Dante's Peak 2
Part 1

The helicopter landed at the hospital in Portland, and the quasi-family found itself separated again as Harry was taken away to have his arm seen to, and Rachel and her children were taken to be checked out. A vet was even standing by to check out Ruffie. Harry had only gotten a few yards down the corridor when he heard Lauren crying, calling his name, and turned back, much to the chagrin of the nurse with him. "Sir-"

"Just a moment," he told her, kneeling with some effort beside the frightened girl. "What's wrong, sweetheart?"

She threw her arms around his neck. "Don't leave us again. You didn't come back-"
He glanced up at Rachel, then pulled back from the girl. "I'll be just down the corridor, Lauren," he told her. "Now you go with your mother and brother and let the doctors take care of your injuries. I'll see you in a few minutes."
"You promise?" she asked, her face streaked with tears.
"I promise," he told her. "Besides, we have to make our plans for the fishing trip, remember?" he said, relieved when she nodded. "Go on, now."
Rachel smiled at him, mouthing, "Thank you" before she and the children followed another nurse down the hallway.
Harry cradled his left arm and turned to the nurse who still waited nearby. "Let's go."
"You have a lovely family," she commented.
"Thank you," he said, his smile coming through the pain. "But they're not mine- yet."
Rachel and the children were waiting for him when he left the emergency room, his left arm in a cast. Graham was holding Ruffie, and Lauren was sound asleep in one of the chairs. Rachel met Harry as he approached. "Are you all right?" she asked, the concern in her light blue eyes evident.
"My arm's broken- the doctor prescribed some antibiotics to fight off an infection. I have to come back to see him tomorrow."
"I was afraid they were going to keep you overnight-"
"Dr. Morrison wanted to," Harry told her, putting is uninjured arm around her. "But I told him I had to keep a promise to someone very important to me." He knelt beside the sleeping girl. "Lauren."
She opened her eyes, and smiled. "Harry."
"Let's find some place more comfortable to sleep than a hospital chair, eh?" She nodded sleepily and slid from the chair, holding onto Harry's hand. Harry looked at Graham. "How are you doing?"
"I'll be okay," he said solemnly.
"Where are we going to go, Harry?" Rachel asked.
A nurse ran up to them. "Dr. Morrison asked me to tell you that there are some TV reporters at the entrance waiting to talk to you," she said.
"Is there any other way out of here?" Harry asked her, not wanting to put Rachel and the kids through that gauntlet until they had a chance to rest and recuperate.
"There's a back way," she told him. "Down that hall, to the left."
"Could you call a taxi to meet us there, nurse?"
"Sure." She sighed, watching them move away. She didn't care what he said, that family WAS his- at least they were in the way he tried to protect them. Too bad she couldn't find someone like that. All of the good ones were already taken, she thought, picking up the telephone to call a cab.
The cab pulled up as they got to the door, and Harry handed the children, Ruffie and Rachel inside before joining them. The cab driver turned around. "Where to?"
Harry almost said his apartment. But the press was probably already there, camped out on the doorstep. And the thought of trying to keep all four of them comfortable in that small room was more than he could handle. "The Regency Hotel."
"Harry, I can't afford-" Rachel began, but Harry shook his head as he pulled his wallet from his pants, withdrawing a credit card.
"It's the least USGS can do before I resign," he told her, watching her eyes widen.
"Resign? Harry-"
"We'll discuss it later," he told her, putting his arm around her. Lauren climbed over her mother's lap and into Harry's.
"Lauren, be careful of Harry's arm-"
"It's all right," Harry assured her. When the car stopped, Harry handed Lauren back into Rachel's care, gave the credit card to the driver, then waited to sign the ticket.
The desk clerk looked suspiciously at the ragged group that entered the lobby of the Regency Hotel. "May I help you?"
"We need some rooms," Harry told the man. "Adjoining-"
"I'm not certain if we have anything-" He watched as Harry put the credit card on the desk, and his eyes widened as they moved from the name on the card to the small television nearby. "Dr. Dalton-" His gaze scanned the woman and children- and the small dog-"I was just watching the report of your rescue on the television- A real miracle-"
"Yes, well- do you have any rooms? The children need to get some rest- they've been through quite a lot-"
"Of course." He consulted the guestbook, then took two sets of keys from their hooks. "Just sign here, Dr. Dalton. Rooms 217 and 219. Two-nineteen's got twin beds. There's a king size in the other one."
Harry signed the guestbook "Dr. Harry Dalton and family," knowing that Rachel was looking over his shoulder as he did so. "I would appreciate your not telling any news people that we're here, if they call," he told the clerk. "I'm not sure any of us are ready to face them at the moment." Harry kept his gaze averted from Rachel, not wanting to see her reaction to the idea of sharing a room with him.
"Of course. I'll make sure you're not disturbed."
"Thank you." He took Lauren's hand to lead her toward the elevator. "Come on, sweetheart. You'll feel much better after a hot bath and some food."
"A bath? Harry, we don't have any other clothes to change into," Rachel pointed out.
"We'll find something," he told her as the elevator doors closed.

While Rachel helped Lauren with her bath, Harry called room service, ordering some sandwiches- and two small terry cloth robes. The larger room already contained two of the robes, but he knew they would be far too large for Lauren or Graham. Graham came from the bath in Harry's room, a towel wrapped around him, his clothes bundled, as there was a knock on the door.
"Put your clothes there, Graham," Harry told him, indicating a spot near the door. "We'll send them all down to the hotel laundry later." He signed the ticket for the food and closed the door. Looking at the robes, he realized that while small might work for Graham, Lauren's was still going to wrap around her twice. "Here you go, Graham. Put this on." He busied himself with inspecting the food while Graham donned the white terrycloth robe, then turned and took the towel Graham handed him. "Feel better?"
"I guess," Graham mumbled noncommitally.
Harry sat down, pulling the boy to face him. "You want to talk about it?" he asked.
"It's just- it was all my fault," he said. "I shouldn't have gone up the mountain. If I hadn't -"
"You can't blame yourself for wanting to save your grandmother, Graham," Harry said in a soft voice. "And you can't blame youself for what happened. I thought your sister said that going up there was her idea as well?"
"I'm older. I should have known better. But I thought we could get up the mountain and back before -"
Harry looked at him. "Graham, there are some things we can't change. No matter how hard we want to. Sometimes we make wrong decisions and have to learn, somehow, to live with the consequences. I know it's not an easy thing to do, but it's part of growing up. What you have to remember is that your grandmother loved that mountain-and she wouldn't have been happy anywhere else. Now, your mother and sister are going to need you to be strong for awhile. And I'll need your help as well-"
"Then you're going to stay around?" Graham asked.
"Do you want me to?"
Graham nodded, then threw his arms around the man's neck. "Yes. I don't want you to ever go away again, Harry."
Harry looked up to see Rachel in the doorway. He had no idea how long she had been listening to them talk, but her eyes were full of tears. "Do you have one of those robes for Lauren, Harry?" she asked, her voice deepened with emotion.
"It's on the bed," he told her, as Graham sat back. He waited for Rachel to go back into the other room. "I don't plan on going anywhere, Graham." He smiled.
"Except to Florida to go fishing. Why don't you go over there and get something to eat?"
Rachel and Lauren returned, as Harry stood up. "I'm going to go try to take a shower-" He glanced at his cast. "Make that a bath," he said ruefully. "I won't be a moment. There are some sandwiches on the cart," he told them.

Rachel looked at him, knowing that he was in pain, but was hiding it from the children so not to worry them. Knowing she was probably going to regret her next question, she asked, "Do you need any help?"
Harry smiled-not just with his lips, either. His eyes lit up. "I'm not one of the kids, Rachel. I'll be fine. Make sure Ruffie gets something to eat and a bowl of water."
"He's in the bath in our room," Lauren told him. "I'll take him some food." She went through the open connecting door. And Harry went into the bathroom.
Rachel considered going to the other bath to take a shower, but she was worried about Harry. She picked up a sandwich and was about to take a bite when she heard Harry swearing softly. Turning to Graham, she said, "Leave some of that for Harry, and then take some for you and Lauren and go into your room, okay?" then went to the bathroom door. "Harry?" Graham left a plate of sandwiches, disappearing into the other room with the other, closing the door behind him.
"I'm alright," he called out through gritted teeth.
"I don't believe you," she told him. "Harry? Harry, I'm coming in-" She opened the door to find him trying- without much success, to unbutton his shirt. The bath water was running, and he frowned up at her.
"I said I was fine, Rachel," he told her.
"No, you're not. Let me help you-"
He shook his head. "Rachel- that's not a very good idea-"
She closed the door and locked it. "Why not?"
She began to unbutton his shirt, slipping it off of his shoulders, wincing at the bruises on his shoulders and back, being careful not to jostle his arm. His left hand was badly bruised, she realized, and his right wasn't much better. "I was so worried about you when that tunnel collapsed," she whispered, kissing his hand. "Afraid you hadn't made it back to the truck-That I'd never see you again."
"I had to get back and turn on ELF," he told her. "And then I had to stay alive so that anyone who found me would know that you and the kids were down there." Rachel removed his boots and socks, then she unfastened his belt and trousers. "Uh, Rachel-"
"Ssh. Stand up, Harry," she said, smiling at him. She slid his trousers and shorts down, then reached over to turn off the water. When she turned back to him, and would have touched him, Harry grabbed her wrist.
"Rachel, no." She looked up at him, confusion evident on her face. "Neither one of us is in any condition to take this step tonight. What all of us need right now is a good night's sleep- ."
"But Harry-"
He drew her to her feet, bent to kiss her lightly. "No, darling. I appreciate the offer- even if it is partially the result of gratitude."
"Oh, I'm grateful," she told him. "And not only for what you did for us, getting us through all of that. I'm VERY grateful that you're alive. That I'm here, with you right now."
Harry pulled her against him, burying his face in her hair. "Not half as grateful as I am, Rachel. But tonight, I'll be satisfied with just having you at my side. Nothing more. Why don't you go into the kids' room and take a shower? Use the other robe on the door there. Once the kids are asleep, I'll go to my place-"
Rachel's blue eyes filled with confusion as a memory surfaced. "That's right. You have live here in Portland. Why didn't we just go to your apartment?"
He let her help him into the tub, where he sank gratefully into the warm water, letting it ease the various aches and pains. "Because it's a one room cubby hole with a fold out couch for a bed," he told her. "And I'm ninety percent certain that the press are probably there waiting for me to show up." He put his head back, closing his eyes. "I'll gather some fresh clothes for me, something for you, and we'll get some things for Lauren and Graham tomorrow."
She smiled at him. "You don't have to take responsibility for us, you know."
Harry opened one eye to look at her. "You became my responsibility the minute that volcano went up-" he said. "No, before that."
"I guess I'll go take my shower-"
"Uh, Rachel?"
She turned back to him. His eyes were still closed, but she could see a slight smile on his lips. "Yes, Harry?"
"Could I ask you to - wash my back? This damned cast- "
She smiled and sat on the edge of the oversize tub. "I might as well just get in there with you," she told him. "It's certainly big enough for two." When he didn't say no, Rachel began to unbutton her blouse.
They were each wearing a robe when they opened the bathroom door. "Put your things with the kids' things," Harry was saying. "I'll call and have them picked up and cleaned as much as possible."
"What about your things?"
"I'll need them to get to my apartment later," he reminded her. He turned toward the bed, and stopped. "Rachel-"
Lauren, Graham, and Ruffie were all on the king size bed, sound asleep. Rachel drew the covers up over them. "They're exhausted, poor things."
"I suppose I'd better take advantage of their being asleep to get over to my place." He picked up his clothes and turned toward the bathroom, then stopped as he realized he wasn't going to be able to get DRESSED any easier than he'd gotten UNdressed. And the idea of putting those filthy clothes back on-
"Why don't you wait until tomorrow?" Rachel suggested, keeping her voice low so not to disturb the children, knowing he was just as tired as the rest of them, probably more tired. After all, most of the physical exhertion of their escape had been his. Driving, carrying Ruth, spending two days in the cab of that truck with a broken arm- She picked up the medication the doctor had given him. "You need to eat something so you can take this antibiotic. And there's a pain killer here as well." He put his things with the others, then set them outside and called the laundry before answering her.
"Never touch the things," he told he, also speaking softly. "But I will eat something- " He looked at her. "Have you eaten?"
"I thought I'd wait for you," she said, putting the remaining sandwiches on the table before them, along with some bottled water and the medicine, before sitting down next to him on the small sofa.
Harry picked up a sandwich and sat back. "Perhaps you're right about waiting. The press might have gotten tired of watching my place by tomorrow."
Rachel sat back as well, eating. Finally, she said, "You know practically everything there is to know about me." She opened the bottled water and gave him one of the antibiotics. "Yet I don't know very much about you."
"Such as?"
"Where you were born, if you have any family anywhere-"
"I was born in Dublin, my parents died when I was around Graham's age. I was sent to live with my father's only brother. He was a geologist, never married - said he travelled too much to settle down - even to make a home for a ten year old boy."
"Sounds like someone else I know," Rachel commented softly, smiling.
Harry let that comment pass. "He had no idea of what to do with a ten year old boy, so he dragged me all over the globe with him. Tasmania, Austrialia, South Africa- Even Russia, once. Old Charlie loved rocks, taught me so much about how to look at them, how to understand them."
She saw the sad look in his eyes. "What happened to him?"
"I'd been studying geology for two years at the university when I joined him on a site in New Zealand. There was a volcano in the area- but it had been dormant for a long time, with no suspected threat of an eruption. I'd been there two days when I - sensed something was going to happen-"
"Like you did when you first came to Dante's Peak?"
"Not as strong, and there wasn't a full eruption. Just a lot of quakes and dust," he told her. "But Charlie insisted that everything was fine, there was no danger, said I'd been spending too much time with my books and not enough in the field. So he sent me to a rock formation about twenty meters away from where he was working. There was a strong quake- I merely lost my footing- but the rock face above Charlie collapsed. He was buried in the rubble."
"And that's when you started studying volcanoes," Rachel guessed quietly, understanding now why Terry Furlong's nearly being killed in a similar situation had upset him.
"Yes." He finished the sandwich and put his arm around her. "I have to report in to USGS tomorrow," he told her. "And then I'm going to take the vacation time I've accumulated and we're going down to Florida-"
"You said something earlier about resigning."
"I'm going to. That kind of life isn't suited to being there for the people you care about- and who care about you."
"What will you do?"
Rachel smiled, shaking her head. "Teach?"
"I've had several offers from various universities," he told her. "I've always said that when I lost my appetite for this kind of work, I'd teach vulcanology somewhere."
"Nowhere near any volcanoes, I hope," she told him.
"That I can promise."
"You're sure you won't miss it? Miss the excitment, the danger-"
He pulled her closer. "I've had enough excitement and danger during the last two days to last two lifetimes." He kissed her gently. "What say we climb into the bed beside the kids and get some rest?"
She let him lead her across the room. "You've been very good with them this evening-especially Lauren."
"They both need to be reassured, to be given a sense of security. Loosing Ruth was hard on them, as well as losing everything else that they've ever known."
"And almost losing you," she reminded him. "I don't think she's going to want to let you out of her sight for some time."
"She'll be fine," he said, settling onto the mattress, pulling her against him. "I've seen the reaction before. Once she realizes that I'm not going anywhere, she'll let go."
He rubbed her back. "This feels good."
Rachel lay there, his arm around her, and felt his breathing become even as he slept. It was several minutes before she closed her eyes as well, getting used to the feel of him beside her, watching his face as it relaxed. She'd given up ever finding anyone again. After Brian-she stopped, refusing to think of her ex-husband. He wasn't important anymore. Harry was.
To Be Continued...

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