By Tracy and Brittney

Joanie Hansen was sitting in the kitchen, stirring her coffee halfheartedly. She wasn't in her usually social mood, saying next to nothing through most of breakfast.

"You can't hide anything from your big sister, Joanie," Syd was clearly concerned about her sister. "What's bothering you?"

Joanie brushed a lock of her long, dark hair from her face. "Well, nothing, really. It's just that Richie and Kris took Hannah for the weekend, so, of course I'm a little worried."

Syd put a sympathetic arm around Joanie and gave her a hug. "That's just because you're her mom."

Joanie sighed. "Yeah. I'm sure everything will be fine. Richie's been acting much more responsible since he and Kris are expecting a child of their own. And it's not like I'm trying to deny him the chance to see his own daughter..."

"When will she be back?" Syd asked.

"Tomorrow night." Joanie replied.

"What you need is dinner and a movie with your favorite sister," Syd turned to the movie listings in the newspaper. "Where shall we go? A comedy? Romance? Action?"

Joanie was about to answer when the phone rang. As soon as she heard the voice on the other end, her face brightened. "Hi, Burt! Tonight? Oh, not much!"

Syd smiled and shook her head. "On the other hand, I think our little outing can wait!" She winked at her sister. "Go for it!"

"So, Joanie, what are you doing tonight?" asked Burt.

"Well, nothing much since Hannah's gone with Kris and Richie," replied Joanie.

"I thought that since it's a nice warm day out, we should take my boat out and drive it around the lake," said Burt.

"That sounds like a great idea. I'll have to call Richie and give him your cell phone number," said Joanie.

"OK. Then, give me a call when you would like to go," replied Burt.

"Sure thing," said Joanie. " Bye."

After the phone conversation, Syd came downstairs to get her purse. Joanie was still holding on to the phone and thinking.

"Joanie, what's the matter?" asked Syd.

"It's just that I'm nervous all of a sudden that Richie wants to be a part of Hannah's life now that since Kris is pregnant," replied Joanie.

"He does love Hannah and should be able to spend time with her, I don't see the problem in that," replied Syd.

"I think I'm going to give Richie a call and see how things are going, I wonder if Hannah misses me," said Joanie.

"I'm sure of it, and I think that Hannah is probably having a wonderful time with her dad, Hannah never really gets to see him. I think that it's great for him to be in her life," said Syd.

"Yeah. Do you think I should call him?" asked Joanie.

"No, I don't you should call him. I have to get going to work," said Syd.

"OK, Bye." replied Joanie.

After Syd left, Joanie had to get ready for work. Afterward, she went to The Barkery. At The Barkery, Joanie had a few customers, but not many. Around 12:30, she couldn't stand it. She had to call Richie's house.

Kris answered the phone. " Kris, this is Joanie. How are things going over there with Hannah?" asked Joanie.

"She's doing great and having a blast. Yesterday we took her to the parade and then we bought her some new clothes, and today we are taking her on Richie's boat this afternoon. She's not a problem for me at all," said Kris with her bubbly voice.

"Well, that's great. I'm glad she's having fun. I'll give you a call later, OK," said Joanie.

"OK, Bye" said Kris. After that little conversation, Joanie called Syd at the clinic.

"Syd, I can't take it with Kris and her perky little attitude. It's driving me crazy. She said that Hannah loves it there and that she having a great time," said Joanie.

Syd smiled. "That sounds like good news to me. Stop worrying, Joanie. You're going to drive yourself crazy! How about planning for your big date tonight?"

Joanie grinned in spite of herself. "Yeah, Burt. With all of this going on, I'd almost forgotten!"

"Something really is wrong when my little sister forgets about the latest man in her life!" Syd teased her sister. "Seriously, Joanie, relax. Have some fun with Burt. I'll probably see you when I come home?"

"I'll leave at five unless there's the usual crowd of last-minute shoppers," replied Joanie. "A quiet morning usually means a crazy afternoon!"

A few hours later, the crowd had come and gone. Because she didn't feel much like being alone, Joanie packed up her things and left a few minutes before five. It was hard not to think about her worries of Hannah as she drove through the streets of Providence, but Joanie forced herself to concentrate on Burt. Burt... how opposite he was from Richie! Richie was selfish; Burt was kind and giving. He was the kind of man who would do nearly anything to help a stranger. Yet, he knew how to have fun and wasn't held down by responsibilities as if he were standing in half-dry cement. Any man who would masquerade as Zorro at a singles' bar certainly had a sense of humor!

Luckily, Syd was home when Joanie arrived. Whenever Joanie had a big date, she always asked her sister's approval of the evening's outfit. Since they were going to ride in the boat, Joanie decided to keep it somewhat casual, choosing her favorite red sweater and black pants with matching red shoes.

Later that evening, Joanie stood in Burt's arms, her hair blowing in the wind as the boat danced through the water. There was no need for words; the trees and water were beautiful, and all Joanie needed was to let Burt hold her.

They rode around the water until thunderclouds gathered in the eastern sky, blocking out the early evening sun. Soon hard raindrops began to fall on Burt and Joanie. "We'd better get out of here," Burt said as he steered the boat back into the harbor. The rain was cold and felt like knives running into one's skin as it fell harder and harder. Small puddles turned into miniature lakes as the sky and the water seemed to become one. A tiny crack in the windshield of Burt's car let in rivulets of water that ran down onto the dashboard.

"Will you look at that," Burt traced the water with his finger. "Yesterday a piece of gravel hit that and cracked it. Now the whole car's going to be wet. I'll have to get it into the..." The shrill ringing of a cell phone interrupted Burt's sentence. It was Kris. She sounded shrill and hysterical. "Joanie, I don't know what to do! The basement's flooding and Richie's been gone for hours in his boat!"

Joanie's eyes were filled with tears as she thought about what might what happen to Hannah.

"Joanie, the water is really bad and the streets are flooded too," said Kris.

"We are getting over there as soon as possible, but it's really hard to see with all of this water," replied Joanie.

"OK, Thanks, Joanie. Hurry," said Kris.

"Burt, what are we going to do," asked Joanie.

"Well, Joanie, we have to get over there as soon as we can, which is going to be hard, since it's pouring rain," replied Burt. " I need you to call the fire department and give them Richie's address, hopefully they can get over there faster then we can."

"Burt, we can make it. I know it, even though the car is wet. We just have to make it," said Joanie.

Burt couldn't say no to Joanie's tearstained face.

" All right, let's go," Burt said. They parked the boat back into its spot and got into the wet and cold car. They didn't have much gas, but he hoped they would make it. Burt swerved off the road a lot because he couldn't see the road.

They finally made it to Richie's house. By this time, Kris was standing there holding onto Hannah on the basement steps. The door to go up into the house got locked by accident and the water was now at Kris's ankles. Burt had no idea how he was supposed to get in there. He looked at Joanie, then gave her a hug and kissed her lips softly.

"Burt, I don't want anything happening to my baby," said Joanie. "There has to be a way in there."

Burt groaned as he twisted the lock and found it wouldn't give. He muttered something under his breath and ran back to the car, a locksmith's key in hand. After a little more twisting, the door finally burst open, a waist-high burst of water flying out.

Burt ran down the stairs until he could go no farther. He turned to Kris. "It's flooded. Get what you need and we're getting out of here!"

"Her bag, where did you put Hannah's bag?" Joanie asked frantically.

Kris bit her lip, trying to remember amidst the confusion of the storm. "In the kitchen! Upstairs!" vBurt bounded up the stairs, returning with Hannah's pink gingham travel bag. "Let's go!" Joanie reached for Hannah and held her close.

"Not without Richie!" Kris sobbed. "He's still out there, somewhere. I told him I'd wait! Please, I'm not going!"

Joanie was sympathetic, as she remembered how her heart had tied up in knots when she thought Burt was injured in a fire. She put an arm around Kris. "Burt and I called the fire department. They'll be here soon and do everything they can to find him."

The lightning was growing brighter, and the thunder crashes came closer and closer. The heart of the storm was upon them.

Burt kept shouting that they get into the car, at least the rubber tires would protect them from lightning. Reluctantly, Kris got into the back seat of the car and stared from the rain-streaked windows.

"What's that?" Joanie motioned to a figure atop the neighbor's garage. The water had risen so high that it had covered many buildings. It looked like a brightly-colored tarp, but it was moving. "I can't make it out, the rain's too heavy."

"It's a person," Burt said. He looked at his watch impatiently.

"Is it Richie?" Joanie shouted through the thunder.

"I can't tell, my binoculars are at the station." Once more he frowned at his watch. "They're going to be too late. I'm going after him."

Joanie felt as if a stone was sinking into her heart. It was just like the night of the big fire, but she knew she couldn't stop him. Burt could never stand idly by and let someone die in the rain. She whispered a prayer for him as she watched his form disappear into the water.

It seemed like an eternity until she saw Burt reach the figure. Burt reached for the trapped man and began to pull him toward the road, fighting the wind and rain.

Kris got out of the car. "It's him! Is he all right?"

"I can't tell," Joanie answered. "They're too far away."

Slowly but surely, Burt and Richie made their way toward the car. As they came closer, it was apparent that Richie was uninjured but shaken. The moment they approached the car, the sound of sirens filled the air. The fire department had arrived at last.

The next few hours were a blur to Joanie. She felt like herself again only after she and Burt were drying off in front of the fire at the Hansen house.

"Burt, I just have one question." She stared into those eyes that haunted her dreams.

"Yes?" He smiled his winsome smile and wrapped his arms around her.

"Why did you risk your life when you know the fire department was on their way?" Joanie's eyes blinked back tears as she thought of what could have happened to her love. "Did you know it was him?"

"As a firefighter, I'm under the obligation to save lives," Burt whispered into her hair. "But when I thought about what it would be like for Hannah to never know her father, no matter what kind of man he is, I knew I had to do it."

Joanie felt warm from head to toe. His motives were as pure as love itself. As she looked into his eyes, she felt a sense of certainty too strong to deny. He was the one, without a doubt.

A few months later...

Burt and Joanie decided to get married. They had a beautiful wedding. After all, Burt was the perfect guy for Joanie. Burt had two jobs, and he adored Hannah. He was just the sweetest and most caring person she ever met.

They all settled in Providence and lived happily ever after.


2000 Tracy and Brittney

DISCLAIMER: Characters mentioned in this story that have appeared in the NBC series "Providence" are the property of National Broadcasting Company. No copyright infringement is intended.