A/N: There. All done. Thanks so much to everyone who sent feedback. I loved hearing from everyone and it meant alot to get such nice comments.


A brightly wrapped package with a tented note car on it sat in the middle of the kitchen table. The package itself was small and its shape divulged nothing of its possible contents. Setting his briefcase on a chair, he examined the small box. Judging from the precise creases in its silver paper and its exact placement in the center of the table, he guessed his wife was responsible for it.

Panicking slightly, he began a mental checklist of possibly forgotten dates. Their anniversary had passed in an unremarkable fashion, neither one wanting to jeopardize the tenuous peace. They had taken the duck and cover approach to their social lives, quietly working through their problems at home rather than socializing to avoid them. Gradually, although he would be the first to admit it was far from perfect, their marriage was mending.

It hadn't been easy. They'd fought their way two paint colors and four coats of paint for the nursery. They'd squabbled over furniture for the new and bickered over its placement. But they were both still there. And it was getting a little better each day. Not much, but a little.

Picking up the tented car, he chuckled as he noticed the writing on the front: 'Open Me.' Flipping the card over, he saw, "Now!" He glanced around the room, searching for his wife. Everything was in place, not even a purse or bag to indicate that she was home.

"Oh, for the love of God," a soft voice exclaimed at his back, "if I known it would take you this long to open it, I would have handed it to you unwrapped."

He turned to find his increasingly rounder wife staring at him, arms crossed over her chest and foot tapping impatiently. "Did I forget something?" He shook the box experimentally. "I don't have anything for you," he admitted.

"Just open it!" Feigning a nonchalance she didn't feel, she moved to the refrigerator to pour herself a glass of juice.

"This is some welcome home." He crossed his arms, box still in hand, and smiled at her. He could tell that he was frustrating her. He could see the fog on her glass as she released short puffs of air through her nose while she tried to control her breathing.

Her eyes smiled at him over the rim of the glass. "Welcome home." In truth, she had missed him; he'd been gone for a week investing the crash of a Marine helicopter. The house seemed large and empty when it was just her rattling around in it. He'd even missed a doctor's appointment while he'd been away.

Her hand rested on her stomach. "Now open it!"

"You going to make me?" He raised an eyebrow. He held it up to his ear and shook it lightly again. "Doesn't rattle," he observed.

"No, that would be your head."

"Funny, Marine. One more crack like that and I'll never open this box."

She stomped her foot and nearly apologized just to get him to open his present. But then she relaxed and smiled at him. "Fine. Then I know something you don't know," she sing-songed. She started to leave the kitchen.

"So are you saying that if I open this, I'll know the secret?" He glanced down at the box.

"That's exactly what I'm saying. But you don't have to open it," she called from the family room.

Following the sound of her voice, he began to pick at the tape holding the paper down. She had to refrain from bouncing impatiently on the couch. She knew he'd never be able to resist a taunt like that. It was just a matter of waiting him out. Trying hard to look disinterested, she picked up a magazine and began to flip through it.

"How much tape did you use?"

She fought to keep the gloating smile off her face. Bingo! "Enough to keep the paper from falling off." Giving in to her excitement, she put the magazine aside and propped her head on her hand to watch him.

"Screw this." He ripped the pretty silver paper down the middle. Shaking the lid off the small white clothing box, he pulled out an infant-sized tee shirt.

His jaw moved soundlessly as he read the words in the small pink heart on the tummy: Daddy's little girl.

"The doctor slipped the other day and told me," she said softly, giving him time to recover. "I've been planning this all week." He sat down heavily on the couch. "She's never dating."

"You've got a few years yet." She patted his hand consolingly.

"I want her to look like you."

She blinked rapidly against the tears. "We don't get a lot of say in it," she said with a watery chuckle, then squealed as he pulled her into his lap and kissed her.

"Hope?" he asked.

She thought for a minute. "Yeah, Hope."

He blew out a relieved sigh. "Good, because the only other name I could think of was Ethel."



"No again."

He opened his mouth and again and she rushed to stop him. "I'll cry."

"You don't cry."

"I'll start."

"Fine. Hope it is." He cupped her face. "Love you."

"Yeah," she sighed happily and tucked her head into the crook of his neck. "I know. Love you, too."

"Margaret, Josephine, Beth or Amy?"

"Aren't those the little women?"

"Yeah. We could have four girls."


"To the names or the idea?"

"The names," she answered.


"No." She looked up at him. "This could go on for hours, couldn't it?"

"I'm just getting warmed up. I haven't even pulled out the truly bad names like Olive or Ermentrude."

She sighed and picked up her magazine again, preparing herself for what looked to be a very long night.