|Rights and Responsibilities
Author: StarryDiadem PM
Original BSG. ApolloStarbuck implied. A little story, nothing very much, about making new beginnings after the Destruction. Or not, as the case may be. Complete.Rated: Fiction K - English - Words: 8,743 - Reviews: 3 - Published: 06-22-04 - Status: Complete - id: 1924233
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Rights and Responsibilities by AnnaO
"Some things never change. We go through fire and death and destruction and it's still the same. You're the same old Starbuck. You haven't changed at all."
"I have changed," protested Starbuck. "Apollo, listen to me..."
"This is all that's left of us, all that's left of the human race, all starting over. Look around you, Starbuck. Everyone's trying to start again, find something new, something better than just survival, something meaningful. But not you. Not Starbuck. Not the great, immutable Starbuck."
"For you it's still about having a good time, about making sure nothing matters, nothing touches you. Leave you for five centons and it's back to type. I don't know why in Hades I ever thought you'd changed. I can't believe that I thought you meant it this time."
"Five centons? More like two centars, Apollo. Where the hell were you?"
"I told you Boxey wasn't so well." Apollo stopped, and turned so abruptly that Starbuck cannoned into him. Apollo pushed him away roughly. "I told you I might be late. I should have guessed you'd find someone to keep you company. My mistake, that you'd wait for me, that you cared enough to wait"
"He bought me a drink, that's all."
"And you were just saying thank you? With your hands all over his ass and you glued to his mouth like a sucker fish?"
"He kissed me! I was.. er, I was trying to get free. Apollo, listen to me..."
"Not any more, Starbuck. No more lies, no more pretending. I'm sick of it. I'm sick of you not really caring, not putting any effort into it. I'm sick of being the one doing all the running. I'm sick of you."
The breath rushed out of Starbuck in shock. "You can't mean that!"
"Oh, can't I? Just watch me." Apollo started off again, heading for the shuttle deck.
"Yeah, watch you running away as usual," Starbuck yelled after him, a rush of anger making him reckless.
Apollo stopped and swung round again. "And what does that mean?"
"It means that's all the running you ever made. It means that you haven't changed that much either. I still don't know where I stand with you."
"You know exactly what. Look at this. Just look at it. You turn up here two centars late and you're mad at me, it's all my fault. That's arse- about-face, don't you think? I'm just to be here when it's convenient for you, and what the hell am I supposed to do when you're not around, when you're with your kid, or having supper with the Commander or duty calls? Climb back into the closet and wait to be taken out again when it's convenient? When no-one will notice what you're doing?"
"Boxey has to come first..."
"Sure. And the Commander, and Athena and a hundred and twenty pilots. And somewhere after that, a helluva long way after that, is that where I come? I might have kissed that guy for buying me a drink, but at least he realizes that I'm bloody well here, that I might want to be first, sometimes."
"I will not take the blame for this!"
"Blame for what? For not having the guts to tell everyone how much you've changed? Don't make me laugh, Apollo. You've not changed at all. You're so ashamed of this you won't even tell your family."
"What's to tell? What do I tell them when I don't know what I've got? When every time I'm late I wonder who I'll find you with?"
That stung. Starbuck had been fidelity itself. He'd even given up flirting. "Yeah, I've noticed how all those life-shattering experiences you're harping on about have really changed that untrusting streak in you. You get what you deserve, Apollo. If you wanted this to work, you'd stop hiding it. You only let me into the edges, you won't let me all the way in. I deserve better than that, whether you think so or not. I have a right not to be something you're ashamed of. In the circumstances, you can't expect me to trust you much either." He took a deep breath. "You aren't the only one who made a mistake about this. I'm sick of it, too."
"Well if we're both sick of it, then the problem's solved. Go back to the guy who's so generous with his drinks, and have a good time, Starbuck. It's all you're good for." Apollo turned on his heel and walked away.
"Yeah," Starbuck yelled after him. "I guess that's what you always thought! Some things never change."
It had always been a mistake, all of it. Right back to the day Apollo had arrived on the Galactica.
The troops had awaited their new Captain's arrival with a deep seated cynicism about the fact they were getting the Commander's son foisted onto them. Not one of them believed that a twenty-five yahren old kid had made Captain all on his ownsome, not one of them believed that it was chance that had Apollo posted to them. They all, without exception, knew that it was some deep nepotistic plot on Commander Adama's part to further his son's career, some deep-dyed conspiracy to assure the dynastic succession.
Waiting with Boomer in the Duty Office for the golden boy to show up, Starbuck had been more vocal than usual what was facing them, his only source of consolation the thought that since the new Captain had obviously gotten his position through parental influence, come the first firefight and the likelihood was that the Commander might soon be a grieving parent and they'd get someone who got there on merit, not family.
Unless, he'd said, ignoring the sudden frantic signals Boomer was sending him, the Commander just arranges to keep sonny out of harm's way.
A gentle cough from behind him, and he'd spun around to find himself looking into the greenest eyes he'd ever seen, set in a face that proved conclusively that whatever else Captain Apollo had inherited from the Commander, his good looks had to come from his mother. The eyes were cool and appraising, neutral. Their owner had heard everything, Starbuck had realized, stammering out something, anything, to fill the awful silence.
Not an auspicious beginning. It had taken sectons for Starbuck to even grudgingly acknowledge that the new Captain was almost as brilliant a pilot as he was himself: sectons more to acknowledge that Apollo wasn't half bad, as a Captain, a man and a Triad player; and sectons more for a tentative truce to turn into friendship, the deepest one of Starbuck's life.
And it had taken yahrens for Starbuck to admit, even to himself, that he'd been smitten by those green eyes from the first micron he'd looked into them.
He headed straight back into the bar.
He wanted somewhere he didn't have to think about what had just happened, somewhere full of bright lights and bright people, loud music and loud voices, beautiful and willing bodies. Starbuck liked the bars on the Rising Star. They were a good place to lose himself in, a good place to stop thinking in, to stop feeling in. They didn't demand anything of him more than he was willing, or able, to give.
The place was jumping. He eased himself back into the crowd, moving gracefully through the dancers to the table he'd left five centons before. The man he'd been with when Apollo arrived was still there, looking at him expectantly.
"The boyfriend?" he asked, patting the empty seat beside him invitingly.
All Starbuck wanted was to get as drunk as he could as fast as he could, and the guy would be as good as companion as any. "The ex," he said.
The man smiled, satisfied, and for the next centar, Starbuck drank, danced and flirted, never alone, always in the company of his pick-up – Ben, was it? Starbuck was having difficulty remembering the name. It didn't really matter. Ben was as good as name as any. Ben shared the drinks, shared the dances, and shared the flirting with gusto.
Starbuck found it all peculiarly bloodless. It was too easy pulling Ben, getting some of the attention that he wanted, feeling that for once he wasn't about sixteenth on someone's list of priorities. Ben's interest was obvious and uncomplicated. No feelings, no commitment; just a good time to be had by all. Once Starbuck would have hailed that as his Heaven, his idea of the perfect relationship. This was just what had always happened; just like old times before he made his mistake with Apollo.
What wasn't easy, was that Starbuck wasn't actually enjoying it. The feeling of detachment grew on him. He drank, danced and flirted, and underneath it all he was empty. He realized that he was bored. Ben was nice. Ben was fun. Ben was paying him a very flattering attention. He just wasn't sure he wanted it.
Ben smiled at him over the rim of a glass full of some foamy wine, taking a delicate sip before handing the glass over to him. Starbuck took it and smiled back, wishing that he could shake this odd mood. He was free again, the Big Mistake wiped out, and he could do anything he wanted.
Back at the bar someone tripped a switch, and as the music grew louder and the bodies pulsated faster to the beat, a hidden UV light cast its gleam over the crowd, making white shirts and blond hair glow brightly. Ben, a white tee molded to a well muscled chest, preened in the light, showing it all to Starbuck, inviting more. Suppressing a sigh, Starbuck put down the glass and pulled the man closer, a hand behind Ben's neck guiding him in for the kiss. What the hell. What else was there?
"Well, you look like you had a good time last night."
"Uh-huh," said Starbuck, dropping into the seat next to Boomer. He squinted against the light, cursing the way his eyes stung and watered and his face prickled with sweat. He ran a hand through his hair, feeling the slight dampness at the temples. He noticed that his fingers trembled slightly. He hated being hung over.
He vaguely remembered the guy he'd met – what was his name now? Ben, or something? – producing the hypo once they'd got to a private room. Starbuck hadn't said no. He didn't care. And he didn't remember getting high. Didn't remember much of anything, if truth be told, and now he was paying for it.
"You know how I can tell? You look like shit," said Boomer, cheerfully.
Starbuck only grunted. He ran a hand over a jaw that was less than pristine, and glanced around the Briefing Room.
"Hungover?" Boomer asked.
"Uh-huh. Where's the Captain?"
"Dunno. All Tigh said was he'd be delayed, so we're on our own. Think we can handle it?"
"Not right now," Starbuck admitted. "Not without a lot of aspirin, a head transplant and substantial help."
Boomer laughed. Then Tigh and the Commander came in and the daily routine took over, reports and briefings and orders. Starbuck was relieved. He let himself settle into the familiar routine, letting that take over, concentrating on the immediate so that he could forget, however fleetingly, the misery and the mistakes.
Apollo turned up a centar later, appearing without warning at the duty office door just as Starbuck, his feet on the desk and his chair tilted at a dangerous angle, had reached an uneasy equilibrium. Jerked out of a doze, Starbuck almost fell to his feet.
"Geez, you made me jump!" he complained, before he could help himself. Then he cursed himself for sounding too casual, too flip, as if nothing had happened, and as if he didn't care. He wondered if he imagined Apollo's slight wince.
Even when he was in a good mood, the Captain expected everyone to be alert, to concentrate on the job, and would have acid things to say about finding him relaxing to that extent. Starbuck would be lucky not to be on report. The green eyes looking Starbuck over were cold and unfriendly and the Lieutenant had the uncomfortable feeling that they were logging every throb of the headache, every little surge of nausea. He wondered if they could see what he'd been doing the night before, and if they'd be at all surprised. He didn't think so. He thought Apollo knew and expected it.
All of a sudden, he was heart sick and sorry. He watched the Captain for a micron, seeing how tired Apollo was. Apollo was frowning, and Starbuck had a sudden longing to brush back the lock of hair that was falling over Apollo's face and kiss the frown away.
He remembered with vivid intensity the day they'd stopped dancing cautiously around each other. Alone together in the Celestial Dome, trying to make sense of everything that had happened with Iblis, Apollo had suddenly let down the barriers, reaching for Starbuck, almost overwhelming him. Their first time had been hard and frenetic, almost desperate, as if they both were trying to prove something by it. Starbuck didn't know what; that they were still alive, maybe. He only knew that he was dazed with delight and surprise, but never quite sure what they had. Apollo, Mr. Commitment himself, offered him nothing of the kind, insisted on a secrecy that worried Starbuck, and made it clear that his myriad responsibilities would always have to come first. At first, despite everything, Starbuck had lived through the happiest few sectons of his life. The sex was way beyond phenomenal, the excitement of waiting for the call that meant Apollo had squeezed some time out of his schedule was intoxicating. It was only as time passed that Starbuck began to question it, began to wonder just what it was he meant to Apollo.
He didn't think he meant as much as Apollo's son, his family, his duties. Maybe everything that had happened in the Dome was a big mistake. He should have remembered whose son this was, the son of the man who had always put duty before self.
It had been a mistake. It was a mistake getting involved with a serious- minded, no-fun, stuffy, responsible bastard who always put something else ahead of him. Gods, it was so funny, Apollo talking as though he'd put all the effort into this, as if Starbuck had just coasted along taking, and never giving. When every time, Apollo was the one whose priorities were always somewhere else, who wouldn't tell the Commander what was going on, who didn't want anyone to find out, who hid his relationship with Starbuck – such as it was! - as if it was something to be ashamed of. And someone who'd spoiled the old way of life for him now as well.
But looking at him now Starbuck wondered if maybe it wasn't such a mistake as all that. Apollo, even an Apollo furiously angry with him, was still what he wanted. He wondered if it was too late, if there wasn't some way ...
"Anything to report?" Apollo pushed past him to get to his chair on the other side of the desk, no encouragement in either voice or expression.
"No. All quiet." Starbuck looked down at his combat boots and found himself fidgeting, wondering how to broach the subject of the previous night. Shit, he didn't even know what to say. The great silver tongued Starbuck, lost for words, ready wit deserting him. "Listen, Apollo... "
The Captain didn't listen. "Good. I've got a job for you. I want you to make a round of the pickets. That should keep you awake and occupied for a couple of centars. Then get some rest. I'm assigning you to Red for the next secton."
Starbuck felt his jaw drop. "You're what?"
"Tiegan's three pilots down after that last firefight, and her second's still on sick leave. You're assigned to her." Apollo switched on his computer and started scrolling through his messages. "Red are on the graveyard watch for the next sectar. You'll be on duty all night, so take the afternoon to rest up."
"What?" Starbuck could barely believe it. In less than a centon since coming on duty, Apollo had sent him off on the kind of nothing job he'd normally give to the lowliest ensign on duty just for flying practice, and put him onto duties and a time schedule that meant that they would just never overlap. If he was working nights, then the only chance he'd get to see Apollo, to talk to him would be for five centons every morning when Tiegan handed over to the Captain, and that would be it.
"You heard me."
"You can't do that!"
"Last time I looked I was still your commanding officer."
"But I'm your wingman!"
"Boomer will fill in while you're with Red." Apollo didn't take his eyes from the screen. "Stop arguing, Starbuck. I'm not in the mood for it. I've been up all night with Boxey, and I'm tired, and you've already pissed me off."
"Likewise! I don't want to..."
"Don't push it. Your Viper should be ready. Go fly it."
"But I want to talk to you!"
"I don't want to talk to you." Apollo did glance up at that, but it was like looking at a stranger. There was no point of contact. "I don't want you anywhere near me, Starbuck. I don't want to see you and I don't want to talk to you."
"I don't even want to think about you, but I think I need to. And I need to do that without you pulling scams on me, or talking to me, or distracting me. So get out and do as you're told." Apollo turned back to the screen. "And if you give Tiegan any grief about this, I'll have you on charges so fast that you won't have time to draw breath."
"Now, Starbuck. And that's a direct order." Apollo turned back to the screen and leaned forward, studying the scrolling text closely. "Shit!" he muttered to himself, and ignored Starbuck, seemingly absorbed in whatever message had caught his attention.
Starbuck shook his head, disbelieving. In all the yahrens he'd known him he'd never seen Apollo abuse his position like that. But this, this closing him out... he'd seen all too much of that.
"That's what I mean," Starbuck said, his voice shaking with fury.
"Haven't you gone yet?"
"That's what I mean about you always putting me last. Even some lousy message is more important than me, when I'm trying to tell you that I'm sorry and I love you and I want to talk to you. Some lousy message, Apollo!" Starbuck turned fast and headed out of the door, his sight blurring, listening hard for Apollo to call him back, to let him explain and apologize and try and put things right.
A long and eloquent silence followed after him.
Tiegan didn't seem wildly enthusiastic when Starbuck appeared in the Duty Office that evening, just as the Graveyard shift started.
"I told him I could manage until Rafe's back on his feet," she said by way of greeting. "I wasn't really expecting him to send me extra bodies. Have you done something to annoy him?"
"Oh great. If it rubs off on me, I'll kill you. He's hard enough some days without you sending a missile up his astrum. Whaddya do?"
"Nothing," said Starbuck, sullen.
Tiegan looked skeptical. "I'll bet."
Starbuck just shrugged.
"He'll get over it," Tiegan said after a centon of hard staring. "He usually does where you're concerned."
Starbuck sighed gently and changed the subject. "Well, I'm here. What do you want me to do?"
Starbuck hated it.
It wasn't that he minded the Graveyard shift. He never minded it when it was his squadron's turn on rotation, because at least he was living that strange twilight existence with his friends. He hated being separated from them, pushed out into a new squadron where he was effectively a stranger, with no real place and no real position. It was too close to how he'd always thought he'd been. A life spent passing through, with nothing and nobody to hold him.
And it wasn't that he disliked the people in Red, either. He knew most of them pretty well, and got on with them as well he did most people on the Galactica. They were occasional drinking companions, occasional flirts, occasional gambling buddies. They just weren't Blue, they weren't home and family.
No, he hated it because for four days he hadn't seen anything at all of Apollo. He hated it because he couldn't see Apollo and work out what he was feeling about all this. He didn't know if Apollo was happy, or sad, or regretting the break-up, or plain indifferent. He just didn't know, and so he didn't know how to react, how he should feel himself, sad or hopeful.
Every morning he went with Tiegan to the 8am handover, a scant fifteen centons before the morning command meeting. Every morning his heart started hammering with excitement and fear, at least a centar before he and Tiegan were due to be relieved. And every morning it had been Boomer arriving in the Duty Office to take Tiegan's report of the night's activities, and who went with them to the command meeting. Apollo was never there.
Every evening, after "breakfast", he went to the OC for a strictly non- alcoholic drink and to catch up with Blue Squadron before wending his way to the Duty Office to be present at the midnight handover as the second watch - Green, this secton – handed over command to Tiegan.
Apollo was never in the OC, either. Lying wakeful and resentful in his bed in the middle of the day, Starbuck was lost for other opportunities to run casually across the Captain and try and engineer something, anything that would give him the chance to talk to Apollo. But Apollo was just too damned good at making sure he never saw Starbuck, never talked to him, maybe never thought about him?
All Boomer could tell him was that Apollo was trying to work around Boxey at the moment, that the kid was sick with something all the kids had. "Measles or something," Boomer said. "Something with spots, a temperature and a bad temper, anyway. Apollo's doing some short days, looking after the kid when he can't find a care-taker. It's lucky things have quieted right down."
"Take away the spots and the temperature, and that kid's turning out to be just like his Dad."
"No, I am not getting involved in whatever it is you and Apollo are fighting about."
"Who says we're fighting?"
Boomer smiled and shook his head. "Puh-leese. Who do you think you're foolin'? Whatever it is, I'm staying out of it. He's hell at the moment without me knowing what's going on. I can't see that lightening my ignorance will make things better."
"It's nothing," muttered Starbuck.
"Yeah? That accounts for him being several shades of hell, then."
"Can't be me. He must be worried about Boxey," Starbuck said. "Last time I checked, I only came about two hundredth on the list of priorities."
"I said I didn't want to know, Bucko, and I meant it."
"Fine," Starbuck said, giving it up. He finished up his juice and got to his feet. "Time for work, anyway, and Tiegan's as bad as the Captain about people turning up on time. See you around."
Working with Tiegan didn't offer much of a distraction, didn't offer much opportunity to lose himself in duties and work. She didn't let him get too involved in the way she ran Red, and he didn't really have a lot to do. He couldn't blame her for that. Theoretically, he was only there temporarily, to fill in while Rafe got over the flash burns he'd got in the last fire fight. After all, he was just passing through and transient, and in his gloomier centons he thought that could be his epitaph, summing up the story of his life.
He began to wonder if it would always be like that, whether Apollo would ever let him go back home.
He wondered about that a lot, in the long centars in the quiet ship, when even the troop decks ran on minimum personnel and there was nothing much to do but sit and think about everything. Principally he though about where he thought he came in Apollo's life and where he wanted to be, about knowing that Apollo would never let his private wants and needs interfere with his responsibilities. In his more honest moments, he would admit that the security and stability that attitude gave him - as long as he was on the scanner as someone Apollo felt some responsibility towards - was half the reason Starbuck loved him.
Occasionally he remembered how unsatisfactory that night with what's-his- name had been. He hadn't had a night like that since he'd got together with Apollo. Despite what the Captain evidently thought of him, he had been faithful. But Apollo had said he was sick of him, so he told himself that all bets were off, all restraints. Apollo had given him the night to be his to do whatever he wanted. Looked at logically – admittedly not one of his strong points - there was no reason to feel furtive and guilty about it, as if he'd done something unforgivable. Apollo had been the one to break them up. Starbuck had no reason to feel guilty, and ashamed and dirty. He'd done no more than he'd done dozens of times before.
But this time was different. He's woken alone and aching in the rented room, unsatisfied, unfulfilled. A good time with a nameless body wasn't what he wanted anymore. He didn't want something as temporary and transient and meaningless as, he hoped, his stay with Red would be. Once that would have been the great adventure, now he was jaded with transience, he wanted something more.
And he decided that he'd rather be two hundredth on the priority list than not figure on Apollo's scanner at all. And when that got too depressing to think about, he thought about what it would be like if Rafe was posted somewhere else and Apollo made him stay with Red, with Tiegan.
She was okay to work with, he supposed, but she did things differently than Apollo and he was having to change and adjust. She had no real idea about Starbuck's abilities other than as a Viper jock or celebrated good-time boy and treated him accordingly. That riled him. Apollo might be a stuffy, by- the-rules pain in the astrum, but they'd worked together long enough for the Captain to have some trust in him, professionally at least. Apollo listened to him about ironing out some hitch in the duty roster, or on some issue where Starbuck had a better feeling for what the troops thought than Apollo, distanced from them by rank, could ever have.
There were centons when he'd look around the quiet troop decks and conclude that thinking was really very bad for him and he'd give anything for the alert to sound, so he'd have something to take his mind off failure.
"Things aren't good," Boomer said.
Once again, it had been Boomer who came into the Duty Office. Tiegan had gabbled through the formula that saw her formally hand over duty and responsibility, and Starbuck had trailed along behind them to the Briefing Room, feeling superfluous.
Starbuck hunched a shoulder.
"Tigh just told me Apollo wouldn't be in at all today. I think Boxey's really sick."
Starbuck took some notice of that. "How sick?"
Boomer shook his head. "I don't know. All I know is that the Captain won't be around."
"He never is," said Starbuck. "Even when you think he is."
"That's too deep for me," Boomer said. He looked at Starbuck more closely. "You okay? You look tired."
"I don't like working nights and I hate trying to sleep through the day. It fracks up my biological clock or something."
"And, of course, you and him are still mad at each other?"
"I thought you didn't want to know," Starbuck snapped, remembering the rebuff when he'd thought about confiding in Boomer a couple of days ago.
Tigh came in, alone, to start the morning briefing. It wasn't often that the Commander missed this meeting. Tigh was always more by-the-book, less inclined to listen to opinions from his juniors, more inclined to just tell them what he wanted. Things were more formal.
Under cover of the abnormally polite greetings, Boomer shook his head again. "Boy, do you have it bad." His tone was half exasperated, half amused, and it annoyed the frack out of Starbuck. "I always thought you kinda carried a torch for him."
"Not any more," said Starbuck. "He put it out."
During some interminably long centon in the afternoon, a centon that felt like several days long, Starbuck faced up to the fact that there was no chance of sleep.
He admitted that he was worried. Tigh had said nothing at all about the absence of the Galactica's Commander and Strike Captain, but only some really pressing family emergency would keep them both away. Boxey, of course. That was about all that would do it. So he worried. Despite his occasional irrational jealousy of the six-yahren-old stepson who was Apollo's first priority, he liked the kid; loved him even, in an uncle-ish kind of way. And even if he hadn't been fond of Boxey for himself, he'd be worried for Apollo, knowing that Apollo loved the kid more than anything and that if anything was really, seriously wrong, Apollo would be suffering all the torments of Hades.
He sighed, sat up and punched the pillow, trying to get comfortable. Lay down. Turned over. Turned over again. Sat up again. Punched the pillow again, so hard that it ended up on the other side of the room. He glared at it.
He squinted at the pale green dial of the alarm. Two twenty. Two twenty in the afternoon. A damned unnatural time to try and sleep. He'd been trying for a couple of centars now, and getting nowhere. He'd managed to fill the first four centars after coming off duty with a workout in the gym and giving his quarters a long-overdue cleaning, but he was running out of options now. There was only so much cleaning his soul could take without rebelling.
He gave up and got up. The java he'd made two centars ago was cold, but it was strong, the way he liked it. He sat for a half centar or more, holding the mug in his hand, and took his problems out and shook them, to see which way the cards would fall. He knew what he wanted to do. He just wasn't sure he dared do it.
The problem was that he had no right to go to Apollo and comfort him, because even if they hadn't broken up, Apollo had never told anyone about them, had never granted him even that most basic of rights, to be acknowledged as a part of Apollo's life. Apollo may well have had his reasons - what was it he'd said? "I never knew what it was I had"? Something like that, something that Starbuck had thought about and agonized over in the long quiet nights in the empty Duty Office. Something Starbuck had decided that he would try and put right, realizing that maybe that Apollo's devotion to duty and responsibility hid an insecurity as great as his own. But something that meant that Starbuck had no right to go to him now.
There was no answer when he pressed the chime on Apollo's door.
Sitting there in his empty quarters, staring at the wall and trying to drink cold java, Starbuck had had a little revelation that had him casting aside the last remaining remnants of his old life and deciding on a new one. He had the feeling that this was his chance to start over, to make something out of the second chance he'd been given when he'd got Apollo back alive after Iblis had tried to destroy him.
He had decided that he didn't care about rights, he only cared about responsibilities. He'd even managed to laugh about it as he got dressed, abandoning the idea of sleep altogether. Apollo had had more of an influence than he could ever have imagined. Where once Starbuck had run screaming from the thought of taking responsibility for someone else, now he ran screaming from the idea that he avoid accepting the responsibility to go to and comfort Apollo, even unasked and maybe unthanked. That didn't matter. Seeing Apollo, assuring Apollo of love and support, that was all that mattered. That was his responsibility.
When the door didn't respond to a second, impatient ring, he tried the lock. To his surprise, Apollo hadn't changed the security code. He half thought that in his anger, Apollo would have locked Starbuck out of his life completely, and he wasn't sure whether or not this was a sign of hope. He let himself in quietly, remembering all the nights he'd done this when it was safe, when Boxey was sleeping and Apollo had no other duties, no other responsibilities to distract him; the nights when Apollo had been his.
He glanced in through the open bedroom door at the unmade bed, as he crossed the little living area for the tiny spare room on the other side. Boxey's room was empty too, the covers on the narrow bunk in a rumpled heap at the foot of the bed, spilling onto the floor.
"What are you doing here?" Athena demanded from behind him, her voice sharp, making him jump. "How'd you get in?"
Starbuck turned slowly, hoping the measured movement was unalarming, trying to gauge her mood. He wasn't certain of Athena these days, not since their last acrimonious and permanent breakup. He made his tone placating, unthreatening. "I was looking for Apollo. He gave me his access code yahrens ago. I wanted to know how Boxey was."
He tried to look just the concerned friend, meeting her suspicious gaze with eyes he tried to make innocent. Apollo's relationship with his sister could be a difficult, with Athena resenting, as much as Zac had, his tendency to be the big brother, to take responsibilities she didn't want to grant him. Starbuck didn't like to think of her reaction if she knew her brother and her ex-lover were lovers themselves, had been lovers, weren't lovers any more. For the first time, he wondered if seeing what happened with him and Athena had been what kept Apollo so cautious, so unsure about what it was they had.
"You took your time asking." She took a step into the room from the corridor, eyes flickering around the room as if checking it for missing valuables. There was little friendliness and less trust in her voice.
Starbuck sighed soundlessly, and kept his tone reasonable. "Apollo loaned me out to Red a few days ago, while Lieutenant Rafe's on sick. We're on the Graveyard watch. I just heard from Boomer how sick Boxey is."
"He's in Life Center," Athena said, flat and unfriendly.
"I guessed. How is he, 'The?"
"Don't call me that," she snapped, on automatic, and he could have kicked himself for that maladroit step. He'd lost the right to call her that a yahren ago now. Then she shook her head, and he realized that she was tired and, uncharacteristically, her emotions were very near the surface. He hadn't seen her this taut since Zac had been killed, and he forgave her the hostility. He deserved it, anyway, for the way he'd treated her. "He's sick, Starbuck. He's very sick."
"I'm sorry." He hesitated, then moved towards the door. "I'll get out of your hair. Tell Apollo..." he paused and thought about it. Tell him what? That I love him? That I miss him? That I'm sorry I got a little drunk? That I'm heart-sick sorry that I was so mad that I screwed with some man whose name I can't even remember, but I wanted Apollo all the time, every damned micron of it . That I want to be back on his radar, even the tiniest, tiniest bit and I'll beg if that would do it?
Starbuck came up with something innocuous, but poignantly true. "Tell him I'm thinking of him." He paused. "No, don't bother. I'll tell him myself."
Athena let him past, saying nothing more and not, seemingly expecting more from him. When he reached the corridor turn, he glanced back. She was still leaning in the doorway as if guarding it and barring him re-entry into the uncharacteristically untidy room, because, perhaps, he had no right to be there.
Life Center was very quiet; mid-afternoon quiet, with very little going on in the big central treatment area. He was pleased that Cassie wasn't around. At least he didn't have to negotiate his way around yet another angry ex-girlfriend to get to see Apollo. Of course, he just might have to negotiate his way around the ex-boyfriend, which, on present showing, was likely to be far more difficult.
He went through into the corridor to the private rooms, moving quietly, infected by the quiet around him. He paused in the doorway, taking in the scene in front of him.
The Commander wasn't a very tactile man. Starbuck knew that Adama loved his children, and the family ties were good and strong, as witness the way that they all protected and watched out for each other. But over the yahrens that he'd known them, the Lieutenant hadn't been witness to many overt gestures of affection. The Commander unbent far more to Boxey than he did to Apollo. In bed one night, sectons ago now, sated bodies slick with sweat, Apollo had theorized that maybe it was because Adama hadn't been around much when Apollo was growing up and had never gotten into the habit, but was making up for it with the next generation. So it was a bit worrying to see Apollo slumped wearily in a chair with the Commander bending over him, holding him. Ominous.
They were both so still that Starbuck took a silent, careful step backwards, hoping to sneak away before they saw him, or at least fade into the background until the centon was right. He didn't want them to think he'd intrude. Not where he wasn't wanted and not where he had no right to be.
But something in the stealthy movement must have caught the Commander's attention, and Adama glanced up at him. For a micron Starbuck stared back at the calm, rather cold face, his heart in his mouth, frantically trying to work out how the hell he'd get out of this one, then Adama nodded at him, and beckoned him forward. Not exactly welcoming, but not hostile either.
"Starbuck's here," he said to Apollo. The Captain didn't react. "Maybe he can do better than me."
"At what?" Starbuck asked, before he could stop himself.
"Persuading Apollo to go to bed and get some rest." Adama hugged his son gently and dropped a kiss on the tousled dark hair. "He needs it."
That really rattled Starbuck. A hug was bad enough, but that paternal kiss? That level of comfort did not bode well. "Boxey?" he mouthed.
Adama looked tired, but not as though he was grieving his heart out. "Boxey will be fine, Starbuck, although he's sick and sorry for himself. He's asleep right now, and Salik says he'll sleep for centars. So there is no reason to stay." This last part was clearly directed at his son.
Apollo straightened. "I'm all right," he said, not looking at Starbuck.
"But I'm an old man. I've been here all night and I need my rest. I'll leave him to you, Starbuck. See what you can do to make him see sense."
Starbuck nodded, letting the Commander pass him, seeing the odd glance the older man gave him and trying not to wonder what that calculating look meant. He walked over to take Adama's place, deciding en route that he wouldn't say anything until Apollo did. He sat silently and companionably in the chair next to the Captain's, waiting and curiously content to wait.
"I don't need nursemaiding," Apollo said at last, his voice muffled. He still hadn't looked at Starbuck.
"No," Starbuck agreed.
"You don't need to stay."
"No," Starbuck agreed.
"But you're going to."
"I don't think that the Commander made it an order, but he has his expectations. I'd better not disappoint him." Starbuck leaned back, turning sideways so that he got a good view of the downcast profile. He hesitated, then said softly: "The way I think I disappointed you."
Apollo looked at him at last. His eyes were red and, Starbuck thought he looked bone-weary. Starbuck had to hold back on the urge to hold him the way the Commander had. He'd kissed Apollo's hair often himself, remembering Adama stooping down and delivering that unusual embrace. He knew how good Apollo's hair smelled and how intoxicating it was to kiss. But duty and responsibility came first.
"You're my responsibility, you see," he said.
"Because you don't want to disappoint my father?"
Starbuck sighed in slight exasperation, thinking that there was truth in that old statement about there are none so blind as those who will not see. "Because I love you, you idiot."
"You said that before, the day after..." Apollo didn't finish what he was saying, then said, slowly, "I've thought about that a lot since then. That was the first time you ever said it. I wasn't sure, before."
Starbuck thought with exasperation that the man could at least have called him back into the Duty Office and asked for clarification. Instead, he'd been doomed to the Graveyard shift. Now, however, was not the time for recriminations. Well, not yet, anyway. "I didn't think you wanted me to. I mean, the way you wanted no-one to know about us, I figured it wasn't important to you."
"No, it's not that. I just didn't think you wanted that. You never had before."
"Well, like you said, we've all changed." Starbuck scratched thoughtfully at the bridge of his nose. "Some of us take longer than others to realize it, though."
Apollo twisted in the seat to face him. "Is that meant for me?"
"For you?" Starbuck shook his head. "No. I was thinking that it took a dose of my old life for me to finally realize that I didn't want it anymore. I think I've outgrown it. Maybe I've got too old for it or something, and it's time I settled down. I've got other priorities now."
"I thought a lot about what you said. You might have been right that I wasn't prepared to admit the changes in my life, that I hid it."
"Then I guess it means you too."
"And for not letting you in past the edges and keeping it quiet."
"For not being sure yourself that the old life doesn't matter anymore. For not being sure if you really do want to start over."
"There's only so many times you can be reborn into a new life."
"Is there? Wanna bet?" He won a slight smile for that little lapse into the old Starbuck and felt encouraged.
Apollo was silent for a while, then got up and wandered over to the door of Boxey's room. He watched his son for a few centons. "Some things still do matter. I'll always put him first, and I have too many responsibilities for me to ignore them. There'll always be other things that pull at me, hold me back. I'm not as free as you, Starbuck."
"Free? Who's free? It's just that my duties and responsibilities aren't official and don't come with a uniform." Starbuck scratched at his nose again. "Nor, for that matter, a paycheck."
Apollo turned and faced him, leaning against the door jamb. "You've got amazingly deep and philosophical all of a sudden."
"Comes from too much thinking time in the Graveyard. There's nothing much else to do and it whiles away the long night."
"Bored?" Apollo asked, with another slight smile.
"I miss you, I guess. Even when you're mad at me."
Apollo sighed. "I missed you too."
"Ah," said Starbuck. "I wasn't so sure of that."
Another sigh. "I left you pretty unsure of a lot of things, didn't I?" He looked again at Boxey. "Boxey was pretty sick last night. Things like that make you think, make you question what your priorities are. Is this what you felt like after Iblis?"
"I was scared. I realized how fast things can change and how quickly you can lose what's important and then it's too late to do anything about it. Something like that, I guess."
"I kept remembering that time you disappeared, when Baltar had you and we thought you were dead. I thought then it was too late. I should have realized then what it meant."
Starbuck let out a quiet sigh of relief. "As long as you know now."
"As long as you can cope with not always coming first."
"As long as I come," Starbuck said, slyly. "Often."
Apollo laughed, then said, seriously, "You never disappointed me, Starbuck. I don't think I gave you a chance really."
"No, you didn't," Starbuck agreed. He thought about Ben, or whatever. "The other night, though..."
"Not your fault and I don't want to know."
"Fair enough." Starbuck hoped that was true. "Another try then?"
"I guess. I'll try to be more considerate, I promise."
Starbuck grinned at him, under no illusions about that. "We'll see."
"And I'll talk to Dad, too. And Boxey."
"Sounds like a reasonable offer. And talking of your Dad, he did leave me with the distinct impression he expected me to persuade you into bed. Of course, what I have in mind may not be an exact interpretation of what he intended, but the general principle seems sound." Starbuck held out a hand.
"I'll not sleep," Apollo warned, taking Starbuck's hand.
"Precisely," Starbuck agreed, serenely. "I've no intention of letting you. I haven't changed that much."
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.