- 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
- 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
- "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,
- 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,"
- "Thank you," he said,
his smile coming through the pain. "But they're not mine-
- 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
- "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.
- "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
- "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
- "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
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
- "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
- 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
- "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."
- "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
- "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
- He shook his head. "Rachel-
that's not a very good idea-"
- She closed the door and locked it.
- 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.
- "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
- 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
- "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
- "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
- "You said something earlier
- "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.
- "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
- "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
- "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
- 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.
- To Be Continued...
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