by AnnaO

"And one capstone," Boomer said.

Giles looked sadly at his cards and tossed them onto the table. "I'm out."

"Me too." Jolly didn't even bother looking at the cards, Boomer noticed. Presumably he already knew how sad they were.

Only Starbuck stared blindly into space, expression vacant, eyes half- slitted against the smoke curling up from the fumerillo in his hand. He took as little interest in this round of Pyramid as he'd taken with the other rounds that evening that he'd played and lost.

"Bucko?" Boomer prompted him gently.


"My call. A minor Pyramid and capstone, complete with subsidiary tomb complex."

"Oh." Starbuck looked down at the cards in his hand and tossed them onto the table, shaking his head.

"All right!" Boomer was delighted. "And all mine!"

"Gloating is unseemly," Giles reproved him. "I've had enough for one night. I could do with something to eat."

"Now you're talking!" Jolly pushed his chair back. "I could always do with something to eat."

"Cheapskates. Just because I'm winning for once." Boomer watched them go, and watched Starbuck grimace at the fumerillo in his hand and stub it out. "Something wrong, old buddy?"

Starbuck focused on him briefly and shook his head, smiling.

"Well, okay," Boomer said, unconvinced. "Come and eat, Bucko. Time for some of the glop that the Commissary insists on serving up when they can't get real food. Which is, of course, one hundred per cent of the time." He glanced down at his winnings. "I'll buy."


"Spill it," Boomer ordered.

Starbuck had obediently followed him to the Commissary, had queued up behind him, had uncomplainingly accepted the greyish meat and pale orange vegetables doled out to him by a dough-faced chef, had followed him to quiet table, and now sat staring vacantly down at his plate. His whole demeanour invited – indeed, begged – inquiry.

There was only so much flesh and blood could take. And although Boomer's flesh and blood cringed at the thought of getting involved in whatever was bothering Starbuck, he couldn't bear to watch without knowing what it was he was watching.

There was a glint of something like satisfaction and mischief in Starbuck's eyes, the look of a man who's been waiting for a cue and at last it's come; at last, it's performance time. He sighed deeply, smiled as beatifically as a saint, then threw out his arms dramatically, and declaimed. There was no other way to describe it.

"My heart is on fire, and it's out of control."

Boomer's own heart somersaulted in panic. "Whaa...?"

"Like a blazing inferno," Starbuck added, clearly proud of the incendiary imagery. His eyes were wicked. He bowed his head, an actor seeking applause, laid a hand over the said hot organ and sighed again. Deeply. Romantically.

The little smile tugging at the corners of Starbuck's mouth did absolutely nothing to reassure Boomer. Absolutely nothing at all. Boomer felt his heart give one more somersault before hammering uncomfortably against his ribs, as an acute sense of self preservation caused the adrenalin to kick in. He went into instant denial.

"Indigestion?" he said wildly, hopefully. "You need some antacid? I can get some bicarbonate..."

Starbuck just looked at him, wounded, a man whose finest tragic performance had been greeted with inappropriate laughter.

"Not indigestion, then? A coronary? Please say it's a coronary." Boomer's nerves started to twitch. "Oh hell," he said. "Not that! Please tell me it's not that!"

Starbuck nodded.

"Oh come on! Not again. You keep doing this to me. I can't be doing with that, Bucko! I just can't."

"Oh boy," sighed Starbuck, while Boomer's twitches increased in frequency.

"What the hell's the matter with you?" Boomer demanded, looking around the Commissary for help. Not a medic in sight. There never bloody was when you needed one.

Starbuck frowned slightly, but those wicked eyes were shining. "I don't know if I'm coming or going," he admitted.

"You've got something on your mind? Is that why you were crap at cards?" Boomer, still denying furiously, wondered if all it was, after all (and please God!), was chagrin at losing.

"My mind's out to lunch."

"And you weren't exactly on the ball at Triad practice." Boomer winced at the unintended pun. Not that it wasn't true. Starbuck had seemed to forget why God gave him hands and had muffed more shots than Boomer would have believed possible.

"Lost all concentration," Starbuck murmured.

"Of course, you were playing with Giles since Apollo was tied up in that meeting," conceded Boomer, desperate to find some other explanation for Starbuck's distraction. "That could have been why you played so badly."

The blue eyes looking into Boomer's went from shiny to dreamy, but lost not one iota of the secret satisfaction. Starbuck, whatever the outward stance, was enjoying himself. He focused on something over Boomer's shoulder.

"And it's all because of him," Starbuck said.

"Giles?" Boomer said, almost hopefully. If only it wasn't his worst nightmare come true...

Starbuck just shook his head and sighed again. If it wasn't for the frank enjoyment in those deceitful blue eyes, he'd be the picture of lovelorn passion.

Boomer felt like sighing himself. It was beginning to annoy him, Starbuck sitting there punctuating every sentence with enough gusty breathing to keep a fair-sized kite airborne. He was grateful that the Lieutenant hadn't been eating anything particularly odorous, and said so, as nastily as he knew how.

But Starbuck didn't react to the insult. He was still staring over Boomer's shoulder, his mouth open. Boomer wondered if Starbuck hadn't been kidding about the mind being out at lunch. He looked like he'd start drooling any micron. But then came that little smile again.

Boomer had to look away before he threw up. He twisted in his chair, checking over the Commissary crowd to reassure himself that Starbuck was just kidding. The first person to catch his eye was Apollo, steering Boxey to a table on the far side of the room with one hand and carrying a plate full of mushies with the other. The Captain evidently hadn't noticed them.

Boomer turned back to Starbuck, the nervous twitch so bad that his right eyelid kept winking uncomfortably and uncontrollably.

"With the wink of an eye," Starbuck said dreamily, noticing and smiling at him..

"Stop it! Stop it right now!" Boomer was sharper than he intended. "Is that another bloody quotation or something?"

Starbuck nodded guiltily.

"Well stop it. I can't help it. It always twitches when you get me nervous."

Starbuck said nothing, looking hurt.

"Never mind," Boomer said. "Just never mind." He hesitated, then took a deep breath, knowing that he was trapped in a little drama of Starbuck's making and he wasn't going to get off stage until he'd played out his part. "I know you're trying to freak me out, but what the hell! Let's play along here. Apollo again?"

"Oh," sighed Starbuck.

Boomer wondered whether putting the braindead out of their misery could be claimed as a valid defence at the trial.

"Here we go again. It has to be about two sectars since you tried this one on me. What are you feeling, Bucko? Really?" He waited while Starbuck thought about it, the twitch in his right eyelid flickering so bad that he could feel the headache starting. He wondered if Starbuck would be honest for once, half dreading that he would be. "Nothing? Well, that's good, Starbuck. Nothing's good. Nothing's very good."

Starbuck still looked thoughtful.

"I mean, feeling nothing inside's better than, say, indigestion. Or a coronary. It's better than that, isn't it? Than madness, or sickness, or anything like that." Boomer tried not to sigh. There were enough people around here sighing. "Or being all mixed up inside and chaotic, or pretending you love someone ..."

Starbuck's eyes lit up. "There's chaos inside," he said, and nodded his thanks to Boomer for the inspiration.

Boomer groaned. "Chaos," he said. "Why?"

Starbuck smiled brilliantly. "He just has to smile, and I'm melting."

"No, you aren't," Boomer said, so forcefully that his teeth hurt from the grinding he was giving them. "You are not melting. Stop it, Bucko. You are not feeling anything, do you hear me?"

Starbuck nodded solemnly.

"And you are definitely not feeling anything for Apollo. You do this to me all the time, just to wind me up. Why? Why does it give you such a kick to pretend you've fallen for him and why do I always fall for it? Lords, if I thought you meant it I'd go stick my head into one of the fusion reactors. It'd be less painful. You know you don't mean it."

Starbuck looked as though he wanted to oblige. Really he did. But he shrugged apologetically, and nodded. Solemnly.

He meant it. Boomer put his head in his hands and groaned aloud. Starbuck tilted his head onto one side and watched him, eyes gleaming.

"Okay," Boomer said after a centons anguished moaning, thinking back to previous outbreaks and remembering how he'd dealt with the infection then. "Hot sex worked, last time. If I could just find Cassie... what you need is to get laid, my friend, and put this nonsense out of your head." He saw the expression on Starbuck's face and cut in fast, before Starbuck could say it. "And not by him! Not by him!"

Starbuck sighed and subsided, looking faintly disappointed.

"Right," Boomer said. "No Cassie. Something else." He twisted in his chair again and sent a glower in the direction of an unsuspecting and unaware Captain taking his small son out for a treat. "I've got it. I've some really good ganja, Starbuck. The best. I've never seen such good quality. I was saving it, but what the hell! I'll bet that this whole thing is a scam to con my best ganja outa me, but let's pretend that your need is greater than mine. I'll doctor up a fumerillo for you and you'll forget all this crap, and leave me alone, okay?"

Starbuck was silent for a long centon, frowning, looking like thinking hurt, then gave Boomer a satisfied smile. "There's no drug I've tried," he said, "Could give such a high, as the height that I reach when he's near."

Boomer bit back a howl. "No! That's just too much, Starbuck! Not the poetry! Not the romantic poetry crap! You cut that out, right this blasted centon!" He gave up on trying to hold the sigh back. "I never know when you're serious. But this crap! You try this out on me too often."

Starbuck shrugged and smiled.

"Well, stop it," Boomer grumbled, the tic in his right eyelid going so fast his sight was blurring.

Another gusty sigh, another mooning look at the Captain and his son in the far distance.

"Are you trying to drive me insane?"

This time the smile was apologetic. Starbuck made a visible effort to gather his wits together and put out a hand to touch Boomer's arm.

"Well, okay," Boomer said, mollified slightly.

Starbuck frowned, looking intently at the hand on Boomer's sleeve. He held both hands out, spreading his fingers and looking at them critically. "My nails are a mess," he complained.

Boomer's eye stilled its frantic fluttering, relief flooding over him. The narcissist was back. If Starbuck was noticing things like unkempt fingernails, was concentrating on himself to his usual extent, then the joke had to be over. For the next couple of sectars anyway.

"Your hair could do with brushing, too," he said. "And you've gravy spots on that jacket."

Grooming advice seemed to send Starbuck into an immediate relapse. "And I couldn't care less."

"Oh God." Boomer went back to head holding and eye twitching. "Why are you doing this to me? Why are you tormenting me? Because I won tonight? What is wrong with you?"

"I'm calling it love."

"And why the hell should you do that?"

Starbuck looked at him as if he were mad, and said, gently, and slowly, as if to a backward child, "'Cause there's no other word?"

"Oh God."

Starbuck looked back towards Apollo and Boxey. "And it's all because of him."

"So you said," Boomer said, provoked too far. "Love! As if you've ever been in love! What do you know about love! All you know about is sex and cards, and what you know about love is neither here nor there!"

"Well I'm neither here," Starbuck said, serenely – and accurately, Boomer thought, if by that he meant in possession of normal mental faculties. Starbuck looked sadly over to the table where Apollo was. "And I'm neither there."

"Listen, you lunatic. Love isn't about cards. It isn't about sex! It's about feelings!" Boomer thought of lost loves and briefly his soul touched poetry. "It's about emotions! Real emotions, explosive and wonderful and amazing and..."

Starbuck straightened up in his chair and beamed so approvingly that Boomer felt the tears prick in the back of his eyelids, aghast at what he'd done, fanning the flames like that.

Starbuck nodded thanks for the inspiration. "It's like I've exploded emotions everywhere!"

"Shit," Boomer said, and buried his head in his hands for a long centon. "Oh shit." He jumped violently when a hand fell on his shoulder.

"Hi guys!" Apollo said, cheerfully oblivious. "Didn't see you when we came in."

"Is something wrong, Uncle Boomer?" Boxey asked. "Your eye looks funny."

"I'm fine," Boomer choked out, putting such blazing dislike into the glare he gave Apollo that the Captain recoiled. He ground his teeth again. "Fine!"

"Right," Apollo said, evidently taken aback by Boomer's ferocity. "We won't stay."

"Good!" Boomer said.

"It's time Boxey went to bed, anyway," Apollo ignored the complaining 'Oh Dad!" and went on, "Give me a centar, Star."

Starbuck looked up and nodded, all dreaminess and forlorn lovelorn-iness gone. The lust was pouring off him at industrial-strength and Boomer had to look away, too embarrassed to witness it.

"Don't be late," Apollo said, and the possessive, anticipatory note in his voice had Boomer's left eye twitching to join the right. "See you later. Boxey's right, Boom-boom. You don't look too good."

"I'm fine," Boomer said, faintly.

"Okay. Don't be late, Star."

Boomer watched them go, and listened to one more seriously gusty sigh from Starbuck. He was dazed. Two yahrens of Starbuck's fantasies, and he'd long ago stopped believing in it, except as something Starbuck did to annoy him. But he couldn't deny that look, the tone of Apollo's voice.

"Love, huh?"

Starbuck nodded happily, his expression that of a man who's achieved the dream he'd been dreaming for yahrens. "And it's all because of him."

Author's apology
This is the result of a challenge a year or two ago on the bsgslash list, to write a short story using the words of a song in the dialogue - here, Starbuck says nothing that isn't. Harder to do than you'd think, and not, I'm afraid, terribly convincing, but my best shot.

Remember the whacky time units : micron = second, centon = minute, centar = hour, secton = week, sectar = month.

The song is from Jimmy Sullivan's Dare to Love album:

Because of him

My heart is on fire
And it's out of control
Like a blazing inferno
Oh boy, I don't know
If I'm coming or going
My mind's out to lunch
Lost all concentration
And it's all because of him.

With the wink of an eye
And there's chaos inside
He just has to smile
And I'm melting
And there's no drug I've tried
Could give such a high
As the height that I reach when he's near

My nails are a mess
And I couldn't care less
I'm calling it love
'cause there's no other word
And it's all because of him.

Well I'm neither here
And I'm neither there
It's like I've exploded emotions
And it's all because of him.