"We get out of here as soon as possible, send Boxey to Athena's, and go back to my quarters to make up for lost time."

"That sounds like a very good idea," said Starbuck, giving his new lover a quick kiss.

"And then," Apollo added, "when we come up for air, we tell my family that there is going to be another wedding."

"With Zac as best man, I hope," Starbuck put in.

"For both of us."

The two warriors sat and just looked at each other for a moment. Each could hardly believe the other was real. They'd denied their feelings for so long. Now, finally, they were together.

Apollo stood and offered his hand to Starbuck. "Let's go," he said. They said their goodbyes to Apollo's family - their family - and headed to the Captain's quarters.

Starbuck sat on Apollo's bed a bit nervously. Was he actually going to make love with the man he had dreamed of since he was a cadet? "Uh, hey, Pol?"

"What?" asked his lover, equally apprehensive.

"I know that Boxey is with Athena tonight, but what happens after that? If we're going to be sealed, I assume you want me to move in with you. What are we going to do about, well, you know, privacy?"

Apollo frowned. He hadn't really considered that. "I guess I'll have to ask ship's maintenance to sound proof the sleeping quarters," he answered.

Starbuck grinned. "That sounds good," he said. Then he was quiet for awhile.

"What's on your mind?" Apollo finally asked.

"Apollo," the Lieutenant answered, "I love you, you know that I do, but -"

He saw that his words seemed to have upset Apollo. It must have been the word 'but.' At least this time his friend hadn't jumped to conclusions. He seemed to be waiting, tensely, for the other shoe to drop. Starbuck decided to rephrase his statement.

"I love you, Pol," he said again. "And I've never been with a man before. It freaks me out a little."

Relieved, Apollo relaxed. "I'm scared too," he admitted. "I've never been with a man before, either. I think I have a pretty good grasp of the mechanics, and I'm still nervous."

Starbuck reached out and pulled his lover into an embrace. "We have time," he said. "We have all the time in the universe. We can go slow, figure things out one step at a time."

"Do we have time?" Apollo asked in a slightly bitter voice. "You know what happened to Zac, and what almost happened to you when we were rescuing him. How do we know we have any time at all?"

"You're right," Starbuck admitted. "We don't know. But I don't want to rush into anything. I want us to get used to each other, get used to being together, before we try anything that might, well, hurt one of us."

"You mean anal sex," Apollo said bluntly.

"Well, yes. Not like that's the only way for us to make love, though, Pol. There are so many things we can do to give each pleasure. We don't have to do that."

"I want to make love with you. I just don't think I'm ready for that yet. One day, I want us to do it. I want to be inside you. I want you to be inside me."

Starbuck kissed him. "When we're both ready," he promised.

Apollo kissed him back, and soon they were undressing each other. The dress uniforms they'd worn to Zac's sealing were tossed aside like rags. They made love, finding ways to give each other pleasure, just as Starbuck had said. Then they fell asleep in each other's arms, staying like that until morning.

The next morning Starbuck awoke feeling slightly disoriented. Where was he? There was a weight pressing down on him. What was it? He opened his eyes slowly, and discovered Apollo lying on top of him. He smiled to himself. Now he knew where he was. He stroked his lover's hair. Apollo opened first one eye, then the other.

"Good morning, beautiful," Starbuck said to him.

"You talking to yourself, Starbuck?"

"What makes you ask that?"

"You said 'beautiful.' That must mean you," Apollo told him with a grin.

"Idiot," his lover said fondly.

"Shall we get up?" Apollo suggested.

Starbuck placed a hand on his lover's groin. "Looks like you're already up," he answered.

It was some time before the two men got out of bed.

As the warriors were finishing their breakfast, Boxey came barrelling in. "Morning, Dad! Morning Starbuck!" He paused. "Starbuck? What are you doing here?"

"Keeping your dad company while you visited your aunt," the Lieutenant answered.

"Oh. Okay." And Boxey continued racing around to get ready for his learning period.

"Thank you," said Apollo in relief. "Don't worry, I'll explain everything to him - just not while he's getting ready for school."

"How do you think he'll take it?"

Apollo turned thoughtful. "I don't think he'll have a problem with it. I know he loves you. No one could ever replace his mother, but I think you'll make a pretty good second father."

Second father. He was gaining an instant family. Adama had told him to consider himself part of the family, saying he thought of Starbuck as another son. That gained him a father, a brother and a sister. Of course, his feelings for Apollo were anything but brotherly. Now he had a son. All those years of being an orphan, and now he had a family.

"Something wrong, Star?" Apollo asked, seeing the serious look on his lover's face.

Starbuck brushed at the tears that were forming. "I just ... I never thought of having children before. Thank you for sharing your son with me."

"Not *my* son, *our* son."

As Starbuck prepared to return to the Bachelor Officers' Quarters, Apollo stopped him. "Why don't you get your things and bring them back here?" he suggested.

"Apollo, we're not sealed yet."

Apollo blushed. "I know I'm usually the old-fashioned one, but it takes so long to plan a wedding ... I don't want to spend another night without you. I want you here with me, in my bed - in our bed, every night from now on."

"We could go to the Commander and ask him to seal us today. All we'd need is a witness."

Apollo seriously considered that option for several centons, and finally, reluctantly, rejected it. "No, I want my family involved. Zac, Athena, Boxey, my father, our friends. I don't need it to be as elaborate as Zac's was, but like you suggested, I want him to be our best man. Until then - will you move in?"

"As soon as I've finished my patrol," Starbuck promised.

Later that day, as Apollo sat in his office finishing some reports, he was surprised to see his brother come in. "Why aren't you with your beautiful wife?" he asked. "Surely the honeymoon isn't over already."

"Hey, a man can only spend so much time in bed, even with a woman as wonderful as Cassie," answered Zac. "Look, I need to talk to you about something."

"What is it?"

"I want to go back into flight training. Become a warrior. I'm still technically a cadet, though I haven't flown a viper since I ... since I got back."

"No," Apollo stated flatly.

"No? Why the frack not?"

"You're not well."

"I've had a clean bill of health from Dr. Salik." Zac produced a letter from the doctor.

"Emotionally, then. You were tortured, Zac. You can't tell me that didn't cause damage to your psyche."

"No, I can't tell you that. But Starbuck was a prisoner once, and he's still a warrior. So is Cree." Cree had been held prisoner by the Cylons on the ice planet Arcta.

"I will not admit you to flight training, Zac. That's my final answer. Go be with your wife. Dismissed."

Furious, Zac stormed out of his brother's office and went straight to the Commander. Without preamble, he shouted, "Father, I demand to be allowed back into flight training!"

"Zac, calm down," said Adama. "Tell me what this is about."

"I asked Apollo to admit me to flight training with the next group of cadets," he explained. "I want to be a warrior and defend my people. Apollo refused my request."

"Can you blame him?" his father asked. "I'm not saying he's right, but look at it from his perspective. The very first mission you flew almost resulted in your death. In fact, we thought it had. He's frightened."

"Okay, he's frightened. But he can't just refuse my application because he's frightened."

Adama sighed. Both of his sons were stubborn men. He supposed they came by that honestly enough. Ila had certainly thought so.

"I'll talk to him. I can't promise anything. But I'll try."

"Thank you."

"Don't thank me yet. Listen, Zac, isn't there some other way you could serve the fleet? I can't say I like the idea of your becoming a warrior. I won't stop you, but I wish you would do something else."

"Father, I am a warrior. It's in my blood. I can't imagine being anything else."

The Commander took a deep breath. He had to let his son grow up. Zac had been through more than most other Colonial warriors could even imagine. "What does Dr. Salik say?"

"He says I'm perfectly healthy."

"And your mental condition? What happens the first time you face a Cylon ship in battle?"

"I deal with it," Zac answered.

"How does your wife feel about your becoming a warrior?"

"She's not thrilled, but she understands. She's been in relationships with warriors before."

"Speaking of Cassiopeia, why aren't you with her on the day after your wedding?"

"I'm on my way back to her right now, sir," Zac replied with a smile, and left.

Apollo returned to his quarters in a foul mood. When he remembered who was there waiting for him, though, he brightened. Starbuck had agreed to move in with him, he remembered, and should be there already. He'd made certain to give him the lock code.

Sure enough, Starbuck was in his - now their - living quarters entertaining Boxey with card tricks.

"Hello, Captain," his lover greeted him.

Apollo kissed him. "Why so formal?"

"I thought I should show you the proper respect in front of your son."

"Yeah, right, Starbuck," Boxey said.

Starbuck sighed. "Busted," he said.

Apollo turned to his son. "Boxey, how would you feel about Starbuck coming to live with us?"

"Really? Starbuck live with us? That would be great, wouldn't it, Muffit?" he asked his robotic daggit. The droid barked in response to his human owner's excited tone of voice. "Muffit thinks it would be great, too."

"I'm glad I have Muffit's approval," said Starbuck. "And yours."

Apollo continued, "And after Starbuck moves in with us, he and I are going to get sealed, like Zac and Cassiopeia were."

"Cool," replied the boy. Then he frowned. "What does that make him? You were sealed to my mom."

"Serena will always be your mother. Starbuck will be ..." he hesitated, "He'll be your stepfather."

"But you're my stepfather."

"Actually, I adopted you after I married your mother, so I'm your father."

"Oh. So, you're my dad, and Starbuck will be my stepdad?"


"Cool," he said again. He hugged Starbuck. "I'm glad."

When Boxey went to his room to do his schoolwork, Apollo turned to Starbuck. "That went well, I think."

"It went very well," Starbuck agreed. He moved close to Apollo on the couch, and Apollo put an arm around him and gave him a hug and kiss.

"I needed that," Apollo sighed.

"Bad day, love?"

"Zac wants to go back into flight training."

"And you don't want him to."

"After what he went through, I'm afraid that the first time he's faced with Cylons in battle, he'll freeze up," Apollo explained.

"Couldn't you find that out with a simulator?" Starbuck asked. "They can be pretty realistic."

"I don't want to make his condition worse. Even a simulator could traumatize him. I can't take that risk."

"What does Dr. Salik say?"

"Salik can vouch for his physical condition, but not his mental condition."

"What about the Commander? What's his opinion?" Starbuck inquired gently, mindful of how sensitive Apollo obviously was about the subject.

"I don't know. I haven't talked to him yet."

"Maybe you should."

"Right now, there are things I would much rather be doing," Apollo told him.

"Oh, really? Such as what?"

So Apollo showed him, but quietly, since he hadn't had a chance to soundproof their sleeping quarters yet.

The next day, Apollo arrived at the Commander's office to talk to his father. "You wanted to see me?"

"Yes, Apollo, please sit down. It's about Zac."

"Is this about admitting him to flight training? Because I've already told him I won't do it."

"Why won't you? He's healthy, and he was almost finished training when he was captured. The fleet needs warriors, Apollo."

"Not warriors who could freeze up the first time they're confronted with a Cylon. You know what happened to him, Father. We all do."

"Do you know for certain that's what he'll do?" asked Adama. He was walking a fine line here, wanting to be fair to both of his sons. He needed to acknowledge Apollo's fears while determining if there was actually a good reason for denying Zac the opportunity to prove himself.

"No, but I can't take the risk. Don't you see, Father, if I let him go out there and something happens, I could be endangering both him and the fleet."

"There are tests you can give him. All warrior candidates have to undergo quite rigorous testing before they graduate from training," Adama pointed out.

"We don't have any trained psychologists to administer those tests," Apollo objected.

"That's true, to some extent, " Adama agreed, "but the fleet has quite a few medical personnel who have some training in psychology, even if they are not licensed psychologists. They've been administering the tests to warrior candidates since the time when the pilots got sick at your bachelor party and we needed to train their replacements in a hurry.. So far, we haven't had any warriors who have frozen in battle. Give Zac the tests, Apollo, and send me the results. I'll make the final decision."

So, with a great deal of reluctance, Apollo agreed to give Zac the tests that all potential warriors have to take to determine mental competence. He passed, and Apollo again went to see his father.

"I see no reason to deny Zac entrance into flight training," the Commander told the Captain.

"It's too risky," Apollo objected.

"Apollo, being a warrior is always risky."

"I will not let Zac into flight training."

"You must."

"I'm Strike Captain. I approve all candidates, and I do not approve Zac."

"And I am the Commander. I hate to pull rank on you, Apollo, but I see no other choice. Zac will start training with the next class."

"In that case, they'll have to find another instructor, because I quit, both as flight trainer and squadron leader."

Adama was faced with a dilemma. He needed Apollo to train the next class of flight cadets and he needed him as leader of Blue Squadron. The fleet couldn't lose him. But he hated giving in to blackmail. "All right," he sighed. "I won't force you to admit Zac to flight training." He'd just have to find another way to train his younger son as a warrior. "Dismissed."

Starbuck was off-duty and waiting for Apollo to join him in their quarters when the door chime rang. He opened the door to admit Zac.

"You don't look happy," Starbuck observed.

"That's because I'm not. Apollo has refused to allow me to train as a warrior."

"I thought the Commander ordered him to."

"He did, but Apollo said if I was admitted to the next class of flight cadets, he wouldn't train any of them. He even threatened to quit being squadron leader."

"I'm sorry, Zac. I wish there was something I could do," Starbuck said sympathetically.

"There is. You could train me yourself."

"Oh no, Zac. I am not getting on Apollo's bad side again."

"Please, Starbuck? I've already asked Lt. Boomer and he's agreed to share the training with you. Apollo doesn't have to find out. You know I can be a good warrior, Starbuck. What Apollo's doing is not fair and shouldn't be allowed."

Starbuck was between the proverbial rock and hard place. He agreed that Apollo's behaviour was inappropriate for a Strike Captain, and in fact bordered on childish. He knew why Apollo was doing it: he was terrified of losing his little brother again. But warriors took those risks every day. It was part of being a warrior. He himself was terrified of losing Apollo, but he wouldn't try to stop his lover from doing his job.

There was also the question of how he could do this without Apollo finding out. After all, they shared quarters. How could he sneak around without arousing suspicion?

"Please, Starbuck?" Zac repeated.

Frack. "All right, kid. When do we start?"

Nervously, Starbuck approached the Commander's office. He wanted Adama to know of Zac's plan to take flight training from him and Boomer. The Commander had been good to him, and he hoped that wouldn't change once he knew what Starbuck was about to do.

"Come in, Starbuck. It's good to see you. Have you worked things out with Apollo?" The Commander had tried to intervene to get the two warriors back together when they'd had a dispute that tore them apart.

"Yes, sir, Apollo and I are together now."

"Good, good," Adama beamed. "You belong together."

"We're planning to be sealed to each other." Starbuck wondered how the Commander would feel about that.

"That's wonderful, Starbuck. I'm so happy for the two of you. Now you really will be my son."

"There's something else I need to talk to you about," Starbuck began nervously.

"What is it, Starbuck? Remember, you can tell me anything, and I won't tell Apollo if you don't want me to."

"Zac has asked me and Boomer to give him flight training, since Apollo won't let him into the class."

"I was afraid something like that would happen. I want Zac to have training, even though I'd much rather he stayed on the ship and never went near a viper again. But it's what he wants, and I hate to deny it to him. Are you going to do it?"

'Yes," admitted Starbuck reluctantly.

"How does this affect your new relationship with Apollo?"

"He doesn't know yet. I know I'll have to tell him eventually, or he'll find out, one way or the other, but I hope that we can get enough of Zac's training in before that so that he can graduate with the others."

"Starbuck, you realize that when Apollo does find out, he may go as far as to break off your engagement. Are you prepared to deal with that?"

"No," Starbuck said miserably. "I don't think I'll ever be prepared for that. But I have to do this, for Zac. What Apollo's doing is wrong, sir. I know how scared he is that something will happen to Zac, but the risk is the same for every pilot. Zac can't have any special treatment, either giving him or denying him anything because he's your son and Apollo's brother. And I know Apollo is also scared something will happen to me, like the time I was captured - what if he decides he doesn't want *me* to be a pilot next?"

"Is there anything I can do to help, Starbuck?"

"Well, if you know of any way to stop Apollo from discovering what we're doing ..."

"I'll tell him I've given you a special assignment. How about that?"

Starbuck looked relieved. "That would help, sir, thank you."

Later that day, Boomer and Starbuck met Zac in the viper bay. "I realize you've done most of this before, Zac," Boomer commented, "so just consider this a review."

"It's been a long time," answered Zac. "I could use a review."

They started off with the simulator. Zac was a bit nervous, but soon got the hang of it. The warriors went over all the information a new pilot needed; how to wear a pressure suit, the functions of the various instruments in a viper cockpit, the right way to aim the viper's lasers.

When the first day's lessons were finished, Zac turned to his two friends. "I can't tell you how much it means to me that you two are doing this for me. I know you're risking my brother's wrath. Thank you."

Starbuck sighed a little and turned away. He knew that if and when Apollo found out, their relationship would likely be at an end. The Captain didn't like dishonesty.

That night, as Starbuck lay in his lover's arms, he wondered how much longer they would have together. The two of them had once had a discussion about the possibility that one of them could be taken away, fall victim to a lucky shot from a Cylon or malfunctioning equipment. They'd agreed to cherish every moment they had together, and not think about such morbid things. So he would treasure the time they had against the day when Apollo would discover his deception and leave him.

"Hey, Star?" Apollo suddenly broke into his thoughts. "There's a few things we haven't talked about since we've been together. I just want to make sure we're working off the same page, here."

"What do you mean?" Starbuck asked nervously.

"Well, I imagine both of us have certain expectations from a relationship, things we expect from the other person, and behaviour we won't accept. I wanted to make sure we're both clear on what those things are."

"Okay, what are they?" Starbuck asked.

"You first."

"Hmm." Starbuck thought for a while. "All I really expect is that you'll love me, Pol. I think everything else comes along with that. As for things I won't accept, well, infidelity, I guess."

"That's all?"

"That's everything I can think of at this moment. What about you?"

It was Apollo's turn to think. "I expect that you'll love me, and be here for me, and that you'll take care of Boxey if anything happens to me," he began. "What I won't accept: infidelity, hurting any member of my family, especially Boxey, physical abuse - not that I think you'll do any of those things - and dishonesty. I hate being lied to." He searched his lover's face, looking for acceptance. "Do you understand?"

Starbuck hugged him tightly. "I understand, Pol," he said, "I understand." And he was more certain than ever that his days as Apollo's lover were numbered.

Zac went into the lounge, looking for his fellow cadets. He'd let some of them know about his 'private' flight training. Most of them were supportive. They didn't like his having to lie to Apollo, since they did like their training officer, but they understood why he had to do it.

"We're surprised to see you here at all, Zac," one cadet remarked. "What with your being a newlywed and all."

"Especially when you're married to a former socialator," another put in. His friend tried to shush him, but it was too late. Zac's fist impacted with his jaw. Soon, chairs as well as fists were flying, and the enlisted personnel's lounge was in chaos. Security was called to break up the fight. The wounded were taken to Life Centre; the rest were detained for Captain Apollo to deal with.

Apollo grumbled as he was summoned from his quarters. A group of cadets had started a brawl in the Enlisted lounge, and it was his job to pick up the pieces. He marched into the room where the men were waiting for him. He was surprised to see Zac with them. What was his brother doing with a group of flight cadets?

"Anyone want to tell me what happened?" he asked in a deathly calm tone.

One of the cadets spoke up. "Cadet Bosco insulted Cadet Zac's wife, and Cadet Zac slugged him."

Apollo turned to his brother. " 'Cadet' Zac?"

"Long story. Tell you later," Zac responded.

"So, Cadet Zac hit Cadet Bosco. Then what happened?"

"Bosco hit him back, then Cadet Jonas jumped between them, and Bosco hit him. After that it all got kind of confusing," the cadet explained.

"Cadet Zac," Apollo turned back to his brother, "is that what happened?"

"Uh, yes, Captain."

Apollo faced the group of cadets. He was angry. In fact, he was pissed. Not only had the cadets started a brawl in the enlisted club - a place they had only recently been granted privileges - but somehow his brother, whom he had forbidden to take flight training, had become a cadet.

"Does anyone here know how Cadet Zac, who was denied entry into flight training, got to *be* a cadet?" he asked.

Bosco, who was pissed himself at having been sucker punched by Zac, answered. "From what I hear on the grapevine, two senior officers are training him in private."

"Zac, is that true?" Apollo asked.

"I'd rather not say, Captain."

"Fine. You're confined to quarters for the next secton. And if I catch you anywhere near the viper bay, I'll make it a yahren. Dismissed." He watched Zac leave, then turned to the others. "As for the rest of you, you are going to clean up the enlisted personnel's lounge and any repairs that are needed will come out of your pay. And if anyone has more information about Cadet Zac's 'private' flight training, come see me in my office. I'll be there for the next centare. You're all dismissed. Get to work."

As Apollo sat in his office filling out a report about the 'incident' in the enlisted lounge, a few cadets came to his office. Shyly, they told him what they had heard - that Lieutenants Starbuck and Boomer were training Zac privately. One cadet, slightly bolder than the others, added, "We just assumed you knew, since Lt. Starbuck lives with you and all." Apollo dismissed them, finished his report, and headed back to his quarters.

As he entered his living quarters he found Starbuck playing solitaire. "Starbuck," he addressed him a strained voice, "tell me it isn't true."

"Pardon me?" asked Starbuck in confusion.

"Please tell me you're not training Zac to fly a viper. Tell me it's a rumour."

Starbuck sighed. So he'd found out. "No, Apollo, it's not a rumour. Boomer and I are training Zac."

"Why? After I told you I don't want Zac to fly, why are you training him?"

"Because he passed his tests. Because he has the right to be a warrior like anyone else. Because it's what he wants."

"What about what I want?" Apollo asked. He didn't sound angry. He just sounded hurt. "Doesn't that matter to you?"

"Apollo, I never wanted to hurt you. If there was some other way to do this, I would do it. I hate going against your wishes, but I had to do what my conscience tells me is right."

"Starbuck, I told you that if you ever hurt any member of my family, our relationship would be over."

"I'm not hurting Zac. I'm helping him." "And that I won't tolerate dishonesty," Apollo continued.

"I didn't lie to you, Pol. I was going to tell you when Zac was finished his training, so that he could graduate with the other cadets."

"You kept the truth from me. That's dishonest."

"Is it over, Pol?" Starbuck asked, trying not to break down in front of Apollo.

"I don't know," sighed his lover. "I think you should leave. I need some time to think about this."

"All right. I'll get my things."

Starbuck didn't have many possessions, so it only took him a few centons to gather them together. He stood at the door for a long moment. "I love you, Pol."

"Goodbye, Starbuck."

And Starbuck left.

Apollo went to the Commander's office. He didn't bother to knock. "Did you know about this?" he asked.

"Know about what?" Adama asked calmly.

"Starbuck and Boomer training Zac!"

"Yes, I did."

"And you let it go on?"

"Yes. I'm sorry, Apollo, I should have told you. But I didn't want you to resign as training officer."

"You're damn right you should have told me!"

Adama had an idea. "Apollo, is it still your intention to resign if I ask you to accept Zac into training?"

"Yes, it is."

"Very well, then, I accept your resignation."

Apollo hadn't expected this. He hadn't thought he would have to go through with it. He wasn't a Pyramid player the way Starbuck was, and he hadn't expected his father to call his bluff. But now he did have to go through with it, for appearance's sake.

"Apollo, are you resigning your commission?" his father asked.

"No, I'm not," he answered.

Adama smiled. "Good. The fleet needs all the warriors it can get. Is there anything else?"

"No," Apollo admitted.

"All right, then. I have work to do, and I'm certain you do, too."

"Uh, yes, yes of course. Do I need to see about a replacement for training officer?"

"No, I'll take care of that. You're dismissed, Apollo."

And then Adama went to find Starbuck. He had the feeling the young man would need a shoulder to cry on. But he also had a job for the lieutenant.

Which was how Starbuck found himself as replacement training officer. Zac was one of his students now. Since Apollo wasn't doing the training, there was no need to keep him out of the class. Thanks to Starbuck and Boomer's rigorous training schedule, he was at the same level as the rest of the cadets.

It was obvious that some of the cadets expected that Adama's son would be given some kind of special treatment. Starbuck was careful to combat that impression. Zac was treated no differently than the rest. It was obvious how much he enjoyed his training. Sometimes Starbuck fancied he could see traces of the enthusiastic young man he'd been before his incarceration by the Cylons.

Graduation day arrived, and the cadets who had families in the fleet were encouraged to invite them to the ceremony Adama held for the graduating cadets. Those who did not were still encouraged to invite their friends and/or Significant Others. Adama knew that it was difficult for many in the fleet to think about the families they had lost in the Destruction, and he hoped that in some small way he could contribute to their forming new families.

Starbuck looked around the room at the people gathered for the graduation. No matter how many times he looked, he still didn't see Apollo. But really, what had he expected? Apollo hadn't wanted Zac to become a warrior. And he sure as Hades hadn't expected his lover to betray him by helping Zac become a warrior. At least Adama and Athena were there. Even though neither of them had wanted Zac to go back into flight training they had accepted it as Zac's decision to make.

Apollo hadn't exactly been communicative since he'd asked Starbuck to leave his quarters. He'd stepped down as head of Blue Squadron and Starbuck had taken his place there as well.

He didn't normally need to speak to Apollo when they were on duty; most of the time he didn't even have to see his former lover.

He chose Boomer as his wingman and deliberately scheduled Apollo's patrols separately from his own. While Apollo hadn't said that their relationship was definitely over, only that he needed time to think, he hadn't shown any sign of wanting to get back together in the sectons they'd been apart.

Starbuck sat back and tried to pay attention to Adama's words to the graduating class. In some small way they were his responsibility. They'd completed their training but they still needed quite a few centares of flying time to officially become warriors and no longer be cadets. It was Starbuck's job to fly patrol with them and assign other warriors to do the same. Fortunately the senior officers generally enjoyed flying with the cadets.

Just as Adama finished speaking, the red alert klaxon sounded. The message passed on from the bridge said that this was the real thing, not a drill, and required as many warriors as possible out there facing the Cylons. Starbuck scrambled Blue Squadron, then turned to his cadets. "Looks like you're about to get your baptism of fire," he told them.

While they were concerned about the Cylons and the safety of the fleet, the young warriors-to-be couldn't help but be excited about flying a real combat mission instead of routine patrols. Starbuck turned to Zac. "You're my wingman, Cadet." Zac tried to suppress a whoop of excitement. Starbuck couldn't help but smile. Yes, some of the 'old' Zac still remained.

The cadets showed their nervousness, but still proved themselves to be well-trained warriors. Starbuck was pleased to see that Zac was no more or less anxious than the other cadets. Suddenly there was a flash behind his viper and alarms started going off on his console. "Blue Squadron Leader to Galactica! I'm hit!" he announced on the radio. "I'm going to attempt a landing!"

Apollo heard the frantic call on the radio and saw flames shooting out from Starbuck's viper. He froze. Starbuck had been hit! He grabbed his own radio. "Starbuck, Starbuck, can you hear me? Where are you going to land? Are you hurt? How bad is the damage?" But there was no response. Frack! He searched for Starbuck's viper, but it was nowhere in sight. Had he lost Starbuck for good?

As he thought about Starbuck and the last conversation they'd had, which had ended in his throwing Starbuck out of the quarters he'd told his lover to consider 'theirs,' he didn't notice a Cylon fighter come up on his tail.

"Watch out, Apollo!" came his brother's voice on the radio, just in time to alert him. He pulled his viper away from the Cylon. "I've got your tail!" Zac said, and flew in behind him, blasting the Cylon out of the sky as he did so.

"Thank you," Apollo told his little brother. He couldn't help being impressed; Zac was out here, flying, not freezing up the way he himself had just done. He was proving to be a fine warrior. "Zac, did you see what happened to Starbuck?"

"He took his viper down to one of the planets nearby - the third one, I think. He has emergency oxygen with him, so as long as he isn't badly hurt in the landing, he'll be okay - hopefully - until we can get to him."

/As long as he isn't badly hurt/ Apollo would have said, 'assuming he survives the landing.' He had no idea how badly Starbuck's viper had been damaged - hopefully Zac knew more than he did, because his brief glimpse had made it look pretty bad.

Reluctantly, Apollo pushed thoughts of Starbuck out of his mind and concentrated on the Cylons. Boomer was squadron leader now that Starbuck wasn't here, and Apollo was sure Boomer wouldn't mind chewing out his Captain for not keeping his mind on his duty.

When the Cylons had finally been dealt with, the squadron headed back to the Galactica. Adama was waiting to congratulate the cadets. "You did a fine job out there," the Commander told them. "In fact, for that, I'm going to promote all of you. You've had your flying time, and you flew very well. All of you are now Ensigns." He turned to Zac. "I believe your wingman was hit?" he asked his younger son.

"Yes, sir. I'm just waiting for orders to go and find him."

"Understood. Take a shuttle and go get him."

Apollo stepped forward. "Commander, may I go with Zac? If Starbuck is hurt he may need someone to look after him while Zac flies the shuttle."

Adama knew what his son was really asking. "Go ahead." Apollo ran to the shuttle bay behind Zac.

As Apollo and Zac flew toward the planet they'd seen Starbuck heading for, Apollo tentatively addressed his brother. "Um, Zac, I .. I'm sorry."

"For what?" asked Zac in distraction as he piloted the shuttle.

"For not believing in you. For not trusting you. For trying to keep you a child when you're a man."

Zac set the shuttle controls to auto pilot and turned to face his older brother, the man he'd worshipped as a hero since he was a boy. "You admit that's what you were doing?"

Apollo nodded. "When we got you back, it was like you were a child, having to learn how to walk and talk and eat and use the turbo flush all over again. I fell back into the big brother role, taking care of you, protecting you from monsters. I didn't pay attention to the fact that you grew up and even got married."

"So, not letting me into flight training was your way of protecting me from monsters?"

"Yes. I just couldn't see myself allowing a child to be a warrior. And that was how I saw you - as a child. My baby brother - emphasis on the 'baby.' "

Zac checked the shuttle controls before he spoke. "Apollo, your behaviour over the last few sectons has hurt me a lot. It's also hurt Starbuck. He was doing what he thought was the right thing, and you pushed him away because of it - because of me. Every time he looked at you, I could see the pain in his eyes, and it made me wish I'd never asked him to train me, that I'd never tried to become a warrior in the first place, if it hurt the people I care about."

"Zac, all I could see was that Starbuck was putting you in danger. I know that's not what he was doing, but it's what I thought he was doing. It seemed to me like no one - not you, not Starbuck, certainly not Father - could see what was happening. It was as if I was the only one left with any sense."

"You were wrong, Apollo. You've never had any sense," Zac teased him with a smile.

Apollo let out the breath he'd been holding. If Zac was joking with him, it was a good sign. "Do you forgive me?" he asked.

"Yes, big brother, I forgive you." Zac landed the shuttle. "Now, let's go find Starbuck, and you can apologize to him, too."

The two warriors were in luck; the planet had a breathable atmosphere and they didn't need their portable oxygen. It didn't take them long to find Starbuck's viper, but the Lieutenant was nowhere to be seen. "Starbuck?" Zac called. There was no answer.

Apollo seemed on the verge of panic. He looked at the viper, then began looking frantically at the surrounding landscape. "He's not here!"

"Well, I'm sure he's around here somewhere," Zac said hopefully.

"He's not here!" Apollo cried again. "I came to find him, and he's not here."

Zac rubbed his shoulder sympathetically. "I'm sure he's not far. Come on, let's start looking."

After they'd walked for about half a centare, the two came upon a small village. The inhabitants were definitely not human; in fact, they resembled a sea creature from the colonies known as 'lobster.' The skin was a deep red colour, they had antennae on their heads and pincers for hands. Apollo and Zac approached them cautiously. "Excuse us," Apollo said politely, "but have you seen another, um, another being who looks sort of like we do?" He didn't even know if the creatures spoke Galactic Standard. Neither he nor Zac had thought to bring a Babel speaker with them. They hadn't been anticipating encountering any other races.

The lobster man's face broke into what Apollo and Zac hoped was a smile. "Yes, the one with yellow on top of his head instead of your colour," it said. "He was slightly damaged when he arrived, so we took him to our medical building."

The two warriors hurried in the direction of the building the lobster man had indicated. There, sitting on a bench talking to another lobster man - lobster woman? - was Starbuck, looking slightly banged up but otherwise unhurt. There were other lobster people going about what must have been daily lobster person business. "I need to get back to my viper," he was explaining as he stood up. "My people will be looking for me."

"STARBUCK!" Apollo cried out. He ran to his lover and grabbed him in a bone-crushing hug. "I thought you were dead. I thought I'd lost you for good. I was wrong. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry." Zac stood back and watched them with a grin.

One of the lobster people approached Zac. "What are the two of them to each other?" it asked.

"They love each other," Zac stated simply.

"Yes, I can tell," said the lobster man. "It's so nice to see two people so much in love."

Zac left Starbuck and Apollo alone for a few centons while he visited with the lobster people. They were at a similar level of technology to the humans, but their machines had all been built for creatures with claws instead of hands. Zac supposed that they would find human equipment equally as bizarre. He wished the Galactica could send more people down to visit the lobster men, but the Cylons knew where they were, so they wouldn't be able to stay long.

"Your people and mine will likely encounter each other again," one of the lobster people assured him. "We travel all over the galaxy."

"Okay, you two," Zac said, approaching Apollo and Starbuck. "Time to break it up. They'll start worrying about us on the Galactica."

Apollo held tightly to Starbuck's hand and didn't let go all the way back to the shuttle. Once on board the shuttle, he didn't bother sitting in the co-pilot's seat but instead sat in back with Starbuck, holding the other man in his arms. Starbuck was definitely not objecting.

Once they were back on the Galactica Starbuck was quickly whisked off to Life Centre, even though he protested that he was perfectly fine. Apollo went with him. Zac gave a report to Colonel Tigh and Commander Adama, telling them about the lobster men.

Because Adama had decided to promote all of the cadets who had taken part in the battle, he held an awards ceremony. Each of the cadets was promoted to Ensign. Starbuck got special recognition for leading them. He insisted that it wasn't all his doing; Apollo had done much of the training before he had taken over.

After the awards and promotions had been handed out, there was a small party. Apollo refused to be separated from Starbuck for very long and was at his side almost constantly. However, the Lieutenant finally managed to slip away for a few centons, during which he could be seen discussing something with the Commander. Then, on his way back to Apollo's side, he whispered something to Zac and Cassiopeia, who, in turn, said something to Boomer, who sought out Athena and said something to her.

As the party broke up and the warriors headed back to their barracks, Apollo turned to his lover. "Will you come back to my - to *our* quarters tonight?"

Starbuck gave him a mischievous smile. "Of course, but I need you to come somewhere with me first."

"Anywhere," answered his lover. He was never letting Starbuck go anywhere without him. If he had his way he would never let Starbuck out of his sight. He had come so close to losing him for good. Apollo shuddered.

Starbuck stopped and looked at him. "What's wrong?" he asked in concern.

"Oh, Star ... I was just thinking how close I came to losing you. I saw your ship go down out there, and all I could think of was that I'd been so stupid to let anything come between us."

"Apollo, promise me something?" Starbuck asked.


"Please don't ask me to compromise what I believe in. I'm not just talking about Zac, but about anything."

"Anytime you think I'm doing that, you tell me, okay?" Apollo suggested. "Then we can discuss it and come to an agreement that satisfies both of us. I don't ever want you to compromise what's important to you. The fact that you're willing to stand up for what you believe in, even when you thought it would mean losing our relationship, is one of the reasons I love you."

Starbuck smiled and took his lover into his arms. "I love you too, Pol. And as you can see, and, I hope, feel, you didn't lose me. We're together, where we belong. Now, let's go."

"Where are we going?" Apollo wanted to know.

"You'll see," was all Starbuck would answer.

The two men walked into a small, private dining room. There they were met by Adama, Athena, Zac, Cassiopeia, Boomer and Boxey. "What's going on? What's everyone doing here?" Apollo was bewildered.

"We're getting sealed, love," Starbuck told him. "Everyone's here to see it, and your father is going to perform the ceremony for us." He dropped to one knee. He didn't have a ring, but he took Apollo's hand in his. "Will you marry me, Apollo?"

Apollo laughed, but was on the verge of tears as he pulled Starbuck to his feet. "Get up, you crazy person," he said affectionately. "Yes, I will marry you." Everyone in the room cheered as the two men kissed.

Adama didn't bother with the entire ceremony from the Books of Kobol. He told a short story that Apollo had heard at the family Sealings he'd attended as a child, a legend about the origins of marriage. The difference was that Adama told the original version, one that was seldom heard in the colonies, which included same-sex as well as opposite sex pairings. The story was usually "translated" in a way that made it only apply to heterosexual couples. Apollo had never heard this version before. He was glad that Boxey was there to hear it too.

After he finished the story and then said a short blessing. Then he had a surprise for them. "I realize that you didn't come prepared to get married on such short notice, so I took the liberty of providing the rings for you." He removed two men's wedding bands from his pocket, which he had fetched from his quarters. "This one was your grandfather's, Apollo - my father's. He left to me as his eldest son, and I now give it to you as my eldest son." Then he took out a second ring. "This one is my own, the one I wore when I married your mother. I was going to leave it to you in my will, but I'm giving it to you now because I want to see it on the finger of someone who is happily married." He handed both rings to Apollo, who really was in tears now. Apollo placed one ring on Starbuck's finger and handed him the other to put on his finger. When the rings were in place the two men joined hands as Adama pronounced them officially Sealed.

As everyone celebrated the Sealing, Athena approached the happy couple. "Boxey will stay with me tonight," she told them. "And I think tomorrow Father will see about soundproofing your sleeping quarters." She had to laugh at the embarrassed expressions on their faces. "When it's my turn to have children, I hope you'll do the same for me."

"Are you planning to have children, Thena?" Apollo asked his sister.

She smiled mysteriously and put an arm around Boomer, who had appeared next to her. "Maybe," was all she said.

Eventually the newlyweds were able to return to their quarters. As they undressed each other and got into bed together, Apollo became very serious and asked his lover a question.

"Starbuck, remember we said we would try penetration when we were ready? I'm ready if you are. I would like our first time to be tonight, our wedding night. Would you make love to me? Be inside me?"

Starbuck kissed his husband passionately. "Only if you'll do the same for me later," he replied.

"Anything you want. Anything for you," Apollo swore to him.

"Not just what I want, Pol," Starbuck corrected him. "What both of us want."

Before their temporary separation, Apollo had obtained some supplies, which he now gave to Starbuck. "Make me ready," he asked, and Starbuck did so.

Their coupling was slightly difficult at first, but both were prepared for a certain amount of awkwardness. Once the initial difficulty was over, the two men made love like they had never done before. When they were finished and lying in each other's arms, Starbuck asked, "How do you feel?"

Apollo shifted position. "A bit sore," he replied honestly.

"I'm sorry," Starbuck began, but Apollo shushed him.

"It's okay. It's to be expected. It's our first time. " He yawned. "Sorry. It's been a long day. But it's been the best day of my life."

Starbuck grinned. "Let's get some sleep. When we wake up it's your turn to make love to me."

Apollo snuggled close to his new husband. "I love you, Starbuck."

"Love you too, Pol."