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by LJC

"Jackpot." Danziger grinned. He and Devon had been combing the area around camp all morning after spotting a Grendler wearing the remains of an Eden Crew jacket and a necklace of lumalights, and it looked like they had finally found the Grendler's stash.

The cavern was about fifteen meters underground, and stank to high heaven, but the back end was piled high with items obviously stolen from one of their cargo pods.

"John?" Devon carefully lowered herself down the hole that was the only entrance, and slipped the last few feet. Danziger caught her by the elbow.

"Gotcha. Keep your head down, the ceiling's low." She could see his smile in the dim light as he shone his light along the floor, and they began to inspect their findings.

"Julia'll be happy. I think that's an unbroken crate of medical supplies." Devon knelt on the cave floor and tried the lock. Obviously the Grendler had tried to smash it open: one side was scarred and dented but the electronic lock had held fast. She keyed in the command sequence, smiling as the lid opened with a hiss.

Danziger held up a bundle of clothing. It seemed to be generic pants and undershirts, some of which could easily be cut down for the kids. He glanced back at the cave entrance, and frowned. "It's not like those drooling maniacs to leave stuff like this. We'd better hurry, before it gets back."

"Look! I think this is equipment for the hydroponics lab, these are seeds." Devon held up small metal canisters, counting them off as she dug them out of another crate. "We'll have fresh food if we can find the rest of the equipment."

"I'll tell the guys to call off the search." Danziger snapped on his gear, and tried the open channel. He was greeted by static.

"Rock's probably interfering. Try getting closer to the cave entrance?" Devon suggested, but he was already making his way down the narrow corridor, and stopped in the jagged circle of winter sunshine beneath the entrance.

"Danziger to Eden Project."

"John, it's Yale, have you found anything?"

"We've hit the motherload. Tell Julia there's medical supplies down here, that should cheer her up. We'll need help hauling all this stuff out, and I want to get this stuff out before--" John looked up as a shower of dirt and rock fell behind him. Feeling a slight tremor beneath his feet, and started running back towards the cavern to grab Adair.

"Earthquake?" Devon got to her feet, and struggled for balance as the earth beneath them bucked and rolled. She fell against John as rock and soil seemed to pour from above, and then there was darkness.

Devon opened her eyes to nothing. Pitch blackness. She panicked for a moment, wondering if she was blind. Something was on top of her. She pushed, and realised the something was Danziger. She tasted dirt and blood and reached up between them to touch her forehead, which throbbed. Her fingers came away sticky. She could feel Danziger's heart beating next to her ear. Thank God, he's alive...

"John?" she whispered, and coughed. He moaned. She shoved again, and his hand found her face.

"Well, shit," he muttered groggily and tried to stand. There was a scraping sound, and a thud which coincided with him yelling a rather particular curse.

"What happened?"

"Well, just now, I knocked myself silly on the ceiling." His voice was thick with sarcasm, and she could feel, rather that see him furiously rubbing the back of his head as if that would make the pain ebb. "Before that, I'd say this planet has screwy teutonic activity. Just our luck, Grendler decides home sweet home should be on a fault line."

"Are you sure it was an earthquake?"

"That, or the damn diggers decided to start mining again. Either way, looks like we're stuck here," Danziger ran his hands along the walls, and every way he turned, more rocks. The narrow passage to the entrance was completely sealed off by debris.

"Can you find your lumalight?" Devon tried to keep her voice level, but the inky blackness pressing in on her was making it hard to breathe.

"Nah, musta lost it when the roof came down."

"Dammit, there has to be one here someplace." Devon groped in the dark, finding scattered seed canisters, grasping a handful of cloth. She scraped her knuckles on fallen rocks, but ignored the pain, digging, hoping.

"Grendler is probably wearin' all of 'em." Danziger sighed, and waited for her to say something, but was rewarded only by the sound of her laboured breathing. She felt for the wall of the cave and curled up in a ball. Danziger reached out, and touched her shoulder. She was shaking and he frowned, though she couldn't see it.

"Hey, Adair. You claustrophobic or somethin'?"

"No. No... I just hate not being able to see, that's all."

Danziger lowered himself to the floor next to her, feeling like he'd been hit by a ton of bricks. Which he had. Well, not a ton, but tell that to his back. Which was not happy. Not at all.

"Have you tried the gear?" Devon asked, trying to sound normal. He shook his head, forgetting she couldn't see it.

"Yale'll get a fix off our last location. I'm sure they'll be here in no time."

"Yeah." She could feel hot blood trickling down her neck, and a goose-egg rising on the side of her head. She groaned as her fingers brushed the swelling, and John's hand brushed hers, pushing her hair off her forehead.

"You're hurt."

"Just got nicked by a falling rock. I'll be fine." She pushed his hand away, even though the contact was the only proof she wasn't alone. She tried to concentrate on his breathing.

There were moments of awkward silence, the chill setting into their bones as the cold cave floor slowly leeched the heat of their bodies away. Danziger reached over, and grasped the clothing, tucking it under himself and he heard her do the same. Slowly she leaned back, and he felt her shoulder touch his. This time she didn't draw back, and the shudders began to cease.

"You sure you're okay?"

"I told you, I just hate the dark that's all."

"There's nothing here that isn't in the light."

"I know that," Devon snapped, and immediately regretted it.

"You want to talk about it?" Danziger offered, amazed that he was bothering to press. But they were likely to be here for at least an hour, until the others found them. Maybe longer. He didn't want to say anything, but he wasn't entirely certain Yale had had a chance to triangulate their position from that last check-in.

Somehow, he had an idea voicing this concern might be detrimental.

"What's to talk about?"

"C'mon, we've been in worse scrapes, and we've made it through."

"It's not-- nevermind," Devon said quietly.

"Don't tell me you're afraid of the dark?" Danziger laughed, but Devon remained silent. He stopped suddenly, realising he'd blundered on the answer after all.

"I know it's silly."

"Hey, True used to be scared of the dark too," Danziger offered, awkwardly, and then chuckled at the memory. "I spent six months sleeping with the lights on in my quarters. I wasn't worth a damn in the mornings. But she grew out of it."

"This isn't something... this isn't something I think I can grow out of." Devon tried to make light of it, but she had started shaking again.

Danziger just waited. It seemed the best thing to do. But she was shut up tight as a clam.

Danziger blinked, trying to stay awake. Something about the complete darkness made him want to doze off even thought it was the middle of the day. He dragged his hand through his hair, setting free a cloud of fine dust, and rubbed his jaw thoughtfully. Devon had stayed silent for almost an hour now, and he was beginning to worry.

"Adair," he said softly and listened. He was shocked to hear her faintly crying. "Devon," Danziger squeezed her shoulder. "C'mon, it's okay." He reached up and she felt his fingers graze her cheek hesitantly. She held her breath and he brushed a tear from her cheek, something he would never dare in the cold light of day but felt compelled to do, now.

Finally, Devon took a shuddering breath, and let it out slowly.

"When I was eight years old, the power in my quarters went out. I was trapped in my room, my father... my father was away, planetside in a meeting with the miners, and my mother was with him. Yale was trapped outside in the corridor, but I didn't know that till later, my room was soundproofed. The doors wouldn't open. It was black, just black." Devon paused, and then drew in another breath. Danziger could hear her nylon parka rustling as she fidgeted.

"I was fine at first. Sure it was dark, but I thought any second the lights would come back up and the air would start circulating again, just like normal. When it didn't, I crawled into my bed, drawing the covers around me, and tried to pretend it was night-time and hoping I'd fall asleep. But with every passing second, I got more and more afraid. I convinced myself the station's orbit was decaying, and if everyone else wasn't already dead, they would be."

"How long did it last?"

"Seven hours. Felt like eternity, but it was only seven hours."

"But everything was okay, right?"

"Yeah. Everything was fine, but I couldn't stand to be in the dark anymore. I slept with the lights on... for years. I couldn't stand the darkness, couldn't stand to be alone."

"Hey, Adair." Danziger scooted closer. "You're not alone. Everything's gonna be okay. Zero'll dig us out, Julia will patch up that thick skull of yours. We'll be fine."

He carefully put one arm around her, and she rested her head on his shoulder, drained.

"I didn't mean to unload all this on you, John."

"Everyone has bad days."

"You act like being stuck in a cave-in is comparable to breaking a nail." Devon chuckled, wiping at her swollen eyes.

"Well, I wouldn't know about that," He chuckled, and she could feel the rumble of his laughter from deep inside his chest. It was comforting, somehow, "but I know it's hard, always putting on a good face, so many people counting on you. You deserve to fall apart once in a while."

"People count on you too."

"It's not the same thing. I'm a big guy, and can get stuff done. But I'm not really a leader, not like you are. Look at us; you've managed to get our sorry butts one thousand kilometres from where we started, and kept us from killing each other along the way."

"And here I am, curled up in a ball, scared of the dark."

"I don't think it's the dark you're scared of. Like I said, there ain't nothing here that isn't here in the light. I just think you're scared of what might not be here, where you can't see it." Danziger sighed. Psychoanalysis wasn't one of his better skills, but he plunged forward anyway. "The lights are going to come back up, and we'll all still be here. No one is leaving you behind. No one is leaving."

Devon was silent, and he held his breath, waiting for her to call him every kind of a fool, and cuss him out for sticking his nose in where it didn't belong.

But she didn't. She shifted her weight, her hair brushing his chin. He grit his teeth, and hoped she didn't notice how he was trying to steady his breathing. She didn't.

"Maybe... maybe you're right," she said cautiously, thinking it through.

"Yeah, that's more like it." Danziger chuckled again. "I like that, being right once in a while."

"I mean, I never thought of it that way before. I guess... I guess I was angry with my parents for leaving me all alone. Scared that they were never coming back, or that I would go someplace that they could never come to. Scared that I'd close my eyes, and everyone I knew would be gone when I opened them."

"See, all you had to do all those years ago was find me. I would have straightened you out." Danziger could feel her smile, even if he couldn't see it. "Don't need any fancy doctors with John Danziger around."

"I think it's easier to look at other people's fears, sometimes."

"The only thing that scares me is that something'll happen to me," like what happened to Elle, he added silently but he figured Devon didn't need to hear that particular thought, "and True won't have anyone to look after her."

"That's it, huh? No niggling, unreasonable little fears?" Devon was feeling more relaxed now, the velvet darkness didn't seem to be pressing down in her any longer, not as long as John was here with her. It made her feel funny, just sitting here, so close to him, talking like this. A little... awkward. But just a little, and that alone was something she didn't particularly want to dwell on.

"Nope," Danziger insisted.

"Snakes? Lightning? Heights? Drowning? Fish?"

"Fish? Why the hell would I be afraid of fish?"

"I don't know." Devon laughed. "A grown woman afraid of the dark isn't exactly normal, why not fish?"

"You're delirious, Adair." Danziger shifted his weight. His legs were beginning to fall asleep, his toes numb inside his boots. He tried wiggling them, and was rewarded by pins and needles shooting up his calves. He hissed his discomfort, and Devon drew back.


"I'm gettin' sick of just sitting here, they'd better get here soon."

"How long has it been?"

"A hour, maybe. Almost two."

"Magus and Walman were closest, and we did leave tracks up there." Devon sighed. "They'll find us," she said with probably more certainty than she felt.

This was a marked change from her attitude an hour ago, where he had to be the one assuring her. Danziger took it as a good sign, that her leadership instincts had kicked in. Or her mothering instincts. Either way, she seemed to be back on an even keel.

His stomach rumbled, and he waited to see if she'd noticed. Afterall, her head still rested on his collarbone.

Devon fumbled in her pockets, and Danziger heard the sound of aluminum foil being shredded. She pressed half a spirolina bar into his hand.

"Thanks," Danziger mumbled around a mouthful of food. For a time, the only sound was chewing, and swallowing, and rustling of nylon as Devon brushed crumbs from her parka.

"Tigers." Danziger finally broke the silence.

"Tigers?" Devon was incredulous.

"Yeah. When I was a kid, I saw a vid of species extinct on Earth, and there were these tigers. Teeth, claws, growls, the whole package. Scared me stupid. I knew there weren't any left, but I still would get all jittery thinkin' about 'em. There. You happy now?"

"I'm trying to picture the great John Danziger scared of a little kitty-cat." Devon swallowed a laugh, but part of it slipped out anyway, and Danziger leaned his head back, resting it on the all and staring into the darkness, praying for salvation soon.

"I knew I shouldn't have told you."

"I'm just teasing you, John," Devon apologised.

"Those mothers could rip out a man's throat just by lookin' at him."

"I know. Yale gave me the same lecture."

"They were big."

"They were."

"But, you know, I grew out of it pretty quick."

"I'm sure you did."

"A year, if that."

"Very impressive."

"I can't believe I'm actually looking forward to Zero getting here." Danziger's head drooped, and Devon gave his fingers a squeeze. He blinked in surprise when she didn't withdraw her hand.

Devon had dozed, and Danziger was feeling like a little nap too, when he thought he heard voices. He got up slowly, trying not to dislodge the sleeping Adair, and wake her, and crept in the dark towards the wall of rocks that sealed off the entrance. He pressed his ear up to the rocks, ignoring the shower of dirt that fell.

Definitely voices. Human voices. Yale, Magus, and Julia.

"Adair!" John shook her awake, and she came to with a start.

"Hey!" Danziger yelled as loud as he could next to the blockage.

Devon slipped on her gear, hoping that the signal could pass through the feet of rock to someone on the other side, but was greeted with static.

"Hey, we're down here!" She joined Danziger, and they tried dislodging some of the smaller stones. The pile shifted, and Danziger held her back, coughing at the dust it raised. But the voices came through a little clearer.

"Devon?" Yale 's voice drifted through. "John? Are you alright?"

"We'll be better once you dig us outta here, buddy." Danziger grinned, and Devon threw her arms around his neck and hugged him tightly, laughing in relief. Danziger tried not to enjoy it too much. Stress, and all.

"Allow me," Zero's pleasant, annoying voice filtered through and they could hear the scrape and thud as the construction module began clearing away the stone. When the first ray of weak winter sunlight broke through, Devon could feel tears of relief stinging her eyes.

"Don't tell me you're crying again," Danz teased softly, and she wiped them away, finally able to see his eyes sparkling in the gloom.

Her only answer was to hug him again, and he rested his chin on the top of her head.

"Toldja we'd be fine."

At the first sight of blood, Julia was all over Devon with the diaglove, trying to get a reading as Devon hugged Yale and then tried to hug her.

"Devon, hold still."

"I'm fine, I just got hit by a rock."

"No concussion." Julia ignored Devon's prognosis, and read the readings off the glove, all business. Danziger winked at Devon, and shook dirt out of his hair, Magus brushed the rest from his parka. "Do you want anything for the pain?"

"Maybe when we get back to camp."

"Hey, we still have to haul the supplies outta this hole," Danziger reminded them. They all looked at him. "Don't look at me. I ain't going back in there."

"Zero, load up the ATV," Magus instructed the droid, who was only too happy to oblige. "Might take a few trips."

"Judging from the volume, I would say four," Zero informed no one in particular from the darkness of the cave.

Julia had turned the glove on Danziger, who kept trying to wave her away. "Just a couple of pulled muscles, Doc. All I need is a good night's sleep in my own bed."

"Hey, John," Magus tossed him a lumalight. "Found it under the rubble, yours?"

"Yep," Danziger pocketed the light, and shared a glance with Devon. She shook her head, chuckling.


Danziger snorted. "Fish?"

They dissolved in laughter as Yale, Magus and Julia shared puzzled looks.

"You want to let us in on the joke?" Magus prompted, but the two just ignored them.


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ljc's earth 2 fan fiction