2 ONCE IN A BLUE MOON

CHAPTER 2

Nathan Bridger sat in Kristin's tent watching her sleep. According to one of the other doctors at the compound, he and the others had been waiting for her to collapse from exhaustion or illness. She pushed herself so hard, unwilling to stop, moving constantly.

The craggy faced man who now held her hand understood that better than the doctors did.

Whoever said time heals all wounds was an idiot. Not all wounds. Sometimes they just scabbed over enough for you to continue to survive, the way he had when he'd lost Carol and Robert.

The former captain of seaQuest had had a hellava time finding her, and in the end, he didn't. She found him, sort of. Well, Cynthia did.

Cynthia had seen the stories of the return of the boat and the crew appearing in various places worldwide. Then there were the endless newsfeeds about the famous captain stepping down. It took her a while, but Kristin's daughter had finally tracked him down through the UEO. She sent him an email and told him where her mother was if he wanted to see her.

The alacrity and enthusiasm behind his response was almost overwhelming.

Yes, he wanted to come; where was she; was she all right?

When Cynthia met him at the Andes Island colony, she noticed he looked tired, almost haggard.

During their meal, she was completely honest with him, telling him about her mother's near breakdown from grief and her stubborn refusal to face it. Working herself damn near to death.

They ordered coffee and pastries at the little café, at the port where he'd come ashore. During their repast, she noticed how quiet he had gotten and she wondered if she'd told him too much, violating her mother's privacy.

Maybe Bridger's feelings now weren't as strong as her mother's.

When the older man spoke, it was with great sadness. He explained to her that to him only a year had passed. The captain had been more aware of time on the alien planet than the rest of the crew because he had been brought back first and had helped collect his people and prepare them for return.

Bridger paused, then said, "During that year, I have never longed or missed anyone as much as I did your mother. I can't possibly imagine what the hell of ten years of that must have been like.

"I never stopped loving your mother. I don't think I can. I won't hurt her, Cynthia. I give you my word on that."

He reached across the table and his tanned hand embraced hers, and she noticed tears were filling his eyes. Bridger got up quickly and walked to the deck outside to collect himself.

And now here he was, staring at her. The woman who had occupied his every waking moment and most of his dreams.

Kristin Wesphalen had aged some, but mostly time had been very good to her. Her hair was still full but longer and wilder.

Bridger could feel the bones in her hand. She was thin, too thin. Her cheeks which had been full were now hollowed out.

Suddenly, Nathan couldn't wait any longer. He scooted off his chair onto the floor beside her cot.

He kissed her hand, feeling the roughness. He traced the fine bones of her face. He gently ran his fingers through her thick mane of hair, noticing the tiny strands of perfect silver intermingled with the sun-bleached red.

While he touched her, Nathan talked to her softly and lovingly.

"I didn't meant to shock you," he whispered. "I didn't have a clue how to make it any easier on you. I mean I show up after ten years; there aren't a lot of ways to break that to someone. I'm kinda glad you're asleep right now because you'd probably be tearing me apart for being gone so long."

He told her about his encounters and the strangeness of what he'd experienced.

He told her Lucas was fine and that he had stayed about the boat, signed up now as an ensign. She would be proud of how mature he was, but probably angry over his choice to join the military.

Finally, as dark came, one of the other doctors, Paul Jones, came in and rechecked her vitals and IV bag.

The doctor sat on the stool vacated by Nathan earlier and folded his hands in front of him. The compassion in his eyes was obvious.

"Captain, she's suffering from exhaustion and a tremendous emotional shock, so sleeping is good for her."

Dr. Jones hesitated, then continued, quietly, "I know it's hard on you, but when she wakes she'll be stronger. I'll continue the IV fluids and you call for me if anything changes.

"I've taken the liberty of bring you a cot; it's outside, leaning against the door post. I assumed you'd want to be the first person she sees when she awakes." The doctor smiled, "And the first person she wants to see is you, I'm sure."

Jones turned to leave but before he closed the flap, he glanced back over his shoulder and met Bridger's concerned face.

"Captain Bridger, I have say it; you are one lucky man. Only in myths and legends do men ever really have their own personal Penelope's."

Jones disappeared into the darkness.

Bridger thought about what he said. Odysseus and Penelope. He closed his eyes at the irony and anguish of it. When he opened them to the real life woman in front of him, Nathan remembered that that epic had had a happy ending.

Odysseus regained his home, his wife, and his son, but it had taken a fight, a terrible bloody battle.

Nathan Bridger had had his bloody battle as well, but now he was home and ready to lay down his sword for the woman he loved and his grandson.

For that, he was so very appreciative.