I reserved the corner booth near the waterfall on the Rising Star for our second date. I'd gotten there early to be sure we'd get the one we ordered. The server took my order with a smile and promised to bring the ambrosia as soon as Cassie arrived. I sat looking over the room and replaying our last meeting in my head.
She'd already known something was up when I called her and asked if we could get together three days ago. She'd arrived looking like a fragile angel, all in white with her fair hair falling over her shoulders in a cascade of blond curls. I remember how my fingers itched to touch the silken strands and the control it took to simply stand and gesture her to her seat across from me.
We ordered grog and I remember how the fiery liquor burned its way down my throat while my brain fought for the words I'd rehearsed so painstakingly all day. She listened very quietly and the brief glance of anxiety touched my heart. Murmuring something about praying for them both, she asked me why I'd sought her out.
I think I stammered something about us both caring about them so that gave us a bond that would help us through this change. Total bull shit, of course and her smile told me she saw right through me but she stayed anyway and we talked for two centars. She's very easy to talk to and I found myself sharing memories of my childhood that I hadn't thought of in years.
She returned the favor with memories of growing up an only child in a poor family. She was intrigued with the stories of my brothers and we found ourselves laughing over and over. It was a good evening and I didn't want it to end but she made sure we set another date to meet as soon as we could.
Tonight. I spared a passing thought for my brother and his wingman who hadn't been seen since I locked them in. They'd spoken to Boxey and father several times but Colonel Tigh had strict instructions to take them off the flying schedule and route any problems to Boomer or myself. Rumors were rampant in both squadrons and Sheba had come by to try and get me to say what was going on but I stayed mute.
I hoped they were making love until they passed out. They had a lot of time to make up for. Looking up, I saw Cassie come in and look for me. This time she was wearing a dress made from the color of her eyes. It floated around her slender body, clinging only at breast and thigh. I swallowed hard and took a deep breath, raising a hand to beckon her over.
Lords, she is beautiful. She glides rather than walks and every eye in the place is on her. But her gaze is fixed firmly on me and I have to take a deep breath to try and calm myself. Then she's here, by my side and the server is pouring out the ambrosia I brought with me. Father provided the dusty old bottle and I must remember to thank him when I next see him. It's smooth and sweet, setting fire to my blood.
"Athena, why are we here?" Her voice is low but those eyes see right into my heart and the glow in them gives me courage.
"Starbuck was always in the way, first with me then with you. But he's not now. There's just the two of us and ..." I dropped my own eyes to the tablecloth where I was tracing circles with my finger. Her hand covered mine, stilling the restless movements and gently squeezing. "And I want to be closer. What do you want?"
"I'd like that, Athena. You have fascinated me since I first met you. Starbuck is always singing your praises." Her hand raised my chin so our eyes could meet again. "And I find it intriguing to know a woman in such a demanding job yet who retains her femininity. I'd enjoy learning more. Not to mention the fantasies I've had about making love with you until we both pass out."
Her tone of voice never changed but her last words widened my eyes and suddenly she was laughing and it was so infectious, I was as well. We were chortling helplessly and had to take another drink to calm ourselves. But this time, the glow wasn't ambrosia induced. I could feel a gentle fire flowing from her to me where our hands clasped on the snow white cloth.
The server was back with menus but we just ordered what we had before, the vegetable stir-fry. It seemed we were cocooned in our corner away from the normal chatter of this high class food emporium. So, I wasn't prepared for her gasp and the sudden tightening of her hand on mine.
"Look. Oh my, I don't believe I've ever seen him so content."
My eyes darted to the entrance and the uncommon sight of my brother out of uniform standing very close to a Starbuck who positively glowed. Yes indeed, they both looked completely fucked out. They weren't touching but there seemed to be a golden force field surrounding them and protecting their bond.
I looked back to Cassie and we both broke into delighted laughter. Truly, the ghosts of old lovers had been laid to rest with the delicious sight of our two favorite people.
"Apollo, I believe they're laughing at us." Starbuck's rich voice flowed over me and I felt him nudge me to the center of the booth so he could sit beside me.
"I think you're right, Starbuck. Ladies, I recognize that bottle and it would be a sin not to share it with us." Apollo had crowded Cassie into my side when he sat down.
Inside, I was cheering at the wonderful warmth of her. I hadn't dared get this close yet. Her left hand rubbed my leg and I felt the heat speed directly to my heart. Daringly, I returned the gesture and felt her lean a little harder into my shoulder. Shivering, I focused on the banter going back and forth across the table.
They had spent the afternoon with Boxey, back on Eden II, exploring until the young man's stamina had finally given out. Apollo shook his head. "We took him back to Father's. One more night and he can come home."
Starbuck looked like he wanted to reach his hand out and touch him but didn't dare. "Are you sure, Apollo? We could give it a little more time."
"Nope. We're moving your things tonight. Unless you need more time?" My brother is past master at the wide-eyed mournful gaze.
"N-n-no. I don't need more time." Poor Starbuck looked like he was going to hyperventilate right there. I stroked his right hand soothingly and he crushed it between his still too thin fingers.
"Starbuck, it's time I had another brother and poor Apollo has a heart mate to help him with that little imp. You wouldn't want to disappoint us now. Father told me that he's looking forward to learning all your secrets of gambling so he can dazzle the other Council members at their next game." I gave him a verbal nudge.
His face paled and I shot a look at Cassie to see why he was upset at my teasing. But she just sighed and tightened her hold on my leg.
"That's what I'm best at, 'The. Disappointing people." His blue eyes clouded and his lips drooped.
Apollo was on his feet and by Starbuck's side in a heartbeat. Kneeling by his wingman, he grasped his other hand and brought it to his lips for a soft kiss. "No it's not, Starbuck. You're best at loving me and Boxey and Athena and Cassie and even that charming reprobate we think may be your father. I love you and I want you with me all the time, even if it shocks the Council and half the pilots. Us being together won't upset the people who love us."
"Um, Apollo. Everyone's staring." Starbuck was blushing and tugging on his lover's hand.
"Don't care. I was thinking of taking an ad on the nightly newscast, asking everyone to come to our Sealing. But if you don't want to ..." his sigh was masterly and I found myself holding my breath while Cassie gasped and held hard to my hand under the table.
"Sealed? Oh, Apollo. Are you sure?" A tear ran down the cheek on my side.
"I love you. Remember, I'm going to be telling you that for the next fifty yahren, whether you Seal yourself to me or not." Apollo's eyes were glowing with a fire I hadn't seen in such a long time.
"I love you, too. Yes, of course, I want to." Starbuck sniffed and Apollo sprang to his feet, hauling his wingman up with him.
The place went dead silent while my brother proceeded to kiss my soon-to-be brother senseless. Cassie sighed and I looked to see a tear in her eye as well. I froze in terror. Did she still want him? But she read my mind and shook her head, leaning close to my ear.
"I love him like a brother. Don't you just love happy endings?" She grinned at me and brushed her lips over mine. The shock was electric and I felt my toes curl in my sandals. Her eye lashes fluttered open and the gleam in them started my heart beating faster.
Apollo's voice broke through our temporary paralysis. "Well, ladies, I need to take Starbuck home for some major celebrating. Sorry to disturb your dinner. Have fun."
Starbuck managed a last smart remark over his shoulder as Apollo hustled him out. "Don't do anything we wouldn't do."
"Hm-m-m," Cassie purred in my ear. "That leaves the field wide open. Don't you think, 'The?"
Her use of my nickname sent another shiver up my spine. Raising my free hand for the server, I lowered my voice to my own purr. "Celebrating sounds good. My place or yours?"
"Yours. I expect it's more private than mine. I'd hate to be interrupted while we were ... celebrating."
The server capped the bottle of ambrosia and handed it to me before bowing us out with a big smile on his face. My tip may have had something to do with it but from the smiles on the faces of the other guests, I expect it was more the floor show my normally staid older brother had put on. Father was going to have a coronary and I really should comm him and tell him about it.
But there was an electric current traveling up my hand and through my arm, straight to my heart where Cassie and I were touching. Father would just have to wait. The whole Fleet would just have to wait for us.
End part six