"Apollo, do you love me?" Starbuck asked.

Apollo turned his attention from the ale he'd been nursing for the last half-centare. "Excuse me?" he asked, his eyebrows raised.

"I asked you if you love me," Starbuck replied. "Do you?" He and Apollo were alone, and the tables nearest to theirs were empty, so he felt safe asking this question in a public place.

"Why do you want to know?"

"It's a Cassie thing. So do you love me or not?"

"What does Cassie have to do with whether I love you or not?" Apollo wanted to know. Seeing Starbuck's glare, he said, "Yeah, well, I guess so."

"You 'guess so'? What kind of answer is that? I hope you don't talk that way to Sheba."

"I love you. You're my best friend. You're the one I trust with my life. Are you satisfied now?"

Starbuck took a moment to process what Apollo had said. He knew his wingmate and friend cared about him, but had never heard him put it into words like that before. "Yes, I'm satisfied. Thank you."

"Now, what does Cassie have to do with this?" Apollo wanted to know.

Starbuck turned a bit pink. "She says I don't talk about feelings. She can count the number of times I've told her I love her on one hand. Maybe even one finger," he sighed.


"What do you mean, 'and?'"

"What does all this have to do with me?" Apollo asked.

"Oh. I told her it was a guy thing."

"You told her what was a guy thing?"

"Talking about feelings," Starbuck answered. "I told her that guys just don't say those kinds of things that often. She said that not all guys are like that. I suppose she means Cain wasn't like that."

"That's not necessarily what she meant," Apollo said, trying to sound reassuring.

"Anyway," Starbuck continued, "she asked me if I'd ever told you that I love you. I told her that men don't say that kind of thing to each other, and she told me to ask you if you love me. She said she was sure you wouldn't have a problem saying it. If you didn't have trouble saying it, then I guess it's some kind of proof that not all men have trouble talking about feelings."

"So do you?"

"Do I what?"

"Do you love me?"

"Oh. Well, yeah. I do love you. You're like family to me."

Apollo grinned. "Now, was that so hard?"

Again, Starbuck thought for a few moments. Actually, it hadn't been nearly as hard as he'd thought it would be. Somehow it felt natural to say that to Apollo, when it didn't feel natural with Cassie. He wondered why that was. "No, it wasn't that hard."

Apollo got up from their table. Squeezing his friend's shoulder, he said, "Try it with Cassie. Surely if you can say it to me, you can say it to her."

"Yeah. I guess I can," Starbuck said, though he wasn't so sure about that.

For the next few days Starbuck actively avoided Cassiopeia. He tried to figure out why it was so easy to express his platonic love for his wingmate when he couldn't express his romantic love for his girlfriend.

Well, it could simply be that he'd known Apollo for something like 20 yahrens, since they were kids. He was completely at ease around him, as he was with few other people. When he was with Cassie he could never fully relax. He was always wondering what new demands she would put on him, or what she'd say he'd done to upset her. When he was her, he wasn't fully himself. He was what she wanted him to be, or he was trying to be what she wanted him to be, but he didn't seem to be succeeding.

Things finally came to a head about a secton after Starbuck and Apollo's conversation in the OC. Starbuck knew he couldn't avoid Cassiopeia forever, so he made up an excuse for his absence -- having to catch up on some reports for Apollo -- and tried to pretend that nothing had changed.

"So did you ask Apollo if he loves you?" Cassie demanded.

"Yeah, I did. And he does."

"Did he have any trouble saying it? Did he tell you that men don't say 'I love you' to each other?"

Starbuck was forced to admit that Apollo hadn't had trouble, and that he hadn't said anything about men not saying 'I love you.'

"What about you? Did you tell Apollo you love him?" the med tech asked.

"Yeah," Starbuck answered.

"Why can you say it to Apollo and not to me?"

"Apollo's different. I've known him for yahrens. It's not like I'm in love with him or anything."

"Sometimes I wonder," Cassie sniffed. "Seems to me that you prefer being with him to being with me."

"Maybe that's because he doesn't nag me about feelings all the time," Starbuck muttered.

Meanwhile, Apollo also spent some time thinking about his unusual conversation with Starbuck in the Officers Club. He, Apollo, didn't normally have trouble talking about feelings, at least not to women. Not to Serena, certainly, though there had been that one time when she'd embarrassed the hell out of him by telling him she loved him in the middle of a cadet training session.

But what about Starbuck? He certainly did love his friend. Starbuck was as close to him as a brother -- closer, even. Why had he never said anything to Starbuck about his feelings? He hadn't thought it was necessary. He'd just assumed Starbuck knew, without his having to put it into words.

But he knew that everyone likes to hear that he's loved every once in awhile. He'd been surprised at how good it had felt to hear Starbuck say 'I love you' to him. He hadn't had any doubts that Starbuck loved him -- as a friend, of course -- but it had still been good to hear it. He didn't feel that way when Sheba told him she loved him, and Sheba was his girlfriend, possibly even his future wife.

Then again, whose idea was it that he might marry Sheba? His father's? Sheba's? He didn't recall ever actually entertaining the idea before Adama had mentioned it to the both of them during dinner one evening. Dropping a hint, obviously. He recalled that his father had done something similar when he'd brought Serena to family events.

He enjoyed being with Starbuck. He enjoyed Starbuck's company more than he enjoyed Sheba's. He didn't feel natural around Sheba. He felt like he had to be on his best behaviour, just like Boxey was when Sheba was around. Boxey certainly didn't feel he had to behave a certain way around Starbuck. Neither did Boxey's father.

But why was he comparing Starbuck to Sheba? He knew he wasn't in love with Sheba. Of course, he wasn't in love with Starbuck either.

Wasn't he?

Another few sectons passed, and Starbuck again had a confrontation with Cassiopeia. He'd had a date with her, and had cancelled it to do some extra Triad practice with Apollo. When he tried to make it up to her, she let him have it.

"Starbuck, it seems like you're with Apollo all the time. You're his wingmate. You're his Triad partner. You're his drinking buddy, even. Everywhere Apollo is, you're there too. It's like you're joined at the hip. I hardly ever see you."

"Cass, it's just a guy thing," Starbuck protested.

"A guy thing. There you go again. What kind of guy thing is it this time?"

"Well, you know. You have your girl friends, and I have my...." he let his sentence trail off.


"No, no. It's just that there are some things that men do, like play Triad, that women don't do."

"So if I started playing Triad, then would I see more of you?" Cassie asked.

"Women don't play Triad," Starbuck protested, though he kind of liked the idea of seeing women in Triad uniforms. He liked how Apollo looked in his Triad uniform. Wait a micron. Why was he thinking that way about Apollo?

"You mean that women haven't played Triad up until now. How do you know that I wouldn't be any good at it? Maybe I could even be your Triad partner."

"Apollo's my Triad partner," Starbuck immediately responded.

"Of course," Cassiopeia sighed. "Look, Starbuck, I really don't think this relationship of ours is working."

"Aw, Cass...." Starbuck started to protest, but he knew she was right. "I like you. I really do."

Cassie smiled sadly. "But you don't love me."


"You love Apollo."

"He's my best friend."

"I wish I could be that kind of friend to you. I wish you could talk to me as easily as you talk to Apollo. But obviously that's not what's meant for us." She kissed him. "Go be with your friend, and give him my love. Better yet, give him your love."

Over in Apollo and Boxey's quarters, Sheba was enthusiastically making plans. "And after we're married, we'll...."

"Hold on a centon," Apollo said.

"What is it, Apollo?" Sheba asked in concern.

"Have I actually asked you to marry me?"

Sheba frowned. "Well, no, actually, but I thought it was kind of understood. After what your father said...."

"My father doesn't make my decisions for me."

"So are you going to ask me, then?"

"Have I even told you I love you?" Apollo asked.

"Of course you have," Sheba answered.


Sheba thought for a few centons, and then thought for a few more centons. "I don't remember. But I'm sure you have. I mean, you must have."

Apollo shook his head. "Sheba, I like you. You're a good pilot. You've shown a lot of leadership in helping the others from the Pegasus integrate into the Galactica family."

"I sense a 'but' coming."

"I don't love you, Sheba. I'm sorry if I led you on. My father expected us to get married, and I just went along with it. But that's not what's right for me, and it wouldn't be fair to you to marry you just because my father wants me to."

"He wants you to be happy, Apollo," Sheba told him. "You know, it says in the Book of the Word that man was not meant to be alone."

"I'm not alone," Apollo replied.

Sheba got up and went to the door. Before she exited, she turned back to Apollo. "I want you to be happy, too."

He gave her a peck on the cheek. "I am happy. I hope that you will be, too."

After Sheba left Apollo stretched out on the longseat and relaxed. Being honest with Sheba had lifted a weight off his shoulders. He was relieved that he didn't have to pretend he loved her anymore.

What he had told her was true. He wasn't alone. He had his father, his sister and his son. And he had Starbuck. As long as he had Starbuck in his life, he'd be happy.

But what if Starbuck decided to marry Cassie? He seemed happy being a bachelor, but that could change. He himself had been happy as a bachelor until meeting Serena. They'd still be friends, of course, but marriage changed things. A married man usually wanted to spend time at home with his wife, didn't he? Apollo figured that Cassie wouldn't exactly approve if Starbuck continued to spend his nights drinking with his bachelor buddies after they were married.

If Starbuck got married, what would happen to their relationship?

Apollo remembered that when he had been engaged to Serena, he'd accused Starbuck of being jealous of her. Now he was jealous of Starbuck's girlfriend.

He'd been honest with Sheba. He'd been honest with himself. Now it was time to be honest with Starbuck. He knew Starbuck had a date with Cassie tonight, though, so it would have to wait.

Starbuck left Cassiopeia's quarters feeling a mixture of emotions. He was sorry that they'd broken up, because he hadn't wanted to hurt her, but he was also relieved. He'd spent the last few sectons of their relationship trying to figure out what would make her happy, and he obviously hadn't succeeded. He really did prefer playing Triad with Apollo to having dinner or going to a play with Cassie. He did like her. But he didn't love her.

Cassiopeia was right. He loved Apollo. Was that so strange? They'd practically grown up together. Their very lives depended on each other. How could Cassie be jealous of that?

Maybe because that wasn't all there was to his and Apollo's relationship. He'd been trying to deny it to himself, but it was true. He loved Apollo, and not just as his best friend, either.

He headed to Apollo's quarters.

Apollo was dozing on the longseat when he heard the knock at the door. Rising to open it, he was surprised to find Starbuck there. "I was just thinking about you," he said as he ushered his friend inside.

"That's good," Starbuck said, "because I was thinking about you, too. That's why I'm here."

"What exactly were you thinking about?" Apollo asked.

"That conversation we had. You know, the one about feelings."

"I've been thinking about it too," Apollo admitted.

"I can't stop thinking about it," Starbuck said.

"I can't stop thinking about you," Apollo blurted.

Starbuck was silent for a very long centon, then he said quietly, "I can't stop thinking about you, either."

"I broke up with Sheba," Apollo said suddenly.

"Cassie broke up with me," Starbuck said at the same time.

The two warriors stared at each other, suddenly feeling very self-conscious and unsure of themselves.

"Apollo, do you love me?" Starbuck asked.

"Yes," Apollo answered instantly. No 'I guess' this time. "Do you love me, Starbuck?"

"Yes, I do."

They were sitting very close to each other on the longseat. Almost without thinking about it, Apollo reached out and took Starbuck's hand in his. "Do you love me as your best friend?" he asked.

"Yes," Starbuck told him. "As my best friend, as my wingmate, as the one who holds my life in his hands when we're in battle.... As the person I can't imagine ever being without, the person I want to spend the rest of my life with. I love you, Apollo, and not just as a friend."

On impulse, Apollo leaned closer and kissed him. He lay his other hand on Starbuck's cheek. "I love you, definitely as more than a friend. I don't know when it happened, or how it happened. I just know that suddenly someone who was just a friend to me is now the only one I can ever imagine being with."

Starbuck kissed him then. "I don't think it was sudden, Apollo. I think we've been working up to this for a long time."

"I love you," Apollo said again.

Starbuck grinned. "I love you too."

"I notice you're not having any trouble talking about your feelings," Apollo teased.

"Well, you've always been easy to talk to. I guess that's one of the reasons I love you so much."