"You look tired," said Starbuck, handing his frazzled-looking Colonel a stiff drink and waving him into a seat.

Apollo glanced quickly around the OC to make sure he was unobserved and downed his drink in one.  Since Colonel Tigh’s untimely death from cancer two yahrens before, and his own promotion to fill Tigh’s space, he’d learned just how restrictive it was to be on the command staff.  His father had made it clear that Apollo had to set the most perfect example of military behaviour and decorum.  Apollo almost snorted aloud in derision at the thought.  His father didn’t have a fifteen yahren old son to drive him to despair.  His father could be as decorous as he liked.  Apollo, on the other hand, needed another drink.

"Get me another one of those and I’ll share my sorrows with you," he said.

Starbuck grinned and beckoned across the steward.  When their drinks arrived, he watched Apollo surround it with the same speed and desperation as he’d dealt with the first and said, knowledgeably: "Troy."

"You expect applause?  Lords, I’d rather deal with a couple of baseships than get within a parsec of that boy.  Is there any way of divorcing him?"

"I think you’re stuck with him." Starbuck kept his face straight.  "What’s today’s problem?"

"He grew up," said Apollo gloomily.  "When Serina died I took on a sweet little boy who was a dream to look after.  Someone’s stolen him and left me with this.. this…" His voice failed as he tried to find words to describe the horror that was his son.

"It’s been ten yahrens, Apollo," Starbuck reminded him.  "They don’t stay five for ever."

"I noticed." Apollo’s tone was dry.  "What they don’t tell you is dealing with the little darlings is only humanly possible if you take huge quantities of what the Regs quaintly call ‘spirituous beverages’.  The next one’s on me."  He signalled the steward who raised an eyebrow and brought him the bottle.  The steward was a father too.

Ten yahrens before Apollo had unhesitatingly taken on responsibility for Serina’s small son when she was killed within days of their marriage.  Boxey, as he then was, had indeed been a nice uncomplicated child.  His main disadvantage was an unwavering attachment to the droid daggit that Apollo, in a moment of weakness that he later put down to temporary insanity, had given the boy in an attempt to cheer him up over the loss of his real daggit in the Destruction.  Boxey had, thank the Lords, grown out of Muffit 2, but Apollo’s delight over that was more than tempered by the wild storms of adolescence that had hit Boxey’s thin body soon after. 

It seemed that for the last two yahrens they’d done nothing but yell at each other, and often spent days living in the same quarters in a state of icy, offended silence.  Maybe their biggest fight had come when Boxey abandoned the nickname his mother had given him and opted to be known by his real name.  Apollo had been both hurt and furious, seeing this as a betrayal of Serina.  He knew it was irrational - after all, she’d chosen Boxey’s real name too -  but he couldn’t help it.  Deep down he knew the real reason, one he couldn’t admit.  He was jealous: the original Troy had been Boxey’s genetic father.  Not only was Boxey - Troy - abandoning his mother, it felt like he was abandoning his adoptive father too.  Resolving that one had taken sectons of patient mediation by Commander Adama, who exhausted himself getting his son and grandson to be even marginally civil to each other.  It was even longer before Apollo could bring himself to call his son Troy, and he still sometimes choked on it.

Only a sectar before they’d spent a secton screaming at each other, ending that fight only when Troy had reminded Apollo that he wasn’t Troy’s real Dad.  Apollo had gone white and walked away from that one, and poor Troy, knowing that he’d hurt Apollo terribly, had retreated to a kind of offended dignity where he felt that to give in and say he was sorry would be letting Apollo win.  Ever since then he’d either not called his father anything at all, or tried, unconvincingly casual, to call him "Apollo".  Apollo had a dignity all of his own.  He pretended that nothing had happened and made no comment at being called by name.  For some reason that Troy couldn’t understand, that made him feel even worse.  What made him even more resentful was a sneaking suspicion that Apollo knew it and did nothing to restore the status quo - by administering a sharp clip round the ear for insolence, for example - so he could make sure that Troy suffered instead.

Even Starbuck, usually an amused and reasonably neutral observer, had thought that Troy had gone too far this time and intervened for once.  Troy hadn’t appreciated his adored Uncle Starbuck’s pithy and hard-hitting comments on his behaviour or the ruthless raking over of various sins and omissions, some going back yahrens.  Troy was surprised to learn that he was the reason that Apollo and Sheba had split up yahrens before, because Apollo had put Troy, who’d objected strongly to a replacement for his mother, before himself.  Starbuck grew impassioned, recalling his own parentless youth when he’d have killed to have a father like Apollo, and read Troy a lecture on the difference between "real" and "genetic".  Troy argued and protested, but Starbuck had left him feeling more guilty - and consequently more defiant - than before.  After a couple of days of purgatory, Apollo begged Starbuck to keep out of it in future.  To his mind, Troy didn’t need encouragement.  He could be obnoxious enough without Starbuck’s help.

Now Starbuck hesitated before asking for details, but he could see the lines of tension on Apollo’s forehead, and he couldn’t bear that.  "What’s happened?"  he asked.

"Today, we’ve grown up to the point where we think we’re starting to grow facial hair."  Apollo suddenly started to grin as the funny side struck him.  "He told me that he thought that he’d grow a moustache - not asking, you understand, but telling me.  I suggested that he waited until he had something to grow it with and he got all excited about my stupidity at not seeing the hairs sprouting on his upper lip.  Then we were off.  Lord help me, Starbuck, but I don’t know how these things start."  His grin was growing broader.

"There’s more.  Tell!" 

"Well, it got to the point where he was really in my face, demanding that I see the hairs he was growing.  I couldn’t help myself, Starbuck.  I did try.  I did try to be reasonable and keep calm, but he’s so bloody provoking!  I told him that I couldn’t see anything, not having a pocket microscope handy, and if and when he ever did really start growing hair and until such time as I considered that he was mature enough to make his own mind up about such things - which, on his present showing, would be somewhere around his fiftieth birthday - he’d stay clean-shaven.  I did acknowledge though, that hair might hide the spots and it was well past time he grew out of his fondness for mushies.  For once he was speechless and he’s slammed off to spend the night at Dillon’s."

"Beautiful!"  Starbuck said in real appreciation.  He caught Apollo’s eye and they both burst out laughing.

"I haven’t managed to hit so many targets for sectars," Apollo said.  "He normally outguns me."

Starbuck was still laughing.  "About time you got your own back."

"I’m really ashamed to say that I enjoyed it," Apollo confessed.  "I must be a lousy father."

"He’s probably no worse than you were at his age,"  Starbuck pointed out.  "Hits us all, old friend.  Hormones, remember?"

"I don’t object to him having hormones,"  Apollo said.  "What I object to is his mistaken belief that the rest of the world wants to share them with him."

Starbuck smiled at him, pleased to see him relaxing.  "You free now, Apollo?"

"I am."  Apollo leaned back in his seat.  "I’m not due back on the bridge for twelve blessed centars."

"Well, it’s just that Troy’s not the only one around here with hormones.  Do you fancy sharing mine?"

Apollo gave him a sly little smile.  "Well, now…."

"Your place or mine?"

"Yours," said Apollo, getting eagerly to his feet.  "There’s no telling when he’ll think of something else to torment me with.  I know that boy.  He’d come back from the other side of the Fleet to do it, much less from just down the corridor.  I’d rather not make it too easy for him to find me."

 

 

Starbuck slowly peeled off Apollo’s dark blue uniform, taking his time and marvelling that even after all these yahrens as lovers, every time he got Apollo down to his skin it was as wonderful as the first time.  He was sorry sometimes that they had to be so discreet, that he couldn’t shout out his love, but he’d understood Apollo’s reasoning that Troy came first.  He pulled away the loosened tunic, leaned forward and licked one of Apollo’s nipples. 

"Mmn.." Apollo shivered, his own hands busily getting Starbuck out of uniform.  He slid both hands into Starbuck’s pants and started stroking and squeezing.  "Nice."

"You’re telling me," Starbuck said, and pulled back for a centon, looking into the wide-set green eyes of the person he loved more than anything in the universe.  "Shower first or bed?"

"Bed.  Definitely bed.  Then if, and only if, you leave me with enough energy to crawl to the bathroom, we’ll have our shower and get hot and horny enough for a second bout."

"At our age?"  Starbuck grinned, pulling Apollo towards the bed.  "At our age, we’ll be lucky to get sweaty enough to need a shower."

"I’m not forty yet!  I’ll show you sweaty!"

Starbuck laughed and tumbled him onto the bed.  "I love a man who’s as eager as you and has such a pretty arse for me to play with."  His hands were stroking the arse in question as he spoke.  "In fact, I love you, Apollo.  Lots."

"I know," Apollo was complacent. "I love you too."  He reached up to kiss Starbuck hungrily.  "Oh Lords, Starbuck.  We don’t get to do this anywhere near often enough."

Starbuck was reaching for the lube, to get down to some serious touching to get Apollo seriously hot.  "Don’t worry," he said reassuringly.  "I haven’t forgotten how."

 

 

It wasn’t often that Apollo got to do any flying.  When Tigh had become too ill to carry on and Adama had appointed his son in Tigh’s place, Apollo had negotiated hard for a retention of his flying rights.  He religiously kept up his simulator practice and grabbed any opportunity that came to get into a Viper for real, but the opportunities were fewer and fewer as his responsibilities grew more demanding.  Learning to be second in command took a lot of time and energy, and Adama wasn’t getting any younger.  Apollo needed to be there to support him.

But for once, he’d sneaked away on a long patrol, spending almost twenty centars ranging out in front of the Fleet, scouting out the next quadrant.  Commander Adama had laughed and let him go.  It had been yahrens since they’d seen the Cylons, and although they’d come across other races in their long journey, some of them hostile, this area of space seemed reasonably safe.  Adama figured that he could spare his executive officer for a few centars.

Apollo was tired but happy when he got back.  It had been an uneventful patrol, but he’d relished the chance to have nothing between him and the stars but a Viper cockpit, revelling in the unaccustomed freedom.  It was the middle of the afternoon, by ship’s time, when he landed the little Viper on the Alpha flightdeck and climbed out of the cramped cockpit.  Starbuck was waiting for him when he came out of decontamination.

"Hi, Apollo," he said.  He looked and sounded apprehensive, but Apollo didn’t notice.  Apollo’s mind was on more pressing things.

"I’ll talk to you in a centon.  I gotta go.  I’d forgotten how long a long patrol can be…"  He vanished into the turboflushes at a speed that he acknowledged didn’t have a lot to do with the decorum his father impressed on him.

Starbuck grinned and followed him in.  "They do have emergency facilities in the Viper, Apollo," he said to the closed cubicle door.

"But you know I always hated having the technicians clean up afterwards." Apollo sighed slightly in relief.  "Or have you forgotten that I once caught you with the techs and a row of bottles, having a wager on which pilot had the biggest bladder capacity?"

Starbuck laughed.  "I remember that.  It was Giles.  I won a mint of cubits."  He paused, then said more seriously.  "I need to talk to you."

"I’m on my way," Apollo promised and rejoined him a centon later, looking a great deal less harassed than when he’d got out of the Viper.  He took in Starbuck’s demeanour as he washed his hands.  "Trouble?"

"Trouble."

"Bridge trouble, Warrior trouble, Council trouble, Fleet trouble or Troy trouble?"

"If I asked you how loving and fatherly you’re feeling, would that be enough of a hint?"

Apollo groaned.  "You know, while I was out there I had this almost overwhelming urge to keep on going and not come back.  I wish I’d done it."

"What brought you back?" asked Starbuck, trying to put off the evil moment.

"You," said Apollo simply, and walked into Starbuck’s arms for a welcoming, comforting kiss.  For a moment he forgot everything in the pleasure and happiness of kissing the man he loved, then with a sigh he pulled away.  The turboflushes were not the best place for that kind of display.  Far too many people could walk in on them. 

Starbuck hastily eased the erection that Apollo’s kiss had induced, meeting his lover’s amused smile as he did so.  Two technicians breezed in and they left hurriedly, trying to look casual and avoiding each other’s eyes for a centon.  That had been a bit too close.

"What’s he done this time?" Apollo asked when he could look at Starbuck without giggling like a naughty schoolboy.  Astonishing how the thought of Troy could sober a man.

"I don’t know, Apollo.  He won’t tell me.  All I know is that about four centars ago the school Principal was breathing fire looking for you, and Troy’s been suspended."

"Suspended?"  Apollo choked.  His voice rose.  "Suspended?"

"Give him some credit, Apollo.  Even we didn’t manage that."

"And you don’t know why?"  Apollo didn’t sound as though Troy’s success in outdoing his own scholastic record was a matter for celebration.

"The Principal wouldn’t tell me, even when I pointed out that I would be Troy’s guardian - God help me - if anything ever happened to you.  And Troy won’t tell me either.  But Apollo - " Starbuck put out a hand and stopped Apollo.  "Apollo, the kid’s scared and upset.  He wouldn’t tell me what’s up.  All he kept asking was when you were due in.  He was just desperate for you to get back and he was having a hard time not crying.  He needs you to listen to him right now, not yell at him."

Apollo frowned, suddenly too concerned to make the sarcastic comment that usually met Starbuck’s unsolicited advice on parenting techniques.  "Where is he?"

"I don’t know," admitted Starbuck.  "You’re due in the Principal’s office in half an centar, and Troy’s supposed to be there too.  That’s all I know, Apollo."

Apollo sighed.  "Great.  Just enough time to give the Commander my report, then I’m hauled up in front of the Principal.  Just like old times.  But now I know how Dad used to feel."

 

 

When Apollo reached the Principal’s office he somehow wasn’t surprised to find Dillon’s parents both there as well.  History had a habit of repeating itself, and his parents and Starbuck’s orphanage supervisor had struck up quite an acquaintanceship in the outer office of their school Principal back on Caprica.  He knew Dillon’s father well: Jordan was one of the Viper flight technicians, but over the last yahren or so, he’d almost seen more of Jordan here than he had on the flightdeck.  There was no sign of Troy or Dillon.

Apollo nodded a greeting at Jordan and his wife.  "Do you know what it’s about this time?" he asked the grim faced man. 

Jordan’s wife, Viola, looked shocked and tearful, he noticed.  Not that that meant anything.  Apollo knew that they were a deeply religious couple, who tended to see things in very black and white terms.  They saw the boys’ escapades as far more serious issues than Apollo did.  Annoying and frustrating as Dillon and Troy undoubtedly were, Apollo couldn’t see their mischief as sinful.  Jordan and Viola did, and he suspected that Dillon had rather a hard time after each one of these interviews with the Principal.

Jordan returned the greeting.  "Don’t you, sir?  Oh - that’s right.  You got out on patrol."  His grimness melted a little.  He knew how Apollo loved to fly and most of the techs had agreed that Apollo’s promotion had resulted in the sad loss of one of the best pilots on the Galactica.

"And don’t I wish I’d never come back.  What - "  Apollo stopped as the office door opened and the Principal invited them in. 

Troy and Dillon were waiting inside.  Apollo looked sharply at his son as he came in, seeing the lost, frightened expression in Troy’s eyes as the boy shot him one anxious glance.  Starbuck was right.  Troy was upset and scared.  It was obvious that Troy was trying to gauge just how angry Apollo was going to be, but that frightened glance had Apollo forgetting every quarrel and disagreement they’d had recently.  He was reminded forcibly of the little boy who’d looked up at him with such wide-eyed admiration all those yahrens ago.  *Can I ride in your ship, sir?*  The bumptious, loud, self assurance that had grated on him so badly had gone, and all he was conscious of was that his son needed him.  Ignoring the Principal, he crossed the room to stand in front of Troy.

"What’s up?" he asked gently.

Troy, almost as tall as his father but skinny as a reed, blinked rapidly.  He tried to sound unconcerned, defiant.  "You’re going to be mad," he said.

"Fifty decibels mad?  A hundred?  Off the scale?"

Troy nodded reluctantly at this last suggestion, and Apollo sighed slightly, undeceived by Troy’s attempts to hide his fear.  The hand he’d put on his son’s thin shoulder squeezed gently. 

"We’ll see," he said, resolving that all costs he’d keep a hold on his temper this time.  He turned away, taking the seat the Principal offered him, Jordan and Viola beside him.  The two miscreants stood to one side.  Troy watched Apollo throughout in a mixture of dread and, Apollo thought, shame.

"Now, I’m sure that you’ll agree with me that this is a serious matter," the Principal started, when Apollo interrupted.

"It may be, but I don’t know what it is.  I’ve just got back from patrol and I’d appreciate being told just what’s been going on."

The Principal frowned slightly, not used to being interrupted by anyone, not even the second-in-command of the Fleet.  "Troy and Dillon were caught, luckily by a teacher rather than a schoolmate, in some…some inappropriate behaviour."

Apollo raised a thin black eyebrow.  "Inappropriate behaviour?"

"Yes."  The Principal seemed to be relieved that Apollo had caught on, but the relief was to be short-lived.  "Very serious, as I’ve indicated.."

" ‘Inappropriate’ covers a multitude of sins.  Would you care to be more specific?"

The Principal sighed.  "In the school turboflushes," he said.

Apollo’s mouth twitched slightly, as he did indeed catch on this time.  "Oh," he said and looked at his son, wondering if the consciousness of what he’d been doing with Starbuck in the Alpha deck turboflushes half an centar before was showing in his face.  Troy looked away quickly, hot with embarrassment and humiliation.

"It’s not the kind of behaviour the school can tolerate," the Principal began, but once again Apollo interrupted.

"How inappropriate?"  He looked back at the Principal and Dillon’s parents, who were staring at him, almost accusingly.  It was obvious he was letting the parental side down badly.  "Forgive me for being blunt about this, but I drew a full bridge shift before a long patrol, so I haven’t slept for almost thirty centars.  The stims are wearing off and I’m too tired to work it out for myself.  Are we talking kissing, or -" He caught Viola’s anguished expression and modified the ‘mutual masturbation’ he was about to say to an innocuous - " - touching or…"

"Kissing," the Principal cut in hastily before Apollo could go on and almost, but not quite, drowning Viola’s squeak of dismay at such bluntness.  Obviously Apollo hadn’t been innocuous enough.

"Okay," Apollo said equably, aware that Troy was staring at him with the same shocked disbelief as everyone else, but he didn’t turn to look at his son.  "Foolish and, I’d agree, inappropriate, especially at their age.  And," he went on, not without a twinge of conscience, "- a very inappropriate spot to choose for a bit of sexual experimentation."

There was a short silence.  Troy’s jaw dropped visibly.

"That’s all you have to say, sir?" Jordan demanded in disbelief.  He’d been mortified by what the Principal had told them and Dillon had already had one disciplinary interview of almost galactic proportions.

Apollo shrugged.  "They’re just fifteen.  At that age, they suffer from chronic and severe testosterone poisoning.  Of course they experiment."  He gave the Principal a cool look.  "I’d have thought you would appreciate that, Principal.  I suggest we treat it as the minor, silly episode it is and keep a sense of proportion.  I’ll talk to Troy, and he’ll give an undertaking to behave himself at school in future, and, yes, I’ll punish him if you insist on it - Troy, you’re grounded for a sectar - but I am not going to get myself agitated about something that’s perfectly normal."

"Normal?!"  Jordan choked out.  His wife was twisting her handkerchief in her fingers, tears threatening again.

"Of course it is.  Any man who’s honest will admit he’s occasionally been attracted to another man, however macho and hetero he is.  At fifteen I was so in love with my best friend at school I couldn’t eat or sleep for sectons.  I lived and breathed him.  I thought about him all day and dreamed about him all night.  I even wrote bad poetry.  It was incredibly important to me and incredibly intense for about two sectars.  Then I grew out of it." 

"How can you say that?" Viola gasped, looking at her downcast son.  With such a father, no wonder Troy perpetually led Dillon into mischief.  And now this!  "It’s shameful!"

"Well, I’m ashamed of the poetry,"  Apollo said thoughtfully.  "It really was pretty terrible.  But ashamed of loving my friend?  No.  Like I said, I think it’s perfectly normal.  But, I do agree that school is not the place for it, and I’ll support a reasonable punishment for that aspect."

"I can’t take it that lightly."  Jordan shook his head.  "It’s obscene, immoral.  What if they do it again?"

"Let’s hope they choose somewhere more private where they can’t scare the teachers," Apollo said wearily.  He tried to be conciliating, although he’d seen both boys flinch at Jordan’s harshness and he was fighting the urge to protect Troy more forcibly.  "I don’t take it lightly, Jordan, I assure you.  What I want to do is try to put it in proportion.  It was silly and stupid, but it’s not the end of the world.  They’re still children, no matter how grown up they think they are, and a kiss is pretty innocent stuff.  I’d be far more worried by stealing or cheating or bullying - I’ve a lot more problems with things like that, on moral grounds, than two kids trying to deal with suddenly burgeoning sexuality.  I don’t really think that morality really comes into it and I don’t think it’s obscene."

Jordan was unconvinced, turning to the Principal for support, but he too looked as if Apollo had taken the wind out of his sails.

"I can’t accept behaviour like this at school, Colonel," he began.

"No, I quite understand that." Apollo was soothing.  "They should be punished for that.  I think an appropriate punishment -" his tone was carefully neutral, but he hoped that the irony wasn’t lost on any of his hearers " -would be a ten thousand word essay on the effects of hormones on pubescent boys.  It’ll be good for them to understand exactly why they’re acting like pains in the ar …astrum."  There was a slight pause, then Apollo sighed.  "It might give me a few pointers too."

 

 

The sidelong glance Troy gave his father as they left the Principal’s office after a severe reprimand and the imposition of Apollo’s essay, was anxious, but faintly hopeful.  He wondered if the astonishing things Apollo had said in the meeting had been genuine.  He had truly expected his father to go ballistic, not treat the whole episode with tolerance and a quite astounding understanding.  Apart from bridling at being described as a child, he’d listened to his father in a state of almost pathetic gratitude, a sectar’s grounding notwithstanding.

"Er -. he started, but Apollo stopped him.

"Not here.  You can explain yourself when we get home."

Troy sighed and trailed along in Apollo’s wake all the way through Galactica’s long corridors and turbolifts until they reached their quarters, wondering just exactly what was in store for him.  Once the door closed behind them, Apollo sighed with relief and headed for the tiny kitchen area, desperate for a cup of tea.  He started the water boiling then turned to regard his son, leaning casually up against the counter.  Troy looked sheepish.

"Well?"  Apollo asked.

Troy squirmed, refusing to meet his father’s eyes.  "Well, it just sort of happened," he said miserably.

"That I can understand.  But why the turboflushes?  You might have guessed someone would walk in on you."  Hypocrite Apollo thought to himself, remembering the close escape he and Starbuck had had with the two techs.  He kept his face straight.  Yahrens of parenting had allowed him to perfect that particular skill, if nothing else.

"We were locked in a cubicle!" Troy protested, then flushed.

"I see.  So did it go a bit beyond kissing?" Apollo watched his son squirm a bit more then said, not unsympathetically but very firmly:  "Troy, this is important.  I’m not angry with you for kissing Dillon, or even if you touched each other, but if it went further than that I’m taking you down to see Dr Salik.  You’re a bit young yet for anything more serious and I want to be sure there’s no damage.."

"Dad!" Troy realised what his father meant and went scarlet with mortification.

Apollo hid his gratification at his sudden and unexpected reinstatement into fatherhood, although as he said later to Starbuck, he really couldn’t understand his joy over it.  Why be so pleased that a troublesome adolescent with out-of-control hormones wanted to acknowledge you as a parent?  Starbuck merely laughed.

"Troy, if you’re old enough to try it, you’re old enough to talk about it.  Did you and Dillon have sex?"

"Of course not!" Troy got out, very close to tears.  "We just kissed each other, and ..and touched each other a bit.  That’s all, Dad.  I promise."

"All right."  Apollo turned back to the tea.  "So, do you want a cup of tea?" 

This matter-of-fact acceptance both comforted Troy and left him feeling slightly cheated.  It wasn’t that he wanted a fight exactly - he felt he’d had all the stuffing knocked out of him by the teacher’s and then the Principal’s outraged denunciations, and by Jordan banning Dillon from seeing Troy anywhere except in supervised lessons - but his father was taking this almost too calmly. 

"Aren’t you going to yell at me?" he demanded.

"What for?  I meant what I said.  I’m not mad at you, though I suppose you and me had better have a talk of some kind - as soon as I can figure out what to say."

That was too much.  It just wasn’t what Troy had expected.  Jordan had been so outraged, so furious with poor Dillon, this unexpected response from Apollo unnerved Troy completely.  It had been a horrible, scary day and Jordan and the Principal had been *awful*: he suddenly needed his father badly.  Troy swallowed hard and hurled himself onto Apollo.  He hadn’t been overly demonstrative for a long time, being at the age where a show of affection was deemed severely uncool, and Apollo was taken by surprise.  He rocked slightly under the impact, but his reactions were still warrior fast for all his two yahrens of Bridge duty, and he held his son close and comfortingly.  Troy was incoherent and apologetic in equal measure for several centons, and Apollo just enjoyed holding him and stroking his hair until he stopped shaking.  He hadn’t been allowed to do that for a long time.

"It’s all right," Apollo said at last, when Troy, still mumbling apologies pulled away and wiped his eyes.  Apollo pretended not to see the tears.

"I thought you’d be so mad… and the things Jordan and the Principal said.  Do you think it’s disgusting?"  Troy was mentally kicking himself for the display of childishness, but was infinitely comforted by the evidence of undimmed affection on Apollo’s part.

Apollo shook his head.  "No.  Just inappropriate, like the Principal said.  That’s a good word to describe it."

"I’m sorry, Dad," Troy choked out.

Apollo grinned at him and nodded.  "I know.  Do you want to talk about it?"

Troy looked helpless.  "I don’t know what to say.  It just happened.  I didn’t plan it.  It was just I turned round and his eyes were so blue -" 

"And?" prompted Apollo gently.  He often got lost in a pair of blue eyes himself.

"And I just kissed him before I thought about it.  He liked it and we ended up in that cubicle."  Troy took a deep breath and looked anxious  "Do you think I’m gay, Dad?"

Apollo shrugged.  "I don’t know, Troy.  It’s a bit early to tell, don’t you think?  I don’t think one instance of "inappropriate" behaviour’s enough to go on."

Troy hesitated, then said apprehensively: "Would it worry you if I was?"

"No." Apollo poured his longed-for tea.  "Would it worry you?"

"I don’t know," Troy confessed, comforted by his father’s prosaic tone.  He felt bold enough - and secure enough now -  to add: "I do like Dillon, though."

"So I guessed, given today’s episode."  Apollo took a sip of the almost scalding brew and sighed with relief.  "I just think you should hold off doing anything about it."

"Not much chance, now.  Do you think Jordan will let Dillon stay friends?" Troy asked forlornly.

"Hard one," Apollo said sympathetically, wanting to comfort but constitutionally unable to tell soothing lies.  "He’s pretty mad with you both.  I think you’ll have to be on your best behaviour for a while, and see how things go.  Prove to him you can be responsible."

Troy sighed.  "It was stupid."

"A bit," Apollo agreed, then said with large minded generosity:  "But it’s my fault too.  I hadn’t realised that you were growing up to quite that extent.  I should have talked to you more about things."

"You’re always really busy," Troy said, unaware of the stab to the conscience that remark caused his father.  Troy was looking at Apollo as if he was seeing him for the first time.  "You’re awfully cool about all this," he said accusingly.  He was almost resentful: he’d thought he had his father taped, and now Apollo was being so unpredictable.

Apollo hid his shock..  His role as second in command was extremely demanding and took a lot of his time: had he been neglecting Troy too much?  Were some their problems down to him, not just Troy being difficult?  He tried to keep his tone light. 

"If you really want me to rustle up some indignation you should have let me get some sleep first," he said, and Troy gave him a watery sort of grin.  "That’s better.  Don’t make too much of today, Troy - it was silly, nothing more - but don’t go experimenting too far.  Like I said, you’re too young.  I’d rather you waited for two or three yahrens before you go beyond the kissing and hand-holding stage, when you’ve a better chance of knowing what it is you really want and what you’re getting yourself into."

"It wasn’t his hand I was holding," Troy muttered, summoning up the courage to be really honest.

"Spare me the details,"  Apollo begged.  "I can use my imagination.  But I want your promise that you’ll behave yourself at school from now on, all right?  And no more experimenting for a yahren or two."

Troy nodded, and joined Apollo on the sofa, suddenly pleased that his father wasn’t yelling at him.  He knew that Dillon had had a bad time with Jordan, and was grateful that Apollo was at least talking and treating him like an adult.  It seemed a long time since his father had had this much time to talk to him.  Yahrens; not since he’d taken over for Colonel Tigh.  Troy had almost forgotten what it was like to have this much attention from Apollo.  He wondered how long it would last.

They sat quiet for a few centons whilst Apollo enjoyed his tea and wondered how long the truce would last and resolving to somehow wring more centars out of the day to spend more time with his son.

"Uncle Starbuck had a word with me the other day," Troy said suddenly. 

Apollo winced.  "I know.  I’ve asked him not to do it again.  The consequences were too painful."  He saw Troy’s look of incomprehension, decided that explanations would have equally painful consequences and apologised, begging Troy to go on.

"It’s just that he said that you and Sheba finished because of me.  Is that true, Dad?"

"Sort of,"  Apollo admitted, thinking back.  "You didn’t like her much, and you definitely didn’t want a replacement for your mother.  We tried to win you over, but you weren’t winnable.  She wasn’t prepared to wait until you were, so she dumped me and married Bojay instead."

"I don’t really remember."

"You were only eight." Apollo didn’t sound too bothered.  "And you were more important to me than anything else, anyway.  She knew you had to come first"

"Oh," Troy said.  He thought he’d better say something else.  "I’m sorry."

"Don’t be.  You were a child.  All you saw was someone claiming my time and attention when you needed it too."

Troy was eager to make amends, thinking that would wipe the slate clean.  "I heard that she and Bojay are splitting up, though."

"Uh-huh.  She told me," Apollo said, and waited.

"So why don’t you try again?  I don’t mind, really, Dad.  Not now."

Apollo smiled.  "I’m perfectly happy as I am.  But thanks."

Troy looked unconvinced.  "But you don’t have a girlfriend.  You ought to see somebody.  I mean, you’re not that old, really." - a statement that had his father spluttering indignantly - "Sheba’s pretty and she still likes you, Dad.  I’m sure she does.  You’d have a good chance with her."

Apollo came to the momentous decision to do something he’d been putting off for some time.  If Troy was old enough to do some experimenting on his own, he was old enough to know about Starbuck.

"Nice idea, but I’m not on my own, Troy, and I don’t need a girlfriend.  You don’t really think I’ve been celibate all these yahrens do you?  I’ve just been discreet, that’s all."

"You have a girlfriend I don’t know about?" demanded his son, shocked, rapidly reviewing all the likely candidates.  Rigel, maybe?  Or Dietra?

"No.  I have a lover you don’t know about."  Apollo grinned at his son.  "You aren’t the only immature adolescent in my life who’s at the mercy of his hormones, you know.  There is no way that Starbuck would share me with Sheba.  Or anyone else, for that matter."

Troy’s mouth dropped open.  "Uncle Starbuck?"  he gasped.  "You and Uncle Starbuck?  Together?!"

"For yahrens."  Apollo finished his tea and smiled serenely at Troy’s astonishment.  "And I have to confess I’ve kissed him in the turboflushes.  But when me and Starbuck got together, I was old enough to know what I was doing."  He reached out and gently pushed up Troy’s hanging lower jaw.  "Try to keep some control over your chin, son - you look ridiculous with your mouth open like that.  Now, I’m going to get some sleep and you have an essay to write.  You’d better get started."  He stood up and stretched.  "See you later.  Oh - and keep the music down."

"You and Uncle Starbuck?" Troy demanded again. Then he said, suddenly furious.  "Why didn’t you tell me?  I’m not a kid anymore"

Apollo bit back the obvious retort.  "There wasn’t any need to tell anyone,"  he said mildly.  He waited for a centon looking down at his son, wondering if he’d made a mistake and Troy wasn’t really old enough to accept Starbuck in this unexpected role.  "Do you mind?"

Troy shrugged angrily.  All the adults in his life suddenly seemed not to be quite as he’d thought them, as if they had lives of their own that didn’t involve him.  He looked up at Apollo, sullen and resentful.  "Nothing to do with me, obviously."

Well, that didn’t take long, Apollo thought with an internal sigh at the shortness of the truce. 

"Oh, I think it is,"  he said, keeping his tone level and even.  "When me and Starbuck started out on this, you weren’t old enough to really understand what it meant.  Now you *are* old enough and I’ve wanted to tell you for a while."  He watched his son for a centon and smiled slightly.  "Except for your uncle Boomer, you’re the only person who knows."

Troy considered the olive branch and nodded.  "I won’t say anything," he said, marginally less churlish, acknowledging the implied compliment.  Then, a little grudgingly, feeling he owed his father something, he added: "I don’t mind.  I like Starbuck."

"So do I.  Thanks for understanding."  Apollo headed for his bedroom door.  "We can talk about it later.  I’m almost dead on my feet."

"Was it Starbuck you fell for when you were at school?"  Troy demanded abruptly.  He was suddenly having visions of his father and Starbuck doing what he and Dillon had been doing and he shifted uncomfortably on the sofa.  His Dad and Starbuck were so old.

Apollo turned and grinned at him.  "It was.  It’s always been Starbuck."

"So how bad was the poetry?"

"Let’s just say that I got a mental block.  There must be quite a few words to rhyme with Starbuck, but the only one I could ever think of was rather rude."

"Cool," said Troy admiringly.

Apollo’s smile broadened, wondering at Troy’s capacity for mood swings.  "That was not what your Grandfather said.  He wasn’t amused.  He wasn’t amused at all.  See you later."

"Okay," Troy said, then added shyly and a little stiffly:  "Thanks, Dad.  For what you did."

Apollo stopped and looked at him for a long centon, then nodded.  "You’re welcome, son.  It’s what I’m for, remember?"  Apollo gestured at the bed he was longing for.  "I’m off.  We can resume normal hostilities in the morning."

"Okay," Troy said.  "Sleep well.  Oh, Dad - ?"

Apollo sighed, kept a tight hold of his patience and turned in the doorway.  "Yes?"

"Poetic ability like yours, can you think of any rhymes for Dillon?"

 

 

The end