By Jules

Author Notes – thank you for everybody who is still reading. It truly means a lot that people are reading after such a long time of being away. I hope you enjoy this next instalment.

This is the second story in my new series, and it would be helpful for you to read Please Tell Someone as this story continues straight into a new page from the ending scenes of that story.

The reason for this title will not become apparent until much later in the story, but was thought of ten (10) years ago or more, when the original plot came to me long before I added in the new adoption arc.

Any legal references, laws, requirements for reporting abuse, the steps taken afterwards, court proceedings and outcomes and interview protocols are all fictional. Some are based loosely on real laws and circumstances, but a lot are fabricated to suit my story only and have been changed to suit the plot I have derived. The same with which authorities are involved and their individual roles and responsibilities.

This chapter will be a little darker and angsty for most of it, because it is building to some of the most important scenes of the whole beginning adoption process – and that is Lucas’s long held secret has just been found out. But I intend to have quite a few light-hearted ones as well and some new things happening.

Sorry folks, this second chapter became too long again – actually half of the stuff I wanted to put in here won’t come up until Chapter Three.

There will be a lot happening in this story as well, so I am not sure how long it will be yet. Quite a few more chapters longer than the first story.

Chapter Two – Remembering The Past

from the end of the previous chapter:

Some people thought that because he spilled his guts, that now he would just come to accept that everything was going to change for the better. They assumed that everything would be different now because others had said so, but it wasn’t. The feelings he had now, were the same as they were before last night, and every day and night for the last several years. The same fears and apprehensions.

Make no mistake, very little had changed at all.

And now the story continues:

Nathan Bridger retrieved two icy cold cans of soda from the mess hall and made his way towards the Mammal Engineering section of the boat. Three hours ago he had quietly knocked on the hatch door to the small cabin, waiting a few moments to see if a voice would invite him in.

Lucas had heard the knock, but remained in a similar position he had been in on top of his bunk around lunch time, trying to block out a lot of what was going around in his head. For a second time today, he closed his eyes and evened out his breathing, giving the impression that he was still sleeping. He could take a fairly good guess at who might be knocking. If it wasn’t the Captain, then it was fairly even odds that the unannounced visitor would have been Ben or Kristin.

A part of him wanted to openly ask the Captain in to talk, but that little voice inside his head, and the devil sitting on his shoulder reminded him that he shouldn’t. The teenager had heard the door open, but close shortly again afterwards, without the visitor entering his cabin. He doubted he would get them to believe a third time.

The knock came again now, just as he predicted, with a similar pattern and at a similar volume, so Lucas made the assumption that it could be the same person. “Come in,” he invited, shuffling his shoulder against the aqua tube. The pain was still present, but he was trying his best to ignore it. He would need to move for real soon and stretch his back and legs.

The handle of the hatch spun, and the door itself opened to reveal the Captain, who gave a smile in greeting, and took a step inside, closing the door behind him. Lucas hadn’t turned around to face him yet, watching the water, and appearing to be lost in deep thought and contemplation. Darwin was nowhere to be seen, so it wasn’t the dolphin drawing his attention.

After a few moments of awkward silence, Lucas turned towards him, “Hi,” not knowing what else to say.

Sometimes silence was good for the soul the teenager convinced himself. It allowed him space to think. At other times though, silence was like a silent cancer if allowed to grow and fester. Different sides of the same coin. Lucas didn’t want that coming between him and Bridger.

Hello, I am glad to see you awake. I came by to visit a little earlier, but you were still sleeping. I didn’t want to disturb you.” What the Captain didn’t voice out loud was how tired the teenager still appeared upon taking a close look.

The genuine efforts coming from the man, made Lucas’ guilt increase at the small deceptions he had created. He was relieved that the first question out of the Captain’s mouth wasn’t, “Are you okay?” Because he would not have had a positive response, or any favourable answer at all to such a ridiculous query.

Bridger had quite a few words of description for what he was seeing going on in front of him. The teenager’s demeanour, and body language spoke volumes, but he chose to keep all of them to himself and deal with what was right in front of him on a one on one basis. That method had been proven to work so far, so he saw it as the best way of taking a step forward.

I have been awake for a while now,” Lucas admitted, the answer somewhere in the middle of the truth and an outright lie. He found himself dozing off in small snatches for several minutes during the afternoon, but not because he wanted to sleep. More like his body forcibly demanding that he take things a little easier. He never reached anything that would be considered proper sleep.

I bought this with me, thinking you must be a little thirsty by now,” Nathan said, handing over the second can, and opening his own. “I could use the extra sugar rush myself,” he added, hoping that by drinking from his own can, he may encourage the boy to do the same without needing a reason other than offering friendship.

Lucas saw through the charade for what it was, but didn’t openly voice any objection, and took the offered can and opened it, drinking from it. “Thanks.”

I was having lunch brought back to my quarters to share, but you had already left to come back here,” Bridger said casually, trying to gauge the boy’s mood.

Sorry, everything you said earlier became a bit too much to handle I guess….,” he said, looking down and away from the Captain, not knowing how else to describe the feelings of panic that he had been trying to escape from.

You don’t need to apologise. I know it is a lot to take in, but we will do it a little at a time, together,” Bridger responded, walking over and standing by the bunk bed. Pleased to see that there was still no spoken protest about the distance between them. Wariness was still present on the teenager’s features though.

Physical contact was still being actively avoided and perceived as a threat, rather than offering support or comfort. This was something that Bridger intended to work on himself, but also to let Ben and Kristin be aware of and the other crew members. There was a long way to go, and it could be some considerable time before the teenager would feel safe with anybody being close to him or putting their hands on him.

A few of the biggest questions of all were still rolling around in Lucas’ mind, and he hadn’t found a suitable answer for any of them yet. He still didn’t feel safe, and that lump of fear was still lodged in his throat of what would happen when his father found out.

Did he want the pain to stop? Yes.

Did he think that anything was really going to happen just because he let his guard down? No.

Was his father going to allow him any kind of freedom? Definitely Not.

Was he ready to take such a huge risk? Not Ready and Undecided.

Was he prepared to let Bridger help him? Maybe.

The next sentence out of the teenager’s mouth left no doubt what he had been thinking about before the Captain entered the room. And he understood why Lucas had a hard time letting the subject go entirely.

Are you sure they know?” Lucas said, looking back at the aqua tunnel as Darwin swam into view. Once again he was wringing his hands together in nervousness about what those few crew members might be thinking.

I know it sounds like a stupid question,” Lucas added, knowing that the Captain had already explained that those few who had overheard, would keep his dreadful secret to themselves. It was meant to be a rhetorical question.

It doesn’t sound stupid at all, Lucas,” Bridger replied, “I know this all sounds very scary for you right at the moment. And you have every right to be upset.”

I don’t want them to treat me different now than they already do because of it,” Lucas stated, trying to justify what he was feeling with rationalisation. He had never been in a position where someone knew what had been happening. And now he had to deal with the fact that it wasn’t one person, but nine.

Give them a chance, I think you might be surprised,” the Captain said, trying to quell the boy’s apprehension.

It wasn’t my intention to upset you further by bringing the subject up, but like I already said, I wanted us to be as honest with each other as possible. And I thought you deserved to know before you heard it as a rumour from some other source.

While we are on the subject of being honest then, I should tell you that I know about your son, Robert passing away….,” Lucas said, leaving the sentence incomplete.

You do?” Bridger said with surprise. He could see that the teenager was trying to be tactful, and had not wanted to bring up such a painful topic out of the blue.

Ben told me a few days ago, when he was trying to tell me a few things about himself,” Lucas stated. “For what little it is worth now, I am sorry you lost your son.”

Thank you for telling me, and I know it must have been quite a painful moment for Ben too, because they were very good friends for quite a while at the academy together,” Bridger replied. “Robert didn’t share too much of their antics together with me during their time there. I am still trying to find out all the details about them painting a float pink.”

Pink!” Lucas said with a small smile appearing on his face, wondering what other secrets Krieg had about those days that hadn’t been shared with the Captain.

Yes, they were not always the well-behaved cadets they should have been,” Bridger said. “Maybe you can worm the full story out of Ben one day.”

You are welcome to ask any questions about my son,” Bridger offered. “I have been trying to remind myself recently that not all the memories I have are bad ones, and that I have a lot of great memories of times we shared together.

That is great that you have some happy ones,” Lucas replied, not knowing if he would ever venture down that pathway.

With some honesty being shared between them, the teenager decided to change the direction of the conversation entirely away from Bridger’s son.

There was something that I meant to say back in your quarters, but after hearing what you had to say, I guess it slipped my mind when I left there in such a rush.

You can talk to me any time, day or night,” Bridger re-emphasised. “And if it is not me, there are other people here willing to listen.”

I feel like I owe an apology to everybody for leading them all on a wild-goose chase and having to search for me when I was hiding,” Lucas said, dropping his gaze away from the Captain as guilt and shame spread across his features. “Sounded like a good idea at the time, but now I guess it sounds pretty stupid to other people,” he added, looking up at the ceiling.

Not something I am entirely proud of by any means, but I have had to do it on more than a few occasions and it has definitely saved me in the past from something much worse happening,” Lucas explained.

What could you possibly say after hearing something like that? Bridger asked himself, caught without a single word he could think of in reply. He wanted to reach out with a hand of sympathy, but he knew that it wasn’t what Lucas was searching for or wanting right now.

The mere thought that any child had to resort to hiding away to escape torment or physical punishment was beyond his comprehension. That they had to come up with strategies in their own home to avoid being hurt and in an attempt to achieve anything close to safety.

Nathan found himself wondering about those other times and if Lucas was ever found by anyone or had come out on his own accord eventually. He shuddered to think of what the repercussions might have been if any of those occasions had ended with his father being the one who had found him hiding out. But he didn’t dare ask at this point.

The fact that it was this boy sitting in front of him, only strengthened his resolve to make SeaQuest a place where Lucas could feel safe and not have to worry about cowering away from his father or anybody else. Where he was encouraged to be himself and allowed to grow up as normal as possible without fear.

What Lucas had chosen to reveal though about his past, made the Captain think that he should at least be willing to admit to his own similar actions in the past.

I wouldn’t say you are the only one to do that. I have a little first-hand experience of hiding away myself at various times in my life,” Bridger answered truthfully.

Lucas sat up, looking directly at the Captain, wanting to challenge his notion of hiding. Nathan could see the unasked question, and spoke first.

You are talking to someone who hid himself away on a deserted island for a number of years until very recently being dragged back under false pretences,” Bridger replied. “If it hadn’t been for Admiral Noyce’s persistence, I would probably still be there right now, instead of standing here talking to you. After Robert was taken from us both, and then Carol passed away, I guess a large part of me saw it as the only logical solution.”

I wanted to leave the rest of the world behind that I thought had dealt me such a terrible hand. So I have done my own fair share of hiding away, maybe just using a bigger space and an island. At the time, I couldn’t face anybody either, or even myself.”

The teenager thought for a minute of how much of their choices did or didn’t mirror each other, and he tried to draw out the inferences that Bridger was hinting at. On some level he could see the Captain’s retreat as escaping too or hiding away as he had put it, and their need to be away from everybody else may not be so different. But Lucas wasn’t so sure that he couldn’t think of enough similarities, where Bridger or anybody else would be able to comprehend or begin to understand the life he had been forced to endure for the past eight years.

I was expecting Kristin to be with you,” Lucas said, genuinely surprised that he hadn’t seen the doctor for most of the afternoon.

She is getting some rest herself after spending the early morning hours watching over you in med-bay,” Bridger informed him.

Don’t worry, she will be bugging you soon enough, and she didn’t mind at all. She already reminded me that being a doctor has prepared her for longer hours,” the Captain stated, seeing guilt coming to play on the boy’s features at hearing such an admission.

Are you ready to come with me and get some dinner in the mess hall?” Bridger inquired. “Otherwise you and me will be both in trouble, after you missed lunch.”

No, I am not,” Lucas managed to answer truthfully, “but let’s get it over with,” he agreed to with resignation.

If he didn’t start showing some attempts at eating a bit more regularly, he knew he could expect the doctor, the Captain and Ben to be hounding him. A lifetime of poor meal times wouldn’t disappear overnight, but as long as they thought he was making an effort, then perhaps he could avoid their scrutiny at what he put into his mouth. They didn’t know how bad it had gotten in the past and had only begun to see one of the measures he had employed to get through some lean times.

Lucas maneuvered his body to the edge of the bunk, unable to hide a grimace of pain as the bruising on his hip reminded him where it was.

Take it slow,” Bridger said with concern, watching the boy’s face, and seeing the discomfort.

Stubbornness won out again, and Lucas refused any assistance from the Captain of climbing down from the top bunk. Once he had both feet on the floor, he stretched his back as much as it would allow, the stitches pulling and making themselves known.

The Captain walked beside the teenager, trying to remain calm and relaxed, hoping some of it would rub off, allowing the teenager to dictate the pace as they exited the small cabin.

There were a few crew members attending to their duties, and making their way through the corridors as the two of them headed towards the mess hall. Bridger kept his attention focused on looking out for anybody who wanted to stop too long. But his fears of that happening were soon quashed. The foot traffic was fairly constant, but the two of them made their way towards the mess hall without interference or hindrance.

Lucas was trying to push aside his uneasiness and pretend today was just like any other day, walking about the vessel, but his gaze was everywhere at once. Looking side to side, and continually glancing behind him as they took the longer route once more, away from the stairs.

Bridger could see that the teenager was worried about other crew members being out in the corridor and seeing his slower range of movement due to his injured hip. He wanted to try and direct the teenager’s mind elsewhere, so decided to start some casual conversation.

It was smart of you to take Ben’s PAL Communicator with you into the vent, but next time, please make it much easier for everybody involved, including me, and let me know where you are,” Bridger teased good-naturedly.

I nearly did at one point,” Lucas admitted ruefully, walking with his hands shoved deep into his pockets. “Darwin gave my position away quickly enough.”

Besides what would be the point of that? It couldn’t be called hiding then,” Lucas pointed out, tapping a finger against his temple to signify that some thought process had taken place at the time, even though the act itself had been a last minute choice.

Bridger was surprised at the teenager admitting to almost giving in and allowing his hiding place to be discovered, but didn’t comment further.

As the two of them neared the mess hall, the apprehension that Lucas had felt only a few days ago quickly resurfaced, and the teenager stopped at the doorway. He saw the Captain had stopped walking too, and could probably guess at his current state of mind. Taking a deep breath, and exhaling slowly, he felt a hand from Bridger on his left shoulder in encouragement of entering.

The time of day was busy, and there were a lot of people inside gathered in different sized groups at the tables. The room was just as noisy and the smells from the food wafted up from the serving tables. Lucas felt his stomach growl quietly. A few crew members had looked up at the Captain being present, but for the most part they went about eating their own meals and talking amongst themselves.

“Captain, over here,” Krieg called out, signalling to his commanding officer and pleased to see the reluctant teenager trying to overcome his awkwardness.

Bridger saw the hand shoot up from the young Lieutenant, and was grateful that there was only a few of the senior crew members at that particular table.

Good evening, gentlemen,” Bridger greeted those at the table.

Seated at the table along with Ben Krieg was Jonathan Ford, Miguel Ortiz and Tim O’Neill. Lucas chose a seat next to Ben, with the Captain sitting on the opposite side.

Good evening, Captain and Lucas,” Commander Ford returned.

For now, all of them were trying their best to keep the atmosphere at the table calm and natural. They had questions on their minds, and all of them were trying to ignore what they had heard the night before. Those present at the table were trying their best to accommodate the teenager and treat him just as they did before they knew about his abuse.

Hi,” was the short acknowledgement from the teenager, as he glanced around the table, pleased to see familiar faces and not too many people to confront all at once. Lucas had to reposition how he was sitting at the table on a couple of occasions, due to his stitches and sore hip, but he picked up a menu that was casually laying on the table, trying to use it to mask what he was feeling. He could do this he silently told himself

Ben Krieg was the first to break the ice and try to drum up some casual conversation. “Lots on offer today, Lucas.”

Oh yeah, what did you choose?” the teenager asked, turning to the dark-haired man to ask the question.

Bridger was pleased to see the tension he had noticed across the teenager’s shoulders begin to relax just a fraction. They couldn’t continue to walk on eggs shells around him every minute of the day. Krieg fell into the role of supportive friend very quickly and easily without it appearing forced or contrived.

This is what I was thinking about ordering,” Ben said, pointing to it on the folded cardboard booklet and letting the teenager peruse the description and ingredients to see if it was to his liking or something he would be willing to try.

Too many spices and flavours all at once for me,” Lucas commented, continuing down the list and looking to choose something else.

He was surprised at the large array and variation available. But with more than two hundred people on-board to cater for, the likes, dislikes and preferences from one person to the next would probably be just as extensive he surmised. He didn’t envy the kitchen staff of coming up with something to suit and feed everyone three times everyday, and that didn’t include extras like drinks, snacks and fruit.

Ben moved closer, using the menu that the teenager was holding as a reference, and used a finger to run down the list, commenting on each dish that was on offer.

No you don’t want to try that one.”

That one doesn’t sound too bad, but a little on the healthy side for me.”

Lucas was listening to the recommendations and disapproval’s coming from Ben, grinning at little at the man’s off-beat sense of humour as he deliberately mispronounced a couple of the menu options. He didn’t necessarily agree with Ben’s personal assessment and wanted to make his own choice.

The teenager didn’t seem phased or concerned about Ben’s proximity inside his personal space, which was seen as a small victory by everyone at the table. Kristin had been successful to a lesser degree, but some of that would be because she was also a doctor and had been treating his injuries. It was only a day ago that Lucas had not been accepting of anybody being near him, including the Captain.

His finely tuned alarm system would let him know when he needed to be wary of anyone in particular. Everybody else was being kept at arms length, both mentally and physically. For now, Krieg and Bridger were the only ones who Lucas was willing to tolerate being close enough to allow any actual touch or personal contact.

Gestures of support or comfort were something he wasn’t used to dealing with, and often shrunk away from them as a perceived threat. He didn’t always know what was expected or wanted from him in return, and they were rarely given freely before. In the past, affection of any kind showing love or kindness were unfamiliar and non-existent in his life.

Ford was silently following the Lieutenant’s attempts at lightening the mood, thinking Krieg might be over-doing it by commenting on nearly every dish on the menu. But a small genuine smile coming from Lucas, and a few tugs of laughter told Bridger that Ben’s off-the-cuff approach was working like a charm.

The Captain was very pleased with the Morale officer’s efforts. Jonathan and the other men found themselves a little out of their league when it came to being around someone as smart and intuitive as Lucas and much younger. They envied the natural ability that Krieg applied with ease to put the teenager at ease, seeming to be able to do it without drawing attention that he was doing so.

Lucas didn’t voice anything out loud that could spoil the moment, and he could see that Ben meant well, so he played along, appreciating the genuine attempts at normalcy. The teenager knew that he wouldn’t be able to handle seeing concerned looks and glances from everyone all the time. He told himself that he would have to internalise a lot of the emotions and keep them off his face in the coming days and weeks ahead, to allow the Captain and the crew to go about their own daily lives. But that was going to be easier said than put into practice.

Tim and Miguel were already half-way through their own meals, and Bridger had made a selection of his own, and added a hot cup of coffee. Before Ben could suggest something else, the head Chef Don, approached the table, carrying a piping hot dish, setting it down before the teenager.

I thought I would provide something from my personal recipes,” the small Italian man said with a smile. “Something simple that my mother taught me to make when I wasn’t much older than you,” he added.

Lucas sniffed the steaming plate appreciatively, “Spaghetti,” he said. Pasta was something he did like. “Thank you. I hope you didn’t go to any extra trouble just for me.”

I put a little extra cheese on top, just to give it a little extra flavour,” the Don informed the teenager. “The sauce is exactly like she used to make at home, and thick enough to stick to your insides and keep you full for longer.”

Bridger could see that the Chef had gone to a little extra trouble that Ben had mentioned earlier in the day, and it looked as though his efforts were worth it.

The cinnamon custard that I had in med-bay yesterday was nice,” he commented casually, taking a fork and swirling a few of the strands of saucy pasta around the tines.

The doctor wasn’t specific there about what she wanted, except something gentle on your stomach,” the chef replied. “Come by the galley kitchen any time and I will put some aside for you. It is not hard to make. I can even teach you if you want me to. The same with the spaghetti you are trying right now.”

Lucas didn’t know how to respond. Nobody had ever offered to show him how to cook anything before. Attempts at making something to eat that he had made during college came about as a necessity. They ended up resulting in a mixture of pure dumb luck or a horrific disaster that happen to taste good.

Don could see the hesitation from the teenager, and erred on the side of caution about pushing too early. “Maybe another time,” he said, seeing that the teenager wasn’t quite sure to do about the offer to teach him how to make a few simple meals for himself.

Maybe,” the teenager agreed, leaving the suggestion open to discussion at another time.

The chef was trying to be accommodating just as much as all the other people seated at the table around him, and whilst Lucas could appreciate that they were trying to do nice things, and the offers of help and inclusiveness were genuine. It was also all a bit too much and becoming overwhelming with everybody trying to do it every time he turned around. He bit his tongue and decided to keep any comments to himself.

I don’t see that option on the menu,” Ben interjected, pleased to see that the kid was eating something. “Looks and smells great.”

Forget it, Ben, it’s not for you. I made it just for him,” Don affirmed, with a cheeky wink at the teenager, signalling that he was deliberately tormenting the Lieutenant with some light banter.

What about my individual needs,” Ben huffed in mock indignation. “When can I expect some extra special treatment like that?”

For you Krieg, never,” Don said with finality to his voice. “You already cause me enough problems on a daily basis when bringing all of my ingredients on-board.”

Ben was about to defend himself, but the Chef continued before he could do so.

You will get what I give you, Krieg and like it, or the only thing you are going to get from me is a bunch of fives,” Don openly taunted. “You and everybody else get the regular menu that is put in front of you.”

Those seated at the table were laughing at the impromptu exchange. Lucas enjoyed it for what it was worth, knowing that the Chef had gone out of his way just for him. He didn’t want that to always be the case though. It was all a part of that being singled-out feeling that he wasn’t used to and didn’t like, even if those involved had the best of intentions.

Come by tomorrow or the next day, Lucas, or even next week and I will give you a full tour of the galley kitchen and show you where everything is,” Don suggested. “That way you can make something for yourself to your liking any time you want, day or night. No schedule, just when you are ready or have five minutes spare.”

That would be great, thanks,” Lucas responded, thinking that he would prefer to be able to slip into the kitchen when the mess hall had fewer people about and grab something. That would suit him better than trying to stick to regular meal breaks or times.

Don seemed pleased that the teenager was open to that idea, “Please, don’t bring Krieg with you is all I ask as a favour in return.”

Lucas couldn’t help but laugh a little at the shocked look on Ben’s face again at the Chef’s words. Bridger and the other men at the table were hiding smirks of their own at Krieg’s expense.

What is this, pick on Krieg day?” Ben shot back.

What did you do?” Lucas found himself asking, thinking there must be a story behind Don’s statement. The Captain was a little more than curious himself.

Hey, I am innocent until proven guilty,” Krieg started to say, before seeing the Chef fold his arms in front of him, and taking on a demanding stance of wanting him to admit the truth. The tone of Ben’s voice gave himself away that something had indeed happened to incur the small man’s wrath.

Out with it, Krieg,” Miguel spoke up on everybody’s behalf.

What! There might have been a little misunderstanding during my first couple of weeks living on-board here. But it wasn’t my fault.”

Sure it wasn’t,” Ford commented, having been present during that time and knowing a little of what had taken place.

A little misunderstanding!” Don said at full volume, instantly regretting yelling.

My apologises, Captain. But that misunderstanding involved the destruction of at least three appliances by him in my kitchen during the first two weeks alone. Before you came on-board, Sir with Admiral Noyce.”

Three?” Tim O’Neill weighed into the conversation. “Boy, Krieg, even I am not that challenged by appliances.”

Yeah, well you had to be there at the time,” Ben said in his own defence. “I swear some of those gadgets had it in for me is all.”

I promise I will come on my own for the tour,” Lucas promised the Chef. “I don’t want to be responsible for setting off the toaster,” he added as a joke.

Thanks for the spaghetti, that was really nice,” the teenager said, putting his fork down to signal that he had eaten all he wanted. He had consumed most of what was on the plate.

Glad you enjoyed it,” Don said, taking the plate and heading back to the kitchen.

I will bring out your dinner in a moment, Captain,” the Chef said to Nathan. “And a second cup of coffee?”

Yes please if you don’t mind,” Bridger confirmed with gratitude.

I guess I will bring you something out to eat as well, Krieg, before you start complaining,” Don said.

But I haven’t given you my order yet?” Ben pointed out.

Yes, you did,” the Chef said, confiscating the menu from Krieg’s hand. He had a fairly good knowledge of what the man preferred to eat. Those seated at the table continued to laugh at the casual banter.

I will have another cup of coffee with you, Captain,” Ford offered. Bridger and the Commander went about quietly talking between each other about some of the glitches that were still occurring on-board, and other issues related to the vessel.

I will get us something to drink, Lucas,” Ben offered, walking over and collecting a few cold water bottles.

Miguel accepted the one offered to him, but Tim shook his head negatively, getting up from the table and preparing to leave the mess hall.

I am going to tend to some of my plants,” O’Neill informed the small group.

As he sat down, and noting that Lucas was not really listening to any of the discussion about anything work related, Krieg decided to introduce a new topic of conversation that he knew would pique the teenager’s interest.

Lucas opened up the water bottle he was holding, drinking the contents. The first sentence out of Ben’s mouth had drawn Bridger’s attention as well.

Only two more weeks, Lucas until this year’s game roster comes out,” Ben said idly. “As well as the draft picks for this season.”

The first mention of anything baseball related definitely had the teenager’s brain kicking into gear.

Yeah, well, I haven’t seen a game played live for quite a while,” Lucas replied. “But I hope this year my team have a few more options up their sleeve than they usually do. Some of the draft picks for the last two years leave a lot to be desired because they haven’t helped us to anything close to a championship.”

We can watch the first game on the big screen in the recreation room,” Krieg announced. “I will mark it on the calendar, and let you know who is playing when.”

That would be terrific,” Lucas said with a touch of excitement in his voice for the first time today. “Are there any other people on-board who follow baseball?”

Bound to be, with a crowd as large as the one we are currently carrying,” Ben said with certainty. “I will put up some flyers on the notice boards, and anybody else can come and watch too.”

Lucas smiled at the idea, though he didn’t want to admit out loud that he secretly hoped it was only a small group of people wanting to watch. A handful of people would be his personal preference so that he would be able to enjoy the game. He didn’t want to tell Ben that he had watched or listened to games mostly on his own in the past. Unfortunately, he had already revealed that he had never seen a live professional game.

The teenager got up from the table, needing to stretch the muscles in his side and quell some of the pain starting to make itself more noticeable.

Heading out?” Ben asked casually, not wanting to crowd the kid, but see the needing to know expression on the Captain’s face at Lucas’ intentions to leave the table.

Yeah, cannot sit in that one position any longer,” Lucas admitted with a grimace of discomfort.

Any plans for the rest of the evening, Lucas?” Bridge queried as he put down the cup of coffee.

Not really, unless you have something specific in mind you want me to do?” the teenager replied.

Nothing at all,” Bridger asserted, “Please take it easy for now though.” He wanted to repeat the ‘my door is always open’ speech, but didn’t think Lucas wanted to hear it again so soon.

Might spend some time with Darwin near the moon pool for a bit before heading back to my cabin,” Lucas informed him. “After that, I have no idea.”

The four remaining adults watched the teenager pick up the partly empty water bottle, and make his way towards the mess hall doors. His pace at walking was still slow to watch and each of them could only guess at what thoughts were currently going through his head.

Don brought out the meals to the Captain and Krieg.

How do you think we all did?” Bridger asked, seeing that Don had seen the teenager leave the area as well.

Too early to tell for now,” Ben answered truthfully. “He was a little more relaxed than I thought he would in here around everybody.”

Thank you for the food for us and Lucas, Don,” Nathan said to the Chef. “At least that wasn’t such a battle this time around.”

You are most welcome, Captain. I can see the anxiousness in that young man, even after speaking to you earlier about him. I hope he will start to open up and find his feet around here a little more.”

Let’s hope so,” Bridger agreed wholeheartedly.

I only ask that everyone keep a watch out for any signs that he may not be coping, as best you can without drawing his attention,” he added, knowing that such a feat was no small task.

You have our combined co-operation, Captain,” Ford spoke on everybody’s behalf.

Thank you all, it is appreciated,” he replied with gratitude. He could only hope that those efforts would be enough when it was needed the most.

Inwardly, Nathan was worried about what might come about once Bill Noyce questioned the boy’s father about the abuse.

For the first half an hour after dinner, Lucas was content enough to submerge his hand in the water of the moon pool, and move it around aimlessly. His thoughts taking him far away. Darwin had come to say hello,and the teenager smiled at the animal, but it soon faded as he tried to force away the encroaching shadows that were beginning to build.

The teenager was happy to see the dolphin. He wished he could go for a swim, and just allow the water to wash away some of the fear and anxiety, but unfortunately it would be at least another week, maybe longer until he stitches would be ready to come out.

Bridger and Ben meant well, as well as the other crew members, but what right did he have burdening everyone with his own problems at all? They barely knew anything about him or what had happened in the past. Over the years, he had taught himself to be stronger mentally, just like he had told the Captain. Sure he could hide his emotions for a time. He could mask the pain sometimes. He could keep everything pent up inside until he couldn’t stand it any longer.

But that wasn’t always a good solution apparently. Recent history would show that it could and had ended with disastrous results, making him reveal secrets he had wanted to keep hidden until the end of his days. A large part of him wanted to push everyone away again, but some of the crew members were not letting him do that. Bridger being at the forefront. The man was making him take a hard look at himself and face some demons that he didn’t want to surface.

Slapping the water with his hand, What was he going to do? He asked himself silently.

Some scars left no visible trace behind, but went a lot deeper than mere physical reminders or heated words. That didn’t make them any less painful or damaging.

Bridger and the crew had barely an understanding of what had been occurring at home. They didn’t know everything yet, and he aimed to keep it that way for as long as possible. There were things that had happened in his past that he never wanted to tell anybody. It wasn’t quite as simple as telling them like a story or just parroting things that his father had done or said.

There was much more to the psychological hold his father had over him, that had developed over time. He doubted he would be able to quantify it anybody even if they wanted him to. He didn’t want to remember them, or live through some of those memories again.

Eight years was more than half his life time living in fear from day to day, and he didn’t think that anybody on-board this vessel truly understood what a mental battle that it was. Not just to want to exist, but to be allowed to live and survive. Two thousand, nine hundred and twenty days, give or take a few. More than seventy thousand hours. The numbers when you worked them out were staggering.

As anxiousness started to grow within him, tried and true methods that he had employed in the past crept into his mind. There were plans B and C if he ever needed them. They were meant to be last desperate minute or your life is under serious threat plans.

The injuries he was carrying now were not the worst he had ever received, though he was never admitting that to Kristin or anybody else. He had used both once each with varying degrees of successfulness. But here he was again now, still under the threat from his father’s wrath, so he may have to re-evaluate that.

Those plans involved the use of other people, and that was definitely something that he was trying to avoid. He had earned his independent stripes the hard way, and he didn’t want to drag anybody into his prison, even if they wanted to help. It was only a matter of time. Lucas knew that his father would find a way to stop anybody helping him.

Access to money was still a major problem in the immediate future if he decided that enough was enough and to just cut and run. There was a small amount of funds hidden away, but those too were only when there was no other option. He had disappeared in the past, he could do it again if it became necessary again. This time around, he would be a lot smarter he promised himself. He had not reached that point yet.

Lucas knew that the feelings and emotions that he had now, although perfectly normal some would argue with him, didn’t help him at all. He was going to have to try even harder to mask them from everybody. In public, where everybody could see him on-board, he was going to have to put on a different face.

The teenager had learnt from experience not to make such a big deal out of the things that hurt the most. It was the only way he had managed to teach himself to cope. He was going to have to deal with those feelings alone like he had always done, in the dark or in his cabin, when no one else but him would know.

Standing by the moon pool, he used the hand that wasn’t in the water to scrub at his tired face, forming a fist and using the knuckles to rub at his eyes. He was tired, but he doubted sleep was going to come any time in the next few hours, maybe even longer.

He couldn’t change his mind now, and just say ‘no’ to Bridger’s offer of help, like he probably should have done in the first place. He was going to have to keep himself busy and his mind occupied over the coming days and weeks.

Looking up and gazing about the immediate area, crew members could be seen passing by at various intervals. Thankfully none of them had stopped long enough to scrutinize him or report anything back to Kristin or the Captain.

Lucas left the area, and went back to his cabin. For the remainder of the night, he went about keeping his mind busy by starting on some of the software programming that he had promised Krieg for his stock. There were other smaller projects that he could keep himself occupied with at this time of night over the next few days. He felt like his mind was going around in circles at a million miles an hour. He was using the programming to slow down that thought process and force himself to work productively and block out everything else.

Working quietly away in his cabin, he didn’t have to worry about being spotted in the corridor or people asking questions about what he was doing. He was a little surprised that he didn’t see any sign of Ben or Bridger checking up on him. But even they needed to sleep sometime and take care of themselves.

By 3.00 a.m. he was fairly certain that most people on-board were sleeping, so he used that time of the night to head to the mess hall and grab a cup of coffee. The more he thought about this time of night and the quietness, the more he liked it. It might just be the plausible solution that he was looking for until something else presented itself.

It would be just after 5.00 a.m. and over two hours later that he could barely keep his eyes open and felt tired enough to attempt sleeping. He turned his music on, and pulled himself up onto the bed, hoping to prevent any nightmares from surfacing. Finding a way to lay without the stitches in his back pulling took a good twenty minutes.

The next morning, Doctor Kristin Westphalen stood outside the hatch door to the small cabin. Lucas had not come back to see her yesterday, so today she was coming to him instead. It was still fairly early, only approximately 7.00 a.m. She had not attended breakfast in the mess hall yet, but was hoping to catch Nathan before he started on the Bridge this morning to give him an update on the teenager’s physical recovery.

Feeling refreshed after gaining some much needed sleep overnight, and hoped that Lucas would have done the same. There were a few matters she wanted to tackle today about him, but one step at a time she told herself, and that was to check on his well-being first.

From this side of the door she could hear the music playing that he had talked about only yesterday. She knocked and waited patiently, repeating it a second time after a few minutes, but then she turned the handle thinking that the music may be preventing Lucas from hearing her at his door.

The door wasn’t locked, so she quietly entered the small room. She was prepared for a less than cordial reception at this time of the morning. Her own daughter had objected loudly on many occasions to anyone coming into her room before the crack of noon.

Doctor or not, it was the mothering instinct in her that kicked in hard when she approached the bed, and saw him asleep. The blanket was tangled around his ankles, and she felt her own parental skills starting to re-emerge after being absent for a number of years. She couldn’t bring herself to wake him up or disturb him unnecessarily. Any checks she wanted to do or questions she wanted to ask, could wait at least a few more hours.

The teenager must have sensed a presence close to him, as he turned over away from her, grimacing at the discomfort that resulted. A frown briefly crossed his features, but

soon smoothed out as he fell back into a deeper state of sleep. She didn’t understand how the loud music worked, but she could see the positive results for herself.

How dare any father or parent carry out such awful treatment of somebody who was supposed to be in their care? Just let her have five minutes alone with Mr Lawrence Wolenczak. She would soon show him the error of his ways.

She thought about the injuries she had seen and treated on him and recalled the fear in his voice. The absolute desolation she had heard from Lucas when he was speaking to Nathan and admitting to being subjected to his father’s tyranny over a prolonged period of time. The hopelessness that the teenager blindly accepted because he had never had the opportunity to experience anything different.

Never having the chance to dream or be part of a family environment that shed encouragement and everything else that was supposed to go on within a group of people that cared about each other. For any child to grow up losing that kind of faith, it was difficult to comprehend. To be afraid to reach out at the offer of help, or want to shy away from it because it felt unfamiliar and Lucas himself being made to feel unworthy of receiving it. Those were some of the worst kind of crimes in her eyes.

All of that only made her own protectiveness towards Lucas within her grow even stronger.

Kristin quietly left the room, closing the door behind, and heading towards the mess hall for breakfast.

Good morning, Nathan,” Kristin said cheerfully as she neared his table, pleased to see him still partaking in his own early morning meal. “I hope I am not disturbing you?”

Not at all,” Bridger said, returning a smile, and using a hand to invite the doctor to take a seat. “Please, join me in a cup of coffee.”

I am sorry that I wasn’t present last night at dinner,” she apologised. “I was a little more tired than I thought,” she added, pouring a cup of coffee for herself from the pot on the Captain’s table.

You needed some rest yourself,” Nathan said. “I was intending to share lunch with Lucas, but he had fallen asleep in his own cabin while Ben was arranging it. He was quite depressed in my quarters, and didn’t want to face anybody afterwards. I thought I might have to come and get you at one point.”

Fear is still a strong force in him when it comes to mentioning anything about his father finding out about other people knowing about the abuse. Just like you saw down in med-bay.”

There are still a lot of triggers that we may not be aware of yet,” Kristin pointed out. “The crew and anybody else here on-board are going to have to be patient with him and very understanding about how some things may affect him for the foreseeable future.”

Yes, I think they do grasp that on some level,” Bridger agreed, finishing off a second cup, but not intending to have another.

Changing the direction of the conversation, “You will be happy to note, that I managed to get Lucas to join me in here for dinner, and finally eat.”

That is wonderful news,” she agreed. “I just went to check on him now because he didn’t come back to see me yesterday. How does he sleep with that music so loud?”

I have no idea, but it is good to hear that he was sleeping,” Bridger replied. “Ben and I both left him alone after he left here after dinner. He said he was going to visit Darwin at the moon pool, but didn’t know what he wanted to do after that.”

I went to check on him a couple of times in the afternoon before dinner while you were sleeping. On the third occasion, he was awake and sitting up, staring through the water of the aqua tube,” Bridger informed her.

Still coming to terms with everything I would imagine,” Kristin surmised, knowing that the battle was only just beginning on many fronts.

I cannot say for certain, but I guess the only way to describe what I saw was that he looked lost,” Bridger commented with a touch of concern. “He was worried about how the crew members that overheard were going to treat him now. That revelation is still weighing fairly heavily on his mind, in addition to everything else.”

What else did the two of you talk about?” the doctor asked, grateful that Lucas was at least communicating on some level with Nathan. That was more than he was doing with anybody else at the moment.

He started apologizing for hiding in general, admonishing himself harshly and thinking that we must have thought the whole idea was stupid,” Nathan said, but Kristin could see there was something else troubling the man.

Bridger looked up at her, “Do you know what he said to me?”

Kristin shook her head, but knowing that it must have been something troubling for Nathan to hear.

That he has done it before on more than one occasion, and it has saved him in the past from something worse happening,” Bridger repeated.

How can anyone……?” he started to say, but stopped, picking up his coffee cup and drinking from it instead to wash away any harsh words on the tip of his tongue that were there about Lawrence Wolenczak.

That boy has been so much that we cannot even imagine about yet,” Kristin said, knowing that they were only just beginning to scratch the surface. “We just have to be there for him.”

I told him that I wanted things to be honest between us, and that is why I told him about everybody knowing,” Bridger continued to explain. “In return he told me that Ben had spoken to him a few days ago about my Robert and that he had passed away.”

It is good that he is trying to be honest too,” Kristin said, thinking that she couldn’t blame Lucas for wanting to keep back some things about his past.

I told him to ask me about Robert any time. Ben must have dozens of stories to share about the pair of them together. More than they shared with me sometimes,” Bridger said.

To put him more at ease, I told Lucas that I have done my own fair share of hiding, even up until very recently,” Bridger responded. “I could see that he didn’t necessarily believe our situations were even remotely similar. But he listened.”

I invited him to come here for dinner, which he accepted reluctantly. He is still being stubborn about how much his leg is hurting when he walks around on it, but I assume we can expect that for another few days at least.”

What happened when he came in here?” Kristin asked, wanting to know.

Ben and a few of the other crew members were here eating their own dinners. He stopped at the doorway, and wanted to make a retreat, but I persisted, and he entered with a little silent encouragement. The place was busy again and noisy, but he pushed through and made his way over to the table.”

Ford and the other men were a little unsure how to start talking to him, but Ben was a natural and just started talking to him like any other day. Together they were looking down the menu, with Ben making jokes and comments the whole time, trying to put him at ease.”

What did he order to eat, and did he finish it?” Kristin enquired.

He didn’t order from the menu,” Bridger stated, “Don brought out a tray of spaghetti he made just for Lucas. He made a substantial dent in what was put in front of him. He didn’t finish the whole plate, but he told the chef he enjoyed it. He also said to the chef that he enjoyed the custard that he tried in med-bay.”

That was nice of the chef to make something just for him,” Kristin commented.

The chef has invited him for a tour of the kitchens in the next few days so that he can show him where everything is. Lucas will be able to make something for himself when he wants,” the Captain told her. “Don even offered to show him how to make the spaghetti and custard, but he didn’t quite answer yes to that offer yet.”

I am hoping Lucas won’t give me too much of an argument when I ask him to come and visit me down in med-bay this morning,” the doctor mentioned. “I want to start filling in some of the unknown details on his medical file.”

How are you going to get him to volunteer for that?” Bridger asked, thinking that it was going to be more than a touchy subject.

I was hoping you and Mr Krieg both might be able to help me on that front,” Kristin said with a sly smile.

Oh?” the Captain voiced with intrigue. The man could see that she had already formulated some kind of plan.

Remember that little problem of you and Ben not having up-to-date files either?” she hinted behind her coffee cup.

Yes,” Bridger said, now knowing where the conversation was headed.

The Captain remembered giving her his promise of making himself available at any time she requested. If would help Lucas to become a little more relaxed in answering some of her questions, he was willing to try. Although he wasn’t entirely happy about having to submit to her testing himself this morning. He had thought he could have dodged that bullet for a little longer.

Don’t be too concerned, today is just filling in basic paperwork and a couple of minor base line readings,” she said, seeing the man squirming uncomfortably. As much as she expected most of the crew and staff on-board to do once their time came to submit to her request. “I don’t want the session to go on too long.”

I was going to tell Lucas myself,” Kristin conveyed with some sense of foreboding. “I thought I would leave informing the Lieutenant about his obligations to you.”

Thanks a lot,” Bridger said with a brief laugh, knowing that Ben would probably be just as vocal in his objection as Lucas in participating.

At least with Mr Krieg, you or Commander Ford can make it an executive order,” Kristin pointed out. “Otherwise I could employ Katie Hitchcock to strong-arm him into attending if he refuses your request. With Lucas, I am hoping to persuade him that it is for his own good.”

Suddenly my job just became a whole lot easier,” Bridger speculated, pouring more coffee for himself.

He offered another to Kristin but she refused by putting her hand over the cup. One was enough this morning. She would probably need another one later, thinking about the difficult task that she had assigned for herself, and silently agreeing that Nathan had the easier job.

Before any further conversation could happen between Bridger and Kristin, both looked up and were pleasantly surprised to notice Ben Krieg entering the mess hall, with Lucas casually walking alongside of him. The time was 8.00 a.m. in the morning.

They couldn’t hear what Ben was saying from this distance, and he was doing most of the talking. Lucas didn’t pause in the doorway this time, but he was looking about the room. Today’s crowd was a little less due to being breakfast time, and it wasn’t quite as noisy.

Krieg kept the conversation going, using his hands to talk as the two of them joined the queue, grabbing a tray each to select from the service tables. Ben ensured that the teenager was standing in front of him rather than behind, preventing the chance of giving him any opportunity to change his mind.

Lucas gave a short greeting to Don the chef as he spotted the two of them in the line, giving Krieg some cheek and Ben returning fire quickly enough. The teenager selected some pancakes and butter, and a small plate of toast. He shook his head when other selections were offered, and he left the two of them, starting to walk over to where he spotted the Captain and Kristin sitting.

Good morning, Lucas,” Kristin greeted him, perhaps a little too cheerfully as he paused in his step and gave her a look back of ‘are you kidding me’.

Morning,” the teenager said to the two of them, putting his tray down, and seeing that it was immediately being inspected and assessed as being suitable for breakfast.

Lucas didn’t say anything out loud, but he wasn’t about to listen to any comments he could see forming on the doctor’s lips about the choices he had made. He was here in person, he had slept a couple of hours, and he had food in front of him. They should be lucky to count any one of those feats as a victory by their own individual merits. All three of them happening together was something they would rarely see from him.

What more did they want from him this early in the morning?

Bridger didn’t say anything about what was on his tray, and appeared more relaxed compared to Kristin. Maybe it was just the doctor in her coming out too strongly for his liking this early in the day.

Ben Krieg came along with his own tray containing quite a lot more on it, putting it down before the heavy laden tray could become unbalanced. “Look who I found when I was passing through the corridor near the moon pool,” he casually joked, pouring a cup of coffee and adding milk and sugar.

This is not my idea of the best time of day, Krieg,” Lucas said in response, but his mood was improving a little as he began pouring his own coffee, keeping it black and stronger.

Couldn’t sleep very much?” Bridger gauged despite that Kristin had told him that she had found him asleep not too long ago. There were signs that he hadn’t slept that well or could use a whole lot more. He wasn’t going to push the issue too much just yet.

No, not really,” Lucas, surprising himself by truthfully admitting to it, but flatly refusing to enter into any more discussion about it.

Keeping Darwin company this morning?” Bridger asked, knowing that he had done the same thing himself before coming into the mess hall for breakfast.

Yes,” Lucas answered with a small grin, that tell-tale positive change in his demeanour shining through when he was talking about the mammal. Bridger had observed it on a number of occasions, and was pleased to see the bond between the dolphin and the teenager helping somewhat.

I wish I could go for a swim with him today, but I guess that is out of the question for now,” he added, grabbing a toast square.

In ten days or so you will be able to again,” Kristin said with promise in her voice, but she could see that her prediction wasn’t the time frame that the teenager was hoping to hear. “You can still spend time with him and keep each other company.”

Yeah, but that will feel like forever and is not exactly the same thing,” he huffed a little, but knowing himself how long stitches were general in place for.

What are you planning on doing for the morning after breakfast, Lucas?” Nathan asked casually.

The question had the expected effect with the teenager stopping eating, looking over at the Captain with a little curiosity and a whole lot of suspicion on his face. More than he had last night when leaving the mess hall. Bridger had asked almost the exact same question then, but he suspected today it wasn’t merely out of courtesy or inquisitiveness.

When Lucas looked over at Ben, his friend was carrying on with his breakfast, seemingly unaware of anything going on. He didn’t sense a threat today, but something was definitely going on as he looked at the Captain and over towards Doctor Westphalen.

Last night he had asked the Captain if he had anything in mind for him to do, but Bridger had told him there wasn’t. The tone of the man’s voice this morning told him that something had already been planned without his knowledge. He had taught himself to pick on subtle changes like this with people in the past, because he had needed to depend on or perceive any impending threat.

Was there something you wanted me to do?” the teenager asked, waiting to see if the Captain would give him a straight answer the first time.

No, no, not that I can think of right now,” Bridger answered, “I will let you know if I do.”

It was a game of cat and mouse at the moment, and Lucas was willing to play for now.

I was thinking about working with Darwin on the vocorder for most of the morning,” Lucas stated, leaving the half finished cup of coffee. “It doesn’t require me getting into the water with him.”

I could help you Ben, if you still had needed help with putting away some of that stock?” Lucas asked, trying to catch the Bridger out if he could.

Krieg swallowed the mouthful of food that he had been eating, and could see that the teenager was trying not to say something out loud in his answers to the Captain.

No, I don’t have anything straight away……,” he began to say, but was interrupted before he could finish the sentence.

Ben will be helping me this morning,” Nathan stated firmly, but the look of confusion on Krieg’s face was all the teenager needed to confirm that his friend was being roped into something too without his knowledge.

I will?” Ben said before feeling a sharp kick to his shin underneath the table from Doctor Westphalen.

Oh I mean, yes I do have something to attend to with you, Sir,” he answered, looking at Kristin for the reason behind her not-so-subtle attempts at getting him to agree to what the Captain had said.

Everybody at the table knew that the gig was up and Lucas wasn’t believing any of them. He wasn’t angry at any of them per se; he just wished they would plainly say what they wanted rather than dance around any topic because of worrying about hurting his feelings or upsetting him without meaning to.

Lucas pushed aside his tray, and stacked what he had not finished onto it. He could see the not so subtle looks from the doctor at his efforts. He had eaten all he wanted for now.

Lucas I would like to check those stitches of yours again please before you resume any projects you are planning to do,” Kristin requested. “You forgot to come and see me yesterday after you promised to do when I released you from med-bay.”

Lucas rolled his eyes at her challenge, but that didn’t give an answer for Bridger’s evasiveness. Unfortunately he felt obligated to do what she asked, “Yes, okay,” he said.

The teenager got up from the table, wanting to leave the mess hall. The longer he sat in here with them, the more he could see unanswered questions mounting about how much he had or hadn’t eaten. About his health and everything else. Hopefully going somewhere else to do something productive for a few hours would give him a little peace from that for a few hours.

Kristin got up from the table too, getting ready to leave, but felt she needed to be honest with Lucas herself about what she was intending to ask him to do this morning.

Lucas, wait for a minute, please,” she called out to him as he slowly made his way to the door.

Bridger and Ben could see her having a couple of quiet words with the teenager. Krieg couldn’t hear what the doctor was saying to him, it wasn’t long before he heard the response though.

Today?” the teenager shouted with a bit more volume to his voice. Followed rapidly by a second exclamation, “Now?”

Lucas took a step away from her, raising his arms up in a defensive stance until the stitches in his back pulled up sharply to stop any tirade from building further. His arms fell limply by his side as any fight in him was quickly extinguished. He didn’t want to do the combative thing today, and turned to face Kristin.

The Captain was about to get up from the table, thinking that he may be required to step in to help Kristin, but he had only started to rise from the seat when he saw a definite change from the teenager.

Please,” Kristin pleaded with him, putting a gentle hand on his lower arm, and hoping she could get him to co-operate without too much fuss. She leaned in closer and said something else to him that made the teenager suddenly look up sharply over towards the two men still seated at the breakfast table.

Lucas reluctantly conceded defeat, nodding his head in agreement at Kristin. Nathan watched the teenager walk out of the mess hall in the doctor’s company, knowing that the teenager was less than happy. Bridger knew that he wouldn’t be able to stay where he was much longer either, and would need to inform Ben of his own fate.

I wonder what that was all about?” Krieg said, finishing his breakfast and drinking the last of his coffee. “I thought we were going to have a major problem there for a minute.”

Bridger acknowledged the man’s comment, finishing his own coffee and getting ready to speak. Just when he thought the man was blissfully unaware of what he was going to be needed for today, the man spoke up.

So what was the real reason Kristin was viciously attacking and kicking my leg underneath the table that you didn’t want Lucas to know about, Sir?” Ben asked his Commanding Officer.

Bridger smiled at the man’s candidness to call him out on the subterfuge.

The Captain was about to explain himself and Kristin’s plans when Commander Jonathan Ford entered the mess hall, intending for a short break and a hot cup of coffee. Nathan saw the opportunity to tell Ben exactly what he wanted to know, but not allow him to get away off the hook either.

Good morning, Captain. Lieutenant Krieg,” Ford formally greeted them.

Good morning yourself, Jonathan,” Bridger returned. “I was just about to come and find you and make sure that you had no need of the young lieutenant here for the next couple of hours?”

Next couple of hours?” Krieg remarked, sitting up much straighter and recognising that he was being set up for something. “Now, wait just a minute……Sir,”

Ford could see the uneasiness on Ben’s face and the smirk from Bridger, and knew that the Captain was cooking up something that Krieg would not ordinarily want to do.

Consider him assigned to you for as long as you need this morning, Captain,” Ford said, chuckling at little at the expression on Krieg’s face. “The lieutenant doesn’t anything else to do today other than his usual workload.”

Hey, and it is very important work too,” Krieg tried to argue back. “Very necessary and under appreciated work,” he added, but he could see that his words were falling on deaf ears.

No doubt you would want me to make that an executive order wouldn’t you, Sir?” he added, knowing that Krieg was military enough to know his pecking order in the scheme of things.

Definitely, Commander, at the very least,” Bridger said in his most authoritative voice.

Nathan knew once Ben was aware the ploy was to help Lucas, that he would be more than willing to help out. The man’s posturing about needing to be ordered to carry out something for the Captain, was merely comedic relief that Krieg had already employed on a number of occasions when dealing with the teenager.

You are both of my Christmas card list this year,” Krieg grouched.

It might be less than that, Commander, but Ben and I are going to be going down to med-bay in a few minutes, filling out some medical paperwork on ourselves while Kristin is encouraging Lucas to fill out his own. Then she is intending on doing a couple of basic tests. She doesn’t want to overwhelm him too much at once. We don’t even know what his reaction is going to be to some of her questions yet.”

Now I know why Lucas was objecting so much when he left here a couple of minutes ago,” Krieg said plainly. “I think I will join him in protest.”

I will be doing it too, Lieutenant. Kristin hopes that with both of us being subjected to the same treatment, that Lucas will relax enough to do the same, and be willing to accept her to ask a few questions afterwards. Everybody on this vessel is going to have to do the same thing eventually, just like we were told by her in the Ward Room.”

Somehow the order of who was supposed to go first is all messed up. By my calculations, you should have been first before anybody, Sir?” Ben identified. “By ranking officer, or the person whom the doctor has the least information about. Lucas being excluded there.”

Let’s go down there before Lucas has the chance to change his mind,” Bridger instructed. “I will find you later on the Bridge, Commander. Until then, you know where to find me if you need anything, but it might be best if there wasn’t much of a crowd down there for now.”

Understood, Captain,” Ford said.

You three had to go and ruin and spoil my perfectly good mood for this time of the day,” Krieg announced as he started walking out with Bridger. “Lucas is off the hook, because he is an innocent party to this conspiracy too!”

By the time Bridger and Krieg entered the med-bay area of the science labs, Lucas was already seated on a chair, and had been talking quietly with Kristin. Now he was back down here, Lucas had begun to feel guilty about the way he had spoken to Kristin when she was treating him, and leaving med-bay the way he had.

Thank you for attending gentlemen, if you would both like to take a seat on those chairs there, I will hand out clipboards to you all in a minute. There will be a number of forms that you all need to fill out as much as possible.”

Ben had taken a seat on one side of Lucas, Bridger on the other. “Let me just say that I was dragged into this as much as you today, buddy,” Krieg announced loud enough for Kristin to hear his hollow complaint.

If I have to do this, so do you,” Lucas declared with no sympathy for Krieg’s fate of having to comply as well.

Ben looked down at the teenager’s right hand and could see that the bruising from the I.V. needle was now quite noticeable and darkening. “Does it hurt?” he asked, noting the colour of the bruise he could see.

No it doesn’t,” Lucas answered all too quickly, pulling his hand away out of Krieg’s reach.

At least his stitches and the bruising to his back and hip were covered so that nobody could see them most of the time. He knew Ben meant well, but feeling the concern from his friend and seeing it on the Captain’s face made him feel awkward and want to hide the fresh discolouration to his hand away from prying eyes that much more.

Let me know if anything does hurt enough for you to need any pain relief, Lucas,” Kristin brought up. “I will give you the paperwork in a minute, but if you will follow me into the next room, I want to measure your height and get you up on the scales to determine your weight.”

Kristin probably already had enough notes and information about him already to fill a few pages. Lucas stood up, ready to follow her instructions, “This is humiliating,” he said unhappily, but knowing that he couldn’t avoid the situation forever.

A few minutes later, the two of them returned. “If you want privacy about any of the results or answers on your forms Lucas, I can put you in a separate room to Ben and the Captain if you like? The choice is yours.”

Lucas looked over at the two men for a moment thinking about her offer, “Sounds rather redundant now when they already know everything else about me,” he answered.

The choice is still up to you,” Kristin reiterated, wanting to allow him to have as much to say about his own health and treatment as much as possible. He was still a minor, but old enough to understand anything being discussed about him, or being done to him physically.

Thanks, I do appreciate that,” Lucas said, pleased that she had taken the time to offer and grant him some say. “I don’t even know if I can answer much for you on your forms. So long as everything that goes on them or my file, stays between me and you three for the most part. Ben and the Captain have already seen me at my worst and the injuries.”

Nothing will leave these walls to any other third-party without your express permission, I promise, unless I think it is necessary as your doctor. That would only change if you are in a situation where you are unable to provide me with that permission and I need to make an informed decision about your health,” Kristin said. “I apply the same rules and high standards of privacy to everybody who is one of my patients.”

She had wanted to add a little in there about that including Child Protection Services, but erred on the side of caution at this stage. She would wait until she had prepared her report ready for them, and then talk to him about her obligations.

Ben and Bridger knew that the teenager was granting them access to information about himself that he probably wasn’t prepared to share with many others on-board. Both of them saw it as a rare opportunity to connect with Lucas more, and they promised themselves that they wouldn’t break that trust unless they had no other choice. And it felt like a lot of trust that he was giving them.

Let’s get started on these forms. I already have some data to add to your file and the computer, but we need to begin somewhere with the basics,” she explained.

Handing out the three clip-boards, to Nathan first, then Ben, and then Lucas, she watched the expression on his face as he took it from her, and accepted the pen to write with. She could see the apprehension mounting in him already, like she expected. The teenager watched the Captain begin to write on his forms, and then proceed to start his own.

I was going to take a blood sample from you today, but seeing as how you have eaten breakfast not so long ago, that will have to wait until later today, or the readings will be useless.”

Well that is something to be thankful for,” Lucas said, definitely not wanting to be poked with needles again this morning.

Your height, Lucas is within normal ranges for a teenage boy your age, but I expect that you could grow quite a bit taller yet,” Kristin in formed him. “Five feet seven inches or more than 173 centimetres tall is your current measurement.”

You really think so?” he asked hopefully. In the past he had considered himself a little too short, and couldn’t wait to grow a few more inches taller, but never really knowing what his final height might be. He didn’t know much about his family history to recall if anybody was really tall or short.

Lawrence Wolenczak was a large man, but Lucas had never used his height as a guide to what he might reach himself based on similar characteristics. He tried not to compare himself to his father on any level, including physical attributes.

Yes,” Kristin said with a smile at seeing he was pleased with her prediction. She saw him thinking on her assessment, before resuming writing again.

However, your weight is a little under what would be considered healthy,” she admonished gently, knowing that there had been other forces out of his control as contributing factors. “You need to gain a few more pounds to reach what would be ideal, so eat more pie.”

Lucas tried to take her words in the spirit they were intended to be, but his eating habits were a sore spot that he didn’t want to discuss. There were a lot of things surrounding food that they didn’t know about, and he wasn’t about to write it down for them now.

Ben could see the teenager’s change in mood about his weight, and saw him trying push down what he was feeling about Kristin’s views and opinions on healthy eating choices and options. He decided to introduce a little impromptu performance, so that the teenager would start to think about something else.

Miss, he is cheating on me,” Ben directed at Kristin all of a sudden, changing his voice slightly and making Lucas look up from his own forms.

Krieg pulled the clipboard closer to his chest, looking back at the teenager and trying to get him to relax, “Stop looking!” he accused, pleased to see the tugs of a smile appear on the boy’s face.

Lucas decided to play along with Ben’s antics for a moment, “What is there to look at, you haven’t even written anything down yet,” he challenged in return.

Ben laid the clipboard down again, so that Bridger and Kristin could see, and they both started to laugh, seeing that the teenager was correct, Ben hadn’t even begun filling out his own form yet. The page was blank. The boy had outsmarted him.

I, on the other hand, am almost finished,” Lucas declared to Kristin, handing her back the clipboard, looking back at Krieg as he handed back the pen. He knew there were a few pieces blank spaces on the forms.

Almost finished?” Ben scoffed, not believing the teenager for a second.

Bridger had been quickly observing the interaction between Ben and Lucas, and was pleased to see that Krieg’s efforts again were going way above what was expected of him. He was only about half-way through his own forms, and was starting to feel that he didn’t want to complete them either. All this bureaucratic red-tape and useless data collection had never sat well with him when he was in the service the last time.

There are a few pieces of information missing from here, Lucas, if you don’t mind me asking about them,” Kristin pointed out in seriousness. She knew he had tried to write a few things down, but hoped she could fill in a few more details yet.

Your professors at college were correct about your hand-writing,” Kristin commented, starting the questions with something the two of them had discussed. “It is very small.”

Lucas gave a small grin at her remembering such an indiscriminate piece of information about him, “Now you can see what they were talking about for yourself and why they were often on my case.”

Ben was immediately trying to get a look at what the doctor was referring to. “Great penmanship. Very neat. How do you do that?”

Krieg had begun writing on his own forms, and the teenager pounced on what he could see about Ben’s own handwriting style.

How do you manage to get yours looking like chicken scratches?” Lucas asked. “Kristin is going to need a translator to read any of your answers.”

Apart from the boy’s name, Ben was able to jump on the first new piece of information about the teenager. “December 23! Your a Christmas baby?”

That is what my birthday says,” Lucas admitted, not seeing any real significance to the date. He wasn’t about to tell them that it had never been a day to remember or ever drawn anyone’s attention before.

Oh the celebrations and parties we are going to have. Double the presents,” Ben said with excitement, but his exuberance was falling a little flat.

What is your date of birth?” the teenager asked Ben, trying to deflect the attention away from himself.

9th of February,” Ben wrote down, followed by the year.

Your that old?” Lucas poked in fun with a mock expression of pity on his face. “Did they have electricity back where you lived when you were growing up?” he openly taunted.

Oh ha, ha, funny guy,” Ben said, but coping the ribbing he was receiving. It was good to see that the teenager could let his guard down just a little, and turn the table on someone else with a joke.

If you think I am elderly, I cannot imagine what your choice words would be for the Captain and Kristin,” Ben said, looking over at Bridger.

Yeah, but with him being Captain, they start to call it distinguished by his age,” Lucas answered cheekily. “And with Kristin they would call it experienced.”

Distinguished!” Bridger countered good-naturedly. “I am not quite out for the count yet, or ready to be put out to pasture you young whipper-snappers.”

Experienced indeed, young man,” Kristin responded with mock indignation of her own. “While we are sharing birthdays, mine is the 10th August. I expect the customary best wishes on the day followed by a full English breakfast.”

Come on, yours too,” Lucas prompted Bridger. Krieg hadn’t dared ask Kristin or Nathan for their birthdays.

It’s no secret,” Nathan started to answer, “The 17th of March.”

Ben was the one who picked up on the date straight away as being a significant date for many people on the calendar, “Leprechauns and Irish stew and whiskey for everybody lucky enough to come from the Emerald Isle!” Krieg declared. “Saint Patrick’s Day!”

I hate to ruin your party plans and ideas, Ben, but I am not even slightly Irish,” Bridger said with a laugh. “No shamrocks, harps or celtic knots of any kind to be found.”

Doesn’t matter, Sir. On the 17th March, everybody claims to be a little Irish for Saint Paddy’s day,” Ben promised.

Hey I need to create a birthday list for everybody on-board. I could work some of them into the themes for my social hang-out nights. Commander Ford and Miguel Ortiz are only a day apart for their birthdays in March. I will have to make a diligent effort to learn or find out dates for other crew members.”

Telling a few tales out of school now, but I don’t even remember my twenty-first birthday, courtesy of Bill Noyce,” Bridger said, admitting to a time in his life that he could scarcely remember before marrying and having a family. Sometimes his old memory banks coughed up shreds from his youth out of nowhere and allowed him to venture down nostalgia lane.

The Admiral!” Krieg said, his eyebrows almost disappearing into his hair-line at such a piece of noteworthy material about both high-ranking men and their younger years. He knew both of them had been friends and served a long time together.

Well, Bobby and I don’t exactly have happy snaps of our twenty-first birthdays to show off to anyone either,” he said with a knowing smirk to Bridger. “I don’t know if he ever told you, but we spent his and mine, stranded with no money and hang-over’s that will go down forever in history and legend as the worst either of us have ever had.”

His mother read him the riot act when she found out,” Bridger informed Krieg. “Carol was looking to hunt you down too and give you a piece of her mind.”

Glad I missed that then,” Krieg said with a apologetic smile. Bobby had said in the past that his mother was a beautiful soul, until you got on the wrong side of her temper.”

Krieg looked down at Lucas’s form in the doctor’s hand and noted the place of birth that was listed. “You were born in Buffalo, New York.”

Yes, but I don’t remember living anywhere else except San Jose, California, Krieg,” Lucas said, his mood changing again, at having to recall any details about himself.

I myself, first and foremost am a Californian boy, born and bred,” Krieg announced with pride. “So you are in good company.”

Time to move on please, or we are going to be here all day,” Kristin interrupted, seeing the change in the teenager’s mood, and still wanting a few more answers before he displayed even more disinterest.

The address section has been left blank?” Kristin pointed out, but she saw Lucas stiffen immediately at her little observation. He was hoping that he could get away with not writing it down.

Some would argue that technically, he didn’t really have a place to call home at the moment with bring stuck on SeaQuest, but he didn’t want sound too ungrateful by bringing that up right now. Being here was still a temporary solution, and he was only too mindful of that, no matter what Bridger promised or told him, and what measures he had gotten Admiral Noyce to agree with.

Sorry, I must have missed that line,” he mumbled, taking the clipboard back and resting the ball-point of the pen on the paper long enough to leave an imprint on the paper without any ink. He could feel the three sets of eyes on him, and waiting for him to continue.

Sighing audibly at the unfairness that he felt, he started to write, still trying to avoid doing so for as long as possible. “Do I have to write it in full?”

That would be best please,” Kristin said gently, but seeing that he didn’t want to reveal any information pertaining to a place designated as his home. She could imagine that bringing up such a place would only invoke bad memories of his time living there. Considering what had happened only recently.

126 Lawrence Way, Evergreen Estates, San Jose, California,” he finally wrote, almost wanting to wash his hands once he handed back the form. That house or prison, however anybody wanted to call it or eventually refer to it as. For Lucas himself, it would never be considered as a home.

When he saw Kristin looking at the address, he felt he needed to add a little explanation to her about where it was and it’s overall description. “A large, modern concrete, three storey place, set about ten miles from the nearest neighbouring estates in any direction. Just like it was designed to be. There is a huge electronic gate at the front and a high wall built around it to keep everything and everybody in or out.”

‘Lawrence Way’, Bridger thought to himself silently. How conceited did the boy’s father have to be to name even the roadway leading up to the house after himself? No wonder Lucas was feeling like he was at the moment.

Ten miles from anywhere would have prevented anybody knowing what could have been happening inside or offer help to Lucas, or if he wanted to try and escape. From what details the teenager gave, it sounded like a cold, unfriendly place and set up like Fort Knox, with sophisticated security to match he assumed.

Lucas got off the chair he was sitting on, “Just stretching a little,” he told them, but the three adults could see how much writing down the San Jose address was affecting him. He forced himself to sit down again after a short time. He knew he wasn’t fooling anybody.

Please, can we continue and get the rest of this over with,” he requested, forcing himself not to leave the room. When he first agreed to doing this in the mess hall at breakfast, he could never have predicted how strong some of the emotions that were swelling up within him now were going to become. By merely having to write down something as simple as his address.

To try and keep his mind occupied elsewhere, Lucas did look over at what Krieg was writing down, and noted Ben’s address for himself. “13926 Challenger Loop, Honolulu,” he recited.

Yeah, only a small two bedroom place. The kitchen is not big enough to swing a cat around in, but I am rarely there to cook or eat anyway. Someday I will take you there for a visit and show you around,” Krieg said, returning to being a friend and leaving any wisecracks aside for now. “The beach isn’t too far away either in a few different directions so that you can enjoy the ocean.”

Left to me by my father, he used to live and stay there too during his own academy days. I never needed to move anywhere else as it was close enough to attend classes. Hickham Baseball Field was only a few blocks away to walk to. There are a few great places to eat nearby and plenty of places to visit that are not exclusively for military personnel.”

It is not much, but with me going to be living on SeaQuest for more than the best part of a year, I won’t need anything else bigger for the moment,” Krieg continued.

Sounds like a great place,” Lucas said, genuinely intrigued by what he was hearing.

What he wouldn’t give to have a place like that, he could call his own, where he could shut the world out. No matter how big or small it was. Maybe that was something he could look forward to having one day when he was older, or perhaps it was merely a pipe-dream that would never eventuate.

Krieg looked over at the Captain, who was being totally too quiet for his liking and had a strange expression on his face. “What did you put, Captain, Sir?”

Lucas was the one to look over and catch a glimpse of what Bridger had written in the space provided.

SeaQuest? Really? That was the best you could come up with?” the teenager challenged. “What about that mysterious island that you were supposed to be living on?”

Well, I don’t live there at the moment, so this is the only place I have to put down right now,” he rationalised. “I will tell those who I feel deserve to know at the appropriate time about its true location, when I decide to do so. I set it up specifically so that people couldn’t find me, so I guess I have a little trouble letting go of that yet.”

That is so not fair at all, Sir,” Krieg replied, seeing that Lucas was nodding in agreement with him too at his remark.

Ben had heard rumours about this island as much as the next person, but nothing too specific. He remembered Katie telling him that she went there to drag the Captain back upon Admiral Noyce’s orders. Not request, she had been ordered not to take ‘no’ as an answer, so she had been there, but had failed to share its exact location, or any specific details with him.

Bridger had been very difficult to persuade and it had taken a personal visit from Noyce to even encourage the man to come and look at his dream, built and put to practical use.

I tried finding out information about your island in the hopes of talking to you about your scientific research, Nathan. The only answer I ever got from anybody at U.E.O. headquarters, was that you were ex-communicado, and that you couldn’t be reached.”

Kristin was a little surprised that Nathan was being a little too evasive as well. The man was supposed to be helping Lucas be more open about his past, not join his ranks. Lucas wasn’t the only one being secretive on some occasions.

Continuing on the best way she could, Kristin focused on Lucas’ answers, rather than Nathan’s. There may have been legitimate military reasons why he was withholding further details, and no doubt it would be for totally different reasons than Lucas that she wasn’t privy too. She would tackle that at another time.

She noted that the next piece of information that the teenager had written down on his form, and gave him another look of empathy. She could only assume that writing those answers would have brought up just as much anxiety in the boy; his parents names.

Lucas saw her looking at the names he had listed, and could see the unasked questions, and feel the wave of emotions coming off her and the concern that she could barely mask. He had only given his father’s first initial; L. Wolenczak and C. Holt as the second name.

Holt was your mother’s maiden name?” she asked gently, not knowing how strong the connection between mother and son were, compared to the life of fear that existed with his father.

Yes,” the teenager said, but his short answer didn’t give anything away about how he felt towards her.

Bridger thought back to when Lucas had told him about his parents being divorced and was asking if he was staying on as Captain of the SeaQuest. At the time, the teenager had only said about how miserable they had been when living together. ‘If only the real truth had been found out then’ he said to himself.

Ben started to think back about his early theory of Robert Cooper being involved in Lucas’ injury to his shoulder, and drawing a comparison. That seemed to be different now that they had found out about his father’s mistreatment.

It didn’t make him like the guy any more though, but it meant that the teenager was having to deal with some nasty stuff on-board in addition to what he had already been subjected to at home. His friend had accepted the empty threats and harassment because he it was what he was used to hearing.

Ben had seen the Captain drift off into his own thoughts for a moment, but it didn’t last long, and he came back to the present as he heard Lucas speak again. The boy’s next statement was shocking to them all to say the least.

If you are looking for information about her, then you are asking the wrong person. I barely know her, and she hasn’t wanted to be a part of my life for as long as I can remember,” Lucas said, but there wasn’t any animosity in his voice, or bitterness as he spoke.

Hasn’t wanted to be….’ was the part of his response that was echoing back at them. Had his mother had the opportunity to help Lucas in the past and refused? Did she have any idea of what had been occurring in her son’s life or tried to help him escape the abuse?

It was hard enough to comprehend that Lucas had been living under his father’s abusive roof, but now to hear as well that there had been no mother figure or positive guidance during a large part of his childhood. That through the troubling years of his life, or at those times there hadn’t been anybody who might have been able to offer help to him, was difficult to fathom or accept.

Indifference was the closest word that the three adults could think of to describe the expression on the teenager’s face when talking about his mother. Quite different to how he reacted to his father.

Looking down at the form again, there was something about the way his mother’s name had been written down, that triggered Kristin’s memory. She walked a short distance from where she was sitting, her eyes immediately spotting what she had remembered. Retrieving the small white prescription bottle that she had confiscated from the teenager’s cabin.

Lucas realised that the doctor had made the connection between his mother and the name printed on the label.

Bridger and Ben were watching the exchange between them with interest.

Holt is the last name of the person who this medication was prescribed to,” Kristin pointed out. She was trying to be as sensitive as she could.

You have already guessed that the name on the bottle is hers. The C. stands for Cynthia,” Lucas told her. “She didn’t always use my father’s surname, in relation to many legal or financial matters that concerned her. I guess that also included doctor’s appointments and consultations.”

This time it was Kristin whose expression changed to one of surprise at the teenager’s admission of his mother’s first name. And it was at this point for the first time since she had come aboard SeaQuest that she felt the need to reveal some information about her own family.

Then we share something in common with each other,” Kristin said with a brief smile. “Cynthia was also my daughter’s name.”

Lucas started to give a small smile in return at such a startling connection, but that quickly changed as he picked up on the ‘was’ in her reply.

You have a daughter named Cynthia too?” he asked, hoping that he had heard wrong. But he could see the first signs of sadness in her eyes. He swallowed the lump that was forming in his throat, but wanted to allow her the chance to explain in her own time.

Kristin sat a little closer to Lucas, keeping her focus just on him, but knowing that the two men would be able to hear what she was saying.

My husband Nelson and I were happily married once. We had one daughter together, Cynthia,” she began. “After a while, our relationship became strained due to his vocation that kept him working away in foreign countries for long periods of time. And I found myself working at a number of hospitals and working ridiculous hours as well. We decided the best path for both of us was to divorce and give each other space to continue our chosen careers.”

That was just before Cynthia turned twenty, and with her father absent for a good part of her teenage years, she grew up resenting what she saw as my restrictions on her. They included things like what time she was going to be home, and meal times, her education and wanting to know who her friends were, making sure that she was taking good care of herself.”

A small, tight grin appeared on Lucas’ face as he recognised a couple of those same things were what she had been worried over him about and tried to address.

Do you know what she did during times that could only be described as ‘reinforcing her individualistic ways’?” she asked, sharing a little bit of her daughter’s rebellious attitude. The tone of her voice had changed to one of being like other parents and less than impressed with their child’s choices or decisions.

Lucas shook his head at her question.

When she was seventeen, I came home from a particularly long day at the hospital to find that she had shaved off half of her hair on one side of her head. And dyed the other half bright orange.”

Bridger had let out a blurt of laughter, immediately showing remorse, but could see that Ben was chuckling as well. Both of them were trying to picture what Kristin’s face would have looked like when the doctor first saw her daughter’s new look. Lucas had smiled a little more, but didn’t laugh out loud.

To this day, I am convinced that she only did it to irritate me instead of the noble protest against whatever cause that she was sprouting the reason was,” she added, which had Nathan and Ben letting go a few more guffaws of more laughter.

Kristin saw their laughter, and knew that it must have sounded funny. She wasn’t angry any more like she had been on that particular day, and didn’t hold it against them that they found the whole scenario hilarious. If it hadn’t been her own daughter, and she was hearing about such antics from someone, perhaps she would have been laughing along with them.

Turning back to the teenager, she said something that continued to bring out some powerful emotions in herself once more.

I can see that need for self reliance that you have been displaying recently, and the same strong independent streak in you, that my Cynthia had, Lucas,” she commented.

I swear to you, right now,” Lucas began to say, “That I have no intentions of shaving off or dyeing my hair any colour,” he responded with his best straight-faced expression.

Kristin let go a sudden burst of laughter for his well placed attempt at humour as she explained some difficult and unusual times during her life.

The next statement from Lucas gave Ben, the Captain and the doctor another small window of insight into a time in his life and saw him letting his guard down for a split second.

My father objected to the length of my hair on many occasions, and usually threatened to cut it short. Keeping it untamed and wearing it longer like it is now was one of my only ‘rebellious’ acts against him.

Kristin nodded her head in acknowledgement, knowing such a stance must have been difficult to maintain when there had been few occasions to do so. She wished all of his struggles could have been as simple as objecting to anything happening to his hair.

From the age of twenty-one through to twenty-five, my daughter was still searching for what she wanted to do with the rest of her life. Whilst living with me she had been working as a volunteer at an animal shelter. She was passionate about helping animals, conserving the environment and leaving the smallest footprint that we could on this planet.”

Before she turned twenty-six, the opportunity of a life-time was offered to her. I have a friend who had been working in hospitals alongside of me, but wanted to give back more to the poorer populations of the world. The third-world countries and their people who had nothing. She moved to a remote part of Africa to create a wildlife reserve, and asked Cynthia if she wanted to join her to do some important humanitarian work.”

Wow, what a great job opportunity,” Lucas remarked.

Kristin’s daughter’s ideas about caring for the environment and looking after animals seem to follow in some of her mother’s footsteps. The Captain had chosen the environmental and conservation route too through some parts of his life, and it was probably why the two of them connected on quite a few matters.

Now it was time for Kristin’s own mood to turn a little more sombre and downcast, and she could no longer hold back the silent tears that were brimming in her eyes. Lucas felt an invisible hand reach into his chest, grab his heart and squeeze. He couldn’t shake the feeling that something terrible had happened.

On the day she was due to leave on her big adventure, we had an argument that morning. Over something trivial like whose turn it was to cook dinner that night,” she began to explain, with a lot of guilt she was still holding onto. “Cynthia refused to buy a car to drive from where we lived at the time, but instead rode a bicycle to her work at the animal shelter.”

Kristin was about to go into more detail about her daughter, but found that memories had robbed her of the desire to use too many words, so she kept the tale brief, “From the report I received from the police later that same day, she had been travelling on a dirt-road, approximately a kilometre from her work place. A vehicle travelling from a side-road ever saw her or the bicycle. Crossed onto the wrong side of the intersection and didn’t even stop. She was struck and killed instantly. The driver has never been identified or held accountable.”

The red-headed doctor cried softly at the memory of her daughter, and how neither of them had been able to mend things after their heated words or say how much they loved each other or even say goodbye.

Neither Nathan or Ben could scarcely think of a single thing to say that would sound right after hearing about such a harrowing accident that took a young life. Both of them felt privileged in being allowed to know such a deeply sad and personal tragedy in Kristin’s life.

I am so sorry, Kristin,” Lucas said sadly, not knowing what else to say, but putting a hand on her arm in sympathy. “Thank you for telling us,” he added, his own voice thick with emotion. The Captain and Kristin had both lost children; a son and a daughter, both of them who could have gone onto lead promising lives. Instead they only left behind heartbroken families, who probably felt like a piece of themselves was missing forever.

Bringing her attention back to what had started telling about her Cynthia, Kristin held the prescription bottle out for Lucas to see.

Up until now you have been reluctant to tell me or anyone else how bad your pain was at times. I hope that a little more common ground can start to emerge between us,” she suggested. “Come and see me when your discomfort reaches a level you feel you would need to turn and look to use something this strong. I am here to help you, not hinder. In the meantime, I will keep them safe and refrigerated for you.”

Thank you,” Lucas said, feeling a mix of emotions. Guilt at having not told her about how bad his pain had been at times. Still a little perturbed at her having found them in his cabin and taken them away. And a little frustration that she didn’t get that sometimes resorting to such methods in the past had been the only way of coping. And that is what he found himself voicing to her now.

Those bottles are still sealed, I didn’t take any of them as you can see,” Lucas began, wanting all of them to hear his point of view. “She had others that I used over the years when I had to. Sometimes there was no other way or options, and it was the only way to get through the day. I needed them. My mother left them at home years ago when she left.”

Your mother left?” Bridger asked before Kristin could form the same question.

Yeah, she was the lucky and fortunate one and managed to escape out of that place, after filing for divorce from my father,” Lucas admitted, failing to keep eye contact with the Captain as he spoke.

How old were you when she left?” Ben queried, feeling very out of depth with everything that had come up so far about his bleak past.

Just before I turned nine years old,” Lucas answered.

Kristin wanted to know something else, and didn’t know how to phrase it. “How long has it been since you last saw your mother, Lucas?” She hoped that it had not been the entire five years from him being nine back then, to fourteen now.

That is a little more complicated,” Lucas began to explain. “About two years ago, I lived with her for about two weeks, not long before I was accepted to start college at Stanford. My mother decided that she was leaving the country again to get away from my father’s harassment, so that new arrangement didn’t last very long. Less than a month later, I was forced to live back with him after she left.

Because there wasn’t any other options or choices’ he wanted to add, but chose not to, keeping the bitterness to himself.

The two weeks gap that existed from when he had been living with his mother temporarily, to being under his father’s control, was a very painful experience that the teenager was not about to reveal or relive here today. There was a couple of people that knew where he was during that time, and he wasn’t ready to share that information with anybody.

That couple of weeks came with the promise of being one of those times that Lucas thought the tide of his life might be changing for the better. Boy had he been mistaken about that, because it hadn’t taken long for harsh reality and cruelness to set in about how far Lawrence Wolenczak’s reach really was. And to what extent he was prepared to to go and the methods he employed and thought nothing about risking and using to achieve that control.

His father had demonstrated that he was more than capable of stepping on other people, and cause them trouble, if they even dared to contemplate putting themselves in a position to help his son. And Lawrence had ensured that they were soon corrected in no uncertain terms against making any offers of assistance, asylum or sanctuary. In the end, Lucas was the one who had paid a hefty and painful price for any of their attempts. He never wanted that to happen again to a third-party, no matter who it was.

Kristin was dismayed to hear that the teenager’s mother, from his account, had all but abandoned him just to escape herself and no-one had thought to check on Lucas afterwards and keeps tabs on what his father was doing. If it was true that she did get out, why didn’t she take Lucas with her to protect him? Even if she was leaving the country.

The doctor understood that his mother may have been living in fear as well, and experiencing physical and other kinds of abuse herself at the hands of her husband. Her ultimate decision to leave her own child behind in that environment, didn’t sit very well with Kristin at all as a valid excuse.

Ben Krieg was silently doing some number crunching in his head, using the information that Lucas had been telling them, and came to a startling premise, “Two years ago?” he questioned. “That means you were twelve years old when you started college?” he added, thinking how young that sounded.

Yes,” Lucas answered a little uncomfortably, not knowing what else to say.

I didn’t mean it to sound like a bad thing, Lucas,” Ben responded. “Honest. Just goes to show how smart you are compared to the rest of us.”

Do you remember what you were doing at twelve years old, Sir?” Ben addressed the Captain. “I am not sure about you, but at twelve, the only thing I was going was riding around on my bike with friends and playing baseball. School for me was mostly filled with getting into mischief from the teachers that usually resulted in detention, and trying to impress girls.”

Now those last parts, I can certainly believe,” Kristin teased Ben good-naturedly. She wasn’t quite so studious at twelve years old either, even though she would later go on to complete a medical degree. Ben sounded like he had a fairly rounded and normal upbringing, even with reporting of his father being in the military.

Until this very moment, none of them had been aware of how young Lucas had been when attending college. Twelve sounded far too young for anybody to be living away anywhere, without any kind of positive support and with a father living at home and inflicting his own resume of discipline and control. Yet another example of them scarcely able to comprehend how different things had been for Lucas over such a long period of time.

Do you know of any other immediate family members or next-of-kin that could be written down in addition to your parents? Kristin asked. “And how they might be able to be contacted if that became necessary to do so.”

Not that I know of,” Lucas answered. “There are aunts and uncles on both sides, but I haven’t had contact with any of them in years. Before my mother left.”

Grandparents?” Kristin asked with a little hope in her voice, but that idea was quickly quashed as well.

I don’t remember meeting any of them, or spending time with anybody called grandma or grandpa,” Lucas replied truthfully, but with shame creeping up at having to admit how his isolation from anyone except his father had been allowed to manifest.

He hated having to reveal that his notion of any kind of extended family was very different. “I don’t even know what their names are and they were never mentioned. I have never seen any pictures of them if there are any in the first place.”

Can we please leave it as is for now, and move onto the next questions and get this finished?” Lucas pleaded, knowing that it probably sounded like he was whining. He wanted this inquisition and point by point dissection about his life and everything about it to be over and done with.

It worked though, as Kristin could see that he wanted to leave, but felt obligated enough to stay.

They had been here quite a bit longer than had been allotted already, but the exercise certainly had it merits, with more than a few clues and details about him being revealed on paper or given in explanation. Some noteworthy, others stirring up emotions on his behalf and some they accepted as being out of his control but invoking a fair amount of unspoken criticism about his so-called family.

Let’s do that,” Kristin agreed.

To Krieg, it felt like the first time he needed to complete the paperwork to join as a submariner. Even the powers-that-be wanted to know everything from your shirt size, to what you had for lunch on Tuesday, five years ago. The forms wanted to know digest everything about your personality, and the colour of your socks and underwear, and which side of the bed you got out of.

I am sure Commander Ford must be wondering where I am by now,” Ben put out there, hoping to cut short this session and get back his normal duties.

No he is not,” Bridger said in mock sternness, “If we have to be here longer, so do you, Lieutenant,” adding his rank for emphasis, and seeing Lucas smirk at the Captain’s quick rebuttal.

Kristin moved her eyes further down on the page of the form, “The next sections go into further detail about your personal medical history.”

Oh joy!” Lucas declared with frustration, “Just what I wanted other people to know about too.”

The doctor ignored his jibe when she saw his answer to a question that both puzzled and struck a little worry into her at the same time. “With the question about your blood type, you wrote ‘rare’.”

Do you know what your actual blood type is?” she pressed.

Lucas looked over at Ben’s partially completed form and saw that he had recorded the correct terminology. He couldn’t see Bridger’s, but wasn’t really interested in what either of them had written down.

No,” he answered honestly.

Then how do you know it is rare?” Kristin immediately followed with.

The doctor was concerned from a medical point of view about what that could mean for the teenager living aboard SeaQuest. “There are a few blood types that are considered less common in the general population. If you are correct, then we need to find out as soon as possible.” There could be other crew members aboard in a similar situation, and it part of the reason she liked to keep her own medical files.

Lucas looked over uncomfortably at Bridger as he answered, “Remember me telling you about the first time that I ripped out my I.V. when I was in hospital?”

Bridger nodded. Ben and Kristin had heard him tell the Captain that in his cabin.

Well, I think a couple of the reasons that the nurse was not happy about it included having to redo it and having to clean up afterwards. Then she mentioned something to one of the other nurses about my blood type being rare. I never heard her say what it was, and I didn’t get to ask. That is the only way I found out. That was sometime after my ninth birthday.”

That blood sample that I talked about, needs to happen today then, no arguments to the contrary,” Kristin informed him, wanting to take any precautions that might be necessary.

Do you know if there are any medical files that I could access since you remember there being at least one hospital stay?” Kristin queried. “That would also help me find out more about your current immunisation status, which you have left blank.”

Lucas shook his head, seeing the concern she had about his answers. “What I told you back in med-bay the last time still applies, that my father would never give permission for any file on me to be released to anybody. I recall being in hospital twice, that time and one other. I don’t know which particular hospital it would have been or even if it was the same one both times.”

Didn’t your father ever take you to a doctor for a regular check-up, or have you treated when you were sick with normal childhood illnesses like a cold or the flu?” Kristin asked, internally growing angry that the hospital visits were probably due to something that his father had inflicted upon him.

Ha, not likely!” Lucas scoffed with a hollow laugh. “That would require him to shed money out on me or do something that meant he gave a damn. That is never going to happen. And antibiotics or medications would have cost him money too, so not much chance of that either.”

Bridger could only look on with dismay at the teenager’s angry response, but by also listening to the context of the words, he picked up that the teenager still believed the situation he described to be still current.

To satisfy your curiosity though, Kristin, there was a couple of specific occasions where my father used the services of a private doctor that I can vaguely remember. There may have been files started or kept on me that would tell you what they diagnosed. I have no idea where they would be, and I can only assume that they would be sealed or kept somewhere secure and out of sight by him now.”

They were times when I was quite sick and probably should have been admitted to a hospital. The only reason I recall them is that I awoke to have some strange doctor poking and prodding me. They were different each time, so I never saw the same person twice, and they were foreign, so I didn’t always understand what they were talking about. Anything that they did to me or gave to me when they were brought to the house is a total mystery.”

How convenient for him,” Kristin said, unable to hide her own moment of unbridled contempt. It wasn’t directed at Lucas. By using private doctors, and home visits, this is how Lawrence Wolenczak had been able to cover-up some of his acts of abuse and keep it hidden away for so long. This is how he had been allowed to circumvent the system that could have alerted someone a lot sooner that something was amiss and needed an investigation.

Would you be willing to provide me with permission to talk privately with the hospital Registrar’s? They would have access and custody of any records should there be any files on you at any hospital within the state. And being a doctor, they would release them to me upon official request.”

I can do that,” Lucas said with some apprehension. He didn’t know what was out there, and would be lying if he didn’t admit to feeling a little nervous about what unknown information Kristin may stumble across about himself.

Everything will be kept confidential,” Kristin promised, reiterating her earlier assurances. “And I will share with you anything I do find, and explain any notes made if you wish to know.”

These new pieces of information spurred Kristin on to keep going down the list of questions. Ben and the Captain had stopped writing their own forms, instead being drawn by the questions that the doctor was asking and the answers that Lucas was giving.

Commander Hitchcock told us that she arranged your flights to travel from your home to the pier to meet the launch?” Kristin said, looking for confirmation from Lucas.

Yes, I had to fly to go between them. The flight times vary, but are between five and a half or six hours, depending on turbulence and weather factors,” the teenager said, not catching on why she had asked all of a sudden about his method of transport.

Under the section asking whether you experience motion sickness, you have ticked ‘yes’ and added that you are affected by planes and boats when you travel,” Kristin commented, hoping for more precise details of what symptoms it caused him.

Thankfully once I am here on-board SeaQuest, I have not had a problem and my stomach has been behaving itself for the most part. And the same goes for when I was arriving or departing on the sea launches each time,” Lucas replied. “But whenever I travel on a plane, it happens every single time. I pray that I won’t need to fly again in the near future if I can avoid it because it gets quite bad and it feels like my insides are trying to punch their way out.”

Ben made a mental note to himself of keeping a check on the kid the next time they travelled in a launch anywhere. The tell-tale signs should be easy enough to spot, especially if Lucas was reluctant to speak up and tell someone.

If you have to fly again by plane at any time, come and see me,” Kristin said in sympathy. Motion sickness wasn’t pleasant for anybody, and there should have been no reason for Lucas to have to suffer through bouts of it. It was something that was perfectly preventable if known ahead of time, or could be successfully managed.

There are a lot of remedies that I can recommend to use that won’t upset your stomach and they will take away that awful nauseous feeling that you are often left with,” Kristin offered with a smile.

That would be great for when I need it again,” Lucas said with genuine gratitude.

I tend to suffer from a little motion sickness myself, but mainly on long bus drives,” Kristin admitted, trying to put the boy’s mind at ease.

You do?” Lucas asked.

And size of the bus doesn’t matter, big or small,” she shared with him.

Bridger was silently promising that the teenager wouldn’t be needing to leave SeaQuest any time soon to fly home or anywhere, if he and Bill Noyce could work together enough.

Under allergies you have written two things,” Kristin noted. “Avocados?”

Ben Krieg gave a sharp gasp of shock at that detail. “Allergic to avocados?”

It’s not like I have a choice, Krieg. They don’t like me,” Lucas said.

But you live in California,” he said, horrified by what he had just learned and shorting the name of a personal favourite food, guacamole.

The disappointment on Lucas’ behalf at missing out on such a delicious condiment in its addition to a lot of foods was clear, “So no guac….. ?”

No,” Lucas replied.

Man, that means I have to change all my plans for Mexican themed parties nights aboard SeaQuest and everything,” he huffed at the unfairness of it all. “Are you doubly sure? Because you could be mistaken about what you wrote down.”

Leave him alone, Ben,” Kristin scolded lightly, seeing that he was trying to add some humour again. “What effect do they have on you? Is it eating the flesh, or even touching the oil in the skin that causes an adverse reaction?”

Eating them,” Lucas said firmly. “They make me throw up after consuming any recipe with them in it. Not a pleasant experience, believe me.” He had not thought about needing to let anybody know about his food allergies.

That would be something that Head Chef Don, needs to know about, Lucas,” Bridger remarked.

Hey, you should all know by now, I don’t come with an instruction manual,” Lucas joked.

The other allergy you wrote down could be just as serious; bee stings?

I need for you to tell me a few more details if you can please,” Kristin requested. “Some people have different levels of reaction to insect stings, most ending in only mild irritation and a raised area and reddening of the skin.”

The three of them had noted the sudden change in demeanour in the teenager at seeing him write down his home address, and his parents names. But those instances seemed to pale in comparison to the dramatic reaction that those two words caused.

I thought you needed to know,” Lucas said, his voice barely above a whisper, as he fought within himself. “I wasn’t even going to write it down.”

Kristin could see that he was holding back information, and could only hope that something may be noted about the extent of his allergy on a medical file, should she manage to find one. But of course, there was no guarantee of that.

Lucas stood up, grimacing at the pull of stitches and his bruising protesting loudly at the abrupt movement, “Sorry, but I have to go,” he mumbled, unable to hide that his hands were trembling badly at the very memory of that time in his life.

These people in the room didn’t know how bad that particular incident was, and it still shook him to the core to think about the circumstances that lead up to that particular hospital stay. The only reason he knew how serious his condition had become, was by overhearing a doctor talking to one of the nurses when they thought he was still unconscious.

Kristin knew that something was very wrong, but trying to stop him right now would only result in pushing him closer to the edge. She didn’t want to do that so soon after learning about the abuse. On the face of it, gauging by his reaction now, it may be an event that he would never be ready to tell them what had happened.

Kristin put a hand on his arm, trying to see if she could get him to calm down and talk to her, even about something else that wasn’t remotely related to filling out forms.

The emotions had begun to swell and become overwhelming, and no matter how hard he tried to suppress them right now, he couldn’t. Lucas looked at her, and could see the concern on her face for him, “Please don’t ask me to tell you about it. Because I can’t. Ever!”

I promise I won’t.” It was the only thing she could think to say after receiving such a heart-wrenching plea.

Bridger stood up and was prepared to back Kristin up, with his own concern multiplying about how upset the teenager had become in a such a short space of time. The Captain went one step further and put his a supportive hand on his shoulder. The trembling he could detect running across his shoulder blades was worse than what he and Ben had experienced that day in the corridor before he collapsed.

Hey, hey, slow down and talk to me for a minute,” Bridger implored with a soothing tone. “None of us are not going to make you do anything you don’t want to.” But his understanding words were not enough to persuade the teenager.

A quick glance from Nathan to Ben spoke a silent warning to be ready for anything. Krieg didn’t grasp the reason for his friend’s sudden change, but he could sense the worry pouring off the Captain and the doctor. Lucas himself was another story entirely.

Sorry, I cannot be in here any longer,” he repeated in apology to the Captain, pulling away from them both. “Please don’t make me stay.”

Unless they were going to physically restrain him, they had no choice but to leave him alone for awhile. He was on the verge of losing his composure, but none of them wanted to take such drastic actions unless it became absolutely necessary.

The three of them could only watch as he quickly grabbed his empty stash jar from a table behind him and walked out of med-bay as quickly as his hip would allow without running. They could hear the catch in his throat and see that he was on the verge of tears over whatever had triggered such a strong bolt of distress to course through him.

For Lucas, he felt that he had given enough of himself today, tomorrow and for weeks ahead. Maybe too much.

The three adults left in med-bay were trying to figure out between them what the next best move was after Lucas’ sudden and emotional departure.

What do you think we should do, Nathan?” Kristin asked, not masking her worry about him. “He is still determined to keep his independence, taking back his stash jar,” she added.

Bridger ran a hand through his hair as he tried to answer that very question in his own head, and worked out a solution. “Whatever it was, is something really bad.”

How about I go and try to talk to him first,” Ben suggested. “Not about what just happened in here, I don’t think that would be a very productive approach. But I have a few general bits of news to tell him about the mess hall that I haven’t told him about yet. Whilst I am doing that, I can try and encourage him to come and help me for a bit.”

That blood test still needs to be done as soon as possible,” Kristin commented, knowing it was a slightly lower priority than his psychological frame of mind at the moment. “We are not prepared for any emergency that involve needing a blood transfusion for Lucas or anybody else on board. Particularly for any crew members with a rare type.”

I promise I will be sensitive and back off if he isn’t ready to talk. But I will try to get him to come and help me and keep his mind off what is bothering him. If we allow him to be on his own too much, he will only brood over it, and try to hide behind it.”

A launch is due to dock very soon to unload supplies,” Ben said, looking down at his watch and noting the time. “Once everything has been off-loaded, it is due to depart again to take Mr Cooper up-world and off SeaQuest.”

I will make sure that I am nearby to supervise,” Krieg attested. “He won’t have to do any heavy lifting that may cause problems with his stitches. He can sit in one place and mark the inventory off against the cheat-sheet I use. It will be in the launch bay area, so he will be able to see Darwin as soon as he chooses that he doesn’t want to help any longer, or he shows signs of being in pain.”

Lucas doesn’t need any of that kind of antagonism today from the likes of him,” the Captain quickly retorted. He made a mental note to make sure he was in the immediate vicinity before the launch was due to leave.

Tag, you it,” Nathan stated, grateful for Krieg’s involvement. There was no guarantee that the teenager would be wanting to agree to doing anything judging by the way left.

I guess we don’t have much choice but to try something,” Bridger replied.

During his walk towards Lucas’ small cabin, Krieg went over a few different ways of how he might approach the anxious teenager. Any request to help would only be possible if he was prepared to listen. The door could be locked, thwarting any attempt to gather his co-operation.

By the time he reached the door, Ben decided to stick to his normal game plan, and just come out plainly and be honest. That was probably what the kid wanted from anybody right now, not flowery words and empty gestures that everything was going to work out alright.

Krieg knocked politely on the door, and waited before testing the handle. He was mildly surprised to find it unlocked, but pleased that a small amount of lee-way had been given and that the teenager wasn’t entirely too closed off just yet.

Come in,” came the invitation to enter.

Lucas was sitting at his small computer table when Ben opened the door. All signs of being upset had been pushed aside, maybe a little too quickly for Krieg’s liking. Only to be replaced by the expression of expectancy for someone to turn up, and suspicions held about their motives and intentions.

If all you have come here to do is try and cheer me up, Ben, then don’t bother,” Lucas warned. “I know the Captain and Kristin probably sent you in here. I am sorry that you got lumped with the job.”

He had been waiting for Krieg to bring up about his sudden departure and about everything Kristin wanted, not being completed. But he was thankful when it wasn’t brought up immediately. He could dance around more about his answers or what he had missed later. He knew that the doctor was expecting to take blood from him at some point today.

No, that isn’t it at all. Actually I had a few things to tell you about that I missed at breakfast this morning,” Krieg said. He knew not to voice out loud that the teenager had already assumed partially correctly.

Ben proceeded to tell him about the launch arriving very soon, and ask if he was up to helping out with the new inventory.

I don’t want you hauling any of the boxes anywhere yet, or Kristin will have my hide in a sling. But I thought it might get you out of here for a while,” he enticed.

To be honest, Lucas didn’t want to go anywhere, and the idea of getting a few more hours sleep had plagued him after leaving med-bay. Tiredness was quickly catching up with him today, and it would only be a matter of time before it showed more prominently.”

He didn’t have the heart to turn down Ben though, and he was convinced that his friend was still there partly to check up on him. “Yes, alright I will follow you out. I am halfway through devising that software for you that I told would write.”

Really? That would be great, but don’t go to too much trouble,” Ben responded, but in the back of his mind he was asking a different question. ‘When did you have any time to do that lately?’

What were the other things you had to tell me?” Lucas asked in curiosity.

Mostly about some changes to the mess hall, and they don’t apply just to you,” Ben stressed, knowing that the teenager would assume that he had been singled out for special treatment, when that wasn’t the case.

Don got permission from the Captain and has stocked one of the fridges in the mess hall with sodas and fruit juices. In addition to the cold water bottle station that you already know about. There is also tea, coffee and hot chocolate facilities being arranged as well. They are for anybody any time of the day and don’t require any money like the vending machines. The drinks and snacks in those are still available too, but will require a coin donation as normal.”

Why the change in policy?” Lucas asked, not convinced that Bridger or the chef had a sudden change of heart.

Some of the scientific staff in Kristin’s department were kicking up a bit of a ruckus, saying that they were hard done by,” Krieg answered truthfully. “Once the military personnel heard about their complaints of having to spend their own personal funds for the vending machines, they added their voices of protest as well.”

Don went to the Captain, and eventually agreed that there should be cold and hot drinks available throughout the day outside of regular meal times. Some of that stock should be arriving on that launch I just spoke to you about.”

There will probably be a few changes yet, once Bridger has time to sit down and sift through all the requests. Some he will out-right nix straight away and throw out as frivolous expenditure or impractical wish-lists,” Krieg stated. “But anything that benefits the crew as a whole I think he will be willing to implement as best he can. They come under the banner of maintaining the morale of the crew, keeping the peace by, in addition to feeding and watering them properly to attend to their duties.”

Anything else you needed to tell me?” Lucas said, thinking that Krieg had explained himself well enough, but reserving judgment and retaining a healthy amount of skepticism.

Not tell so much this time, as ask,” Krieg began. “I saw you take your stash jar back from Kristin. As Supply Officer, it is my job to oversee everything ordered in. I just wanted some clues as to what you like to put in them, so I can help you stock up.”

No, thank you,” Lucas said firmly.

No?” Krieg said in confusion. That wasn’t the answer he had been looking for.

No, as in, I don’t want you to order in anything for me. I usually keep a variety in them, something different in each jar. Nuts, dried fruit, sultanas, that kind of thing,” Lucas explained. “Stuff that doesn’t need refrigeration and can be stored for long amounts of time.”

That will surprise Kristin, she was thinking that you were only keeping lollies and sugary treats in them. The unhealthy stuff and that was what you were living off,” Ben commented. The kid had given some good forethought into his choices.

I don’t have any money at the moment to fill them up yet, but I don’t want you or the U.E.O. subsidising what is my responsibility,” the teenager replied.

If I order anything in with the regular stores, you wouldn’t be obligated to pay for it,” Krieg informed him.

It saddened him to hear the teenager holding onto a reason like having no money, as the basis of refusing to accept help. His parents had never been rich by any standards, but he had not grown up experiencing not having it either. There were other uncomplicated options being put in front of Lucas, but his stubborn streak of remaining independent and relying on himself too much, was shining through.

And that is where the problem lies for me,” Lucas countered back. “I have found a way in the past to manage and get by without money. I have managed on my own before, until funds became available. And I intend to do that here as well.”

The teenager was determined that he wasn’t going to ask for money from anybody on-board or expect free-hand outs. He had existed perfectly fine without it the past, and that was what he was going to do now.

Come on, let’s get this stock unloaded, then maybe I can try out some of those noodles you ordered in for me,” Lucas urged, not wanting to argue with Ben over his stashes.

Krieg could see that he had lost that battle for now, and wouldn’t be able to proceed at the moment by ordering anything without Lucas asking first. He didn’t want to do that behind his back, and put their emerging friendship in jeopardy with mistrust.

You are just saying that to try and avoid giving a donation to the doctor’s blood-bank,” Krieg theorised. “Not to say that I blame you, because no doubt she has the same unfair plans for me,” he grouched.

The two of them left Lucas’ small cabin, heading towards the launch bay. The over-head speakers gave the announcement that the launch had arrived as scheduled.

Ben had left Lucas in the launch bay area briefly, heading to get his own clip-board and the printed inventory list that he needed. He made a brief stop by the mess hall and grabbed a drink for both himself and the teenager.

Kristin had remained in the science labs, indicating that she had plenty to keep herself occupied for a number of hours. She asked them merely to keep her appraised of how he was coping, wanting to allow him some time away from her questions.

Captain Bridger had been standing in the launch bay area himself, talking to Commander Ford, and holding onto what looked like blue-prints for the vessel. Lucas didn’t hear what they were saying, could see Bridger stop briefly and notice his presence.

Krieg arrived back, handing over the soda as the two of them started looking at the list together. “You will need to count the boxes, and then mark them here accordingly,” he instructed.

Out of the corner of his eye, he could see the Captain and Ford, and Bridger’s unspoken appreciation of being able to persuade the teenager to be doing something to occupy his time. For the next half an hour, assigned crew members unloaded the boxes and stacked them along the wall out of the way so they could be to be counted.

Bridger kept his attention on his own task at hand as much as possible, forcing himself to give the teenager some breathing space. Ben was doing well enough without his input. But the teenager’s calm exterior quickly changed as they all heard Chief Crocker’s voice approaching the area.

He was currently escorting Robert Cooper to the launch before its impending departure. Manilow’s instructions were formidable, and authoritative, not giving the man the option to speak unless he was asked a direct question. Crocker had not known that the teenager was going to be in the launch bay area today.

Lucas looked up, his less-than-impressed expression at recognising his antagonist plain to see. Tim O’Neill was following Crocker, being the operator of the launch today.

Cooper showed a moment of surprise himself at seeing the teenager in the vicinity. Of course Krieg was standing close, and he grinned widely again as he spotted the Captain on the other side of the room too. With the fat-tub of lard, and Commander Ford in the immediate area as well. All of them ready to pounce on him if he even looked sideways at the kid.

Keep moving,” Crocker ordered the man gruffly.

The sanctioned crew member and now prisoner threw caution to the wind as a last act of defiance before being forced to board the sea-craft. He shared one final look between himself and Lucas, unable to wipe the smug look off his face.

‘Snowflake’ he mouthed silently, and saw that the teenager understood the taunt.

To his credit, Lucas remained very still, his own intense gaze never leaving the man’s face. He wasn’t about to be deterred by any slur directed at him, nor intending to show any sign of backing down. The mutual dislike between them was obvious to all.

Lucas turned around as the Captain’s speak beside him, not having noted the man close the distance between them until now. “I doubt you will have to worry about seeing him again.”

Lucas nodded his head at Bridger’s statement, but a feeling in pit of his stomach said otherwise and he wasn’t quite so sure about that.

Something in the back of his mind told him Cooper would be back, but he couldn’t figure out why he felt that way. He didn’t voice that opinion out loud, because it would only make the Captain and Ben more watchful over him than they already were. And he didn’t want that.

A splash from a tail from the moon pool caught Lucas’ attention once the launch bay doors were closed. He handed the clip-board to Krieg without an explanation, and made his way over to the dolphin. A genuine smile appeared on his face and Ben could see that he had just lost his helper for the foreseeable future.

Commander Ford had finished his discussions with the Captain as well, and Krieg watched with interest as Bridger made his way quietly over to where Darwin and Lucas were together. The teenager had taken up sitting on the stool near the pool and had taken possession of the vocorder from its bracket.

Bridger was standing behind the teenager, talking softly to him. Ben saw the man put a hand on the teenager’s uninjured shoulder, but there was no immediate withdrawal.

Are you going to finally show me how it works?” came the quiet question from Nathan, showing genuine interest in something that the boy was very passionate about.

Lucas looked over at the Captain, pausing for a moment, before offering a small smile of agreement. “Yes, but I will go slow for you because it is complicated,” he added with a small laugh. Bridger taking the jibe good-naturedly.

Bridger was perhaps the only one that he was willing to share the technology with at the moment. Ben watched from a distance and observed that the teenager’s reactions with the Captain were a little different. Lucas was slightly more relaxed in his presence when it was just the two of them together.

It wasn’t clear if Lucas even felt it there, and the Captain may not have been paying attention that he was doing it either. To Krieg, though, it was quiet a powerful moment of positive acceptance between the two of them. He doubted that the teenager would have allowed anybody else to be so close and within his personal space.

The interaction between Lucas and Bridger continued for approximately the next forty minutes, before Darwin singled that he was finished with work, and swam out of the pool to feed outside of the vessel.

Lucas got up and replaced the vocorder back in its rightful spot. He and the Captain spoke together for a moment, before the teenager left the area, headed down the corridor in the opposite direction.

Bridger came over to Ben, seeing that he had taken over accounting for the stock. “Lucas seems a lot better now, than he was earlier,” Krieg commented, as he stopped writing.

You must have been quite eloquent when he first left med-bay to persuade him to come here in the first place,” the Captain commented with gratitude.

Not really, Sir,” Krieg answered. “I made a judgment call that he would be looking to keep his mind occupied. Although I told you earlier about Cooper leaving on the launch, I would have preferred it if Lucas wasn’t elsewhere for that.”

I don’t know what that guy’s problem is with Lucas, but I am glad that he is finally off SeaQuest,” Bridger remarked. “We won’t have to worry about him.”

Do you mind if I say something off the record, Sir?” Krieg asked, not sure how the man would react. “It is not about Cooper or anything that went on in med-bay today.”

Fire away, I don’t mind you being honest at any time,” Nathan answered, but intrigued at the Lieutenant’s change in direction of conversation.

I just wanted to let you on how much more relaxed Lucas is in your company, Sir, than anybody else on-board. He has a different stance about himself when he is around you. Even to me or Doctor Westphalen.”

Really?” Bridger faltered, thinking that he hadn’t been doing quite enough to gain the boy’s trust. “This morning certainly didn’t indicate that he was very relaxed at all.”

I think that was a little different, Sir,” Krieg pointed out. “And we don’t even know what the cause was there yet.”

Go on,” Nathan prompted, seeing that Ben wanted to say more.

I have been standing here watching the both of you for well over half-an-hour,” he started to explain. “That kid uses masks to his advantage, and he is good at keeping them in place sometimes. He says one thing when talking, but his face says another. But behaviour never lies.”

The happiest I see him is when he is with Darwin and working on his vocorder program. And just now, explaining it to you, he was willing to do so as soon as you asked. I don’t think he would be quite prepared to do the same with me or anybody else.”

He appreciates that you are willing to spend time with him, and take an interest in what he likes,” Ben continued. “I don’t think that Lucas has ever had anybody pay attention to him on that kind of level before. He doesn’t want to get to close to anybody, or allow anybody to do the same towards him. At any other time, he is drawing away when anybody else is offering too much friendship.”

That is interesting,” Bridger replied, taking in what Ben was saying, hoping that his efforts were having that kind of effect. The comments about anybody paying attention to him before were probably not far from the truth, going from what little they already knew.

Lucas is starving to be shown any kind of affection, and has been pushing everybody away when it is given, because it is too unfamiliar to him. Denying the battle, and then retreating when his emotions inside get too strong,” Ben commented. “There were positive signs that you were starting to break through that barrier a little today. You are slowly getting through to him, Sir.”

I am due on the Bridge in a few moments to relieve Jonathan,” Nathan said, putting a temporary stay on any further discussion between them. “Let’s pick this back up at another time. I appreciate you taking the time to tell me.”

No problem, Sir,” Krieg returned, looking down at this watch, “My shift there is about to start shortly too.” He could see that the man was a little uncertain about the praise he had just given, but he didn’t regret it. He had been truthful about what he had noted, and definitely hoped that trust could continue to be established.

When he commenced his shift on the Bridge, Nathan informed Jonathan Ford about the departure of the launch, with Cooper on-board as part of his removal. Chief Crocker would be with Tim O’Neill as he piloted the smaller craft until the man had been delivered to the main-land. Then both would return to SeaQuest.

The Captain discreetly kept the small network of people watching out for Lucas informed about completing the medical history required. Those present had groaned out loud themselves at the thought of having to do the same. Nobody was particularly looking forward to Doctor Westphalen’s probing and tests.

Bridger intended to maintain Lucas’ privacy and wouldn’t give away any specific details. He did make a mental note to speak to the teenager at some point, as he may have to tell a few crew members about his food allergy. He did tell them that Lucas had left the area prematurely, but that they were still in the dark over the cause of his panicked reaction.

Nathan was about to warn them that Lucas may be looking for some space for the rest of the day, but just as he said that, the teenager walked onto the Bridge. In his hand he was carrying a biodegradable container of noodles that were still hot after being heated in the galley microwave.

Having food or beverages on the Bridge certainly wasn’t protocol and he could see the slight frown forming on Jonathan’s face in unspoken objection. At least he was intending to eat something, Bridger thought to himself and the boy wasn’t consuming them here. The lid was closed and he was probably going to take them back to his cabin. Having them in a portable manner like that would no doubt appeal more to Lucas, rather than having to stick to eating in the mess hall.

Upon entering, Lucas walked over to Commander Ford first, and started talking to him quietly.

I thought I would come and see if you quickly for a few minutes and ask if you still wanted my help working on those door locks,” he broached with the dark-skinned man. “I am going to have a late lunch now, but could start afresh tomorrow if you like?”

If you are willing to help out, Lucas, then by all means, that would be great,” he answered. He was very open to the idea and grateful for the offer of assistance if the youth thought he could handle it.

Ford wanted to check that working on the door-locks wouldn’t cause him discomfort or pain due to his injuries that he had, but erred on the side of caution about bringing up such a topic in front of everyone.

Come and see me when you are ready first thing tomorrow, and I will arrange with Katie Hitchcock to make the tablet available that I mentioned to you. She will want to record any changes in the maintenance log for future reference,” Ford explained.

Sure,” Lucas said, now turning to talk to the Captain before leaving again.

Bridger took a closer look at the boy’s face and could see fatigue setting in. Like Jonathan, he thought it wise not to mention it for the moment, especially since he was intending to eat. A wrong comment could see him change his mind and forget all about the food.

I wanted to come in here and organize that with the Commander before I head back to my cabin for a few hours,” Lucas told the Captain. “I have a few things I want to work on this afternoon.”

Nathan was hoping one of them would be sleep, but upon hearing the teenager’s plans, he doubted that it was priority.

It was Ben Krieg who was about to become a little over zealous in his attempt to try and bolster the boy’s confidence about his computer skills, and go about it completely the wrong way.

Hey, Lucas, something is wrong with my computer screen here. I bet you could come and tell me what the problem is?” the Morale Officer announced.

Up until now, Ben had been a great help, but right now, he was trying much too hard, and it was obvious to all that it was becoming annoying.

Bridger saw the teenager roll his eyes at Ben’s tactics, and could see that Lucas was less than impressed. He was about to call out Ben and tell him lay off, but upon second thought, chose to remain silent and see how the teenager handled it first.

Ford saw it too and stood back, knowing he had already made the mistake of talking about Lucas and his computer skills when he didn’t realise that the boy could hear him. He had incurred the boy’s razor sharp tongue and wondered what Krieg was about to receive.

By now, Lucas was over-tired, and noticably so to crew members standing nearby. He didn’t want to be patronised in front of everybody on the Bridge, and decided to tell Ben off in his own unique way. He didn’t want to hurt Krieg’s feelings, or do anything rash, but sometimes a line had to be drawn in the sand.

Sure, Krieg, I can tell you without even walking over there and looking at the screen what is wrong with it,” Lucas said, his voice sounding overly pleasant and accommodating.

I knew you could!” Ben exclaimed too loudly. “Tell me what I need to do.”

Grab a piece of paper, Krieg, and write this down word for word as I explain it. The coding may be a little complicated for some people,” Lucas said, almost having to bite the inside of his cheek to keep the sarcasm out of his response.

Krieg did exactly as the boy requested, taking a piece of paper, and positioning himself with pen in hand, “Lay it on me.”

I am just about to do that Ben Lucas thought to himself.

Write down these letters and numbers in this specific order,” Lucas directed. “I .D. at the front.”

Ben copied down what he was hearing.

The number ten following after that, but space it out a little,” Lucas instructed. “Followed by a capital letter T on the end.”

Okay, what comes next,” he said, not having caught onto what Lucas was trying to say yet.

Read it out loud all together, Krieg. And then when you are not sure, read it again,” Lucas repeated.

Hey, wait a minute…..,” Krieg said, standing up, trying to get the kid to explain that he had written everything down correctly. Until he looked down at the piece of paper he was holding.

Ford and Bridger were close enough to read the line, and couldn’t hold back their burst of laughter at Ben’s expense.

I .D. 1 0 T”

Another moment and the penny dropped, and Krieg to give a wry smile of his own. He had fallen right into his trap and been totally out-smarted by the teenager.

I guess I deserved that,” Krieg said sheepishly to the Captain and Ford.

Yeah, I think you did,” Bridger agreed, pleased to see that nobody’s pride was hurt. Krieg might remember to tone down his attempts from now on.

Ben walked over to Lucas, giving a look of apology at being a total ass. Lucas accepted it and gave a small smirk of triumph in return.

Lucas was getting ready to walk off the Bridge, when Miguel Ortiz made an announcement to the Captain.

Ortiz had been taking over O’Neill’s duties at his communication station in addition to his own for a few hours, while Tim was piloting the launch up-world. He didn’t know about the Captain’s earlier instructions about communications coming to him from Admiral Noyce.

Captain, I have Admiral Noyce coming through to talk with you via video-link,” Ortiz stated.

The small group were all able hear the startled gasp of shock, and see the immediate colour change to the pallor of the skin on Lucas’ face. He did leave the Bridge, but it wasn’t at a walk. Major panic had set in, and the Captain and Ben were not quick enough to stop the teenager from escaping through the dome doors.

He was on edge again, perhaps not quite to the same level as he had been when leaving med-bay. But bad enough. It mirrored Lucas’ abrupt departure from the Bridge during the Admiral’s video-link about the new funding for the hyper-reality probe.

Krieg had followed the teenager, trying to catch up and intercept him to find out what was wrong. A minute or two ago, they had all been sharing a laugh.

Miguel, tell the Admiral that I will contact his office in a few moments from my quarters,” Bridger instructed, knowing that it was clearly the video-link from Noyce that was bothering Lucas. He knew that Bill wasn’t the teenager’s favourite person, but he couldn’t put his finger on why his mood had changed so drastically.

Aye, Sir,” Miguel answered dutifully, but guilt sounding in his voice.

It’s wasn’t anything you did, Mr Ortiz,” Bridger informed him, knowing where his train of thought was headed.

Commander, you have the Bridge for a moments, I will return as quickly as I can,” as he headed out the dome doors himself, ready to find one wayward teenager.

Kristin had come near the small cabin, not knowing what had transpired on the Bridge. She wanted to ask if Lucas was prepared to give her a blood sample yet.

Upon seeing the Lieutenant knocking on the hatch door, and asking the occupant if he was alright, “Please open the door, buddy. I just want to talk to you.”

Ben turned and saw the doctor standing there, with her tools of torture in hand, “I don’t think you are going to have much luck with that,” he told her.

Has something else happened?” Kristin asked with concern.

I managed to coerce him out earlier, but this time I am not so sure,” Ben answered with less than half of any kind of story after med-bay. “He was helping me in the launch bay area, and spent some quality time with the Captain and Darwin near the moon pool. It looked like he was enjoying what they were working on together. Honest.”

And since then?” the doctor prompted, understanding that whatever the problem was, had occurred very recently.

Lucas was on the Bridge only a few minutes ago talking to Commander Ford about doing some of the computer work he had promised. He had food in his hand too, which was a win today without having to be badgered about it. He even told me off when I over-stepped the boundary. From all angles he appeared fine, maybe a little tired, but that was fixable. Now we are back to this.” he remarked, knocking again.

Has he locked himself in again?” Nathan asked as he approached both of them in the empty corridor. Then realising how stupid that sounded. He had seen Ben knocking on the door, and heard the last comments of the conversation with Kristin.

Yes, Sir, but no luck of getting him to answer yet,” Krieg answered. “Now he simply refuses open the door. I can hear him moving around in there. He has decided to ignore us.”

Miguel took a communication from Bill, and announced it on the Bridge like he is supposed to,” Bridger told Kristin. “That is what made Lucas run out of there this time.”

Do you have any idea why?” Kristin queried.

Nathan shook his head negatively at her. “I don’t think cutting the power or bombarding him, or pounding on his door is the option for getting him to willingly come out this time around.”

You don’t,” Kristin and Ben both said at the exact same time in unison.

No I don’t. His emotions are up and down like a roller-coaster today,” Bridger began. “Earlier this morning he appeared to be a little better when having breakfast, only to be set off in a panic in med-bay as you both saw.”

Then he was with you, Ben, and seemed in a better frame of mind again. The time he and I spent together with Darwin, you told me he looked more relaxed. And now he is back to panicking again and locking the door to keep everybody out.”

Let’s give him some space and see if he is willing to unlock it afterwards and talk to one of us, one on one,” the Captain suggested.

Ben and Kristin were both about to voice their objections to let things drop for a moment, until they heard Nathan’s next assessment of the teenager’s mood.

I know this probably isn’t what either of you want to hear, but we have to let him dictate the time frame of when he is ready to talk.

He remembered back to how tightly Lucas had been gripping his hand, and finally understanding what the boy was seeking, more than anything else. “I am not saying to walk away this afternoon and do nothing. I don’t want to that even now,” Bridger stated. “But we need to give him the chance to feel what he is craving: safety.”

You know that statement that was made recently about Lucas feeling like he was being backed into a corner?”

Bridger saw them both nod their heads in agreement, and Ben in particular. It had been him who had made a similar comment to the rest of the crew, just before they started searching for the teenager’s secret hiding place.

Well now he sees that corner as a cage, and the door is bolted shut. He is still feeling very trapped and alone right now, despite any number of assurances we have given him. Reactions like this from him still have all the hallmark of him feeling like there is no where else to go or hide all over again. Locking the door like this, is the only way he can gain some sense of control.”

Katie Hitchcock had taken over command of the Bridge, and other crew members like Ben Krieg, Jonathan Ford and Doctor Westphalen had all eaten dinner, and gone to their own cabins for the night.

Lucas had remained behind his locked cabin door for the remainder of the afternoon an evening, without showing any sign of coming out to join them or wanting to talk.

It wasn’t until well after 3.00 a.m. again the morning when Captain Bridger made his way into the mess hall, unable to sleep himself due to worry about the teenager. Upon wandering into the room, he came across Lucas having a cup of coffee on his own.

Nathan knew that Kristin would not be happy to hear that the teenager was missing more sleep and partaking in drinking caffeine at this hour. But being in here now, he couldn’t help but think the quiet atmosphere may just present the right opportunity. The chance to talk may not come along during daylight hours when everybody was busy and there was too much noise.

Bridger poured a cup of coffee from the station, and came back to the table where Lucas was seated. With just the two of them in here again, it made it a little easier to talk. The conversation started exactly the same as it had the last time, only Bridger was hoping that he didn’t say the wrong thing and have the teenager storm out.

Couldn’t sleep?” Nathan asked casually.

Haven’t even tried,” Lucas answered truthfully, and that could be plainly seen. The fatigue very noticeable. “And your excuse this time?”

Not much different to the last time you asked, couldn’t sleep either,” Bridger replied. He thought about adding ‘worried about you’ but changed his mind.

Nathan found himself thinking back to Ben Krieg’s comments from earlier in the day about Lucas being a little more relaxed in his company. He took that observation and decided not to pressure Lucas about doing anything specific. He could sit here and lend an ear if the boy chose to unload any unresolved tension or frustration.

Lucas spoke first, surprising Bridger with the topic, “I guess you and others have lots of questions about why I freaked out when Admiral Noyce’s name was brought up on the Bridge?”

I am not here to judge you, Lucas, but if you want to talk about anything, I am willing to listen,” Nathan responded, thinking back to what he had said in front of the teenager’s cabin. About him dictating when he was ready to talk.

I am sorry that I left from there again, for a second time in a rush,” he said with some regret, with the first signs of apprehension emerging again in his body language. The Captain had offered to listen plenty of times, and he kept brushing him off. Just like he was trying to do now, so for the first time, he tried describing what had been going on in his head.

At the time, I didn’t occur to me that the Admiral would be calling up to talk to you, when I heard Miguel speak,” Lucas said, putting his coffee cup down, and focusing on the table as he spoke candidly. “Although I don’t know why, because he has done so before. Its only natural for you and he to be talking about things going on with the SeaQuest.”

You don’t need to apologise. What did you think?” but then the answer came to him.

Lucas looked up at the Captain as he continued, playing with his fingers, “I was expecting the Admiral to be calling to say something about my father,” he confirmed, pushing away from the table, and fidgeting, unable to shake the nerves.

I know that you probably thought I was reverting back to my old habits of wanting to hiding away again. And I cannot lie, you wouldn’t be wrong about that conjecture,” he said with a self-depreciating, hollow laugh that fell flat.

It the first defence mechanism that kicks in automatically, without a lot of conscious thought or deliberate action on my part,” he continued. “I cannot help but react that way sometimes.”

I know you still overwhelmed by everything, but you can talk to me any time and I will try to help. I understand you have misgivings about everybody’s intentions. I wish I could make it easier for you.”

I know you are carrying a large dose of fear inside you about what must seem like and unknown future. That is totally understandable, and not something that I expect to disappear overnight.”

Nothing will happen without your knowledge and consent,” he reaffirmed in relation to leaving the vessel. If he needed to keep emphasising or repeating that statement, then Nathan vowed that he would do so.

Bridger could see the emotions building, and reached over, grabbed both of the boy’s hands gently in a gesture of comfort, and pouring meaning into his words. He agreed with Krieg’s remark about affection never being shown towards him, but was pleased when Lucas didn’t pull away from his touch.

I want to believe what you are saying, and telling me about being here away from him. I do,” the teenager poured out, “But I guess my mind is continually reminding me and stopping me from thinking that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Or hope. Or whatever anybody throws out there as bait to cling onto.”

I thought the Admiral would be calling to tell me…….that my father was ordering me to come home,” unable to make the words form into a coherent sentence, his voice barely above a whisper. He was holding onto his composure by a thread with sheer will power.

Bridger’s heart almost broke at the teenager’s admission. “We will get through this together!” giving his hands a squeeze in support.

To be continued…………………………


Author Notes:

I hope that the multiple changes of emotion are not too jarring for readers. I want the uncertainty, and mix of emotions throughout and then the bits where a little co-operation is reached intertwining. Lucas is still both finding his feet on-board and dealing with the aftermath of the abuse being discovered, and coping as best he can.

There was a lot more to happen in this chapter, but that will now continue into the next one.

The details about Kristin’s husband Nelson and her daughter’s name being the same as Lucas’s mother are all canon details from the show. As is the story about her daughter dyeing and shaving her hair. The story about her being deceased and how that happened are fictional only and woven in.

Anything to do with Krieg’s background is totally invented, including about his own family and upbringing and where he is from, except his birth-date. Any antics between Ben and Bobby are totally made up, as are the younger years of Bridger and Bill Noyce.

Details about Lucas’ extended family are made up, and some details about who the aunts and uncles are have already been given away in stories such as My Mother’s Son and others such as “The Will”. I haven’t decided yet how far I will explore about his grandparents.

All birthdays given for the characters are canon according to the show as much as possible, except for Kristin’s exact day and month, as I could only find a year, so I chose the date myself. Any years and dates not revealed yet, will be in other plots as necessary.

I am setting up backgrounds for some of the other main characters at the same time, some have links to canon references, otherwise they are all invented to suit.

Information about the addresses where Ben and Lucas were living are invented, but Ben’s is a real street name chosen at random in that area, and the baseball field name and the academy are real places. The area of San Jose for Lucas is a real place, but the street address is of course invented.

The details about Kristin’s friend living in Africa and operating an animal reserve are invented to fit in with my future story Africa and will be explored more in that plot.

The details about Lucas’s rare blood type and allergies will be used for future plots and will come up as necessary in those. The were quite a few other large clues about things that happened, but haven’t been fleshed out properly yet. They will be, just holding them in reserve for now for another time.

The mention of motion sickness that I started right from the first chapter of Please Tell Someone relates briefly to a few different upcoming plots and stories that are already written. But there it is also included in some completed stories such as The Perfect Christmas Present and Whispers On the Wind which will have major additions to them.

I was supposed to be writing a totally different story in another fandom to this one. Those readers will not be happy with me.

Thank you for reading. Enjoy. Any reviews gratefully accepted and cherished.