Originally written for anr in Yuletide 2011
Water rushed over her shoes.
Devon Adair looked down at her sodden feet in surprise, just as another wave of water rushed over them. This wave was higher than the first one, the foam brushing the cuffs of her pants. A sudden suspicion formed in her mind.
"Are you thinking what I'm thinking," she called across the cave to her companion.
"That we're gonna drown to death because that damned clock in your office can't keep time?" he yelled back. "Yeah!"
She resisted the urge to remind him that "that damned clock" was an antique. The water was rushing in quickly; warm currents eddied around her calves. She had to raise her voice to be heard above the roar of the incoming tide.
"We'll never make it back to the entrance in time. Head for the shelf."
He was already moving in that direction. Even in the midst of her own panic, Devon couldn't help but wonder why it always seemed to require a life or death situation to make John Danziger listen to her. She pushed the thought aside as she hurried to follow her own advice about getting to higher ground.
The first few steps across the cave floor were like sloshing through a deep puddle. The next few steps were like forging across a river. Another few steps and it was easier to give into the water and swim. Struggling against the currents, she cut across the surface in broad strokes as she made for the shelf. The rising water carried her up just short of the shelf. She'd have to pull herself up the rest of the way.
Danziger offered her a hand up. Devon accepted it gratefully, allowing him to help her out of the water and onto the narrow ledge. She collapsed onto the rocky-but dry- surface of the shelf.
"Thanks," she huffed between gasping in air desperately. When she could breathe again, she asked him how he'd beaten her to safety.
"I was halfway up the rise," he said. "It wasn't that hard to get up here." His eyes swept over her in appraisal. "You alright?"
She nodded. "And you?"
Devon had her doubts about that. He favored his left arm a little too much. She knew he'd never admit to an injury, so she let it go. She looked at the flooded chamber below instead, a frown pulling at her mouth.
"It's what, ten hours before the tide goes out again?" she wondered aloud.
"At least ten hours," he agreed.
Devon looked back to the man beside her. "I don't suppose you have your gear with you?" He gave her a look that said what he thought about that question. She sighed. "Of course you don't." She fished a sodden, lumpy mass of wires and metal from her pocket- the remains of her gear, waterlogged and useless.
"Neither do I, apparently."
"Great," Danziger grumbled.
The situation really wasn't all that bad; it was merely inconvenient. Even in the recesses of the cave, the heat of the day lingered over the warm water. They had no food, but both of them could go much longer than ten hours on the meal they'd eaten earlier. They'd be fine.
"And the kids?" he asked her, as if she could forget them.
"Dawn's not for another twelve hours," she said. She pulled off her wet jacket. "That gives us plenty of time to get home. They'll never even know we were gone."
"Right," he said, not sounding like he agreed with her in the least.
Devon ignored him at that point. She was used to Danziger's less than sunny personality. She'd become so used it that his grumblings were like background noise and comforting in their own way. She spread her jacket out on the ground so that it laid with the lining facing outward. Woven and treated to repel water, the inside of her coat was dry enough to make a decent bed. Granted it was spread over hard stone, but she'd gotten use to sleeping on whatever was at hand.
She laid down on her coat. "I'm going to get some rest," she said. "There's room if you'd like to join me."
Danziger shook his head. "You go ahead and try to sleep on a six by four outcropping over deep water," he said. "I think I'm gonna sit up for a while."
"Suit yourself." Devon turned over on her side and closed her eyes.
She opened her eyes to darkness.
Devon felt a familiar fear grab her heart. She hated it. It was completely ridiculous for a woman in her thirties to be afraid of the dark. She fought for control of herself, but a panicked gasp left her mouth before she could stop its escape.
"Devon?" Danziger called out to her. She could hear the concern in his voice.
She swallowed down hard on her fear. "I'm alright," she assured him. She was glad her voice didn't shake and give her away.
A sickly green glow flared to life. It didn't add much brightness to the dark, but that small light helped to calm her fears. Devon sat up, blinking slowly at the light source in amazement.
"I'm sorry I let the greenstones go out," he apologized from somewhere to her left "I know how much you hate the dark."
She turned her head to find him. Danziger sat on the far side of the narrow shelf, huddled over a small pile of greenstones. "It's okay," she said, surprised that he remembered her fear of the dark. She'd only mentioned it once before in passing, "I'm just glad you managed to find greenstones. Phineas will be thrilled."
He snorted. "If they keep that man off my power grids for more than a day, then this whole mess is worth it," he said.
"I think I left my share of greenstones on the cave floor," Devon said in a tone of regret. "I'm surprised you managed to hold onto yours."
"I had more of them," he said. "These are the ones that managed to stay in my pocket in the water." He turned his attention back to the stones, breaking them apart to pry more light out of them. In the weird half light the stones produced, Devon noticed the injury she'd wondered about earlier.
"You are hurt," she said.
Danziger brushed off her concern. "It's just a scratch," he said. "I must have scraped my arm on the rocks climbing up here."
Devon shook her head. She moved closer to him. "That doesn't look like a scratch." She lifted his arm with both of her hands to get a better look at what he called a scratch. "That looks more like a gash."
He pulled his wounded arm away from her and back to himself. "Like you said earlier, it could be a lot worse. If it wasn't for this shelf, a gashed arm would be the least of our problems."
"I agree," Devon said. "We owe our children thanks for finding it for us."
Danziger sat up a little straighter to look at her like she'd lost her mind. "Thank them?" he repeated incredulously. "Are you kidding me, Adair? True's still grounded for that little stunt."
For some time, Devon had noticed John Danziger's conflicting feelings towards his little girl's wild streak. Most of the time he reacted to True's rule-bending antics with firmness backed by appropriate punishment. Very, very rarely he seemed almost...proud...of her willful disobedience. It was another contradiction in a man seemingly made up of contradictions, but one that Devon sympathized with herself. Lately, she didn't know if she wanted to hug her child or send him to his room until he was eighteen.
Contradictory herself, Devon also sympathized with True. She remembered all too well what it was like being a pre-teen girl. There was nothing in the world that would make her go through it again. It was that memory that made her speak on True's behalf.
"She's still grounded?" she asked in disbelief. " Danziger, that was two weeks ago. Don't you think that punishment's a little...excessive?"
"She's still grounded because she could have gotten herself and your son killed," he reminded her. "No, I don't think that's a little excessive," he quoted her words back at her. "I can't believe you think it is."
Devon shrugged. "I guess unauthorized cave exploration doesn't rank very high on my list of punishable offenses," she said. "In my opinion, they could've done a lot worse." She paused. "God knows I did, and Uly is more like me than I care to admit." He snorted in disbelief.
"Yeah Adair," he said. "I'm sure you were a real wild child. What did you do, punch out a debutante?"
Devon fixed him with an even stare, and then she let him have it with both barrels. "No," she told him simply, without justification or pride. "I burned down a building."
He stared at her, left speechless by her unexpected revelation.
"Arson was only part of it," she continued. To her surprise, she found that telling him about her teenage rebellion wasn't as embarrassing as she'd imagined it would be. It actually felt freeing. "It wasn't all bad behavior. This one time I forged my parents' signatures and donated half of my father's paycheck to a Children's Home." She smiled at him then. "Obviously since then I've channeled my charitable impulses into slightly more legal activities."
Danziger found his voice again. "I don't believe it," he said. "You're an Adair. Behavior like that would have gotten you on every newsvid on the Stations. I never saw a thing about a Station princess committing arson."
"You said it yourself," Devon pointed out to him. "I'm an Adair. My parents had the money and the influence to cover up their daughter's wild behavior. Now you're the only one who knows. Well, you and Yale. He was usually the first one I called for bail. My record was sealed when I turned twenty-one and assumed a partnership in the family business."
"Typical," he muttered. She could see that he was trying not to smile. "I still don't believe it," he said, some of his earlier teasing tone creeping back into his words. "Devon Adair, juvenile delinquent."
Devon allowed herself to smile at her own expense. "Very juvenile," she agreed. "I grew out of that sort of behavior by eighteen. Thank God."
Danziger started to reply to her. He leaned forward to shift his position on the ground but stopped as his arm twitched and his face contorted in pain. Devon moved to him- but there was very little room for either of them to move. In a movement similar to a crab, she scuttled around him to settle at his left side.
"Still fine?" Devon asked him, already knowing the answer. He shook his head yes, unable to answer her verbally.
Devon muttered under her breath about male ego. She pulled a small, white cylinder out of a sealed pocket in her jacket. With smooth movements born of practice, she popped off the stopper. Two small, round pills fell into her hand. Her fingers curled shut around them, keeping them safe. Her free hand reached out until she found one of his big hands. She carefully laid the pills in his palm.
"Take these," she instructed him. "You'll have to swallow them dry because there's no water to take them with." She exhaled in annoyance. "Which is kind of ironic when you consider our current situation."
As gently as she'd given them to him, Danziger put the pills back in her hand and closed her hand around them. "You have those for a reason," he reminded her, pushing her hands away. "I don't want you to have an attack up here with nothing to help you through it. I'm fine."
"You're being stubborn," she told him.
"Pot, kettle, Adair."
"Then I'm staying up with you," she replied. "I think I've slept all I can tonight any way."
Devon moved again, to lean against his uninjured arm. Taking the unspoken hint, he wrapped that arm around her shoulders, pulling her closer to him. She settled in against him.
"You're just as stubborn as I am," he said suddenly, after a long moment of silence.
"I was taught to think of it as being goal oriented," she corrected him. He let out a dry chuckle. Devon smiled to herself against his shoulder.
The tide went out with the night.
Just after dawn, Devon and Danziger scrambled back down the cave wall. The slippery rocks and his injured arm made it slow going for Danziger. Devon reached the bottom first. She reached up to Danziger and-as best she could-helped him climb the rest of the way down. She swayed on her feet but didn't lose her footing, and he reached the bottom safely. The pair of them made their way out of the cavern, heading towards the beach.
A flash of brown caught Devon's eye. She went to see what it was.
Tossed around by the tide, Devon's abandoned bag of greenstones was tangled up in an outcropping near the mouth of the cave. Devon went to get it and discovered yet another surprise in an evening full of surprises.
"Hey Danziger," she called after him. "Some of the larger stones stayed in the bag. I have no idea how. We should take them as well."
Danziger came back to her. He looked down into the bag, then picked it up. An immediate groan of pain followed the motion. Dvone took the heavy bag from him, looping its cords over her free arm the better to carry the heavy bag.
"Thanks," he said, as he rubbed his sore arm with his opposite hand.
"Doesn't hurt that badly, huh," Devon said knowingly, nodding to the gash on his forearm.
His hand immediately dropped away from it. "It's not that bad," he insisted.
"We'll let Julia decide that," Devon replied evenly. Danziger groaned again and protested that there was no need to involve Julia in this. Devon looked over her shoulder at him.
"You'd think you wouldn't argue with me now that you know about my checkered past," she teased him. "There's no telling what my inner juvenile delinquent might do to you."
Danziger didn't laugh at her flippant remark. He side eyed her; she both imagined and hoped that he saw right through her. He always had, right from the beginning. She knew what he would see, if he looked hard enough. She was nervous about last night's unexpected tell all. She was trying to make light of her confession to him. To play up her past for laughs, to minimize any damage done.
"Water under the bridge, Devon, " he said simply. "We all have a past, why would you be any different? If there's anything I've learned since crashing on this rock, it's that we left our pasts behind us the minute we arrived here." A rueful smile tugged at his mouth. "Some of us just took a little longer to figure that out."
Devon smiled back at him. "So you were listening to me," she said in mock relief. His smile lost its rueful edge.
"Sometimes," he teased her back. She rolled her eyes at him, but laughed despite herself.
They stepped out onto the beach. Another beautiful morning in New Pacifica was their reward for enduring a long and stressful night. Seeing the beauty around her, Devon knew that it was more than a fair trade.
"Though I have to admit it," Danziger said, and Devon turned her head to look askance at him. "The bad girl thing sorta works for me..."
She made a noise of good natured exasperation. "Don't push your luck, John Danziger." He laughed and offered her his arm. She accepted it, and arm in arm they walked up the beach, back towards home and their shared life.