"Sarah, even if it weren't for the mission, I can't stay with you," Apollo told the Terran woman.

"Why not?" Sarah wanted to know.

"I don't love you."

"But you could."

Thinking back on that conversation, Apollo sighed. He wondered if he should have told Sarah the truth. He didn't love her. He couldn't. He loved Starbuck. Speaking of his wingman, he wondered what was taking him so long to explore that city. He hoped that Starbuck returned soon; they needed to find some way to repair their damaged vipers, or they really would have to stay here.

Just then Hector pulled up in the hover car. "Where's Starbuck?" Apollo demanded.

The android explained that he had lost Starbuck in the bowels of the deserted city. He'd gone out to the car to get the Lieutenant some oxygen, but hadn't been able to find his way back. He'd come back to get help, knowing that Starbuck would not last much longer in the thin Paradeen atmosphere, even thinner underground.

Apollo called for Cassie to bring the oxygen, and raced to the city with Michael and the androids. Now he was sorry he hadn't let Cassie go with Starbuck and Hector. He'd told her to stay with Michael, hoping to make Sarah jealous &mdash and, he admitted, to keep her away from Starbuck. Could his jealousy have endangered Starbuck's life?

When he finally found Starbuck, the lieutenant was passed out on the floor. "Starbuck!" Apollo cried out as he ran to his friend's side. Cassie gave him oxygen, and said they were in time &mdash his vital signs were responding. As they were trying to figure out how to exit the underground chambers, Michael and Sarah's neighbours showed up with some bad news: the Eastern Alliance was on Paradeen, and some Enforcers were holding Sarah and baby Walker hostage.

Fortunately, these people knew a quick way out of the city. Apollo lifted Starbuck in his arms.

And then, he kissed him. He couldn't help himself. He was so relieved that Starbuck was alive, he'd wanted to throw his arms around him as soon as they found him. He wanted to hold him and never let go. But they had work to do. Sarah was in danger. There was no time for an emotional reunion right now.

The kiss prompted little reaction from the people around them. The neighbours had already gone on ahead, leading the way out of the tunnels. Michael just shrugged and followed them. Cassie looked like she was about to say something, but then she turned and followed Michael.

The only reaction Apollo wasn't sure about was Starbuck's. But he was only semi-conscious.

Starbuck slowly came to on the way out of the tunnels, and by the time they were back at Michael and Sarah's farm, he was fully recovered. At first Apollo thought that maybe he hadn't noticed the kiss &mdash after all, he had barely been conscious when it happened. But just as they were about to climb on to the roof of the house, Starbuck caught his arm.

"When all this is over, I need to talk to you &mdash alone."

Apollo wondered what Starbuck would say to him. Was their friendship over? Had he damaged it beyond repair? What would he do if he had?

When they had dealt with the Alliance forces and were preparing to return to the Galactica, Sarah took Apollo aside.

"Michael told me about you and Starbuck. Now I know why you said you couldn't stay with me. You should have just told me you were already involved. I would have understood."

"It's not that simple," Apollo replied.

"Do the people where you come from not accept your relationship? Is that it? My invitation for you to stay is still open, with Starbuck included. We have materials you could use to build a house, and I don't think anyone would object to your being a couple. After you take the Enforcers to the Galactica, you could come back here and start a new life."

It certainly was tempting. They could go pick up Boxey and bring him with them; he could play with Michael and Sarah's children. Maybe he was young enough that his lungs would adapt to the atmosphere as he grew up.

He pushed the thoughts out of his mind. They couldn't stay. They were Colonial warriors. The fleet needed them, and of course there were his father and Athena to think about.

"I have family on the Galactica &mdash my father, my sister and my son. And I have a job to do as a warrior. But I can't say your offer wasn't tempting, in spite of the problem with the atmosphere."

Sarah frowned. "I forgot about the atmosphere. That would be a problem. I hope that you find that planet you're looking for, whether it's Terra or another planet altogether."

Apollo thanked her, then went to join the others for the journey back to the Galactica.

It was a long time before Apollo and Starbuck had any chance to be alone together. They both had to tell the Commander, Colonel Tigh and the Council of Twelve what they'd learned about Paradeen, Luna Seven, and Terra. They had to deal with their Eastern Alliance prisoners, and question them. And they had to explain why they'd taken off with Sarah, Michael and the children in the first place, against the Council's orders.

When the debriefings were over with, Apollo approached his wingmate in the now-deserted Council chamber. "Do you want to talk now?" he asked.

Starbuck sighed. He really did need to talk to his wingmate, but he was absolutely exhausted. "I'm beat, Apollo. I didn't sleep well in that thin atmosphere on Paradeen, and we've been talking to the Council for centares. Right now, all I want is sleep. Can we talk tomorrow, instead?"

Apollo wanted to say yes, it was okay, and let Starbuck go. But he couldn't forget how Starbuck had looked lying unconscious in those tunnels. He opened his mouth to tell Starbuck to go get some rest, but he couldn't speak.

"Apollo, what's wrong?" Starbuck asked worriedly. Tears were running down Apollo's cheeks.

"I'm sorry," Apollo muttered, trying to stifle a sob that was threatening to escape. "I'm tired too. Maybe that atmosphere bothered me more than I realized."

"Buddy, I know you, and you don't cry at just anything. I'm not buying it. What's really the problem? Is it Sarah? Did she mean that much to you?"

Apollo shook his head. He almost laughed. No, it wasn't Sarah.

Ignoring his exhaustion, Starbuck pulled a chair up and gently pushed Apollo into it. Pulling another chair up beside him, he asked, "Apollo, what is it? Talk to me. If it isn't Sarah, then what is it?"

"It's you," Apollo whispered.

"Me? Have I done something? Hurt you in some way?"

"On Paradeen, when you were lost in the underground tunnels .... I thought you were dead. Vector said you could only last for about fifteen minutes. I don't know how long that is, but Michael told me we were down there for a lot longer than that. An hour, I think it was. Hector and Vector kept saying there was no way you could last that long without fresh oxygen."

"Hector and Vector aren't the most cheerful companions, are they?" Starbuck commented, hoping that making a joke would help.

"I was so afraid we wouldn't reach you in time. I wished I'd let Cassiopeia go with you. She would have insisted on taking the portable oxygen. But I made her stay behind, because ...." He let his voice trail off.

"Because you wanted her to pay attention to Michael and make Sarah jealous," Starbuck finished for him.

"That's not the only reason. I told her to stay behind because I was jealous."

"Jealous? Of who? Or what?"

"Of you and her," Apollo answered. "I saw the way you and Cassie were with the children the first night we were on Paradeen. I mean, I know you're good with children. I've seen you with Boxey. And I've seen Cassie with him, of course, when she babysits him for me. But the two of you together.... It just seemed so natural &mdash you and Cassiopeia and children. I thought of you and her having children of your own one day, and it made me jealous."

Starbuck thought about Apollo's words for a while. Apollo was jealous, but he couldn't figure out if that meant that he was jealous because he wanted Cassie, or because he wanted ....

"Wait a centon. Is this about you kissing me?"

Apollo nodded. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have kissed you. I thought you were still unconscious, and I was so relieved that you were alive, I couldn't stop myself. If you don't want to be friends anymore, I'll understand. I'll miss you like Hades, but I'll understand."

Starbuck sighed and shook his head. Then, beckoning with one finger, he said, "Apollo, come here."

Confused, Apollo leaned toward Starbuck.

"Closer," his wingmate ordered.

Apollo moved closer. Starbuck wrapped an arm around the back of his neck and kissed him.

"There," Starbuck said. "Now we're even. Of course, if you wanted to kiss me again, then I would have to kiss you again."

"I do want to kiss you again," Apollo admitted. "Not only that, I want to do a lot more. But this isn't a physical thing for me, Starbuck. I want you, yes, but I.... I love you, too."

"Oh, Pol," Starbuck sighed, using the nickname he'd bestowed on his friend when they were children. "Don't you know how much I love you by now?"

"You love me?" Apollo asked in astonishment.

"Didn't I just say that?"

Not being able to think of anything to say right at that moment, Apollo kissed Starbuck again.

So Starbuck kissed him back.

"Come back to my quarters with me," Apollo urged.

"Pol, I meant it when I said that I'm tired. I really need sleep."

"You can sleep with me. Just sleep. The rest can wait."

Starbuck grinned as he followed Apollo out of the chamber. "I hope it doesn't wait too long."