.  His fingers tightened on Apollo's arm and he slid one hand down so that he could twist the sleeve buttons.

"No," said Apollo gently.  "You won't have to do that.  There'll just be a… a sort of long box.  Nothing else."

"Will she be inside the box?"

"The box holds what's left behind when someone goes away," said Apollo, struggling to find the right words and thinking again how unfit he was to parent this, or any other, child.  "What she had to leave behind.  It's not really her any more.  But there'll be nothing to see.  It's just a box."

"All right."  Boxey nodded solemnly.  He looked up briefly, his eyes reddened and over-bright, before resting the crown of his head against Apollo's chest, just below the row of medals over Apollo's heart.  "I want to come with you," he said, muffled against Apollo's jacket.  "Can I stay with you?"

"Sure," said Apollo, something leaden in his chest contracting with pity.  He put his arms around Boxey and straightened, pulling Boxey up with him, the child's legs curving around his waist.  At six, Boxey was maybe a little too old to be carried like a toddler, but Apollo thought that they both needed it.  Boxey got an arm around the back of Apollo's neck, tangling his fingers in Apollo's hair.

Starbuck and Boomer were waiting for him outside his quarters.

"Hey," said Starbuck, softly.  He got a hand onto Apollo's free shoulder and squeezed.  Apollo felt the warmth and the constriction all the way to that leaden something inside him that he didn’t want to name.  Boomer nodded at him, face grave, and clasped hands for an instant.

Starbuck ruffled Boxey's hair and said, in a livelier tone, "Hey, Tiger!"

Boxey turned his face into Apollo's neck and clung harder.  He didn’t answer, and Apollo watched Starbuck's face twist in empathy.  Starbuck patted Boxey's shoulder and fell into step beside them.  Boomer slid into place on Apollo's other side.

"Athena will be at the Chapel waiting for us," said Apollo to Boxey.  "I'll take you to sit with her while Starbuck and Boomer help me bring your mother in, all right?  As soon as we've done that, I'll come and sit with you."  He felt Boxey's nod, the soft hair brushing against his neck and ear, but the child was silent now, overwhelmed.  "It'll be all right," he said, helplessly.

Athena and his father were waiting for him, Colonel Tigh and Captain Omega standing off to one side, giving them space.  Adama was wearing his most remote and solemn expression, his eyes shadowed.  Apollo wondered if his father were thinking, as he was, that only three days before they'd been standing in this self-same Chapel in these self-same dress uniforms, while Adama bound Apollo's and Serina's hands together in the Sealing ritual.  Three days wasn't much of a marriage, he thought, the guilt at his failure to keep her alive biting at him.

He should never have married her, he knew that.  He'd known it when Starbuck went missing.  He'd known it even as his father had bound their hands with the silver chains that only death could break.

As they had been broken.

The altar was covered in a plain black pall.  To one side of it two Aegyptan techs checked the mechanical bier that would drop Serina's coffin into space.  The Chapel was already filling with people, the quiet murmur of voices falling into silence as Apollo and Athena walked up to the front pew.  Boxey clung fiercely for a micron or two before allowing Athena to take him on her knees, and Apollo caught a glimpse of a woebegone face as Boxey pressed it into Athena's shoulder.  Athena looked at him helplessly, her mouth trembling, her hands rubbing comforting circles on Boxey's narrow back.

"Athena, when it's brought in—"

She nodded and one hand slid to the cup the back of Boxey's head, keeping his face hidden against her shoulder.  Apollo bent to kiss her cheek, so very grateful for how readily his family had accepted his step-son as one of them, and walked back outside, not looking to the right or left.

The techs followed him.  Once outside, one touched his arm briefly, the lion-head helmet turning towards him.  "We are sorry for your loss, Captain," said Kha-nes-akhat. "There is little we can do but assure you that everything will go smoothly.  I wish there were more."

Apollo nodded.  "Thank you," he said, politely. 

Kha-nes-akhat bowed slightly and he and the other Aegyptan melted away.  Colonel Tigh gave Apollo the odd look that usually accompanied interactions with the Aegyptans, the Colonel often expressing his chagrin at the way they went out of their way to deal with Apollo rather than anyone else on the command staff.  Even so, it wasn't usual, Apollo realised, for the Aegyptans to bother themselves with the Chapel systems.  He was touched that they'd thought to do this for him; it was very considerate of them.  He hadn't realised that they had noticed Serina or that he'd married her and lost her.

He  forgot about both the Aegyptans and Tigh almost immediately.  Serina had arrived. 

"You don't have to do this," Adama said, quietly.  "If it's too much, son, there's no shortage of people who'll do this for you."

"It's all right."  Apollo dragged his gaze from the long thin coffin.  "It's all right."

His father partnered him, Boomer and Starbuck behind them with Tigh and Omega bringing up the rear; the Chaplain giving quiet instructions as they lifted Serina onto their shoulders.  She had been small and slight, but she weighed like lead.  She weighed on Apollo like the sum of all his failures and mistakes—Mama, poor dead Zac, the Colonies and Serina's own self, all his doubts and misdeeds, their foolish, fatal marriage—all bound up in one long box.  The burden was crushing.

When he'd put her on the bier beside the altar and sat down beside Athena, his knees shaking, Boxey crawled into his lap and stayed there, his arms around Apollo's neck and his face buried against Apollo's chest.  The small body trembled but he didn’t make a sound. 

And all around them people sang and prayed, dropped to their knees and rose again, murmured responses to the Chaplain's melodious voice, knelt again and rose and prayed some more.

Only Apollo and Boxey and Serina were fixed in their places, silent and still.

 

 

Sacrificial

Then the Tin Soldier melted down into a lump, and when the servant-maid took the ashes out next day, she found him in the shape of a little tin heart.

Hans Christian Anderson

 

(May 2008)