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When Maxie got back to the hotel, the first person she saw was Ric. After glancing around and not seeing her sister anywhere, she waited until Ric got a moment alone, and cautiously walked back up to him.

Seeing her, Ric furrowed his brow in confusion. Before he could say anything, she tried to jump in. "Ric, Georgie -"

A look of sudden understanding came over his face, and he cut her off. "Don't worry, Maxie. We're doing everything we can. We'll have Georgie out soon."

"Out? What do you -" Maxie stopped mid-sentence when she realized what Ric meant. "Oh my god, Georgie's inside?!"

Ric immediately looked like he'd wished he'd never opened his mouth. Touching Maxie's arm gently, he explained to her, "We got a list of all the guests in the hotel, and Georgie's name was on there. I'm sorry, Maxie. At the moment, we're trying to figure out an evacuation route, and everyone that's been found is in the Versailles Room."

"Is she there?" Maxie pleaded desperately. Mac was in critical condition, Zander was dead, and now her sister was missing, too? Maxie wasn't sure how much more she could take.

Ric looked helplessly back at her. "I don't know, Maxie. I haven't heard anything."

"Is that good or bad?"

The ADA did his best to look hopeful. "I'm sure she's okay, Maxie. We'll find her."

Just then, Lucky walked up. "Maxie? What's wrong?"

Grateful to see a face she'd known her whole life, Maxie threw herself into his arms, sobbing hysterically. Lucky rubbed her back, trying to soothe her. "Georgie's inside the hotel," Ric explained. Lucky sighed, and hugged Maxie tighter.

~*~

A little while later, Maxie was sitting on a bench, watching the rescue efforts. Lucky had long since disappeared inside the building to help out, leaving her one more person to worry about. Ric kept glancing over towards her, and she could tell he wanted to check on her, but there were far too many other things going on. When he had started over the first time, and someone else had called out to him, he'd paused, but Maxie had just waved him away.

Hearing a commotion by the door of the lobby, she glanced up. She knew it was probably pointless, but she looked every time. Seeing Lucky stagger out, she breathed a sigh of relief - a sigh that quickly came back as a gasp as she realized that Lucky was half carrying, half dragging a body. The body of someone she knew. Someone, in fact, who had comforted her at the hospital, and who had assured her that her father would be okay, even when he should have been dealing with his own grief.

Maxie forced herself to stand up and walk over to where a paramedic was helping Lucky lie Cameron's body on a gurney. The paramedic checked for a pulse, and then looked up at Lucky and sadly shook his head. "Oh my god," Maxie whimpered, starting to cry yet again. Turning, Lucky met her eyes. He looked shell-shocked. Hugging Maxie to him, he said softly, "He saved my life. The ceiling collapsed....a beam - a beam was going to fall on me. He shoved me out of the way." He squeezed his eyes shut for a minute. "He was trapped. I went to see if anyone was around who could help, my dad stayed with him - but when I came back, Dad said he was dead."

Ric, overhearing this, sighed. "Lucky, go sit down. Take a small break, okay?"

Lucky shook his head. "No, no....I need to get back in there, I need to help -"

Maxie slowly steered him towards a bench. "Come on, Lucky. Sit down." Finally relenting, he did as she asked. Maxie bit her lip, trying not to cry anymore. I had no idea, she thought to herself. I didn't know this was his plan. Zander, I'm so sorry.

She and Lucky sat in silence for a few minutes, until he finally stood up abruptly. "Maxie, I can't just sit here. My dad's still in there, my brother....there are people who need my help." He paused, glancing at her. "Are you going to be okay?"

She nodded. "Just....just see what you can find out about my sister, okay?"

"I will, I promise."

Maxie sat silently as the sirens wailed around her. Waiting.....

(Because obviously, I'm not big on restraint....) - Maxie wasn't sure how much time had gone by until Lucky came jogging back up to her, grinning happily. He was talking into a walkie-talkie. "Nikolas....Nikolas, I'm so glad you're all right!" Maxie smiled softly at Lucky. She wasn't a huge fan of Nikolas, but she could feel for Lucky, knowing that his brother was still all right. Catching her eye, Lucky asked into the walkie-talkie, "Listen, Nik....can you tell me something? Can you tell me if Georgie Jones has been found?" There was some crackle, as Maxie strained to hear. Then, she could faintly hear Nikolas's voice: "Yeah, she's here. She's all right. She made it to the Versailles Room."

Maxie felt tears roll down her cheeks as she realized that her sister was alive. Lucky squeezed her hand. After signing off with Nikolas, he sat down next to her again. "Maxie, they're going to start helicopter evacuations. Georgie will be out in just a little while."

She nodded. Just then, she heard one of the paramedics speaking to the other one. "Hey, we need a gurney. Do you have one?"

"Yeah," the paramedic responded, "but we've got a DOA on it."

"Is there any way you can send him to the morgue? We really need that gurney!"

Glancing over, Maxie realized the DOA they were discussing was Cameron. Taking a deep breath, she looked back at Lucky. "Lucky, are you sure Georgie's going to be okay?"

"Yeah, she'll be out soon."

She nodded again. "Is there....I mean....," she sighed. "Do you think it would be all right if I rode over with Dr Lewis's....body?"

Lucky looked slightly horrified. She quickly tried to explain. "It's just...Zander was my friend," she said, hearing her voice crack, "and I know...I know he wouldn't want his father to be all alone." Lucky thought for a minute. Finally, he nodded. "I think that would be nice....he died saving me. I don't really want him to be alone, either."

She managed to catch up to the ambulance. After some pleading with the paramedic, he finally agreed to let her come along, as long as she sat in the front. She readily agreed. The ride to the hospital was silent - the paramedic had tried asking her about her relationship to the dead man, but Maxie had quickly grown quiet and withdrawn, lost in her own thoughts. Now that she knew Georgie was okay, she needed to check on Mac again. Besides that - she felt that she owed it to Zander to make sure Cameron made it to the hospital all right.

Once they arrived at GH, Maxie followed the paramedic down to the morgue. As he started to roll the body away, Maxie paused. She reached out and touched Cameron's hand, wincing at how stiff and cold it already was. She finally nodded slowly at the paramedic, and turned and walked away.

~*~

The rest of the night passed by in a blur. Maxie had been reunited with an equally tearful Georgie, who was full of tales of how Lorenzo Alcazar - of all people! - had managed to save her and Dillon and Sage and Travis, which was apparently "Tom"'s real name, from certain death. When she could finally get a word in edgewise, Maxie had finally told Georgie about Mac.

It had been hard, watching her usually overly emotional sister try to hold it together for their stepfather's sake. Maxie kept an eye on things from the window, but Georgie seemed to have a hold on her emotions. Feeling too voyeuristic, Maxie walked down the hall a distance. After a minute, she heard the door open. Before she could reach Georgie, however, Dillon was there, holding her in his arms and talking softly to her. Maxie smiled sadly at the scene, and leaned against the wall. Bobbie, having witnessed this exchange, came up beside her, touching her arm gently.

"Maxie....you know, I can call one of your friends if you'd like."

Maxie shook her head. "I'm used to being alone," she said quietly, turning and walking slowly away.

~*~

A few days after the fire, Maxie found herself walking down the street, towards her house. The town had finally taken on an eerie calm in the wake of the fire. The smell of smoke had finally drifted away, but Maxie swore that she could still smell it. She smelled it all the time. When she fell asleep at night, if she could sleep, she imagined being trapped in a basement room, being left to burn to death.

She and Georgie had stayed with Bobbie for the first few nights, but were both shocked when Felicia returned home. At first, Maxie had rushed into her arms happily - a little girl who had her mommy back. But then she'd thought better of it. She's just here for Mac, she thought bitterly. As soon as Mac gets better, she'll be gone again - just like always. Felicia had tried to assure them both that she was home for good this time, but Maxie decided she'd believe that when she saw it.

Mac seemed to be improving, but very slowly. It had been touch and go for the first 48 hours. In a sense, Maxie hadn't been overly surprised to see her mother - she was pretty sure Bobbie had called her and told her that if she wanted to see Mac before he died, now was the time. But he was starting to improve. There was no more fluid around his lungs. Maxie hoped he would wake up soon.

She had run into Alexis the day before, and she'd invited her to a small memorial she was having for both Cameron and Zander, in the chapel at the hospital. Maxie had readily agreed to go. She was stunned when she arrived to see Luke, Lucky, and Alexis....and that was it. After the short, but sweet, service was over, Maxie had pulled Lucky aside and given him the third degree. Where was Elizabeth, Gia, and most of all, EMILY? Where were the people who had once cared about Zander? Lucky had looked uncomfortable, and tried to deflect the question, but finally managed to explain that there had been a lot of bad blood between everyone. Gia, at least, had sent a floral arrangement. Alexis later let Maxie read the note she'd sent along, in which she'd explained that she was in the middle of her finals at law school. According to Alexis, Gia had been deeply upset to learn of Zander's death.

Maxie could understand Gia's reasoning. At least she'd acknowledged what had happened. But Emily and Liz were wandering around like nothing had changed, nothing was different. She'd watched them hang on their respective loves, proclaiming their undying devotion, and thanking God that they'd all made it out alive. But you DIDN'T all make it out, Maxie thought bitterly. Don't you care?

All of this was weighing on her mind as she headed up her driveway, digging through her purse to get out her house keys. Felicia was still at the hospital, and Georgie was going to Kelly's with Dillon, the last Maxie knew. As she got to the door, she heard a noise, and turned around to find her mailman approaching.

"Oh, hi, Carl," she said wearily, managing a smile. Carl responded in kind, and handed her a huge stack of mail. "Man! We got a LOT of mail today!" Maxie couldn't help but exclaim.

Carl nodded. "Because the post office is right next to the hotel - at least where the hotel was....it was closed down for a few days. So there was a really big backup. Some mail from before the fire started hadn't even been delivered."

Maxie nodded sympathetically. "Guess that means you've got a lot of work to do today, huh?"

"You better believe it!" he said with a grin. Then, his face sobered slightly. "How's your dad doing?"

She gave him a small smile. "He's doing better, actually. It's still going to be a long recovery, but…..it looks like he's going to eventually be okay."

Carl grinned happily at her. "That's great news, Maxie."

After he'd left, she sat down on the porch, rifling through the mail. She set a small stack of bills to the side. Georgie's National Geographic subscription. A copy of In Touch for herself. Information so Georgie could take the SATs. A credit card application for herself that she tore up. She noticed that Carl had picked up the backlog of newspapers in their driveway and put it with the mail. Knowing the bulk of the articles would be about the fire, she set those to the side. Finally, she narrowed her eyes as she spied a small envelope, addressed to Mariah Maximillana Jones. There was no return address.

As she ripped it open, a small, slightly wilted, daisy fell into her lap. She wrinkled her nose. Who would send her a flower in the mail? Weird. She unfolded the note paper, and froze as she stared at the one line, written in handwriting she didn't recognize.

Thank you for reminding me what it's like to be happy.

Maxie searched all over the note and envelope, but there was no indication of who had written it. Her heart leaped into her throat. No, Maxie, she chided herself. It can't be....Zander's dead. But who else could have done this? Who would play a trick like this on her? Besides, she hadn't even told anybody the details about what had happened between her and Zander.

Shaking her head, Maxie tried to clear her thoughts. She decided to take the advice her dad always gave her when she was trying to figure something out: Push it out of your mind, and usually the answers will come to you. She had laughed at him when he'd told her that, and called him Yoda, but who knows, maybe it would work. She picked up one of the newspapers, trying to focus on something else.

It didn't seem to be working, until a sudden article caught her eye. "BODY IN HOTEL BOILER ROOM MISIDENTIFIED", it read. Maxie stared at it. The body in the basement....it wasn't Zander. It was Scott Baldwin's!

As she put all the pieces together, she let out a small squeak, startling a bird that had been puttering around the front yard. "He's alive," she whispered to herself. "Oh my god, he's alive."

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July 2009

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