~Chapter Twenty-Three~

Farewell to Blue Mountain Riding Camp

The camp was coming along.

Marshall hadn't realized how much of a mess they had left the place; both when he and Megan had set out and later when they had returned and lived there for a day. The Wilsons could have cared less; they were more than thrilled when they heard the full story. They were more upset that Pons had wasted so much ammunition on their forest and into some of their cabin construction.

But everyone wanted a slice of Pons these days.

He was going away to a federal prison somewhere, hopefully to be forcefully interrogated about who hired him to invade the U.S. in the first place. Marshall didn't bothering containing a smile at that thought.

"Ready?" Tad asked, jarring him from his thoughts.

Marshall blinked, scooping up his two ends of the tent. "Ready."

They both walked forward, folding the collapsed tent neatly. Then they began the process of rolling it back up to fit in the bag. It hadn't been such a bad living arrangement for the short time they had used it. It had been better than some of the other places Marshall had been forced to sleep as of late.

He would always remember a certain drainage pipe, though.

"When did Dad say he would be here?" said Tad.

Marshall chuckled. "I'm surprised they're not already here. They were worried sick back when everyone thought it was a toxic spill. And it probably didn't help to learn that mercenaries had taken over the city."

"Yeah," Tad scoffed. "Mom's going to kill you when she finds out you were running around with these guys, almost getting shot."

Marshall waved off his brother. "Haven't you heard? We're the big heroes. They're going to throw a parade in our honor back home."

His brother scoffed again. "I doubt it… But if they do, I get to ride on the float."

Marshall laughed, helping carry the bagged tent back towards the Wilson's garage.

Well, maybe they weren't getting a parade. And there was a degree of which Marshall couldn't talk about what he had seen or done. But Mom and Dad had heard the whole story from the military by now. And he was certain he had enough brownie points with them to last for life.

Carl was waiting for them as they came around.

"You have a visitor," he said cheerfully.

Marshall and Tad exchanged glances.

"Our parents are here already?"

Carl chuckled. "Let me rephrase that. Marshall has a visitor. She's waiting out by the horse pen."

Tad rolled his eyes. "Well go find your girlfriend."

Marshall handed off the tent bundle and started up the rocky road through the trees. He felt his insides turn over, but this time with excited anticipation instead of dread.

Marshall had to admit, he hadn't thought he would get in touch with Megan until they got back to Bozeman. Her family had whisked her off pretty quickly during the sort-out in Jakobe that afternoon. But he hadn't stressed about it. She would be waiting for him there. At the time, he needed only worry about getting things in order with the Wilsons until their parents could retrieve them.

That had been two days ago.

She was leaning against the railing to the horse pen, arms folded; a sly grin waiting on her face.

"Thought you went home," Marshall said, walking up to meet her.

"There was something important I had to do first."

She pulled him into a tight hug, not letting go. Marshall was okay with that. He hugged her back, grateful just to have her in his embrace for the time. And maybe wishing a little that time could take a break and they could just enjoy this unsullied moment endlessly.

When she finally broke away, she leaned back against the railing, resting her elbows on the metal. Marshall walked around to stand beside her, the two of them gazing off into the forest.

"So now what happens?" she asked, leaning her head against his. She was almost taller than him, and it would have been awkward trying to get lean on his shoulder.

"Well, I suppose we should probably exchange numbers," Marshall replied.

"True, true. How else are you going to take me out to dinner?"

Marshall snorted playfully. "Does it look like I'm made of money?"

"Well, we could do a picnic. Maybe you could give me a tour of your workshop. I'm guessing it's a place you hold dear."

Marshall smiled. "How are such two different people like us going to make this work?"

"Same way we survived in the woods. We'll talk things out. We'll make each other uncomfortable. And we'll have one hell of an adventure."

Marshall stepped around to face her properly. He wanted to kiss her so bad, but wasn't so sure he knew how to do it properly. He didn't exactly have experience in the matter. Luckily, she seemed to read his intentions, leaning forward to complete the action. Perhaps he would have some time to practice up on that.

"One hell of an adventure," he repeated breathlessly as she pulled away. "I think that sounds like a great idea."

"Just remember, Marsh, the last time we went on such an adventure, it meant getting lost in the woods."

Marshall laughed. In the end, he decided he was glad he got lost in the woods.

It was the best thing to ever happen to him.