Two couples sat at separate tables in the dining room on the Rising Star. Apollo and Sheba were at one table; across the dining room, Starbuck and Bojay sat at another. Neither couple gave any indication that they saw the other.
"Why do I bother?" Starbuck sighed, trying not to be too obvious as he gazed longingly at his wingmate across the room.
"I don't know, Bucko," Bojay answered. "Same reason I bother with Sheba, I assume."
"Doesn't he know that she's all wrong for him?" Starbuck asked rhetorically.
"Obviously not," answered Bojay.
"Maybe he doesn't love her. Maybe he's just trying to make his father happy."
"Whether that's true or not, it doesn't put you any further ahead," Bojay pointed out.
"That's why I spend so much time with you, Boj. You cheer me up enormously."
"Just telling the truth, my friend." Bojay snaked a hand under the table and laid it on Starbuck's thigh. "Come on, let's get out of here and forget about those two for awhile."
Starbuck put some money on the table to take care of their bill. "I knew there was another reason I spend time with you," he said with a grin.
"You only want me for my body," Bojay said with a mock sigh.
"And you want me for mine," Starbuck answered.
Apollo watched the two men leave sadly. He'd been in love with Starbuck for as long as he could remember, but had never believed that Starbuck would want a male lover. It had been quite a shock to see him with Bojay. Starbuck with a man! Unfortunately that man was not him. It was Bojay. He was with Sheba.
Sheba was also watching. She was fond of Apollo, but the one she truly loved was Bojay. Unfortunately, he was with Starbuck and she was with Apollo. Her father would approve of Apollo. He'd never approve of Bojay. Not that Cain was anywhere near. Sheba didn't even know if she would ever see her father again.
When Starbuck and Bojay left the Rising Star, Apollo turned his attention back to his date. "Sheba?"
Sheba shook herself mentally. "What?" she asked.
"You looked lost in thought."
She smiled, hoping it didn't look too phony. "Just enjoying the company."
Apollo wondered if he was being unfair to Sheba, leading her on the way he was. Was it wrong to marry someone he didn't love? Could Sheba tell that he didn't love her?
Back in Starbuck's quarters, he and Bojay lay in bed smoking fumarillos.
"Too bad the Captain doesn't know what he's missing out on," Bojay said with a saucy grin.
"Let's not talk about him," Starbuck answered quietly.
"Bucko, you're going to have to face things sooner or later. Apollo is going to Seal with Sheba one of these days if you don't tell him how you feel."
"He'd Seal with her even if I did tell him," Starbuck argued. "Anyway, I don't see you confessing your undying love to Sheba."
Bojay lay back on the pillows and sighed. "You got me there," he admitted.
"We're in the same boat, Boj. Sheba and Apollo come from upper-class Kobolian families. Neither of them would marry someone like me or you. Frack, maybe, but not marry."
"Speaking of fracking..." Bojay reached for the other man.
"You're insatiable, you know that?"
"Shut up, Bucko," Bojay growled.
The two men took comfort in each other as best they could. They'd become frack buddies a few sectares ago. They'd tumbled into bed together when both were drunk, and had enjoyed themselves. They tried it sober the next time, and soon were doing it on a regular basis. Neither of them was looking for a long-term commitment from the other; both knew their hearts were already spoken for. It was simply another aspect of their friendship, and it temporarily took their minds off what - or who - they couldn't have.
A few sectares later, Starbuck was surprised to receive an invitation in his personal mailbox. It wasn't what he'd expected - or dreaded; it was not an invitation to Apollo's Sealing. He supposed when that day did come Apollo would invite him in person. This was an invitation to Boomer's wedding to Dietra.
The invitation said he was welcome to bring a guest. Who the frack could he take to a wedding? He was barely on speaking terms with Athena these days, and while he was still fairly close to Cassie, he didn't want to give her any ideas about weddings. Besides, she'd probably have her own invitation.
A thought occurred to him. Why not ask Bojay? A few people might be scandalized, but he knew that Boomer wouldn't mind. He probably already thought that they were together. They hadn't exactly been discreet, what with their public flirting and their private jokes and double entendres when they were in the officers' club with the other warriors.
"You want me to go to a WHAT?" Bojay exclaimed.
"I want you to go to Boomer and Dietra's wedding with me."
"As what? Comic relief?"
"As my date."
Bojay thought for a few centons. "They're going to be there, aren't they?" he asked.
Starbuck didn't need to ask who he meant. "You know they will. Apollo's been friends with Boomer just as long as I have."
"Bucko, are you using me to try to make him jealous?"
"No! I wouldn't do that to you. I just want you to go with me so that I have a friend there. Someone to talk to."
"Apollo's your friend," Bojay pointed out.
"And he's going to be with Sheba."
'So you want me there for moral support?"
"You could put it that way, I guess."
Bojay thought some more. "If I go with you, can we dance together?"
"If you want to, sure."
"Then I'll be your date."
So it happened that Starbuck and Bojay, attired in their dress uniforms, attended the wedding of Boomer and Dietra. Jolly was Boomer's best man. Bree was Dietra's maid of honour. Starbuck wondered who would be maid of honour at Sheba and Apollo's Sealing. Cassiopeia, maybe? She and Sheba had put their old feud over Cain behind them when the Pegasus had been lost. He assumed that he himself would be Apollo's best man, as he had been asked to be best man when Apollo had married Serena. Of course, he'd been held prisoner by the Cylons when that Sealing had taken place. He hadn't been all that sorry to miss it.
He was out on the dance floor with Bojay, as he'd promised, when Sheba tapped him on the shoulder. "Starbuck, can I dance with Bojay?" she asked.
Starbuck wondered if Sheba wasn't satisfied with taking Apollo away from him and wanted to take Bojay away too. But he stepped back. "I don't own him, Sheba. He's perfectly capable of deciding who he wants to dance with."
Sheba approached Bojay. "May I have this dance?" she asked him.
Bojay turned to Starbuck. He was, after all, Starbuck's date. Even though Starbuck had said he had no claim on him, Bojay thought it was at least polite to respect his partner's wishes. "Is it okay with you, Bucko?" he asked.
Starbuck smiled politely. "Go ahead. Enjoy yourself." He headed back to his table, where Apollo joined him.
"Where's your date?" the Captain asked.
Starbuck nodded toward the dance floor. "Out there with your intended," he replied.
Apollo watched Sheba dancing with Bojay. "Does it bother you?" he asked.
"Does what bother me?" Starbuck wanted to know.
"Does it bother you that your..." he hesitated, searching for the right word, '...your lover is dancing with a woman?"
Starbuck wanted to laugh. It was on the tip of his tongue to tell Apollo that he and Bojay weren't lovers, but he decided not to. This wasn't the time or the place to explain the concept of frack buddies to his morally upright wingmate. He wondered if Apollo had even slept with Sheba yet, or if he was waiting until their wedding night. "No, it doesn't bother me. I don't own him. He's free to dance with whoever he wants. So am I."
Apollo's next action surprised Starbuck. "In that case," his friend asked, "will you dance with me?"
Starbuck was stunned, but not too stunned to accept. "Of course," he said, following the other man on to the dance floor.
The song ended just microns after Starbuck and Apollo stepped on to the floor. "Oh well," Starbuck said. He resigned himself to the inevitable, but Apollo said, "We'll just wait for the next one to start."
The next one was a ballad that Starbuck recognized from their Academy days, a song about loving the one that you're with if you can't have the one you love. He told himself that since it was a slow song he should let Apollo go dance with Sheba, but the Captain showed no signs of going anywhere. And, in fact, Sheba was still dancing with Bojay.
So Starbuck held on to the man that he secretly loved and lost himself in fantasy for a few centons. He might never have this opportunity again, and he would enjoy it for as long as he could.
Apollo held Starbuck in his arms as they danced. He wondered why Bojay hadn't cut in. Surely he would want to dance to a slow song with his lover, not with Sheba. But Bojay and Sheba continued to dance and were apparently ignoring them. In that case, he would treasure this brief opportunity to hold Starbuck, a chance he might never have again.
Bojay and Sheba were also holding on to each other and treasuring their time together. 'If only I had asked her to marry me before we found the Galactica,' Bojay was thinking. 'I should have taken the chance. I should never have let her get engaged to Apollo. I should have said something a long time ago.'
Leaning her head on Bojay's shoulder, Sheba was thinking, 'I wish I loved Apollo as much as I love Bojay. I wish Father had liked Bojay more. I wish I could stop wondering what he would want me to do. I wish I could just say to Hades with what my father wants. But it wouldn't make any difference. Bojay is with Starbuck.'
The song ended and the two dancing couples reluctantly separated. Back at their table, Bojay said to Starbuck, "Can we leave now?"
"Already?" Starbuck asked. "Why so soon?"
"I just want to, that's all. Besides," he added with a sad smile, "my dancing can't compare to the Captain's."
"And mine can't with Sheba's. All right. Let's just give our best wishes to the happy couple and then we'll go."
Starbuck and Bojay congratulated Boomer and Dietra and wished them all the best in their new life together. Thanking them, Boomer mused, "I wonder who'll be next?" He gave them a significant look.
"Apollo and Sheba, of course," Starbuck quickly answered. He didn't want to explain that his relationship with Bojay wasn't what everybody obviously thought it was.
When they arrived at his quarters, Starbuck asked, "Do you want to come in?"
Bojay shook his head. "No. I want to be alone for awhile."
"Are you okay?" Starbuck asked in concern.
"Not really," his friend sighed. "Dancing with her was.... Well, it was probably like dancing with Apollo was for you. She was so close. Then she went back to him, and he went back to her. It was like when you're having a really great dream and you wake up and discover it's not true."
Starbuck reached and squeezed Bojay's shoulder. "I know," he said.
"Look, maybe you shouldn't be alone right now."
"I'll be okay, Starbuck. I won't hurt myself or anything. I just want to remember how it felt to hold her. If I'm with you, it'll spoil it."
"You're sure you'll be all right?"
"I'll be all right."
Reluctantly, Starbuck watched him leave. His own feelings were in a maelstrom. He was lonely, and also horny. It was a good thing his uniform was loose enough not to show it. Dancing with Apollo had made him that way, and he would have welcomed Bojay's presence in his bed. But then again, as Bojay had said, being with someone else would rob him of the feeling of holding the one he truly wanted.
After he'd gone to bed alone and taken care of his "problem," Starbuck lay awake. He wondered why he'd had to fall in love with Apollo, of all people. Why couldn't he have fallen for Bojay, instead? Of course, that would require Bojay to fall in love with him, too, which was just as likely to happen as him falling for Bojay.
Starbuck thought that unrequited love had to be the most painful feeling in existence.
A few days later....
"So how are the wedding plans coming?" Starbuck asked Apollo as they sat in the Officer's Lounge.
"Slowly," Apollo answered.
"Have you set a date yet?"
"No," Apollo said curtly. He didn't want to have to think about Sheba while he was with Starbuck. Since his engagement and Starbuck's becoming involved with Bojay he hadn't spent as off-duty time with his wingmate as he would have liked.
He couldn't forget how it had felt to hold Starbuck and dance with him. He wasn't likely to have a chance to do that again; the two of them didn't attend many social events where dancing was involved. He couldn't imagine taking Sheba to the Rising Star just so that he could ask Starbuck to dance with him. If another wedding came up... No, the next wedding would probably be his own. He couldn't see himself dancing with Starbuck at his own wedding.
"You still with me, Pol?" Starbuck was asking.
"Just thinking," Apollo answered. "I have a lot of things on my mind lately."
"I'm not surprised, with your Sealing coming up. How's Boxey handling it? How does he feel about getting a new mother?"
"Sheba is not Boxey's mother."
"Stepmother, then. How does he feel about you marrying Sheba?"
"I don't know."
"How can you not know?" Starbuck asked in astonishment.
"He won't talk about it."
"How does he act when Sheba's around?"
"He comes out long enough to be polite, then he takes Muffit and goes back to his room and watches holovids or reads a book or something."
"Apollo, that doesn't sound good."
"I know, but he won't talk to me. I've tried. I thought maybe he'd talk to my father, or Athena, but he hasn't." Suddenly Apollo had an idea. "Would you try talking to him?"
"Me? What makes you think he'd talk to me?"
"You've practically been a second father to him," Apollo pointed out.
"I'm not really family, though."
"Of course you're family! If you want to get technical, none of us is related to Boxey by blood. You're just as much his family as anyone."
"You're his family. You were married to his mother."
"Please, Star. I need help. I need *your* help."
Apollo needed his help. He couldn't refuse Apollo anything; he could refuse Boxey even less. He was genuinely worried about the boy. He cared very much for Apollo's son.
"All right, I'll talk to him, but only if you can arrange a way for it to not look like you're setting him up. I suspect that's why he hasn't talked to the Commander or Athena."
"What do you mean?"
"There's something he doesn't want to tell you and I'm sure he realizes that you want him to tell his grandfather or his aunt so that they can tell you. Whatever it is, he doesn't want you to know about it."
"Frack," Apollo swore.
"I'll talk to him," Starbuck promised. "I don't know if it'll do any good, but I'll try."
So it was that Starbuck met Boxey when Learning Period was over. "Hey, kiddo," he said. "Your dad got held up and he asked me to come and get you."
"He's with Sheba again, isn't he?" Boxey muttered, half to himself.
"No, he's with the Commander and Colonel Tigh," Starbuck answered.
"He's always with Sheba," Boxey said, even more quietly.
"Don't you like Sheba?" Starbuck asked as he and Boxey walked to Apollo's quarters.
Boxey shrugged. "I don't know."
"Truth time, kid. Tell me what you're thinking."
They arrived at Apollo's quarters and Starbuck let them in. He'd always had free access to Apollo's quarters, or had since Serena died. He wondered if that would change once Apollo married Sheba.
"Sit down, Boxey."
"I have homework."
"Homework can wait. I want you to sit down and talk to me."
"I don't feel like talking," the boy answered sullenly.
"Boxey, if you don't talk to me, I'll tell your dad what you were in trouble for at school last time I picked you up a sectare ago."
"You promised you wouldn't!" Boxey protested.
"I promised I wouldn't if you behaved yourself, and it doesn't look to me like you're behaving."
Boxey sat on the couch and sulked, not saying anything or looking at Starbuck.
"Boxey, tell me what's on your mind."
"Is it Sheba?"
He was answered with a nod.
"Is she doing something you don't like?"
"She's always here! My dad is with her all the time! I never get to do anything with him anymore unless she comes with us."
"You want to spend some time with your dad without Sheba around," Starbuck said.
"How about I talk to your dad and tell him that you and he need to do a few things together without Sheba? Would that help?"
"I don't know. I don't think he listens to anyone except her lately."
"Well, I'll try, anyway. Anything else bothering you?"
"My friends at school say that as soon as Sheba and my dad get married, Sheba's gonna make Dad send me to the orphan ship."
"I don't think they'll do that, Boxey," Starbuck tried to reassure him.
"Sheba isn't my mom. My dad isn't really my dad. They'll have their own kids and won't want me anymore."
Starbuck knew that Apollo wouldn't do that to Boxey, but he didn't know how he could convince Boxey of that fact. He also didn't know how Sheba would feel about gaining a stepson or how much influence she had on Apollo. If Sheba dared to try sending Boxey away, he'd adopt the boy himself.
"Tell you what, Boxey. I'm sure that your dad won't send you to the orphan ship, but if he does, I'll go there and find you and take you home with me. I'll adopt you and I'll be your dad, okay?"
"You'd really do that? You'd be my dad?"
"I would love to be your dad, Boxey," Starbuck answered seriously. "Look, if Sheba really gets on your nerves, come to my quarters. You're always welcome there." He thought about Bojay then, and what would happen if Boxey walked in on them, and said, "Just call me on the Stellar Com and tell me you're coming. And tell your dad too, or he'll get worried and then we'll both get in trouble."
Boxey threw his arms around his favourite 'uncle.' "I love you, Starbuck."
"I love you too, Boxey."
Starbuck played some holo games with Boxey until Apollo came in. The Captain pretended that there was nothing out of the ordinary going on and asked Starbuck if he wanted to stay for dinner, an invitation the Lieutenant happily accepted. He spent the evening after dinner was over watching a holo vid with Apollo and Boxey until it was Boxey's bedtime.
After Boxey was asleep, it was the adults' turn to talk.
"How did it go? Did you talk?" Apollo asked anxiously.
"Oh, we talked all right," Starbuck answered.
"What did you find out?"
"Well, for one, that Boxey wants to spend some time with you without Sheba tagging along. But that wasn't the only thing bothering him."
"What else?" Apollo demanded.
"He thinks you're going to send him to the orphan ship."
"He thinks WHAT?"
"Shh, Apollo, don't wake him up. He didn't want to tell you."
"Why does he think I'm going to send him to the orphan ship?" Apollo asked more quietly. He had never thought of that for one centon, even in the first difficult days after Serena's death.
"Some of his friends at school told him you would. They said that after you get married you won't want him around anymore. He said that since Sheba's not his real mother, and you're not his real father, when you and Sheba have children of your own you'll send him to the orphan ship because he's not really your child."
"Frack. The poor kid. I didn't realize that any of this was happening. I've always worried about his not having a mother. I thought he'd like Sheba, like having a woman around."
"He's used to it being just you and him, Apollo. Now suddenly it's you, him and Sheba. Forcing her on him won't make him like her."
"What did you tell him when he said that he was afraid of going to the orphan ship?"
"That you wouldn't send him to the orphan ship, but if you did, then I'd adopt him myself."
Apollo smiled. "Thank you," he said.
"For talking to him. For being there for him when I haven't been. For helping - helping both of us."
"I care about him, Apollo. I know what it's like to lose your parents. Boxey is lucky that you were there for him when Serena died."
"I'm the lucky one. I'm lucky to have him." Suddenly, Apollo turned thoughtful. After a few centons, he said, "Can I ask you something?"
"Anything," Starbuck answered, wondering what was on his friend's mind.
"If anything happens to me, would you take care of Boxey? Adopt him, like you said you would?"
"What about Sheba?"
Apollo thought for a few more centons before answering. "Boxey's known you longer than he's known her. He's comfortable with you. If it turns out that he wants to stay with Sheba, I don't want you to take him against his will, but I'd feel better knowing you were there for him if .... You know."
If one day Apollo went on patrol and didn't come back. If he went up against the Cylons and lost. Starbuck didn't want to think about that, but Apollo had asked him to.
"I promise that I will take care of Boxey if anything happens. But nothing's going to happen. I won't let it."
"I don't know what you can do to prevent it," Apollo observed.
"I'm your wingmate. It's my job to make sure nothing happens to you."
The next morning, Apollo sat down to have a talk with his son.
"Boxey, does it bother you that Sheba comes with us when we do things together?" he asked.
"Did Starbuck tell you that it does?" Boxey wanted to know.
"Starbuck told me that some things were bothering you, and one of those things was that you and I never do things together without Sheba coming along."
"He wasn't supposed to tell you," Boxey complained.
"Starbuck cares about you and he was worried about you. He told me about what was bothering you so that I can do something about it. Now tell me, does it bother you that Sheba is with us all the time?"
"Yes," the boy admitted reluctantly.
"Would you like it if sometimes you and I did things without her?"
"Yes!" He answered more enthusiastically this time.
"Starbuck also told me that you're afraid of being sent to the orphan ship."
"But he said he'd adopt me if that happens," Boxey put in immediately.
"I'm sure he would, but he won't need to because I will never send you to the orphan ship. Sheba won't either."
"But what if something happens to you like happened to my mom? What if the Cylons get you?"
"If anything ever happens to me, then Starbuck will take care of you."
"That wouldn't be so bad, I guess, if Starbuck was my dad."
"How do you feel about Sheba?" Apollo asked.
Boxey shrugged. "She's okay, I guess."
"She's not my mom." "No, she's not your mom. No one is like your mother. She loved us very much, and I miss her."
"If you miss her, why are you getting married again?" Boxey wanted to know.
"I'm getting married because I'm lonely, and because I like Sheba."
"You shouldn't be lonely. You have Starbuck."
Unfortunately, Apollo didn't have Starbuck, at least not the way he wanted.
"I can't marry Starbuck."
"Why not? Have you asked him?"
"No, I haven't asked him."
"Then how do you know you can't marry him?"
Apollo didn't know how to explain that Starbuck already had a boyfriend, so he said, "I can't marry him because I'm already engaged to marry Sheba."
"What does 'engaged' mean?"
"It means I made a promise to Sheba that I would marry her."
"Oh." Boxey was quiet for a moment. Then he said, "I wish you'd promised to marry Starbuck instead."
Apollo wished that too.
The father-son discussion was cut short by the red alert klaxon sounding. Blue Squadron and Silver Spar Squadron were on duty this cycle. Apollo contacted Athena to come and babysit, and as soon as she arrived he was on his way, after giving his son a quick hug.
When he was out facing the Cylons Apollo didn't have time to think about anything but battle. He didn't completely forget about Starbuck, though; he worried every time they were facing the Cylons that one day Starbuck would fall victim to their ruthless battle tactics. As Starbuck had reminded him, though, they were wingmates, and it was his job to keep Starbuck out of danger, just as it was Starbuck's job to keep him safe.
Starbuck kept as much of his attention as he could spare on his wingmate and squadron leader while keeping out of the way of Cylons and trying to take out as many as he could. He had told Apollo that he would not let anything happen to him and he intended to keep that promise.
Bojay's voice came over the radio. "Starbuck, raiders coming up on your starboard side."
"Thanks, Boj," he said as he took care of the raiders. Just as Bojay's viper passed him, he caught sight of another Cylon ship approaching Apollo. He took care of that one as well, but because he was concentrating on Apollo, he didn't see the Cylon that was on Bojay's tail until it was too late. Cylon laser fire went straight into the viper's port side engines before Sheba shot the raider out of the sky.
Starbuck reached for his radio but Sheba was already on top of things. "Galactica, have medical personnel standing by. Bojay's viper has been shot down and I'm going to pick him up. I don't know how seriously he may be hurt." Starbuck wasn't certain, but he thought he detected a catch in her voice. Of course, Sheba and Bojay were long-time friends, sort of like he and Apollo were. He wondered if Apollo would tell her to let the Galactica send a shuttle to pick up Bojay and to get back to the battle, but he didn't.
When both squadrons were back on the battlestar, Apollo, Starbuck and several other pilots headed straight to Life Centre, where they were met by Sheba. Her face was streaked with tears.
"Bojay suffered severe injuries when his viper crashed. Dr. Salik and Cassiopeia are working on him now, but he may not make it."
Starbuck was stunned. He worried constantly about Apollo's safety, but it had never occurred to him that something could happen to Bojay. Intellectually, he knew that any of them could be shot down at any time. Witness what had happened to Zac on his very first - and last - patrol. But with Apollo as their squadron leader, he had just assumed that they would all be safe. Apollo would never let anything happen to anyone under his command. True, Silver Spar was not his squadron, but he was the highest-ranking officer who was still flying a viper, and therefore was assumed to be in charge of all of them.
Just then Cassiopeia came out of the Life Centre and addressed the assembled pilots.
"Lt. Bojay is out of surgery. His condition is critical. All we can do now is wait. If any of you wants to see him, I'll allow him one visitor at a time - only one."
Starbuck supposed that as Bojay's closest friend, he should go in, but Sheba approached him before he could do so.
"Starbuck, can I speak to you for a centon - alone?"
Wondering what Sheba could possibly want to talk to him about, Starbuck followed her to a semi-quiet corner.
"Starbuck, I know that you and Bojay are together," she started out. "And normally the last thing I want is to get between two people who are lovers. But Bojay could die, and I've never had a chance to tell him all the things I want to tell him."
"Things like what?" Starbuck asked.
"I want to tell him that I love him. I know that it won't make much difference, since he's with you, but I don't want him to die not knowing how I feel."
"Sheba, Bojay loves you," Starbuck informed her. "He's loved you since the day he first set eyes on you aboard the Pegasus. He never told you because of who your father is, and then when you both came on the Galactica, you hooked up with Apollo right away."
"But what about you? The two of you are lovers, aren't you?"
"We're friends who sleep together once in a while. We have an arrangement. It's a way of trying to forget the ones we want and can't have."
Sheba was quite curious about who it was that Starbuck couldn't have, but right now her biggest concern was Bojay. "Would you mind if I sat with him for awhile, Starbuck?"
"Not at all. He'll be thrilled to wake up and see you there."
"If he wakes up at all," Sheba sighed.
"He will. He'll do anything for you. If you want him to wake up, he'll wake up." v "Thank you, Starbuck," Sheba said, kissing him on the cheek. "I'll go to him right now."
"I think you should talk to Apollo first."
"Oh frack. Apollo," Sheba swore. "I don't want to hurt him. I really don't want to hurt him. But I don't love him the way I love Bojay."
"You'd better tell him that, then." Starbuck hated to think of Apollo being hurt. He hadn't wanted to watch him marry Sheba, but he didn't want to see him to get hurt, either. Apollo would never want him, Sheba or no Sheba, but Apollo was his friend, and he would be there to comfort him if he needed it.
"I'll tell him right now. Will you go sit with Bojay until I get there? I don't want him to be alone."
Starbuck was about to do that when he stopped. "Sheba," he said. "Be gentle with Apollo. I don't know if you can do what you have to do without hurting him, but don't hurt him more than you have to."
"Starbuck, do you love him?" Sheba asked.
"Bojay? I love him as a friend. That's all."
"Not Bojay. Apollo. Do you love Apollo? As more than a friend?"
"Sweet lady, that's something I'd rather keep to myself."
Sheba approached Apollo in the waiting room.
"Apollo, come with me, please?"
Apollo had no idea where Sheba wanted him to go, but he followed her. "What is it?" he asked when they were out of earshot of the other warriors.
"I have something to tell you and it's very important. I had hoped I could do it without hurting you, but I don't think that's possible."
"What is it?" Now Apollo was confused and concerned.
"I can't Seal with you."
"Why not? Is it because of Bojay? I know he's your friend. We can postpone the wedding until he's better." He knew that there was a chance that Bojay would not get better, but knowing how close Sheba was to him, he didn't want to mention that possibility.
"It's because I don't love you, Apollo," Sheba confessed. "I had hoped that once we were Sealed I would eventually grow to love you. My father would have been thrilled that I married Adama's son. It would be like a uniting of two of the greatest families of Caprica."
"What changed?" Apollo wanted to know.
"Bojay. When I heard that he may not make it, I realized that I've been denying myself what I have truly wanted for yahrens. I want to be with him. I love him."
Apollo tried to take in all of this information. He was so stunned to hear that Sheba was breaking up with him, and that she was in love with Bojay, that he forgot about Starbuck and that Bojay was Starbuck's lover. He was relieved in a way; now he didn't have to worry about marrying someone he didn't love. Boxey didn't want a mother replacement after all, so he didn't have to worry about his reaction to the news.
"Are you all right, Apollo?" Sheba asked.
"I'll be fine. Thank you for being honest with me. To tell you the truth, I felt much the same way you did about our getting married. I wanted to make my father happy. I wanted to give Boxey a mother. I'm not in love with you." He paused for a moment, then asked, "Can we be friends?"
Sheba smiled and kissed him. "I would very much like to be friends with you. Now, I have to go see Bojay."
In the Life Centre, Starbuck was keeping vigil at Bojay's bedside. He talked partially to his unconscious friend and partially to himself.
"Bojay, you must be the luckiest man in the fleet. I don't mean because you got blown up by the fracking Cylons. That wasn't lucky. I mean because the woman you've been in love with forever just told me that she loves you and wants to be with you. When you wake up - and I fully expect you to do that - she'll be here to tell you that she loves you. You're a lucky son of a daggit, Boj. But I have to say I'm going to miss having you in my bed.
"I don't know what Apollo will do. I think he might actually have loved her. I hope she lets him down easy. I hate to see him hurt. Not many people know this, but Apollo is actually very sensitive. He feels very deeply. He just doesn't show it. I've been lucky to see him with his guard down sometimes, like when Boxey's just done something that makes him proud. You should see him. You should see how proud he is of that boy."
Just then Sheba walked in. "How's he doing, Starbuck?"
"He's still asleep," Starbuck answered, not wanting to use the word 'unconscious.' "He's probably waiting for you to get here before he wakes up. I'm sure he'd much rather see your pretty face than my ugly one." He drew her out of the room so that they didn't break the 'one visitor' rule, then asked her, "How did Apollo take the news?"
"Stoically, like you would expect," Sheba answered. "I think he was actually relieved, in a way. He said he's not in love with me. We were both trying to make our fathers happy, and he thought Boxey needed a mother. We're both better off this way."
Starbuck was relieved. As Sheba went back to see Bojay, he said, "Be good to Bojay."
"I will be," Sheba answered.
Starbuck was pleased that Bojay and Sheba would be happy. He was relieved that it didn't sound as if Apollo had been badly hurt by Sheba's news, though he was probably very surprised. That left him, though, without anyone. Not Apollo and not Bojay. He was alone once more.
Back in the waiting area, Apollo was surprised to see his wingmate. "Why aren't you with Bojay?" he asked
"Sheba's with him."
"Oh, right. But you're going to go back later, right?" "No, I don't think so. I don't think Sheba's going to leave his side."
"But he's your lover," Apollo objected. "I know Sheba's in love with him, but he's with you, so...."
"He's in love with Sheba, too," Starbuck told him.
"I don't understand. Why was he with you if he was in love with Sheba?"
"Sheba wasn't available. He was lonely. I was available, so he and I hooked up. I knew it wouldn't last forever. I'm happy that he and Sheba are going to be together. If anything can help him recover, it will be her love." Starbuck studied his friend closely. "Are you all right? Having her dump you like that must have been a shock ."
"Yes, it was a shock, but I'll be all right. I wasn't really in love with her. She wasn't really in love with me. We were together to please other people, which is a lousy basis for a marriage."
"He's fine. We talked this morning and he told me about Sheba and the orphan ship. He told me that you would be his dad if I sent him to the orphan ship. I'm almost jealous, he likes you much."
"That's because I don't live with him and make him do his homework and go to bed early and sit down and eat proper meals and all that grownup stuff that parents do."
Apollo had to agree with that. Then he changed the subject back to Bojay. "So you think Bojay and Sheba will get together then, after he recovers? Assuming he does."
"Of course they will. They've been in love with each other forever. Don't you remember when we first met them? I thought they were a couple then. I was surprised when she started seeing you."
"Where does all this leave you?" Apollo asked.
"Where does what leave me?"
"Bojay getting together with Sheba. I know you said he didn't love you, but you must have been fond of each other at least. Now he's with Sheba, where are you?" Starbuck smiled a false smile that he hoped Apollo wouldn't see through. "Free," he said. "Unattached."
Apollo felt a sharp pain when Starbuck said those words. He badly wanted to confess his feelings to his wingmate, but it sounded as if Starbuck wanted to remain free. He'd probably start dating up a storm again. Cassiopeia might even take him back. Or he'd find another man who was willing to have sex with no strings attached.
Sheba suddenly poked her head out of the door of the Life Centre. "Bojay's awake," she announced. "Dr. Salik says he's going to be all right." Then she went back in to be at the side of the man that she loved, and Starbuck and Apollo were left alone with their thoughts, neither of them acknowledging how lonely they were.
Sheba had of course been at Bojay's side when he woke. He was obviously quite surprised to see her there and was about to ask her why she was there when she said, "Don't try to talk. You're in Life Centre. Your viper was shot down."
"Sheba...." he began.
"I told you not to talk," Sheba scolded him.
"Why are you here?" he croaked.
Sheba sighed. She had no idea how she was going to put her feelings into words after denying them for so many yahrens. "Bojay," she began, "we were afraid you weren't going to wake up. Your condition was touch and go there for awhile and it's still pretty serious. I realized that I could very well lose you without ever telling you how I feel about you."
"Feel?" Bojay asked, not knowing what Sheba was trying to tell him.
"I broke off my engagement." "I'm sorry," replied Bojay, trying to sound sympathetic.
"I'm not," Sheba told him. "I know now that Apollo and I were together for all the wrong reasons. I don't love him, Boj. I love you."
Stunned, Bojay had no idea what to say. He stammered and stuttered but failed to come out with a response.
The woman he loved smiled and took his hand. "I know it's a shock, my love, but it's true. I love you. I've loved you for yahrens and I always let what my father thought keep me away from you. I agreed to marry Apollo because I thought it was what my father wanted."
"What about Apollo?" Bojay wanted to know. "How's he taking the news?" He wanted to declare his undying love for this woman, but he was still concerned about how this would affect others - namely Apollo and Starbuck.
"If you know anything about Apollo, you know that he doesn't show his feelings. I think he's a bit hurt but he agrees that our getting married wasn't a good idea. He only asked me to marry him because he thought it was what his father wanted."
"Doesn't he love you?"
"He says he's not in love with me. I think he loves me but not as a lover, if you know what I mean."
Bojay nodded, wondering what was coming next. His head was whirling. He wasn't sure if it was from his injuries, the medications used to treat them, or Sheba's news.
"Boj, do you love me?"
"Oh Lords, Sheba, yes. I love you. I love you so much. You've made me the happiest man in the entire fleet."
"Good," Sheba answered with relief and satisfaction. "I'm just going to go get Dr. Salik. I should have called him as soon as you woke up, but I wanted some time alone with you."
Salik was summoned and after a thorough exam accompanied by some tests, announced that Bojay would recover. Sheba quickly went and shared the news with the other pilots.
While she was gone, Bojay thought about Starbuck. Starbuck obviously knew how he felt about Sheba, but he wondered how his friend and sometime sex partner would feel about their romps in the sack coming to an end. He knew that Starbuck was insufferably lonely, no matter how hard he tried to hide it. He himself had been lonely too, but now the woman that he considered to be the most beautiful in the universe had just confessed her love for him. He wished that Apollo could do that for Starbuck. He wanted Starbuck to be as happy as he was.
When Sheba returned she kissed Bojay gently. "I've always wanted to do that," she said happily. "Listen, Boj, I know that you have a long recovery time ahead of you, but I'm going to be right here with you through all of it. I won't ever leave you or abandon you. I'm going to be here at your side every off-duty micron I have."
"I love you, Sheba," Bojay declared. "Will you marry me?"
Sheba threw her arms around him. "Yes," she declared. She noticed that Bojay was looking more tired and pale every centon they spent talking. She sat back in her chair by the bed and held his hand in hers. "Get some rest, my love. We can talk more when you've had some sleep. I'll be right here."
Bojay's condition gradually improved over the next couple of sectons. Soon he was allowed more than one visitor at a time. Starbuck was the first person to visit him as soon as he was allowed.
"Sheba, can I talk to Bojay alone?" Starbuck requested.
"Please, sweetie?" Bojay added.
It was on the tip of Sheba's tongue to refuse, but she had a hard time saying "no" to Bojay. Reluctantly, she left the two men alone.
"How are you?" Starbuck asked when they were alone.
"You didn't need to be alone with me to ask me that," Bojay pointed out.
"You and Sheba have made plans."
"We're going to get married as soon as I'm out of here," Bojay answered happily.
"She saved your life," Starbuck commented.
"I know. Isn't she amazing?"
"Are you happy, Boj?" Starbuck asked abruptly.
"Yes, Bucko, I am happy. Why?"
"I just wanted to make sure. I want you to be happy."
"I want you to be happy, too."
"Who says I'm not?" Starbuck asked.
"I know you, Bucko. Intimately, as a matter of fact. Why don't you just tell the Captain the fracking truth?"
"He doesn't want me, Boj. I know that. He wants a woman. A wife. A mother for Boxey. Someone to make the Commander happy. Not a man, and certainly not one like me."
"Have you ever asked him?"
"Of course not."
"Stranger things have happened, Starbuck. Look at me and Sheba. I never thought she'd want a guy like me, but she does."
"How? She's from an important family. Her father is a battlestar commander. What's so different from Apollo?"
"Apollo doesn't want a man and Sheba does. That's the difference, and it's a fracking important one." His expression softened. "But I am happy for you and Sheba. And I'm glad that you're still around. I don't want to lose any more friends to the Cylons if I can help it." With those words, he left.
Bojay watched him go, and decided that someone needed to knock Apollo and Starbuck's heads together, and he might be just the one to do it, with Sheba's help. He began to plan.
"Uh, Sheba, darling?" Bojay said when Sheba returned. His wife to be was immediately suspicious. She had learned that Bojay tended to use endearments when he wanted something from her.
"What is it?" she asked.
"Do you want Apollo to be happy?"
"Of course I want Apollo to be happy. What kind of question is that?"
"Would it bother you if Apollo chose a male partner instead of a female one?"
"It's his life," Sheba answered. "As long as he's happy. It's not up to me to decide what gender his partner should be."
"Would you care to join me in a little scheme to fix him up?" Bojay asked.
"Fix him up with who?" Sheba wanted to know, though she had a sneaking suspicion.
"How do you know that either of them wants to be fixed up with the other?" Sheba had tried to play matchmaker for her friends in the past, and it had often turned into a complete disaster.
"I know that Starbuck is in love with Apollo. I don't know how Apollo feels, though. Do you?"
"No. Apollo is a very private person. He doesn't reveal much. Even when we were engaged I still felt like there were things about him that I didn't know. I would think that Starbuck and Boomer know him better than I do." She thought for a few moments. "All I know is that Starbuck is his closest friend. In fact, Starbuck is probably closer to him than anyone in the fleet. Does that help at all?"
"It's a start. What I really need to do is talk to Apollo and find out how he feels. If he feels the same way about Starbuck as Starbuck does about him, then we can proceed."
"Proceed with what?"
"The fix-up, of course."
"Are you sure, Boj? Fixing people up doesn't work very often, in my experience."
"Just go find Apollo for me, please," Bojay requested. "Tell him I want to talk to him. Make it sound like I want to know how he feels about you dumping him for me. You know, I don't want there to be any hard feelings between us. I know I'm not his favourite person in the fleet, not after that time I pulled a weapon on him."
"All right," Sheba sighed. She went to find Apollo.
She found him sitting in the Officer's Club nursing a drink. He looked quite depressed, and her heart ached for him. She was afraid that she had caused some, if not all, of his distress.
"Hi, Apollo," she said with false cheer, slipping into a seat next to him.
"Hi," he said listlessly. He wanted to be alone, but he had to be polite. "How's Bojay?"
"Actually, that's why I'm here. He wants to talk to you."
"To me? Why?"
"He wants to talk about me, I think. About how I left you for him. He feels bad about breaking us up, even though it was all my doing."
"I have no hard feelings for Bojay in that regard," Apollo insisted.
"Tell him that, then. He does feel bad, Apollo."
"Really. Please, Apollo. I want you and Starbuck to come to our wedding with no bad feelings among any of us."
Apollo thought it was kind of ironic that she had made it sound as if he and Starbuck were a couple. "Starbuck is resilient. I'm sure he'll recover quickly. He wasn't acting particularly heartbroken last I saw him."
"Well, Bojay's talked to him. Now he wants to talk to you."
"All right," Apollo finally agreed. He had no idea why Sheba was being so persistent.
When Apollo arrived in Life Centre, Bojay asked Sheba to leave the two of them. Sheba hated to leave her love's side for a micron, but reluctantly did as she was asked.
"Thank you for coming, Captain."
"We're not on duty. You can call me 'Apollo.'"
"Well then, thanks for coming, Apollo. I just wanted to make sure there were no bad feelings about what happened with Sheba. I honestly had no idea she felt this way about me. I didn't want to come between the two of you."
"I know you didn't. It was for the best. Sheba and I don't belong together."
"Still, it must have come as quite a shock to discover your intended is in love with someone else."
"Yes, I was rather surprised by that."
"I am sorry that things happened this way. I can't help but think that if I'd been honest with her about my feelings then none of this would have happened. I wouldn't have had to hurt Starbuck, and Sheba wouldn't have had to hurt you."
"You hurt Starbuck?" Apollo demanded. "I understood that the two of you were just, you know, friends who had sex. No attachments."
Bojay was pleased to see Apollo's reaction to the idea that someone could hurt Starbuck. "We didn't intend for there to be attachments, certainly. Still, I could tell when I talked to him that he's a bit envious of me and Sheba. After all, I found someone to love and left him behind. I have Sheba. He doesn't have anyone."
"Surely that's Starbuck's choice. He can have anyone he wants."
"Can he?" Bojay asked.
"What do you mean?"
"Apollo, may I be honest with you?"
"Of course," Apollo answered. He was slightly suspicious; after all, people usually asked if they could be honest when they had bad news. But he was quite curious to know what Bojay was getting at.
"The only one Starbuck wants, Apollo, is you."
"Pardon me?" Apollo asked.
"Starbuck is in love with you, Apollo."
"No, he isn't," Apollo answered.
"What, do you think I'd lie about something like that?" Bojay wanted to know.
"No. I don't think you would lie. I just think that you're mistaken. Starbuck doesn't love me that way. He might love me as a friend, even a brother. He's not in love with me."
Sheba, meanwhile, had caught up with Starbuck and told him that Bojay wanted to talk to him about wedding plans. Assuming that his friend wanted him to be his best man, Starbuck had agreed and was following Sheba back to the Life Centre.
"Apollo," Bojay asked. "Do you love Starbuck?"
"Yes," Apollo answered immediately.
Sheba made an excuse of having to talk to Dr. Salik about Bojay's condition and left Starbuck alone outside Bojay's room. He was just approaching the door when he heard Bojay talking to Apollo.
"Apollo, are you in love with Starbuck?"
The Captain nodded.
"Say it, Apollo. Say it out loud."
"I'm in love with Starbuck. But I know that he isn't in love with me."
Starbuck could wait no longer, and walked in to the room. "Don't you think you should ask me before you make sweeping pronouncements like that, Pol?"
Stunned, Apollo stared at Starbuck. "I didn't know you were here."
"That much is obvious," Starbuck answered.
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean for you to hear that. I should go."
Starbuck immediately stepped in front of him. "No. Don't go."
Bojay got up and headed for the door. "I'll leave you two alone."
The two warriors turned to Bojay in concern, but he reassured them. "Don't worry. I'm mobile."
Sheba walked in just then and told them that she would look after Bojay so that they could talk. "And I do think you need to talk," she added.
When he was alone with Starbuck, Apollo said, "I didn't intend for you to ever know how I felt. I'm sorry. I know you don't feel the same way about me. You're my best friend. I should be satisfied with that."
"Why should you be? I'm not."
"Not what?" Apollo asked, confused.
"Not satisfied being just your best friend. Don't you think you should at least ask me how I feel before assuming that I don't love you?"
"What are you talking about, Star?" Apollo still couldn't bring himself to believe that Starbuck could ever love him, and so was having a hard time understanding his wingmate's words.
"I'm trying to tell you that I'm in love with you!"
"You.... You.... You're in love with me?"
"Isn't that what I just said?"
"It's what I thought I heard, but I thought it couldn't possibly be true."
Starbuck studied his wingmate sadly. "Why would you think that, Pol? Have I ever given you reason to believe I couldn't love you? Because if I have, I'm sorry."
"All the women you dated certainly gave me that impression," Apollo said, sounding bitter.
"Oh Pol," Starbuck sighed. "All those women were just a cover-up. I wasn't ready to admit to anyone, least of all myself, that I was in love with another man. When I was finally ready to deal with it, you were with Serena. Do you remember that I told you I was jealous?"
"Yes," Apollo answered. Then it dawned on him. "Is that what you meant? I just assumed that you were jealous of all the time I spent with her that I used to spend with you. I didn't know that you were jealous, well, that way."
"That's what I meant. I had only just realized that I was in love with you. Yes, I was seeing Cassie at the time, but she was just a diversion for me, someone to take my mind off the fact that you were getting Sealed to Serena." Then he added, "Pol, I thought the same about you, that you only wanted a woman. I know you haven't been nearly as...prolific as I have when it comes to dating, but you've been engaged twice and Sealed once. Both of your women have been Kobolian, have been from the upper classes. Me, I don't even know who my parents were."
"Your parents or what class you or they were in has nothing to do with my love for you, Star. As for Serena and Sheba, well.... Let me put it like this. When I met Serena I was like you were - not ready to admit to myself that I could love men as well as women. I thought that being married to her would make me happy. I would marry her, adopt Boxey and we would be a family. It made my father happy, too. Then you were captured and I thought that you were dead, and I realized then how I really felt. But it was too late. You were gone, or I thought you were. So I went ahead and married Serena."
"And what about Sheba?"
"When I asked Sheba to marry me I was trying to please my father. I didn't want to get married again, at least not to anyone but you, but my father started hinting around that it was time for me to settle down and find a suitable wife and a mother for Boxey. Then you got involved with Bojay and I realized that you did like men, but I thought I'd missed my chance with you for good."
Starbuck realized that there were tears in his love's beautiful green eyes. He stepped forward and brushed a hand over Apollo's cheek. "What are these for?" he asked.
Apollo smiled through his tears. "Missed opportunities. Wasted yahrens. Stubborn pride."
"On both our parts," Starbuck answered. "I certainly haven't been blameless. I could have spoken up, and I didn't."
Apollo grasped the hand that had been brushing his tears away. "Will you speak up now? Will you say that you love me? I need to hear it. I need to hear it as many times as I possibly can."
"I love you, Apollo." He looked into his lover's eyes. "Now you say it. I need to hear it too."
"I love you, Star. I love you more than anyone or anything." He hesitated for a moment, then said, "I know this might seem rather sudden, but will you marry me?"
Starbuck was stunned for a moment, but only a very brief one. He threw his arms around his friend, lover and wingmate and held on tightly. "Yes," he whispered. Tears were running down his own face now. "It's what I've wanted for as long as I've known you."
The two warriors were about to kiss when they were interrupted by Sheba and Bojay's return. "AHEM!" Sheba announced loudly. "We're back. Bojay needs to get back in bed. Alone, unfortunately."
Starbuck and Apollo broke apart reluctantly.
Bojay studied the couple. "Is everything all right?" he asked.
Starbuck wiped his eyes with his sleeve. "Everything's perfect," he answered. "We'll dance at your wedding."
"I hope I can dance at yours," Bojay replied.
"Then you'd better do what the doctor tells you and stop acting like a stubborn child when it's time for your therapy," Sheba scolded him.
"Are the two of you getting married?" Bojay asked, worried that he had jumped to an incorrect conclusion.
"Yes," both warriors answered at once.
"Good," Bojay said with a smile. "Starbuck, will you be my best man?"
"Of course," was Starbuck's immediate reply. "Will you be mine?"
"Most definitely," Bojay responded. "Now, will the two of you get out of here?" Sheba demanded. "Bojay needs his rest. I want him in good shape for the wedding - and the honeymoon."
As they left Life Centre, Starbuck turned to Apollo with a mischievous look on face. "Speaking of honeymoons...." he began.
"What about them?" Apollo asked.
"How about we start ours now?"
"Start our honeymoon? Before we get married? What do you... oh," he added when he realized what his wingmate was referring to. He returned the other man's smile. "That sounds like an excellent idea."