Peace and Quiet
by Anna O
I've known them both for yahrens, from the day I got to the Academy and we ended up rooming together. We've been friends for ever, and I don't even want to begin to think about what it'd be like without them.
But geez, there's been days when I wouldn't have minded trying it, just to get some peace and quiet. That'd be a novelty.
Some days, they drove me nuts.
Some days they were worse than a couple of kids, bickering in the schoolyard, squaring up to each other like they're trying to work out who's going to be boss.
Some days I'd just like to have cracked their heads together, and knocked some sense into them.
Yeah. You guessed it. Today was some day.
Look, you know me. I'm the quietest guy in the flight. Sensible, cool, practical. Nothing much fazes me. Good ol' Boomer. One day they'll write that on my tombstone. Not yet a while, I hope and pray, of course, but as epitaphs go, I could think of worse.
You know how much it takes to get me going, but those two did it today. They started in at breakfast, it went on all through the duty shift, right through lunch and the Lords help me, I'll bet they're still at it.
They were always like that. I reckon those two were born squabbling. First time I ever saw them, they were bitchin' at each other.
You know what it's like in a new place with new people, 'specially your first day at a place like the Academy, where you know you're going to be stuck with these strangers for the next four yahrens. You're cautious and careful, mappin' out who they are and what they're like, who you think you're going to pal up with, who you're going to avoid like poison. Like a feline stepping round something it don't like the smell of, you move slow and careful, keep things delicate, wary. Dammit, you're so polite, it's unnatural.
Not those two.
They were bickering over which one of them would have to take the top bunk in the dorm. Starbuck, he's standing there looking all frail and pathetic, eyes wide and hurt. We got to know that look, and fear it. That was his poor homeless orphan look. Broke the heart and made you do all sorts of foolish things, like bankroll his next Pyramid system or give him your sister's number. Only eighteen yahrens old, and he was charm personified. He could take your last clean shirt off your back to wear on a hot date with the little blonde from Sagittara whose smile you'd have died for and who'd had you hard and horny and thinking evil thoughts for sectons, and con you outa your last penny to pay for the date and you'd thank him for it, proud he was your friend. Charming and dangerous.
Anyhow, imagine those eyes, the colour of the sky, and, like I said, all wide and hurt and innocent. He got vertigo he said, and he'd never sleep, worrying about falling out of the bunk. I'll swear his lips were trembling. It was tragic, and he had everyone in the room silently rooting for him. And Apollo lying on the bottom bunk looking at him over the top of a book – he was studying already, would you believe! - suggesting that if Starbuck got dizzy over sleeping in a bunk, then flying a Viper was a touch problematic, wouldn't Starbuck say? And had Starbuck thought about a different career? Something plod-hoppingly ground-bound. A miner, maybe?
Went straight downhill from there.
Rest of us were keeping well clear. We watched, fascinated, wondering which one of them would throw the first punch – and by then we'd had a squabble about the amount of room Starbuck thought Apollo was taking up, the fact that Apollo wouldn't look up from his book when he was being spoken to and half a dozen other trivial things.
After a while I thought I'd better try and stop it. After all, my bunk was next to Apollo's, and as I said to them, I'd had a really long journey in from the colony where my folks had settled. I was going to need my sleep.
They just looked at me and then at each other. Starbuck dropped down on the bed next to Apollo and they both studied their chronometers.
"Half a centar," Starbuck said after a micron, and I was really surprised about how friendly he was sounding all of a sudden. "You owe me, Pol."
Apollo shook his head at that. "Thirty two centons. Not one red cubit, Star. You said within thirty centons. It's two centons over. Nearly three."
"Is not! Your chronometer's set wrong."
"Not one cubit." Apollo said stubbornly. "You try that on me every time."
And then they were off again.
It took me a centon or two to realise what was going on. We'd been conned. Starbuck just grinned at me. Turned out he and Apollo had gone to school together, had met up about five yahrens before.
"I'm fed up with him." Starbuck said, jabbing Apollo in the ribs.. "I need a change. I'm looking for a new best friend, but look at them... ." He waved a hand at the assembled cadets. "Stuffy! So me and Pol decided to see if we could loosen up the atmosphere a bit."
"Starbuck decided," Apollo said, and he sounded hesitant. The look he gave me was shy, reserved. "I just went along with him, as usual."
"So, since you've been the only one to show any sign of sentient life, we'll give you the benefit of the doubt and admit you to the august ranks of our acquaintance." Starbuck's smile widened. "Tell me, what's your name, where're you from and do you play Pyramid?"
And that was my introduction to the Apollo-Starbuck axis. To begin with, I thought my first impressions were right and that Apollo, who was shy and awkward, followed the brilliant Starbuck everywhere, like a moth flying to the candle flame. Starbuck made friends easily and with everyone, taking Apollo with him. Everyone thought it was a Star and a follower.
I don't know when I realised that it wasn't like that at all. Not long, I think.
The cadets could vie for being Starbuck's new best friend as much as they liked – and they did - but there was one centre to Starbuck's universe and he revolved around it. Like a comet, maybe, all bright and fiery and burning energy, but if he had a still, quiet centre, it was Apollo. He might seem to draw away in the comet's erratic orbit, but would always come back, would always be looking for Apollo to be there. It was like a holopic negative. The moth was bright, and the flame deceptively quiet and dull.
Starbuck had lied. There wasn't a new best friend vacancy to be filled. Never could be.
They were one person really, or a set of conjoined twins cut into two. Cut one, both bled.
So I took what I could from around the edges, because really Caprica was very different from the colony where my folks lived, and I was lonely and unsure of myself, and they'd been the first to talk to me. Everyone chased after Starbuck, me included. Like I said, it was an honour to be conned by the man. Apollo was harder to get to know, shyer, but although he didn't sparkle the way Starbuck did, he was funny and gentle and thoughtful where Starbuck could sometimes be thoughtlessly indifferent, and he'd always be there if you needed him. Let's put it this way. If the Lords of Kobol had set out to design the man who'd seal with a dubious widow and end up bringing up another man's son as if the kid were his own, and do it cheerfully, he'd look just like Apollo.
That's what made the constant bickering all the more surprising. They never did it with anyone else, not with me. I worked it out, eventually. I think Starbuck started it, compensating probably for the deprived childhood, testing the limits of what Apollo was offering him or would tolerate. Like I said, Apollo was thoughtful and kind. I think he'd understood what Starbuck needed and gave it back in kind. Anything less would have been patronising. It was something that was significant only to each other. Like the private language that some twins develop.
We got pretty close. My folks weren't very well off, and couldn't afford for me to go home much, so Siress Ila, Apollo's mother adopted me along with Starbuck. Apollo's Dad didn't seem to mind. He called us the Triumvirate. Each part equal and depending on the other.
Not quite. We were pretty close, but those two had something that not even I could get through. The comet and the still, quiet centre it orbited around were invulnerable and inseparable. There was no tearing them apart.
So I did the next best thing.
I learned to orbit too. I might not sparkle like Starbuck, but I learned how the universe worked and how I could be part of it. It was enough.
When we graduated Apollo was determined not to come here. He hated the thought of everyone believing that anything he achieved was because of his father. He fought hard to get a posting off the Galactica, and for the first few yahrens me and Starbuck didn't see that much of him. He was on the Columbia, we were on the Galactica, and when he was posted here as Captain we hadn't seen him for nearly four yahrens except for the odd few days when our furloughs coincided.
At first, when he wasn't there, I thought that maybe there would be a vacancy for Starbuck's best friend after all. But it didn't take long for me to realise that it wouldn't happen. Instead, we both missed the centre, we were both a bit lost without Apollo there. Starbuck hated the separation more than he'd admit even to me. Letters, regular as they were, just weren't enough, and Starbuck used to read them avidly, looking for clues that amongst the friends Apollo was making elsewhere, he'd found another comet to orbit around him. A mention of a friend more than once or twice and Starbuck would throw himself into an orgy of gambling and relationships to try and prove to himself, I think, that he was that exception in the universe: a comet that didn't need anything to circle around.
But when Apollo got here, it was like someone somewhere threw a switch and Starbuck and me got into our proper spheres. We could none of us believe we were together again, and everything seemed strange and unreal at first. Until those two started a fight with each other within a centar of Apollo stepping of the Columbia's shuttle. And suddenly there was complete normality and it was like we'd never been apart.
And that's the way it's been since then. Starbuck orbiting in close, me further out, and that private language that no-one else has the right to use.
But today! Lords, they wore me out today. I forget what it was they were wrangling over by the time we came off duty and were sitting in the OC, but Starbuck suddenly threw his arms out wide as if begging everyone to notice him.
"You know your problem, Captain?" he declaimed, dramatic as the hammiest actor you've ever seen. "You work so hard that you don't even have time to neglect your friends."
Apollo took a sip of ambrosa. "Nice one, Starbuck. Lacks spontaneity, though. Where did you read it?"
"I thought it up in the 'flush," Starbuck admitted, but he looked pretty pleased with himself, and the Lords knew, it was a neat little epigram to apply to our conscientious, honorable, hard-working Captain.
By that time I'd had eight centars of it.
"You two remind me of my Mom and Dad," I said.
They both stared at me, then Starbuck glanced at Apollo.
"If Boomer's our offspring, whose gene pool did you go skinny dippin' in, might I ask?"
"Me?" Apollo choked slightly. "Me? I'm not the champion swimmer around here, Starbuck."
"They fight a lot?" Jolly asked me, interested. He didn't mean Starbuck and Apollo. He knew that Starbuck and Apollo fought a lot.
"They were married nearly thirty five yahrens and they fought like that every day of their lives."
"Still, they lasted thirty five yahrens," Starbuck pointed out. "They musta had something going for them."
"Sex, I reckon," I said, thinking about it. "I had a hell of a lot of brothers and sisters."
Jolly laughed. "But what's the secret with these two?"
I grinned and looked at them.
And then I knew.
Starbuck just grinned back, teeth clamped on one of those damned fumerellos, eyes bright and amused. Apollo turned to look at him, and his face got just faintly red. Not very much, but enough.
It was a jolt. I didn't know what I thought about it. No, that's not right. I knew. Lost, abandoned, shut out. That's what I thought about it. As if I didn't count, and that no matter how I tried I'd always be on the outside. I wasn't allowed to speak that private language and I never would be.
And for a centon or two, I hated them. I hated them because I'd always been on the outside, trying to get in. As much as they cared for me – and deep down, angry as I was, I knew they did – it was pretty poor stuff compared to what they felt about each other. And now they'd taken that one step that bound them together closer than even before
One person. A set of conjoined twins. Lovers.
And they hadn't even told me.
I put down the ambrosa, very carefully. "God knows," I said, in answer to Jolly, and I know I sounded angry and bitter. When the frack would they have ever told me?
"Boomer... ." Apollo said it, conciliatory.
I shook my head and got up. "Some days you two drive me crazy," I said. "Some days you're like a couple of kids. Some days I'd just like some peace and quiet."
But not today. Because even as I said it, the red alert sounded, the klaxon shrilling like a banshee, and there wasn't time to say anything as we sprinted to the launch bays. No time to say that I was mad at them. That I was jealous of them. That I loved them.
I launched angry, but I don't stay that way for long. Practical and sensible, that's me. No use grumbling over spilt milk. Just be the third in the Triumvirate, and if the balance is a bit skewed, well, hell, it always has been and I've always known it. I was lying when I said what I took from the edges was enough, but it's better than nothing.
So now I'm sitting here, waiting. I've been waiting for centars, and even though Jolly and the others have tried to persuade me to leave the landing bay, I'll hang on a bit longer. There's still time for them to get back.
I don't know what happened. That was one pretty fierce firefight we just came through. Fierce and unexpected. We thought we'd lost the Cylons. We were wrong.
Maybe the Commander knows how it happened. They say he's been studying the battletapes for centars, trying to work it out. Trying not to think about it, I guess. I wish I couldn't think about it.
I don't know which one of them went first. Someone reported seeing one Viper spiralling away, out of control, in flames, and the other following it. And then there were a zillion Cylons between us and them.
In a way, it doesn't matter which one went first. Cut one, both bleed. With one gone, they're both gone.
God, some days I'd give anything for some peace and quiet. Anything.
But not today.
For those of you who don't remember the old series, BSG had some pretty whacky time units. Hold onto your hats:
micron = second
centon = minute
centar = hour
secton = week
sectar = month
Nothing special for "day" or "night" - but consistency wasn't their strong point.