Dante's Peak 2
Part 2

When they awoke the next morning, Rachel found Harry watching her. Self concious under that intent blue gaze, she smiled. "What?"
"You're beautiful when you sleep," he told her, lowering his head to kiss her lightly.
She looked around, surprised to find the rest of the bed empty. "Where-"
"They're in the other room," he told her. "The laundry delivered our clothes- such as they are- and then room service brought breakfast-"
"I slept through all of that?"
"Apparently." She noticed he was dressed- and he was right. His clothes were certainly the worse for wear. She dreaded to think of the shape hers might be in.
"There's some coffee," he told her.
"Just coffee," he said, smiling. He sat up and went to get her a cup. "I've already called the office in Vancouver. I'm going to submit a report about Dante's Peak in writing, and then I can start my vacation."
"What time are you supposed to be at the doctor?" She took a sip of the coffee and found it suprisingly good.
"Oh, we didn't set a definate time- this afternoon will do, I'm sure. I need to get to my place as soon as possible."
"What about the reporters?"
"We'll just have to risk it. I think we're all a little more up to facing them this morning."
"I mentioned something to Lauren and Graham that I had to go out for a few minutes- neither of them took it very well, I'm afraid."
"Maybe we ought to find a counselor or something-"
"They'll be fine, Rachel," he assured her. "Just give them some time. You're feeling the same way yourself, I think, you just haven't given yourself a chance to realize it."
"What do you mean?"
"Your childhood home, your friends, your livelihood, all gone in just a few hours. You have to be - worried about the future- about what's going to happen." He sat beside her again. "And if you'll admit it, the thought of my going anywhere out of your sight terrifies you as much as it does Lauren. Am I right?"
She remembered the way she had followed him into the bathroom last night, and had to admit that he had a point. Her support structure, a structure she had worked so hard to build, was gone, lost in a mountain of volcanic ash and pyroclastic clouds. The only thing that was left was her children- and Harry. Harry, who had risked his own life to save her children and her, when he could just as easily given up, let the volcano finally claim him. "You're not being very fair."
"I can't afford to be," he told her. "Not when it concerns something this important." He kissed her, bracing himself on his good arm. "Can you type?" he asked at last, and Rachel laughed.
"Yes. Why?"
"Because I'm going to need someone to type up my report once it's finished- and with this broken wing-"
The connecting door opened, and Lauren peeked through the opening. "Mom! Graham! Mom's awake!" She came bounding into the room and jumped onto the bed between Rachel and Harry. Graham entered a minute later, and then Ruffie appeared in the doorway.
Harry shook his head, laughing. "Come on, Ruffie. Might as well join the rest of the family." The dog barked once, then leapt into Harry's lap.

They left the room an hour later, cleaner than when they arrived, but still looking scraggly. Harry led them to a cab again and gave the driver his address. Even before the cab stopped, Harry could see there was a TV news crew parked on the curb, waiting. "Get ready, kids," he told them. When he opened the door, a reporter stepped up. "Dr. Harry Dalton?"
"Yes." Rachel, Lauren and Graham got out, the children trying not to look at the lights that the crew turned on them.
"Alex Porter of KVEW-TV," the man said. "I'd like to ask you a few questions about your miraculous rescue last night-" He smiled at Rachel. "And you're Rachel Wando? Mayor of Dante's Peak?"
"Former mayor," she said. "In order to be a mayor, there has to be a town. And there's not much left up there," she told him.
"Some of the other survivors have said that they didn't recieve enough warning to evacuate the town," Porter said. "What are your feelings on that?"
Harry held his breath. He knew that the town hadn't received enough warning- not through any action of his, but he didn't want Paul Dreyfus' good name dragged through the media- or the USGS, for that matter. He released his breath when Rachel said, "I think we were given as much notice as possible, considering the circumstances. I'm sure Dr. Dalton would agree that the experts that were with him saw no sign of an imminent eruption. It was only less than twenty four hours before the thing blew its head off that any real evidence was found. After that, we moved as quickly as we possibly could to evacuate. Only, the mountain had other ideas."
"How did all of you end up trapped in that mine?"
Rachel sighed, smiling her little crooked smile as Harry stood back, Lauren's hand in his. "Well, my ex mother in law lived up on the mountain and didn't want to come down. While Harry- Dr. Dalton and I were holding a town meeting about the evacuation, my son and daughter decided to drive up to her place and convince her to leave."
The reporter looked at Graham, who moved closer to Harry. "You drove up the mountain as the eruption was beginning? How old are you?"
"Almost eleven," he said.
"Weren't you frightened?"
Graham nodded, and seeing that he wasn't going to talk, Porter turned his attention back to the boy's mother. "What happened when you discovered they had gone?"
"We went up the mountain to get them," Rachel said.
Harry stepped forward. "Look, Mr. - Porter. Mrs. Wando and the children have been through a great deal in the last few days. We'll arrange an interview later."
Harry herded the children and Rachel into the apartment building and closed the door behind them, thankful that it was a locking door that wouldn't open without someone giving permission. "Vultures," he commented. Lauren was pale again, remembering that nightmarish boat ride that had resulted in Ruth Wando's death. He led them to the elevator and pushed the button for the third floor. "We'll talk to them without the kids next time," he told Rachel and she nodded.
He unlocked the door and stepped back for them to enter, then moved quickly to the table beside the still unmade bed to turn down a photograph. "You weren't kidding about it being small, were you?" Rachel commented, seeing his movement.
He tossed the bedcovers onto the bed and closed it. "Be a good boy and hand me that cushion over there, Graham," he said. "I wasn't expecting company when I left," he said. Had it only been a little over a week? he thought. He felt as if he'd known Rachel and the children for ten years, not ten days. He found some slacks and a shirt, and handed them to Rachel. "Here you go. The bathroom's in there." She took the clothes with a grateful smile. "You're liable to have to roll up the cuffs," he warned, turning back to the children as Ruffie barked. Harry sat down and pulled Lauren into his lap. "We'll go shopping for some clothes for the two of you after your mother and I change," he told them.
"Okay," Graham said. "How long are those reporters going to be asking us questions, Harry?"
Harry put his arm around Graham. "I wish I could tell you, Graham. Until the next news event takes their attention, I suppose. Your mother and I will handle them, alright?"
"Thank you. I just- I'm not ready to - talk-"
"I understand." He looked at Lauren, whose eyes were suspiciously watery again. "How about telling me about what we're going to stock that fishing boat with when we get to Florida? I bet you and your mother had all kinds of time to think about that."
"Chocolate," Lauren said shyly.
"That's a given," Harry told her. "We have to have chocolate. No self respecting deep sea fisherman would ever leave port without it."
Lauren giggled as the bath room door opened and Rachel came out. Lauren's giggles turned into laughter. "You look funny, Mom."
Harry tried not to join in the laughter as Rachel shot a warning glance at him. "Wouldn't happen to have a belt, would you?"
"In that closet over there," he told her. When she found a belt and managed to get it on, she turned to face them. "I know, it's not high fashion, but at least they're not stained and torn. And if you laugh one time, Harry Dalton, you'll have to change YOUR clothes by yourself," she threatened, forgetting that he'd dressed himself earlier that morning, while she was still sleeping.
"Well, if you want to spend the rest of the day here-" Harry began, sitting back, his smile growing wider.
He bent to whisper loudly in Lauren's ear, "But I bet you'd much rather go get some new clothes, wouldn't you?"
She nodded. "Can we get some for Mom too?"
"I think we can arrange for that." Harry kissed the top of her head, then urged her from his lap. Taking some clothes for himself, he started for the bathroom. In the doorway, he turned. "Coming, Rachel?"
Hands on her hips, Rachel tried not to smile. But the playful look in his eyes made it impossible to be angry. "Oh, Harry, what am I going to do with you?"
"I have an idea or two," he told her as she closed the door.
Lauren looked at Graham. "Do you think Mom will marry Harry, Graham?"
"I hope so," he told her. He went to the window, and was relieved that the TV truck was gone. At least they'd be able to leave without being asked a lot of questions. "Do you want them to get married?"
She nodded. "I like Harry."

In the bath, a much smaller room than the one at the hotel, Rachel found herself pulled against Harry, his lips on hers. "How's that for an idea?" he asked, his lips on her hair.
"One I like. But it's a little-cramped in here, isn't it?"
He looked around. "You're right. I guess the other ideas will have to wait until later," he said, starting to unbutton the torn, stained shirt as she untied his shoes.
Rachel simply shook her head and smiled, laughing softly.
"I'll look forward to it," she said, drawing an answering smile from him.
The telephone was ringing when he and Rachel came from the bathroom, and he went to grab it while she started trying to straighten the papers around the room. "Dalton here.. . No. . . I don't have my -" He smiled. "Really?. . . No, I haven't had the chance." He saw Rachel glance at him. "I can be there around three-I have some shopping to take care of- and a doctor's appointment . . It's broken, but they think there won't be any permanent damage-Three o'clock it is, then." He hung up and turned the volume down on the answering machine before hitting the "play" button. "USGS brought my truck back here last night. It's in the garage downstairs. I have go to the office at three."
Rachel was still trying to bring some semblance of order to the apartment. "You're not going to listen to your messages? What if there's something important on there?"
"I cleared it before I left. There are three messages, and I think they're probably all reporters just wanting to satisfy their morbid curiousity." She was getting very close to the photograph, he noticed. "Why don't we go shopping for some clothes?" he suggested quickly, but he was too late. Rachel picked up the framed photo and looked at the face of the woman he'd almost married four years ago. The woman who he'd lost to another volcano in Columbia.
"She was very pretty."
"Yes," he agreed, taking it from her and putting it in a drawer. "But she's in the past. And we're here. Let's go find my truck, shall we?"
"What about Ruffie?" Graham asked. "We can't leave him here. And we can't leave him in the truck-"
Rachel looked at Harry. "Put him in the bath room," he decided. I'll find something to put some water in for him. He'll be fine until we get back."
"And what if someone hears him?" Rachel asked.
"I'll be giving up the apartment soon anyway,"he pointed out, finding a small bowl in the tiny kitchen. Once Ruffie was safely locked up, the four of them took the elevator down to the garage. Harry noticed that Lauren tensed as she looked at the low ceilings, and he squeezed her hand gently to reassure her. The black Suburban was parked in its alloted spot, and Harry smiled. The driver's door was unlocked, and Harry looked inside. "The keys are in the ignition," he told them, pushing the switch unlock the other doors. Opening the passenger door, he lifted Lauren into the vehicle, then got in himself.
"I never figured you for a Suburban," Rachel said. "A BMW or a Jag, but never a Suburban."
"I have to carry equipment every now and again, and this is very good for that." He started the engine. "Much better than a cab, don't you think?"
"Yeah!" Graham agreed, his eyes wide. "This is GREAT!" He looked over the seat. "And it's an automatic, too." Harry glanced at him, and Graham sat back.
The attendant smiled and waved as Harry pulled the truck out onto the street and into traffic. "The mall's this way," he said.

After spending far more money on them than Rachel thought he should, Harry agreed to go to the doctor's office. When he came out, he assured Rachel and the children that everything was fine, but Rachel could tell he was in pain again. "Do you want me to drive back to the apartment?" She asked quietly. But he shook his head.
"I'll be fine. Just all the poking and prodding. Let's go get Ruffie and let me pack a bag, then we'll drive up to Vancouver."
"Why are you going to pack a bag?" Rachel asked.
"We can't all stay at my apartment," he told her. "It's far too small for four people and a dog. We can stay in the hotel until we leave for Florida. Which, with any luck, will be no later than day after tomorrow."
"Hooray!" Graham and Lauren both said.

Ruffie was very glad to see them, and Harry sent the children up to the roof top garden with the dog to get him ouside for a few minutes before the drive up to Vancouver. Rachel watched as Harry piled some clothes in a suitcase. "Let me do that," she told him. "Sit down for a few minutes." She repacked the case neatly, closing the latches. "What else do you need?"
"You,"he said, pulling her to sit beside him. "Why are you so testy all of a sudden?"
"I'm worried about you. You've been so strong for us- and I can tell that arm's hurting like hell, Harry. But you won't admit it, won't give in to it, admit that you need someone to take care of you for a change instead of taking care of us."
He smiled. "What do you call what you did last night if it wasn't taking care of me?" He rested his head on hers. "Oh, Rachel. I'll be fine as long as you and the kids are. Right now, that's the most important thing to me. Can you understand that?"
"I understand that you're probably too good to us to be real, Harry Dalton. Now what did the doctor REALLY say?"
"He might have to re-break the arm to set it properly. Put a pin in it. He took some x-rays today, but he said he won't be able to tell anything for another day or so. I asked about the Florida trip, and he said he could give me the name of a very good surgeon there for me to see when I got there."
"I'm not worried about the trip to Florida. I'm worried about you," she said again.
"I promised the kids, and I'm not going to go back on that promise. They need to know that they can count on me-"
"If they don't know that by now, Harry, they never will. All right. We'll go to Florida. But I'm driving to Vancouver." She kissed his chin. "If you trust me to drive your truck, that is."
"I trust you with anything I own, sweetheart," he assured her. EVEN MY HEART, he said silently. But his eyes said it, and he could only hope that she got the message as his lips met hers. "We'd better find the kids and get going."

"Hey, Harry!" Terry said as the group entered the offices of the United States Geological Survey. He came forward on crutches. "You're looking a lot better than you were last night." He smiled at Rachel and the children. "Rachel."
"A good night's sleep and change of clothes works wonders, Terry," Harry said. Glancing at the conference room doors from which Nancy had just emerged, he asked, "What's up?"
"They want some information about whether or not Paul should have called the alert sooner," Stan told him, approaching with an all inclusive smile. He bent to say hello to Ruffie.
Nancy nodded somberly. "We've already told them that you and he disagreed about it, but since he was in charge-"
"Damn. I was afraid this was going to happen. How did this get started?"
"Someone on the council complained. Said that you had asked for an alert the first day, and that Paul had talked them out of it."
Harry took a deep breath. "All right. Rachel-"
"I'll tell them what I know, Harry," she said. "It wasn't really your call or Paul's. The council made the decision."
Harry turned to Stan. "Could you keep an eye on Lauren and Graham for a few minutes?"
"Sure. I'll show them around the place."
Harry knelt before the children. "Your mother and I have to go talk to my bosses. Go with Stan and Terry and they'll show you around, okay? Keep an eye on your sister, Graham."
"Okay, Harry," Graham said, taking Lauren's hand.
An hour and a half later, Rachel came from the conference room, feeling drained. While she personally agreed with Harry, that the town should have been put on alert the first night that he had arrived, it was important to Harry that Paul Dreyfus' reputation not be sullied by what had happened in Dante's Peak. They had asked Harry to stay behind for a moment after they concluded the interview, and now Rachel found herself pacing in front of the doors. "Hey, it's the coffee lady," Greg Jones said, smiling. "Harry in there?" he asked, nodding toward the closed conference room doors.
"Yes. Have you seen my children?"
"They're upstairs. Don't worry about them. They're having a blast. How's Harry doing?"
"You know Harry. Never complains."
"Yeah. I'll go tell Stan that you're looking for the kids."
"Thanks." The door opened and a bemused Harry came out. "What happened?"
"They offered me Paul's position," he told her. "I told them I didn't want it, that I'm planning on resigning and teaching -"
"What did they say?"
"They told me to take a month or so off and get some rest before I make any decisions. They said they could guarantee it would be a desk job- no on field work. That I would send crews out to investigate, not go myself."
"Could you do that? Send someone else out to do something you're used to doing yourself?"
"Don't worry, Rachel. I've no intention of taking the job. But I will take that month they offered- and spend it with you and the kids in Florida. As far away from this place as we can get. Where are they?"
"Right there," she told him, pointing to the stairway where Stan and the kids were coming down.
"You should see all the stuff they've got up there, Mom," Graham said. "They can see any volcano in the world up there using satellites." Harry listened to the boy's enthusiasm, recalled feeling that same way himself when he'd been that age.
"I'm starving," Harry announced. "Let's go find a place to get something eat." He looked at Stan. "Thank you."
"Oh, Rachel- one of the other evacuees have been trying to find you since news broke that you'd been rescued. Dr. Fox-"
"Jane?" She looked up at Harry. "I really do need to call her- Do you know where she is, Stan?"
"I think I have her number- " he patted a couple of pockets and before coming up with the paper. "Here you go."
Rachel took it. "Thank you."
"Oh, Harry. The memorial for Paul is tomorrow afternoon," Stan told him. "In the church down the road."
Where they'd held Marianne's memorial, Harry remembered. For a moment, he considered saying he wouldn't be there. But a glance at Rachel's face made him realize she knew what he was thinking, so he said, "What time?"
"One o'clock."
"We'll be here," Harry told his friend. After all, it was the least he owed Paul he supposed. Paul had given him his first job with the USGS, taken a chance on a young, untested vulcanologist. "Come on, kids."
Stan watched them go, smiling. He hadn't seen Harry that much at ease with a woman since Marianne. Maybe he'd finally found what he'd been looking for. He hoped so. He liked Harry. EVERYONE liked Harry.
To Be Continued...

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