The nearing of the end of the month of December marked the coming end of an eventful year for everyone at Meridan - the restructuring, a slight increase in the workforce, and the easing and streamlining of the difficulties in their daily routine. The company was gracious with its increased profits, once again renting out the same ballroom inside the Eastgate Civic Center for a grand Christmas party, including present-swapping which involved the entire department. It was there that the Board of Regents made the announcement that the newly-revamped department would be at full speed and introduced to the public by January 10th through a massive television and media advertising campaign. They also announced their earnings statement for the last half of the year, along with projected figures for the coming year, when the born-anew Processing department would be at full capacity, from software to training. They then gave their thanks to the people of Meridian for their cooperation and hard work in making the restructuring such a powerful success.

Michael Hawkins then stepped to the microphone and introduced the man without whose commitment and innovation, the restructuring could not have even reached the level of success it had, much less become a model for other Meridian offices to follow and also prosper. When William walked onstage, the crowd exploded into a deafening roar. When the cheering died down, William gave his thanks to the team managers of each former sub-department for their cooperation, and everyone who had held on through a complete turnaround of an already successful company. At the end of William's short speech, he used the phrase that this department had "lit the afterburners...and now it was time for another boost." With that, he removed an envelope from inside his jacket and announced that every single agent within the Processing department - regardless of time on the job - would be celebrating their Christmas with an extra $5,000 in their year-end bonus check.

There was a second of applause and hurried, excited talking - broken by someone in the back shouting, "William Hodge for President!" The room erupted into laughter, with even William unintentionally laughing loudly directly into the microphone - and then the laughter turned to cheers and chants of "Will-iam! Will-iam! Will-iam!" William tried to protest, telling the throng that the changes would not have happened so quickly, or at all, without the commitment and work from the people of the department itself - but Michael Hawkins would have none of it, raising his hand to the crowd over William's head, joined by the rest of the Board of Regents, with Marcy closest by his side - and the cheering and chanting simply drowned out attempts by William to avoid accepting the large share of success. Of the cheering crowd, the one with the brightest smile and most quiet celebration for William was his wife. Kim's cheer was one of silent content, not of surprise - for she had been convinced some time ago of her husband's abilities and potential - both at work and in every other aspect of their life.

After the emotion-evoking and passionate marking of the first anniversary of their meeting, Kim and William decided on a Christmas without a lot of to-do. They had put up a small, four-foot tree in the week leading up to the holiday, adorning it with tinsel, strings of garlands made with popcorn in the centuries-old tradition - and a series of antique glass ornaments William had inherited from his parents. Christmas Day was a quiet day at home with simple meals and simple presents - William giving Kim a small charm bracelet of silver, already started with a tiny cross to symbolize her entry into the Flesher environment, and an adorable cat's face, denoting Angel Mist - and Kim's gift to William - a tie clasp in white gold, engraved with his initials. It was so soothing, eating Christmas dinner by the light of the tree, snuggled on the rug in front of the fireplace with their meal and the backgammon set as a gentle snow fell outside - a shaved ham-and-sharp Cheddar Jack cheese sandwich on homemade wheat cottage bread, a bowl of clam chowder - and fresh popcorn popped in the fireplace.

The following week was the annual New Year's bash, held in a smaller venue, rented out from a local polka/bingo emporium; and while the alcohol served was to be limited and closely monitored, Kim and William thought better than to expose her to a potentially less-than-controlled atmosphere. This night they too, spent at home, this time joined by Marcy and her still-new beau, Lupe Delgado, the owner of the Mexican restaurant in the market square. Lupe had graciously offered to bring tacos for dinner, with cinnamon twists and coconut caramel flan for dessert. Lupe and Marcy then proceeded to teach Kim and William the game of Dominoes, which they played late into the evening. At the stroke of midnight, the four engaged in warm embraces - and warm wishes and hopes for the new year.

The beginning of January marked the start of the seventh month of Kim's pregnancy - and also brought Kim to a rather tearful yet inevitable and necessary decision - the beginning of her maternity leave. She entered Carolyn Ackerman's office on the morning of Monday the 5th, telling her that Friday the 9th was to be her last day in the office. Carolyn accepted Kim's announcement with mixed emotions, as they had become a strong team when it came to solving research and logistics problems, yet knew it meant that her assistant and future successor was entering the final phase of her wondrous nine-month journey, and could look forward to the start of another with the birth of her child. Kim assured her that Tina was fully trained to take her place and fulfill Carolyn's every need. Kim spent that week engaging in tearful good-byes until the start of summer, with several people expressing not only anticipation of her return - but of being under her leadership when she did. Friday found Kim the recipient of a surprise party held by the entire department, full of tearfully joyous gratitude.

The work bond and teamwork between Kim and Tina continued even through phone communication over the open voice line as Kim continued her work on the following Monday, the 12th. Their integration continued to be as seamless as if Kim were still in her cubicle. Various times throughout the day, someone passing by Tina's desk would just blurt out a "hi" to Kim, just as if she were still there - and she would return the greeting or engage in a short conversation, depending on if they identified themselves or how quickly she recognized the voice coming through her speaker. Each day, the reports would be sent on time or even early. Kim was spending a lot of her time in the evenings perusing online stores, choosing just the right accessories to accentuate the nursery she and William had started a bit before Christmas. She had worked hard on her decisions, coordinating the most welcome and comfortable newborn environment she could think to assemble for her approaching arrival.

Even with Kim's determination and mental willingness to continue in her post, her body let her know when she had reached her physical limitations. It had become increasingly difficult to remain at her desk for any period of time, and began to suffer from agonizing pains in her lower back from the position. It was the end of January when she made another painful call to Carolyn, telling her that her condition would no longer allow her to telecommute. Even though this was expected at some point, and though it actually came later than most people had planned for, this moment was not easy for either Kim or Carolyn - it essentially meant the end of their time as coworkers. The next time Kim would talk to Carolyn, she would be part of Data Operations. They wished each other the best of luck in their respective endeavors, and vowed to keep in touch.

Tina was the trooper through all of this, steadily preparing herself for the task she now assumed. She made a concerted effort to fill the shoes of her corporate mentor, vowing not to fail her in the duties that had been passed to her. She and Kim still kept correspondence by phone during the day, making sure that she was applying the smoothest and most comprehensive techniques in the completion of the reports, with Kim reminding her occasionally of a shortcut or enhancement Tina may have overlooked.

Without the extra pressure of working to produce the reports to Los Angeles each day, Kim turned her efforts toward her final preparations for the arrival of her own gift to the Flesher environment. William pulled yeoman duty, making sure as many of Kim's needs for the day were tended to or made less difficult before he left for work, and pulling double duty in keeping the house in order when he came home. On occasion he would stay home with Kim, helping her through some of the more emotionally trying days - and in so doing, he was exposed to some of the more curious habits his wife had developed in her advanced condition - such as taking an intense attraction to watching professional hockey games, shouting at the television to root certain teams on, all while snacking on potato chips unceremoniously dipped into ketchup, and on occasion, mustard or relish.

Because of the special unprecedented circumstances surrounding Kim's pregnancy, Dr. Daiken, her obstetrician, accommodated the couple with "house calls" on alternating Tuesdays, where he assured them that things were progressing according to plan, and what to expect in the weeks approaching her estimated due date.

The couple was treated to a bit of a scare in early February, when Kim suddenly awakened about 3:30 in the morning complaining of intense pain and pressure. A rescue squad was called, along with an emergency page to Dr. Daiken. After about 14 hours, an examination revealed that Kim had suffered through an intense episode of "false labor." The doctor assured them that there was nothing wrong or abnormal - that this happens to many women late in their pregnancy - and sent them home, exhausted, in time for dinner the following night.

The closer Kim got to her "due date" - March 15th - the more apprehensive she became about the experience. Not only had she herself never gone through the experience of giving birth - no other Celler had, either. Even the Cross Agents had no information, much less advice they could give her. Kim was treading into truly uncharted territory - where no Celler had gone before. No one was sure if the circumstances which brought about Kim's pregnancy would or even could ever be duplicated - or if this was some one-in-a-million fluke of cross-environmental nature. No one would even hazard a guess at the nature of the offspring Kim and William's union would produce, much less what could happen to it - or to Kim - when the birth took place.

BOY OH BOY (or girl)

Friday, March 12th
1:47 PM.
Sunshine Tea Room

William poked at a remaining piece of meat on his plate, the last of his order of almond chicken. Marcy put down her egg roll and studied William as he stared at the action of his chopsticks, slowly pursuing the chunk of poultry. "William? Are you okay?"

William gave a small quick nod in response, finally setting down his chopsticks on the plate. Marcy slid her hand to his shoulder in a conciliatory motion. "Future Father Jitters...?"

"You sure got that right," he said, exhaling. "Especially after that thing last month with the false labor. When that started, I think I used all the energy I was saving up to psyche for the birth."

"Awww," she said, squeezing his upper arm. "I think you still have some reserve in there somewhere, even if it feels like you don't...besides, you have to."


"Well after all," she smirked, "you still have the real thing to go through. The dry run was just a...relief valve or something." William looked at Marcy, and she could no longer hold in a giggle.

William knew how to counter Marcy's evil play, thanks to his wife. "Ohhh, Marcy...did I tell you what Kim has started doing lately with potato chips? It's the most curious thing--"

"ARGH!" Marcy exclaimed, gritting her teeth and balling her fist on the table. "You know better than that! I just ate over here!"

William snickered. "I guess you're right, I do have a bit of reserve left."

"Speaking of reserve," she said, "you might be getting an extra something to put toward your child's college fund."

"How do you mean?"

"Well...I heard this morning that Chicago and Omaha have approved and are going to announce a second-quarter initiation of your restructuring model, based on our first-quarter statements. They'll be launching by October. And I heard that Oklahoma City and Dallas will be watching them, and basing their decision on the model from their profit after launch."


"And...for each facility that employs the the months after launch, you'll be getting a residual for each quarter they show growth. It'll be a percentage, but it could add up to quite the dollar figure."

"Pffft," William scoffed, picking up his cup of tea. "A couple of facilities. It couldn't be that much."

"William," Marcy replied, rather astonished, "even if a quarter of all district offices employ the model, it will bring in more in residuals than we pay most Processing agents in salary...and if anywhere near all 50 offices adopt it, your cut could easily equal your yearly salary."

William had nearly set his cup down when Marcy finished. His cup slipped from his fingers to the saucer with a loud "clink," causing some of the remaining tea to splash over the rim of the cup and into the saucer. "That's serious money, just for residuals," he stammered, dabbing his napkin on his saucer and the tablecloth near it.

"Now you're listening," Marcy giggled. "I talked with Michael this morning, and the best thing for you to do would be to clear your desk for the rest of the day, and put those daily operational cost-cutting measures you showed us back in June into a nice package that you can send to the other district offices...and overnight them all out. Then Monday, you can start bending ears, backed with that extra punch. Many directors will jump on it right away, I'll bet."

"I wish I could give them the same confidence in me that you've always had," he said, grinning. "Then I could just plop it onto their desks, and they'd start in on it, barely even questioning it."

Marcy smiled at her friend. "Well, they haven't had the privilege and experience of working with you, like I have."

"I didn't say I had all the details of that little plan worked out," William smirked.

Marcy laughed softly as William's cell piped up in his coat pocket. "That could be Michael," she said as he pulled the phone from his pocket. "He was thinking about giving you a pep talk on selling the cost-cutting package."

William flipped open the phone and brought it to his ear. His "hello" was met immediately by a series of quick puffs of breath - "Whuh-whuh-whuh-whuh--"

William placed the phone to Marcy's ear for a second. "I...don't think that's Michael," she said as he brought the phone back to his own ear.

"..Kim?" uttered William.

"Wh-whuh-ooohhhh," came through the phone. "William," Kim said breathlessly, "I've got-- that pain and-- pressure again...but this-- time it's more-- pressure than-- pain went-- away for a-- few minutes, but-- now it's-- back...I-- called Dr.-- Daiken and-- he wants me-- to come in...he called a-- rescue squad in-- case I couldn't-- reach's on the-- way."

"How long ago did the pain go away?" William asked.

"A little-- over ten-- minutes ago," wheezed Kim.

"Ten minutes," echoed William. Marcy's eyes widened at this.

Then "Whuh-whuh-whuh-whhhhoooaaa!" and the sound of a muffled splash in the background, as if someone had emptied out a pail. "Whu-William I just-- man, there's water all-- over the kitchen! From-- ME!"

"Alright, Kim," William said, trying to keep calm for his wife. "Don't worry about that now. Just wait for the paramedics, and they'll do the rest. I'm at lunch with Marcy, and she'll take me to the hospital. We're near there now, so we'll be waiting for you. It's going to be okay, hon...just like last time...okay?"

"But I-- have to clean--"

"Kim? Don't worry about the water, okay?" Marcy's head shot up as William said this. Her hand immediately stabbed into her purse for her credit card and car keys, her other hand frantically motioning for the waitress. "Everything's going to be fine, Kim," said William. "I love you, Kim. Dr. Daiken will take care of everything. Okay. See you in a bit. Bye-bye." He folded the phone and slipped it into his coat pocket again, and turned to Marcy, who had by now stood and put on her coat. "She's having those false pains agai--"

"You said water?" she cut him off as he left his chair to don his own coat.

"Yeah, all over the kit--."

"Well hurry up with your coat and let's go!" exclaimed Marcy. "Her water broke. Buckle up...Daddy...because this isn't a drill - your baby is COMING!"

They gathered up and left the table just as the waitress arrived. "What about your card!?" she called after them.

"We have an emergency," Marcy shouted back. "Give it to the manager, I'll pick it up tomorrow!"

1:49 PM.
Kim had managed to waddle into the living room, but didn't know where to sit, as the entire lower half of her dark blue muumuu was now soaked. She decided to worry about the cleaning bill later, as the pressure in her abdomen was slowly continuing to increase, and began to lean toward sitting on the couch, steadying her hand on the arm.

The doorbell rang just before she committed her weight to fall toward the cushions. Kim huffed out an "Urrgghhh" and gave herself a push from the couch. "Coming," she said, moving slowly. She opened the door to two paramedics, dressed in dark blue, one carrying a large orange case and an oxygen tank, the other with his hand on a gurney.

The one manning the gurney, Carl, took one look at her obviously distended midsection. "You just have to be Kim," he said, smiling. He then noted her soaked state. He reached for the outside door. "I think we should have you lie down," he said, positioning the gurney sideways, as the other man opened the valve on the oxygen tank and setting the rate of flow, asking, "Do you know when you had your last contraction?"

"It was...just a moment...ago," Kim replied, still breathing a bit hard. "About ten...minutes...before that."

"Okay, let's not waste much more time," said Carl, and moved to steady Kim and help her to lie down. "Is someone meeting you at the hospital?"

"Yes, my...husband."

"Good. Dave, lock the inside door. I'll start the O2 and get some vitals." Dave reached around the inside door, twisting the tab to lock it, and pulling it tight. Carl in the meantime had gently placed the oxygen tank on the gurney between Kim's knees, and affixed a mask over her mouth and nose, then wrapped a blood pressure cuff around Kim's upper left arm. He pressed two fingers against her right wrist as the small machine tightened the cuff for a few seconds, then beeped twice, as series of numbers on the display. "Pulse is 112...BP is 150 over 94," he said as Dave began to maneuver the gurney toward the back of the waiting ambulance. "Breathing is 35 and heavy."

Kim began to feel a bit nervous now, knowing that this time was no "false" labor pains. The pressure was different - more of a downward pressure, rather than just a fullness, like she had felt in February's episode. It gave Kim a feeling much like an intense need to go to the bathroom. At the same time, it also gave her the feeling that the anticipation - the apprehension - all the waiting she and William had gone through over the previous nine months was coming to an end; and that soon, her gift would be presented to all the world.

But above all that, her nervousness of the coming unknown held her reason as a captive audience.

She lifted her mask as they made their way toward the ambulance. "It's such...a beautiful...spring afternoon guys...can we put...this off for...another day??" she winced.

"No, I'm afraid not," chuckled Carl. "Someone else wants to come out and enjoy the weather with you."

"Yeah," Kim sighed resignedly with a wan smile, holding her lower abdomen and replacing the mask over her face as they lifted the gurney into the back of the ambulance. Her head suddenly snapped up. "Oooohhh," she shrilled. "No alcohol on anything!"

"Yep," replied Carl. "Dr. Daiken called that in as part of his instructions for transport. And actually," he added, smiling, "when you took that nasty fall at Meridian last June? We were the crew that picked you up then, too. I remember the thing about the alcohol."

Hearing this, Kim seemed to settle just a bit. "Well," she said, "if you got me there safe and sound then, I'm in good hands now...although last time, I was ou-- ouuu-- whuh-whoooOOOWWW-ha-ha-howwwww!" Another sustained wave of intense pressure struck Kim's abdomen.

Carl looked at his watch as Kim turned her head, grimacing through tightly gnashed teeth. "That's eight minutes, Dave. I'm putting in a page to Daiken to see if I can start pain management. Better make this a Code 3. I'm not sure how much time we're gonna have." Dave flicked a switch on the dash, and the squad's siren awakened to a piercing wail as it shattered the spring silence.

1:52 PM.
"ER or OR?" asked Marcy as she sped down the offramp near Eastgate General Hospital.

"I'll find out," William said, grabbing his cell out of his pocket and flipping it open in one motion, hitting the speed-dial button for Dr. Daiken's cell.

Dr. Daiken answered on the first ring. "This had better be good, I'm on the way to an emergency delivery," he said, his voice shaking with his footsteps as he ran down the hall.

"I think you're talking about Kim," said William.

"William?" asked the Doctor. "I'm assuming Kim called you and you're somewhere en route. You'd better step on it if you want to be here for the birth."

"We're just coming off the highway exit to the hospital," William replied. "I'm calling to find out where to meet you."

"Ah, good. We'll be in one of the Delivery Rooms on the second floor...I put in a call for DR 2. You can get there quickest through the ER entrance, and take the west elevators."

William turned quickly to Marcy. "ER."

"Get thee hence, William," said Dr. Daiken. "I talked to the paramedics en route just before you called. Kim's contractions are about six minutes apart, and the squad is coming in hot, Code 3."

"Almost there, Doctor...see you in a few." William slapped the phone closed, and heard the scream of a siren from the west.

"Kim?" Marcy asked, hearing the siren echo through the surrounding buildings as it approached.

"Yep. She's advancing rather quickly. Her contractions were at ten minutes when she called me at the restaurant. Dr. Daiken said the paramedics told him she's at six minutes now."

"I knew I should have driven the Beemer in to work today," said Marcy as she cut a hard right into an intersection, the narrow tires of her Honda arguing against the pavement for traction.

1:54 PM.

"Hang in there Kim," Carl tried to shout above her screams vying with those of the siren. "We're two minutes out."

"AHHH!" shrieked Kim. "Are you-- sure Dr.-- Daiken said I-- couldn't have any-- pain medication???"

"He's going to administer an epidural the second you get into the delivery room. It will numb you completely from the waist down. All you'll feel is cramping and a bit of pressure." Kim clamped her hand onto Carl's forearm, squeezing, trying to concentrate past the pain as the ambulance slowed for the ramp to the emergency bay.

1:56 PM.
"There's an ambulance backing in," said Marcy as she screeched around the curved driveway to the ER parking. "Must be Kim."

"Just park in front of the doors," blurted William. "I'll pay the ticket if you get one." Marcy pulled just next to the wheelchair ramp leading to the front doors and jolted to a stop. William had the door open before the car stopped rolling and hit the ground running, nearly losing his balance on the way to the doors. Marcy yanked her keys from the ignition and ran after William into the ER. William tried to keep from running as he approached the desk. "Kim Hodge?" he asked the receptionist.

The receptionist noted William's rather harried and rustled condition. "You must be the father," she smiled. "They're just coming in now."

William and Marcy looked in the direction of the bay as the paramedics rolled in the gurney "Urrrrggghhh-OWWWW!!" Kim was now grasping her lower abdomen, as if to hold the baby in.

William walked over to meet them. "How's she doing?" he asked Carl.

"You must be William," Carl said, reaching to shake his hand. "She seems to be stable...she understandably has a bit of--"

"P-Painnn..." Kim strained. She immediately reached for William's hand. "You have no earthly idea how glad I am to see you here," she said, a mixed tear of joy and pain rolling down her cheek. "We're talking Attack of The Killer Baby here," she winced.

"The doctor said to hold off on pain meds until we get her upstairs," said Carl as they moved toward the main hallway. "I guess he wants a baseline before they start a local anesthetic."

The receptionist motioned for William to come to the desk. "Can you just check over this information really quick?"

William nodded, then turned back to Kim, squeezing her hand and bringing it up to kiss it. "I'll see you in a couple of minutes, hon...I promise. I love you." They separated slowly, and the paramedics wheeled the gurney toward the elevators. William went to the desk, looking over a sheet. "This is all current and correct," he said. "Can we go up now?"

She checked on a computer screen. "You bet. They're on the second floor, in Delivery. They're going to--"

"DR 2," William burst out, grabbing Marcy by the arm. "C'mon Marc." They moved quickly through the ER lobby into the main hallway of the hospital, which split into two vestibules, each with its own set of elevators. William started looking down the list in the large glass directory directly in front of them, scanning his finger down one row, then another. "I don't see 'west elevators' anywhere on here." he said, his frustration rising. He quickly turned around, facing the ER lobby, balling his fists. "Where the -HELL- are the WEST ELEVATORS!??"

"Hey William," Marcy called calmly. "Let's use these until we can find the west elevators."

William moved to his left, looking around the corner into an empty vestibule. "Where are you?" he asked.

"I'm on the other side," replied Marcy. "Under this sign." William quickly walked to the other side where Marcy was waiting in front of a pair of doors. She slyly uncurled her index finger toward the ceiling, a slight smirk on her face. William looked above the trio of elevators:

"West Elevators"

"Oookay, Marc," he sighed. "You have the brain today." Marcy giggled as she placed her arm around William's shoulders, leading him in when the doors opened. As they closed, William leaned against the wall and sank to a squatting position, letting his head hang slack and blowing a heavy sigh through pursed lips. "I think you'll have to call Michael and tell him that the cost proposal won't be going anywhere tonight."

Marcy tried hard not to snicker. "Really? Gosh, he'll be so disappointed." She then patted the harried father-to-be on the shoulder. "You'll have all next week to work on them from home, dear." William now stood, looking at Marcy. "Yes, the father gets a little maternity leave, too," her expression changed to a warm smile, "and if anyone has earned it, it's you," she said, laughing softly. As the elevator reached the second floor, Marcy turned to William, a rather puzzled look on her face. "There's only one thing I don't understand."


"Since when did you ever call me 'Marc'?" William sighed out a snicker, shaking his head. Marcy patted his back for confidence as the elevator doors opened to the Maternity Ward. They spotted the arrow that pointed down the hall to their left, marked "Delivery Rooms," and followed it.

1:59 PM.
William recognized Doctor Daiken standing outside Delivery Room 2 as they quickened their pace down the hall. "William, good timing," the Doctor said, extending his hand, shaking William's warmly. "Another two minutes and I was going to start the video cameras and tape the birth for you."

"You do that?" asked William.

"Neat," added Marcy.

"Can you tape it anyway? I think Kim would like a record," William said. And so would quite a few Cross Agents, he finished in thought.

"No problem at all," the Doctor replied. We'll start the machines right after we start the epidural."

"Epi-whosis?" said William quizzically.

"Epidural. It's a local anesthetic. It will numb her below the waist, to make the delivery easier on her." He looked through a small window in the door. "Let's get you suited up in a mask and gown." William took off his coat and passed it to Marcy to hold as the two men went into a small wardrobe room, the Doctor continuing. "Her contractions are about three minutes apart, but the epidural usually has the effect of slowing them down. Then we administer a drug that will speed them up again." Doctor Daiken then selected a gown for William to put over his clothes, plastic booties to slip over his shoes, and a mask to fit over his face. The men then started for the Delivery Room. "We'll be starting the epidural in a moment," he said as they approached the double doors to the Delivery Room. "Kim seemed a bit nervous, so we're giving her a mild sedative via her IV."

Marcy and William both perked toward the Doctor simultaneously. "Sedative??" Doctor Daiken looked at them both, puzzled.

"I'm not sure it will calm her down," said William with a smirk, remembering the last time Kim was subject to sedation, "but I'll bet that it will be an experience you won't soon forget."

"Oh, I don't know," the Doctor replied, setting his hand against the door to push it open. "Things have been so stable and normal throughout Kim's pregnancy, I don't foresee anything out of the usual during the birth."

William turned to Marcy. "He don' know her vewwy weww, do he??"

Marcy fell into a fit of laughter, remembering some of the disjointed statements Kim had made during her last episode. "Tell her the Butterscotch Bunny with the year-'round perfect tan is backing her all the way....and I want to see that tape!" she giggled as William and the Doctor disappeared through the double doors. Marcy went to the small waiting lounge just across the hall and sat into a large stuffed chair. "That's why I can't scratch 'em!" she echoed her memory of that day, "Now you see my dilemma! Hahahaha!"

2:03 PM.
"Crumbly Crunchies are the best...look delicious on your vest...serve them to unwanted guests...stuff the mattress with the rest," Kim sang as the men walked into the delivery room, approaching the table. She had been dressed in a gown and was draped with a sheet over her lower body.

"Told you," William snickered.

Kim then burst out, "And I'll bet NONE of you knew that the state with the highest percentage of people who walk to work is ALASKA! That's right - sooooo Tundra City!"

Doctor Daiken took his place at the foot of the table. "Afternoon, Kim," he said. "I've been told you're rather...entertaining when you're sedated." He then pointed to William, who had taken up a position just over Kim's right shoulder. A young nurse with blonde hair adjusted the blood pressure cuff on Kim's left arm.

Kim looked back, not recognizing her husband in surgical garb. "Whoa...two doctors, no waiting!" She began to look back and forth between him and Doctor Daiken, wagging the index finger of her right hand alternately. "Doc...Doc...Doc...Doc..." Suddenly she flashed out with her left hand, pinching the blonde on the rump. "--Goose!" she shrilled, an evil grin crossing her face.

"OW!!" The nurse shrieked, jumping. She looked to the Doctor for sympathy, rubbing her backside.

"Contusion to the right Gluteus?" he said through a chuckle. This served to crack up the anesthesiologist, standing over Kim's left shoulder.

"Yeah, baby," Kim snickered. "I contuded that ol' Gluteus...and I thought I just pinched her booty!"

"Maybe we should start the epidural from the neck down," the blonde muttered.

"Awww, what's the matter, Tara?" said Kim. "No jocularity while on the job?"

"My name is Jessica," the blonde replied rather defiantly.

"Jessica..." the Doctor drew out the nurse's name rather sympathetically, "it's apparently a side effect of the sedative, according to her husband. Besides, this is her time. Be a little...just kind of go with the flow."

Kim looked up at the injured blonde, adopting her best "puppy dog pout" expression. "I'll buy you a hot fudge sundae, Jessica..."


"...if I get to pinch you again first," Kim tittered. "Boowaahahahahahaha....hey, speaking of jocularity, where's that spousal unit of mine? He started this, he should be here for the finish." Doctor Daiken pointed to her husband standing behind her. She craned her neck to look at him as he lifted his mask slightly, smiling. "DUDE!" she exclaimed. "Don't sneak up on me like that! Ninjas make more noise than you!"

Doctor Daiken nodded to the anesthesiologist. "Let's get the epidural going and put this lovely lady out of her pain."

Kim's head shot a look at the Doctor. "What? You're putting me down like a dog!?? William, HELP!"

"Noooo,'re definitely not a dog," said the Doctor. "And we're not putting you to sleep. The epidural will just numb your lower body. You'll be awake for the whole thing. Besides, we need you to push when I tell you."

"Push? Push what - your car? You're a doctor! You make like a gazillion dollars a year! You can't hire a tow truck? I can't push a car, I'm having a baby up in here!"

The Doctor tried not to laugh. A light-skinned black woman moved to where Kim could see her. "Hi there Kim," she said with a wide smile. "I'm Nora, and I'll be your anesthesiologist...and I'm having fun, with you here."

Kim's expression melted to one of welcoming warmth. "Nooorrraaa," she cooed, reaching out to embrace the woman. "You''re beautiful. You can be my little Chocolate Bunny." Nora chuckled at this. "You just have to meet my friend Marcy," continued Kim. "She's my Butterscotch Bunny with the year-'round perfect tan...but you have her soooo beat."

"Does this mean you're not going to pinch me?" Nora snickered.

"No way!" exclaimed Kim. "I'll buy you a hot fudge sundae even if I don't get to pinch you. I just pinched Tara over there because she reminds me of somebody I used to work with."

"It's Jessica." the blonde nurse insisted.

"Holy CRAP in the back seat!!" Kim shouted. "Nora, what-is-THAT-for!??"

Nora was holding up a large needle, curved into a semi-circle. "This is to administer the epidural," she said. "You only feel it for a few seconds...then it's off to Pain Free Land."

Kim's brow furrowed. "Well...if only for a few seconds, then I guess it will be okay. I'll trust you, my Chocolate Bunny...anyway, the only way it could hurt worse than this bun in the oven is if you stuck that needle up my butt."

"Noooo," laughed Nora. "It's not going there. Now...I want you to sit up, and lean forward as far as you can."

"What? WHAT? SO NOT! I thought you said it's not going up my butt! did you LIE!?"

"No no, Kim," smiled Nora. "The needle is going to go into the fluid sac at the base of your spine. That's how we administer the drugs for the epidural."

"Nora, the base of my spine IS my butt!" shrieked Kim. "William! save me! They think I'm sitting on a pincushion!"

Doctor Daiken motioned for William to stand at the foot of the table. "Yes, and help. You can hold her hands to help her bend forward."

"Yeah," said Kim as William moved down the table. "Doctor don't help...but Will Do! HAHAHAHA!! Even Tara didn't offer help!"


2:06 PM.
Nora placed her hands under Kim's shoulders, helping her groan to a sitting position. William reached out for Kim's hands, and Kim obliged by beginning to slap them in a rhythm, reciting, "Patty-cake, patty-cake, doctor-man...get my kid as fast as you can..." She then got silent for a moment as she felt Nora's fingers pressing various spots on her tailbone area - then something else. "Is that it???" she asked. "That's the needle? Come on! I barely felt a thing!"

"I'm sorry, Kim," said Nora from behind her, "that was just a felt pen. I'm marking the location of your spine. Now you have to sit still for me."

"Sit still while you stick a needle in my're funny, Nora," Kim said sarcastically. "Maybe next you're going to have me stand on my hea-HEY!! HEY! HEEEEEEYYYY!!! OWOWOWOWOWOW!!!" Kim's eyes grew larger than William had ever seen them, her expression of surprise and pain searing into his own eyes. Her hands clamped onto William's wrists like vices, her fingernails digging into his skin as Nora continued to insert the needle. Another contraction began just as all this was happening. Kim closed her eyes tightly, gritting her teeth as her fingernails were beginning to draw blood from William, who had produced his own grimace of pain. "Jesus, Mary, Joseph and the entire cast of 'ANTZ,'" Kim yelled, "THIS HURTS, NORA!! AND I GOTTA TAKE A DUMP!!!"

"I'm in," said Nora. "Lay back,'ll take some of the pressure off. The only pain you feel right now is from the contraction. I'm done with the needle."

Kim's hands slipped from William's grasp as she reclined. William grimaced as he held one of his wrists. "Jessica, would you get a bit of antiseptic for William's wounds?" Doctor Daiken said, then turning to Kim as the contraction subsided. Her hair was now starting to mat from sweat. "Okay, Kim," he said. "Let's get your feet up into the stirrups and get that epidural going."

"Got a helmet, Doc?" Kim queried. "If I have one of these contractions with my legs in the air, I can't be responsible for anything in the way of my feet."

"Not a problem," the Doctor replied. "The epidural will deaden your muscles for a few hours. You won't be able to move."

Nora gently patted a towel over Kim's now-shimmering face. "Mmmmmm," she purred, "Nora, you are so attentive. Remind me to get you a wash and wax and an oil change before you leave today." Nora giggled in response. Jessica finished applying a spray antiseptic to the small gouges on William's wrists, then took her place at Kim's left, making sure not to make the mistake of turning her back on her again. "Hey Tara," said Kim. "How's the caboose?" Jessica sighed and rolled her eyes to the ceiling.

Doctor Daiken helped Kim with the proper placement of her feet into the stirrups, which held her legs apart and aloft. "William..." Kim cooed, "this is kinda comfortable. We gotta get one of these beds for the corner of the bedroom!" Nora fell into an uncontrollable giggle. Doctor Daiken brought his finger to his nose, trying to hold his laughter, but not exactly succeeding.

"She's not done yet," said William, chuckling.

"Nora, let's get started before the next contraction," the Doctor instructed. He sank onto a stool, taking his position between Kim's legs, moving the sheet and gown back, and moving a large overhead light to shine on the entrance to the birth canal. "Let's introduce some lidocaine and epinephrine." Nora introduced two syringes into the end of the line to the small of Kim's back and opened them slightly

"Whoa," Kim said, "I'm being drafted."

"Drafted?" asked Nora.

"Yeah. Drop your drawers," said Kim, smirking, "and see if you don't feel a draft, sweetie." Nora again tittered. Another assistant moved to Kim's midsection on the right, baring her stomach and applying a bit of jelly to Kim's abdomen, then moving a sonogram slowly across her distended belly. Kim began to sing. "Epinephrine, Epinephrine, Lidocaine, Lidocaine...through the tube the drugs pass, to the needle in my ass...soon, no pain...soon, no pain. EVERYBODY!"

Nora put her hand over her mouth in a poor attempt to control her laughter. She looked over at Jessica, who sighed resignedly, with a small smile and a chuckle. "Okay, okay...she's funny...and now that I look at her, she kind of resembles someone I've seen before..."

2:10 PM.
"The fetus has dropped to the plus-one position of engagement," said the assistant using the sonogram.

"We're well effaced down here," said Doctor Daiken.

"A face?" Kim asked. "You see a face already??"

"No no Kim," the Doctor said, peeking above the sheet. "Ef-faced. We talked about this a few weeks ago. It's the lining of your uterus thinning in preparation for delivery." His head moved down again. "And you're now just about fully dilated." He raised above the sheet again. "Nora...let's start with the second phase of the epidural. Fentanyl and bupivacaine. 0.25milligrams per milliliter, push."

"Oh, I just LOVE when he talks technical like that," Kim blurted. "C'mon Doc, when do we get to the photon torpedoes? Oh wait...the torpedo part was nine months ago. Nevermind!" She raised her hand into the air. "Vive la Torpedo Du Williamme!!" Her face suddenly changed to one of concern. "Contraction comin', Doc." Kim braced for another attack of intense pain. "Hey...I don't feel pain anyway - just pressure."

"That's the epidural talking, baby," said Nora. "My little Vanilla Bunny," she giggled.

Kim reached back to trade a high-five with the anesthesiologist. "Nora...I love you. I want you to have my baby." The two women burst into laughter, locking hands for a moment after the high-five.

"Kim?" said Doctor Daiken, "You're now fully dilated. That last contraction was an expulsary one. The baby wants to come out. It's time to start pushing. Nora, would you raise the head of the table, and then administer some Pitocin?"

"What's that?" asked Kim.

"It's a synthetic form of the hormone oxytocin," the Doctor said. "It will help to induce labor more quickly."

"Boy oh boy," exclaimed Kim with an open-mouthed smile as her upper body was raised to about 30 degrees. Her expression then changed to a more serious one, and she turned to her husband. "William? This is it. This is where you come in. You have to concentrate along with me - and do what I tell you....'K?" William nodded, not entirely sure what he could really do to help his wife with this undertaking, other than moral support. Kim brought her hand up to him. "Take hold, babe," she said. They interlocked thumbs, fingers wrapping around one another in a firm grip. "This can't happen without you," she said.

"Who told you that?" he asked. Kim said nothing, but uncurled her index finger from around William's hand, pointing straight up. William instantly understood.


"Here we go," said Kim, and began to sing. "I'm your basic average girl, and I'm adding to the world, you can't stop me 'cause I'm Kim-Preg-na-ble--"

"I've heard that song," Jessica interrupted. "THAT'S who I was thinking of. You look just like Kim Possible!"

"Omigosh!" Kim shouted in a severely sarcastic tone. "Call the lab - tell them the brain is alive! I LOOK just like Kim Possible because I AM Kim Possible!" She then glared at the young blonde assistant. "You know, when this is all over, I'll be apologizing my ass off to you...but if you interrupt me just once more, I swear I will stand straight up in these stirrups and deck you like an unfinished ship...are we clear?"

"Crystal," Jessica gritted, suddenly peeling off her latex gloves and storming out of the Delivery Room. The woman who had been manning the sonogram stepped around the table to assume the blonde's duties, monitoring Kim's vitals. She said nothing, but gave Kim a thumbs-up sign.

"You, I like already," said Kim.

2:27 PM.
"The contractions look like they're about 90 seconds apart," said Doctor Daiken. "Sound about right, Kim?"

"I can't see the clock from here," Kim replied, "but it sounds good."

"Okay. Just keep pushing like you have been. Things are looking really good. And Jolene, could you turn the overhead down just a bit? I have a little too much light here." The woman who had taken Jessica's place reached over and touched a switch above the large parabolic lamp over the foot of the table.

Kim's breathing had been much more pronounced to now, more rapid as she worked through the Doctor's direction. Then her breathing slowed and her expression seemed to become one of distraction, her eyelids half-closed, almost like she were in a dream state. "William?" she asked calmly, "...are you still holding my hand?"

"I am, hon," replied William, patting the back of her hand with his free hand.

"Just keep holding my hand," she said softly, "because I can't feel it anymore." William squeezed a bit tighter. Then "William, stay with me...and concentrate...please. I...can't see anything's all blurring together...just shapes."

William looked first at the anesthesiologist, then to the Doctor. "I'm not sure what would be causing that," Doctor Daiken said. "Kim, do you feel alright?"

He looked over the sheet to the nurses. "Vitals are normal," said Jolene, noting each of the signs on the monitor next to her.

"I'm fine," she said slowly. She then blinked very slowly, deliberately - and began to speak in a measured tone, her voice smooth and determined;

"Animation breathes its Life from a Cloudless Mind..."

William's jaw began to drop as he heard these words come from his wife - the same words that brought her through his mirror over a year ago. His first immediate thought was one he began to fight with all his internal will; that the only way Kim would be allowed to give her gift to William, and the rest of the world - was to return the gift that was herself - to go back.

"The Doubting, though surrounded by Light, are blind..."

"Jolene, didn't I have you turn down the overhead?" asked Doctor Daiken.

"Yes Doctor," the assistant replied. "I reduced it by 20%. Is it still too bright?"

"The Candle falls before the Wind...The Mirror falls behind you..."

The Doctor suddenly rose from his stool, sending it skittering back until it hit a cart containing an arrangement of instruments. It overturned, hitting the floor and sending the instruments scattering behind him in a cacophony of clatters and clangs.

Doctor Daiken stood in the same place he once sat, his gaze fixed on the entrance to Kim's birth canal, eyes wide and focused, unmoving. "Turn it off, Jolene," he spoke through his disbelief.

"The Reflections of Reality tear asunder twice-dimensioned views..."

"...the light?" asked Jolene, not clear about which instrument he wanted power cut to - the light or the vital signs monitor.

"The LIGHT," Doctor Daiken said sharply. "TURN IT OFF. And bring me my stool please."

Jolene reached over and flicked the main switch for the large overhead parabolic light--

But the room was not dark.

William recognized the shade of the light, now steadily growing in intensity - just as it had in the apartment over a year ago. No candle this time. No mirror. No crystal. He clasped both hands around that of his wife, and held it with his soul.

The light was coming from INSIDE KIM.

The sheet was now a brilliant shade of hospital-garb blue, the shadow of Kim's legs on either side. Doctor Daiken was bathed in a white cascade, his shadow a vivid contortion against the far wall. Jolene could not look directly at the light, and averted her eyes as she rolled the stool to the back of the Doctor's knees. He slowly settled back onto it, and moved closer to Kim, assuming the same position as before.

William felt Kim's hand stir between his. He moved close to his wife. "Finish it, William," she said calmly, peacefully. "Please William...I have "

He felt his wife's grip soften between his own hands. He did not let go - as if holding onto her tightly enough would not allow her return.

"Fin-ish...please...William..." said Kim, nearly an inaudible whisper now. "...res-on-ance..."

"Don'--don't leave, Kim," William said, stroking the back of Kim's trying to keep his voice from breaking. "Please don't..."

"won't..." she whispered, her eyes closing. "Finish..."

The assistants had begun to shield their eyes from the light emanating from Kim's birth canal. Doctor Daiken was, like William, barely squinting at the same light which hurt the nurses' eyes to look at.

He believes,thought William. That's the only explanation. "The Doubting, though surrounded by light, are blind..."

2:36 PM.
The vitals monitor suddenly screamed a high-pitched alarm tone. The readout for the EKG showed a single, straight line. Jolene blurted, "Pressure's falling--she's flatline. I've got no pulse."

"Dammit," burst out Doctor Daiken. "the baby's gonna crown any second!" He barked out orders in a quick succession as Jolene moved to the phone. "Get a crash cart in here, stat. Get an amp of Atropine and an amp of Epi on standby. What's her Lidocaine?"

"Standard 0.25," Nora said as she turned to a bin with several vials, picking those the Doctor ordered; Atropine, used to speed a slow heart rate, or, in an emergency, start a stopped heart; and Epi, short for Epinephrine, a powerful stimulant to the nervous system, used during delivery to increase the force of contractions, and in emergency situations, to increase heart rate.

" promised," William whispered, stuttering on the verge of tears. "You can't promised." His hand tightened around hers, and William tried to brace himself to start the process of letting go as the light from between her legs slowly started to dim.

"Where's that goddamn crash cart??" the Doctor yelled. "Nora, push the Atropine, we can't wait for the cart." Nora readied a syringe, placing the needle's tip at the membrane in the IV.

"Wait!!" Jolene shouted, stabbing a button on the monitor. "I have a pulse. It's...slow...20--"

"20!??" Doctor Daiken said with disbelief in his voice.

"--but it's strong...and steady," Jolene continued. "BP is steady at 90 over 60. Respiration is...12. Her vitals are registering so slow that I had to turn the alarms off so they won't trigger."

"And she's stable?"

"...yeah," Jolene smiled. "Not sure how,'s like she's below Delta state."

"Still want the Atropine?" asked Nora, still positioning the syringe at the ready.

"No," said the Doctor. "Not as long as she's stable, even at those low levels. Jolene, watch her close." Jolene nodded. "Let's continue," he said, moving back below the sheet.

Thank you, Kim, William thought. And thank you, Angelica. He adjusted his grip on Kim's hand and picked up where she left off, reciting the words that he couldn't get out of his mind since he first uttered them that cold December night over a year ago - the words that brought such a gift to his world - to the rest of the world - and would now usher in another, equally wondrous and amazing gift.

"The Unbelievable; Now Receivable..." With this, the light from Kim increased again, brighter than before, and a light wind began to rustle the sheets draped over her. "Let's fasten those down," Doctor Daiken said. The women moved to knot ties along the edge of the sheets to the rails of the delivery table.

William began to smile wide, realizing that Kim was going to be just fine. "The Unobtainable; Now Embraceable..." he said, his voice now filling with confidence as he focused fully on his wife's wish.

Everyone in the room now became aware of a rumble, which seemed to be coming from the air itself. "D-Doctor..?" asked Jolene, a bit of worry to her voice.

"It's alright," the Doctor said. "Just move some things back, in case they fall over." Jolene walked to the overhead, rolling it to the far wall, and Nora removed her cart of meds, leaving only what was necessary to the birth process. Doctor Daiken looked up and caught William's eyes - his own full of understanding, and somehow - knowing. He smiled underneath his mask, nodding once - then returned to the task at hand. "The baby is crowning!" he said excitedly as the light intensified still further.

"The Heart, Capable...Belief, Inescapable..."

The increasing wind blew Doctor Daiken's hair back as he worked. "I've got the head!" he exclaimed over the now roaring mix of wind and thunderous rumbling. He just now started to squint against the searingly bright light.

"I can't see anything in here anymore!" yelled Nora.

"Me either, Doctor!" said Jolene. Everything in the room seemed to take on the same intense whiteness as the light, shadows blurring and disappearing.

"Cover your eyes!" the Doctor shouted.

William just took in the chaos like the morning of a blustery spring day. "The Improbable...Now Plausible," he continued. "The Incredible--"

The wind died. The light from inside Kim, as well as the room itself, faded and became nearly black. The rumbling stopped. "I need a light on," Doctor Daiken said in the sudden darkness.

William bent to kiss the back of Kim's hand. The dream had become reality for both of them.

Their baby was here.

He raised his head, speaking in a clear, forceful voice -

"--Now Possible."

It was like flicking a switch on the sun itself. The light exploded into full intensity, twice as bright as before. The wind and rumbling lashed out in all directions. Jolene was thrown to the floor and slid nearly ten feet before catching the leg of another birthing table. Nora fell back against the near wall, knocking the phone from its wall plate. Doctor Daiken was holding on to one of the poles of the stirrups on the birthing table, braced against the forceful wind, his other hand deep between Kim's legs. William just set his feet and leaned into the gale,

"Here's a shoulder!" The Doctor screamed, "--turning--almost there...I've got it!"

Kim suddenly awoke with a huge gasp, her eyes wide and bright. "FIRE ONE!!" she screamed as the fetus slipped from her and into Doctor Daiken's anxious, waiting arms.

2:57 PM.
There was no wind.
There was no light.
There was no rumbling.

"Nora, hit the lights," Doctor Daiken said. "Jolene, I need suction, a baby blanket and a towel."

Nora turned on the lights in the room to reveal a Kim now heaving breaths of relief, drenched in sweat from head to foot, her hair matted flat and dripping. She and William were still locked together by the hand. William too had perspired heavily. Nora brought a towel for William and Jolene passed her another for Kim as she took the blanket and a suction bulb to the Doctor.

"Hi there," smiled Nora as she slid the towel over Kim's forehead and cheeks. "Good to have you back. We were a bit worried for a time there. How do you feel?"

"I think I'm okay," she said, smiling wide at the anesthesiologist. "Mmmmm, that feels soooo good," she cooed as Nora brushed the towel upward over Kim's hairline. She then turned to her husband, smiling even wider, open-mouthed, her eyes full of warmth and love. "We did it," she said, shaking William's hand back and forth gently as her eyes welled up with joyous tears. "We did it! We had a baby! We have a baby, William!" William said nothing, but bent to kiss and embrace his wife, a long moan of joy and relief.

"Indeed you have a baby," Doctor Daiken beamed from the foot of the table, wrapping the newborn in the blanket and handing it to Jolene while he removed fluid from the infant's mouth. "More accurately, you have a daughter." Suddenly a tiny piercing cry filled the room as their child took her first full breath and put it to good use to announce her arrival. "Time of birth, 2:57 PM.," he said.

"A daughter!" Kim began a mix of crying and laughter as Nora passed her a smaller towel to wipe her eyes.

Doctor Daiken then motioned William toward the foot of the birthing table. "Would you like the honors...Dad?" he said, offering a pair of scissors. William still hadn't uttered a word, too overcome with awe and wonder of yet another amazing event in his life since Angelica's gift emerged from his mirror 15 months ago. William took the instrument as the Doctor showed the place on the umbilical cord to cut. Once...twice...three, and four times he snipped before the thick, rubbery tissue separated completely.

Jolene turned as Nora rolled a weighing station to her. She placed the bundle into the bin, then stretched a tape along her length. "7 pounds, 2 ounces," she said, "and 19 and one-half inches in length...a nice size." Jolene then brought the infant girl along the side of the table to her mother's waiting arms. "She's just beautiful, Kim," Jolene said, gently passing the tiny newborn. William came back to Kim's side to share the wonder.

The baby was a bright mottled pink-and white, with two perfect rosy cheeks - brighter than the usual, in fact - she had the skin of a Celler. Her head was topped with hair - Flesher hair - and even though thin and short, was unmistakably the brilliant auburn/orange hue to match that of her mother.

"Oh-h-h-h-h my Go-ho-o-d, she is just a jewel," Kim spoke through sobs of ecstatic joy as her arms cradled around their new family member. "Look what we did, William...look what we did..." her voice trailed off as William moved in close, embracing them both. Even he gave in to the happiness of the moment, a tear ambling down each cheek and mixing with his smile.

Doctor Daiken had taken a moment to wash up, and approached the new family. "That's the most unique baby I think I've ever seen in 17 years of deliveries," he said. "Especially her eyes. Has she shown you yet?" The two shook their heads. "Lift her," the Doctor said. "A baby usually opens its eyes when lifted upright."

Kim did as she was told, slipping one hand behind the baby's head to support it, and cradling her with the other. As promised, her eyes opened as she was moved to vertical. Kim took in a slow gasp. The baby's irises were a brilliant satin blue, with streaks of shimmering silver - nearly the exact colors of the crystal and the silver velvet it sat in when William first opened the box. "Wow," William drew out, amazed at how the infant's hues were a nearly perfect match to the color of the items he used over a year ago to bring forth the gift of her mother.

William turned to the Doctor and spoke in a quiet voice. " didn't get blinded when the light was at its brightest..."

"No," replied Doctor Daiken.

" believe...don't you...only those who believe can see within the light."

The Doctor glanced at Kim, who was smirking a bit, then looked to William. "Well...I have been taking care of Kim for nearly eight months...I think one of her phrases would say it best." He placed his hand on William's shoulder, turning him to his wife.

"Doi, William!" she giggled. Then she, William and Doctor Daiken joined into laughter.

Doctor Daiken recovered, wiping an eye. "Say," he asked, "have you given some thought to a name for this wonderful, beautiful child of yours?"

William motioned to his wife. "We decided that that decision was entirely her decision," he smirked slightly. He then turned to Kim, raising his eyebrows rather expectantly.

Kim lightly drifted the back of a finger slowly over the satin of the newborn's cheek for a few seconds, smiling warmly at her - then she turned to the two men with that warm smile. "William...Doctor...say good afternoon to Kimi Angelina Hodge."

"...'Keemie'?" the Doctor queried.

Kim grinned, rocking her daughter ever so slightly from side to side, lightly tapping her fingers against her back. "K-i-m-i," she said. "It's a Japanese name. It means, 'She Who is Without Equal'."

Nora and Jolene, who had been straightening up, perked at the explanation of the newborn's name. "That's just exquisite, Kim," said Nora, with Jolene nodding in agreement. Even the newly-named Kimi let out a tiny squeal from her new lungs, seemingly trying to voice her approval, which brought a mix of "Awwww" and soft laughter from everyone.

William looked deep into his wife's eyes, still trying to add up the experiences that Angelica's gift had given him over the past 15 months - all crowned by the stunning little gift now cradled in her arms. Kim caught William's gaze and looked up at him, silent, but her eyes brimming with adoration for the Flesher who had turned a simple Cross into a more breathtaking, marvelous and extraordinary than her mind's furthest reaches could not have grasped that chilly December night.

They both turned their attention to their infant daughter as she gave what, to her, was a huge yawn - and brought her arms across her body, as if cozying up in the embrace of her mother. William leaned in, placing a delicate but passionate kiss on Kim's lips - then turned to his new daughter.

"Hello, Kimi Angelina Hodge," he said softly, his smile full and warm, another tear drifting slowly down his cheek. "Welcome to the beginning of your life...and thank you for being the best chapter in our little Forever."

(roll end credits)

(start closing music)

He seems alone and silent
thoughts remain without an answer
Afraid and uninvited
he slowly drifts away
Moved by desire and fear
Breaking delicate wings

Lifting shadows
off a Dream once broken
She can turn a drop of water
Into an ocean

As the rain is pouring down
Tears of sorrow wash his mind
Drifting with the current
This stream of life flows on

He seems alone and silent
waiting on his hands and knees
The chill of winter's darkness sits quietly
Moved by desire and fear
he takes a few steps away

Lifting shadows
off a Dream once broken
She can turn a drop of water
Into an ocean

And she listens openly

He pours his soul into the water
reflecting the mystery
She carries him away
and the winds die slowly

And she listens openly
And she listens openly

Lifting shadows
off a Dream once broken
She can turn a drop of water
Into an ocean

Lifting Shadows off a Dream
Lifting Shadows off a Dream

"Lifting Shadows Off a Dream"

- Dream Theater - "Awake"

The End

The stars of the story have asked for a few moments to address and thank you, the loyal and generous readers - without your praise and encouragement, this two-part saga would not have had the level of factual detail, plot accuracy, and author commitment which turned it into a nearly six-month work of love and enjoyment.

Marcy: To tell you the truth, I never really expected my character to blossom and become so intertwined with the story as it did...but after the wedding, and all the planning I did for William, our work relationship just kind of, spilled over into their lives, y'know? I loved getting to be friends with Kim, and lending any help I could to integrate her into the "Flesher environment." I really loved the part where Kim was learning to drive...and I couldn't help but crack up when Kim was on the sedative! The best part was the reviews, though. It felt good to know that our efforts weren't wasted, and that we could please so many people! "Butterscotch Bunny"....hahahahaha. Thanks to everyone!

William: The basic concept of a TV character entering the "real world" isn't exactly new...but the way the story then meshed the "Celler" into real-world-like "Flesher" situations and experiences, and kept doing it chapter after chapter after chapter - and still kept the quality of the story without really slipping into "cliche mode" at any point...I feel lucky and honored to have been a part of an effort of this magnitude...and, like the author has said, without the reviewers giving such praise and enticing him to continue...and on occasion even offering suggestions to add plot twists or extend the storyline...this never would have panned out to the depth that it did. Thanks to one and all who enjoyed our work, and took the time to say so.

Kim: I can't count how many nights I "burned the midnight oil" with the author, KP episodes running on tape as he composed, fueling inspiration and giving as much insight as I could as a sort of "instruction" of how I act, what I say, and how I say it. It was just astonishing how a simple initial concept for a short "fan fiction" story expanded and exploded into the epic that it turned out to be. I never thought it would become so dramatic, either. Compared to the strict rules and standards on the TV show, this story was a real romp. I was twisted and thrown into situations that I'll never see under Disney's direction, no matter how long the show airs. I had a ferociously good time doing this! Of course, thanks and appreciation goes out to everyone who gave good reviews of our work...but I want to give a special shout out to the most kind reviewers - Aleksandr Kerensky...Unknown...H/K MOHFL, aka "Pig"...and most of all, Hitoki. She hung in no matter what, and read every single chapter of both parts, and still came up wanting more! You so totally rock, KI! I'm glad you liked "insane and hyper me" was fiercely fun to do. Thanks to EVERYONE! C-ya!

Author's Thanks to: Dan from work, Dream Theater, Queen, Rush, The Soundscapes Digital Music Channel, Feeder, Cheetos (the crunchy ones, duh), Diet Pepsi, Yes, The Alan Parsons Project, Turbo Coffee, Enemy Ringtone, Kasey, Toyota Motor Company, Old Man Winter--

and KIM POSSIBLE (doi!)