The Office, August 3, 2010

The view from the cliff overlooking the Office was spectacular, but Johnny couldn't find it in himself to really enjoy it. The sun was three-quarters of the way to sunset, casting just the tiniest hint of pink on the horizon; a fitting scene, considering his time at Surfer's Paradise was just about up. 'I'm gonna miss this place…'

"I thought we might find you here."

Johnny's eyes went wide as he turned to find his mother and Melanie before they sat down on the old log next to him. "M-Mom? How did you find..?"

Bethany chuckled. "You really think you and your friends are the only ones who know about the Office, Jonathan?" she asked. "Your father and I always used to come here when we were younger." She smiled at him. "I can still remember the two of you always watching the sunset, every time we all went to the beach."

Johnny smiled back. "Me, too," he replied, before he sighed. "Look, I'm sorry I didn't listen to either of you. You were right."

Melanie hugged her big brother. "It wasn't your fault, Jon-Jon!" she insisted. "That mean old witch cast a spell on you!"

'Oh, Mel, if only it were that simple.' "That might have only been part of it, Mel. I think that spell just…brought a few things to the surface," Johnny said. "It made me say some things that…I probably wouldn't have."

Bethany arched an eyebrow. "To that Emma girl, for example?"

Johnny groaned. "Mostly her, yeah." He drooped. "Guess I was lucky I got out of there before anyone saw, huh?" he asked. "Hopefully, I can get back to the beach house, grab my stuff, and hand in my resignation before anyone notices."

Melanie blinked. "Why?"

Johnny's laugh was dry. "Mel, I practically hand-delivered all my friends to a half-crazed sorceress! They'll probably tar-and-feather me on sight!"

"Aren't you being a bit hasty, Jonathan?" Bethany asked. "You also saw through her tricks and helped stop her."

"Maybe, Mom," Johnny said, "but I think asking the guys to forgive all that is a bit much."

Bethany smiled gently. "Everyone makes mistakes, Jonathan," she chided. "You did today, yes, but so do I, and your friends, and even your father. What's important is that you learn from them…or you end up like that Mina girl."

"Yeah," Johnny agreed. "But…you wanna know something funny? Even after everything, I just…I don't hate her. I mean, yeah, I'm ticked at what she tried to pull, and I sure wouldn't trust her, but after hearing about her, I just feel…sad."

Bethany nodded. "Like it's such a waste," she added. "I saw it in her face too, Jonathan; under all that anger, there was a lost little girl." She sighed. "Maybe someday she'll learn from her mistakes."

"Maybe," Johnny agreed. "But right now, I think it's time I learned from mine."

As Johnny stood up, Melanie looked sad. "Don't go, Jon-Jon!"

Johnny smiled at her. "Don't worry, Mel; I'll be back!" he promised. "Just wait for me at the hotel, okay? I gotta take care of a few things."

"Oh?" Bethany asked. "What sort of things?"

Johnny's smile was a bit strained. "It's like you said, Mom. I made these mistakes, so now I have to go correct them." With that, he hurried off, while his mother and sister began to make their way back.


Surfer's Paradise

"Max tells me that there was an incident, today."

After he'd been called up to Mr. Ridgemount's penthouse office, Ben knew he shouldn't expect a warm reception. "Yes, sir, there was."

Sitting at his desk across from Ben, James folded his arms. "Max gave me a reader's-digest version of what went on," he said, "but I'd like to hear your take on it."

Ben took a deep breath. "Well, sir, I once told you that Gwen, Grandpa and I faced down a whole bunch of baddies, years ago," he began. "Today, another one – Charmcaster – came out of the woodwork."

James nodded. "I'm assuming you handled it."

"It got a bit dicey near the end, but yeah."

James arched an eyebrow. "No damage to my hotel, I trust?"

Ben gulped. "Well, she opened up a potentially unstable wormhole on the second floor, but Gwen plugged it up after we took Charmcaster down," he answered. "Gwen says it's sealed tight, and we have several Plumber teams on-site to monitor it, just in case."

"Good," James said. "No other complications?"

Ben thought of Johnny's near-brainwashing, but figured he should keep that under wraps. "No, sir." He managed a sheepish smile. "So…are we good?"

James sighed. "I can't say I'm thrilled that another one of your Tangoes showed up on my doorstep, Benjamin," he said, "but considering you had no choice but to neutralize her, and that you did so without damaging my property, I suppose we're in the black." His tone turned warning. "But for the foreseeable future, I'd prefer if you refrained from using your watch on hotel property. Clear?"

With another gulp, Ben nodded. "Crystal."

"Good." James turned to his paperwork. "Dismissed."

Ben breathed an inward sigh of relief. 'And the truce is maintained.' "Yes, sir." With that, he turned and headed out.

Lo was waiting for him at the elevator. "How'd it go?"

"Okay, as far as I can tell," Ben said, tapping the down button. "He's basically cool – or as cool as can be expected – about what went down, but he asked me not to go hero on hotel property from now on."

Lo sighed. "I guess that's good, under the circumstances," she said. "And how'd he take me getting fired?"

"Actually, he didn't mention it," Ben answered. "I don't think Johnny's mentioned it to Bummer…and I sure wasn't gonna bring it up."

Lo smiled. "Thank you," she cooed. "Although it's only inevitable; after Daddy hears about it, he'll either disinherit me, or ship me to military school."

Ben managed a thin smile. "I'm sure he wouldn't go that far," he said, "but, just in case, I could always visit you using Jetray."

Lo sighed. "I guess it's my own fault," she muttered. "And yes, you were right about trying to fix up Emma and Johnny, okay?"

Ben chuckled. "Well, considering you were right about Charmcaster, I'm willing to call it a tie."

Lo smiled. "Good answer," she said. "And I saw you got some new guys in your lineup. One of 'em looks pretty cool."

Ben nodded. "Yeah, but Diamondhead is from back when I was ten," he agreed. "Still, Rath is pretty cool…"

Lo laughed. "Ben, I was talking about the diamond guy!"

Ben blinked. "Diamondhead? Huh?"

"Uh, hello?" Lo giggled. "Diamonds are a girl's best friend, baby!"

Ben's eyes went wide. "I…never even thought about that…"

Lo nodded. "Besides a killer outfit, there are two things that every girl needs for a party: awesome bling and a hot guy on her arm," she said. "And your pal Diamondhead is both at the same time!" Her smile turned sly. "You know, I did hear about a party coming up…"

"No, Lo. You're not taking Diamondhead to a party. I'm putting my foot down on that."

Lo pouted. "It was worth a shot, I guess," she replied. "Well, I'd better go clean out my locker."

Ben's expression saddened. "You want me to go talk to Johnny?"

"I don't think it'd help, Ben. Even if Johnny recants, there's still Kelly to deal with," Lo said. "I just have to face the music."

Ben smiled for her sake. "Go get 'em, trooper," he said. "See you at the Office?"

Lo's smile was a bit thin. "If I'm still alive!" By then the elevator had reached the main floor. As the doors opened, Lo gave Ben a quick kiss, and headed off, while Ben made his way to the staff house.


"Is it weird that I might actually miss this place?"

At Lo's question, Emma turned towards her co-worker – former co-worker, she supposed – as they both opened their lockers for the last time. "It might be if I didn't feel the same."

Lo started to tear up as she met Emma's gaze. "Okay, even though how I started working here totally sucked, it was so worth it, meeting all of you guys!" she sniffed. "I just want you to know that, wherever Daddy ships me to when he hears about this, I'll never forget you, or Fin, or Broseph, or Reef, or Ben, or Kevin, or even Gwen!"

Now Emma was misty-eyed. "We'll never forget you either, Lo!" With that, she hugged her friend. "I promise we'll keep in touch – I'll even give you my e-mail so you can contact me once you're set up in…wherever!"

Lo sniffled. "Thanks, Emma!" she replied. "I think that, even if my cheer-squadmates still counted as friends, you and Fin would be my BFFs, hands down..!"

"What's all the crying about?"

Johnny's voice shook Emma out of her commiserations. "We're just cleaning out our lockers, Johnny."

From the doorway where he leaned, Johnny arched an eyebrow. "Why?"

Lo glared at him. "Uh, because somebody got us fired!"

Emma flinched. "Lo…"

Johnny interrupted her. "Yeah, about that," he said. "Follow me."

Emma blinked. "Why?"

"You want your jobs back, don't you?"

At that, both Emma and Lo's eyebrows shot up to their hairlines. "Um…okay," Emma said warily, before she and Lo followed Johnny out of the locker room.

Johnny led them to the DR, all the way into the back kitchen, where Kelly sat, casually munching on the last of a basket of muffins. At the sight of Emma and Lo, she scowled. "What are you two doing here?"

Johnny folded his arms. "Last I checked, they work here, Kelly."

Kelly smirked. "Not after the complaint I got from your girlfriend…"


Kelly's smirk gained a tremor. "What? You broke up?" she cried. "Why? You were so cute together!"

"Call it "irreconcilable differences,"" Johnny said dryly, "such as it being awfully suspicious that she goaded Emma into tossing a pie the very moment I walked in. Now how would she know to do that?"

Kelly shrugged. "How would I know?" she asked. A nasty smile crossed her face, as she held up a customer review sheet. "Well, whatever, loser! Her complaint's still here! All I have to do is hand it to Bummer, and those two are history!"

Lo sighed. "So much for that."

Emma nodded. "Thanks for trying, Johnny…"

Johnny just held us his hand to quiet her. "June 5, 2009."

Kelly almost fell off her chair as she choked on her muffin, coughing rapidly to clear her throat. "I…I don't know what you're talking about!"

"Oh? Then that wasn't you, backstage?"

Emma was lost. "Lo?" she asked. "What's he talking about? What happened in June, last year?"

Lo shrugged. "Beats me. All I can remember is that the hotel was host to a big music festival on the fifth, but that's it."

Johnny nodded. "It was my first day as Junior Manager," he said. "A rumor had gotten around that that old boy-band – the Dukes of Haphazard – were going to reunite at that festival. It turned out to be bogus, but one fan of the lead singer never got the memo." He smirked. "It was kinda pathetic, to be honest – I never thought the guy was that good…"

Kelly's ghost-pale complexion turned volcano-red. "Don't you DARE say that about my Dreamy Drew, you KOOK!"

His smirk doubled, Johnny arched an eyebrow.

Kelly turned dead-white again as she realized her error. "That…that proves nothing!"

"Maybe not," Johnny agreed, as he took out his phone. "But this photo does." With that, he brought up a photo-file on its screen.

Lo peered over his shoulder…and sputtered with laughter. "Oh! My! God!"

Curious, Emma took a look…and gasped at the sight of a hysterical Kelly, wearing a Dukes of Haphazard tank-top, being carried out by two burly security guards, screaming and reaching for a star-marked door. "Oh my…you did!"

"I managed to keep the whole thing hush-hush so as not to disturb the other performers," Johnny said. "But after working with Kelly for a while, I figured I'd keep the photo, just in case of an emergency." He glared at Kelly. "Like today."

Kelly was struck speechless.

Johnny's thumb hovered over the "Send" button. "I wonder what Mr. Ridgemount would say if one of his employees tried to assault one of our VIPs, even though they weren't really there?" he asked aloud. "I think the phrase "skinned alive" covers it."

Lo giggled. "At least!"

Kelly looked like she'd chomped on a lemon. "What do you want?"

"Just a trade: my photo for your review form," Johnny said. "We swap at the same time."

Kelly's teeth gritted. "Deal," she spat. With that, she and Johnny inched towards each other…as their hands moved at the same time; Johnny swiped the review from Kelly and tore it up, while Kelly snatched the phone and deleted the photo, before tossing the phone back to Johnny. "There! I sure hope you're happy!" Kelly hissed, before she stormed back into the DR.

Emma and Lo both cheered, and hugged Johnny. "Johnny, you rock!" Lo exclaimed. "Why didn't you tell me you had dirt like that on her?"

"Hey, like I said: I was saving it for a rainy day."

Emma felt more than a bit guilty. "Sorry we made you give up your leverage," she said. "Are you sure you won't need it? Because I'm sure Kelly isn't going to forget this…"

"I'm sure, Emma. I made this mistake, so I'm cleaning it up," Johnny said with a sigh. "Besides, after today, it won't matter."

"Huh?" Lo asked. "What do you mean?" Johnny didn't answer, as he turned and strode out of the DR, prompting Lo and Emma to follow.

They followed him to the main desk, where Bummer was working. With a resigned look, Johnny fished a letter out of his pocket. "Sir?" he asked. "I've got something you need to see."

Bummer absently took the letter. "Can it wait, Johnny? I'm trying to schedule the upcoming sci-fi festiv – AAAAAAACCK!" Bummer screamed as he glimpsed the letter, and fell out of his seat. "Johnny, tell me this is a joke!"

"I'm not laughing, sir," Johnny said. "I'm sorry, but I have to resign, effective immediately."

Now Emma was bug-eyed. "What?"

Frantic, Bummer darted in front of Johnny, his hands on his shoulders. "Johnny, think about what you're saying!" he begged. "What happened?" As he glanced to Emma and Lo, Bummer scowled. "Are the junior staff giving you trouble? Because if so..!"

"No, sir. It's not them."

Bummer began to panic. "Well, what?" he cried, his hands wringing his hair. "Do you want a raise? Less hours? More hours? Please, just tell me and it's done!"

"It's not something you can fix, sir," Johnny said. "You hired me because of my judgement, and these past few days, I can't trust my judgement, anymore."

Bummer laughed nervously. "Johnny, aren't you being hard on yourself? Compared to the rest of these slackers, you're frickin' Solomon!" he exclaimed, before he dropped to his knees. "You…you can't just leave me with the rest of these surf-nuts! The hotel will be bankrupt in a week! Please, you're the only competent employee I've got!"

Lo frowned, her hands on her hips. "Gee thanks, boss."

Bummer was on the verge of tears. "Please, Johnny, just…just think it over!"

His expression guilty, Johnny nodded. "Why don't I give you an answer at the end of the day?"

"THANK you!" Bummer cheered, hugging him. "I promise, you can name your price! Just…don't leave me here with them!"

Johnny looked distinctly uncomfortable, as he extricated himself from the hug. "I'll think it over, sir," he said, before he headed out.

Lo's eyebrows dipped with guilt. "Okay, as flavoured as I was at Johnny before, I didn't want him to quit over this!" she exclaimed. "We've gotta tell the others and convince him not to go!"

Emma's eyes dipped in thought. "You go on ahead, Lo," she said. "There's something I need to do…"


Despite his promise to Bummer, the first thing Johnny did upon returning to the staff house was pack up all his stuff in his duffel bag – he really didn't see the point in delaying the inevitable. 'Sorry, Andrew, but this is really for the best.'

He had just finished his packing when he heard the door open and shut. He took a quick look, and found a slightly despondent Ty heading in to grab his video-camera. "Hey, Johnny."

"Hey, Ty," Johnny replied. "Didn't you have a date, or something?"

"Not anymore," Ty said, as he scratched his head. "I…kinda took a good look at myself. I think I'm gonna put dating on hold, for a while – focus on my documentaries."

Johnny was mildly dumbstruck. "Whoa. What happened?" he asked. "Did Cindy cuss you out?"

"Not Cindy, dude," Ty said. "It was your pal Ell – Emma."

Johnny felt like he was about to fall over. "Emma yelled at you?"

"More like she nuked me!" Ty exclaimed. "I was completely bowled over!" His expression turned a bit saddened. "What really gets me is that she was right. Starting today, I'm making a few changes, bro. I'd prefer to be able to look at myself in the mirror, from now on."

Johnny sighed. "I think I can relate, Ty." He held up his duffel bag for emphasis.

Ty was bug-eyed. "You're quitting?" he asked. "Dude, why?"

"You know that silver-haired hottie from the Lobbyquarium?" Johnny asked. "She almost got me into some bad stuff; we're talking end-of-the-world bad. If it hadn't been for Ben, I'd be her lapdog, by now."


"Yeah," Johnny agreed. "Bummer's supposed to be able to trust my judgement, and clearly, my judgement is anything but trustworthy."

Ty managed a wan smile. "Kinda harsh, dude."

"Maybe, but it's the truth," Johnny said. "Anyway, I gotta go. I still need to give Bummer my decision."

Ty winced. "Dude's gonna cry."

"Don't remind me," Johnny finished, before he extended his hand. "See you in the lineup?"

Ty grasped his hand and shook. "Hell yeah, man." With that, Ty headed further inside, to find his camera. Alone again, Johnny took one last look around before he turned to go…

"You're really leaving?"

Emma's voice caught him off-guard, prompting him to look over his shoulder, and turn to face her in the doorway. "It's like I told Bummer, Emma: I don't trust myself."

Emma's sad eyes and chewed lip started to undermine his resolve. 'It's better to just say it and make a clean break,' Johnny told himself. "Look, Emma, I'm…"

"Johnny, I'm sorry."

Johnny's apology died in mid-syllable. "What?"

Emma looked even more forlorn. "I'm sorry," she whispered.

Johnny looked away. "You don't have anything to be sorry about, Emma," he answered. "I'm the one who has to apologize. I'm the one who played Charmcaster's game, remember?"

Emma shook her head. "Only because she messed with your head!"

Johnny looked down. "Her bad mojo didn't do all of it," he said quietly. "She didn't make me…say those things to you."

Emma bit her lip. "You weren't completely wrong."

Johnny looked up. "Huh?"

"Lo and Fin pointed some things out to me," Emma said. "Yeah, what you said was harsh, but I think I kinda goaded you into it." As he turned to her, Emma looked Johnny in the eyes. "I wasn't trying to – really, I wasn't – but they made me see how thoughtless I was to you." With a frown, she folded her arms. "And all for a kook that can't remember my name."

Johnny chuckled. "Well, I think you might've gotten through to him," he answered. "Whatever you said seems to have made Ty hang up his skirt-chasing uniform."

Emma snorted. "I'll believe that when I see it," she muttered. "The point is, they made me see that there was already an awesome guy around that I really should have gotten to know better…but I just ended up hurting him when he didn't deserve it."

Johnny was almost speechless. "Emma, I…I don't know what to say."

Emma chewed the side of her lip. "Say we can try again?" she asked. "You know, just…start over?"

Johnny closed his eyes. "What about the others?"

"Johnny, whatever goof-up you made with getting spelled by Charmcaster, you kinda fixed by wrecking her staff!" Emma said. "Everyone knows that!" She chuckled. "If they can handle your sucky surfing, they can handle this!"

Johnny froze. "What?" he asked. "Repeat that, Mackenzie."

Emma paused. "They can handle your mistake?"

Johnny shook his head. "Before that."

Emma twisted her lips in thought. "You…got spelled by Charmcaster?"

"After that."

Emma smiled sheepishly. "Oh…you mean the part about sucky surfing?" she asked. "Don't take this the wrong way, Johnny; we all like you…but we've seen you on the waves. Beached whales have more grace."

Johnny frowned. "Oh, do they?" he challenged. "Okay then, missy – let's test that."

As Johnny started rummaging through his bag, Emma could only look on in confusion. "What are you doing?"

"Just wait for me at the Office, Emma," Johnny said. "And while you're at it, bring the others, if they're not already there. No matter what I decide, I'm putting that rumour to rest, today!"

"Um…oh-kay," Emma said warily. "I'll…see you in a few?" With that, she headed out.

Once he'd fished out what he needed, Johnny hopped in the bathroom to don his wetsuit, before he grabbed his board and the rest of his supplies. Now ready, he headed for the door…and paused for a moment. 'I could just walk,' he mused. 'It'd be so simple…'

With a shake of his head, Johnny banished those thoughts. 'No way; I am NOT punking out!' he thought. 'No matter what happens, I'm doing this; time to go big or go home!'

And with that, he walked out, heading for the Office.


"So, the funky auras I got from you, that first day…that was that gizmo on your arm?"

As he, Gwen, Kevin, and the Kahuna headed down to the Office in their surf-gear, Ben nodded. "Yep."

Kahuna kept going. "And it's some kinda DNA-Noah's-ark that lets you shred a wave on someone else's board?"

Gwen held back a chuckle. "We've never heard it put that way, but yeah."

Kahuna wasn't done. "And you three are space-cops in training, and the Madcap's retired from the biz?"

"Officially, yeah," Kevin said, "but I'm pretty sure Max's retirement's up in the air."

"You can say that again!" Gwen agreed. "Look, Kahuna, I know this is a lot to take in…"

"Not really, bra."

Ben was surprised. "Come again?"

"Sure, the watch thing threw me, but the alien part? Not so much," Kahuna said. "Ever since I got to Sunset Island, I've hung with the odd E.T. or two. All in all, they were pretty mellow folk – just wanted to grab a quality wave before they hit the intergalactic highway, y'know?"

Kevin snorted. "Sure, dude. Whatever."

Gwen still looked worried. "Kahuna, you can't tell anybody about any of this!" she pleaded. "If anyone learns about Ben, or aliens, or…"

"Relax, betty. Already know the whole Area 51 drill," Kahuna said. "Besides, news folk don't think I make the most "credible witness" or some junk."

"Oh. Well…good to hear!" Ben replied. "That takes care of that!"

Gwen turned to her cousin. "Now all you need to worry about is Lo using Diamondhead as arm-bling."

Ben frowned. "Give it a rest, Gwen."

"You heard her, Ben! You now have access to one of your more useful original ten heroes, and all she saw was a person-sized diamond ring!" Gwen exclaimed. "I wouldn't put it past her..!"

"She was kidding, Gwen!"

Kevin smirked. "If it were me, I'd be more worried about her using Grey Matter as a purse-dog," he added. "He'd be just the right size, and no real powers to boot. All she'd have to do is tap the Omnitrix when you're not looking, and then just scoop you with her purse…"

"Guys!" Ben shouted. "She's not like that!"

His shout came just as they walked onto the beach, where the others – except for Johnny – were waiting. "Who's not like what, Ben?" Lo asked.

"It's nothing, Lo," Ben assured her, before he sent a warning stare at his friends. "It's just an old argument."

Lo frowned, as she followed Ben's gaze. "Oh, really."

Fin defused the argument before it could start. "So, is little miss spell-slinger gone for good?" she asked. "Will she be back?"

"I doubt it," Gwen answered. "I've already warded the entire hotel, and I plan to do the rest of the island later. If Charmcaster so much as farts on this island, I'll see her coming."

"Good to hear, bra," Broseph said, as he looked worried. "That's one less bit of harshness to deal with. All that's left is whether or not Front Desk's really bailing."

"Dude. I can't believe Johnny might actually walk over this!" Reef said. "I mean, come on! She was an uber-babe with magic, mind-harshing powers! We're talking perfect storm! How's a bro supposed to fight that?"

With reluctance, Fin nodded. "Even though he still manages to sound like a total pig, Chowderhead's actually got a point," she added. "Charmcaster pretty much singled Johnny out – he never stood a chance."

Lo looked grim. "You think he'll really leave?"

Emma could only shrug. "I really don't know, guys. He told Bummer he'd think about it when Bummer started crying…"

"Whoa, whoa, whoa!" Kevin interjected. "Bummer was crying? And you didn't tell us? I live for things like that!"

Fin's stare was flat. "Stay on point, Alcatraz."

As he glanced up at the path, Ben jumped in before Kevin could retort. "Well, it looks like he might've made his decision."

Everyone turned at that, just in time to see Johnny walk up, in his wetsuit, carrying his board, a stereo-style CD-player, and a black fedora. Broseph looked confused. "Dude, I get the board, and maybe the tunes…but what's with the hat?"

"Inspiration," Johnny said. "Look, guys, I'm sure you all want to tar and feather me, at this point, and I can't really blame you, but before you do, I'd like to put something to rest."

Fin arched an eyebrow. "Okay," she began. "Put what to rest?"

"Emma seems to be of the opinion that I suck out loud on the waves."

Reef chuckled. "She's not the only one, dude."

"No kidding, Front Desk. You on the waves?" Kevin shook his head. "Painful."

Lo's smile was a bit embarrassed. "Kinda hate to say it, Johnny," she admitted, "but…I was a bit curious as to why Ty, Lance, and Ripper let you surf here."

"Really." Johnny's tone was flat, as he handed the CD-player to Emma. "Emma? Once I'm up, play track 4. Having Michael in the background helps me focus." With that, he put the fedora on with a rakish tilt, and waded out into the surf.

By the time Emma switched on the music, Johnny was already up, seamlessly riding his board along the crest of an approaching wave. As the vocals of the King of Pop breezed over the air, Johnny matched him beat-for beat, seamlessly pulling off one trick after another – 360 spin, tailgrab, reverse vertical flip, and cutback into a nosegrab – each interspersed with moves that Michael himself would've been proud of. As the wave began to break, Johnny pulled out his showstopper: moonwalking to the back of his board, he launched into another reverse flip, but once his board levelled out in mid-air, he leapt backwards, holding onto the tail as he did a split, before hopping back on to ride the wave back to shore.

Fin's mouth dropped open. "Holy crap!"

Kevin blinked. "Huh. What do you know."

Kahuna grinned. "Still waters, bros: they run deep."

"Johnny, that was awesome!" Emma cheered.

Johnny shrugged. "What can I say? Distraction-free, I can shred just as well as anyone," he said. "Well, if this had to be my last sesh here, at least it was my best one."

Lo laughed. "Why?"

Johnny looked a bit nervous. "Uh…don't you guys want me to take a hike?"

"Are you nuts?" Fin exclaimed. "After seeing you work a wave like that, you actually think we'd kick you out?"

"But…the thing with Charmcaster…"

"You got hit by her lightning, bro," Broseph said. "Could've happened to any of us."

"I hear that!" Reef agreed, as he grinned. "Of course, I wouldn't have minded being used just a little…"

Fin rolled her eyes. "He's incurable."

Johnny didn't quite believe it. "You're…you guys are serious?"

Ben nodded. "We don't hold what happened against you, Johnny."

Gwen chuckled. "Just promise us you'll be more careful with your choice of dates!"

Kevin grinned. "That, and maybe you can get Bummer to give us a raise," he said. "With that kind of leverage you've got on him…"


Gwen's admonition made Kevin pause. "Or not."

Johnny almost teared up. "Guys…I don't know what to say."

Emma clasped her hands. "Say you'll stay?"

Johnny was still for a few seconds, before he grinned openly. "Sure," he replied. "Yeah, I'll stay."

"Whooohooo!" Broseph whooped. "The band's all back together, bros!"

Ben glanced towards the surf. "Guys? What say we celebrate with a quick sesh, before anything else happens?"

"Sounds like a plan," Johnny said, "but I might have to cut it short."

Emma frowned. "Why?"

Johnny laughed. "Because I promised Mom and Melanie I'd show them around, and what with Charmcaster messing with my head, I haven't had the chance!"

"Oh. Well…okay," Emma said. "After all that, you…wanna go do something, sometime?"

Johnny grinned. "I'd like that."

Beaming, Lo inched closer to Ben. "EEEEEE!" she squealed under her breath. "I knew it! Imminent hookup! Now Fin and I just need to help Emma pick out..!"

Ben's tone was stern. "Lo."

Lo sighed. "Right, right: no more matchmaking! I remember!"

"Good." With that, the entire group headed back to the staff house, to grab their boards – and in Johnny's case, to stash his fedora and music.

Finally, things were getting back to normal.


Sunset International Airport

"Attention, passengers: last call for Express Flight 792 to Vancouver! All passengers for Flight 792 report to Gate 19 for boarding!"

As the final boarding call for Flight 792 echoed for the second time, the flight attendant at the gate decided enough was enough. He was about to shut down his kiosk and signal that the flight was ready to depart, when he noticed a shadow in front of his desk. He looked up…

…and his expression turned dopey. "Please, go right in, miss!" With a charming smile, the young, silver-haired woman, clad in a mauve blazer and skirt, strode through the gate with her carry-on. Once she reached the plane, the flight-staff reacted similarly, happily leading her to one of the empty seats on the flight.

With only a few minutes before takeoff, Charmcaster absently looked out the window with a scowl. She hated having to travel like this, but there was little choice: with Ben and Gwen's Plumber allies on-site, any major magic-use like teleporting would be tracked. She had to get some distance between them and her by conventional means.

By then, the plane had started taxiing to the runway. 'Good-bye, Sunset Beach. I hope I never see you again!' she thought bitterly. 'Dealing with Gwen and Ben will have to wait, for now.'

As the plane began to take off, all Charmcaster could do was fume. She'd almost gotten her father back and gotten even…until Johnny had knifed her in the back. The one man she'd counted on, and he'd turned on her.

That thought brought an unexpected stab of pain to her already scarred heart, prompting her to clear her thoughts. 'He was just a puppet, that's all. I can deal with him anytime I like. Once I reclaim my birthright and settle my scores, I can always send a curse his way.'

That thought didn't settle her unease. 'He was nothing!' she told herself. 'Yes, he played the part of the lovestruck fool well, but that's all! He felt nothing for me, just as I feel nothing for him!'

As Charmcaster glanced out the window at the island in the distance, she felt her eyes sting, and wiped them…only to find her finger damp. 'Stop it! He meant nothing!' she screamed at herself. 'I do NOT need him! I never did!'

But no matter how long she told herself that, her tears never stopped all through the flight.


Author's Note:

I don't think I need to reiterate that I'm not fussy with my update schedule for this story.

I think a lot of it has to do with my outlining, or lack thereof: I had the beginning and end planned out, but not much of the middle. I know a bit better, now.

Now that Part Three of the Hanging Ten Saga is over, I feel a bit more free to resume work on the Smallville Chronicles, though I will also be starting My Cyber-Sweet Sixteen fairly soon. I don't know when I'll post either, but I will get to them; don't worry!

In closing, I'd like again to thank all of you – my readers – for your continued support! I can't tell you how much your kind words – and patience – mean to me! I hope to hear from all of you again in the future! Later!