Dante's Peak 2
Part 10

Graham and Lauren were delighted to see Lacey, and Lacey was just as happy to see them. "This is a beautiful place you have here, Rachel," she said, looking at the lake and surrounding area.
"Thank you. The kids will show you around. They've already had supper, and if Harry gets back before we do, his dinner is waiting in the oven -"
"I'll tell him."
Rachel hugged her children. "Are you certain you don't mind my going, kids?"
"We'll be fine with Lacey, Mom," Graham assured her.
"Yeah," Lauren agreed. "You go and enjoy yourself."
"All right. We shouldn't be too late," Rachel told Lacey.
Lacey looked at the kids. "What do you want to do?"

"Before we begin the meeting," Hank Jameson said, "I'd like to take a moment to welcome two of our community's newest members. Dr. Jane Fox, who's going to take over Dr. Bowles' practice - and Rachel Wando Dalton, former mayor of Dante's Peak."
Rachel gave Jane a glance that said she'd expected this, and stood up beside her friend as the others in attendance applauded warmly in welcome. She and Jane resumed their seats, as Hank told everyone, "Make sure you introduce yourselves to these two ladies after the meeting. And Sally," he said, turning to the city secretary, " See if you can't find something for Mrs. Dalton to get involved in -" He grinned. "As long as it's not running for mayor."
Rachel shook her head. "Don't worry about that, Hank," she said, smiling. Leaning toward Jane, she said, "I'll get you for this."
"Me? What did I do?"
"Later," Rachel promised as the meeting was called to order and she became immersed in listening to what was being said.

Harry drove through town, and seeing the lights were still on at the City Hall, he pulled the truck into a parking spot and went inside. "I'm still not sure that we even NEED an evacuation plan," one of the citizens was telling the council. "The only threat we've ever had was from the river- and the last time it flooded was what? Twenty years ago?" he asked his friends.
"There are other reasons that would necesitate evacuating the town," Hank said. "From floods, to forest fires- we had a pretty dry season last year, remember, and we were lucky that there weren't any major fires in the area-" He frowned. "I know it's not something any of us like to consider, but it's always better to be prepared. I think we should form a committee to draft an evacuation plan."
"So moved," one of the council members said.
"Second," another said.
"All in favor of forming a committee to draft an evacuation plan for Cuttersville, signify by raising your hand," Hank said, looking at the other council members. They all raised their hands. "Good. Is there anyone here willing to volunteer to be on the committee?" he asked. "I'll head it up," he offered.
Harry stood at the door, watching as Jane and Rachel whispered back and forth, Rachel shaking her head, Jane nodding. "If no one minds a new comer," Jane Fox said, rising to her feet, "I'll volunteer."
"Don't mind at all, Dr. Fox," Hank said. "Anyone else?" he asked, glancing at Rachel before his attention was drawn by the owner of the steakhouse. "Harve?"
"I'll do it."
"That's three. Rachel?" he asked, looking at her. "You could be a big help-"
"I don't-" Rachel began, only to have Jane shake her head and mutter something. "All right. Make it four."
"Anyone else?" Hank asked. "We'll keep it open for a week, then set a date for the committee's first meeting. Is there any other business?"
Once the meeting was adjourned, Rachel turned to Jane. "That was unfair, Jane," she accused, only to be distracted by someone introducing herself. As she turned, she saw Harry at the door and smiled. "Harry's here."
"So he is. I have to talk to Hank," Jane said quickly. "Excuse me."
Rachel and Harry were both besieged with townspeople introducing themselves, and it was several minutes before they could talk. "How long have you been here?"
"I came in when they were discussing whether or not to form that committee."
"Oh. I didn't want to-"
"So I noticed. What did Jane say that changed your mind?"
"I called her a chicken," Jane said, coming up behind them. "Hank says that the first meeting will probably be next Tuesday," she told Rachel.
"Which won't be a problem, since I don't have any meetings scheduled for that evening," Harry told them.
"Looks as though you don't have anymore excuses, Rachel," Jane said, smiling.
"Are we ready to go?" Harry asked.
Rachel drove back to the house with Harry, Jane following them. "Did you enjoy your evening?" he asked, reaching across to take her hand in his.
"It was all right, I suppose," Rachel said, but Harry could see the light that had started to glow in those eyes again. Rachel was the type of person who needed to be needed, whether she liked to admit it or not. "I think Hank Jameson likes Jane."
"You think so? What does Jane think?"
"She changes the subject everytime I bring it up," Rachel told him.
"I talked to Donna about the adoption today."
"There's been no response to the ads but she still has to give it another three months."
"I don't think he'll be back, even if he does see it, Harry," Rachel said. "If Brian were going to come back, he would have come when the news about Dantes' Peak broke."
Harry turned the car into the drive and brought it to a halt. Lacey stood up from the chair where she had been sitting on the porch. "Dr. Dalton. Rachel."
"Hello, Lacey," Harry greeted the dark haired girl as Jane's car stopped behind his.
"Are they asleep, Lacey?" Rachel asked.
"I hope so. The only way I could get them to go to bed was to promise them that I would send you both in when you got home."
Rachel started to open her purse, but Harry spoke. "You go on upstairs and check on the kids. I'll take care of it."
"All right. Thanks, Lacey."
"It was my pleasure, Rachel."
Harry gave the girl some money, and watched her go toward her mother's car before going inside to reassure Graham and Lauren that he was safely home.

"Is it going to get easier, Harry?" Rachel asked later as she lay beside him in their bed, her head on his chest. "It's been almost six weeks, and we still have trouble
being away from each other."
"I think things will work out. Don't worry. This was the first time that we were both away from the kids, remember? Give it some more time. I'd be willing to bet that by the time school starts, they will both be fine."
"Is it easier for you, now, during the day?"
"Sometimes. And then I suddenly flashback to that tunnel and the truck -" She felt him shudder and pulled him closer to her. "As soon as I can, I find a telephone and call home and everything's fine." He lifted his left arm. "I'll be glad when this damned thing is off so I can hold you the way I want to."
"It'll only be a few more days," she reminded him.
"And I'm counting every minute. Because as soon as I get home that day, I'm going to give you a hug like you won't believe."
"I'll look forward to it," Rachel said, smiling as she buried her fingers in the dark hair that covered his chest.
A hundred miles away, at the base of Dantes' Peak, Terry and Nancy were checking the readings before getting ready to pack up the equipment when a motorcycle engine broke the eerie silence of the ash covered landscape. They turned around to see the rider remove his helmet. "Hey. You're not supposed to be up here. It's a restricted area -" Terry pointed out. "Didn't you see the signs?"
"Yeah, well, I've never been too good at following directions," the man said, grinning. His smiled faded as he surveyed the area. "Not much left up here, is there?
Never know there had been a town at all if you didn't know it."
"You'd better go," Nancy began, intending to warn him that the state police would be by momentarily.
"I've no intention of staying. Never wanted to stay here at all. Thought it was a dead end little town with no future." His laugh was void of any mirth. "Didn't realize how right I was."
Terry's eyes narrowed. "You lived in Dantes' Peak?"
"Oh, not for years. Left a long time ago." His gaze lifted. "I grew up on the mountain - always knew it was going to go one day - didn't want to be here when it did."
"Look, Mr -"
"Wando. Brian Wando," the man said, his dark eyes moving from Terry to Nancy as the volcanologists exchanged surprised looks.

Harry had come back to his office after seeing Dr. Morrison and was flexing his left arm, trying to ignore the pain in it, hoping that it would be gone before he got home that evening when the telephone rang. "Dr. Dalton."
"Harry? It's Terry."
"Terry. I thought you were supposed to call when you got back-"
"We're packing up to leave right now."
"You're still up there? It's been two weeks, Terry. It doesn't take two weeks to survey a dormant volcano-"
"She's not fully dormant, Harry," Terry told him. Harry felt a chill down to his bones at the words. "But that's not what I'm calling about. Nancy and I had a visitor up here early this morning - one I think you need to know about."
Rachel sat on the porch, drinking her coffee, enjoying the view of the lake and mountain. She's sent the kids into town with Lacey to a carnival there. She put her head back, intending to take a quick nap, when she heard a motorcycle. The moment she saw the rider get off of the bike, Rachel knew who was behind that dark visor. She remained on the porch as the man looked around before turning toward her. "Hello, Rachel."
"Brian." He looked almost the same as he had the last time she'd seen him. Dark hair and eyes, faded blue jeans. At one time, he'd been the handsomest man she'd ever known. Now, she wondered how she could ever have thought such a thing. Thank God the kids weren't here, she thought.
"You look good." He shook his head as he stretched out a hand toward the lake. "And this place - reminds me of the old lodge up at Mirror Lake. Except that it's all gone. Nothing left except some ashes and debris - "
"You've been up there?"
"Just came from there," he told her, coming a step closer to the house. "I heard about what happened - must've been hell for you, losing everything you considered so important."
"I wasn't the only one who lost everything," Rachel reminded him. "Everyone did. Everyone who had stayed and tried to make the town work."
"According to what I hear, it was working - until the mountain decided it had other plans. It's like clean slate up there, fresh, new. One day, you won't even be able to tell there was ever a town there, or anything else."
"Why are you here, Brian?"
"I could say to find out about Mom - but I knew her well enough to know that she would never have left that mountain - not for anything. She always said she
wanted to be buried up there - guess she got her wish."
"She was a brave woman, Brian."
"Yeah. I wasn't going to come back at all - even hearing about the eruption, I decided it wasn't worth it. I saw the pictures of the rescue on TV- and I hear you married the man who got you down off the mountain."
"Yes. I did." She watched him warily, not trusting him. "You still haven't told me why you're here."
"I just happened to be passing through the area -"
She shook her head. "The truth, Brian."
"All right. I read the notice in a Los Angeles paper about your new husband wanting to adopt my kids -"
"They're not your kids anymore, Brian. They never were. You never wanted them, always resented the way they made you feel tied down - Harry loves them, wants to be a real father to them."
"They're mine, Rachel, and even though I know there's no chance for you and me, I'll be damned if I'm going to just stand back and let him take those kids, too."
"Harry didn't TAKE anything, Brian," Rachel told him angrily. "He's earned what he has. The love, the respect of Graham and Lauren. HE was there for them when they needed someone. He'll still be here next week, next month - for as long as they need him to be here. That's something no one could ever say about you, is it?"
Brian threw his helmet to the ground. "Dammit, Rachel! I want my kids!"

Graham was talking to some other kids that he'd met when he saw Harry's truck heading toward the road up the mountain. He frowned, catching a glimpse of his Dad's worried expression as the truck passed by the carnival. Something was wrong at the house. He turned and went in search of Lacey and Lauren.

Harry increased his speed again as he left Cuttersville, taking the turns faster than he probably should have. But Rachel hadn't answered the telephone when he'd tried to call her. She always let him know when she was going out - he was going to have to invest in a cell phone for her, he supposed. IF she was all right. He prayed to God that she was.
He saw the motorcycle at the same moment that he saw the dark haired man throw down his helmet and start toward the bottom of the step to the porch, and he brought the truck to a flying stop, scattering gravel and drawing Rachel's grateful glance as he got out of the truck. "What's going on here, Rachel?" he asked, crossing to climb the steps to stand at her side. He placed his left arm at her waist, feeling her trembling.
"Nothing's going on," Brian said. "Rachel and I were just having a little chat, weren't we?"
"I think you should leave now, Brian. And don't bother coming back."
"I'll be back to see the kids, Rachel. You can't stop me. Legally -"
"Legally, you don't have a leg to stand on, Brian," Harry told him. "You've ignored those kids for six years- and from what I hear, you weren't much of a father before that."
"You can't have my kids, DOCTOR Dalton," Brian said, his face reddened in rage. "You might have taken Rachel, but you can't get them. You'll see." He picked up his helmet and put it on, climbing onto his bike. He threw gravel against the two trucks as he turned the machine back toward town.
Harry pulled Rachel into his arms and held her. "Are you all right?" he asked,
She nodded. "But I could really use that hug you promised me," she said.
"My pleasure," he said, tightening his hold on her. "Oh, Rachel. Where are the kids?"
Her head came up. "They're in town with Lacey. At the carnival - Harry, if he sees them going through town-"
They were both down the steps and to his truck as quickly as possible, and Harry was turning the vehicle toward town.

Graham saw the motorcycle coming toward them, but his mind was still on what could have put the worried expression on his Dad's face, so he didn't really pay much attention. The rider passed him, Lauren, and Lacey, and Graham picked up his pace. He had a feeling something was VERY wrong. That feeling intesified when the motorcycle stopped not far past them, just as Harry's truck came around the corner.

"Harry, he's going to go back to them," Rachel said.
"Not if I can help it," Harry said, speeding up to reach the kids and Lacey before Brian could. He pulled the truck up between him and the kids, and Rachel opened her door. "Get into the truck, kids. You too, Lacey."
"What's wrong, Rachel?" Lacey asked as they got into the truck.
"We decided to come into town," Harry explained, his eyes still on Brian. "For dinner. We'll drop you at home, since we're going that way."
Graham followed Harry's gaze to the man on the motorcycle. When Lacey closed the door, the man revved the engine and turned to speed off toward town, and
Graham saw his mother sigh in relief. "Mom? What's going on?"
Harry reached over to take Rachel's hand. "Everything is fine, Graham," Harry told him. "Let's take Lacey home, shall we?"
To Be Continued...

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