PEACE OF MIND

RATING: PG (mild language)

DISCLAIMER: Amblin's. Universal's. Duh.

AUTHOR'S NOTES: One of my favorite things to speculate about is the various stages that Devon and Danziger's friendship/relationship might have been at different points of their journey and how their feelings for one another grew over time. My apologies for this fic's lack of plot (again).

TIMELINE: Winter camp. Set between "Grendlers in the Midst" {Plot Recap: EA receives gear transmissions from a desperate Dell Curry which turns out to be a hologram of events which took place twenty years earlier. Danziger finally tells True about her mother.} and "The Greatest Love Story Never Told" {Plot Recap: A sick Danziger gets lost during a scout and is taken in by a group of reformed penal colonists who reside underground. Oh yeah, and Shepard is there, too. Ick.}

SUMMARY: Danziger gets some things sorted out in his head when he dreams of Devon.

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Danziger wasn't sure what caused him to be disturbed from his peaceful slumber. It seemed to be some type of a shuffling sound originating just outside of his tent. It was loud enough to cause him to pry open an eye, but not important enough to warrant him getting out of bed to investigate. After all, not only was he fighting off a cold, he was exhausted from yet another full day spent trying to winterize the vehicles so that they would survive the frigid temperature. After dismissing the noise as a tree branch brushing up against the canvas, John shut his eyes and drifted back to sleep.

Seconds later, Danziger was again jostled awake when the sound returned, this time slightly more intense than before. He let out a groan and yanked the covers over his head as he revised his theory. Now he rationalized that the source of the commotion was most likely Mazatl walking the camp's perimeter in an effort to ward off frostbite and the boredom of midnight sentry duty. John made a mental note to speak to the crewman about his noisy patrolling tactics the following day before allowing himself to slip back into his slumber.

But the third time was the charm for Danziger and he couldn't ignore or explain away the racket which included a heavy thud that was powerful enough to rattle the tent's support poles. Someone out there was obviously trying to get his attention... or piss him off. Either way, he was awake now and someone was going to have to answer for it.

He tossed aside his blanket and growled a curse word under his breath as he sat up. It immediately struck him as odd that he was no longer feeling under the weather. After sinking his feet into his boots, he started to grab his jacket, but stopped mid-reach when he made another strange realization. There was no need for a coat because it wasn't cold. It was the dead of winter, yet there wasn't even the hint of a chill in the air.

He wiped the sleep from his eyes as he made a quick survey of the room and noticed that there were other peculiarities as well. Although his chronometer relayed that it was just past two in the morning, there was light filtering in through the cracks and holes of the tent. John's attention then shifted to his daughter's cot only to find it empty. However, at this point he wasn't concerned about True's absence because he'd already successfully pieced together what was going on.

"I'm dreaming," he surmised with both relief and fascination.

The sound of more shuffling prompted Danziger to exit his bed and make his way to the door. As he pulled back the nylon flap, he was temporarily blinded by the sun's brilliance. He shaded his eyes until his vision adjusted and was surprised to find his tent situated in a large, open field, similar to dozens of generic fields in which Eden Advance had camped before the plummeting temperature had forced them to seek refuge in the biodome. And apart from a few patches of taller grass and shrubbery which were sporadically scattered throughout the landscape, the only other item adorning his dream was another tent positioned about two hundred yards away.

Before Danziger had time to consider his options, a silhouette appeared in the doorway of the other dwelling. Even at that distance, he immediately recognized the familiar form.

"Aw, man, this isn't a dream. It's a shankin' nightmare," he scoffed as Devon Adair stepped out of the tent and into the sunlight.

He threw his hands upward in disgust. Jeez, he inwardly groused, it was bad enough that he had to put up with Devon bossing him around in the daytime. But now she'd somehow figured out a way to harass him while he slept. This was just too much.

John's first inclination was to turn tail and go back into his quarters. But as Devon slowly began to move toward him, the mechanic's legs refused to obey his brain and he instead began walking in her direction. Besides, Danziger figured that whatever Devon wanted to yell at him about, he might as well get it over with so he could finally get some rest.

After the two ended up meeting at exactly the halfway point between the two tents, Danziger made another quick inspection of their surroundings. "Looks like there's no one else here," he said, stating the obvious.

He'd expected some sort of sarcastic retort from Devon or, at the very least, an over-exaggerated rolling of the eyes. However, the leader's expression was decidedly neutral and her only response was a nod. This immediately put Danziger on edge and he began nervously shifting his feet back and forth in the dirt.

"So, uh, this is a dream, huh?" he remarked awkwardly.

Devon continued her silent treatment and answered with a noncommitted shrug which only served to add to John's discomfort. Why in the hell was she just standing there, he wondered. Why didn't she say something? Why wasn't she pushing him around or trying to provoke him into an argument like she usually did?

Then, Danziger experienced another epiphany when he realized that this wasn't really Devon who was blankly staring at him. Sure it may look exactly like her, but it wasn't. This was Dream Devon, an apparition created by his own subconscious. And that changed things considerably.

A smug smile crept across his face. "So, I guess that means that I can pretty much do or say anything I want, doesn't it?" Danziger smirked, regaining both his confidence and his cockiness as he rocked back on his heels. Again, she replied with nothing more than a shrug of her shoulders.

He took a few moments to gather his thoughts, grateful that his psyche had found a way for him to tell Devon how he really felt about her without having to worry about suffering any of the nasty consequences of his actions (some of which could involve physical pain). And boy did he have a lot to say to her! This was a rare opportunity indeed, he reflected. And certainly not one to be squandered.

That's right, this is your big chance, Johnny, he told himself. Rip her a new one! Get it all out of your system! Tell her how she's the most stubborn, irritating, moody, pain in the ass that you've ever had the misfortune of working for. Ha! Working for! Adair still thinks she's the boss even though it's been pointed out over and over to her that, although Eden Project may have been her brainchild, she's not in charge any more. That silver spoon in her mouth and blue blood running through her veins don't mean a damn thing here. She may have been royalty on the Stations, but she's no better than the rest of us on G889.

But there she is every day, ordering people around and making decisions without consulting you or anyone else. Where the hell does she get off, huh? Fighting with you constantly. Daring you to contradict the ridiculous optimistic drivel that spills outta her mouth on a regular basis. Oblivious to life-threatening problems staring her right in the face because she's too busy obsessing over what's gonna happen in two years when the colony ship arrives.

At times, she's driven you to the point of madness. One day, she'll probably end up getting somebody killed-- most likely you. Let's face it, any man that says that he could never be tempted to hit a woman under any circumstances has obviously never had to spend a significant amount of time with Devon Adair.

Danziger was finally ready to get out everything that he had kept bottled up inside. So, he looked Devon in the eyes, took a deep breath, and then he gave her a piece of his mind.

"I'm in love with you, Devon," he blurted out, his voice tinged with desperation. "God help me, I don't wanna feel this way, but I do. I can't help it."

Devon's demeanor remained cool and collected, confirming to John once and for all that none of this was real. He plowed forward with his confession. "Lookin' back on it, I've loved you for a long time. Probably since the group took its first vote." He let out a small chuckle. "It was love at first fight, I guess."

There was still no reaction from Devon as Danziger took another full breath before continuing, "I never thought that this could happen to me, again. Guess I always figured that Elle was my one and only chance at this sort of thing." He looked away and shrugged, his eyes suddenly a little sad. "Not that this is much of a second chance. I know that there's no way in hell that you feel the same way about me. You're probably countin' the days until the colony ship gets here so you can finally get rid of me for good."

He remet Dream Devon's gaze, his eyes wide and his expression serious. "But I don't wanna leave on the colony ship anymore. Not if it means leaving you. I wanna stay in New Pacifica to support you and argue with you and grow old with you... even knowin' that you won't ever love me back." He snorted and shook his head. "Pretty pathetic, huh?"

The vision of Devon remained unwaveringly calm and barely managed a shrug.

"I dunno," he sighed, absently scratching at the stubble on his chin, "maybe I'll tell you all of this stuff for real one of these days."

John paused and took a mental step backward as he began to imagine the real Devon's possible reactions to an admission like this. He knew that it wouldn't be a pleasant experience, that was for sure. Maybe she'd yell at him. Or maybe she'd recoil from him out of embarrassment. Worse yet, maybe she'd find his affection for her to be amusing. Hell, he'd probably be lucky if Devon didn't laugh him right out of camp. And why shouldn't she laugh? After all, it was preposterous to think that a man like him could ever win the heart of a woman like her. She was a wealthy socialite, the daughter of one of the First Families and the former CEO of a billion credit corporation. He was a Drone. Enough said.

Danziger continued to listen to what he considered to be the more sensible part of his brain. He grudgingly conceded that openly declaring his true feelings for Devon could only end in disaster. It would ruin their working relationship, not to mention destroy whatever friendship they had. She would probably start avoiding him because his presence made her feel uncomfortable. At the very least, she'd never be able to look him in the eye again.

With a dispirited sigh, Danziger finally came to the conclusion that, although he was grateful for the opportunity to have freely admitted his love to Devon within the safe confines of a dream, in reality, some words were best left unspoken.

John swallowed hard and cleared his throat. "Anyway, I feel a little better now that I've gotten this off of my chest," he told her honestly, the corners of his mouth arching upward to form a slight grin. "S'pose I'll be waking up soon, huh?"

The image of Devon responded with a small nod. The pair gazed at each other in awkward silence for several seconds and Danziger found himself staring intently at Devon's features, mesmerized by her natural beauty as well as by the elegant manner in which she carried herself. His fidgeting came back in full force while he gathered up his courage to act out one more fantasy.

After taking a step forward to close the distance between them, John cupped Devon's cheek and gingerly edged her face upward until their lips met in a gentle kiss.

"Goodnight, Devon," he whispered as they parted.

Worried that even Dream Devon had limits of what she was willing to put up with, John resisted the urge to kiss her again. Without another word or waiting to gauge her reaction, he turned and made a hasty retreat to his tent. He never looked back as he burst into his quarters, kicking off his boots and practically hurling himself into his cot. There was still the hint of a smile on Danziger's lips as he pulled the covers over his head and closed his eyes.

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True could tell that something wasn't right with her father. She'd been trying to wake him for over five minutes, but he'd barely responded to her prodding except with an occasional exhausted grunt. On closer inspection, she noticed that he looked sort of pale and there were a few beads of perspiration resting on his forehead. But strangest of all was the small grin displayed on his face and, for a fleeting moment, True wondered if he might be dreaming about her mother.

"C'mon, Dad, get up," True demanded, tugging on his arm which had been dangling over the side of the bed. She finally lost her patience and ripped the blanket off of him. "There's not gonna be any breakfast left if we don't get there soon."

At last, there was a groggy reply. "Okay, okay, I'm awake," he mumbled.

To prove his point, Danziger forced himself to sit up in his bunk. He languidly stretched out his limbs which brought about an onslaught of cracking and popping noises, permanent souvenirs to remind him of the many years of wear and tear inflicted on his body.

"You go on ahead, Sport. I'll be there in a minute," he grumbled in a raspy voice.

True continued to study her dad's features and was not pleased by what she saw. In fact, he wasn't looking too well at all.

"You promise?" True asked, taking on a matronly tone.

"Promise," he said as he strained to swallow the cough that he was about to emit. True remained unconvinced and made no effort to move which prompted Danziger to reach out and give her a gentle shove toward the door. "Go on," he encouraged. "I'm right behind you."

Although True continued to be skeptical, she grudgingly followed her father's order and left for the biodome. Now alone, John attempted to shake himself the rest of the way awake and realized that he felt more tired than when he'd gone to bed. And now he was suffering from a sore throat and the muscles in his legs were beginning to ache, too.

"Shanking cold," he griped as he roughly shoved his feet into his boots.

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The prior evening's dream coupled with a steadily growing case of cabin fever was not only causing Danziger to feel ill at ease, he was becoming downright claustrophobic. By the time he had entered the dome, he'd already determined that it would be best for him to spend as much of the day as possible outside of camp. He also quickly made the decision to pass on breakfast when the aroma of the so-called food made him nauseous. He all but ignored the Edenites seated around the randomly placed counters and, instead, marched directly to the storage cabinets located in the back of the room. As he stuffed various supplies into his knapsack, he began to consider that perhaps it wouldn't be such a bad idea to embark on a longer range scout sometime in the near future. In fact, maybe he could figure out a way to venture ahead of Eden Advance, either alone or with another member of the crew, and set up some sort of a beacon system to guide the colonists toward New Pacifica.

Danziger was already busy working out the details in his mind regarding how he would be able to trek through snow that would be virtually impassable as well as who would be the best choice to serve as a surrogate parent for True during his absence when his thoughts were interrupted by his biggest reason for leaving.

"What do you think you're doing?"

Danziger didn't feel the need to stop packing or to turn around to answer Devon directly. Besides, making eye contact with her right now made him feel uncomfortable. And the sudden silence in the room as the rest of the Edenites ceased their own conversations to listen in wasn't helping matters either.

"Goin' scouting," he said matter-of-factly as he pocketed a flare gun. "Might as well look for some food while I'm at it."

"That's not a good idea," Devon decreed, her voice in Chairman Of The Board mode. "According to Yale's calculations, there's another wind storm heading our way. It could be here as early as tonight."

Across the room, Danziger had already begun vigorously shaking his head in defiance so she continued before he could be given the opportunity to complain. "Plus, as you know, the cold weather has been interfering with gear transmissions. Magus says that even the compass readings are being distorted. The last thing we need right now is for you to get lost out there in the middle of nowhere."

Since John was still refusing to look at Devon, the shelving unit in front of him was the recipient of his annoyed glare. "So we're just supposed to sit around here for God-knows how many months and patiently wait for either the snow to melt or for us to starve to d-"

He stopped abruptly when he considered the possible negative effect that his words could have on the children. There was certainly no need to frighten them by pointing out the bleakness of their current circumstances.

He swerved back to face Devon and made a big show of patting the headset protruding out of his right pocket. "I'll stay in gear range," he relayed in a smart-alecky voice as if he was doing her a favor.

Devon almost reacted loudly and decisively to what she considered to be Danziger's boorish attitude as well as his refusal to listen to anything that even slightly resembled levelheaded thought. But as infuriated as she was, she decided that she would not allow John to ruffle her feathers and goad her into yet another public argument. So, instead she forced her face to form a tight smile and flippantly replied, "Fine. Do whatever you want."

After inwardly celebrating another small victory for the Working Man, Danziger made a dash for the door before anyone else could take issue with his plans for the day. However, just a few feet shy of the exit, he was compelled to stop at the table where True was seated.

"Don't worry, Kiddo," he said, taking on a more pleasant tone. "I'll only be gone a couple of hours."

True nodded her acceptance, knowing all too well that her father's mind was made up and there was nothing that could be said that would keep him from leaving. Besides, she was confident that he would be back soon. After all, Dad always told her the truth.

After giving his daughter a final nod, John slung his backpack over his shoulder and departed on his daytrip. With the exception of the swishing sound of the two sets of double doors gradually swaying to a close behind Danziger, the biodome remained as quiet as a church for several long, uncomfortable seconds. Finally, the tension began to dissipate and the other members of the group broke the stillness and reinitiated their individual discussions. As for Devon, she remained strangely silent and sank back in her chair, completely lost in her thoughts. Although she would have never voiced it aloud, there was a part of her which was glad that Danziger had insisted on vacating camp for the day because his presence that morning was making her feel awkward.

The memories of the prior night's dream came flooding back to her. At first, she'd thought that she'd been summoned to the Dreamscape. When she'd exited her simulated tent, she'd expected to be greeted by the Terrians bearing an important message regarding her mission or her son. But to her shock, it had been Danziger waiting for her and it was only then that she realized that what she was experiencing was just an ordinary dream.

Devon fully understood why he was there. This was simply her subconscious forcing her to confront an issue which she was having trouble dealing with while she was awake. And there was little doubt in her mind that John Danziger had been a major source of contention in her life from the day they'd crash-landed on the planet... in more ways than one. The man could be antagonistic, overly pessimistic, bullheaded and downright rude. But he was also a natural leader, a loving father, honest to a fault and one of the bravest people she'd ever met. And over the past few months, he'd become one of the best friends that she'd ever had. And recently, as much as Devon was trying to fight it, she'd realized that she was feeling a growing attraction to him as well.

And there John had been, pouring out his heart, telling her all of the things that she'd secretly wished that he'd felt. Because she'd known that none of it was real, she'd calmly allowed the scene to play out in front of her. She was the very picture of self-control as Dream Danziger had told her that he loved her and would never leave her. But, of course, she'd understood all too well that the real John had no romantic interest in her whatsoever and that this was nothing more than wishful thinking on her part. He'd also made it abundantly clear from day one that he had no intention of sticking around G889 once the colony ship arrived. He couldn't wait to return to the Stations and get on with the rest of his life. And the rest of his life did not include her.

As sad as knowing that John would one day leave her forever, Devon couldn't help but smile as she recalled the moment that he had kissed her. It had felt so good, so incredibly real, and it was only then that she'd lost her composure. But before she'd been given the chance to react, the vision of Danziger had retreated from her and the fantasy was over just as quickly as it had begun.

Devon let out a wistful sigh as she wondered if she would ever be fortunate enough to dream of Danziger, again. She certainly hoped so. And if she did, she made a promise to herself that, the next time, she wouldn't stay silent.

At a nearby table, Alonzo, Eden Project's resident Romeo and Dreamplane specialist, viewed Devon with great interest. He was curious as to what she had thought of his little experiment the prior evening. It wasn't as if he'd done anything wrong. After all, he'd had Devon and John's best interest at heart. Besides, with the Terrians in hibernation, he'd figured that it was the perfect time to get in some much-needed practice of his Dreamscape navigation skills. And how could he ignore the golden opportunity to give Bess a run for her money in the matchmaking department in the process? Everybody wins!

Of course, Alonzo could never openly take credit for transporting Devon and Danziger to the alternate reality nor could he ever relay the details of what had transpired between the two leaders. However, as far as Solace was concerned, the experiment had been a resounding success. And definitely worth repeating at some time in the near future.

Alonzo leaned back in his chair and stared off into space, unconsciously mimicking Devon's posturing. However, unlike Devon's pensive expression, the pilot wore a jovial grin and there was a mischievous twinkle in his eyes.


If they only knew, he inwardly chuckled.

THE END

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