Apollo nervously approached the Bachelor Officers Quarters. He had something important to ask Starbuck and didn't know how his friend and wingmate would react.
"There you are!" he said when he finally found the Lieutenant. "I've been looking all over for you."
"Why?" Starbuck asked curiously.
"I want to ask you something."
"Not here," Apollo told him. "In private."
This was definitely odd, Starbuck thought, but he followed his wingmate. He'd follow this man anywhere.
When they were alone, Starbuck said again, "So ask."
Apollo cleared his throat. "Would you.... Would you spend the holiday with us?" The annual Festival of Light was almost upon them, the time of year that Capricans celebrated their planet's getting closer to its sun and the days getting longer. Each of the colonies had such a festival, the date depending on their planet's location in relation to the sun. To Kobolians it was also a religious festival.
"You're celebrating the Festival of Light?" Starbuck asked in surprise.
"Of course. Why wouldn't I?" Apollo asked.
"Well, for one thing, there isn't very much light. For another, there isn't much to celebrate. We lost our homes, our entire world. What are we supposed to be festive about?"
"That's exactly why we need to celebrate," Apollo told him. "I think we should try to make things as normal as possible, especially for Boxey. This is his first Festival without Serena."
Starbuck was immediately sorry he'd said anything. "You're right. This has got to be tough for him." Starbuck knew what it was like to spend a holiday without parents, having lost his at a very young age. "It's just that I don't normally make a big deal out of Festival. I haven't even celebrated it since...." He thought for a moment. "Since the last Festival we were still at the Academy." The first year after he'd arrived at the Academy, Starbuck had stayed at the school while most of his friends had gone home to their families. When Apollo had found out that Starbuck had spent the holiday alone, he had insisted that for the rest of their time at the Academy, Starbuck come home with him for holidays. After graduation, however, they'd spent most of their following yahrens on duty at Festival time without much opportunity to celebrate. Apollo had confided in Starbuck that Commander Adama hadn't wanted to appear to be playing favourites by allowing his son to take a furlon at Festival time. In fact, Adama himself usually spent Festival time working, the same as his warriors.
"Apollo," Starbuck pointed out, "you're spending Festival without Serena too. It's also your first without Zac. Are you sure you're up to it? Maybe you should just forget about Festival this yahren. I'm sure no one would blame you. Lots of other people are probably ignoring it too."
"I can't deny Boxey a Festival," Apollo protested.
"Are you sure he even wants to celebrate?" Starbuck asked.
Apollo smiled. "He does. I can hardly believe how resilient he is after everything that's happened over the past yahren. He's so excited. He wants to get a tree from the Agro barge and everything."
"That's the miracle of being a child," Starbuck observed.
"So will you spend Festival with us? You can bring Cassie if you want."
Starbuck grimaced. "Cassie and Athena don't exactly get along. You know that."
"Who said anything about Athena?"
"When you said 'us' I assumed you meant the Commander and Athena as well as Boxey."
Apollo sighed. "My father is putting on a brave face for the fleet, but he doesn't really want to celebrate Festival. He'll probably do what he does every yahren, even before the Destruction - spend it on the Bridge. Athena's on duty too. It's just me and Boxey - and you, I hope, and Cassie if you want to bring her."
"Cassie's working in Life Centre on Festival Day, but I'm off duty, believe it or not. I'd be happy to spend the Festival of Light with you and Boxey."
Apollo smiled with relief. He really wanted to spend the Festival with Starbuck, but had been unsure whether Starbuck wanted to celebrate it. Most people made a big deal of family during Festival time, and while Starbuck never said anything, Apollo knew he felt the absence of a family very strongly. He'd tried his best to make Starbuck feel a part of his family, but didn't know if he'd actually succeeded.
The other complication was the fact that he was in fact in love with Starbuck. He'd done his best to deny it, hide it, and sublimate it. He'd thought he'd managed to get over Starbuck when he became engaged to Serena, but his feelings returned full force when Starbuck had gone missing and was presumed dead. He'd gone ahead with the marriage anyway, but when Starbuck had returned it had been all he could do to not throw himself at his wingmate. He'd settled for a hug, but he had the feeling that Serena had known how he felt.
"Hey, 'Pol," Starbuck laughed. "Where did you go? You looked a million metrons away just then."
"Just thinking," Apollo replied.
Apollo almost answered, "You," but stopped himself. "Plans. I have a lot to do before Festival Day."
"Is there anything I can do to help?" Starbuck asked.
"Could you amuse Boxey for a few centares on Festival Eve while I wrap his presents?"
"Apollo, I don't have any presents for you or for Boxey." Starbuck hadn't planned on celebrating the Festival of Light and hadn't even thought of buying gifts.
"Don't worry about it. Your being with us is enough of a gift."
Starbuck was touched by Apollo's words and felt a slight stinging in his eyes. He quickly rubbed them to prevent any tears from showing.
"Something wrong?" Apollo asked in concern.
"Just thought I had something in my eye for a micron," Starbuck muttered.
The Captain hid his smile. He'd seen the look on Starbuck's face when he'd told him he thought of his being with them for the holiday a gift. He also knew that Starbuck would never admit to feeling anything. Sure enough, his wingmate had put on his gambling face, the one that didn't show what he was thinking or feeling.
"So, can you take Boxey for awhile on Festival Eve? After I'm done we can go to the late service at the Temple. You may as well stay the night in my quarters. Boxey will be up first thing in the morning and won't want to have to fetch you from the BOQ."
Spend the night in Apollo's quarters? If only Apollo meant that as an invitation to stay the night in his bed. Starbuck shoved that thought aside as he agreed to Apollo's plans. His wingmate could never know how he felt.
As Festival Eve approached, Starbuck's thoughts turned to gifts. He, too, had picked up a few items here and there as the fleet visited various planets looking for supplies. Sometimes he picked out things for Boxey when he and Apollo were on missions. He might have some things that he could give as gifts. He started to look through his things and eventually found a small stone carving of a daggit he'd picked up somewhere or other. Boxey would like that, he thought. But what could he give Apollo? He'd almost given up when he remembered something. He had to search for a long time, but eventually found what he had been looking for: a picture of Apollo with his mother, Ila, and his brother, Zac. After Zac and Ila had been killed he'd buried it in the bottom of his locker and hadn't looked at it since. It was a bit bent, but he could probably fix it in time for Festival. He'd borrow a couple of heavy medical texts from Cassie and use the books' weight to flatten the picture. Cassie might also know where he could get some form of wrapping paper.
Almost before Starbuck knew it, it was Festival Eve. Carrying his gifts, he went to Apollo's quarters, where he was welcomed by an excited Boxey.
"Happy Festival Eve, Starbuck!" the boy said. "Did you bring presents?"
"Boxey, that's very rude," Apollo scolded. "Starbuck came to spend Festival with us, not to give presents."
"Well, I did bring a couple of things," Starbuck admitted, laying his small packages under the tree.
"You didn't have to bring anything," Apollo told him.
"I wanted to," Starbuck answered. "So, Boxey, how about you and I go to the Rejuv Centre?"
Boxey jumped up and happily hurried off to the Rejuvenation Centre with Starbuck.
When Starbuck and Boxey had left, Apollo set about wrapping the presents he'd bought. He wrapped Boxey's toys, then turned to Starbuck's presents. Deciding what to get his friend had been tough. Sure, there had been the obvious choices: a box of fumarillos, a new Pyramid deck. Those had been the easy choices. But they had seemed impersonal. Anyone who had spent even five centons with Starbuck would know that he liked to smoke and play cards.
Then one day he'd been at a market that had been set up on the Rising Star and had seen something that had caught his attention. It was a silk shirt in a soft blue colour - a colour that he knew would match Starbuck's eyes. Starbuck seldom wore civilian clothes, and the dull brown uniforms didn't do anything for someone of Starbuck's colouring. He purchased it, then had almost immediately regretted it. What was he doing buying clothes for Starbuck? But he decided to give it to him anyway.
The other gift had been a happy accident. Boxey had asked to see some pictures of his family, and Apollo had dug out a small photo album. Unfortunately, most of his family pictures had been destroyed with his family's home on Caprica. As he was showing Boxey the few pictures he had, he'd discovered one he'd almost forgotten about - a picture of himself and Starbuck at their graduation from the Academy. He wanted to give it to Starbuck, but hated to give it up. Then he'd had an idea. He'd taken it to the computer lab, scanned it in to the computer and printed out a copy to give to his friend. He'd framed it too.
He looked at the picture for a long time before finally wrapping it. Had he been in love with Starbuck even then? Probably. He'd been in love with his best friend for so long he couldn't remember ever not loving him. He'd seen the way Starbuck appreciated women, though, so he kept his feelings to himself.
When Starbuck and Boxey returned, it was time to go to the Kobolian temple for services. Though Starbuck had never been particularly religious, he went along. At times like this Starbuck felt that he, Boxey and Apollo were almost a family. It was easy to pretend that they were, even if just for this night. This is what it might be like if he and Apollo were married and Boxey was their son.
Speaking of Boxey, Starbuck had expected him to fidget during the service Lords knew, he'd fidgeted his way through enough Temple services when he'd been growing up but obviously someone had been thinking of the children, and there was a special effort made to include them in the service.
When the service was over it was almost midnight, but Boxey was too wired to sleep. Back in Apollo's quarters the two warriors had a hard time keeping up with him. "Tell me a story, Dad!" the boy begged.
"All right," Apollo agreed. "What kind of story?"
"Tell me about what you did on Festival when you were a boy."
So Apollo told him. "My mother and father, brother and sister and I would go out shopping for sectons before the Festival came trying to get presents for each other. My mother cooked for what seemed like centares every day because my grandparents and some of my aunts and uncles would be joining us for dinner on Festival Day. Festival Eve, though, was just for the five of us. We'd go to Temple, then come home and sit in front of the tree and your grandfather would tell us the story of the Festival of Light."
"Tell me about the first Festival of Light, Dad!" Boxey urged.
Apollo demurred. "Your grandfather tells it a lot better than I ever could."
Boxey jumped up. "Then let's ask him to tell it! Let's go up to the bridge and ask him!"
"I don't know, Boxey. He's working."
"It's Festival Eve. He's not supposed to be working," Boxey protested.
"It couldn't hurt to ask," Starbuck put in.
"If we take you to the bridge, will you go to bed right after?" Apollo asked.
So the three of them trooped up to the Bridge, where they were met by a very surprised Commander. "To what do I owe the pleasure of this visit?" he asked. "Especially when it is most definitely past your bedtime?" he added to Boxey.
"I want to hear the story of the first Festival of Light," Boxey told his grandfather.
"He insisted," Apollo added. "And actually, I'd kind of like to hear it too."
"So would I," Starbuck immediately joined in.
Faced with three expectant faces, Adama shrugged, sat in his chair (where Boxey immediately climbed into his lap) and began the story.
"Millennia ago, during a night much like this..." Adama looked around and decided to continue, even though nights in space were not much like nights on Caprica ."Millennia ago, on a night much like this, the people of Caprica were weary. It seemed like forever since they had seen any light. Today we could tell them that it's always like that in the middle of winter, but back then they didn't know much about the positions of the stars and planets. All they knew was that it was dark and cold, and they didn't know when it would be light again. They knew that every yahren before the light had always come back, but they still worried every yahren that it wouldn't.
"Then, in the middle of the night, a bright light appeared, in the form of a star. No one knew where it had come from. It moved, and a group of tribesmen in the desert decided to follow it and see where it led. It led them to a small, run-down stable where a family had taken shelter from the cold. There was a baby there. The baby was surrounded by beings of light - angels, you could call them." He looked up at Apollo then. He'd heard about the light ships and the beings who had brought Apollo back to life after his death at the hands of Diabolis. Then he continued.
"The angels told the people that this baby would one day be very special in their world. The men got very excited and some of them ran back to their camp to tell everyone to come and see this baby, this very special child. The people came back with gifts for the baby. That's why we exchange gifts at this time of year."
"And the baby? What happened to the baby?" Boxey asked.
"That baby became the first Lord of Kobol. His followers and their descendants also became Lords of Kobol. Your father and I, and you, Boxey, are descended from those same Lords of Kobol."
Apollo gave his father a strange look. Sure, everyone forgot that Boxey wasn't his son by birth, but surely Adama wouldn't tell Boxey a lie.
"It's true, Apollo. I can't explain to you how I know, but I know. Boxey is Kobolian, just as you and I are, and Starbuck, too."
This came as a great surprise to Starbuck. "I am?" he asked.
"Yes, Starbuck. I knew it the first time that Apollo brought you home from the Academy. I asked him who your parents were and he said you were an orphan. Still, I knew. And like I said, I can't explain how I know."
"Does that mean we're related?" he asked.
"Perhaps very distantly," Adama said with a smile. "If we were very closely related, I would never have consented to your engagement to Athena. But you're family, all the same." He turned back to Boxey. "And now it's high time you were in bed, young man."
"Yes, sir," Boxey grumbled, going back to join Apollo and Starbuck.
Just as they were about to leave, Omega called out, "Commander! Something is on the scanners, but I have no idea what it is!"
Just as they were about to leave, Omega called out, "Commander! Something is on the scanners, but I have no idea what it is!"
"Cylon?" Apollo asked immediately, hurrying to the scanner.
"No, Captain, I don't think so. At least, it's like nothing Cylon I've ever seen."
Everyone was crowded around the scanner looking at the unidentified blip when Athena called out, "Look at the viewscreen!"
Everyone looked, and saw the Light. It was like nothing any of them - except Apollo and Starbuck -- had ever seen before. They immediately recognized it as the ship of light that they had seen after their encounter with Iblis.
"By the Lords of Kobol," whispered Adama.
A face appeared on the viewscreen. It was one of the "angels." It said, "You have that right, Adama. We are the Lords of Kobol. You found our resting place not long ago. Now we've come to give you a message."
"What is that message?" the Commander asked.
"I've heard your anguish. I've heard your hearts cry out that you are tired, your are weary, you are worn out. Set down your chains. Don't give your strength to that which you want to be free from. Don't give in to despair. Raise your voices in the sounds of freedom. The road ahead is long, but you will find Earth." Then the face vanished, and the light slowly faded until it was gone.
Boxey finally broke the silence. "Dad?" he asked.
"Was that a miracle?"
Everyone laughed, because that was what they had all been thinking but were afraid to ask. The tension broke. "Yes, son, I do believe it was a miracle."
Apollo lifted his very tired son in his arms and he and Starbuck were about to leave when Adama stopped them. "Apollo, is that invitation to have a holiday dinner with you still open?"
"Yes, Father, you know it is."
"Then I think that I would like to join the three of you. Is that all right with you, Starbuck?"
"Yes sir," Starbuck answered in surprise. Now Adama was treating him as if he were Apollo's spouse.
"Good," the Commander yawned. "Then I will see the three of you tomorrow night - after I've had some rest."
When they got back to Apollo's quarters, they looked at the time. "It's practically morning," Apollo groaned.
"Can we open our presents now?" Boxey asked.
The adults looked at each other. "Why not," Apollo finally said. "Then we can sleep the rest of the day."
Boxey tore into his presents, oohing and aahing over his toys. When he got to the carved daggit from Starbuck, he said, "It looks like Muffit."
The daggit droid barked at hearing its name. "No, not you, silly," Boxey said. "The first Muffit." Boxey's first pet had been killed in the Destruction.
Apollo opened his gifts next. Boxey had given him various odd items that he'd made during Learning Period. He expressed appreciation for them. They may not be much, but his son had made them, and that was what was important. Then he turned to Starbuck's gift. The package didn't give anything away. When he opened it he stared at the photograph in surprise. "When was this taken?" he asked through the tremor in his voice.
"The last Festival Eve I was with you on Caprica," Starbuck answered. "The Commander wasn't able to join us right away, remember, because he'd been called out to deal with some problem or other, and Athena was out somewhere with her friends. I wanted to remember our Festival together and I took that picture."
"It's beautiful," Apollo murmured.
Starbuck was shocked to see the tears in his friend's eyes. "Are you okay?" he asked with worry.
Apollo smiled through his tears. "I'm fine. Thank you." He cleared his throat and wiped his eyes. "Now it's your turn."
Starbuck laughed when he saw that his present from Boxey was a Pyramid deck. "Thanks, Kiddo. I'm sure to win a lot with these." Then he turned to the two gifts from Apollo. The first was the graduation picture. He smiled. "I remember this day," he said. "Your parents were so proud of you. I thought the Commander would burst. Of course, he wasn't the Commander then. And Zac was so thrilled to be there. He was going on and on about how he was going to enter the Academy next."
"It seems like such a long time ago," Apollo mused.
"A lifetime ago," Starbuck agreed. He turned to show the picture to Boxey, and saw that the boy was asleep. "I didn't think he'd be able to stay awake much longer."
Apollo rose and picked up his son in his arms. "Help me put him to bed?" he asked Starbuck.
Starbuck didn't think that Apollo needed any help, but he followed his friend into Boxey's room. The bed was a mess, so he straightened it before Apollo put Boxey down. He saw Apollo give Boxey a kiss goodnight, and he shyly did the same. Again, he felt as if the three of them were a family, even if it was only in his dreams.
Back in the main room, Starbuck saw that there was one present left. "Open it," Apollo urged. They sat on the floor together as Starbuck unwrapped the silk shirt. He stared at it. No one had ever given him a present like this before. His various girlfriends had sometimes tried to pick clothes out for him, but he was always satisfied with his uniform. This shirt was something else. It was .... The word "luxurious" came to mind.
"Is it too much?" Apollo asked fearfully.
"I don't know. I don't know what to say. No one's ever given me anything like this before. I don't even have that much in the way of civilian clothes."
"That's why I want you to have it. You're not on duty all the time. You don't have to always wear a uniform. I think you would look good in this. It matches your eyes."
"My eyes?" Starbuck asked. Now he was really confused. Since when did Apollo notice his eyes?
Apollo decided that he may as well go all the way now that he'd started. "Starbuck, I may be completely out of line and you may never want to speak to me again after I tell you this. You might hate me, but I've held it back long enough. I have to tell you something."
Starbuck felt almost frightened at Apollo's words. What could make him never want to speak to Apollo again? "Apollo, you can tell me anything. I could never hate you." 'I love you,' were the words he thought but didn't say.
"Starbuck, you've been part of my family for yahrens, since we were in the Academy. You've been with me through everything, good and bad. You were there for me when I lost my mother and Zac and Serena. You've helped me raise Boxey. You've practically been another father to him. You're my wingmate and my best friend, and I know I should be satisfied with that, but I'm not. I'm in love with you. I tried to deny it. I tried to ignore it. I can't do that any longer. I'm sorry." He sat and waited for the fallout.
Starbuck sat, stunned, for several very long centons before his wingmate's words penetrated his sleep-deprived consciousness. "Apollo, I don't think you have anything to be sorry for," he finally said.
"Then you still want to be friends?" Apollo asked eagerly.
"Oh, no," Starbuck answered, then squeezed Apollo's shoulder to reassure him before he continued. "Not friends. I want to be so much more than your friend. I love you too, Apollo."
"You do?" Apollo asked, his voice quavering.
Starbuck kissed him gently. "Very much."
Apollo almost collapsed into Starbuck's arms. "Thank the Lords," he said.
"Apollo, are you as exhausted as I am?" Starbuck asked as he held the other man close to him.
"Even more so, if that's possible," Apollo muttered.
"I would suggest, then, that we go to bed -- to sleep."
"Will you sleep with me? In my bed?"
"I certainly don't intend to sleep on the couch," Starbuck answered as he followed his new lover to the bedroom.
When he woke late the next day, Apollo turned to his sleeping bed partner. "It wasn't a dream," he whispered. "You're really here."
Starbuck rolled over with a groan. "Did somebody say something? Whoa," he added when he saw who was in bed with him. "You startled me."
"You weren't expecting me to be here?" Apollo asked in amusement.
"It's not every day you wake up to discover that what you've dreamed about for the past deca-yahren or so has come true."
"Waking up in my bed is what you dreamed about?"
"Among other things," Starbuck answered.
"Would you like to show me what some of those other things are?"
Starbuck cocked his head. "What's Boxey doing?"
"Playing with his new toys, I think."
"Will they keep him amused for awhile? I don't really want any interruptions of the Boxey-kind, if you know what I mean."
"We'll just have to be quiet so that he thinks we're still asleep," Apollo told him as he took him into his arms.
Later that day......
After dinner was finished, Apollo stood and tapped his ambrosa glass with a spoon. "I have a very important question to ask Starbuck," he announced. He moved to Starbuck's side and bent down on one knee. "Starbuck, will you marry me?"
Starbuck almost choked on his drink. "Y - yes," he answered when he could breathe again. "When?"
"How about New Yahren's Eve? We can start the new yahren off in a positive way."
Starbuck turned to Adama. "Are you okay with this?" he asked.
The Commander smiled. "I learned long ago not to interfere in my children's personal lives, and yes, I am okay with this."
"Do we have enough time to get the licence and everything, in a secton?" Apollo asked.
"I think that I can arrange that," Adama told him. He turned back to Starbuck. "I would say welcome to the family, Starbuck, but you became part of this family a long time ago."
A few days later, New Yahren Eve
Starbuck and Apollo stood in their dress uniforms, surrounded by family and friends. Adama read the Sealing ceremony from the Book of the Word, then asked if the two men had anything to say. Apollo turned to Starbuck and took both of his hands in his own.
"Until tonight, my heart was just half full. I'd never known the fruit that fed the soul. But now I see what can put to rest my longing. I have seen the face of love."
Starbuck spoke next. "In silence I feared that my heart's words would remain unheard inside a separate skin. But now I know that skin just veils the soul. I have seen the face of love."
They said the next words together. "Take my hand and know that with it I also give my heart, wanting never to be separate again. Let eternity begin."
As they sealed their vows with a kiss, a bright light appeared in space. The Lords of Kobol had given their approval.