Disclaimer: see all previous disclaimers. If you can read 'em ; ).
Big piles of thankyous are due to pari106, lo, hepatica, Teresa, TeacherTam and kas, and everyone who's reviewed or just read this fic. I've had loads of fun – hope you have too : ).
pari106: yeah, I'd like to read that poem, thanks very much!
I was intending to write another episode of Cabin Fever before we moved house, but the boat leaves in an hour and I haven't done it yet. So apologies to anyone who feels they deserve one : ). I'll do my best to get on with that once the dust has settled...
Lucas shook his head at Darwin. The work on the vocorder had been progressing much more quickly now that O'Neill was helping him. And now that I'm not busy being shot at or stuck in jail, he added silently. His arm was stiff and a little painful, but mostly healed; Westphalen had allowed him to take off the sling, but had forbidden him from bridge duty for the time being, so he had plenty of time to sit in the moon pool and programme. They had succeeded in translating all the most basic vocabulary now, although they were still having trouble with abstract concepts. But Darwin mainly used one word: "play".
"I'm working right now, Darwin. Maybe later," Lucas said. He wasn't sure that "later" had translated very well; maybe dolphins just didn't have that concept.
"Bridger play!" said Darwin. Lucas turned in surprise. The captain was standing in the doorway, watching him. Lucas started to get up.
"Oh, don't worry about it, Lucas. We're not on duty," Bridger grinned. "Say, aren't you going to be late?"
Lucas frowned. "Late for what?" He tried to remember if there was anything he was supposed to be doing.
Bridger looked at him like he was a moron . "Shore leave?"
"Oh. That." Lucas sat down again, feeling a little sad, although he had resigned himself to it long before. "I think I'm just gonna stay here. I've got lots of work to do."
"What? You must have hit your head harder than I thought," Bridger said, coming towards him. "No-one in their right mind would give up shore leave."
Lucas frowned again, not looking at the captain. "Well, I haven't got anything planned, and I don't know anyone upworld, so I'll just stay here." His voice was angrier than he'd intended it to be. He concentrated on hiding his emotions.
Bridger shook his head. "What about all the things Krieg has planned? I didn't dare ask about them myself, but there are serious rumours going around this boat. A weekend upworld with that man is something not to be missed, I suspect."
Lucas looked up now, perplexed. "Krieg?"
Bridger nodded. "He's saved you a seat in his shuttle. He's going to be pretty disappointed you're not coming."
Lucas felt really bewildered now. "He didn't say anything."
Bridger laughed. "He probably thought someone as smart as you wouldn't be stupid enough to stay on this hunk of junk."
Feeling embarrassed and confused, Lucas started to get to his feet. "Captain, I..."
Bridger cut him off. "You'd better hurry, kiddo. Wouldn't want to miss that shuttle."
Lucas shot him a grateful look and exited the moon pool at a run.
When he arrived at the docking bay, he saw Krieg waving at him from across the room. He headed in that direction, but suddenly found his way barred. He looked up at Commander Ford's forbidding face and stood sharply to attention.
"At ease," Ford said.
"I just wanted to say... I apologise for doubting you. You proved your loyalty on the bridge the other day." Ford looked slightly uncomfortable.
Lucas concentrated on not showing his surprise on his face. "Thank you, sir." It felt odd to be calling the commander "sir". But the man had made a concession. Lucas could afford to do the same.
Ford nodded, and moved out of his way. Lucas made his way over to Krieg, who gave him an astonished grin.
"So, you even managed to melt old 'iron pants' Ford's heart, huh? Next thing you know you'll be running for most popular guy on seaQuest."
Lucas raised an eyebrow. "Give me time," he said.
It was a beautiful spring day when the shuttle docked in New Cape Quest. Krieg was out of the vessel in an instant, grinning at the afternoon sun and the sparkling water. "Well, I know this great beach bar," he started, and O'Neill groaned.
"Not the same one you took us to last time?" he asked, dreading the answer.
"Ah, come on, guys! We had a great time!"
"Yeah, right up to that little incident with the police," Ortiz recalled.
"I told you, that was just a misunderstanding," Krieg said. "It won't happen again."
O'Neill and Ortiz exchanged long-suffering glances. Then O'Neill turned. "Lucas, you coming?" he called.
The young man, standing a short distance away staring at the water, looked up. "I'll catch up with you guys later," he said. "There's something I've got to do first."
It was early evening and the compound was deserted when Lucas climbed over the eight foot high chain link fence, awkwardly, favouring his bad arm. The night guard was nowhere to be seen. The compound was neatly laid out, and the cherry trees were in full flower, their branches seeming to be laden with stars in the half-light. Lucas slipped along the endless rows of white stones, shining softly under the darkening sky, until he found what he was looking for. He dropped to sit on the ground by the stone, reading the lettering: Robert Bridger, 1995-2020. Beloved son. He reached out and touched the stone, tracing the letters with his finger, and then laid his hand at the top of the marker.
For a long time he sat there, silent, watching the twilight spread across the luminous sky. A few fat drops of rain began to fall, and he lifted his head to look upwards.
"I miss you Robert," he said quietly.
The rain fell on his upturned face, and ran down it like tears. And Lucas smiled.
"I think everything's going to be OK," he said.