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seaQuest: The Dawning
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She knew Alex was right. But knowing that, and doing something about it were two different things.  It felt wrong to move on, to even consider thinking romantically about someone again. Somehow, even thinking about Miguel made her feel horribly guilty, like she was betraying Jasper and all the years that they had spent together. But Alex WAS right. Jasper would be upset with her right now, not because she was thinking about Miguel, but because she was sitting alone, wallowing in her own self pity.
But what would it feel like to fall in love again? To kiss lips that weren’t Jasper’s? To hold someone else’s hand, to call someone else’s name.

"Hello." Captain Bridger walked into the room. Joey tried to turn and face him, but remembered that her head brace wouldn’t let her.
"Hello, sir."
Nathan sat down by the bed.
"How are you holding up?"
"Fine, sir."
"I saw the crowd leave, and thought we could talk."
"Yes, sir. Sir, I think you should know that I’m going to stay aboard seaQuest. Once they release me from the hospital that is."
Bridger raised his eyebrows in surprise. He hadn’t expected an answer that quickly.
"Good, I’m glad you’re staying." He sighed and looked down. After Carol had died, he had left the military, theoretically for good. It was only through Admiral Noyce’s conspiracy and seaQuest’s completion that he had been convinced to return to the navy. Joey saw the expression on his face change out of the corner of her eye.
"Sir?"
"Yes? Oh…" he shook his head. "It’s nothing. I just," he stared at her carefully for a moment. "Joey, why did you come to seaQuest? I mean, in the beginning, after your fiancée died? Besides the fact that you were invited."
Joey sighed.  In her current state of mind, she did not want to have this conversation. But on the other hand, she couldn’t imagine having it with anyone else.
"I…That’s hard. All my life, I’ve been trying to find some place where I belonged. Something stable that I could be a part of, where I mattered to someone and something besides myself. And in Jasper, I found that. I found the family, the career…everything I wanted and never had. And then it was all gone. It all disappeared. SeaQuest…honestly, I’d applied to seaQuest before Jim came onboard. I withdrew my application when he arrived. But seaQuest gave me the chance to go on, to do something. To have something that mattered again." She smiled weakly. "I guess that’s not the answer you were probably looking for."
"On the contrary. What did you think I wanted to hear?"
"Oh, something about seaQuest being the best ship in the fleet, with the best people in command. And all that’s true, sir, but seaQuest is more than that."

Bridger nodded.
"Even if you felt you weren’t strong enough to do something on your own, you could still be a part of something bigger. To go on with your life, even in the smallest way."
"Exactly."
Bridger sighed.
"That was the hardest thing for me, too. After I lost my son and my wife, I thought I would never set foot aboard any boat, even seaQuest. I lived alone, with Darwin of course, but alone apart from that, because I thought that is what I was supposed to do. It wasn’t right that I should go on with anything, my career, my family, relationships. Everything stopped. And I guess, on some level, I felt like I was just waiting to die."
A tear rolled down Joey’s cheek.
"That’s how I felt." she whispered. Bridger nodded.
"And even when Bill offered me the seaQuest, I couldn’t take it. I didn’t want to be a part of anything, because it meant that I was leaving my island. And that I was leaving part of Carol and Robert behind. For the longest time, I clung to their memory, just as I had clung to them in real life. Then I realized…I couldn’t do that. That wasn’t fair to the people that they were."
"What made you change?"
"Someone who came into my life and made me feel…alive again. She managed to get through all of the walls that I put up, and saw me. And loved me anyway."
"Kristin?"
"How did you know about that?"
"Jim."
"Ah. Well, no, it wasn’t her. No, it was someone else."
Joey sighed.
"But…how did you…I mean, didn’t you feel guilty? Being with someone else?"
Now it was Bridger’s turn to sigh.
"Yes. Yes, I did."
"I do. After Jas…I stayed at Miramar partly because when I’m flying, I feel close to him. I feel him there, and for a moment, I don’t feel quite so alone. I hang onto those moments, and they’re the only thing that got me through. But now…it’s not fair for me to do that. It’s not real. He’s not there any more than I know that he’s here with me now. I came on board because I didn’t know what else to do. And now, I want to stay because it’s the ONLY thing I want to do. I want to go on and live again. Have a career. Friends. Love someone. But at the same time, I feel guilty, like I‘m not supposed to."
"And that’s the hardest thing to push through, Joey, but you have to do it. Moving on doesn’t mean moving away. But as much as you still love him, you have to know that you owe it to him to go on living."
Joey bit her lip.
"I…I know."
Bridger took her hand.
"You’ll get there, kiddo."
Joey squeezed his hand.
"Thank you."

***4 weeks later***
"Hey, hey!" Jim grinned as he came into the room and found his sister sitting up in bed, channel surfing.
"Hey, brat." She grinned. Her wounds were healing, and her stitches had been removed. All that remained of her injuries was a pressure brace on her right leg and a cast around her right wrist. She had had 3 surgeries to repair the damage that had happened when she had gripped her controls as her plane hit the water. Jim tossed a white stuffed  bear at her, wrapped in red and green bow.
"That would be "sir.""
"Ok, SIR brat." She smiled and picked up the bear with her left hand. "Aww, thanks."
"It’s not from me."
She looked at him questioningly.
"What?"
"Who do you THINK it’s from?" He smirked. Joey sighed. She hadn’t seen Miguel in almost a month. SeaQuest was back out at sea, but they had sent a launch for her today.
"Miguel." She smiled, weakly. Jim nodded.
"So, we busting you out of here today?"
"Hell, yes! The sooner the better."
"What? You don’t like the elegant cuisine they’re feeding you? I don’t think seaQuest’s galley is much better."
"I just want out of here. I’ve been staring at these same walls for too long."
Jim grinned.
"Doctor Smith is down arranging your paperwork, and then you’re home free."
"Thank God." She fingered the bear’s eyes gently and sighed. Jim pulled up a chair.

"You haven’t spoken to him in 4 weeks." he said.
"I didn’t know what to say."
"You didn’t return his calls."
"I didn’t know what to say, Jim."
Jim sighed.
"Ok, look. I’m not really wild on the idea of you dating one of my best friends. Let alone one of my subordinates. But I’ve seen the way you look at him, Jo. He makes you happy. So, that’s all that matters to me. Miguel is a good guy. He knows what you’ve been through. Trust him."
"After brushing him off for a month, I’ll be lucky if he even talks to me."
"Ah, but see, that’s where you’re wrong."
"What do you mean?"
Jim grinned.
"He begged Doctor Smith to bring him along. He convinced her that he would be good moral support for you. She was a bit skeptical, but with some convincing from me…"
"Jim!" Joey grinned. She should have been angry, but she was thrilled that Miguel was there. "Can I see him?"
"He’s in the hallway." Jim stood up. "I’m going to go check on Smith and make sure you’re good to go."

     A moment later, Miguel walked into the room, hesitantly peeking out from behind his dark curls.
"Jo?" He asked softly, his hands stuck deep in his uniform pockets. Joey smiled.
"Hi, Miguel." With one hand, she motioned him inside. Slowly, Miguel walked over to the bed and sat down in the chair. He rested his head in his hands and just looked at her, not knowing what to say. He had wanted so badly to come but now that he was here, he felt uncomfortable. Joey picked up the bear and have him a hug.
"Thanks for coming. And for the bear, he’s adorable." she said, softly, not really sure what to say. Miguel smiled slightly.
"You’re welcome."
Joey sighed and bit her lip. She owed him a huge apology, and an explanation. She didn’t even know where to begin.
"Miguel, I’m sorry." she started, softly. "I should have called you. I should have returned your calls. I didn’t mean to push you away, or make you think that I don’t want you, because I do. It’s just…" she stopped and pressed her lips together, weighing her words. Miguel just waited, though he was fighting the urge to speak. "I feel really scared, Miguel. And it has nothing to do with you, and everything to do with you at the same time. I’m scared because…because I heard what you said to me while I was laying here unconscious. I heard every word. I wanted to tell you that I felt the same. That I needed you so much. But I couldn’t, because…if I admitted to myself that I needed you, then I was leaving part of me behind. And I wasn’t ready to do that. So I couldn’t call you. I wouldn’t have known what to say, and I didn’t want to lie. Not to you."

Miguel took a breath.
"Joey, I would never ask or presume to take the place of anyone, or to ask you to leave them behind. I hope you know that."
"I do know that…now. I just had to figure it out But I know."
Miguel took her hand. She squeezed it gently. He reached up and brushed a strand of hair off her face, and in doing so , accidentally brushed against her scar. She winced.
"I’m sorry, did that hurt?" Miguel asked. Joey shook her head.
"No. I just have to get used to it being there, that’s all."

"So, are you ready to get out of here?" Dr. Smith’s voice came from the door. Joey grinned.
"Yes!" She swung one leg off of the bed, and with Miguel’s help stood up. He wrapped one arm around her waist to help support her weight. Jim wheeled a wheelchair behind her, and she sat down. Jim picked up her black duffel bag and looped it over his shoulder. Miguel began to push Joey’s chair into the hallway. Dr. Smith stood back and watched with an amused expression. She had felt something when she walked into the room. Anticipation. And desire. And now, she knew where it came from.
"Come on, Joey, let’s get you home." She said, following the trio into the hallway. Miguel leaned down and touched her hair.
"Yes. Let’s go home."

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