BREAKING THE ICE

Author: Allison McDonnell

Rating: PG-13 (coarse language)

Disclaimer: They're not mine. They belong to Amblin and Universal.

Feedback: Yes, please! :))

Author's Notes: A huge thank you to Manuela for her proofread and for making some very helpful suggestions.

Timeline: Approximately two months before the events of First Contact

Summary: To be perfectly honest, there's not much of a plot. It's just a bunch of people sitting around and talking. Basically, seven members of the Roanoke crew get to know each other a little better during a late night card game. That is, until they're interrupted by an uninvited guest. It's a peek of things to come for D & D as they formally introduce themselves to one another the only way they know how-- by pissing each other off.

__________

After another long, grueling day of work for the staff of Eden Advance, it was refreshing to finally let off some steam. And, as far as John Danziger was concerned, there was no better way to unwind than by separating his friends and fellow crewmates from their own hard-earned credits.

"Okay, ladies and gentlemen-- and Walman," Alonzo joked, his voice echoing off the cold metal walls of the darkened hangar. "Everyone ante up. The game is progressive five card draw, Jacks or better, trips to win. Nothing wild-" he pivoted his head to Alex and winked suggestively, "-except for the dealer, of course."

The pilot finished his instructions over the sound of Alex's laughter and Les' jovial threats about how easy it would be for a jealous husband, who also happened to be an expert electrician, to tinker with the wiring of a certain coldsleep chamber. Alonzo responded to his harmless words of warning by blowing Alex a kiss.

There was a flurry of activity as chips were tossed into the center of the large, folding table and cards expertly sailed through the air to land directly in front of Alonzo and his six associates.

Walman shook his head in frustration as he pulled his cards to his chest. "Aw, man! You dealt me a bunch of shit, Solace!" he griped, his voice taking on an almost accusatory tone.

The pilot gave him a big, toothy grin. "I guess that means that Walman doesn't have at least a pair of Jacks and can't open," he chuckled before swerving his gaze to the crewmember seated directly to Walman's right. "How 'bout you, Magus? Can you open?"

The blond haired woman intently stared at her cards as if trying to mentally transform them into a better hand. "I'll check," she finally replied, resigning herself to the idea that she was stuck with the garbage she was given.

The group next looked to Mazatl. "Check," he remarked flatly.

"Me, too," Les sighed.

"I'll open with fifty," Alex said with a broad grin, almost giddy with excitement at her pair of Aces. It looked as though her luck was about to turn around that evening.

However, her smile disappeared when Danziger hurled a handful of chips into the already disorderly pile. "Oh, yeah? Well, I'll see your fifty and raise you another twenty," he proclaimed confidently.

There was a chorus of angry groans and curses at the man's bold wager.

"Too rich for my blood," Mazatl muttered, surrendering his cards while the others grudgingly added more money to the ever growing mound of credits.

Alonzo was about to begin the second round of play when the sound of someone's gearset began to resonate throughout the dank chamber.

Walman tossed his free hand skyward. "Jesus H. Christ, not again! This is the fourth time they've called you tonight!" he hollered at Danziger as if he or anyone else needed reminding.

John set his cards to the side before grabbing the offending equipment which had been dangling around his neck and roughly shoving it upward onto his head. He switched on the audio function to address his unwanted caller, deliberately leaving off the visual screen.

"What do ya' want now, O'Neill?" Danziger said bluntly, not making the slightest attempt to hide his displeasure at the latest intrusion. After listening to the response on the other end, the mechanic replied, "Yeah, well, I'm not in my quarters. I'm still on 'A' deck."

At the same time, the rest of the crew continued to play out the hand. Alonzo started going around the table dispensing new cards to replace the ones which were thrown away. No one really paid any mind to Danziger's one-sided conversation with his supervisor.

That is, until they heard him say, "It's none of your damn business why I'm still here! Just like it's none of your damn business who answered the phone in my quarters!"

That got everyone's undivided attention.

Simultaneously, the other players put down their cards and leaned forward with their elbows resting on the table to listen in. John noticed their behavior and, in a futile attempt for privacy, turned his chair away from the group to face the opposite direction.

"No, she's not part of the crew," he told O'Neill in a lower, though still extremely irritated, voice.

There was a heavy pause before he snapped, "Yes, I'm aware that I'm supposed to get written approval for any guest that I bring on board and, no, I didn't for her. Was there something you wanted? Some emergency? Or did you just call to harass me about my visitors?"

There was another few seconds of stillness. "Yeah, the power's out in 'H' sector. So, what? It's probably nothing more than a loose wire or a minor short in the fuse box. I'll get to it first thing in the morning."

Another pause. "No, not tonight-- tomorrow. I told you that I'm off the clock. And what's the big hurry, anyways? There's nothin' in that part of the ship but supply crates."

There was an audible growl from Danziger as the conversation with O'Neill obviously took an ugly turn. "I don't give a shit if she wants to take a midnight inventory! She's already had two years to count everything! If she's waited this long, she can wait another six shanking hours!"

O'Neill's voice was now loud enough that the others could hear his anger, although they were still unable to decipher the actual words. When he was finished venting, Danziger gruffly responded, "No, I'm not doin' it. And neither is any of my crew."

There were another few tense moments before he let out an angry scoff. "Yeah, well, you can tell the Boss-lady-" he began before apparently being interrupted.

John had clearly had enough of their discussion and decided that it was time to end it.

"That's just fine with me!" he shouted, hanging up on O'Neill and pushing his gearset back down to hang around his neck like the albatross that it was.

He harshly turned his chair back to its original position, his crewmates cringing at the high-pitched screeching noise of the chair legs as they scraped across the metal floor.

"So, what's the verdict?" Alex questioned, worried that her friend had just been fired.

"He said that anything I have to say, I can say to Devon Adair's face the next time I see her," Danziger said with a snort. "Like that'll ever happen."

"I don't know," Mazatl offered. "She's been known to roam around the lower decks at night."

"Yeah, to look for some excuse to send one of her infamous memos or to tell O'Neill to yell at us about what we're doing wrong," Danziger replied bitterly. "Nothing is ever good enough for that woman."

"Forget about Adair," Alonzo broke in, chortling as he addressed the group. "I wanna know who the mystery woman in Danziger's quarters is!"

John grimaced as if he was being asked to reveal some top level government secret. "True's baby-sitter," he finally disclosed, giving the pilot a dirty look before burying his gaze in his cards.

The room erupted with laughter. "I knew that it was too much of a stretch to think that Danz might have a girlfriend stashed away somewhere," Mazatl said, shaking his head.

"Oh, please! I haven't seen him take a woman out on an old-fashioned date since I've known him," Walman exclaimed.

"I set him up with my cousin a few years ago," Magus offered as she took a sip of her beer.

The men, with the exception of Danziger, involuntarily straightened up in their seats. "You mean Miranda? The one with the really big-" Walman raised his open hands, holding them out at his chest level, a quirky little grin on his face.

"-heart," Magus quickly finished for him before he could be given the chance.

"Oh, yeah," Les eagerly agreed. "That Miranda is really endowed in the heart area."

Alonzo, Walman and Mazatl nodded enthusiastically to back up his statement while Alex wagged her finger in mock outrage in Les' direction.

Les broke into a guilty smile. "Or so I've been told," he backtracked, placing his arm around his wife while Alonzo blew her yet another kiss.

"So, was it a love connection?" Mazatl asked with a snicker, gesturing toward Danziger who was acting as though he was ignoring the entire conversation.

There was admonishment in Magus' eyes and voice as she turned to the mechanic. "Miranda thought so, but John never called her for another date. He never bothered to return her messages, either."

Alonzo grinned from ear to ear. "Well, that was very rude of him, wasn't it?" he remarked merrily.

"Yeah, Danz should be ashamed of himself," Walman chuckled.

"It's a downright travesty, if you ask me," Alex chimed in.

"You know, at this point, I feel that it's necessary to remind everyone that I'm in the room and can hear everything that you're sayin' about me," Danziger grumbled, still not meeting their gazes. "Enough of this crap. Are we gonna play cards or what?"

"Nope," Alonzo beamed, shaking his head in an exaggerated motion. "Not until you tell us why you gave the lovely and big-hearted Miranda the royal brush-off."

"It's none of your business," John snapped before finishing off the last of his beer. He rose to his feet and busied himself with refilling his mug from the nearby portable keg which he'd smuggled on board earlier in the day. He returned to his seat and was about to take a healthy gulp of the brew when he caught sight of the others. Every one of them bore a determined expression and were rigidly sitting back in their chairs with their arms folded, a clear sign that they weren't budging until they received a satisfactory response from him.

"Sonofabitch," he mumbled under his breath as he set the mug down on the table with a thud. There were very few things that Danziger disliked more than having people poke around in his private life. But, as much as he wanted to, stalking away in an angry huff wasn't an option because, by doing so, he would be forced to forfeit the money which he'd already invested in the hand. Therefore, economics dictated that he had no other choice but to stay where he was and give his fellow crewmates an answer to their nosy question.

He shrugged his shoulders. "Look, she was nice, don't get me wrong. But she was just too much of a shrinking violet for my taste, okay?" he disclosed with unusual candor. "I guess that I was expecting her to be a bit tougher. You know, gutsy. I like a gal with a little bit of piss and vinegar in her. Someone who won't take any guff and can hold her own in an argument. And Miranda, as lovely and big-hearted as she was, acted like she was afraid of her own shadow." He gave them a resolute nod of his head, signaling that he now considered this particular path of their discussion to be closed. "Now, can we play some cards?"

There was a mixture of reactions to Danziger's straightforwardness. Most were pleased and more than a little surprised that they'd been able to successfully coax their friend into revealing a bit more about himself. However, Alex and Les wore expressions that were decidedly melancholy. After all, not only were they sympathetic to John's awkwardness about sharing any feelings that were remotely personal in nature, they were also reminded of a time, many years before, when he was involved with someone who'd fit the description of his ideal woman perfectly but who now existed as nothing more than a shell, living out her days in a sterile hospital facility for the neuro-dead.

Ignoring Danziger's request to continue the game and oblivious to Les and Alex's mood change, Alonzo turned toward the rest of the group. "Hmm, so Danziger likes big, strong women," he teased, theatrically grunting and flexing his biceps.

"Maybe he should start cruising the circuses," Walman suggested.

John didn't miss a beat and swerved his gaze toward the cocky crewman. "Hey, if I was looking for a sideshow attraction, I'd ask out your sister," he retorted, wearing a deadpan expression.

There was an explosion of hysterical laughter and it took a few moments for the group to finally collect their composure enough to continue the conversation.

"What makes it so funny is that it's the truth!" Alonzo exclaimed, still having trouble catching his breath.

"Uh-huh, Walman's sister is a freak of nature, all right!" Mazatl heartily agreed between guffaws.

Magus added, "Yeah, who'd of guessed that Walman was the one blessed with the looks in his family?"

"That's just plain sad, I tell ya'!"

Meanwhile, Walman was getting hot under the collar as he listened to his friends insult his family's gene pool. "Okay, everybody shut up about my sister before I start bashing some heads in," he threatened, his face beginning to redden.

Realizing that they'd struck a nerve and not wanting to risk losing a poker player (especially a lousy one), Alex decided that a change of topic was in order. "So, now we know what kind of woman John is attracted to. How about you, Mazatl? What do you look for in a mate?"

Mazatl's chuckles receded as he thought about the question put before him. His mind immediately flashed to a certain dark-haired beauty named Eben who'd just recently transferred over from the colony ship to work in his unit. "Oh, I don't know. Probably a good sense of humor."

Another batch of profanity, along with several handfuls of snack food, were lobbed in the crewman's direction, prompting him to slightly amend his statement by inserting some honesty.

"Okay, you caught me," he admitted with a smirk. "A good sense of humor and a great pair of legs."

"I'll drink to that," Alonzo heartily proclaimed as the rest of the men raised their glasses in support.

"What about you, Alex?"

"I like my men tall, dark and easily dominated," she joked, turning to her husband and planting a big, wet kiss on his cheek. "Isn't that right, Sweetheart?"

"Anything you say, Angel," Les replied in an overly cheerful tone. "And as for what I look for in a woman." He shifted in his seat, pretending to be uncomfortable. "Um, not that I'm looking or anything-"

"Damn right, you're not," came the playful warning from the seat next to him.

"Well, for me, it's all about the eyes. They're the windows to the soul, you know," he expressed, gazing at his wife lovingly.

"How 'bout you, Walman?"

"Oh, give me a break. Like you all have to ask," Magus interrupted, rolling her eyes. "Walman's obviously a breast man."

Walman waggled his eyebrows up and down. "Guilty as charged," he grinned. With a sudden burst of enthusiasm, he turned to Magus. "Hey, do you think your cousin would go out with me?"

"Probably not, since she got married last year."

He shrugged. "I can work around that," he said nonchalantly.

More food flew through the air before Les said, "Your turn, Magus."

The crew-woman's eyes took on a wistful quality. "When I was a little girl, I used to dream about meeting a rich, handsome stranger who would sweep me off my feet and pay off my debts. Kind of like Prince Charming, but without the sissy wardrobe." She let out a defeated sigh and shook herself back to reality. "But, at this point, I think I'd settle for someone who doesn't burp at the dinner table."

No sooner had the words left her mouth, when Walman let out an earth-shattering belch. There was a blitzkrieg of hostility directed toward the crewman's appalling lack of manners as Magus threw up her hands in surrender.

"I rest my case," she said over Walman's defensive grumblings about his legitimate right to have a gassy stomach.

When things finally settled down, Alex realized that there was one person who had yet to be cast under the microscope. "Well, that just leaves you, Alonzo," she expressed. "So, what quality attracts you to a woman?"

"That's easy," the carefree sleepjumper replied, flashing his patented fly-boy smile. "A pulse."

Before anyone could react to Solace's proclamation, their faculties were snapped to attention by the hangar's metal door sliding open and a lone figure stepping through the threshold. Not bothering to close the door behind her, the visitor purposefully marched toward the gathering, stopping a few feet shy of the table. When the group realized who she was, they hurriedly set their cards and drinks down and rose to their feet. That is, everyone except for Danziger. In contrast, he didn't move a muscle, staying in his chair with his cards still firmly in his grasp.

"Please, sit down," their visitor instructed, using a voice which was congenial yet authoritative. As the crew followed her orders, the woman briefly glanced at the rude man who had remained seated with his back to her. "Which one of you gentleman is Mr. Danzinger?"

All eyes fell on the mechanic's slouching form. "Uh, that's, um, Danziger, ma'am," Alex nervously corrected, inwardly hoping that she wouldn't get in trouble for pointing out the error.

"That'd be me," the rude man finally spoke up, not making the slightest effort to turn around to address her face-to-face.

The visitor let out an exasperated sigh. Apparently, this wasn't going to be as easy as she'd first thought. "My name is Devon Adair," she told the back of John's head.

Danziger wasn't impressed nor was he the least bit intimidated by her presence. Far from it, in fact. Even though it was Adair's ship, as far as he was concerned, she was trespassing onto his turf.

"I know who you are," he said evenly, his gaze remaining on the table directly in front of him.

"Good, then you can explain to me directly why you refuse to fix the power outage in 'H' sector."

"I never refused to fix it," he said gruffly. "I said I'd repair it tomorrow morning."

"I want it done tonight," she demanded.

There wasn't the slightest twitch from Danziger at Devon's take-no-prisoners tone. "Too bad. I'm in the middle of something right now," he grunted.

"Yes, I can see that you're extremely busy with your card game," she cynically replied, losing more patience with each passing moment. Her eyes scanned beyond him to zero in on the contents of the table. "And is that beer you're drinking?" she questioned in both amazement and disdain.

"Yeah," he replied, his voice overflowing with sarcasm. "Why, do you want a swig? I can pour you a mug if you'd like." After he finished speaking, he felt a sharp pain in his left leg as Alex kicked him under the table.

Danziger's audacity caused Devon to be at a momentary loss for words-- a rare occurrence, indeed. "No, I-" she stumbled before quickly recovering, "I just thought that you'd been notified about the addendum made to your contract which strictly prohibits bringing alcoholic beverages aboard either the Roanoke or the Jamestown. There should have been a memo posted on the bulletin board in the Ops cafeteria. Perhaps you didn't see it."

Still facing the opposite direction, he smugly offered, "Oh, I saw the memo, all right. As a matter of fact, I can honestly say that I tore right through it."

There was the sound of several muffled thuds as Danziger's shins were attacked from all directions by the feet of his concerned crewmates. At the same time, Devon's cheeks were beginning to flush with anger.

"Tell me something, Danzinger-"

"That's Dan- zi- ger," he corrected, speaking slowly and over-enunciating each syllable.

"Excuse me, Danziger," Devon acknowledged. "Are you always this much of an arrogant ass or do you save it for special occasions?"

The confrontational remark was more than enough to motivate Danziger to swivel his lumbering form around in his chair to make eye contact with Devon for the first time. There were many long, extremely uncomfortable moments for the rest of the group as they witnessed the pair size each other up in a tense glare-off.

Devon's eyes were assaulted by the mechanic's frigid stare as well as the tacky print of his rumpled shirt. His scruffy appearance also included a weathered blue jacket, a mangled mop of unkempt hair and a face which obviously hadn't seen the working end of a razor in several days. Simply put-- he was a mess. When she added in his tactless and disrespectful behavior, Devon found herself wondering what sort of example the disheveled chief of Operations could be setting for the crewmembers who'd been placed in his charge.

Meanwhile, Danziger wasn't liking what he was seeing either. The woman practically oozed hostility with her arms defiantly folded in front of her and wearing a searing gaze that could slice a metal beam in two. In Danziger's eyes, even Devon's clothing had attitude. Her navy pantsuit, although relatively plain for someone of her social and financial status, was made of a delicate silk-like fabric and had clearly been tailored to fit her trim frame like a glove. There was also a small, jeweled pin positioned just below her shoulder and a silver ring on her right hand, both of which probably cost more than Danziger could earn in a month's worth of spacewalks. Every strand of her auburn hair was flawlessly styled and her porcelain hands looked as though they'd never seen a hard day's work beyond pushing papers around a desk.

After completing his examination, John took the countless array of adjectives that he could use to describe her and capsulized them down to a single word: Bitch.

"If you don't like the company here, feel free to leave. No one's stoppin' you," he growled, flaunting his contempt for her as if it was something to be proud of.

Devon let out an irritated scoff. "Hmm, let's see," she said crisply. "Sneaking in unauthorized guests, throwing late-night beer parties, not to mention your obvious problem with anything that resembles authority-- you seem to be having some trouble following the terms of your contract, Mr. Danziger. Maybe you're the one who should consider leaving."

She took a very pregnant pause to assess the effect that her words were having on the mechanic and was inwardly pleased at the results. His shoulders and jaw had noticeably stiffened and there was a deep grayish-blue vein creeping down his brow. Even his eyes had narrowed to the point that she could barely see his fury reflected back at her. In short, he looked as though he was about to explode.

Although generally considered to be a good man, anyone who knew John Danziger directly or indirectly, was familiar with his hair-trigger temper. Truth be told, the man was a powder keg of volatility and, if pushed far enough, his response was often likened to what happens to a grizzly bear after it's been repeatedly poked in the stomach with a sharp stick. Because of this, most people knew to avoid being the recipient of one of his tirades by wisely backing down before things went too far. However, Devon Adair wasn't most people. And, if anything, John's animosity only inspired her to provoke him further.

To that end, she added in her most antagonizing voice, "If you'd like, I can even help you out the door."

Danziger's first inclination was to fly off the handle, a move which would involve a lot of loud cursing, arm waving and, of course, the inevitable graphic rant about which bodily orifice Devon could deposit her contract. But after thinking about it for a moment, he realized that angrily lashing out was exactly the reaction that Devon was looking for and there was no way in hell that he was going to give her the satisfaction. So, instead, he successfully managed to bottle his rage-- for now.

He relaxed his posturing and slumped back in his chair, shaking his head. "You're gonna pink slip me two months before debarking?" he jeered with an overconfident chuckle. "Well, good shankin' luck finding a replacement! No one here wants my job, that's for damn sure! And if you try bringing in someone from the outside, you're gonna have to start the entire hiring process from scratch-- that includes filing new applications and getting approval from four different government agencies. And both of us know that a six month delay could be as simple as forgetting to cross a 't' on one of the forms. And don't forget that you'll also have to conduct one of your notorious background checks which, if memory serves, took over three months for me." He broke into a pompous smile. "Face it, Adair, you couldn't fire me even if you wanted to. You don't have enough time."

He lurched forward in his seat, brazenly adding, "In fact, maybe I should put in my resignation right now just to see how much I can screw up your departure date. There's no way that you'll get Level 6 clearance without a certified Operations captain."

The leader advanced two steps, intentionally casting her shadow over him. "You're bluffing. You wouldn't dare quit at this late date," she seethed as she dug her hands into her hips.

"I don't bluff," John replied flatly.

Devon cocked her head to the side in order to observe his cards. "Of course, you do," she exclaimed snidely. "Why else would you still be in a poker hand with only a pair of fours?"

Several of his friend's jaws dropped open. "Jeez, Danz, you only have a pair of fours? I folded with a pair of nines!" Mazatl blurted out before being hushed back into silence by Alex.

As much as John wanted to, he refused to rise to the bait and successfully fought his urge to separate Devon's head from her shoulders. Instead, his face twisted itself into a deeper scowl, appearing as if he'd just taken a strong whiff of something rancid.

"You know what? This is gettin' old, so either gimme my damn walking papers or grab a chair and deal yourself into the game," he sneered in his grouchiest tone. "To be honest, I don't care what you do as long as you get outta my light."

Devon decided that she had endured more than enough insubordination for one evening and it was hightime to concede to her desire to give Danziger the verbal ass-kicking which she felt he so richly deserved. However, just as she was about to abandon her self-restraint, the gearset on her belt sounded off.

She exchanged another leer with the mechanic as she placed the equipment on her head.

"Yes?" she said, her tone slightly curt thanks to Danziger's boorish efforts.

Her face and voice softened after hearing the reply. "Uh, no, everything's fine. I was just in the middle of a discussion, that's all. This is a good time to talk. So, how's he doing?"

A few moments went by. "And his temperature?" she asked, taking a few steps backward to put some distance between her and her newest adversary. She turned slightly when she realized that Danziger still hadn't veered his gaze.

"Good. Has Dr. Vasquez been by, again?"

There was a brief pause as she listened. "Mm-hmm. Good."

Suddenly, Devon's brows furrowed "He's awake? Why?" she exclaimed in obvious worry. "You know how important it is that he gets his rest."

She listened intently to her caller's explanation. "Okay, I understand. Why don't you put him on and I'll talk to him."

There was a several second delay while she waited. And, although she refused to look in his direction, she could still feel the weight of Danziger's stare. But, despite the mechanic's unwanted intrusion, her expression became warm and completely unguarded when her son came into view on her gearset.

"Hey, Sweetie. Yale tells me that your fever's almost gone," she said cheerfully.

After hearing his reply, she offered, "Well, I'm working right now, but I'll be there soon-"

As Devon proceeded to speak with her son, Danziger began to give her a second look. He'd momentarily forgotten that Devon was the parent of a Syndrome child. He started thinking about what the average day must be like for her; the extra demands on her time and the incredible amount of energy that she must have to expel in order to keep her son as healthy as possible under the circumstances.

It would certainly be emotionally draining for her, too, John inwardly reflected. He considered the powerlessness which Devon must have felt over the years while she witnessed her little boy suffer from a multitude of illnesses which his frail body was incapable of fighting off because he lacked an adequate immune system. And, of course, there was also the sobering knowledge that her child would never reach adulthood. But that was something that Devon was obviously unwilling to accept. And she was about to forfeit absolutely everything that she had in the world-- her career, her money, even her good name-- all for the minute chance that a cure might exist on some remote planet light years away from the nearest civilization.

Danziger suddenly found himself admiring Devon's tenacity. As crazy as her solution might seem to him (and to just about everyone else on the Stations), she was willing to sacrifice it all for the sake of her son and for the 250 other Syndrome children who were also coming along for the ride. He had to respect that.

Meanwhile, Devon was now completely oblivious to John's presence as she continued her conversation with Uly. She took a deep breath and checked her chronometer. "I'll tell you what. If you promise me that you'll go back to bed, I'll be home in about ten minutes to tuck you in, okay?"

A radiant smile crossed her lips. "I love you, too," she relayed with heartfelt emotion.

After signing off, she began to absently fiddle with reattaching her gearset back onto the clasp of her belt. That is, until her concentration was broken by a hoarse, yet strangely calm, voice.

"Is your kid all right?"

Devon swerved her head back toward Danziger in surprise. She was even more surprised to see the abrupt change in his expression. Before their argument had been interrupted, the mechanic's face had been filled with scorn. But now his anger was nowhere to be found and, instead, his eyes exhibited, not just a look of concern, but of compassion. And for the second time that evening, Devon was at a temporary loss for words.

"Yes, he's fine," she was finally able to respond. "He came down with a slight fever around dinner time. I think that he just got a little overexcited after Yale took him on a tour of the ship. But we're keeping a close eye on him, just in case." She added with a bit of uneasiness, "Um, thanks for asking."

"Sure. I gotta kid of my own and I'm exactly the same way whenever she's sick," John replied, mentally kicking himself as soon as the words left his mouth. How could he be so insensitive as to compare one of True's cases of the sniffles to what her son must experience every single day of his limited life?

If Devon took umbrage with his statement, she didn't show it. "So you're the crewmember with a child?" she said as a pleasant grin, or at least a fragment of one, graced her lips. "We hadn't seen her on board and we wondered where she was."

"Yeah, well, she sticks with me most of the time. She's a pretty good mechanic, 'specially for as young as she is," he expressed, beaming with pride. "I keep her busy doin' small stuff like tightening connector plugs and running frequency checks on the circuit panels."

Although his expression was partially hidden behind a curtain of curls, Devon could see the devotion written all over John's face as he spoke of his little girl. It was obvious to her that the two were strongly bonded and that he was a loving and supportive father. Devon began to consider the notion that her first impression of Danziger may have been wrong; that she'd prematurely judged him as being nothing more than an inconsiderate, ill-mannered bully. Well, sure he certainly possessed those less admirable traits, too, but as she observed his now relaxed features, there was clearly more to him than meets the eye.

Devon found that she was curious to learn more about him and she made a mental note to read his bio-stat file at her next available moment. She wanted to better understand why a man like him would sign up for a job like this.

"How old is she?" she asked with genuine interest.

"Ten." John rolled his eyes and snickered, "Goin' on twenty."

Devon's smile broadened. "Uly is eight. It feels like his birthday is right around the corner." Her eyes saddened as she thought of the significance of her son turning nine-- and the unlikelihood that he would live long enough to see it. "Seems like just yesterday they were in diapers, doesn't it?" she added, her voice now bittersweet.

"Yeah, I know what you mean," he murmured.

There was a discomforting silence in the room as Devon and Danziger's penetrating gazes remained transfixed on one another. Both inwardly wondered how the conversation had careened so far off of their original topic. Weren't they just fighting a few minutes ago?

At last, Devon was able to break her intense stare with the mechanic and direct her eyes downward, confused and horrified that she'd become so flustered that she was beginning to blush. She cleared her throat awkwardly. "Well, uh, as you probably heard, it looks like I won't be doing a supply inventory in 'H' sector this evening after all, so there's no reason for you to leave your card game." She recovered enough of her composure to lift her gaze back to his. "But as for the alcohol-"

"The keg'll be gone by morning," John cut in, just as surprised as she was that he was caving in so easily, but was still somehow unable to stop himself.

"And your visitor?"

Danziger let out a weighty sigh before reluctantly agreeing, "The next time I decide to hire a sitter, I'll go through the proper channels. Fair enough?"

Devon felt her heartbeat speed up its tempo slightly, though she was unsure as to whether her excitement was due to Danziger's concessions to her demands or because he'd relayed that the woman in his quarters was his daughter's baby-sitter. She decided that it was best not to think about it.

"Fair enough," she stated with a small nod. She turned with the intention of making her way out of the hangar, but stopped mid-step and rotated back to face him. "Oh, and the power failure?"

"My shift begins at 6:00 a.m. which means that everything should be back up and runnin' by 6:30," he declared, smugly folding his arms across his chest.

Devon responded with a look of skepticism, prompting Danziger to scoff dramatically and add, "If you don't believe me, you can come down there and check it out for yourself."

The corners of her mouth edged upward into a smirk as she considered his suggestion. "I just might do that," she said, quickly turning away to prevent him from seeing the smile expanding across her face.

She resumed her course, the clicking sound of her high-heeled shoes reverberating throughout the chamber as she headed for the exit. "Have a good evening, all," she warmly called out to the gathering.

For someone who'd originally made a big show of giving Devon the cold shoulder, now Danziger was unable to tear his eyes away from her graceful form as she breezed out of the room. In fact, his mesmerized gaze remained riveted in the leader's direction well after the door had hissed softly to a close behind her.

"Ahem," came a loud cough from Les as he attempted to rouse John from his trance.

Danziger suddenly became very aware of the group of curious onlookers sitting behind him. He carefully transformed his expression to one of indifference before pivoting back toward the table to face them.

"Jesus, Danziger. You sure have a set of balls on you!" Mazatl exclaimed with wide eyes.

"Devon seems to have a pretty big pair herself," Magus furthered.

Alex gave the mechanic a reprimanding frown. "What the hell is wrong with you, John?" she scolded. "Trying to kick her out of her own hangar. Threatening to quit just so you could screw up her mission." She shook her head, completely at a loss as to why her friend would behave so recklessly. "Have you forgotten that you have a child to support?"

"Hey, you leave True outta this. I can take care of her just fine without havin' to sacrifice my pride," he snapped back, offended that she could dare question his unwavering commitment to his daughter. "Just because Adair is my boss, don't mean that she owns me. And besides, it all worked out, didn't it?" he added defensively.

Before Alex could answer him, Alonzo chimed in, "Oh, yeah. It worked out, all right."

Danziger's head cocked backward, visibly annoyed. "What are you babbling about now, Solace?"

"Just that I couldn't help but notice that you and Devon were gettin' kind of chummy toward the end there," the pilot snickered. "I'm surprised that she didn't invite you back to her place for a nightcap."

John shot him a threatening glare. "I'm not laughing," he grunted.

"Neither am I. In fact, I can't believe that I didn't see it before," Alonzo announced gleefully. "Tough as nails. Doesn't take any guff. Loves to argue," he listed before leaning forward in his chair to give his words additional impact. "Face it, Danziger. Devon Adair is the woman of your dreams!"

The majority of the crew nearly fell out of their seats and their roars of laughter rang throughout the chamber. Alex, on the other hand, seemed to be in a state of shock.

"Alonzo's right! You and Devon are perfect for each other!" Mazatl blurted out.

Walman reached across the table and gave Danziger a friendly smack on the shoulder. "Hey, maybe you should ask her out!"

Tears of laughter were forming in the corner of Magus' eyes as she expressed, "Can you imagine the faces of all of those snobby bluebloods if you two started dating? There'd be anarchy!"

"You'd be all over the news chips, that's for sure," Alonzo joked. "I can already see the pictures in the society section."

"Me, too," Magus declared. "And the captions underneath them would read something like: Billionaire Celebrity Businesswoman Devon Adair And Her Escort, Drone Mechanic John Danziger."

"All right, all right, you've had your fun," the mechanic said, masking his discomfort with a withering look. He added matter-of-factly, "Anyways, I don't know what you guys are talking about. I can't stand Adair and she sure as hell can't stand me. End of story."

"Well, cheer up. You only have to work for her for another twenty-two years," Magus smirked.

"Uh, technically, it's forty-four years," Mazatl was quick to point out. "But, at least we'll be asleep for most of it."

"Plus, Adair won't be around to hassle us on the trip home."

John acted as though he'd lost interest in the conversation and redirected his eyes toward his cards with the hope that the others would change the subject. He was relieved when the rest of the group followed his lead and gathered their own cards to resume the poker game.

"So, does the man with the pair of fours wanna raise?" Alonzo asked in a smart-alecky voice.

"Yeah, Danz. You feelin' lucky?" Walman added with a cheeky grin.

"Bunch of shankin' comedians," Danziger grumbled under his breath amidst the chuckles of his friends. He shook his head in frustration as he tossed his cards across the table. "I fold."

As the crew played out the hand, Danziger's mind started to wander elsewhere. His features softened as he inwardly recalled his conversation with Devon, especially the later parts in which they'd amiably discussed their children. However, he quickly shook himself out of his reverie when he realized that Alex was staring at him, reading his thoughts in that irritating way that she always could. He briefly met her eyes, the odd expression on her face causing him to give her a double-take before he awkwardly turned away from her.

John continued to ignore Alex as his gaze drifted aimlessly around the room until it eventually gravitated back to the hangar door. He began to wonder to himself if Devon would really make an appearance the following morning to check up on him as she'd threatened to. And he was also more than a little confused as to why he was suddenly looking forward to fixing a simple power outage.

He decided that it was best not to think about it.

The End