Tucson, Arizona. March 1972

Two days after the events of "Safe House"

"You sure you want to do this?" Apollo asked as he finished topping off the air in the motorcycle's tires. With Sheba's impending due date and then a new baby in the house it had been weeks since he'd taken it anywhere.

He looked up at his friend. Starbucks's gaze seemed trained on Apollo's hands as they capped the valve on the tire, but his eyes were disconcertingly empty. "Star?" Apollo prompted.

Starbuck jerked and that frightening blankness disappeared as he turned his eyes towards Apollo. "Yes." He gave Apollo an odd look. "Why wouldn't I?"

Apollo decided on honesty. "Because you still look exhausted and I'm thinking you'd be better off if I tossed you back into bed instead of taking you out on a motorcycle right now."

Starbuck shook his head, and, tellingly, didn't take the "toss you back into bed" bait. "I want to see that view again before I go."

Again. Apollo had been revisiting that night from almost three years ago a lot over the past two days, but he'd also thought about it frequently when his friend had been in Vietnam.

The noise of the motorcycle had made it impossible to talk, but Apollo could imagine Starbuck's glee as they roared down the highway, and his likely surprise as they turned off and started up a side street that turned into a gravel road that turned into a dirt road that turned into little more than a rocky path up a steep hill. It was far more challenging to keep the motorcycle balanced with two riders than it had been on his previous trips up here alone, but Apollo wasn't surprised at the way Starbuck rapidly caught on to what he needed to do to keep them from crashing on the trail.

They'd reached the top and came to a stop at a cliff, pulling off their helmets just in time to see the sun sink completely behind the mountains, the final reds and oranges of the sky throwing fiery light over a valley floor below that was a forest of saguaro cactus as far as the eye could see.

Starbuck hopped off the motorcycle and walked right to the edge of the cliff. Apollo switched off the motorcycle before joining him. It was beautiful, still, wild and completely alien, and they'd stood together in complete silence for long moments as the sky darkened and the stars began to show themselves one by one in the sky.

Starbuck let out a breath that Apollo hadn't even known he was holding.

"Wait for it." Apollo murmured softly. Starbuck gave him a glance and turned back to the tableau in front of them, just in time to see the quarter moon start to appear over the shadowed darkness of the mountains.

"Oh." Starbuck said a few minutes later, as the sliver of moon climbed higher into the sky. "I get it."
Apollo grinned. "Thought you might. But there's something else I wanted to show you." He went back over to the motorcycle and put the seat up, pulling a long thin object out of the small storage compartment underneath.

As he pulled it out Starbuck raised an eyebrow. "Your Dad know you stole a telescope from the Galactica and have it down here?"

Apollo shrugged. "No. You going to tell him?" He heard Starbuck's soft huff of laughter as he unfolded the skinny tripod legs and set the telescope on them, then bent down to the viewer. Starbuck remained silent as he adjusted it for a few moments, then stepped aside. "Go ahead and take a look."

"What am I looking at?" His friend asked as he looked through the viewer.

"See if you can figure it out." Apollo watched the play of expressions on his face as he worked through the star patterns, so he saw the exact second his friend figured it out.

Starbuck's head snapped up in shock. "That's…" he trailed off.

Apollo nodded, feeling the very faint smile playing around his lips. "Home." he said softly.

Starbuck just stared at him, then went back to the viewer and looked through it for a long moment. When he finally straightened up, he pressed the heels of his hands into his eyes before saying in a low voice. "Please tell me you're not coming up here night after night and looking at that, because that seems awfully self-destructive."

Apollo shook his head. "No. But Tucson happens to be at the perfect location to see it year round. With the right equipment of course. There isn't a telescope that comes from this planet that can pick out that star. And even this one can only pick it out this far from city lights." He gave his friend a wry look. "So you can't see it from Los Angeles, sorry."

Starbuck looked back through the viewer, then back up at the sky, then back through the viewer again. After a few repeats of this, Apollo realized what he was doing. "I've already done that. Come over here." He pulled their heads together, then looked upwards, showing Starbuck the constellations that were visible to the naked eye that would point the way to the patch of sky that was the home of Caprica's sun.

"Think I can see it from Vietnam?" Starbuck asked.

Apollo considered it for a moment. "Not sure. Maybe only part of the year? I've got star charts at home, so let's look when we get back." He started folding up the telescope.

"Pol." Starbuck's voice was soft, and Apollo stopped packing up the telescope and turned to look at him. Starbuck had his arms wrapped around himself and was looking at the ground, but he glanced up and met his friend's eyes when Apollo turned. "I'm going to miss you. Take care of yourself, ok?"

It was unusually direct and serious for Starbuck. "I will and I'll miss you too." Apollo said in response, "And I should be telling you to take care of yourself. You're going into a war zone, Star. Be careful."

"I'm not good at careful and you know it." Starbuck responded with a grin. "But I'll try."

"Apollo?" Starbuck was looking at him with an odd expression on his face, and Apollo pulled his head out of the memory. "I'm leaving tomorrow. Please don't make me talk through all that again."

Starbuck's voice was tired and strained. In the two days and nights he'd been at Apollo's house he'd lost some of the skeletal, haunted look he'd had the night he showed up, but exhaustion still shadowed his face. Apollo bit back what he wanted to say, knowing any continued attempt to convince his friend to stay any longer would be futile. Adama had been by the house that morning and the four of them (Sheba had joined them in the dining room) had that conversation in all of its painful entirety.

Starbuck's determination to get out of Apollo's house to stop putting Apollo and his family at risk, get to Los Angeles, rejoin his teammates, and find Murdock had been fierce and unshakable. They'd debated it, then fought about it, and as it had escalated it was only Apollo's sudden realization that he was actually causing his friend more pain and risking his complete alienation that had compelled him to stop the argument. But stopping the argument didn't stop Apollo's silent worry about the vacant look he was catching all too often in Starbuck's eyes, and the wreckage of scars on his friend's back and sides that he was flatly refusing to acknowledge or talk about.

Apollo shook his head. "I won't." He managed a bit of a grin. "I'd rather ride than fight. Come on." He swung his leg over the seat, seeing the relief in Starbuck's eyes as he settled onto the cycle as well.

As they headed out of the garage and onto the street, Apollo didn't comment on the distance Starbuck kept between them, but he added it to his list of things he was worried about. The last time they'd done this Starbuck had pressed himself right up against Apollo's back and looped his arms around his waist. This time, he was keeping his body to himself and his hands on the passenger seat grips. Apollo remembered the way his friend had jerked back from his touch two nights ago, and he wondered anew what had happened in Vietnam to put his friend so physically on the defensive. It painfully reminded Apollo of the way Starbuck had rejected all attempts at physical touch in the early days of their friendship. At the time, Apollo's mother, who in retrospect had a much better idea of the abuse the orphaned Starbuck had likely been subjected to throughout his childhood than her 13 year old son did, had quietly encouraged him not to take it personally and to give his new friend time and space. But this time around, Apollo wasn't sure if patience was the best course of action. And his mother wasn't here to help him figure it out.

Despite the initial reticence, Starbuck locked one arm around Apollo's waist as they hit the narrow mountain trail, and at one particularly challenging point Apollo briefly felt his helmet press between his shoulder blades. His friend shifted weight and balance in tandem with Apollo as they navigated up the trail, and Apollo was grateful to still feel the in-sync sense they'd always had, whether they were fighting cylons in their vipers or playing on a triad court or riding a motorcycle together on a mountain on a planet that had turned out to be much more alien than they'd ever expected it to be. Ever the perfect wingmen, whether they were in the air or not.

They reached the cliff at the end of the trail and Apollo switched off the engine just as the sun was setting, turning the sky into molten red and gold just as it had almost three years before. This time, they stayed on the motorcycle, watching as the sky darkened and the stars begin to gleam through in the dusk.

Apollo pulled his helmet off and dropped it to the ground, hearing his friend do the same a moment later, then, with what seemed like hesitation, Starbuck snaked his other arm around Apollo's waist and rested his forehead against his back.

He was silent for so long that Apollo started to wonder if he'd actually fallen asleep, but he finally did speak, voice low. "I couldn't find where Caprica was in the sky from the base. Too much light." He said. "Found it in the prison camp, though. Could see every star in the sky there. Just like here."

Apollo took one hand off the handlegrips of the motorcycle and folded it around Starbuck's hands where they were wrapped around his stomach. His friend reciprocated by clenching his fingers around the touch, but other than that neither of them moved. "I'm sorry." Apollo said, and his voice sounded raw to his own ears. He didn't know how to respond or what to say. "It was meant to help."

"Don't apologize." Starbuck replied softly. "It did help. And the star charts you showed me helped too. I taught everyone in the cages the names of all the constellations, and Murdock and I would play connect the dots with the stars. He actually managed to make a Tyrannosaurus Rex once. Not that I knew what that was at the time. Took forty-two stars to do it." He trailed off, and Apollo tried to imagine it, imprisoned and tortured and looking up at the sky, creating lines between the stars in your head and making shapes that reminded you of anything but where you actually were. His friend continued. "Sometimes I think it was the only thing that kept me from just..." Starbuck hesitated but then said, so softly that Apollo almost didn't hear him. "…giving up."

Apollo closed his eyes, knowing Starbuck couldn't see his face, thinking of all of the things they'd been through that hadn't caused his friend to give up, and wondering what could have possibly made him want to. "For what it's worth," he finally said. "I'm glad you didn't."

Starbuck made a noise that sounded like a cross between a laugh and a sob, but he didn't move from his position at Apollo's back, and he didn't pull his hands away from Apollo's gentle hold. When he spoke again, the words sounded like they were being wrenched out of him. "I killed a lot of people getting out of there, Apollo. Some of them with my bare hands."
Apollo didn't know if what he was feeling was rage or grief, or some combination of both, but he didn't hesitate with his response. "From the looks of you, they deserved everything you did to them. If not more."

Starbuck took a shuddering breath. "I had to...we couldn't..." the words were disjointed, and Apollo couldn't stand it anymore. He twisted around on the cycle and wrapped his arms fully around his friend, pulling the lowered head against his chest.

"We shouldn't have sent you there." He said fiercely, repeating the words he'd said to Starbuck the night he'd turned up in his house. "We shouldn't have sent any of you there." He could feel Starbuck shaking under his hands, "But we did. And don't you dare think that you need to apologize to me or to anyone for anything that you needed to do to get back here."

Starbuck didn't respond, but also didn't pull away. They stayed that way for a long time, as the sky darkened and the temperature dropped and the silence of the desert night settled around them. Apollo was starting to get stiff from his twisted position on the motorcycle and the chill in the air when Starbuck finally spoke again, voice muffled against his jacket.

"I don't know when I'll see you again."

Apollo's arms tightened. "I told you this when you showed up the other night, and again last night, and again this morning, but I'm going to keep repeating myself. You're my friend. You are always welcome in my house. Don't be a stranger. And we're here for you if you need help."
Starbuck took a shaky breath and clenched his hands more tightly around Apollo's at the words, and Apollo took his own deep breath, trying to get himself under control.

It was Starbuck who broke the mood, letting go and lifting his head and giving Apollo a nudge. "Well, that was all overly emotional." There was a trace of wry teasing in his tone.

Apollo gave him a hard shove. "Stop that. I meant every word."

Starbuck's voice softened as he met his friend's eyes. "I know you did."

"Ready to head back?" Apollo asked, picking up the helmets and kicking the engine on.

"Yeah." Starbuck replied, as he took one more long look out at the mountains, the forest of cactus, and the stars glittering in the sky above it all.

As they headed down the rocky hill, back towards home and back to whatever tomorrow would bring for them both, Apollo felt nothing but relief and gratitude when his best friend's arms once again wrapped tightly around his waist.