Starbuck fought the viper's controls as it spun wildly downward toward the planet. He didn't know what exactly had caused him to lose control of the viper, but he didn't have time to worry about that right now. He had to keep from crashing. He wondered if Apollo was having any more luck than he was. He hoped so. He was more concerned about Apollo's safety than about his own. He always had been. That was why he had offered his life in exchange for Apollo's on the ship of lights. No one besides him knew that, of course. He wasn't about to tell anyone, either, not even Apollo himself.
As he continued to fight to regain control of his viper, a thought passed through Starbuck's mind that things like this always seemed to happen on routine patrols. If he was captured by Cylons, or imprisoned on a prison planet where ambrosa was manufactured, or helping a group of children find their missing father, it always happened on a routine patrol. When he actually went out in battle, he was fine. Apollo had said he was the best warrior in the fleet.
Meanwhile, Apollo was struggling with his viper as well. He and Starbuck had been heading out to do a recon of the planet that the Galactica had just discovered when something - a meteor shower, the planet's gravity, he didn't know - had caused them both to lose control of their vipers. If they didn't regain control soon, they'd both crash into the planet below. Even if they survived the crash, they had no idea what awaited them on the planet.
It looked as if they were about to find out. The battle to control the vipers was a losing one. With a prayer to the Lords of Kobol for his own safety and for Starbuck's, Apollo prepared to crash.
Quite a few centons later, Starbuck opened his eyes. Well, he'd survived the crash. He did a self-check. He didn't seem to be badly hurt, as far as he could tell, though he hadn't tried to stand up yet. The viper was another matter. He knew immediately that it was badly damaged.
The viper wasn't his main concern, though. He had to know if Apollo was all right. Manually lifting the viper's canopy with a strength he didn't know he had, he struggled out of the craft and limped the short distance to where Apollo's damaged viper rested. He could see his wingmate, but didn't know if he was all right, or even if he was alive. He pounded on the canopy. "Apollo! Apollo! Can you hear me? Are you all right?"
Starbuck waited an anxious few microns until Apollo opened his eyes. The Captain looked at himself, then looked at his viper console. Starbuck could almost imagine his wingmate's groan as he saw the damage. He helped Apollo raise the viper's canopy and waited while he scrambled out.
"Are you all right?" the lieutenant asked with worry.
Apollo shrugged. "A few bumps and bruises, but nothing major as far as I can tell. What about you?"
"Same. A few cuts, some bruises, my right leg got twisted when I crashed, I think, because it hurts, but it's not too bad."
"How badly does your leg hurt?" Apollo asked immediately.
"I'm fine, Pol."
Apollo crouched down on the ground and ran his hands up his wingmate's leg, causing an involuntary wince and a sharp intake of breath from him.
"You don't sound fine," Apollo observed.
"I'll manage," Starbuck replied.
Apollo almost said that until they could get back to the battlestar, Starbuck didn't have any choice other than to manage, but he kept quiet. "Let's see if one of the radios is working so we can contact the Galactica." He turned to climb back into his viper.
"Pol, I think we have something else to take care of first," Starbuck said, nudging the Captain's arm.
Apollo turned to look, and saw some curious natives looking back at them.
The natives of the planet were either human or very closely related to humans. Being the senior officer, Apollo figured it was his job to initiate first contact. He turned on his translator and addressed them. "Hello," he said. "I am Captain Apollo of the Battlestar Galactica, and this is my wingmate, Lieutenant Starbuck. As you can see, our ships crashed, which is how we ended up on your planet uninvited. We apologize for the intrusion and hope to be on our way soon."
The people consulted with each other until finally one of them stepped forward and spoke. The majority of them appeared androgynous, and Apollo couldn't tell which ones were male and which female. When the person spoke, Apollo decided that it was a male because of the deepness of the voice.
"My name is Andry. You are welcome to our world. We call it Olympia. Please don't feel that you have to rush away. It says in the Writings not to hesitate to entertain strangers, for by doing so you may encounter angels unaware."
At the word "angels" Apollo got a strange look on his face, creating a great deal of concern in Starbuck. The Lieutenant asked, "Pol? Are you okay? What's wrong?"
Apollo shook himself. "Nothing. I just had something in the corner of my mind but I couldn't quite grasp it. A memory, maybe." The word "angels" had triggered the odd feeling. He was certain it had a significance, but what it was, he could not recall. He didn't like not knowing. It was a feeling that he'd had several times since the fleet's encounter with Count Iblis.
"Did the crash affect your memory?" Starbuck wanted to know.
"I don't think so. It's nothing, really." He turned back to the Olympians. "I appreciate your offer of hospitality, but our people need us. We're warriors, and we have to defend our people against our enemies, the Cylons. Have you encountered the Cylons?"
More consultation among the Olympians, then Andry spoke again. "It's possible that our ancestors may have met these Cylons of which you speak, but for many yahrens now we have had a defence grid above our planet. It prevents any ships from landing, or even coming too close to Olympia, without authorization. I'm afraid that's what caused your ships to crash. You should contact your people and tell them not to bring their - what did you call it, battlestar - too close to Olympia without giving us plenty of notice so that we can disable the defence grid."
"The battlestar probably won't be coming close enough to your defence grid to worry about it, but I'll tell them. They'll probably be sending someone with a shuttle to pick us up and salvage what we can of the vipers. If you'll excuse us, we have to see if either of the vipers has a functioning radio."
Andry and the other Olympians withdrew but continued to watch the warriors from a distance. The radio in Starbuck's viper was working and he contacted the Galactica.
"Starbuck!" came the Commander's voice as Starbuck's signal reached the battlestar. "Thank the Lords. Are you and Apollo all right?"
"A little banged up, but otherwise we're fine." Starbuck ignored the look that Apollo gave him when he said that. "But I don't think the vipers can fly again. When can you send a shuttle? And a salvage ship for the vipers."
"Anytime, Starbuck. Do you know what caused you to crash?"
"The inhabitants of this planet have a defence grid set up above it," Apollo broke in. "It's what brought down our vipers. They can take it down, though, so that you can send a shuttle to get us. I'll ask them when they can do it, and get back to you."
Apollo went to Andry and asked him about the defence grid. The Olympian offered to show the warriors how the shield worked. Perhaps they could modify it for their battlestar, he suggested. He'd provide them with diagrams and plans before they left.
However, when they arrived at the defence installation, they were met with a problem. Andry asked a technician to take down the grid, but the technician informed him that it simply was not possible. "We haven't taken it down in such a long time, it seems to be stuck in the 'on' position," the technician said.
"How long will it take to fix it?" Andry asked.
"I don't know. Maybe a few centares, or maybe a few days."
This was not good.
"Our ship has to come and get us," Apollo told the technician. "We have to leave as soon as possible. The fleet needs us."
"I'm sorry, sir," the technician said politely. "There is nothing I can do to speed up the repair work. You will have to be patient. The Writings say that patience is a virtue."
Starbuck was about to say something very impolite about the Writings, whatever they were, but Apollo recognized the warning signs and lay a hand on his arm. Starbuck closed his mouth and fumed in silence.
The two warriors returned to their vipers and informed the Galactica of their predicament. Adama told them that a shuttle would be sent as soon as the grid was fixed, and to relax in the meantime. "Starbuck," the Commander added, "make sure Apollo relaxes, would you?"
"Is that an order, Commander?" Starbuck asked politely. Apollo glared at him.
"Yes, Lieutenant. It is an order. Galactica out."
"You heard the Commander. We've been ordered to relax," Starbuck told his wingmate. "I suppose we should ask the Olympians for some accommodation."
They were approached by two more androgynous Olympians. Apollo wasn't certain, but he thought they were female. They introduced themselves as Sari and Mira. "Andry has asked us to show you to your quarters for the night."
As they walked, Starbuck tried to flirt with Sari, but found that she was not responding. He reminded himself that he didn't know for certain that Sari was female. He just guessed it from her voice and her feminine-sounding name.
The group arrived at what the warriors assumed was a hotel. Suddenly Sari looked embarrassed. "I'm sorry. I don't know your customs," she said. "What is your relationship to each other?"
"We're friends," Apollo answered.
"You used the word 'mate' earlier," Mira said.
"Starbuck is my wingmate, yes." He explained the duties of a wingmate.
"We thought you might be lovers. It's obvious that you're close," Sari said.
"Same-gender relationships are uncommon among our people," Apollo told them.
"Are they forbidden?" Mira asked.
"No," Apollo answered. "But Starbuck and I don't have that kind of relationship." He didn't add, 'Though I wish we did.' "May I ask what the customs of your people are in regard to same-gender relationships?"
"In our culture, we don't have rigidly defined genders. Some of us identify as male or female, but most of us are neither male or female. Some are both. The Writings say that in the afterlife there is no male or female, so we believe that gender is not necessary," Sari said. "So choice of partner is not limited by whether one is male or female."
"Please excuse me if this sounds rude," Apollo said, "but among humans, we need two genders for reproduction. How do you reproduce?"
Mira laughed, a musical sound. "Our bodies are still male and female. Oh, there is little evidence on the outside, but some of us have female organs and some male. It is our psyches that are neither male or female. We have eliminated male and female pronouns from our language. If a couple who happen to be the same physical gender wish to have children, they can arrange with someone who is biologically the opposite gender to have a child by artificial insemination."
Starbuck and Apollo spent a fair bit of time learning about the Olympians' attitudes toward gender before finally being shown to a room with two beds. They were invited to dinner at Andry's home in a few centares but had enough time before then to relax.
"So what do you think?" Apollo asked Starbuck.
"Of what?" Starbuck asked back.
"The Olympians. The elimination of gender from their society."
Starbuck shrugged. "If it works for them, great. More power to them. I happen to like women. I think I'll stick with the way we do things."
A little while later Andry picked up the two of them and took them to his home, where they met his partner, Soren. Over dinner they told Soren and Andry what they had learned about gender from Mira and Sari.
"You'll find that we have quite a variety in our culture when it comes to gender. I do not consider myself to be male or female. Soren identifies as male," Andry told them. "I hope you don't find this shocking or anything."
Apollo shook his head. "It's certainly not something we're used to, but since we left the Colonies we've encountered many new and different cultures. If we weren't open-minded, we wouldn't survive."
Over dinner the two Olympians persuaded the Galacticans to tell them about the Colonies, the Cylons and the Thousand-Yahren War.
"It would be wonderful if our defence grid could protect you from the Cylons. I'm afraid you won't want anything to do with it after this," Andry said apologetically.
"It's given us a chance to meet all of you and see your world," Apollo answered diplomatically.
"While I know you want to return to your battlestar as soon as possible, I rather hoped you could stay long enough to be here for the Blue Moon."
"What's the Blue Moon?" Starbuck asked.
"It's a combination of atmospheric events that make our moon appear blue," Soren explained. "It's not a very common occurrence, only happening two or three times a year. It's very beautiful to see, and some consider it romantic." Soren smiled at his partner.
"There are many myths and legends about the Blue Moon," Andry told them. "Some believe that babies born or conceived under a blue moon have special talents. Some believe that a promise made under a blue moon can never be broken. Many couples plan their exchange of vows for the time of the blue moon if they can. And one story says that if you pray to the Blue Moon for true love, then the one who is your true love will appear."
"When is the Blue Moon?" Starbuck asked.
"Two solar days from now," Soren answered. "If you are here to see it, I'm sure you won't regret it. You'll have something to tell your children and grandchildren."
Starbuck saw the pained look that flashed across Apollo's face, the one he tried to hide from their hosts. He knew that his wingmate was thinking about Boxey. He squeezed the Captain's arm. "How about we call the Galactica before we turn in tonight so that you can talk to him?" he whispered.
Apollo didn't have to ask who Starbuck meant. "I think I will," he said. "Thank you."
Seeing this exchange between their guests, Soren approached Andry in the kitchen. "Are you certain that those two aren't lovers?" he asked his partner.
"They told Mira and Sari that they're not. Why?"
"They just appear to be too...." he searched for a word. "Too intimate to be just friends."
Andry smiled knowingly. "I've noticed that, too. Maybe they're just not aware of it yet," he said.
After they had radioed the Galactica, and Apollo had talked to Boxey, the two warriors lay in their room in their separate beds.
"It's a long time since I've slept on a planet," Starbuck commented.
"It's a different feeling, isn't it?" Apollo said. "I've kind of grown used to the hum of the ship's engines."
"You can't hear the ship's engines from your quarters," Starbuck snorted.
"Well, I imagine I can," Apollo replied. "I can hear it in my dreams."
They were silent for awhile. Apollo listened for Starbuck's breathing to indicate that he'd fallen asleep. When he realized that the Lieutenant was still awake, he continued talking. "What are your dreams, Star?" he asked.
"Dreams? You mean when I'm sleeping? I don't usually remember them." He didn't add that when he did remember them, they were usually either about Apollo dying at the hands of Count Iblis or about the ships of light.
"Not those dreams. I mean your dreams about the future. I dream about Boxey growing up, getting married, maybe making me a grandfather someday. And of course I dream about finding Earth. What about you?"
Starbuck dreamed that one day Apollo would fall in love with him the way he had with Apollo. "I don't," he lied.
"Don't dream. I don't think about the future. I take life one day at a time. I only look as far ahead as is necessary for safety - mine, yours and the fleet's."
"You don't think about the future at all? You don't think about you and Cassie getting Sealed one day? Having kids?"
"No," Starbuck replied truthfully. "Go to sleep, Apollo." He turned over so that his back was to the other bed and did that himself.
The next morning Starbuck and Apollo realized that they had no idea where they could find food. The hotel had a dining room, but of course the warriors didn't know what currency was used on Olympia. But they were welcomed in immediately.
"Please, come in and have some food," said their host.
"I'm sorry," Apollo told him, "but we don't have any money."
"You don't need money!" the host said in an almost scolding tone. "You are our guests here. It's because of our defence screen that you ended up here, unable to return to your ship. The least we can do is make your stay comfortable. The Writings tell us that hospitality is important."
As the host showed them to a table, Apollo asked, "What are the Writings?"
"The Writings are the words of the One and of the One's prophets."
"The One?" Starbuck asked.
The host smiled. "Some call the One "God" or "Goddess", but the One is neither male or female. So most of us just say 'the One.'"
Starbuck and Apollo thanked their host and tried to figure out what the foods listed on the menu were. Eventually they had to ask for help and were provided with an assortment of fruits, breads and some sort of grain cereal, which is what they told the server were normal breakfast foods in the Colonies.
"So what do we do next?" Starbuck asked Apollo as they ate.
"First we check on the progress of the work on the defence screen," Apollo answered. "Then we radio the Galactica and give them an update."
"That should take all of half a centare," Starbuck said. "And if the defence screen isn't fixed yet, what do we do then?"
Apollo shrugged. "Find something to occupy us."
"I don't know what you want to do. I'm going to check on the vipers and see what parts we can salvage."
"You know, the Commander told us to relax while we were here. What you're doing sounds a lot like work."
"How's your leg?" Apollo asked, changing the subject. "I noticed you were still limping."
"It's fine," Starbuck lied.
"If you're still limping, that means it isn't fine. We should try to find a doctor or a med tech."
"How can the Olympian doctors help a human? I doubt they know anything about human physiology."
"The outer anatomy looks similar enough. They might be able to fix your leg, or at least give you something for the pain."
Starbuck shook his head. "We have no way of knowing what kind of effect alien painkillers would have on us."
"You're right. I keep forgetting that the Olympians aren't human. I'm just worried about you. I don't like the way you keep limping. I wish we could get back to the Galactica."
"I'll be all right. Don't worry about me. And most of all, stop feeling guilty about my getting hurt. It wasn't your fault."
"I'm your wingmate as well as your superior officer. That means I'm responsible for your safety."
Starbuck smiled a bit sadly at Apollo. "I know that you take your responsibilities seriously. It's one of the things that I l - that makes you such a good officer. But you weren't responsible for the crash, you're not responsible for the malfunctioning defence screen and you're not responsible for my getting hurt."
Apollo absorbed his friend's words. People often wondered why he and Starbuck got along so well. On the surface they appeared to be opposites. Starbuck was seen as irresponsible and rebellious while Apollo was hyper-responsible and usually stuck to established rules and procedures. Why would he want to be friends with someone like Starbuck?
Because Starbuck provided the balance he needed in his life. Starbuck reminded him to relax. Starbuck cast a critical eye on all the rules and procedures that Apollo considered so important and was willing to throw them out if it was needed. Most of all, Starbuck stuck by him. He knew that Starbuck would follow him to hell and back if he asked, but he would also follow him without being asked.
He knew that he was lucky to have such a friend. He kept telling himself that he should be happy and that he shouldn't want more. But there was a part of him that did want more, part of him that longed for Starbuck's touch in the most intimate parts of his body and soul.
"Wake up, Pol," Starbuck was saying.
Apollo shook himself. "Sorry. What did you say?"
"Where did you go? You looked a million sectares away."
"I was just thinking about things," Apollo said.
"Boxey again?" Starbuck asked sympathetically.
Grateful for an excuse, Apollo said, "Yes. Boxey. He's not used to my being gone for very long. I hope Athena's taking good care of him."
"I'm sure he's fine. Athena takes good care of him every time she babysits."
"But Athena has a job to do, too." "So the Commander will let her off from her duties on the bridge, or Cassie will take care of him."
"You must miss her," Apollo said.
"Miss who?" Starbuck asked.
"Cassiopeia, of course."
Starbuck had barely thought about Cassiopeia since he'd been on Olympia. He shrugged. "Yeah, I guess I do." He finished his last few bites of breakfast then said, "So, how about we head out to see to the vipers?"
"No," Apollo answered him. "You stay here. I can handle the vipers."
"It's a long walk to the crash site. I don't want you to put any more strain on that leg until we can have a doctor look at it."
"Apollo..." Starbuck started to protest.
"I'm your superior officer. This is an order. Stay here. Don't walk anywhere that you don't absolutely have to. Rest that leg as much as possible."
Starbuck glared at his Captain. "Yes, *sir*," he said, with a heavily sarcastic emphasis on the 'sir.'
"I'm sorry, Starbuck," Apollo said as he prepared to leave.
Starbuck didn't answer. He got up from the table and returned to their room, wishing like hell that he wasn't limping. One couldn't make a very dramatic exit with a limp.
Apollo watched him leave, feeling like an absolute heel but knowing that his order had been necessary.
While the Captain headed out to the crash site, Starbuck decided to explore the town. Even if his leg hurt, he wasn't going to stay in the hotel alone all day.
He tried to hide his limp as much as possible as he wandered around, but soon he was approached by Mira, one of the Olympians they'd met the day before. "Lieutenant Starbuck," she said. "You're limping."
Starbuck suppressed a sigh. "Yes, I know. It's just a minor injury from the crash yesterday. I'll be fine."
"Don't be ridiculous," Mira scolded him. "Let me take you to a Healer."
"No offense, Mira, but you're Olympian and I'm human. Our medicine is probably different from yours."
"Don't worry," the Olympian said. "I'm sure that Neri will be able to help you." And ignoring Starbuck's protests, Mira pulled him along beside her.
They arrived at a nondescript building with a sign outside that Starbuck assumed announced the presence of a Healer. He followed Mira in, and was introduced to Neri, who appeared to be male, though Starbuck tried not to make any assumptions.
"What seems to be the problem, Lieutenant Starbuck?" Neri asked.
Starbuck explained about the viper crash and his sore leg. "I think it got twisted under my body as I landed," he said. "The impact was pretty jarring."
"Take off your trousers," the Healer ordered, sending Mira out of the room.
"I barely know you," Starbuck protested. A look from Neri shut him up and he did as he was told.
The Healer ran his/her hands up and down the injured leg. "Not so much different from Olympians. I think I can help you, if you'll let me."
Starbuck willed his body not to respond sexually to the Healer's touch. "If you can help me, please do." He wanted the pain and limp to be gone, and if this Healer could make that happen, he'd let her - or him - do whatever he/she wanted.
For the next half-centare Neri massaged and manipulated the injured leg. When s/he was done, s/he said, "Now stand." Starbuck did so and was surprised and pleased to discover that the pain was almost completely gone. "How does it feel?" the Healer asked.
"It's better. Not completely better, but much better than it was."
Neri smiled in satisfaction. "You will probably want to have your people's healers look at it when you go back, but if you're still here tomorrow, then come back and I'll work on you again."
"Tomorrow is the Blue Moon, isn't it?" Starbuck asked.
"You know about the Blue Moon. Yes, it's a very special occasion."
"Is it true that when you pray to the blue moon for true love, then you find it?"
"It's a popular story, one of many. Whether you believe it or not is up to you. Are you looking for true love?"
"Maybe," Starbuck answered evasively. He liked Neri. He didn't care if the Healer was male, female or neither. "Have dinner with me tonight?" he asked impulsively. This would keep him away from Apollo for awhile and let him get over his current anger at his Captain.
"Are you sure you know me well enough?" Neri asked with amusement.
"I know that I want to get to know you. Isn't that enough?"
The Healer smiled mischievously. "It is."
When Apollo arrived back at the hotel after working on the vipers, he was surprised to discover Starbuck wasn't in their room. He hoped that the Lieutenant had just gone ahead to the dining room without him and wasn't out somewhere doing something to make his leg worse. He headed to the dining room.
Sure enough, Starbuck was there, but what surprised him was that Starbuck wasn't alone. He was having dinner with an Olympian. It was just like Starbuck to make a friend this quickly. Did he even know whether this new friend was male or female? Apollo hoped that it wasn't female, but knowing the Olympians this probably didn't matter. He wondered if he should join them. Looking at how close Starbuck was sitting to his new 'friend,' he decided not to.
Starbuck enjoyed Neri's company immensely. In some ways the Olympian reminded him of Cassiopeia, probably because Neri was a Healer and Cassie a med tech. The two of them had no trouble finding things to talk about, and after several centares discovered that they were the only ones left in the dining room.
"I'd invite you to my room, but Apollo's there," Starbuck told Neri, hoping that the Healer understood what he wanted.
"You can come home with me, if that's what you want."
"It is what I want."
"Do you know what I am?" Neri asked.
"I know that you're a healer. I know that you're an interesting and attractive person. If you mean your gender, I don't care. I want you tonight."
"There may not be anything after tonight if you return to your ship," Neri reminded him.
"Then we should enjoy what time we have."
They walked to Neri's small house, hand in hand. When they got in the door, Neri pushed Starbuck against a wall and kissed him hard. The Lieutenant returned the kiss with ardour.
Tearing each others' clothes off, they soon made it to the bedroom. They fell to the bed, Starbuck on top of Neri. He realized as he explored the Healer's body that Neri was male, and that there was not really any difference between Olympian and human in regards to anatomy. But he was so aroused right now that he wasn't taking note of Olympian/human comparative anatomy. He began to thrust his hips forward.
Neri pushed his hips upward and ground his pelvis against Starbuck's. Then he rolled the Lieutenant over and landed on top of him. "What do you want?" he asked.
"I want you," Starbuck gasped, moving against the Olympian.
Apparently Neri was used to having company in his bed, because he produced a tube from a bedside stand. He put some lubricant on his finger and pushed in inside Starbuck. The Lieutenant bucked in surprise, but soon got used to it. Neri pushed in another finger. Starbuck began pushing against the fingers. "Hurry up," he gasped.
Neri kissed him, a long, slow kiss. "We have all night, Lieutenant."
Starbuck took the tube and began to stroke Neri's cock. He rubbed lube over it with one hand and used the other to caress his balls. "Oh gods and goddess, Starbuck," Neri groaned. "If you keep doing that I'll be finished before I ever get inside you."
Starbuck grinned and lay back on the bed. He spread his legs. "Then you'd better get started."
Neri moved swiftly and before Starbuck knew it the other man had penetrated him. He gasped. He'd never been penetrated before. He'd expected it to hurt, but all he felt was pleasure that he'd never even imagined. "Move," he gasped.
The Healer began to thrust slowly into Starbuck's body. Starbuck raised himself off the bed trying to meet the thrusts. He wanted Neri to go faster, but the Olympian only said again, "We have all night." He moved Starbuck's legs further apart and lay on top of him so that Starbuck's cock was trapped between them. When he moved this time, he deliberately rubbed against it. Starbuck practically howled with pleasure, only restraining himself because he had no idea how close Neri's neighbours were.
The two men, human and Olympian, moved together again and again until Neri could control himself no longer and came inside Starbuck's body. As soon as he had finished, he withdrew.
"Hey, wait a centon," Starbuck protested. "I'm not done."
With a wicked grin Neri bent down and took Starbuck's cock in his mouth. Starbuck thought he would die. He thrust into the Healer's hot mouth. Neri didn't object, just kept laving Starbuck's cock with his tongue, alternately sucking and licking as if it were an ice treat.
When Starbuck came, he forgot all concerns for Neri's neighbours and howled.
After lying in Neri's arms for almost a centare, Starbuck reluctantly rose.
"Where are you going?" the Healer asked.
"I have to go back to the hotel," Starbuck answered.
"Why? You can stay with me all night if you want."
"Apollo will be wondering where I am. I don't want him to worry. He's my superior officer, and he feels responsible for me."
Starbuck dressed and took one last look at Neri, who was still lying in bed. "I uh, I enjoyed myself. I enjoyed what we did." He'd never been very good at 'morning after' etiquette.
"Can you find your way back to the hotel? Do you want me to come with you?"
Starbuck kissed him. "I'll be fine. My leg is a bit stiff, so I might have to come back to your office if I'm still here tomorrow."
"I could do an adjustment on it now if you like."
"All right, but do a quick one. It's already later than I like."
The Healer did a quick adjustment on the leg. Starbuck's body was satisfied enough that it didn't show any response to the touch.
And then Starbuck was on his own, walking back to the hotel. He knew that he was in for at the very least a lecture, and possibly even an official reprimand. Apollo would know what he'd been doing. It's one thing to be friendly with the natives. It's another to actually frack with them.
Somehow, though, he didn't care. He was tired. He wasn't as pissed at Apollo as he had been. It was true that he didn't like his wingmate to go anywhere without him. It wasn't safe, for one thing. He also didn't like to be treated as if he were crippled. But he probably shouldn't have let his anger at Apollo send him to another man's bed. Well, he hadn't actually known that Neri was a man. It was true that he hadn't cared. He hadn't been completely honest when he'd told Apollo he liked women. He did like women. He also happened to like men. He liked men, and he loved Apollo.
He slipped quietly into the room, but he knew it was no use. Apollo would be awake, waiting for him.
Apollo was indeed awake when Starbuck entered. Without asking, without even seeing him, Apollo knew that Starbuck had been in someone's bed. He supposed he shouldn't be surprised, but he was. Well, Andry had said that some Olympians identified as female. Maybe Starbuck had found one of them.
He had also thought that his friend had something going with Cassiopeia, though his response when Apollo had asked if he missed her had only been lukewarm.
"I'm glad you're back. I was worried," Apollo said. Starbuck undressed and slipped into bed without answering.
"I hope whoever it was, was worth what you've been putting me through for the last few centares. When you didn't come back here after dinner I was frantic. I don't know what kind of dangers there are on this planet."
"Probably the same ones you faced going out to the vipers alone," Starbuck answered without looking at him.
"Is that what this is about? You're still mad because I left you behind this morning?"
There was no answer.
"Frack, Starbuck, you know that I don't pull rank on you very often. But today I had to. Don't you know how much I hate to see you in pain? Making you walk out to the crash site would have been torture for both of us."
The sound of Starbuck's breathing told Apollo that his wingmate was asleep.
The Captain turned over and pulled the covers up. "It's only because I love you so much, Starbuck. I love you so much that when you're hurt, I hurt."
Starbuck didn't hear him.
The next morning Starbuck and Apollo did their best to pretend that the dispute of the previous day had been forgotten. The first thing they did after eating was to check on the defence screen. "We're making progress, gentlemen," they were told, "but no results yet. Since you have to be here anyway, enjoy the Blue Moon festivities."
The two men returned to the hotel. Fortunately for Starbuck's injured leg, the defence installation was only a short distance from the hotel. But the leg was much better, and Apollo noticed the difference.
"You're hardly limping at all," he said.
Starbuck grinned. "I found a Healer."
Apollo frowned. "I thought you said that Olympian medicine wouldn't work on a human."
"No medicine. No drugs, anyway. The Healer massaged and manipulated my leg. I don't know how he did it, but it worked." Starbuck looked a bit sheepish. "I guess I shouldn't say 'he' since Neri doesn't identify as male or female, but I don't really have another pronoun to call him."
Apollo couldn't help but wonder how Starbuck knew what gender Neri was if the healer didn't identify as male or female, unless "he" was just the pronoun he used by default.
Starbuck showed his wingmate where the Healer's office was. "Since we're here, why don't you come with me. Neri promised me another adjustment if I was still around today."
Apollo was curious to see how these 'adjustments' worked, and followed Starbuck in.
"Welcome back, Starbuck," the Healer greeted him. "And you must be Captain Apollo. I know that you want to get back to your ship, but I have to say I'm glad that you're still here. I hope you enjoy the Blue Moon tonight."
Apollo was staring at Neri in stunned surprise. He recognized the healer as the person he'd seen Starbuck with last night. Unless Starbuck had found someone else after Apollo saw him in the dining room? But no. This had to be how Starbuck knew that Neri was male.
Which meant that the person Starbuck had been fracking with last night was a man, physically, at least.
"Captain?" came Neri's voice.
"Sorry. Too many things on my mind," Apollo said. "You were saying?"
"Before I take your Lieutenant's pants off, I was wondering if you wanted to stay while I work on him."
This sounded incredibly suggestive. Apollo wondered if the double entendre was deliberate. "Yes. I'm curious to see your methods. Starbuck's girlfriend, Cassiopeia, is a med tech, and I'm sure she'd love to hear all that Starbuck's learned from you."
"Ouch!" Starbuck exclaimed. The healer stopped abruptly.
"Did I hurt you?" Neri asked in concern.
"It's nothing. Not your fault. Carry on," Starbuck said, his eyes shooting daggers at his wingmate.
"All right. But let me know if I hurt you. I don't like to hurt any of my patients, and especially not you."
Apollo kept an eye on the two of them to make sure Neri's hands didn't go anywhere other than Starbuck's leg.
Starbuck wondered what the hades Apollo was up to. Why did he make a point of telling Neri about Cassie? He realized that Apollo must have seen them together the night before. But that didn't explain his behaviour. Why was he so concerned about Cassiopeia? He and the med tech had an understanding. They were not exclusive. Besides, unless someone told her, she wouldn't ever have to know about his night with Neri.
The two warriors spent the morning looking around the town. Many people had set up special exhibits to celebrate the Blue Moon. However, they discovered that if they understood the Olympians' time measurements correctly, most of the businesses were closing their doors early. Starbuck asked if there was some sort of big party going on. Starbuck liked parties.
"Nothing like that," a shopkeeper told them. "Once it gets dark and the moon actually rises, most people have plans. They want to be with their loved ones. They want to make a promise, or even make a baby, under the moon. The ones that don't have anyone special want to make a wish on the blue moon for their true love to appear."
Starbuck wondered what would happen if he asked the blue moon to make his true love appear. He loved Apollo, but he didn't know if loving someone made them your 'true love' if they didn't love you back.
The warriors returned to the hotel for their midday meal, and Starbuck noticed that his wingmate was yawning. "Rough night?" he asked.
No rougher than yours, Apollo thought but didn't say. "Not rough. Just strange."
"Strange in what way?" Starbuck asked.
"I had strange dreams."
"What kind of dreams?"
"Well, I dreamed that I was aboard this ship of light. Everything was white, and very bright. You were there, and Sheba."
Apollo was dreaming about the ships of light? "What happened on this white ship?" Starbuck asked.
"I don't know exactly," Apollo answered. "I know that Sheba was crying, and she hugged and kissed me."
"What about me? What did I do?" Starbuck asked.
"You just took my hand and held it for a centon or two. You looked like you'd been crying too."
"Could you tell why Sheba and I were crying?"
Apollo shook his head. "No."
"Was anyone else on this ship?"
Apollo thought for a moment. "Yes. Some beings dressed all in white."
"Did they say anything?"
Apollo thought for a few more centons. "I don't remember. I don't remember anything else. Why are you so interested?"
Starbuck tried to think of a good reason for his interest. "Well, it seems like this dream or dreams had an effect on you. You said that they were strange, and obviously your sleep was disturbed. You're tired. Maybe you should go back to our room and lie down."
"Why? So that you can go back and be with the Healer again?"
"I know that's who you were with last night," Apollo said. "Are you going to be with him again?"
"That's none of your business."
"I'm your superior officer, and while we're on this planet your conduct is my business. And I consider Cassiopeia to be my friend," he added. "Didn't you think of her before you went off with Neri last night?"
"No more than she thought of me before she threw herself at Cain," Starbuck replied. "Not that this is any of your business either, but Cassie and I are not exclusive."
"Well, what about Neri? What happens when the defence grid is fixed? You can't stay here. I don't think he's going to want to join the Fleet."
Starbuck sighed. "Look, Apollo, as I keep saying, this is none of your business, but I'll tell you because you are my friend, my best friend in fact. I had a one-night stand. A fling. I enjoyed it, and it's over. Call me shallow if you want. I probably deserve it."
Apollo rubbed his eyes. Frack, he was tired. That was probably why he was behaving like such a prick to Starbuck. "I'm sorry, Star. I don't mean to get all stuffy and official on you. You're my best friend too, and I hate to see you get hurt, just like I didn't want you to hurt your leg. I saw you with this person, and I knew that it could only end badly because you're going to be separated as soon as the defence shield is fixed."
"I'm a big boy, Apollo. I can make my own decisions. I can take care of myself."
Apollo smiled. "I know you can. I guess I just forget sometimes." He yawned again.
"Maybe you should take care of yourself for a change, Pol," Starbuck said.
"What are you talking about?"
"You're practically asleep where you're sitting. You need to get some rest. I do too, as a matter of fact. I think we should both go up to our room and take a nap."
They did just that. Apollo fell asleep almost immediately, but Starbuck just sat on his bed and watched Apollo sleep.
There was a knock on the door. Apollo didn't wake up, so Starbuck answered it. Neri was standing there. Starbuck went out into the corridor and closed the door behind him so that he didn't disturb his friend.
"What can I do for you?" he asked the Healer.
"I heard that the defence shield isn't fixed yet, and since you're staying here for at least one more night, I wondered if you would spend it with me."
Starbuck considered the offer. It was tempting, but he had the feeling that Apollo would be upset if he woke up and found him gone.
"Why not?" Neri wanted to know. "I thought you enjoyed yourself last night."
"I did. But that was then, and this is now. It was for one night and one night only."
The Healer frowned. "That's it? Just the one night and that's all?"
"I thought we talked about this last night. You knew that I'd be leaving."
"Yes, but we have a chance to be together again. And I'll admit I kind of hoped I could talk you into staying."
"I have a responsibility to the Galactica and the fleet.. I'm a warrior. The fleet needs me."
"Can't we at least have one more night?"
"What part of 'no' don't you understand?"
"Starbuck, last night you said that you wanted me. Well, now I want you. And I'm not going to give up that easily."
"You don't have any choice," Starbuck answered. "I enjoyed being with you, and now it's over. I want you to leave, and leave now." He put a hand on his pistol, just in case the Healer wasn't getting the message.
At first Starbuck thought that Neri was going to argue some more, but the Healer took one more long look at the Lieutenant, and at his weapon, and chose not to.
"Well then, Starbuck," he said, "I guess this is goodbye. I hope that you find what - and who - you're looking for someday."
"Goodbye, Neri," Starbuck said. The Healer left, and Starbuck went back into the room where Apollo was still sleeping. He lay down to take a nap himself.
When Starbuck woke it was dusk. The sun was going down. Apollo was still asleep. Soon it would be time for the Blue Moon to appear.
The Lieutenant freshened up and went down to the dining room. He had a bite to eat and saved some food for Apollo, since the Captain hadn't shown any sign of waking.
When Apollo did wake up it was dark. He saw that Starbuck was sitting looking out of the window. "Did I miss dinner?" he asked.
Starbuck waved the wrapped plate he'd brought back with him from the dining room. "I brought you some food, since it looked like you were going to stay asleep. You must have really been tired."
"More than I realized," Apollo said, digging in to the food. "Thanks for this."
Starbuck brushed off the thanks. "Don't mention it," he said. For some reason he always felt incredibly self-conscious whenever anyone thanked him for something he'd done. He usually covered it up by making a flippant remark.
Apollo joined his wingmate at the window. "So that's the Blue Moon," he said. "I can see why the Olympians wanted us to see it. It's beautiful. I've never seen anything like it before."
"I'm going out for awhile," Starbuck announced suddenly, getting up from his seat in front of the window."
"Where are you going?" Apollo asked, suspicious.
"I'm not going to be with Neri, if that's what you're worried about," Starbuck said.
"Then where are you going?" Apollo asked again.
"I just want to be alone for awhile."
"Is everything all right?" the Captain asked in concern. Wanting to be alone was not normal for Starbuck. On the Galactica Starbuck was usually with him, or with Cassiopeia, or was surrounded by other warriors at the gaming tables.
Starbuck's response was a sad smile. "Everything's fine, Pol. I just want to be alone. Alone. Not with Neri or anyone else."
"Is your leg feeling all right?" Apollo asked. "Are you planning to go very far?"
"My leg is fine and no, I'm not planning to go far. I'm just going out to look at the moon for awhile."
Apollo realized that anything he said right now could be interpreted as his giving or denying Starbuck permission to go out, and he didn't want to go back into his 'superior officer' role. So he just said, "Enjoy the moon" and watched him leave.
Starbuck left the hotel and headed toward a hill he'd seen just outside the town. He thought it would be a good place to look at the moon, and maybe say one of those prayers he'd heard the Olympians mention. He didn't know if it would help; he didn't normally pay attention to what he considered to be superstitions. But the Olympians seemed so sincere in their belief in the specialness of the Blue Moon that he found himself believing in it.
Starbuck didn't notice that as he'd left the hotel, someone had followed him.
Apollo wasn't sure what had prompted him to follow his wingmate, but he'd slipped out of the hotel after him and now tried to keep up with him without being noticed. It was almost as if something was pulling him after his friend. He knew that he had to talk to him, but had intended to wait until they had both gone to bed. He found it easier to talk in the dark. He always had, as far back as his and Starbuck's time in the Academy.
Walking up the hill, Starbuck tried to think of exactly what he was going to say to the moon. Praying was not something he normally did. He didn't make wishes, either. He asked himself, not for the first time, why he was doing this.
Walking through a grove of trees, he found a large boulder and sat on it. As he looked up at the Blue Moon, the words came.
"Blue Moon," he said. "You see me here, alone. I have no one to love. I don't even dream about loving anyone anymore. It doesn't seem to work out for me in the long run. Oh, there is someone I love, my true love, my only love. I want him with me. But I'm afraid that I'm not his true love. So, since he doesn't love me, is there any way you can send me someone who will be a love of my own? There was a time I thought it might be Cassie, but you and I know how that turned out." At least, he assumed the moon knew this. He wasn't sure what made him think of the moon as a person, but it seemed right, somehow.
Standing back in the trees, Apollo listened to Starbuck's words in shock. Starbuck loved a man? Who was it? Neri? Could he have fallen in love with the Healer after only one night? Evidently whoever it was didn't love Starbuck in return. It made Apollo angry to hear the sadness in Starbuck's tone. He stepped forward.
"Star?" he said hesitantly.
"Apollo!" Starbuck felt embarrassed. How much had Apollo heard?
"I'm sorry if I'm intruding," Apollo said. "I was a bit worried when you said you wanted to be alone. Like I said before, we don't know what's out here.
"I heard you talking - praying? - to the Blue Moon. It's probably none of my business, but I was wondering who this man is that you love so much."
Starbuck avoided looking at his friend. "I'd rather not say."
Apollo nodded. "I understand. I'm sorry that whoever it is doesn't want you. He's missing out. Someone as special as you are deserves to be loved."
Starbuck swallowed hard. Apollo thought he was special?
"There's another reason I came out here. I wanted to talk to you about these dreams I've been having. I've been thinking that maybe they're more than just dreams. They're memories. Memories of the time we went up against Count Iblis. The time I died."
"You remember that?" Starbuck asked.
"I remember that you offered to sacrifice your own life for me. I don't know what prompted you to make that offer, but it means more to me than I can say." He came closer. "I know that you asked the Blue Moon to send you someone who would love you. I want you to know that I love you. I know that you don't feel that way about me. I know that you love someone else - Neri, maybe?
"Star, do you think that maybe you could love me? If you don't think you can, I understand. I'll go on being your best friend, and I'll never say one more word about it."
Tears were streaming down Starbuck's face as he pulled the one he loved into his arms and kissed him.
"Apollo, " he said, "you're the one I love. You're the one I've always loved. My true love and my only love."
Apollo could hardly believe what he was hearing. "You love me? Why didn't you ever say anything? Why did you sleep with the Healer? Why did you date all the women I've seen you with over the yahrens?"
Starbuck sighed. "May I point out that you never said anything, either?"
"You're right. I didn't say anything. But that was because I thought you loved women, and only women."
"I thought you did too, Pol. I was there when you announced your engagement to Serena."
"What you're saying is that we've both been behaving like fools," Apollo said.
Starbuck grinned. "But not any longer," he said and kissed Apollo again.
"But why did you sleep with the Healer?" Apollo persisted.
"Because I was behaving like a fool," Starbuck said. He could tell from the look on the other man's face that this was not an acceptable answer. "All right. I was lonely. I was horny. I was pissed off at you for treating me like an invalid. I wanted to work off some tension. Neri was available. At the time I didn't even know he was a he. I just knew that I found him attractive, and the plumbing didn't matter."
Apollo had to laugh at the last words. "Plumbing?" he asked.
"I could use more crude words, if you want," Starbuck said.
"Never mind. I get the idea. And I'm sorry you thought I was treating you like an invalid. I just hate to see you in pain. When you're hurting, I hurt too."
They kissed again. "Back to our room?" Starbuck asked.
"Sounds like a very good idea," Apollo answered. "Hey, look at the moon."
Starbuck turned and looked. "It's not blue anymore. It's gold."
"We'll have to ask someone about that - tomorrow," Apollo said.
The two warriors walked hand-in-hand to their hotel. They didn't notice that someone was watching them from a distance.
Neri was furious. Starbuck had rejected him, and for what? The stuffy, uptight Captain that he'd spent most of their time together complaining about. Well, Starbuck was in for a surprise. Neri wasn't about to take this rejection lying down. He'd win Starbuck back, somehow.
Back at the hotel, Starbuck and Apollo just held each other for a few centons, relishing the feel of each other's arms. Aside from a rare hug, they'd never known what it felt like to hold each other.
"You realize don't you," Apollo said, "that everything changes now? Our relationship will never be the same as it was."
Starbuck pulled back. "What do you mean?" he asked. "Of course I know that our relationship has changed. I thought it had changed for the better. Or are you having second thoughts?"
"Oh, no, nothing like that!" Apollo said. "I love you, and I want to explore this new facet of our relationship. I just wanted to make sure you know what you're getting into. There's no privacy on the Galactica. You know that. Everything that's happened between us will be public knowledge as soon as we arrive on the battlestar.
"I have Boxey to think about. And of course there's my father and Athena. But you've been part of the family for yahrens already. I don't think that will change."
"I realize that I'm not the kind of person your father expects you to settle down with. I was surprised that he accepted my engagement to Athena. He probably wants you to find some nice Caprican girl, someone like Sheba."
"I don't want Sheba. I want you," Apollo said. He moved toward one of the beds, pulling Starbuck with him. He removed his jacket and helped Starbuck out of his, then took the other man into his arms and lay down. "Look at me, Star," he said, using the nickname that was his and his alone for Starbuck.
Starbuck looked into the beautiful green eyes.
"I love you, Starbuck. I want to be with you. I don't want anyone else. I only want you."
Starbuck smiled. "I love you, too," he said, kissing Apollo.
Just then there was a loud crash. The two warriors jumped up and found that a rock had been thrown through the window.
"Where the frack did that come from?" Starbuck exclaimed.
There was no note attached to the rock and no indication of where it had come from.
"Have we made any enemies since we've been here?" Apollo asked.
"Not that I know of," Starbuck answered. "Although...."
"I told Neri this afternoon that I didn't want to see him again. He wasn't happy about it."
"Was he unhappy enough to throw a rock through our window?" Apollo asked.
"I have no idea."
"Why did you tell him you didn't want to see him again? I mean, you told him before you knew how I felt about you. You could have been with him again tonight, but you weren't. Not that I want you to be."
"I knew that something about my being with him pissed you off. I didn't know what was making you mad, exactly, but I hate it when you're mad at me. I didn't want to do anything to make you angrier than you already were."
"I was jealous," Apollo admitted.
"Good," Starbuck said. "Now we'd better find someone who works here and tell them about the hole in the window."
The night manager took a look at the room and went about finding another one for them. "I'm afraid we're almost completely booked for the Blue Moon," the manager said. "I may not be able to find you another room with twin beds. I do have one double left."
"We'll take it," Apollo and Starbuck immediately answered.
When they were alone in the room with the double bed, the two men removed their clothing. "You know, if we have to stay here much longer I think we'd better find a friendly tailor who works on credit," Starbuck said. "We've been living in these clothes for the past three days."
Apollo grinned. "We'll just have to find something to do that doesn't require clothes."
The two warriors made good use of the double bed
The next day the housekeeper informed them that their clothes could be washed in the hotel. The two men stayed in the robes provided for them - when they weren't in bed - until their uniforms were clean. Then they headed to their vipers to call the Galactica.
"How's the leg?" Apollo asked Starbuck.
"Much better," the Lieutenant answered. "Whatever else he might be, Neri is a good Healer."
Just then the Healer showed up. "Starbuck!" he called.
"Ignore him," Starbuck told Apollo.
But the Healer wouldn't be pushed aside that easily. "Starbuck, I want to talk to you."
The two men continued to ignore him.
Finally Neri was right in front of them. "I told you that I want to talk to you."
Starbuck sighed. "Look, Neri, I don't have anything more to say to you. I thought I made everything clear yesterday."
"I don't believe you. I think you have feelings for me the same way I have for you."
"No, I don't. I'm sorry. I should never have led you to believe otherwise. I'm sorry. I treated you badly. There's no way I can make up for that. But I am with Apollo now, and I can't be with you anymore."
"Starbuck, I love you!" Neri exclaimed.
"I don't love you," Starbuck answered. "I love Apollo."
The Healer looked at the two Colonial warriors as if trying to decide what to do next. He saw their guns. Finally he said, "This isn't over, Starbuck," and walked away.
Starbuck looked at his lover. "Don't lecture me," he said.
"Would I do that?" Apollo asked innocently.
"Yes, you would."
After making their report to the Commander, Apollo sat back in his viper. "I feel like they don't miss me at all," he said sadly.
"What do you mean?"
"I mean that every time I call the Galactica, my father or Tigh tells me that everything is fine and they're getting along without me very well. At least Boxey misses me."
"Pol, I think that what's happening is the Commander and the Colonel are trying to make you feel better. They know how much duty means to you, and they probably know how frustrating it is for you to be stuck down here and not able to return to the fleet. There's nothing we can do about it, and they don't want you to feel any worse than you already do."
"I suppose you're right," Apollo sighed.
"I know I'm right. Come on, let's go check on that defence grid."
Yet again they were told that the defence grid was not working. The two men didn't say anything in front of the Olympian scientists working on it, but in private they expressed their frustration.
"How fracking long can it possibly take?" Starbuck wanted to know. "Are they actually working or just standing around staring at it?"
"I'm sure they're working on it," Apollo said. "I just wish we could get some people from the Galactica down here to help."
"That's an idea," Starbuck said suddenly.
"What is? Getting someone down here from the Galactica? You know that's not possible."
"No, but there's still radio communication," Starbuck pointed out. "Someone could relay the schematics of the defence grid to the Galactica, and Wilker could study it, see if he could figure something out."
Apollo kissed him. "Starbuck, I love you," he said. "Let's go talk to those scientists."
The plans for the defence grid were sent to the Galactica for study. Apollo and Starbuck felt optimistic that their stay on Olympia would soon be over. They liked the place - it had been quite awhile since they had spent an extended period of time on a planet - but wanted to return to the fleet. Apollo missed Boxey and the rest of his family. The fleet needed them. But it was because of Olympia and the blue moon that they had come together.
Starbuck couldn't help but wonder what would happen when they did return to the Galactica. How would Apollo explain their relationship to his family? Or would he? Would Starbuck go back to being Apollo's friend and wingmate and not be his lover anymore? Would they continue as lovers but have to hide their relationship from the Commander and Athena?
As Starbuck and Apollo approached their hotel, they were approached by Andry. The two warriors greeted him and asked what they could do for him.
"I have to ask you to do something," the Olympian told them. "I have to ask you to surrender your weapons for the rest of the time you are here."
"Excuse me? We've been here for three solar days already. Why do you suddenly want us to surrender our weapons?" Starbuck asked.
"There have been some complaints," the Olympian replied. "I realize that you are warriors, and that you are our guests, and that you don't want to be here, but none of us carries a weapon. Some of our people find your weapons to be threatening."
"No," Starbuck said firmly. "I'm a warrior. A warrior doesn't surrender his weapon to anyone."
"It's all right," Apollo told his wingmate. "I think that we should do what the Olympians want. We're their guests. We can make this small concession to their way of doing things."
"This isn't exactly 'small,' Apollo," Starbuck protested. "What if there's trouble?"
"What kind of trouble could there be?" Apollo asked.
"Someone threw a rock through our window," Starbuck reminded him.
"That could have been an accident," Apollo responded. "It might not even have been meant for us. Remember, there wasn't a note or anything to indicate where it came from."
"I still don't like the idea of giving up my weapon," Starbuck complained.
"Please, Star, let's not cause trouble. We probably won't have to stay here much longer anyway."
Starbuck surrendered his weapon reluctantly. Apollo did the same.
As the two warriors ate their midday meal, Starbuck continued to complain about having had to give up his pistol. "I hope you're right about this, Pol," he said. "I really don't like it. I hate feeling defenceless."
Apollo smiled at his lover. Somehow just knowing that Starbuck loved him as much as he loved Starbuck made him feel that everything would be all right, that nothing and no one could possibly even want to hurt them. "Everything will be fine. You'll see."
"You're a hopeless optimist, Pol."
"Lieutenant Starbuck! Captain Apollo!" It was one of the Olympians who worked on the defence grid. "There's a communication from your ship. They want you to contact them as soon as possible."
The two warriors jumped up. "Can we use the radios at your defence outpost?" Apollo asked.
"You could, but your Commander said to tell you that he wanted to talk to you privately," the Olympian answered.
"I don't like the sound of this," Starbuck muttered as he and Apollo headed to their vipers.
Apollo was frantic. What did the Commander want to tell them? Had something happened to Boxey? Was the Galactica in danger? A thousand terrible scenarios ran through his head. Then he felt Starbuck's hand pulling on his.
"Stop for a micron, Apollo."
"We have to get to the radios. We have to call the Galactica. I don't know what could be wrong, but...."
"But you're imagining the worst. I know. I just wanted to tell you that you're not alone. Whatever it is, we'll deal with it together."
In spite of his fear, Apollo smiled. "I know," he said. "Thank you."
"You don't have to thank me," Starbuck replied, kissing him.
Still holding each other's hands, they continued their run to the vipers.
Apollo's hand shook as he turned the dials on the viper's radio. "Captain Apollo to Galactica."
"Apollo, I'm glad to hear from you," said the Commander.
"The message I got said that you wanted us to contact you as soon as possible, and that you wanted to talk to us privately. What's wrong?"
"We've been examining the specs of the defence grid that you had the Olympians send us," the Commander informed him. "Wilker has discovered what he believes to be sabotage."
While Apollo was relieved that nothing terrible had happened to his family or to the fleet, he found this news very disturbing. "Sabotage? But who? Why? Why would anyone want to sabotage the defence shield?"
"Wilker says that the damage appears to be very recent. In fact, he thinks it happened after you arrived on Olmpia. He was able to discover the problem that originally kept the screen from opening, but he says it could have been fixed quite quickly without the additional damage that was inflicted on it. Apparently someone either wants to keep you from leaving or wants to keep anyone else from arriving."
The two warriors were stunned. They had been forced to stay on this planet because of sabotage?
"But who would do this?" asked Apollo. "Why would anyone want to keep us here, or stop anyone else from arriving?"
"I can think of someone," Starbuck muttered.
"You mean the Healer?" Apollo asked. "Do you think he would do something like this?"
"I wouldn't put anything past him," said Starbuck. "He told me that he hoped to convince me to stay here on Olympia instead of going back to the Galactica."
"But does he have the technical knowledge?" Apollo asked.
"I don't know, but if he doesn't he could have got someone to do it for him."
"I think you're over-reacting," Apollo said. "I don't think that Neri would sabotage his own planet's defence screen just to keep you here."
"Pol, someone did sabotage the screen. Who else would have a motive?"
"We'll tell the proper authorities and let them deal with it."
"Do you think that's wise? If you're right and it wasn't Neri, it could be anyone."
The Captain was thoughtful. "I didn't think of that. We have to tell someone. But who?"
"Who can we trust?" Starbuck asked.
"Andry," Apollo answered immediately. "We'll tell him. I think he can be trusted."
"He is the one who asked us to give up our weapons," Starbuck reminded him.
"I know, but he was only following orders. Come on, let's go talk to him."
"I would rather you didn't," came a voice from behind them.
The two men turned and saw Neri standing there, pointing a pistol at them. "You were right about the defence screen, Starbuck. I did fix it so that you couldn't leave. Of course, I would rather you stayed here alone, so I will have to fix that, too." He turned the weapon on Apollo.
Starbuck stepped in front of his wingmate. "Leave Apollo out of this. Your argument isn't with him. It's with me."
"I'm afraid it is with him. You see, he's the one who's keeping us apart. If it weren't for Captain Apollo, you would be mine."
Starbuck didn't move.
"Please move away from the Captain, Starbuck. You're blocking my shot."
"If you want him, you have to kill me first," Starbuck answered.
"But I don't want to kill you, Starbuck. I love you. I want us to be together, and as soon as he's gone, we will be."
Starbuck shook his head. "If Apollo dies, then I die."
"I just told you that I wouldn't hurt you," Neri protested.
"What hurts Apollo, hurts me. Even if you didn't lay a finger on me, I would die without Apollo. He's my life. I won't let you hurt him. You will kill me, Neri. You have to, to get anywhere near Apollo. Even if somehow you managed to get to him without killing me, I'd die anyway. I told someone once that I would give up my life so that Apollo could live, and I intend to keep that promise."
The Healer looked confused. He began to lower his weapon. Starbuck took advantage of the man's confusion and jumped him. The weapon discharged.
"Starbuck!" Apollo cried out. He ran to his lover. Had Neri shot Starbuck?
But Starbuck got up. "I'm all right, Pol," he said. "But I'm afraid our Healer needs a Healer of his own. He shot himself."
Apollo and Starbuck carried the injured Healer back to town, where they explained to authorities about the sabotage. "I don't know if there's any proof that Neri did the sabotage," Apollo said. "You have our Commander's word that it was sabotage. We're the only ones that heard Neri's confession."
"We won't make any judgements until the Healer is well enough to talk to authorities," said Andry, who had become unofficial liaison with the human visitors. "Now that we know what's wrong with the shield, we should be able to fix it quite quickly, especially with the help of the scientists and engineers from your battlestar."
Sure enough, the shield was finally fixed. A shuttle was dispatched from the Galactica to retrieve Apollo and Starbuck, along with a salvage vessel to pick up the damaged vipers.
The Commander himself came on the shuttle. He wanted to personally thank the Olympians for taking care of Apollo and Starbuck, and possibly arrange to get some supplies for the fleet.
Starbuck felt a bit uncomfortable around Adama now. He was not just the Commander, but Apollo's father. Starbuck didn't know if Apollo would tell his family about their new relationship, or even if it would continue once they were back on the Galactica and had resumed their regular duties.
Indeed, it seemed that the Lieutenant's worst fears were confirmed when they arrived back on the battlestar. Apollo was immediately greeted by Athena and Boxey, and then Adama whisked his children and grandchild away. Starbuck saw that Sheba joined them as well.
"Starbuck." It was Colonel Tigh. "Do you feel up to a debriefing, or do you need to visit Life Centre first?"
"I'm fine," the Lieutenant answered. "I may as well get debriefing over with. But what about Apollo? He was there too. Doesn't he have to debrief?"
"Apollo needs to be with his family for a little while," the Colonel told him. "I can catch up with him later."
'Of course,' Starbuck thought. 'I don't have a family. I don't have anyone to greet. No one missed me. I don't have anything better to do than go through debriefing.'
Starbuck watched Apollo leave with his family, then turned to the Colonel. "Let's go debrief," he said.
As soon as he stepped off the shuttle, Apollo was ambushed by Athena and Boxey. He was very happy to see them, of course, but he'd been hoping to get some time alone with his father so that he could tell him about Starbuck. But then the Commander immediately declared that he was having a "welcome home" party and had ushered Apollo, Athena and Boxey to his quarters. Sheba caught up to them and was invited to join them.
Apollo turned to say something to Starbuck and only then realized that his wingmate wasn't there. He looked behind him to see if the Lieutenant was catching up, and saw Starbuck leaving with Colonel Tigh. 'I guess Tigh ordered him to debriefing,' Apollo thought. He'd just assumed that Starbuck was included in the welcome home party. He'd never needed invitations to Adama's family gatherings before. Starbuck was family. He'd always been family. Maybe Starbuck had just been held up by Colonel Tigh. They both needed to debrief, and Tigh hadn't been able to catch Apollo, so perhaps he'd made certain he didn't miss both of them. Apollo made a mental note to ask Starbuck about it later.
Right now, though, Apollo needed to spend some time with Boxey. His son was intensely curious about Olympia, and had dozens of questions to ask. Apollo did his best to answer them, though when the questions turned to the sabotaging of the defence grid, he couldn't exactly tell Boxey that it had been done by a jealous ex- lover of Starbuck's. He settled for saying, "A very bad man broke the defence screen."
"But why?" Boxey wanted to know.
"I don't know," Apollo answered.
"But you stopped him, right?" Boxey asked.
"Starbuck and I did, yes."
Adama interrupted them. "Speaking of Starbuck, where is he? I was expecting him to join us."
Before Apollo could say anything, Sheba answered. "He's probably with Cassiopeia. Knowing Starbuck, he's probably pretty horny after being separated from her for three days." Then, realizing what she had just said in front of Boxey, she blushed and mumbled an apology.
Apollo blushed too, though not for the same reason. Fortunately, Boxey didn't ask him what 'horny' meant. Though that didn't mean he wouldn't ask later, probably at a very inconvenient time. "I think Starbuck had to debrief with Colonel Tigh," he said.
After dinner, as the small group sat around talking and relaxing, Athena thought that she recognized a particular look on her brother's face. It was a look that said Apollo had something on his mind, and wanted to talk to their father about it. "Come on, Sheba," she said, rising from her chair. "Let's go start the cleanup. You too, Boxey."
"Do I have to?" Boxey whined.
"Yes, you have to," Athena answered.
When all three of them had gone into the kitchen, Adama turned to his son. "What did you want to talk to me about?" he asked.
"Was I that obvious?" Apollo sighed.
Adama smiled. "I was already beginning to get the feeling that you wanted to talk, and when Athena made a point of taking Sheba and Boxey with her to do the cleaning up, it became quite apparent."
Apollo took a deep breath. "It's about Starbuck."
"What about Starbuck?" Adama asked. "I'm sorry that he's not here with us."
"You know that Starbuck and I.... We're close."
"I know that. Why, the two of you are almost brothers. And you know that Starbuck is practically another son to me."
"Well, we're not just friends," Apollo said.
"As I just said, I know that. You're closer than brothers, in fact."
"What if Starbuck wasn't your son, but your son-in-law?" Apollo asked.
The Commander frowned. "I don't understand. I gave him my approval to marry Athena, but that didn't work out. I assumed that he was going to marry Cassiopeia one day."
"I don't mean if he married Athena. I mean if he married me."
If Adama was surprised by his son's revelation, he didn't let it show. "Are you and Starbuck going to marry?"
"I haven't asked him yet," Apollo admitted. "But we are lovers, and I want to marry him, if he'll have me."
"Is this something fairly recent?" Adama asked his son.
Apollo nodded. "Just two days," he said. "It started when we were on Olympia." He explained about the blue moon. "But I've loved him for what seems like forever."
The Commander was thoughtful for a few centons. Finally he asked, "Are you happy?"
"Yes, but if you don't approve, I won't be as happy as I would be if you did approve."
"I don't want you to think I disapprove, Apollo, because I don't. However, I do want you to think before you go rushing into anything. You said that you and Starbuck have only been lovers for two days. Isn't that rather soon to be thinking about marriage?"
Apollo shook his head. "I've known Starbuck for almost my entire life, and I've been in love with him for most of that time. It's not like he's a stranger. It's just taken me this long to work up the courage to tell him how I feel, and now that I know he feels the same, I don't want to waste any time. Serena and I were married for only a few days before she was killed. I pray that nothing like that ever happens to Starbuck, but none of knows what will happen to us tomorrow, not with the Cylons breathing down our necks. I love him, and I want to marry him. I just want to be certain that Starbuck will be still be welcome as part of this family now that you know about our relationship."
"Starbuck will always be welcome. If you want my blessing, you have it. I just want you to be sure, and it sounds like you are."
"Thank you," Apollo said in relief.
Just then Sheba, having gotten tired of kitchen work, came back into the room. "Apollo, how about you and I go for a drink in the OC?" she asked.
Apollo was about to refuse, but then reconsidered. Perhaps Starbuck would be at the OC. He wanted to talk to his lover, find out why he hadn't come to dinner.
"All right, but just a quick one. I want to be home with Boxey tonight, and I don't want to stay out too late."
After Starbuck finished his debriefing, he was at loose ends. Apollo was with his family, and with Sheba as well. He decided to go look up Cassiopeia.
Cassie was pleased to see Starbuck at her door. She invited him in. "I'm sorry I wasn't there to meet you when you arrived," she told him, "but I was on duty at Life Centre."
"That's okay," Starbuck said. He hadn't really wanted her there. In fact, he didn't want to be here now. But he owed it to her to explain what was going on. "Look, I need to talk to you about something."
"About what?" Cassie asked.
"About us. About you and me. I think we both know that it isn't going to work."
The blonde woman frowned. "That's never stopped us before. I'm not looking for a lifetime commitment, Starbuck. I thought we had fun together." Then she had a thought. "Or is there someone else?"
"I don't know," Starbuck answered honestly. "I thought there might be, but now I'm not so sure. Things have changed."
While she wasn't in love with Starbuck, Cassie was fond of him and didn't like to see him hurt. She knew that she had hurt him in the past, and she was sorry for it. Now she saw that someone else had hurt him, and she didn't like it at all."Did someone hurt you, Starbuck?" she asked.
The Lieutenant shrugged. "It's no big deal," he said.
She knew he was lying. "Are you serious about this person, whoever it is?"
Again, a shrug. "It's kind of hard to be serious about someone when they don't feel the same way about you."
Cassie had a sudden urge to hit whoever it was that had caused this lifeless tone in Starbuck's voice. "Are you sure they don't feel the same?" she asked.
"I don't know anything anymore," Starbuck sighed.
"Do you love her?.
"Him. I love him more than anything."
Cassie was surprised to hear the male pronoun, but decided that Starbuck didn't need any more questions from her. "Then go talk to him."
"He's with his family. They're more important. I don't want to intrude."
The med tech suddenly had an inkling of who it was Starbuck was talking about. "Well, he won't be with his family forever, will he? Wait until he's alone, then talk to him."
"Maybe." Starbuck didn't sound convinced.
"Look, Starbuck, some relationships are worth fighting for."
"I'll think about it," he answered. He gave her a kiss on the cheek, and left.
Starbuck arrived at the Officers Club, where he was greeted by his squadron mates and other warriors. He greeted them, sat down and ordered a drink to drown his sorrows. A few of the warriors tried to talk to him, to engage him in a game of Pyramid, but sensing his mood they soon gave up and left him alone.
Not long after Starbuck arrived, Apollo and Sheba came in. Apollo immediately headed to where Starbuck sat alone, nursing his drink. "Starbuck! There you are. I've been looking for you."
"Why?" Starbuck asked.
"I wondered why you didn't join us for dinner," Apollo answered, a bit bewildered.
"I wasn't invited."
Even more confused, Apollo said, "But you don't need an invitation. You're family."
Starbuck looked at Apollo's companion. "And is she family too?" he asked.
"Sheba's a friend."
"Just like I'm your friend?" Starbuck asked.
"I don't understand." Apollo was completely confused now.
"I'm your friend when we're alone on Olympia. Now that we're on the Galactica with your family, Sheba's your friend. I understand completely." He drained his glass and stood up. "Goodbye, Apollo. Have fun with your *friend.*"
"Starbuck, wait!" Apollo cried out as Starbuck walked away. Before he could pursue his mate, Sheba grabbed him.
"Apollo, what the frack is going on? Why are you chasing after Starbuck?"
"It's personal," Apollo answered.
Sheba would not be put off that easily. "Personal in what way?" she demanded.
"I can't explain it right now," Apollo told her. "I have to talk to Starbuck." He tried to leave, but Sheba wouldn't let go of him.
"You are going to talk to me. I want to know what makes you want to run after Starbuck all of a sudden when you're supposed to be with me."
It suddenly dawned on Apollo what Sheba was talking about, what she wanted from him. He realized that he would have to tell her the truth. "Come with me," he said and led her to semi-private alcove in the corner of the club.
"This is more like it," Sheba said in satisfaction. She tried to put her arms around him, but Apollo gently extricated himself from her grasp.
"I have to tell you something, Sheba."
"Do you have to tell me now? There are things I'd rather be doing." She reached for him again.
Again he pushed her away. "Sheba, I realize that I may have given you the wrong impression about my feelings for you. I consider you to be a friend, but that's all. I'm in love with Starbuck."
"With Starbuck?" Sheba asked in amazement.
"Yes. With Starbuck. Now I have to go after him and find out what's wrong."
This time Sheba let him leave.
Apollo ran down the corridor after Starbuck. Finally, out of breath, he caught up to him. "Starbuck, wait!" he said again. "What's wrong?"
Starbuck looked at him curiously. "Why aren't you with Sheba?" he asked.
"Why would I want to be with Sheba?"
"Because she's your friend," Starbuck answered, emphasizing the word 'friend.'
"Sure she's my friend. That's all she is. My friend. Nothing more."
"It didn't look that way when we were in the OC. She was pretty close to you. Possessive, in fact."
"That's because she didn't know that I wasn't interested. She took my efforts at friendship for something else. I didn't realize at first that she was interested in me that way. I told her the truth."
"The truth being what?" Starbuck asked.
"That I don't want her. That I'm in love with you."
Starbuck waved a hand dismissively. "That's what you said when we were on Olympia. Things are different now. You have your family to think of."
"You're part of my family, Starbuck."
Starbuck shook his head. "No, I'm not."
Before Apollo could protest further, Starbuck turned and walked away.
Apollo went back to his quarters, alone and frustrated.
The next day the Galactica received a call from Olympia. Apollo took it. It was from Andry.
"Captain Apollo, I'm afraid I have some bad news for you," said Andry.
"What is it? What's wrong?" Apollo asked in concern.
"The Healer Neri is denying everything that you say happened between him and you and Starbuck. We have no evidence to keep him in custody. As soon as he recovers from his injuries, we'll have to let him go free."
Apollo was angry. Neri had tried to kill him and could have killed Starbuck. "What if Starbuck and I testify against him?"
"I'm afraid that wouldn't do any good. You're not Olympians. And Lieutenant Starbuck's relationship with Neri is well known. No, I'm afraid that wouldn't work."
Apollo was stumped. How could he possibly prove what had happened? Then he had an idea. "What about a recording of the events?" he asked.
"What kind of recording?" the Olympian asked, intrigued.
"The confrontation between Starbuck, myself and Neri took place where our vipers crash-landed. The vipers are equipped with recording devices. Everything that happens within a few hundred metrons of a viper is recorded - both audio and visual. If I can salvage the recording from my viper before it's scrapped for parts, would you be able to use it?"
"That would be perfect, Captain!" Andry exclaimed.
Apollo arranged to contact Andry when he had the recording. He hurried to the viper bay, where the remains of his and Starbuck's vipers sat, ready to be disassembled. Fortunately they had not yet been touched, and he was able to retrieve the recording chips from both of them. Placing them in a nearby computer terminal, he discovered that both vipers had recorded the events on Olympia perfectly. He shuddered at the point in the recording that showed Starbuck jumping Neri and both men falling to the ground, then hearing the shot from Neri's gun. He breathed a prayer of thanks to the gods that Starbuck hadn't been on the receiving end of the shot.
When he returned to the bridge, Apollo loaded the recordings on to the Galactica's network and called Andry. "The vipers recorded everything that happened," he told the Olympian. "Do you want me to edit the recording so that it only shows the confrontation, or do you want everything that they recorded from the time we arrived until we left?"
"Send the entire thing," Andry requested, "or there may be charges that you tampered with it."
Apollo did as he was requested.
"Oh, one more thing, Captain," Andry added just before he signed off. "You may be interested to know that there's going to be another blue moon tonight."
"Another blue moon? But didn't you just have one?"
"Indeed we did, which is why this one is so unusual. Blue moons do not normally happen so close together. I hope that you and Lieutenant Starbuck can enjoy it from your battlestar."
Andry signed off, and Apollo was left to his thoughts. The blue moon had been what had brought him and Starbuck together. Could it bring them back together? He began to formulate a plan.
That night Apollo made certain he could see the blue moon above Olympia from the observation dome. The dome was his favourite place on the battlestar, and no one used it but him. In fact very few of the battlestar's inhabitants even knew of its existence.
Then he went to find Starbuck. The Lieutenant was in the OC, nursing a drink. "Starbuck, could you come with me for a centon?"
Starbuck looked up at him in irritation. "What do you want?"
"I want to talk to you," Apollo answered.
"We have nothing to talk about," was Starbuck's retort.
Apollo gently but firmly grabbed his wingmate's arm. "I think we do, and I want you to come with me."
"Is that an order, Captain?" Starbuck asked.
Apollo hesitated. He didn't like to pull rank on Starbuck. As far as he was concerned there was no rank between them. But if it was the only way to get Starbuck to accompany him to the dome.... "Since you put it that way, yes, it's an order."
Starbuck reluctantly followed his wingmate and one-time lover to the observation dome. He had no idea why Apollo would take him here, but he'd been ordered to accompany him, and he did as he was told.
"Why did you bring me up here?" Starbuck asked.
Turning to the windows that surrounded them, Apollo pointed to the moon. "Look," he said.
The Lieutenant blinked in surprise. "It's blue," he said. "It's another blue moon."
"A very rare one, according to the Olympians," Apollo answered. "And it's why I brought you here."
Starbuck looked at his friend, bewildered. "I don't understand," he said.
Apollo bent to one knee. "According to the stories, promises made under the blue moon can't be broken, and if you ask the blue moon to make your true love appear, they will. Well, the blue moon brought us together when we were on Olympia. You wished for your true love, and I came to you. Well, I'm still here and I still love you. I promise you that I will love you for the rest of my life. Sheba means nothing to me, Star. She's only a friend. You are the one I love - my true love and my only love."
Stunned, Starbuck said, "I don't know what to say." "Say that you love me," Apollo urged. "Say that you'll stay with me, that you'll be mine forever."
Starbuck sank to his knees in front of Apollo. "I love you, Pol. I have always loved you. I will always love you. I promise you that. I'm sorry that I acted like such a fool when you were with Sheba. I was jealous. I was insecure. I was afraid that what we had was only for while we were on Olympia."
Apollo embraced him. "I should have realized that something was wrong. I'm sorry I didn't make sure that you knew that I wanted you for always, not just while we were on Olympia." He kissed Starbuck to seal their promise to each other.
When they parted, Starbuck said, "Look at the moon."
The moon had turned to gold.
"I never did ask anyone what that was about," Apollo remembered. "If I hear from Andry again, I'll be sure to ask him."
"You've been talking to Andry? Why?"
Apollo explained about the charges against Neri and the recordings from the vipers.
Starbuck breathed a sigh of relief. "Good," he said. "If he got away with what he did, with the way he tried to hurt you - to kill you - I would go down there and take care of him myself."
Apollo kissed him again. "Well, this way you won't have to."
It was quite some time before the two warriors left the observation dome, and then it was only to go to Apollo's quarters.
The next day Andry called the Galactica again. Starbuck and Apollo both answered the call. The Olympian informed them that the authorities had accepted the viper recordings as evidence, and that faced with the evidence Neri had confessed. He would be in prison for a long time.
"Were you able to see the blue moon?" Andry asked.
Starbuck and Apollo told him that yes, they had. "But there's something we wanted to ask you," Apollo added. "We saw that partway through the night, the moon turned from blue to gold. Why is that?"
"Didn't you hear about that when you heard the story of the blue moon?"
The two Galacticans shook their heads.
"When the moon turns to gold, it means your wish has come true."