winter
WINTER SOLSTICE

by Lia Faile

Timeline: After "Brave New Pacifica"

Devon muttered as she tossed onto her side and tucked her left hand under her pillow. Shivering, she fumbled for the covers with her right hand and yanked them up over her head. Suddenly the coldness was replaced by a wonderful warmth that radiated against her back and softly enveloped her from head to toe. Sighing, she burrowed back towards it. A strong male hand caressed upwards along her hip and across her stomach, then pulled her tight against the body it was attached to. Devon smiled and tangled her legs with his, stroking the hairy muscular calves with her feet. His hand grew bolder. It reached up to undo the buttons at her neck and slipped inside. His breath sounded harsh against her ear as he kissed it, then her neck. Still shivering but no longer from the cold, Devon felt her heart begin to race and her breath come in gasps. Not able to keep still and passive any longer, she turned towards him and started to return his caresses. She stroked his chest with her hands and face, enjoying the way his chest hairs tickled her nose. "Mmm...Shepard, you smell so clean."

He pulled her night shirt up over her head. Her arms settled down around his shoulders. Then her left hand snaked up to caress his stubbled face. Grabbing a fistful of hair, she pulled his face down towards hers. Tipping back her head so she could receive his kiss, Devon opened her eyes and smiled at her lover. Only instead of seeing the face of her dead spirit lover Shepard, Devon found herself gazing in shock into a much younger face with hazel eyes and a mop of unruly golden locks. A mischevious grin quirked his lips and spilled into his eyes causing one eyebrow to pop up playfully. A familiar raspy voice filled her roaring ears. "Still cold?"

He leaned down and planted a light kiss on the tip of her nose, and lowered his head to her lips. Devon began to struggle against his heavy body trying to push him off her.

"Oh, my God! DANZIGER!!!

Devon bolted up right holding trembling fingers against her mouth. She was alone. Slowly she lowered her forehead to her bent knees. She took several deep calming breaths. "It was only a dream. Just a dream." She kept repeating this quietly to herself as she rocked back and forth. Just then the door to her sleeping quarters banged open and a large body flew inside with gun drawn. Danziger tripped on something in the unfamiliar darkness and fell against the bed. Devon's scream repelled him backwards.

Danziger landed on his rear. He shook his head in an attempt to stop his ears from ringing. Holding the Magpro in both hands he scanned the room for hidden criminals, Grendlers, or anything else that he could shoot.

"Devon, you alright?!"

If Devon had had any doubts before about the soundness of her heart she could put them to rest now. Clutching her throat, Devon felt the reassuring softness of her night shirt. Oh thank God! I still got my clothes on, was the first lucid thought that popped into her numb mind.

"John! What's the big idea coming in here scaring the wits out of me!"

"ME?!"

Danziger bellowed with an incredulous look on his face. "You're the one screaming your fool head off! I just came inside to get a cup of coffee before I relieved Baines on watch! Next thing I know, you're hollering for me like a banshee!"

"Put that gun down before it goes off! My God, I bet you sleep with it!"

Danziger squeezed his eyes shut. An image flashed behind them of him aiming his gun at her and gently pulling the trigger. That seemed to have a calming effect on him that brought a little smile to his lips. Yep, it could look like an accident. But no, when he finally went over the deep end he wanted Devon's demise to be more personal. Like with his hands wrapped around her neck. Yeah, he thought nodding to himself, it'd be much more satisfying that way. When Danziger opened his eyes, he wore a big grin on his face that could only be described as maniacal. It went nicely with his glazed eyes. Devon couldn't read his thoughts, but his expression was enough to caused her to assume a defensive crouch on the bed. Danziger lowered the gun. His eyes held hers captive.

"As a matter of fact, I do sleep with my gun. Maybe if you slept with one I wouldn't have too worry so much when I hear you scream."

Devon's mouth worked soundlessly as she searched for a truly biting retort.

"Mom?" Uly's sleepy form entered her bedroom from a smaller side room. "What's going on? I heard a lot of yelling." Uly shuffled over to his mother's bed, and sent Danziger a challenging look. He liked Danziger, but he didn't like finding him in his mother's bedroom late at night.

Danziger started to get up when Baines pushed open the door knocking him down again. "Hey, what's going on?" Baines glanced down at the sprawled figure on the floor. "What are you doing on the floor, man?" "I dropped my comb." Came the sarcastic reply. Danziger waved Baines off. "Go on, I'll be right out." Devon gave Uly a reassuring hug. "It's okay sweetheart. Mommy just had a bad dream. Go on back to bed." She kissed his forehead and gave him a gentle push in the direction of his room. Uly headed back across the room staring hard at Danziger the entire way. Danziger gave Uly a weak smile and waggled his fingers in a gesture of good night. Nope, he definitely didn't like the idea of Danziger being alone in his mother's bedroom.

Devon was fussing with her bedcovers so she didn't notice Danziger get up and cross the floor to her bed until she felt his weight make the edge of it sag. "Nightmare, eh? Wanna talk about it?" "NO!" Devon felt her face burning at the thought of her dream. "Hey, you don't have to take my head off! Just thought talking about it might take the edge off it." Danziger lowered his head to get a better look at her. "You sure you're okay?" He placed his palm against her forehead. "You're burning up. Do you need Julia to check you out?" Devon jerked her head away. Given the circumstances, she felt uncomfortable with him so close. "No, thank you."

"Ya sure?" Danziger asked as he began to absently tuck Devon's covers in. "Don't want you getting cold." Devon yanked the covers from Danziger and glared at him. "I'm _not_ a child! I do not need you to tuck me in! What are you going to do next, offer to get me a drink of water?" Danziger shot up from the bed and stood there clenching and unclenching his fists. "I can _see_ that you're not a child, although you have a hell of a knack for _acting_ like one." Then he turned on his heel, and banged open the door.

"Pleasant dreams, Adair." He growled back over his shoulder. Mentally Danziger added "psycho-bitch" to his already long list of private nicknames he had for Devon as he stormed out into the frigid night.

A groggy and bleary eyed Devon Adair stumbled into the main dome room in search of that life saving elixir--coffee. Between the episodes with the dream Danziger and the real Danziger, she had laid awake all night too afraid of what might happen if she fell asleep again. Grasping the hot mug in both hands she inhaled the aroma of the coffee before she took her first sip. Glancing sureptistionly over the rim of her cup, Devon scanned the room. Thankfully, Danziger wasn't here. The few people that were cast some not so casual looks her way. So Baines had spread the word about last night already, huh? The young man was a bit of a gossip. Not in a malicious way, he just lacked tack.

"Good Morning!"

Devon looked up to see Bess smiling down at her with a face that was just too angelic and glowing. For just one instant Devon hated her. Bess sat down across from her. "You look awful!" She blurted out. Then she flashed a coaxing smile at Devon. "I heard you had some sort of fight with Danziger. Do you want to talk about it?" Devon knew Bess was a sweet sincere girl, but frankly, given her choice in husbands Devon didn't think she was the best person to confide in. Yale had asked her if she was all right this morning too. She loved Yale, and trusted him with her life and Uly's. The thought of sharing her dream with him positively mortified her though. "No Bess, thank you. I just needed some coffee." Devon smiled and rose from the table and walked out the door. Leaving behind a disappointed Bess.

Devon stood outside the dome breathing in the crisp morning air. She seemed uncertain of what to do or which direction to go. Gnawing on her thumbnail, she came to a nervous decision. She headed towards the Med Tent. She needed to talk to someone. Right now Julia was her best bet.

Danziger awoke with a start, his lungs working furiously. He sat up shakily. His body was coated in a thick patina of sweat. Heart pounding so hard he could hear his blood roaring in his ears. "Aw, man!" He groaned as he ran a hand through his sweat soaked locks. Then he rubbed his face trying to clear his head and eyes. He hadn't had a dream like that since he was a kid! Danziger wiped his sweaty palm against his equally sweaty undershirt, accomplishing nothing. Grabbing it at the neckline he pulled the damp garment away from his chest in an attempt to cool off. He swung his feet over the side of the cot to the floor, and threw off the blanket. He was going to have to get cleaned up.

"What are you doing up, Dad?" True stood just inside the tent with a matronly look on her face. Startled, Danziger nearly jumped out of his skin. He actually felt himself blushing. Swell, another thing that he thought he had grown out of. Coughing to disguise his discomfort, he quickly gathered the discarded blanket into his lap.

"Hey, aren't you suppose to be in school?" Danziger winced at how harsh the question had come out. He really felt guilty when he saw the hurt look in her eyes. He gave her a smile to let her know he wasn't really pissed. "Sorry sweetheart. I just thought I'd make use of the short daytime to work on the generators. I don't have watch tonight, so I can sleep in tomorrow."

Instantly forgiving her father, True's expression perked up. "I don't have to go to school. I could help you." Danziger shook his head. "No, you're a smart kid. You deserve more out of life than just slaving away in some blue collar ghetto."

True knew better than to argue when her father got on his soapbox about her education. She knew he was just looking out for her, but that didn't mean she had to like it. "Okay." Reluctantly she walked out of the tent and headed to the Dome. Groaning, Danziger fell back onto the cot. He hid his eyes in the crook of his elbow; took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "Adair, you're gonna be the death of me."

Julia was busy analyzing some local flora for potential medicinal uses. Her incomplete medical supplies were beginning to dwindle. If they didn't find any more Eden Project supply capsules, she was going to have to rely on G889's natural pharmacy. Meanwhile, Alonzo was busy seducing Julia.

The dark haired pilot leaned casually against the doctor's work table, crossed his arms and put on his most devastating grin and waited. And waited. His face started to get tired. He shifted his weight on the edge of the table jarring it. "Don't you have something you should be doing?"

Julia didn't even glance up from her microscope when she asked that. Then would be Romeo decided to try another tactic. He moved behind her and placed on hand on the back of the chair and the other on the nape of her neck. He leaned downward until his lips brushed her ear. "So what makes this stuff more interesting than me, huh?" Sighing, Julia put down the slide she was preparing and rolled her sapphire eyes up to meet his dark cocoa ones.

Thrilled that he had finally won her attention away from the her work, he quickly plastered his lustful grin back on his face. Then lifted one eyebrow suggestively. Sighing again, Julia said, "I thought True and Uly were distracting when they were underfoot." "Ah, come on, Doc. It's been ages. A guy could sustain permanent ego damage if he thought he couldn't compete with bits of twigs and bark." He knelt down beside her, his expression playful. "It's only been two hours since we..." Julia's voice trailed off leaving the sentence unfinished. "Like I said. Ages."

The playfulness left Alonzo's face only to be replaced by a darker emotion. He reached up and gently grasped the front of her shirt. Julia allowed him to tug her face down to his. Her eyes began to dilate in response to his closeness. Alonzo softly brushed his lips against hers teasingly. Julia slide off the chair to her knees facing him. A little moan caught in her throat as she wrapped her arms around him pressing her body against his and deepened the kiss.

Alonzo clumsily tried to pull her to her feet without breaking the embrace. Their kisses became hungrier. He groaned as he unbuttoned her shirt with shaking hands. Julia gasped when she felt his rough warm hands stroking her flesh. She would have sunk back down to the floor if Alonzo hadn't been holding on to her. Slowly he guided her backwards towards the examination table.

Devon cleared her throat politely to make the groping couple aware that she was there. "Julia, do you have a moment?" Julia shoved Alonzo away from her and turned away to button and tuck in her shirt. The normally congenial pilot shot Devon a sour look. He started to say something rude, but stopped when he saw Devon's face. She looked really ill. Her eyes had dark circles under them and her face was exceptionally pale. "You sick, Devon?" Barely glancing at Alonzo Devon replied "No, I just need to talk to Julia. Alone, please." "Sure, Dev. I'll catch ya later, Doc!" Before Julia had a chance to move beyond his reach, he pulled her into his arms and gave her a quick, hard kiss that ended with a big smacking sound. He gave her a wink then spun around on his heel and swaggered out of the tent whistling.

A flustered Julia ran a shaky hand through her hair and gave Devon an embarrassed smile. Ignoring the little scene that had just played out before her, Devon got straight to the point. "I know you're a medical doctor, but you know about psychology too, right?" Julia nodded her head and replied cautiously. "Yes,...a little. Did you have something specific in mind?" Clearly nervous, Devon licked her lips and began to fidget with the instruments on Julia's lab table. Avoiding her gaze, she quietly said

"Dreams."

Julia blinked. She knew the confining boredom of the winter camp might pose a mental threat to some. She expected to deal with depression, melancholy, and bottled up aggression. She hadn't thought about dreams or hallucinations. She also didn't expect Devon Adair to come to her with the first psychological complaint. This didn't bode well for the group if their leader was having some sort of breakdown. Remembering that Devon had experienced the Terrian Dream Plane, she thought maybe it had something to do with Devon's statement. "Dreams? Are you having Terrian dreams? Alonzo is the expert in that area. You may want to talk to him instead."

Devon's head snapped up, two red splotches brightened her cheeks. Oh, she bet that Alonzo would just _love_ to hear about her dreams! He would also enjoy teasing her unmercifully. The thought of telling the cocky pilot the specifics while he sat there smirking over her discomfort was unimaginable! "NO! I'm not having Terrian dreams! Just plain old human ones! I don't need to discuss anything with Alonzo!"

"Well, okay. What was your dream about?"

Devon opened her mouth to speak then closed it. She stepped closer to Julia, opened her mouth once more and said "I..." The sound of voices very close outside made Devon whip around nervously. She turned back to Julia with a pleading look in her eyes. "Can we go for a walk so we won't be disturbed?" Julia hadn't seen Devon this distraught since that night Uly had disappeared into the earth. She was extremely pale and excessively nervous. Her hands were trembling, her eyes were dilated and slightly glassy. Now Julia was really worried. She could barely manage with physical ailments. She wasn't equipped to deal with a fullblown phycosis. "Sure, just let me get my jacket."

The two women stepped outside the Med Tent into the bright brisk day. The winter days weren't so bad. It was the nights that were a bear. Julia was glad she had Alonzo to snuggle up with. The snow crunched loudly beneath their boots as they headed aimlessly away from camp. Neither spoke as they walked. Devon kept glancing around and behind them. Julia kept her eyes on Devon and her hand on the hypodermic gun hidden in her coat pocket. She didn't want to be caught alone with someone suffering from some type of delusion without a sedative handy.

Devon finally stopped in a long wide clearing cluttered with fallen trees and rocks. She stood fidgeting with her coat buttons, looking everywhere but at Julia. "You said something about dreams?" Julia prompted, tilting her head quizzically. Devon cleared her throat several times and rubbed her nose with the back of her hand. "Yes, dreams. What do dreams mean, Julia?" Julia immediately switched into her doctor mode.

"Well we really don't know what purpose, if any, dreams serve. We do know that REM sleep is necessary for mental and physical health. Alonzo's claim that he didn't dream really can't be true. He may not have remembered his dreams prior to crashing on the planet, but that just goes to show that remembering them isn't a necessary part of the process. There are several schools of thought on the subject of dreams and dream interpretations."

She began to pace slowly while she lectured. "Some say dreams are meaningless. A sort of mental hiccup. That the brain just simply throws random images together. Some believe that dreams are manifestations of our conscious fears or worries. Still others think that dreams represent our hidden selves and secret desires." Julia stopped pacing and looked at Devon.

"It would help me if I knew what your dream was about...specifically."

Devon's chest began to heave as her breath quickened sending little puffs of steam wafting into the air in rapid succession. Suddenly she threw up her hands spinning around she shouted. "Oh God, Julia! I've been having _sex dreams_ about JOHN DANZIGER!!" She buried her face in her hands after saying this, too embarrassed to look at her friend.

Julia's professional demeanor cracked. Letting go of the hypodermic, she pressed her hands against her mouth in a effort to keep herself from laughing. Her mirth refused to be detained. First it trickled out around the edges of her fingers as little giggles. Then the dam burst spewing forth peals of laughter into the air. Devon lifted her head from her hands staring at Julia incredulously. Julia sat down in the snow, her body rocking and her eyes tearing. Looking up into Devon's shocked expression, she wiped her eyes and regained some composure.

"I'm sorry, Devon! I'm not laughing at you! It's just that you had me worried that you were on the verge of a catastrophic breakdown. Only to find out that you're having wet dreams about John Danziger!" The laughter threatened to bubble out again, but she managed to suppress it. Julia got up, brushed the snow from her rear and guided her friend to a nearby rock to sit. "Now tell me about your dream."

A half hour later, Devon stopped talking and looked at Julia for a reaction. "What does it all mean? Do I secretly want John? Am I afraid of him? Or is my brain just misfiring?" Julia had listened to Devon's erotic descriptions and was a little concerned now about her own ability to look the man in the eyes again herself! No wonder Devon turned scarlet at the suggestion that she talk to Alonzo! She debated whether she should tell Devon about the "pool" that Alonzo had started with the others on when those two were finally going to stop yelling at each other and start kissing. No, she decided, better not. Knowledge of the bets would most likely send Devon over the edge. She didn't want to see Devon going after him with a hatchet.

Julia drew in a deep breath and slowly let it out. "Well Devon, you're just going to have to sit down, think it over and decide that for yourself." "You're absolutely no help at all, you know." Devon replied crossly. Julia arched an eyebrow at Devon. "Yeah, I'm about as helpful as you and Bess were when I was in a quandary over Alonzo." Devon started to chuckle and Julia joined in.

"Oh, Julia! What am I thinking of?" Devon ran her hands through her russet hair pulling none to gently in exasperation. "John Danziger can barely stand my company! If he sees me coming he practically runs the other way. He avoids touching me like I've got some nasty disease. Plus we can't say more than two words without fighting." "Maybe he doesn't trust himself with you."

"Oh yeah, right!" Devon snorted inelegantly. "And he secretly loves the Terrians too!"

Julia twisted her mouth to keep it from betraying her amusement. "You're right. The mere sight of you must really disgust him." Devon looked shocked and hurt until she noticed how hard Julia was trying not to laugh. "Aw, now you're going to get it!" Devon's eyes got a devilish gleam to them. She reached down and scooped up some snow. Julia jumped up to run, but the snowball hit home against the side of her head. Hollering in mock rage, Julia made her own icy missile and returned fire. Soon the women were running around shrieking like school girls having the first snowball fight of their lives.

Alonzo sauntered out of the Dome just in time to see Devon and Julia heading out of camp. He was about to call out to the retreating women to wait up for him. When his attention was caught be a stream of colorful language that while crude was very creative. He poked his head around the side of the Dome to investigate what was causing Danziger so much grief.

The big man was sprawled on the ground with as much of his massive frame crammed beneath the Dome's main generator as possible. With all the wiring hanging down out of the generator, he looked like Hercules doing battle with the Hydra. Only this Hercules was losing--badly.

Alonzo walked over to the generator and squatted down next to Danziger's legs. "Lose your comb again, John?" The cursing and banging stopped. A pair of hands reached out from under the generator and pulled the rest of the mechanic out. Danziger sat up, grabbed a rag and wiped his hands. "You been talking to Baines, Solace?" Danziger's voice was deceptively neutral but his eyes held a promise of pain. Never one to back away from danger, Alonzo grinned eagerly. If he couldn't fly or make love to Julia, he might as well have some fun tormenting Danziger a bit. Besides, he was still curious over why Danziger really punched him. Alonzo absently stroked his jawline with two fingers. Damn, it still hurt! He'd been in his fair share of bar brawls in his day. Hell, he'd started a few! He recognized the punch of a jealous lover.

"Baines said you were in Devon's room last night fighting with her.

What's the matter? Aren't there enough hours in the day for you two to go toe to toe that you have to harass the poor woman while she's sleeping?"

Alonzo grinned.

Danziger frowned.

"I wasn't in there fighting with her. She screamed for me. I didn't know it was a dream and went charging in there. We ended up scaring each other, that's all."

Alonzo's eyebrows shot up. This was very interesting. "Hmmm...I wonder what Devon Adair is dreaming of that has her screaming your name?" Danziger chose to ignore the bait. "Don't know, she wouldn't tell me." He said this in a clipped tone meant to show he didn't wish to discuss it further. He busied himself with the solar panels on top of the generator.

"Just wondering how this will influence the bets, that's all." Alonzo said smoothly.

The big man turned icy eyes on the pilot. "Bets?"

Oh, that got Danziger's attention he thought. "Yeah, someone started a pool on when you two are going to drop this big act of yours and get down to some serious lovin'."

Danziger gave Alonzo a frosty smile. "A pool? Now I wonder which 'someone' started it?"

Grinning like a Cheshire cat Alonzo merely shrugged.

"Well. whoever did, better hope Devon doesn't get wind of it. She'll clip his wings permanently." After giving this warning, Danziger again returned to his work.

"Besides," the burly man grumbled, "we don't fight all the time."

Alonzo's upper lip twitched. "Well, I wouldn't exactly call what you two do fighting." Danziger sensed a trap, but he asked the next question anyway.

"What do you call it?"

Alonzo's always handy smile broke free of its moorings.

"Foreplay."

Danziger straightened up to his full height, stepped towards the smirking man and glared down at him menacingly. "Maybe I didn't hit you hard enough in the spider cave, Solace." His words soft as velvet.

Laughing Alonzo threw his hands in the air in a gesture of surrender. "Oh no, friend! You hit me plenty hard!" Rolling his eyes upward in appeal, Danziger gave him his best no nonsense look that was usually reserved for True. "Look, either clear out or help me with this hunk of junk."

"What's that noise?" Devon stopped, held her breath so she could hear the noise that Julia was asking about. Just when she was about to tell Julia she didn't hear anything, Devon became aware of a rumbling that was heading in their direction.

"Thunder?" She ventured hesitantly. "Maybe we should head back. I have some experiments I need to get back to."

Julia turned and headed back towards the trees that lined the edge of the wide clearing they had been running around in. Devon started to follow her. Then she stopped. Not only could she hear the rumbling, now she could feel it. This noise was lasting longer than any thunder they had ever heard since arriving on the planet. Plus Devon never remembered feeling thunder. Glancing over her shoulder up towards the mountain top, Devon saw a sight that made her question her sanity for the second time that day. "Oh my God." She whispered. Julia turned, and she stood dumbfounded too. The mountain had come alive.

A raging frozen white tidal wave was racing down the mountain side headed straight for them. Julia looked around at the wide area littered with broken trees and tossed rocks, and saw the clearing for what it really was. "We're in an avalanche run!" Julia gaged the distance they would have to cover to reach the safety of the standing trees that marked the run's boundary. She grabbed Devon's sleeve and started pulling her in a futile dash for safety. Julia switched on her gear in an attempt to call base camp for help. Just as she managed to get a signal through, they were engulfed by the frozen foam. Julia had the breath knocked out of her as she was lifted and tumbled within the white fury. Instinctively she tried to swim, but her sense of direction had been scrambled. Was she swimming up to safety, or digging deeper into a frosty grave? Something big and hard struck her, or she struck it. Regardless of liability Julia slipped into unconsciousness, and was carried along with the tide of snow.

Danziger stopped, looked up, and scanned the glaring whiteness with squinted eyes. "Hey, did you hear something?" Alonzo looked up from the generator, tilted his head and listened intently. "I thought...maybe...naw." He finally answered shaking his head. Magus came running out of the Dome. "John!" "Back here!" He took one look at the woman's eyes and saw trouble. "What's wrong?" He asked this with a nonchalance he didn't feel. "I don't know." She replied puffing in short quick breaths of air. "Julia's gear channel is open but she isn't transmitting. The only image coming over is a grainy whiteness." Danziger yanked his gear out of his pocket and jammed it onto his head. "Maybe it's just a glitch?" Magus offered feeblely. Flipping the eyepiece in place, he studied the image. "Un uh...it's not a glitch. Looks like she dropped her gear in the snow." "That doesn't sound like Julia. She doesn't drop or misplace anything." Alonzo pulled Danziger's gear from his head and set it on his own. "Julia? Julia, come in!"

Tearing the gear off his head and tossing it back at the mechanic, Alonzo strode purposefully towards the Dune Rail. "Hey! Where you going?!" "To find her! This isn't right! She left camp with Devon a while ago, and Devon was acting strange." John trotted after the pilot, and grabbed his coat sleeve. "Alonzo! Don't go charging off half cocked. If Devon's with her let me try to contact her." He replaced the gear on his head.

"Danziger to Adair." A long pause. "Devon this is John, please respond." he shifted restlessly and fiddled with the gear's controls just above his ear. "Devon doesn't even have her gear turned on." He muttered. "That's not like her." He shot Alonzo a worried look. "You said Devon was acting funny...How?"

"She looked sick and was acting real nervous." Alonzo shrugged out of Danziger's gripe, and headed for the rail again. "We're wasting time! I gotta go find her!" Danziger seized the pilot's sleeve again. "Whoa! Hold up, Cowboy! No need to go racing off in a tizzy. Let me see if I can get a fix off of Julia's gear signal." Again he played with the controls at his ear frowning in concentration. "Julia's signal is about four kilometers away." His frown deepened. "They say they were going hiking?" "They didn't say anything! Come on! Let's go!" Alonzo jerked his sleeve from Danziger's hand and rushed to the rail.

"Magus, keep handy. We'll let you know what's up when we get there. No need to get everyone upset over nothing, so don't say anything until you hear from us.--Especially to Uly." Magus nodded and turned to go back into the Dome. Danziger had to take a running jump into the rail's passenger's seat as Alonzo tore westward out of camp.

Alonzo was forced to bring the racing rail to a stop. They had come to a wall of snow well over six feet tall and stretching down the mountain as far as the eye could see. "Where'd the hell did that come from?!" John's mouth went dry and he felt his stomach flip flop. A terrible realization stung his brain. "That sound I heard, it must have been an avalanche."

"Avalanche?!" "

Yeah...Yale was telling us about them. Said it was something we had to be careful of with all the recent snow fall the last few days." Staring at the hugh white mass in awe, Danziger touched it. "I just never imagined...it's enormous."

"Where's Julia's signal, John?"

A pale Danziger pointed at the drift. "They must have been caught in it. Carried down the mountain by it."

"JULIA!!" Alonzo plunged into the snow. Danziger hot on his heels. "Wait! Her signal is closer to the edge of the slide further down the mountain. They must of saw it coming and tried to out run it." Alonzo took a shaky breath and said calmly, "Okay, where?" Danziger skirted the edge of the avalanche following the doctor's gear signal. Hoping as he trudged through the soft snow that Julia was near her gear if not attached to it. Hoping Devon was close by. Praying that they both were still alive. Danziger's gut clenched. How long had it been since he heard the slide? How long could the women survive being buried alive? How much oxygen was trapped in the loosely packed snow? Determinately he shoved these whirling thoughts to the back of his mind and concentrated on locating Julia's gear. One thing at a time he told himself.

John stopped. They'd reached the spot where Julia's gear should be. He saw nothing but whiteness and trees. He stepped a little ways into the drift and started to dig. His hand closed around Julia's gear not quite a meter down. He began to stick his arms into the snow searching for Julia herself. Alonzo joined in the frantic search for the woman. It was cold, but he was sweating. He reached up to wipe his eye where an errant bead of sweat had invaded. Looking out across the white expanse he felt his soul shrink. She was gone. This time when he wiped his eye it wasn't because of sweat. A silvery glint jumped out from the sparkling glare of the snow and caught his eye. He crawled over to it to investigate. It was a sliver ring. And it was attached to a thumb that was barely poking out of the snow. Julia!

"John! I've found Julia!" Danziger rushed over to help Alonzo dig her out. Luckily she had only been covered with a few inches of snow. "Careful! She could have injuries." Danziger gave her a perfunctory examination. She was unconscious but her color looked good. Her chest rose and fell. She was breathing. He lightly tapped her cheeks in an attempt to bring her around. "Come on girl, wake up." After a moment he was rewarded with a bewildered, unfocused blue gaze. "John? What happened?" "Alright! You recognize me, good! Now do you know who this ugly fellow next to me is?" She turned her head and whispered. "Alonzo." Alonzo leaned down and kissed her. "Okay Julia, can you wiggle your fingers and toes for me? Good."

Julia sat up, put her head in her hands and groaned. "Ooh, I must have a concussion. My eyes can't seem to focus." She rubbed her head, and suddenly remembered what had happened. "My God! The avalanche!" She twisted her head around rapidly aggravating her dizziness. "Where's Devon?!" Alonzo stroked her shoulders. "We don't know. Was she with you when the slide hit?" Julia covered her mouth with her hand and nodded. Julia struggled to her feet. "We've got to find her!"

A stony faced Danziger turned to Alonzo. "Take her back to camp as fast as you can. Bring everyone that you can back, including Zero. His sensors might be able to locate her..." The word 'body' stuck in his throat and refused to move. Nodding, Alonzo took Julia by the shoulders and steered her towards the path that lead to the waiting rail.

"NO!" Julia spun around and grabbed Danziger's arm to keep from falling. "You'll need me when you find her."

Danziger's stony veneer cracked and he unleashed his fury on her. "You are going back to camp and treating yourself! You are useless to me in your condition!" He shoved her backwards into Alonzo. "Why is it you women argue with me everytime I open my mouth?! Get back to camp! You are wasting time that Devon doesn't have!"

Alonzo pulled her away from the drift. "He's right, Julia."

Danziger retrieved a long branch from the slide. Methodically he began to gingerly probe the snow. His face reverted back to a mask. Again he shut his mind down to the whirling voices in his head that whispered "too late, too late." Finally the stick hit something that didn't feel like rock or earth. Mentally crossing his fingers, he tossed the stick away. He dug furiously scooping hugh handfuls of snow aside with his bare hands ignoring the burning sensation that the frigid snow caused.

Then his hands were brushing snow away from the back of Devon's blue coat. His breath was choppy with exertion. He stared at her inert form for a second. Closed his eyes and offered up a silent plead to whomever might be listening. Grasping her shoulder he pulled her up out of the hole and rolled her onto her back. An invisible icy hand reached into his chest and squeezed. She was as pale as a porcelain doll except her lips were a cyanotic blue. He pulled open the front of her coat and shirt, feeling for a heart beat or signs of breathing. None. "TOO LATE! TOO LATE!" The voices railed in his head. "NO!" He gave an animalistic roar and dragged Devon out of the drift to firmer ground where he could attempt to resuscitate her.

Not again. Not again! He'd lost one woman to Fate, he wasn't giving this one up. Not without a fight. He'd worry about broken bones and internal injuries later. Right now he needed to get her breathing again. He laid her on her back then straightened her legs and arms. Tearing off his coat so he could work unfettered, he shook her by the shoulder and called her name to see if that would produce a response. When it didn't, he checked her airway to make sure it was clear. Tipping back her head, he pinched her nose close with one hand and held her jaw open with the other. He took a deep breath and sealing his mouth over hers he puffed three rapid breaths into her lungs. He watched to make sure her chest rose and fell with each puff. Then he paused a few seconds to see if she would take a breath on her own. Nothing. Putting his left palm on the back of his right hand, he interlaced the fingers and positioned the heel of his right hand. He gave her chest four rapid pumps and leaned forward to give her two more puffs of air.

"Come on, Devon!" How long he kept this up he couldn't guess. He only knew he wouldn't stop until they dragged him away from her.

He leaned over to breath into her lungs again, when he feel a soft breath against his lips. At first he thought he'd imagined it, but then she took a deeper breath and coughed. Danziger felt his entire body unclench and fill with relief. He laid his forehead against hers and gave a delighted chuckle. "That's it sweetheart, deep breaths." He hugged her to him.

Cupping her cheek, he kissed her. Her movements told him she was coming around, and then he lifted his head up and watched as her eyelids fluttered open. "John?" Still cupping her cheek he stroked her lips with his thumb. "Welcome back."

A terrible shudder racked her body. "I'm so cold." She stuttered through chattering teeth. Danziger noticed that she was caked in melting snow. It seemed to have crept in everywhere. Her hair was soaked with it's watery remains, and her coat was useless since the inside was full of it. She wasn't out of danger yet. He pulled off her soddened coat and outer shirt. Picking up his discarded coat, he wrapped it around her shoulders. Hefting her up in his arms he headed out to meet the rail. Devon lifted her head and squirmed feeblely. "Put me down, I can walk." Looking down into her eyes he gave a laugh. "Lady, I don't care if you can fly! I'm not letting you go. I swear you enjoy scaring the piss out of me!"

While Devon tried to analyze the possible meaning behind that cryptic statement, Alonzo came careening towards them in the rail. Walman and Baines jumped outed, whooping with relief. Then went to explore the sight of the avalanche. Yale rushed forward as if to relieve Danziger of his burden. Danziger stopped and tightened his grasp on Devon. Daring the older man to try and take her from him. Devon had given up and was burrowed against his chest seeking out his warmth. Shudders still shook her body. Returning Danziger's challenging stare Yale nodded his head once. Devon no longer needed his fatherly attentions. He wrapped a blanket around the both of them, Danziger climbed into the rail with his prize clutched against his heart.

The End

I keep six honest serving-men

(They taught me all I knew);

Their names are What and Why and When

And How and Where and Who.

--Kipling