"Explain to me again why we're going to this planet," Starbuck said to Apollo.

"Trade mission," Apollo explained for the hundredth time. He knew that Starbuck already knew this. The Lieutenant was bored with the long shuttle journey, and when Starbuck was bored, Starbuck could be annoying. In fact, he was a lot like Boxey in this way.

"What do we have to trade?" Starbuck asked, also for the hundredth time.

"We've been able to grow quite a variety of plant life in the hydroponics labs," Apollo told him. "The Surians" -- those were the people the two warriors were going to see -- "have expressed interest in trading seeds and cuttings from their plants for some of ours."

"Plants. Seeds." Starbuck was definitely bored.

"They're vitally important," Apollo reminded his friend.

"Yeah. I know." He yawned. "I think I'll get some sleep. Wake me when we get there."

Apollo sighed. Now he was bored, not having Starbuck to talk to.

This was going to be a long trip.

After several centares, the shuttle finally arrived on the planet Suria. The two warriors were met by a diplomatic party, who took them to the Imperial Palace for a reception. Apollo realized that they were to be treated as honoured guests.

"I could get to like it here," Starbuck said.

One of the diplomats escorted Apollo and Starbuck to the throne at one end of the table, where they were met by a man who was obviously the ruler.

"My name is Dar. I am Regent of Suria."

"Regent?" asked Starbuck.

"My father is king. He is in frail health, so I have assumed his duties."

"Thank you for your hospitality, Your Highness," Apollo said.

The Regent smiled. "Call me Dar. Your names are...?"

Apollo and Starbuck introduced themselves. Apollo noticed that the Regent kept stealing glances at Starbuck, but he couldn't figure out why.

After the meal, while Apollo was out of the room using the facilities, Starbuck saw the Regent approaching.

"Did you enjoy the meal, Lieutenant Starbuck?"

With his trademark Starbuckian grin, the Lieutenant answered, "I certainly did. We don't get to eat like that on the Galactica very often. Although perhaps with the plants and supplies you'll be giving us, we'll be able to change that."

"Let's not talk business right now, Lieutenant. Surely that can wait until the morning. You and your Captain are spending the next few nights here, I believe?"

"If the sleeping accommodations are anywhere near as luxurious as the dining facilities, I sure hope we are," Starbuck answered.

"I could arrange some special accommodations for you personally, Lieutenant," the Regent said. "Unless, of course, you are already spoken for."

"Spoken for? No, I'm not spoken for. What exactly did you have in mind?" He glanced at the women who were moving around the room, clearing up the remains of the dinner.

The Regent ran a hand up Starbuck's thigh. "Have you ever spent the night in a royal bedchamber, Starbuck?"

They were interrupted by Apollo's return. Dar quickly removed his hand from Starbuck's leg.

With a yawn, Apollo said, "Thank you for the meal, Your Highness - Dar. Are you ready to turn in, Starbuck?"

"I'll have someone show you to your sleeping quarters," the Regent told them, quickly getting up and leaving the table.

"Did I interrupt something?" Apollo asked Starbuck.

"Nothing important. Let's go find our rooms."

They only had one room, with two beds. As they got undressed, Starbuck said to his wingmate, "Actually, you did interrupt something out there. I didn't want to say anything about it while there were other people around."

"What was it?"

"His Royal Highness was making a pass at me."

"And you turned him down."

Starbuck shrugged. "I hadn't actually had a chance to give him an answer when you came back."

"I hope I'm not the cause of your losing a chance to sleep with royalty," Apollo teased.

"Maybe I should go along with him while we're here. I don't want to endanger the mission by making the Regent mad at me."

Apollo frowned. "You're not going to sleep with someone just to keep a trade deal. I won't stand for it, and the Commander certainly won't."

"Don't worry. You don't have to defend my virtue. Dar seems like a pretty decent guy, and I don't mind spending time with him. It doesn't have to go that far if I don't want it to."

If he doesn't want it to. What if he did want it to? Apollo pushed the thought out of his head. So what if the Regent found Starbuck attractive? They'd be leaving in a few days. Starbuck would have another name to add to his list of conquests. The fact that this conquest was male and not female was new, but it didn't make any difference.

At least, Apollo tried to tell himself that it didn't.

The next morning was spent in negotiations to hammer out the details of the trade deal between the Galacticans and the Surians. When they broke for a midday meal, the Regent again approached Starbuck. But Apollo was there too.

"Captain, may I borrow the Lieutenant for a while?" Apollo nodded reluctantly, and Dar and Starbuck walked away.

When they were far enough away that no one could hear them, Dar said, "I want to apologize if I came on too strongly last night. As Regent, I am accustomed to getting what I want, and who I want as well. But you are not one of my subjects, and I have no right to expect you to bow to my whims."

Starbuck grinned. "I can't say I'm not flattered by your interest."

"Walk with me, Starbuck. Let me show you the palace gardens," Dar offered. Starbuck accepted.

Apollo saw the two of them walk off together. He didn't understand why seeing them like that upset him. He didn't have any claims on Starbuck. Starbuck was free to do what he liked with whom he liked.

So why did Apollo feel completely miserable?

At dinner that evening the Regent invited both Starbuck and Apollo to sit at his table with him. He tried to politely divide his attention between the two men, but Apollo could tell that Dar wanted to be alone with Starbuck. When the dessert course was served, Apollo moved his chair back from the table.

"I'm going back to our quarters, Starbuck. I'll see you there when you're done." He turned to Dar. "Thank you for the meal, Your Highness."

Starbuck watched his wingmate leave. Apollo seemed upset about something, but darned if he could figure out what it was.

Dar ordered some drinks, and he and Starbuck spent a few centares drinking and talking. Eventually both of them were showing signs of nodding off.

"The invitation to my bedchamber still stands, Starbuck."

The Lieutenant shook his head. "Not tonight. I'm drunk and sleepy. Not a good combination."

Hopeful that this meant he would have a chance to sleep with Starbuck before he and Apollo left Suria, Dar said goodnight and retired alone.

When Starbuck returned to his and Apollo's sleeping quarters, his wingmate was waiting for him.

"Not spending the night with the Regent?" he asked.

"Not tonight."

Apollo was dying to ask Starbuck what that meant, but refrained, not wanting it to seem he was prying.

"You know, Star, you should be careful. I mean, he is the ruler. He could have us thrown in prison if he wanted."

"Why would he want to do that?" Starbuck asked.

"Well, if you did something he didn't like, or if you didn't do something he wanted you to do."

"I don't think Dar is like that. He's not going to try to make me do anything I don't want to do."

Apollo wanted to ask Starbuck if sleeping with the Regent was something he wanted to do, but he kept his mouth shut. He didn't understand why he felt this way. It wasn't like he was jealous or anything.

Frack. He was jealous. He was jealous of Starbuck and Dar. He'd never been jealous of Starbuck's female partners, but now that Starbuck was showing interest in a man, he wanted that man to be him.

He resolved to have a talk with the Regent when he had a chance.

After the morning meal, Starbuck excused himself. "I'm going hunting with Dar."

"Hunting?" asked Apollo.

"We won't actually kill anything. It's the chase that's the fun part."

"What about the negotiations?"

Starbuck shrugged. "We can do them later." He walked away, leaving Apollo staring longingly after him.

It wasn't too long after he'd left that Starbuck returned, being supported by two of the Regent's guardsmen. Apollo jumped up and ran to them.

"What happened?" he demanded as the guards took Starbuck to see a medic.

The Regent sighed. "Starbuck's mount threw him."

"How could you let this happen? We're not of your world. We're not familiar with your animals. How could you put him in danger like that?"

Surprised by Apollo's rancour, Dar tried to defend himself. "I didn't make Starbuck go on the hunt. He chose of his own free will."

"You're the Regent. You're the ruler of Suria. People do what you ask them to, whether they want to or not."

"I don't see Starbuck as the type who would let himself be forced to do anything."

Apollo saw his chance. "Then why has he been spending so much time with you the last couple of days?"

Puzzled, the Regent answered, "Because he enjoys my company."

"Starbuck is spending all this time with you because he doesn't want to endanger our trade mission by upsetting you. Did he tell you he was single?"

"He told me he was not spoken for."

"He was lying to make you happy. Starbuck belongs to me. He is very much spoken for."

"Belongs to you? Why didn't he tell me?" This at least explained to Dar why Starbuck had refused to spend the night with him.

"Like I said, he didn't want to put our mission in jeopardy. But I can't stand by and watch him with you anymore, especially if you're going to let him get hurt. Where have your people taken him? I want to see him -- now."

Dar wisely decided not to argue with the irate Captain. He summoned two more guardsmen over and instructed them to take Captain Apollo to Lieutenant Starbuck.

Apollo was escorted to the Royal Infirmary, where he found Starbuck sitting up in bed and arguing with the nurses. This was a relief. It showed that Starbuck was not badly hurt. "How are you?" he asked.

"I'm fine, but these people won't believe me," Starbuck answered.

"What happened?"

"I fell from my mount. Or rather, it threw me. Didn't like me, it seems."

"I don't believe that. How can anyone not like you?" Apollo asked.

"Pol, there's a great deal of difference between people and equines." Starbuck started to get out of bed, then stopped. "Ouch," he said with a wince.

"What's wrong?" Apollo was at his side in a micron.

"Saddle sore," Starbuck replied. "I'm used to riding vipers, not equines."

"What about the fall you took? Did it leave any lasting injuries?"

Starbuck shook his head. "No. Just minor bumps and bruises. But Dar insisted on having his people bring me here. He wouldn't let me walk back without their assistance."

"Star, what's happening with you and the Regent?"

"Nothing's happening. Why?"

"You sure spend an awful lot of time with him, considering nothing's happening."

"I'm trying to have some fun. When the wealthy ruler of the planet decides to show me a good time, I'm not going to look a gift equine in the mouth, as the saying goes. Did you know he has his own ambrosa cellar?"

"No, I didn't know that," Apollo muttered, more to himself than to his wingmate.

Starbuck misinterpreted his friend's unhappy expression. "Lighten up, Apollo. I didn't get hurt. We're only going to be here for a couple more days, then it's back to the Galactica and food rations."

It was what was going to happen in those next couple of days that had Apollo worried.

Starbuck was surprised that the Regent didn't join him and Apollo for the morning meal the next day. He wasn't at the negotiating table either. His ministers took his place. When they broke for the midday meal, Starbuck told Apollo that he was going to go look for Dar.

"I'm sure he's just busy, Starbuck. He is the ruler, after all."

"But this isn't like him," the Lieutenant insisted. "He always wants to have meals with me." Starbuck had been enjoying the attention. He was used to doing the pursuing, not being pursued, and he was finding Dar's pursuit of him flattering. It was something he could get used to, he thought. That was if he could figure out why Dar had disappeared all of a sudden.

"Aren't I a good enough meal companion?" Apollo tried to keep his tone teasing and not give away the undercurrent of jealousy that ran beneath it.

"I'm sorry, Apollo." Starbuck was immediately contrite. Dar's attention was temporary. It would end when the two warriors left Suria. But Apollo was more or less a permanent fixture in his life, and Starbuck didn't want to do anything to mess up his relationship with the one who was his closest friend "It can't have been much fun for you here. I've been with Dar, and you're probably missing your family, Boxey especially. I don't need to go look for Dar right now. I'm sure he'll show up at dinner tonight."

Indeed, Dar was at dinner, though he sat at his own table and did not invite either of the Galactica's warriors to join him. This was too much for Starbuck. He left Apollo and went to talk to the Regent.

Dar's guardsmen knew Starbuck, so they didn't stop him when he approached. He walked right up to the Regent and demanded to know what was going on. "Why the cold shoulder all of a sudden?" he wanted to know. "Did I not live up to your expectations on the hunt? Or is it..." he looked around and dropped his voice, "...because I wouldn't sleep with you?"

The Regent waved the guards away so that he could talk to Starbuck. "I understand that you have not been completely honest with me," he said.

"What are you talking about?"

"Your Captain gave me some interesting information."

Apollo had been talking to Dar? "What kind of information?"

"You told me that you were not spoken for," Dar stated.

"I did. So?"

"Captain Apollo told me something different. I believe his words were: 'Starbuck belongs to me.'"

Starbuck's head reeled. Apollo had said they were a couple? Actually, Apollo had apparently said that Starbuck "belonged" to him. How could that be?

"I don't know what felgercarb Apollo has been feeding you. Maybe he's trying to play some sort of joke on me. I'm sure he's been bored while I've been spending so much time with you. Speaking of which, why do you think I would spend so much time with you if I 'belonged' to Apollo?"

"He said that it was because you didn't want to do anything to upset the trade negotiations, because your people do need the food our plants will produce."

"If that's the case, why didn't Apollo just let me keep playing along?" Starbuck was completely confused.

Dar smiled sympathetically, looking over at Apollo, who was sitting at his own table and studiously ignoring Starbuck and Dar. "He's jealous. He tried to let things go until you and he left, but he couldn't stand to see us together anymore. Really, Starbuck, I don't think you've been fair to him at all. I could tell how much he loves you just from the brief time I spent talking to him. He tore a strip off me for letting you get hurt on the hunt yesterday." He gave Starbuck an affectionate pat on the shoulder. "Go be with your lover. I've enjoyed our time together, but you belong with Apollo. This won't affect the trade negotiations. I understand they're almost finished."

"Uh, yeah," Starbuck muttered, still trying to wrap his mind around the possibility that his best friend and wingmate was in love with him.

Apollo tried not to watch Starbuck and Dar, but the temptation was hard to resist. He knew that the Regent would be telling Starbuck about the conversation he'd had with Apollo. Now Apollo wanted to know how his friend would react. But he couldn't tell from the expression on Starbuck's face.

The Captain decided that discretion was the better part of valour, and fled to their room.

It wasn't long before Starbuck found him there, huddled in a ball on his bed. "Want to tell me what's going on?" the Lieutenant asked. He wasn't angry, and he wasn't even sure why he wasn't angry. Mostly, he was curious.

"Something's going on?"

"I believe you told Dar that I belong to you. That's the first I've heard of it. I'd think you'd tell me about something like that."

Apollo shrugged.

"What's this all about, Apollo? Is there some reason why you're trying to keep me away from Dar?"

There was a nod from the figure huddled on the bed.

Starbuck sat on the bed next to his friend. Something was wrong with Apollo. He wasn't acting the way he normally did, but then everything about his behaviour since their first night on Suria had been unusual. "So what is it?"

"I wanted it to be true," Apollo answered.

"You wanted what to be true?"

"You belonging to me. I wanted it to be true. I didn't want you to be with Dar. I wanted you to be with me."

Apollo was using the past tense, Starbuck noticed. "And now?"


"What do you want now?" Starbuck asked. "You keep telling me what you wanted, but I want to know what you want now."

"All I've ever wanted is you."

"Then why the frack didn't you tell me about it before now?" Starbuck asked in an exasperated tone. "I've got to wonder what Dar thinks of me neglecting my supposed lover just for the sake of some trade negotiations."

"I'm sorry."

"Don't apologize. Just tell me what's been going on for the past couple of days. You've left me completely out of the loop, and I don't like that."

"I didn't know. It probably sounds stupid to you. It does to me. But it wasn't until I saw you with Dar that I realized I wanted to be the one you looked at like that, the one you looked for at mealtime, the one you slept with at night."

"You're talking in the past tense again, Apollo."

"Does it make a difference?" the Captain sighed.

"I want to know what you want."

"You. Forever and always."


"Because I love you."

Starbuck was silent for a few centons. It was a few centons too long for Apollo's comfort.

"What's wrong?"

"Apollo, I've never heard anyone tell me they love me before. I don't know what to do."

"You don't have to do anything."

"But I want to."

"Then tell me what you want, Starbuck. Is it Dar?"

Starbuck looked into the eyes of the man who was his best friend, the one who had been at his side through the worst battles against the Cylons, the one who had defended him when he was accused of murder, the one who had stayed with him through thick and thin. And then he knew what he wanted. He leaned forward and kissed Apollo quite thoroughly. "I want to belong to you," he said. "And I want you to belong to me. Do you think you could do that?"

Apollo was stunned for a few microns, then he asked, "Is that all?"

"All? I just told you that I want to. What more is there?"

"Love," Apollo stated simply.

"I don't know what love is, Pol. Like I told you, I've never heard anyone tell me they love me. I've probably told a few women that I love them, but that was just to make them happy. I've never said it and meant it."

"How do you feel about me?"

"You mean more to me than anything. I want to be with you forever and always, like you said. I don't want to see you with Sheba or anyone else. I want to protect you, to keep you safe. I don't want anything to ever take you away from me."

"When you told those women you loved them, how do you know you didn't mean it, if you don't know what love means?" Apollo asked him.

"I don't know, exactly, but I know that I didn't feel about any of them the way I feel about you."

"What about Dar?" Apollo wanted to know.

"What about him?"

"Do you feel that way about him?"

"No," Starbuck answered.

"Starbuck, how do you feel when I tell you I love you?"

"Happier than I've ever felt before."

"Why do you suppose that is?"

"I think it's because I feel the same way about you. I don't know how I know, but I do."

Apollo took the one he loved into his arms and kissed him, then kissed him again. "I love you, Starbuck."

"I love you too."

"Star, are you thinking what I'm thinking?"

"I don't know. What are you thinking?"

"I'm thinking that we're wearing too many clothes."

"Oh, then I'm definitely thinking what you're thinking. Here, let me help you off with your uniform."

"Only if I can help you off with yours."

"You're the superior officer. I'll do whatever you tell me."

"Stop talking, Starbuck."

"Yes, Captain."

The next day was the final day of negotiations. The Regent attended, and was happy to see Starbuck and Apollo were together. Once he'd gotten over his pique at Starbuck's having lied to him about his relationship with the Captain, Dar was able to see that Starbuck and Apollo belonged together. He didn't know why he hadn't seen it before. He had plenty of other prospects, he reminded himself. He didn't need to break up an established couple.

Once the negotiations had been concluded, it was time for the two warriors to return to the Galactica.

"How do you think your family will react to our being together?" Starbuck asked Apollo anxiously.

Apollo tried to reassure him. "My family does not have a say in who I choose to spend my life with. Boxey might have some input -- after all, my choice of a mate affects him -- but you already know he loves you. I don't think you have anything to worry about."

Seeing the Regent approaching them to bid them farewell, Apollo asked, "Do you think I should tell him I lied to him?"

"You didn't lie," Starbuck answered.

"What do you mean?"

"You said that I belong to you. I do belong to you. I always have. I just didn't know it until you told me."