Author: SecondGuess PM
Julia knew from months of professional intimacy that Danziger always ran hot. Like man, like machine. Redemption- Vignette IIIRated: Fiction T - English - Drama/Angst - Words: 6,890 - Reviews: 2 - Favs: 1 - Published: 04-18-09 - id: 5003274
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
a/n: Things ain't so cut and dry anymore, is they? :) I'd like to thank you, Dear Readers, for taking a leap of faith with me on this series...and to express my appreciation that my non de plume's head has thus far avoided the metaphorical pikes of both the DD and AJ kingdoms. Having said that, I offer a missing scene from an episode that brought us more questions than answers. Keep the faith! (As always, my thanks to FCB Allison for dealing with all manner of of grammatical carnage and the occasional delusion of grandeur.)
"The Greatest Love Story Never Told"
Day 79 (13:47 S.T.)
"Show me how to read him!"
True jittered as she pressed herself to Julia's side, full of pent up energy after her underground adventure. She was relieved to be back, that much was clear, but her endorphin-fueled excitement was doing nothing for Julia's frayed nerves.
She sighed, straining for patience.
She liked to encourage True's curiosity in the Med Tent, and under normal circumstances she'd take the time to explain the Diaglove's features and teach the girl to decipher its readouts. However, the overdue trio had pulled into camp not three minutes ago and it was already clear from Devon and Danziger's strange behavior that something was seriously wrong, and that whatever it was they'd hidden it from True.
Devon had exited the 'Rail with a terse "Danziger needs medical attention," caught her son when he swooped in to greet her, and practically ran for her quarters in the dome. Julia had turned to John for an explanation, only to find him stumbling out of the passenger's side, looking pale. He was bobbing his head at True's incessant chatter with an expression of stunned confusion that mirrored her own.
When she'd gone to enlist Alonzo in helping her search for the missing mechanic, two long, harrowing days ago, Julia had found herself strangely overwhelmed to learn that Danziger was sick.
She still hadn't found any local source of vegetation that was edible, and with the cold front they were trapped in, Julia had advised that they halt the search for food. Eden Advance had seemed happy with the reprieve, with one glaring exception. She'd found that John had called her imminent bluff, and gone out for one last scout at first light.
Julia really should have seen it coming.
Though her rational mind was loath to admit it, her gut instinct had been to grab her Gear and call John back. The temperature had dropped to below freezing with wind chill, and with the mercilessly clear skies the sunlight could be just as dangerous.
They were medical reasons for bringing him home, sound and scientific, but the emotions that accompanied them had been anything but. Alarmingly, Julia's intellect quickly took over with nothing but curious platitudes. She attempted to convince herself that John would be fine, that he'd be back shortly with a new scrape for her to mend and that she wasn't looking forward to it. Logic didn't comfort her a bit, when medicine knew better, despite the tide of fear, regret and other unidentifiable sensations that came with it.
She'd numbed herself with the hunt for nutrients, buried herself in lichen and moss, and the next time she surfaced from her flora analysis Danziger was still missing, and long overdue.
Alonzo's insistence that Devon retrieve Danziger alone had infuriated her. Whomever was holding John might've been withholding treatment, and their terms of negotiation were obviously suspect, if it wasn't merely the Terrians calling to collect. She was his doctor, she had every right to go, but Julia found herself herself incapable of explaining her distress in in further detail, not to herself, and certainly not to her somnolent lover.
Looking back now, with True crowding to watch her power up the glove, Julia figured it had been at that moment- staring right at Alonzo- that her feelings for John crossed the line.
"You know, True," she started, studying John's slumped posture and distant stare with a frown, "Bess saved you some lunch, and I bet she's heating it up right now."
Julia studied True's reaction, which was, as always, to look to her father. She reached for his hand and, although he showed no signs of awareness to the fact, Danziger instinctively met her half-way, engulfing her small fist in his own.
The short walk back to the Med Tent had been more than enough time for Julia to analyze his primary and secondary symptoms, and watching him now- sluggish to answer and oblivious to his daughter's obtrusive enthusiasm- Julia realized that the source of his fever might not be her first concern.
If she didn't know better, she'd say John was in shock.
Clutching True's hand, Danziger nodded mutely, meet Julia's eyes plaintively. She frowned again, resisting the urge to start a scan, knowing that first she had to divert True. The threat was past, her father was sitting safely back at camp, and Julia had every intention of getting to the bottom of it.
Right now, they all needed a distraction.
"Go eat, Baby," John finally managed, his voice thick and strained, "I'll catch up."
Managing a small, empty smile he nodded again, turning his unfocused gaze in her general direction.
"He was really sick, Julia," True informed her dramatically. "When we found him his forehead felt like the condenser's furnace!" Julia stole a glimpse at the man in question, who seemed once again oblivious to his daughter's animated mood. "But the people there gave him lots of blankets, and his own room, and there was fresh water that came from the wall, even!"
Despite her sense of urgency, Julia found herself curious about any and all information True was willing to share. She found herself remembering something peculiar Bess had once said, during some moon-lit gossip by the campfire, though the meaning had been lost to her at the time.
If you wanted the truth, your best bet was always a kid.
"There was this little kid there who didn't even know who his dad was, and Devon fell in love!"
Bess' theory suddenly made sense, although Danziger's tremor at the sound Devon's name made it clear to Julia that True's secrets would keep until she could treat him. Just as she was about to interrupt, True unconsciously tugged on her father's hand. Danziger jerked back, yanking True close, his right hand flitting to his holster.
Julia caught his eye, steadying him with a pointed look as he reigned in his confusion.
"Go get some grub, kiddo," he fronted with vacant enthusiasm, sounding as though he'd been roused from a deep sleep. His panicked grip loosened, and he buried his face in his daughter's hair as she threw her arms around his waist. "Everything's fine now."
Julia was at a loss. She shuddered to imagine of what shape he'd been in, if his normally doting daughter didn't sense that something was seriously amiss. What had happened in that cave?
"I'm glad Sheppard decided to stay underground," True softly divulged to his chest, sounding smaller wrapped in his arms. "He was kinda scary."
Danziger nodded, tousling her hair, pressing his cheek closer.
True leaned her lips up to his ear, whispering so softly that Julia could barely decipher the words over her own pounding heart.
"Devon didn't know she was being mean, Dad."
"Everything's fine now," Danziger repeated, the jagged edge of hysteria bubbling briefly to the surface, a jarring sound he managed to swallow.
Try as she might, Julia couldn't keep herself from panicking.
"You're dad seems zonked," she announced with a watery chuckle, attempting to channel the Martin's knack for adolescents as she sprung from her crouch. "You must be hungry, huh?"
With a gentle hand on the back of John's clammy neck, and a reassuring nod, she smoothly pried True from his arms. Julia lead the antsy girl to the exit, pulling her along playfully, diverting her attention from her rapidly crumbling father.
She lifted the entrance, promising distractedly, "after dinner I'll teach you how to scan, okay?"
Even before she could answer, True was trotting off for the Bio-Dome, no doubt starving.
"Okay," she called excitedly, hustling through the incredible cold. "Make him better!"
Julia watched her slam through the doors, hoping that she could.
She turned back to find Danziger staring at the floor, his thumb still worrying the butt of his weapon, his curls quivering with tension.
"Thank you," he whispered, not looking up.
In the instant before science interceded, Julia wondered just where the hell Devon Adair was, instead of here with this man who so obviously needed her.
"John," she whispered, her glove whirring into scan mode as soon as she was within range. Taking his face in her hands she forced his apathetic gaze, brushing his hair from his damp forehead. "Just give me a second," she assured him, "I'll fix it. I promise, just hang on."
"It's my fault," he interjected unevenly. Julia had no doubt that he believed it to be true, but there was no point in arguing the fact yet.
The body came first.
"Come here," she coaxed, smothering him in the solar flannel, rubbing his shoulders as her glove beeped. "Let's get you warm, okay?"
He'd obviously had a fever, Julia's scan indicated an increased white blood cell count as well as signs of respiratory impairment that seemed indicative of a viral infection, but at the moment John's temperature was a clammy ninety-seven degrees even, and his chemistry was seriously off. His epinephrine levels were dangerously high and his blood glucose ratio was still compromised from his recent illness.
Confirming her bewildering diagnosis, Julia set about addressing the problem, forcing herself to leave the fragile man's side long enough to gather her pharmeseudical rations and a Hypo-Gun.
She loaded a synaptic enhancer with irrational speed, frightened of the desperation in John's eyes. He looked as though he was trapped inside himself, stalled on replay as his body crashed. She quickly injected him, her hand coming to rest over the injection site.
"You need to lie down, Danziger, c'mon."
His blood pressure was through the roof, and Julia swiftly maneuvered his lethargic bulk down to the pillow. His shivers increasing as his muscles began to relax, his blood vessels dilated to restore normal flow.
"Find Devon," he gasped weakly, his teeth chattering. "I'm fine."
"Yup, all kinds of fine," she agreed, her usual sarcasm tempered with tenderness as she reached for another blanket. "I'm not going anywhere," she soothed as she spread it snugly over him, creating friction with her hands on the flannel, easing his quaking shoulders as her glove flickered endlessly.
"She was attacked," Danziger continued, ignoring her, his voice gaining strength.
Julia reloaded her Hypo-Gun, swiftly injecting him with a serotonin boost, immune to his concern.
"Devon can wait, she's fine."
She touched his cheek, and with the heat of her hand he drowsed, the injections neutralizing his spiraling panic with a rush of warmth.
Sitting beside him on the cot, she gave him a moment to recover. She smoothed his overgrown chin as his breathing slowed, then his hair, ignoring the niggling logic that reminded her what did and did not constitute bedside manner.
The fact that John settled into a palpable calm at the contact made such a denial easily accomplished. Devon was no where to be found, and Danziger desperately needed someone to pay him some mind. It was the least Julia could do, considering her cowardly inaction over the last few days. If anyone other than John had gone missing, she would have insisted on going after them. In fact, the group wouldn't have just sat idly by while their leader blatantly lied over Gear, refusing to give up her location.
Without Danziger there at camp, no one dared to override Devon's impassiveness.
"Guess you decided to catch that cold after all, huh?" Julia asked lightly, pleased to see he was already looking better.
Julia had spent the last two days preoccupied by John's absence, but it seemed now that she'd spent far more time berating herself for worrying about him than she'd actually spent worrying.
"Guess so," he mumbled, fatigued and bewildered, but more himself now that the adrenaline of had worn off. "You sure she's fine?"
His slurred inquiry served only to remind Julia of her misplaced anger; of the fact that Devon had dispatched him off to the Med-Tent without a second glance. Danziger deserved more than that, the tumultuous status of Devon's feelings for him aside.
Maybe if Julia just listened to science, and accepted her daunting emotions for what they were, she wouldn't be here patching up his broken heart, realizing now what John had so recently discovered himself- that the pieces belonged to Devon Adair.
"Whoever found you took good care of you, I'm happy to say," she spoke with quiet optimism, determined not to indulge his fixation until she was satisfied with his readouts. John seemed unaware of his obvious distress, and most likely wouldn't be able to recall it later. Julia decided that it would be more productive if he were to remain ignorant.
Knowing his track record with Devon, the last thing he needed was a reminder of his limitations.
"Yeah, they did. The Elder's a good guy," he sighed, his arm snaking from under the blankets to scratch his beard. "They're mostly good people." His hand found hers and squeezed, acknowledging the concern etched her features. "No real docs, though."
The fact that he'd taken exception regarding his captors was not lost on her, nor was Danziger's sweet expression of relief to be back in her care.
The Diaglove beeped, and her hemo-scan reassured Julia that she'd effectively counteracted his symptoms. Likewise, his temperature had risen to a low grade fever, which was, at the moment, a normal recuperative state.
Julia knew from months of professional intimacy that Danziger always ran hot.
Like man, like machine.
"With your rate of recovery, you would have been okay to travel by yesterday, maybe even the day before. You weren't very far away," she tacked on self-consciously, shielding John from the fact that no one but Devon had known where the hell he and his daughter were, and that no one had gone looking.
Julia couldn't bring herself to ask him what had happened underground. She hardly felt emotionally capable of knowing, and the last thing John needed was to work himself up again. He rolled his eyes and her no doubt pained expression.
"I was restin,' I promise," he assured her with a weak smile, tugging her hand, his thumb tickling her palm. appealing to The Scientist. "I damn near slept for forty-eight hours."
It always astonished Julia how naturally it came to Danziger; the ease of touching. For Julia, each point of contact felt like a tiny shock of osmosis and energy. He was always so gentle that Julia was rarely adept enough to read his intent.
He'd stopped asking for Devon, this time she knew that much.
Danziger's eyes clouded over, and then slammed shut, like a child's quest for invisibility.
"I kept loosin' track of True," he shamefully recounted, "half the time I woke up and she was gone." His hushed remorse made the ramifications of his next words clear. "I hated that no one was watchin' her."
Curatively, Julia realized she was being an imbecile. She had a medical obligation to shelve her destructive empathy and seek the facts; to determine what had scared the shit out of Devon and left John a quivering mess.
"True's fine, John," she reminded him, squeezing him back. "She's on to the next adventure."
Danziger huffed, the corners of his mouth quirking as he shifted his weight with a grimace. He cracked an eyelid, groggily pondering whether or not to believe her. Julia tapped at her keypad, turned away for a pain block, and returned to find that John had decided to take her word for it.
"She's happy to be home," he murmured, tilting his head as Julia injected him again. "So am I."
Julia already knew, it was there in his eyes.
"I was worried about you," Julia told him plainly, hating the strain of sentiment in her voice. She faltered, at the tail end of medicine's reach; still worried, though for reasons she'd rather not admit. "I hated staying behind, knowing you needed a doctor." She swallowed hard. "Lonz convinced me stay."
With a deep breath Danziger propelled himself upright, ignoring the pressure of Julia's hands on his shoulders.
"No way! Lie down, John," she scolded as he brushed her off gently, "You're not going anywhere."
He nodded, ignoring her, slouching his height until they were eye to eye. Taking firm hold of her arms, Danziger smiled, attempting to convince her how much his symptoms had improved.
"C'mere," he whispered, pulling her to his chest, squeezing hard, like she'd been the one who was missing. Julia clutched him back, ashamed at how his warmth and size magnified her weakness; revealing to Julia with a sudden pang that she'd been trembling herself.
Was John weighing the curve of her body against his memories of Devon, or was Julia simply a frightened girl calling out to his fierce sense of paternal compulsion?
"I'm being foolish," she sniffled, torn between self-consciousness and contentment. He shushed her with a soft exhalation, his palm between her shoulder blades, kneading her closer. "I'm fine."
"I'm not," he confessed, gulping a breath, and Julia realized that regardless of John's intentions towards her she had only one acceptable course of action.
She hugged him harder.
"Why the hell didn't Devon get you out of there, John?"
Julia bit her tongue hard enough to draw blood, furious at herself for blurting out the one thing she been trying desperately to avoid; the only thing that was running through her head as Danziger huddled her close.
Not even when Alonzo had been shot, so soon after returning to collect her, had Julia felt as helpless as she had these past two days. She's been terrified and concerned, sure, but those feelings hadn't gotten in the way of that which her skewed sense of medicine clearly knew was in 'Lonz's best interest.
It appeared that in this case, Julia found that inaction spoke louder than words. She swiftly tallied up the cost of her emotions, and she discovered the price was too high.
If she and Danziger continued down this dangerous path, her toll would be the objective professionalism that made her an asset to Eden Advance. Alonzo was dead wrong, it seemed, about her bedside manner.
Julia's newfound compassion would bring them all nothing but pain.
"The Elder seemed to think it all made sense," Danziger began, reluctant to let her go, sounding not reminiscent but grim.
He seemed to suddenly realize what a compromising position he'd gotten himself into, but rather than shy away and scramble for cover, he lingered a moment longer. John carefully righted the petite physician, delicately combing his fingers through her mussed hair.
Julia realized that he was taking care to leave her the way he'd found her. If not particularly honorable, at least he was considerate.
Danziger had resigned himself to the tension between them, it seemed, and had reconciled to continue his story.
"I had to trust him," he began again, hesitantly, " I was in no shape to argue. 'Course I tried," he snorted, eliciting a single syllable of amusement from Julia, an exhaled hitch in her frozen countenance. "As much as I could, but he convinced me not to be afraid, he answered all my questions honestly."
He rubbed his eye, his hammy fist strangely child-like, and the sight of it struck a blow to Julia's armor, rifled her resolution.
"He was honest to a fault but, Goddamnit, he was always right," he asserted her cryptically.
This was the first time that John had offered his thoughts to her without considerable coercion, and Julia was fascinated at the sight of it.
"Too damn honest."
It bolstered her resolve; this study of the fascinating man before her, the way Danziger's monologue had morphed into dialogue. Every occurrence, every subconscious thread of emotion was there in the lines of his face or in the cobalt prism of his bloodshot eyes. It was as though the mechanics of his convalescing mind seemed to rapid-fire, and the surge had short circuited his usually over-active frontal lobe, torn down the barriers between what he truly thought and what he actually said.
He'd forgotten himself in remembering, but the remarkable thing was that'd he'd forgotten Julia as well. This was the part of him Devon had never seen.
Julia was witnessing trust, by its most basic, primal definition. She was observing what The Scientist had deemed intangible, and Julia knew she had to repay this extraordinary gift in kind.
The white-smocked, genetic Task Master in her mind's eye slammed and bolted the door, blocking out all subjective urges. When he got to the awful part, the part that had overwhelmed him to the point of disassociation, Julia would need to be his doctor, not his champion.
She would need to be Devon Adair's doctor, too, and she refused to betray Danziger's confidence with some ambiguous emotional agenda.
"There were Diggers hibernatin' down there with them," he snorted with a hint of incredulity, "The Elder used one just like Gear right there in front of me. Guess that's how you guys found out where I was. Guess that's how…" A slithering tendril of doubt slipped its hold on him. "Anyway, I thought I'd finally lost it when True came runnin' in wailing my name, but Devon wasn't far behind." The predictable crease in his brow appeared with her name, aging him with subcutaneous strain.
"Lie back," she insisted quietly, clearing her throat as she rose from his side. "Now, Danziger."
Recalibrating, Julia curbed her agitation and turned to give him an apologetic smile, only to find that he'd already heaved his impossibly long legs up to the mattress and reclined, his devastatingly worn boots peeking from under the blankets, listing over the edge of the cot.
She realized there was something productive she could do.
"Adair wanted to get me out," Danziger maintained with half-hearted allegiance. Julia tugged at the threadbare laces, working out the knots with her fingernails. "I wouldn't have been able to get far, I was shakin' like a leaf, but I should have realized how scared she was then. I've never seen her so…irrational."
Julia eased his battered feet out of his battered shoes, exposing his battered socks with a smile at his choice of words.
The Scientist was rubbing off on him.
"It didn't compute, Doc. Adair started askin' me questions that didn't make any sense, and True was frettin' my sleeve like she knew that no one was in charge…like she was the only one makin' sense."
He paused with a slight moan as Julia bundled his feet in instant-heat packets, rubbing his soles to restore circulation. Of course Danziger had been worried for his stow-away daughter, Julia herself had certainly been.
She'd quelled her worries with the certainty that Devon would look after the girl as she would her own son, as Danziger had protected Uly countless times.
How shaken he must have been, when John discovered their sacred parental contract had lapsed.
"The Elder wouldn't let me out of the bed, he wanted us to stay…" he trailed off, and without looking up from her ministrations Julia could sense a hint of revelation. "He insisted that there was someone down there who Devon knew, someone who was more than a friend. She kept tellin' him she didn't, she was angry…she thought I'd told them about Uly."
His recital slowed, and from the concentration in Danziger's even tone Julia could tell he was having trouble remembering the specifics. She wondered at the credibility of a post-delirium testimonial, before logically deducing that accuracy was irrelevant; Danziger's version of events was all she currently needed.
"True latched on to this tiny little boy," he wrinkled his nose at the memory, "he was so fascinated by us, by True's enthusiasm and the stuff in my pack. He called her Girl." Julia smiled at the lode of paternal ferocity that ran just below John's gruff surface. "They ran off, and then Devon was gone, too."
He stopped, looking down his nose at her as she straightened out his blankets. Julia realized she'd been caught staring, but chose to continue, unable to look away. It didn't seem to phase him.
"I guess I thought she'd gone to check on True, but she hadn't." His voice dropped to a guilty whisper, "I don't know where she went."
"It doesn't matter, now, Danziger," she reminded him gently, placing his boots by the bunk as she reflexively scanned him again.
She wasn't entirely sure if it wasn't a lie.
"Guess not," he agreed, nodding again, fast forwarding the vid that played behind his eyes. "The next time I woke up there was a man in my room." The timbre of John's voice changed, growing harder, creeping towards menace. "He was missin' an eye, and askin' me things about Adair that I shoulda been asking him."
Danziger opened his troubled eyes; Julia could feel his toes fidgeting inside their cocoon.
"Aw hell, I wanted out of there," he groused with obvious remorse. "I was burnin' up, though. Then True came runnin,' tellin' me that she'd heard this Sheppard character had been sent to G889 for murder."
With a frown, Danziger made it clear that the memories were coming clearer now, whether or not he welcomed them.
"She was hummin' like a gyro she was so scared...and was worried that something had happened to Devon. True hadn't seen her in hours." He shivered, swallowing thickly, "I was up then. I felt okay enough to make it to the 'Rail and I knew that I'd been a fool to ignore my gut."
Important lessons learned all around, Julia supposed.
"Adair came in while I was packin' up." Danziger took a long moment, marshaling himself. His gaze faltered from Julia's, as though suddenly self-conscious.
The Scientist demanded that she remain silent until he felt able to continue, while her instincts were screaming for him to turn back now.
She compromised, stilling her thoughts as she perched beside him. Julia fished his hand out from under the blankets and pretended to look for evidence of frostbite, taking solace from the calloused warmth.
"She wasn't herself. And I know I wasn't either, but I'm tellin' you, Doc, he did somethin' to her brain. Dev wouldn't, she would never…"
With a weary sigh, John abandoned his first attempt at an explanation. Whether it was to avoid incriminating himself or simply the obvious fact that Devon would and had, he shook himself out of reminiscence, suddenly aware of the contact.
He studied her eyes, his thumb brushing across the back of her hand.
"I told True I'd be in for dinner," he whispered, even as his stare played chicken with her own. John seemed to be newly present and accounted for, and with no intention of backing down.
Despite the butterflies in her stomach, Julia was familiar enough with psychology to realize that John's sudden intentions to leave and his contradictory physicality were two sides of the same coin. He was starting to realize exactly where he was, like a patient waking during a procedure to find his insides splayed open.
His defenses were back, right on schedule. The Scientist was once again obsolete.
"She's only been gone for ten minutes, Danziger," she informed him gently. Once again she weighed True's earlier demeanor, trying to decide which Danziger would be the parent here, and which would be the child.
"I don't think she'll be looking for you anytime soon, unless it's to check up on you. To tell you the truth, you were pretty out of it when you got back." She squeezed his loose grip in condolence. "I'm pretty sure True's aware that you're out of commission for a few hours."
He lost his own dare, looking away in disgust with himself, pulling against her grip.
"Try again, John," Julia implored, refusing to let go.
With a deep breath he tossed his head, and when he spoke he did so rapidly, leaving her scrambling to catch up.
"She insisted that Sheppard come with us. She was convinced that she shared a bond with this guy, that she'd known him all along." Danziger spoke in a rushed monotone, his fingers ticking away each flaw, each piece of evidence proving Devon's insanity; each damning blow to his ego and his heart.
"She was like another person. She didn't care that he'd been a criminal, she…she said that True had been lyin' about him, and she said it in that voice," he huffed with revulsion. At Julia's frown he softened, explaining with embarrassment, "The last time she spoke to me like that she was callin' me Danzinger."
The allusion told Julia everything she needed to know.
"She said she wouldn't leave, said if I wanted to it was my business, but she was staying. I thought of you," he startled Julia, meeting her eyes. "I thought about tellin' her she was my business, and so was her son. I have an obligation to her, whether or not she's treatin' me like a Drone. I'm never goin' anywhere without her."
Danziger had finally found the anger, the only missing piece of his puzzling repartee.
Julia understood what John meant, even as she heard what he said. She managed a smile as her chest constricted painfully. He loved Devon, it was painfully clear, and she could never in good conscience try to take that from him.
John's wealth of emotion had somehow left him doubly alone.
"I didn't say any of it," he berated himself, "and Adair stormed off. I tried to find her but that place was a maze, I got all turned around, and then I…I saw Sheppard fightin' with …um, his sister, Katrina. She was too old to be his sister but that's who she was. She was the one who had warned True about him."
Julia could swear his voice was wavering, though he'd craned his next to avert her gaze.
"Her name was Katrina," he repeated himself, full of purpose. "Then the Elder, um…I found Devon and she was ready to leave, said she said Sheppard wasn't coming. He told me so himself, asked me to look after Devon like I owed him a favor. Like I was his Drone, too. Then we headed above ground."
Julia's brow furrowed. It wasn't the dramatic brawl what she'd been expecting.
"I figured the bastard had snubbed her, thought I have to deal with Adair's bruised ego the whole ride home, and then True…asked about him; said the boy had overheard Adair and Sheppard shankin' dreaming together, planning in secret. She ignored my questions, and then she ignored my anger and concern, and went down into the caves to find him."
Unconsciously John spread her hand open, his fingers matching her own as if in prayer. Julia's hand was nearly half the size of his own, but the groves of her palms fit securely his.
"I almost didn't…I wasn't gonna go back down after her. I was angry and I felt like shit and I wasn't about to leave True all alone. I wanted to come home," He shivered a bit, his curls bouncing.
"You would never leave her behind, John, no matter what it took," she argued, waylaying his uncertainty. "I know you better than that," she corrected herself, "we all know you better than that."
He sighed, folding the tips of his fingers over her own, then easily interweaving them.
"From the mouth of the entrance I could hear shoutin.' I drew my weapon. Sheppard was down, and Devon was strugglin' with Katrina. She was crazy, ravin'…she had a knife. She'd already used it to stab her brother."
John closed his eyes. Julia held her breath.
"I just shot her," murmured hoarsely. "I didn't call out a warnin,' I didn't aim to wound. I shot her dead."
Julia figured she already knew the rest of the story.
"Devon looked so small, so fragile. She ran to Sheppard, but it was too late for him. She lost it, cryin' like she'd never be the same without him." John's pause showed her just how scared he was that this was true. "I wanted to throw her over my shoulder and carry her out of there, but I couldn't move. I couldn't believe what I'd just done." Danziger looked a bit queasy, obviously he was still having trouble stomaching the violence he had perpetrated, however justifiable. "Twelve years in the service and I never shot livin' thing... she was just a scared old woman."
"You saved Devon's life," Julia whispered, leaning closer. "You did what you had to, John."
"I didn't think I could keep it together, so I went to empty my guts," he diffidently confessed, forcing himself through the rest of it, the afterbirth of murder. "Adair met me out there, and we left. I couldn't drive, and she knew better than to mention anythin' in front of True. I wanted to…I didn't know what I could say to stop her tears. I was feelin' pretty lousy and I…I guess I figured it wasn't my place anymore."
Julia smoothed his blankets, absorbing John's macabre narrative and the dizzying ramifications that came with it.
He'd taken a life to protect the person he loved, and he'd have to live with that, regardless of what the very act revealed to him. Devon's heart belonged to someone else.
Danziger leaned up on his elbows, his square jaw set and determined.
"I don't regret it," he confirmed, unblinking and solemn. "I just…the whole thing cuts me up. I did what I had to, but still...it's just all kinds of wrong."
He looked so stricken, like he'd been the victim of a cruel joke. As his doctor, she knew he'd be okay, Danziger was as resilient as he was resourceful. She knew he'd find a way to move on.
The forbidden door in her mind creaked open, and with the precision of a surgeon but the tenderness of a lover, Julia smoothed his brow, tracing his hairline with her thumb.
"You'll be okay, John," she promised, trying for a smile. "You'll both come through this."
His lower lip actually quivered, and before Julia could help herself she leaned in, cradling his neck as she kissed the top of his head. John drew a shuddering breath, his hand coming to rest on her hip.
It was a sensation so innate that Julia didn't even notice it at first.
"Devon's choices are her own," she whispered into his hair, breathing in the musk of fever-sweat and dank tunnels. She thought back to True's parting advice, and wondered if Devon had realized yet how mean she was being, if she realized just what Danziger has sacrificed on her behalf. "Give her time. I'm sure she'll remember what's important."
Danziger exhaled, his warm breath teasing the hollow of her throat, making Julia stomach clench with frustration.
Devon didn't deserve a man like John Danziger, not when she had everything else.
"I hate it when she cries," he bleated, gasping with exhaustion, and Julia pulled him closer, her hands in his hair as she rocked him soothingly.
The Scientist had no idea what the hell Julia thought she was doing, but acknowledged that it needed to be done.
"Devon's an adult, John," she informed him with candid empathy. Julia felt him nod, the tip of his nose brushing her throat. "No matter how understanding you are, and no matter how loud you argue," she pursed her lips against his brow, dulling her pointed words, "You won't be able to force her hand."
His grip on her hip tightened reflexively, as if responding to roll call. Every part of Julia demanded that she back away; every part but the tiny shard hidden deep inside her belly that seemed to have hijacked the others.
"Maybe it's time you and me started actin' like adults," John whispered, the dimensions of his tone shifting, gaining momentum. He leaned in closer still, pressing his lips to her pulse, nearly stopping it dead in its tracks.
It was electrifying and intoxicating, but Julia knew it wasn't remotely right. Temptation didn't weigh nearly as much as the heavy consequences of such actions.
She eased away from the warmth of him, wistfully turning him down. She pressed her forehead to his, flashing him a knowing smile as he opened his eyes to reveal pupils dilated with exhaustion and physical need.
"Maybe we should," Julia broke the news wryly, and John's answering snicker confirmed that he'd gotten the message. Its vibrations shook loose the grip of biology, the enigmatic chemical tide that had swept them into its depths.
He pulled away, incongruously both pensive and a little giddy, hiding a blush beneath his wild hair. Julia tactfully pretended not to notice as she eased him back to the pillow.
The Scientist had betrayed her; she categorized every shift of his body as a symptom and berrated Julia for denying him a simple, medicinal, physical course of treatment.
"She'll come to her senses, John," she pledged her alligence as his ally, his somewhat-saner half, "She'll come back to you."
Trying her best to seem altruistic, she smoothed an errant curl from his cheek.
"Do you love Alonzo?" he asked softly, surprising her yet again. "He's sold on you, but do you love him, Julia?"
Julia sighed as she retreated to her work table, digging through her supplies until she found the sleep aid she was planning on insisting he take. With a few hours rest his temperature would regulate itself and Danziger would be able to see things more clearly.
He eyed her Hypo-Gun suspiciously when she returned, obviously still waiting for her response. She and Danziger had done this dance more times than she could remember, this curious ritual, trading honesty when others would trade blows, or currency, or kisses.
She knew he was expecting the truth; it was the only way to restore their perilous balance.
"Not as much as you love Devon," she finally answered, abandoning all pretense.
John held her gaze, weighing the evidence, drawing a conclusion that he kept for himself.
"I should rest for a while," he quietly resolved. Julia nodded, overcome with the bittersweet sense of irony; wondering when they'd fallen into sync. John closed his eyes, hiding from her as he silently accepted the injection.
The mild sedative coursed through his system, dissolving his anxiety and the tension in his shoulders. Julia watched him settle in, no longer confused by his behavior, but still every bit amazed by his soul.
He fought against the drug, Julia figured he always would, and she smiled at the innocence of his droopy gaze. She straightened his blankets, patiently awaiting whatever it was Danziger wanted to say.
"The Elder said that, too…he told me I was in love with her," John marveled faintly, dropping off into slumber.
Julia ignored the sting of tears, blinking them away as she pressed her hand to his downy cheek.
"The Elder doesn't lie," she reminded his sleeping form softly. Zipping up to face the cold, Julia grabbed her kit and left her patient to the sanctuary of the Med Tent.
It was time to pay Devon Adair a house call.