One year later...

Erik and Christine were sitting in the library of their home in Redding, California looking at pictures. "Oh, look, Christine." Erik pointed at one picture, in particular. "Remember when I took this?"

She laughed delightfully. "How can I forget? It was right after we saw La Boheme at the Paris Opera House! It was incredible."

"You looked beautiful." He turned and kissed her head, which was propped against his shoulder.

It was just so typical of him to focus on her appearance instead of the opera they'd seen... Christine suddenly put a hand to her abdomen and let out an "Umpf!"

The pictures were forgotten. Erik stiffened and asked worriedly, "What? What is it? Are you alright? Is it the baby? Here, lie down." He spoke quickly and stood abruptly.

She was laughing loudly by then. "Erik! Erik, honey, it's ok. The baby is fine. She just kicked, that's all."

Erik suddenly became extremely interested and knelt to the ground. "She kicked? Really?"

"Yeah. Put your hand here and feel." She placed his hand atop her stomach, and he felt the little girl inside kick.

He couldn't speak. It was just too remarkable. A thought that should have been obvious occurred to him, but, then again, this was all so new to both of them. "Christine, are you in pain?"

She shook her head with a smile. "No, not at all. I mean, sometimes I am, but it's ok. It's definitely worth it." She closed her eyes peacefully. Erik's hand was still on her stomach.

"Angel, let me get you something to drink." He stood. "Water?"

"Please." When he was gone, she placed her hand to her abdomen again and smiled. "My little Nicole. You are so loved. Just six months until you can feel how loved you really are."

"Yes, just six more months," Erik said from a distance. He had entered the room silently and heard her speak. He placed her cup of water on the coffee table and stood over her. "Would you like to rest?"

She grinned up at him. He was just so considerate. "No. Sit down, Erik. Lay with me." He did as she said with hesitation. "You won't hurt me, I swear."

"I just want to be careful. I now have two people to protect," he stated proudly.

"Yes, and you're so good at protecting both of us. My hero..." He really was her hero, too. She'd never let him forget that.

The nine months of pregnancy were finally complete, and after hours of labor pains and screams in the hospital, Nicole was finally wrapped in a pink blanket and placed in Christine's arms. Erik was sitting right beside the hospital bed watching. "She's perfect, Erik. Perfect." She held the pink bundle close.

Christine was right. Erik looked into his beautiful baby girl's face and saw perfection. To his supreme pleasure, she had her mother's eyes. Surprisingly, she also resembled him. Most important to Erik, though, was the fact that there was no deformity. Although... Erik was coming to realize that it wouldn't matter, that he would love his baby regardless of how she looked. He never thought he'd feel that way. "You are right, Christine. She is beautiful. And so is her mother." He bent down and kissed his wife on the lips. "Thank you so much. For everything." He then kissed his baby on her small forehead.

"Erik, hold her," Christine begged. She sat up some and placed the baby in her husband's arms. Then, she watched the scene in awe. Erik stared with adoration at his daughter and rocked her back and forth. "She looks like you."

His eyes were still on Nicole. "I see it, too. But, she has your eyes." He looked at his wife and smiled, tears spilling over. "She is perfect," he softly said.

Erik thought of the four happiest moments of his life. The moment Christine professed her love to him, the moment Christine accepted his marriage proposal, the wedding, and now this. He felt so blessed. Christine, his wife, had blessed him with her love. "Thank you, Christine. Thank you," was all he could say.

Christine gazed at him and smiled, aware of how her husband was feeling. It's true, their daughter's face was perfect. But, even if it hadn't been, even if there had been a deformity, it wouldn't have matter. She would still always have her parents' love. Erik was thanking her, and it was now her turn to thank him. "Thank you, Erik. You've changed my life."

He leaned forward and kissed Christine's forehead. "And you have changed mine. You both have." They continued to gaze at the new addition to their family.

To Christine, Erik was perfect. To Erik, Christine was perfect. And the perfection and love combined had produced the most exquisite thing of all- their daughter. Nicole would never have to bear the world's cruelties, like Erik and Christine had. She would never have to be alone, like both of them had been. She would always know, feel, and see the love and protection surrounding her. Erik and Christine would make sure of that.