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The Texan refused to go to hospital. With a stubborn and unshakable logic he insisted that if he could still walk, then he could make the decision to walk away and he was going to exercise that right come hell or high water. He had personally thanked every person who had helped dig him out, shaking hands with an enthusiasm and vigour that belied the pain of his bruised and battered body. Flanked by his two companions, he had finally turned, blue eyes darting in every direction, searching through the mass of bodies until he had finally seen her. Slowly he walked forward, hesitant at first, not absolutely sure of his intentions but determined to at least say goodbye to the child with whom he had shared dark and lonely hours in the cellar. Seeing him, she broke away from the woman and ran towards him, stopping abruptly three feet away as her young face suddenly clouded with doubt. Vin smiled and crouched, in spite of the pain in his legs. “It’s okay, honey. It’s me.” His voice, the soft drawl of Texas so familiar to her, erased any uncertainty and she ran forwards him and put her arms around his neck, hugging him fiercely. “Thank you,” she whispered, “You’re not a bad man at all are you?” He shook his head, the words trapped in his throat. “No,” he finally managed, his voice tight, “I reckon I'm not.” He straightened and picked her up, looking to find the woman he had seen with the child immediately before. “How about we get you back to your mommy?” The girl’s eyes filled with tears as he moved forward to greet the woman. “This your daughter, ma’am? She’s a courageous little tike.” The woman shook her head sadly as she took the girl from him. “No, I’m her aunt. Sally’s mother was killed in an air raid a year ago.” She held out her hand, coolly formal. “Thank you, Lieutenant. I’m in your debt for what you did today.” Face drained of colour, Tanner stammered a few words and numbly reached out to shake the woman's hand, then turned and slowly limped away, not once looking back. Chris tapped Ezra on the arm as they fell into step behind the departing Texan. “What was all that about?” The Southerner swung his jacket over his shoulder and raised an eyebrow as he recognised the desolation in the slump of the young airman’s shoulders, as if he carried the sins of the world on his shoulders.

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