Thank you so much for your encouraging words!

Humungous thanks to Alaidh for all her work on this chapter!

A/N: Lee, I forgot to thank you for your suggestion as to a future storyline. You definitely have me thinking!

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Chapter 29, Epilogue Part 3

"I bet the kids are excited about taking a holiday with their folks," Max remarked to Logan as the car wound around yet another bend on the way up to his uncle's cabin.

"Oh yeah," smiled Logan. "It was all they could talk about when Bling and I dropped the car off yesterday."

"Wow! You bought them a new car," murmured Max, not entirely joking.

"Well – an 'old' new car," Logan countered quickly. "They had to have something to drive to Canada in," he explained lightly as an excuse for his actions.

"I don't remember you offering to buy me a car when I was going to Canada," she complained mildly.

"Well, that was a rush job. You just didn't give me enough time," he told her smoothly, unconsciously taking a quick look at her face. And I didn't want you to go.

"I didn't wanna go, anyway..." Max told him, idly stretching her arms out in front of her. "Too cold."

She felt surprisingly relaxed and happy as they travelled the familiar road: no Sibelius, no moody Zack, no seriously ill Logan. Yep, life was good. Of course, if she'd let her fears run away with her, it might've been her leaving with the Hackett's as well.

Max, you're turning into a scaredy cat.

She still hadn't totally resolved the issue in her mind about her presence putting Logan in danger, but, Hey, she'd decided, there's a heap of questions I don't have answers to.

Logan had smiled a little at her words, then said seriously, "I hope Emma'll be happy there – or wherever she ends up going."

"You couldn't talk her into staying then?"

"Nope. She's taken her brother's death hard...wouldn't even speak to Martin."

"Was he heartbroken?" she asked cynically.

"I don't think I'd quite describe him as heartbroken - repentant, maybe..." suggested Logan, instead, thinking back to his cousin's visit the day before.

Martin had been unusually subdued when Bling had shown him into where Logan was seated on the couch, laptop on his knee.

"So, how'd it go?" Logan asked him, already guessing the answer as he closed his laptop.

"She wouldn't see me," Martin replied, looking particularly downcast as he stood in front of Logan.

"She doesn't blame you for what happened, Martin," Logan told him mildly.

Martin nodded absently, thrusting his hands into his coat pocket as he began to pace back and forth.

"What about you, Logan? What do you think?" Martin suddenly asked abruptly.

Logan looked up at him, quite puzzled by this outburst. "Whaddyou care what I think?"

Martin stopped pacing and looked down at his cousin for a moment. "I dunno," he mumbled self-consciously, "I've always cared what you think."

This was news to Logan. "Am I missing something here?" he queried ironically.

Martin reddened.

Speaking as if his throat was suddenly constricted, Martin mumbled, "You know, I was always kind of jealous of you. You were the one all the girls wanted to hang out with."

Logan raised an eyebrow. "This is all news to me."

Martin shrugged. "Then I had Dad on my back about why wasn't I like you and Bennett."

"Now I know I'm missing something," Logan said sarcastically.

"You know how Dad raves. You and Bennett had both graduated and I..."

"Ahh, now I understand. It was the 'even Logan has graduated' comment," he broke in with wry amusement.

Martin had the grace to blush. "Something like that," he admitted with a sheepish grin.

"It does sound more like the Jonas I know."

Logan studied his cousin for a moment as Martin stared at the ground, apparently lost in his own thoughts. Logan was surprised to note that he seemed to have aged the past week, but the thought came to him that perhaps it was more a mental rather than a physical change.

"I'm thinking of leaving Seattle, myself," Martin said in the same abrupt manner as before.

"Why?" asked Logan, a little surprised, although he could think of any number of reasons why his cousin would want to run away, as it were.

"You have to ask me, why?" Martin reiterated bitterly. "Try for starters I stole Cale funds, then I got you involved in my mess and almost got you killed! Not to mention my dealings with Emma and my stupidity in going to that damned Russian casino in the first place. I must have been out of my mind!" he cried out. His pacing led him to the windows and he now stared out bitterly at the Seattle skyline.

"Firstly, you didn't make me do anything, and frankly, seeing those two kids with their folks again is worth anything I went through," Logan told him calmly, half glancing behind to the windows where he assumed Martin was standing.

Martin's voice came back to him, full of self-contempt. "No, Max was right. I've been a selfish jerk throughout this whole mess."

Logan smiled a little at that. "Max does have a way with words."

When Martin didn't reply after a few moments, Logan put his laptop down and swung himself back into his chair. When he looked up he found Martin had turned from the windows and was watching him. Logan returned his gaze with a contemplative one of his own as he released his brakes and positioned himself so that he and Martin were face to face.

"Let's say Max is even half right. So what? You screwed up a little. We've all been there...done that."

Martin went to open his mouth, but Logan added with a wry grin, "Besides, it'd be a pity if you left now just when you're starting to show a little sense."

Martin looked doubtful. "You really think I should stay?"

"Well, I know Aunt Margo would be upset if you left, and I wouldn't be able to test out a theory I have."

Martin looked at him warily.

"Well, I figure I can still beat you at hoops, even in this thing," Logan told him with the hint of battle in his eyes as his hands suggestively tapped both wheels of his chair.

Martin smiled his first genuine smile in weeks. "You're on," he grinned. He held Logan's gaze for a moment as if he were seeing his cousin in a new light then said a little awkwardly, "I gotta go."

Logan followed him to the door, but they were only halfway there when Martin stopped and turned around, forcing Logan to stop abruptly as well.

Martin looked particularly uneasy, as he licked his dry lips as if he was steeling himself for something unpleasant.

"Logan, you're probably not gonna want to hear this," he warned his cousin bravely, "but you've been really good to me and I just think I should say this to you before I go."

He stopped for breath, looking at Logan apprehensively, but seeing only a mildly surprised expression on his cousin's face, he grabbed hold of his rapidly fading bravado and got out quickly, "You know Logan, you're crazy if you think the chair changes anything to anyone. Leastways not to anyone important," he added with meaning. Then, a little amazed at his daring, he headed to the door before his cousin had a chance to reply, leaving Logan to stare after him thoughtfully.

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"So, we're headin' up to your uncle's cabin again."

Max had murmured the words a little absently as they'd headed out of Seattle. She then very briefly contemplated going down the 'remember when' path with Logan, but when her first 'remember when' principally involved the intense pressure of his lips and the way his hands had caressed the back of her neck and head as she'd quite insanely pressed her lips to his, she swiftly changed tack mid-thought and managed to clamp her mouth shut with lightning speed.

"Weather looks sweet," she remarked instead, cringing at how lame it sounded.

As they drove up the gravel driveway to the cabin, she felt her temperature rise once more as the incident came rushing back to her. Trying not to echo the weirdness of that day, Max barely gave Logan time to stop before she had her door open. Leaving him while he set up his chair, she strode over to the Hackett's car that had pulled in almost immediately after them and headed to the trunk to start unpacking their luggage.

Genevieve and Monique were the first to scramble out.

"Wow, look at the lake!" Genevieve enthused as she looked about with glowing eyes. "Logan, this is so cool!" she called across to him as he transferred.

"Can I swim, Mommy?" Monique asked at once, her eyes saucer-like as she looked at the wide expanse of water.

"It would be too cold this time of year," her mother told them both firmly.

"Yep, freezing," Logan agreed, catching the tail end of their conversation as he wheeled over to where they stood near the front steps. "It's a beautiful spot, Logan," Sharon Hackett remarked as she looked around admiringly.

"Plenty of fish in the lake," Logan smiled across to Brad, who was now following Max from the car with a suitcase in either hand.

"How can we thank you for all this," the girls' father said quietly. "A car...a holiday...job arrangements in Canada..."

Max could see Logan was clearly embarrassed by the thanks, but he answered calmly enough as he took the key out of his jacket pocket. "Well, these are tough times. Everyone can do with a little help."

"Logan. Take me to the water," Monique demanded imperiously. She grabbed the hand that was resting on his leg and none-too-subtly placed it on his wheel so that he'd start moving. "C'mon, Lowwwwwgan," she harassed him.

"Monique, say please," Genevieve reminded her yet again, while her dark-haired mother looked distinctly embarrassed by the wayward behaviour of her three year old.

"Its fine," Logan assured her unperturbed before turning to Max. "If you'll take Brad and Sharon inside and show them around, I'll take the girls down to the lake. If that's okay with you," he added to Sharon Hackett.

"You don't have to do that," she protested at once, a little unsure as to whether he was merely being polite.

"Nope, I want to," he told her as he swung around to face the lake.

Sharon Hackett smiled her agreement, and after a quick warning to her children to do what they were told, she followed her husband and Max up the steps.

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Logan followed the girls along the gravel driveway down to the water's edge. It felt a little strange being down by the lake for the first time since the shooting. The huge pine trees that crowded at the back of the cabin and towered above the banks of the lake seemed suddenly much bigger from his lower perspective, and for a brief moment he saw in his mind a young, gangly kid with glasses running down this same path.

Looking ahead to his charges, he could see Genevieve only a few feet in front of him, but Monique was, not unusually, racing ahead.

"Hey, slow down," he called to her.

"I'll get her, Logan," Genevieve called over her shoulder, happy to have an excuse to run forward.

Logan took his eyes off the girls for a moment and looked at the wide expanse of water in front of him. He was surprised to find that he really had forgotten how beautiful the lake was. A dense forest of mostly evergreens lined the lake on three sides, and behind that, heavily wooded mountains, draped with wisps of clouds, formed a perfect backdrop. He was glad it was too cold for swimming - the water was shallow near the edges, but it was dangerously deep out in the middle.

Genevieve looked at the water longingly, Monique's small hand clasped in her own.

"Can we wade in a little, Logan?" she asked hopefully. "It's quite shallow here."

Logan scratched the back of his head for a moment. "You'll have to promise not to go deep," he finally agreed, thinking more about the water's depth rather than how cold it would be. After all, he'd always waded along the shore of the lake as a child no matter what the season.

Both girls quickly whipped off their shoes and socks and Genevieve helped Monique roll up her jeans as she had her own.

Once ready, Monique looked at Logan. "Logan come too," she announced bossily, tugging at his hand. Quickly using his other hand to grab onto his wheel as she yanked, he went to say an instinctive 'no', but when he saw the look on both their faces he reconsidered and said thoughtfully, "I guess I could do that -as long as we go around there a little ways." The shallow edge of the lake at this point was covered with fine pebbles and shale and he felt reasonably sure his wheels would get a good purchase on it. "Hey," he called out to Genevieve, feeling uncharacteristically goofy, "if I get bogged down you'll hafta pull me out."

The child looked back to him. His wheels were already covered by an inch of water.

She smiled a sudden smile that was full of mischief and discernment well beyond her years. "Not me – I'll get Max to do it." Her smile widened when she saw by his discomfited expression how quickly he'd taken the bait.

"Maybe I should tell her to throw you in the deepest part," he retorted with a glint in his eyes as soon as he realised by her blatant look of glee that he'd been had.

She laughed out loud at that, then quickly grabbed at Monique as her sister nearly overbalanced on one of the rocks she'd decided to stand on.

Logan cautiously made his way over to them. The water was lapping at the girls' ankles by now but Monique still showed an inclination to go deeper.

Logan looked about and found a nice flat stone close by. Pushing up his sleeve, he fished it out and said to Monique as a diversionary tactic, "Hey, how far d'you think you can throw this?"

Monique took the pebble with a serious face, and frowned in great concentration as she swung her arm as wide as she could.

"Great," Logan encouraged her, after he and Genevieve had both righted themselves after ducking as the rock whizzed over their heads. "We just need t'work on your aim a little."

Before long, they were all having pebble-throwing competitions, ignoring their increasingly wet jeans as the girls splashed and scrambled to find the next rock.

Logan had had to wheel out a little further than he'd anticipated a few times to get Monique. He now glanced down wryly at his wet shoes, idly wondering if his socks were soggy as well and thankful he couldn't feel it if they were.

Gradually relaxing as he realised Monique was actually a little nervous of going too deep, he was content to sit back a bit and watch the girls play. Genevieve's fair head was bent over that of her sister's slightly darker one as they examined some sort of dead, water bug that Monique had found. With great excitement she'd held it up in her hand crying out, "Genewieve. Look! A scwanimal!"

It was hard to believe, as he watched the two girls playing with such innocence and careless joy, that they had been through such a difficult time only a few days ago.

Monique suddenly looked up at that moment, and he saw the child's eyes searching frantically for the merest instance, until they lighted on him, and instead of rising panic a huge smile lit up her face.

If it hadn't been for Max...

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"I've only been here once," Max, with one of their suitcases in hand, told Sharon Hackett as they walked in the front door, "but as I recall, everything you'll need is pretty well here."

"You and Logan come here?" Sharon asked conversationally as she held the door open for her husband as he struggled in with the other two heavy suitcases.

"No...yes," Max replied a little awkwardly. "It was just an overnight stay," she added quickly. Then seeing Sharon's mildly enquiring look she realized what that sounded like and she hastened to explain abruptly, "Not with Logan...with another friend." Damn, that doesn't sound much better, she thought as she closed the door Brad had left open when he'd gone out again.

The girls' mom didn't seem to notice anything strange in Max's manner as she wandered around the cabin checking the kitchen facilities and then onto the bedrooms to work out where they'd all sleep.

"This is great. You're right – everything seems to be here," Sharon marvelled to her as she came back out to the living room.

"Cool," Max replied cautiously, wondering if that would provoke another question, but Sharon just smiled widely at her and suggested they make coffee.

"That reminds me, Logan had a box of food an' stuff for you guys. He wasn't too sure what would be up here. I'll go get it."

Max glanced around as she got outside. She could see Logan and the girls down by the lake and Brad Hackett at his car, his light brown head under the hood.

He looked up when he heard Max approach. "I like tinkering," he grinned contentedly when he saw her enquiring look. "I like to know how things work."

I'd sure like to know how things work, too, Max thought uneasily as she glanced towards Logan and the girls again, before heading back inside with the large box that Logan had asked Bling to put in the car. Well, no one could accuse Logan of being ungenerous, she thought warmly as she put it down on the kitchen table.

Sometime later, coffee having been consumed and the box unpacked, Sharon stood up and remarked that she'd better get their clothes organized.

"You want me to take one of those?" Max asked, indicating the two suitcases Brad had left near the door before he'd gone out again.

"They're heavy," was the protest.

"Thanks for the heads-up," grinned Max as she effortlessly picked up the closest one. "Which way?"

Sharon showed her through to the main bedroom, where Max dumped the suitcase on an antique double bed covered with an elaborate, but well-used, patchwork quilt.

Max looked about her with a vague restlessness. Something seemed to be tugging at her, deep down inside. Feeling almost irresistibly drawn, she covered the distance to the room's only window and looked out.

Three figures were slowly making their way towards the cabin from the lake. Max could clearly see Monique on Logan's knee and Genevieve walking along beside them, two pairs of shoes in her hand.

A figure came and stood beside Max and together they silently watched and waited.

"I don't know how you do it," Max murmured at last.

Sharon Hackett smiled a little, her eyes intent on the scene before her.

"I mean, after all that happened. I'm amazed you can bear to let them outta your sight," wondered Max, perhaps not entirely objectively.

"When we first had them back, I felt like that," Sharon admitted quietly, her green eyes blurred by hazy recollections of things too painful to remember.

"What changed?" Max asked softly, but there was a subtle edge to her tone that suggested it was no idle question.

"I guess I don't choose to let fear rule my life," Sharon told her with quiet determination, meeting the intense stare of those rich, dark eyes.

A flicker of perception flared briefly in Max's eyes, but still very real to her was the self-doubt that had attacked her as she'd struggled to save the child. What if...Her world seemed to be full of way too many 'what ifs.'

Sharon pushed a stray strand of short dark hair back from her face and looked at Max. Her green eyes gently probed the younger girl's, and for a moment a look of mutual understanding passed between them. "This is just my theory," she told Max with a tight self-conscious grin, but her tone was thoughtful and her words held a sincerity that betokened experience, "but I think a healthy, unselfish love is one that...somehow lets go rather than holds on. Course, it isn't always easy..."

A pregnant silence followed her words as both women gazed out the window, each lost deep in their own myriad of thoughts and fears and endless 'what ifs'.

Genevieve, meanwhile, had put the shoes down and was attempting to climb a tree whose branches hung invitingly close to the ground. Max could see Logan point out with an outstretched hand the next likely branch for her to use; all the while Monique was tugging at his jacket trying to gain his attention. Finally, as if satisfied that Genevieve was momentarily safe, he put his head down to hear what it was Monique was trying to whisper in his ear.

Max's mind drifted for the moment. For the first time in days she felt calm...peaceful.

"And I've learned it's better not to look when they climb trees," Sharon's amused voice broke in on her thoughts, "which, understandably, Logan obviously hasn't."

Genevieve was now climbing higher and higher, and Logan was caught trying to watch Monique, who'd climbed down from his knee, and call out advice to Genevieve at the same time.

Max couldn't help smiling widely at seeing the usually super-cool, 'save the world' Logan so out of his depth.

"I'd better go lend him a hand," she told Sharon with a grin.

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"Hey."

Logan, with Monique once more on his knee, had seen her approach and now looked up at her with a serious expression.

"Max to the rescue...again," he remarked wryly.

Max looked at him, for the moment a little unsure of her reception, but when he then smiled widely at her and said, "You wanna take this wriggling worm off me," she answered his smile with one of her own that flashed even, white teeth.

"You don't wanna keep it and use it as bait?" Max suggested as she picked Monique up then turned her upside down and let her hang from her ankles.

"Uh uh. Not juicy enough."

"What's bait?" Monique asked, giggling a little from her upside down position.

"It's what you use ta catch fish," Genevieve called from the bough she was on. "Out the way – I'm gonna jump!"

"Don't you think you're a bit high for that?" Logan suggested diplomatically.

"You mean to tell me you never jumped outta that tree from there?" Max murmured with eyebrows raised as she swung Monique upright in her arms again.

"I seem to recall falling outta that tree from about there," Logan told her, wincing a little as Genevieve landed in a tumbled heap at the bottom of the tree.

"Cooool! This place is the best, Logan!" she called to him.

"You do anything exciting like break an arm or anything?" Max asked Logan with amusement.

"Nothing so romantic," Logan admitted. "I'd only climbed up there because I'd been goaded by Bennett or someone, and I was going real well - 'til I happened t'look down," he added with a quick, humorous grimace at the memory.

"Uh oh," commented Max sympathetically, walking by Logan's side as they headed back. "What then?"

"I froze," Logan admitted in a matter-of-fact tone, briefly biting down on his bottom lip as he thought back. "And my dad - I can still see him - was sooo furious. I think I actually made him yell at me," he remembered pensively.

Genevieve looked a little puzzled. "Why didn't he see you were scared and just go up an' help you?"

"Let's just say that wasn't my dad's way of doing things," he told her lightly.

"He would have been a hit as a drill sergeant at you-know-where," Max told him sardonically.

"Anyway, we've got a surprise for you girls up at the car," Logan said, swiftly changing the subject. Max looked at him closely. This was news to her.

"Goody, goody, goody," Monique chanted, having understood that part of the conversation.

Max was secretly pleased to see that Brad had gone back inside by the time they'd returned to the cabin, as this would probably be their last few moments with the girls.

Logan headed straight to his car and put down the tailgate. The others waited while he pulled onto his lap a very large, bulky, rectangular- shaped item covered in brown paper.

"This is for you, Monique," he told the child, who'd been looking at the package with large, hopeful eyes.

Monique scrambled down from Max's arms with alacrity, only to stand a little uncertainly in front of Logan.

"Go on," he encouraged her.

Needing no further encouragement, she ripped at the paper, while Logan whispered something into Genevieve's ear.

Once Monique saw the wheels, her small body was almost shaking with excitement. "A carriage for my baby," she finally managed to splutter.

"And here's your baby," Genevieve added, placing her doll in her hands.

"You found my baby!"

"Well, Matt Sung found your baby, actually," Logan explained fairly.

Max grinned widely as she watched Monique – uncannily, she felt for a brief moment that she'd had a glimpse into what Christmas giving was all about. Nice, she thought as her eyes hovered on Monique. To her surprise, she looked across at Logan and found his amused eyes trained not on Monique, but on herself.

By this time, the child's eyes had opened impossibly wide. "Here, let me help you set your carriage up," she told her, helping her take it off Logan's knee.

"It's got a hood and wheels and blankets and pillow and everything," Monique told Max breathlessly as she ever so carefully laid her baby inside and tucked it in. "I take my baby for a walk?"

"In a minute," Logan told her. "First Genevieve hasta get her present."

Logan put a hand into his jacket pocket and pulled out a small box prettily wrapped in pale pink with a dark burgundy ribbon.

"I know it's not a carriage..." he began, but one look at her face as she opened it up was enough to tell him he needn't have bothered to apologise.

"Logan, Max...it's soo beautiful," Genevieve whispered, lifting the gold charm bracelet off its burgundy velvet backing. "I've never, ever, ever, had anything like this before!"

Logan's grin broadened at her obvious delight. "Well, you deserved a reward for being so brave," he told her seriously.

"Wow, this thing must be serious if he's giving you gold bracelets," Max teased Genevieve, making the child blush bright red. "I don't have one of those," she added irrepressibly with a sideways glance at Logan.

"Well, I don't give 'em out to just anyone," he protested mildly, but before he had a chance to say more, to his surprise, Genevieve threw her arms around his neck. She clung to him tightly for a moment, then, even to her own surprise, proceeded to sob her heart out on his shoulder.

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"So, Eyes Only's really just a big softy," Max murmured as the car wound its way back down the mountain.

Logan looked a little uncomfortable at her comment.

"I think that was really nice what you did back there," she added with quiet sincerity.

Logan looked across at her. The warmth in her words seemed to make her brown eyes somehow almost seem to glow.

Goodbyes had been said and thankyous had been received with embarrassment but given with heartfelt sincerity.

"Well, don't thank me too much yet...you still haven't got to Canada," Logan smiled from the car. "I'm hoping you'll like Fredericton. I've heard it's a great place to bring up kids – two universities, a community college, good schools..."

"Logan, I'm sure the girls will be really happy there," Sharon had said at once.

"And Genevieve," he added softly, "If anyone kicks you at school just give me a call and I'll get Max to pay them a visit," he told her conspiratorially.

The child smiled a little sadly, and they drove off leaving Genevieve, her eyes red-rimmed in a pale face, and Monique waving madly to them until the Aztek had turned the corner and was out of sight.

"Still, said Max, returning to her previous comment, "the presents were a nice touch."

"Actually, I was just trying to deter Monique from a life of crime," Logan excused himself. "This way she won't feel compelled to steal wheelchairs whenever she needs a carriage for her doll."

"That's a good thing," agreed Max. "Wheelchair users everywhere will be sleeping that little bit easier thanks to you," she told him flippantly.

Logan gave her a sidelong glance at that comment which she met with an innocent grin.

"You know, there's one thing we never sorted out through all a this." Max paused expectantly, but when Logan didn't reply she said with a touch of exasperation, "The money! We never did find out what happened to the four million."

Logan merely raised one disinterested eyebrow.

"Aren't you even the least bit curious as to what happened to it?" she asked him with a hint of incredulity.

"Nope."

"You're kidding...right?"

"It's blood money, Max."

"Yeah, but don't you wonder...?"

"Not in the least," Logan cut her off bluntly.

They were nearly out of the mountains by now, and his phone suddenly started ringing.

"Hey, Logan. It's me, Charlie," the disembodied voice informed them brightly.

"Charlie. You back in Seattle?" Logan asked a little reluctantly.

"Yep. I said good bye to Emma yesterday."

"Great," Logan told her somewhat inappropriately with false enthusiasm. He was very aware of Max sitting in the passenger seat beside him and listening to every word.

"So, Logan. About your promise..." Charlie sounded very determined.

"Right...my promise. Um...I'm in the car right now. How about I call you tonight and we'll organise a time."

"Sure," the voice replied, then added a little warningly, "I am holding you to this," and was gone.

"Yep, just a big softy," Max reiterated dryly, but when Logan looked across at her, she met his gaze blandly.

Max couldn't help but think of Sharon Hackett's words as the car cruised steadily onwards towards the mess that was Seattle, and then her thoughts went to Charlie, waiting in her apartment with her sketchpad and pencil... and maybe candles...and wine...

So, Sharon says you gotta be brave enough to let go...

Max thought carefully.

"So, when are ya thinking of seeing Charlie?" she asked Logan, awaiting his answer with a bright, but very determined air.

She'd come to her decision – Lettin' go maybe al' good some of the time...but I don't plan on bein' a dope.

Max's full lips curled a little as she stole a glance at the familiar, intense, scruffy profile, noting that his green eyes behind the small, steel-framed glasses were now looking distinctly wary.

No Max, sometimes a girl's just gotta protect her investment.

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The huge explosion rose high into the air like a mushroom cloud.

The owner of Old Seattle shook his head despondently. At least while the town had remained intact, there'd always been the hope that someday the horse drawn coaches would once again carry tourists around the town's dusty, and badly rutted, main street.

The dream was gone now. Local authorities had decreed that the mine was too dangerous in its present state. The explosion that had been necessary to seal the now dangerous mine had showered debris onto the nearby buildings as well.

Only a few, solitary bats remained in the pitch-dark tunnels now – their one tiny entrance unseen by those sent to make sure the mine remained impenetrable.

They hung peacefully upside down in their cavern, contented and secure as they lived alone in their stygian darkness and seclusion – the silent, unknowing guardians of an innocuous plain, canvas bag that now lay buried beneath the rocks and dirt and beams somewhere beneath them.

THE END

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Well, finished at last! Thankyou all so much for following this story. I hope you had as much fun reading this as I have had in writing it.

I've really appreciated all the positive reviews you've given me throughout, and I'd like to especially thank my 'regulars' who have been such an encouragement to me by reviewing each chapter. Your words have been a great inspiration!

Thanks so much to Kyre who willingly came to the rescue and betaed several chapters for me when Alaidh was unavailable!

Finally – huge, huge, huge thanks to Alaidh, who has put so much work into this story not just grammatically but also in checking matters of canon and has never complained once about the length of my chapters! THANKYOU!