Starbuck and Apollo stood solemnly as the Commander made his annual speech. It was the ten-yahren anniversary of the Destruction, and just as they had every yahren, the Galactica personnel attended a remembrance ceremony.

Apollo glanced around, trying to locate Boxey. His son was somewhere in the crowd, perhaps with Athena or with one of his friends. The warriors had to be together for the ceremony, and Boxey was a teen now, old enough to decide where he wanted to be and who he wanted to be with. In fact, soon Boxey would enter the Academy and train to be a warrior himself.

He mentally tuned back in to his father's words. Ten yahrens. For Apollo the memories and feelings were as fresh as if it had only been ten days. The image of Zac being blown to bits by the Cylon raiders approaching Caprica would likely haunt him for the rest of his life. He'd barely even been able to look at the shattered remains of his family's home, knowing that his mother would not have survived. He only hoped her death had been quick.

He felt the tears starting. He could never make it through an entire Ceremony of Remembrance dry-eyed.

He thought of Serena. She hadn't actually died in the Destruction. Ironically, it had been the Destruction that had brought them together. It hadn't been too long after the Destruction that she'd died. It had been just a couple of days after their wedding. Boxey seemed to barely remember her anymore. At least, he seldom spoke of her.

Starbuck tried to listen to the Commander, but found his mind wandering. He risked a surreptitious glance at Apollo. Frack. Apollo was crying again. He hated to see Apollo cry. Not that he could blame Apollo for crying. He'd felt like crying too when he'd heard of Zac's and Ila's deaths. Apollo's family had been very much a surrogate family to him. He blamed himself for what had happened to Apollo's brother. If the two of them hadn't switched patrols, Zac might still be alive. He didn't know how Apollo had been able to forgive him for that.

He wished there was some way he could comfort Apollo. His wingmate always cried at these services. Starbuck had even suggested that he not attend if they affected him so much, but Apollo had told him it was a warriors' duty to attend. All of them were expected to be at the ceremony. He was just glad he'd been able to get here in time to find a place next to Apollo so that he could be close to him. Maybe Apollo would find his presence a comfort in some way.

Apollo didn't know how he would've survived these past ten yahrens without Starbuck. In many ways, Starbuck had kept him going. Many times after Serena's death, when Apollo would have rather stayed in his quarters and moped, Starbuck had dragged him to the Rising Star or the Triad court or the Rejuv centre. If Apollo couldn't get a babysitter, then Starbuck came to his quarters and kept both him and Boxey entertained until Apollo had forgotten that he'd been moping.

There had been a few times over these past yahrens that Apollo had feared he'd lost Starbuck for good. Soon after the Destruction, Starbuck had been captured by the Cylons. They had all thought he was dead then, but he'd come back. There had been times when Starbuck had close calls with Cylons or others who had taken him prisoner or shot his viper down. He and Starbuck had even had a few fallings-out, but they had always reconciled, thank the Lords.

One of their biggest disputes had been over Serena. Starbuck had admitted to being jealous of her. The meaning of those words hadn't sunk in right away. Starbuck had been captured right after that, then there had been the wedding and the discovery of Kobol. It hadn't been until much later that Apollo had really thought about what Starbuck had said, and thought about his own long-suppressed feelings for his best friend.

Still, he figured that it was too late now. Starbuck had been with plenty of women since then. Apollo told himself that he was just grateful that Starbuck was still here at his side. Impulsively, he reached out and took hold of his wingmate's hand.

The Lieutenant was slightly startled when Apollo took his hand, but he recognized that his friend needed some support. He squeezed the hand gently, then made to release it, but Apollo held on. Apparently the Captain wasn't intending to let go anytime soon, so Starbuck relaxed and allowed him to hang on. He had to admit that he liked holding hands with Apollo. It felt good. It was also distracting. Now he really couldn't concentrate on what Adama was saying. He probably said the same things every yahren. People found comfort in familiarity. It was sort of like all the ritual chants and prayers used by various religions in their services. The people who heard them were comforted by the sameness. The people of the ragtag fleet could use some sameness. They'd had their lives ripped apart in mere microns that day ten yahrens ago, and since then nothing had been the same.

Starbuck glanced at Apollo. He realized that, really, Apollo was all he had in the universe. Sure, he'd had plenty of women, but none of those relationships had lasted. But he still had Apollo. He did have other friends, but none like the friend he had in Apollo. His wingmate, his best friend and yes, the one he loved, even if Apollo didn't know that. He didn't know what he'd do without Apollo, and he didn't want to find out. Even though it had been many yahrens since Apollo had "died" at the hands of Count Iblis, the memories were still fresh in Starbuck's mind. This man standing beside him, holding his hand, was the person who meant more to him than anyone. All he had? Perhaps, but also all he needed.

Finally, the Commander finished speaking, and the crowd began to disperse. Apollo released his grip on Starbuck's hand, much to the other man's disappointment. But he didn't leave right away. He didn't want to leave Starbuck. Boxey found the two of them together and greeted them both with a hug. It surprised and pleased Apollo that his son hugged him. Public displays of affection were becoming less frequent as Boxey aged.

"Hi, Starbuck. Hi, Dad. Dad, I'm going to spend the night at Dillon's," Boxey informed his father. "Is that okay?"

"Of course, Boxey," Apollo answered. He didn't want his son to have to stay home just because he himself was feeling down, but he hated the thought of being alone right now. When Boxey had left, he turned to Starbuck. "Star," he said. "I don't want to be alone tonight. Would you come back to my quarters with me?" He realized what that sounded like. It sounded like a proposition. He didn't care.

Starbuck was surprised, but immediately agreed. If Apollo needed him, then he'd go anywhere.

In Apollo's quarters, the two warriors drank and reminisced. It grew late. Both of them had had their share of alcohol, but neither was drunk. Apollo was about to ask Starbuck if he wanted to sleep on the couch, then changed his mind. "Come to bed with me," he offered.

Starbuck couldn't believe what he was hearing, and wondered if he'd had more to drink than he thought. "Pol, are you sure?"

"I'm sure. I already told you I don't want to be alone, and that includes in bed. But if it's not what you want...."

"I didn't say that. I'd love to join you."

The two men joined hands and went into the bedroom, where they undressed and climbed into bed. They kissed, tentatively at first, because neither of them had any idea what to expect. However, they both liked it, so they did it some more. They continued to kiss, and soon both men had raging hard-ons.

Starbuck reached for Apollo's cock, then hesitated. "Can I touch you?" he asked, almost shyly.

"Please," Apollo responded, almost begging. He'd been longing for Starbuck's touch for what seemed like forever. "Please touch me."

The blond man smiled seductively. Apollo had hated that smile when it was turned toward some woman or other. Now it was for him, and he loved it. He felt Starbuck's hand wrap around his penis and he bucked upward, wanting more.

"What do you want me to do, Apollo?" Starbuck asked.

"Make love to me."

"How? I've never done this before; have you?"

"No," Apollo admitted.

"Then what do we do?"

"Would you - would you suck me?" Apollo asked. Starbuck obliged happily, taking Apollo's cock and laving it with his tongue before taking all of it into his mouth. Apollo tried not to thrust too hard into the warm mouth, afraid of hurting himself or Starbuck. He tried to control himself and make things last, but he couldn't hold back, and all too soon he came. He hadn't been able to warn Starbuck, but the other man didn't seem to mind. He swallowed the fluid, then looked up with a smile.

"I take it you enjoyed that."

Apollo smiled back. "Can I do something for you?" he asked.

Starbuck's smile faltered. "There is something I want," he admitted, "but I've never done it before, with a man, I mean, and I'm afraid of hurting you."

Apollo was pretty sure he knew what this "something" was. "Do you want me?" he asked.

"More than anything."

"Do you want to frack me?"

Starbuck groaned. "Yes," he admitted.

Apollo turned on his stomach and lifted his astrum. "Then take me."

"We can't just do it like that, Apollo. There are certain preparations first."

"What can I do, Starbuck? Tell me, and I'll do it." He wanted this more than anything, but he didn't want to make Starbuck uncomfortable.

"We need lubricant," Starbuck told him.

In response, his wingmate opened a drawer in the bedside cabinet and removed a shrivelled- looking tube. "It's kind of old," he said, "but I think it should work."

Starbuck tried to take the tube from Apollo's hand, but his friend stopped him. "Let me prepare you first, then you can do me." And he rubbed the gel on Starbuck's cock, making the blond man moan with pleasure and desire. He was afraid he would come before he ever got inside Apollo.

When Apollo finally ceased his pleasurable attentions, Starbuck took the lube and began making the other man ready to receive him. He started with one coated finger, and Apollo squirmed. "Are you okay?" Starbuck asked with worry.

"It just feels a bit strange," the Captain admitted. "Don't worry. I'll get used to it."

Starbuck continued to prepare Apollo gently and carefully. He could never hurt this man, the one he loved. He knew that being penetrated might hurt Apollo, and it was only for that reason that he was reluctant to take the final step. "Are you sure about this, Pol?" he asked again.

"Yes," the Captain answered. "I'm sure. Do it. Please, Star, make love to me. I need you."

That did it. If Apollo needed him, Starbuck couldn't refuse. "Turn on your back, Pol. I want to see your face."

Apollo did as he was asked, and Starbuck took a moment to just drink in the sight of him. He could still hardly believe that he was here in Apollo's bed and that Apollo was practically begging him to make love. He wished he could tell him how much he loved him, but he still had no idea how Apollo felt. Yes, his friend wanted to have sex, but was it love or just sex? That remained to be seen. But this was not the time to worry about that, not when Apollo was lying there before him in all his naked glory like the god he was named for. He raised Apollo's legs, then positioned himself at Apollo's entrance and slowly pushed inside.

The look on his lover's face made him stop. "Did I hurt you?"

Apollo grimaced. "It hurts a bit," he admitted. "But don't stop," he added when he saw that Starbuck was going to pull out. "Please keep going. I'll get used to it."

"You're sure?" Starbuck asked for the hundredth time.

"I'm sure. I want you, Star."

Starbuck slowly continued to push in to the man he loved. He could tell that Apollo was suffering some pain or at least some discomfort, but he insisted that Starbuck continue, and Starbuck really didn't want to stop. Finally, he was all the way inside. "How does that feel?" he asked.

"Amazing," Apollo answered. "Now start moving."

Not needing any more encouragement, Starbuck did as he was told. He began to thrust, slowly at first, then as Apollo became used to him, more quickly. He could see that Apollo was hard again, and he slipped a hand between them to fondle the other man's cock.

Just as Apollo thought that he couldn't feel any more amazing than he did already, he felt a sensation of pure pleasure rush through him. "What was that?"

"Did I hurt you?" Starbuck immediately stopped thrusting.

"Just the opposite! That felt incredible! Whatever it was, do it again."

Starbuck looked a bit self-conscious. "There's a gland in there that feels good when it's touched. I guess I found it." He started to move again. "Tell me when I touch it, and I'll make sure I keep doing it." He started moving again, and when Apollo cried out in pleasure, he guessed correctly that he'd hit his lover's sweet spot. He made certain that he continued to do so, and soon Apollo was writhing in ecstasy under him. He continued to rub the other man's cock, and soon Apollo came. The contractions of his muscles around Starbuck's cock made him come as well.

Both men lay spent in the bed. Apollo took Starbuck in his arms. "That was incredible," he said.

"Glad you liked it. It was pretty incredible for me, too."

Apollo kissed his lover softly, tenderly. "Sleep now," he suggested.

"You want me to stay here?"

"You'd better not be planning on going anywhere else."

Starbuck snuggled up close to the one that he loved, and slept.

The first to wake the next morning was Apollo. He looked at the man sleeping next to him and panicked. What the frack had he done? He'd had sex with Starbuck. Was he insane? He carefully climbed out of bed so as not to disturb his sleeping bed mate.

Apollo made himself a cup of java and sat in the kitchenette to drink it and think. He'd felt so sad and alone last night. The anniversary of the Destruction always made him feel that way. Starbuck had been there, though, and had offered his silent support. Then Boxey had asked to spend the night with his friend, and Apollo had felt even more alone, so he'd asked Starbuck to come over. He hadn't wanted to sleep alone, and he'd invited Starbuck to his bed, but not just for sleeping.

Making love with Starbuck had been wonderful, but it had been a mistake. He couldn't expect Starbuck to just settle down and be his life mate. As much as he loved him, he knew Starbuck's flaws well, and one of those flaws was his aversion to commitment, to settling down. No attachments for Starbuck. Judging by the fact that he'd obviously enjoyed himself in bed last night, he would probably be happy to have sex with Apollo anytime he was asked, but Apollo doubted he'd want to be exclusive. But Apollo also knew it would hurt terribly to see Starbuck with anyone else.

Well then, he'd have to tell Starbuck they couldn't do this again. He'd have to think up a good reason, though.

Just then Starbuck walked out of the bedroom and into the kitchen. "Morning, Pol," he mumbled, and tried to give his friend a kiss.

Apollo avoided the kiss. "You didn't have to get up yet. Neither of us is on duty today."

"I woke up alone, and I got lonely." He helped himself to some java. "You expect Boxey back anytime soon? You want me out of here before he gets back?"

"Sagan knows what time Boxey and Dillon actually went to sleep last night, if they did at all. Most likely they stayed up all night running battle simulations on the computer. They'll probably sleep half the day. They only have a few more sectons of relative freedom before starting the Academy. But listen, I need to talk to you about something."

All of Starbuck's internal alarms went off. "About what?" he asked in suspicion.

"Look, Star, last night was wonderful, but - "

"But you don't want to do it again."

"I can't," Apollo sighed.

"Why not?" Starbuck asked coldly.

"You're my best friend, Star. Sex can really mess up a friendship. It could ruin our relationship and I don't want that to happen. Please, can we go back to the way things were before last night happened?"

With a deep sigh, Starbuck answered, "Of course, Pol." He would do anything to keep Apollo's friendship, and if that meant no more sex, he'd live with it, somehow. "I don't want to lose your friendship."

"Good," Apollo answered with relief. "Then we agree." He squeezed Starbuck's shoulder affectionately. "Let's have breakfast."

Starbuck ate the food Apollo provided, but he barely tasted it. He hadn't expected this sudden brush-off. He had thought from the way Apollo had acted last night that he wanted them to be lovers. Of course, he hadn't actually used the word, or said he loved him. Still, there was nothing stopping them from just being frack buddies, but apparently he didn't want even that. He'd said he didn't want to lose Apollo's friendship, and that was true, but he didn't know how he could continue to be just friends with him. Now that they had made love, he knew he could never be satisfied with anyone else.

How can you be friends with someone you're madly in love with? This was the question on both men's minds. Unfortunately, neither of them knew the answer.

The two men tried their best to return their relationship to the way it had been, with mixed results. When they were together, each of them put on a brave face. They did their best to act normal. Sometimes things were a bit strained. Eventually, they began to make excuses to not see each other. Apollo claimed that he needed to help Boxey prepare for the Academy, then when Boxey started cadet training, Apollo would say he was helping him with his assignments. Starbuck would say he had a date. He tried to find a woman to take his mind off Apollo, but it didn't work. Everyone he dated soon picked up on the fact that his heart wasn't in it. Some asked point-blank who the "other woman" was, not believing that there wasn't one.

Starbuck and Apollo saw each other less and less. They were both completely miserable. However, Apollo didn't know that Starbuck was miserable, and Starbuck didn't know that Apollo was. They threw themselves into their duties and tried to ignore their feelings.

Before either of them knew it, another yahren had passed and they once again found themselves at the Remembrance services. Without even planning it that way, they took their places side by side among the group of warriors.

Apollo tried to listen to his father's words, but Starbuck's presence was a strong distraction. He told himself that maybe if he didn't listen, he wouldn't start to cry the way he usually did.

Starbuck didn't even try to listen. He was remembering, all right, but what he was remembering was the night a yahren ago when he had been here with Apollo. He remembered holding Apollo's hand and trying to comfort him. He remembered being invited back to Apollo's quarters where they'd drunk ale and shot the felgercarb. And he remembered being invited into Apollo's bed.

The tears began to slip down Starbuck's face before he even realized it. He felt completely alone. He didn't have anyone to mourn. He didn't have anyone, period. He was alone in the universe. He'd lost Apollo, the one he loved. The tears grew stronger, and he tried to stifle a sob.

The muffled sobs got Apollo's attention instantly, and he was shocked to see Starbuck's tears. Starbuck never cried, and certainly not at Remembrance services. He often would say that was one of the reasons he went out of his way to not form attachments, so that he would have no one to mourn.

Seeing his friend's pain touched something deep inside Apollo and he felt the tears start in his own eyes. He wanted to reach out to Starbuck but he wasn't certain if he had the right. He had to do something, though. He couldn't leave Starbuck alone when he was hurting so badly. Reaching out, he put an arm around his wingmate's shoulders and drew him close.

Starbuck felt the embrace and longed to lean on Apollo's shoulder. He wondered if Apollo would invite him to his quarters again the way he had last yahren. He didn't want to start this all over again. He didn't want another one night stand with Apollo. He wouldn't survive another rejection. He had to get out of here before he changed his mind about that. Breaking away from his wingmate, he hurried out of the hall. If anyone saw him leave, Starbuck hoped that they would just assume he'd been overcome by emotion.

What he hadn't counted on was that Apollo wouldn't let him get away. He was quite certain that he'd locked the door of the turboflush room before going inside, but Apollo knew how to override every lock code on the Battlestar.

"What's going on, Starbuck?"

"I can't do this anymore, Apollo."

"Can't do what?"

"I can't pretend that I don't need you. I need you like I need to eat, to drink, to breathe. I can't live without you. There's this big empty place inside where you belong."

"I don't understand. I know that I've been busy lately, but it's not like we never see each other. We're still friends."

"I know, and I thought I could be satisfied with that. I was happier being friends with you than I was being lovers with any of the women I've been with. Then when I made love with you it was like I'd been given everything I'd ever wanted, but you took it away. I tried, Pol. I tried to be satisfied with just your friendship like I had been before, but it was too late. I know what it's like to be your lover, and I can never be happy with anything less. You're my everything. You're all I've got in the universe and I love you more than I can ever find the words to say. Knowing that you don't want me is killing me inside."

"Starbuck...." Apollo could hardly believe what he was hearing. How could he have misjudged Starbuck so badly? "You love me?"

Starbuck nodded mutely.

"Oh Lords, Star, I've been such a fool. I thought that you just wanted sex. I thought you wanted to frack once in a while and that you'd continue being the most eligible bachelor in the Fleet. I didn't know that you loved me. I love you too. I love you more than anything. I can't live without you either, and I've been an idiot to even try."

Starbuck looked hopefully into the green eyes that gazed at him. "I can't take another one- nighter, Pol. If you want me, it has to be permanently."

"Didn't I just tell you that I love you and I can't live without you?"

"Yes, but I was afraid I was dreaming or having a hallucination. I've only ever heard those words in my dreams before."

Apollo smiled. "I love you. I want you. I want you in my bed, sure, but I also want you to live with me, to be my lifemate from now until the end of time." He held out his hand. "Come on. Let's skip the rest of the ceremony and go home."

That night was a lot like the night a yahren ago when they had first made love, but with one important difference. They told each other over and over how much they loved each other, and when they went to sleep they knew that their relationship would continue.

As Starbuck kissed his lifemate goodnight, he thought again of how Apollo was all he had in the universe. But it wasn't a sad thought. He was happy, because Apollo was all he needed.