Sorry for the wait. I've been both busy and lazy. I forgot to mention that it takes place post "Weapons of War" with a few exceptions being in some of the flashbacks. (I don't know if this is pathetic or not, but I actually have a timeline made out of all the events to keep myself on track. Hey, it works for me.) On with chapter two.
He closed his eyes, listening to the music play softly on the stereo that he and Tim had installed (rather resentfully, he remembered) in their quarters not long after he had moved in. The installation did not go over very smoothly. There were a number of wiring issues, such as wires missing; then there was the connection issues; then the issue of the playback on the CD deck not wanting to work right (Sure CDs were old school, but both of them liked old school.); and then there was the speakers not wanting to work together. The communications officer began yelling at it, using a few choice words (in multiple languages); called it an evil, demon-possessed, sorry-excuse for a euphonic crate; and then threatened to salt and burn it if it didn't start cooperating.
It was all quite amusing to the then warrant officer. He never pictured Tim as one to react quite like he did. But then, Tim had been in rare form all day. It was the beginning of their first real 'shake-down' cruise since they had returned and the upgrading to the communications had been irritating the lieutenant to no end. Tony had been out running sub-fighting drills with Kimura while much of the upgrading was taking place. When Hudson had contacted them for an update on the drills, they could hear Tim screeching in the background over how he was going to salt and burn the entire communications system. After she severed the link between them and seaQuest,Kimura said exactly what he had been thinking. "I'm glad I'm not there."
Upon returning to seaQuest, he, being too curious for his own good, asked Lucas how it all went. The ensign promptly replied with, "I was waiting for him to take a few cartoon-dog bites out of the console…and a few other things." He also asked what the whole "salt and burn" thing meant, but Lucas merely shrugged.
With the comm. system upgrade finally complete and the debugging work left to Lucas, both he and Tim headed to mess to grab a bite to eat, after which they headed to the moon pool (at Tony's insistence) for a little relaxation before taking on the task of installing the stereo in their quarters.
In retrospect, they probably should have waited until the next day. But then, who's to say the same scene wouldn't have played out. What was that phrase his uncle used? Same stuff, different day. Of course, stuff wasn't the word his uncle had used. And when he had repeated it verbatim, he got a nice, big "Gibbs" slap on the back of the head. The last time he had said it, he received a few stares from his crewmates and a "Gibbs" slap from Tim.
He shook his head, a slight grin on his face.
His ear twitched as the next song began to play. It was the song that started him listening to this kind of music; the kind Tim had begun listening to on a regular basis not long after his granddad died. (Almost all the time. But Tim would let him play his music when he asked. It does belong to both of us, Tim had said to him.) The man was old-school when it came to music; but then again, so was he. He was an Elvis fan, after all.
It was also the same song that was playing on the stereo at a party at Tim's granddad's place when the admiral took him aside to talk to him.
"Tony. Come over here for a minute." The older man gestured toward the kitchen.
"I need you to do me a favor. It's about Tim."
Piccolo raised an eyebrow. "Sir?"
"The boy has no other family except for all of you," he said. "I'm not gonna be around much longer, so if something happens to him, I need someone to take care of his funeral arrangements. And I would like you to do that."
"Of course, Sir." He didn't hesitate in agreeing to the request, but he was curious about one thing. "But why me?"
The admiral smiled softly at him. "You'll understand in time." He patted Tony on the shoulder. "Now, let's pretend we were just getting drinks and rejoin the party."
Tony grinned. He really liked this guy.
As they headed back to the living room, Tony's ear twitched. Clearly, he had missed something rather funny, as laughter began to fill the house. As he and the admiral entered the room, he saw Tim standing in front of the television with the others seated on the furniture (Lucas on the floor) around him, talking up a storm and gesturing wildly. It was something he was sure none of them were used to seeing—if any of them had ever seen at all—from Tim. It was the happiest he'd ever seen the lieutenant.
Tony couldn't help smiling as he watched Tim. It wasn't just the lieutenant's demeanor that was making him smile. Tim was wearing the hat; the hat he had given the man for Christmas. It was a newsboy cap like the one he had, except a little lighter in color. Tim had been very grateful for the gift, but dismayed that he hadn't gotten anything for him in return. Tony brushed it aside, telling Tim that it didn't matter. If he had expected something in return, then it wouldn't have been a gift. And that was true…at least, in his world. Though he insisted that Tim wear it backwards, like he always did, he hadn't expected Tim to actually do it.
"Hey, Grandad," Tim said, snapping Tony out of his reverie. "Why don't you tell everyone the story of how you met Granma. You know…the true one."
Tony snickered as he took a seat on the floor opposite Lucas. He tried to listen to the story, but he couldn't help thinking about what the admiral had said. The admiral wanted him, Tony Piccolo, to arrange his grandson's funeral? Did the man believe Tim would be the first to die of the two of them? And why did the admiral pick him of all people? Did the admiral know something he didn't? He didn't get it. But the admiral said he would…in time.
And he did. He got it now. Clearly the admiral knew something. He didn't mention the encounter to Tim until well-after that mission that nearly killed him. The newly promoted O-3, though released from medbay, had not yet been cleared for duty; so he would spend much of his time on sea deck by the moon pool. When he was off-duty, he would join Tim and occasionally Lucas would join the two of them. Of course, Darwin was always there. A few days after he was released from medbay, Dr. Perry cleared Tim to tag along with him and Darwin when he took the dolphin out for a swim away from the seaQuest. The doctor felt it would be good therapy (physically and emotionally) for both of them.
When he finally did tell Tim about the conversation, the lieutenant didn't seem all that shocked; a little creeped-out, but not really shocked. The moon pool was pretty much empty, save the two of them. Darwin was off swimming through the aqua tubes.
Tim yawned as he swirled the water around with his right hand. He was seated next to the moon pool with his right arm draped over the side and his head leaning on his shoulder. They had just returned to seaQuest after a lengthy swim with Darwin. The dolphin had left the moon pool a few minutes ago; probably off to find Lucas, Tony surmised. He looked over at Tim, whose eyes were partially closed. Now he, Tony, was tired; but Tim looked exhausted. He shouldn't have kept Tim out so long, but the man wanted to stay out until it was time to bring Darwin in. These new—well, new to them—liquid-breathing systems allowed for much longer, and deeper, dives; kind of like having gills without actually having gills. However, that didn't mean Tim needed to stay out so long. He wasn't anywhere near a hundred percent.
He admired Tim's tenacity and fearlessness. The comm. tech may have been disillusioned at first; but after the whole fiasco with Kimura, Tim quickly came into his own. He was more steadfast and quick to answer to commands and questions; he was so much unlike the man he was when they first took to the water under the command of Capt. Oliver Hudson. Tim was anxious and disenchanted with Hudson and his own place with seaQuest. It wasn't long, though, before he had had enough and his backbone really began to show. He had gotten into Hudson's face a number of times and come close to a court martial more than once. But Hudson wasn't stupid. There was no way the man was going to let someone as valuable as Tim slip through his fingers. Though the captain would never say it outright, Tony was sure Tim had become one of Hudson's favorites. (He wouldn't be surprised if someday Tim became Hudson's XO. That is, if Ford were to take position as captain of his own sub. [Which wasn't far-fetched by any means]. There was no way Hudson would let Ford take Tim with him and Ford would try.)
"What're you grinning at?" O' Neill said, snapping Piccolo out of his thoughts.
He glanced at O' Neill. "Nuttin'."
"Yeah, right," the comm. tech replied wearily.
Tim was no longer unsure of himself and he had built up a strong and a little rough exterior, but beneath all the tenaciousness and audacity was the same man that he had met—what felt like—a lifetime ago. Well, maybe not exactly the same man, but close enough.
He glanced over at O' Neill. It had been months since his odd conversation with Tim's granddad and he still hadn't said a word about it to the lieutenant.
'Well, now's as good a time as any, I guess,' he thought.
"Yeah," O' Neill said through a yawn.
"You remember that party we had at yer grandad's before that mission?"
O' Neill gave him another positive, monosyllabic answer as he shifted his position, removing his arm from the water and pulling his knees up. He laid both arms across his knees and stared out into space.
"I had a really odd conversation with him."
That got O' Neill's attention. He tilted his head. "Huh?"
"Freaked me out a little," Piccolo said, looking over at the lieutenant.
"What'd he say?"
As Piccolo related the details of the conversation, he watched O' Neill's expression skew. He didn't appear to be terribly shocked over it, maybe a little creeped-out; but not really shocked.
O' Neill leaned his head back onto the side of the moon pool. "Hmm…. Odd."
Piccolo raised an eyebrow. What? That was it? Either Tim was too exhausted to think about it or it didn't bother him in the slightest. Of course, this was Tim and there was no telling how he would react to something weird.
Piccolo shrugged it off.
He yawned and then looked back at Tim. The lieutenant's eyes were closed. Tony shook his head, silently chiding himself for letting his friend stay out so long. But then again, it was at Tim's insistence and the lieutenant was his superior and he wasn't about to go against…. Okay, Dr. Perry probably wouldn't buy into that excuse; but it wouldn't stop him from using it. Besides, O' Neill didn't pull rank on him. Tim just wanted to keep going.
Tony smirked and looked at Tim. He was going to make a smart remark about how Tim wanted to stay out so long just to get him in trouble with Dr. Perry. (Of course, Tim wouldn't do anything like that. He was too honest a guy and wouldn't let him take any of the blame. Though, it was still fun to rag on the guy.) But Tim looked so exhausted, he didn't have the heart to prod him any. His smirk faded into a smile as Tim yawned again. His goggles sat on top of his head. It was weird seeing him without glasses. Tim was able to undergo some kind of corrective eye surgery a few weeks before the mission. He didn't get any of it (though he probably would have, had he been listening); all he cared about was whether or not Tim could end up blind in the process. Fortunately, he came through just fine. Little did he know then that that would be the least of his worries.
"Hey, Tony?" Tim's sleepy voice said.
"Remember back when I said I couldn't remember why I signed-on to seaQuest in the first place?"
"I remember now."
He had barely gotten the last word out before he was asleep.
Tony glanced at his friend and smiled. He stretched his legs out in front of him, folded his arms across his chest and leaned his head back against the pool.
"You are one trippy guy, Timothy O' Neill."
Lost in his thoughts, he didn't notice when the last song finished and the CD player clicked off. Nor did he notice the first few knocks at his cabin door. Nor did he notice his door slowly open. It wasn't until he heard his rank being called with the voice of his captain that he was brought out of his reverie.
"Lieutenant?" The captain's voice was soft, filled with concern. It was a tone the man had used with him before. He stepped inside the room, carrying a tray. "When was the last time you ate?"
"You need to eat something."
"Not hungry," he said. Then his stomach growled. Stupid empty tummy. Just had to go and betray me, didn't ya?
Hudson gave a half-smile and set the tray down on the desk. "Doctor's orders."
Tony looked at the food and then at him with the 'you're the captain, you can ignore her' look.
Hudson grinned. "If there is anyone in the water or on land that I will not cross, it's Dr. Perry. I listen to her. I suggest you do the same."
Tony winced. Crossing the doctor was a very bad idea, indeed. He sighed and sat down at the desk. Before he began to eat, he looked back at Hudson, posing an unspoken question.
"It is my duty to look after my crew," Hudson said, "and to make sure they do not stop taking care of themselves."
Piccolo sat next to the moon pool, his arm draped over the side, hand in the water. He hadn't been down to the moon pool in quite awhile. Come to think of it, he hadn't even been out for a swim since….
Sighing, he laid his head against the pool's edge. Darwin had been out to the surface by himself, an unusual sight for seaQuest's crew; but Tony hadn't been in the mood. By now, the dolphin was probably swimming around through the tubes. Hudson had not been thrilled with the idea of having the mammal aboard, but slowly Darwin began to grow on him. Mostly thanks to Tim's persistent use of him. He hadn't seen much of Darwin over the past few days. Every so often the cetacean would stop by his quarters as he swam through the tubes, tapping his beak on the glass. The aqua tubes did not pass by Tim's old quarters. Nor was Tim's old quarters, though big enough, designed for two. So Hudson had him moved to the only officer's quarters accommodating to two people. And it just so happened to have an aqua tube for a window. Darwin would make his rounds to their cabin seemingly always when Tim had his music playing. Tony wondered if the dolphin had an ear for music. He never bothered asking anyone if dolphins could actually understand the concept because it was more than likely he would get some annoying scientific answer that would make him feel stupid.
He had called himself stupid a number of times. It was usually in private, though. The one time he had said it within earshot of Tim he received a nice little lecture from the lieutenant. And after that little lecture was complete, he decided he did not want another one. So he decided not to call himself stupid within earshot of Tim; then he decided not to say it at all because if he did say it anywhere at any time, Tim would find out about it, some way, somehow, and he would never hear the end of it.
The times he did see Darwin, the dolphin appeared to be gloomy, sad. It was clear to Tony that the animal knew what had happened and understood. Darwin missed Tim, and he was mourning his death. There would be people who would deny that claim, but Tony didn't care. It wasn't about what they thought, anyway.
He felt something brush up against his hand. A ghost of a smile crossed his face. He sat up on the edge of the pool, grabbing the vocorder and turning it on.
"Hey, Darwin," he said softly.
"Tony miss Tim?"
Darwin had to be the most observant and caring creature he had ever seen. No wonder Tim liked to talk to him.
"More than anybody knows."
"Darwin miss Tim, too."
Tony slid off the edge of the pool and onto the ground to his knees. He rested his folded arms on the edge, looking at Darwin. He reached out and rubbed the dolphin's beak. For the first time in years, he was sitting by the moon pool devoid of human company. After the issues with Kimura and especially after that mission, it was rare to find him alone by the moon pool. More often than not, if he was here so was Tim.
Closing his eyes, a song, the song that became the glue that helped hold the two of them together; the one that reminded him of who he was now, of where he was going in the end; of where Tim was now, began to play in his mind.
And the memory of one particular evening at the moon pool after dinner began to dance with it.
They yawned at the same time. Something they did often. They now also had a tendency to speak the same thing at the same time. It would often happen on the bridge and they knew it drove Hudson nuts. Lucas would grin at the expressions on the faces of both the captain and the commander. Lonnie had called him and Tim weird and he knew that if Brody were still alive, he would think it was creepy.
The thought made Tony smile. Looking over at Tim, he could tell the lieutenant was thinking the same thing.
Their last shift had been longer than normal and if Lonnie had not have been eating with them; they both would have fallen asleep in their dinner.
They made it out of mess with most of their food in their stomachs (the left over [which wasn't much] ended up in the trash) and were now relaxing by the moon pool.
Both were looking into the water. Their arms folded and propped on the edge of the pool. They had been discussing their last Bible study and an old music video they had watched just before going on duty. The song had gotten Tony thinking.
He turned to Tim.
The lieutenant looked at him. "Yeah?"
"If you go before I do," Tony said, "save a place for me, will ya."
Tim laid his head down on his arms, still looking at Tony. "Sure thing."
Looking into his friend's eyes, the new ensign could tell he wasn't feeling well. Probably a headache. Though not necessarily frequent, Tim had been having them more often than he normally did, after making it back to seaQuest from his last mission. One in which he probably would have died alone in some sea cave never to be found, if not for Katie and Ben's sudden change of plans. The headaches were probably nothing to worry about. Tim had been real sick when they got back, so it was probably just after effects. But still…he couldn't help worrying.
Still smiling, Tim added, "If you get home before I do, save a place for me."
Tony smiled back. "You got it, pal."
"Watcha thinking about?"
Tony was pulled from his thoughts by a familiar voice. "Hey, Luc."
Lucas sat down next to him, his back against the pool.
"Just get off duty?" Tony asked.
"Yeah." He leaned his head back. "On my way to grab a bite to eat."
Both fell silent and didn't speak for a few moments.
"I can't believe he's gone, Lucas," Tony said, breaking the silence.
"I can't, either."
"I just keep waitin' for him to come stompin' into our quarters, annoyed at me for somethin' I did or didn't do. Or be sittin' in mess waitin' for me to get my butt in there and sayin', 'took ya long enough' when I finally walk in. I keep expectin' to see him here by the moon pool, talkin' to Darwin." He looked at Lucas. "You know, ever since we ended up here and Hudson took over, Tim spent more time with Darwin than eit'er one of us have."
Lucas nodded. "Yeah."
"Darwin misses him, too."
"We all miss him."
Tony turned around and leaned against the pool as Darwin started to swim around. "Why'd he hafta die like that?"
"I don't know, Tony," Lucas said softly. "But at least, he wasn't alone."
How Tim died was bad enough. When he died was worse. Lucas would never forget that day or the next. The day after Tim died they were back aboard seaQuest. It was quiet and solemn. There were crew everywhere and yet…it was deathly still. As it should have been.
He was walking back to his own quarters when he heard music softly emanating from the cabin Tony and Tim shared. He had no intention of stopping there; but he noticed the door was cracked open, so he stepped in.
Tony was sitting on the floor at the end of the bunks. If he had noticed Lucas walk in, he didn't tip his hand. He stopped in the middle of the room and looked at Tony. Tears were streaming down his cheeks. Seeing his friend like that was heartbreaking. But it was what Tony said that ripped his heart right out.
"Happy birthday, Anthony."
He looked over at Tony. There were tears streaming down his cheeks. Looking at Tony, he could feel his own tears beginning to fall.
"Hey, Tony," he said, wiping his eyes.
"Can I ask you something?"
"It's about those videos you and Tim were watching just before shore leave."
Tony wiped his eyes and turned to Lucas with a quizzical look. "What about 'em?"
"Do you think we could watch them together some time?"
Tony was taken aback. He and Tim had invited Lucas to watch the videos a number of times, but he always declined. Tony was always disappointed, but Tim assured him that Lucas would come; just not in their time.
Guess this is it.
There was a thump on the glass. The two men turned around as Darwin's head broke the water's surface.
"Tony swim with Darwin?"
He stood up and leaned over the side of the pool. "Sure, pal."
The vocorder translated another set of clicks and whistles. "Lucas swim, too?"
"Maybe later," Lucas said. "I gotta get something to eat." He turned to Tony. "See ya later."
"Yeah, see ya."
I hope you liked it. Sorry it;s sad. Though there are more lighthearted moments to come. And of course more sad ones. The really messed up thing is that when I sit down to work on it I'm in a really good mood. That seems wrong. Oh, well.