Starbuck sat on his bunk, lost in thought. He wished he could find a private place to be alone and think. Apollo had the observation dome. He supposed that his friend wouldn't mind if he used it, too, but somehow it had become "Apollo's place" and to go there felt intrusive.

He wondered if Apollo had shown it to Sheba.

Starbuck shook himself. Thinking this way wouldn't do him any good. For whatever reason, Apollo didn't love him. Apollo thought of him as a friend, and that was all. Of course, he'd never asked Apollo if he loved him. But really, why would he? Apollo was Adama's son, third in the chain of command, a Kobolian both by religion and by birth. At one time in Caprica's history the Kobolians had practically been royalty. What was he, Starbuck, compared to that? An orphan that Apollo had brought home from school one day?

He was a warrior, by all accounts a good one, but he knew that Apollo was often frustrated by his behaviour. His reports were never on time and were usually scrawled in his almost illegible handwriting. He was late for patrol. He showed up with hangovers. He borrowed money from Apollo and lost it gambling. He got Apollo to join in on his "can't lose" schemes that almost always lost. He drank, he gambled, he chased women - why would Apollo want him?

Maybe it wasn't too late. Maybe he could change. Give up the gambling and the drinking. Show up on time. Turn in his reports. Obey orders. Stop playing Cassiopeia and Athena against each other. He couldn't do anything about his family status, but maybe if he was more of both an officer and a gentleman, Apollo might see him in a new light.

The first thing he had to do was talk to Cassie. He hated to hurt her, but he knew he wasn't being fair to her. He couldn't love her the way she wanted to be loved.

He approached Cassiopeia in the Life Centre. "Cassie, can I talk to your for a couple of centons? Alone?"

Cassie agreed to meet him on her break, and they went to an empty supply room. She immediately put her arms around his neck and tried to kiss him, but he broke away. "This isn't why I wanted to be alone with you," he told her.

"You sound serious," the med tech observed.

"I am. Listen, Cass, I'm sorry, but we have to stop seeing each other. This just isn't going to work out."

"What?" Cassie exclaimed. "Why? Is it Athena?"

"No, it's not Athena. It's nothing like that. I'm not being fair to you. I can't love you the way you want me to. You know that I haven't been faithful to you. You've put up with a lot from me, a lot more than most women would, and you shouldn't have had to. I can't commit to you or to anyone. I'm going to focus on my career, and maybe one day I'll be able to settle down, but not right now. I'm very, very sorry. I know that I've hurt you and that's the last thing I wanted."

Cassie was silent for a while. When she finally spoke, she was gentle. "Thank you for being honest with me," she said. "I can tell that this is hard for you. I won't say that it doesn't hurt; it hurts like Hades. But I know that it hurts you too. I don't know what made you suddenly decide to focus on your career, but you are a great warrior and the fleet is lucky to have you." She paused a moment, then continued. "I haven't always been fair to you, either. When Cain was here I treated you like felgercarb. When you were accused of murder I went along with everyone who believed you were guilty. I don't know if I ever told you that I'm sorry for the way I treated you." She kissed his cheek. "Good luck, Starbuck."

Starbuck hugged her. "You deserve someone better than me, Cassie. I hope you find him one day."

The next person he had to see was Athena. He told her the same things he'd told Cassiopeia: that he hadn't been fair to her, he couldn't commit to her, he shouldn't have strung her along while he tried to decide whether he wanted her or Cassie. He told her he was going to focus on his career and apologized for the way he'd treated her in the past.

Athena was angry, but most of all she was stunned. The words appeared to be coming from Starbuck's mouth, but they didn't sound like Starbuck at all. She tried to question him, but his answers were evasive. Finally, frustrated, she gave up and let him leave. Then she went to see her brother.

"Apollo, do you have any idea what's gotten in to Starbuck?" she asked.

"Something's gotten into Starbuck? What do you mean?"

"He just broke up with me," she told him.

"I'm sorry to hear that, Thee, but maybe it's for the best. You know he was spending a lot of time with Cassiopeia," Apollo said sympathetically.

"But he didn't say anything about Cassiopeia! He said he was breaking up with me because he wants to focus on his career and he can't settle down right now."

"He said *what*?" Apollo asked, stunned. "He wants to focus on his career? That doesn't sound like Starbuck to me."

"I didn't think so either, but it's what he said."

Apollo shook his head. "I'll go talk to Cassie. Maybe she knows what's going on."

But Cassie was as much in the dark as Apollo and Athena. When Apollo asked if she'd spoken to Starbuck that day, she related the conversation they'd just had. "He was completely sincere, Apollo. He meant every word."

Apollo was even more confused. "I don't understand this at all," he said. "He broke up with Athena, too, for the same reasons. This just does not sound like Starbuck."

Cassie shrugged. "I can't explain it. Talk to him yourself. I think he could use a friend right now."

Starbuck wasn't in his usual haunts of the Officers' Club or the gambling lounges on the Rising Star. Apollo finally found him in the Officers' Mess, where he was working on reports. Reports? Since when did Starbuck do reports?

"Hey, Bucko, what's going on?" Apollo asked as he sat down beside his friend.

"What's going on where?" Starbuck asked in return.

"What's going on with you? Cassiopeia and Athena both say you broke up with them today."

"I did," Starbuck answered.


"You know how I've treated them lately. I can't decide between them and I wasn't being fair, stringing them both along like that. I can't make a commitment to either of them. I certainly can't support a family. I should pay more attention to where my career is headed, and after that's in better shape, then maybe I can think about a relationship. Speaking of my career, I won't have one if I don't get these back reports finished."

"Starbuck, you know I don't care about the reports."

"Yes you do, Apollo. You care about the reports. It's part of your job as squadron leader. You don't say anything when mine are late or when they're not there because you're my friend. You shouldn't have to do that. I shouldn't expect you to, and I won't any longer. From now on my reports will be on time, the same as everyone else's."

The Captain smiled and shook his head. "If you say so."

"I do say so, and I mean it, Apollo." Starbuck was hurt that Apollo didn't believe him, but he supposed he hadn't given him much reason to in the past. "Now, if you don't mind, I have work to do."

Apollo realized that Starbuck was serious. He'd seldom seen his wingmate this serious about anything. "All right, I'll leave you to it. Are we still going to the Rising Star tonight to try out your new system?"

"No," answered Starbuck. "Gambling is a waste of time, not to mention a complete waste of money, mine and yours. In fact, I probably still owe you some cubits from the last time a system of mine didn't work."

Apollo laughed. "Don't worry about it. You didn't put a gun to my head and force me to play the Pyramid table."

Starbuck wasn't laughing. "Then I probably owe you for all the times you've loaned me money and I haven't paid you back."

Apollo turned serious now. "Starbuck, I owe you my life - several times over. Money is nothing compared to that. You don't owe me anything."

"You're sure?"

"I'm sure." He clapped a hand on his wingmate's shoulder. "Why don't you leave those for now and let me buy you a drink in the OC?"

"Maybe another time."

Starbuck turning down a drink? "Are you sure you're feeling all right?"

The Lieutenant shrugged. "Same as usual. I guess I'm a bit down because of what I had to do to Athena and Cassie. I care about both of them and I hate hurting them."

"Well, if you want to talk, you know where to find me."

"I know. Thanks, 'Pol."

"Anytime," Apollo told his friend as he left. As he headed to his quarters, he wondered what other surprises were in store.

The next day Apollo's first surprise was finding all of Starbuck's back reports on his desk. They were neatly typed rather than written in Starbuck's usual scrawl. The Lieutenant had to have spent a lot of time on them. Had he spent his entire sleep period writing them? How would he manage patrol if he hadn't slept?

But Starbuck not only made patrol, he was early. "Reporting for duty, Captain," he said as he arrived.

"At ease, Starbuck," Apollo replied in astonishment. Starbuck never called him by his rank, unless he was pissed at him for some reason. He studied his wingmate closely. "Did you get any sleep?"

"Not much," Starbuck admitted.

After they had launched their vipers, Apollo suggested, "Look, why don't you get some sleep for awhile?"

"Thanks, but I'll be fine."

"You'll be better if you get some rest."

"It's better if I stay alert. You never know what we might run in to out here."

"That's what your scanners are for. They'll wake you up if anything happens."

"Is that an order, Captain?" Starbuck asked. He hadn't meant to be so abrupt, but he *was* feeling the lack of sleep. Still, he thought it would be better to stay awake. He was a warrior, after all, and warriors shouldn't sleep on patrol.

There was the rank again. "No, Lieutenant, it's not an order."

"Then if it's all the same to you, I'll stay awake."

A few centons later, Apollo made an attempt at conversation. "So, how are you feeling about everything that happened yesterday?" he asked.

Starbuck sighed. "It's hard," he admitted. "Like I said before, I hate hurting both Cassie and Athena. I care about them both and they were both a lot of fun to be with. But the very fact that I can't decide between them means I shouldn't be with either of them."

Apollo didn't say anything. He felt sorry for the women - his sister, especially - but he had to admit to himself that he'd had a hard time seeing Starbuck with either of them. He'd been in love with Starbuck for some time, but seeing how much his friend liked women made him believe that he could never have a chance to win his love.

"Apollo? Are you still there?" Starbuck's voice came over the radio.

"Yeah, I'm here. Just thinking. You're making a lot of changes lately."

"I know. I've been taking a long, hard look at my life and I decided that I'm an adult and it's time I started to act like one."

"What brought this on?" his wingmate wanted to know.

"Nothing specific. Just decided it was time for me to grow up. I'd say it was time for me to act my age, but I don't know what that is," he added as a small joke. Starbuck had been found in a forest as a small child after a Cylon attack. No one had been able to locate his parents, and it was assumed they'd been killed in the attack. Because of this, no one knew his exact age.

"What does this 'growing up' mean, exactly? Are you going to give up drinking and gambling entirely?"

"Gambling, yes," Starbuck answered after a few centons' thought. "Drinking, well, I wouldn't say no to a glass of ambrosa on a special occasion, but going out and getting drunk is a thing of the past, as is showing up for patrol with a hangover."

Apollo had to admit that it wouldn't be a bad thing for Starbuck not to be hung over when he went on patrol, but these changes his friend was making left him feeling unsettled. He loved Starbuck the way he was, and wished he could tell him that. "This new Starbuck is going to take some getting used to."

"New Starbuck? Maybe it's the *real* Starbuck coming out. I hope you'll like him, er, me, 'Pol."

"I like you already, Star."

"Then maybe you'll like me more."

Somehow, Apollo didn't think that was possible.

The next day, Apollo went to the Bachelor Officers' Quarters to see if Starbuck was up for Triad practice. He was surprised to discover the Lieutenant surrounded by books. "What are you reading?"

"Officers manuals," came the reply.

"Officers manuals? What for?"

"I might try for a promotion one of these days, and I thought I should be prepared."

"Promotion?" Apollo said in surprise. Starbuck had never shown any great ambition to move out of his current rank. "You're really serious about this."

Starbuck was stung by the surprise in Apollo's voice, but tried to remain calm. "Yes," he said flatly. "I'm serious. Did you think I wasn't?"

"N-no, I just... I thought.... Never mind what I thought. I'll see you at briefing."

As he left the BOQ, thoughts ran at light speed through Apollo's brain. Starbuck with a promotion? He'd always known it would happen eventually. Starbuck was too good a warrior to remain a lieutenant forever, his behaviour notwithstanding. But if Starbuck got a promotion, would he still be Apollo's wingmate? He couldn't imagine not having Starbuck with him on the interminable and usually very boring patrols, or fighting at his side against the Cylons.

A thought occurred to him. Should he tell Starbuck how he felt? Would it make a difference? No, he decided. Even if he was interested, which Apollo was sure he wasn't, Starbuck had already said he wasn't prepared to settle down or commit to anyone.

At the next briefing, Tigh announced that several officers were out of commission due to a virus making the rounds. It wasn't serious but it did keep them off duty for at least a few days. Tigh asked for volunteers to fly extra patrols, and Starbuck volunteered immediately. The other warriors had to suppress laughter at the look on the Colonel's face when Starbuck volunteered. It was well known that Starbuck never volunteered for anything. The last time he'd volunteered for duty he'd been stuck in a viper with no laser generator and therefore no weapons and had ended up in prison.

From then on, every time Apollo saw Starbuck outside of patrol, the Lieutenant was buried in a book. Training manuals, rules and regulations, officers' code of conduct. He devoured them all. This was when he wasn't flying extra patrols, of course. "Starbuck, are we ever going to play Triad again?" Apollo finally asked in desperation one day.

Starbuck hesitated before answering. He really didn't have time for games - he was too busy studying and, of course, writing his reports. He always handed in his reports before anyone else in the squadron. But he missed spending time with Apollo, and after all, Apollo was the one he was doing this for. He set his book aside. "I could use the exercise," he admitted.

So the two warriors went to the Triad court to practice. Apollo was surprised to see that Starbuck moved more slowly than usual. His reflexes seemed to be off as well. Looking more closely, he could see dark circles under his friend's eyes. "Starbuck, are you coming down with that bug that everyone's getting?" Apollo asked.

"No, of course not," Starbuck answered. "I'm just out of practice."

"You look exhausted."

"I'm fine," Starbuck said curtly, and to prove it he fired a shot past his partner and into the goal. "See?"

But as he made his way to the Bachelor Officers Quarters afterward, his entire body protested every move. He felt wrecked.

"That was quite a workout," Apollo said with a yawn. "I am definitely looking forward to sleep period."

Starbuck yawned too, but tried to hide it. "I have to finish my reports," he sighed.

"Forget the reports, Star. Get some sleep. The reports can wait."

"No, they can't. I told you I'd hand them in on time, and I will."

"Starbuck, the reports don't matter that much."

"I told you I'd do them. I'll have them on your desk first thing tomorrow."

In the Bachelor Officers Quarters, Starbuck looked at his bunk with longing as he sat down to do his reports. Then an idea occurred to him and he headed to the Life Centre to see Cassie.

"What can I do for you, Starbuck?" the med tech asked. "You don't look very well. Are you coming down with something?"

"I was wondering...." He looked around carefully before he continued. "Do you have any stims?"

"Stims?" exclaimed Cassie. "What do you want those for?"

"I haven't been getting a lot of sleep lately. I'm doing extra patrols, and doing the paperwork that comes with them, as well as studying for the officers' exams. I played Triad with Apollo earlier, and now I'm exhausted, but I have to finish my reports before I can go to bed."

"Starbuck, stimulants aren't the answer to that. Cutting down on your workload so that you get enough sleep is."

"Please, Cass?" He was almost begging. "If I don't get them from you, I'll just get them somewhere else."

"All right," Cassie sighed. She went to a cupboard and removed some pills. Placing a few of them into an envelope, she said, "I'm only giving you a few. Don't take them all at once. If you come back for more, or if I hear you've been asking anyone else for them, I'm telling Apollo. Got it?"

"Got it," he answered with relief. He kissed her cheek. "Thanks, Cassie. I owe you one."

"You owe me several," Cassie grumbled as he left.

Thanks to the stims, Starbuck was able to finish the reports. When he was done, he saw that sleep period was almost over. "Not really worth going to bed now," he said to himself. He decided to take a shower and hand in the reports early.

When Apollo arrived at the duty office, he discovered the promised reports were on his desk and Starbuck was suited up for patrol. "I told you that you didn't have to bother with these," Apollo said to his wingmate. "Did you get any sleep?"

"Of course I did," Starbuck lied. "I'm fine, Apollo. As a matter of fact, I'd like to get in another Triad practice after patrol. How about it?"

Apollo studied Starbuck carefully. He didn't seem to be tired. Just the opposite; he seemed almost manic. "Sure thing," he answered

At the Triad court, Starbuck quickly sneaked another stim tablet before going out to meet Apollo. "How about it, 'Pol? Ready for some one-on-one?"

"Are you sure you're up to it? You seemed awfully tired yesterday."

"I told you, I'm fine." Starbuck grabbed the ball and fired it at the goal. His aim was slightly off, though, and it bounced harmlessly off the wall. "Frack," he muttered.

"Calm down," Apollo told him. "It's just a game."

Apollo noticed that while Starbuck definitely seemed to have more energy than he'd had the day before, his game was erratic. Maybe the effects of his lack of sleep hadn't completely worn off. When they were done the game, he suggested they go get a drink together.

"Sorry, can't. I'm pulling extra duty."

"Starbuck, this is insane! You're working too hard. You're flying extra patrols, writing extra reports, studying for the officers exams. When do you have time to relax and be yourself?"

"I am being myself. This is the real Starbuck, remember?"

"This isn't like you. This isn't the real you."

"It is now, 'Pol."

Well, at least Starbuck wasn't calling him "Captain."

After he finished his patrol, Starbuck headed back to the BOQ to work on his latest reports. Seeing how inviting his bed looked, he took another stim tablet and set to work. Boomer walked in and saw him sitting there writing.

"Hey Bucko, don't you ever sleep anymore?"

"Only when necessary, Boom-Boom."

"I think it's necessary more often than you've been doing it," Boomer observed.

"I'll have more free time when the warriors who are out sick are back on duty and the officers exams are over."

"Oh yeah, I forgot you were writing the exams. Good luck. I hear they're pretty tough."

"I'm pretty tough, too."

"You're still human, Bucko."

"Don't I know it," Starbuck sighed, wishing in spite of the stims that he could fall in to bed and not emerge for at least the next two cycles.

He looked forward to a time when the exams would be over with and he didn't have to study so much. Maybe then he'd be able to sleep like a normal person and spend more time with Apollo. Apollo would get used to the new Starbuck eventually. He just needed time.

The day of the exam finally arrived. Starbuck spent the entire sleep period cramming. When he walked into the room he saw that Apollo was supervising the exam. "Wish me luck, 'Pol," Starbuck whispered as he took his seat. He reached into his pocket for a stim tablet, but discovered the envelope was empty. Oh well. He'd just have to run on willpower. Just a few more centares and it would all be over.

He turned on the computer viewscreen and prepared to get started, but saw that the words looked funny. They seemed to be moving. He tried refreshing the screen to see if that helped, but it didn't. The words still moved. He got up to tell Apollo that his computer was malfunctioning, and saw that the entire room was spinning. Then the floor rose up to meet him, and he passed out.

Apollo saw Starbuck collapse. He jumped up and ran to his friend's side. "Starbuck? Are you all right? Star?" He slapped the other man's face, but Starbuck didn't wake up. He turned to one of the other warriors writing the exam. "Call the Life Centre and get a medical team down here, then call Colonel Tigh and ask him to come here and finish supervising your exam."

The medical team rushed Starbuck to Life Centre with Apollo on their heels. When they arrived Cassiopeia met them. "What happened?" she asked.

"Starbuck collapsed," Apollo told her. "I don't know what's wrong."

Dr. Salik began to examine the unconscious warrior. "What's he been doing lately? Has he been sick at all?"

"He's been working an insane schedule. He takes extra duty shifts and spends his sleep periods writing reports or cramming for the officer's exams. I don't know when or if he sleeps," Apollo told the doctor.

"He's been taking stims," Cassie informed them.

Apollo turned to her in shock. "Stims? Starbuck's been using stimulants? Since when?"

"He came to me a couple of sectons ago asking for some. I didn't want to give him any but he said he'd just get them somewhere else. I figured that at least if he got them here I'd know there wasn't anything else mixed in with them."

"Frack," Apollo swore. "I should have known. Why didn't I see it?"

"Don't blame yourself, Apollo. If you blame anyone it should be me," Cassie told him.

Dr. Salik ran a battery of tests on Starbuck. Apollo refused to leave his wingmate's side. "Can you tell what's wrong with him?" he asked in fear.

"I'll have to wait until the test results come back, Apollo," the doctor replied. "Why don't you go back to your quarters and I'll call you if I find out anything."

"I won't leave him," Apollo answered. "I'll call Athena and ask her to look after Boxey, but I'm not going anywhere until I know he'll be okay."

True to his word, Apollo stayed at Starbuck's bedside and wouldn't leave. He held Starbuck's hand, stroked his hair and begged him to wake up. But Starbuck showed no sign of waking up.

Finally, Dr. Salik had a diagnosis. "Lieutenant Starbuck is suffering the effects of severe exhaustion. He also has a mild case of that virus that's been going around, but if he'd been taking care of himself it wouldn't have had any effect on him except to give him a slight case of the sniffles."

"Exhaustion," murmured Apollo. "Of course. I should have seen it coming. He's been pushing himself so hard lately. I don't even know why he's been acting this way. It's like he's possessed."

"It happens sometimes, but usually I see it in younger warriors, ones who are just starting out and trying to get established in their careers," Salik told Apollo.

"What can you do for him?" the Captain wanted to know.

"Nothing, except keep him here and try to make him stay in bed. He needs rest - complete bed rest for at least a secton and probably longer."

"I'll make it an order," Apollo decided. "He's been as obsessive about obeying orders as he's been about everything else lately." Then he asked the doctor, "But why doesn't he wake up?"

"Like I said, he's exhausted. His body has completely shut down. It's forcing him to rest the only way it can. When the damage starts to mend, he'll wake up. You don't need to stay with him. He probably won't wake up for quite some time."

"I'm staying," Apollo stated. The doctor didn't argue, and left him alone with his wingmate.

Sitting at Starbuck's bedside, Apollo continued to hold his hand. He also talked to his unconscious friend. "Star," he said. "I don't know why you've been pushing yourself so hard lately, but look where it's got you. I can only hope that this will be a wake up call for you and you'll stop this insane cycle of patrols and reports and studying. I'm afraid that if you don't, the consequences will only be worse next time. I don't want to lose you, Star, and I'm afraid that's what will happen if you keep behaving this way. I can't help but wonder if this has something to do with me. It never seemed to bother you before that I outrank you. I hope I haven't said or done something to make you think I see you as being somehow inferior because I'm a Captain and you're a Lieutenant. I'm sorry you didn't get to take the exam - you deserve that promotion. And those damn reports that you insist on handing in first thing every duty shift - how many times do I have to tell you that I don't care about them? Your health is so much more important than some stupid reports.

"Look at me sitting here talking to you. I wish I'd said all of these things while they might have still made some difference. I wish I'd told you that your rank doesn't matter to me, those fracking reports don't matter to me, the number of patrols you fly don't matter to me. All that matters to me is that you're okay. I wish I'd told you that when you were awake. I wish I'd told you a lot of things. I wish I could have told you I loved you. I wish I could tell you when you're actually able to hear me."

But Starbuck couldn't hear him, and Apollo knew that he wouldn't say the words when Starbuck was awake. He could only say them when he knew no one would hear him. Especially not Starbuck.

Why was he so afraid to tell Starbuck how he felt? He was a warrior who faced death on an almost daily basis, yet he was afraid to even talk to his best friend. Any time he even considered telling Starbuck the truth, he froze up inside. He couldn't face life without Starbuck in it, and he was afraid that if his wingmate knew how he felt, he would end their friendship forever. He couldn't live with that. He would rather have Starbuck in his life as his best friend than not have him in his life at all.

Starbuck remained either unconscious or asleep for two more days before he finally opened his eyes and saw Apollo there at his side. "'Pollo? What are you doing here? For that matter, what am I doing here?"

"You collapsed during the exam," Apollo informed him.

"The exam? Did I at least get to take it first?"

"Afraid not, buddy."

"Frack," the Lieutenant swore. "I studied hard for that exam."

Apollo squeezed the hand that he had been holding for the last two days. "I know. I'll talk to my father and Colonel Tigh about giving you a chance to take it again. They both know how hard you've been working."

"They do?" Starbuck asked. While he'd mainly been doing all of this work to impress Apollo, he also wanted to please the Commander, who had been like a father to him.

"Yes, they do. But I don't think either of them will be very happy to find out that you worked hard enough to make yourself sick."

Starbuck noticed that Apollo was holding his hand. He couldn't recall that ever happening before. He very much wanted it to continue. "So what's wrong with me?" he asked.

"Exhaustion," Apollo told him. "You've been working and not sleeping. It finally caught up with you. I heard about the stims," he added.. "What I don't understand is why."

"I had too much work to do and not enough time to do it in," Starbuck answered. "So I gave up my sleep period, but I needed something to keep me awake."

"I don't mean why you took the stims. I mean why did you think you had to work so hard in the first place?"

Starbuck shrugged. "Everything seemed to happen at once. There were extra patrols that needed to be done, the exam was coming up and the extra patrols meant extra reports. I didn't realize just how much work it all was until it was too late."

"Why didn't you say something? Why didn't you ask for help?" Apollo wanted to know.

Avoiding looking at Apollo, Starbuck answered, "I didn't want to look bad."

Apollo sighed. He realized he was still holding Starbuck's hand. The lieutenant didn't seem to be objecting, or maybe he just hadn't noticed, so he decided to keep doing it. "I don't understand what's happened to you lately, Star. You're a completely different person. I don't know who you are anymore."

"I'm the same person I've always been, 'Pol. I've just changed a few things in my life. That's all."

Shaking his head, Apollo replied, "I don't think so. You've changed. To tell you the truth, I kind of miss the old Starbuck, the one who was my best friend."

Starbuck couldn't believe what Apollo had just said. The *old* Starbuck was Apollo's best friend? He snatched his hand out of Apollo's grasp. "The old Starbuck was your best friend? You mean I'm not anymore?"

Oh, frack. That wasn't what he meant, but Apollo realized how it must have sounded. "No, that's not what I mean. I'm just having a hard time adjusting to all these changes you've made lately."

Starbuck yawned. He was still very tired and he didn't like the way this conversation was going. "Apollo, I'm tired. I'd like to get some sleep."

Recognizing the dismissal, Apollo stood. "I'm sorry, Star. I didn't mean to say that you're not still my best friend."

But Starbuck was already asleep, and couldn't hear him.

Starbuck had to spend a secton in the Life Centre under orders from Dr. Salik, backed up by Apollo. The Captain came to visit Starbuck every day, but while Starbuck never refused to see him, he acted cold and distant toward him. Apollo kept trying to tell Starbuck that he hadn't meant what he'd said about Starbuck's not being his best friend anymore, but if Starbuck even heard him, he gave no sign.

The day Starbuck was discharged, Apollo had news. "Your exam has been rescheduled," he informed his wingmate.

The Lieutenant showed more enthusiasm than he had since before he'd gotten sick. "When?" he asked eagerly.

"Two sectons from now," Apollo told him.

Starbuck's face fell. "That long?"

"You need time to get your strength back, remember. And to study." Then he added, "But if you start skipping sleep period again, I'll put you on report. And if I see even the slightest hint that you might be taking stims again I'll order you back here for blood tests and suspend you from duty."

"Yes, sir," Starbuck muttered.

It wasn't quite insubordinate, but it was the closest that Apollo had seen him come in what seemed like a very long time. He was almost relieved to see it, in a way. But it still worried him - even though Starbuck had occasionally called him "Captain" in the past, he'd never called him "sir" before.

"Starbuck, what's happened to us?" Apollo asked.

"I don't get what you mean," Starbuck answered. "Has something happened?"

"Starbuck, we never used to be like this. We could always talk to each other. Ranks never mattered. We were friends. It's beginning to seem like we aren't friends anymore - that I'm just your Captain and that's all."

Starbuck took a long look at the man who was his wingmate and had been his best friend. "It seems to me that you were friends with the 'old' Starbuck. Apparently you don't want to be friends with the 'new' Starbuck."

"That's not true," Apollo protested.

"Isn't it?" Starbuck asked coldly.

"No, it isn't. I care about you and I want to be friends with you - I just don't know who *you* are anymore. I can't figure you out. I feel like there's something you're hiding from me."

"If you think there's something I'm hiding from you, that's your problem, not mine. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go back to the Bachelor Officers' Quarters and start studying. Am I dismissed, *Captain*?"

Apollo sighed. "Go ahead," he said, refusing to say the official-sounding word 'dismissed.' He watched Starbuck leave in utter misery.

Back in the Bachelor Officers' Quarters, Starbuck realized how quiet the Life Centre was in comparison. The BOQ were always full of warriors coming and going, and there was very little privacy. Starbuck took a mental accounting of his savings. He had to admit, giving up drinking and gambling had been good for his financial status. In fact, if his calculations were correct, he could afford his own quarters, especially if he passed the officer's exam and gained that promotion.

He set about making the arrangements, and only a few days later he moved in to his own quarters. Now he had peace and quiet in which to study, and to think.

Especially to think.

It looked as if he hadn't won Apollo's love after all. The Captain had grown steadily more distant from him. He couldn't figure out where everything had gone wrong. He'd thought Apollo would like the 'new' Starbuck, the one who didn't drink or gamble or chase women. Apparently he'd been wrong. But he'd come too far to go back. He was close to his goal of a promotion to Captain. Apollo had hinted that the Commander knew about his hard work, and the Commander's approval was almost as important as Apollo's. But Lords, how he missed his old friend. At least when he'd been flying extra patrols and spending most of his free time doing paperwork he hadn't had time to think about Apollo.

This promotion, assuming he got it - and he was almost certain that he would - would come at just the right time. Once he was promoted, he would most likely be transferred to a different squadron. It would be silly to have two captains in one squadron. In a different squadron without Apollo. He could hardly believe he was looking forward to not flying with Apollo anymore, but being around Apollo lately was just too hard. It hurt too much to fight with him every time they spoke to each other. It hurt to much to remember how close they had been just a few sectons ago.

The day of the exam, Starbuck walked into the testing room and discovered another man was there. "Hey," he said, approaching the stranger. "You taking the officer's exam, too?"

"Me? Not hardly," laughed the other man. "I'm just a lowly cadet. I missed some of the Academy tests because I got that virus that was going around a sectare or so ago, and I'm still making them up. My name's Galen, by the way. And I know who you are - Lieutenant Starbuck."

"Not Lieutenant for much longer, I hope. You're a cadet?"

"I look too old to be a cadet, right?" Galen said, laughing again. "I was a civilian before the Destruction happened. I decided to join up and do my part to pay back the Cylon bastards who destroyed our homes."

Starbuck couldn't help but notice that Galen was very attractive. He held out his hand. "Good luck on your tests, cadet."

Galen shook Starbuck's hand, but held on to it for a few extra microns, hoping that the Lieutenant got the message. "Good luck to you too, Lieutenant."

Starbuck smiled at him. "Call me Starbuck," he said.

"Good luck then, Starbuck. Hey, can I buy you a drink when we're done?"

The offer gave Starbuck pause. He hadn't had any alcohol in a couple of sectares. But why the hell not? One drink wouldn't hurt anything. "Sure thing," he told Galen. "By the time we're done, we'll probably need a drink."

From his place at the front of the room, Apollo watched Starbuck flirting with Galen. He'd seen Starbuck flirting more times than he could count, but it was the first time he'd seen Starbuck flirt with a man. And the man was flirting back. He swallowed the lump that had suddenly appeared in his throat and gave the signal to start the exams.

After the exams were over, Galen and Starbuck met up in the corridor. "Where shall we go for that drink?" Galen asked.

"How about the officer's club?" Starbuck suggested.

"I'm not an officer."

"I am, and I'm allowed to bring guests," Starbuck answered.

"Sounds good to me," Galen replied.

Apollo had also decided to head to the officer's club, feeling a need to drown his sorrows. Maybe he'd run into Sheba there. She was always happy to see him, even if she came on too strongly a lot of the time.

He hadn't expected to see Starbuck there with Galen. He ignored the two men and went to find Sheba.

Starbuck saw Apollo enter the OC and did his best to ignore him. After all, he was here with Galen. But he couldn't help but notice Apollo making a direct line toward Sheba.

He was brought back to his present circumstances when Galen touched his arm. "You have it bad, my friend," the cadet observed.

"What are you talking about?" Starbuck asked.

"The Captain. Don't try to deny it. It's written all over your face."

Starbuck knew Galen was right - it wasn't any use denying it. "Doesn't matter. You see who he's with."

"I see," Galen answered. "All I can say is, the man has no taste." He slipped a hand under the table and on to Starbuck's thigh. "Think I can take your mind off him for a few centares?"

Surprised at his new acquaintance's boldness, Starbuck almost refused. Then he thought, why in Hades not? He hadn't had sex with anyone in sectares, and the gods knew he was lonely. He had his own quarters now. Why not take this attractive man to his bed? Galen knew how he felt about Apollo. He wasn't asking for any commitments.

Standing and holding out his hand, Starbuck asked, "My quarters?"

Taking the proffered hand, Galen grinned. "I thought you'd never ask."

From his seat at Sheba's table, Apollo watched Starbuck leave hand in hand with Galen. He could hardly believe his eyes. Starbuck was with another man. Holding hands with another man. He looked happy. Starbuck slept with men? How long had this been going on, and how had he, Apollo, not known about it? It was too late now. Starbuck had found someone. Someone who was not him.

Apollo's heart hurt. He excused himself to Sheba and went back to his quarters where he could be depressed in private.

The next day when Starbuck showed up for patrol he had a very familiar look on his face. Apollo had seen it plenty of times, and he knew what it meant. It meant that Starbuck had spent a very satisfying night. Some of the other warriors referred to it as the "just fracked look."

"Did you have a good time last night?" Apollo asked his wingmate.

"Last night?" Starbuck asked, uncertain of what Apollo was referring to.

"With that cadet you were with in the OC. I saw the two of you leave together."

Starbuck smirked. "I had a great time. I hope you had a good time with Sheba."

Apollo shrugged. "At least Sheba is an officer."

"Are you trying to suggest something here, Apollo? Any rules we had against fraternization were dropped a long time ago. Besides which, anything I do on my own time is my own business."

"I'm still your superior officer," Apollo pointed out.

"Not for much longer," Starbuck replied.

Apollo knew that this was true, no matter how much he hated to admit it. Assuming Starbuck passed the exam, and that wasn't in much doubt, he would most likely be offered a promotion right away. Simply passing the exam didn't guarantee a promotion - that was up to Commander Adama and Colonel Tigh to decide, ultimately - but Apollo was quite certain Starbuck would be offered the rank of Captain as soon as the exam results were in. The Colonel and the Commander would consult him of course. They would ask him what he thought. He had no reason to give them to refuse Starbuck's promotion.

After the patrol was over, Apollo headed to the cadet quarters to find Galen. He might not be able to do anything about Galen and Starbuck's being together, but he could at least make sure this man knew the facts of life, which were: hurt Starbuck and I'll kill you, slowly and painfully.

"Captain," Galen greeted him in surprise. "What can I do for you?"

"I want to talk to you about Starbuck."

"What about him?"

"You realize that he's your superior."

"I had noticed," Galen replied. "What does that have to do with you?"

"I'm Strike Captain, and it's my job to enforce the rules and regulations around here."

"What rules and regulations are you enforcing now?" Galen wanted to know.

The man had him there. "Look, there aren't any official rules against junior officers fraternizing with senior officers. But it still doesn't look good for a cadet to be involved - sexually involved - with a Lieutenant."

"Who says that the Lieutenant and I are, as you put it, 'sexually involved' ?"

"Everyone in the officer's club saw the two of you leave together last night."

"And that is your business because...?"

"Because I care about Starbuck. He's my wingmate and he's my friend." *Or he was.* "He's worked hard to earn a promotion, and I'd hate to see anything get in the way."

"Does an officer's personal life have an effect on his chances for a promotion?" Galen asked.

"It shouldn't, but everyone knows it does," Apollo admitted. "It can affect the way people think of him."

"Captain, why are you really here?" Galen asked.

"Pardon me?"

"If Starbuck's behaviour really is affecting his chances for a promotion, why aren't you talking to him about it? Why are you talking to me?"

Apollo had to think fast. "Because, like I said, I care about him. I don't want to see him get hurt. Starbuck has a tendency to rush into things without thinking, and considering that you and he just met yesterday, I'd say that he rushed into a relationship with you."

"Starbuck and I don't have a 'relationship.' We had a fling, that's all. I knew that he was spoken for."

"Spoken for?" Apollo repeated, puzzled. "What do you mean, spoken for?"

'Permission to speak freely, Captain?"


"You're an idiot."

"Excuse me?" Apollo asked in shock. He was already regretting granting Galen the permission to speak freely.

"You, sir, are an idiot. Yes, I slept with Starbuck last night. And after we were done, I held him in my arms while he cried."

"Cried?" Apollo asked stupidly.

"Yes. He cried. He doesn't want a relationship with me. He doesn't want a relationship with me because he's head over heels in love with you, and you're too blind or too stupid to notice. That's why he cried. He loves you. And the gods know I can't figure out why, but you're the one he wanted to be with last night, not me."

Apollo was reeling from this news. Starbuck loved him? Starbuck wanted to be with him? Then why had they been at each others' throats for the last sectare or so? Maybe it was because both of them had been denying their feelings for each other.

"Cadet, er, Galen, do you think that there's still hope for me and Starbuck?" he asked.

Galen gave him a mysterious smile. "There's always hope, Captain," he replied. "If only because it's the one thing no one has figured out how to kill yet."

Giving the cadet a bewildered look, Apollo left and returned to his quarters. When he arrived, his computer told him that he had a message waiting. Opening it, he discovered that it was the latest batch of exam results - including Starbuck's. Not only had Starbuck passed his exams, he'd scored the highest out of everyone who had taken them. A promotion was almost guaranteed now. This news made him even more miserable than before, but he supposed he should inform Starbuck of his success.

In his own quarters, Starbuck was also miserable. He couldn't believe he'd broken down when he'd been with Galen. He'd cried like a baby. Why? Because even though Galen had been very good in bed, he wasn't the one Starbuck wanted. All he could think of was that he wanted Apollo in that bed and no one else. Not even Galen, though after the way he'd acted Galen probably wouldn't want him anyway. He'd thought that it might be fun to have someone with whom he could have casual sex once in awhile, sex with no strings attached, no commitments. But that one brief encounter with Galen had shown him that it wouldn't satisfy him. He wanted Apollo, and even though he couldn't have Apollo, no one else would do.

The door chime woke him from his reverie, and he opened the door to find Apollo standing there. "May I come in?" the Captain asked.

Starbuck stood aside and allowed Apollo to enter. "I haven't seen your quarters before," his friend observed. "They're... nice."

The Lieutenant snorted. "No they're not. They're small and cramped and dark and I have almost no furniture."

*But you do have a bed,* Apollo thought silently.

"So, to what do I owe the pleasure of your company?" Starbuck asked sarcastically.

"I came to tell you that you passed your exams, not only passed them but aced them," Apollo told him. "You'll get that promotion you wanted. You deserve it."

"You had to come here in person to tell me that? Couldn't you just have sent me a note?"

"I wanted to tell you in person. I wanted to congratulate you and tell you that I'm happy for you."

"But you're not happy for me," Starbuck observed.

Apollo turned so that his back was to his wingmate. "No, I'm not. I feel like this is the end of our friendship. You won't be my wingmate anymore. I've lost you completely. But then I never really had you in the first place, did I? You don't belong to anyone. You never have."

*That's not true,* Starbuck thought. *I belong to you. I always have.* "Apollo, what are you trying to tell me? I don't understand."

Still refusing to look at the other man, Apollo took the plunge. "I love you, Starbuck. I have for as long as I can remember. I never told you because I didn't want to ruin our friendship. I knew you loved women. Then I saw you last night with Galen, and it hit me hard. You were with a man, but not with me. I know there's not much left of our friendship. It's probably too late for me to tell you any of this."

A myriad of emotions ran through Starbuck: surprise, confusion, uncertainty, but most of all joy. "Apollo, turn around."

Apollo did as he was told, but still wouldn't look at Starbuck.

The lieutenant walked over to his friend, put a hand under his chin and raised his face up so that they could look into each other's eyes. "Look at me," he said. "What do you see?"

"My best friend. The man I love more than anything in the universe."

Starbuck smiled at that answer. "Do you see how much I love you?"

"How much you... what?" Apollo asked, not daring to believe what he thought he'd just heard.

"How much I love you, Apollo. I love you so very much."

"But if we love each other, why have we been making each other absolutely miserable for the last couple of sectares?"

Shaking his head, Starbuck replied, "I don't know. All I wanted was to make you happy. I thought if I gave up all my bad habits and made myself into the best officer I could be, then you might love me. When it didn't seem to be working, I started pushing you away. I knew that a promotion would probably mean we wouldn't be wingmates anymore, so I started distancing myself in the hopes that it wouldn't hurt so much to be separated from you."

"You thought that if you were a better officer, then I would love you? Oh, Star, I loved you before you made all these changes. I thought the reason you were doing all of this was that you didn't want to be my wingmate anymore. I thought you wanted a promotion so that you didn't have to be with me."

"Looks like we both jumped to the wrong conclusions," Starbuck observed. "So what happens now? I'm going to be promoted and that means we'll be separated."

'Not if I have anything to say about it," Apollo answered. He took Starbuck into his arms. "These last few sectons without you have been almost more than I could bear. I don't want to be apart from you for another micron. I'm not going to let them break us up. I'll take a demotion if I have to."

Revelling in the feel of his loved one's arms around him, Starbuck replied, "I don't want you to do that, 'Pol. If it comes down to it, I'll refuse the promotion. But I don't think it will. The Commander and Tigh won't want to demote you and they will want to promote me. They won't want to lose either of us. If we tell them we don't want to be separated, I'm sure they'll find some way to keep us together."

Apollo kissed him then, and they didn't talk for a few centons. If anyone had asked, they would have said that kissing each other wasn't as good as they'd imagined. It was better.

When they broke apart for air, Apollo asked, "What do we do now?"

Starbuck had a few ideas, but he was pretty sure that wasn't what Apollo meant. "What do we do about what?" he asked.

"About us," Apollo answered. "We've said that we love each other. Okay, that's a good start, but what happens tomorrow, and the next day, the next secton, the next sectare? Where do we go from here?"

"We could go to bed," Starbuck suggested.

Apollo groaned. "I want that just as much as you do, Star, but I think we need to talk first."

"About what?" Starbuck wanted to know. "I love you. You love me. What's there to talk about?"

"Starbuck, you were just with another man last night!"

"He doesn't mean anything to me. I was only with him because I thought I couldn't have you. He knows how I feel about you."

"What kind of relationship do we have, Star?" Apollo continued. "Are we friends? Lovers? Two people who just frack each other once in a while? Are we exclusive or do we date other people?"

Starbuck wrapped his arms around Apollo's waist. "I hope that we can be friends and lovers both," he said. "I don't want to see other people. I want you and only you. But if that's not what you want...."

Apollo shushed him with a kiss. "I only want you," he assured the other man. "I want us to be lovers, not just two people who share a bed. You are my best friend and the one that I love."

"So where does that leave us? What kind of relationship do we have?"

"The forever kind, I hope," Apollo replied.

"Forever?" Starbuck asked. "You really want me forever?"

"I do. Is there some reason you thought I wouldn't?"

"No, it's just that no one has ever wanted me forever before. I know that I want you forever. I just never hoped that you would want that from me."

"Star, I will love you forever. Do you believe me?"

"Yes," Starbuck sighed. He kissed Apollo, who was quite happy to kiss back, and soon they were moving toward the bed.

They stopped short when Apollo saw the rumpled semen- and sweat-stained sheets, evidence of Starbuck's activities with Galen the night before. Feeling his lover's hesitation, Starbuck began to worry. "What's wrong, Pol? Don't you want this? Don't you want me?"

"I do want you, Star, it's just..." He directed a significant glance toward the bedsheets.

Realizing the source of Apollo's reluctance, Starbuck quickly removed the sheets and tossed them into the laundry. "He doesn't mean anything to me, Pol. Only you do. Only you, now and forever."

"Star, how you can dismiss him so easily? He must have meant something to you for you to sleep with him."

Starbuck sat on the bed with a heavy sigh. "He was a substitute. I don't even know anything about him. He knew how I felt about you, though. He offered himself to me to take my mind off you, but it didn't work. It only made me want you more."

"I went to see him," Apollo admitted.

"You went to see Galen? Why?"

"I wanted to know what his intentions were. I wanted to know if he was going to hurt you. I wanted to know what it was about him that made you fall into bed with him so quickly."

"That last one I can answer," Starbuck told him. "It wasn't anything about him. It was about me. I was lonely and horny. He was there and he wanted me. It's flattering to have someone want you like that. After the complete frack-up I made with the exams and the stims and everything, I wasn't feeling all that great about myself."

Apollo sat on the bed next to Starbuck and took him into his arms. "I'm sorry," he said. "I know I've been getting on your case a lot lately. That wouldn't have made you feel any better."

Starbuck accepted the comfort Apollo was offering and leaned into his embrace. Eventually, he asked, "What did you find out?"

"What did I find out about what?"

"About Galen's intentions toward me."

"Actually, I never did find out what they were. He informed me that you were in love with me and that I'd been too blind and stupid to notice. I believe his exact words were, 'You're an idiot.' "

Starbuck laughed. "How did you react to that? Did you report him for insubordination to a superior officer?"

"No, he asked for permission to speak freely and I gave it to him. Anyway, I deserved it. Star, he told me that after the two of you made love, you cried."

"Frack," Starbuck swore. "I didn't want anyone to know about that. And by the way, we didn't make love. We had sex. That's all."

Apollo tightened his embrace around his lover. "Star, don't be ashamed of crying. You said it made you feel good to have someone want you. I can't describe how it makes me feel to know how much you want me, that you couldn't stop thinking about me even with another man in your bed. But I don't ever want to make you cry again."

Starbuck began kissing his way from Apollo's mouth down his neck to his collarbone. "Only tears of joy, my love."


"Pol, I was wondering something. Are you always going to remember that I slept with Galen in this bed? Will that bother you?"

"I can't promise not to think about it," Apollo admitted. "However, I think there's a solution to that problem."

"Really? What's that?"

"Move into my quarters with me. That is unless you're really attached to these quarters."

"Very funny," Starbuck answered. "Single officers without families aren't a high priority when it comes to assigning quarters, and this is the best I could get. They're better than the Bachelor Officers' Quarters, but just barely."

"Is that a yes?"

Starbuck kissed him. "Most definitely yes."

"I think we should go see Galen," Apollo suggested a bit later. "We should thank him. He brought us together."

"Sounds like a good idea to me," Starbuck agreed.

But when they got to the cadets' barracks, no one had ever heard of Galen. "No one registered here by that name," the supervising officer told them.

Apollo shrugged. "Maybe he moved into his own quarters."

"In one day?" Starbuck asked skeptically. They checked the computer, but no one named "Galen" was listed as being aboard the Galactica, or indeed anywhere in the fleet.

"That is very strange," Starbuck observed. "Check the exam roster. He said he was in the Academy program."

No one except Starbuck was listed as having written exams that day.

"This is impossible," Apollo exclaimed in frustration. "He was there. I saw him in the examination room. Maybe Sheba saw him in the Officers Club that night."

But when they asked her, Sheba couldn't recall having seen him.

They speculated that he wasn't actually using the name Galen, that perhaps it was a pseudonym, but when they circulated his physical description in the cadets' barracks and in the Bachelor Officers Quarters, no one remembered seeing him.

Finally, they went to see Commander Adama and told him of their search. Though they didn't go into details, they told Adama that they were lovers and that Galen had "helped" them get together. "But no one can recall ever having seen him," Apollo told his father.

"I wonder..." mused the Commander. "No, it's impossible. That was more than thirty yahrens ago."

"I'm beginning to believe nothing is impossible," Apollo replied. "Tell me what you're thinking."

Adama told Apollo that just over thirty yahrens ago, before Apollo had been born, he and Apollo's mother, Ila, had been having some problems in their marriage. They had still been newlyweds and were both having trouble adjusting to the day to day reality of living with each other. Adama's frequent absences on Colonial duty hadn't helped matters.

"One night we had a terrible fight, and I walked out," Adama admitted. "We were living on a base with other Fleet personnel, and I went to the officers' club. I was quite determined to get myself well and truly drunk. I met a young woman there and started to flirt with her."

"I don't like the sound of this," Starbuck muttered.

"Neither do I," Apollo added.

Adama continued. "I was getting quite friendly with this woman when this stranger came along. I'd never seen him before. He said his name was Galen and he offered to buy me a drink. I accepted, and he said that I had to leave the young woman's table in order to get my drink. For some reason I went along with him."

"Then what happened?" Apollo demanded.

"Well, Galen saw my Sealing ring and started to ask me about my wife. By the time I finished my drink a couple of centares had passed. The woman I'd been flirting with had gone. I asked Galen if he'd seen where she went and he told me that I was acting like an idiot and that I should go home to my wife. So I did. That was the night I found out that she was pregnant with you, Apollo."

"Did you ever see Galen again?" Apollo asked.

"No. I asked around the base but no one had ever heard of him. No one who was in the officers club that night remembered seeing him."

"Do you remember what he looked like?" Starbuck asked.

"It was more than thirty yahrens ago, Starbuck."

"Please, can you try? Even a vague description would help."

"All right," Adama sighed. He gave what was indeed a very vague description. It could have been the same Galen; then again, it could have been almost anyone.

"I wonder if it was the same man," Apollo mused.

"It couldn't have been, Apollo. How could he not have aged in thirty yahrens?"

"Maybe he's a messenger of the Lords," Apollo suggested.

"I think you're reading too much into this, Apollo. This man that you and Starbuck met must just be one of the refugees who gave you a false name."

Apollo and Starbuck gave up. Maybe they would see Galen again, or maybe not. Either way, they knew that they owed him a debt of gratitude.

"Do you really think he was a messenger of the Lords, Pol?" Starbuck asked when they were in bed that night in their quarters.

"I don't know. I mean, it was awfully coincidental that someone with the same name stopped my father from doing something that could have destroyed his marriage. If he and my mother had split up, and he hadn't raised me, I might not have become a warrior at all. I might not have been assigned to the Galactica. I might not have met you."

"Well, I'm awfully glad you did meet me. But why would the Lords intervene to get you and me together?"

"I don't know, at least not yet," Apollo admitted. "The Lords reveal their plans in their own time. But remember when we were on the lightship? They said that you needed me."

"As I recall, they said that was because I was 'unrestrained.' I've changed since then."

"Are you going to keep those changes?" Apollo asked.

Starbuck thought for awhile. "I don't know. You said you liked the old me just fine."

"I did, but the new you has some pretty good qualities too. Maybe you could mix the two together. I have to admit that I like having the reports in on time, and I don't miss losing my money at the Pyramid tables. But I don't want you to act like a complete automaton, either."

"And I will say that I do like being able to sleep once in awhile, especially when I have you to share a bed with."

"Did we ever decide which one is the real Starbuck?" Apollo asked.

"They both are," Starbuck answered.

Apollo laughed. "Will the real Starbuck please stand up?" he joked, referring to a quiz program that ran on IFB.

Starbuck took his hand and moved it to his erect penis. "He already is."