Author's Note: This story takes place a short time after the Moon Cross episode. The story is more of a character study and deals more with understanding motivations than with an action-based storyline. Also please note I wish in no way to infringe upon any copyrights. This story is strictly for self-amusement in the absence of the real thing.
It's been 2 days since Solace returned from the Diggers' cave without Mary. I'm on advance scout in order to give him some rest, and to give myself some space. It's amazing that there seems to be less privacy here on this vast planet than on the cramped stations. Course with the constant worry of day to day survival everyone needs to stay close. So I'm out here in the snow scouting for a passable route down this mountain. I know I won't find one, the snow is still too deep for walkers and the smaller vehicles. Had to stop twice so far to thaw out frozen components on the rail. One thing about the stations, at least they kept the temperature comfortable and constant. Since crashing into G889, we've gone from sweltering heat to numbing cold. I can't believe Adair expects people to actually live here.
"Adair to Danziger."
Danziger visible flinched.
"Speak of the devil."
He muttered as he flipped his gear into place
"Danziger here. What do you want Adair?"
Not even trying to keep the gruffness out of his voice.
"I'm surprised I got you on the first try. I guess our little chat about keeping your gear on when away from camp sunk in, huh?" She teased.
Chat? More like a lecture. He'd felt like he was back in basic with a loud mouth Sargent spitting orders in his face. "So just checking up on me or what?" He growled. He hated the way Adair always managed to rattle his usually calm nerves. Why did she have this power over him? He was in constant conflict over what to do about her. On one hand, he'd love to shake her till she shut up and then throw her down a hole somewhere. On the other hand, he wanted to kiss he till she shut up and throw her down on his bed and never let her up again.
--"DAMN IT!" He started to pace like a caged panther.
"Whoa, calm down! It started snowing here again and I got worried about you. When can we expect you back?"
"Well, I don't need you to worry about me, okay? I'll be heading back as soon as the rail's ready. We aren't going anywhere for awhile, not in this snow."
"Okay, I know you tried your best." She said soothingly trying to pacify him like she would a cranky Uly. Devon knew she owed a lot to John Danziger. Much more than the credits she had transferred to his account back at the stations. He helped to keep the group together. They would have been reduced to backpacks weeks ago if not for his ingenuity in maintaining the vehicles. She had seen him risk his life innumerable times for Uly's sake. That alone should make them friends. During the disastrous expedition to the "lake" she thought they had made some headway in that direction, but afterwards back at camp, the wall was back up higher and thicker than ever. She'd made peace with Julia. Why couldn't she with him?
"Have you been following Julia's recommendations on avoiding frost bite and hypothermia?"
"Yeah." He answered more civilly as he stomped his feet to keep the circulation moving. "Sorry, the cold and low visibility is giving me a headache."
"Well, Bess has some hot soup waiting for you and some type of herbal tea she's concocted from Mary's garden. True says she won't go to bed until you're back to tell her a story."
"Sounds great. Put True on for me, okay?"
"Hi Daddy! I miss you!" A devilishly smiling cherub appeared before him.
"I miss you too, True-girl." He replied softly, any notion of bedtime lectures evaporating at the sight of his child. *His Child* His heart always constricted at the thought of the one beautiful precious thing in his otherwise miserable life. True was the center which his life spun around. Her birth had forced him to grow up. Taught him about responsibility and gave his life a focus. No way would he waste his life drinking and carousing. He wouldn't drink himself to death and leave his child nothing to remember him by but an inherited debt and the memories of drunken beatings followed by empty promises. No, he would keep his promises. True would have her damn cat, and a life without a price. There was nothing to hold her down now. Nothing she couldn't be. He would support her in what ever she chose to do with her life. Doors to opportunities would open for her that he could have only dreamed of at her age. And what doors didn't open for her he would kick in. All he had to do was keep her safe until he could get her off this dirt ball and back to the safety of the stations. He kicked himself for the hundredth time for the selfishness that made him bring her along on this dangerous mission. Would it even be safe to return now that they knew of the Council's plans?
"True-baby, you listen to Ms. Adair and go to bed when she tells you. I'll wake you up when I get back and tell you a story."
"Promise?" Trust and love beaming in her face.
"I *promise*." His reply rang deep and strong.
It was well past midnight when a weary, cold, wet, and hungry Danziger pulled into camp. Figuring everyone was burrowed under layers of blankets for the night, he quietly shuffled to the main tent in search of the promised meal Bess had waiting. Funny, he thought as he passed the abandoned greenhouse. The warmest place around and everyone was too scared to go in there at night. A soft snort was the closest thing to a laugh his tired body could make at the thought of 22nd century humans still harboring superstitions. But given some of the inexplicable goings-on they've encountered on this planet, it was understandable. Better safe than sorry.
"It's about time you got back. I thought I'd have to go out looking for your frozen body in the drifts."
Danziger had been too lost in his revelry to notice Devon was still up. Waiting for him with a mug of hot soup, a warm fire, a dry blanket, and a relieved smile. Danziger didn't want to examine too closely the feelings that that smile aroused in his heart. Solace was the resident Romeo, Danziger was just the mechanic. He had a job to do. It was to service the machines, not the boss.
"I thought everyone was asleep."
He took off his wet jacket, his thermal undershirt was fairly dry and wrapped the pro-offered blanket around his broad shivering shoulders.
"Thanks." He managed to stutter out through chattering teeth.
"Here sit down by the fire and eat your soup."
The sight of the half frozen man caused Devon's maternal instincts to kick into overdrive. She shoved him down onto the box serving as a stool next to the fire. She helped steady his trembling hands so he would get the soup in his mouth instead of his lap. After the first sip he had regained enough motor control that she relinquished the cup to him. Her attention then turned to his snow soaked blonde curls that seemed perpetually hanging in his eyes giving the big man a lost little boy look. Giving in to the temptation she brushed the locks away from his face, only to be greeted by a startled wary look in his hazel green eyes and a hesitant half smile. Danziger then became incredibly interested in the contents of his soup. Devon got up and taking a towel stood behind him and began to gently dry his hair. Danziger stiffened at the contact but slowly began to relax. He couldn't recall ever having this much attention lauded on him. Now he knew how that blasted horse felt with everyone brushing, petting, and cooing over him. He leaned his shoulders back against her and closed his eyes. This was the closest they'd been since the Diggers had tied them up together weeks ago. Between the food, the fire, and Devon's ministrations Danziger's weary body began to drift off to sleep. Suddenly, he jumped up forcing Devon to grab him to keep from falling.
"I promised True I'd wake her when I got back to tell her a bedtime story."
"That's silly." Devon responded. "Why wake her up to tell her a bedtime story?" "Why not wait till she wakes up and tell her a good morning story? Hmmm?"
Danziger seemed to chew on that idea before he replied, "I guess that would still count like I promised."
"Promises are very important to you, aren't they?"
"A person's only as good as their word."
"And you always keep your word, don't you?" Devon whispered. "That's why you supported me when the Terrians called on me to fulfill my promise to them."
Danziger meet her gaze and nodded emphatically. He sat back down and stirred the fire absently. "I didn't care about helping the Diggers, but I understood and respected your integrity in doing so."
"You really shouldn't call them 'Diggers'. It sounds derogatory. Alonzo says they call themselves Terrians. I think we should respect them by using the word they choose to call themselves." Devon said this amicably as she sat down next to him. She didn't wish to crush the new found camaraderie between them by coming across as a shrew.
Smiling ruefully to show her she hadn't angered him he replied, "I'm a pretty straight forward guy. I don't have much use for puffy words. I'm a mechanic, not the 'Eden Project Systems Engineer.' Out of deference to you I won't call them that anymore. After all, you're the boss."
"I recall a time when you said I wasn't the boss anymore."
"I was angry then. You *are* the group's leader, and a damn fine one considering we're still alive and together. I realized that when we found the other group and saw how they couldn't cooperate because there was no one strong enough to lead them. I also realized that I was endangering the group by openly challenging your decisions."
"So, this means my word is God's?" Devon's eyes sparkled mischievously.
"No, it means I will bring my reservations to you privately." He returned her grin.
"How gallant of you sir." They both leaned towards each other resting their heads together and giggled softly like a pair of school children.
Impulsively Devon turned to him and grabbed his huge calloused hands in her petite ones forcing him to gaze into her earnest eyes. "Danziger, I know it's important for group cohesion that we appear to get along, but can't we make it a reality too?--I want us to be friends.--I know you think we come from different worlds and that we don't share any common experiences, but you're wrong.--We have just as much in common as we have differences.--We are both single parents who would do anything to safeguard our children,--our children are more in control of *us* than we are of *them*,--we both want what's best for the group,--we're both hardheaded and stubborn,--we have both been misused by the government,--and we both believe in keeping promises." This was all said breathlessly as a single sentence, so Devon was finally forced to stop to take a couple of gulps of air.
Danziger hadn't uttered a word or moved a millimeter during the entire oration. Then when she had run out of steam, he gently disengaged his hands from hers. His massive hands engulfed her smaller ones and began to idly stroke them with his thumbs. Intently returning her gaze he softly replied, "Devon, friends don't call each other by their last names." Nearly choking on a half sob half laugh, Devon said, "I'm so sorry John, I don't know what got into me."
Devon woke up and stretched languidly in her sleeping bag. She listened to the hubbub of the camp stirring to life not quite wanting to let go of her dreams just yet. Rolling over she saw that Uly wasn't in his cot. That was strange since she usually had to threaten to dump him out to get him up. She briefly worried if the Terrians had come for him in the night, but remembered they promised he would only be taken to join them during Moon Cross. Maybe Yale had decided to start classes early and had gotten him up. She dressed quickly, more from the cold than from concern. She was learning to let Uly go one painfully released knuckle at a time. Walking out of the tent, she calmly scanned the camp. Bess saw her and waved good morning to her. Devon decided to ask her if she had seen Uly this morning. As she walked towards Bess, she passed the Danzigers' tent. Inside she could hear John's deep baritone telling True her 'good morning' story. She stopped to listen, and recognized the story as one her father had told her as a child. It was the story of the lion and the mouse. An unlikely pair that become loyal and trusting friends. She wondered if his choice was purely coincidence or if it harbored a hidden meaning. Just *who* did he think of as the lion and *who* as the mouse, she wondered? Just as she was about to continue on her search for her son, she heard Uly's enthralled voice exclaim "And then what happened Mr. Danziger?!" Realizing her son was in the quite capable hands of her new friend, Devon went over to share breakfast with the others. Feeling a sense of joyfulness and wellbeing for the first time since the crash.