by Maggie C.
Disclaimer: Earth 2 and the characters do not belong to me.
Danziger looked at the unmoving form beside him and sighed. How did he keep getting into these messes, anyway? He had just gone on a simple scout with Devon. And now here they were, probably klicks away from camp with no idea what direction to go in to get back, and Devon was unconscious. He tenderly smoothed back the hair from her cheek and then he caught himself and jerked his hand away. /Behave,/ he told himself yet again. Turning his worried thoughts away from Devon, he cursed himself again for not seeing this mess they had gotten themselves into.
Danziger could see the storm clouds in the distance. "Devon, I don't like the look of that sky." After over a year on this planet, the whole group had come to recognize the signs of an approaching storm.
Devon looked at the storm clouds. "They're far off, we can scout for a few hours longer and still avoid the storm. Don't worry so much, John," she said, pausing only a second before continuing along the riverside.
Danziger scowled at her back. She always had to do things her way. He let it go for a while, until he looked up and saw that the black clouds were almost on top of them. He grabbed Devon's arm. "We're going back *now*," he said. Devon looked up at the storm clouds and offered no argument. Taking her hand, Danziger started to run in the direction of camp. They had not even gone ten meters before the storm began in earnest. Keeping a firm grip on Devon's hand, Danziger trudged forward against the wind. It started to pour down rain, and they were both drenched in seconds.
John didn't know what happened after that. One or both of them slipped and they fell into the river and were swept away by the current. He blacked out for awhile, and when he came to, the storm was over and he had washed up with Devon on the bank of a section of the river that he had never seen before. His heart stopped when he saw Devon lying there unconscious, and Danziger rushed over and breathed a huge sigh of relief when he saw that her breathing and pulse were normal. John glanced at her unmoving form to verify that this was still the case, but he restrained himself from reaching out to her again. Until she woke up, there wasn't much he could do but sit by the river and let the sun gradually dry their clothes.
He heard Devon stirring and was by her side in less than a moment. John couldn't help himself; he took her hand in one of his own and with the other, he brushed her cheek. "Devon?" he asked softly.
She blinked her eyes open. "John?" He nodded and helped her to sit up. "What happened?" she asked, looking around at the unfamiliar surroundings.
"We fell in the river," he said. "I blacked out for awhile and when I woke up, we were here and you were unconscious." He looked at her in concern. "Are you okay?"
"I'm fine," Devon said, "just a headache." She noted that he was hovering fairly close to her, but she decided not to comment on it. "Gear?" she asked hopefully
John shook his head. "Both gone," he replied.
Devon looked around at their surroundings again, hoping for a glimpse of something familiar, but she found nothing. "What are we going to do?" she asked. John didn't answer; he didn't need to.
They spent the night at the bank where they washed ashore, luckily finding the same variety of fruit trees that were abundant in the area they were traveling through. The next day, they followed the river upstream, reasoning that they were washed downriver in the storm. They walked most of the day, talking as they went, as good friends are apt to do. Both were determined to get back to the group as soon as possible. As the sun was beginning to set, John reluctantly called for Devon to stop.
"We can't stop," she replied. "Camp could be just an hour away."
"Devon," he sighed, "does anything seem familiar?" he asked, hoping he had just missed something, but not really expecting it.
Devon hesitated, and then shook her head. "No," she admitted, "but we can't stop, we've already been missing for over a day." She pleaded to him with her eyes.
John shook his head. He wanted to get back to True and the group as much as she did, but they had to face facts. The river had carried them a lot farther than either of them had thought. It was a miracle they hadn't drowned. "Devon, we have no lights, so we can't travel in the dark. Plus, you were unconscious for a long time," he said, eyes flashing with worry. "You could probably use the rest."
Devon fumed. Why did he pick now to start being right? And what was with the sudden concern for her? She could take care of herself. "Fine," was all she said, though, and they settled down for the night.
A little past midday of the next day, they ran into a problem. A big one.
Danziger glowered at the river that had now decided to branch off. "Great, just great," he said sarcastically. "What are we supposed to do now?"
Devon glared at the river as if she could change its form just by staring at it. She realized that was impossible and she sighed. "Why don't we follow this one," she said, pointing to the right branch. "At least we won't have to cross to the other side," Devon offered as an explanation when he turned his glare on her.
After a moment of glaring at Devon he agreed. What else could they do? They started traveling down the river, talking about inconsequential things to avoid thinking about the fact that they had been missing without any contact for over 48 hours now and in the three days since the storm, their friends were most likely coming to the conclusion that they were dead.
John woke up slowly on the fourth morning of this little adventure he and Devon found themselves in. His arms and legs were stiff from sleeping on the hard ground, and he got up and stretched. John went over to where Devon was still sleeping just a few feet away and paused to admire her for a moment before he woke her. She looked so peaceful when she slept, not a trace of worry or fear was evident on her face, in spite of the predicament they were in. True was the same way, John remembered. His face fell at the thought of his daughter. /Don't give up hope, True-girl,/ he thought. /I'm coming./
Devon chose that moment to wake up. She saw Danziger looking at her with a downcast expression on his face. "What is it, John?"
He shook his head. "Just thinking about camp," he said.
"Oh," Devon replied. She didn't want to think about camp, and Uly, Yale, or the rest of the group. She hoped they hadn't given up on John and her yet. Devon firmly pushed those thoughts out of her mind. "Come on," she said, managing a small smile, "we've got some kids and a group to get back to."
He smiled back and held out her hand to her as he rose to help her to her feet, welcoming the shock of awareness that shot through him when she placed her hand in his. They began another day of traveling along the river.
The morning of the second day traveling along the right branch of the river, the fifth day since the storm, they encountered a sure sign that they picked the wrong branch. The river turned into a lake.
"Dammit!" Danziger yelled. "We picked the wrong branch!"
"I picked the wrong branch," Devon corrected softly. She looked up at John with tears in her eyes. She knew this lessened the chances of finding the group considerably. "I'm sorry, John."
"Devon, this is not your fault," John said gently but firmly. She opened her mouth to protest but he cut her off. "Come on, we can argue about it on the way," he said, taking her hand and leading her back the way they came. He didn't think to release her hand until much later.
Danziger spent the next day and a half convincing Devon that it wasn't her fault the branch they followed turned into a lake. She seemed determined to blame herself, and John simply could not stand to let her do that to herself. By sunset of the sixth day since the storm, they had made their way back to the point where the river branched off.
John watched Devon shiver as the last rays of sun slipped away. They had crossed the river at a point where the current was still pretty rough but the water was fairly shallow. At its highest, the water level only came up to his waist. They didn't have any problems fording the river except when Devon had stumbled and fell under for a moment. Danziger held his ground, though, and he didn't loosen his grip on Devon's hand for an instant. He helped her back to her feet and they crossed the rest of the river without any more problems. They had eaten dinner in silence, finding some more of the tangy fruit they were living on now. They had just now lain down to sleep. John watched Devon shiver again. Their clothes had dried off some, but not nearly enough. And Devon had gotten soaked in the river. "Devon," he said, and she brought her eyes to meet his. "You're freezing," John continued against his better judgement. "Why don't you come over here?" he asked, lifting his arm in an invitation.
Devon didn't respond right away. She searched his eyes, trying to learn his thoughts. She knew John was attracted to her, she had known that for a long time. Thinking about John's tall, broad-shouldered form and his mop of golden curls that she had to suppress the urge to run her hands through every time she saw him, Devon knew she couldn't deny that the feeling was mutual. But ever since she had been reawakened from cold sleep, there was something else in his eyes when he looked at her. Or maybe she was imagining that look there. It might just be a reflection of Devon's own feelings, and that terrified her. She didn't want to get close to John, didn't want to let him through her walls. Letting him hold her would be dangerous. She would be one step closer to letting him inside for good. And that was something she didn't want . . . or did she? In the end, though, the cold wind made the decision for her and she lay down next to him, facing away from him, and let him wrap his arms around her. Right away, she felt warmer, and more comfortable, and safer. She wasn't listening to the sensible half of her mind that told her to move away from him.
John wrapped his arms around Devon and he knew he was asking for trouble, holding her this close. /You should be trying to stay away from her,/ a voice in his mind told him, but he ignored it. He had been trying to keep his distance from Devon for a long time now, and he couldn't keep it up anymore. Especially now, when there was no one else to distract him from the graceful way she carried herself, the softness and fire in her eyes, the way her hair shone when it caught the sunlight just right . . . He mentally shook himself to rid himself of those thoughts, and he ordered himself to go to sleep. It wasn't that hard, he really was very tired, and holding Devon in his arms, feeling her heart beat, was quite soothing. "Goodnight, Devon," he murmured as he drifted off into sleep.
Danziger awoke slowly, not wanting to drag himself away from the wonderful feeling of a good night's sleep. /How could I get a good night's sleep in the middle of nowhere with no fire or blankets?/ he wondered sleepily to himself. He opened his eyes and saw the reason still sleeping peacefully in his arms. Deciding to let Devon sleep for a while longer, and not believing for a second that his motive was for Devon's comfort, John continued to hold Devon and let his mind wander. He thought about the beautiful woman he was holding in his arms. He shouldn't be memorizing the feel of her nestled against him, he shouldn't be committing her unique scent to memory, shouldn't be enjoying holding her like this. But John was doing all of those things. He should feel awkward, waking up with her in his arms for the first time. But holding her felt so right. Devon snuggled closer to him in her sleep and he was surprised when he finally recognized the sense of . . . completeness that holding Devon in his arms brought with it. John finally cut off his thoughts and buried them down in the corner of his mind where he kept all of his dangerous feelings for Devon confined. He gently disentangled himself from Devon and moved away before he could find another reason to keep holding her.
Devon blinked her eyes open, wondering why she suddenly felt so cold. She sat up and saw John over by the river. Oh, right. Last night's events came back to her and she blushed as she remembered sleeping in John's arms. /Nothing happened!/ she told herself, but still, she knew that wasn't really true. What happened last night was not simply one friend offering another shelter from the cold. Devon could never remember being held like that - with such a sense of being cared for and protected. It felt better than Devon would readily admit to anyone, especially herself.
After eating some breakfast, they were following the river again - the left branch this time. By late afternoon, they had begun to recognize the area that they had been scouting. They increased their pace and in about an hour, they found themselves back at their campsite. But the group had already left.
Danziger found the Transrover's tracks and was about to call Devon over when she brought his attention to where she was standing. He swore softly when he saw the two headstones there. It had been a week, they were expecting that the group had come to this conclusion, but John supposed that neither one of them had really accepted it. He looked up at Devon worriedly, and she met his gaze. "True . . ." he said.
Her thoughts mirrored his own. "Uly . . ." she answered back, her voice trailing off. Then she started walking quickly in the direction of the Transrover's tracks, and John had to hurry to catch her.
"Devon, where are you going?" he asked.
"We have to catch up to them," she said, not slowing down at all.
John grabbed her arm and whirled her around to face him. "Are you crazy, Adair?" he asked angrily. "It isn't safe to travel in the dark. And it's going to take a day or two to catch up to them. We have no way of carrying water or food for that trip." He glared at her, daring her to contradict him. "We are staying here for the night."
"The longer we wait, the farther we'll have to go to catch up to them," Devon shot back. "Every minute counts, Danziger," she said, and then started to turn away from him to start walking again.
Danziger held her by the shoulders and wouldn't let her go. "I'm not going to let you risk your life and mine just because you can't be patient!" His grip on her shoulders softened and he looked at her in understanding. "Devon, I want to get back to True and the others as much as you do. But can we do it carefully?" He paused, and then looked deep into her eyes. "Please?" he asked.
Devon was drawn in by his gaze. It held concern, for the group, and for her. She was drawn even deeper and she started to become frightened by the emotions she thought she saw there. If she wasn't careful, she would lose herself in his crystal-blue eyes. She looked away from the piercing gaze that seemed to go right to her soul and said quietly, "All right, we'll stay here tonight."
Danziger breathed an inward sigh of relief and dropped his hands from her shoulders, almost reluctantly. He didn't know why he got so worried when Devon insisted on doing something reckless, all he knew was that somewhere along the way, her safety had become as important to him as True's, more so even than his own. He tried not to think about those feelings, but sometimes that was nearly impossible to do.
Devon had turned away and was looking at the two headstones again. "We have to get rid of those things," she said.
"You'll get no argument from me," Danziger replied. He looked to Devon, a smile appearing on his face. "Shall we?" he said.
Devon slowly returned his smile. "We shall," she replied.
They worked to remove the headstones (which were actually carved from wood) from where they were rooted in the ground. After some discussion, they decided to throw them in the river. They each carried their own headstones to the river. John threw his in right away, and after sinking slightly with a splash, it floated down the river. He waited for Devon's headstone to join his own floating down the river, and when he didn't see it, he looked back at her. Devon was staring down at her headstone, lightly running her fingers across her name. John went over to her and laid a hand on her shoulder. She met his eyes for half a second and then her gaze fell back to the piece of wood she held in her hands. John let his hand fall from her shoulder and gently took the headstone from her and threw it in the river. She watched him silently, offering no protest and no encouragement. When he came back to her side, Devon met his eyes and didn't speak for a long moment.
"I . . . I just . . . " Devon felt the tears well up in her eyes. She held them off by sheer force of will. "I'm sorry," she said, stepping away from John.
He stopped her by his hand on her arm. "Devon, what's wrong?" he asked. She shook her head, not looking at him.
"We should really get some sleep, we have another long day tomorrow" she said, trying half-heartedly to pull away from his gentle hold.
John wouldn't let her go. She was doing it again, pushing her feelings aside, not letting them out. "Devon, you can tell me," he said. She just shook her head 'no'. He turned her to face him. "Yes you can, Devon. You don't have to keep that optimistic mask you always try to wear on for me." He forced her to meet his eyes.
Devon looked in his eyes and that was it. She felt the first tears trickling down her face. "John, they think we're dead," she said quietly. "Uly, True, Yale, . . ."
"I know, Devon, I know," John said as her voice broke. Hesitating for a moment, he pulled her into his arms.
Devon didn't pull away from his embrace, but instead she clutched the edges of his jacket with her hands and buried her face against his chest. She felt John's arms around her, holding her securely in place. Devon leaned into him, letting someone be strong for her for a change.
John held Devon as she cried silently in his arms. He hated to see her like this, but a part of him was secretly pleased that she allowed herself to open up to him. John couldn't think of anything to say that would comfort her, so he just held her, and that seemed to be enough.
After a short while, Devon's tears subsided, but she still clung to John. She didn't want him to stop holding her. Devon lifted her head and looked into his eyes to thank him for understanding, but when she met his eyes she didn't need to speak. Devon looked into his eyes and saw a reflection of her own feelings there. She smiled slightly. Knowing she wasn't going through this alone made her feel better. And with John here, she was most certainly not alone. She reached up with one hand and barely brushed John's cheek. She felt the spark that arched between them at that contact and from his sharp intake of breath, she knew he felt it too. Devon let her hand drop from his cheek and before she could dissuade herself, she stretched up and tenderly brushed her lips across his.
John was stunned. /She kissed me,/ he thought, his mind refusing to move past that point. He reacted on instinct when Devon brought her hands up to his shoulders and reached to kiss him again, sliding his hands down to her waist and lowering his head to meet her lips halfway. Their lips moved against each other and Devon's hands went to the back of John's neck and pulled him deeper into the kiss. After a few more seconds of shared passion, John's head finally caught up with the rest of him and called a halt to the proceedings. He tore his lips from hers and caught his breath.
"Devon, we . . . we can't," he said, avoiding her eyes.
She was also keeping her gaze turned away from him. "Why not?" she asked softly, once again ignoring her more sensible half.
John shook his head, terrified by all of the feelings she was stirring up in him, and the intensity of those feelings. "We can't," he repeated, more firmly, and he walked away, trying desperately to shove those feelings back down in their corner, where he was safe from them. He lay down in the clearing and waited. And waited. He almost went back to Devon to make sure she was alright, or to apologize, or *something*, but his fears got the best of him every time and he stayed where he was, looking up at the sky and waiting for Devon's return. John tried to push his feelings of guilt aside and firmly told himself, /It's better this way./ He closed his eyes, and somehow, he fell asleep before Devon came back.
John slept fitfully, waking up and dozing back off every so often. In the middle of the night, he woke up fully and looked over to see Devon lying on the other side of the clearing. He breathed a sigh of relief and then he saw her shiver when a cool wind swept through the clearing. He watched as she wrapped her arms tighter around herself in sleep, trying to ward off the cold. Warring with himself, after a moment John got up and, making sure Devon was asleep, he laid down beside her and took her in his arms, sharing his warmth. He drifted off to sleep listening to the even sound of her breathing, knowing he would probably regret this later.
For the second straight morning, John woke up to the enjoyable feeling of holding Devon in his arms. He suppressed the desire to bury his face in her hair and sighed. He was getting much too used to this. He didn't know if he would want to go back to sleeping alone every night when they caught up with the group. He laughed silently at himself. After even one night, he knew he didn't want to go back to sleeping alone. The events of last night clamored for attention in John's mind, but he ignored them. He stood up and hoped Devon hadn't noticed what he had done.
Devon woke up soon after he had moved away from her, and they went about finding ways to continue on their journey, businesslike, being painfully polite to each other. They made their jackets into a makeshift bag to hold a supply of food, and after searching for a time, they found a hollowed out piece of wood that would be easily carried and would store enough water for at least three days. Those details taken care of, they set out, following the Transrover's tracks at a quick pace.
They traveled in silence, speaking to each other only when necessary. Devon was lost in her thoughts. She was thinking about last night. How she had broken down in front of John, and how he had held her close. Then there was the *kiss*. It needed to be emphasized. Last night, Devon had finally let John in her heart. /Lord, that's corny,/ she thought to herself, /but true, in a way. Actually, he's been there for a long time. I just finally realized how much he means to me./ But John himself was a big problem. /He pushed me away,/ the thought whispered across her mind. In spite of everything she tried, that thought would not leave her alone. The thought that John didn't have any feelings for her in return absolutely terrified her. Devon tried not to jump to conclusions. She recalled that he had responded to the kiss quite enthusiastically before he pulled away. Devon reminded herself that she woke up in his arms in the very early hours of the morning. But despite all that, she couldn't shake the terrible feeling that John was just letting her down gently. Had she let him into her heart, only to discover that he didn't want to be there? Devon tried to push those thoughts out of her mind and concentrate on following the tracks of the Transrover, but her mind kept drifting back to John.
They made very good time, they passed the group's first campsite in early afternoon. Devon and John quickened their pace, hopeful that they would catch up with their children and the group very soon, but nightfall came and they were forced to stop for the night.
Deprived of their coats, the temperature drop this night was enough to ensure that neither of them would get any sleep. John fought with himself and sighed. He couldn't believe he was going to do this *again*. "Devon," he called, breaking the silence that had stretched between them. Silently he offered his arms as a shelter from the cold. She met his gaze and scooted over to him.
"We have to talk," she said as she laid her head against his shoulder and he wrapped his arms around her.
"Later, after we get back to the group," John replied, wanting to avoid that conversation for as long as possible.
"John," Devon murmured in protest, but she was already drifting off to sleep encased in John's warm embrace.
"G'night, Devon," John said as he too succumbed to the exhaustion of traipsing across the continent in pursuit of their group.
Gear Log of Dr. Julia Heller, physician to Eden Project
"This isn't a medical entry. I'm not sure why I'm recording this, I only know I have to. It's been nine days since we lost track of Devon and John, and just three days since we've moved on. No one wanted to leave, everyone was holding on to the hope that they would come walking into camp like nothing was wrong. But it just wasn't going to happen. Alonzo found the mudslide near their last position. They must have fallen into the river, in the middle of that storm . . . even if they somehow survived the river, we searched along the bank further than the current could have possibly carried them. After the search teams returned, I . . . I told everyone we should move on, that there wa – wasn't any hope left . . ." ::pause:: "It wasn't a very popular opinion, but Alonzo, he supported me, and even Yale eventually agreed with us. We moved on. Goddess, Yale was heartbroken the day we placed the - markers - at our campsite. He got through about half the ceremony and then just . . . broke down. He wasn't sobbing, but he couldn't find his voice or the words through the tears flowing down his face. Everyone's taking it hard. Yes, we all know how short our lives can be on this planet, but for Devon and John to . . . for them both to . . . leave at the same time, . . . It's hard. I guess I've been elected the leader of the group now, although I can't say I want it. I don't have any talent for leading people; I'm just a doctor. I don't have the charisma that Devon or John did. But I have to do this, for their memories. And, oh goddess, the kids. They argued, cried, and pleaded for hours that we shouldn't leave, that if we waited just a few more days, maybe their parents would come back. But they're gone, both of their parents are . . . gone. It was understood that if something ever happened to either Devon or John, the other would take care of the child left behind, but now . . . how will we ever raise them the way John and Devon would have wanted them raised? *Who* will raise them? No one can reach them anymore. The kids are always together; neither will leave the other's side for long. It seems like Uly has latched onto Yale, but Yale says that he can't get Uly to talk to him. No one can reach them. True is very careful to keep everyone at arm's length, except for Bess, whom she keeps at several arm's lengths. I know Bess means well, but True is taking this very hard, harder even then Uly, I think. I just don't know how to help her, help them both through this. I suppose it doesn't help that the rest of us are still trying to come to terms with their . . . deaths" ::slight pause:: "It's just so unfair! John and Devon"
"Julia!" Alonzo's worried shout interrupted her recording. "There's some people coming our way!"
"What?" she asked, rushing to the back of the convoy where everyone was gathering. "Who is it?"
"We don't know," Alonzo said, concerned but not yet alarmed. "We can't make them out, Baines went to get a pair of jumpers."
They didn't have to wonder for very long, though. The two small dots on the horizon spotted the group and started running towards them. True watched the commotion from the back of the group with Uly, watching the two approaching figures without much interest. Until she thought she heard her name carried on the wind. True perked up and stared intently at the figures that were just now coming into focus. Then True jumped up and dashed out to meet them. Someone tried to catch her arm to stop her, but she shrugged them off. She ran for her father and threw herself in his arms. He hugged her close - it wasn't a dream. True wrapped her small arms around his neck, buried her face in his shoulder, and sobbed.
John was dimly aware of Devon hugging Uly close and the rest of the group surrounding them, but his focus was on his daughter, crying in his arms. "Shh, it's alright, True-girl," he whispered soothingly as she cried. "I'm here, don't worry, I'm here." John kissed the top of her head. "It's okay, True, I'm here and I'm not going anywhere."
"Promise?" John barely heard the small voice muffled against his shoulder.
"I promise, True-girl," he said, pulling back to smile at his daughter. She smiled back and John's smile reached his eyes. He kissed her forehead and stood up while the other people in the group welcomed him and Devon back.
John noticed that Julia, standing off to the side, looked a little pale. "Julia?" he questioned.
She looked from John to Devon and then back again. Julia swallowed and said quietly, "We left you behind. *I* left you behind. Devon, John, I am so sorry, I didn't know . . ."
"Julia," John interrupted, "you did the right thing," he said firmly. "There was no way you could have known that Devon and I were all right. The group had to move on."
"He's right, Julia," Devon said, placing a hand on her shoulder. "I would have had to do the same thing."
Reassured by their words, Julia smiled at them. She hugged Devon to welcome her back and then did the same with John. "I am so glad you two are back," she said. "I don't know how you missed our searches, we couldn't find any trace of you along the river."
"Yeah, well," John said, sitting down and pulling True into his lap, "we got a little lost for a few days, following the branch of the river . . ."
"The branch that you couldn't have possibly been carried down by the river current." Julia finished, nodding her understanding. If they had only waited a little longer at the river, they wouldn't have left John and Devon behind. The feelings of guilt started to creep back.
"Julia," Devon warned, sensing the direction her thoughts were going in, "we're not going to let you blame yourself for this. We were not expecting to find the group waiting for us when we got back to the camp. You did the right thing."
"So what did happen?" Yale asked. Devon and John told their story, leaving out what happened at the riverside two nights ago, and somehow avoiding speaking directly to each other through the whole tale.
John lay in his cot and stared up at the ceiling of the tent. He just couldn't fall asleep, and the reason for his sleeplessness was in her own tent right next to his. John idly wondered if she was getting any sleep tonight. He certainly wasn't. He just couldn't get her or the other night's events out of his mind. When he closed his eyes, John could still feel her lips as they hesitantly brushed his for the first time, and then again, as their lips met more confidently. And then what did he do? He pushed her away. /Yeah, that was a great move, John. When she finally kisses you, finally lets you past her walls, what do you do? You push her away and kill any chances that you'll ever be able to kiss her again./ But what else could he have done? He couldn't have kept kissing her, not when Devon was so obviously upset about what had happened. /She probably just acted out of the moment/ John thought miserably. /Probably regrets the whole thing and will want to forget it ever happened./ John rolled over on his side in frustration and tried to push those thoughts away so he could get some sleep. But even in sleep he found no escape. His dreams were haunted by images of her and he couldn't shake the feeling of how right Devon felt against him when they were kissing and when he woke up with her in his arms.
A little after dawn, John finally gave up on sleep after a restless night of tossing and turning. He got up and quietly dressed and started to make some of what passed for coffee this week on planet G889. Pouring himself a cup, John was startled by the sound of someone approaching. He looked up to see Devon coming over to the mess tent. She seemed as surprised as he was to find someone else up. John cleared his throat self-consciously and averted his gaze from hers. "Morning, Devon," he mumbled and offered her a cup of substitute coffee.
"Morning, John," Devon replied, accepting the offered cup. Danziger was making an effort not to look directly at her. Devon felt horribly guilty, but she didn't know quite why. "John, I feel like I should apologize to you. The other night . . . I was upset, and I wasn't thinking clearly." /Liar!/ Devon's mind screamed at her, /that was the clearest your thoughts have been in a long time./
John closed his eyes in pain when he heard Devon's words. /This is what you've been expecting, so just deal with it!/ he ordered himself. /But if only it didn't hurt so much . . . / Still facing away from her, he took a breath and said, "It's okay, Devon, I understand."
"So," Devon paused, "friends?" She almost couldn't say that word; she did not want to be just friends with John anymore.
"Friends," John affirmed, nodding. Inside, he was screaming in protest. How could he be just a friend to her now, after everything that happened? How could he go on pretending that he didn't have feelings for her now that his emotions were out of the corner he had confined them in? /Idiot, so tell her how you feel./ Turning to face her, he said, "Look, Devon, you shouldn't feel guilty at all about what happened that night, it was my fault. I . . . " He stopped speaking and searched Devon's eyes, his thoughts racing. /What are you going to tell her? That you wanted to kiss her? That you wanted to do *more* than kiss her?/ Losing his courage, he backed off from what he was going to say. "I understand how you felt. You were upset."
Devon bit her lip. "Still, your friendship has come to mean a lot to me. I don't want to do anything to risk losing it."
"Devon," John gave her a small smile. "No matter what happens between us, we'll stay friends."
Devon wanted to believe his words, she really did. She needed John as her friend, she wouldn't ruin that for anything. But she sensed he was holding something back, he wasn't telling her everything. Deciding to ignore it for now, she asked with a feigned smile, "So we'll just pretend it never happened?"
When he found his voice again, John managed to force a smile and reply, "Sure."
Devon saw the expression that passed across his face, though, and this time she wouldn't let it go. "John, if it's bothering you, tell me, please," she said.
John let out his frustration and anger at the situation and snapped at her. "Dammit, Adair, if what you want to do is forget we ever kissed, then stop pushing the subject!"
Devon froze. His words struck a chord in her, because it was the complete opposite of what she wanted. She did not want to forget the feeling of kissing and being kissed by John. It was a moment she wanted to cherish, even though it wouldn't happen again. She looked into John's eyes, trying to find out what he was thinking, how he felt. /Come on, Devon, you were always good at figuring out what people were thinking! Why can't you do the same with John?/ Devon thought she saw something in his eyes to take a chance on. She swallowed and set her cup aside. Putting her heart on the line and praying she wasn't wrong about him, she quietly said, "But I don't want to forget."
John could swear his heart stopped beating when he heard her say that. Did that mean what he thought it meant? Could it be possible that she had feelings for him too? "What?" he asked, just as quietly.
"I liked kissing you and I don't ever want to forget it," Devon repeated, staring at her feet, trying to hide her terror. She hoped she wasn't making a fool out of herself. She looked at John, and he was just staring at her in surprise. Suddenly Devon was sure she was wrong about him, about everything, and she quickly said, "But you don't have to worry, I won't bring it up again."
John was quiet for a long moment. He knew that if he didn't take a chance now and tell Devon how he felt about her, he never would. She had already made the first move, this should be easy. "Devon," John began hesitantly and then paused, not knowing exactly what to say. He put his cup down and reached over and took her hand. "That night, when I pushed you away, it wasn't because I didn't want to kiss you." He took a deep breath, trying to slow his racing heartbeat. "It was because, when we kissed, I was frightened by how much I care for you, and I thought you were just upset."
Devon looked at him, surprised by his words. "Really?" she asked softly. John just nodded, his expression guarded, waiting for her reaction. She looked down at their entwined hands and a true smile spread across Devon's face. He did care about her. She had a feeling that she was going to be smiling like this all day, but she didn't mind one bit. "I care a lot about you too," she said, looking back up into his eyes. She was rewarded by watching the same smile slowly spread across John's face.
They sat there with their hands entwined, smiling at each other. Then John spoke. "So . . ." he started, but trailed off before he finished what he was going to say.
Devon picked up where he left off, guessing at his thoughts. "So . . ., we're going to, um, try this?" As soon as the words were out, Devon blushed, embarrassed. Couldn't she find any better way to say that she wanted to have a relationship with John?
John didn't mind, though. He smiled at her embarrassment and rose to his feet, pulling Devon up with him. When they were both on their feet, he pulled Devon close. She had a split second to realize John was going to kiss her and then their lips met.
Devon closed her eyes and leaned into the kiss. No hesitations, no more hidden feelings, this kiss brought every emotion out into the open. They were both careful not to let the kiss go to far, the others would be waking up soon. This time, Devon ended the kiss, hugging John and laying her head against his chest. He rested his chin on the top of her head and closed his eyes, not wanting to ever let her go.
Uly felt himself waking up and rolled over to try and ignore the voice dragging him out of sleep. Then the voice added shaking him to their efforts. He finally gave up and slowly blinked his way out of sleep. Looking up, he saw his mom smiling down at him.
"Wake up, sleepy-head," she said. Devon laughed as Uly launched himself into her arms. "Well, good morning to you too."
Uly grinned at her. "Morning mom."
"Come on, get dressed and we'll grab some breakfast," she said. He did and soon they were waiting in line to get the oatmeal that Bess was serving.
"Hmn? I'm sorry, what did you say, True?" John forced his attention back to his daughter and away from the woman who was getting her ear was talked off by her son.
Walman approached Devon as the group was packing up to leave this campsite. He asked her a question but she didn't respond right away. After a few tries, he was finally able to get Devon's attention.
"Sorry, Walman," Devon said, trying to hide her embarrassment. She hoped that Walman hadn't followed her gaze to where Danziger was loading the Transrover. "What did you need?"
"I was just wondering if you wanted to ride in the Transrover today," he said.
"No, that's okay, I'll walk," she said. "Thanks for asking, though."
"Hey, John, jump in."
Danziger turned to Alonzo, who was sitting in the dune rail and offering him the passenger's seat. He shrugged and climbed in. "You sure you want me for company instead of Julia?"
Alonzo grinned as he started up the vehicle and took off. "Sure, why not? You're good company, I just have to remember not to mention Devon," he said, rubbing his jaw for emphasis.
Danziger shook his head. "Are you ever going to let that go?"
Alonzo laughed. "Not for as long as I live," he replied. "I have to have something to hold over your head."
Danziger laughed and surreptitiously glanced back to where he knew Devon was walking along with their convoy. He caught her looking directly at him and he grinned at her. John grinned even more when he saw her embarrassment. She just shook her head and smiled. Danziger turned back around in his seat, still smiling.
Alonzo was trying very hard not to laugh out loud, having seen the entire exchange. "Then again . . ." he said, unable to keep a small laugh from escaping. Danziger looked at him strangely. Alonzo continued, "So have you finally figured out that Devon's a woman that 'should be held and caressed'?" He had the pleasure of watching Danziger turn red. Alonzo gave up and started laughing.
Danziger seriously considered hitting Alonzo, but then decided that the pilot was barely keeping the vehicle under control as it was. John decided that he didn't want to get in a crash, especially since he'd be the one who would have to repair the vehicle afterwards. "Shut up, Solace, and watch where you're going," Danziger muttered.
Alonzo got his laughter under control and bided his time. Danziger wasn't talking right now, but he'd find out what happened between Devon and John soon enough. John couldn't hold out forever.
Julia noticed Devon walking off to the side of the group, alone. /She's been very quiet all day,/ Julia realized. /I wonder if anything's wrong?/ Starting to worry about her friend, Julia made her way over to Devon, who didn't notice the doctor's approach. Devon seemed to be focused on something in front of her. Suddenly, the older woman blushed and shook her head, smiling. Julia was confused, and then she followed Devon's gaze to see what she was looking at. The doctor stopped in her tracks when she saw Danziger at the other end. She looked back at Devon and grinned. Julia knew the expression on Devon's face. Julia wore it herself for over a week after she and Alonzo first got together. Julia went up to Devon and said, "So that's what's going on." She didn't even bother to hide her grin as Devon jumped up and whirled around.
"Julia!" Devon exclaimed. "Don't sneak up on me like that!"
Julia's grin grew even wider. "Well, if you hadn't been so distracted . . ."
"I was just thinking about something," Devon said defensively.
"You mean some*one*," Julia teased. "I saw you staring at John, don't try to deny it. Now, what's going on between you two?"
Devon blushed. "What are you talking about?" she asked.
"Come on, Devon, spill it," Julia said, still smiling, her eyes twinkling with mirth. "You know you're just dying to tell someone about it."
Devon shot Julia a look, but then she started smiling too. "You're right, I am," she said, and then both women giggled. Keeping her voice low, Devon gave Julia the condensed version of what happened between her and John by the river and then she told her about their talk this morning.
When she finished, Julia shook her head. "Well, I knew you two were stubborn, but I had no idea *how* stubborn." She couldn't believe how close those two came to just walking away from what they so obviously felt for each other. Julia smiled at Devon again. "So you two are together now?" Devon blushed again and nodded.
Julia smiled, her delight at Devon's happiness evident in her eyes. "Devon, that's wonderful! How do you feel?"
"Oh, Julia, I don't know, I'm happy, I'm absolutely terrified," Devon replied. "And loving every second of it," she laughed.
Julia laughed along with her. "I'm so happy for you, Devon."
"Thanks," Devon said, and she glanced over again to where John was riding with Alonzo in the dune rail. In her mind, Devon reviewed every moment she had spent with John since the beginning of this crazy trip. She remembered their first 'discussion', the first time he gave her that heart-melting smile, . . . she could recall every moment she spent with him in perfect detail. Devon started as she realized something. She was in love with John. /No, that couldn't be right,/ the thought drifted across her mind. But she knew it was true. She had fallen in love with him. When had that happened? There were so many moments, when they were talking, when he was sick, when they were joking around, when he was offering her support . . . when was the exact moment? She should be able to pin it down; they had only known each other for about a year. But they had been through so much together . . . "When did he do it?" Devon murmured.
"Do what?" Julia asked in confusion.
Devon was startled out of her thoughts and she blushed. She didn't mean to say that out loud, but she decided to tell Julia anyway. "I was just thinking . . . when did John make me fall in love with him?"
Julia's confusion melted away. She smiled widely and shook her head. "I doubt you'll be able to figure it out." Her gaze was drawn ahead to the two men riding in the dune rail. "Those men of ours, they're sneaky, stealing our hearts when we're not looking."
Devon laughed and followed her gaze to John and Alonzo. It seemed like John was trying to ignore Alonzo. Devon smiled, Alonzo was trying to find out what was going on. John was either going to give in and tell Alonzo or hit him . . . Something occurred to Devon. "Julia," she asked, hesitating a bit, "did Alonzo ever tell you why John hit him on the East Coast?"
Julia stifled a laugh. "Oh, you're going to love this . . ."
Devon checked on Uly, who was fast asleep in their tent, and started heading out of camp to meet Danziger, a nightly ritual now, ever since that morning . . . had it been just a week ago? It felt like years ago and a moment ago at the same time. Devon smiled as she continued on her way.
"Devon?" Yale's voice stopped her in her tracks. "Where are you going?"
"Oh, I was just going for a walk, Yale," she said quickly.
"May I accompany you?" he asked.
"Oh, well," Devon stammered, trying to think of a way to refuse him without hurting his feelings. She was about to give up when she heard someone else approaching.
"Sorry, Yale, I've got this time reserved," Julia said. "You ready?" she asked Devon.
Devon nodded, not quite understanding what was going on. She smiled weakly at Yale and left with Julia. When they were out of earshot, she whispered gratefully, "Thank you."
Julia smiled. "Don't mention it. He's going to figure it out soon, though. Everyone's going to. *Especially* if you two keep staring at each other constantly, like you have been the last week," Julia laughed quietly.
Devon blushed. She and John *had* been doing a lot of that lately. "Like you and Alonzo were any better," Devon retorted. "I know they'll find out soon, I'm surprised everyone doesn't know already," she said. "It may be selfish, but John and I want to keep this to ourselves for as long as we can."
"I understand," Julia said. "Alonzo and I will run interference for you guys."
Devon smiled gratefully at her. "Thanks again, Julia," she said as Julia walked off. She continued walking to the place where she was supposed to meet John. When she got there, she saw him sitting on the ground and looking up at the sky. Devon stopped and just looked at him for a long moment. Her mind drifted to what Julia had told her a few days earlier and she giggled. She still couldn't believe John had hit Alonzo because of her. John heard that and looked up. He saw her and smiled.
John walked over and pulled her into his arms, giving her a quick kiss. "Hi," he said.
"Hi," Devon replied, smiling up at him. Then another giggle escaped her throat.
"What's so funny?" John asked.
Devon giggled again. This was just too good to keep to herself any longer. "Did you really punch Alonzo because he was talking about me?" she asked.
John closed his eyes and groaned. "How did you find out about that?"
"Julia told me," she said, grinning at his embarrassment. "So?"
"Uh-uh, I've taken a vow of silence on that subject," John replied.
An evil gleam appeared in Devon's eyes. "Well, if you're going to be that way about it . . ." she said. Then she slipped her hand under his shirt and started to tickle him.
He started laughing. "Come on, Dev, cut it out," he said. She didn't stop, and he made a grab for her hands, but lost his balance and sent both of them tumbling to the ground. Devon just laughed and resumed her attack. John abruptly rolled on top of her and kissed her, hard.
That got her to stop. Devon's hands stilled as every coherent thought flew from her mind. Her entire existence narrowed to herself and John, and his lips moving against hers.
John eventually broke off the kiss and sat up. Devon positioned herself so she was leaning against his chest. He wrapped his arms around her. "You okay?" he asked.
"Perfect," Devon replied. They just sat and talked for awhile, joking around and enjoying each other's company. After a while, Devon couldn't resist, and she brought up the subject again. "So why did you hit Alonzo?" she asked. John groaned again and she giggled. "So?" she asked again, loving teasing him about it but genuinely curious as well.
John sighed. "You really want to know?" He felt her nod against his chest. John hesitated for a long moment before he finally began talking. "Well . . . I was sitting there, making sure he didn't go anywhere, and he kept talking about you." He paused, running his hand absently up and down Devon's arm as he looked off into the distance and collected his thoughts. She waited patiently for him to continue. "I found the whole thing very funny at first. Alonzo was acting like a lovesick teenager. He was totally obsessed with you, wouldn't talk about anything else, wouldn't shut up either. When I asked him about Julia, it was like he had never even heard of her before. After that, I gave up trying to reason with him and just tried to ignore him. But . . . listening to the things he was saying about you, it was like he was reading my mind, and to top it all off, I kept hearing what you said to Alonzo when I was trapped in the rock tunnel," Devon froze at this, he had *heard* her? She almost missed what he said next, "what the Elder had told me, and I just . . . lost it and I hit him."
Devon pulled away and turned around to kneel in front of him. She looked into his eyes curiously. "What did the Elder tell you?"
"He told me," John said quietly, pausing to take a deep breath, "that I was in love with you."
That surprised Devon and she looked away from his eyes. No, he couldn't have just said what she thought he did. He couldn't have. Thinking about it or telling Julia that she was in love with him, that was one thing. It was more like trying the feelings on for size, it didn't really count. *This* counted. But then again, he hadn't really said anything yet. All John had done was repeat what the Elder had said. However, John appeared to be about to remedy that situation. Devon felt like she was on the verge of panic. Was that her heart pounding or John's? She couldn't tell, and she couldn't tell whether she was trembling or if it was John's hand that was shaking as he tilted her head back up so their eyes met. "And he was right," John finished quietly.
Their eyes were locked together for a long moment, until Devon broke away from John's gaze. She leaned her head against his shoulder and wrapped her arms around John's neck. He held her close and lightly ran his hand along the back of her head, smoothing her hair. John tried to calm his racing heartbeat. /Well, she hasn't run away,/ he thought. That had been one of his biggest fears, that if he actually told her how deeply his feelings for her ran, he would scare her off. But after they had nearly walked away from this relationship because both of them were afraid to tell the other how they felt, John wasn't going to take that chance again. He was going to make sure Devon knew exactly how he felt about her. "I love you, Devon Adair," he whispered again. His shoulder felt a little damp. She couldn't be crying . . . could she? "Just thought you might like to know," he said, in an attempt to lighten her mood. It worked, he felt Devon laugh against his shoulder. She pulled away and wiped at her eyes. John brushed the few tears she missed away with his thumb and left his hand there to caress her cheek.
Devon leaned her face into his hand and smiled. She closed her eyes and replayed his words in her mind. Devon felt happiness and love for John wash over her. It had been years since a man had told her that. She had forgotten how wonderful it felt. Opening her eyes, Devon saw John looking at her with a slightly confused expression on his face. She leaned forward and kissed him softly. "Thank you," she said, and she smiled as John grew even more confused. Devon leaned forward to whisper in his ear. "I love you too." John turned her head so she was looking into his eyes. Devon was entranced by those deep blue orbs. His eyes revealed so much, and Devon briefly wondered if her eyes revealed her emotions so clearly. John tenderly drew her closer for a gentle kiss that seemed to go on forever.
Devon was blissfully unaware that there was a world apart from the two of them until a large raindrop landed on her eyelids. She jumped and opened her eyes. It was pouring. Not storming, but raining pretty hard. Devon looked back at John and he grinned sheepishly at her and pointed out the obvious. "We're soaked," he said.
Devon just stared at him for a minute. She couldn't keep her laughter in for long, though. Leaning against John, she let it out. He joined in and they remained like that for a few minutes, leaning against each other, laughing irrepressibly while the rain continued to fall.
As their laughter died down, John stood up and offered Devon his hand. "Come on, we don't want to catch pneumonia, Julia'd kill us," he said, grinning at her.
Devon giggled and let John pull her to her feet. "Yeah, she probably would." They started walking back to camp, arm in arm. Devon looked up at her love, eyes sparkling. "Do you think we should let everyone else in on our secret?"
"Aw, do we have to?" John joked. Devon laughed and swatted him. "Seriously, though," he said, "I don't think we should tell everyone. We should probably let the kids on it, though."
"Yeah, we'll talk to them tomorrow," Devon agreed. "Do you mind if I tell Yale?" she asked, hoping he wouldn't mind. Yale was like a father to her, and she couldn't wait to tell him about John and herself.
John smiled at her, dispelling all of her nervousness. "Of course I don't mind." He squeezed her hand and stopped, they were almost back to camp. "So we'll tell the kids tomorrow, and you'll talk to Yale. We'll let the rest of them find out on their own."
Devon nodded and smiled, "Right, tomorrow." They stood there in silence for a moment. "We really should get out of this rain," she said. But she didn't move a muscle.
John wasn't going anywhere either. "Yeah, we should get back to our tents and dry off," he said, looking intently at Devon.
Devon looked back at him just as intently. "I love you," she said abruptly.
John lifted up his hand to caress her cheek. "I love you too," he said quietly.
They stood there for a few long moments, looking into each other's eyes, letting them express all the feelings that words could not. Then Devon smiled and shook her head. "This is ridiculous, kiss me and let's get inside."
John laughed. "Yes boss," he teased. Before Devon could object at that nickname, his lips covered hers and they promptly forgot about the rain again for a little while, until the kiss ended. Then they reluctantly seperated and went to their respective tents, both hoping that morning would come quickly.