On the planet "Starbuck:"

Starbuck huddled in his lean-to on the planet he had named after himself. He was completely alone for the first time since he'd found Cy. Now Cy was dead, and Angela and the baby were gone. He'd tried to put Cy back together, but he hadn't succeeded.

He didn't like being alone. He supposed it was better than being dead, but he wasn't certain. When Angela had been here, she'd been able to grow food. How anyone could grow anything on this rocky, barren world was beyond him. Apparently the ability to grow food was beyond him. He'd tried to tend the small vegetable garden after Angela left with her baby, but the plants had soon died. Surprisingly, there were still some ration bars left. He didn't know how long they would last. He'd have to eat sparingly.

Had he really seen that ethereal form that looked like Angela? It had certainly looked like the woman he knew, but it definitely hadn't been human. Had she been real at all? Had the baby been real? Or had being alone on this planet for Lords- knew-how-long driven him completely mad? Maybe he'd dreamed it all.

Apparently she'd been 'judging' him, and she'd found him to be a good man. She was some sort of higher being, maybe one of the Lords of Kobol. Maybe she was from one of those light ships he and Apollo had encountered a few times. That was all well and good, but it didn't get him back to his people.

He thought of Apollo. He hadn't told Apollo how he felt about him. He wished he'd told his wingmate just once how much he loved him. If only he had! Of course, he hadn't known he was going to wind up here. He'd given Boomer a message to tell Cassie and Athena of his love, but not Apollo. It didn't seem right coming from a third party. Still, he wished he'd said something.

He had no timing implements: no calendar, no chrono. He had no idea how long he had been here. It seemed like a long time. Sectares, at least. Maybe a yahren. Maybe even longer.

What was really maddening was the lack of anyone to talk to. He tried talking to himself. He tried talking to God. He even tried talking to rocks. Eventually he just stopped trying.

On the Galactica:

Apollo looked at the ship's calendar. Yes, today was the day. It had been a yahren since Starbuck had gone missing. He couldn't forget it. He would never forget it. He should have been there. He should have been with Starbuck, but it just so happened that Boomer had taken patrol that day while Apollo met with the Commander and Colonel Tigh to go over some fleet business. He would always regret that. He would regret it for the rest of his life.

He wished that he had told Starbuck the truth. He wished he'd said "I love you," just one time. He'd thought there would be time. How wrong he had been about that.

Apollo knelt at his makeshift altar to the Lords of Kobol and said a prayer for Starbuck, wherever he was. He did it every day, but today he took just a bit longer. He didn't even know if his friend was still alive. He just had this feeling that he would know if Starbuck was dead.

It still ate at him that he hadn't been able to go and look for the man he loved. He'd fought with his father over it. They had been under attack, and they'd had to flee. They couldn't spare anyone to look for Starbuck, even if he had still been alive, which was questionable. It had hurt Adama deeply to abandon Starbuck, whom he loved as much as he loved his own sons, but it had been necessary to save the fleet from attack.

Apollo wondered if Starbuck had expected him to come for him. He wondered if he'd let his wingmate down.

"Captain Apollo to the bridge," said a voice from his com unit. He looked at the time. It was early yet. Something important had to be up. Colonel Tigh had been ill for the past few days, and Apollo was acting Executive Officer, which meant he was second in command.

Apollo hurried to the bridge. When he arrived he asked his father why he had been summoned.

"You're not going to believe this," Adama said. "We've just picked up a transmission from a Cylon ship, but it's not a Cylon transmission. It's human."

"A human on a Cylon ship?" Apollo asked incredulously. How could this be? "Have you answered it?" he wanted to know.

Adama answered in the affirmative. "We'll have guards in the landing bay in case it's a trick, but I told her that she's welcome."

So the newcomer was female. Apollo headed down to the landing bay to meet her.

Adama, Apollo and a mixed group of security personnel and warriors watched in apprehension as the Cylon craft glided in. Whoever this woman was, she knew how to pilot a Cylon craft. Apollo found that slightly suspicious.

Angela stuck her head out into the bay. "I'm afraid I can't come out with my hands up," she said, "but I will come out, if you let me." She held up a small bundle. "I have to keep at least one hand on him."

A baby! This stranger had a baby. Apollo wondered how long she had been wandering in space, who had delivered her baby, and where the baby's father was.

"You want to know about his father," the woman said, as if reading the Captain's mind. "Well, that's why I'm here. There wasn't room enough in this craft, and he chose to stay behind until I could send help. He's stranded. You have to go get him. He's one of you."

Adama stepped forward. "What do you mean by one of us?" he asked.

"A Colonial Warrior. A crew member of the battlestar Galactica. His name is Starbuck."

The sound of jaws dropping was heard throughout the landing bay. Number one, Starbuck was alive. Number two, this woman apparently knew where he was. Number three, she had his child.

Apollo practically ran to the woman's side. "I'll go get him, if you tell me where he is."

"No you won't," Adama told him. "You're second in command. You're needed here.

"But it's Starbuck!" Apollo protested.

"If it's at all possible, we'll get him back," his father promised. "But you still have to stay here."

Angela knew instantly that this was Apollo, the one Starbuck had told her about. This was the one he loved. The question now was: was he worthy of Starbuck?

Apollo reluctantly agreed with his father. "You're right. I have a responsibility to the fleet. But we have to bring Starbuck back! Can we send Boomer? I think he feels the most responsible of all of us for what happened to Starbuck."

"That's an excellent idea," Adama agreed. He went to the nearest Stellar Com. "I need Lieutenant Boomer in the viper bay," he said. Then he turned back to his son. "Choose two warriors to accompany him. Boomer can pilot a shuttle to carry Starbuck, and the others will fly vipers to protect them."

Boomer arrived and was informed of the situation. He could hardly believe what he was hearing. Starbuck was alive, after all this time. Was he actually near enough for a shuttle to pick him up? The Galactica had travelled a long way in a yahren. Could it be some kind of trick?

"It's no trick," Angela informed him, reading his mind as she had done with Apollo. "I understand your suspicion. Starbuck is far from here, but I've been sent to guide you to him."

"Sent?" asked Adama.

"By the Lords of Kobol. They sent me to judge Starbuck and determine if he was worthy to join us. But he surprised me. I never told him why I was there, but I soon learned that he would much rather be reunited with all of you than join us. He sacrificed himself for me and for our child. He gave us this ship when he could have used it to find you. I figured the least I could do was return the favour and bring him back to you."

Apollo was turning over this information in his mind. Starbuck had had sex with this woman, a representative of the Lords?

"No, Captain," Angela answered. This mind-reading was beginning to make Apollo nervous. "The Lords arranged the birth. Starbuck was a complete gentlemen to me all the time I was on the planet with him." She handed the child to Apollo. "He's special. The Lords have sent him to you, all of you. I want you to look after him until Starbuck gets here, Captain. And when he does, I want the two of you to raise him together." Then she turned to Boomer and the other warriors. "Follow me," she said, getting back into the Cylon craft. She established radio communication between the ships. "You won't run out of fuel. Don't worry. Just leave everything to me."

It wasn't until she was gone that Apollo realized she had just told him that she wasn't coming back.

On the planet Starbuck:

Starbuck's rations were running low. He was surprised they'd lasted as long as they had. He ate very little, trying to keep the food for as long as possible, and as a result was becoming weaker. He didn't venture far from his lean-to anymore. There wasn't any reason to. He had no one to talk to. He was beginning to wonder if he'd even remember how to talk, if he ever had anyone to talk to ever again.

After he'd been on the planet for just over a yahren, he ventured out one day to the wreckage of the Cylon ships. Not for the first time he tried to find a way to make one of them work again, or at least salvage enough parts to rebuild Cy. But he didn't have the stamina to work on them for very long, and he soon gave up.

On his way back to the lean-to, he thought he saw something in the sky. He decided he was hallucinating and ignored it.

Then he saw it again.

"Persistent hallucinations," he thought to himself.

And then, to his utter astonishment, a shuttlecraft and two Colonial vipers landed. Boomer stepped out of the shuttle. "Long time no see, Bucko," his old friend said before embracing him.

Starbuck collapsed in Boomer's arms. It had been a long time since he'd seen another human. He wasn't sure if Angela counted. But to not only see a human, but to see one his oldest friends, was a bit too much for him to process at once.

Boomer caught Starbuck before he fell. He could tell that his friend had lost a lot of weight by how thin he was and how little he weighed. He carried the Lieutenant to the shuttle and ran a medical scan on him, using a scanner helpfully provided by the Galactica's Life Centre. No serious injuries or illnesses, but Starbuck was malnourished and dehydrated.

As he prepared for takeoff, Boomer realized that he couldn't see any sign of the mysterious visitor who had led him here. It had been a strange trip; they had covered parsecs of space in just a few centons. He had decided not question that, or question the lack of Cylons along the way.

"There are plenty of people waiting for you, Bucko," Boomer told him. "One person in particular, who holds the rank of Captain." One of the things that had hurt Boomer most after leaving Starbuck on this rock had been seeing the pain Apollo had gone through after losing his wingmate. Even though Apollo had told him over and over that he didn't blame him, it hadn't stopped Boomer from blaming himself.

Back on the Galactica:

Apollo took the baby to Life Centre for an examination. The baby was human, Salik said, a boy, obviously. There was nothing unusual about him as far as the Galactica's scanning equipment could tell. The doctor used Chameleon's computer program to run a DNA analysis. "He's definitely Starbuck's," Salik announced. "But, Captain.... He's yours too."

"Mine? What do you mean, mine?"

"He carries both your and Starbuck's DNA. As far as I can tell, both of you are his father."

"That's impossible," Apollo said.

"Impossible or not, it's the truth."

Apollo was waiting in the viper bay with the baby when Starbuck was brought in. He was at his wingmate's side in a micron, as soon as he came off the shuttle. He turned to Boomer. "Thank you for bringing him home," he said.

Boomer smiled. "Don't mention it," he answered.

Starbuck opened his eyes and looked around him. He was back on the Galactica. Was he dreaming? He felt a hand grasp his own. Looking up, he saw a face he had thought he would never see again - Apollo's. Not only did he see Apollo, he saw Angela's baby. His baby, he told himself. Angela had said the boy was his.

"Starbuck?" Apollo spoke to him. When Starbuck turned to look at him, he smiled for the first time in a yahren. "Do you know where you are?"

Starbuck nodded.

"Do you recognize this little guy?" Apollo held up the baby.

Again, a nod. Apollo couldn't tell if Starbuck as able to speak.

"Do you know who I am?"

This time Starbuck returned the smile. "You're the one I love," he said.