ONE FELL SWOOP
Rating: PG-13 (profanity/ violence/ adult themes)
Disclaimer: Dear Amblin and Universal, please don't sue. Thanks in advance.
Timeline: On the way to New Pacifica. Post-All About Eve
Summary: This is the third and final installment to my other two fics 'Carpe Diem' and 'The Art Of Friendship.' Here's a very basic overview, so you don't have to go back and read them both: John and Devon have admitted their feelings for one another, but after spending one night of passion, they'd decided to hold off on a romantic relationship until after they arrive at New Pacifica. They had also agreed to keep their feelings secret from the other members of Eden Advance. However, there were witnesses to their encounter as well as to a subsequent interlude, but the group lacked concrete proof or an admission from either party, even after the pair was confronted. Now as Eden Advance travels, the crew is keeping a close watch on the two leaders, looking for any and all signs that they are truly a couple.
Meanwhile, Devon and Danziger's communication skills regarding anything of a personal nature are as terrible as ever. Though they have fallen in love with one another and have individually decided that they are fully prepared to take the next step toward a more permanent relationship, each has incorrectly surmised that the other is not yet ready. So they wait.
Although Devon and Danziger are the main characters, this fic focuses on a few of the secondary crew as well, most notably Magus.
"Devon says that we're only about three weeks away from New Pacifica...or where New Pacifica will be, once we build it from scratch. The last couple of months have been kinda strange, if you ask me... at least, where my Dad is concerned. He's just... I don't know... different. For one thing, he's a lot happier than I've ever seen him. Oh sure, he still yells plenty and gives the crew a hard time, but that's just his job. He's in charge of making sure that everyone stays safe and on schedule. That's a big responsibility.
Maybe he's in a good mood because things have been going so smoothly. We reached the Janus River five days ago and, even though we can't get too close because the current moves really fast, we're gonna follow it all the way to where it dumps into the Sea of Antius. We've got plenty of food and no one's gotten sick or hurt since Devon and Alonzo wrecked the Dunerail about two months back. No one even seems to mind all that much that it's been raining almost every single day. In fact, everyone here has been in a good mood. Except for Walman, that is. I'm not sure why, but he's pretty mad at Cameron right now. Maybe they had a fight or somethin'.
The whole group has been keeping an eye on Devon and my Dad to see if they're secretly dating, but no one's found any proof either way. I've been watching Dad, just like I promised but, as far as I can tell, nothing's happened. He and Devon talk a lot, but they never go on scouts together or for walks all by themselves. And he certainly never tells me anything about it.
I do see him looking at her sometimes, when he thinks that no one else is watching. And, sometimes, I catch her looking at him, too. It's pretty weird to think that Dad might actually start to date, especially after all of these years where it's only been the two of us. I suppose that it wouldn't be so bad if Devon became his girlfriend.
I wonder if he's ever gonna come out and tell her that he likes her. And when he does, I really hope that Devon says that she likes him back because I don't want my Dad to stop smiling.
In the meantime, I guess that I'll just have to keep watchin' them."
-- True Danziger
So close, yet so far.
To Devon Adair, those five words currently best described two of the most important aspects of what could already be considered a very unusual life; a life that she wouldn't trade for the world.
Eden Advance was less than a month's journey from New Pacifica now and Devon couldn't wait to greet each and every dawn. Almost always the first awake, she would practically burst from her cot, barely able to contain her excitement knowing that, by the end of the day, they would be at least twenty clicks closer to what had once been deemed an unattainable goal to almost everyone but her.
Of course, Danziger was also an early riser and, in the midst of the still slumbering camp, Devon would often find him already partially buried beneath one of the vehicles, checking and then rechecking all three machines to ensure that they would be able to handle the day's often mud-laden travel route. Once that task was completed, he would brave whatever amount of rain Mother Nature had bestowed upon them while directing his attention toward packing up all nonessential equipment along with any other endeavor that would assist in getting the group on the road as quickly as possible. It was glaringly apparent to everyone that Devon wasn't the only one who was looking forward to finally reaching New Pacifica.
She and Danziger would often spend part of the early morning together, sharing a thermos of almost-coffee as they planned out their route of travel for the day. It was also quite normal for the pair to trade all-knowing smiles and subtle innuendos to remind one another of a very different, long-term future venture which they were planning to embark on very soon, after their lives had become more stable.
As the sun peeked over the ridge and began its daylong struggle to be seen behind a cloud-filled sky, Devon, with thermos in hand, scoured the camp for her wayward second in command. After checking under all three of the vehicles, searching the comm-tent, the meal tent, and even glancing into his personal quarters without success, her ears pricked up at a slight clanging coming from the supply tent. She reached the dwelling just in time to watch Danziger emerge with several pieces of equipment in tow, including a pair of jumpers and a canteen. Devon followed him back to the ATV as he concentrated on inspecting the chamber of his pistol to ensure that it was indeed fully loaded before securely holstering the weapon to his side.
Once he reached the ATV, Devon decided to make him aware of her presence. And of her displeasure.
"Going somewhere?" she asked in a voice laced with sarcasm, obviously perturbed that he was planning to leave camp without telling her. Again.
Danziger didn't flinch or turn around to respond directly. "Gonna check on those hills up ahead," he muttered as he inventoried the vehicle. "Those Council maps are a crap-shoot at best, so I wanna make sure that there really is a pass and that the Transrover can handle the terrain. Better to check it out now, instead of finding out the hard way and losing a day's travel time. Or even worse, losing the Rover."
He finally swiveled around to address her. "After that, I'm taking a slight detour," he said before pointing off in the distance. "You see that mountain about two and a half kilometers east?"
As Devon nodded her acknowledgment, he told her, "Well, if I can make it to the top, I should be able to see at least thirty clicks in every direction, even without the jumpers. I'll take some photo-scans of the river's path so we can finally see what's really ahead of us. Hell, if the weather gives us a break, who knows, it might even be clear enough to see the Sea Of Antius."
He furthered, "Plus, at that elevation, it's possible that I could pick up the homing beacons of some of our missing cargo pods. Hopefully, number seven."
Devon's eyes lit up as she considered what a find it would be to actually locate the pod which contained most of their prefabricated housing units along with several construction vehicles.
Danziger's mouth curled upward to form a half-smile. "I'm also sorta hopin' to stumble across a Grendler warren with some clothing and supplies to spare," he grumbled, good-naturedly. "I could sure as hell use an extra pair of underwear."
Devon plastered on her best poker face to camouflage both her guilt and giddy delight at her much treasured trophy; an acquisition which she had gained during her last physical encounter with the mechanic. Although during the past two months Danziger had made several subtle and not-so-subtle inquiries to Devon as to the whereabouts of his missing pair of underwear, the leader had yet to share the knowledge that it had ended up among her personal belongings; and that she had no intention of returning that particular article of clothing to its previous owner. At least, not yet.
She quickly determined that the best course of action was to change the subject. Besides, at the moment, she was supposed to be angry with him and she had an image to maintain.
"So were you planning to tell me about this trip or was I just supposed to put two and two together when you and the ATV went missing?" she snarked.
Danziger's eyes practically rolled out of his head as he worked his way around to the opposite side of the vehicle. "I was gonna let you know right after I was done loading up," he exclaimed with obvious aggravation as he roughly tossed the jumpers and canteen into the compartment located under the seat.
He shook his head and continued, "Jeez, I figured you'd think that this was a good idea. I was under the impression that gettin' to New Pacifica as fast as possible was a priority."
His annoyed expression and voice suddenly evaporated as he met Devon's gaze. "For several reasons," he added with a raised eyebrow and an all-knowing smirk.
Devon matched his expression, inwardly cursing him for his ability to make her crack a smile while she was supposed to be irritated with him. "I never said that it wasn't a good idea. I just don't want to be reckless about it. And I don't want you taking off without letting me know where you're going," she expressed in a pragmatic manner.
Without commenting, John suddenly left her at the side of the ATV and ventured off in the direction of the nearby fruit cart. Devon hurried to catch up to him, asking, "So how long do you think this excursion of yours is going to take?"
"Don't know," he said with a shrug as he absently stuffed a few pieces of citrus into his pocket. "I should be able to rejoin you guys by late afternoon; or maybe early evening."
Devon shook her head in disapproval, but decided not to argue with his plans. After all, what was the point? It wasn't as if he was going to listen to her. "I want you back with us by sundown. And if the weather gets much worse, I want you to turn around immediately."
"Yeah, fine," he grumbled, already instinctively beginning to tune her out as soon as her suggestions started to sound more like orders to his Working Man's ears.
He marched back to the ATV, leaving Devon behind again. She paused for a few moments to work out an idea in her mind before following his path. When she reached the ATV, she wasted no time and began to climb into the flat space behind the single seat.
"What are ya' doin', Adair?" Danziger asked, clearly shocked by her actions.
She lifted her chin and decreed, "I'm coming with you."
At least a dozen new wrinkles formed on Danziger's already well-furrowed brow. "Not a good idea," he declared gruffly. "The group needs you here."
He leaned in and whispered, "Besides, wouldn't that be against the rules?"
Both of their faces softened a bit as they individually reflected upon the rules of engagement that they'd agreed upon regarding their burgeoning relationship. After Devon and John had admitted their feelings and had shared one night of passion three months before, the pair had jointly chosen to hold off on any and all additional expressions of affection until Eden Advance had reached the coastline of New Pacifica. They had also decided that it would be best for everyone in the group if they'd kept their fondness for one another private nor would they share their future plans until everything else had fallen into place.
And with the exception of one minor slip a few months before when the two were trapped in a cramped tent during a heavy rainstorm, they had strictly adhered to those rules. Recently, there seemed to be almost no shortage of opportunities for them to spend time with one another. Yet, they were always extremely careful not to place themselves into any situation where they could possibly tempt fate or their hormones. And this was exactly why Danziger was left scratching his head. What the hell was Devon thinking by volunteering to accompany him on a scout?
Meanwhile, Devon wasn't backing down and she tightened her grip on the ATV's closest metal bar. "You shouldn't be going alone. It's too dangerous," she proclaimed, her voice and posturing practically daring him to contradict her.
Little did she know, Danziger had no intention of issuing a challenge; at least, when it came to the matter of embarking on a solo-scout.
"I completely agree," he said plainly.
His eyes drifted past Devon and centered on an approaching crew member.
"All set?" Magus asked between yawns, lazily hoisting a Mag-pro over her shoulder. The Ops crew-woman exchanged a curious glance with a very surprised Devon as she strapped the large weapon to the sidebar.
"Yep," John answered, purposely choosing to concentrate on other things that didn't involve looking directly at Devon while she awkwardly extracted herself from the vehicle.
Now it was John's turn to change the subject. He turned to remeet Devon's gaze and requested, "Could you do me a favor and let True know where I am? I tried to wake her up and tell her what I was doin', but she was really out of it. I don't think she'll even remember me being there." His eyes briefly glanced at his quarters, adding, "She might also need some help packing up the tent."
Devon found that it was necessary to clear her throat before answering. "No problem."
John nodded his appreciation as he wedged his hulking frame into the relatively small front seat and manually started the engine. Magus wasted no time and overtook Devon's former position in the bed of the vehicle.
Danziger took hold of the controls and the ATV immediately lurched forward, prompting Devon to take two steps backward to avoid being coated with a layer of mud kicked up by the back tires.
"Be careful," Devon compulsively blurted out, her volume increasing as John and Magus sped out of camp. "And keep your gear on!"
Christ, the woman can't go more than thirty seconds without ordering me around, John inwardly groused. "Yeah, yeah, yeah," he grunted.
Magus couldn't help but emit an amused chuckle. If she hadn't known better, she'd have thought that John actually had a problem with Devon's bossy attitude.
Devon continued to stare off into the distance long after the ATV had vanished over a faraway hill. Although she fully understood why Danziger hadn't asked her to come with him on the scouting mission, she was a bit surprised at herself for her sudden willingness to bend the rules when it came to them spending time alone together. She knew that, had she gone in Magus' place, it would have been incredibly difficult for her to refrain from expressing her feelings for him. In fact, with every day that passed, it was becoming harder and harder for her to keep up the charade that she and John were nothing more than friends and frequent adversaries.
Moreover, the urge to tell John that she had fallen in love with him was becoming almost too much to resist. Of course, Danziger already knew that she cared for him, just as he obviously cared for her. Yet Devon had chosen not to speak those three monumental words because she truly believed that Danziger wasn't ready to hear them, nor would he be able to return the sentiment in kind. And the last thing that she'd wanted to do was place him in an awkward position and quite possibly set them backward several steps in their budding relationship.
She let out a beleaguered sigh. As much as she hated to admit it, delaying a more permanent romantic arrangement with John for a few more weeks was probably for the best. Coming clean about their true emotions to the other members of the group, particularly their children, could open the door to a whole host of new difficulties. It could also prove to be too much of a distraction; not just for her, but for rest the of the crew. And life on the road was certainly already complicated enough.
Besides, John was obviously content with toughing it out until then and she certainly wasn't going to allow him to show her up in the willpower department. For now, their current timetable would have to do, Devon concluded. But the very moment they stepped onto the sandy shores of New Pacifica, caution be damned.