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seaQuest: The Dawning
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Jim punched the controls in the shuttle.
"Well, this duty sucks." he said, bitterly.
"Tell me about it." Miguel agreed, adjusting his headphones on his ears. He sat at communications, overseeing Jim at the helm. Lucas was in the back of the shuttle, nursing his wounded ego. "Somehow, I never saw myself as a babysitter."
"I mean, come on. Going after Piccolo because heís with the captainís niece? Itís a family thing. Not military."
"I agree. But Piccolo is AWOL."
"No, heís not. Not until he doesnít  make his 2100 return to seaQuest. Now, heís just not where heís supposed to be. And that wouldnít be a problem if the girlís last name wasnít Bridger."
Miguel just nodded. Jim groaned. This was ridiculous. He was an officer, an ex-SEAL. Now, he was playing along with Bridgerís need to be a father. Jim looked up as Lucas popped into the control room.
"Yeah, well, you guys arenít the only ones who think this duty sucks." Lucas said, as bitter as Jim. "Or that Bridger just needs to back off a little."
Miguel raised his eyebrows. He had never heard Lucas make even the slightest negative comment towards Bridger.
"Whoa, Luke. Heís still your captain."
"Yeah, but not my father." Lucas shot back. "And donít call me Luke."
"So, whatís going on with you, Lucas? I thought the captain and you got along."
"Yeah, well, thatís until he decided to tell me who I can and cannot date. The man is not my father, and heís not theirs."
"Well, the captain still feels responsible for all 3 of you." Miguel pointed out.
"Ok, but heís forgetting the fact that Nat and Anya are 21, and are more than  capable of making their own decisions. When Iím at work, Iím an adult. Iím treated like one, Iím paid as one, Iím given the responsibilities of any other officer. But in my social life, Bridger still feels compelled to take an element of control. I mean, come on. You and Joey are dating, and youíre in the same chain of command, youíre enlisted, sheís an officer. Completely against the book. But Bridger looks the other way. Me, I donít even get the chance to go out on one date with Natalie, and heís telling me not to even write her."
     Miguel and Jim turned and glared at Lucas. They glanced at each other, trying to decide who was going to comment.
"You leave my sister out of this." Jim warned. Miguel nodded. There was a difference between the two entirely. Lucas looked remotely apologetic.
"Sorry. I just meantÖI think Bridgerís being a bit hypocritical, thatís all."
" Heís a captain. He gets to be a little hypocritical."

     Bridger sat down in his command chair and sighed, barely noticing when Jonathan Ford sat down beside him. He had been hard on Lucas, and he knew it. He just couldnít help it. He loved the boy like a son, like his own son. A pang of loss ripped through him. It had been almost 5 yearsÖ

     Natalie was sitting by her console when the call came in.
"Hello, hello!" She said, as the screen came to life. "Lucas!" Her brow furled. "What happened earlier? Where are you?"
Lucas glanced nervously over at Jim, who was watching his every move.
"Iím in the shuttle. Weíre docking at port now." He sighed. "Look, Tony went AWOL, Bridger sent us after him. Heís with Nathania, isnít he?" It wasnít really a question, but Natalie nodded anyway.
"Yes. Whatís going to happen?"
"Heís AWOL, Nat. What do you think is going to happen?" His voice was sharper than he had intended, and he watched at Nat jumped.
"Iím leaving the island now, I should get to her house about the same time you do."
Natalie clicked off the screen and went to get her coat and keys. What was with Lucas? Even though they were so far apart, she could feel the weight within him. He wasnít himself. What had she said? She had just been joking around. Normally Lucas had a better sense of humor than that. She groaned and locked the door behind her, heading to the dock for her boat.

     Someone was watching. He stared at Anya and Tony, kissing on the sofa in the living room. He watched as Tony wrapped his arms around Anya and held her so tightly. He smiled and sat down on the tom step of the staircase and rested his head in his hands, just watching. It had been so long since he had felt warmth in this house. Not just physical warmth, because that had been gone for him long ago. But the emotional warmth that came over people in love; that was the warmth that was overpowering him in this moment.  He smiled, knowing that he could not be seen. He was happy, and yet, in that happiness there was a longing; a deep melancholy feeling for a life that he missed, and the people that he loved. He could watch from a distance, but never touch. Now and then, he broke the rules and gave the people around him a nudge of assistance, and he knew that Nathania noticed. His Nat-a-brat. The one who he knew more deeply than he had known anyone.  In silence, he waited for the moment that he could tell her.
     The shuttle came up to the dock just as Natalie was tying off her jet ski. Lucas  tried to look occupied and avoided eye contact as Miguel and Jim locked down the controls and stepped up onto the dock.
"Ok," Jim sighed, without much enthusiasm, "letís go do this."
"Wait." Natalie said, holding up her hand. "Let me go first, ok?" She stole a glance at Lucas, who looked away. "Sheís my sister,  I get to."
"Heís our sailor." Jim argued. Then he caught his breath. He really didnít want this duty, and he was resenting the fact that he had been sent to fetch Tony. He raised his arms in defense. "Ok. You go in first."
Natalie bit her lip and turned to head towards the steps. She didnít know what she was going to say when Anya opened the door. Tony had to know that he was AWOL. He had to know that the captain would send crew after him, right? And what was Anya thinking? Natalie knocked on the door and pressed the bell.

     A bell rang within the house. Anya and Tony jumped.
"Christ, who would that be?" She asked, looking down at her naked body. Tony lay on top of her, equally nude.
"Ignore them." He caressed her face with one hand. "Theyíll go away, I promise."
The bell came again, and Anya groaned. She arched her body and kissed Tony on the lips, pulling his head towards her with her hands. He kissed her back, making a mental note to mangle whoever was at the door.
"Just let it be." he whispered into her ear. She shook her head, she had a bad feeling about this. Desperately, she looked to the floor at their pile of clothes.

     Natalie looked over at Jim.
"Thereís no answer." She said, helplessly.
"Donít you have a key?" Miguel asked. "Itís your sisterís house."
"No, I donít. You forget, weíre not exactly friends most of the time."
 Jim sighed and stepped forward, angrily pounding on the door. He moved to the side window and peeked in.
"I canít see anyone." he said, pressing his face against the glass.
"Maybe theyíre not here?" Miguel suggested. Lucas shook his head.
"No, thatís the car Tony rented over there." he pointed. Natalie bit her lip, surprised that Lucas had sold out his friend.

     Inside the house, the Watcher stood halfway between the door and the porch, watching the people who threatened the sanctity of his home. Anyaís home. He stared at Natalie, pressing gently until he could get a picture of what was going on in her mind. The tall blond boy had hurt her. Why? He looked at the boy, and tore his way into his thoughts, not caring if he gave the mortal a raging headache in the process.

"Ow!" Lucas cried, his hands flying to his head. Miguel placed a hand on his shoulder.
"You ok?"
"Yeah, migraine." He groaned before looking back at Jim. "So, what are we doing."

     It was Nathan, the Watcher realized. Nathan Bridger was determined to keep Anya and Natalie away from anyone and everyone. Why? What had happened to the kind man that the Watcher had known? Was his self-imposed isolation supposed to carry on to his family forever? Because of the loneliness that Nathan knew, was he ensuring that the girls would never feel such pain, only by depriving them of companionship? He didnít know what to do. His job was to protect Anya and Natalie at any cost, and he had had enough of the seaQuest crew interfering. He couldnít believe that Nathan Bridger would do such a thing, and the Watcher was done. He looked between the other men, spied the blonde one, and jumped.

     Jim stumbled backwards a few steps, feeling as though his legs had given out underneath him. Then, he steadied himself and looked around. Suddenly, this mission didnít seem to have a point at all, and Jim was not willing to go inside and bring Tony back to seaQuest. He, Jim Brody, was planning on disobeying orders for the first time in his life.
"Ok, well, they are obviously not here. Letís go." He started to walk off of the porch, leaving a bewildered group behind him.
"Lieutenant?" Miguel asked, jogging up to him. "Are we going to look somewhere else?"
"No, weíre going home."
"Back to seaQuest?"
"Isnít that what I just said?" Jim turned, angrily. "Yes, weíre going back. This was a stupid mission for us to get involved in. This is Bridgerís personal business, not seaQuest business, and I resent being forced into it. So, I say we go get dinner and go back to the boat, hoping that Tony has sense enough to make it back to the boat by 2100, before he REALLY goes AWOL."
Miguel was speechless. Lucas came running up.
"Youíre really not going to leave them in there, are you?" he asked. He couldnít understand why he was so angry, but he guessed it was because if he was going to get into trouble for doing NOTHING, Tony sure as hell better pay for doing SOMETHING. He was tired of Bridger playing favorites, and sick of being singled out. If Bridger wanted to be hypocritical, that was fine, but it sure as hell did not have to involve him. Jim turned to Lucas.
"Theyíre not there, and if they are, itís none of our business."
Lucas was taken aback.
Natalie stood on the porch step, not sure of what to do. She had a strong feeling that something wasnít right. Jim went from one extreme to the other in a matter of seconds, and now he was ready to give up altogether. That wasnít like him. She also had the feeling that Anya and Tony were in the house, and were afraid to open the door. Hesitantly, she went back and knocked, gently this time.
"Nathania? Itís Natalie. If youíre in there, open up."

     Anya looked at Tony as they stood on the staircase.
"Itís my sister." She moved towards the door, and Tony caught her hand. He had heard male voices on the porch a moment ago.
"Anya, sheís not alone. Brodyís out there."
"What do you want to do?" She pleaded, desperately. "Youíre going to have to go back to the ship sometime. I canít keep you here forever." She brushed his cheek. "As much as I would like to, believe me."
Tony kissed her fingertips gently. He was angry that their intimacy had been cut short.
"Just remember, I wouldnít have changed anything, ok? Remember that." As she nodded, he turned and walked slowly to the front door, and twisted the knob.
Natalie rushed inside, slamming the door behind her.
"Ok, Nat, what are you doing?" She didnít wait for an answer.  "Tonyís officers are out on the lawn, with strict orders to bring him back to seaQuest and charge him with being AWOL."
Tony raised his hands up.
"Whoa, Natalie. Itís not her fault. I made the choice, itís my call. And itís time to face the consequences, I guess." He looked at Anya hesitantly. "IÖI have to go out there."
Anya nodded and wrapped her arms around his neck. He gripped her tightly and kissed her cheek.
"Just remember what I said." he whispered. Then, he stepped back and sighed. Natalie bit her lip. She didnít like what was happening, but she felt completely helpless. Tony pulled open the door once again, but this time, Jim Brody stumbled through the door.
"Hey, Tony, howís it going?" He said brightly, giving Tony a friendly smack on the shoulder. He tuned to Anya. "Hey, Nat-a-brat, whatís going on? Havenít seen you in ages, girl."
Natalie and Anya exchanged confused glances.
"UmÖnot badÖ" Anya said helplessly. Lucas and Miguel walked in behind Miguel.
"Tony." Miguel nodded.
"Hi, Miguel." Tony shook his head. "Listen, I know why you guys are here. Iím AWOL, I know, so why donít we just get on with it, ok?" He crossed his wrists and held them out in front of his body. Jim shook his head.
"Nope. No handcuffs, Tony."
Tony let his hands fall to his sides. Self-consciously, he stuck them in his pockets.
"Um, ok, sir. Letís just go, right?"
Again, Jim shook his head.
"Tony, are you in a hurry to get out of here or something? Come on, itís your girlfriendís place. We can stick around."
Anya muttered a few words to Natalie, who shrugged.
"I donít know." She mouthed back. Anya cleared her throat.
"Lieutenant, whatís going on?"
Jim smiled and tossed his hair back.
"Nothing. Nothing at all."
"Arenít I in trouble, sir?" Tony asked, glancing at Miguel, who raised his hands helplessly.
"Nope."
Lucas cleared his throat.
"I think what Lt. Brody is trying to say is that, yes, you are AWOL and you need to come back to the boat with us now."
Jim turned on Lucas.
"You do not give me orders, Lucas. Weíll go back to the boat when I say we go back, is that understood?"
"Perfectly, sir." Lucas said softly. Miguel stepped forward, placing a hand on Jimís shoulder.
"Sir, is everything ok?" He asked softly. Jim nodded.
"Everything is fine. Iím thirsty, anyone want something to drink?" Jim turned and walked through the archway into the kitchen, leaving a bewildered group behind him.
"What is going on?" Lucas asked. Miguel shook his head.
"Beats the hell out of me. One minute, he was ready to drag you kicking and screaming back to the ship, the next he changes his mind and he wants to leave you here."
"All of a sudden?" Anya asked. Natalie nodded.
"Yeah. He just walked off of the porch and headed back to the boat."
Tony shook his head.
"Look, if this is some kind of lesson heís trying to teach me, I got it, ok? Iím AWOL."
Miguel shook his head.
"No, youíre not. Not until tonight. Although, at this point, the Lieutenant is going to be in more trouble than you are unless he snaps himself out of this. Lieutenant?!" he called, following Jim into the kitchen. Natalie pulled Anya by the hand.
"Nat, something isnít right here."
Anya nodded.
"When did I tell him my nickname?"
"What are you two whispering about?" Lucas asked. Anya looked nervously at Tony and then back at Natalie.
"Heís behaving rather strangelyÖ" She started.
"Like someone we knowÖknewÖ" Natalie finished. Lucas looked confused.
"Who?"
Before anyone could answer, Jim strode back into the room, sipping a glass of water.  Miguel looked at the others and shook his head. He was as confused as ever. Natalie cleared her throat.
"Um, ok. Youíre NOT carrying Tony back to seaQuestÖ"
Jim shook his head. Natalie continued.
"And you arenít angry that heís hereÖ"
Jim looked at Tony and grinned.
"Nah."
If there was one thing that Tony knew, it was that it was better not to question good fortune.
"Thank you, sir."
Nat clapped her hands.
"Well, I don't know about you guys, but I'm starving. Who wants lunch?" She dragged her sister by the arm into the kitchen. "Come on Anya, let's make sandwiches..", she almost hissed into her ear, hoping she got the point.  
Brody smiled.
"Great! I'm famished!" He plunked himself down on a chair in the living room where they were congregating. Ortiz took this quiet moment to pull Lucas aside.  
"Lucas, I thought you and Natalie had a thing going on. I haven't seen you so much as bless her when she sneezes. What's up?"
Lucas sighed and shook his head.
"We doÖwe didÖ" He looked so uncertain that Miguel placed a hand on his shoulder.
"Come on, I left my jacket on the launch. Walk with me."
Lucas looked confused as Miguel opened the door.
"But itís not cold."
Miguel just laughed as he shut the door behind them.
"Itís called an excuse, Lucas. Now, tell me. Whatís going on?"
Lucas crossed his arms over his chest.
"Captain Bridger warned me to stay away from Natalie."
Miguel raised an eyebrow.
"Like he warned Tony to stay away from Anya."
"Right, but Miguel, he has a right to say something about those two. I mean, you know Tony."
"I thought you two were friends, Lucas."
"We are, but come on. You saw the condition those two were in when we walked in. Ruffled hair. Wrinkled clothing. It doesnít take a genius to figure out what was going on before we arrived."
"Yes, maybe, but Lucas, what makes you think that Anya is any less responsible than Natalie? Youíre complaining that Bridger should give you your own freedom. Why do they deserve any less?"
Lucas sighed. Miguel had a point.
"They donít. It just seems likeÖIím being punished for what they did. This whole thing started after Tony went AWOL."
Miguel shook his head.
"No. Youíre being punished because youíre dating the captainís niece, Lucas. Come on. This has nothing to do with Tony and Anya, and everything to do with Bridger being a protective father and uncle." Miguel crossed his arms. "Look, Lucas. Do you want the girl?"
"What?"
"Do you want Natalie?"
"WellÖyesÖ"
"Then you have to learn how to go for it. You spend all this time and energy worrying about what everyone else has to say about you two, and what Bridgerís going to do. Take the damn leap, man, and forget about everything else."
"So, youíre saying  act irrationally and sacrifice my career?"
"No, Iím saying for once, turn of that amazing brain of yours and do what you feel. It might get a little rough, but it also might come together. Look at me and Jo. Youíll never know until you take that chance."
"You and Joey werenít forbidden from seeing each other."
Miguel laughed.
"Excuse me? Need I remind that sheís the kid sister of an SEAL? Jim could have erased me in a minute."
Lucas laughed, but the subject of Jim made the smile fall from his face.
"Speaking of, what do you think is going on with him?"
Miguel shook his head.
"Beats me. Maybe heís just fed up with this duty. He was pretty upset about being sent out here. Maybe heís just had enough."
"I hope thatís all it is."
"You and me both."

TO CHAPTER 3