seaQuest does not belong to me. Nor does "Fred Jones Part II". I am making no money from this story.

So here's the thing: I put my Ben Folds/Ben Folds Five collection on shuffle and challenged myself to write a ficlet inspired by each song that came up, in the sequence in which they appeared. I chose Ben Folds because a lot of the songs tell stories, rather than just being about love or whatever. This is the first in the series. Each time, I plan to put a verse from the song at the beginning of the fic, and the whole song for reference at the end. Hope you like!

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Fred Jones, Part II

Fred sits alone at his desk in the dark,
There's an awkward young shadow that waits in the hall,
He has cleared all his things and he's put them in boxes,
Things that remind him life has been good.
25 years he's worked at the paper
Now a man's here to take him downstairs;
And I'm sorry, Mr. Jones,
It's time.

Crocker stared at the bare wall of his apartment and sighed. He leaned forward, elbows on knees, and rubbed his hands over his face. This was his life now. Everything he had, everything he was, was contained in this room.

He stood and went to the window, looking out over the courtyard of the apartment building. Behind him, the TV played silently, cursing him with its flickering light. He didn't want to look at it. Not now. He wasn't ready.

Down below, two children were playing on a patch of faded grass. One looked up and caught Crocker's eye, waving happily. Hesitantly, Crocker raised his hand in reply, before realising that the kid was waving at someone on the balcony next to his window. His fingers curled shut again.

The sea had been his life. That was what he'd said to Bridger. The sea had been his family, his future and his past, almost as long as he could remember. Deep down, he had always assumed that one day it would be his death, too. But he hadn't died; he had merely grown old, and been moved along so that the younger and more arrogant could take his place. More than forty years of service, and here he was, in a tiny apartment, empty but for a few sticks of furniture and the damn TV, too far from the sea to smell the salt or hear the seagulls. If the sea had been his life, then his life was over.

Leaning his head against the cool glass of the window, he fought the self-pitying lump that rose in his throat. This isn't going to do anyone any good, he thought. Least of all you. You're going to have to look at it eventually. Or would you rather let them go without saying goodbye?

Steeling himself, he drew a deep breath and turned to look at the television. There she was, in all her glory: seaQuest mark II. It had been more than a year since the World Power disaster that had failed to take his life; to Crocker, it seemed like yesterday. All the days in between had faded in his memory to a grey blur of mediocrity.

He stepped closer to the screen, squinting to make out the figures. There had been a marching band, and speeches; he supposed he should count himself lucky that he didn't have to listen to any of that. But now the crew were going aboard: there was Ford, tall and ramrod-straight, his expression a mask of military professionalism. There was O'Neill, looking slightly embarrassed at the cameras and ducking into the shuttle. Ortiz, giving the ladies a broad grin. Lucas, looking cocky and self-satisfied. And then Bridger stepped up to the shuttle and turned, looking straight at the camera with a serious expression, and nodded, as though he knew, somehow, that his old friend was there. Crocker found himself standing to attention, and stood easy only when Bridger had stepped into the shuttle and the doors were closed.

He watched as the seaQuest submerged, reaching out and touching the screen with his fingertips as the immense expanse of dull grey metal disappeared under the glittering blue surface of the water. He felt his heart wrench within him, as if small pieces were being torn away, one by one. When it was finally gone, he stepped back and switched the television off.

"Well, Cap," he said quietly, "looks like you're going to have to do without me this time."

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Fred sits alone at his desk in the dark,
There's an awkward young shadow that waits in the hall,
He has cleared all his things and he's put them in boxes,
Things that remind him life has been good.
25 years he's worked at the paper
Now a man's here to take him downstairs;
And I'm sorry, Mr. Jones,
It's time.

There was no party, there were no songs
Cos today's just a day like the day that he started.
No-one is left here who knows his first name,
And life barrels on like a runaway train
Where the passengers change, they don't change anything,
You get off, someone else can get on.
And I'm sorry, Mr. Jones,
It's time.

Streetlights shine through the shades,
Casting lines on the floor
And lines on his face,
He reflects on the day.

Fred gets his paints out and goes to the basement
Projecting some slides onto a plane;
White canvas and traces,
It fills in the spaces,
He turns off the slides
And it doesn't look right.
Yeah and all of these bastards who've taken his place,
He's forgotten but not yet gone.
And I'm sorry, Mr. Jones,
It's time.