Chapter Four

There was no time to react before a second figure appeared on the window ledge. Jaime had barely called out "Steve!" before he jumped and began running toward the wooded area in back of the building, disappearing into the trees. In the silence that followed, Jaime began to tremble, not knowing what was happening but sensing it was bad.

"I'll...find him," she told Rudy and Oscar.

"You'll stay right here," Rudy insisted, with Oscar nodding his stern agreement.

Jaime struggled to break away from them and had just knocked over the barricade when an explosion rocked the ground beneath their feet. The two men grabbed Jaime's arms to hold her back and gently eased her down to sit on the overturned fencing.

Medics rushed in to scoop up the fallen gunman and Russ emerged from the building with a weeping secretary on each arm. There was no sign of Steve. Russ helped the two women into the back of a waiting ambulance before joining Oscar and the others.

"You were...with the gunman?" Oscar surmised. Russ nodded, looking a little pale. "Anyone hurt?"

"Leslie and Tina are pretty shaken up, but we're all OK – thanks to Steve."

"What happened?" three voices asked him at once.

"The guy had a bomb, and he decided we were hiding you somewhere in the offices," Russ said, nodding toward Oscar, "so he said he'd just take down the whole building instead, and he tripped the detonator. That was when Steve knocked the door down. The guy shot at the door – blew a pretty good hole in it, too – and he kept on firing."

"Steve..." Jaime cried, tears beginning to fall in spite of her best efforts to stop them.

"He just missed Steve – too fast for him, I guess – and was about to grab Leslie when Steve elbowed him straight out the window," Russ continued. "Then he saw the bomb. It was down to under 60 seconds, and he knew if he threw it, it would land out here, so he jumped with it. I...didn't see where he took it."

"The woods," Oscar concluded. "He...hasn't come out yet."

"Let's go," Russ said quickly. He and Oscar (and Oscar's entourage) headed toward the woods, and Jaime rose determinedly to her feet.

"No, Jaime," Rudy said gently. Before she could argue, searching became a moot point as Steve sauntered slowly out from the trees. Now, no one could hold her back and Jaime was the first to reach his side, throwing her arms around him like she never intended to let him go.

"Are you alright?" she asked.

Steve shrugged. "Had a little wind knocked outta me, but I'm fine. Sure am glad to see you, but – what are you doing here?"

"That must've been one hell of a forward pass, Pal," Oscar remarked, joining them.

"I've got a good arm," Steve said modestly, before turning to kiss his wife. "Let's go home."

The weatherman had been right; the next day, the sun was shining brilliantly enough to make up for five days of rain. In spite of the damp ground, Jaime decided there had never been a better day for a picnic. She hummed happy little tunes as she buzzed around the kitchen, making sandwiches and packing the basket. When Steve was fully occupied with loading the car, Jaime quickly put Jenna's new T-shirt on and zipped a jacket over it.

"No!" Jenna giggled, pulling at the zipper. After she'd opened it for the second time, Jaime gave up and pulled a light sweatshirt over her head instead. Jenna playfully stomped her foot, her lower lip quivering even as she laughed.

"Now, where did you learn that?" Jaime puzzled, picking up the little girl and carrying her to the car.

"So," Steve began when they were finally on their way, "what's up?"

"Huh?"

"If you were a cat, I'd be checking the birdcage. C'mon – spill it," he chuckled.

"It's a beautiful day, we're having a picnic – and I have a hero for a husband. What more can I say?" Jaime told him with an innocent smile.

"Not buyin' it. I just might have to tickle you...!"

"You're driving the car!"

"I can pull over."

"Yum!" Jenna called from the backseat.

"Not unless you're prepared to face the wrath of the hungry toddler," Jaime joked.

"Alright, you're off the hook – for now," Steve said lightly. He figured Jaime had probably designed some sort of hero medal and had Jenna color it for him. He had no idea...

The sandwiches were gone and the plate of cookies reduced to mere crumbs before Jaime finally made her move. "Ready to go play, Sweetie?" she crooned to Jenna. Jenna's feet were already moving beneath her as Jaime lifted her up and began removing the sweatshirt. "Probably too hot for this; let's get you comfy first."

It took a few seconds for Steve's mind to register what he was seeing. The front of the t-shirt read simply Look out, world! When Jenna turned to barrel toward the swings, he finally saw the rest, printed in bold, puffy colors on her back.

I'm gonna be a BIG SISTER!

Wide-eyed, Steve turned to his wife. "Jaime...?"

"Surprise!" she said softly, leaning over to kiss him. She reached into the picnic basket for one more, extra-large cookie that she'd written on with icing, just that morning: Daddy X 2.

Steve wrapped both his arms around Jaime and drew her closer for a real kiss. "Are you...OK with this?" she asked nervously.

"Definitely not," he whispered. "Not OK at all – I am over the moon! I love you, Sweetheart." He reached down and gently patted her still-flat tummy. "And I love you, too."

"Daddy!" Jenna called impatiently from the swings.

Steve laughed, rising to his feet. "You got it, Bug – here comes Daddy!"

END