Starbuck looked around his new quarters with satisfaction. They were small, but they were his. And he lived alone, so it wasn't like he needed a lot of space. These were infinitely better than the Bachelor Officers' Quarters.
Of course, they weren't what he *really* wanted. What he really wanted, more than anything, was to share quarters with Apollo. Share his life with Apollo. And Boxey, of course. But that wasn't going to happen, so he was content with his new quarters.
He looked at the time. Oops, he was going to be late for patrol if he didn't hurry. Taking a last, satisfied look around, he left.
Apollo was already in the viper bay waiting for him. If he was late, the Captain didn't mention it. "How are the new quarters?" his friend asked with a smile.
'Empty,' Starbuck thought to himself. 'Empty without you in them.' Out loud he said, "A bit small, but a lot better than the alternative."
Apollo tried to be happy for Starbuck. He had been happy to move out of the Bachelor Officers' Quarters himself when he'd done it, though it wasn't quite the same for him, since he'd had Serena and Boxey to think of. But part of him wished that Starbuck could live with him and Boxey, that they could be a family. Of course, that was just wishful thinking. Starbuck was nothing if not a ladies' man.
When patrol was finished, Starbuck caught up with Apollo before he could leave. "I want you to be my first guest in my new quarters."
The smile that Apollo gave him in response almost took his breath away. How he loved Apollo's smile. "I'd be honoured. Can I bring something?"
"Just yourself. And for Sagan's sake, you don't need to be so formal. You're my best friend! Come with me and let's have a drink to celebrate."
When Starbuck and Apollo arrived at Starbuck's quarters, they discovered a note taped to the door. Starbuck opened it and read:
This note is just to wish you all the best in your new quarters.
Your Secret Admirer."
"Secret admirer?" Apollo asked.
Starbuck shrugged. "Who knows?"
Apollo took a closer look at the paper. "It's not Athena's writing," he observed.
"Not Cassie's, either," Starbuck added.
"So who's this secret admirer, then?" Apollo wanted to know.
"No idea," Starbuck answered. He handed Apollo a glass of ambrosa. "Have a drink. Here's to my new quarters."
Apollo drank the toast, but the note still bothered him.
As he was leaving to return to his own quarters, Apollo hesitated. "Starbuck, I really don't like that note," he said.
"What's not to like?" Starbuck asked.
"It just makes me nervous, having someone leave anonymous notes on your door."
"It's probably just someone who's too shy to say anything to me in person. I think it's kind of sweet, actually. Don't worry about it."
Telling Apollo not to worry was about as effective as telling him not to breathe, but he answered, "I'll try not to, then." Impulsively, he drew his friend into a hug. "I am happy that you got your own quarters," he said.
"Thanks," Starbuck said in surprise. It wasn't as if Apollo had never hugged him before, but it wasn't a common occurrence.
"You look surprised," Apollo observed. "Is there some reason you think I shouldn't be happy for you?"
Starbuck knew he shouldn't bother trying to hide things from his friend. "No, it's just that you don't hug me very often."
Apollo smiled. "Then maybe I should do it more. You're my best friend. Have I ever told you how important you are to me?"
"I don't think so." Starbuck was even more surprised now.
"Well, you are. Important to me, I mean. Why, except for my family, of course, I've known you longer than I've known anyone in the fleet. In fact, you *are* family. And family is important, especially since the Destruction."
Starbuck swallowed hard, feeling close to tears. "That means a lot to me, Apollo. Thank you."
Apollo gave him another smile. "No need to thank me for telling the truth," he said as he left.
The next day there was another note on Starbuck's door. "I have my eye on you," it said, and was again signed "Your Secret Admirer." Starbuck had to admit to himself that it was a bit strange, but most likely harmless.
Apollo, however, didn't think so. "I don't like it," he said. "I don't like it at all."
"Apollo, what's wrong? Why are you getting so worked up over a silly little love note?"
The idea that it was a love note was exactly what concerned Apollo. He didn't like the idea of someone sending love notes to Starbuck. He didn't want anyone but himself to be in love with Starbuck. "Are you sure it's a love note?"
"What else would it be? It's signed by a 'secret admirer.'"
"It just sounds weird, almost like someone is stalking you."
"Anyone ever tell you that you have a suspicious mind, Apollo?"
Starbuck grinned. "And I'm telling you again. There's nothing to be suspicious of. It's just a silly little note from someone who probably has a crush on me. If I'm lucky, they'll turn out to be attractive."
With a frown, Apollo asked, "What about Cassiopeia?"
"What about her?"
"Aren't you and she, you know, together?"
"We don't have any kind of commitment. Ever since Cain was here, things between us haven't been the same. There was a time when I seriously thought about asking her to Seal with me, but when I was accused of killing Ortega, she believed I was guilty. After that, I couldn't feel the same way about her."
"I'm sorry," Apollo told him, wishing there was something he could say that wasn't completely useless.
"Don't be. I'm used to being a bachelor. I'll probably always be one. Now, don't we have a patrol to fly?"
As he got into his Viper, Apollo thought of what Starbuck had just said. Always a bachelor? Well, at least that meant he wouldn't have to stand by and watch Starbuck get married one day.
The next day brought another note. This one said, "One day, you will be mine," and was again signed by "Your Secret Admirer."
This worried Apollo even more. "It sounds like she's getting possessive of you."
"Who says it's a she?" Starbuck asked. "I've had male admirers before."
"Don't look so shocked, Apollo. "
"I'm not shocked, just surprised. I mean, I can see that a man who went that way might find you attractive, but I didn't think that you were interested in men."
Starbuck shrugged. "I've never been with a man, but I don't see anything wrong with people who do go that way. I know that you Kobolians don't approve of it, but I've never seen anything in the Book of the Word that expressly forbids it."
"When was the last time you read the Book of the Word?" Apollo asked.
Starbuck looked embarrassed. "Not since I was a kid in the orphanage," he admitted.
Just then there was a call on intra-ship communications for Apollo to report to the bridge. "I have to go. Think about what I said. This person, whoever it is, could be dangerous."
Indeed, Starbuck did think about what Apollo had said. It had given him hope that Apollo had admitted that men might find him attractive, but then he'd made that comment about reading the Book of the Word. That must mean that he thought his religion disapproved of men who slept with other men. But it was the truth that he'd never seen anything in the Word that said men shouldn't be with men. He'd received plenty of religious instruction in the orphanage, since it was run by Kobolians, and that had included lots of moral lessons. He was quite certain he'd remember if they'd said anything in those lessons about same-sex relationships.
He decided that he would ask Apollo what, specifically, he thought it said in the Book of the Word about same-sex love. At least then he'd know where Apollo stood on the subject. He'd drop by Apollo's quarters tonight.
As he left the bridge, Apollo ran into Boomer. "Hey, Boom-Boom," he greeted him, "would you mind stopping by my quarters? I'd like to talk to you."
"What do you want to talk to me about?" Boomer asked as he fell into step beside his friend.
"Wait until we get inside. It's kind of personal."
When they reached Apollo's quarters, Boomer asked, "Okay, so what is this about?"
"Have you ever thought that maybe Starbuck likes men?" Apollo asked.
"Likes men in what way?"
Boomer didn't appear shocked at the question. "You've known him longer than I have, Apollo. What do *you* think?"
"I don't know. I never thought that he did, until today." He explained to Boomer about the notes. "He thinks that I wouldn't approve because I'm Kobolian, so that's probably why he never said anything before."
Boomer thought for a while. "I don't know what to say, Apollo. Even if I did know whether or not Starbuck swung both ways, I wouldn't necessarily tell you - he would have to be keeping it a pretty big secret not to tell you himself. Why is it so important for you to know, anyway? What difference does it make whether or not Starbuck likes men?"
Apollo sighed. "Starbuck is my best friend. He's like family to me. And this is something he never shared with me. He tells me everything, or at least I thought he did. If he didn't share this with me, then it must be weighing on him pretty heavily. I hate it when anything hurts him. When he was accused of murdering Ortega, I was his Defender. But it feels like I've always been his Defender. My father told me some of the things the other members of the Tribunal said about him, and they made me sick."
"What kinds of things did they say?" Boomer wanted to know.
"That Starbuck is a gambler, so he must have a pretty loose moral code. He's unreliable, not trustworthy. He's a good warrior but prone to insubordination. He only thinks of himself."
"Those are pretty serious accusations," Boomer agreed. "But we both know they're not true. Except maybe the insubordination part," he added with a grin.
"Starbuck only disobeys orders with good reason. Like if he's saving my hide."
"He's done that quite a few times, hasn't he?"
Apollo nodded. "It one of the reasons why - why I love him. Oh Lords, I don't believe I just said that."
The other warrior got a serious look on his face. "You're not talking about loving him like a friend or a brother, I take it."
The Captain shook his head. "No. I'm in love with him. Have been for as long as I can remember."
"And that's why it's so important for you to find out if he likes men."
"What the frack am I going to do, Boomer?" Apollo asked.
"Apollo, if you want to know how he feels, it's not much use asking me or Jolly or Giles or anyone else. You have to ask him. The sooner, the better."
Apollo knew that Boomer was right, but he couldn't imagine asking Starbuck if he liked men. He was afraid his wingman would laugh at him. Or maybe he'd find out that Starbuck did indeed like men that way - but not him. "I'll have to think about it," he finally told Boomer.
Meanwhile, Starbuck was approaching Apollo's quarters. He stopped when he heard voices. He realized that Apollo was talking about him to someone, so he stayed outside the door, curious to hear what was being said.
"Starbuck is a gambler, so he must have a pretty loose moral code. He's unreliable, not trustworthy. He's a good warrior but prone to insubordination. He only thinks of himself."
Starbuck stood, shocked at what he heard Apollo saying. After what his friend and wingman had said just the other night - about Starbuck's being important to him, being part of his family - how could he say those things ? Was that what Apollo really thought of him?
He walked away without listening to the rest of the conversation.
Back at his quarters, he saw another note on the door. This one said, "You will be mine." It really did sound like his secret admirer was getting possessive. Well, perhaps whoever it was would be attractive. Male or female, he didn't really care. In fact, he didn't really care about anything now that he knew how Apollo saw him.
The next day Starbuck did his best to avoid Apollo. For his part, Apollo had no idea why Starbuck was suddenly nowhere to be found. He went to all of Starbuck's usual haunts - the gambling lounge on the Rising Star, the dining room on the same ship, the Officers' Club - but found no trace of his friend. Finally, he went to Starbuck's quarters.
When Starbuck saw Apollo standing at his door, he had no idea what he was going to say to him. To tell him he'd heard what he said about him would be admitting to eavesdropping. "Is there something you want, Captain?" he asked coldly.
Captain? Starbuck was calling him 'Captain'? Starbuck never used his rank. Neither did most of his friends. Sometimes he even forgot that technically, he outranked his wingmate. "I was wondering why I haven't seen you all day."
"You're seeing me now," Starbuck pointed out. "Was there something specific you needed me for?"
"No, not really." Then Apollo saw the note lying on a table. Without waiting to see if Starbuck was going to invite him in, he walked in and picked up the note. " 'You will be mine' ?" he read out loud. "I don't like the sound of this."
Starbuck grabbed the note from him. "I don't think it's any of your business."
"I care about you! That makes it my business!"
"You care about me? That's a laugh."
Stunned at Starbuck's words, Apollo replied, "You're my best friend. You're closer to me than anyone, closer than a brother. You're like family to me. What would make you think I don't care about you?"
"You think that I'm unreliable. That I have loose morals. That I think only of myself and I'm insubordinate. Lords, Apollo, I would never have believed it if I hadn't heard you say it."
"When did I say those things?" Apollo demanded.
With a sigh, Starbuck realized he'd have to confess. "Last night. I came to your quarters to talk to you, and you were talking to somebody, I don't know who. I heard my name, so I stopped to listen to what you were saying. And that was what you said."
"You didn't hear everything. Yes, I said those things, but - "
"Starbuck, please listen to me. You misunderstood what you heard."
"I think that I understood perfectly, *buddy*. I want you to leave now."
"Please let me explain," Apollo begged.
Reluctantly, Apollo did as he was told. As he was returning to his quarters, he ran into his sister.
"Apollo, you look depressed," Athena observed.
"I am," Apollo admitted.
"Come on," Athena said, taking his arm. "Let me buy you a drink and you can tell me about it."
Which is how Apollo ended up in the Officers' Club telling his sister what had happened between him and Starbuck. He did leave out the part about being in love with Starbuck; he just told Athena that he didn't want to lose Starbuck's friendship and that was why he wished Starbuck would listen to him.
What Apollo was not aware of was that his sister already knew exactly how he felt about Starbuck, and how Starbuck felt about him.
At about the same time as Apollo and Athena were talking in the Officers' Club, Starbuck was having a similar conversation with Cassiopeia on the Rising Star.
"And that's what Apollo thinks of me. That I'm insubordinate, unreliable, and untrustworthy. Can you believe it?"
"I'm sure there's a reasonable explanation," Cassie told him. "You must have mis-heard him or something."
"I heard him quite clearly, Cassie." Starbuck sighed. "I thought he was my friend. My *best* friend. The brother I never had."
Cassiopeia knew quite well how Starbuck felt about Apollo, and that his feelings for his wingmate were not at all brotherly. "I'm sure he still is, Starbuck. He cares for you very much."
The Lieutenant shook his head. "Not if he thinks so little of me. He didn't even say those things to my face! He let me think he was my friend. If he had such problems with my morals, or the way I do or don't obey rules, why didn't he tell me?"
"I don't know," Cassie replied honestly. "But I do know Apollo, and I know how much he values your friendship. Give him a chance to explain."
"No. I still have to fly with him, but outside of that, I don't care if I never talk to him again."
Later that evening, after Apollo and Starbuck had gone back to their respective quarters, Cassiopeia and Athena met up.
"Athena, have you talked to Apollo?" Cassie wanted to know.
Athena told her friend what she had discussed with Apollo about his misunderstanding with Starbuck. Cassie reported on her conversation with Starbuck.
"So the question now is, how do we get those two incredibly stubborn men together where they belong?" Athena wondered.
Both of them had the same thought at the same time. "Boomer."
"I'll talk to Boomer tomorrow," Athena decided. "Hopefully, Starbuck will listen to him when he tells him what Apollo really said."
When Starbuck got out of bed the next morning, he found the note that had been shoved under his door. It said, "If I can't have you, no one can." and was signed, once more, by his secret admirer. This note worried him a bit. His admirer was now not only possessive, but almost threatening. What did he or she mean by 'if I can't have you, no one can' ? His first impulse was to talk to Apollo about it, but then he remembered that Apollo was no longer his friend.
Meanwhile, Athena had just told Boomer what she'd heard about Starbuck and Apollo's falling out. "So do you think you could talk to Starbuck?" she asked him. "Tell him that he didn't hear what he thought he heard?"
"I'll try," Boomer agreed. "But first, I have to ask Apollo. If he says it's okay, I'll do it. I can't guarantee that Bucko will listen, though."
"He might be more willing to listen to you than to Apollo, at least. Thank you." Athena left, thinking as she went that Boomer was quite attractive, and wondering if he was single.
Boomer didn't go to see Starbuck right away. First he went to see Apollo to ask him what had happened between him and Starbuck. When he heard Apollo's sad tale, he asked, "Listen, do you want me to talk to him? Tell him what really went on?"
"Boomer, if you would do that I would really appreciate it. He won't listen to me. Though I don't know if he'll listen to you either. He's pretty stubborn."
"I can be stubborn too," Boomer answered. He headed to Starbuck's quarters.
Starbuck was surprised to see him. "What can I do for you, Boom-Boom?" he asked.
"I want to talk to you about Apollo," Boomer told him.
The blond man groaned. "I've had all of Apollo that I can stand."
"Too bad, because you need to hear this."
"I've heard enough, thank you."
"You only heard half of what was said. Apollo didn't say what you think he said."
"Boomer, I really don't want to be rude, but I don't want to hear anything that you have to say about Apollo, so I think you should leave."
Boomer stood his ground. "I'm not going anywhere."
"I'm staying right here until you listen to me. Listen, Bucko, you're my friend, and so is Apollo. But no one is closer to Apollo than you are, and no one is closer to you than Apollo. I hate to see anything come between you."
They argued for a few more centons, but Boomer was as stubborn as Starbuck. Finally, Starbuck gave in. "All right. Say your piece, then you can leave."
So Boomer did. He told Starbuck exactly what Apollo had said. He related how the words that Starbuck had heard had actually come from the Tribunal that had tried him for murder, and that Apollo had defended him. By the time he was finished, Starbuck felt terrible.
"I've really misjudged him."
"People who listen in on other people's conversations seldom hear anything positive," Boomer observed.
"Does it say that in the Book of the Word?" Starbuck asked.
Boomer laughed. "If it doesn't, it should. Go talk to him, Starbuck. Tell him you're sorry. Get down on your knees and beg for his forgiveness if you have to. And if he forgives you, then stay on your knees and thank the Lords that he did."
Starbuck was on his way out the door when he found the note. It said, "Meet me in Captain Apollo's quarters. You are going to choose me over him, or I'll kill both of you," and it was signed 'Your Secret Admirer' again.
Starbuck headed for Apollo's quarters on the double.
Apollo was in his own quarters when he heard the door chime. Hoping it was Starbuck, he hurried to answer it. He was surprised to discover Cadet Cree there. "What can I do for you, Cadet?" he asked.
Cree pulled his laser pistol. "You can let me in, for starters."
"What's this for?" Apollo asked as he admitted the cadet to his quarters.
"You are my biggest rival for Starbuck's love," replied Cree. "So I'm going to make him choose between us." He heard someone at the door. "Find out who it is," he told Apollo. "If it's anyone but Starbuck, send them away."
"Who's there?" Apollo asked obediently.
"Apollo, it's me, Starbuck. I don't have time to explain, but you're in danger. Can I come in?"
Apollo wanted to call out for Starbuck to run away and find help, but he couldn't do that with Cree's laser pointed at him. So, reluctantly, he let Starbuck in.
"Thank the gods you're all right, Apollo. Listen - "
Cree interrupted him. "So glad you could make it, Lieutenant."
"Cree? You're my secret admirer? Why are you pointing that pistol at me?"
"Because, as I told you, you are going to choose between me and Captain Apollo. It's quite obvious that he's my biggest rival for your affection. At first I thought it would be Cassiopeia or Athena, but I soon saw that he was the one I needed to be concerned about."
"Cadet, don't be ridiculous!" Apollo exclaimed. "Starbuck doesn't love me."
Starbuck wished he could tell Apollo how wrong he was about that, but he didn't want to antagonize Cree any further. "Um, Cree? What exactly brought this on?"
"You saved me," Cree replied in a dreamy voice. "You came after me when I was a prisoner of the Cylons on Arcta. You signed up for a mission to a planet of ice and snow so that you could save me. That proved to me how much you must love me. But then I saw you with *him*" - he pointed his pistol at Apollo - "and I thought that you needed to be reminded exactly who you really belong to." Continuing to hold his pistol on Apollo, he asked, "Do you love him?"
Apollo decided that this was not the time to tell the truth. "No. I don't love him. He's my friend, or he was before yesterday, but that's all."
Starbuck felt Apollo's words like a knife to his heart. But he couldn't do anything about it. "There, you see? Apollo doesn't love me, so you don't need to see him as competition."
"What happened yesterday?" Cree wanted to know. "You said that you and Starbuck stopped being friends yesterday. Why?" He got a fierce look on his face. "Did you hurt him?"
"Not intentionally," Apollo replied sadly.
"Did you hurt him?" Cree demanded again.
Starbuck tried to divert Cree's attention. "Look, Cree, it was just a misunderstanding. Apollo didn't mean anything by it."
Cree lowered his weapon. "You're sure?" he asked.
Starbuck saw his chance. While Cree's gun wasn't pointed at himself or Apollo, he grabbed his own laser and fired. The pistol was shot from Cree's hand. The cadet tried to lunge at Starbuck, but realized it was futile, since Starbuck had a weapon and he didn't.
The warriors contacted ship's security and a medical team. Dr. Salik and the med techs insisted on taking charge of Cree, since he was obviously mentally ill. Starbuck was relieved. He hadn't really wanted to hand Cree over to the black shirts, who wouldn't know how to deal with him and would just lock him up.
When the medical team and the security officers had left, Starbuck turned to Apollo. "Boomer talked to me," he said. "I'm sorry I reacted the way I did. I should have listened to you. I should have known you wouldn't say those things about me."
Apollo smiled a slightly shaky smile. "No apologies necessary, as long as we're friends again."
"The best," Starbuck promised. He was about to leave, but changed his mind. He was tired of keeping things from Apollo. Even if Apollo didn't love him, he would tell him the truth about how he felt. "You were wrong, you know."
"Wrong about what?" Apollo asked.
"About my not loving you. I do love you. But I know you don't love me, so it doesn't matter." Then he did turn to leave, but Apollo caught his arm.
"Wait!" the Captain cried out. "Don't leave."
"It's all right, Apollo. You don't owe me anything."
"I lied," Apollo told him.
"You lied about what?"
"When I told Cadet Cree that I didn't love you. I lied. I was afraid of antagonizing him. I was afraid if he knew how I really felt about you he'd kill both of us."
"How do you really feel?" Starbuck wanted to know.
"I love you," Apollo answered.
"What about the Book of the Word?"
"What about it?"
"Doesn't it say that two men shouldn't be lovers?"
"Starbuck, when was the last time you read the Book of the Word? Didn't you say it was a long time ago?"
"Well, yes," Starbuck admitted.
Apollo laughed. It was a sound that Starbuck loved to hear. "You can trust me. It doesn't say anything negative about two men or two women being lovers."
Relieved, Starbuck reached out and took Apollo into his arms. "I trust you with my life, Apollo. I love you."
Apollo kissed him. "I love you too, Starbuck."