END

She didn't know where he was. She didn't know how long it would take him to get to her. She only knew he was coming. The pains were several minutes apart and she prayed they wouldn't become more frequent before he reached her.

It seemed like forever before he was at the hotel door. Clenching her teeth she wobbled over and released the lock before collapsing in the wake of another pain.

Pushing the door open He didn't even bother closing it as he dropped to his knees next to her, "How long?" he questioned, "How long between the contractions?"

Teeth clenched she didn't respond for a long moment. As the pain subsided she took in a hungry breath, "Five minutes, maybe less," she finally managed to gasp.

Mutely he placed his arms under her and lifted her up from the floor. Moving the couple of steps he placed her on the bed. "I have to take off your clothes," he said as he looked into her fear filled blue eyes.

"Wouldn't be the first time," she breathed, a wisp of a smile playing across her lips.

Giving a cruet nod he went about removing her pants and underwear. He had no problem undressing people. But she wasn't just any person! She was his one and anytime they were close he felt as inept as a school boy. He just didn't feel right about undressing her so she lay before him in such an exposed state.

She noticed his hesitation and wanted to feel good about it, though her pain stopped her, "You've seen it all before," she said shortly, "Man up!"

Seeming to snap out of it at her words he mutely shifted himself to see between her parted legs. There he could clearly see a dark head of hair. She was crowning. "On the next contraction you have to push!" he ordered.

Nodding in acknowledgment she gritted her teeth as the next wave of pain bore down on her. Giving it her all she pushed until he told her to stop. "Again?" she gasped.

"Yes," he answered, "Just like you just did."

Again when the pain came she clenched her teeth and gave it all she had. Gasps and cries tore from her throat as she did. If she had to choose between giving birth or being shot she was sure she would choose the bullet every time.

"Stop, stop, stop," he ordered suddenly, "The heads out."

Leaning back on the bed she tried to catch her breath. It felt as though he were tugging between her legs, "What's going on?" she questioned breathily.

"Just clearing her air waves and turning her some," he explained simply, "The shoulders are next, then the worst should be over."

Groaning she gripped the sheets when another pain began, "Now?!" she demanded.

"Yes," was all he managed to say before she put her all into it for a final time. In seconds it seemed the baby slid freely into his awaiting hands. Moving on auto pilot he deftly placed the baby on her chest, clamping the umbilical cord in two places he cut it between them with the tools he had brought with him. "All right," he finally sighed. Carefully wrapping the new born in a receiving blanket he smiled, "Welcome to the world little one," he said softly placing her back into her mother's arms.

Closing her eyes only a moment she took a slow breath, she was so tired now that it was all said and done. Looking to her daughter she gazed into a wrinkled little face. She was so tiny. "Hello Neola Mira Freeman," she breathed before kissing the tiny head.

He smiled as he finished cleaning her up, "You think you've had your fun?" he asked.

Clearly confused she looked to him, "Fun?" she countered.

"I mean are you ready to come home?" he amended, "I finished putting together everything. It's all ready and waiting."

"Homeā€¦" she echoed, "I think I would like that."

Leaning in he was intent to kiss her but stopped just before their lips touched, "On one condition," he breathed.

"Yes?" she rasped expectantly.

"You'll never run from me again. We're only stronger together," he insisted.

"Never," she breathed before she claimed his mouth in a hungry kiss.

They had their issues and differences. But they each knew they were only small pieces in a larger puzzle. Together they would have a better chance at finding the answers they sought.

Together they may even have they strength to survive it.