Tucson, Arizona. May, 1969
The persona of Army Officer Templeton Peck didn't have the most auspicious of beginnings, and in retrospect, perhaps its creation should have been taken a little more seriously.
It was two days after the Commander told his son that Lieutenant Starbuck had volunteered for the small group of Colonials being sent to Vietnam for infiltration into and recruitment from the various military forces there. Starbuck turned up at Apollo's Tucson apartment (the house move-in was still a few months away) with a full bottle of Laphroaig and a half-formed apology. He considered himself lucky not to be met at the door with a punch to the face, given how angry the Flight Captain currently was with him. Instead, Apollo opened the door, glared at him, then promptly slung an arm around his shoulders, dragged him into the living room, and shoved him down onto the low couch, somehow snagging the obscenely expensive bottle of single-malt scotch from his hands at the same time and slamming it down onto the coffee table with a rather emphatic thunk before turning around and disappearing into the kitchen.
He reappeared a minute later with two square glasses with equally square ice cubes, slammed those down on the coffee table as well, then dropped down gracelessly onto the sofa next to his wingman. They wordlessly stared at each other for a long moment before Apollo leaned over to open the bottle and give each glass a very generous three finger pour. When he finally spoke, his voice was dark, his anger clear in the tone. "There isn't enough alcohol on this entire planet for this conversation, Starbuck."
"Maybe not. But we can try." Starbuck picked up one of the squat glasses and drank the scotch in one go, placed the glass back on the table, and considered what to do about his very angry friend. There were times that talking to Apollo was like trying to eat an artichoke - you had to work your way through all the prickly bits to get down to the heart of it all. "I'm sorry I didn't tell you."
Apollo's eyes narrowed, and he picked up the other still-full glass, joined his friend in drinking it all down, then held onto the glass while he continued to glare at him. "No. You're not. Don't lie to me."
Starbuck reached over and poured another three fingers of scotch over the ice cubes in his own glass, then sat back on the sofa with one hand wrapped around the glass and the other still wrapped around the bottle. "You're right." He responded. "I didn't tell you because I knew you'd be mad and I didn't want to deal with it." He held up the bottle and gave it a gentle shake. "Now get your glass over here. If we're going to get through this conversation you really do need to keep up."
"Well, now I'm mad and now you're dealing with it." Apollo grated, as he offered his glass for a refill. Starbuck filled it, then set the bottle gently back down on the table, the few feet between them on the sofa suddenly feeling like an immeasurable gulf of distance to bridge. But surprisingly, it was Apollo who gave in first, leaning back into the couch cushions and closing his eyes. "I'm sorry." He finally said, voice rough. "I know I don't have any right to tell you not to go. And I know you really are the perfect choice for it. But that doesn't mean I have to like it. And I really don't like it." He opened his eyes and studied the amber liquid in the glass in the dim light. "This seems a little too nice for doing shots, Star, but I really don't want to be sober right now."
Starbuck reached forward to clink their glasses together. "Sober is overrated. Particularly for this conversation." He agreed, before promptly slamming back his second glass and watching his friend do the same. He refilled the glasses for the third time, feeling the pleasant buzz of the alcohol starting to work it's way through his body and the even more welcome easing of the tension between him and his best friend. "But now I think we might want to slow down a bit before someone ends up on the floor."
Apollo stayed leaning back in the cushions, but he also put his feet up on the coffee table and Starbuck saw one corner of his mouth lift up as he replied. "Well, it wouldn't be the first time."
At that, Starbuck kicked his shoes off and turned sideways on the sofa, jamming his socked feet right up against Apollo's legs, which earned him a look from his friend that was a combination of irritated and fond. He balanced the glass of scotch on his knee. "Like you said. I'm the perfect choice for it. I've been pretending to be other people since I was four, I can talk just about anyone into anything, our training means I can pass as Special Forces which should give me access to a bigger cross section of the people that we'd be inclined to recruit." He paused, taking a sip of the scotch and allowing its smokey flavor to sit on his tongue for a minute before he swallowed and continued softly. "And, unlike most of the senior Galactica crew, I'm unattached. I won't be leaving anyone behind."
Apollo flinched at the final sentence, giving his friend a hard, assessing look at the same time he kicked his own shoes off and tangled his legs around Starbuck's on the sofa. Starbuck held the gaze. When he'd turned up at the apartment tonight he'd thought getting drunk together might at least help Apollo accept his decision, even if he knew it wasn't something Apollo would ever truly support. And he couldn't fault his friend for that, knowing that Apollo simply wanted him to be safe. But Starbuck had never been safe, and he also knew that any possibility of a nice suburban life for him had died in the Cylon attack that had killed Cassiopeia.
Apollo finally took a shuddering breath. "Fuck." He said, voice hoarse. "Just..." he stopped, shook his head, then downed the rest of his glass. "...fuck." He finished softly.
Starbuck leaned over, taking the bottle off the table again and pouring more for his friend. Apollo gave him a searching look. "Don't, Pol." Starbuck said softly. "There's no point in might have beens. Just...don't."
There was a long moment of silence. "Ok." Apollo said. He still sounded raw, and he looked miserable. "So you're going to do this. Is there anything I can do to help?"
Starbuck forced some lightness into his tone. Anything to get that look off Apollo's face. "Actually, yes. There is." He replied, as he finished off the scotch left in his glass and emptied the rest of the bottle into it. "You're going to help me create Templeton Peck."
Three potent glasses of alcohol meant Apollo took a little longer than he normally would to follow along. "I assume Templeton Peck is going to be your alter-ego?"
"That's who's on the paperwork your father handed to me." Starbuck said, then flipped his voice into the more formal tone he'd always used when delivering reconnaissance patrol reports on the bridge. "Templeton Arthur Peck. Age unknown, no known family. Dumped at a Catholic Orphanage in Los Angeles at approximately four years of age, assigned birthdate of December 7, 1950. No known family. Had a draft waiver to attend college and was engaged to be married but got dumped by the girl, so he enlisted in the Army. Qualified Special Forces and a gifted Sniper, native Fluency in English, Full Professional Proficiency in French, Limited Working Knowledge of Vietnamese." He dropped his voice out of report mode. "The rest of him will be up to me."
Apollo just stared at him. "Uh. Wow. You know that comment I made about there not being nearly enough alcohol on the entire planet for this conversation?"
Starbuck grinned. "We're both drunk, Pol. And the bottle's empty so now it's just the one more glass for each of us. Can you think of a better way to create a person?"
"I can think of a few, yes." Apollo said wryly. "Sex would be one. But by all means do go on."
Starbuck untangled his legs from Apollo's and stood up, swaying slightly as the alcohol made itself known, but he managed the three steps from the sofa to the deep leather armchair. He sat down, eyes closed for a few long moments, unraveling the threads that were Starbuck and re-weaving the pieces he would keep into the person that Templeton Peck needed to be.
He opened his eyes, and looked across the room at the sofa, saw Apollo's subtle flinch when he met the gaze of a stranger. He knew Apollo hated it when he did this. Hated seeing someone else looking back at him with his friend's face and his friend's eyes, with subtle differences in voice, mannerisms, personality. Hated the brutal way Starbuck dissected himself to become other people, the way he so cavalierly compartmentalized every aspect of himself and carved pieces away whenever the need arose for it. Hated that Starbuck had ever learned to do this at all, that a childhood spent orphaned, abandoned, unwanted, and utterly uncared for had inevitably led to an adult that was perfectly capable of being...
"Manipulative, insincere, shallow, inconsiderate, cruel, selfish." The beginnings of Templeton Peck said sardonically, holding up the scotch glass in the direction of Apollo, as if toasting the air. "How's that for a start?"
Apollo just stared at him, eyes glassy. "I'm on my fourth glass of ridiculously expensive scotch, you just...turned into another person right in front of me, and you want me to respond to that?"
"Nothing in that you need to respond to, Pol. Really. I am. All of that."
"You can be all those things. Sometimes. But you're a lot more than that and you know it."
"Womanizer, con man, hustler, conceited and sanctimonious jerk?"
"You're my best friend. I'm far too drunk to hit you." Apollo snapped. "Stop it. Why can't you just be Starbuck with a different name? I'm not performing a lobotomy on my personality to become Paul Adama, Masters Degree Candidate in Anthropology at the University of Arizona. Why are you doing this to yourself?"
"Well for starters, you have a nicer personality than I do." Apollo opened his mouth, probably to protest but Starbuck held up a hand to stop him. "But seriously. You're becoming Paul Adama permanently. Templeton Peck? He really is Temp, as in Temporary. He only exists until I get back from Vietnam, then I can figure out who I really want to be. I'm performing a lobotomy on my personality because I don't want this guy to be me."
"Way too drunk for this." Starbuck barely heard his friend's muttered, almost incoherent comment before he followed it up with a louder, "Why not?"
"Have you watched the news? Have you seen what's going on over there? Have you seen the way the civilians here are treating the soldiers who come back from there? I don't want Starbuck in Vietnam. And you definitely don't want the Starbuck that would come back from Vietnam." He shook his head. "I'm probably going to have to kill people. And sure, we've both done it before when it's been necessary, but never like this. I won't...just put everything I am into this...person...who will be doing those things. Templeton Peck can't be me, Pol. I can't..." Apollo wasn't the only one too drunk to be articulate at this point. "...I just...I...can't."
There was silence for a long moment, Apollo's eyes fierce as he studied his friend. It took him awhile to speak. "Starbuck. I'm not having this conversation with Templeton Peck." He laid his hand on the sofa next to him. "Please get back into yourself and get back over here."
It took longer than it should have to pull himself back together, but Starbuck did what he was told, flopping down on the sofa next to his friend. Apollo slung an arm around him in an echo of how he'd dragged him into the house at the beginning of the night, but this time he pulled him in, tight and close. And Starbuck felt the last remnants of tension easing away under the contact.
"I get it." Apollo said in a low voice. "I do. But let's give this guy a few of your more redeeming qualities if only so you don't get shot by someone on your own side just from sheer aggravation, ok?"
Starbuck couldn't stop his faint huff of laughter at the comment. "I can do that." He said. "How about useful?"
"Useful." Apollo repeated, his voice flat.
"Sure. Useful. That's a redeeming quality."
"Yes?" Apollo drew the word out, sounding hesitant. "Though that wasn't quite what I had in mind."
"Well, Templeton Peck needs to be useful. People always like the guy who gets them things."
"Right. Ok, you can add useful. But you do know that you're not a...a...commodity? Exploitable resource?...I don't know I'm too drunk for the right word. You do know I could care less about what you can get me?"
"Yes, I do know that. Remember when you gave me all your old science and math books so I could catch up?"
Apollo took a sip of scotch, noting his glass was nearly empty. "I do." He replied.
"That was the first time in my life, once I got past the age of six or so, since before then I was pretty much useless, that someone ever did something for me before I did something for them."
Apollo looked down at Starbuck, who at this point was mostly lying on the sofa with his head almost in Apollo's lap. "That's...awful. And you are drunk."
"Yep to both." Starbuck replied, but noticed as he said it that Apollo was back to the sad look again. "Oh, stop looking at me like that, Pol. This is why I don't talk to you about my childhood."
"What childhood?" Apollo said. "Why don't you let me add a few more positive attributes to Army Officer Peck and then maybe I'll stop looking like this. Deal?"
Starbuck thought about it. Or tried to, anyway. Four glasses of scotch was really turning out to be a bit much. He couldn't think. At all. "Deal." He finally managed to say. "Two."
"Two?" Apollo asked.
"I'm giving you two 'redeeming qualities slots' for Templeton Peck. But hurry up and pick. It's like baking a casserole and you don't want to put the ingredients in so late they don't mix right."
After that mangled sentence came out of his mouth at least Apollo didn't look sad anymore. Now he just looked confused. "That...doesn't even make sense." He said.
"Sure it does." Starbuck shot back. "Just...choose already. Before I pass out or die of alcohol poisoning or regret this whole conversation or all three in any order."
"Fine." Apollo looked thoughtful.
"Can't think of any?" Starbuck asked after a moment.
"Oh, shut up." Apollo said, the fondness in his tone at odds with the words. "The problem is figuring out which ones to pick. But I think i've got it, so take notes if you need to. One is kindness. Bake into your casserole that guy that taught my son how to play Pyramid when I was missing, the guy that went over to the orphan ship once a month to let the kids crawl all over his viper, the guy that jiggled a sick baby and made silly faces on a shuttle for forty five minutes just to give the Mom a break, the guy that got his arm cut to ribbons preventing a sexual assault on the Rising Star, and the guy that went all over the fleet in the months after the destruction to find at least one thing for everyone in Blue Squadron that would remind them of home. I think you'll find yourself in some very unkind places, so it will be that much more important that there are some kind people. And Templeton Peck should be one of them."
"Two." He continued softly. "Loyalty. You are the most fiercely loyal person I have ever known. Don't be afraid to give it to people there if they've earned it."
'Stunned' wasn't a feeling Starbuck had experienced much of in his life, but he was reasonably sure that was what he was feeling now. Apollo looked down at him, and Starbuck saw the faint curve upwards of his mouth in the dim light, probably a response to the expression on his face. He swallowed. "You just made it really hard for Templeton Peck to be an asshole, Pol."
"I'm sure you'll manage it somehow." Apollo responded drily. "Are we done?"
"I think so." Starbuck replied.
"Good. But you're way too drunk to go anywhere. And I'm way to drunk to keep track of you if you do go anywhere. So stay."
"Wasn't planning on going anywhere." Staying planted on the sofa until the morning seemed like a very good idea. "Sofa's fantastic."
"And finish that scotch before you fall asleep there."
Starbuck took a final swallow from the glass, savoring the rich flavor one more time as he set the glass down. "Somehow I don't think there will be much of this available in Vietnam. I'd better enjoy it while I can." He quirked one side of his mouth up in a grin. "And I'm talking about both the scotch and the drinking buddy, Pol. Thank you."
Apollo gave him an exasperated look. "Somehow I think you'll figure out how to get as much of this stuff in the jungle as you like. And I'm sure you'll have no shortage of drinking buddies." He suddenly grinned. "Even if you are an absolute jackass, Templeton Peck."
He ducked as Starbuck pulled the ice cubes out of the glass and threw them at him.