Title: Power Play
Author: N'kala
Disclaimer: Not mine!
Summary: A fill-in-the-blank for the end of the first season episode Higher Power.
Author's Notes: Whew! It's been awhile since I posted for this particular fandom, hasn't it? Hope I haven't lost my touch. :) I didn't like how the season finale ended, so I decided to do something about it.

Power Play
By: N'kala

Nathan Bridger pulled himself out of the Stinger, all but stumbling into Westphalen's arms. After his harrowing escape from his now-lost boat, it felt pretty good.

He glanced over to Lucas. The boy had retreated a few steps, staring at his shoes and allowing the doctor time with the captain. Bridger, however, was having none of it. Quietly calling Lucas' name, he reached out a hand to the boy. Lucas hesitated for only a moment before moving closer. As soon as he was within reach, Bridger tugged him into a fierce embrace.

The three of them remained that way for several long minutes. Dimly, Bridger became aware of several voices shouting his name. Pulling back, he saw his senior crew running across the beach toward him.

He felt Lucas start to pull away, retreating, but Bridger wrapped one arm around the boy, keeping him close. A part of him was unwilling to let him go just yet.

"Captain, you made it!" Ford cried once he reached them. "We thought . . ."

Bridger nodded. "I know, Commander. It was pretty close there. How's the crew? Is everyone accounted for?"

"Role call just finished," Ortiz spoke up. "All hands present and accounted for. No injuries reported."

"Sorry about the seaQuest, Cap," Crocker said. "She was a fine boat."

Bridger nodded again. "She was the best, but the important thing is that everyone's okay."

"Arrangements have been made for the crew to bunk in the dorms on the base," Krieg reported. "Room assignments are at the main desk."

"Let's head up there now," Bridger decided. "I have a few calls I need to make."

The crew began the trek up the beach. Bridger lagged behind, casting a sharp gaze over Lucas. Westphalen sensed his need to speak with the teenager and hurried up to Hitchcock to speak with her.

"You okay?" Bridger asked quietly, once they were alone.

Lucas nodded, flashing a small smile at the captain. "I am now. I was really scared that . . . when I saw the explosions . . ."

He trailed off. Bridger squeezed Lucas' arm. "What about your dad? He was on the launch with the commander and Chief Shan, right?"

Lucas' gaze fell to the sand. "He's fine. Thank you for rescuing him."

An alarm started to ring in Bridger's head. "Where is he?"

Lucas didn't answer. Bridger cast his eyes around and saw three people standing on the shore several meters away. One man stood out to the captain. Lawrence Wolenczak was deep in discussion with his two surviving coworkers, and he didn't even seem to notice that his son was gone.

A rush of heat began to build in Bridger's chest, and he realized that he was angry. No, furious. After everything that he and his crew went through to get Wolenczak safely to his son, the scientist had pushed Lucas to the side.

Again.

Bridger involuntarily tightened his grip around Lucas protectively. His eyes returned to Lucas, and he took note of the slight flush of embarrassment in the boy's face. This only served to fuel Bridger's anger.

"It's okay, Captain," Lucas said quietly.

Bridger wanted to yell. No, it wasn't okay. Just because Lucas was used to it didn't mean it was all right.

The captain took several deep breaths. Lucas clearly didn't want him to make a big deal about it, and that was the only thing that kept Bridger's fury at bay.

He sighed. "C'mon, kiddo. Let's go find our rooms, then see about grabbing something to eat with the others. I don't know about you, but I'm starved.

Lucas didn't offer up a response, but the look of relief on his face spoke volumes to the captain. One way or another, Bridger knew, he would speak with Dr. Wolenczak about his son.


Bridger gently pulled a blanket up over Lucas as the boy slept. The two had gone to Lucas' room to watch a movie, but Lucas had fallen asleep half an hour into it. Bridger wasn't surprised; he had half expected it after the emotional roller coaster of the day.

Lightly smoothing a stray golden lock out of Lucas' eyes, Bridger straightened and quietly retreated from the room. Now that he was alone with his thoughts once more, the anger from earlier came back full force.

He walked to the now empty common room and began to pace. Instead of calming down, however, his anger grew. On impulse, he grabbed a nearby glass of water that someone had left behind and hurled it at the wall. Water and glass exploded and littered the floor.

"I guess this is a bad time."

Bridger whirled around in surprise, then scowled as Westphalen moved into the room. "It's been a bad day."

Westphalen folded her arms. "Oh, I know. You've had to say goodbye to the crew, our aborted attempts at dinner, your boat being destroyed . . ." She raised an eyebrow. "Keeping Lucas distracted from thinking about his father."

Bridger shook his head, a sheepish look creeping onto his face. "Was it that obvious?"

Westphalen shrugged. "Only because the rest of the crew followed your example." At Bridger's inquisitive look, she continued. "Nathan, when else do you remember Commander Ford initiating a food fight?"

"I thought that was Krieg!" Bridger exclaimed, stunned.

Westphalen chuckled. "You were supposed to. And Tim and Miguel challenging Shan and Crocker to that contest with that awful drink?"

Bridger let out a laugh. "I think Lucas' mixed drink was worse than Hitchcock's. I can't believe Ortiz choked it all down."

Westphalen nodded. "I think everyone was angry with Lucas' father. They were all just trying to make him feel better."

Bridger sobered at the mention of Dr. Wolenczak. Wearily, he sank into a nearby chair and rubbed his face with both hands. "I just can't wrap my head around this, Kristen. How could that man just . . . discard Lucas like that? After acting so concerned when we got him out of the plant . . . did he acknowledge Lucas at all?

Westphalen moved closer and dropped a sympathetic hand on Bridger's shoulder. "He did at first, Nathan. He, Ford, and Shan all came out of the ocean, and he ran up and gave Lucas a big hug. I think that's what's hurt Lucas the most- he believed that things would change, and when they went back to the status quo, he was left feeling confused and let down."

Bridger considered her words and leaned back in his chair. "So what now?"

Westphalen smiled sadly. "We be there for him, help him through this. He's a strong boy, Nathan, and he will heal from this with the understanding that he does have people who love and care about him, even if his father can't right now."

Bridger took the hand that rested on his shoulder and gave it a squeeze. "I hope you're right, Kristen."


It was still early in the morning; the sun barely having risen above the ocean. It promised to be a beautiful day, but Lawrence Wolenczak barely paid any notice of it. He was trying to find his way to the dorm where he had been told Bridger was staying.

"217, 219, 221," Wolenczak muttered to himself. Pausing before a door labeled 223, he raised a hand and knocked.

There was a shuffling sound emanating from inside the room before the door opened, revealing Captain Bridger. Despite the early hour, Bridger was already dressed in civilian clothes.

"Captain Bridger," Wolenczak greeted him. "I'm sorry for disturbing you, but I wanted to thank you again for saving my life, and ask a favor of you."

Bridger cocked an eyebrow, but stepped aside. "Come in and have a seat."

"Thank you, but I won't be staying long." Wolenczak moved into the room and turned to face Bridger as the captain shut the door. "Er . . . Captain, my associates and I have been in contact with several of our supporters, and they would like for us to meet to discuss what happened and possibly begin rebuilding World Power. It's really a great opportunity, especially being a second chance and all, but that leaves me in a slight quandary."

"Lucas." Bridger's eyes were cold as they assessed the scientist standing before him.

Wolenczak nodded. "Lucas. Obviously, I can't take him with me, and he has nowhere else to go. I was hoping maybe you could take care of him for me while I get my life back in some semblance of order. I'd be more than willing to pay you for your trouble. I know my son can be a bit of a handful at the best of times."

A dark look passed over Bridger's face. "You really don't have a clue, do you?"

Wolenczak frowned in confusion. "What?"

Bridger advanced on the man. "Do you have any idea what you put that kid through yesterday? He had to deal with thinking you were dead, or about to die! And when he finally believed that he stood a chance of building some kind of relationship with you, you shrugged him off to the side like so much garbage! What the hell kind of father are you, anyway?"

Wolenczak felt his cheeks burn in anger. "Pardon me, Captain, but I don't really think it's any of your business how I choose to raise my son."

"You call dumping him on a submarine and ceasing contact with him 'raising' him?" Bridger shot back, incredulous. "My God, man, are you really that self-absorbed?"

"Captain, I do not have to stand here and listen to this preposterous nonsense," Wolenczak stated. "Now, I need to know if you can take Lucas off my hands for awhile. If you can't then I'll need to make other arrangements."

Bridger's eyes narrowed. "I'll take him, but on one condition."

"Name your price," Wolenczak replied, albeitly stiffly.

"I don't want your money," Bridger spat at him. "I want you to meet with Lucas yourself and explain to him what you're doing. And I want him to be able to get ahold of you when he wants, and not through your secretary. That boy loves you, and needs to know you love him, too."

Wolenczak rolled his eyes in a way that painfully reminded Bridger of Lucas. "I'll be leaving around lunchtime. Bring Lucas to the beach at around 11:30 and I'll say my goodbyes then. Thank you, Captain."

Wolenczak brushed passed Bridger and out of the dorm room. Bridger didn't bother watching him go, his mind too much in turmoil over the discussion he'd just had.

"Captain?"

Bridger turned. Lucas was standing tentatively in the doorway to his room, blue eyes studying the captain. "Was that my dad I just saw leaving?"

Bridger nodded and gestured for Lucas to enter the room. "I'm afraid so, kiddo."

"What did he want?" Lucas asked.

Bridger hesitated, and a knowing look passed over Lucas' face.

"Oh," the boy said quietly. "He's dumping me again, isn't he?"

Bridger moved across the room to Lucas and drew him into a hug. "Lucas, I'm sorry."

Lucas pulled away from the captain. "It's okay, sir, I'm used to it. I'll, um . . . I'll figure out something for the summer, while the seaQuest is being rebuilt."

"Actually, Kiddo, I was going to ask you over breakfast if you would like to stay with me," Bridger told him. "I figured we could hang out and have some fun when we weren't busy with the rebuilding. What do you say?"

"You don't have to do that, Captain," Lucas said dejectedly. "It's not your fault that my dad can't take care of me. You shouldn't have to clean up his messes."

"I'm not," Bridger insisted. "I really would like it if you would stay with me. Come on. It'll be fun."

A slow smile began to form on Lucas' face. "Sure," he relented. "Why not?"

Bridger returned the smile. "Attaboy. You won't regret it. Now; are you ready for breakfast? I'm trying to decide whether or not to bring a helmet in case some eggs decide to go flying."

The smile grew more readily on Lucas' face. "Better than the whole chicken, sir."

Bridger let out a bark of laughter and steered Lucas out of the dorm room. "Can't argue with that."

END


Okay, so it isn't much, just a little drabble floating around in my head. Hope you enjoyed it!