You Owe Me Nothing in Return
Summary: A secret kept causes Apollo to doubt. (Angst, light slash (S/A))
May 23, 2004
Disclaimers: Oh how I love my fandoms, but I merely dally in these worlds and write because it pleases me. There is no money made and I assure you the characters belong not to me, although the plot assuredly does.
Author’s Note: I don’t know why this is so depressing. The line struck at me for inspiration and so I hurried to write it. I guess I’m in the middle (maybe nearing the end? I hope?) of a very serious and nerve-wracking Man from U.N.C.L.E. fanfic and that carried over to this. o.0;; As for the title, it is one of the songs on Alanis Morissette’s Under Rug Swept CD from ’03. It’s a wonderful, beautiful song that I thought really represented a lot of the “best friendships” that in slash fandom turns into pairings. =) Apollo and Starbuck are no exception, and I rather prefer the song coming from Starbuck’s POV for some reason… And, at least, that fits best for this story’s purposes.
“Are you ashamed of what we have together?”
“How can you even think that?” his voice was quiet, hoarse with disbelief.
“Then what is all of this? What is the regret in your eyes? Why do you pull back when I reach to touch you?” His voice was low, not as quiet as his companion’s. His face was drawn with lines borne of sleepless nights and questions unanswered. “If you’re not ashamed, then what is it?”
“Can’t you think beyond this for a moment?” he demanded in a mix of anger and extreme exhaustion. He threw his arms wide to signify the multi-room quarters that the two of them shared with the brunette’s adopted son.
“This is my life,” he replied quietly. His shoulders slumped forward and his face took on the expression of defeat. The brunette sighed almost inaudibly as he averted his green-eyed gaze from his lover.
“I know you care beyond this,” the blond said. “I am not the all important figure in your life. Don’t–it doesn’t bother me. How could I love you if you were any different? I don’t need to be your be-all-end-all, okay? We both have lives that extend beyond what we share, here.”
The brunette’s lips tightened to hold back a bitter response.
Quietly, almost gently, the blond continued, “There are some secrets I am not comfortable sharing; I’m sure you have some as well.”
“I don’t!” he bit out harshly, his dulled green eyes flashing with the sudden surge of emotion. “Damn you! We’ve dedicated ourselves to one another! Don’t you understand what that means?”
Seemingly undisturbed, the blond’s cool blue eyes met his partner’s angered green ones. “Apollo, I love you.”
“Just not enough to explain?” the brunette demanded, letting his anger overpower all else.
The blond closed his eyes for a brief moment. “Not right now,” he murmured.
“When? When will it be all right? Can’t you trust me? God damn you! What do you need from me to prove to you that I’m yours?”
“No! Too damn long. You’ve pulled this… this felgarcarb for far too long! I thought I could wait forever! I can’t. I’m sorry, I can’t wait!”
The blond bowed his head, his lips pressed together tightly. Finally he responded, “I am sorry. I love you.”
“Then fix this!” the brunette shouted, unwilling to back down. He had always played the hesitant lover, the far more submissive one when it came to their partnership. Not anymore.
“What you want… I cannot give you. Not right now. I don’t know when.” The blond wore a stoic mask when he again looked up. His blue eyes revealed a turmoil of emotions beneath the surface, but the brunette refused to acknowledge what might be there. “I didn’t expect you would wait. I’m sorry that I disappointed you, Apollo.
“I could never be ashamed of anything we share. I want you to be happy–” he proceeded on as if not hearing the disbelieving snort from his lover “–and I regret that I couldn’t bring that to you.”
“Get out,” the brunette growled. “I’m sick of listening to you.”
The blond inclined his head in acknowledgement. He swallowed visibly, as if preparing to say something more, but he didn’t. It took a long pause before the blond seemed able to move towards the door. The brunette refused to watch him go, so he missed the blue-eyed gaze full of regret and emptiness focused on him even as the blond stepped out the door.
“You couldn’t even argue,” he spat out bitterly into the oppressive silence of his now empty quarters.
~ * ~ * ~ * ~
“What in God’s name are you doing here?” Boomer demanded in shock when he walked into his almost constantly empty “shared” quarters.
His blond friend turned his head for but a moment before going back to focusing on what he was typing into a computer terminal.
A sense of dread settled low in Boomer’s gut. He approached Starbuck slowly and peered at the screen over Starbuck’s shoulder. His brow furrowed in confusion. He looked from the blond to the computer and then back again.
“Starbuck? What are you doing?”
“Settling things, Boom-Boom,” the blond said quietly.
“Right this moment? You’re usually with Apollo right about now…”
Starbuck said nothing. Silently Boomer cursed his friend for not taking the bait. He wasn’t sure how exactly to proceed since whatever was currently separating his friends seemed to be of a larger scale than usual.
Abruptly Starbuck stood up. The terminal beeped gently as it transferred the imported data. Starbuck turned and stared dully at his friend, silently requesting passage. Boomer stood his ground, searching for some hint of what was going on in his friend’s eyes. There was nothing but an ache that reached from the depths of those usually warm baby blues. Unnerved, Boomer stepped aside and watched Starbuck leave.
He looked again at the computer terminal, now clear of the financial data screen Starbuck had been using bare moments ago. He decided to talk with Apollo.
~ * ~ * ~ * ~
Starbuck sat apart from the other passengers as the shuttle made its way to the Rising Star. He stared blindly out the window port, watching the ships of the Fleet drift through the endless amount of space expanding into eternity. The shuttle docked and released its passengers; no one new was allowed to board.
The shuttle disengaged and altered its course to head further into the Fleet, away from the Galactica.
“Approaching the Pleiades, sir,” the pilot called back. Starbuck murmured an acknowledgement and prepared himself for the landing.
After they had docked, he stood and exited the craft. The small shuttle bay was empty but for a trio of technicians and an elderly man in well-worn clothing. Starbuck approached the man and nodded his silent greeting.
“This way, Lieutenant.”
Starbuck followed the man through corridors full of flickering lights, dirty walls, and leaking pipes. What may once have been a well-built space freighter had suffered from the nearly five years of non-stop travel. The man finally indicated a door surrounded by a relatively clean space of wall.
Staring at the nondescript door made the hurtful exchange with Apollo replay in his head. But this was something he was unprepared to share. Boomer had been with him when he got the news and Starbuck had sworn his friend to secrecy. No, this was something that was too personal, and it involved ghosts he thought he had only ever dreamed about.
Finally he could reach out a trembling hand to activate the door to admit him passage. He entered the cramped quarters smelling distinctly of human life packed too close together. A dozen faces turned to him with varying degrees of curiosity when he stepped into the dimly lit room.
Wary and tired faces examined his uniform suspiciously but he did not answer their silent questions. He caught sight of a gaunt, pale face he had seen briefly in a small Life Center established on the upper decks of the Pleiades. He followed the disappearing face into a smaller room with only a handful of people. These people eyed him with a hint of recognition, but their lips were sealed tightly. They had nothing to say to him and he had nothing to offer them in return.
The young teen he had followed into the room stood as far from him as was possible. He leaned against the wall, his stance supposed relaxed but his muscles were stiff with tension. Starbuck stared at the boy with wordless wonder. His chest ached. He swore that someone had carved out his midsection, leaving him bare and worthless. He did not know what to say.
~ * ~ * ~ * ~
Boomer waited, grim-faced, at Apollo’s side in the Galactica’s landing bay. They were waiting for the shuttle that would open its doors to reveal Starbuck. It was well over a three hour wait, which was in addition to the initial hour it took for Boomer to figure out what was going on and then explain the situation in enough detail to appease Apollo’s hurt.
Finally a familiar blond stepped down from the newly arrived shuttle. He walked, unseeing, straight towards them. He was little more than a metron away before his glossy-eyed stare seemed to clear. He stopped abruptly, staring momentarily at Boomer and then focusing on Apollo. His expression remained despairingly blank.
Hesitantly, Apollo started, “Starbuck… why didn’t you tell me? I–I’m so sorry…” He trailed off when no response, barely even a spark of recognition, came from dull blue eyes.
“Bucko?” Boomer prodded gently, acknowledging that the trip to the Pleiades must have been trying.
“The matter has been settled,” he stated.
Apollo searched his lover’s gaze worriedly. “But your sist–”
“Melody’s family has accepted my distanced support. Her husband and son have been transferred to better living quarters on the Solaris.”
“I’m so sorry,” Apollo whispered, his face pinched with pain for what his lover must be feeling beneath the cool exterior.
Starbuck’s expression hadn’t softened or even wavered. “I have provided what I can. I am sorry I did not tell you myself.”
Apollo reached to touch his lover but Starbuck evaded the gesture in a graceful move. “I need to rest.”
Boomer placed a restraining hand on Apollo’s shoulder as Starbuck headed towards the de-con chambers and ultimately the rest of the Galactica. Apollo looked hopelessly at his friend. “God, Boomer, how could I have screwed up so royally?” he asked bitterly as he internally cursed himself thrice over.
“You haven’t,” Boomer said quietly, his gaze lowered. “Bucko just…needs his time to mourn.”
Apollo’s jaw muscles clenched. “To mourn someone he never knew? Mourn some people who refuse to acknowledge him?” His anger from earlier found a new target
“We always… He never had it, ‘Pol,” Boomer reminded gently, his voice had its usual calming affect. “Starbuck had finally been contacted by a family he was so sure had always been gone–and in less than a day she was gone.” His hand tightened on Apollo’s shoulder as he took a few moments to find what he wanted to say. “You know he’d give anything to be a part of them, that’s why he’s been trying so hard to accommodate their difficult request that he not interfere in their affairs.”
Apollo said, “It’s just blood…”
“Maybe,” Boomer agreed. “But I think she was the first person to reach for him. He wasn’t looking; for a change, someone else was.”
Apollo remained silent. Boomer squeezed his shoulder in silent reassurance. “He’ll come back around, buddy. He’s resilient.”
“But I doubted.”
“Don’t dwell on it. It doesn’t help anything, not you or him or anyone else. You didn’t know what was going on and he wasn’t willing to share. Life will go on.”
Again Apollo declined answering his friend. He couldn’t explain the gaping ravine that he now felt had opened in front of his feet. Far on the other side he could sense Starbuck, but he had little hope of ever being able to reach the blond. He swallowed hard to repress those emotions and let Boomer guide him towards the lift. The offer of a drink at the OC was warmly welcomed despite the cold core resting in his stomach.
~ * Fin * ~