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seaQuest: The Dawning
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In the kitchen, Anya pulled her arm from her sister’s grasp.
"Ok, what is going on with you?"
"I'm not sure. How sure are we that Brody's a man? Cause I mean, wow. He's got some serious mood swings going on."
Anya nearly choked.
"Um, pretty sure, Nat." She recovered herself and sighed. "But I know what you mean. I expected him to drag Tony out of here in handcuffs."
Natalie leaned against a counter and folded her arms across her chest.
"When we got here, he was ready to rip Tony a new one, now...just look at him. And did you hear what he called you?"
Anya bit her lip and nodded.
"Nat-A-Brat. Nat, I never told him that. Did you?"
"As far as I know...there was,well...one person who called you that."
"Bobby." Anya’s voice was barely audible. Natalie looked at the floor, wishing that her thoughts weren’t running in the direction they were taking.
"Yup." She muttered.
Anya popped up onto the counter, sitting in her favorite spot.
"Tony doesn't even know that. There's no way Jim could."  She eyed Natalie carefully, knowing that something was spinning in her mind. Natalie was usually thinking at a million miles a minute, and Anya knew better than to ask. Natalie would reveal her thoughts when she was ready.  You just had to wait. Natalie nodded her agreement.
"Lucas doesn't know, and he's sort of like family."
Anya sighed. Something wasn’t right. Nathan had told her all about James Brody, and from what she had heard, he was the most one-track-minded man on the boat. The mission came first. He was hard, almost to the point of being arrogant, but he was still a good friend. What was it that Nathan had said? Jim had a strong sense of duty, and a passion for his work. Well, where was that passion now? It was almost as if it had disappeared on her doorstep. Suddenly, a thought swept over her, and she opened her mouth to speak. It was a foolish thought, and she was sure that she would be ridiculed for it. But she had to try.
"This is too crazy, Nat. Something’s going on. You know how I have that...ghost...or whatever?"
Natalie nodded and crossed the kitchen, getting some mayonnaise and mustard  out of the fridge Then she stopped, putting the pieces together.
"You… don't think it's Bobby do u?" Her tone belied the fact that she wasn’t surprised.
Anya jumped down to the floor.
" It was here right before you all showed up. It lit some candles downstairs." She smirked. "Scared Tony a little bit. I don't know, Nat. It...I mean...It could be."
Natalie set the bottles down, then bit a fingernail thoughtfully.
"We need a test."
"Agreed."
"But what?" She snapped her fingers. "I've got it."
Anya put a loaf of bread on the counter.
 "Wait. Are you suggesting that Jim is...that he isn't Jim?"
"I'm saying we see if his Flintstone chewable Prozac didn't just suddenly kick in."
Both girls laughed. Anya nodded her head.
"Ok...but how?"
Natalie got an evil look on her face.
"Remember that gross, nasty sandwich Bobby used to eat?"
Anya made a face.
"What was it, rye, peanut butter…"
"Pickles and mustard I think." Natalie shuddered at the thought.
"Ugh. How the hell did he eat that? And the smell...ugh…"
"I remember. But," Natalie’s mind was formulating her plan.  "All icky ness aside, i say we just happen to put together one of those."
Anya‘s eyes lit up as she picked up on the idea.
"And we see if Jim takes the bait. I like it! He's either going to love it, or think we're playing a prank on him."
Natalie grinned.
"If Jim eats it...he's either, A, insane B really hungry or C possessed. See, now that's why you were born first. Always with the good thinking." She smirked. Anya chose to ignore the potential barb.
"And we decide between A and C how?"
"Well, consider this part one."
Anya nodded and reached above the fridge for the loaf of rye bread, which she tossed at Nat.
Natalie caught it and pulled out two slices.
" Well, if it IS Bobby…he still hasn't recounted the tail of how his misfit baby cousins stole a jetski and terrorized the Coast Guard for an hour."
"Oh my god, I'd forgotten about that!" Anya laughed. "We really were horrible."
Natalie spread mustard on the bread.
" Last time we ever played "Uncle Nathan and the seaQuest""
Anya giggled and pulled  the peanut butter out of the cupboard and a knife out of the drawer.
Natalie pulled some pickles out of the jar ,put them on and passed the offending item to Anya, who grimaced.
"The look on Nathan's face was priceless. I have never seen him so red."
"I think Aunt Carol couldn't decide whether to be angry or fall down laughing." Natalie smiled at the memory.
"And poor Bobby took the blame."
Natalie snickered.
"He had to scrape barnacles off the Coast Guard cutter."
"But he never yelled at us."
"Nope.  He was great."
     Quickly, the girls finished assembling the rest of the sandwiches and put away their ingredients. Anya put the "special" one on a plate all to its own. Natalie gathered the rest.
"So, ready to go out there?"
Anya nodded, and started to go toward the door. Then, she stopped.
" Nat…"
"Hmm?"
Anya stared at the sandwich.
"If it's Bobby...I don't…"
"Don’t what?"
Anya looked up and started again.
" Do you know how many times I prayed that Bobby would come back? And it never came true. But now...if it's him...I don't...I don't want to give him up…"
Natalie nodded.
"I know...me too...Look, maybe we're both just crazy....but i think we owe it to Bobby, if he is here and trying to tell us something then, to listen."
"Yeah, I guess." She sighed. "You ready to do this?"
"As ready as I’m gonna be."
"Then let's go."
 Anya followed Natalie out the door and into the living room, where Tony sat on a couch parralell to Jim on the sofa. The tension in the room was unmistakable as Tony tried to figure out what was going on with Jim. It was as if he was a completely different person. Tony tried to right it off as being upset about the nature of his mission for the day, but it wasn‘t helping. The Jim Brody he knew wouldn‘t have hesitated to lock Tony in handcuffs and drag him back toward the ship, shooting insults at him the entire way. Anya saw the look on Tony‘s face, and tried to rescue him.
"Hey, we come bearing food." She smiled. Natalie set a tray of cups and soda on the table.
"And drinks.."
Jim sat up at the mention of food. He hadn’t eaten since…well, he couldn’t remember. But food sounded fantastic to him.
"Great! Whatcha got?"
Natalie pointed to the trays.
"We've got some PB+J...some Ham n cheese…"
"A little bit of everything." Anya finished, casting a careful look at her sister who nodded.
Jim pointed at the sandwich that stood alone.
" What's that one?"
Natalie tried to shrug.
"Oh, that? It's an old family secret recipe.  Isn't that right, Anya?
Jim raised an eyebrow.
"Oh yeah?"
Anya nodded.
 "Yep."
Jim leaned forward and pulled off the top piece of bread.
"What is that, peanut butter and pickle?"
"Uh-huh. Looks good, huh?"
Jim took the sandwich, casting a warning glance at Tony.
"Back off, Piccolo, this one's mine."
Tony raised  his hands up in the air. What was going on?
"Ok, no worries, it's all yours."
Anya just stared as Jim took a bite and grinned.
"Perfect."
Anya almost gagged and looked over at Tony, who cast a questioning look her way.
"Glad...you like it…"
"Oh, gross." Natalie muttered. Anya looked around, for the first time noticing that they were missing two people.
"Where's Miguel?" She asked. Natalie stood up and walked to the front door.
"I'll check."
Tony just stared at Jim.
" I knew you had some weird eating habits, sir, but this one," He shook his head and took a ham and cheese sandwich.  "that's disgusting."
Jim grinned good naturedly.
"Hey, don't knock it till you've tried it."
"Nah, I'll just take your word for it." Tony took a bite of his sandwich as Anya came over and sat down beside him on the sofa.
     Natalie stepped onto the porch, spotting Miguel.
"Hey, um Miguel?" She stopped when she realized that Lucas stood beside him.  "Oh, I didn't realize you had company"
Miguel glanced between them.
"Oh, hey Nat...it's ok. What's up?" He cast a glance at Lucas, demanding that he say something. Lucas moved his head in her direction, but refused to allow himself to meet her eyes.
"Hey, Nat." He mumbled, ignoring the evil glare he received from Miguel. Natalie bit her lip.
"Uh, hi to you too, Lucas."
     Lucas opened his mouth as if he wanted to say something, but no words came. He looked between Miguel and Natalie before clearing his throat.
"What's up?" He asked, kicking himself for not saying something more intelligent. Natalie rolled her eyes.
" So, yeah. Anya and I made lunch .Sandwiches. Come on in and get some before Tony eats them all."
Miguel grinned, grateful for the opportunity to escape the two of them. Maybe if he left, Lucas could get up the courage to speak. Or, Natalie would beat it out of him.
"Cool... Thanks!" Miguel said, stepping inside.
Lucas shook his head.
" I'm not really hungry.."
" Whatever…" She muttered under her breath. Lucas caught her annoyance, and knew that he was walking on dangerous ground. He tried to tread carefully. He sighed.  
 "So…"
Natalie shook her head, having had enough of his bullshit.
"Look, if you could just give me whatever excuse it is that you've made up about why this wont work and why you've been ignoring me, it'll make my life a lot easier." She demanded. Lucas took a step backwards.
 "Um..that's...there's no excuse."
Natalie took a breath and let it out slowly before walking over to the railing. She leaned on her elbows, staring out to sea.
"I just thought you were different, you know?" She said, softly. Lucas walked over slowly and leaned on the railing beside her.
"Different than what?"
 "Different than any other person I've let in...But you're just like them. You left too. Was it something I did?"
Lucas desperately tried to recover.
"No..no, that's not it at all, Natalie."
 "Then what is it?"
     Lucas looked down, Miguel’s words running through his head. He didn’t want to lose Natalie, but he didn’t want to defy the captain either. But he had to make a choice about what kind of man he was going to be.
"Look," he sighed, trying to choose his words carefully. He was a thinker, an intellectual. But, things got messy whenever he tried to talk about personal topics.  "Miguel, he says that I should just go for it, that  I shouldn't care, and I shouldn't, but I do." He shook his head.
     Natalie turned to face him, and took his hand.
" Shouldn't care about what? Me? I'm confused here, Lucas. One minute we're joking about sex...and the next minute you don't want to know me."
 Lucas squeezed her hand.
"That conversation...Nathan walked in. That's why I had to go. I tried to shut it off, but he saw what we were saying."
 Natalie rolled her eyes.
"Oh, jeez. We were only joking!"  
 " I know, and I tried to tell him that. But he was still spiraling from the whole Tony and Anya situation, and he flipped."
" Flipped how?" Natalie gripped his hand in return. Lucas looked at her.
 "He said that I'm no good for you. That we  are supposed to stay away from each other. That if we don't, he'll jeopardize my career on seaQuest."
"WHAT?!? HE SAID WHAT?!? I'm gonna tear him a new....oooohhh! He can't do that!!" She dropped his hand and threw her hands up in rage. Lucas just watched and shook his head, feeling her rage, but knowing it was pointless.
 "Yes, he can."
"No. He can't." Natalie laced her fingers through his once again. "Listen to me. When that thing happened between you and me in the shed...it changed my life. And I like that change...I like you. But we're adults. You're a civilian! He has to see that, and its not going to happen if we all run around being scared of him."
Lucas looked into her eyes and smiled.
"Nat. I've never wanted to be with someone like I want to be with you. But I don't want to come between you and your family."
Natalie leaned over and quickly kissed him.
 "Then be with me. Don't worry about anything else." They kissed again before she whispered, "I knew it...i knew you were different"
Lucas pulled back and lightly caressed her cheek.
"I don't want to hide this, Nat. I don't want us to be together, and have Bridger call me on being AWOL, like Tony's facing. I want to be with you."
"I want to be with you too, Lucas. Really." She smiled,  her lips meeting his  once more. Her hands went to the back of his head, fingering his hair.
     Anya swung open the front door.
" Natalie!" She stopped, feeling insanely guilty. "Oops…"
Natalie jumped, cursing her luck.
"Anya!"
Anya looked down.
" Um...sorry to interrupt, but I think I need to talk to you.
Natalie sighed.
" Oh, yea well uh, we were just uhh... Talk about what?"
Anya walked toward them, casting a meaningful look at Natalie.
"He ate it. All of it."
 "You're kidding. That's disgusting!"
 "He didn't flinch" Anya nodded.
 Lucas looked between them and cleared his throat. They turned to look at him.
"What are we talking about."
" Jim. Didn't you notice his complete about face?" Natalie said. Lucas nodded.
"How could I not?"
     Natalie nodded and continued slowly, knowing that Lucas was going to think they were crazy.
"Something he said…"
"What?"
"He called Anya something."
 "He called me Nat-a-brat. It was my nickname. Only, only one person ever called me that." Anya continued.
"And he's....not around...anymore. Or maybe not." Natalie finished.
Lucas looked utterly confused.
 "Who?"
"Bobby." Both girls whispered. Lucas took a step back as Anya tried to explain.
"And...Jim's sudden about-face...it's going beyond coincidence, Lucas."
Natalie reached over and took Lucas’s hand.
"We're not entirely sure. And Jimmy just ate a peanut butter, pickle, mustard on rye sandwich. Bobby's favorite."
Lucas made a face and nearly gagged at the thought.
"Ew. So, what exactly are you suggesting?"
Natalie glanced at her sister.
 "Anya's house has always been creepy."
 Anya nodded.
"We've always known that...well, that we weren't alone here. Things, happen, for lack of a better word. Supernatural things."
Lucas raised a hand to stop her.
 "Wait, so you're saying ghosts?"
Natalie nodded. Lucas shook his head.
"And these ghosts...what...took over Jim? Made him eat a..what was it?"
"Peanut butter, mustard, pickle sandwich." Anya replied.
Lucas’s jaw dropped and he took a step back.
 "Wait, Jim ate peanuts?"
"Yeah. He ate it all. It was gross." Natalie nodded.
"Natalie, Jim is allergic to all nuts."
Natalie looked at her sister, who wore a worried expression.
 "What?" Anya asked.
" If Jim's allergic to nuts, why would he eat peanut butter? And why is he not laying dead on the floor right now?" Natalie interjected.
Lucas shook his head.
 "I'm telling you, he's deadly allergic to nuts. Joey, his sister, told me about the time her fiancée forgot, and put nuts in the cookies. They had to rush him to the hospital on his birthday."
Natalie took a  step back, more confused now than she had been all day.
"Time for Phase Two, Anya. We have to know if this is real." She gripped Lucas’s hand. "Lucas, tell me you don't think we're nuts."
Lucas squeezed her hand.
"I just want to know why he's not dead right now, if he ate what you said."
"Lucas...ok. Is it possible that he's not Jim? I mean, he doesn't have Jim's allergies for some reason." Anya asked
 "r Jim's charming personality or his anal retentive need to follow orders." Natalie pointed out. Lucas shook his head, struggling to absorb all of the information coming his way.
" One way to find out, I guess. You have to persuade him to say something only Bobby would know. And, we have to say something so blatantly Jim that it would be a impossible for him not to respond."
"Any suggestions?"
Lucas bit his lip.
"Well, when you want to know something from someone who's lying, sometimes the question to ask is the one they aren't expecting. The obvious one."
Natalie raised an eyebrow.
"So we're supposed to charge up to him and ask him who he is?"
Lucas shook his head.
"No. I'm saying we ask him about the nuts. And how he knew your nickname."
"I say, we wait. We wait until we have more proof. This doesn't make any sense." Natalie’s rational side started to take over. What were they saying? That the ghost of Bobby had somehow come back to take over Jim’s body? Anya saw her sister’s thoughts change and sighed.
"You're right, but what are we going to do? You have to go back to the ship in," she glanced at her watch. " four  hours."
     Suddenly, the four of the jumped as the front door swung open and Jim stuck his head out to see what was going on.
 "Hey Squirt! Great sandwich! Anyway I can talk you into making another for your favorite guy?" He grinned.
Natalie’s jaw dropped, as Anya‘s eyes widened.
"What did you call me?"
 Jim’s brow furled.
"Squirt. What else would I call you?" He grew more confused as Natalie staggered back and gripped the railing for support. Her rational thoughts left her mind as she realized that Anya might have slipped and told her nickname to Tony, but there was absolutely no way that Jim would know her own. She elbowed her sister lightly.
"Hey Anya...I think there's a jet ski tied off at the dock...remember that time?"
Anya picked up on her thought.
"Yeah!  Let's go play Nathan and seaQuest!" She smiled, turning and preparing to leave the porch. Jim reached out and gripped her arm, stopping her.
"The two of you little rebels! No way I’m on barnacle duty again for your hides!"
Natalie giggled, but then  realized what he had said.
 "Oh. My. God."
Anya stared at Jim uncertainly.
"But it was fun though, right?"
 "Right? When we scared the heck out of the Marines?" Natalie added. Jim shook his head.
"No, Squirt It was the Coast Guard. And no, miss Nat-a-brat...it was not fun. My hands were ripped to shreds...see I still have the scar right....here? That's funny...where'd it go?" He stared at his hand as if he had never seen it before.
"Bobby?" Anya whispered. Jim walked over and touched her arm.
 " What? What’s wrong, Anya?"
Natalie gripped Lucas’s arm, digging her nails into his flesh.
"Bobby.." She whispered. Jim glanced between them and then turned to Lucas.
"I don’t know what's wrong with the Terror Twins here, Lucas...but if you've got an idea I’d love to hear it."
 Lucas looked helpless.
"Who are you?" He finally managed. Jim rolled his eyes.
"I'm me. Duh." He reached over to ruffle Lucas’ hair before going back to grip Nathania’s hand. "Come on Nat-a-Brat....you've got to practice your piano."
Anya tried to pull away, torn between being frightened and overjoyed.
"Um, no, Bobby, I don't. What did you just call me?"
"What do I always call you? Hey Squirt, you ok?"
Lucas brushed Natalie’s face with his fingers.
"I...I...I'm fine" She stammered. Anya shook her head and walked over to Jim.
"Well, I'm not."
"What’s wrong, Nathania?" Jim touched her face and looked into her eyes. Natalie notices something that made her heart stop.
"Holy Shit. His eyes. They're not blue anymore...Look!" She whispered desperately to Lucas.
 Anya reached up and touched his face. "Your eyes...they're green."
"Have been since the day I was born. Got them from Mom's side, you remember aunt Sara, right? Mom said I got them from her."
That was all Natalie needed.
"Oh, my God...Bobby. Bobby? Bobby!!" She released her hold on Lucas and raced over to Jim, throwing her arms around his neck.
Jim wrapped his arms around her back.
"That’s my name, don't wear it out, Squirt. Come here Nat-a-Brat" He pulled Natalie in. Lucas just stood back, wondering what to do.

TO CHAPTER 4