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Her dad had been gone an awfully long time. The glare was starting to hurt True's eyes, and she wished she'd remembered her sunglasses. If she crawled under the blankets again, she wouldn't be able to see anything. Even worse, Dad and Devon might get back and not realize she'd stayed with the Dune-Rail like she'd been told.
She already knew that her dad was going to have "a discussion" with her about stowing away in the first place. There was no need to make it worse.
True closed her eyes, which soothed the dryness but did little to cut the bright harsh, light. Where were they, anyway? It shouldn't take this long to go get Sheppard.
She'd just decided to crawl back under the blankets anyway when she heard the gunshot. It sounded like it came from the cave entrance! True jumped out of the 'Rail, eyes forgotten. "Dad? Devon?"
This is a dangerous place, True. If I tell you to stay somewhere, I expect you to stay there.
But wasn't it more dangerous to stay out in the open, even if that's what she'd been told to do? She should hide. She scampered for the nearest stand of rocks and crouched down, listening.
A second later, she heard voices. True flattened herself against the sand, but then she relaxed. It was her dad. They must be all right. She'd brushed herself off and was about to go out and meet them when she heard what he was saying.
"I know. I know, Devon. Just hang on, you hear me? Hold on. I'm here, I'm here."
She'd never heard him use that tone of a voice with an adult before.
"Hold on to me. I know. I'm right here. Hold on, Adair. We've got to keep going." His voice was firmer now. "We have to get to the 'Rail, get back to camp. Come on, you're going to make it."
True peeked around the rock. Her dad had his arms around Devon, who was weeping on his shoulder. She could see that one of his hands shook as it stroked her hair, and she didn't understand the expression on his face.
Before she could puzzle it out, though, he turned and caught sight of her. "Go back to the 'Rail, True."
"Go. We'll be there in a minute."
She went. Behind her, her dad was speaking softly to Devon again, urging her toward the vehicle. She stopped crying but seemed to be in a daze, and her dad had his arm around her. That mysterious look had returned to his face.
When they got to the 'Rail, Devon stopped and stared. After a moment, her dad picked her up and put her in the passenger seat. "We'll be back soon. Uly's waiting for you."
"Uly?" Devon's voice was a whisper.
"Yeah. He misses you."
"Uly." She began crying again, harder this time.
True's dad wiped some of the tears with his thumb. Then he caught her chin and tilted her face up until their eyes met. After a second, Devon jerked out of his hand, and her sobs stopped although tears still ran from her eyes.
"All right." Her dad sighed and then looked at her. "Sheppard's not coming."
"We'll talk about it back at camp."
True swallowed and slid down into her seat. She was pretty sure she wasn't going to like what her dad was planning to tell her. The only question was whether it would happen before or after their "discussion."
It hadn't been that bad, and afterward, when she'd dressed for sleep, her dad had decided to brush her hair out. It took a while; it must have gotten pretty tangled out there in the desert, even though it hadn't been loose.
"Did she love him?" True asked as he finished.
"She says she did." He picked her up. "Let's get you tucked in."
"Da-a-d. I can do it myself."
"I know you can, True-girl." He did it anyway, laying her down on the cot and pulling the covers up. "Just put up with your old dad for once, huh?"
"You're going back out there, aren't you?"
He sighed and nodded.
"You really care about her, don't you?"
He leaned back and rubbed a hand over his face. "Everyone's been asking me that lately."
She was confused. "Well, you do, don't you? What's so wrong about that?"
"Never mind. Get to sleep, sweetheart. I'll be back before long."
That odd expression was back on his face again, so she swallowed the rest of her questions. Maybe she'd have a chance to ask them later. "Good night, Dad."
He kissed her forehead before standing up. "Good night, True-girl. I love you." Standing up, he turned out the light and opened the door in the darkness.
But then she heard his footsteps stop, and he stood there, silhouetted in the light coming in from outside. "True?"
"Would it be okay with you if I did…care about her?"
True frowned, but didn't sit up. "I thought you already cared about all of us. Including her."
"Yeah." His voice was strained. "I guess I do."
"So why wouldn't it be okay?"
There was a pause before he answered. "No reason, I guess. Good night, sweetheart." He left, and the door closed behind him.
Still frowning, True rolled over in the dark and pulled the covers closer. That had been an odd question. Her dad cared about a lot of people, and he'd never asked her opinion before. So why would he start now?
Unless maybe he'd meant it differently this time.
None of the answers she could think of were anything she wanted to think about, and True suspected that the real answer might be even less welcome. It took her a long time to get to sleep.