A typical night in the Officers' Club. Starbuck, Apollo, Boomer and Jolly were sitting around a table swapping stories.
"There was this one time, just before I left for the Academy, that Zac decided he wanted to prove to me how 'grown-up' he was," Apollo was saying.
"How did he do that?" Boomer asked.
"He tried to sneak into this girl's house when her parents were asleep," Apollo answered. "I think he planned to bring back some memento of their time together."
Starbuck knew the story; he'd been staying at Adama's family homestead with Apollo at the time, just before both of them had left for the Academy that yahren.
"So what happened?" Jolly wanted to know.
"Her parents had an alarm system," Apollo told them. "Woke up the whole neighbourhood. I was the one who had to go pick up Zac from the guard station."
Starbuck was happy to hear Apollo talking about Zac. He hadn't spoken of his brother for a long time after he was killed in the Cylon raid on the Colonies.
"Reminds me of something I did when I was about 12 yahrens old," Boomer said, lighting a fumarillo. "I wanted to prove how grown-up I was to the other kids in my class."
"What did you do, Boomer?" Jolly asked.
"I raided my father's box of fumarillos," Boomer answered, "along with his liquor cabinet."
"I impressed my friends, all right. I impressed them with how long I was able to keep throwing up."
"Hey, did any of you ever catch your parents in the act, so to speak?" Jolly asked.
"In the act of what?" Apollo inquired innocently.
A glare from Jolly was the only answer he got.
"Did you? Walk in on them?" Boomer asked Jolly.
"Well, there was this one time I got sent home from school early...." the sergeant began.
"For doing what?" Boomer interrupted.
"I think they called it 'causing a disturbance.' Anyway, I got home from school early. My parents weren't expecting me. I walked in on them having a little private party in the dining room of the house, complete with ambrosa and music and a few, er, toys."
"Oh, Lords," Apollo laughed. "That must have been embarrassing."
"For them, I guess," Jolly replied. "I wasn't embarrassed in the least. I did want to know why they were wearing what appeared to be their night clothes in the middle of the day."
"When my parents wanted to have a private party, they did it in the bedroom with the door closed," Boomer told them.
"My parents installed a lock on their bedroom door, otherwise they'd have had me or Athena or Zac walking in on them at any given moment," Apollo said.
"I'm surprised your parents found time to have three children, with the Commander having such an important role in the Colonial fleet," Jolly observed.
"He didn't always have the crazy schedule he had in the last few yahrens before the destruction," Apollo replied. "And there was always shore leave."
No one seemed to notice that Starbuck didn't have anything to contribute to the discussion. Normally, the lieutenant had dozens of stories to tell. Not this time. After all, they were talking about families. Starbuck had no family, and therefore nothing to add to the conversation.
"Did Boomer ever tell you about his dad's hovercar?" Jolly asked.
"Athena mentioned something about it, I recall," Apollo said. "Something about wiring locks."
"Yes, Boomer is good at wiring locks. Aren't you, Boom-Boom?" Jolly asked his friend.
Boomer shrugged. "When the need arises, I can usually manage to cross a few wires here and there."
"And what need made you wire the locks in your father's hovercar?" Apollo wanted to know.
"Not just the locks. The ignition, too," Jolly put in helpfully.
"The need was a young woman who lived in the next town," Boomer told them. "I needed transportation in order to pay her a visit."
"Did you get caught?" Apollo wanted to know.
"Yes, I got caught. I got caught, and I got grounded for a month." He grinned. "But the lady was definitely worth it."
Starbuck got up from the table. "I'm going to get a refill," he announced.
"Let the server get your refill," Apollo suggested. But Starbuck had already walked off.
The other three warriors continued to share stories, and a few centons went by before they noticed Starbuck hadn't come back with his refill.
"Where's Starbuck got to?" Jolly asked suddenly, finally noticing their friend's absence.
Boomer shrugged. "Maybe he found someone else to have a drink with."
"I don't see him anywhere," Jolly replied, looking around. "Do you think something upset him?"
"What would upset him? This is Starbuck we're talking about. Nothing upsets him," Boomer answered.
"Some things do," Apollo said quietly. "He just doesn't like to show it."
Back in the quarters he shared with Apollo, Starbuck sat drinking a glass of ale. He doubted anyone would notice his absence. They were having fun trading reminiscences. They didn't need him there. It wasn't like he had anything to add to the discussion.
He was pleased that Apollo was able to talk about Zac now. It had taken a long time for him to even begin to get over the guilt he felt at his brother's death. Starbuck had been there for him every step of the way, first as a friend and then as his life mate. He himself had felt guilty about Zac's death, since he was the one Zac had traded patrols with. Apollo had helped him see that it hadn't been his fault, just as Starbuck had helped Apollo see the same for himself.
Starbuck supposed he should be used to hearing people talk about their families. There was no reason why they shouldn't. They couldn't help it that their friend Starbuck was an orphan. But sometimes it just got to be too much. It was one more thing that made him different from his friends.
His relationship with Apollo was another thing that made him 'different.' Most of his friends had accepted his and Apollo's relationship, for which he was grateful. But he couldn't help noticing that not everyone accepted him as Apollo's spouse and Boxey's father. Most peole still referred to Apollo as Boxey's father, and few seemed to think of Starbuck in that way.
Back at the Officers' Club, Apollo excused himself from the table. "I'm going to find Starbuck. Something's obviously bothering him, and I want to know what it is."
"Do you think it was something one of us said?" Jolly asked.
Apollo sighed. "I don't know. With Starbuck it's hard to tell. Like I said, he doesn't show it when he's upset. He just shuts himself off from everyone -- even me, sometimes."
"I wish he'd said something, instead of just walking away," Boomer said. "But that's just like Bucko, isn't it? He never says if anything's bothering him."
"He probably figured we were having a good time, and he didn't want to spoil it for us," Apollo said. "Anyway, I'd better go find him, see if I can get him to talk."
As he headed back to his and Starbuck's quarters, Apollo mentally ran through the things he and the others had talked about. He realized that Starbuck had been unusually quiet for most of the evening. He normally had a story for every occasion, and usually one to top all the others. Not this time. Apollo wasn't certain whom he should be angry with -- himself for not realizing Starbuck was upset, or Starbuck for not saying anything to let his partner and his friends know he was upset.
Apollo let himself into his quarters, where he saw Starbuck sitting on the long seat with a glass of ale in his hand. He wondered how many drinks his mate had had since he'd left the OC.
Starbuck looked up when he heard Apollo come in, but he didn't say anything.
"You left early," Apollo commented. "What happened?"
He was answered with a shrug. "Nothing," Starbuck answered.
Apollo sat down next to his life mate. "Something's wrong. What is it?"
"Nothing's wrong. I just got bored."
"That's why you left? Because you were bored?" Apollo asked sceptically.
"Yup. You were all trading stories about when you were kids. I've heard them all before. I was with you that time you had to go pick up Zac at the guard house, remember? And I heard Boomer's story about hot wiring his father's hovercar a long time ago."
"If you'd heard the stories before, why didn't you say something?"
Starbuck shrugged again. "Interrupting someone when he's telling a story is rude. Didn't your father ever teach you that? Or your mother?"
Something about the way Starbuck said the words 'father' and 'mother' caught Apollo's attention. Something was wrong, but he couldn't put his finger on it. "Starbuck, this is me. Apollo. Your friend, your lover, your life partner. If something's bothering you, I need to know what it is, or I can't put it right. I can't read your mind."
Starbuck got up. "Like I said, nothing's wrong. I'm going to bed. Good night."
Apollo got up as well. "We're not finished."
His face a perfect blank, Starbuck said, "We're not? I am." He turned to go into the bedroom. Apollo went after him.
"Damn it, Starbuck, listen to me! Something is bothering you, and I want to know what it is."
Starbuck turned to his lover, wrapped his arms around him, and kissed him hard. He pushed him down on to the bed, climbed on top of him, and started to undo his trousers.
Apollo pushed him off. "You're not going to get out of this by using sex to take my mind off it," he stated. "That may have worked before, but it won't work this time."
"What if I want to take *my* mind off it?" Starbuck asked wearily, stretching out on the bed.
Apollo stretched out next to him and leaned his head on one hand so that he could see his partner's face. "Take your mind off what?"
"What were you, Boomer and Jolly talking about all night?"
"Reminiscences. Ways we got in trouble when we were kids. Things like that."
"Think about it, Apollo. What did all those stories have in common? Boomer and the hovercar, Jolly catching his parents in the act, you rescuing Zac from the guard house?"
"We were all kids," Apollo said, not understanding.
"What else?" Starbuck asked.
"I'm sorry. I don't know what you're talking about."
"Families, Pol. Families. They were all about families."
"Families? Yes, I guess they were, but.... Wait a centon." He thought for a moment. "Oh, frack, Star. I'm sorry. It never even occurred to me."
"Obviously not," Starbuck muttered, sounding bitter.
"It's just that you've been part of our family for so long, I forget sometimes that you haven't always been," Apollo said, trying to defend himself.
"That's not true, Pol, and you know it. I haven't always been part of your family. Look at what you said about your parents locking their bedroom door; you said 'otherwise they'd have had me or Athena or Zac walking in on them at any given moment.' You, Athena and Zac. Not you, me, Athena and Zac.
"It's just a little thing, Apollo. I don't expect you to think of me the same way you think of your brother and sister. After all, we're lovers, not siblings. But it reminds me that I don't even know if I have, or had, any brothers or sisters. I was so young when I was found in the Thorn Forest, I couldn't tell anyone if I had any family."
"But you have a family now," Apollo pointed out. "We have a family."
"Do I?" Starbuck asked, the bitter tone still in his voice. "Who are Boxey's parents?"
"You and I are, of course."
Starbuck shook his head. "No, you are. When the teachers from the Learning Centre call to talk about Boxey, who do they talk to? They talk to you, not me."
"I can change that," Apollo offered. "I can tell them that they have to talk to both of us. We're both Boxey's parents."
"I'm sure you can. But it doesn't change the fact that they have to be told, that they didn't automatically accept me as Boxey's parent."
"Attitudes don't change overnight, Star."
"I guess not," Starbuck sighed.
Apollo pulled his lover close to him and looked into his eyes. "What can I do, Star? What can I do to make you feel better, to prove to you that you have a family with me? You must know that my father accepts you as if you are one of his sons, and not a son by marriage, either."
"I don't know, Apollo," Starbuck sighed. "Sometimes I just want to know who my real parents were, you know? I want to know who they were, and what they were like. I want to know if they loved me the way I could always tell that your parents loved you. I know there isn't any way to do that...."
"Maybe there is."
"How?" Starbuck wanted to know.
"Chameleon's genetic testing program. Maybe one of your parents has a family member, a brother or sister perhaps, who survived the Destruction. Maybe you do have family after all."
Starbuck smiled. "I do have a family, Pol. You, Boxey, Athena, your father -- or our father, I guess -- and Zac, too."
"You know, Zac used to tell me that he wished you were his brother," Apollo said.
"Really? When did he say that?"
"Usually when he was mad at me for something. He thought you were much more fun, because you weren't so hung up on following rules." He kissed his lover gently. "Are you feeling better now?"
Starbuck kissed him back. "Yes, but I'll feel even better if you do something for me."
"What's that?" Apollo asked.
Starbuck tugged at his belt. "Take off your clothes."