Death Letter missing scene: Chapter 11 Insert
Nathan Bridger walked through the gardens of the UEO Officer's Club, until he came to a lone wooden bench amidst the trees. He was gripping the nondescript white envelop in both hands – his fingers almost white from the pressure – as he sat down. It was quiet here. While the mood had been serene and somber closer to the reception, he could still hear the murmurings of many conversations. Here, except for the sounds of birds and insects, and the slight rustling of leaves, it was silent. Here he could be alone with his grief. He knew that once he opened the envelop and read the final words Lucas had left for him; he would be unable to contain what little control he had over his emotions.
Before he lost his son, and later his wife, Nathan Bridger was very much the epitome of a Navy officer. He had been gunning for Admiral before the untimely death of Robert, and had been as tough a captain as he was expected to be. Many a time, he'd look death in the face and not flinched. He had the strength and conviction to keep a tight grip on his emotions, regardless of the situation.
After they'd lost Robert, Nathan had lost the part of himself that was able to compartmentalize his emotions. The loss was too painful to bury. The only option he and Carol had was to deal with their grief together; away from the constant attention of well-intentioned friends. While he had been persuaded to leave his island to captain the seaQuest after Marilyn Stark's removal, he never had regained his ability to keep emotion out of his command. Regardless of how it looked for a seasoned officer in the UEO Navy, he thought it had only helped him gain the respect and support of both the military and science crew.
Now he found himself in a similar situation; grieving the loss of someone he loved like a son. This time, he didn't have Carol by his side. He did however, have Kristen Westphalen. Kristen, his CMO from the first tour, had proven to be a silent pillar of strength over the past few days. Bridger had taken it upon himself to contact the doctor personally to inform her of Lucas' death. She, like most of the crew, had grown to love and respect the cocky teenager, and Bridger didn't want her to have to hear read the news in the paper, or hear it from someone else. After returning from their ten year absence, Nathan had taken the first steps to contact Kristen to explain – as much as he could despite the classified status – their disappearance and the loss of Miguel and Wendy. This had opened the door for them to pick up their friendship after years of neglect, despite their location on opposite ends of the globe. It was this friendship he was leaning heavily on just to make it through the funeral and reception with as much strength as he could endure.
Alone for the first time in what felt like days, Nathan felt as though he could let go; just a little. With trembling hands, he broke the seal of the envelop and pulled out a slightly crumpled piece of paper. He closed his eyes briefly, the image of Lucas real enough to almost touch. Nathan smoothed the paper out on his thighs and started reading:
I guess if you're reading this, you were right and I was never cut out for the Navy. I never really thought about my mortality when I enlisted. I didn't really think I could die doing this job; until we lost Brody. After he died, all I could think of was "what if I didn't come back?" I've been thinking about it a lot, and I don't want to die before I get a chance to tell you why I enlisted. I wanted to explain myself so that maybe you could understand; so that you'd stop being disappointed in me. I never wanted to let you down. Of all people, you're the one person whose opinions matter the most to me. All I ever wanted was for you to be proud of me.
When I first came on board seaQuest, I thought I was going to hate it. Being trapped in such a small space with so many adults, was never my idea of how I wanted to spend my teenage years. I was angry and upset with my parents and with the UEO for agreeing to take me. Most of all, I was really hurt that my parents would just abandon me like that. They never asked me what I wanted. They just told me it would be a great opportunity, a learning experience. I hate to admit it, but they were right. They didn't know it at the time, but by forcing me onto the boat, they gave me what they'd never been able to do before. I got a family and a home. My parents may have been too busy for me, but you always made time. When I needed reassurance, someone to tell me I was doing a good job – that I was appreciated – you and the rest of my friends were there for me. Most of all, you were there for me. When I was being an annoying pain in the ass, you set me straight. When I was about to do something really stupid, you filled the role my own father was too busy for. You were the father I always wanted and needed. I miss that.
After you gave seaQuest to Hudson, he gave me two choices, sign up or get off the boat. I thought you'd understand why I chose to stay. I have no family, no friends, and no money upworld. To everyone else, I've been dead for ten years. They moved on. My college degree is worthless, my research is worthless, and my computer skills are so outdated that no one would hire me anyway. Where was I supposed to go? I had nothing. To me, there was no choice. I had to stay onboard. I had to stay with the only home I know – with the only family I have left.
Since you left, things haven't have turned out so well for me. The world is not the same place we left behind. In that small instance, everything changed. I thought that staying on seaQuest as part of the crew would be the best choice – something I knew and understood. I was wrong. Hudson hates me, the world is violent and dangerous, and I'm tired. I haven't seen the natural sun in months and I have a feeling I'm never going to get on solid ground again. Despite being surrounded by hundreds of people, I'm lonely. I don't belong here and I don't belong upworld either. I'm constantly being reminded of the years I've lost, and I want them back.
I'll admit it. I'm angry - with the world, with myself, and with you. I understand why you left. I really do. You have a little boy to look after and a son to look for. But I thought that maybe you'd want me to come with you too. I would have; in a heartbeat. I thought you loved me like a son almost as much as I love you like a father. I guess I was wrong. You never felt the same way. You didn't even ask me what I was going to do. You just announced that you were leaving; going back to your island with Michael, and you didn't think twice about leaving me behind. That hurt.
When you returned to seaQuest to deal with that deadly pathogen, I really thought you'd be proud of me. That I took some responsibility, matured, and joined the Navy. I wasn't prepared for you to be so upset. You were disgusted in me – in my decision. I never thought that would be possible. And then, during and after Banaba, you didn't even seem to be able to look me in the eye. I was so angry with you; for the work you did on that G.E.L.F project, for not being completely honest with me, and most of all, for being angry with me. I thought that everything was lost between us. I don't want that to be true, but we haven't spoken since and I'm not sure if we'll ever be able to get past that. Maybe we are just both too stubborn to make the first step.
I'm trying really hard to be a good soldier, at least until my enlistment runs its course and I figure out what I want to do next, but I'm not sure I'm going to make it that long. I guess if you're reading this, then I didn't make it anyway. I never wanted to leave things between us unresolved and I'm sorry I had to explain myself in a letter. I always hoped I'd get a chance to tell you all of this in person. I often think about calling you, speaking to you face-to-face, but I guess, in the end I'm just a coward.
Sorry, I'm rambling now. Since I'm probably dead, I guess the one thing that I want you to know is that I love you. You were the best thing that ever happened to me. Those first two tours were the happiest and most exciting years of my life and I'd never wish them away. Hopefully, when you think of me, you'll think about those years. Not what happened after we got back.
I just want to say that Michael is very lucky to have you in his life, just like I was lucky to have you in mine.
Nathan sat back against the hard wooden bench and closed his eyes. He didn't bother to wipe away the tears that were coursing down his cheeks. Rather, he let them flow. The rawness of Lucas' emotions while writing the letter, were too hard to deny. The boy was angry at him, at life, and it was his fault. When he'd allowed Lucas to stay on board seaQuest, and had taken him under his wing, he'd very willingly encouraged a bond to develop between the two of them. He'd embraced the opportunity to be a father again, to be needed again. And then, when Michael had come into his life, he had just abandoned Lucas. He hadn't thought that the young man would need him as much as the little boy. Lucas was right. Bridger hadn't even thought to ask Lucas if he wanted to go with him. In retrospect, Lucas probably still would have opted to stay with the boat – as a civilian – but none of them even considered that Hudson wouldn't leave that an option.
Bridger had been angry with Lucas when he learned he'd enlisted, but it wasn't really at Lucas. It was at the situation. He had been angry that Lucas hadn't spoken to him first, before he made the decision. Even after he learned of the circumstances surrounding Lucas' decision, he still hadn't made any attempt to explain his own feelings to the boy. Instead, he let Lucas continue to think he was angry at him. He knew that he hadn't been fair. He knew that Lucas was hurting at the dissolution of their relationship. He just didn't really have any idea how much. He knew he should have at least attempted to make things right between the two of them. But now… now it was too late for both of them.
Captain Bridger passed his hand lovingly over the handwritten letter, smoothing out the wrinkles. He folded the paper and slipped it back into the envelop, being careful not smudge the ink with his tears. Bridger pulled a handkerchief from his pants pocket and wiped the tears from his eyes, cheeks, and blew his nose. With a deep breath, he placed the letter in the inside breast pocket of his jacket, and stood to leave. Before he returned to the reception, he needed some time to clear his head, and regain some of his composure. He needed to be strong for Lucas' friends and crewmates. There would be time later to reread the letter and grieve in solitude. He glanced briefly in the direction of the reception hall, and then turned to walk through the garden.