Even Trades by James
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Starbuck wondered if he should bother trying to talk someone into playing a round of Pyramid with him. He was bored out of his skull, but there was no one in the bunkroom that could even offer a mild challenge at a game of cards. It might be better than nothing, he tried to reason; but beating someone in five hands was no more interesting than sitting here and staring at the walls.

Despite all this, he glared when Boomer kicked his feet off the bunk he'd had them resting on.

"Can't you go around?" he asked, knowing he sounded testy and not caring. He didn't think Boomer would even notice -- and if he did, he wouldn't take it seriously.

Boomer sat down on Tagin's bunk, facing Starbuck. He leaned forward, elbows on his knees, and clasped his hands together like he was about to break bad news.

Bad news was at least not boring, so Starbuck asked, somewhat eagerly, "What's up?"

"You know, I normally wouldn't ask this--"

Starbuck held up his hand, and Boomer stopped. It was either borrow cubits, or swap patrols, and either way the answer should be 'no.'

It occurred to him that there might be some potential here for a little fun.

"Which is it?" he asked.

Boomer looked at him, confused. "Which is what? You wouldn't let me finish--"

"Money or patrol?"

Boomer's mouth gaped, for just a second, before he glared. "One of these days I'm going to figure how you do that."

Starbuck shrugged. "In this case, it's obvious. You never ask for anything else with that particular tone. So, give. Which is it?"

Boomer gave him one last dark look, before saying, "Patrol."

Starbuck narrowed his eyes. He only had one long patrol scheduled this month. He had two dozen short patrols -- everyone did, flying every other day in a close circuit around the fleet. But long patrols were rare and precious -- for both the fuel being spared, and for the opportunity for the slightest chance of finding something of interest.

As such, they were as heavily bartered amongst the pilots as were the last remaining bottles of Cordelon Ambrosia.

"You want me to give you my long patrol?" He stopped short of saying Boomer was obviously suffering from a bad oxygen recycler.

"Not give. Just trade," Boomer said quickly.

"Trade what?"

"Patrols. You take mine this week, and give me yours next week."

It sounded perfectly reasonable. He wouldn't lose a long patrol -- no real reason to say no. Except for one thing. Long patrols were just about the only time he ever got Apollo alone to himself.

But he couldn't very well use that as his excuse for saying no. To cover his reluctance, Starbuck asked, "Why do you want my patrol all of a sudden?"

"Gemma's got reservations on the Rising Star," Boomer said. "She tried changing them when I found out I was scheduled for patrol. But she can't. They told her she had to use them or lose them." His tone told Starbuck this wasn't a frivolous matter, although Starbuck already knew. Gemma and Boomer had been dating for nearly half a yahren, and Boomer was showing real signs of falling in love with her.

It was only the second time, ever, that Starbuck had seen Boomer care so much for someone and he felt like a heel for wanting to say no. Even if it meant giving up a chance to... well, how sad was it that he just wanted time alone to talk? It was practically impossible to steal time away for anything more than that on the Galactica. If Apollo hadn't insisted that any hint of rumour of "untoward activities" would make things politically dangerous for his father -- three of the twelve planets had strict laws and customs against same-sex relations, and those three council members happened to be among the most powerful, after Adama himself.

Starbuck had listened to enough lectures about the safety of the fleet versus one man's happiness. He knew how Apollo felt, and he knew they both did what they could to take what opportunities presented themselves. For several weeks, that had pretty much only been long patrols, and family dinners where the conversation was guarded and stilted -- but better than nothing.

And here was Boomer, looking at him like he wanted nothing more in the universe than exactly what Starbuck himself wanted. A few hours alone with someone he loved.

"Sure, Boomer," he said, and it wasn't nearly as difficult as he'd thought. Not easy, but the way Boomer smiled in relief told him that somebody appreciated it. Starbuck clapped him on the shoulder. "Name the first one after me, eh?"

Boomer glared at him fiercely, but stood up without making a retort. "Thanks, Starbuck." He glanced up, and Starbuck looked over to see Jolly, Boomer's wingman, coming towards them.

"He said it's fine with him if it's fine with Starbuck," Jolly said as he approached.

"What's fine with me?" Starbuck asked, a growing suspicion he'd just set himself up for something he'd need all his finesse to get out of. Darn Boomer, acting all innocent, saying he wanted time with Gemma.

"Trading patrols," Boomer said, sounding surprised. "Jolly asked Apollo."

Starbuck rarely felt like he was two slips behind. But now was one of those times. "Asked Apollo?"

"To trade long patrols. You and Apollo take our patrol, we take yours. We did just talk about this, Bucko. You're not getting senile already?" Boomer gave him a concerned look that was mostly faked.

"You... I thought..." Starbuck shook his head slowly.

"Nah. I don't like breaking in a new wingman," Boomer said blithely, but he gave Starbuck a wink. Jolly just grinned at him.

"Frack, I'm in trouble," Starbuck muttered.

"Ah, don't worry, Starbuck." Boomer leaned close, and whispered, "Only our squadron knows." He stood up, and he and Jolly started to walk away.

"The squadron," Starbuck said to himself, not sure he believed it. Then he sat up straight. "The whole squadron?" Starbuck looked around the bunkroom, at the warriors scattered around. None of them seemed to be paying any attention at all to their conversation. Starbuck put his head in his hands. "Dear gods, I'm in such trouble."
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