Author's Notes: - Thanks to Stonedtoad for betaing.
Number four in this series, I'm pretty amazed as I very rarely manage to stay on one topic so long.
I have one more story for this series I'm working on now.
The train station filled the instant the doors to the train opened, people spilled out rushing to get to their jobs or to make a connection. At the back of the crowd walked one man, dressed casually or as casually as he could manage, he had a bag slung over one shoulder while he smiled, head tipped back slightly to enjoy the sun.
Tim couldn't believe that not only did he have a whole month leave but his brother's wedding fell in the middle of it. Speaking of Tim smiled as he saw his older brother leaning against the wall waiting for him.
"Timmy," he cried the moment Tim reached him.
Tim rolled his eyes, "Hi Mike."
Mike O'Neill grabbed his younger brother in a tight hug, "Come on. Mom is desperate to see you."
Tim chuckled and walked with him to the car.
The last few weeks, or what felt like months to him, had been insane. Thinking that his family were all dead had been one of the worst things he'd experienced in that simulation. So he couldn't wait to be home.
Tim's home town had been built around a business that no longer existed. Unlike other places that had become ghost towns when a similar thing happened, because of its location only forty minutes train journey from the city the town boomed, settled by those who worked in the sprawling metropolis but didn't want to live there. Finally Mike drew up at the house Tim had grown up in and he smiled.
"Good to be home?" Mike asked.
Tim grinned back, "You have no idea."
As they jumped out the car Tim saw his parents at the window obviously waiting for him. Julianne and Andrew O'Neill were in their late-fifties, they'd married young and had four children Mike, the eldest then twin girls Helen and Sarah finally Tim who they hadn't expected.
"Timothy," his mother pulled him into a tight hug the moment he stepped into the house, "It's so good to have you home."
Tim hugged her back before he hugged his father.
"Glad to be here," he laughed, "Especially since Mike's big day is looming and I can watch him meltdown."
As his brother punched his arm Tim laughed.
"Michael," Julianne scolded her son, "At least let him put his bag away before you start."
"Speaking of," Tim replied, "Is my room available or have you finally changed it into the gym you always threaten to?"
Andrew laughed, "It's there. Hurry the girls are meeting us for dinner."
Tim stepped into his childhood bedroom, it wasn't the way he'd left it, redecorated thankfully weeks after he'd gone to college but whenever he came home he stayed in here as it was comfortable.
"Is something wrong?"
Tim turned to where Mike was standing in the doorway, "What do you mean?"
"I know what you're like when you come home and it's not like this," Mike told him.
Tim stared at him bemused, "I…"
"You barely spoke a word in the car," Mike noted, "And normally you tell me the stories you don't want to tell Mom and Dad before we get here. But today you didn't tell me anything."
"Come on," Mike said softly, "Did something happen?"
"It was an intense few weeks," Tim confessed, "I'm not allowed to talk about what happened but it's good to be home."
Mike clapped his shoulder, "Then come on. Our sisters are waiting."
"I'll be there in a few minutes," Tim promised.
Mike nodded and disappeared leaving him alone. Pulling out his phone Tim quickly typed in a message to Kate before pulling on a clean shirt and heading back downstairs.
The restaurant was almost completely empty as Kate and her date finished their meal. It felt odd being on a date when she wasn't looking to con him at the end. Jason was smart, handsome, rich and completely mind-numbingly dull. Her phone buzzed and she hoped it was another message from Tim. He'd let her know he'd arrived home earlier and she was surprised how disappointed she was that he didn't send her anything else.
Checking who was calling Kate grimaced, "Excuse me," she smiled at him as she stepped away from the table and answered it, "I'm on vacation."
"Kate," Noyce said ignoring her annoyed tone, "I need you here now."
"It concerns O'Neill."
She sighed, "I'm about ten minutes away, I'll see you soon."
Putting the phone away Kate returned to the table, made her apologies and headed to find out what trouble Tim had got himself into now.
"Sorry to pull you away from your leave," Noyce said as Kate walked into his office without knocking.
"Vacation. What has Tim gotten himself into now?" Kate demanded stopping as she saw the other occupants of the room, "Nathan, Lucas, what are you doing here?"
Lucas who was slouching in the corner gave her a bored wave while Nathan motioned her to join them.
"What's going on?" Kate demanded taking a seat.
"We have a lead on the people who we believe are responsible for the VR simulation," Nathan explained.
"That's good, isn't it?"
"Yes," Noyce took over, "But from the information we received…"
"Spit it out," Kate snapped as he hesitated.
"They think whoever did it doesn't know you got us out before whatever they expected to happen," Lucas took over with an annoyed moan, "They're worried someone is going to come after us."
Kate turned back to Nathan and Noyce, "Meaning what?"
"We've got a UEO operative on each of them," Nathan explained, "A guard to make sure nothing happens and we believe that you'd want to keep an eye on him."
Kate winced, "You know he won't be happy to have me there."
Noyce shrugged, "He follows orders and this is an order. As soon as we have confirmation they're safe you'll be gone."
"Oh this will be a fun couple of days," Kate moaned.
"I was staying with the Captain for the first few weeks of leave anyway," Lucas said as he walked with Kate through the corridors, "Though suddenly knowing I can't go anywhere on my own is a pain."
"At least it's better than some random person intruding on your time with your family," Kate reminded him.
Lucas frowned at her, "You and Tim are friends."
"I'm not talking about Tim," she laughed, "I'm talking about the others. I'm betting Ford is having fun being watched over by some drone."
Lucas smiled slightly before he fell back into silence.
"Are you okay?" Kate asked the teen.
Lucas shrugged, "I'm still a little confused over what happened in that thing. It felt like every single bit of hope was squeezed out of me. Every so often I turn and I'm surprised to find Captain Bridger is still here. I'm so relieved that the world I know is still here and that he didn't leave me…us."
"Nathan thinks of you like a son," Kate reminded him, "I wish I'd been that lucky when I was your age. I might have turned out differently."
She hugged the teenager quickly, "If you need to talk, I'm not brilliant at it but I'll do my best," she winced suddenly awkward, "Or you could call someone who could actually help."
"Teach me your drinking game and you're on," Lucas told her.
Kate shook her head, "Not until you're twenty-one. Nathan would murder me."
Tim sat on the porch staring up at the stars, as much as he loved his family and as much as he had missed them they were too overwhelming right now. He was trying so hard to push away the despair but it wasn't easy. It felt like it he was disconnected from himself right now, he thought being here would help but it hadn't.
"Why are you sitting here alone?"
Tim turned as his mother stepped out on the porch, "Just getting a breath of air."
Julianne gently brushed her hand along his forehead, "You never were a good liar, Timothy."
He dropped his head, "I have a friend who keeps telling me I can't lie for toffee."
"That's a good thing," Julianne wrapped her arm around him. "But you're avoiding the question."
Resting his head against her shoulder Tim sighed, "Mom, please don't push. Not just now."
"You're my baby, Timothy," she reminded him softly, "I worry about you every day because I know what a target the boat is."
Tim looked up at her and smiled, "Mom, I love what I do. I love the Seaquest and the people I work with are my friends. I just realised recently how much I belong there."
"But something happened that shook me a little," he finished, "I can't explain it but being here is exactly what I need right now. You just have to let me work it out on my own."
Julianne kissed his forehead, "Don't sit out here too long."
The next morning Tim woke up smiling as the early morning sun flooded through the thin curtains. He listened to the sound of his parents as they pottered around downstairs before mass. Picking up his phone he checked for any messages. There were a few from his friends telling him they'd made it home but none from the person he was hoping would contact him.
Sighing in annoyance both at the lack of message and the fact he was looking for it Tim pulled himself out of bed and into a shower.
"Good morning," his father greeted him, "Sleep well?"
Tim nodded, "Yeah, Nice to see the sky in the morning."
Andrew chuckled, "I'll bet."
"So what's the plan for today?" Tim asked as he moved into the kitchen and grabbed some tea.
"Everyone is coming for dinner," Andrew told him, "Other than that I have the usual and so does your mother."
Tim sighed in relief that he wasn't being dragged from pillar to post by his parents as they tried to set him up with the daughters of their friends. It was a normal occurrence when he visited home but then again he was rarely at home for this length of time.
And there was a wedding coming up where all their mothers' friends would be. At that thought Tim groaned.
Kate stared at the house in front of her. It was a beautiful house set in a large garden looking like a dolls house she remembered wanting when she was a child. It seemed perfect that it was Tim's childhood home. Stepping onto the porch that even had a porch swing on it, Kate admired the white washed house with the climbing plants at one wall and the flower beds all around the edges she tried to imagine him growing up here.
About a year or so ago she wouldn't have had any qualms about picking the lock and waiting inside for him but considering she really didn't want to shock his poor parents or give him an aneurysm Kate simply sat on the top step pulling a leg to her chest and resting her chin on her knee to wait.
Tim smiled as his mother took his arm while they walked home from Mass. It was so nice to be home after everything that had happened. They'd left his father talking with some friends so Julianne could have some time alone with him for a while. He'd always been close to his mother, his ability and love of languages stemmed from her and as he grew up she was the one person he could always talk to. When they turned the corner and they could see the house he'd grown up in Tim frowned as he saw someone sitting on the top step of the front porch. Moving closer he recognised the woman who was sitting staring at the flower beds. They reached the gate and Kate turned seeing them, she quickly jumped up and held her hands up in a gesture of surrender.
"This wasn't my idea," Kate said, "I promise."
"Hello?" Julianne smiled at Kate who smiled back charmingly.
"Wait here," Tim frowned at Kate hustling his very interested mother into the house so he could find out what was going on without revealing anything he didn't want her to know.
"Mom, please just give me a few minutes," he begged, finally the door closed and Tim looked back at Kate, "Why are you here?"
"Well," she grimaced, "It's because of what happened recently. They think they have a lead on the people who grabbed you guys. All of you have been assigned a UEO operative to keep an eye on you until they know there's no danger."
"And they sent you here?" Tim demanded.
Kate shrugged, "They've sent the least conspicuous person to each of you."
"Well, Lucas is being watched over by Nathan," Kate listed harshly, "Ford took Brody with him and coincidentally two UEO security guards are working towards their promotions at Ford's fathers place. An old friend of Henderson's who also signed up has gone home for a vacation while Tony took Dagwood home. I'm the least conspicuous to stick to you."
"What about Miguel?" Tim shot back at her.
Kate folded her arms across her chest, "He volunteered to find these guys so you're left once more with me."
Tim grimaced, "How do I explain this to my family?"
Kate chuckled taking a small step closer to him and pushing herself onto her toes so she could almost be eye to eye with him, "I'm a UEO Special Operative. Because of a recent event that you can't talk about I'm here for a few days. Okay?"
Tim looked down at her, "Fine."
Kate followed Tim into the house. She was trying to think how to act around Tim's family, assuming how Tim introduced her to them.
Entering the kitchen that looked like it belonged in a magazine Kate straightened up slightly hoping she at least gave off some kind of air of responsibility.
"Timothy?" his mother asked, making Kate smile slightly at the way he winced at the use of his full name.
"Mom, this is Kate King," Tim introduced her, "Because of a few things that happened at the end of my last tour she's been assigned to me for a few days."
"Are you in trouble?" Mrs O'Neill asked worriedly.
Kate laughed slightly, "No. Tim and his colleagues were witnesses to something, the UEO have assigned a Special Operative to watch over each of them until it's over."
"Is there any danger?" Tim's mother hadn't lost her worried look.
"No," Tim hurriedly assured her throwing Kate an annoyed glare, "It's just a precaution. Kate was sent here because Admiral Noyce didn't want anyone who would intrude too much. Kate is a friend, kind of so she was sent."
Kate grimaced at the 'kind of' he tagged onto friend but instantly saw surprise fill his mother's eyes before she smiled at Kate, "Well, Miss King where are you staying?"
"In the bed and breakfast near the centre of the town," Kate replied softly, "And Kate is fine. I've to be as unobtrusive and blend in as much as possible."
"Is Kate short for something?" his mother asked, making Tim grimace.
"Kathleen," Kate replied, glancing over at Tim with confusion.
His mother smiled, "Well as that is the name your parents gave you then Kathleen it is. I'm Julianne and we have plenty of room here for you. So you can stay in the spare room."
Kate looked at Tim slightly panicked before turning back to his mother, "Julianne, I appreciate that but you don't have to."
"Timothy, fix the room while I make us all some lunch," his mother ordered, "Timothy's father and brother will be home soon so why don't you head back to the B&B and get your things. I'll have lunch ready for us all by then."
Tim caught Kate's arm and pulled her out of the kitchen into the front room out of his mother's hearing.
"Tim, I'm not sure staying here is a good idea," Kate grimaced, "I mean your mom is lovely but…"
"She's a little overwhelming," Tim said sympathetically, "But she's right about you staying here. There's plenty of room and if anything does happen then it'll mean you will be here."
Kate rolled her eyes at him before giving in, "Fine." She turned to leave before turning back, "Your brother still lives at home?"
"No, he's getting married in a few days and his fiancé decided they were living apart until the wedding to make it more special," Tim explained, he smiled suddenly; "You'll like Mike."
Tim nodded his grin becoming smug, "He's a cop."
Julianne O'Neill was enjoying having her boys at home grateful it was only for a short time and that the girls weren't back as well but enjoying it. Michael she saw all the time but Timothy was away for months at a time. There were times she wondered when she'd get to see him and she worried about him as he lived under the water in a big tub that everyone aimed at.
She stood watching her sons as they talked, catching up with one another so different in so many ways but so similar in others.
"It's nice to have them home," Andrew hugged her.
Turning to her husband of over thirty years Julianne kissed him, "We'll see if that's still your attitude by the time the wedding gets here."
The doorbell ringing interrupted them and Julianne saw her youngest jump to answer it. She assumed it was the young woman she'd met earlier, although she was worried that Timothy was being watched over by the UEO operative Julianne had instantly seen something else between them.
"Mom," Timothy called, "Kate's here. I'm going to show her the spare room."
"I'll heat up some lunch for her," Julianne called back, smiling at Andrew who was waiting for an explanation, "I'll tell you in a minute."
Kate dropped her bag on the bed and turned to Tim.
"This is not a good idea," she told him, "I don't do families. At all."
Tim shrugged, "But you're here."
She glared at him for a few seconds before groaning dropping onto the bed and lying back to stare at the ceiling. Tim lay at her side taking her hand in his, a comforting gesture that had become the norm between them.
"Family is something that I have not had in a very long time," Kate reminded him, a little surprised that he had taken her hand she was the one who usually initiated any contact, "And as much as I adore you, Tim this could turn into a disaster."
"Timothy," his mother's voice floated into the room, "Kathleen's lunch is ready."
Kate sighed that Julianne couldn't just call her by her chosen name.
"It's her thing," Tim explained softly, "People used to always call her Julie and she hated it because that isn't her name. So she refuses to call us anything other than our full name. I know you hate your mother but trying to explain that to her isn't something you want to do."
Kate sighed again and sitting up she looked down at her friend, her sweet brilliant slightly naive friend.
"Tim, you do realise that Kate isn't actually my real name," she asked him, "Don't you?"
He stared at her and Kate sighed again.
"After they abandoned me I didn't want anyone trying to send me back to them," Kate explained, "So I changed my name. I'm really surprised you hadn't worked that out."
"What's your real name?"
Tim stared at her.
"You would try to find them," Kate told him stopping him as he tried to protest, "And I don't want you to. Your mom is waiting for us. Come on."
As she hustled him downstairs Kate wished she hadn't had to remind him of how much difference there was between them.
"Kathleen," Julianne greeted her with a smile before turning to the other two men in the room, "This is Andrew my husband, and Timothy's older brother Michael."
"Nice to meet you," Kate nodded politely.
As she slid into the seat Kate felt the sudden urge to flee as she became the centre of attention.
"Okay," Tim spoke up, "Kate, you eat lunch. Mom, Dad, Mike can we talk in the other room?"
Kate smiled slightly at him as he led them out of the room. Picking up her phone she quickly dialled waiting for the call to be connected.
"Noyce, I'm here," she told her boss, another concept she'd never have thought of a year ago, "Please tell me I can leave?"
Bill Noyce chuckled, "We're working on it. All you have to do is spend some time with a friend."
"Well Tim is not happy having me here and his mother insisted I take their spare room," Kate told him.
"Means you're close in case someone does come after him," Noyce replied.
Kate groaned, "I hate you."
"Who is that?"
Tim sighed at Mike's question as he closed the door, "Kate is here under orders from Admiral Noyce. Please understand that we can't tell you why but she's here for a few days and it has to look as though there's nothing unusual in it."
He grimaced as his family stared at him.
"I invited her to stay here," Julianne spoke up.
Mike frowned, "Is that wise?"
"Its fine," Tim frowned at him, "I just need you to not bombard her with questions about why she's here or," he turned to his mother, "Her personally."
"Please," was all he said, "Just please."
They all nodded.
"What about the girls?" Andrew asked, "Do you want them to know or we could just introduce her as your date for the wedding?"
Tim frowned at his father, "Hopefully she won't be here that long."
"I'm just saying…"
"We tell them the truth," Tim replied, because there is was no way Tim was letting Kate pretend to be his girlfriend. He had enough problems with her as it was.
"So," Yvonne, Mike's fiancé asked after they'd all ordered dinner, "Kate, how do you know Tim?"
At the annoyed groan from Tim Kate chuckled, "He was assigned to keep an eye on me when I visited the Seaquest. He saved my life for the first time and when we ran into one another a few months after that we stayed friends."
"What does a Special operative do?" Sarah tossed in from across the table, she along her twin sister Helen were the image of their mother and Kate couldn't stop smiling at how they greeted their baby brother so enthusiastically despite having seen him the night before.
"Whatever Admiral Noyce tells me to do," Kate replied, "I've only been working for him a short time so we're still working out the rules."
"What did you do before you joined the UEO?" Helen threw in.
Kate could see Tim gritting his teeth begging her not to say something that would cause more questions.
"I used work on Darrow," Kate said seeing relief fill Tim's eyes, "Waitress, in the casino, whatever they needed in fact I learned almost every job. Including security."
As a waitress brought over the drinks the questions stopped and Kate caught Tim's eye, she decided to try and push the conversation away from her for the moment before he had a heart attack so turned to Mike.
"Tim says you're a cop," she asked, "What made you decide to join the police?"
"Following in Dad's footsteps," Mike replied.
"What?" Kate felt panic fill her.
Andrew nodded, "I was injured about ten years ago so I retired and I consult with a security firm."
"Wow," Kate threw a glare at Tim who was smiling at her discomfort.
Sarah laughed, "It was even worse when I married one too," she tilted her head at her husband Jason.
Kate checked her watch, "I need to check with Noyce. Tim, want to hear any information first hand?"
"You bastard," Kate snapped as they reached a corner where they could talk privately.
"What?" innocence filled Tim's eyes.
Kate pulled out her phone so if anyone was watching they'd think she was making a call, "You have three cops in your family and you didn't think to warn me?"
She kept a smile on her face so no one would be suspicious, "Tim, considering my previous occupation some warning might have been useful. If any of them decide to look into me then I won't do you any good in a prison cell."
"I thought you'd never been convicted?" Tim said.
"No," she gritted her teeth, "But I am the suspect in a hell of a lot and I'm not sure exactly how much of it Noyce knows about or got rid of."
He stared at her.
"You knew exactly who I was from the moment I met you," she reminded him, "I have known you for over a year so surely in all that time you could have mentioned your family connections to the police."
Tim shrugged, "It didn't occur to me. Sorry."
Kate rubbed the bridge of her nose, "Okay, then try and help me a little."
As he headed back to the table Kate frowned, there was something wrong with her friend. There had been since he'd been released from the simulation.
Tim sat on against the grey stone wall thinking back to how many hours he'd spent here as a kid. Awkward and lonely because of his love of languages as well as the inability to be social like his big brother Mike, the sports hero everyone loved or his popular sisters.
"I'm meant to be watching you," Kate said from behind him as she climbed over the wall, "Which means you're not supposed to wander away without me."
"You were sleeping," Tim told her glancing up. He opened his mouth to speak again but quickly slammed it shut.
Kate settled on the ground beside him, "Tim, what did I say to you in that place?"
He frowned, "It doesn't matter."
"It does when every so often I get the feeling you don't trust me," she replied sharply.
"It's not like you trust me," he retorted.
"Oh please," Kate snapped jumping to her feet, "Are you still on this name thing? Tim, I'm not telling you because it's not me. The name you're looking for belongs to a kid who was worthless in the eyes of the people who should have loved her most. I chose to be Kate. Why can't you respect that?"
Tim stared at her, "I guess I didn't think of it like that."
"Of course you didn't," Kate whispered achingly, "Tim, I've met your family and they love you. Of course you didn't think that someone would abandon their kid."
Tim stared at her stunned into silence.
Kate took several deep breaths as she stared at the tree line trying to calm down, she hated being angry at him especially for this because she knew he couldn't understand.
"Tim, you have to remember I'm from a completely different world than you are," Kate said softly.
"No, you don't," she cut him off, "And I love that you treat me like I am the same as you but you have to remember my past."
"But that doesn't matter," Tim replied, "Kate, you're nuts but you're my friend. I care about you and I think my family really liked you."
"I liked them too," she said softly, "I can't really imagine having a sibling though."
"I have three it's noisy," Tim replied before he stared into space for a while.
They sat side by side in silence the sounds from the road faintly behind them.
"Lucas is still having problems processing everything that happened," Kate broached, not sure this was a good idea after they'd seemed to reach a truce but she could tell there was something still troubling him, "I'm guessing you are too."
Tim shrugged, "I'm fine."
"And you're lying to me," she stated trying to keep her voice soft.
Tim pushed himself off the ground, "I'm sick of being told that."
"Then don't lie to me."
Tim shook his head, "That is so hypocritical."
Kate stood, "Tim."
"Every word out of your mouth is either a lie or designed to manipulate," he yelled at her, "And you just expect dumb gullible Tim to accept it."
"Enough," she told him softly but with force behind it.
"Why are you really here, Kate?" he demanded, "What scam are you here to pull? What do you want from me this time?"
Kate turned away from him for a moment taking a deep calming breath before turning back, "I'm going to pretend that you didn't just accuse me of that. Now your brother is expecting us for you to get your suit for the wedding, so calm yourself down and we'll go."
He glared at her for a long time before nodding and started walking.
"Tim," she called after him, "I don't understand what's going on with you but we don't have the time to get you drunk right now so you'll talk to me."
He kept walking ignoring her and Kate groaned; it was going to be a long few days.
Tim stared at himself in the mirror; he could hear Mike talking about something as he studied his own suit. Turning he glanced at where Kate was pacing just outside the room talking on her phone.
He knew she was annoyed at him but right now he didn't care. This was his home and his family she'd intruded on so he had every right to be angry at her. His phone buzzed and Tim smiled to see it was from Ford.
Heard Kate was sent to watch over you, it read.
At least it's a friend you're stuck with. The goons here are scaring away the fish.
Brody says hi and see you in three weeks.
Tim smiled at the message before he glanced over at Kate and grimaced. Part of him knew he really should apologise to her but there was still that part that couldn't shake what had happened in that world he'd been forced to live in. he couldn't shake the feeling that he shouldn't trust her.
"Tell me you have good news for me," Kate demanded as her boss answered her call, "Because I may strangle him if I stay here much longer."
"Sorry, Kate," Noyce said, "We are working on it."
"Work faster," she snapped.
"You do remember you work for me, don't you?" he asked, sounding amused but with a slight edge to his voice.
Kate sighed, "Sorry but I think Tim has been affected by this more than any of us realised."
"He spoke with Dr Smith," Noyce told her, "She assured me that time with his family is what is needed."
"I don't think it's his family he has issues with," she replied before hanging up.
Sitting down she thought back a few years to when her life was so much simpler, things were less complicated when people were only there for her to scam. When she didn't care.
"What d'you think?"
Mike's voice brought her back to the room and smiled as the brothers stood before her in their suits.
"Wow," she smiled at him, "Very nice. Pity you're getting married, Mike. You must be leaving a gaggle of broken hearts."
As he winked at her Kate then turned to Tim who was watching her with the same blank look he'd given her when they first met.
"And I'll be taking photos of you in that to spread around the Seaquest female population," Kate told him.
"We should get changed," Tim told them before disappearing back into the changing room.
Kate dropped her head into his hands, "Damn it."
"What is going on?" Mike asked.
She shrugged, "I have absolutely no idea. But don't worry about it; he's never been able to stay mad at me for long."
He was about to head back into the changing room but turned back to her, "What is actually going on between you two?"
Kate smiled, "We're friends. Or we are at the moment."
The streets were quiet as the three of them walked slowly back to the house. Tim hadn't spoken a word since the shop; Kate was walking behind the brothers lost in thought while Mike was talking enough for all of them. Pushing her hair away from her face Kate spotted two men behind them walking as casually as they could, which wasn't much.
"Guys," she moved forward to catch them, "This is a small town. So you know most of the people who live here, right?"
"More or less," Mike shrugged.
"Then I need you to look at the two guys tailing us," Kate said, "Tell me if they seem familiar or not."
Tim glanced at her worriedly but before he could say anything Mike started walking backwards acting as though he was simply telling them a story. He spun back round wrapped his arms around Tim and Kate then shook his head.
"Don't recognise them," he said.
"Okay," Kate swallowed hard, "Tim when I say run you get out of here. Got it?"
"I'm not leaving you…"
"Noyce's orders," she reminded him, "Besides we're all running."
She took a deep breath, hoping to hell that she was doing the right thing and wasn't being paranoid. As they turned the corner Kate nodded, "Run."
The moment they started running it became apparent Kate's instincts had been right as the two men began to chase.
"Any ideas are gratefully received," Kate snapped as they skidded round a corner, "You know this place better than I do."
"The lake?" Mike glanced at Tim.
"There are plenty of caves we can use," Tim agreed, "And if we need there is breathing equipment we can use."
"Good idea," Kate nodded, "Lead the way. And sorry about this."
She spun stopping and fired several shots off from the weapon Noyce insisted she carry. The men dived out of the way giving them some time.
"Follow me," Tim told them leading them onto a gravel path before he ducked into a cave. Leading them through a maze of lefts and rights they finally reached a small room with a box in the corner and water lapping at the edge.
"What are we doing here?" Mike asked, "We're trapped."
Tim knelt beside the box then tossed them both a mask and breather, "We're not trapped. We just have to swim out of here. I used to do it all the time when I was a kid."
"I still can't swim," Kate snapped.
Tim shrugged, "Not a problem."
"Either you do as I tell you," Tim replied, "Or you stay with the guys chasing us."
"They're after you not me," Kate retorted.
Mike rolled his eyes as they argued, "It doesn't matter. Kate, we're both strong swimmers we can get you through safely."
Hearing noise from behind them Kate nodded and pulled the mask on sliding the breather into her mouth. The brothers took a hand each and the three of them jumped into the cold water.
Tim was surprised how easily he remembered which way to go through the water. He'd swam this way far too often as a teen, escaping the bullies who couldn't leave him alone.
He could feel Kate's hand gripping his tightly, he knew that she didn't like the water especially after the incident at Darrow and worried if the water was cold enough to affect her.
Pushing through the water Tim panicked slightly as Kate's hand suddenly slipped from his but knew that Mike would hold onto her. He pulled the torch out from the pocket and flicked it on just to make sure because nothing with that woman ever went the way it was meant to. The light hit Mike who jerked in surprise to find that Tim didn't have a hold of Kate either. Tim threw himself back and found her quickly, she was unconscious but thankfully the breather hadn't slipped out her mouth. Tim caught a hold of her and pulled Kate to him, wrapping an arm around her waist he pulled her limp body to his. Mike appeared and together they pulled her to the surface.
They broke through near the harbour; Tim tossed the breather and mask away as he swam Kate to dry land. Dragging her onto the beach he quickly checked her pulse removing the equipment.
"Kate," Tim gently stroked her cheek, "Kate, wake up?"
"What's wrong?" Mike demanded, "She was fine, she didn't lose her air supply."
Tim winced as he pulled Kate to him and lifted her smaller form into his arms, "She's susceptible to the cold. We have to get her back to the house and warm again."
"It's complicated," he snapped, "Just help me."
Kate moaned softly as she woke up wrapped in something that felt like a quilt and forced her eyes open.
"Hey," Tim appeared over her looking worried, "Are you okay?"
"What happened?" Kate felt exhausted smiling as Tim gently rested his hand on her forehead, his thumb gently rubbing the bridge of her nose.
"The cold water," he sighed, "You need to stop swimming in it."
She laughed slightly, "I'll remember that when you keep dragging me into it."
"I called Dr Westphalen," he told her, "She said to keep you warm and you should be fine in a few hours."
Kate smiled up at him, "Was she happy?"
"No," Tim replied wincing slightly, "But I got the lecture when I told her what happened. This was my fault."
"No," Kate caught his arm and tugged him he would lie beside her, "I'm meant to be protecting you not the other way around."
As Tim lay beside her Kate cuddled close, "Feeling warmer?" he asked softly as she tucked her body against his.
Kate let out a soft sigh burying her face against his neck, "Actually yes."
They lay together for a while, Tim rearranged the quilt over them and Kate slipped back asleep in the comfort she was resting in.
"Is Kathleen alright?" Julianne asked as Tim appeared in the kitchen.
He nodded, "She's sleeping again."
"What happened?" Mike demanded from the corner, "She was fine when we went into the water, there wasn't a mark on her so she wasn't shot."
Tim sighed, "A few years ago she was poisoned. It's a long story but basically the cure involved lowering her temperature until it broke down. Dr Westphalen explained it to me once but all I really understood was that when her body gets below a certain temperature it begins to shut down."
"Poor girl," Julianne whispered, "How did it happen?"
Tim winced, "Mom, I can't tell you."
"What can you tell us?" Mike snapped, "Because something is going on that you're not telling us."
Tim turned to him, "I can't."
"Because it's classified," Tim replied shortly.
"Enough," Julianne said sharply, "Both of you. I'm going to check on Kathleen."
As their mother left the room Mike turned back to his younger brother, "You're in love with her, aren't you?"
"It's complicated," Tim replied.
Mike shook his head, "Not the way you look at her it's not. So you spend most of your time in a sub and she doesn't. People manage long distance."
Tim chuckled, amused that his brother actually thought Kate would fall for him, "Not the issue. Mike, just leave it."
Shrugging Mike left him alone to brood.
Kate stood watching the sun rise through the window of the room she'd been given in the O'Neill house, it was the day of Mike's wedding and she was beginning to worry something would happen today.
She felt better now she'd rested hating that Travis Mason was still able to infect her life like this. Dr Westphalen had made a few choice comments when Kate called regarding her attitude towards her own health but assured her that as long as she didn't go swimming again she should be fine.
Her phone rang and she grabbed it, "Miguel, tell me you have some good news."
"I do," the reply came.
Kate rolled her eyes at the pause, "Oh come on, Miguel. Do you want your friend back? Because if I stay here much longer I may kill him."
"We found them," Miguel told her, "Noyce asked me to let you know. I'm guessing you've annoyed him too much."
"That's great," she sighed before she stopped, "Except."
"Except what?" Miguel demanded.
Kate groaned, "We were chased by two goons yesterday. Can you send me pictures of the guys you got?"
While she waited for him to send her the pictures Kate quickly pulled on some clothes and found her gun. The phone beeped again and she flicked through the half dozen photos Miguel had sent her. She redialled him quickly.
"They're still here," Kate told him, "Any idea why they want Tim?"
As he explained an idea formed in Kate's head, she quickly told the man on the other end of the phone who chuckled.
Tim frowned as he tried to fix his tie.
"Here," Kate's voice made him turn and he stared in amazement at the red dress she was wearing.
She straightened his tie before resting her hands on the lapels, "You're going to have to trust me for the next few hours. Can you please put aside whatever is bothering you about me and just let me stop these guys?"
"I was in there," she reminded him, "Inside that place with you and I felt the despair it was pushing on you. I felt how sad you were and all I wanted was to get you out but you haven't come all the way out yet."
He turned away from her guiltily.
"I'm leaving very soon," Kate told him, "They caught the bad guys so I just have a few things to sort out then I'll be out of your life, for good if you want."
Tim spun back to her and shook his head, "I don't want you out of my life."
Kate smiled at him, "Good. Now listen closely."
The whisper from behind him preceded two men appearing beside him in the garden, the same two they'd ran from the day before.
"Who are you?" Tim demanded.
"It's not important," the first one said, "We know you're confused but we've been sent by Captain Hudson."
Tim let out a slow breath, "Hudson?"
The second nodded, "He sent you back in time. You're here to try and stop the war, to save the world."
"But that didn't happen," Tim said.
"Not yet," Number One replied, "You were chosen as the only one with the knowledge and capabilities to get to the people who will bring the world we know to an end. That's why you were sent here."
"That's a very interesting story," came Kate's sarcastic voice as she walked onto the back porch, "Almost plausible except they got them out too early."
The two goons jerked to look at each other and as they moved to draw their weapons the garden was filled with UEO officers.
Tim grinned as Miguel appeared, "You took your time."
"We just really wanted to hear what they were going to say," Miguel grinned watching as the two men were cuffed and marched out of the garden.
Miguel clapped his friend's shoulder, "Well once I drop these idiots off I'm heading home. See you back at the ship?"
Tim smiled at his friend knowing that he'd given up time with his own family to protect Tim and the others.
"Can you squeeze me in?" Kate spoke up, "Now I'm no longer needed here?"
Miguel looked at her surprised, "Sure."
"You're not staying for the wedding?" Tim asked her.
Kate shrugged, "I didn't think you wanted me here."
"You have the dress and my family are expecting you," he told her.
Kate tilted her head in thought before turning to Miguel again, "I'll find another way."
The ceremony was beautiful, Kate thought as she sat in the church watching her friend's brother get married. She'd never been the kind of girl who thought about this sort of thing but as she watched Yvonne clad in her white gown walk down the aisle Kate got slightly misty eyed.
At the reception Kate managed to make small talk with everyone and as she was sitting sipping some wine listening to the band Tim appeared.
"Do you want to dance?" he asked a little nervously, "I can try not to stand on your toes."
Kate took his hand allowing him to pull her to her feet, she smiled that she was almost eye to eye with him thanks to her killer shoes which she had actually bought this time and walked with him onto the dance floor. As the slow song began to play Kate closed her eyes for a moment when he rested his arm around her waist.
"I have a confession," Tim whispered to her, "And an apology."
"You asked me what you said to me in the simulation," Tim reminded her, "You…she…the illusion of you told me I was gullible for trusting you. That you were using me all along and then you died in my arms."
Kate looked up at him, "Tim."
"It hurt to lose you," he told her, "But not as bad as the thought that I might not truly have had you as my friend."
Kate looked up into his eyes before taking his hand, "This isn't the place to discuss this. Come on."
They walked out of the reception room and into the garden, both falling into silence for several moments. Kate drew her wrap around her shoulders in the cool evening air as she watched him fidget.
"Tell me what the version of me actually said to you," Kate ordered.
Tim dropped his head.
"You have to tell me," she said, "Or I can't disprove it."
Tim took a deep breath, "You called me gullible for trusting you. That someone like you wouldn't look twice at someone like me unless I could give you something."
"Someone like me?" she asked bemused.
Tim laughed slightly, "Kate, you're beautiful. I mean amazingly beautiful. And I'm…well me."
"You are," Kate stepped into him, "Brilliant, witty, fun and I am so grateful that you didn't hate me for almost getting you killed," she caught his hand, "And I think you are extremely handsome."
Tim dropped his eyes, "Right."
"I'm serious," Kate gently touched his cheek.
"Come on, lovebirds," Andrew called to them, "Yvonne's about to throw the bouquet."
Kate sighed as he disappeared, "That I won't miss."
Tim chuckled, "Yeah, my family seem convinced we're more than friends."
"I noticed," she smiled slightly, she took a deep breath, "How about we find out?"
Tim stared at her, "What?"
"Everyone seems to think there's more between us so let's find out," Kate wrapped her arms around his neck.
"An experiment?" Tim raised his eyebrow.
"Yeah," she replied softly.
Tim closed his eyes as Kate's lips touched his; they sat softly against his for a few moments before the kiss deepened. Tim slid his arms around her waist resting one hand against her back as Kate's body pressed against his. They'd kissed before but Tim felt something different this time. After several minutes they parted and Tim swallowed hard when Kate looked into his eyes.
"Just friends," he said softly.
Kate gave a very soft half-shrug, "Just friends."
"At least we know," Tim told her.
"I have to go," Kate said, "You should head back in and rejoin your family. I'll see you soon, I promise."
Tim hugged her, "Be careful. And thanks, for coming to help me especially when I was being such an ass to you."
"You can make it up to me," she smiled before pushing him towards the party, "Go.
Kate watched Tim as he disappeared closing her eyes as she thought of the kiss they'd just shared.
"Damn," she sighed.
"I don't understand."
Kate spun to see Tim's mother standing there, "What?"
"I saw you together," Julianne said, "I've watched you and you can't tell me you don't love him because I saw that kiss."
Kate sighed and knew there was only one way to make Julianne understand.
"Julianne," she insisted.
"Mrs O'Neill," Kate stated again firmly, "I'm a con artist. I'm a thief, a liar and the worst possible person for your son. For some strange reason Noyce believes that I can do some good working for the UEO and maybe I can. But one day either my past will catch up with me or I will screw it up and I will not let him be caught up in that."
"I am the worst possible person there is," she continued, "And I do love him."
Kate stopped at her own admission before looking back at the other woman, "I do love him, I just don't deserve him."
With that said Kate turned and walked away.