Devon was momentarily surprised when she awoke in a bed that was not her own. But once her disorientation faded and she'd remembered where she was, as well as how she'd gotten there, she realized that she didn't mind in the least. In fact, she could get used to it.
She turned over expecting to find John asleep at her side and her confusion returned when she found herself alone. She sprang up to the seated position in the cot, tucking the blanket primly under her arms to cover herself as she searched the room for his presence. Danziger somehow chose the very moment that Devon's eyes panned across the entrance to make his appearance, breezing in between the tent's crease bearing two coffee mugs filled to the brim.
"Mornin'," he welcomed, acting as though he hadn't noticed her state of undress as he placed one of the cups into her outstretched hand.
The two exchanged a smile before Devon took a sip of the steaming brew. "Good morning," she said, glancing over his shoulder to view the small amount of light filtering in through the slit of the tent fabric. "Did I oversleep?"
"Nah, I just got up extra early," he relayed with a shrug. "I've been up on and off all night. I checked on the kids a few times. Then I saw that Magus was on duty and I hadn't really talked to her since-"
He paused, his expression briefly darkening. "I just wanted to make sure that she was okay. The last time I saw her, things weren't goin' so well."
Danziger took a healthy swig of coffee and seated himself on the bed next to Devon. "Anyway, she filled me in and I feel a lot better now. I'm also glad to hear that she finally set things straight with Walman."
His face displayed his relief before shifting to a deep resolve. "And speaking of setting things straight, once we break camp, I figure that it might be a good idea for you and me to spend the day together, so we can get some things hashed out."
Devon's head arched back, intrigued. "Like what?"
"Well, sleeping arrangements, for one thing. Once that's decided on, we're gonna have to pull the kids aside and fill 'em in on what's going on between us."
Devon had to admit that she was a bit startled by his directness. Although he'd rarely held back his opinion when it came to the matters of the group, she certainly wasn't accustomed to his candor when it came to matters of the heart. But again, Danziger laying all of his cards on the table wasn't necessarily a bad thing. She just wasn't used to it.
"They already seem to know," Devon was at last able to stumble out. "At least, True does."
As the words left her mouth, for the first time, Devon considered exactly what her son did know when it came to her feelings for Danziger, as well as what his reaction might be to the news. She figured that he'd be thrilled to have John take an even larger role in his life, but one could never be certain with children.
Meanwhile, Danziger continued, "Yeah, that'll make it easier, that's for sure."
He gently pulled Devon's mug from her grasp and set both cups on a nearby crate. He then leaned in toward Devon to ensure that he had her complete attention. This was no time for even the slightest distraction and he was careful not to mince his words.
"I know you said that the Rules Of Engagement were out the window, but last night at the campfire, things sorta seemed to be goin' back to the way they were before," he expressed with confidence and sincerity. "You were holdin' back and I don't know why. Maybe you were worried about how I felt or how the kids or the group would react. But I'm tired of hidin' how we feel about each other; especially since there's no reason for it. Everybody knows. And they completely support our decision to be together."
He felt the need to add, "And to be perfectly honest, I wouldn't care if they didn't support us. I'm not looking for their approval."
Devon's mouth had gone agape and her brain was in overdrive as her mind quickly revisited their behavior at the campfire the prior evening. Was John correct in his interpretation of her demeanor? Had she been the one holding back yet again? Unfortunately, there was no time to effectively reach a conclusion. Instead, she remained as still as a statue, completely riveted to Danziger's words which, unbeknownst to her, was a speech that had been inwardly practiced over and over again.
"This past week, I had a lot of time on my hands and it gave me a chance to really think about things, including my future. And you're a big part of that. I made a promise to myself that if and when I saw you again, things between us were gonna change. And those changes start now. "
He swallowed hard, took a deep breath, and went for broke. "I love you, Devon," he declared. "And I know that you feel the same way, even though you don't seem to be able to say it to me. Honestly, I don't give a shit if you never do. I don't need to hear the words. As far as I'm concerned, actions are what matters most."
As nervous as Devon's silence made him, John was glad for it because it enabled him to keep going with his confession. He did his best to ignore Devon's large, shocked eyes and the fact that she had begun to physically shake so much that it was causing the cot to rock.
"I would hope that you've figured out by now that I'm not leavin' on the colony ship," he furthered. "I'm here for the long haul. I want us to be together. Starting tonight, I want us to share a tent. And after we get New Pacifica off the ground, I want us to share a house."
His face briefly darkened again. "I also know that when the Jamestown gets here, we'll probably have to deal with some crap from the blue-bloods who aren't exactly gonna be thrilled that you've taken up permanent residence with a Drone. But I can take it as long as you can."
Devon's head was continuing to reel, and she was so caught up in the other revelations that it took her a few moments to process his last statement. It had honestly never occurred to her that a relationship with Danziger might be a problem with the colonists. But obviously Danziger had considered it to be enough of a concern to cite it as a possible roadblock to their happiness, so she filed the knowledge in the back of her mind to give the issue a more thorough examination at a later date. Right now, her brain was too busy absorbing something much more important.
"I'm not gonna lie to you. This isn't gonna be easy for either of us," he relayed in a tone that was somehow brutally honest, yet warm-hearted at the same time. "We're both hardheaded and pretty damn set in our ways. Neither of us are all that easy to get along with. I'm sure that we're gonna keep fighting like cats and dogs. Hell, we'll probably come close to killin' each other more than a couple of times. But I think that this can work."
He tentatively reached for her still quivering hand, delicately running his thumb along her knuckle. "I know that this can work," he assured.
Normally a man of few words, Danziger was pleased that his feelings were finally out in the open and he was even more pleased that Devon hadn't tried to constantly interrupt him. Now that he was finished, all that was needed was an appropriate response from Devon. However, unfortunately, no immediate reaction was forthcoming and this began to worry him greatly, prompting the pit of his stomach to begin performing cartwheels to the point of inducing nausea.
Though she'd remained speechless and motionless for only a few moments, it seemed like an eternity to Danziger. He literally felt as though he'd just been given a last second reprieve from the gallows when Devon finally yanked her hand from his grasp and lunged forward, framing the sides of his head with her hands before capturing his lips with her own.
A succession of quick, but emotional kisses followed and John could sense her mouth smiling against his, as well as the fact that she was no longer trembling.
"So I guess we're in agreement on this?" he chortled in between brief partings, relief as well as desire coursing through his body as he gently ran his fingers along the bare skin of her exposed back, tracing the arch of her spine.
Devon halted their embrace and leaned back slightly, nodding her acknowledgment. "But we still have a long way to go when it comes to communication," she whispered.
Hey, speak for yourself, lady, John inwardly scoffed, but wisely kept from voicing aloud.
"Well, we have lots of time to work on that," he offered, breaking into a gentle, vulnerable smile which he rarely shared with anyone other than True and Uly.
"Yes, we do," she said, mirroring his grin.
Devon was awestruck as she studied his chiseled features, fascinated by the openness of his expression, along with the wide range of emotions that he somehow managed to simultaneously display. There was no doubt in her mind as to how deeply he cared for her... nor was there any question as to how deeply she cared for him. And it was time for her to let him know it.
She reached up to brush back several strands of dirty blond curls which had fallen forward, partially blocking his eyes. Her hand remained just below his temple, lightly stroking his stubbled cheek.
"I love you, too, John," she said sincerely. "I should've told you before now. I wanted to but... I guess that I was afraid of making things between us more complicated than they already were. A part of me was afraid that you weren't ready to hear the words and that I'd end up pushing you away. It all sounds so ridiculous now."
Now it was Danziger's turn to be surprised and it was blatantly obvious to Devon that he hadn't expected her to match his candor. The pupils in his eyes had all but vanished and he hadn't seemed to exhale a breath since she'd spoken the word 'love.'
Meanwhile, as she recalled her various motives for delaying a relationship, the somber events of the past week came flooding back to her, along with the accompanying emotions.
"Losing you like that, so suddenly... the fact that I was never going to see you again..." She paused, slightly choked up. "It broke my heart. I felt as if I'd died inside. If it wasn't for the children and for my responsibilities to the group, I'm not sure how I would have gone on without you."
She swallowed the lump forming in her throat and continued in earnest, her voice saturated with affection, "But now that you're here and we've been given this amazing gift-- this second chance-- I'm not going to waste it. I'm sorry if I was sort of distant last night at the campfire. Old habits die hard and these new changes are going to take some getting used to. Plus, I think that part of me was still in shock that you were alive. I could hardly believe that you were there sitting next to me. I'm still having trouble believing it."
She took another deep breath, furthering, "But no matter what's said or done-- or what isn't said or done for that matter-- please don't ever doubt how I feel about you. And everything that you just said that you wanted for us and for our new life together, I want that, too."
The words hung in the air for a few seconds and Devon watched as Danziger at last visibly exhaled, temporarily closing his eyes as he slowly let out a full breath. Devon further noted that John's expression and overall body language appeared to be completely calm, despite the weighty subject matter. It wasn't as if he was trying to convey a nonchalant or disinterested attitude. In fact, he wasn't trying to convey anything at all. It was almost as if Danziger was finally allowing himself to be fully relaxed and Devon couldn't help but wonder if she'd ever really seen him that way before.
"Okay. Good," he exclaimed with a resolute nod of his head as he rose to his feet. "Go ahead and get yourself dressed. I promised that I'd check in with Julia this mornin' before we break camp, so if I miss you at breakfast, we can meet up at the 'Rover when we're ready to go."
And he accuses me of being bossy, Devon grumbled good-naturedly to herself.
"Sounds like a date," she answered, instead.
Danziger shuffled his way toward the tent's exit while Devon began to scrounge around the general area of her cot in search of the clothing which had been eagerly discarded the prior evening. The mechanic had just peeled back the nylon flap when Devon called out to him in bewilderment.
"John, do you know where my underwear is?"
He paused for a few moments, his gaze shooting skyward before slowly craning back to face her. Though his expression was deceptively neutral, there was no mistaking the mirth radiating in his eyes.
"Not a clue," he deadpanned with an exaggerated shrug of his shoulders.
A sideways smirk escaped Danziger's lips just as he stepped beyond the threshold and out into the awakening campsite.
As the fabric fell to a close behind him, Devon couldn't help but let out a chuckle. She reinitiated her quest to locate her clothing, amused and amazed at the events of the last twenty-four hours, as well as at how truly happy she'd felt. Back on the Stations when she was organizing Eden Project, if someone had foretold the details of what her current life would be like, she would have dismissed the talk as the rantings of a lunatic. In her wildest dreams, she could never have imagined that things would turn out this way. And her journey was far from over.
Devon relaced her boots and let out a sigh as she considered the many future trials and tribulations that Eden Advance might encounter as they continued their pilgrimage toward New Pacifica and beyond. Moreover, she was in complete agreement with John that the two of them would have a difficult road ahead of them as they forged a more permanent partnership which included a personal as well as a professional relationship. And stir in their temperamental and unyielding dispositions and it could very likely be a recipe for disaster on a grand scale.
Then again, Devon had never been one to seek out the easy route, especially when there was an alternate path which offered an infinite amount of enriching, life-enhancing possibilities, including love and a family. Despite all of the possible obstacles to come, Devon was reminded of a beautiful moonlit evening many weeks before in which she'd stood on a sandy beach with Danziger, surveying the sights and sounds of the East coast ocean. When her optimism had ever-so-briefly wavered, John had offered these comforting words: "It won't be so bad getting there."
She couldn't agree more.
One thing was for certain: It was going to be a bumpy, unpredictable, exhilarating adventure and Devon couldn't wait to experience it all. And apparently it would be accomplished with one less pair of undergarments.
"Seize the day," she whispered as she stepped out into the morning sun.