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Babe's Got Blue Skies Up Ahead

Note:  This story is set right after the final episode.

Max awoke feeling cold.  He couldn't understand why he was cold, as he
 had felt so warm only hours ago.  He smiled to himself as he 
remembered how nice it was to have her in his arms, her  small, hot 
hands stroking his chest.  He reached for her beneath the covers, but
 felt nothing.  Dammit!  Peeling his eyes through the darkness, he 
looked at his watch.  3:09.  He thought she'd been okay after their 
talk that afternoon, but then again they hadn't really talked about it 
properly.  Jokes about dogs and names-maybe it wasn't enough.  
Although, she had she didn't want to talk about it.  That was a lie 
though-women always wanted to talk about everything.  

Where was she anyway? An unfamiliar anxiety crept over him.  There 
was no real reason to worry, but he'd never cared quite so much about
 a person, as he did about Laura.  When she'd finally broken it off 
with Warwick three days ago, he'd been thrilled by the chance to hold 
her and take all the problems that she'd fought against in the last 
few years away.  He didn't want her to have to worry ever again.  And 
then this.  He hadn't even kept her worry-free for two days! Now this 
huge stress hung over her head, and he couldn't stop it.  He just want
ed to lift it from her shoulders.  But right now, he had to find her.


Walking sleepily into the living room, he discovered the reason for 
his coldness.  The front door was ajar. He picked up his jacket from 
the couch and stepped out into the night.  He padded around the side 
of the house and stopped to watch her.  Laura was standing against the 
railing.  Her eyes were on the waves.  She looked  small, barely 
outlined in the shadows.  He found himself wondering how someone so 
small could have another person inside them, then kicked himself for 
thinking such a ridiculous thing right now, considering she'd already
 had two kids. 

He stood behind her and ran his hand gently down her arm.  It was cold
.  God, how long had she been out here?  How many hours of her sadness 
had she been alone?  He was so mad at himself.  He put his jacket 
around her shoulders.  Leaving one arm encircling her he leant against
 the rail.
"Laura," he whipered softly.  
It may have been a full minute before she responded, it took her that
long to form words.
"Max."
"Yes," he murmered.
"What are we doing?" she kept her eyes on the waves, "Why are we 
pretending that this is all alright.  How can we have a child Max, how 
can we?" 

Max didn't speak.  He didn't move. He felt as if his stomach had just 
been ripped out, what was this sense of....loss?  He must have 
actually wanted this baby.  What had he felt when Laura had told him 
of the pregnancy?  Disbelief, yes, but something else.  Fulfillment, 
and maybe success.  As if the last gap in his life plan had been 
filled.  
Trying to control the waves of emotion crashing through his body, he 
spoke,
"What do you mean Laura?  Why can't we?"  His voice cracked on the 
last word and he too took to staring at the waves.
"I can't have a baby alone Max."
"Alone?" he could barely put into words everything that was screaming
 in his head. "You're not alone, what about me?!"  Then trying to 
calm himself down for her sake, he said as gently as possible, "I'm 
here Laura."
Tears formed ponds on her cheeks, "Yes your here now."  She forced her
self to go on, "So was Jack.  And Diver.  Everyone's here now.  A baby 
isn't now Max, it's forever."
"Why would you think I would ever leave you?" he said looking into her 
turbulent eyes.
Finally she turned to him, "Well, everyone else in my life has left!
Why should you be any different?" 
Max was taken aback for a brief second but then he fiercely pulled 
Laura into his arms, holding her tightly he buried himself in her hair
, "Laura, I love you , I love you. I'm not leaving.  Ever."
Then he held her, and he held her, and he held her.  Then the sun came
 up.

Kevin and his son walked by, down on the sand, fishing rods in hand.
"G'day Max," called Kevin brightly.  Max nodded, and felt 
self-conscious.  He was wearing only boxer shorts and a t-shirt, and 
Laura's nightgown clad figure was barely visible, wrapped up in Max 
and his coat.
"You and Laura up to watch the sunrise?"  
Max gritted his teeth, wishing he'd go,"Mmm,"
"Bit chilly,"  
Yes, Max knew it was cold, he'd been standing oustide for three hours. 
 But Laura had fallen asleep on him, and that was all that mattered. 
 If he had managed to take away her pain for a few hours, then 
everything was okay.

Laura stirred and Max loosened his hold on her.  She straightened up 
and looked up at him.  She moved her shoulders around a bit to 
stretch out from her bad position.
"We still out here are we?" she said glancing at the morning sea.  
Max didn't say anything.
"Well, I better go get brekky for the kids." 

She moved to go, but he held on to her arm. She looked up at his blue
 eyes, crinkled at the edges with sadness and pleading.  She'd hurt 
him last night, she knew that.  She hadn't planned to, but lying with 
him in bed last night, feeling their strong love for eachother 
pulsating between them, a fear and recollection started to gnaw at her
.   This happiness and excitement reminded her too much of another 
time.  Back when she was lying in Jack's bed, both so full of plans 
and expectations of the future.  Then, she had never thought for a 
second that he would leave her.  What was going to make this time 
around different?  It was the unanswerable question.  She'd upset Max
 by telling him that, and his words had calmed her only a little.  But
 it didn't change the fact that she still didn't know.  There was 
nothing he could say to assure her, nothing he could do, and she was 
left still feeling in turmoil.  Not only that, she'd left him feeling
 much the same way.  

She had to say something.  He was waiting for her, begging for her to
 say something.  To tell him that everything was okay between them.
"Well, er, feeling much better this morning."  She tried a smile but 
her eyes flicked quickly to the sea.  It was a lie, and Max was the 
one person she couldn't lie to.  He knew too, goddammit he knew!  He 
kept looking at her, and she began to feel like a deer caught in 
headlights.
"What do you want me to say?" she snapped, irritated at how deeply he
 could see into her.  He breathed out slow, and also stared at the 
water.  Laura knew not what else to do, but walk away.

"Miranda, Rupert, why aren't you up yet?"
Miranda staggered out of bed and into the kitchen, "It's not that late
 Mum," and glancing at the clock, "Actually it's early.  Why are you 
up, you don't have a job anymore." 
Laura slammed the fridge door and threw the margerine on to the 
counter.  That was another thing!  Yesterday she'd wanted to be 
unemployed and free, now all she wanted to do was lose herself in her
 court.  Enjoy a bit of that control, because right now she was 
completely out of control.  She wasn't even making her own decisions 
anymore.  
"Mum, we're going,"  Miranda said annoyed at her mother's lost look.
Laura glanced up, "Bye kids."
"Bye Mum," called Rupert, "By the way, you look like hell."
Laura winced and slumped on to the couch.  Just yesterday, she and Max
 had built a castle together, and today it had all fallen down.  
Besides, what was one to do without a job?

Max felt eerie as he walked into his shack.  It had been awhile since
 he'd been inside, and the place was stuffy and held memories of being
 alone.  It smelt too.  He went to the fridge to find something to 
quell his hunger pains, but found instead two cartons of off milk.  
So that's why it smelt, he realised as he threw the cartons into the 
bin.  He sat down at the table wearily.  He noticed a half full bottle 
of scotch and a glass were left on the table.  He habitually reached 
for the bottle, but something stopped him.  That one glass.  It was 
scotch for one: his companion when he had been alone.  He didn't want
 to live in that lonely past anymore.  Pouring the bottle down the 
sink and rinsing the glass, he realised that he didn't want to be in 
this house anymore.  He didn't want to be in the house of a miserable
 man, he wanted to live in a house of light.  A house of laughter, 
love and Laura.  He sighed, for now a change of clothes would do.  

He went to his bedroom and paused in the doorway.  His bed was unmade,
 but that wasn't why he stopped.  Unlike the rest of this house, this
 room was Laura.  He breathed in the warmth and feel of the room.  It
 had only been one night, but is may as well have been every night.  
Then he laughed out loud, remembering that he hadn't made the bed 
since that night.  Sitting down on it, he felt like a twelve year old 
again, who wouldn't wash the cheek the teenage babysitter had kissed.
He hadn't wanted the room to lose the feel of her presence, and it 
hadn't, not one little bit.  Was that even her perfume he could smell
 on the pillow?  He walked around it a bit, opened the windows and 
changed his clothes.  Being in the room had roused a question in his 
mind though.  He wasn't sure where he was to sleep tonight.  He hadn't
 officially moved into Laura's, but there had been a sort of 
understanding.  But now, after last night and this morning, he wasn't
 sure what she expected.  He knew he didn't want to stay in the shack
 though.  Sunlight from the window warmed his cheek, at least he had a 
whole day of blue skies ahead, before he had to decide where to go.

~Knock Knock~
Laura looked up to see Meredith standing at the side door.  Laura had
 spent the morning cleaning the house, moping and throwing up. Now she 
was sitting on the couch staring at the wall. Any person was a welcome 
sight.
"Meredith!" she exclaimed, jumping up to open the door.
"Hello, Laura," she smiled, following her in, "Just thought I'd pop in 
and see how you were coping."
Laura started.
"Coping?" she repeated squeakily, "What um, what exactly should I be 
coping with?"
Meredith's eyes took on that concerned look that she often got with 
Laura, "Coping without your job," she explained gently.
Laura felt relieved."Oh that, fine, yes fine," she said speaking too 
fast.  "I've done a bit of spring cleaning."
"Oh yes," replied Meredith.
"You know, just the kitchen, bathrooms, bedrooms.  And of course the 
floors, windows, shutters, bit of the garden…."
Meredith laughed softly, "Laura, slow down, isn't this your first day
 of freedom?"
"Freedom."  But the way Laura said it was completely different. 
"Oh what am I going to do Meredith?  I can't clean everyday for the 
rest of my life."
Meredith smiled the smile that only someone older can give.  The 'I've
seen this all before and I know what happens next' smile.
"And you won't. You've still got too much inside that needs to be 
shared with the rest of the world.  It'll happen.  I see blue skies 
ahead of you."
"Really?" Laura asked, responding to her wiseness like a child, 
"Blue ones?"
She nodded, "Now, where's Max?"
"Swimming," she responded immediately, having no idea where he was and
 having not seen him since dawn.

When Meredith arrived back at the Tropical Star, she found Max sitting 
at the bar.
"Oh sorry if I've keep you waiting Max, do you want a drink?"
"No, I don't want anything Meredith," he said fiddling with the nut 
bowl.
"Been for a swim have you?"
He shook his head.  Meredith raised her eyebrows to herself.
"Is something the matter Max?"
"And why do you ask that Meredith?" he answered.
"Well, not that I don't love your company, but you don't want a drink
and you're alone. So why are you actually here?"
He grinned sardonically, "Thought I might recite a bit of the 
'Ancient Mariner' to you."
Meredith chuckled, but eyed him with the same concern with which she 
looked upon Laura.  
It was minutes before Max spoke again but finally he said, "If 
someone was to love riding horses, but then one day the horse threw 
them off,  and years later they wanted to ride again, but they were 
scared, how do you think they would overcome that?"
Meredith looked thoughtful, "Well I guess they would slowly begin to 
ride again, with some assistance.  The important thing is to develop 
the trust again."  
 "The trust," he murmered.
"But we're not talking about horses are we Max?" she said gently.
"Aren't we?  Well, I was."
"I think you're referring to the saying, "Once bitten, twice shy."  
"Ermm"
"This is about you and Laura isn't it?" she said brazenly.  He didn't
 answer.
"Are you twice shy Max?"
Max met her eyes and shook his head vigorously, "No.  But I am 
bitten," he said slowly, 
"And still waiting to be patched up." Then he stared down into the nut
 bowl and didn't look up until Meredith walked away.

At 6pm, Max stood on the strip of sand between his place and Laura's,
unsure where to go. Well, he hadn't really moved into Laura's yet.  He
 took a few steps towards his own place.  But they were having a 
bloody baby together!  He stepped towards her place.  Maybe she didn't 
want him there after this morning.  He moved in the direction of the 
shack.  No, he couldn't stand being away from her.  He took three 
steps towards the house.  Then he knew he'd made the right choice.  If
 she was nervous about him leaving, then he needed to prove to her 
that he wouldn't.  He almost ran the rest of the way across the the 
sand, but slowed down when he arrived at the door.

Laura was haphazardly cutting vegetables.  She wasn't seeing where the
 knife was going and she didn't know what dish they were for.  Max 
hadn't come back and it was....
~Knock Knock~  He walked in confidently.  Tall, strong and so safe.  
Laura was engulfed in emotion just to see him standing before her.  He 
understood the look in her eyes and walked around the counter to be 
next to her.  She didn't speak, in fear that she would pour out 
everything she had wanted to cry today.  He kissed her forehead and 
stroked her hair.  She closed her eyes thankfully, wondering how he 
always knew exactly what to do.  Max looked at the hacked up 
vegetables on the board, and eased the knife out of her hand.  
"How about take away tonight?" 
Laura shook her head against his stomach, "If I eat anything I'll 
throw up."
He smiled fondly at her blatantness, "Then we won't."

Laura was up early the next morning, feeling much more buoyant.  Just
 to know that he was asleep in her bedroom was enough to fill her with
 an inexplicable strength.  However, yesterday's fears had not left 
her entirely.  She now understood that she couldn't live without 
him-those few hours wondering if he would come home or not had taken 
her close to the edge.  He promised that he loved her, and she 
honestly believed him, but she wasn't sure if she could trust any man
 to be beside her for the long haul.  Knowing that she would crumble 
without him, was her biggest fear of all.

Max spent the morning working with Miranda on The Oyster.  Max was 
working solidly on petty, somewhat boring stories.  He needed a 
feature article, but the only headline he could see was 'Laura is 
pregnant to Max!'.  
"Max, these stories are just plain boring!"
He laughed, "They are aren't they?"  
Miranda had no use for smiles, "Well, think of something better.  
You're supposed to be good."
"Earn your keep-think of something yourself."
"You're not paying me, but anyway. How about 'Town rejoices when 
Warwick leaves."
Max grinned.
Miranda decided it was a good time to ask, "So does this mean you're
 moving in?"  No one had told her anything so far  and she was fed up.
Max felt anxious, not certain of the answer himself, "Not really your
 business kiddo."
Miranda was incredulous, "I live in the house if you hadn't noticed!"
"When you go to uni, you won't be."  Miranda looked hurt, and he felt 
guilty for saying that to her, but he couldn't talk about it with her.
  He realised now, that he had to settle everything with Laura.  They
 both needed to know what the score was.

Laura was leafing, aimlessly through magazines when Max strode in, 
grabbed her hands and said, "Get your jacket, it might get cold later."
"What?" she complained, making a grab for her jacket as he towed her 
out the door.  
"Just come on Laura."
She had to run to keep up with him as they made their way along the 
beach.  She complained the whole way, secretly loving the way Max 
could get so dramatic and romantic.  Well, she hoped that was the 
reason for this.
Finally, they stopped walking at the gate to Isa's Riding School.  
Laura's eyes widened, "No, Max.  I don't like horses.  I'm not riding
 one."
Max gazed at Laura lovingly.
"I'm going to ride on the horse with you.  Together Laura.  I won't 
let anything happen to you."  He spoke gently.
He led her into the stables, and lifted her easily on to the horse, 
before climbing up and settling himself behind her.  She was tense and
 sat straightbacked.
"Just relax, baby," he murmered, slipping his arms around her to hold
 the reins.

As their ride continued, Laura gradually relaxed and started to enjoy
 it.  Soon she was pointing out things along the track and laughing at
 Max's jokes.  The sun had just gone down, when they hit the water's 
edge, and Max directed the horse up on to a small rise.
He pointed across the water, "What can you see?"  
Laura looked and realised happily that they'd ridden around the curve
 and now she was looking across the bay to the town. Suddenly she got
 excited, "Max, look, I can see the house!"  She was practically 
bouncing off the horse.  Max had intentionally left all the lights on,
 so she would be able to pick it out. She snuggled into his chest, 
feeling a huge sense of trust and confidence.
"Do you know why I brought you here Laura?"  he whispered.  She sat 
silently for awhile, 
"Can we get off the horse for a minute?"
Max nodded and helped her down, before getting off himself.
They stood on the grass looking at eachother.  Laura took one of his 
big hands and placed it on her stomach. 
"We're going to have a baby Max, in that house."
Max smiled, and for the first time he was the one crying, letting the
tears pour down into her hair.  Laura just stood against him, gazing
out at the dark horseshoe of land with it's tiny strip of lights.  
Her house, standing out, the brightest of them all.