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It was another picture perfect night in San Francisco. The breeze swirled Wade's hair around softly as she sat out on the front porch. Wade was curled up on the small porch swing, her journal in her lap. She flipped through all the pages in her journal, recalling all the numerous adventures they'd had. It seemed so unreal--that they were actually going to be heading home the next morning. She thought about it with a mixture of anticipation and fear. They'd all seen and done so much--would home seem boring to them now? They'd all changed as people too-- Wade was in no way the same person she'd been when she left. The question was--would their friends and family accept the new versions of them? Wade shook her head--their family and friends would be thrilled to see them alive and safe again.

Wade flipped open her journal to a clean, blank page. She looked at it, thinking of all the words she would choose to fill it with. She wanted to write about going home, and what she was planning to do once she got back. She cleared her mind and started to write.

Quinn watched her from his seat by the living room window. Rembrandt and Maggie were across the room watching television, but Quinn was paying no attention to the chattering characters on the TV. A small smile played across his lips. He loved watching Wade write. Her face got so serious, her brow furrowed in concentration. It was almost if she was in her own world, and she paid no attention to the outside world around her. Watching her, he knew how he looked to his mother when she'd wander downstairs while he was working in his basement lab.

Rembrandt glanced at Quinn and noticed him staring out the window at the slight figure on the front porch. He silently willed Quinn to get up and go outside. He had a feeling that Wade was not going to open up easily about her feelings to Quinn, but if they were alone it might help the process along.

Unfortunately, Rembrandt was not the only one who noticed Quinn watching Wade. Maggie also noted it too. She couldn't help but wonder just what Quinn could possibly see in Wade. When she looked at Wade, all she saw was weakness--a person ruled by her emotions. Maggie found it amazing that Wade had even lasted during sliding as long as she had. Sliding required quick, no nonsense decisions, at least to her way of thinking. Worrying about how you or others would feel only slowed down the decision making process. Maggie figured that the only reason Wade was still alive and well was due to the others bailing her out of rough situations.

Maggie was a quick study. It hadn't taken her long to realize that Wade's animosity towards her had a lot to do with the fact that Quinn felt an attraction to her. Maggie couldn't deny that she liked that. It gave her a heady feeling of power, especially over Wade. She used it to her advantage at times, and took opportunities to play it up when she felt like it. A small part of her felt a little bad about it--perhaps she was stringing Quinn along a little too much. But she didn't dwell on it. As a matter of fact, she was attracted to Quinn, so she didn't feel as if she was stringing him along entirely. She wouldn't reject the possibility of having a relationship with him-- if it was on her terms.

Maggie started to get up from her seat and go over toward Quinn. But Quinn was just a little faster as he rose from his seat and headed toward the door. Rembrandt watched with a small smile. He just hoped that Quinn and Wade would be able to work all this out. It sure would make for a much more peaceful slide in the morning.

Quinn pulled the heavy wooden door shut behind him. Only the screen door had been closed before, but he didn't want to take any chances of being interrupted. He wanted to talk to Wade about what had been bothering her lately. He'd grilled Rembrandt about it upon their return earlier in the day, but had gotten nowhere. The Cryin' Man wasn't about to spill Wade's secrets, at least not to him.

Quinn thought about sitting next to Wade on the porch swing, but she had her legs sprawled out over the better part of it. Instead, he headed for the wide railing that ran around the porch opposite the swing. He took a quick glance around the street. He was still a little paranoid about people seeing them here and mistaking them for their doubles, but if someone did, he would just say they'd decided to return early. They would all be gone in the morning anyway, so he didn't suppose it mattered much.

"Hey," he said to Wade, indicating the railing, which was dotted with pots of blooming flowers. "Is this seat taken?"

"I don't know," Wade answered, laughing slightly. "I think you ought to ask that potted geranium. It was sitting there first."

"Somehow, I don't think it'll mind," Quinn remarked, easing his tall frame onto the railing. "So," he continued, nodding his head toward her journal. "Whatcha writing about? Must be something pretty serious, from the look of concentration on your face while you were writing."

Wade snapped her journal shut and tried to fight the rising heat she felt in her cheeks. She'd started off intending to write about how excited she was to go home, but had actually filled the pages with her feelings for Quinn and her hopes for the two of them if he did decided to return home with them. She'd touched briefly on her feelings for Quinn in her journal a few times before, but hadn't done so in as much depth as she had tonight.

"Oh nothing," she stammered. "Just doodles. Nothing important."

Quinn didn't believe her, but he let it go. Her journal was her business--he felt ackward even asking what she was writing about, but thought it would break the ice. Now, however, he realized he hadn't really thought out what he wanted to say, so he wasn't sure what to say next. He wasn't usually this tongue tied around Wade, but he had the distinct feeling she had been avoiding him for the past few days, and he didn't want to cause her to retreat again. He picked at the leaves of the plant nearest him, rolling its leaves nervously between his fingers.

"What's going on in there?" Wade asked, jerking his head toward the living room window. "Remmie was laughing so loud I thought he was going to cause some blood vessels to burst!"

"Ahh, I don't know," Quinn said. "Some show on TV. I wasn't paying attention to it. My mind was elsewhere."

"And where would that be? It's not like you to be lost in thought," Wade said, half jokingly.

Quinn ran his fingers through his hair and looked from the plant to Wade. As he looked at her, he decided that the up front approach was best. He wasn't going to get anywhere beating around the bush like this.

"I was watching you," he stated matter of factly. He got up off the porch railing. He crossed the porch in one step, and moved Wade's legs over so that he was sitting next to her. "Wade, come on. Talk to me," he pleaded. "I know something is bothering you. I just want to know what it is." He reached over and placed a finger under her chin, tilting her face and forcing her eyes to meet his concerned ones. "I'm worried about you."

Wade studied his face. She'd felt that, ever since Arturo's death, Quinn had been the one who had been most affected. He became harder and colder and had withdrawn somewhat from Rembrandt and her. But this..this was the old Quinn talking. She took a deep breath. Rembrandt was right. She had to tell him everything, from how she felt about him to her fears that he might choose to leave with Maggie. She at least owed him that much.

She opened her mouth to say what she was feeling...but no words came. She wasn't sure where to begin or what to say. She was suddenly as tongue tied as Quinn had been a few moments earlier. She looked down and took another deep breath. She decided to just say exactly what she was feeling. If it made no sense...well, they could sort it out once they got home. She reached over and took Quinn's hand. Her brown eyes once again looked into his blue ones. She opened her mouth again and started to speak.

"Quinn." The voice that spoke his name was somewhat harsh and demanding and definitely not Wade's. Wade dropped his hand quickly, and moved away from him, jumping up to take a seat on the porch railing where he'd been sitting a few minutes before.

Maggie slammed the screen door shut behind her as she came out onto the porch. "Quinn, I think I'm going to go to bed. Before I go, you and I had better go over the plans for the slide tomorrow, just to be on the safe side."

Quinn sighed, very annoyed. "What plans?" he said, turning to face Maggie and making sure the annoyance came through in his voice. "You take the timer, push the button, and slide through-- just like every other time we've done it."

Maggie rolled her eyes . "Look..we're splitting up tomorrow. I just want to make absolutely sure everything goes as it's supposed to. Lack of planning is what causes most missions to fail."

"First of all, this isn't a mission," Wade snapped angrily. "One would think you'd have gotten that through your head by now. Second of all, if there was something you needed to know, Quinn would have told you by now!" Wade hadn't wanted to start a fight with Maggie, but she was upset. Leave it to Maggie, whom Wade was starting to consider the cause of all her problems, to butt in right when she was ready to tell Quinn everything. It was like Maggie had some sort of knack for being around precisely when she wasn't wanted or needed.

"Listen," Maggie sneered at Wade. "Just because we all aren't as passive and willing to leave everything to someone else as you are.."

"All right you two! Knock it off!" Quinn interjected, stepping between the two women. "Maggie, everything is planned out for tomorrow. Trust me. I've got everything under control. Only thing you need to do is get a good night's sleep."

Maggie turned without a word and headed for the door. As she turned back, she tossed a withering glare at Wade, who returned it in kind.

"Sorry about that," Quinn said, moving over to stand beside Wade's perch on the railing. "Now, what were you going to say?"

Wade shook her head. She was too angry at Maggie to say anything now. She certainly had managed to ruin Wade's plans. "Never mind," Wade said.

"No," Quinn insisted. "Tell me. I want to know." He reached down to take her hand once again, but Wade jumped off the railing and moved toward the door.

"I'm just nervous about going home tomorrow," she said. It wasn't a total lie. She was nervous. "That's all. No big deal. Once I'm back home, I'm sure I'll be OK," Wade said. That most certainly was a lie. If Quinn chose to go with Maggie, she didn't think she'd ever be OK.

Wade feigned a huge yawn. "Speaking of a good night's sleep, I think I'll turn in too. After all, tomorrow night I'll be back in my own bed, and as much as I've missed it, the mattress is a little lumpy. Goodnight." She turned and entered the house quickly, leaving Quinn alone on the porch.

Quinn couldn't believe it. Again, he thought to himself. Another rejection. He'd given her another chance after Maggie left to say what was on her mind, but she'd declined it. He was almost half hoping Wade was going to say she still loved him, or at least something along those lines. It sure would have made his decision that much easier. He'd lied to Maggie about one thing--he didn't have everything under control. He was still confused about what to do. He turned and headed for the house too. His dad had always told him that a good night's sleep would clear the head and make even the most difficult decisions easy. He sure hoped his dad had been right.

He entered the house. Wade was in the kitchen, getting a glass of milk. He watched her from the doorway.

"Why not?" he thought to himself. "Just go out there and ask her if she loves you." He wanted to...but he couldn't. If she did, she would have said so. She'd had the chance to say something many times before and hadn't. It seemed pointless to even keep harping on it, he thought as he flicked off the porch light and made a big deal about making sure he locked the door behind him, examining the lock as if it was the lock at Fort Knox. When he turned around, Wade was already halfway up the steps.

Maggie peered through the small crack in the opening of her bedroom door, watching as Wade entered the master bedroom. She smiled to herself as she closed the door and climbed into bed. Her timing couldn't had been more perfect. She'd been watching them through the living room window, and from the expression on Wade's face, she knew Wade was about to tell Quinn something big. Maggie knew exactly what Wade was going to say-- that she loved Quinn. Maggie also suspected Quinn was having conflicting feelings about the slide. As it had drawn closer, Maggie had made a decision. She wasn't that close to anyone on what was to be her new home. Steve was dead . Maggie hated that feeling of being alone. She didn't want to feel that way again. And why should she, when she didn't have to? Quinn was, in a lot of ways, like her late husband. If he came with her, she wouldn't be alone. She could make him forget his old home. Together, they could build new memories. If Wade opened her mouth, it would only confuse Quinn further. Maggie was sure he felt nothing more than sympathy for the girl. He valued Wade's friendship, but nothing beyond that. Maggie wanted to make sure he continued to feel that way. She was sure she almost had Quinn right where she wanted him. She turned off her light and thought about the new life that lay ahead of her...and Quinn.

Quinn turned off all the lights downstairs and headed for the dining room table. As he passed the basement door, he opened it and was greeted by the sounds of Rembrandt's snores. He quietly closed the door, not wanting to wake his friend. "At least one of us deserves a good night's sleep," he said softly.

Quinn sank into one of the chairs at the table. He studied the flashing red numbers on the front of each timer, then pushed them away from him. He didn't want to think about the slide. Yet, as he sat there in the dark, it was all he could think about.

Go to part 8