Better late and all that.
St. Clair Avenue
"Honey, you're too close. Move back," nagged Alex for the third time in ten minutes.
Slowing down at the yellow light, Dee rolled her eyes. "Next you're gonna tell me to put my feet up because they're swelling."
He pointed to the curb. "Are they? Pull over then."
She looked at the rearview mirror. "See he's so overprotective, Jenny."
"Little sister, they all get like that."
He placed a protective hand over her still flat belly. "Damn straight. Gotta protect our two little ones. They are moving so much."
"Be thankful. Later when the diapers and midnight crying starts he's going to be crying too." Jenny checked her sleeping son secured in his car seat. "He's always like this when we drive around."
"Still? He's like what… five?" Alex sat back up and looked over his left shoulder.
"Five in three months."
Alex's earpiece demanded his attention. Cocking his head, "Yes, Tex, we're on our way. We uh… had to make a side trip. Yeah they're fine."
Alex looked back. "Tex says he loves you and Jimmy."
"Send him my love."
"Tex, she sends her love. We're fine." He looked at Dee. "Dee was hungry so we stopped for ice cream."
Jenny noticed that Alex hadn't said a word for a while. "Hey, what's wrong?"
"He says he's got a feeling something's going to happen. He's sending backup. They'll rendezvous with us in ten minutes."
"He's always worrying."
"You think, big sister? Bet it was those death threats." She looked over at Alex. "Tell him we're going to be there by then."
"Nothing new," Jenny replied nonchalantly. There were always death threats.
"Right… just like the one this -- never mind."
"You're keeping this from me?"
She looked into the rearview mirror. "Protection. In this case, it's the younger taking care of the older."
"It's still the other way around."
"Remember when you asked me where I think I would be in five years? I never thought I'd be here."
"Yeah. I told you Mac would never be here." The venom was still in her voice even after these years.
"Why the hell did you bring him up? She slammed the top of the steering wheel then gripped it tightly at the three and nine positions.
"You were young. You fell in love. He breaks it off three months before you were to be married. No reason for running off like that. Two years go by and you met Alex. You both fell in love. Got married. Now you're having twins. Fair exchange I think."
Alex looked at his wife, seeing unshed tears. "Jenny, drop it. You keep reminding her of what she lost."
He touched her cheek. "Let me drive, honey."
"Hell no! It's my job and I can do it better than you."
He smiled inwardly knowing that her game face was on. "Then let's get to that safehouse."
"Let Alex drive." Jenny checked that his seatbelt straps. Secured.
Dee glanced at Alex. "Sis, why are you so jumpy?"
"Alex, take over driving now!" Jenny turned around to look at the cars behind them.
"Sis, we're almost there -- should have been if we hadn't stopped."
"Are we being tailed?" Alex looked around. Still nothing unusual. Nothing for miles.
Something was warning him now. "Honey, pull over at the intersection coming up."
"This isn't right."
"Tex, where's our backup?" Dee cocked her head as she scanned the cars in front of them. "We're still eight minutes out. Dammit. Keep hitting red lights. No tails. Jenny just has a bad feeling about this."
"We're not stopping. We got to keep on moving otherwise we're going to be a sitting duck." Alex scanned behind them. That bad feeling went to worst.
Dee pulled out her earpiece and held it up. "He's freaking out. He wants to talk to you."
Jenny shoved it into her ear. "Tex, you got to get backup here. Now! This is bad… that dream I told you this morning… listen to me --"
Jenny saw something familiar "Turn right now!"
"It's one way," Dee shot back.
"Jenny, calm down. No one's following us." Dee scanned ahead, but saw nothing unusual.
"Tex, come in. Jenny, do you hear Tex?" Alex changed frequencies. "It's dead."
Bullets ripped across the hood from the right.
"****! Hang on!" Dee drove across the double yellow line into oncoming traffic. Cars swerved out of the way.
She turned onto a side street barely missing a woman pushing a baby carriage.
Alex pulled out his weapon and fired at the black dark-tinted van emerging from a business service entrance.
Dee pushed the green button on the steering wheel. The compartments on the backs of the front seats revealed two fully loaded semiautomatic guns.
"You know I hate guns them!"
"Sis, you know how to use them. If someone takes us out, you have to protect Jimmy and yourself. Fire first. Questions later. Understand?"
Alex punched several numbers on his cell phone. "****. Jammed."
Jenny stared at the weapon within her reach. "****." She grabbed the one in front of her.
Quickly releasing the clip, she checked the ammo. Full. She shoved it back into the handle and took off the safety.
"When's the last time you went to the target practice?" Dee swerved around a red minivan proclaiming 'Soccer mom to five.'
"About a week ago. Tex said –"
"Get down!" Alex hung out his window and fired as the van swerved into view.
Jenny pulled Jimmy's thick blanket over her and her son.
The back passenger side window shattered, showering the empty seat next to Jenny and the blanket.
"Where's a rocket launcher when you need one!" Jenny shook the glass into the empty seat then quickly checked Jimmy. Unhurt.
"Under the backseat." Dee skidded in between an ice cream truck and a delivery truck.
Jenny grabbed the 'Oh ****' bar above her head.
"Get the **** down! You're the target." Alex quickly reloaded. He refused the extra gun shoved into his face. "Jenny, keep it."
"Seriously, it's there." Dee saw a small opening in the traffic and stomped on the gas.
Alex ducked inside as the van sideswiped a gray sedan, sending it into fire hydrant. Water gushed everywhere.
Dee swerved to the right as a big rig truck stopped several hundred yards in front of them.
Jenny pushed Jimmy's head to stop his head from lolling to the right side. "Where's the van?"
"They're stuck behind the truck." Dee eyed another opening ahead of them.
"Your driving is horrible." Jenny checked on Jimmy. "Still asleep."
"Horrible for normal driving. Excellent for tactical driving." She cut across the intersection through the red light.
"Alex take over." Jenny swore she lost ten years of her life as a school bus skidded almost into her.
"Her ratings are higher. That's why she's the main driving instructor and I'm her backup." He scanned around. Safe for the moment.
"I think I lost them." Dee slightly relaxed as they reached the edge of the town.
Jenny stared at the next sign in horror. "Turn right now!" She covered Jimmy with her upper body.
The warning was too late as a brown van rammed into Dee's side pushing them into the guardrail. Alex grabbed Dee's right hand as they flipped over several times.
The van backed up then went the opposite direction. Mission accomplished.
Alex woke up to the acrid smell of gasoline. "Tex, come in!"
He looked to the driver's side and saw Dee unconscious, her limp arms near her head. "Send two buses now!"
"Where's our backup?" He touched his head and felt the slick wetness going down the right side of his face. "Going south on Sarah's Pathway. We went over the guardrail. They came out of nowhere. We're upside down."
"Alex… the babies… the babies…," mumbled Dee then fell silent.
"Shhh… honey, we're okay." He checked her pulse. "Weak pulse. She's out. She hit the steering wheel."
Alex released his seatbelt after bracing himself. "I'm bleeding…" He grunted as his head hit the edge of the seat head restraint. "… My head… don't know how bad. Jenny and Jimmy are out… hurry…"
He looked outside and listened. "Quiet. We weren't tailed for miles."
The urgency and the authority in his voice woke Alex up and he pushed through the pain. "**** no! Dee first."
Alex kicked the window out and crawled outside, sustaining gashes on his chest and arms. He didn't feel the pain – only the anger. "I'm thinking. **** you commanding officer."
He continued scanning the area. Quiet. Tex's next words stopped him dead. "Mission objective: Keep the targets Jenny and Jimmy safe and get them to the safehouse. Fine. I promise I'll tell Dee I got her out first, but if anything happens to any of them…."
Thankfully, the passenger window was already shattered and Jenny had picked the other side. "Jenny, I'm getting Jimmy first then I'll be right back for you."
He gently checked Jimmy. "He's breathing. Strong pulse. The seat held."
He released him then ran twenty feet away toward some brush. An upward thanks for thick foliage and trees to camouflage them from the roadway above.
After he put him on the ground, he checked him again "Jimmy's safe. I'm going back for Jenny."
He covered his mouth as ran through the stench of gasoline. He jumped over a fallen log.
Alex reached inside, trying to open the door on her side. "Jenny, wake up! Jenny!"
He looked at Dee willing her to wake up, to talk, to move. Something to give him hope.
Alex kicked the door, but it didn't budge. He grabbed the blanket near Dee's window and threw it across Jenny's face. Covering his face with his right arm, he smashed the window with his gun.
"Jenny! Wake up! Jenny!" He quickly assessed her condition.
"She's alive… strong pulse… can't wake her." He quickly freed her and sprinted to Jimmy.
"Helps how far?" He almost tripped over a branch. He caught himself by grabbing onto a bush, inhaling the noxious mix.
"Sweetheart, I'm here!" He checked her over. "Please wake up for me. Honey, please. Weak pulse. Shallow breathing."
Alex released her then ran for their lives. "I love you Dee."
The truck exploded.
Six weeks later…
Serenity Forest Cemetery
Silent sentries flanked them. A hodgepodge of angels, cherubs, and imposing black gravestones stood beside them to bear witness on this breezy day.
"It's so peaceful here," she said as she traced the angel, its outstretched wings and hands below their names, cradling them in its embrace.
Dee wiped her tears as she traced 'Baby Girl and Baby Boy.' "We never even had a chance to name them, Alex."
She felt his hands on her shoulders. "You were in a coma for a month and I didn't know…"
Feeling him shudder, she placed her right hand on his. "It's okay honey, we didn't pick their names yet."
"It's not ****ing okay!" He lifted his hands off her.
She missed his warmth as he stepped away. "You got us all out. It's not your fault Jenny and Jimmy got ambushed later on that night."
"No way in hell was I going to leave your side. **** Tex's orders and threats to get them to another safehouse."
She looked over her shoulder. "It's not your fault."
Alex scanned the line of trees in front of them then bored into her eyes. "You are not leaving my sight. You're too damn weak to protect yourself."
"No. We protect each other." She turned back to the placard, brushing away the leaves. "We sure as hell couldn't protect our children."
She placed her hands under the inscriptions. "This can't be real."
She shook her head. More tears fell. "Alex, tell me how this could have happened. The truck was clean. No one knew our route not even Tex. Can't remember anything after we hit the guardrail."
He knelt beside her, his arm wrapped around her waist. "I didn't see them either until it was too late. I grabbed your hand as we went over. Look at me, sweetheart, please."
She turned to her left, her eyes pled for the truth.
"I woke up and got you out first then Jimmy then Jenny. You were all out. Our little girl… didn't suffer… died right after impact." He wiped her tears. "Our son fought… we lost him… when you went into cardiac arrest on the operating table… I almost lost you again. I can't do this again."
She looked down then placed her forehead above the angel's head. She cried for her children, for Jimmy, for Jenny, for all of them.
She would never hold her babies. Never see them. Never watch them grow up.
She was barren. Two hearts lost. Alone in her body.
More ghosts to haunt her. More nightmares to endure. More tears for shattered dreams.
Feeling him shift, she looked to her left. "Alex, I'm tired of crying."
He just nodded, staring unseeing at the placard.
She wiped his tears. "I want to try again when we're ready."
"You want more children?" His eyes shot to hers. "Even after we lost them?"
"I want to hold our child… to be a mother… for you to be a father." She put her hand on his heart. "Our dream… our family."
She shook her head. "We are going to have a family. They will always live in our hearts. Never forgotten."
Placing his hand over hers, he said, "You never got to see them like I did." He looked down as his other hand rubbed across the inscriptions. "I prayed you'd wake up so you could be here."
As he helped her up, she looked to her right. "Mac, thank you for staying with me… for relieving Alex so he could bury our children."
Mac checked his watch. "He tell you that I punched him out so he'd get some rest?"
Alex let her go. "No. I fell asleep and hit the floor."
She looked from one to another and decided to let the matter drop.
"Mac, I want your promise. If anything happens to me, you back up Alex. Make sure he finds someone that makes him happy… to grow old… to have a family."
"Not without you, Dee."
She glared at Alex. "I promised you the same. You can't say no."
"I promise you I'll do as you ask."
She slapped Mac across the cheek. "That's for never forgetting."
Before he could react, she kissed him on the same cheek, murmuring "Thank you."
She stepped back into Alex's warm embrace, a warm smile reaching into her eyes.
"You can thank me for breaking her out of punching." Alex's rested his chin on her head as he held her close. "Took me two years."
"She's never punched me." Mac's eyes twinkled. "She telegraphs those."
She turned in his arms to face him. "Well… I was younger --"
"Easier to read and…"
Her withering glance silenced Mac before she turned back to Alex. "You know I had anger problems after Mac left and I still do… I'm sorry I did that to -- "
His finger on her lips silenced her. "It's a joke and I'm sorry to bring it up." He lowered his hand. "You are better."
He laid his forehead on hers. "We're better together."
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Mac leaving.
Without breaking contact, she said, "Hey, let's go back to our house and talk."
He stopped as he shoved his hands into his pockets. "Got something to do."
She felt Alex nodding then broke contact.
The cool breeze took away Alex's warmth. Wrapping her arms around her waist, she walked toward Mac.
"Trying to save the world again?"
"Something like that."
She stood in front of him. "Then be safe and come back. We still need to talk."
Over her shoulder, he saw Alex nodding. "I promise, but I don't know when."
Pulling her into an embrace, he whispered, "Call any time you need me… like you did."
She hugged him, tears running down her face. "Thank you for being there for me… for Alex… our babies."
He pulled her away, wiping her tears. "Hey… no more tears unless they're happy ones. You're alive. Alex is alive. You're both going to be great parents."
He nodded to Alex. "He's waiting for you. Go. I'll be back."
He stepped away when Alex was behind her.
"I promise." He pinned Alex with his gaze. "Take care of her."
"You better come back or we'll hunt you down then she'll kick your ass."
Smiling, he replied enthusiastically, "Yes sir."
Mac walked away savoring this Kodak moment.
She twined her hands with his. "I chose you Alex. Never forget."
He kissed their wedding bands. "Together forever and more, my dear."