Disclaimer: No, I don't own them, never will, and this is definitely not for profit. I'm just borrowing them, but I promise to give them back A.S.A.P. Last time I checked, seaQuest and all its characters still belonged to Amblin Entertainment.

Actually, this isn't my first seaQuest fanfiction. But I wrote the other stories lightyears ago. So, this one's fresh. It came to my mind, while watching the makin' of vids for the season three episode "Equilibrium", that are spreading around the net, far too many times. So this vignette takes place during the last Lucas/Bridger conversation in this ep.

Rated K

A big hug and a thanks go to my beta kiddo for her encouragement.

Oh, and yes, I'll take reviews - and flames, too. Since it's almost winter over here, they'll go for a nice little fire.

Cold, dark night

by PeppyPower

It's about time now.

Standing there, I feel the cold of the depth for the first time. My hands are cold, so is the air I breath, and I keep my eyes on the pool's still water. Don't you dare showing any signs of weakness now, Wolenczak, I tell myself. I know, I'm avoiding to look him in the eyes. Instead I focus on the water, creating small waves now. I keep reminding myself of how the moon pool works: the air pressure - not gravitation - is holding the water down the pool. Like you use a large glass and put it in the sink the wrong way - there will be still all the air in the glass.

Yeah, this is, where I always find retreat - science. Pure, damned science. Don't you dare showing off a sign of emotion, kiddo. Kiddo. Long time ago since I heard someone call me that. Kiddo. I'm not that small lonely boy anymore, you know. But that's only what I'm trying to make myself believe. Bullshit. I'm here on my own. Still. Again. After all. But to tell the truth, which I'd prefer to be stuffed somewhere far away, maybe deeply under the ocean ground, I guess I have always been this kid. Just longing for someone. Someone to tell me that everything would turn out to be fine. But I learned that life won't only present its benefits to you. On the contrary, life kicks you in the butt and laughs at you. Everytime.

I'm freezing. My hands are much colder now, I feel a chill running down my spine. I hear Darwin's chlicks and whistles while standing here, beside the pool. The tension's gone away, I ran out of adrenaline. I calmed myself down. A little. When the captain came back to the seaQuest a few days ago, I mean I was like "whoa, gotta show him the scientist and soldier I can represent". Man, I had a nerve. But than hell broke lose, this time, walls came crushing down on me, over both of us. I had to make my decissions. And I did so without hesitating. All good soldiers do. Showing off strenght, you know. I knew I was right about the spread of the microbe. So, what else to say? What else to do? I didn't want him to fail that badly. I know he's not here because of me. Those times are over. He's only here because he and his experience were needed. I'm not that important to him anymore. I'm a grown-up now, not a kid anymore. Hell, I survived Hyperion. I have to do it on my own. No more help needed. At least that's what I say. What I make myself believe.

Nobody knows how it feels to deal with every problem the hard way. No one wants to know, how it feels. How I feel. And, of course, I make sure no one knows. I keep the pain from a broken soul, wounds that just won't heal a secret. No one knows. Not even you, captain. And I seem to do it pretty well.

My fingers are clammy, I brush away a streak of my sweaty hair. Why is it sweaty at all? I'm freezing, it shouldn't be wet from sweat. My hair. Not neat and presentable, but stubborn and way to crumpy. Allows me to be what I was supposed to be. Special. Different. The resident genius. The whiz kid. The smart problem-solver. They'd never ever asked me. I would haved loved to be as normal as all the others around the boat. SeaQuest's my home, you know, I can clearly remember the first tour, my own space at mammal engineering. The struggles to fit in, my sometimes weird and bad attitude. But, hey, I was a teenager, just a kid, like they used to call me.

I'm lost in my thoughts pretty deeply, when he starts talking. But not to me in the first place. "What do you think, Darwin, what's the verdict?" Darwin. One of the few constancies in the past few years. I guess my heart had missed a beat when I had managed to establish the vocorder. But, to be honest, it's not that crashing or thrilling anymore. Darwin's happy the cap's back on the boat. But I'm pretty damned sure, he knows the drill. He's got more on his dolphin mind than we can possibly assume. It's my turn now. I look him straight in the eyes, hope my mask of professionalism doesn't crash. But he knows me better than that.

"Do you think this part of the ocean's ever gonna thrive again, sir? " I hear myself asking. Why do I ask stuff like that? I'm a scientist, I know the outcome myself. Maybe I just wanna hear his opinion. He talks about nature and a way of finding her own equilibrium. I know that's the way. But what about my own equlibrium, my sanity? "I hope you're right." I mean, what I say. And I have the feeling he wants me to feel better. Even if he's not there for me anymore, he wants me to feel secure. "I'm not always right. Had a chance to study your data, Lucas. You were right about the spread of the microbe. It would eventually burned itself out, but not without contaminating the whole coastal line, so I think some action was necessary." Wait a minute, I think. Are you tellin' me, I was right? I know this was to come with the years, but not so fast...

"That means a lot to me, sir, thank you." And it definitely does. "Goin' back to your fleet, captain?" I don't now, why I ask the inevitable. To torture myself? "Well, it's hardly a fleet," he chuckles and shows me the "Lucas, you're still so young" look. "Whatever it is, it's a group of people that believe in the same things you do." I just say it. Believe in the same things. There used to be a time, when we both believed in the same things. But that's over now...

I now that I learned a lot from him. To be brave, to watch out for others, to give your life for your companions. He taught me to stand up for your rights, to live a better life. And he showed me the importance of friendship. He used to be the father to me, I never ever believed I'd have. It was a proof of true friendship. No, it was even more.

Right now, I feel his hand on my shoulder. It's about time now. I know he's leavin'. Don't you even think about going with him, Lucas, I keep reminding myself, that's his tour, not yours. Somewhere in my mind, I hear a voice whisper: you choose. I shake my head to clear my thoughts. I've already made up my mind. Earlier. I can't go running away. You can't do that as a Navy ensign. I guess, I reached the point of life, when I have to do it all by myself. The point of life, there's no Nathan Bridger there for me. I know, I can do it. But sometimes, growing up is the hardest experience you can get. I'm still freezing. My hands are shaking now. It's a cold, dark night outside the boat. And it's a cold, dark night inside my mind.

He's smiling at me. "You know, kiddo. You can go on your own know, I'm sure. But if you need me in any case, I promise to be here. Always. You are some precious boy, Lucas. Don't let them take away what you believe. Not what you believe, remember!" No it's my turn smiling. And I reach out to hug him. Yeah, I've heard that before. And I'll keep this in my heart, in my mind.


author's note: I always felt like adding something to the scene. And now, with the camera focus on Lucas in this makin' of vids, I felt the need to write his emotions down...