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.