Disclaimer: seaQuest and all of its characters remain the property of Amblin Entertainment. I'm just borrowing them for a while and promise to return them undamaged when I'm done.
A/N: My apologies for the delay in posting this final part but life has been particularly unkind to me of late.
Weathering The Storm
Nathan sat at his desk and stared at the monitor, his hand hovering above the connect key. He'd been toying with the idea of finally making contact with the outside world but somehow, he'd been loathe to do it, not sure if he really wanted reality crashing in on his peaceful existence. He sighed, knowing that he wasn't being fair to his friends by keeping silent.
"Nathan! By God, you're alive after all."
"Hello Bill, how are you and Janet?"
"Nice of you to take the time to find out…" There was a hint of a smile on the older man's face but there was also something else that Bridger couldn't quite put his finger on.
"Okay, so I've been out of touch for a while but if it's any consolation, you were the first person I called."
"I'd have thought… never mind." He changed tack. "Janet's fine, so am I. Kristin..?"
"Not in the way you mean."
"I'm sorry old friend."
Bridger shrugged. "How's Lucas? The sub..?"
"They're all good." He paused as though he was expecting Nathan to ask something else but he didn't.
After a few more minutes of small talk Nathan couldn't stand it any longer. "Bill… Have I done something to upset you? Just because I didn't call, it doesn't…"
The Secretary-General interrupted him. "That's not it and you know it. Isn't there someone else you'd like to know about?"
He wracked his brain trying to think who it could be but drew a blank.
"Damn it Nathan! We've been friends for a long time; I thought you would have told me yourself."
"Told you what?" Nathan queried.
"Oh, to hell with it…" Noyce stormed. "I've released Wendy from the rest of the tour and I'll leave her place open until she decides what she wants to do after the baby's born."
Bridger just stared at him, which angered him even more.
"I thought we were friends Nathan. I thought you would have had the courtesy to…"
It was his turn to interrupt. "She's having a baby? Who's the father?"
Noyce looked at him dumbfounded. "Well according to her… you are."
"Dear God… You really didn't know, did you?"
"No… I… Are you sure she's..?"
"Quite sure… Look Nathan, is there something else you're not telling me?"
"Nathan?" His voice betrayed his concern.
"How did she..? I mean…" He stammered on.
Bill shook his head in amusement. "You slept with her, right?"
"No… Yes… Maybe… I don't… Once…" He finished finally.
"About three months ago?"
"But, nothing… You're old enough to know that once is all it takes." When he didn't respond Bill continued, "Does Kristin know about the two of you?"
"Jesus Nathan, you're married to your ex-CMO… You've got the current one pregnant… You're not some damn irresponsible cadet; you're an officer and, supposedly, a gentleman! You know that you could be kicked out of the navy for this – conduct unbecoming et cetera, not to mention the fact that Smith's mother is an admiral. You need to sort this out, fast. Talk to Kristin." He paused again. "I take it she can understand what's going on around her?"
"Of course she can!" Nathan retorted angrily. "I think so, anyway."
"Then tell her, because Wendy is going to be joining you within the next few days."
The screen darkened and Nathan leaned back, closing his eyes, his mind still trying to sift through the last few minutes. When reality dawned it hit him like a hammer blow and the roaring noise that filled his ears was the sound of his world crashing down around him. With a trembling hand he put through a call to seaQuest.
His chat with a hostile Lucas had confirmed everything Noyce had told him and his heart sank. He was trapped and he knew it.
"Look, I know this is a big 'ask' but do you think you could come to the island? Kristin is going to need someone with her when I tell her."
The young man was a little put out but he'd do anything if it would spare the Doc more hurt. "I'll take the Stinger to NCQ and make my way from there. I'll be with you late this afternoon."
True to his word, Lucas had arrived around 5pm but instead of the usual happy reunion, things were decidedly frosty.
"Thanks for coming."
"I'm not here for you."
"I know that, but thank you anyway."
The young man kicked awkwardly at the sand. "Have you told her yet?"
"No, I was waiting for you." It wasn't a completely honest answer. He'd been delaying and delaying, not wanting to tell her but knowing that it was inevitable. He was going to hurt her badly… again…
"Come on then, let's get it over with."
They'd been walking along the beach in a direction away from the house unaware that Kristin was no longer alone...
Wendy Smith stared at her older rival, a triumphant smirk on her face. "Let's face it shall we Doctor, you've lost. You really think that he'd be content to stay with you now?
"I'll give you this much you put up one hell of a fight, especially with that 'deaf and dumb' act, but I always had the edge. You know as well as I do how much Nathan misses his son. How he regrets every day not spending the time with him he should have. Well, I'm going to give him a second chance to get it right." She stroked her still-flat belly protectively.
"I knew that, in all probability, you wouldn't want to have another child bearing in mind your age and the possible complications, but there was a chance. It wasn't until the U.E.O. forwarded your medical records to seaQuest that I realised you couldn't even if you wanted to. That last husband of yours really did a number on you, didn't he?" She laughed derisively. "Remind me to thank him sometime…"
Nathan and Lucas approached the house, Nathan dreading what was to come. He knew in his heart that she wouldn't stay once she found out. How could she?
Lucas cursed loudly. "Hell!"
"What is it?"
"There's another boat moored at the jetty."
"Christ! It must be Wendy."
"She knew how to find the island?"
"She's been here before." Nathan confessed softly.
Lucas looked at him in disgust. "I don't want to know, okay." Both men took off at a run.
"I hope we won't disturb you too much." Wendy laughed again. "Oh sorry, you're already 'disturbed' aren't you?" Kristin's lack of response was goading her on. It wasn't any fun twisting the knife in someone who refused to bleed but she kept right on doing it.
"You know how good a lover Nathan is and I can get quite vocal when I'm aroused. I'm surprised that half the crew didn't hear us that night."
Lucas and Nathan rushed through the door in time to see Kristin's back as she ran from the room. Nathan made to follow her but the younger man stopped him. "Sir, I think it's best if I go after her."
He agreed reluctantly and turned on Wendy. "What did you say to her?"
"I only told her the good news…"
The rest of her reply was lost to Lucas as he tapped on Kristin's door. "Doc is it okay if I come in? It's only me."
Unsurprisingly, receiving no answer, he cautiously stuck his head inside. She was sitting on the bed, knees drawn up to her chest as they had been in times of stress on seaQuest. He crossed the room and crouched down in front of her taking her hands in his and finding them cold and trembling. Moving to the wardrobe he grabbed a bag and handed it to her.
"Doc, pack this, I'm taking you with me when I leave. I'll be back in a tick, okay."
Having given them the key to the house on the main land, Nathan watched in total desolation as Lucas piloted his smaller craft away from the island and it faded to a speck on the horizon. He tensed when he felt Wendy come up behind him.
"Nathan, would you be a darling and get my bags out of the boat, the skipper wants to leave. I really shouldn't carry anything heavy at the moment."
On automatic pilot, he made his way down the jetty, his eyes still fixed on the point where the other boat had all but disappeared, taking his hopes and dreams and the only woman he would ever love, with it.
Wendy had made herself at home in double-quick time, packing up most of Kristin's remaining things and storing them in the boathouse. She'd even destroyed all the photographs of them together while he'd been occupied elsewhere, replacing them with pictures of herself and her family. He'd been furious when he'd found out but by then it was too late to do anything about it.
It gave Nathan a perverse kind of satisfaction that although she had removed all the material reminders of his old life from the house, she couldn't erase Kristin from his heart. But, unlike other women, Wendy could sense both his thoughts and feelings, with or without permission, and he found himself with a constant, nagging headache as he continually tried to shield them from her which did nothing to improve his disposition.
He was fuming but he knew that no matter how much he railed against it, against God, the minute the baby was born all his hopes and dreams would be swept away… He'd be condemned to a life he didn't want, with a woman he couldn't bear to even look at most of the time. She'd stolen away everything he'd longed for, everything he loved; his whole future rearranged because of one mistake that he didn't even remember participating in.
He would stick by the child no matter what. He or she had had no part to play in his misery. There was no revenge or malice in its heart. He would even marry Wendy if it came to that. Give the child his name, his devotion and his guidance, but he could never love the mother. If she wanted to stay with him on the island, she could, although he prayed that she would want her own life. She said she loved him but he doubted that… wanted him, maybe, like some damned trophy for her wall and by God he'd been bagged, stuffed and mounted before he'd had time to notice.
He would never be able to show her any affection… he couldn't. Just the thought of it made him feel physically ill. He didn't love her, didn't even like her much anymore. There was only one person who he could ever love, ever touch in that way, make love to… and she was out of his reach now, driven away by his stupidity. In a moment of anger he clenched his fist and punched the nearest wall, stifling a yell as the pain jarred up his arm and down his back. Wendy was in the room at a run.
"Nathan, what is it darling? Are you alright?" He moved away as she tried to examine his hand.
"I'm fine." He hissed out.
"No. No you're not… Let me look at…"
"I said, I'm fine" he snatched the hand away and thrust it into his pocket. "I'm going for a walk." She opened her mouth to speak but he pre-empted her "Alone."
Wendy watched as he left; her frustration building. He didn't want her here that much was obvious and that's why she intended to stay. Knew he resented the whole situation… but she also knew that when the baby was born, he'd stick by her. All thought of winning him over had deserted her long ago, it just wasn't going to happen, but she'd set a new course. She'd destroy him piece by piece for not loving her… She'd let him get attached to the child and then one morning he'd wake up and they'd both be gone. He'd never be able to find them and it would eat at him day after day, just as losing Kristin did. And she'd have her revenge on the woman too, for humiliating her in front of her staff when she took over med-bay and for turning the crew against her... making her life on seaQuest intolerable. Her scowl turned into a smile and then a grin, especially when she thought of Kristin and how she must be suffering.
When he finally returned he went immediately to the bedroom to change clothes, the ones he was wearing soaked by the incoming tide. He noticed that Wendy had also been re-arranging that room to her liking. 'If she damn well thinks I'm gonna share a bed with her, she's got another thing coming,' he fumed to himself. Hastily, he collected up a few necessities and headed off back down the beach to his old shack.
"Hi, Lucas" He gave the young man a half-smile.
"It's been a while, you okay?" Lucas studied the older man as his image filled the monitor. 'Older' seemed to be the right word… There were lines etched into his face that definitely hadn't been there the last time he'd seen him.
"Yeah, I guess…" He sighed wearily and rubbed his face. "What about you?"
"I'm good… Her?"
"She's taking an afternoon nap."
Lucas tried to hide his disappointment. "I thought she'd be bored out of her mind by now …Ready to pack her bags and leave."
"No such luck. Kristin..?" He asked hopefully.
"Much the same, she's still very withdrawn. The Secretary-General and his wife came over last weekend but she didn't really respond to them. They wanted to know what I was going to do."
"Well, they can't keep my post open on seaQuest indefinitely and the Doc shouldn't be left alone…"
Nathan cursed himself; he'd been so wrapped up in his own problems that he hadn't even considered Lucas' position. "You want to go back to the boat?"
"Yeah, yeah I do." He admitted honestly. "I miss my friends and the sub but I love Kristin and I won't abandon her."
Bridger felt wretched. "Cynthia?"
"I've tried but she's off travelling somewhere and can't be contacted. Like mother, like daughter, I guess."
"Well, let me know what you decide. If I have to, I can arrange for her to be… to be… cared for." He finished softly.
"That wouldn't be right."
"I know, but what else is there?"
"You could tell Wendy to piss off. After all, she got herself into this mess in the first place."
"She had help."
"Unwitting help Cap'. You have to…"
Bridger interrupted him. "Sounds like she's awake so I should go… an upset telepath is not someone you want to share an island with. Take care of yourself Lucas and tell Kristin… Tell her… I love her."
The screen went black but Lucas continued to stare at it. This just wasn't the Nathan Bridger he knew. He looked tired, defeated and old… In fact, he looked as he had the first day they'd met.
Leaning back in his chair, Nathan closed his eyes, depression washing over him in waves. He hadn't felt this low in years. He thought about finding a bottle or two and getting drunk out of his mind but knew that it would only make matters worse and anyway, he would never be able to guard his thoughts in that state. His one night of stupidity had wrecked so many lives… Wendy's, Kristin's, his own… And now he could add Lucas to the list. The kid should be out there enjoying himself not babysitting his wife while he spent his time with a woman he hated. And yes, he did hate her now, recognising at last what a manipulative bitch she really was. He heard her come up behind him and almost pulled away when she touched his shoulder.
"Nathan, are you okay?"
"Yeah I'm okay. Did you sleep well?"
"Yes thanks. Is your back hurting?"
"A little…" He'd always despised liars but lying was now becoming a way of life for him... yet another reason to resent her intrusion into his life.
"Why don't you go and lie down for a while? Take a couple of painkillers…"
"I think I'll do just that." He excused himself and walked wearily to the door.
Wendy watched him go and despite herself felt a pang of guilt at what she was doing to him. Guilt that quickly evaporated when she touched the keyboard of the comm-unit and saw just who he'd been talking to.
A few days later Lucas was working on a problem with his computer when he was startled by the sound of the doorbell, closing it down he went to see who it was. He wasn't expecting visitors - very few people came round these days. They had no idea how to treat Kristin and were normally embarrassed to even try. Pulling open the door he was more than a little surprised to find Nathan Bridger standing outside.
"Hello, Lucas." The two friends shared a friendly hug.
"What brings you back to civilisation?"
"Wendy had an appointment with her gyna..." He couldn't even bring himself to say the word. "...doctor, so I thought I'd tag along."
"And she doesn't mind you coming here?"
"She thinks I'm with Bill." Nathan mumbled guiltily. "Can I come in?"
"Of course… Sorry Sir, after all it is your house." He stood aside to let Bridger pass frowning at how tired and despondent the man looked.
"Is Kristin here?"
"She went for a walk along the beach, shouldn't be too long though. Can I get you a cup of coffee or something?"
They'd just got settled on a couple of stools by the kitchen counter when Lucas suddenly jumped up again.
"Is something wrong?"
"No, no… I just remembered an experiment I was doing on the computer that I need to get back to… It's been nice seeing you again Sir."
Nathan sat there looking totally bewildered and more than a little hurt at being abandoned. He sighed dejectedly and raised his mug to his lips but froze halfway when he saw Kristin framed in the doorway, immediately understanding Lucas' swift departure. The young man watched unobserved, seeing the animation flood back into Bridger's face, his tiredness almost evaporating. He ran for his bedroom.
Nathan held out a hand tentatively, not knowing what to expect but she immediately crossed the room and took it in her own, sitting on the now-vacant seat and sipping Lucas' coffee before quickly replacing it on the counter–top. Nathan laughed; he'd made that mistake once… too much sugar… way too much sugar.
"I'll get you a fresh one."
Taking his hand again she squeezed it before reaching up to touch his cheek in her familiar gesture. Nathan took hold of it and kissed the palm lovingly.
"I'm okay, Baby."
She tilted his chin until he was looking directly into her eyes and he could read the unspoken question there.
He couldn't lie to her of all people. There had been too many lies. "No, no, I'm not… I miss you so much, so damned much… I can't stop thinking about you and I'm not sure how much more I can take. Sometimes I hate her… I hate what she's done to us… to you. But it wasn't all her fault Kris, it was mine too and when I remember that I feel guilty for the way I treat her. I can't stand it when she touches me. I resent the fact that she's living in our house, the place where we should still be sharing our lives together… where we should be so happy. Then I think of the child she's carrying and I know what I have to do." He paused for breath, stunned by the vehemence of his outburst.
"I'm basically an old-fashioned and honourable man, Kris, you know that. It's something I've always prided myself on but God help me, I think that this time it's going to kill me."
He tore his gaze from hers and stared at the floor, his hands trembling as he rested them on his knees, not even looking up when she slid off the stool to stand in front of him. She slipped her arms around him and held him close, his own going around her waist, hands smoothing up her back as he clung to her tightly, drawing strength from her as he had so long ago on seaQuest.
When Robert and then Carol had died he'd thought that he couldn't feel any worse… That he'd reached the very depths of despair but he'd been wrong, so wrong. He'd looked into the mirror when he got up that morning and seen a stranger staring back at him. A miserable and wretched human being who'd let life beat him to the ground. This wasn't him, not the real him... it was a parody… The pain and disappointment, the hurt and the deaths he'd endured over the past few years had crushed him, sapped his strength until only a shell remained, one that would wither and blow away as soon as the next storm hit. He'd had an overwhelming desire to see Kristin again before it was too late for him. She was the only person who could…
She pulled away from him slightly and traced his face with her fingertips, dragging them slowly across his lips and then she did something he never thought he'd experience again… she kissed him. Hesitantly at first but then with a growing conviction and he responded in kind, his hand sliding into her hair and clutching it desperately as he pulled her even closer. His tongue followed the line of her lips, unbelievably grateful when they parted slightly to allow him inside.
The kiss went on and on until he was forced to break away, his forehead resting against hers as he drew in deep ragged breaths. "Kristin…"
She looked at him for a moment and then freed one of her hands, touching it to her chest then forming a shape with her fingers, folding the middle two under with her thumb while the other two stayed out straight pointing at him. Nathan knew she was trying to tell him something but he couldn't understand.
"I'm sorry baby; I don't know what you're trying to tell me." There were tears of frustration in his eyes.
She tried again, touching her hand to her heart before turning it into a fist, placing it on his palm and opening it. This time he understood.
"I love you too, baby…. I love you too. No matter what happens, I always will." She held him close again for a moment and then turned and walked silently away. He knew without the words that she was saying goodbye.
Nathan stood and watched her go, marvelling at her courage and feeling a little ashamed of himself. He felt some of his despair evaporate, knowing that she'd found a way to give him the strength to go on, that no matter what, she would always be with him. He washed the coffee cups before going in search of Lucas.
As they walked along the beach together they missed Wendy's arrival and didn't notice when she quietly slipped inside the house.
It had been weeks since Nathan's visit and no one had heard from him since. Life continued as normal in the Westphalen household except Kristin's entire demeanour had changed. If Lucas had been asked to put a label on it, he'd have called it a cross between anger and frustration.
Looking in the kitchen cupboards for something to eat he found them almost empty so he scooped up the U.E.O. card the captain had given him, along with his keys and headed for the shops. On his way out of the door he almost collided with a young Ensign.
"Can I help you?"
"I'm looking for someone called…" he quickly checked the package in his hand. "Kristin. I was told she might live here."
"That's right," the teen replied suspiciously.
"This package arrived at U.E.O. headquarters a couple of days ago."
Lucas took it from him and inspected it. It was crudely wrapped in plain brown paper and tied with string. All that was written on it was her first name and UEO HQ. "Thanks I'll see that she gets it."
"You'll need to sign for it."
"No problem." Going back inside he placed it on the kitchen table.
Lucas returned much later than he'd intended to… Okay, so he'd been side-tracked by the new girl on the check-out counter and a little matter of a not-so-quick cup of coffee, but the weather had played a more important role. He'd learned the hard way that torrential rain, greasy roads and motorbikes weren't always an ideal combination and he'd had no intention of repeating that particular experience today. Deciding that it was too late to cook anything anyway, he'd stopped off at the Chinese takeaway on the way home. Walking into the house he removed his helmet and leather jacket before looking around. The Doc was nowhere to be seen but the scrunched wrapping on the coffee table told him that she'd opened her package.
He crossed to the French doors and looked outside at the miserable grey sky and the rivulets of water on the patio; it was on days like these he wished he was back on seaQuest. He was startled from his introspection by the touch of Kristin's hand on his shoulder.
"Oh, hi Doc… I see you found your parcel. Give me a couple of minutes to change and I'll serve dinner. I got Chinese in the end, hope that's okay."
When he returned she was sitting on one of the stools at the kitchen counter, he studied her for a moment before she noticed him. Something was wrong he could feel it… now, if he could just figure out what… His suspicions were confirmed when she just toyed with her food rather than ate it, and he was well aware that he was doing the same. He sighed deeply and Kristin touched his hand.
"I'm okay Doc, I just hate rainy days they're so depressing. Oh, there's a new girl on the check-out at the mall." He could almost feel her smile even though her face remained passive. "She's kinda cute and we got chatting over a cup of coffee. She was really impressed when I told her I serve on a submarine…" He frowned irritably. "Served…" he corrected and then apologised immediately.
"I'm sorry, that wasn't fair. I know it's not your fault I can't go back and I don't mind, really. It's just that sometimes I miss it, you know." His frustration suddenly got the better of him. "Why did he do it, Doc? Why did he have to sleep with her and ruin all our lives? It's not fair!"
"He - didn't"
"Yeah, well I'd like to believe that too, but there's the baby and…"
"He - didn't"
Lucas was about to protest again, his mouth opened to speak and then closed, his brain hastily processing all available data. He turned and saw her watching him, the hint of a smile on her lips. His jaw dropped and he did a stunning impression of a goldfish. "Doc..?"
"Doc..!" He pulled her into his arms and hugged her tightly. "You can… What happened?"
"Need - breathe" The older woman gasped.
Lucas coloured spectacularly. "Sorry…" He released his crushing grip and stared at her.
Kristin reached over and ruffled his hair the way she used to and he turned away quickly, embarrassed by the tears that had suddenly sprung to his eyes. When he looked back she was smiling, the look of understanding he knew so well on her face.
"What happened?" He asked again.
It was clear she was still having trouble but that was hardly surprising after such a long time. She spoke hesitantly. "Tell - me"
"Tell you what?"
"Where do I start?"
"Shall we go somewhere more comfortable?"
She nodded and Lucas grabbed a bottle of coke from the fridge, taking a long swig as they sat on the sofa before beginning the longest monologue of his life.
It was dark when he finished his tale of everything that had befallen Nathan since they'd left her on the island. He'd left nothing out, telling her of the excruciating pain he'd been through. How the thought of seeing her again had kept him going when nothing else could. The way Smith had latched on to him. How he'd found out about the conspiracy between the doctor and ex-General Thomas. "He's been to hell and back Doc, and it's taken a toll on him both physically and mentally. You must have seen it for yourself. I'm afraid this business with Wendy might be the last straw."
She nodded, not trusting herself to speak this time.
"I'm surprised that you remembered so much, that you knew what was going on… We didn't know if you did or not. None of us…"
"Wendy - did"
"Caught me - off guard… Read - my thoughts"
"Think – damned - self"
Lucas couldn't suppress a grin and Kristin looked at him quizzically. "You sound just like Darwin." He received a gentle cuff around the ear for his comment but she was smiling. "You said earlier that the Cap' didn't sleep with her."
Kristin nodded. "Told - me"
"Day - Nathan - came…"
"So that's why you've been so 'bad-moody'. Then the baby isn't the captain's?"
"No" she took his hand in hers. "Need – your - help."
"Anything Doc, you know that." He put an arm around her shoulders to comfort her. "Tell me…"
"May – take - while…" She grimaced apologetically.
"That's okay; I could listen to that beautiful voice all night."
"Tired - To-mor-row"
Meanwhile on the island, Wendy was restless. Something had changed, he was different somehow and it had to stem from his meeting with 'her'. The veil of depression that had shrouded him for so long had lifted a little, giving way to a miniscule hope. There was something he was shielding from her and he was drawing strength from it. He didn't treat her the same way anymore… Before that day she could feel his contempt and hurt but it had evaporated. His care and concern for the child were still there but for her there was nothing… total and complete indifference. He no longer flinched when she touched him nor reacted when she mentioned Kristin. If she talked about the baby he listened, but it was because it was expected of him. No, something had happened at that house, something that had given him an inner strength that hadn't been there before.
She started to re-evaluate her plans, realising that if she did what she'd originally intended and just left, it wouldn't bother him. Oh, he'd probably try to find her if only for his child's sake but that would be all… Maybe he wouldn't be as distraught as she'd thought about losing either of them.
No, it wasn't going to work anymore. The damned Westphalen woman had ruined her scheming yet again but there was one thing she could do to put a wedge between them. She knew that Nathan would do the honourable thing if she forced his hand. She needed to play on his friendship with the Noyces, get them to put pressure on him to finalise his divorce. Her mother could help there too. With a smirk on her face she walked to the bedroom and lay on the bed making plans for her wedding to Nathan Bridger.
They received a second visit from Bill and Janet a few days later…
Lucas hadn't been at all happy at the way they'd talked about Kristin but not to her. They'd directed most of their lecture at him ignoring her completely until he'd gotten angry and demanded they address their comments to her instead of being so rude.
"Why didn't you tell them that you could speak again?" Lucas asked curiously after their visitors had finally left. They'd had to endure almost two hours of the Secretary General trying to convince Kristin that it would all be for the best. That Nathan could never live with himself if he turned his back on the child. That Wendy would make him a far better wife, coming from a military background.
"I don't want anyone to know Lucas, not yet." As the days had passed Kristin's confidence had grown until there was barely a hesitation in her words. "Have you found anything else?"
"Lots…" He punched up his latest discoveries. "I'm not sure how it's gonna help though, I can't make heads or tails of it."
"I can. Now, this is interesting… Does it mention the name of her gynaecologist?"
"Yeah, here it is." He underlined it with his finger.
Kristin smiled. "Well, well…"
"You know him?"
"Yes… And I think it's time I called in a few favours."
Nathan wandered aimlessly along the beach, his good mood of the last few weeks a distant memory. The touch of his wife's lips on his had left him wanting more, much more and it was getting difficult for him to maintain the cool and collected exterior that he put on for Wendy's benefit. Kristin was in his blood again, walking through his mind… Loving him in his dreams until he burned for her… Feelings rekindled by a few moments of warmth just as they had been on seaQuest.
Over the last few days however, something new had entered the equation when the word 'marriage' had been casually mentioned at breakfast. He'd brushed it off with a simple 'we'll talk' but now he was being pressured from all sides to do the right thing; the right thing for everyone but him that was. He knew he had to see Kristin again, talk to her even if she couldn't respond in a way he understood.
He took a few deep breaths and presented a false air of calm as he turned to face her. "Wendy…"
She slipped her arm through his. "Nathan, I've been thinking… I can't keep travelling to the mainland for my appointments all the time; it won't be good for the baby. So, I think we should move into the house you have near NCQ."
"No, that house is Kristin's for as long as she needs it! If necessary I'll sign it over to her."
Wendy bristled. "You can't do that!"
"I can and I will."
"No matter... As soon as you file for divorce it becomes community property and will have to be sold anyway. We can use the money to buy another place, something more upmarket. I'm going to NCQ a few days early so I'll speak to a lawyer friend of mine; find out the procedure for you. While I'm there I'll be meeting with mother and I have some shopping to do before my doctor's appointment. You know the kind of things… after all, you've been married before."
"I still am." He stated flatly. "I'll come with you if you'd like." He added, trying to appease the anger that flared in her face.
"No, you'd be bored rigid. Come over on the proper day and pick me up."
"If that's what you want."
"I'll go and call mother."
She walked away and Nathan sighed, for a moment he thought he'd seen a way of spending a few days with Lucas and Kristin alone but, in reality, there was no chance of that, she'd probably find out and there'd be another scene. It was one of the disadvantages of having an admiral for a prospective mother-in-law - he shuddered at the thought, and especially one who was currently in charge of U.E.O. Security. She could always track him down no matter where he was.
He found that he wasn't really that disappointed anyway. A few days on his own would probably be better for him. Both he and Kristin valued their privacy and had always given each other space; Wendy on the other hand was clingy and annoying and besides, he needed to make a few decisions – no that was wrong… The decisions were fast being taken out of his hands. He needed to figure out what he was going to tell Kristin. How did you tell the woman you love more than life that you're divorcing her to marry someone you can't even bear to share a bed with? He thrust his hands deep into his pockets and walked back to the house to see if Wendy needed any help with her packing.
Wendy Smith smiled to herself as she walked up the path to Dr. Tanner's surgery, the wind whipping up around her as the dark, ominous clouds gathered overhead. Most people would have been running for cover but not her… she couldn't believe her luck. If the storm was brewing here then it meant it would reach the island first, which in turn meant that Nathan wouldn't be able to leave and if he couldn't leave, he couldn't go to 'her'.
She entered the office with a spring in her step and the receptionist sent her straight through into the consulting room.
"Steve…" She sat down opposite him and made herself comfortable.
The young man consulted his computer for a moment and then looked up at her. "Look, I don't want to alarm you but we've found a few irregularities."
Wendy paled. "What irregularities?"
"I can't be specific yet. It would help if I could talk to the father."
"He isn't here."
"Can you contact him?"
"Not easily… Why?" She hedged nervously.
"We need to do some additional blood tests."
The woman looked worried. "Blood tests..?" She queried.
"Yes. I've had Captain Bridger's details faxed over from the U.E.O. and there seem to be some discrepancies between the records you supplied and theirs which could lead to major complications."
"What sort of complications?"
"It appears that the father is actually Rh+ whilst you are Rh-. As you're well aware that can lead to all kinds of problems. You'll have to be closely monitored throughout the pregnancy and I will have to meet with Captain Bridger, for obvious reasons."
Wendy sat there staring at him. No! Surely she couldn't have overlooked something so basic!
"Is there any chance at all that he's not the father?" Tanner queried.
She wavered momentarily and then looked at him angrily. "How dare you! Of course he's the father, damnit! I should know."
"In that case, we do have a problem. Would you mind if I called in a colleague to talk to you?"
"How long will that take?" Wendy could feel her hopes and illusions slipping away, her mood as bleak as the weather outside.
"Just a few minutes, she's in the other office."
He pushed the intercom button on his desk. "Would you come in please?"
Wendy steeled herself ready to use her powers to see if she could pull the wool over this doctor's eyes as easily as she had Tanner's. Her expression turned from surprise to shock, to resignation as Kristin walked through the door.
"Dr. Smith, how nice to speak with you again…"
Kristin walked inside and closed the front door behind her, leaning on it and sighing to herself.
"Did it work?" Lucas asked.
"Yes, it worked."
"That's great, isn't it? You don't look too thrilled."
"I felt sorry for her and upset at myself."
"You have to be joking!" The young man was flabbergasted.
"No, not really, I do feel sorry for her… She's probably destroyed her military career unless Mommy dearest can save her and she's stuck with a baby that I'm not sure she really wants. It just seems so sad somehow…"
"That's not the word that I'd use, considering what she tried to do… has done, to the Cap'."
"That's the only reason I went through with it."
"And the other doctor didn't mind?"
"Let's just say that I think I've put a serious dent in that particular friendship."
"Did you see the Cap'?" He asked trying to change the subject.
"No, he didn't come with her."
"Then he doesn't know?"
She shook her head. "Not yet."
"Can I..? I mean, unless you want to…"
"You go ahead. I'm going to pour myself a very long drink and have a shower. See if I can get rid of this dirty feeling."
Lucas didn't understand Kristin's reaction and looked at her quizzically.
"I allowed myself to stoop to her level and its left a bitter taste that's all."
"Oh… Do I tell him about you?"
"No… you've got to let me break some of the good news. Assuming it is good news."
"Of course it is Doc, it's the best news." He called over his shoulder as he fairly skipped down the hall to make the call.
Lucas eyed the older man with growing concern. "Are you sure you're okay, Cap?"
"Yeah… or at least, I will be. I just can't believe that Wendy would do that."
"People do strange things when they're in love."
Nathan snorted. "If she'd loved me she wouldn't have…" He shook his head and laughed.
"Sir..?" Lucas was beginning to worry about Bridger's strange behaviour.
"Nothing Lucas, I was about to say that if she loved me, she wouldn't have wanted to hurt me and then I remembered what I did to Kristin."
"Cap' you can't go on torturing yourself about that for the rest of your life. The Doc knew what she…"
Bridger shook his head to silence him. "How did you manage to find out what Smith was up to anyway?"
"I hacked into her medical files."
"Jesus! If the U.E.O. ever finds out…"
"They won't Cap'. You're not gonna tell them and I'm sure Wendy won't."
"True. Just, don't do it again."
"I won't, believe me. Geez that stuff is boring and talk about written in a foreign language."
"Latin…" Bridger offered.
The young Ensign pulled a face at him, making him smile. "That and hieroglyphics and shorthand and…"
A thought suddenly occurred to Bridger. "Then how did you decipher it all?"
"I had help, Sir."
Before he could ask who from, Kristin's face appeared over Lucas' shoulder. "Kris… tin?"
She stared at him for a moment with those same lost eyes and then his heart almost stopped when her face broke out into one of the smiles he loved so much. "Hello Sailor."
Lucas quickly slid out of his seat so that she could take his place.
"Kristin…" He reached out to the screen and traced the outline of her face, his breath coming in shuddering gasps as he swallowed repeatedly, his eyes overfull with too many tears. The glass was cold and lifeless and he needed more. Needed to touch her… Feel her warmth, her softness… Between breaths he managed to choke out, "I need you here Kris, I have to… I…"
Miraculously, she understood what he was trying to say. "I can be there late tomorrow." A desperate look crossed his face. "Nathan?"
"Storm… The storm warnings are up; there'll be no boats out here for the next three days." As if to emphasise his point, the house lights dimmed and then returned. "I'm gonna have to go, the generator."
"I'll see you in three days."
"I'm not sure I can wait three days… it's a lifetime Kris…" His voice faded away as the connection died.
Three days… It had only been a little over one and he was going crazy. Every waking and sleeping moment, all he could think about was holding her, feeling her close… Listening to her voice, her laughter… He desperately needed to hear the melodic sound of her laughter. He had so much to make up for. It would take a lifetime and more… But what if she didn't want to stay with him? He couldn't bear it if… He sat in the darkness, a million and one scenes playing out in his head and all of them Kristin.
It was dark outside too, although it was only about seven in the evening, the black clouds obscuring the sun and the odd flash of lightning streaking across the sky; the storm outside as tempestuous as the one raging inside of him... Another crash of thunder and a huge gust of wind shook the house. He almost jumped out of his skin when the front door flew open and cursed loudly. That was the third time today and he could have sworn he'd fixed it the last time. He moved to close it but stopped in his tracks, startled by the figure in the doorway, thinking he'd imagined it at first but it was there, the lightning illuminating it from behind. It couldn't be…
"Well, are you going to invite me in or leave me out here to drown?"
Oh yeah, there was no mistaking that voice with the accent that made his toes curl in a pleasurable kind of way, or the way the words were delivered. "Kristin… Oh God, come in please."
"Thank you." She stepped inside and pulled down the hood of her coat. "You know, the sales assistant assured me that this thing was waterproof, the next time I see him I'm going to demand my money back."
"You're making a puddle on the floor." Well his mouth was working even if his legs wouldn't.
"Sorry." She quickly removed the coat and threw it out onto the porch.
"You didn't have to do that."
"It pissed me off." She looked at him and laughed. "And you know me. Hello Sailor."
"I know that."
"I need to hear you say it."
She smiled. "Hello Nathan."
He felt the flush of warmth and hope… Need and want… and love… And he closed the distance between them, pulling her to him and clinging onto her tightly.
"So that was the magic word… I was beginning to wonder."
"God, how I've missed you." He hugged her to him again, his voice faltering as he spoke. "How… how did you get here? The weather…"
"seaQuest... They came to pick Lucas up and Jonathan kindly offered me a lift. The ride in the launch was kind of interesting, though."
"You came in a launch? Geez Kris, you must be crazy."
"Hey, you're talking to the woman who survived the Bermuda Triangle in a rubber raft in a hurricane. This was a piece of cake."
Somehow he doubted that. "You're sure?"
"What are a few bruises between friends?"
"Always... What happened to the lights?"
"The generator died."
"I thought you were going to fix that the last time we were here."
"You remember that?"
"Of course I do. I remember everything; I just wasn't very good at showing it."
Nathan closed his eyes against the hurt for a moment. "I know."
"But neither was I the zombie some people would have you believe."
"You know about that?" An angry scowl crossed his face. "Did she..?"
"No, Lucas told me."
"I didn't think he heard. You know, that was one of the things I could never forgive her for... one of the many..."
Kristin stroked his cheek. "Well, it's over now. I don't suppose there's even a remote chance of a cup of coffee or something?"
"No. But I do have a couple of bottles of wine, unless you'd prefer water?"
She made a big show of wringing out her sweater. "Nah, I think I've had enough water for one day."
Nathan laughed. "Look, why don't you go make yourself presentable and I'll see what I can find. Are you hungry?"
"Starving… And are you insinuating that I'm not presentable now?"
He put up a hand to appease her. The old Kristin was back with a vengeance. "I plead the fifth. Do you have a bag?"
"They're on the porch."
"I'll go and…"
"No, don't be silly, I'll get them. I already look like a drowned rat, remember."
"Half-drowned yes, but never a rat. You look gorgeous to me."
"Sweet talker" she walked to the door, opened it and grabbed her case and a smaller bag, fastening the door securely once more.
'God I hope so' Nathan thought. 'There's going to have to be a lot of talking done tonight.'
Kristin looked into the bathroom mirror, thankful that she could only see herself by the soft light of the hurricane lamp. Drowned rat? More like a giant panda the way her mascara had run! She rifled through her bag until she found her make-up kit and did a quick repair job, drying her hair on one of the towels before crossing the hall into the main bedroom.
Flipping the locks on her case, which actually was waterproof, thank God, she rummaged through until she found some clean undies and her robe but on impulse, she moved to Nathan's wardrobe, opened the door and flicked through the clothes hanging there. From down the hall she could hear him humming as he prepared the food and she smiled when she found what she was looking for. A few minutes later she walked barefoot into the kitchen.
"How's it coming?"
Nathan turned and drew in a sharp breath. "Nice shirt."
She smiled again and pushed herself up onto the counter-top swinging her legs as she watched him.
"You gonna give me a hand?"
"If you like…" She slid down again gracefully and Nathan breathed a sigh of relief. His shirt had ridden up revealing her beautifully toned and tanned thighs and he'd been having difficulty concentrating on the task at hand.
"It's all cold so you can't muck it up." He smiled as she pulled a face at him. "It has to be a doctor thing, I mean Wendy couldn't…" He broke off abruptly, appalled by the fact that he'd even mentioned the woman.
Kristin took in his discomfort. She hadn't needed to hear about Dr. Wendell Smith's culinary skills - or lack thereof - but she knew that if they were going to get past this they had to talk about her. "She couldn't cook either?" She queried.
"Nope" He was surprised and relieved that she hadn't reacted badly.
"Med students probably spend too much time studying and taking exams to learn such mundane things… That's what boyfriends were for."
"Really" She said honestly. "One of the requisites on the job description… must be able to cook."
Nathan smiled warmly and then returned to chopping the fruit as she painstakingly laid it out on the serving dish. He shook his head and laughed.
"You, Kristin Westphalen, are a very remarkable woman."
"…Took you long enough to notice."
"Yeah, yeah it did." He paused for a moment before picking up the plates and handing them to her as he carried the wine and glasses. "Shall we?"
They walked back into the lounge.
After they'd eaten and the plates had been cleared away, Nathan returned from the kitchen to find her sitting in front of the fire. He stood in the doorway watching her… He hadn't been able to take his eyes off her all through the meal, mesmerised by the animation in her face, the sound of her laughter singing in his head, her voice, her smile… But it was her eyes that held him… the life and sparkle there. Tears sprang in to his and he walked over to join her, kneeling in front of her and taking her hand in his. There was so much he should say, so much he wanted to say but one thing would seal his fate. He looked earnestly into her face. "Forgive me baby, please…"
She smiled down at him. "There's nothing to forgive."
"Shh…" She traced the outline of his lips with her fingers and he kissed them one at a time, her eyes filled with moisture of their own. "I remember that too." Sliding from the seat onto the floor she took his hands in hers. "You know, that was the only reason I agreed to go with you that day. Everything was such a haze back then, like looking through a thick fog. You were somewhere deep in my memory – a distant dream. I knew you but I didn't know you. When you kissed my fingers it touched something inside me and I knew I belonged with you."
Nathan swallowed hard. "And I screwed it up."
She returned one hand to his mouth as she had so long ago and he caressed her fingertips with his lips once more. "No, no you didn't, not really. It was hard for both of us. God, we could barely communicate when I could talk. Sometimes though, I felt that you knew what I was thinking, what I was feeling."
"I did baby, I did… And then in a moment of sheer stupidity I went and slept with her."
Kristin shook her head emphatically, taking him by surprise. "You didn't sleep with her Nathan, well not in that way. You passed out after spending half the night talking about me. She was angry and jealous and when you didn't remember anything the next morning she took advantage of it."
"You couldn't know that."
"She told me. She told me everything she was doing to you and some of the things she planned to do."
"Why?" He asked in a stunned voice.
"Because she knew I couldn't tell you. It was her way of tormenting me… Knowing what she was doing but never being able to let you know. Making you torture yourself over things that never happened. She knew how honourable you were, that if you thought the child was yours you'd stand by both her and the baby no matter what the cost – no questions asked but I knew it would tear you apart inside. Anyone could see you didn't love her."
"I liked her at first…" He confessed. "…Maybe, more than liked. She took care of me when I was hurt, she was always there." He sighed sadly. "In the end, I could barely stand to be in the same room with her."
"But you would have divorced me to marry her, wouldn't you?"
"Yes. It would have destroyed me, but yes." He looked anxiously into her eyes fearing her reaction but he needn't have worried.
"I know, and I would have understood." She paused for a moment and then added, "Eventually…"
His tears finally brimmed over and he swiped at them angrily. "God, I'm a mess."
"You and I both… have been for a very long time. Since the day Thomas left me on that damn beach... maybe even before..."
He could still be angry about that too but he held it back, this wasn't the time or the place. "What happened, Kris? What happened to make you..?"
"To make me whole again"
"Yes," he whispered.
"A package from Minato"
"I don't understand."
Kristin extricated herself from his embrace and went to her bag, taking out a small battered tin and handing it to him as she sat back in her chair. "I thought I'd lost it. I buried it when they came for us – all my treasured possessions." She smiled tremulously. "I didn't realise that I buried part of myself in there too."
Nathan shook his head, "I'm sorry baby, I still don't understand."
"Are you sure? If it's that important to you, maybe I shouldn't…"
"I'm sure." She cut him off. "Think of it as a child's treasure box."
He was surprised to find that his hands were trembling as he fumbled with the catch. Taking a deep breath he tried again and this time it opened. He glanced up at her for confirmation.
"Go ahead, its okay."
Slipping his fingers inside he pulled out a folded piece of paper and opened it carefully lest he tear it, recognising his own handwriting immediately. It was the letter he'd written so long ago now. Some of the words were smudged as though they'd got wet. He looked at her quizzically and she smiled sadly.
"I'm sorry about that. There was one night when we thought we were going to die. I was so scared and I needed you so much. I hadn't realised I was crying until I saw the drops on the paper. I remember scrabbling around in the dark, trying to find something to blot them up. It was…" She shook her head and bit back a sob and he pulled her close for comfort but after a few moments she whispered. "There's more."
Again he put his hand in and this time found the photograph she'd kept.
Feeling around he found something solid in one corner protected by tissue paper. Unwrapping it carefully he revealed her wedding and engagement rings.
"I didn't want them to take them. I couldn't bear the thought of someone else wearing them." She shuddered. "So I took them off and put them in there. It was one of the hardest things I've ever done and I think it was then that I started to lose myself. I had nothing to hold on to."
"Kris…" His tears, never far away, were welling again.
"I could never… would you?"
She held out her left hand to him and he took it, stroking the fingers with his thumb… the strong, but cold and still very thin fingers. "I'm not sure if they'll fit."
She smiled through her tears. "I had them altered so they would. That is, if you want them to?"
"If I want… Oh baby, I've never wanted anything more in my life but after everything that's happened are you sure it's what you want?"
She touched her fingers to his lips once more. "Nathan the war's over and for the time being, you've left seaQuest. Wendy's just a bad memory. There's, just us… only us… Can't we end our war too? Life's too short to spend it alone. Is it what you want?" She asked again.
"It's what I want." He kissed first one ring and then the other before sliding them onto her finger and touching his lips to the back of her hand. "I love you Kristin Bridger, you are my whole life."
"I love you too."
He got to his knees, bringing his face level with hers, his mouth within a hair's breadth of her lips. "I love you." He whispered again and captured her mouth in a passionate kiss.
**** The End ****