It was supposed to be a normal mission — normal. Nothing was supposed to go wrong. But in war, there's no such thing as 'normal.' Everyone knew that. The two warriors currently fighting for their lives knew that, too. But they still hadn't expected it to be like this.

Starbuck and Apollo managed to elude their Cylon pursuers and slip into a storage compartment. They pushed some boxes against the door and then listened as the Centurions continued down the corridor, past their hiding place. Apollo breathed a sigh of relief. "They don't know we're here," he said.

"Yeah, but for how long?" Starbuck asked rhetorically. "They know we're on their base star. They'll find us eventually."

Apollo slumped on to the floor, leaning on the boxes. "I know," he said. "We're just postponing the inevitable, aren't we?"

Starbuck shrugged and sat down next to him. "Everyone has to die sometime, I guess," he said. "Though I always hoped that when my time came, I'd be in bed. And not alone."

His wingmate raised his eyebrows. "You want to die during sex?" he asked.

"During, or immediately after. I want to die happy. But I guess that's not going to happen now."

"Mmm," Apollo said noncommittally. He thought for a moment. "It could happen."

"What could happen?"


"What are you talking about, Apollo?"

"We could have sex. Then you could fulfil your wish of having sex just before you die."

"We could have sex? As in, you and me?" It was the last thing he'd expected to hear from Apollo. He'd never thought that the man he'd secretly longed for, for yahrens, would suddenly offer himself to him.

"Do you see anyone else here?" Apollo asked.

Starbuck studied his wingmate for a few centons. Then he reached over and pulled the other man close to him. He kissed Apollo gently, looking for a reaction.

He got one. Apollo kissed him back, probing with his tongue, seeking entrance — entrance which Starbuck gladly permitted.

Then Apollo pushed Starbuck's flight jacket from his shoulders and down to his arms. The Lieutenant shrugged it off, then helped Apollo remove his jacket. He pushed up the Captain's tunic and stroked his bare skin. Apollo did the same, following his lead.

Neither of them had mentioned if they'd ever had sex with another man before. The subject didn't come up.

Soon the two of them were naked. Starbuck found himself on his back on the floor beneath Apollo, who was exploring every part of him with his lips and tongue. Starbuck tried to guide his wingmate's head, but Apollo seemed to have his own agenda, so he settled for just stroking any part of Apollo he could reach. It took all the willpower he had not to buck his hips straight up into the air when Apollo's mouth reached his cock. He encouraged the other man's ministrations with movements and wordless sounds of enjoyment.

Apollo took his time, savouring the moment. He'd never thought he'd ever have a chance to have sex with Starbuck, and now that he had it, he wasn't going to waste it. If the Cylons found them, they'd die happy. At least this way there would be no "morning after" awkwardness.

Starbuck climaxed with a cry. Then he grabbed Apollo and moved on top of him. "My turn now," he said.

The Captain grinned. "Good," he said, anticipating the delights Starbuck would show him.

Doing as Apollo had done to him, Starbuck kissed and licked his way around his wingmate's body. He reached underneath and slipped a finger inside Apollo's ass. Apollo jerked in surprise, then made a small moan of pleasure. Starbuck continued to work the finger in and out of his lover as he moved down to his groin.

As he took Apollo's cock in his mouth, Starbuck added a second finger to the first and continued pumping. Apollo squirmed and writhed as his best friend made love to him.

After Apollo climaxed, Starbuck grabbed one of their tunics and used it to wipe themselves off. He leaned on one arm and looked down at the man who was his wingmate, his best friend and now his lover. "Now what?" he asked. "Do we try to make it back to our vipers, or just stay here and wait for the metalheads to find us?"

Apollo got up and went to the door. Hearing what were very definitely sounds of Cylons moving back and forth through the corridor, he moved back. "From the sounds of things, we stay here." He lay back down on the floor, using his flight jacket as a makeshift pillow.

Stretching out next to him, Starbuck rested his head on Apollo's chest."How about we try to get some sleep?" he suggested.

"Sounds like a good idea," Apollo said with a yawn. He wrapped one arm around Starbuck, and they both drifted off.

Some time later, the two warriors awoke to the sound of laser fire outside. They jumped up and ran to the door.

"I hear voices — human voices!" Starbuck exclaimed.

"That sounds like Boomer!" Apollo said in surprise.

Sure enough, Boomer, Jolly and several other Colonial Warriors were running around the Base Star, trying to find their missing friends. Boomer directed the other warriors to spread out along the corridors in their search before approaching the door to the storage bay where Apollo and Starbuck were holed up.

"Quick, we'd better put our clothes on!" Apollo hissed to Starbuck. The two men grabbed their uniforms from the floor and pulled them on. Starbuck fastened his jacket to hide the semen stains on his tunic that had resulted from his using it to clean up himself and Apollo after sex.

They had just cleared the boxes away from the door when Boomer opened it. "There you are!" the Leonid warrior said in relief. "When you didn't return from your mission, the Commander sent a group of us in after you. I was afraid it was too late, that we'd never find you. What were you doing in here?"

Starbuck hoped that he wasn't blushing. "We were hiding from the Cylons," he said. It was the truth, he reminded himself.

"I think we dozed off," Apollo admitted. "Not a lot of oxygen in these storage compartments, and lack of oxygen can make you sleepy."

'As can other things,' Starbuck thought to himself.

Boomer activated a portable radio and told his warriors to return to the launch bay and their vipers. "Let's get out of here," he said to Starbuck and Apollo. They ran to their vipers and headed back to the Galactica.

Back on the Battlestar, once he'd been through debriefing and settled Boxey in bed for the night, Apollo finally had time to think about what had transpired on the base star. He'd honestly thought that he and Starbuck wouldn't survive, and in that situation he hadn't had any second thoughts about having sex with his wingmate. He'd known, or thought he had, that they would never be in that situation again. There wouldn't be any awkwardness between them, because there wouldn't have been any time for it.

But they had survived. It wasn't that he was sorry to be alive, but now he was faced with a serious problem. He'd had sex with Starbuck.

He'd had sex with Starbuck.

Now what? What could he do? He couldn't go back in time and not have sex with Starbuck.

What if Starbuck wanted to do it again? He'd obviously enjoyed it. They both had. That didn't mean that he, Apollo, wanted to do it again. He wasn't the type of man who had sex with other men. Neither, he thought, was Starbuck. After all, look at Starbuck's reputation. Starbuck liked women. He himself liked women. He'd been married, after all. He'd recently started a tentative relationship with Sheba. It was just casual, so far; there were no commitments, no talk about the future. Just two adults looking for some companionship.

He didn't want today's actions to mess that up. He wasn't certain he wanted to marry again just yet, but he was sure he would want to eventually. Boxey needed a mother, he thought. Maybe Sheba would be that mother, or maybe someone else would. But Starbuck wasn't the motherly type, that was for sure.

He'd just have to pretend it had never happened. Hopefully Starbuck would understand. After all, Starbuck was a ladies' man. He'd probably continue dating Cassiopeia and Athena and whatever other women caught his eye.

Apollo got up to turn out the lights and get ready for bed when the door chime sounded. Somehow he knew who it would be. "Starbuck," he said as he opened the door.

"Can I come in?" His wingmate looked just as uncomfortable as he felt.

"Sure, come in. What can I do for you?"

"We need to talk about what happened between us on the base star today," Starbuck stated without preamble.

"Why do we need to talk about it?" Apollo asked.

"Apollo, we had sex. I enjoyed it; I think you did too. Something happened between us that's never happened before."

"We thought we were going to die. That's why we did what we did."

"Pol, I think that it was more than just two people comforting each other while waiting to die. It was more than that for me. I hadn't expected it to be, but it was."

"More than that in what way? I don't understand what you're getting at."

"I felt connected to you in a way I never have before, not as your wingmate, not as your best friend. I was kind of hoping you felt the same."

Uncertain what to say, Apollo turned away from his friend for a few moments. He wasn't sure how he felt about Starbuck now. He'd definitely felt something when they'd been together on the base star. Just holding Starbuck in his arms as they'd fallen asleep had felt right, somehow, as if they belonged together. But he couldn't imagine taking Starbuck as a lover. It just wasn't the way he saw his life unfolding. Starbuck wasn't the kind of man who took easily to commitments, either. No, they couldn't be together that way, no matter what they'd felt on the base star.

"Starbuck, all we did was have sex. Just sex. I'm not in love with you, and you're not in love with me. If you felt something, it was just from the situation we were in, an adrenaline rush, maybe. I'm not gay, and neither are you. Go back to Cassie or Athena or whoever it is you're seeing this secton. Forget about what happened. That's what I intend to do."

Starbuck didn't say anything right away. He just stood and stared at Apollo. Somehow, he'd thought things would be different. He had really thought Apollo would feel the same way he did. How could he not? The way he'd enjoyed their time together in that storage room, despite the fact that they had expected to die any centon....

"Apollo, please, just think about it for a few centons. Think about what it felt like when we were together. It was more than just sex for me. I think it was for you too."

"It wasn't. Stop trying to convince yourself that something was there. Like I said, I intend to forget all about it. You should too." His expression softened slightly. "Look, Starbuck, I don't want this to get in the way of our friendship. Can you please stop obsessing over it? I'm sorry if I've disappointed you. I never meant for this to happen when I made my, er, offer to you back on the base star."

Starbuck felt lost. He didn't know what to do. He hadn't expected this reaction from Apollo. He knew that he didn't want to lose Apollo's friendship. They were closer than brothers. No, he couldn't lose Apollo. But it would be hard to continue being friends with him after what they'd done on that base star.

"All right," he finally said with a sigh.

"Good," Apollo answered with relief. "It's late. I'm going to bed. I'll see you tomorrow for patrol. Good night."

"Good night," Starbuck said as he left. There was nothing else to say.

Apollo had thought he'd feel relief once he'd sorted things out with Starbuck, but to his surprise, he didn't. He wasn't certain what he felt. Talking to Starbuck hadn't made him feel better. If anything, he felt worse.

He went to bed, but he didn't sleep very well.

The next day when Apollo went to the viper bay for patrol, he was surprised to discover Boomer there, rather than Starbuck.

"He asked to trade patrols with me," Boomer explained.

"Did he say why?" Apollo asked, suddenly worried about his wingmate.

"Not really. He just said he wasn't 'feeling up to it.'"

"Did he look like he was sick?"

Boomer thought for a centon. "He looked tired, but not sick. He looked like he hadn't slept very well. Did something happen when the two of you were on the base star?"

"Why do you ask?" Apollo wondered what Boomer had heard.

"I was wondering if maybe he was having nightmares about something. I mean, the two of you did have a pretty close call." He studied Apollo closely. "Come to think of it, you don't look like you've had much sleep, either."

"It's probably just the adrenaline high we were on. It takes a while to come down from something like that."

"You're sure that's all it is?" Boomer looked concerned.

"I'm sure. Come on. We've got a patrol to do."

After finishing patrol, Apollo went to the Bachelor Officers Quarters to find Starbuck. The Lieutenant was lying on his bunk, working on reports.

"Why did you switch patrols with Boomer?"

Starbuck looked up from his reports. He shrugged. "After what we went through yesterday, I thought I deserved a little rest."

"That's all it is?"

"That's all."

"It's not about..." Apollo left the sentence unfinished.

Starbuck frowned. "You said to forget that ever happened. Consider it forgotten."

"Of course," Apollo said. "I was just worried that you were mad at me or something."

"No, Apollo, I'm not mad. Don't worry."

Starbuck tried to take his mind of Apollo by seeing more of Cassiopeia. But Cassie could tell that his mind was elsewhere when he was with her.

"Is it another woman?" she asked.

He told her it wasn't another woman, that she didn't have anything to worry about in that regard. But Cassie's question gave him an idea. He'd never felt a connection to a woman — to anyone — like the one he'd felt with Apollo. In fact, he figured that was probably what had prevented him from making a commitment to any of the women he'd dated.

If he couldn't have Apollo, maybe he could find a connection like that with another man. He'd enjoyed the sex with Apollo, so he knew he liked sex with men. He wasn't certain how he'd go about finding a partner, though. He didn't know how many of the other male warriors were gay or bisexual. The only ones whose orientation he was sure about were the ones who were already in couples.

Well then, those were the ones he'd ask. Surely they knew where he could look for a boyfriend.

That was how Starbuck found himself in a club on one of the fleet's smaller ships. It was apparently the place for those men who were interested in members of their own gender to meet and mingle. Starbuck tried to tell himself that picking up a man couldn't be too much different from picking up a woman; all he had to do was be his usual, charming self. He considered himself to be attractive, so surely he wouldn't have too much trouble.

And he didn't. Several men stopped to chat with him. Many of them expressed surprise to see him there. After all, Starbuck had the reputation of being a ladies' man.

"Things change," he told them. "People change."

However, he didn't accept any invitations to spend the night with any of his admirers. None of them generated the spark that he felt whenever he saw, or even thought about, Apollo.

Still, he went back the next night, and the next. He realized that he was comparing every man he met to Apollo. If he was going to find a new lover, he'd have to judge men on their own merits, not on Apollo's.

Meanwhile, Apollo continued to see Sheba. In fact, he saw her more often than he had before the 'incident' with Starbuck. Sheba enjoyed the attention, and began subtly trying to push Apollo into some sort of commitment. She saw the looks other women gave him, and she wanted to make certain he stayed with her.

However, Apollo was feeling the pressure, and he wasn't sure he liked it. He found that he wasn't enjoying being with Sheba as much as he once had. When she spent the night in bed with him, it didn't feel the same as it had when he and Starbuck had lain in each other's arms on the floor in a storage room on a Cylon base star. Boxey didn't enjoy having Sheba around nearly as much as he liked Starbuck being there.

Apollo told himself to stop comparing Sheba to Starbuck. It wouldn't do him any good. He told himself that he should be happy Sheba wanted to be with him, wanted a commitment. After all, Starbuck never wanted to commit to one person.

There he was again, comparing Starbuck and Sheba.

So he threw himself into his work. All his reports were written with every piece of data analysed from every possible angle. He started practising Triad with Boomer; for some reason, Starbuck hadn't been interested in Triad lately. He started volunteering for parents' events at Boxey's school.

But he hardly ever saw Starbuck. It wasn't intentional on his part. Starbuck was just never around anymore.

Starbuck continued spending most of his evenings at the club. One night, he saw someone he hadn't expected.

"Hello, Starbuck," said the Commander as he down at the bar next to him. "I don't think I've seen you here before."

"I haven't been coming here very long," Starbuck admitted. "I've never seen you here before, either."

Adama smiled, knowing what Starbuck really wanted to say. "I don't come here often, but I come here every once in awhile because I like the atmosphere. It's a friendly place. Yes, I know what kind of men come here," he added before Starbuck could say anything. "I wouldn't say I'm one of them, though I went through an experimentation phase when I was a young man, when I first joined the Colonial fleet. I like it here because there are no women here."

"But if you aren't gay, then why do you want to be somewhere where there aren't any women?" Starbuck asked.

"Because I'm single, Starbuck, and a lot of women want to change that."

Starbuck nodded in understanding.

"I won't ask you why you're here, Starbuck, but I'm glad you are. I've been wanting to talk to you."

"About what?"

"I haven't seen you with Apollo lately. Did something happen between the two of you?"

"Something like what?" Starbuck asked, wondering how much the Commander knew.

"You tell me. You and Apollo used to be joined at the hip, and now suddenly you and he are never together. How did that happen?"

The lieutenant hesitated, but then decided he really needed to confide in someone, and Adama was the closest thing he had to a father in his life. He spilled the entire story of what had happened on the base star between him and Apollo, and Apollo's behaviour afterward.

The Commander listened without comment until Starbuck finished his story. "And you've been coming here every night, hoping you'll find that connection with someone else that you had with Apollo?"

Starbuck nodded.

"I can tell you right now, Starbuck: that isn't likely to happen. I won't say it will never happen; some people are lucky enough to find a person like that more than once in their lifetimes. But it doesn't happen very often. I doubt I'll ever find another person with whom I can have the connection I had with Ila."

"So, what, I can expect to be miserable the rest of my natural life? Because it doesn't look like Apollo is ready to take me as his life partner."

Adama slipped an arm around Starbuck's shoulders and gave him an affectionate squeeze. "Have patience with Apollo. Sometimes it's harder than you'd expect to see what's right in front of you. Apollo will come around. Just give him time."

"I hope you're right, Commander. I love Apollo very much, but right now it seems as if he couldn't care less how I feel."

"He cares, Starbuck. He cares a great deal. I think he just hasn't been able to admit to himself how much he cares — yet."

Apollo arrived at his father's quarters in response to a message Adama had left for him. He was ushered in and given a drink before he found out what his father wanted to see him about.

"It's about Starbuck," Adama announced.

"What about him? I haven't seen him much lately."

"That's what I want to talk to you about. Why haven't you seen Starbuck lately?"

Apollo shrugged. "He hasn't been around much lately."

"Have you asked him why he hasn't been around?" Adama persisted.

Another shrug. "None of my business. Starbuck's an adult. What he does with his own time has nothing to do with me."

The Commander shook his head. "Apollo, remember who you're talking to. I can tell when you're being less than truthful with me."

Apollo smiled sheepishly. "That obvious, am I?"

"Only to your father. Now, tell me what happened between you and Starbuck. The truth, this time."

Reluctantly, but not feeling able to refuse, Apollo did so. He told the entire story about the mission to the base star, being trapped by the Cylons, and having sex with Starbuck.

"How did you feel after that happened?" the Commander asked.

"I don't know," Apollo groaned. "Mixed up, really."

"What were you mixed up about?"

"How I felt about having sex with Starbuck. How I felt — feel — about Starbuck, period."

"Do you love him?"

"It doesn't matter. Starbuck is a ladies' man. He's with a different woman every secton. You know that."

"Actually, for the last few sectons, Starbuck has been looking for a male partner."

Apollo was surprised to hear that, but he shrugged it off. "He probably won't be any more faithful to a male partner than he has been to his female partners."

"He'd be faithful to you," Adama told him.

"How do you know that?"

"He told me how he feels about you. He told me about the connection he felt to you after you and he made love on the base star." Adama deliberately used the words 'made love' instead of 'had sex.' "You see, the reason he's had such difficulty staying with one partner is that he's been looking for the connection he found with you. Since you told him that you don't want him, he's been hoping to find it with someone else, but he hasn't had much luck.

"Apollo, you may not realize it, but you're an incredibly lucky man. Many people never find that connection with another person, and almost no one finds it more than once. You found it with Serena, and now you've found it again with Starbuck. Do you really want to spend your life without that, when it's yours for the asking?"

Apollo was silent for a long time. His father was about to ask him if he was all right when he finally spoke. "I'm scared," he said quietly.

"What are you scared of?"

"I had that connection with Serena, and I lost her. What if I lose Starbuck too?"

"No one can promise you that won't happen," Adama said. "This is a war we're in, after all. Yes, the Lords took Serena from you, but they also gave you Starbuck. If you don't mind receiving advice from an old man, make the most of that gift you've been given while you have it." He paused. "Do you love him?"

"More than I ever thought possible."

"Then go to him, Apollo. Tell him how you feel."

Apollo rose to leave. "I'll think about it," was all he said about the advice his father had given him.

As he was on his way out the door, Apollo stopped and turned to his father. "Did you have that connection with Mother?" he asked.

Adama smiled. "Yes, son. I surely did."

"And you haven't found it again?"

The Commander shook his head. "No, I haven't. I don't expect to. As I said, very few people find it more than once in a lifetime. Take advantage of it, Apollo."

Apollo didn't act right away. He spent a long time alone in his quarters, thinking. He thought about Serena. He wondered if the fact that he'd found a connection — one that he had previously only shared with her — with someone else was disloyal to her memory. He finally decided that Serena would want him to be happy, and that he had to move on with his life without her.

Starbuck was just settling in to his own quarters. If he ever met someone in the men's club that he wanted to spend more time with, the Bachelor Officers Quarters was not the place for that. He'd mentioned to Apollo in passing that he now had his own quarters, but he was still surprised when his wingmate showed up at his door.

"Can I come in?" Apollo asked almost shyly.

"Come in to do what?" Starbuck demanded.

"Talk," Apollo replied. "Please? I really need to talk to you."

"All right," Starbuck agreed reluctantly. He couldn't avoid Apollo forever, so whatever this was about, he may as well get it over with. "Come in."

Apollo entered and looked around him. He had no idea where to begin.

"So what's this about?" Starbuck asked, wondering why Apollo wasn't talking.

"It's about us."

"Us? There is no us. You wanted it that way, if you recall."

"I know. And I was wrong. I.... I do want there to be an 'us.' I want us to be together. I'm sorry I didn't realize it sooner. All I can say is, I was scared."

Starbuck was stunned. Had he heard Apollo right? Did Apollo want to be with him after all?

"I'm having a hard time understanding this, Apollo."

Apollo told Starbuck about his fear of losing him the way he'd lost Serena, how he'd worried about Starbuck's capacity to be faithful to one partner, and how he'd been worried that loving someone else would be disloyal to Serena. "I never thought I could feel this way about anyone other than her," he said. "And when I realized that I felt that way about you, it sent me into a tailspin. All I could think of was how you never seemed able to decide between Cassiopeia and my sister, how you never seemed ready to settle down."

"I was never ready to settle down because I'd never felt that connection with anyone else that I felt with you. There was nothing holding me to anyone — anyone other than you." Starbuck took a deep breath. "Apollo, I love you. I love you more than anyone or anything. I love you more than I ever thought it was possible to love someone."

Apollo smiled when he heard the words that were almost exactly what he'd told his father about what he felt for Starbuck. "I love you too, Star. I love you more than life itself."