The Challenge by Janet Lynne

The Challenge
by Janet Lynne
Copyright © by Janet Lynne, 2001

This is a sequel to my first Story, The Homecoming. It is not necessary to read that one first, however, I would recommend it, as some events and situations that take place in this Story will be better understood if you have read TH first.

Disclaimer: Xena, Gabrielle, and Eve are owned by Pacific Renaissance/MCA Universal/USA Studios. I have only borrowed some of their identifying characteristics for this work of original Fiction.

Sexual Content Warning: This is a Story of two Women who are very much in love – with each other. There are many love scenes, and some are explicit. If you are under the age of consent where you live or have homophobic tendencies, please give this Story a miss. Thanks!

Language/Violence: Imagine Xena in the 1990’s – yep, she swears. And she’s a cop, so there’s some violence too. This Story contains hurt/comfort elements as well.

“New Age”/Religious Content warning: I’m a “new age” kind of girl, so my characters are too. All new age/metaphysical and healing occurrences presented here are actual phenomena that I have personally experienced. By presenting my characters’ religious views, I by no means wish to diminish the views of others. IMHO, each person’s religious view is the “right” one (smile).

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Part One

-1-

Late March, 1995
The SUV rolled along Interstate 40, heading east into the early morning sun. Janna Norden-Zamora leaned back into the seat and closed her eyes while her wife, Ryan, drove. An enchanting tape of Native American flute and drum music played softly as she let the sun’s warmth bathe her skin through the Explorer’s windows. The music was an appropriate accompaniment to the desert landscape they were traveling across, and she tapped her fingers in time to the drum beats, feeling at one with the music and with her ancestral surroundings.

As she rode, Janna mused about the incredible journey she had embarked upon. Not quite one year previously, at thirty-two years of age, she had felt strongly drawn to return to her hometown in the arid San Joaquin Valley of Northern California. She had been a successful rock musician in San Francisco, as well as a political activist, so her decision to return to her roots in the conservative agricultural region was a seemingly strange one. However, the true reason for her homecoming was made abundantly clear a few weeks later when, as the victim of a gay-bashing incident, she had met her soulmate…the cop who had saved her life and was now her beloved wife. She was now a happily married freelance photographer who felt utterly complete and satisfied with the direction that her life had taken.

The tall, dark-haired, part Comanche woman behind the wheel mused silently as well, about the immense changes that her adorable wife had brought to her life. She had been a solitary figure for most of her thirty-three years before the small, blonde whirlwind had made her appearance. They had gone to school together but had never connected, though each had been attracted to the other. Now, she was involved in a beautiful relationship and was experiencing a spiritual bond the likes of which she had never imagined could exist. Through the incredible link that she shared with Janna, she could feel her wife’s emotions, and she smiled, as at the moment her partner was extremely happy.

Ryan glanced over at her mate, noted her happy, relaxed composure, and sighed. “You’re very happy, love…I can feel it.” She grinned as her mate lazily turned her head and graced her with a gorgeous smile.

“Mm, and so are you. I can feel your excitement, too, Ryan.” She turned partially toward her mate. “And why shouldn’t we be happy? We just celebrated our six-month wedding anniversary, we’re more happy now than we were even then, we’re traveling to one of our favorite parts of the country: a highly spiritual region and the home of our ancestors, and last, but most definitely not least, we’re about to try to conceive our first child.” She grinned widely at her wife. “Darn right I’m happy, love!”

Ryan returned the wide grin and remarked, “I’m glad you clarified all that for me, baby.” She reached for Janna’s hand and linked their fingers as she drove on, feeling their incredibly strong love pass between them through the special bond that linked their heart centers. As was its habit, their love became manifest and spread beyond the confines of their bodies and auras, filling the vehicle with its warm glow.

Janna sighed with delight and then a thought struck and she said, “Honey, you never told me what Sharon said when you told her we would be missing our first two games.”

Ryan chuckled. “Are you sure you want to hear it?”

Janna grimaced, “Ooh, that bad, huh?”

“Oh, yeah, babe…you think I use bad language. Jesus, I think I heard several different forms of ‘motherfucker’.”

“Oh, God…”

“But I told her that it was very important to us and we were going, no matter what…that it was my birthday present to you. And then, I’m afraid that she pissed me off so badly that I let it slip that you were, in all likelihood, coming back pregnant.”

“Oh, my God, honey, you didn’t!”

“Sorry love, but she was being such an asshole. I assured her that you intend to play a full season anyway.”

“Did that help?”

“No. I finally just ended the conversation by telling her it was too fucking bad, we’re going, and assuring her that Elaine is up to taking my place. I’ll bet when we get back we find that they did fine.”

“I think so too, love.” Janna shook her head. Their softball coach, an ex-soldier, often brought a military-level intensity to her coaching.

The mesas and arroyos flew by as Ryan drove, and she remarked, “Janna, I keep thinking about that sunset last night…God! It reminded me of why I always loved the desert.”

Janna smiled and closed her eyes as she recalled the brilliant sunset that they had viewed from their motel room in Needles, on the California-Arizona border. The sky had been painted with brilliant bands of seemingly every color of the spectrum.

“Mm, yes. I don’t think I even need photos to remember that one.” She glanced at her wife, vibrant green eyes sparkling, and grinned as she added, “However, I’m glad I got some.”

Ryan returned the happy grin. “I am too, Janna. I’m expecting a nice photo collage after we get back home.”

“Oh, you are? Is this a commissioned work?” Janna smiled coyly.

Ryan beat the coy smile with a rakish grin. “It is.”

“Awesome…those are my favorite kind…and I love your method of payment.”

Ryan’s black eyebrows rose above her mirrored sunglasses, lifting her dark bangs as the rakish grin grew wider. “And I love making the payments, baby.”

Janna cleared her throat and fanned her face with her hand. “It sure gets hot early here, doesn’t it?”

“I think it’s only hot inside the car right now, sweetheart.” Ryan brought their linked hands to her lips and softly kissed her wife’s fingers as she looked at her expectantly. “Do we need to make a rest stop?”

“If we stop now, Ryan, we won’t be getting any rest. Drive on, Tiger.” At Ryan’s look of disappointment, Janna added, “There will be plenty of time for that sort of fun after we reach Sedona. Come on, love…we’ve got a long way to go yet.”

Janna nearly laughed aloud at the sight of Ryan’s pout, but maintained her composure and only smiled. I shouldn’t be too self-righteous: I’m pretty hot for her right now, too. What is it that we do to each other?

As Janna marveled silently at the almost otherworldly attraction between herself and her mate, said mate sighed deeply and refocused her attention on the road, but not before thinking, Jesus…we had a nice cuddle time this morning…I shouldn’t need sex again already. Shouldn’t, but do…shit, what she does to me. I’m like a fuckin’ guy, for Christ’s sake, as horny as I get for her.

“Pass me an ice water, will ya’ babe?”

Janna reached into the ice chest behind their seats and grabbed an ice-cold bottle of spring water, uncapped it, took a sip and handed it to her wife.

“Thanks, love.” Ryan grinned around the mouth of the bottle. “This ought to cool me down.”

It should, but probably won’t for long. Must be the energy around here. I’m definitely feeling it too. Janna reached for her copy of, “Guide to Sedona’s Energy Vortices” and tried to refocus her attention as well.

~~~~~~~~~~

“Oh, yeah…again, baby…please…” Ryan gasped as she grasped Janna’s hand and held it in place, lest she remove it prematurely, and remembered to try to control her breath. “Oh, yes! Janna, baby…oh, God, here I come again…”

Janna dutifully did as her wife requested and left her fingers buried within the warm, moist nest that she loved so much. As she felt her mate’s body contract powerfully around her digits, her own body responded in kind, and she wriggled in Ryan’s lap. Ryan pulled their bodies more tightly together and hungrily captured Janna’s mouth with hers. Janna moaned at the renewed contact and communicated her need to Ryan with her tongue. Ryan responded by reinserting her hand in Janna’s own warm, special place and stroked her until she was moaning in unison with her wife. Their bodies gyrated rhythmically together and then arched simultaneously as the lovers called out their partner’s names in unison.

As their breathing slowed and steadied, Ryan embraced her smaller mate, holding her close, and rocked them slowly, back and forth. “Janna, honey…that was so good.” Ryan kissed her wife’s brow before finding her lips again and savoring them.

“Mm, Ryan…yes.” Janna sighed and reveled in her wife’s touch. She felt completely safe and at home in that position, and had no desire to move from Ryan’s lap. She wrapped her legs more tightly around Ryan’s waist as she murmured, “Can we sleep this way, d’ya think?”

“I’ll bet if anyone can, it’s us, baby.” She kissed Janna again as she ran her hands lovingly down the soft skin of her back. A pleasant, cool breeze blew in the open window, cooling hot, sweat-slicked skin. The late-night half moon, in her third quarter phase, smiled down on them through the open curtains of the quaint, homey room, which sat in a corner of the second story of a cute Bed and Breakfast.

“I hope there’s no one in the next room…we were a little on the vocal side.” Janna remarked as she nuzzled Ryan’s neck.

“Well, I guess we’ll find out at breakfast, won’t we? If anyone gives us strange looks, we’ll have our answer.” Ryan’s response was as matter-of-fact as her attitude.

“Oh, God, honey…I’d rather die.” Janna giggled.

“What? My naughty little ex-punk…who once put on a special floor show with a girlfriend after a concert?”

Janna groaned. “I knew that story would come back to haunt me one day.”

“Only if our kids hear about it, baby.”

“I want a promise, right now, Ryan, that they won’t.” Serious green eyes were accompanied by raised blonde eyebrows.

“I promise.” Ryan sealed her promise with a tender kiss and after they parted, gently disengaged herself from under her wife. She reclined on the bed and pulled Janna down next to her. “Kids, Janna. We’re gonna have kids.” She shivered with excitement. “This is so great, baby.”

“I know, Ryan. I could not be happier about it. Let’s just hope everything goes smoothly.” She turned slightly and rested her cheek on a soft breast, cradling her mate’s waist with an arm.

“There’s no reason why it shouldn’t, Janna. You and Zac both checked out A-okay in the fertility department. Plus, your cycles are very regular, so timing ovulation isn’t a problem. You’re optimistic about the delivery method…it should be fine.”

“I know…I just want this so much that I worry something will go wrong.” She glanced at her dark-haired mate. “Um, honey, you sound like you’re not too sure about the method…I thought we’d worked it all out…if you’re not comfortable…”

“Janna, it’s all right. I’m okay with it, believe me. I know I originally wanted to have it done in a clinical setting, but after talking with your friends and their doctors, and finding out that fresh sperm is more viable than frozen, I really am pretty comfortable with how we’ll be doing it. After all, we’re coming a thousand miles to do it…we need to maximize our chances of it taking on the first shot.” She raised her eyebrows and grinned before adding, “Um, so to speak! Plus, Zac’s testing show’s he’s healthy.”

She smiled at Janna, and then the smile became a gentle leer and Janna knew what she was thinking before Ryan even voiced it. “Besides, I’m looking forward to my part of it.”

Ryan’s leer sent a jolt of desire through Janna’s body, beginning at her toes and traveling upward from there, and she took a deep breath and let it out before replying, “Ryan, love, I have no doubt that it will be among one of the sexiest lesbian impregnations in the history of, er…lesbian impregnations.”

“Thanks, baby…that’s the plan.” Ryan replied silkily as she slowly stroked Janna’s arm.

They both took deep breaths in tandem and tried to still hearts that were beginning to pound, sending hot blood to regions that were still throbbing gently in the afterglow of their love. Ryan cleared her throat gently. “Should I blow the candles out, baby?”

“No.” Janna rose to her hands and knees and, straddling her wife, leaned down and kissed her passionately. Coral nipples lightly, erotically grazed brown before she was pulled down fully atop her mate.

Luna, the moon spirit, smiled perceptively as she saw her friends once again engage in their special dance of love, knowing that their extraordinary love was being enhanced by the strong energy of the region. She sent a communication to her sister spirit, Gaia, informing her of her history with the pair and asking her to hold them gently within her loving energy. Gaia nodded, figuratively of course, and wrapped the Norden-Zamoras within her energetic embrace.

-2-

“Janna, this is the strongest one yet…I feel like I’m receiving Reiki!” Ryan stood atop a red rock ledge, the brilliant blue sky above mirroring her beautiful, wide-eyed gaze.

“I know…it’s incredible!” Laughter bubbled from Janna’s chest as she held Ryan’s hand, feeling giddy. “This vortex seems special, somehow.”

Suddenly, she and Ryan looked at each other as a thought occurred to them simultaneously and they spoke in unison. “We’ve been here together before!”

“Whoa, shit, Janna! What was that?”

“I think we both just had a little past-life recall at the same time.” She gazed seriously at Ryan. “Honey, I know from my many channelings and regressions that I’ve had lots of previous lives here in the southwest, and now we know that you and I have had many, many lives together…I think it makes sense that we had some together here.”

“Yeah, Janna…this place seems very familiar, but I’ve never been to Sedona before.”

“It felt familiar to me the first time I was here, too.” She looked around her at the gorgeous red mountains and mesas that surrounded the canyon they were in. “But this time, it feels extra special. The energy is hitting me hard, like it has before, but I feel more in tune with the place now, with you here.”

“What do you mean by the energy is hitting you hard, honey?”

“I feel very spacey here. It starts in Flagstaff and gets stronger the nearer I get to Sedona. Always has. I think it’s because I’m a low-frequency person and all this high frequency energy has a physical impact on me.” She looked up at Ryan. “Your frequency is more mid-range, so I think you don’t feel it as strongly. I’ve never been able to spend more than two days in this area.”

“Could your body, or your spirit, or whatever, get used to it?”

“I don’t know. I should probably try to find out while we’re here. I’d love to spend a relaxing week or two here some time.”

“So would I, love.” She pulled her blonde mate into her arms and they enjoyed the powerful earth-energy together. After a few minutes, Ryan suggested, “Can you try to ground yourself, Janna?”

Janna kissed Ryan’s shoulder before grinning up at her. “That’s amazing, honey…that’s exactly what I’ve been doing while we stand here. I’m sending a grounding cord into the planet…and I do feel a little more comfortable.” Ryan kissed her head as she smiled at her mate. “Great pick up, love!”

“Thanks, baby. My intuition seems to really flow here.” Ryan smiled, genuinely pleased with her increased perception.

“Awesome…the ability doesn’t have to stay here, either, Ryan. Now that you know what it’s like, you can incorporate it into your everyday life…even after we return home.”

“That is so cool, Janna. And you know what, babe? Whenever I’m with you, I am home.”

A little later, they decided to escape the intense, mid-day sun by doing some (more) shopping. Janna pulled a grinning Ryan by the hand as she eagerly approached yet another metaphysical shop. They felt comfortable enough in the old-soul community, despite the existence of a few somewhat touristy areas, to act naturally, displaying their obvious affection openly. As Janna led her wife into the cool, comfortable space, they were bombarded with the scent of incense and the not so subtle energetic pull of thousands of crystals.

“Whoa, Ryan…feel the energy from the crystals!” Janna stood, dumbfounded, just inside the doorway.

“I do, love…that’s really different.” Ryan stopped beside Janna and settled an arm around her shoulder as her mate took a deep, calming breath. She could feel the tingly, buzzing energy of the rocks, gems, minerals and especially, quartz crystals, that surrounded them. Wow, if they’re making me feel buzzy, what are they doing to Janna? She took a deep, cleansing breath herself, and whispered, “Ground yourself, baby.”

“I am…thanks, love.”

They were greeted by a pleasant female voice which said, “Takes some getting used to, doesn’t it?” The proprietor, an attractive middle-aged woman with long, wavy blonde hair pointed to a water cooler and added, “Have some water…it will help.”

“Thanks.” Ryan replied as she led her mate to the water. She poured a stream from the spigot into a small paper cone and handed it to Janna, who drank it thirstily and offered the cup back to Ryan for more.

After downing another, Janna said, “Thanks, honey…that should help.” Janna took another deep breath and slowly let it out, then turned and looked around. The small shop was packed to overflowing with all things metaphysical, but most especially with crystals of every size, shape, color, and variety.

“Jesus, I didn’t know there were so many different kinds.” Ryan mumbled as she looked around as well.

“Yes, and each one has different properties for healing, balancing, and helping humans.”

“My Grandfather used to talk about our rock friends and the Rock People…now I know that he was completely serious.”

“Yes, they are truly our friends.” Janna sent a quiet welcome to the rock friends in the room and thanked them for their presence. She would have been overjoyed had she realized that Ryan did the same thing at the same moment.

“Ladies, may I help you find something?” The proprietress approached, bearing a friendly smile.

Janna replied, grinning, “We’re mainly just browsing, but I think I can hear some of these friends calling out to me!”

The woman grinned. “They have a way of doing that. They’re more perceptive than we are, I think. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask…and feel free to handle any stones that you feel particularly drawn to…it’s how you will know for certain that it’s what you need.”

“Thanks.” Ryan replied as she was drawn to a nearby shelf of long, pointed quartz crystals.

“Are you healers?”

Ryan turned to look at the woman, surprised. “Yes, we are…we do Reiki.”

“Ah, then those would be very helpful. Have you ever used crystals with Reiki?”

Janna answered, “No, but I know people who do and I’ve been wanting to learn more about it.” She reached toward a lovely wand of about four inches in length and caressed it lovingly. “Oh, honey, this is nice.”

The woman added helpfully, “If you’re interested, I can recommend a wonderful book, too.” She pointed to a corner of the shop, which contained bookshelves.

“Great…thanks!” Janna turned to Ryan. “I’d like to give it a try, honey…what do you think?”

“I’m interested too, love. Let’s get what we need.” She turned to the shopkeeper and said, “We appreciate your help.” She offered her hand and added, “I’m Ryan Norden-Zamora, and this is my wife, Janna.”

“I’m very pleased to meet you. Are you vacationing here?”

“Briefly, yes…we’re going to visit my brother in Las Cruces. We’re from Northern California.”

“Oh, how nice. I moved here from the Bay Area twelve years ago.”

Janna added, “Oh, wow, what a small world! We’re from the San Joaquin Valley and don’t have access to places like this unless we visit the Bay Area or Sacramento.” Looking around happily, she added, “It’s so nice to find a place like this…you have no idea!”

“I’m very glad that you were drawn to stop in here, then.” She smiled warmly and proceeded to share information on the crystals that Ryan and Janna were feeling drawn to, and spent nearly an hour answering all of their questions. The ladies left the pleasant shop feeling pleased with their purchases and were anxious to put their newfound knowledge to work.

Later, as Janna passed the last of their new rock friends through the sage smoke, she remarked, “When we get home, we’ll have to charge these in the light of the full moon, too. That’s what Terry does.”

“I like that idea, love. So, Terry uses crystals when she does Reiki?” Ryan was stretched out on the large bed, waiting while her partner cleansed the new acquisitions.

“Sometimes, yeah, when she feels it’s necessary. I’ve never experienced it, myself.” She stood and approached the bed where her mate reclined. Looking animatedly at her, she remarked, “Hm, are you sure it’s Reiki you want right now, my love? Because it’s an entirely different vibe that you’re putting out.”

“Shit, baby, am I that transparent?”

“No…our bond is that strong. I’m afraid you can’t hide anything from me, honey.”

“Well, Janna, I may be putting out that vibe, and for good reason, but I know you want to try out your new crystal, so let’s do that first, huh?” Her sparkling blue eyes met Janna’s in the dim light of the room.

“Sure, baby, maybe we can, um, combine the disciplines.” Janna remarked coyly as she crawled onto the bed and sat beside her mate.

“Oh, my God, Janna…you are so perfect, baby. Come ‘ere.” Ryan sat up and pulled her wife gently against her and then deftly stripped off her own t-shirt, under which she wore nothing. She did the same with Janna’s, and was excited beyond words at the vision before her. “Shit, baby…you turn me on so much that there aren’t words for it.” She pulled her mate into her arms and relished the contact.

Janna sighed and mumbled against Ryan’s neck, “Let’s, um, save the healing for a little later…okay?”

“Absolutely.”

~~~~~~~~~~

Arizona’s Painted Desert was breathtaking in the early-morning light. The color of the sands, already intrinsically imbued with lovely pastel shades, was even more intense in the orange-pink light. Ryan scanned the surrounding landscape as Janna drove, enjoying immensely the beauty that spread out around her. She smiled widely as they passed a road sign stating that they were ten miles from Winslow, and began humming one of her favorite songs, The Eagles’, “Take it Easy”.

“Do you see that, love?” She turned and grinned at Janna. “Ten miles to Winslow.”

“Well, you’d better cue up the tape then, so we can sing our favorite verse as we drive through.” Janna returned the grin, her face lighting up in the orange light.

“Done, babe!”

Several minutes later, they sang along with the Eagles as they vocalized joyously about the girl in the flatbed Ford who had slowed down to have a look.

“That’s you, my baby.” Ryan’s low voice drawled.

“And you, Ryan.” Janna grinned happily at her wife. The previous year, while dating, they had realized that when they were young, they had each envisioned the other as the girl in the Ford…twenty years before they fell in love.

“I love this magical Universe that we live in, Janna.”

“Mm, hmm. I’m so glad we have some esoteric knowledge and can truly appreciate it.” She looked at Ryan. “I feel blessed.”

“Yep, and I’m hoping to pick up more wisdom while we’re here. Hell, we already have, thanks to Amara yesterday.”

“Yes, we’re off to a good start. Ryan, honey, if you want to reconsider Zac’s offer of taking you into the sweat lodge, I won’t mind.”

“No, Janna. I want to experience that with you, and you can’t do that this trip. We’ll save that for a future visit, okay?”

“If you’re sure, Ryan. I know how much you want to do it.”

“I’m positively sure, because I know how much you want to do it, too.” Ryan grasped Janna’s hand and communicated her love to her silently as the beautiful landscape sped by.

After a few minutes of contemplative silence, Ryan remarked, “Yesterday was fantastic, Janna. The Power Spots were awesome. I thought they would be cool, but I really had no idea.” She gazed at her wife. “I’m so glad that I have you to help me to understand these concepts, Janna. You’ve really, single-handedly, put me back in touch with my roots, and I can’t thank you enough.” As she gazed fondly at her wife through long, black lashes, she kissed her knuckles.

Janna thought her heart would melt and had to fight to keep her composure and stay focused on the highway. She swallowed hard as tears sprang to her eyes. “Ryan, love of my life, nothing gives me greater pleasure.” She grinned, then added, “Well, almost nothing.”

“Indeed!” Ryan bestowed a dazzling, wide, white grin on her.

They both sighed and reveled in their love and in the bond that they shared as they continued the day-long drive to Zac’s home, across the arid beauty of the deserts of Arizona and New Mexico.

~~~~~~~~~~

The late afternoon sun burned intensely above the white sands as Ryan negotiated the winding road, following orders from her navigator. “I think it should be just ahead on the right, Ryan.”

“I hope to hell it is, Janna, because we’re almost to the Missile Range and Zac specifically told me that his place is not on the base. It’s ‘outside of Las Cruces, between the town and the base’.”

“Oh, look, that has to be it.” Janna excitedly pointed to a hacienda style home sitting on what looked to be several acres.

Ryan peered at the mailbox. “Yep, that’s it. ‘Bout fuckin’ time I found it. Jesus…I’m gonna have to get clarification from my brother on what his definition of ‘easy to find’ is. Shit.” Ryan shook her head, but then smiled as she glanced at her mate, who smiled warmly at her partner, her eyes communicating understanding.

“Thanks, baby.” Ryan was absolute putty in the hands of her sympathetic mate and quickly forgot her exasperation. “Let’s go see Zac.” She pulled the truck to a stop on the circular drive in front of the adobe house and eagerly hopped out.

As she and Janna exited the truck, the front door opened and Zac bounded out. “Hey, there you are…I was about to call out my buddies in the Guard to go looking for you!” His wide smile was met by his sister’s raised eyebrows.

“Great fuckin’ directions, Zachary Red Hawk…Christ. What do you consider ‘a little ways outside of town’, anyway?”
“New Mexico parameters, Sis…different scale!” He scooped his tough sister into his arms and stole a hug and a kiss before turning to her wife. “Janna, great to see you again!” He hugged Janna and kissed her cheek.

“Hi Zac…it’s great to be here…finally. That was a long drive from Sedona!”

“Yeah, shit…what is it…four, five hundred miles?” He looked expectantly from Janna to Ryan.

“Four hundred something, I think, bro. And yeah, it’s good to be here…I’ve gotta pee.” Ryan looked at her brother jauntily and he motioned for them to enter his home.

“A lady, as always, I see, Ryan.” He grinned, belying his enjoyment of his sister’s frankness. “And hey…there’s a nice lady in the kitchen…don’t scare her too badly when you go in.”

Ryan’s eyes brightened as she asked, “Ah, would this be the infamous Marty?”

“It might be…and she just might be living here now…so watch yourself, Puma.” Zac’s rare use of her tribal name surprised Ryan and she grinned at her brother.

She replied sincerely, “Okay, Zac…you got it. Starting now, I’m on my best behavior.” She reached a long arm out toward Janna, who stepped into her embrace, and they followed Zac into his home.

As they entered the pleasant, southwestern-styled home, they were greeted with the delicious aroma of Mexican cooking. Ryan’s and Janna’s stomaches, both quite empty, gurgled in response and they glanced at each other and smiled as they stood in a whitewashed adobe entrance hall.

“Supper will be ready soon…come on in and meet Marty.” Zac led them into a large country-styled kitchen, not unlike their own, with the exception of the addition of a large corner hearth. An attractive, thirtyish, black-haired woman stood at one of the counters. When Zac entered the kitchen, followed by his sister and sister-in-law, she wiped her flour-covered hands on her apron and smiled at the visitors.

“Marty, hon, I want you to meet my sister, Ryan, and her wife, Janna. Ryan, Janna, meet my uh…my…well, my fiancé, Marty. Martha Greyeagle.” Zac blushed as he stammered out the introductions.

“Fiancé?” Ryan grinned as she looked at her brother with surprise. At his nod, she grinned at Marty and offered her hand warmly. “Marty, it’s great to meet you. I’ve heard good things about you.”

“And I you, Ryan, thank you.” The attractive woman grasped Ryan’s hand as she smiled, meeting her eyes seriously.

“Marty, this is my wife, Janna.” Ryan stepped back and motioned Janna forward.

“Hi, Janna. I’m happy to meet you.” Marty extended her hand and Janna grasped it warmly.

“I’m glad to meet you too, Marty. Thank you for having us in your home.”

“It’s our pleasure, Janna. Welcome.” She smiled warmly at the cute, green-eyed blonde.

Zac smiled as he threw his long arms around Ryan and Janna’s shoulders. “Hey, supper will be ready soon, why don’t you two get settled while we finish up in here.”

Ryan clasped her hand to her heart as if in pain. “No…no way…you cook now, Zac?” She grinned. “And you call me domesticated!”

“Funny, asshole…come on…I’ll show you where the guest room is.” He left his grinning girlfriend and led his two laughing sisters out of the kitchen and down a whitewashed hallway.

“Nice place, Zac. I’m impressed.” Ryan remarked as she looked around the comfortable home.

“Thanks, Sis. It needed a lot of work, but it is coming along. Marty has been a great help.”

“That’s great…we’re happy for you, Zac.” Ryan remarked sincerely before grinning and adding, “It’s about fuckin’ time you settled down, old man.”

“Me! What about you, older sister? You’re just barely settled yourself.”

“Big sister.”

“Whatever!”

The friendly argument stopped when they reached the guest room. It was a nice-sized room with a large, four-poster bed as its focal point. Doorways within led to a private bath and to a walk-in closet.

“This is lovely, Zac!” Janna exclaimed as she entered the room and looked about.

“Yeah, I guess I’ll have to give you credit for having a little class, after all.” His sister remarked with a grin.

“That’s big of you, Sis. See you guys in a while.” Zac left, closing the door behind him and Ryan immediately reached for her mate, who buried herself in her wife’s embrace.

“Janna, this is gonna be so nice.” She glanced at the bed. “I hope that bed is as comfortable, and strong, as it looks, ’cause it’s gonna get a lot of heavy-duty use.”

“Oh, is it?”

“You know it is, baby.”

“I can’t wait, love.”

“Four days, Janna. Four days until we make our baby. Friday night is gonna be something special.” She pulled Janna close and nuzzled her hair before leaning down for a sweet kiss.

When they parted, Janna added, “And don’t forget Saturday and Sunday…this is a three-day event, you know.”

“Oh, I know, babe. But I also know that I’m gonna do it right the first time. The other two nights are just for insurance.”

“Oh, and you’re positive about this, are you?”

“Absolutely goddamn right I am, baby.” With that statement, Ryan displayed a rakish grin that melted Janna’s heart just that much more…something she would not have thought possible.

“Come on, Ryan. Let’s lie down and cuddle until dinner’s ready.”

-3-

Laughter filled the dining room as its occupants enjoyed the delicious southwestern spread. Marty, an excellent cook, had spared no effort in presenting a wonderful traditional New Mexican meal of layered enchiladas, corn, rice, salsa, and Native frybread. As it turned out, and to his sister’s great surprise, Zac was also no slouch in the kitchen, and the resulting meal anchored the family celebration.

Ryan sat back against the antique high-backed, wooden chair, happily savoring foods she had not eaten in years. “Marty, this frybread is awesome. Would you mind showing Janna how to make it?”

“Jesus, Sis, don’t you have two working hands? Why don’t you learn?”

“Because, smart ass, I don’t cook. The last time I tried to boil water, I burned it.”

Janna set her margarita glass back on the table and giggled. “She’s telling the truth, Zac. She tried to boil water for me and left it on the burner too long…she burned up the pan!”

“Well, baby, if memory serves, I was a little distracted at the time.” Ryan’s jaunty grin left no question as to what she was referring and Janna quickly nodded and waved her hand at Ryan.

“Yes, right, okay…no need to share that information. You’re right, honey.”

Zac burst out laughing and slapped the table. “Jesus Christ…you two are unbelievable!”

“Hey, I’m a stud, what can I say?” Ryan’s brilliant blue eyes sparkled as she grinned, clearly very proud of her sexual prowess. Marty shook her head, unused to such frank discussions at the dinner table, but was enjoying herself nonetheless.

“Okay, you guys…and I do mean ‘guys’…cool it!” Janna playfully slapped at her mate’s arm.

“What? Can I help it if I’m a bigger stud than my brother is?” Ryan eyed her brother, grinning, as she took a swig from her bottle of Corona beer.

“What! Oh, no…no fu…uh, friggin way, Sis! Right, Marty?” He winked at his girlfriend.

As Martha blushed, Ryan continued, “Oh yeah? Tell me, buddy, how many times have you gotten laid in the last week?”

“Ryan!” Janna gasped, blushing brightly.

“Oh, come on, baby…we’re all family here.” She grasped her wife’s hand tenderly and looked pointedly back at her brother. “Well?”

Zac glanced at his girlfriend, who smiled and shrugged. “Okay…I’ll bite. Let me see…in the last week?” At Ryan’s affirmative nod, he continued, “Four times.”

“Ha! Sorry, bro. Nine!” Ryan all but puffed out her chest, while her mate groaned and laid her head on the table in embarrassment.

“Nine? No freaking way, Ryan!”

“Yes, way, Zac. Janna, am I lying?”

Janna’s face remained hidden as she replied meekly, “No, you’re telling the truth. And before anyone asks, yes, that is a typical week for us.”

Ryan pointed at her brother and grinned. “See!”

“Jesus Christ…” Zac muttered, shaking his head. “And it’s…um…you know…good? Every time?”

“Every single, goddamned time, Zac…for both of us.” She smiled proudly and looked at her mate, who could only groan.

“Fuck…” Zac muttered.

Janna took a deep breath and chanced a look up, to meet Marty’s amused expression. “Sorry, Marty…I don’t know how the conversation managed to degenerate so drastically. Um, can I help you clean up?”

Marty chuckled as she replied, “Don’t worry about it, Janna…it’s been an interesting conversation, to say the least! And no, Zac will help me clean up. You sit…relax. You two had a very long drive today.”

“Are you sure? I don’t mind…”

“I’m positive, and anyway…I think he owes me.” She looked pointedly at her fiancé, who tried to hide behind his beer bottle.

“No less than my wife owes me.” Janna shot a friendly glare toward her mate, who mimicked her brother’s cowardly action.

Zac cleared his throat. “Um, what do you ladies say to Ryan and I fixing breakfast in the morning?”

His idea was met by two wide grins and a sharp groan, after which his beautiful sister stated matter-of-factly, “Zachary, you are truly ready to become a husband.”

Zac’s features softened as he turned his gaze to his future wife. “I’m not going to argue with that, Ryan.”

Ryan groaned again. “Oh, God, please tell me that we aren’t that sappy, Janna.”

“Sorry, love…I think you and I have cornered the market on sap.” Janna smiled warmly at her mate and linked their hands.

“Yep, you two have…no question.” Zac glanced at his sister. “But it’s kind of nice.”

Marty smiled as she agreed. “Yes, it is.”

Zac glanced around the table. “More Margaritas, anyone? Beer…wine?”

“I think I’ll have a Marg now, bro…thanks.”

As Zac poured the frothy drink into a salt-rimmed glass for his sister, he asked, “So, um, what’s the plan…for later this week, I mean?”

“Do you want the technical details or are you talking in general terms?” Ryan took a sip of her drink and smiled at its pleasant, sweet tang.

“Honey, I just think he needs to know what will be expected of him…and when.”

“Yes, Janna, that is what I was getting at, thanks.” Zac raised his eyebrows at his pain-in-the-ass big sister.

“Okay…Janna’s been tracking her ovulation and is due to ovulate again on Friday. She’ll monitor her temperature until then, and when it rises, we’ll need a donation from you Zac, which we should use within one hour. Then we would like to repeat the process the next two days. Think you can handle that, my bro?”

“No problem, Sis. And uh, didn’t you say something before about me abstaining for a few days before?”

“Yeah, uh…that’s what’s usually recommended…sorry.” Ryan gazed apologetically at her brother and then at his girlfriend.

“Don’t worry about it, Ryan. It’s the least I can do…really.” Zac stated sincerely and Marty nodded her agreement.

Janna’s eyes misted as she replied, “Thanks guys…this is so special of you…of both of you.” Ryan nodded her agreement as she grasped Janna’s hand.

The jovial mood continued until late into the evening, with the four family members bonding over happy conversation and more good food and drink. Ryan and Janna retired some time later, exhausted after their long day, but both feeling very happy.

As she readied herself for bed, Janna remarked from the bathroom, “Honey, I think I’ll start checking my temperature again in the morning, just in case…where’s the basal thermometer?”

“It’s in the kit with the rest of the stuff, in the Adidas bag.”

“Okay, thanks.” Janna lifted the bag onto the counter and removed the contents. She placed the large plastic bag containing three medicine syringes and three sterile specimen jars on the countertop. She also pulled out a package of surgical gloves and a thermometer case. Leaving the rest of the kit on the sink counter, she brought the thermometer to the bed and set it on the bedside table, smiling as she did so.

Her mate, reclining lazily on the large bed, remarked, “I’m happy too, Janna.”

Janna gazed at her partner, both filled with love for her and awed by the strength of that love. She switched off the small lamp, plunging the room into darkness, and climbed into bed next to Ryan. “I can feel your happiness, love…it matches mine.” She settled into her wife’s warm embrace and kissed the nearby breast.

At the contact, Ryan sighed deeply and pulled Janna even more tightly against her body before covering them with the sheet. “Good night, love. Sweet dreams.”

“Good night, my destiny.” They shared a short, sweet kiss and nodded off together into dreamland.

The warrior lay in the soft, warm bed, with her mate nestled against her as always, and relished the feeling of contentment that filled her being. As she rubbed her slightly swollen belly, her mate covered her hand with hers and sighed. A warm fire burned in the nearby hearth, filling the room with a pleasant glow.

The small blonde woman turned slightly to look into her dark warrior’s eyes. Softly, she said, “I’m very happy about this Xena, but I’m also confused.” Her dark blonde brows knit together as she gazed back down at their hands where they rested on her mate’s abdomen.

“Not half as confused as I am, Gabrielle. I honestly have no idea how this could have happened.” She gazed seriously back at her mate and shrugged.

“Are you sure, Xena…I mean, maybe…”

“Gabrielle…I haven’t been with a man…any man…since I’ve known you. And certainly not since we’ve…you know…been together.”

“I know…then do you think it was one of the gods?” She shook her head in confusion. “What else could it possibly have been?”

“I don’t know. I wish I did. What I do know is that this is good. I can feel it, Gabrielle. This baby is a good thing.” She lifted a hand to her mate’s face and softly caressed her cheek. “I want this to be our baby, Gabrielle. I want for us to be a family.” Her voice cracked slightly as she added, “I’m very happy about this.”

The bard turned her face and kissed the hand that had been caressing her cheek. “I am too, Xena. More than I can say.”

“Write about it then, Gabrielle. Put your feelings down on a scroll…for me…please?” The warrior’s beautiful light blue eyes, which contrasted so dramatically with her dark hair and tanned skin, implored her mate with their intensity.

“I will. I love you Xena.”

“I love you, Gabrielle.” The warrior gently grasped her bard’s face and pulled her in for a loving kiss. They slowly savored each other’s tastes and basked in their love, which spread from their heart centers and embraced them, and included, for the first time, the tiny essence growing within the warrior’s strong body.

Ryan sighed deeply as the pleasure that she felt at being gently sexually connected with her wife threatened to overcome her. They lay quietly together, bodies entwined, but unmoving. Neither partner felt the need for more ardent lovemaking. On this morning, they needed simply to lie connected; sharing loving energy in the ancient, sacred fashion that had become a daily ritual for them.

Ryan muttered into Janna’s mouth, not breaking their connection, “I love you, baby.”

Janna returned the sentiment, also not breaking the connection. She breathed deeply, filling her body and soul with her wife’s essence and with her breath, and sharing her own in kind.

Several minutes later, they slowly, gently parted; however, only insofar as to disengage connecting fingers and mouths. They snuggled together happily, neither having the least desire to part completely.

Finally, Ryan murmured, “Sweetheart, I had another warrior dream. But I can only remember bits of it. All I actually can remember clearly was that I was pregnant, and we were very happy.”

“That sounds nice, honey. And, since our warrior dreams usually contain messages for us regarding our current life, that makes me very positive about our near future.” She squeezed Ryan’s waist tightly and sighed.

“Mm, that’s true, love.” As she held her beloved soulmate, Ryan tried to remember the fragments of the dream that were eluding her. “It seems that the pregnancy was a great surprise. I really pick up on that feeling…as if she had no idea how it could have happened. How strange is that, Janna?”

“It’s very strange, Ryan. How could an adult woman, apparently intelligent and very capable, not know how she had become pregnant?”

“It’s a mystery to me…unless I’m not picking up on all of the facts…it was just a dream, after all.”

“Yes, but honey, we know from experience that our warrior dreams are more than just dreams. They are past-life memories, stored in our first chakras, and that they usually appear for a reason.”

“True…but most of the details are eluding me for some reason this time.”

“Maybe you’re remembering simply what you need to remember.”

“Possibly.” Ryan remained pensive as she absentmindedly stroked her mate’s arm where it had wrapped itself around her waist. She glanced at the bedside clock radio and sighed. “Well, my love, it’s almost oh-seven hundred, as Zac would say. I’d better get up so I can help him with breakfast. They need to be at the base by 8:00.”

“Okay, baby, but only because you promised.” Janna squeezed her mate possessively to punctuate her point.

“Hey, there’s nothing that says we can’t return to bed after they leave, is there?” Ryan nuzzled Janna’s hair and stroked her arm more seductively to punctuate her own point.

“Nope…except that Zac wants to show us around the base a little later.”

“But that’s later, love…my baby.” Ryan’s low voice drawled sexily as she turned so that she covered Janna’s body with hers and leaned down for a kiss. After savoring Janna’s soft, sweet lips and tongue for a long few minutes, Ryan parted reluctantly and leaned back slightly, still straddling her wife. “He doesn’t expect us until mid-morning, because he has a meeting before then.”

“Well, it’s settled then. Go fix breakfast for Marty and Zac and then get your beautiful, shapely butt back in here.”

Ryan grinned and raised her expressive eyebrows at her mate. “Shapely? How about firm?”

Janna grinned and shook her head.

“Trim?”

Another negative shake.

“Athletic?”

Again, a negative shake of the head, accompanied by a cute grin. “Shapely.”

“Hmm…” Ryan stole another quick kiss and then another, before asking, “You’re not planning on skipping breakfast are you?”

“In favor of waiting here for some red hot sex with you? I absofuckinlutley am, to quote you, love.” Janna grinned widely at her mate’s surprised expression.

“God dammit, Janna, I love it when you talk like that…” She leaned back down for another kiss, and lingered there. “Shit, Janna…now I want you, baby, but I have to get up.”

“You know where I’ll be, love.”

“Ugh…Ryan groaned as she rolled off of her wife. She continued the roll and settled her feet on the floor, then stood and reached a hand down toward Janna. “Come on, Janna. If I’m getting up, so are you. I don’t want to come back in here all hot and ready for love just to find you asleep.”

“Good point.” Janna grinned as she sat up and grasped her mate’s hand.

“Hey, I know what we’ll do…we’ll come back after breakfast and shower together.” A trademark jaunty grin accompanied equally trademark raised black eyebrows.

“I have a better idea…we’ll come back and play in bed, and then we’ll play in the shower.”

Ryan closed her eyes and swallowed hard before answering. “Oh, God, Janna, you’re gonna wear me out before I have the chance to get you pregnant.”

“No possible way, love.” Janna stretched up and kissed her mate’s cheek, then walked away toward the bathroom, leaving a slightly discombobulated former warrior looking after her.

-4-

The rest of the week sped by, and enjoyably so, as the Norden-Zamoras made the most of their visit to New Mexico. In addition to interesting and informative tours of various parts of the missile range, led by Zac and Martha, they had enjoyed daily sightseeing trips in and around the Las Cruces area, and had made a day-long pilgrimage to Janna’s mother’s birthplace, the nearby small city of Deming.

On Friday morning, they found themselves making the pleasant drive up to Silver City to visit a favorite great-aunt of Janna’s.

As Ryan drove north on highway 180, venturing out of the high desert plateau and into mountainous terrain, she remarked, “What a fuckin’ small world, Janna, that we both have family in this region.”

“Small Universe, Ryan, remember? It’s a very small, synchronistic Universe that we live in.”

“That it is, baby. That it is.” She glanced warmly at her adorable mate. “So tell me about this special aunt of yours, love.” She looked back to the highway before her and mused, Jesus…I cannot believe how fucking much I love this woman. She is my Universe. She alone.

“Well, love, she’s my Grandpa’s baby sister…my Aunt May. She’s precious…absolutely precious to me. For as long as I can remember, she has made a trip out to California to visit us every few years…despite the fact that she does not drive. She has a daughter who lives in Albuquerque who usually comes out with her.” Janna stopped speaking and smiled as she pictured the favorite aunt.

She smiled fondly as she stated, “Grandpa loved pinon nuts…pine nuts…but they used to be hard to find at home, and very expensive, so she would always bring him a big bag of them when she visited…even though they’re sort of expensive even here, and not harvested often.” She sighed as special memories were awakened. “And Grandpa would always share them with Dan and I, as treasured as they were. I understood even then, as a child, how unselfish that act was.” She swallowed as a tear rolled down her cheek. “God, I miss him.”

Ryan reached out and grasped her hand, trying to comfort her mate. “I wish I’d known him, Janna.”

“I feel him here, Ryan. This is where he grew up…where he was struck by lightening as a child on the cattle ranch. I swear that I feel his presence here with us.”

“I’m sure he was with us yesterday in Deming, my love.”

“He was, Ryan. And so was Grandma. She was a Michigan native, but she loved it here, and grasped his Native ideals of environmentalism and respect for nature as much as he did.”

“Baby, I can see…I can feel…how much they meant to you.”

“They were both very close to Aunt May. I’m glad you’ll have the chance to meet her.” Janna chuckled as she added, “You know, she is the close friend of an Apollo astronaut and always said that if I came out here, that she would introduce me to him.” She grinned at her wife. “I wonder if I can still take her up on the offer…at this late notice.”

Ryan laughed gently. “I don’t know, babe. Which astronaut?”

“Harrison Schmidt, of Apollo 17…the only civilian ever to go to the moon. He was a geologist and later became a New Mexico Congressman.” She grinned as she added, “Republican.”

Ryan grimaced, but then smiled. “And you still want to meet him?”

“Sure! The astronaut factor overrides the conservative factor.”

“Sweetheart?”

“Hmm?”

“I love you.”

“Love you too, Ryan.”

~~~~~~~~~~

“God, Janna, it was a great day. I love your aunt. She’s incredible.” As she recalled the small, warm, feisty, white-haired lady, Ryan gazed at Janna with a look full of longing, love and respect, and added sincerely, “Now I can see very clearly what you will be like at eighty…and baby…I am so looking forward to being there with you. So much.” She brought Janna’s small hand to her lips and kissed it before pressing it to her cheek.

“Ryan…you’re making me cry,” Janna sniffled. She grasped the hand that still rested on her cheek and brought it to her own lips, kissing it gently.

Ryan lifted herself onto an elbow and gazed seriously at her wife. “Janna, let’s make this baby.”

Vibrant green eyes met brilliant blue as Janna kissed Ryan’s hand again before reaching out to gently guide her face closer. When the beautiful, perfectly shaped Cupid’s bow lips were within inches of her own lovely lips, Janna leaned forward, capturing them lovingly. She savored Ryan’s soft lips, reveling in their sweet taste and velvety texture until she was breathless. She pulled back and met blue eyes darkened by desire, which matched her own desire-darkened green orbs.

“Make love to me, Ryan. Make me pregnant.”

Ryan grinned down at her wife and drawled a favorite catch phrase of theirs. “Your wish is my command, baby.”

She rose to her elbow again and seductively ran long fingers down Janna’s naked form, raising gooseflesh as she went. As her fingers traveled southward along Janna’s body, Ryan bent her head and raked a hot tongue against a willing nipple.

“Oh, God, Ryan…”

Slowly, Janna’s sexy mate turned toward the nightstand beside the bed and grasped the specimen cup that sat waiting. A 5cc needleless medicine syringe rested in the cup, and Ryan manipulated it, bringing Zac’s generous donation up into the tube. She lifted the tube out of the cup and inspected the milky substance before tapping the syringe with a fingernail, forcing any air bubbles to the top, then gently depressed the plunger a fraction to further force out any trapped air bubbles. Now prepared, the syringe full of life-giving seed was replaced in the cup, to await the proper moment for insertion.

As Ryan refocused her attention on her mate with eyes full of anticipation and lust, Janna shivered. She reached up and wrapped her arms around her wife’s neck, pulling her down atop her as she kissed Ryan deeply. Their tongues intertwined and danced ardently as their bodies were pressed together, desire overwhelming them.

Ryan reached a long arm down and ran her fingers down Janna’s torso, ending softly entangled in the golden curls at the apex of her legs. As Ryan’s loving fingers gently caressed her outer folds, Janna gasped. Ryan kissed her deeply, reaffirming her love, and then bent her head, kissing her way down to Janna’s soft breasts.

She brought her left hand up to gently knead and caress Janna’s left breast while her tongue ran skillfully over her mate’s right nipple. When her lover gasped with pleasure, Ryan sucked the hard nub gently into her mouth, enjoying its velvety texture.

“Ryan, yes…”

As she continued to suckle erotically at Janna’s breast, Ryan caressed her gently with her right hand, bringing the small bundle of nerves just inside her inner folds to full arousal. As the tiny erection announced her wife’s readiness, Ryan inserted a finger and gently stroked her lover. At the contact, Janna’s hips bucked, and Ryan gently inserted a second finger. All the while, her mouth and talented tongue never lost contact with Janna’s breast. The doubled sensations sent Janna hurtling quickly toward oblivion, and she moaned loudly.

At the moaned permission to enter her more fully, Ryan did so, inserting another finger and stroking her lover deeply. With her thumb, she continued to pay devoted attention to the small, hard nub, and Janna began to writhe uncontrollably. “Oh, God, Ryan…I’m close…” she panted.

Ryan’s deep voice responded, “Here I come baby…” As she continued to lavish attention on her mate’s sensitive breast and nether regions, she lifted slightly and reached for a latex glove with her left hand. After deftly slipping it on her hand, she reached for the syringe that sat in the sterile cup. Ryan grasped the syringe and brought it down to join her fingers.

As she held the syringe which contained the precious substance that would create their child in her gloved hand, Ryan brought her mouth down to join her fingers in their devoted stroking of her mate.

“Yes, Ryan…oh God…” Janna brought her knees up and tangled her fingers in Ryan’s thick, dark hair.

The deep, sensuous strokes of her beloved’s tongue sent Janna over the edge, and as her inner muscles began to contract rhythmically, Ryan pulled her mouth back and inserted the syringe as far into her mate as it would go. As she stroked her mate with the thick syringe, Janna loudly moaned her release, and Ryan depressed the plunger, shooting the semen deeply into her mate. Janna’s orgasmic contractions aided the tiny swimmers in their journey up through her birth canal.

As her partner was swept by the waves of pleasure, Ryan continued to stroke her with the syringe, prolonging the orgasm and maximizing the sperms’ chances of reaching their intended target. As soon as Janna’s body became limp, Ryan grabbed a pillow and gently pushed it under her lover’s thighs, raising them slightly off the bed, and removed the syringe. Then she stripped off the glove and deposited it in the empty specimen cup before grabbing the thin bed sheet and pulling it up above Janna’s waist. She then crawled up and captured Janna’s lips hotly.

Janna responded to the kiss fervently before needing to break for a breath. “Ryan,” she breathed. “My God, that was good…”
“For me too, lover.” She kissed Janna again, then pulled back to gaze at her. Noting tears slowly tracking down Janna’s cheeks, she gently wiped them away. “I love you so much, Janna. Rest now and keep your legs up…give those little guys a good shot at hitting their target.”

“I love you, too, Ryan, but I’m not quite ready to rest yet, love.” She stroked Ryan’s cheek tenderly. “Our lovemaking has never been a one-sided affair and we’re not gonna go there now. Crawl up here and straddle my face so I can love you.”

“Janna, no…I don’t…”

“Ryan…right now. I can feel your desire and I will not deny you. Get up here.”

Ryan grinned. “Yes, ma’am!” She dutifully made her way up Janna’s body and positioned herself above her mate’s face. When a loving, talented tongue immediately snaked out and stroked her anatomy, Ryan gasped and grabbed the bed’s headboard.

“Oh, shit, Janna…oh my God…”

“Mmm…you’re already close, love.” Janna enjoyed Ryan’s flavor immensely and vocalized the fact. Her voice rumbled oh so pleasantly through Ryan’s sensitive cleft, hastening her climax, and she wriggled uncontrollably, hips rocking and gyrating until she screamed her release a few minutes later.

Still holding onto the headboard, Ryan hung her head limply as she regained control of her breath. “Jesus, Janna…fuck, baby. That was soooo good.”

“For me too, Ryan.” She sighed and a small sob escaped. “I think we made a baby, love.”

Ryan swallowed hard as the emotion stuck in her throat. A sob escaped from her as well, as she said, “I believe we did, Janna.” She wiped the embarrassing tears away before lifting her hips away from Janna’s head and making her way to Janna’s side, where she leaned down for a sweet kiss, each of them tasting her wife’s essence on the other’s lips. They parted and Ryan lay down in Janna’s arms. Their usual positions were switched as Janna cradled her.

“Be careful, love…you’re fertile right now, too and I know you don’t want to get pregnant.”

“I’m leaving the sheet right where it is, baby.” Ryan nuzzled Janna’s throat, enjoying being held by her wife for a change. “This is nice, Janna. God, you feel good.” She hugged her smaller mate tightly as Janna kissed her hair.

“Mm…I kind of like this change of position. You feel great there.”

“Mm.” The dark woman’s eyes closed involuntarily as the emotion of the moment, coupled with the strenuous activity after a long day, took its toll on her body.

At the same moment, her small mate yawned and they settled more deeply into each others arms as sleep, and very happy dreams, overtook them.

A short time later, Zac and Marty walked silently hand-in-hand down the hallway after returning from their date, and both smiled as they noted the quiet darkness of the guest room, hoping in unison that their sisters’ very special evening had been productive.

In her hiding place behind the Earth’s shadow, Grandmother Moon began her new phase, and sensing her friends’ act of love and creation, smiled in response. She wrapped them in her invisible, loving energy and protected them throughout the night.

~~~~~~~~~~

“Ohhh…” The warrior groaned in agony as her mate helped her along the wooded path near a temple. The sounds of nearby fighting floated on the air, and the smaller warrior quickly led her mate to a safe clearing.

“Here, Xena…this looks like a good place.” The blonde warrior-bard helped her mate to sit on the ground under a tree with a large canopy of leaves.

The dark warrior sat where her mate had indicated and grimaced as another pain hit, moaning, “Uhhh…get it off. Get it off me.”

Her smaller mate helped her out of her large coat, but then the warrior shivered. “I’m cold.”

The bard held her coat out to her, but the tall woman batted it away and held out her arms. “These…take these off.” She impatiently indicated the armored leather bracers that covered her forearms and her mate unlaced and removed them. She settled her partner back against the tree and encouraged her to squat. The warrior did so as another pain hit, and she leaned forward into her smaller partner’s arms.

“Ahh…Gabrielle!” The dark woman screamed.

The bard grimaced in empathy as she embraced her mate, gently rubbing her back. “Xena, remember Ephiny…remember what you did when she was having her baby…”

“Please be quiet…just be quiet. Ahh!” As the strong warrior was hit by another intense labor pain, her mate squatted in front of her, holding her within her embrace. The dark woman laid her head on her mate’s shoulder and screamed again.

Her bard urged, “Push! Come on, Xena, push!”

Her partner bore down and screamed again as the pain cut through her like a hot sword.

“That’s it, Xena…push again.” The bard squatted in front of her mate and supported her. The warrior did so, accompanied by another ear-splitting scream, and felt the baby begin to crown.

“That’s good, Xena, here it comes…I can see it!” The small blonde held her hands below her partner’s body, where the baby was exiting.

“Get it out…get it out, now, Gabrielle! Ahh!”

“It’s coming, Xena…keep pushing!” The baby’s head emerged and the bard gently supported the tiny body as its mother continued the agonizing chore of pushing it out of her body. The baby’s shoulders emerged and then the rest of the tiny body quickly slipped out, and the bard held the tiny infant in her hands. As she gazed in wonder at the tiny new life, she was consumed with love for the child, and looked up into the tired but wide-eyed gaze of her mate.

The strong warrior looked down at the baby in her mate’s hands and smiled as tears tracked down her cheeks. They were no longer tears of pain, however- they were tears of joy. Her bard held her baby out to her and she tenderly took it into her arms. The dark woman, exhausted and sweating, gazed at the baby and gasped, “It’s a little girl!”

“Yes!” The bard gazed lovingly from the newborn to her mother and then cut the umbilical cord. The tough warrior gazed softly at her infant and held her close while her partner finished with the birth necessities.

As she lovingly cleaned her partner and their baby, the warrior-bard was nearly overcome by the overwhelming love that she felt for them both, and silent tears steadily tracked down her cheeks.

Janna turned in Ryan’s embrace and settled more fully atop the firm, but soft in all the right places, body, and sighed in her sleep. Ryan, already awake, as usual, smiled warmly and hugged her wife, feeling the desire for her begin to build. God, I hope we made a baby last night. I want this so much. I want to experience pregnancy and parenthood with her. She sent a silent prayer to the spiritual Grandfathers and Grandmothers, asking for their blessings as the soft yellow early morning light of the desert gently illuminated them.

Ryan nuzzled the blonde head under her chin and let her love for Janna fill her being. She took a deep breath, filling her body and soul with Janna’s essence. Slowly, she exhaled and then drew in another deep breath, feeling the calming influence as the ki entered her body along with the air. She visualized the energy traveling to each part of her body and felt its invigorating effect. She continued the mindful breathing for another few minutes and then lay contentedly, waiting for her wife to awaken.

Her mind drifted to the previous day, when she and Janna had visited her mate’s great-aunt in the mountains. The three of them had taken a long walk down the lovely lane that Aunt May lived on. Their aunt led them to a break in the pines, to an overlook, and they were stunned at the view of the mountains and of the desert beyond. They perched on a rock and enjoyed the view, alternately sharing warm conversation and silence, all of them appreciating the beauty that surrounded them.

At one point, Janna’s elderly but exceptionally spry aunt had left them briefly to pick wildflowers in the adjacent meadow. As they sat together shoulder to shoulder on the large, sunny rock, Janna tilted her head back and looked up at the brilliant sky.

“Ryan, there’s so much ki here!”

“Do you feel it, love?” Ryan asked as she lazily threw her arm around Janna’s shoulders.

“Yes, but I see it, too. Look up!”

As Ryan did so, Janna continued. “Do you see the tiny silvery squiggles all over the place?”

Ryan squinted and then after a moment, exclaimed, “Yes!” She looked back down at Janna’s cute face. “That’s ki?”

“Yes! You can see it anywhere, but it’s easiest to see against a bright blue sky. And I think there’s more of it where the air is clean and pure.”

Ryan looked back up, amazed at what she was seeing. The tiny squiggles of energy were everywhere, dancing on the air and around everything that exists, writhing and moving so quickly that single strings could not be focused upon. She could only see them against the backdrop of the blue sky, however. Unless she concentrated her newfound gift of second sight and gazed at the auras of nearby trees and plants, then she could see the ki within as golden sparks.

“Janna, that is so fuckin’ amazing!”

Janna grinned at her wide-eyed mate and then whispered, “Here comes Aunt May, watch the language, love.” As she made the request, Janna’s sparkling eyes communicated the love she felt for Ryan.

“Oh, yeah…sorry, babe.” Ryan grinned. “I forget. Um, you know that’s it’s gonna be a hard habit for me to break, don’t you?” The sparkle in Ryan’s eyes matched that of Janna’s.

“Yep, but I have faith in you, love. You can handle anything.”

“Well, Janna, that may be the hardest thing about parenthood, for me.”

Janna chuckled. “Oh, you think so, huh?”

Ryan nuzzled her wife’s cheek and whispered, “Yep, I do. Why don’t we get back to Las Cruces so we can work on that parenthood thing?”

Ryan smiled again at the fond memory and then Janna began to awaken. A soft moan escaped Janna’s lips as she stretched and opened her eyes. The incredibly lovely sight of her mate’s left breast greeted her and Ryan could feel her mate’s grin against her skin.

“Morning, baby.”

“Morning, Ryan.” She glanced up at her mate and smiled again. “You look as good as you feel this morning.” She looked back down and softly kissed the nearby breast.

“Mm, that’s nice, Janna…and I don’t have to get up to help cook this morning.” She craned her neck to kiss her mate’s forehead.

Janna sighed and then lifted slightly to reach Ryan’s lips. She muttered against them, “I’m very glad of that,” and then captured them softly.

They savored each other’s lips softly for a while before the kiss and the tasting became more fervent, and Ryan rolled them over so that she was above Janna. She gazed down at her wife and murmured, “I love you, baby.”

“Love you too, Ryan.” She reached up to push a strand of hair behind Ryan’s ear as she added, “So much.”

Ryan answered her by leaning down and kissing her sweetly, then rolled them onto their sides so that they could make their gentle morning connection. Fingers and mouths connected gently, softly, for the daily energy exchange, which usually lasted from five to ten minutes, except when the touching became more ardent and turned into lovemaking.

Some time later, the bathroom had filled with steam while the two lovers played in the shower. “God, Janna, you are so good…” Ryan murmured when the ability to speak returned.

“I’m so glad you think so, love.” Janna murmured against the soft skin of Ryan’s taut abdomen. “But I don’t think I’m nearly as good as you are.”

“Oh, fuck, Janna…baby, don’t even think about going there. You’re the best I’ve ever had, by far.” She reached down and pulled her wife up by the shoulders. As she gazed lovingly into Janna’s eyes, she leaned down and kissed her hotly, communicating all she needed to with simply a kiss.

Janna enjoyed the kiss and murmured, “Mm, thanks Ryan. But you’re in love with me, honey…you’re not exactly objective.”

“Shit, Janna…you’re starting to make me mad, honey. I can be objective about this. I’m a very honest person, you know that.” She gazed seriously at her wife. “Where is this coming from, love?”

“I don’t know…it’s never worried me before…could I be pregnant already?” She grinned up at her mate.

Ryan chuckled. “I don’t think so, baby…I think it takes a day or two doesn’t it?”

“I think so, yeah.” She kissed the luscious throat in front of her.

“Janna, you should know, without a shadow of a doubt, that you are all I need. All I will ever need…all I will ever want. You are perfect for me.” She smoothed wet strands of hair from her love’s face. “You are my soulmate, my Universe…please don’t ever, ever doubt that. And,” she added to punctuate her point, “you are, without a doubt, the best, the hottest, the most exciting lover I’ve ever had. Ever.” She kissed her wife again before adding, “I love you more than life itself, Janna. I always will.”

Janna wrapped her arms around her mate and hugged her tightly. “Thank you, my love…you’re my everything too, Ryan. Always.” She looked back up at her wife and grinned. “I think we used up all the hot water again.”

Ryan returned the grin. “Looks like it. We’re rude house guests, aren’t we? Zac and Marty may not invite us back again.” She took a deep breath and let it out. “Well, come on, love…let’s go get some breakfast.”

“I’m there.” As Ryan turned the water off and turned back around to help her out of the shower stall, Janna commented, “Honey, I think I am.”

“You think you’re what, Janna?”

“Pregnant.”

Ryan stopped and turned Janna to face her. “Why do you think that?”

“I had a really intense warrior dream last night. You were giving birth to our daughter.”

Ryan pulled Janna tightly against her and swallowed hard. “Jesus, Janna, I want that.” She kissed her mate’s wet head and then leaned down and captured a kiss.

“So do I, Ryan. So do I.”

-5-

The room was lit by half a dozen candles, and in the warm illumination, Ryan’s naked form looked glorious to Janna. She relaxed on the bed, enjoying what was, in effect, a wonderful floor show. Her mate was oblivious, busily preparing for their second impregnation attempt. As she strode toward the bed, Janna admired the strong, lean lines of her body, and the way her sculpted muscles shifted under her bronzed skin.

As she gazed at her wife’s gorgeous body, she shuddered with pleasure and anticipation. Her gaze rested below Ryan’s strong, muscled shoulders, on her luscious, full breasts, which were topped by dark nipples. She sighed as her gaze lingered there and then moved downward, along her tight, six-pack abs. My God, how many women have abs like that? Her workouts certainly have paid off in a beautiful way. Then, her gaze moved downward again and lingered at the dark patch nestled at the apex of her legs and she licked her lips unconsciously. Ohh, Jesus…Slim hips above strong thighs and long, lean legs completed the stunning package and her gaze swept upward again.

As she gazed at the beautiful, classically chiseled planes of her mate’s face, marked by high cheekbones, a long, straight nose, and those piercing blue eyes, all framed by thick, wavy, shoulder-length black hair, Ryan returned her gaze and smiled, taking Janna’s breath away.

“Puma,” Janna breathed.

Ryan was startled by the use of her tribal name and then was surprised further when she noticed Janna’s leer. She felt her wife’s desire then, through their bond, and it almost overwhelmed her with its intensity. Her own blood began to boil as her heart pounded, matching the rhythm of its twin in her soulmate’s body, and the effect of feeling both her own and her wife’s desire nearly overpowered her. She continued toward the bed and leaned over to place the items she held onto the nightstand, her eyes locked with Janna’s.

She straightened and stood next to the bed, gazing intently down at her wife, her lust and desire written all over her face as well. And her love. Slowly, she knelt on the bed and reached out to her mate, who rose to her knees to meet her. They embraced as their lips met passionately and Ryan pulled Janna’s body tightly against hers, settling her hands under her firm, round behind. Janna’s hands went up around Ryan’s neck and locked the two of them into the passionate kiss for long moments. Eventually, Ryan broke the kiss and bent her head to nip at the pulse point which was pounding at Janna’s throat. Janna threw her head back and moaned, as Ryan’s touch ignited her desire.

“Mate with me, Puma.” She whispered.

Ryan captured her lips again, kissing her deeply, from her very essence, and then wordlessly, gently laid her wife on her back and covered her body with hers. As Ryan lay fully atop her shorter mate, Janna’s soft patch of golden curls tickled her abdomen, while her creamy, coral-tipped breasts fit just above Ryan’s.

As their legs intertwined and tongues danced erotically, lovingly, Janna murmured, “Sixty-nine first, love.”

Silently, Ryan broke the kiss and turned above her mate, straddling Janna’s face. As she buried her face in Janna’s curls, she settled her own soft mound onto Janna’s face, and they gently, slowly began making love to each other. Ryan nuzzled Janna with her nose, breathing deeply of her wife’s scent, allowing it to fan her desire and feed her need and she gently kissed Janna’s outer folds. They both started with loving kisses, but the touching quickly became more fervent and stroking tongues darted and danced on inflamed anatomy, setting bodies and souls afire.

When her desire began to cascade and she felt herself beginning to plummet, Janna murmured against Ryan’s warm cleft, “Slow down, baby.” Ryan immediately complied and moved her touches back outside of Janna’s body, laying gentle kisses on her curls and inner thighs. At the same time, Janna increased her devoted stroking, and Ryan felt herself losing control. She rested her cheek against Janna’s thigh and moaned loudly, signaling her imminent release. As Janna’s loving mouth and tongue alternately stroked her deeply and sucked on her erect nub, her hips began rocking involuntarily and she sat up, forcing deeper contact. Janna then began stroking her deeply, and faster, and Ryan’s moans gained in intensity and volume. She arched and threw her head back as she moaned her wife’s name.

“Janna…yes…Jaaannnaaaa.” As her name reverberated off the bedroom walls, Janna felt her partner’s powerful release as strong inner muscles gripped her tongue, and she tasted the release of Ryan’s sweet fluids. She continued the stroking and Ryan continued to wriggle above her as the powerful climax rocked her body and satiated her soul. After what seemed like many minutes the delightful spasms slowed and Ryan fell against Janna’s warm body, sated and spent.

After taking a few moments to catch her breath, she felt, both spiritually and physically, Janna’s desire, and turned to face her lover. She leaned down, kissing her wife ardently, then bent her head to lavish wet, warm kisses on her breasts.

“Oh, God…I’m very close, love…”

Ryan trailed the kisses back up to Janna’s mouth and lingered, before pulling back, revealing tear-filled eyes. As a tear escaped, she sobbed, “I love you, Janna,” then kissed her wife hotly again and sat up. She pulled a latex glove onto her right hand and grabbed the loaded syringe, then crawled down to Janna’s golden curls and kissed her tenderly there before snaking her tongue out and stroking her deeply. Janna moaned loudly and pulled her knees up, spreading her legs widely at the same time, and almost immediately, Ryan felt Janna’s muscles begin to clench. She gave Janna’s cleft one more loving stroke and then pulled back and inserted the syringe. She slowly stroked Janna deeply with the instrument and as she cried out, plunged the sperm into her lover. She continued stroking until Janna’s body stopped its motion and then, after disposing of the glove and syringe, crawled up to share tender kisses with her wife.

“God, I love you Janna,” Ryan muttered breathlessly into her mate’s mouth.

“Mmm,” was all Janna could manage at that moment, but Ryan understood the sentiment. She reached a long arm down and pulled the sheet up above Janna’s waist, to protect herself against pregnancy. She cradled Janna’s head next to hers and their tears intermingled for long minutes as they simply held each other.

The silence was broken a short time later when Janna quietly uttered, “I feel completely at one with you, Ryan. As if, right now, we share the same soul.”

“I do too, Janna. And the Spirit friends are here with us.” She clasped hands with her soulmate and brought their hands to her heart. She spoke aloud, quietly, asking, “Great Spirit, Grandmothers, Grandfathers, we respectfully ask for your blessing as we attempt to create life and we thank you for your guidance. Aho.” She kissed their linked hands and then shared a sweet kiss with her wife before they curled up together and sleep swiftly claimed them.

The Grandfathers and Grandmothers and the Great Spirit and the other Spirits heard Swift Puma’s prayer and they all smiled, as it had already been answered.

~~~~~~~~~~

Janna awoke to a room filled with a soft, yellow light and found her head pillowed in her sitting wife’s lap. Long fingers played gently with her short blonde hair as she turned and gazed up at her mate. Ryan bestowed a smile on her that reached into the deepest recesses of her soul and took Janna’s breath away.

“Ryan,” she breathed.

“Janna, my love.” A tear dropped from her wife’s eye and Janna gingerly reached up to catch it.

“Why are you crying, love?”

“Because we’re pregnant, baby.”

Janna sat up and faced her wife, grasping her hands. “How do you know, Ryan?”

“My Grandfather visited me in a dream. He told me.”

Janna swallowed as her tears began. “Ryan…really?”

Her wife nodded. “He told me many things. One thing, he asked me to share with you.” She gazed solemnly at Janna. “He said that we will face challenges in the future and that we must always remember our love. That I must remember that my heart beats not only in my chest, but in my twin soul’s chest as well. He told me to tell you to remember the same thing.” She swallowed hard and looked down at their linked hands before gazing back up at Janna. “We must always remember the love, Janna. Keep it foremost…no matter what is happening in our life.”

“Ryan…do you know what the challenges will be?” Janna gazed worriedly at her mate.

“No, Janna. I only got the sense that they would be serious.” She grasped Janna’s cheek tenderly and pulled her forward for a kiss. Through sweet kisses, she communicated her love for her wife and her belief in the strength of their bond. When they parted, she stated, “We’ll be alright, Janna. I have no doubt. My love for you is too strong to be overcome by anything. He showed me that too. He showed me a vision of us as old women together and said that we are strong enough to make that reality happen…as long as we…”

“Remember the love.” Janna finished her statement.

“Yes.” Ryan smiled warmly at her mate. “I don’t see that as a problem. I’m reminded of how very much I love you every minute of every day. Every time I look at you, or think of you. Hell, Janna, I thank God, the Universe, the Grandfathers, the Spirits, many times every day for you.”

Janna laughed as more tears escaped her eyes. “I do that too, Ryan.”

Ryan pulled her close and kissed her hair. “Don’t worry, baby. I promise…I promise you, Janna, that we will be fine. We’ll face the challenges together and become stronger.” She pulled back and her brilliant blue eyes gazed pointedly into Janna’s vibrant green. “I know it, love.”

“And so do I, Ryan.” She gazed warmly into Ryan’s eyes. “Love conquers all, right?”

“Yes, baby, we know it does. It did in our warrior life, remember?”

“I’m reminded almost nightly, in my dreams, love.” Janna curled into Ryan’s embrace and they sat quietly, contemplating the both happy and unsettling news.

A few minutes later, Ryan chuckled. Janna looked up at her with twinkling eyes. “What?”

“The picture of us as old married ladies, Janna. It was incredible! You looked like your Aunt May, sweet-faced and kindly and I looked like a wise, stoic old Grandmother, with a weathered face and a white braid!” She hugged Janna tightly. “We were sitting together on a porch swing, holding hands…and I could see the love, Janna…I could see it between us. It was almost like a glow that surrounded us.”

“What an incredible gift that was, Ryan. How can we thank your Grandfather?”

“Let’s have our cuddle time, then go outside and make an offering of tobacco.”

Janna nodded eagerly and Ryan pulled them down to lay side-by-side on the bed. As they kissed and began their gentle morning connection, Grandfather Sun illuminated their entwined bodies and smiled his pleasure upon them, including their unborn child.

~~~~~~~~~~

As Grandfather Sun climbed into the dazzling New Mexico sky above the breathtaking desert and mountain vista, the family sat on the patio, enjoying Sunday brunch.

Earlier, Zac and Marty had observed their sisters’ loving, respectful offering of the sacred tobacco, so Ryan and Janna had shared their news with them, including the unsettling portion. In response, Marty had silently approached and quietly embraced each of them.

“You have been given a very special gift. Please use it wisely.” She had said seriously, but had let her eyes communicate the love and respect she felt for her new sisters.

“We will, Martha, believe me.” Ryan had responded, equally seriously, as she pulled Janna close to her.

Ryan leaned back in the comfortable chair, took a sip of orange juice, and eyed her brother. “Well, Zac, I guess your duty is done. We won’t need another donation from you.”

“Are you sure, Sis? Because it is no problem for me…are you sure you want to trust the dream vision?”

Ryan eyed him seriously and then smiled. “You know I do, Zac. I have no doubts.”

“Neither do I, Zac. We’ve been bringing spiritual practices into our lives in a big way recently and we’re both sure about this. I can feel that it’s true…I’m sure I’m pregnant.” Janna glanced at Ryan and grinned. “I’ve even had an overly emotional, hormonally charged episode already.”

Ryan laughed and picked up her mate’s hand. “Yep, baby, I think you’re right. You probably were pregnant already.”

She looked at her brother and remarked, “Those are some mighty fine swimmers you’ve got there, bro.”

Zac nearly spit his coffee across the table, and as it dribbled down his chin, his girlfriend burst into laughter. “Shit, Ryan…look at what you made me do.”

“Just paying you the compliment you’re due, Zac.” Ryan grinned at her wife, who was scowling playfully at her.

Janna remarked, “I think my wife is bored. I need to find something to keep her busy.”

Ryan’s leer was automatic and her three companions scowled in unison.

“What?”

“Honey, I was thinking something along the lines of a run, or something athletic like that.” She patted her mate’s hand sympathetically.

“Christ, Ryan, haven’t you had enough of that anyway?” Zac asked as he shook his head in amazement.

“Fuck no! Oh, uh…sorry, Marty.” She threw an apologetic look toward the Native woman, who smiled gracefully. “I mean, no friggin’ way, Red Hawk.”

“Okay, Puma. I get you.” Her brother smiled warmly.

Ryan turned to her mate. “Hey, Janna, I have been feeling a little restless. How about some aikido-mai?”

“Great idea, honey!”

Ryan addressed her brother, “Zac, do have any Native music that we can work out to?”

Zac glanced at Marty and grinned widely. “Do we have any Native music? I think my love here has every Native CD ever produced!”

“Cool!” Janna replied excitedly. “Where should we do it, honey?”

“I think out here would be best, where we have lots of space…Zac, can we hear the stereo out here?”

“Sure can, since my Communications Expert rigged up some remote speakers out here.”

Ryan turned sparkling eyes on Marty. “I see she has many skills, bro…I think you lucked out, buddy. Are you sure you’re good enough for her?” As she took a large gulp of her juice, she was unprepared for the roll that sailed across the table and hit her in the face.

Ryan looked at her brother, eyes wide with shock, and boomed, “Whoa! War, buddy! You are so dead!” She leapt out of her chair, but Zac was just as quick and was already running away. He leapt over the low, stone patio wall and took off down the path of the partially completed, xeriscaped garden.

Ryan followed, hot on his trail and steadily gained on him. Her profession as a bicycle patrol cop kept her strong legs in maximum condition, more so than his Military Policeman career did for his. As the chase in the large yard continued noisily, Marty and Janna laughed, shaking their heads.

“Will they always be children, Marty?” Janna asked as she wiped her eyes.

“I’m afraid so, Janna. But it does make life more interesting, doesn’t it?”

“Oh, yes. Absolutely! And to tell you the truth, I love her all the more for it. I wouldn’t have her any other way.”

“Nor I Zac, Janna.” Marty’s lovely brown eyes twinkled her mirth.

The shouting suddenly intensified and their mates reappeared just as Ryan made a flying leap and took her brother down into the relative softness of the drought-tolerant sage species that grew along the border of the property. She playfully pummeled her brother as she sat atop him, shouting obscenities all the while. Zac skillfully threw her off, only to be caught again by the aikido black belt and held within her grasp.

“Apologize, asshole…I’m not letting you up until you do.”

“No fucking way, Ryan, you started it.”

“Then we’ll sit here all day…I don’t mind, you’re rather comfortable…all soft and fat.”

“Fuck you, Ryan!” He squirmed under his sister but she held him fast. “God damn it, you’re strong for a woman. Alright, I’m sorry…now get the hell off of me.”

Ryan grinned down at him. “Thanks, Zac…that wasn’t so hard, was it?” She gracefully leapt to her feet and held a hand out to him.

As he grasped his sister’s hand, he mumbled, “Yeah, right.” But he threw his arm around her shoulder as they walked back to the patio where their mates sat, still laughing.

As they approached, Janna asked, “Do you two feel better?”

“Oh, yeah!” Ryan grabbed a glass of water and downed it. “Baby, I do feel better…I think I can skip the aikido now.”

“Oh, no you don’t, Ryan. I still need it and you can keep me company.” She stood up, holding her hand out to her mate. “Come on.” Ryan, ever putty in Janna’s hands, smiled her agreement and grabbed her wife’s hand.

Marty stood as well and asked, “What kind of music would you like? I’ll put something on.”

“Anything peaceful with a good beat is fine.” Ryan replied.

“Ryan, Native music is all beat, for God’s sake.” Zac scowled at his sister.

“You don’t want another ass kicking, do you Zac?” Ryan asked, eyebrows raised.

“Shut up and go do your ki thing.” He grinned before adding, “I’ll deal with you later.”

“Oh, just keep thinking that, bro, if it makes you feel good.” She threw her arm jauntily around her wife’s shoulder and pulled her close. Janna wrapped her arms around Ryan and accepted the offered kiss. After parting and gazing for a long moment into each other’s eyes, they realized that the music had started and they separated, somewhat embarrassed. Zac and Marty, however, had given them space and gone back into the house.

“Jesus, Janna… we do get lost in each other, don’t we?”

“Mm.”

“Come on, baby…let’s move together.” She pulled her mate along behind her as she moved to a cleared part of the patio.

“Anytime, my love. Anytime, anywhere, anyhow.”

“Ooh, baby, I’m gonna remember you said that.” Ryan replied, leering gently.

“You do that, my love.”

Just then, Marty reappeared, smiled at them and walked around the patio, using an Eagle feather fan to smudge the area with sage and cedar.

“Thank you, Marty…I was just going to ask you if I could do that!” Janna exclaimed.

“You’re welcome, Janna. I’m glad you don’t mind.”

“Oh, God, Marty, she probably uses the stuff more than you do.” Ryan smirked.

“Well, Ryan, it’s wonderful that she understands the importance of it.”

“Yeah, Sis…it’s about time you woke up to the traditional way.” Zac said as he reappeared on the patio.

“Yes, I know…and I have Janna to thank for that. I’ll never be able to thank her enough.” She sent a loving smile to her wife.

Janna hugged her and said, “I’m sure you would have found your way back to it eventually, sweetheart.”

“I’m not so sure, Janna. Come on, baby, let’s move.” Janna eagerly grasped her hand and stood beside her as they calmed and centered themselves.

Zac and Marty sat nearby, watching curiously as their sisters began the enchanting movements. They moved separately, but seemingly as one, to the beat of the music, feeling the energy within their bodies and moving with it freely. They each danced around the patio, using flowing movements, letting the energy of the space move them.

The calming movements bestowed looks of peace and contentment on the soulmates’ faces and the love that bound them was obvious to their family. Ryan wore black biking shorts and a tight black tank top and looked every bit her spiritual namesake as she moved gracefully around the patio. Even more so, she looked the part of the Puma’s dark counterpart, Panther.

Her mate was a vision as well, in her blue running shorts and white tank. Although still a relative beginner at aikido – she had only begun studying with Ryan six months previously – she moved with a grace and beauty that nearly matched her partner’s. Indeed, she had already achieved the rank of blue belt and had become the most advanced student in Ryan’s beginning class.

The two students of the peaceful art came together then and danced closely together, gracefully performing modified defensive moves for several minutes, all the while keeping with the beat of the Native flute and drum music. They ended by leaving the aikido and slow dancing together for several more minutes, finishing with a loving kiss and an embrace.

Marty sighed and Zac applauded the lovely scene, and Ryan and Janna came back to Earth and looked over at them, grinning. Ryan bowed to her audience as Janna blushed and they made their way over to their family.

“That was very beautiful, Ryan, Janna.”

“Yeah, Sis…I had no idea you could be so graceful…and so peaceful.”

“You should’ve recognized it, Zac, it’s what I used to take you down a while ago.” Ryan grinned crookedly.

Janna pulled her naughty little girl by the hand and sat her in one of the large cushioned deck chairs, then settled into her lap and wrapped her arms around her. Ryan immediately pulled her close, forgetting her bratty brother for the time being, and kissed her deeply.

Zac grinned, looked to his mate, held out his hand, and laughed as she settled herself in his lap. They commenced the same activity that was taking place across the table from them and the atmosphere around the patio remained quiet and loving for quite some time.

-6-

White gypsum sands stretched out along either side of the highway. Janna gazed out the passenger window and sighed, “Ryan, this desert is breathtaking. I had never seen the white sands before.”

“Mm. I had never been this close either.” She turned her head to glance at her wife and another breathtaking site caught her eye. “Janna, would you look at that?”

Janna returned her gaze to the side window and gasped. The desert floor, where it met a large outcrop of rock, was a brilliant yellow-orange carpet of flowers. “Oh, my God, honey…that’s gorgeous!”

“Mm, I think those are Mexican poppies, babe.” She reached a hand up to run through her wife’s short, blonde hair. “They’re almost as gorgeous as you are.”

Janna turned a breathtaking smile on her wife and exclaimed, “Thank you, honey. Take a glance into the rearview mirror though, if you really want to see gorgeous.” She brought her wife’s long-fingered hand to her lips and gently kissed each finger.

She couldn’t see Ryan’s eyes behind her dark glasses, but she could see the tightening of the muscles in her jaw and her intake of breath, and she could feel the jolt of desire through the link they shared. Ryan returned her gaze to the highway in front of her and swallowed convulsively as she thought, I knew we should have made love this morning, dammit.

Janna, still holding Ryan’s right hand, smiled as she continued to gaze at her wife. “Sweetheart,” she began. “What do you say to a lazy afternoon in the hot tub? Zac mentioned that he and Marty wouldn’t be home until about 7:00 tonight. We can make a salad, you can have some wine…”

Ryan returned her gaze to Janna and grinned widely. “I’m there, Janna…so there…you have no idea, baby.”

“Um, I think I do, love. We should have made love this morning, shouldn’t we have?”

Ryan looked abashed, even behind the sunglasses. “Yes, love, I guess we should have. Why don’t we, Janna, whenever we have time in the mornings? We’re halfway there every morning anyway, during our cuddle time. We both want it…we both love it…hell, we both seem to need it. Why don’t we try to make it a priority, as long as you feel up to it?”

“Let’s do that honey. I know that sex isn’t everything, and it shouldn’t necessarily be the focal point of a relationship, but with us it’s so…so…”

“Perfect…natural…astounding.” Ryan’s wide grin set Janna’s heart aflutter.

“All of the above!” Janna linked her fingers with Ryan’s. “And, it’s possible that before too long, I won’t feel up to it in the mornings…though, when Kris was pregnant, with both kids, she felt sick all the time…for two months.”

Ryan grimaced and moved her hand to Janna’s thigh, rubbing it lightly. “I hope you don’t have it rough, honey. God, I hope you don’t.”

“Hey, whatever happens, I’ll deal with. The reward at the end is more than worth it.”

Ryan grinned. “You say that now, baby. Can I remind you of that when you’re puking into the toilet at dawn? Or when you’re in labor?”

“Please do.” She smiled coyly as she added, “Especially if you want to be bitched at and reminded that you weren’t brave enough to take this on.”

Ryan’s face fell into the cutest pout that Janna had ever seen. “Oh, baby, but you wanted to…you know how I am with hospitals and all that painful sh…”

Janna giggled. “I know, honey…I’m just picking on you. I have no problem with this…any of it…and you should know that.”

“I know, Janna, I just…I’m so happy about this, but feel a little guilty about not being willing to take it on myself…big, tough cop…shit…” She shook her head.

Janna felt the small measure of dejection that her mate was feeling and moved to soothe it. “Ryan, honey…I wanted to do this so much that had you wanted to as well, you would have had to fight me for the right!” She linked their hands again. “Ryan, this is the right way for us…I want to be pregnant, you don’t…it’s no big deal. Anyway, I know that you will be fully present every step of the way…from my first ob/gyn appointment, to doing Lamaze classes, all the way through the birth.”

“Through the birth? Hell, Janna, I’m there through the college admission, babe. And beyond.”

“Yes, love, that’s true, isn’t it?” She smiled warmly at her tough cop. God, she’s soft-hearted…where only I can see it.

As they neared the Missile Range, and their lunch date with Zac and Marty, both women sighed contentedly, simply enjoying each other’s presence and the life that they were sharing.

After checking in at the main gate, Ryan followed Janna’s directions to the base’s Italian Café. As they drove past the Missile Range museum, with it’s display of immense rockets and missiles in the park beside it, Ryan exclaimed, “God, those missiles are impressive. Makes you glad you’ve never been on the receiving end of one.”

“For sure, babe. I must admit that Zac and Marty have challenged some of my pacifist views while we’ve been here. For the first time, I’m aware of how safe I am as an American…and realize that it’s due to the sweat and blood of soldiers…good people…like them. I’m afraid I may have taken my safety for granted in the past. I feel bad about that.”

“Mm, good point, love. I’ve never been hawkish myself, though as a cop, I’m aware of the need for a strong defense…and not just on a local level.”

As they drove slowly by, they gazed with interest at the fifty-plus weapons, which sat impressively, aimed toward the brilliant sky.

A short time later, they sat with their family in a booth in the comfortable café. Ryan and Janna sat on one side of the table, across from Zac and Marty, and surreptitiously held hands under the table.

“Um, you guys are aware, aren’t you, that the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy doesn’t apply to civilians?” Zac asked with a twinkle in his eye.

“Right, Zac, but soldiers aren’t exactly known for their open minds when it comes to gays in general, are they?”

“Oh, you might be surprised, Sis.”

Ryan raised her eyebrows but made no comment.

Janna smiled and tightened her grip of her wife’s hand, then turned to her mate and asked, “You’re not having wine, love? You always have wine with pasta.”

“We’re pregnant now, baby. I’m not drinking.”

Ryan’s matter-of-fact response surprised and amused Janna, who looked at her mate comically. “Um, sweetheart, I’m the one who needs to abstain from alcohol and caffeine, not you.”

“Wrong, babe. We’re doing this together. If you have to do without, so do I.”

She could see that Janna was about to disagree and stopped her short. “Baby, let me do this…please? I know how much you love your beer, and your tea, and I’m not about to sit around drinking those things in front of you when you can’t.” She looked at Janna and then at her brother and Marty and smiled, adding, “End of discussion. What d’ya feel like eating, babe?”

Janna sat, stunned. “Ryan, that is so not necessary, babe…”

“Sweetheart, my mind is made up. Let’s eat, huh?” She buried her nose in the menu she held, effectively ending the conversation.

Zac and Marty raised eyebrows in unison and shrugged, as Janna remained motionless in her seat. Finally, she turned toward her wife and bestowed a glowing smile upon her. “Ryan, I think that is the single most unselfish act that I’ve ever heard of in my life. Thank you, my love.”

Ryan put the menu down, as she answered, “It’s nothing, Janna. We share everything, love…hell, baby, half the time I think we share the same soul. It’s no big deal.” She shrugged.

“Sis, Jesus…it is a big deal, so take the compliment, okay?”

His sister blushed before burying her nose in the menu again, and her mate rubbed her thigh warmly and let her love for her wife flow strongly to her through their bond. Ryan felt the love and was moved nearly to tears. Nearly…there was no way that she would let that happen in public, much less in front of her brother. She simply took a very long time deciding what she wanted to order.

~~~~~~~~~~

Ryan bent over the side of the hot tub and checked the temperature of the water. Too hot is not good for pregnant ladies and their babies…better settle for lukewarm. It’s warm out anyway. She adjusted the temperature setting and straightened, then turned to gaze out at the lovely view from Zac’s patio. Breathing deeply of the clean, dry air, she thought, I could live here.

Her reverie was broken, but pleasantly so, when two arms found their way around her waist from behind. She leaned back into her wife’s smaller body and smiled.

As Janna rested her cheek against Ryan’s back and joined her in her quiet reverie, she remarked, “I love it here, Ryan. The desert, the energy, the vistas, the slower pace, the people, are all wonderful. I could live here.”

Ryan closed her eyes and swallowed hard, thinking, Jesus, before she replied, “I could too, baby. Easily. Maybe we should consider retiring here.” She turned in Janna’s embrace and kissed her wife’s forehead before leaning back and gazing into her eyes. “I think we should stay where we are, at least until the kids are older, because we have so much family support there. Your parents, your brother and his family, all our friends are there. What do you think?”

“I agree, love. I want the kids to be as close to as much of their family as possible. Of course, that leaves Zac and Marty out.”

“Well, you know what? Why don’t we come out here for a week or two every spring? We can come for your birthday.” She looked around at the beauty surrounding them as she remarked, “It’s beautiful here in the spring.”

“It sure is. It’s a plan then, love. Thank you!” Janna’s lively green eyes twinkled up at her mate in the bright sunshine.

“Thank you, Janna. I love you so much, baby.” She pulled Janna close and sighed deeply. “I turned the spa down so it’s not too hot for my two babies…let’s go on in, love.”

“Okay, um…are you wearing that?” Janna gazed at Ryan’s cargo shorts and tank.

“Nope, I’m going in this…” Ryan deftly stripped off her shirt and stood before her wife, topless and grinning.

“Ryan!” Janna quickly glanced around. “What if someone sees?”

“Janna, who’s gonna see? You can’t see the neighbors’ houses from here and they can’t see us.” She waved her arm at the desert view before them. “There’s only white sand, sage and lizards out there.”

Janna, clearly considering the possibilities, slowly grinned before reaching for Ryan’s shorts. “You won’t need these for what I have in mind.” Meeting Ryan’s gaze, she slowly unzipped the fly and pulled the shorts down. She was hampered somewhat when her wife pulled her close and stole a kiss, but managed to strip her of her clothing eventually.

“Mm, Janna…I’ve been needing you all day, baby.” As she nipped at her mate’s neck, Ryan slipped her hands under the band of Janna’s shorts and pushed them, along with her panties, off her hips and to the ground. She pulled Janna tightly against her body, kissed her deeply, and reveled in the tingling sensations their skin-on-skin contact always caused.

“God, Janna…” Already breathless, Ryan stepped back slightly and pulled Janna’s t-shirt off over her head, happy beyond words that there was no bra to hinder the glorious view as Janna stood before her with her arms raised. She scooped her mate into her arms and resumed the passionate kiss.

They lost themselves in the sweet softness of each other as desire and passion built and Ryan picked Janna up off the ground and held her in her arms as she explored her mouth ardently for several minutes more.

Janna mumbled against hot, sweet lips, “My strong warrior. Love me again, Swift Puma.”

“Always, Janna, my Little White Owl. I will love you always and forever.”

She carefully settled Janna into the comfortable water of the spa and sat in a corner. Janna sat in her lap and rested her head on Ryan’s shoulder.

Janna spoke quietly, “Am I your Little White Owl, Ryan? I love the sound of that.”

“Yes, Janna. That’s what my Grandfather called you in my dream vision. You have a tribal name now, my love.”

“God, Ryan, that’s so special…thank you.” Tears of joy streaked down Janna’s cheeks as she lay against her wife. Ryan bent her head and kissed the tears dry before turning Janna to face her.

Janna straddled Ryan and threw her arms around her, gazing deeply into her blue depths. “I love you, Ryan Swift Puma Norden-Zamora…with all that I am.”

“And you, Janna Beth White Owl Norden-Zamora, are everything to me.” She lifted Janna gently and very softly kissed her still-flat belly. “You and our baby.” When she looked back up into Janna’s eyes, tears were coursing down her own cheeks.

Janna clasped Ryan’s face to her chest and held her tightly before sinking back onto her lap and kissing her deeply. As tongues met and danced sensuously, hands began to blaze trails of fire down the skin of backs and arms. Ryan pulled away slightly and bent her head to Janna’s breasts, generating a chorus of soft sighs and moans as she stroked and sucked lovingly.

“How do you want me to love you, baby?” Ryan’s sultry voice asked around a sweet nipple.

“Tantra, love. Together…”

Ryan’s mouth came back up to join with Janna’s again as she sat forward slightly and allowed her mate to wrap her legs tightly around her waist. As they kissed, communicating their love from the depths of their souls, two hearts began to beat wildly in unison and heat spread from nether regions to every part of their bodies, setting every nerve ending within two bodies on fire.

“God, Ryan, love me before I pass out, baby…”

“Janna…breathe,” Ryan coached, becoming the teacher for a change.

“Yes…I forgot,” Janna panted. “Besides, you took all of my breath away…”

They slowed their breathing in tandem and each gently inserted loving, stroking fingers into her mate’s body, beginning their slow, sacred sexual dance, allowing the fire within to grow slowly, steadily, until it shot up their spines and exploded, carrying them to higher planes of existence. Before the enlightened ecstasy, they would enjoy valley orgasms that would peak and wane, growing stronger with each crest, creating a cycle of pleasure that would be prolonged for many, many minutes.

Above, Grandfather Sun smiled as the two beings with whom he was well acquainted made beautiful love together. Loving hands stroked inner depths as their bodies gyrated in unison. Voices called out tribal names on several occasions, to be lost on the wind and carried to the mountaintops, along with the loving energy they created.

Later, as the sun spirit sank below the mountains in the west, Ryan brought Janna to orgasm again as she stroked her mate’s delicious anatomy with a hot tongue.

“Oh, God, Ryan…that is so good, baby…” Janna’s head rested against the house wall as she sat on the edge of the spa with her mate’s face buried between her legs. As she called her wife’s name for what seemed like the hundredth time that afternoon, they heard a car door slam in the front of the house. Janna let the delightful spasms fade however, before she allowed the threat of being caught startle her.

“Ryan,” she panted, “They’re home.”

“Mm,” said the happy mouth that rested against her belly.

A moment later, the patio door slid open and they heard Zac’s voice. “Ry, you guys out here?”

In a strained voice, she replied, “Yeah, Zac. Could you give us a few minutes, please?”

“Oh…sure Sis, sorry.”

“No prob, bro. See ya in a few.”

The door slid shut and Janna slid down into Ryan’s embrace. “God, love, that was close.” She giggled. “I’m glad we both had another turn.”

“God, Janna, so am I. That was incredible.” She took a deep breath. “Whew. Jesus fucking Christ, Janna…I’m completely worn out, but I’ve never felt so good in my life. In my whole fuckin’ life, baby.” She nuzzled Janna’s hair.

“I know. God, Ryan. Earlier, with the Tantra…we went forty-five minutes. A forty-five minute orgasm cycle, Ryan!”

“Shit…no wonder I’m spent. Baby, I’m not sure I can lift myself out of this spa.” She grinned at her mate.

“Why don’t we stay here for a while then. They’ll understand.”

“I’m not sure they will, love. Zac told me he’s not familiar with Tantra.”

“Ah, but Marty told me that she knows Native techniques. Recommended some books.” Janna’s grin and raised eyebrows matched Ryan’s.

“Oh, my God…more sacred techniques? First Tantra, then Taoist, now Native? Baby, maybe we should become sex therapists.”

Janna laughed. “Oh, no, love. This is private. You and me.”

“You and me, Janna. Kiss me, baby.”

-7-

The dawn light began to shift from gray to pinkish-yellow as Marty rose and pulled open the blinds, casting her sleeping partner in a soft light. As she looked out onto their property, her gaze fell upon her two sisters, who were sitting huddled quietly together under their wedding blanket, facing the east.

“Zac,” she called quietly.

Her mate stirred and mumbled, “Hm?”

“Come see this.”

He rose from the bed and stood sleepily by his partner’s side. As they watched the serene scene, the sun rose above the Organ Mountains, and Ryan reached out solemnly, offering up a handful of tobacco. She turned her hand and let the sacred herb fall to the earth, scattered by the light wind. Then she turned to face her mate, letting their blanket fall to the ground, which revealed that they were both dressed only in their under clothes and their wedding necklaces. Wordlessly, Janna climbed into Ryan’s lap, facing her, and they embraced.

Marty respectfully pulled the blinds and she and Zac turned away from the window and hugged.

Janna pulled back slightly from Ryan’s embrace and leaned back in for a tender, loving kiss. They shared their love that way, quietly and respectfully, for several minutes before slowly rising. Ryan wrapped them in their wedding blanket and they walked back to the house.

When they entered the family room, they smelled the delicious aroma of coffee brewing and could hear quiet conversation coming from the kitchen, so they made their way in there.

Two dark heads looked up as they entered and smiled their greeting.

“Morning, Zac, Marty.”

“How is Grandfather Sun, this morning, Puma?”

“He’s glorious, Red Hawk…just glorious.” Ryan smiled and looked down at her smaller mate as she answered.

“It was a beautiful sunrise.” Marty supplied, quietly.

Janna answered, “Yes, it was.”

“Join us for breakfast before you take off?” Zac held up his coffee cup.

“Yes…we need to put a little more clothing on and we’ll be right back.” Ryan grinned as she turned her mate and they headed down the hallway toward their room.

As they slipped t-shirts on over their sports bras, and pulled on running shorts, Janna quietly remarked, “Ryan, this past week has been one of the happiest of my life…one of the top two. I’m sorry we’re leaving here.”

“I know, baby, I agree. It’s been incredibly wonderful. Special beyond words.” She gazed deeply into Janna’s eyes. “We created our baby here, Janna!” She pulled her wife close as tears threatened to spill and Janna wrapped her arms tightly around her tall mate, filling both their beings with the love she felt for her.

A few minutes later, as they sat at the sunny kitchen table with Zac and Marty, Ryan shared a bite of pancake with Janna, then leaned forward and gently licked the syrup from her wife’s lower lip.

“Mm, good.” She leered gently at her wife, who sighed.

“Geez, I watched you two do that at your wedding…you’re still eating that way?” Zac shook his head incredulously, though with a small smile.

“Why the hell wouldn’t we be, Zac? You think because we’ve been married a whole six months that we’re not in love anymore? Hell, we’re more in love now.”

“Right…we only knew each other for two months before getting married…we’ve had six months to get to know each other better, to…”

“Fall more deeply in love.” Ryan finished Janna’s sentence and Janna nodded, grinning.

“Christ, now they’re finishing each other’s sentences.” Zac could only shake his head, while his fiancé smiled warmly.

Shortly, as Janna helped Marty clear the dishes from the table, Ryan leaned closer to her brother and said softly, “Hey, yesterday, while you were at work, when we were in the hot tub…”

Zac raised his eyebrows and grinned.

Ryan smirked and continued, “We came for forty-five minutes, bro.”

Zac’s mouth dropped open. “You’re shittin’ me, Ryan.”

Ryan grinned. “Nope. Ask Janna.”

Zac glanced at Ryan’s mate, who was talking to Marty over by the sink, and whispered coarsely, “I can’t ask Janna about that!”

“Well, it’s true…it’s called Tantra Yoga, dude. Check it out.” She smiled widely and called over to her mate, “Hey, Janna…did you bring any Tantra books that we can leave with Zac?”

Janna turned around and grinned at her playful wife, then elbowed Marty. “Um, in fact, we were just discussing something of that nature. Marty has some books for us to take home.”

“Cool! Thanks Marty.”

“You’re welcome, Ryan, though I’m not sure you two need them.” Marty’s brown eyes sparkled with amusement.

Janna fixed them each another cup of decaffeinated coffee and rejoined her mate at the table as Zac got up.

“You just had to tell Zac about that, didn’t you?” She met her mate’s eyes with a mock glare.

“Well, yeah, baby, I mean…I was proud of us.”

“And of course, it doesn’t hurt to increase your stud rating, does it?”

“Of course not, baby!” Ryan used her big, warm blue eyes to tug at Janna’s heart, and successfully so, as she got a hug and a kiss.

Marty and Zac returned to the table to share one last cup of coffee with their sisters. “So, you’re not driving straight home, are you?” Zac asked.

“No, we don’t actually have to be home until Friday…we have a game that night. We thought we’d go up through Santa Fe and Taos, then by the Grand Canyon, and across Nevada home. My little New Age girl here wants to check out Area 51.”

“And don’t forget Roswell, love. That’s our first stop today.” Janna’s eyes sparkled at the thought of visiting the United States’ UFO Central.

Marty looked curiously at Janna as she asked, “Janna, are you interested in the Star People?”

“Oh, yes. Very much so!”

“You might be interested in talking to a good friend of mine, then. She’s Lakota, and her tribe members are the keepers of the ancient Star Knowledge. I should give you her address…or, do you have a computer?”

“Yes! We just got one.”

“Then I will give you her email address.”

Ryan groaned. “Oh, God, now she’ll be on the damn thing even longer every night.”

“What’s the matter, Sis, is the machine cutting into your private time?”

“Goddamn right it is, Zac. Shit.” Ryan half smiled at Janna to let her know that she was joking. Mostly.

“Oh, honey, I’m not that bad! I try to get all my correspondence and work done while you’re working.”

“I know, baby. Actually, I kind of enjoy the thing myself.”

“Discovered Internet porn, huh, Sis?” Zac grinned.

“Zac, what the hell do I need with porn?” She looked at Janna as she added, “Honestly? I get laid twice a day most days…um, I mean, I make love with my beautiful wife every day.” She ducked to avoid Janna’s playful slap.

“I don’t guess you do need Internet porn, then, Ryan!”

Marty handed Janna a slip of paper. “Janna, here’s my friend’s email, and ours too.”

“Oh, good. Let me give you ours.”

She wrote their shared address for Marty.

Zac grabbed the paper as she handed it over. “Oh, how cute…’rjnz’.” He grinned at his sisters. “You two share an email address!”

“So what’s yours, Zac? ‘asshole@army.wsmr.mil’?”

“So funny, Ryan!”

“No, honey, I think that would be, ‘ltcolasshole@army.wsmr.mil’!” Janna laughed, and Marty joined her.

“Oh, ha ha, so very funny, ladies.” Zac drained the coffee from his cup and looked at Marty. “Honey, we need to get on the road.”

They all stood, and as Ryan gazed at her brother and his mate, both looking very sharp and spotless in their military uniforms, a lump formed in her throat. Zac experienced the same sensation and stepped forward, scooping his sister into his arms.

“Ryan, it was great having you here. You’re welcome any time. Any time, Sis.”

Ryan kissed her brother’s cheek as she felt the tears leave her eyes. “We’d like to come out every year, if you’ll have us.”

Marty stepped up and joined in the embrace. “We would love that. And next year you will have your little one with you.”

“Oh, shit, that’s right. God…” Ryan suddenly became too choked up to continue and was grateful when she felt her soulmate’s hand on her shoulder.

“And don’t forget a certain wedding sometime in October.” Zac added with a smile.

“Definitely not!” Janna smiled warmly at their hosts. “Zac, Marty, we had a wonderful time. Thank you so much for making us feel so welcome, not to mention…”

Zac grinned and lifted his hands, “Don’t mention it, Janna. It was my very great honor. Really.”

“Thank you, Zac.” Janna replied sincerely.

They shared a family hug and then, regretfully, Zac and Marty had to leave for the base.

“You two drive safely, now. No speeding.” The MP said seriously, concern marking his voice.

“Are you kidding? I’m married to a former traffic cop…she watches me like a hawk.”

“Hey, in my work I’ve had many the unfortunate occasion to see just how horribly speed can kill. You’re goddamn right I don’t let you speed, baby.” She grinned at her wife as she added, “Little Leadfoot.”

“Hey!”

“Yeah, Janna, I thought your tribal name was White Owl!” Zac laughed.

“It is, thank you very much!” She poked her mate and then was scooped into her warm embrace as she added, “We will drive carefully. We’re taking our time getting home…don’t worry. You two be safe as well.”

“We will.”

They shared another family hug and then the Norden-Zamoras walked the soon-to-be Zamoras to their Jeep and saw them off.

Ryan threw her arm around Janna’s shoulder as they walked back into the house. Somewhat hesitantly, she asked, “Um, sweetheart, I know you’re anxious to get on the road, but, um…”

“Yes, my love, I would love to play a little first…we missed that this morning. Um…why don’t we combine it with our shower?” Janna’s eyes sparkled as she looked up at her mate.

“Janna, sweetheart, you know me better than I know myself, don’t you?” Ryan’s adoring gaze nearly turned Janna’s heart to butter…the small portion that her wife had not already melted previously, that is.

“I know us, love. With the added benefit of feeling what you’re feeling through our link.” She winked at her mate and they both began tugging their shirts off as they made their way to the guest bathroom.

Janna stood in the large, tiled stall, letting the warm water stream down her back. As she enjoyed the soothing warmth, she felt her wife enter the shower behind her. She stepped forward so that Ryan could wrap her arms around her, and she did so, pulling Janna against her chest.

As she leaned back into Ryan’s warm embrace, Janna felt something hard, but pliable, poke against her backside. She smiled when she realized what it was and said, “I didn’t realize our friend had made the trip with us.”

Ryan smiled against Janna’s hair. “Mm, hm. I thought I’d surprise you. Do you mind, love?”

“Mm, no…I love our toys, Ryan. You know that.” She linked her fingers with Ryan’s, which rested on her waist.”

“Good, babe. Um, it’s safe, isn’t it? For the baby?”

“It’s fine. The baby is way up inside my uterus…tucked away safe and sound.”

“Good, baby, ’cause I wanna love you good…okay?” Ryan nuzzled Janna’s neck and nipped at her soft skin.

“Oh, God, yes…anything you want…anything, my love.” Janna panted breathlessly as Ryan’s hands began to roam and moved up to caress soft, full breasts.

“Thank you, love. I love you so much, Janna.” Ryan used her touch to communicate her love as well, kissing her neck while tenderly caressing Janna’s breasts, before moving one hand down to tangle gently in her curls.

“Ryan…”

“Hmm? Bend over, baby.”

Janna complied, resting her hands on the tile seat in front of her and leaning over, trembling with anticipation as she did so. When her partner was ready, Ryan gently thrust her strap-on appendage between Janna’s legs and began to slowly, gently rub her outer folds with it.

Janna quickly became weak from the clitoral stimulation and murmured, “God, Ryan, do you know how much I love that?”

“I do, baby.” Ryan drawled silkily as she gently grasped Janna’s waist and continued the slow thrusts, feeling her pleasure build along with her mate’s.

After a few minutes, Janna muttered, “God, Ryan…now, please.”

“Okay, baby, here I come.” Ryan pulled back somewhat so that she could enter her wife with the blue silicone plaything. As she did so, slowly, a deep moan was coaxed from Janna.

The tall, dark cop began to thrust into her partner rhythmically, feeling the desire within both of their bodies build quickly. She skillfully managed to stimulate both of her partner’s most sensitive spots and soon had Janna moaning incoherently.

“Ryan, yes…oh, God…” Janna threw her head back and Ryan leaned forward, laying against her partner’s back, caressing her with her breasts.

“Yes! Oh, God, baby, here I come…”

Ryan brought her hands up to caress Janna’s breasts again as she increased her tempo and Janna quickly succumbed, plunging deeply into the pleasurable void, and bringing Ryan with her.

They moaned each other’s names loudly in unison and rode the waves of pleasure together. Ryan held Janna tightly against her body until they were both able to breathe normally.

“Fuck, baby…” Ryan finally panted.

“Ditto. God, Ryan…that was so good. Jesus…shit…”

“Christ, baby, it must have been good…you’re swearing for me.” Ryan smiled as she lovingly ran her hands along Janna’s torso, then stood up and withdrew the appendage slowly from her mate.

“Oh, God….”

Ryan deftly removed the toy from its harness and said, “Come ‘ere.” She coaxed her mate to stand and turned her to face her, then wrapped her arms lovingly around her.

They embraced tightly and alternately kissed and mumbled sweet nothings to each other until the hot water ran out. Again. They washed each other gently, tenderly, under cold water, which was very cooling on superheated skin and kept hands from roaming anew. One hour later, they were on the road, journeying toward home.

-8-

“And, honey, how about that gift shop…I got so many cute things!” Janna babbled on happily about their visit to Roswell’s UFO Museum as they readied for bed.

“Mm, hmm…I’m looking forward to seeing you in that tight little shirt you got.” Ryan smiled through her leer as she pulled her bra off over her head.

“I’ll bet you are…maybe I’ll wear it to bed…” Janna grinned with a raised blonde eyebrow.

“Oh, no…this is what I want you to wear to bed…” She deftly stripped off her mate’s matching sports bra and pulled her close.

“Honey, this is what I nearly always wear to bed anymore.”

“Mm, yep, and I’m very glad for that.” Ryan said as she buried her face against Janna’s neck.

“You’re the reason for that.”

Ryan mumbled against the soft skin of Janna’s throat, “Did we make love this morning?”

“Um, yeah, love…in the shower…with the toy.”

“Mmm…yes, we did, didn’t we? God, that was nice, Janna.” Ryan pulled away from Janna to gaze into her eyes, and dropped her hands to her wife’s waist.

Janna linked her hands around her tall partner’s neck as she replied, “Yes, love, it was. I’m glad you get as much out of it that way as I do.”

“Oh God, baby…I really do. I’m as sensitive down there in front as you are.” She leaned down for a kiss and savored Janna’s lips. The kiss continued, even as Janna led Ryan to the bed and pushed her down onto it.

Ryan fell onto her back and happily pulled Janna down on top of her, wrapping her legs tightly around her smaller mate. Between kisses, Janna mumbled, “I wanna love you with it now.”

At the suggestion, Ryan’s blood to began to boil in earnest and she nearly threw Janna off herself in her eagerness. “Sure, baby, let me get it.”

“I’ll get it…you stay right here.” Janna lightly kissed the tip of Ryan’s nose and then seductively licked her bottom lip.

“Ohh, Jesus…” Ryan waited eagerly while her mate unpacked the device. Being made love to in that fashion was a gesture that she had never extended to anyone except for Janna, and she had quickly learned to enjoy it immensely.

Very shortly, her small, sexy mate, having quickly seduced her in fine fashion, had Ryan moaning her wife’s name so loudly that she had to muffle Ryan’s mouth with hers. The neighbors in the rooms to either side of theirs on the upper floor of the quaint inn in Santa Fe would have been most appreciative, at the late hour, had they been aware of the effort, as Ryan tended to be spectacularly vocal.

~~~~~~~~~~

The warmth of the sun felt good through the chilled morning air. Ryan stood behind Janna with her hands on her shoulders as they stood gazing respectfully at the ancient dwelling before them.

“Janna, this feels…”

“Familiar.”

“Yes. Do you think…”

“I do.” Janna nodded before adding, “I know I’ve lived in a pueblo before. I have conscious memories of living in a cliff dwelling, but this feels very familiar too.” She looked back at her wife. “And I’ve never been to Taos before.”

“Neither have I. I’ve visited some of the Four Corners Area cliff dwellings, and felt very at home there…like I do here.”

Janna glanced around them, noting that there was no one else nearby. “Let’s try something, Ryan. Let’s center ourselves and see if we can pick up on anything about that life.”

“You mean, try to experience a regression, right here…like this?”

“Yes…I’ve done it before. Give it a try. Just breathe deeply, ground yourself, and quiet your mind. Then visualize your first and third-eye chakras expanding. Hold the intention of experiencing any past life that took place here.”

Always ready to try new experiences, Ryan replied, “Okay, love…let’s give a shot. Should we not touch?”

“Actually, I think it’s okay if we touch like we are…as long as you don’t find it distracting.”

Ryan leaned forward and whispered into her mate’s ear, “I’ll have to hold my self in check, then.” She kissed Janna’s hair before pulling back.

“Now that is distracting, Ryan.” Janna calmed her pounding heart with a series of deep breaths and then sent a grounding cord down into the planet, connecting with Gaia, the Earth Spirit.

Ryan did likewise and soon felt a deep sense of serenity. She felt both anchored to the planet and deeply connected to her mate at the same time. As she consciously visualized her sixth chakra expanding, her subconscious, or rather, truly conscious, self took over.

Janna felt peaceful as well, and though she was aware of her partner’s strong, connecting presence, was able to expand her awareness, to open herself to her past life experience.

Slowly, a vision of a Native man, dressed in leather shirt and pants, and holding a tiny boy, coalesced in her mind’s eye. It was Ryan. She knew it was Ryan, could sense it…his eyes were the same, though not blue.

Janna looked down at her own body and noted that she wore a dress of soft leather and beaded leather shoes. A small girl was wrapped around her leg, holding tightly. Janna was filled with the love that she felt for her family, so much so that she thought that her heart might burst.

As Ryan stood with her eyes closed, breathing slowly and deeply, she received a vision of a beautiful Native woman with black hair hanging down her back in a single braid. A girl of perhaps three years clung to her as she gazed at her mate. Her soft brown eyes were filled with love and Ryan felt the warmth of the woman’s love for her fill her soul. Suddenly, she realized that she held a small child, and turned her head to meet the serious gaze of a baby boy.

The Navajo woman pulled her car to a stop in the small lot next to her shop. As she got out, she noticed a couple standing some distance away, opposite the pueblo site. She called to her daughter, “Amanda, will you open up, please? I will be right in.”

“Sure, Mom.” The girl left her mother standing by the car and left to open their small shop.

As the woman gazed at the other two women, her vision shifted and she saw a Native man and woman, both dressed in old-fashioned beaded leather clothes, with two small children, gazing peacefully at their home. She slowly made her way toward them and as she did so, her vision shifted again, back to the two women. The tall part-Native woman rested her hands protectively on her blonde mate’s shoulders as they both stood serenely with eyes closed. She stopped a respectful distance away and waited quietly for them to return from their journey.

Ryan and Janna each, simultaneously, took a deep breath and slowly let it out as they opened their eyes. When they did so, they saw a Native woman standing a short distance away, looking at them. She met their gaze and smiled warmly before saying, “Welcome home.” Then she smiled again and turned away, making her way over to the small cluster of nearby shops and entering one.

“My God, Janna…this is truly the Land of Enchantment!” Ryan gasped as she pulled Janna against her chest.

“Yes, love…it definitely is.” Janna blew out another breath before turning to Ryan. “What did you see, Ryan?”

“I saw you, love…as a beautiful Native woman with big brown eyes. And I saw a little girl and a baby boy.”

Janna swallowed hard as tears filled her eyes. “Ryan! I saw you…as a strong man, holding a baby boy. We had a little girl, who was holding onto my leg. I loved you all so much…I can still feel it.”

“I can feel it, too, Janna. Jesus Christ, baby…that was unreal. Absolutely fuckin’ unreal.” Ryan shook her head in disbelief as a huge grin appeared on her face.

“No, baby, the miracle of it is that it was real. My God, that was special.” She wrapped her arms around her wife and hugged her tightly.

Ryan returned the loving squeeze and nuzzled Janna’s hair, not caring that other people were now in the vicinity. “And who was that woman, Janna?”

“Obviously a very perceptive person. Let’s go into her shop, honey.”

Janna followed Ryan into the small Navajo jewelry and gift shop. The woman who had spoken to them was behind the counter and nodded as they entered, smiling at them. Ryan met her gaze and smiled as she and Janna browsed amongst the offerings of pottery.

The woman watched them as they shopped, interested in the enigmatic couple, because she sensed the deep bond that they shared, and knew what a rare gift it was. As well, she sensed that they were knowledgeable in the spiritual arts, if not shamen themselves. When they came to the counter to look at the jewelry, she noted their matching wedding bands of silver and turquoise, admiring the artisanship.

As she continued to gaze at the close couple, she received several brief, psychic flashes of images. In the first, she saw Ryan and Janna entwined in love. In the second, she saw Ryan lying crumpled on the ground, bleeding from the head and leg, and in the third, she saw the two women lying blissfully in a bed with their sleeping children. She sensed that the images represented the past, present, and future, and gathered that the couple would be traversing a difficult road in the very near future.

When she saw Janna leave briefly to look at smudging supplies, the woman approached Ryan, who continued to look at necklaces. The dark cop looked up into the Navajo woman’s serious gaze and noted her concern.

The woman began, “Forgive me for interfering, but I can see how strongly bonded you and your partner are, and I want you to know that it is strong enough to withstand any challenge…if you believe in it.” She emphasized the last several words as she continued to gaze seriously into Ryan’s eyes, and Ryan nodded.

“Yes, I believe it is. Thank you.” She held out her hand and the shopkeeper grasped it, nodding in return. Ryan cleared her throat then, before saying, “I’d like to get this necklace for my wife.” She pointed to a turquoise Kokopelli figure on a sterling silver chain.

The storeowner smiled as she put the item into a small bag. “Kokopelli…the little minstrel and trickster.” She looked up into Ryan’s eyes. “Many believe he brings good luck.”

Ryan returned her serious gaze as she replied, “Then I’ll definitely take it.”

At that moment, Janna returned with several smudge sticks and bags of resin incense. She smiled at the shopkeeper and then said to Ryan, “Honey, I found some wonderful copal incense.” She looked at the storeowner and smiled as she said, “This is not easy to find at home. I’m so glad we came in here.”

Ryan added sincerely, “I am too.”

Janna looked expectantly at her mate and asked, “Are we ready, honey, or do you want to look at anything else?”

“We’re ready, love.”

Janna glanced at the owner and said, “I guess we’ll take these then.”

The woman smiled and said, “Your wife has already paid for these…enjoy them and use them in good faith.”

Janna looked at Ryan questioningly and Ryan looked at the woman. “Thank you, but…”

“I insist…please. Paid in full. Good luck to you.”

Ryan nodded and said sincerely, “Thank you. We’ll stop in later this year when we visit this area again.”

The woman understood the sentiment behind Ryan’s statement and smiled warmly as she said, “I will look forward to that.”
Ryan took Janna’s arm and as she guided her out of the store, Janna said, “You will tell me what all of that was about, won’t you, Ryan?”

“Yes, I will, love. After we visit the pueblo.”

They spent the rest of the day exploring the ancient dwelling and the rest of the beautiful Taos area, with Janna catching Ryan in a pensive mood several times. As they drove back to Santa Fe, into the setting sun, Ryan told her all that had transpired between herself and the Native woman, and Janna, too, became pensive.

~~~~~~~~~~

“Janna, I will not let something a stranger said to me ruin the last day of our vacation. Now please, stop dwelling on it.” Ryan spoke calmly but with a note of firmness marking her voice.

Janna’s brows were set into a deep furrow as she turned in the passenger seat and looked at Ryan.

“How can you not take this seriously? She is the second person that warned you…first, your Grandfather, and now, yesterday, her. Ryan, I’m scared, and I think you should be too.”

“Janna, I’m not scared, because I believe in the strength of our love…and I know that you do too. Now, come on…lighten up. We’re almost there.” Ryan refocused her attention on the mountainous terrain that she was driving through and noted the sign announcing that the Grand Canyon was only five miles distant.

Janna sighed deeply. “I do, love…I believe in us. But the fact remains that something very serious apparently looms on the horizon for us. I’m afraid of what that might be…not of it’s consequences.” She caressed the hand that lay on the gearshift knob. “I know we’ll be okay in the long run, Ryan, but what about the near term? I’m afraid that one, or both of us, may be hurt.” She swallowed a sob as she continued, “Ryan, if something happens to you, I will not be able to handle it. I don’t ever want to see you hurt…in any way.”

“Janna, honey, please. I will be fine. No matter what. No matter what happens in the near future, I know that eventually, we will be fine. I’ve seen it, Janna. I saw the love between us as old ladies. That’s the future that I believe in…with all of my heart.” She lifted Janna’s hand to her lips and softly kissed it, sending her love to her mate at the same time through their bond. “Janna, I firmly believe that I can handle anything that may happen to me, and that you can as well.”

Janna felt the gift that Ryan sent through their link and sighed again before saying, “I feel your love, Ryan, thank you. That means so much to me. I promise, I’ll try not to worry.”

“Thank you, love…just remember, we’ve been given the very special gift of knowledge. That in itself will help us when we need it.”

Janna only nodded her agreement, and turned her head as a solitary tear trailed down her cheek. She gazed out the car window, not really seeing the glorious landscape that greeted her, while her soulmate felt her pain.

A half hour later, Ryan and Janna stood side-by-side on an overlook at the south rim of the magnificent Grand Canyon, awestruck at its beauty and grandeur, despite the fact that both of them had visited it before. In the bright, mid-day sun, the colors of the distant canyon walls appeared washed out, in light, varying hues of pink and purple, while the nearby walls, spires and peaks of layered, striated rock were colored in shades of yellow and brown.

Ryan wrapped an arm around her mate’s shoulder, oblivious to the presence of other tourists, as she remarked, “It’s awesome, isn’t it, baby? Its immensity blows me away every time I see it.”

“Yes, it’s gorgeous…awe-inspiring. I wish we had the time to hike down into it today.” I need to do something to take my mind off this worry.

Ryan detected a note of sadness in her mate’s voice, and felt her worry as well. I shouldn’t have told her about what the Navajo woman said. I wish I could do something to take her mind off of this. “Honey, we can stay, if you’d like. The only reason we’re not spending more time here is so we can get home for our game tomorrow night…but I can call Sharon and tell her we were held up and won’t make it.” She looked down into her wife’s beautiful green eyes and asked, expectantly, “What do you say?”

Janna grinned, warming Ryan’s heart, and rested her head against Ryan’s shoulder as she replied, “And risk her wrath? Ryan, you wouldn’t need a telephone to hear her scream!” She lightly kissed Ryan’s warm shoulder, then added, “And I would fear for your safety when we did eventually return.” She reveled in her mate’s loving warmth for a few moments before finally adding, “It wouldn’t be very responsible of us, honey, and I really don’t want to let the team down. I appreciate the offer, Ryan…I really do, but let’s get home.”

“Okay, baby…whatever you want.” Ryan kissed her mate’s head and sighed deeply. “Let’s find a quiet place to sit for a while, huh?”

“Sure, love.”

They walked the trail that hugged the south rim until they found a barely-used trail down and followed it carefully down to a quiet ledge. There, they sat quietly, spooned into their favorite position, Ryan behind Janna, and gazed quietly at the majesty that surrounded them.

As the peace and the quiet energy of the area settled onto them, both their souls were soothed and they were soon overcome by the strength of their love. It blanketed them protectively and filled their beings.

Ryan took a deep breath and let it out slowly, releasing fear that she hadn’t realized she was holding onto, and Janna did the same. She relaxed back more deeply into her wife’s embrace and felt her mate’s incredible love for her envelope her body as it caressed her soul.

They sat enjoying the blissful serenity for long minutes before Ryan murmured, “Have you ever hiked down to the bottom, love?”

“No, I haven’t. I was here first as a kid…Mom’s a hiker, but Dad isn’t. We only stayed a few hours, and we only visited because my grandparents insisted that we had to see it.” She smiled. “Dad is just not into the beauties of nature.” She sighed happily before adding, “Then I was here again when one of my bands toured the South. None of them were hikers either…I don’t think we stayed for more than an hour.” She turned slightly in Ryan’s embrace as she asked, “Have you, love?”

“Mm, hmm. When I was a teenager, a group of us hiked down and camped for a week. It was an awesome experience. Janna, I could spend a lifetime exploring this canyon. I want to come back often…bring our kids…camp, hike, fish.”

“We will, Ryan. Let’s plan on it.” A pair of ravens flew gracefully by and Janna remarked, “I wonder if Raven has the same medicine as Crow?”

“I don’t know, love…they’re in the same family, aren’t they?”

“Mm, hm…yes.”

“What’s crow’s medicine, Janna…his message?”

“Crow is the shape-changer, so his message is to shapeshift your reality. Create your life to be exactly as you want it to be.”

“Mm, a good message for us, I’d say.” She hugged Janna tightly to her and nuzzled her hair. “Let’s not let fear rule us, Janna. To live in fear is to be ruled by it. Let’s not give it that power over us. Let’s take this one day at a time and handle whatever comes our way…go with the ebb and flow of the Universe.”

“Mm, yes. I’m there with you, love. One hundred percent.” She grasped Ryan’s hands where they rested around her waist and brought one to her lips. “I love you, Ryan.”

“Love you, baby.”

Ryan kissed the soft, exposed neck in front of her, and worked her way around to Janna’s throat. Janna threw her head back, giving her wife ready access, and then turned slightly so that their lips could meet. Tongues met and danced sensuously and Janna turned fully around to straddle Ryan’s lap. Ryan removed the ever-present camera from her mate’s neck and set it carefully aside. Then, there on their private ledge, in view of only the ravens and hawks, they kissed passionately for many minutes, until Ryan felt she could no longer contain either her roaming hands or her ardor.

She mumbled against Janna’s mouth, “I want you baby…can we get outta here?”

“I need you too, Ryan, so yes, let’s go.”

They stood and embraced as they took one last long gaze at the incredible miracle of nature that spread out below them and for many miles in three directions. Before turning to hike back up the short trail, Ryan reached into her pocket and pulled out a handful of tobacco. She held her palm out over the canyon and silently thanked it and its companion spirits for their beauty and energy and then turned her hand over, letting the dried green bits of leaf be carried away on the wind.

Janna grasped Ryan’s hand and led her up the canyon wall to the rim trail, and the hordes of tourists, and they made their way quickly to the Explorer.

Ten minutes and several miles later, Ryan pulled the Explorer off the highway and onto a dirt road that led into a quiet patch of forest. She drove in perhaps a mile and pulled the truck as far off the dirt road as she could. She looked around carefully, noted that they seemed to be quite alone in the dark, quiet pine forest, and turned to her wife.

She was met by a wide grin that matched her own as Janna said, “In the back seat…now, Puma.”

“You first, baby.”

Janna got up and quickly scrambled over the console, and Ryan followed. Sitting next to her wife, she pulled her into her arms, saying, “I love you so much, Janna. Let me show you…let me show you that nothing can ever hurt us.”

“Show me, Ryan.”

Ryan gently captured Janna’s lips with hers and savored them as if for the first time. As she kissed her wife tenderly, she gently ran her hands under Janna’s polo shirt and caressed the skin of her back. Janna did likewise and soon the kisses became more fervent. Ryan sat back and pulled Janna’s shirt off over her head, then reached around and unhooked her bra as their lips met again. As they kissed deeply, Janna pulled Ryan’s shirt off and was about to attend to her sports bra when she was deterred by a hot hand trying to gain access to her shorts. She giggled and leaned back so that her sexy mate could unzip her cargo shorts. Ryan unzipped the fly successfully and pushed her mate down onto her back.

Ryan wedged herself in between Janna’s legs, eagerly eyeing the prize that awaited her, but was frustrated by the tight space.

“God damn, there’s not enough room in here…knew I should’ve bought the Expedition.” Ryan muttered as she tried to position herself between her wife’s legs.

“It’s okay, babe, just take your time.” She gasped as a hot mouth kissed her underwear and then an even hotter tongue stroked her through the cotton. “Oh, God, baby…”

“Mmm. Do you like that, love?” Ryan’s voice rumbled sexily through her anatomy, waking up every nerve and nerve ending in the vicinity.

“Oh, my God…you know I do. Do it again…please.”

Ryan complied and Janna moaned loudly, which encouraged Ryan to slowly, sexily, draw her underwear down off Janna’s hips.

Ryan eyed her wife lasciviously and muttered, “God, Janna, I want you.”

“I’m yours, baby, help yourself.”

Ryan did so, burying her face into her wife’s golden curls and quickly coaxing serious moans from her.

Janna ran her fingers through Ryan’s hair, pulling her closer as she enjoyed the intimate contact.

“Ryan…baby…God…”

Ryan continued the loving strokes, bringing her wife very close to climax as Janna began to moan unintelligibly.

The Ranger spotted the SUV parked to the side of the access road and stopped her truck a few yards behind it. She exited and cautiously made her way up to the dark green vehicle. Probably more horny teenagers…they’re as bad as the animals hereabouts in the springtime, she thought, and grinned as she noticed that the truck was rocking slightly. Then she heard two distinct voices and she thought, Two women? All right! But I’m afraid I’m still gonna have to rain on their parade.

When she reached the truck, she tapped the side lightly a few times before stepping up to the open front driver’s side window. She heard a muttered curse and bit back a smile before clearing her voice and saying, “Excuse me. Park Ranger, here. I’m sorry, but you’re parked on a fire access road and I need for you to move on.”

She was answered by a deep, somewhat strained, “Hold on.” And then was surprised when an extremely attractive dark-haired woman stuck her head out from the back seat, looking very sheepish.

“Sorry, Ranger…we didn’t know.” She glanced back at her hidden partner. “My, uh…my spouse and I were just enjoying your beautiful forest here.”

She bestowed a brilliant, rakish grin on the Ranger, who smiled and replied, “I gathered that.”

Ryan lowered her head to the front seat back and laughed. “We’ll move. Sorry.”

“That’s alright. I’ll, uh, be back around in a half hour or so. You’ll want to be gone by then.”

Ryan smiled warmly at the short brunette and said sincerely, “Thank you.”

“Don’t mention it. Enjoy your stay.” She grinned as she turned away and started back toward her truck.

“Oh, we will.”

As she passed the rear of the SUV, she heard a sweet voice say, “Thank you!” And then heard a chorus of giggles, in two different timbres of voice. She shook her head and laughed aloud as she climbed into her truck and thought, I sure hope Emily doesn’t have to work late tonight.

Ryan lay atop Janna and laughed uncontrollably. “Oh, shit, baby. Jesus, did she bust us!”

“I know. I feel like a teenager!” She threw her arms around her mate and exclaimed, “I haven’t had sex in a car since I was a teenager. What about you, love?”

“Twenty-three, twenty-four, I think.” Ryan shook her head and tried to contain her amusement. She gazed down into her wife’s merry eyes and sighed. “Should we finish this?”

“I would like that, yeah.”

“Okay, baby, but we only have a half hour.”

“That’s alright…I’m nearly there and you won’t take long.” Janna grinned up at her wife before stealing a kiss.
As it turned out, Janna was right.

-9-

Janna yawned and stretched, feeling stiff and sore, and…something else. Her stomach felt upset. She grimaced and settled more firmly against her mate’s strong body. Long arms wrapped themselves around her and hugged her close and she sighed, very happy to be home in her own bed.

“You awake, baby?”

“No.”

Ryan chuckled, and it vibrated pleasantly through her mate. “Sorry…go back to sleep.”

“Can’t.”

Suddenly, Ryan felt a twinge of nausea and sensed that it wasn’t from her own body. “Are you sick, Janna?”

“Yeah.”

“The baby?”

“I guess.” The nausea became more pronounced and Janna groaned and wriggled against Ryan.

Ryan gently rolled Janna onto her back and kissed her, then moved her lips down to her belly. In a gentle, loving voice, she murmured against Janna’s belly, “Baby, now you be good…stop making your mommy sick, please.” She tenderly kissed Janna’s stomach, then lay her cheek against it as she looked up into Janna’s eyes. She looked adorable and Janna grinned warmly.

“I think she heard you…it’s a little better.” Janna said, then frowned as she added, “Why did I say, ‘she’?”

Still gazing up at her wife, Ryan said, “Do you want to know the sex, Janna?”

“Do you know, Ryan?”

She nodded.

“Okay, sure, love. Then you won’t have to be careful to not let it slip.”

Ryan nodded again and smiled. “It’s a girl, Janna.”

“A girl! Ryan, I hope she looks just like you.” Janna’s eyes sparkled happily as she gazed at her mate.

Ryan grinned at Janna’s statement and replied, “Be careful what you ask for, baby…you’ll probably get it.”

“And what would the problem be with having a daughter as beautiful as my wife is?”

“She might be just like me in other ways.”

Janna grinned. “I see your point!” Another wave of nausea hit then and she frowned and groaned. Ryan felt it as well and crawled back up to take her wife in her arms.

“Let’s have our cuddle time, Janna…maybe that will help.”

“Okay, love.”

They turned onto their sides and kissed while gently connecting with fingers below.

After sharing their love gently for about five minutes, Ryan mumbled into Janna’s mouth, “You wanna love, baby?”

“Yes…but I feel like I need to throw up.” Janna broke their connection and pulled away, looking quite green, then hopped out of bed and ran for the toilet. Ryan jumped up and nearly beat her into the bathroom, and as she knelt on the cold tile, Janna was comforted by Ryan’s presence.

With her stomach emptied, Janna sat back and looked up at her mate. “God, how pleasant.” She drawled dourly, then grimaced before adding, “There wasn’t much there except bile.” She wrinkled her nose and added, “I need to brush my teeth.”

As Janna cleansed her mouth, Ryan stood behind her, concerned, before stepping up and brushing her teeth as well. Teeth clean, Janna turned and embraced her naked wife. “My stomach seems to be settled, for now…why don’t we go back to bed?”

Ryan’s eyebrows shot up happily as she grinned. “Sure, babe…come on.”

“Ryan, do you think pregnancy hormones affect libido?”

“I believe I’ve read that they do…in the second trimester.”

“Well, this must just be your natural animal magnetism at work, then.” Janna smiled sexily as she ran her hands down Ryan’s backside.

“Mm, and yours is just as strong, Janna, believe me.”

Ryan led her to the bed and proceeded to make gentle love to her wife. Afterward, unwilling to get up, they lay together, still entwined and Janna murmured, “I’m sore from the game last night.”

“I am too, a little. I guess we lazed too much on our vacation. Do you realize that we didn’t work out once, except for the aikido? That’s bad, Janna.” She grinned, despite the declaration.

“I know, but at least we both played well, even if we were sort of lethargic.”

“Yep, I’m glad we didn’t give Sharon something else to bitch at. Jesus, she acted like one loss was enough to kill the season.”

“Well, love, you know Sharon. And she does sincerely believe that had you and I been there, we would have won.”

“That’s absurd, Janna. But yeah, I know Sharon.” She smiled as she ran a long finger over the curve of a soft breast.

“Janna, honey…your nipples are dark.”

“Are they? They’re tender, too.” Janna glanced down at her normally coral pink areolas and noted that they were, indeed, much darker.

“That’s one of the first signs, isn’t it?”

“Mm, hm. I guess your vision was accurate, love.”

“I know it was, Janna. Know what else I saw?” Ryan asked as she gently brushed a strand of hair away from her wife’s eye.

“What, Ryan?”

“A comet. It streaked by behind my Grandfather as he was speaking to me.”

“How cool! I wonder what the significance was…did you pick up on anything?”

“No…but don’t comets usually portend great changes? It seems to me that a baby coming into our lives would certainly bring great change.”

“True. But I think I’ll look up comet’s meaning in Native lore, too. Can’t hurt.” Janna became thoughtful and then added, “Do you remember when Halley’s comet came by nine or ten years ago? I was fascinated by it. I even came home to use my big, old telescope to see it.”

“Yes! I was fascinated by it, too. I was working graveyard then, so I saw it a lot…especially when I was outside the city limits. It was very cool.”

Janna added thoughtfully, “I thought at the time that if I were pregnant, I would name the baby ‘Halley’.”

“I like that name, Janna. Maybe that is the significance of the comet.”

“Maybe.” She gazed into Ryan’s eyes. “I like it, too.”

The lovers became lost in their thoughts before Janna’s unsettled stomach made itself known again.

“Ugh…I think maybe I should put some food in my stomach. Maybe that will help.” Janna sat up, resting her hand on Ryan’s thigh. “I think I remember Sara saying that it helped to keep food in her stomach.”

“How long was she sick again, sweetheart?”

“Three months…through the first trimester.”

Ryan groaned. “That’s right, I remember now. I hope you have it better, baby, and not just because I feel what you feel.” She grinned up at her mate.

“I do too, but she also told me that some women are sick through the whole pregnancy, while others aren’t at all.”

“Maybe Reiki would help?”

“Yeah, I think I’ll give Terry a call…see if she knows.”

“It would be safe, wouldn’t it?”

“Oh, of course…Reiki can do no harm…that’s how it was set up.” As she stood up, she glanced at the clock and noted that it was 10:00. “Geez, honey, we really lazed today.”

“But in the best possible way, love.”

~~~~~~

3 weeks later, early May

Janna finished setting the places and arranged the candles around the spa in the gazebo as she heard Ryan’s Harley pull into the driveway. She smiled, feeling her mate’s proximity as a loving warmth in her heart center as she strode around the back of the house to greet her.

She stood watching, arms crossed, as her gorgeous partner climbed off of her bike and removed her helmet. When she spotted Janna, Ryan’s face broke into a huge grin and she set the helmet on the bike and unhooked her gym bag from Janna’s seat. She smiled widely as she strode toward her grinning mate, and scooped her into her arms when she reached her.

They shared a long, loving kiss before Ryan said, “Hi, baby. I’ve felt your happiness all afternoon…what did the doctor say?”

Janna grinned widely as she looked up at Ryan. “The test was positive, of course! I’m four weeks along and we’re due on December 22.”

“A Christmas baby! Oh, Janna, that’s great!” She kissed her wife’s cheek before walking her toward the kitchen door.

“I know…honey, my Mom’s birthday is on Christmas…. wouldn’t it be special if she arrived then?” Janna’s eyes were sparkling merrily and Ryan could feel her extreme happiness.

“It would, baby.” As they entered the house, she set her bag on the counter and embraced Janna tightly. “God, baby, what a Christmas we’ll have…even better than our first one together…and that’s saying a lot.” Her eyes twinkled as she pulled back and gazed at her wife.

“It sure is!” Janna grinned as a memory flashed across her awareness, involving a very special lovemaking session in front of the hearth on Christmas night. “Can you think of a more wonderful gift to each other, Ryan?”

“I cannot, love.” She kissed her mate and added warmly, “I absolutely cannot.”

“Come on, babe. I’ve got a special dinner all ready for us in the gazebo.”

“Janna! Did you feel up to that, love?”

“Well, it helped to take my mind off of the nausea, so I didn’t mind.”

“God, baby, I wish this morning sickness would go away…I hate that you’re hurting.” Ryan’s uncharacteristic misty eyes conveyed her sincerity and warmed Janna’s heart.

“Let’s go eat, honey and I’ll tell you everything the doctor told me.” She began to lead Ryan out of the kitchen, but was halted.

“Janna…there’s nothing wrong is there?” Ryan’s brows creased in concern as she looked pointedly at Janna.

“No, no…not at all. Everything is just fine, honey. Come on…I’m hungry.”

“Well that’s a good sign.” Ryan grinned.

“Oh, Ryan…will you grab the drinks, please? I just can’t bear the smell of the refrigerator…and I don’t want to throw up again.”
“How many times were you sick today, love?”

Janna grimaced. “Three. Twice while I was fixing dinner. This ultra-sensitive sense of smell is the strangest thing. I mentioned it to Sara earlier and she said the worst thing for her was dog food…she absolutely couldn’t feed the dog for nine and a half months.”

“Babe, I’m sorry. From now on, you let me help you in here, okay?” She grasped Janna about the waist and gazed into her eyes.

“Ryan, you don’t enjoy cooking…it’s okay, I can manage.”

“Janna Norden-Zamora, I’m not asking…I’m stating a fact. I will help you in here from now on, so you don’t get sick and endanger yourself and our baby.” She softened her words with a small smile before adding, “I’m afraid you’re throwing up too much, and not getting the proper nutrition. Did you talk to the doctor about that?”

“Yes, I did…and I’ll tell you about it while we eat. I really need to eat now, Ryan, or I will be sick again. Grab me an Odwalla, please.”

“Okay.” Ryan grinned and waited for Janna to leave the room before opening the refrigerator door, then grabbed two bottles of juice and joined her mate in the bedroom.

“So, it’s suits instead of skins, huh?” Ryan asked with a smile as she stripped out of her uniform. She had adopted the habit of not changing at the station after her shift…so she could get home to Janna sooner. Since they often unwound in the spa together when she got home, she found it worked out well: it was relaxing and rinsed off the day’s grime.

“Well, it doesn’t really matter how we go in, does it? Since we usually lose the suits at some point anyway?” Her mate remarked coyly as she stepped into her green one piece bathing suit.

“It would save a bit of time and frustration though, when things heat up, if I didn’t have to fight with your clothes. I mean, why bother, baby?” Ryan grinned rakishly to drive her point home.

“Um, the neighbors, love?”

Ryan’s answer was a grin and a shrug and she stepped into her black suit and pulled it up, then followed her mate back downstairs and out onto the deck, where the spa sat within the lovely gazebo.

A short time later, Ryan fed Janna a forkful of pasta and received some salad from Janna’s plate in return. She sighed, enjoying the meal. “So, how many times did you pee today, love?”

Janna laughed, nearly losing the mouthful of spaghetti. “Honey, what made you think about that just now?”

“Just wondering how your day went, hon, besides the puking.” Ryan grinned.

“Oh, God…honey, that doesn’t help, let me tell you.” Janna frowned at her mate, who adopted a sheepish look. “And, to answer your question…about seventy-five times.”

“Shit!”

“I’m kidding, silly! I’d say probably two or three times an hour or so. The doctor said that should get better any time now…until the last few months, at least.”

“What else did she say, love?”

“Not a lot…it was just a short visit, really…to confirm the blood test. But she started me on prenatal vitamins and gave me some nutritional information. I have a comprehensive examination scheduled for next week.”

“When, sweetheart? I’d like to go with you.”

Janna smiled. “I thought you might, so I scheduled it for late afternoon next Thursday…that way you won’t have to miss much of your shift.”

“Great, Janna…thanks. What about the throwing up?”

“Well, she said it sounds more severe than usual, so she wants to keep an eye on it. If I start losing any more meals than I already am, she may give me an anti-nausea medication.”

“Is that safe, Janna? You’re being so careful, not even taking Tylenol…I don’t want to hurt the baby.”

“She says it is…but I agree, I will only take it if I really have to. She says its important for me not to get dehydrated from the vomiting, so you can help me watch that, okay?”

“Done, love.” Ryan handed Janna her bottle of fruit juice and grinned. “Here, drink.”

“Thanks, Doc.”

“Don’t mention it.” Ryan finished the last of the delicious pasta and sat back against the side of the spa, feeling wonderfully full. “That was so good, baby. Thank you.”

“Don’t mention it!” Janna finished her last bite of salad and joined Ryan, who folded an arm around her shoulders. They sat together and enjoyed the pleasant evening, both noting the lengthening days as spring marched on. Through the lathe privacy screening they watched as the sky darkened; turning from the light blue of late afternoon, to the vivid turquoise of evening. Soon it would be velvety black and dotted with twinkling stars.

“Mm, it’s a nice night. Hey, there’s Luna.” Ryan pointed to the crescent moon that decorated the southern sky.

Janna smiled toward their friend. “Hello, Grandmother Moon.”

“I feel like she’s a friend to us, Janna. I love her energy.”

“Mm, me too, love. She is our friend. She always seems to be there for us…supporting us.” Janna glanced at her mate by her side and remarked, “You must have a lot of Lunar energy in your body, like I do, Ryan. We’re both very affected by her cycles.”

“Yes, is that why we always cycle together, at the full moon?”

“Possibly…though I think that it’s common for women who live together to cycle together, and women who try to live balanced lives in harmony with nature tend to cycle at the full moon and ovulate with the new.”

“I didn’t know that, Janna.”

“Yes…you’ve heard of the Native tradition of the moon lodge?”

Ryan nodded. “Yes, that’s right. Most, or all, of the women of the tribe would cycle together and go to the moon lodge during the full moon.” She gazed at the moon again and said reverently, “Her energy is powerful.” Ryan turned her gaze from Luna to Janna and asked, “What do you mean by my having Lunar energy in my body, though?”

“We all choose the physical characteristics that our bodies will have before beginning each life. One of the characteristics is planetary energy…planetary influence. Some people choose the lunar influence, some Jupiter, some solar, Mercury, Saturn, and so on. You’ve heard the terms ‘mercurial’ and ‘saturnine’ to describe people?”

At Ryan’s nod, she continued, “Descriptions of body type, based on the amount of a particular energy. I’m almost totally lunar, while I think you’re a mixture of mainly lunar and some solar. You have that strong, attractive body type.”

“So, this is ancient knowledge, I take it?”

“Yes, though I found out my body type in a channeling session.”

Ryan grinned. “Ah…the spirit dudes!”

“Yep! My spirit friends told me.”

“I’d like to go talk to them again soon, babe…they’re fascinating. They told me the most interesting stuff about the criminal mind and why people do the things they do…about how their motivations are based on soul-age level, personality traits chosen for that life, and karma.”

“You know, Anna may write a book based on her conversations with this Spiritual entity. It’s information the whole planet can benefit from.”

“Absolutely, babe. It’s helped me immensely…to understand people. To understand why my baby thinks the way she does.” She grinned and pulled Janna close.

“That goes both ways, love…my warrior.”

“Mm, and I’d like to do another past-life regression with them. That was so cool, babe…just like being there.” She smiled as she added, “It’s amazing to me that I was a peacemaker in the life right after the warrior life…and you were a warrior working for peace, supporting me.”

Janna grinned. “It’s called ‘karma’, babe. Let’s plan on seeing Anna and Terry soon, then. In addition to more channeling, I’d like to get another Reiki attunement while I’m pregnant. That way the baby will be born attuned.”

“She’ll be born with the ability to run Reiki? Honey, that’s incredible!”

“It’s wonderful…such a special gift.” Janna smiled warmly as she leaned into her mate’s shoulder.

“Jesus, the kid will probably be a Reiki Master by the time she’s four.” Ryan shook her head in amazement, grinning.

“If she’s anywhere near as determined as you are, she will…though I would hold off on that level until she could fully understand it.”

“Well, if she’s anywhere near as intelligent as her Mommy is, that will be around three or four, babe.”

“Or as precocious as her other Momma…God, honey, I feel for your Mom.” Janna laughed.

“Babe, I have a strong feeling that I’m gonna be getting a dose of my own medicine before too long.”

“I hope so, baby.” Janna said as she turned and sat in her wife’s lap.

“Janna, that’s not nice…give me a kiss, baby.” Janna did as requested and pulled Ryan’s swimsuit down off her torso as she did so. She ran her hands sensuously over Ryan’s breasts as they kissed, coaxing soft moans from her partner.

“Mmm, Janna…are you gonna have your way with me, baby?”

“I am, love. Here, or in bed?”

“Here, since Grandmother Moon is out…okay?”

Janna answered her with a searing kiss, which took her breath away and made further conversation both impossible and undesirable. Luna smiled on her friends, as was her habit, as she saw them begin their loving dance. When they finally exited the spa, she had already journeyed into the western sky.

~~~~~~~~~~

Ryan rubbed her soulmate’s thigh gently as they sat together on the bench. She could feel her mate’s trepidation as she awaited the start of their game against their main rivals, Mid-Valley Auto. The previous season, in only her second game with the team, Janna had been injured…deliberateley taken out by a nasty, sliding player, when they had played the same team. Her sprained ankle had healed quickly, thanks to her mate’s loving attention and Reiki, but now she worried about facing the dirty player again.

“Janna, honey, it’s alright. There is no way in hell that she will try anything like that again. She will be out of the league permanently if she does, and I know that I made it perfectly clear to her what would happen if she did ever try to hurt you again.”

“I know, Ryan, but there is so much more at stake now than just a sprained ankle. I don’t want to endanger the baby.” Janna looked up into Ryan’s concerned gaze with worried green eyes.

“Look, baby…just calm yourself, take some breaths, and sit here quietly. She hasn’t even looked our way…but if she does, I’m on it. She will not come near you, love…I promise. How’s your stomach?”

“Not too bad right now. I just hope I don’t barf on the field later.”

“You have your Power Bars, right?”

At Janna’s nob, she said, “Good, you can nibble on those…and drink plenty of water, too.” She reached an arm around her mate and patted her back. “Everything will be fine, honey… I promise. Try to enjoy the game.”

Janna felt somewhat reassured by Ryan’s words and took her advice, breathing deeply to calm herself. When the game started a few minutes later, she felt much more centered.

Their team was up first, with Janna batting lead-off, and as she strode to the plate, she was accompanied by her protective mate…under the guise of giving her hitting advice. As she walked Janna to the plate, Ryan eyed the opposing shortstop menacingly, leaving no question as to her message. The player in question looked down at the ground rather sheepishly and kicked at the dirt as she pounded her fist into her glove.

Ryan, satisfied that her message had been delivered, patted Janna’s behind gently as she said, “Wait for a good one, babe.”

Janna did, and slammed a line drive just over the shortstop’s head, beginning the game in fine fashion and leading her team to a shutout victory. She had a little help from her mate, the pitcher, who struck out seven and hit two home runs.

After the game, Ryan and Janna treated their teammates to dinner at the Rainbow Lounge and shared their happy news. While their teammates were congratulating them boisterously, the bar’s owners, Ray and Jose, sauntered over.

In his singsong voice, Jose twittered, “What is this that we overheard?”

Ryan grinned widely as she replied, “We’re gonna be mommas, guys!”

Jose’s hands flew dramatically to his mouth as he screamed, “Oh my God! A baby… my babies are having a baby!”

He parked himself next to Janna, knowing better than to try to sit between the devoted women, and said, “I want to hear all about it, honey.”

As his mate began to happily receive the details of the conception, Ray said, “Ryan, congratulations…I think this calls for another round on the house. If you and Janna keep up with this habit of bringing your celebrations here, you will eventually run us broke!”

Ryan grinned as she said, “Where else would we take our celebrations, Ray? Yours is the only gay bar in town.” At his mock hurt look, she added, “And there is no place in town where we would rather go. Thanks, buddy.” Her warm smile pulled even at his tough heart strings.

A short time later, the band that was appearing, having been told of Janna’s presence, asked her to play a few numbers with them. As usual, she took the stage somewhat reluctantly, and at the loud encouragement of the bar’s patrons and her friends, but went on to blow everyone away. They played three classic rock songs, with Janna taking over the lead guitar part, and Ryan was as proud as always of her mate, as well as incredibly turned on. A fine time was had by all until late into the night, and even Sharon, the Master Sergeant, lightened up and had a good time.

Later, at home, Ryan gave Janna a fairly good idea of just how turned on she had become while watching her play guitar.

-10-

Four weeks later, Early June

Janna bent over her task, and pulled up another clump of stubborn Bermuda grass. She idly tossed it into the pile behind her and sat back, wiping her brow with the back of her gloved hand. She lazily reached for her bottle of spring water and took a healthy swig.

The late afternoon sun burned down upon her, the sleeveless t-shirt and cut-off shorts she wore offering little protection from its intensity. She savored the lukewarm water as it slid down her parched throat. It’s not even summer yet and already nearly one hundred degrees. It’s gonna be a miserable summer for this pregnant lady, I’m afraid. She shook her head, but grinned; joyous at the prospect of her developing pregnancy, despite the discomfort that she knew was in store for her.

“Hi.”

Janna looked up, startled from her musing by the sweet young voice that greeted her, and spied a toddler on the other side of the fence, in the next yard.

“Hi! What’s your name?” Janna smiled at the adorable brown-haired, brown-eyed tot of approximately three years of age.

“Michaela…but Mommy and Daddy call me Micki.”

“Well, I’m happy to meet you, Michaela. My name is Janna.”

“What cha’ doing?” The little girl asked as she peered curiously through the split-rail fence.

“I’m pulling out weeds so that I can plant flowers here.”

“Oh…” Just then, her mother called to her from the front porch. “I’m over here, Mommy.”

As her mother, a slim, attractive brunette approached, Janna stood and wiped the dirt from her shorts and knees.

“Michaela, go on in the house now. It’s time for dinner.”

“‘Kay…bye Janna.”

“Goodbye, Michaela.” Janna smiled as the young girl trotted dutifully toward her house and turned her gaze to the girl’s mother. “Welcome to the neighborhood…I’m Janna Norden-Zamora.”

The woman frowned and then scowled at Janna. “I would appreciate it if you didn’t speak to my daughter again. If you do so, I will call the police. If we had known there were your kind on the block, we never would have moved here.” With that, she turned on her heel and left a stunned Janna looking after her. Her shock quickly turned to sorrow, and she blew out a breath as she rested her hands on her hips and shook her head sadly.

As she stood there with the sun burning down upon her relentlessly, her sorrow turned to anger at the woman’s narrow-mindedness, and what the fact of her prejudice bode for her little girl. She scowled as she bent to retrieve her gardening tools. The woman’s hatred had given her a sour stomach, which had, in turn, reawakened the nausea that her physical activity had held at bay for nearly a blessed hour.

After returning the tools to the garage and dumping the weeds in the trash can, Janna made her way to the kitchen to retrieve a small snack of crackers and cheese, hoping that it would settle her upset stomach. She then made her way into the family room and picked up her black Stratocaster, aiming to relieve the stress she was feeling.

She plugged the jack into the guitar and flipped the power switch on the amplifier, pausing to adjust the volume controls. Through the open front window, she could hear her unpleasant neighbor, and glanced out to see her in the side yard, talking on a cordless phone. Janna smiled wickedly and turned both the master and volume controls on the amp to full blast, and did the same with the knobs on the guitar’s body.

As she pulled the guitar strap over her shoulder, the motion caused a surge of vibrating feedback, which crescendoed loudly, especially when Janna pushed the instrument up against the amp. The resulting screech of feedback, pleasing to her accustomed ears, startled her neighbor, whose eyes grew wide as she looked toward Janna’s house.

Janna pulled the guitar away and then thrust it again toward the amp, increasing the warbling sound, before grabbing a pick and raking it down across the strings and hitting a power chord. She then launched into a speed metal rendition of one of her songs, pleased beyond measure at the neighbor’s look of dismay and distaste. She watched as the woman covered her left ear with her hand and hurried into her house.

After the unfriendly woman’s departure, Janna continued with her stress-relieving exercise, which had the added benefit of taking her mind off of the ever-present nausea, transporting her to place beyond which the discomfort didn’t seem to pass.

As Ryan exited her truck and locked it, she could her the pounding, booming guitar and smiled briefly. But then she felt a renewed surge of her partner’s unhappiness. Shit, she is upset. I guess that is what I felt a while ago. She strode purposefully into the kitchen and set her bag and keys on the counter before making her way to the front room.

Her wife stood right in front of the amplifier, apparently enjoying the vibrations that were being emitted. Though her back was to the door, Janna felt Ryan’s presence and therefore was not startled when long arms wrapped themselves around her from behind. She smiled and leaned back against her mate, continuing to play, but quickly turning the guitar’s volume to a more comfortable level for her mate.

Ryan kissed her hair and mumbled, “What, or whom, are you pissed at, baby?”

Janna raked out one more sequence of power chords and let the feedback reverberate through the room before stilling the strings and shutting the power down. She lifted the strap over her head and set the instrument back onto its stand before facing her mate.

She kissed Ryan and replied, “Hi, sweetheart. I met the new neighbor and her little girl a while ago. She not very politely indicated that she doesn’t want ‘my kind’ interacting with her daughter.”

“Oh, fuck. Baby, I’m sorry.” Ryan shook her head and pulled Janna into an embrace. “Jesus…that’s pathetic.”

“Yeah…sweet little girl, too. Her name is Michaela.” Janna reveled in her partner’s warmth and strength and let Ryan’s abundant love for her wrap itself around her, soothing her frayed nerves. “You feel good, love. Thank you…I needed that.”

She kissed the dark blue uniform shirt below her lips. “You’re a little early today.”

“I felt you…thought you might be upset. I wanted to get right home.”

“Honey…thank you. I hope I didn’t distract you at an inopportune moment.” Janna looked up at her with concern.

“Nope, I’m learning how to deal with the feelings when they come across.” She grinned down at her wife. “How are you feeling otherwise?”

“Lousy. I wish this so-called morning sickness would confine itself to the mornings. I think I could deal with it better if it would.”

“So do I, love. I wish there was something that I could do.”

“You help with your presence, Ryan. Believe me. And you’re very good at finding ways to distract me.” She grinned jauntily up at her wife, who returned the grin just as jauntily.

“Glad I can oblige you, baby. Anything along those lines I can do for you right now…possibly in the spa?” Her brilliant blue eyes sparkled under raised eyebrows.

“There just might be. Why don’t you show me what you have in mind”?

~~~~~~~~~~

“Oh, yes…that was soooo nice, my love. Thank you.” Janna sighed and smiled as she lazed against Ryan in the spa. She was still throbbing gently, and very pleasantly, and let her satiated state soothe her, body and soul.

“My pleasure, Janna. So glad I could oblige.” Ryan drawled lazily as she ran her hands lovingly along Janna’s torso. She brought her hands down to the slight bulge in her wife’s belly and caressed it gently.

“You’re starting to show, baby.” She mumbled in Janna’s ear.

“Mm, hm. This morning I noticed that my shorts were tight, too. I’m gonna have to start thinking about getting some maternity clothes, I guess.”

“Either that or you can wear mine.”

“I think I like that idea. I love to wear your clothes…especially when I’m missing you. They smell like you.”

“Hm, is that good or bad?” Ryan smiled against Janna’s neck.

“Oh, it’s very good!” Janna turned her head a little and breathed deeply of her mate’s scent. “I love the way you smell.”

“Good. You can start wearing them right away, ’cause I found out today that John and I will be working some extra shifts over the next week or so.”

“Oh, why?”

“We’ll be providing extra backup for a vice/narc sting op.” She blew out a breath. “I don’t like working vice, but since we’re the most senior bike team, they want us for our experience. Hopefully, it’ll go down soon and I won’t have to work too many nights. I don’t like your being here alone at night.”

“Honey, it sounds dangerous. Not that your everyday patrol isn’t dangerous, but this sounds more so.”

“Well, sweetheart, I won’t lie to you…there is more risk in it than in everyday beat patrol, but honestly, Janna, these things are planned down to the nth degree. Don’t worry about it, honey. Anyway, we’re acting in a backup capacity…we won’t be on the front line.”

“Vice, huh? You’ve mentioned before that you don’t like vice.”

“I hate it, frankly. They always wanted to use me as a john decoy, and Jesus, I hate that. But also, I hated having to hassle the working girls…and busting young gay guys for hustling. It’s a very depressing detail. That and narcotics.” She shook her head in disgust.

“And this is both vice and narcotics?”

“Mm.” Ryan nodded.

“Must be quite some ring someone has going.”

“I think it’s the biggest we’ve ever infiltrated. This is a multi-agency operation, county-wide. We start Saturday night.” Ryan felt Janna’s trepidation and moved to soothe it. “Janna, baby, you know how safe I am out there…how careful I am…especially now that I have so much to come home to.” She wrapped her arms tightly around her wife. “Please don’t worry.”

“I know, love. But I need to be honest and tell you that I can’t help but worry. Until you’re safe at home in my arms, I’ll be nervous.” A nervous wreck is more like it.

“Okay, baby. Just don’t let it get out of hand…too much worry isn’t good for the baby.” She grinned before adding, “I read once where some scientist theorized that too much stress during pregnancy causes homosexuality.”

“Oh, God…how horrible…we wouldn’t want that terrible fate to befall our child, would we?” Janna remarked sarcastically.

Ryan gently encouraged Janna to turn in her lap and she drawled sexily, “Mm, no, we wouldn’t. Kiss your wife again, lady.”

~~~~~~~~~~

Ryan groaned in her sleep as she experienced the blow of the weapon. Her own weapon. The round, razor-sharp weapon hit her in the back with such force that it knocked her to the ground. She knew immediately that it was over…that the weapon had broken her back, and she slid to the ground. Her soulmate, her warrior-bard, was nearby, fighting off her own small legion of soldiers when she saw the weapon take flight and strike her partner in the back.

As she lay on the ground, unable to move, the warrior watched in a daze as her mate stood dumbfounded, then rushed to her side and began fending off the advancing soldiers, protecting her mate as the warrior had always protected her.

As she frantically fought off one advancing soldier after another, the smaller warrior yelled, “Xena…let’s go!” She had picked up her mate’s sword and was wielding it impressively, though unfamiliar with it. As she fought valiantly she glanced at her partner on the ground and screamed, “Get up!”

The warrior answered, “Can’t…my spine. I can’t move.” The dark warrior, unable to stand, lay on her stomach, watching her bard fight. When she saw that her partner was killing men furiously, in a blind rage, she felt a measure of dismay and yelled, “No, Gabrielle. No!”

Just before she lost consciousness, she felt a sharp pang of self-hatred for setting her gentle mate on the violent road on which she now walked.

She came to some time later and found herself resting in her partner’s arms. She noted that both she and the bard were dressed only in rags, which barely preserved their modesty. Her mate was sitting on the ground in a dark, stinking cell and was holding her broken body tenderly in her arms.

“Gabrielle.” The dark woman whispered.

“Xena.” Her partner answered before leaning down and tenderly kissing her. As she gazed at her fallen mate, tears streaked down her cheeks.

“Crying? Don’t cry.” Her warrior whispered.

“Okay.”

They gazed at each other quietly, not needing to speak, when a man approached their cell and called gruffly, “It’s almost time.”

They gazed deeply into each other’s eyes and the warrior felt heartsick at destroying her beloved’s life before her world darkened and she lost consciousness again.

Ryan gazed solemnly into her cup of decaffeinated coffee. The images from the dream, and their apparent implication, were weighing heavily on her. She had not told Janna about the dream. They had shared their regular morning connection but had not made love, because Janna was too ill, so her partner had not had the opportunity to realize that anything was bothering her mate. Now they sat quietly at their kitchen table, neither wanting to burden the other with her worries.

Janna assumed that Ryan’s mind was on her stakeout duties in the sting operation scheduled for later that night, and Ryan had no intention of adding to Janna’s worries while she was in such a delicate state. So they sat; close but separated by fear and worry.

Janna took a sip of her herbal tea and gazed at her mate. Ryan’s brow was creased with tension, and she reached out through their link and tried to ease her worry. Ryan looked up sharply at the contact and smiled crookedly as she said, “Thanks, baby, but you don’t have to do that. I’m fine and I know you don’t feel well.”

“I want to do it, Ryan, and will whenever I feel that you need it.”

Ryan smiled at her mate, then stood and drained her cup. After walking to the sink and dropping it in, she returned to Janna’s side and knelt beside her. “Let me give you a little Reiki before I leave, love.”

Janna smiled weakly and nodded. “Thanks.”

Ryan gazed into her eyes and softly said, “Don’t mention it.” Then she gently placed her hands on Janna’s abdomen and began sharing the healing energy with her. After several minutes, she felt that Janna had received what she needed and removed her hands before standing. She moved behind her mate and, laying her still-warm hands on her shoulders, bent and kissed her head.

“I love you, Janna. Take it easy today, love. Please.”

“I will, Ryan. Days that start out like this have a way of not improving much.”

“I’m sorry, baby.” Then she added, with frustration tingeing her voice, “God, I’m sorry I agreed to do this extra duty…I won’t see you until the middle of the night again.”

“Honey, it’s okay. And you know you didn’t have much choice in the matter. I’ll be fine. If I feel better, I’m going to Dan and Kris’ for dinner.”

“Okay, baby.” She stood for a moment, not wanting to leave her mate, or to lose contact with her.

Janna sensed her reluctance and felt the sharp stab of anguish that her wife had tried to hide from her all morning. She reached up and grasped Ryan’s hand, which was lying on her shoulder, and pulled her around in front of her.

Concern colored her voice and etched her face as she said, “Ryan, you’re very worried about something. Is it the stakeout?”

Ryan closed her eyes and took a deep breath. She knew she couldn’t hide anything from Janna, and had never lied to her, but didn’t want her to worry excessively. She looked away from her mate’s concerned gaze and stared at the floor. “Yeah, I guess it is.”

“I thought you said that everything was going as planned and that you were bored out of your mind the first two nights.”

“It is, baby…I was, it’s just…” Ryan faltered, unused to lying, especially to Janna. An unwelcome image of herself as the mortally wounded warrior flashed through her mind just then, and she couldn’t stop the pain that pierced her soul. I caused her death in that life.

Janna, very perceptive even when their link wasn’t involved, felt the anguish quite clearly and gasped. “Ryan, there’s something you’re not telling me.”

Shit. “Janna, I just hate this extra work detail, that’s all. I need to be home, taking care of you.”

Janna gazed seriously at her and Ryan averted her gaze again. Janna knew then that she was lying and tried to swallow the pain that the knowledge caused. “Ryan, please don’t lie to me. Please…tell me what’s going on.”

Ryan rubbed her tired eyes with her hand and blew out a breath. “Janna, it’s nothing. I just had a bad dream last night and didn’t sleep well. I don’t want you worrying about it.”

“A bad dream? A warrior dream?” Janna questioned.

Ryan turned away, running her hands through her hair and sighed. “Jesus…yes, a warrior dream. Janna, I need to get to the station.”

Janna stood and walked around to face her wife. “Ryan, it was a past-life memory, and I want to hear about it.”

Fuck! “Janna, it’s not important…I’m just tired. I don’t want you worrying about it,” she repeated.

“Ryan Norden-Zamora, I’m sorry, but I decide what I will and will not be concerned about. Please share this with me. Your refusing to share this and lying about it is what is worrying me.” She used her unfair advantage then, and reached out to Ryan through their bond.

As Ryan felt her wife’s love surround her heart, she groaned. “Shit, Janna, that is so not fair. You know I can’t refuse you anything when I’m feeling your love.”

Janna reached out and wrapped her arms around Ryan’s waist, resting them on her officer’s utility belt. “We share everything, Ryan. Everything. Remember your vow to me.”

Double fuck… “Come ‘ere.” She sat on a kitchen chair and pulled Janna onto her lap. After taking a deep breath she sighed, “I was wounded…in battle…and it led to our deaths on the crosses.”

“You were wounded in battle?” Janna gazed at her seriously, wide-eyed. Then as the realization struck, her eyes filled with terror. “Ryan, you don’t think…”

“I’m trying not to think about it, Janna.” She gazed intently into Janna’s worried green eyes. “I can’t be afraid out there and still do my job. No cop can.” She sighed again. “All I can do is treat this like a warning and use it to be extra careful.”

“But Ryan, you’re always careful…you’re already careful. Baby, I don’t want…”

“Janna, do you see why I didn’t want to share this with you? You don’t need this extra worry, and neither does the baby.”

“Ryan…for God’s sake…I have the right to know what is going on! This involves me…Jesus, Ryan, anything involving you involves me. Don’t shut me out!”

Ryan felt Janna’s pain then, and could have kicked herself for causing it. She reached forward and pulled Janna against her. “You’re right, Janna. You have every right. I was just trying to protect you…I’m sorry.” She looked down into sad, green eyes. “I love you more than anything…more than life…I’m so sorry.” She kissed her wife’s forehead and rested her cheek against it.

“Ryan, please don’t love me more than life. I need for you to want to live more than you want anything else…do that for me, please?”

“Okay, because I want your happiness more than I want anything else…and that’s as good a promise as you’re gonna get out of me.”

“I’ll take it. Thank you, Ryan.”

Ryan accepted the thank you with a sweet kiss and they sat together for several minutes, quietly sharing their love.

~~~~~~~~~~

As she sat on the stoop of a vacant building, Ryan glanced briefly up at the moon and looked back down at the luminous dial of her watch. 2:15. She idly wondered if Janna was sleeping peacefully or if she was stubbornly waiting up for her. She smiled, knowing the answer. She glanced over at her partner, John, and said, “Well, bud, it’s looks like a bust again tonight…or should I say, ‘non bust’?”

“Non bust it is, Ry. Shit…I wish they’d get their act together. I have someplace I’d much rather be this time of night.”

Ryan laughed quietly, “Shit…you and me both.”

John Stewart grinned at his best friend, being all too familiar with her personal life.

“So, how’s the baby, John? Still feeding twice at night?”

“Still is, yep…and growing like a weed. He sure likes that Momma’s milk.” He glanced at his partner as he added, “I hate like hell not to be there to help Sara at night…she’s exhausted.” At Ryan’s nod he added, “How’s Janna doing?”

“She’s still sick most of the time, but managing to keep most of her meals down…thank God.” She smiled. “Stubborn woman…the last two stakeout nights, she waited up for me.”

“I hope you made it worth her while.”

“Goddamn right I did.” Ryan grinned widely, white teeth flashing in the streetlight. Hell, he doesn’t have to know we cuddled ourselves to sleep.

Suddenly, the quiet of the night was shattered by a barrage of gunshots and both cops jumped to their feet. A split second later, their radios erupted into frenzied communication. The two cops listened intently, listening for orders or word about what was happening and heard the most dreaded words a cop can hear: “Officer down! Officer down! Corner of Eighth and B.”

As Ryan and John stared at each other, near shock, their orders came: the suspects that had fired on their fellow officers were fleeing in a dark, late-model car and the pursuit was coming right toward them. They were to attempt to apprehend, with lethal force if necessary. Both Ryan and John made the decision to stay on foot, as that would allow for better shots, and the patrol cars already involved in the chase would be much more capable of continuing if necessary.

As they took their positions behind parked cars on opposite sides of the street, they could hear the sirens approaching, accompanied by squealing tires and roaring engines. A block straight up the street, a late model sedan raced toward them, lights off, followed by several patrol cars with lights flashing and sirens blaring.

Ryan and John each spared a quick glance at the other and nodded slightly as they trained their weapons on the approaching car. Since she was on the driver’s side of the street, Ryan took aim at the driver, while John aimed at the car’s tires. They had to wait until the last possible moment, to get the best angle and to prevent shots from going astray and into their comrades who were right behind the suspect car, while not waiting until the car exactly paralleled their positions, as they would risk hitting each other at that point.

When the car was nearly upon them, they both opened fire. John’s shots cleanly took out the right side tires and Ryan hit the driver several times. As the car careened by them, beginning to spin, Ryan saw a passenger in the front seat attempt to gain control of the vehicle. She couldn’t get any more shots off without endangering her partner, so she followed the car on foot as it slid into an alleyway a few doors down, still spinning.

She ran after the car, her speed taking her ahead of her partner, and entered the alley. It dead ended ahead at a wide loading zone behind a warehouse, and the dark car spun around haphazardly and headed back out of the alley. Right toward Ryan. She set herself in the firing position and fired, getting off two shots. Both shots hit the suspect and he slumped onto his fallen companion on the front seat, causing the car to lurch wildly. It slammed into the brick building that bordered the alley and before even her quick reflexes could get her out of the way, it bounced back into the alley and careened into Ryan. She knew only a brief instant of fear before she was hit, and a single thought flashed across her mind: Janna.

Janna was sitting in bed, attempting to read, but kept nodding off. As her chin hit her chest again, she sat upright and scowled, upset with herself for being tired. She wanted to be awake when Ryan returned. She glanced at the clock. 2:20. She smiled as she remembered that her mate had returned at around 2:30 each of the other two nights.

She decided to get a bottle of water and as she swung her feet to the floor was hit by a strong jolt of fear, followed by a stabbing pain in the chest. She doubled over as she heard Ryan’s voice whisper, “Janna.”

-11-

Just as John entered the alleyway, he heard Ryan’s gunshots and saw the suspect car crash into the building. He watched in horror as the car caromed off the wall and slammed into his partner. Her body was hurled through the air and bounced once, landing with a sickening thud nearly at his feet. The car came to rest against the opposite side of the alleyway, engine and tires smoking, its occupants unmoving.

As he dropped to his knees beside his fallen partner, he screamed into his uniform radio, “Officer down! Officer down! In the alley near Eighth and F…behind the warehouse. Officer down!” As he finished the call, several of the cops who had been pursuing ran up to aid Ryan, while several others checked the status of the suspects.

John looked down at his partner’s crumpled form and his stomach lurched as he was gripped by horror. She was lying on her stomach, unconscious and bleeding from head and leg wounds. Her left leg was twisted unnaturally under her, as was her right arm. He tore off his shirt and covered her as he screamed, “Where’s the fucking ambulance!”

A fellow cop laid a comforting hand on his shoulder and said, “En route, John. Hang on.” Two other cops knelt beside Ryan and laid comforting hands gently on her still form. John sat next to her and held the hand of her least injured arm.

“She’s alive…pulse is weak,” said one of the cops, a woman, as she gently checked Ryan’s carotid artery.

Another said, “Make sure the ambulance has access…and make sure they look at her first.”

“She’s first anyway, Lt. The perps are DOA,” said another cop as he walked away from the wrecked car. “She nailed them good.”

The group of cops surrounding their fallen friend all nodded, satisfied, and then the ambulances arrived, followed by several fire trucks. The paramedics from the closest unit jumped from the truck, rushed to Ryan’s side, and began offering life support. The other cops moved away, but John stayed as close to her as he could.

The scene became almost surreal to him as they worked over his friend. As he watched them carefully turn his partner over and rip her shirt open, gingerly removing her bullet-proof vest, his heart was beating furiously, his head pounded, and he had to remind himself to take even breaths. While one medic took her vital signs, another cut off her pants, revealing a badly mangled leg, with bone protruding in two places.

The lights from the many emergency vehicles cast the scene in an eerie glow, with the flashing lights painting the people, buildings and trash bins in the alley with an almost strobe-like effect. Residents of the seedy hotels and apartments above the alley looked on from open windows and fire escapes.

As John observed them, the actions of the medics took on an almost slow-motion effect and he suddenly felt very disconnected: almost as if he had left his body. He vaguely heard what was being said, but none of it registered until he heard, “Backboard” and, “Possible internal injuries.” With that, he was shaken back to reality and realized that someone was speaking to him.

He looked up and saw his Captain, Sam. As he stood to face him, the senior officer said, “Stewart…how is she?”

He shook his head, as if to wake himself up. “I don’t know, Cap. Pretty bad, I think.” He swallowed hard and looked back down as the paramedics gently rolled Ryan onto a backboard, with a third carefully holding her neck. “Jesus.” Tears sprang to his eyes and one rolled down his cheek. He angrily wiped it away. “Bastards…fucking bastards.”

Sam reached out and pulled John by the arm, away from his partner. “John, you stay with her…go in the ambulance. I’m going to go get Janna. I’ll have my wife meet us at the hospital.”

John nodded dumbly and Sam wasn’t sure he had been heard, but then the fair-haired cop looked him in the eye and said, “Will do, Cap. Will you have someone call my wife, too?”

“Done, Stewart. I’ll see you there.” He looked down at his friend’s battered, still form and shook his head as he mumbled, “Son of a fucking bitch.” He looked back up at John pointedly and added, “You keep her with us.”

“All right, Captain.”

“Ryan!” Janna quickly realized that the pain she felt was coming through her link with her mate. She jumped up from the bed and screamed her wife’s name again. The initial sharp pain she had experienced was replaced by a dull ache and tears began streaming from her eyes. She felt like she had been punched in the chest. She could feel Ryan’s warmth, so she knew she was still alive, but the ache was much stronger than the usual warm glow, and her mate felt somehow far away.

“Ryan, Ryan…oh God, Ryan.” She began to pace, not knowing what to do. She was growing numb and the strong feeling that Ryan was hurt was becoming overpowering. While she was still able to think coherently, she picked up the phone and dialed the station. She got an unfamiliar operator and in a strained voice said, “I need to reach Officer Ryan Norden-Zamora. She’s on special duty tonight…is there any way you can put me through, or get a message to her?”

There was a pause before the female dispatcher spoke. “Is this Mrs. Norden-Zamora?”

“Yes.”

“Mrs. Norden-Zamora, are you home?”

“Yes…oh, God…what’s happened?”

“I have no information on that, ma’am. I will relay your message.”

“Please…has something happened to my wife? I know something is wrong…I can feel it…please.” She implored the hapless dispatcher.

“Ma’am, I’m very sorry but I have no information for you.”

Janna could only sob quietly and clicked off the phone. As she stood trying to think of who else she could call, the doorbell rang.

“No…oh, God, no…” She numbly walked down the hall and down the stairs, nearly paralyzed by fear. As she reached the door, she saw though the stained glass the distorted form of their friend Sam. She was gripped by terror as she reached for the dead bolt, and her hand shook almost uncontrollably as she began to swallow convulsively. When she swung the door open and saw the grief-stricken look on Sam’s face, she lost control.

She fell into Sam’s arms and sobbed, “Sam, what’s happened? Please…I know something has happened. I called the station but they wouldn’t tell me anything.”

Sam gently gripped her chin, forcing her to look at him. “Janna, you need to be strong. She’s been hurt.”

“Oh, God, no,” she wailed. “Sam, is she alive? Please tell me she’s alive.” She implored him with red, swollen eyes.

He nodded, “Yes, she’s alive, but it’s not good, Janna. Let’s get to the hospital.” He guided her by the arm to the stairs. “Come on now, get dressed. I’ll wait here.”

Janna looked down at herself. She had forgotten that she wore only a long t-shirt. One of Ryan’s shirts. Suddenly, she felt extremely faint and sagged against the banister. Sam rushed to her side and helped her up the stairs. He walked her into the master bedroom and sat her on the bed.

“Janna, where are your clothes?” He asked softly. She looked dumbly at him and then shook her head and pointed to a rocking chair. On it sat a pair of jeans and on the floor in front of it, two pair of Birkenstock sandals, one sized seven, one sized ten. At the sight of Ryan’s shoes, she dropped her head into her hands and was wracked by deep sobs.

Sam approached and firmly said, “Janna…you need to be strong for her. Can you do that? We all need to be strong. Now, I need you to get dressed so we can go see her. Come on, Janna. Georgie is meeting us there.”

Janna took a deep, shuddering breath and looked up at Ryan’s friend and Captain. She nodded her head and said, “Okay, Sam. For her. I’ll try to be strong for her,” and she stood up.

“Good, Janna. Get dressed, hon.”

Janna nodded and went to the dresser, where she pulled out a pair of underwear and a bra. Sam turned his back when she started to pull them on. Just a minute later, he was guiding her back down the stairs.

When they got to the downstairs hallway, he halted them and asked, “Papers, Janna. You have papers, don’t you? For emergencies?”

“Yes…in my office. I’ll get them.” She returned a moment later holding a large envelope and looked so sadly up at him that Sam thought his heart might break. As her tears fell anew, Janna sobbed, “We prayed that we would never have to use these.”

“I know, Janna, but it’s good that you have them. Now there should be no problems.”

Janna nodded and took a deep breath. As she picked up her backpack from the hall table she said, “Let’s go Sam. Take me to her.”

John watched the medics load his best friend into the ambulance and climbed in after her. The doors were slammed shut and the unit took off, quickly gaining speed and rushing through the empty streets of the city.

He watched quietly as the paramedic continued to look after his friend. He listened as the man made the radio call informing the hospital of her injuries and their estimated time of arrival, wincing as the man said, “Head injury, double compound leg fracture, dislocated shoulder, possible internal bleeding…BP is falling.”

Dear Jesus, God, all the spirits that Ryan believes in…please look after my friend. She has so much to live for…please. Amen.

As he prayed silently, tears fell unrestrained from his eyes and he gently grasped Ryan’s left hand. He gazed quietly at her battered body. Her head and leg were bandaged and bloody, her uniform and bra had been ripped and cut away and she already had various tubes stuck in her body, delivering vital fluids. He gingerly reached down and carefully pulled the thin sheet up, trying to protect her modesty, even though he knew that she possessed none. Suddenly, he was filled with the love that he felt for his friend and began to speak to her softly, imploring her to hang on and to fight.

“You can beat this, Ry. Be strong for Janna…be strong for your baby. They need you.” As he said her wife’s name, John thought that he detected a faint movement of her eyelids. He repeated, “Janna needs you, Ryan.” The faint movement repeated. “Yes! Ry, I saw that…hang on my friend. Hang on. I love you, buddy…fight for me.”

When the paramedic had finished his radio call, John looked at him and quietly asked, “Will she make it, Joe?”

“If anyone can, it’s her, John. I swear to God, she’s the strongest woman I’ve ever known. She beats the shit out of me every time our team plays hers.” He looked down at Ryan and back up at the machine monitoring her vital signs. “It’s pretty bad, though John.” He shook his head sadly. “God dammit…it’s hard when it’s one of us.”

“At least she took out the pricks that did it.” John muttered, his voice a mixture of anger and pride.

“Did she? Good for her. Good for her.” He nodded as he prepared another bag of IV fluid.

~~~~~~~~~~

During the short drive to the hospital, Sam kept a vigil on Janna’s state. She sat unmoving, stoically trying not to break down. He found himself wishing he could say something to ease her mind, but he couldn’t come up with anything, so he remained quiet. He had seen Ryan…he knew how badly injured she was.

Suddenly, Janna spoke quietly, in a determined voice. “Sam, tell me what happened.”

He briefly considered hedging, putting it off until they reached the hospital, but realized that she deserved to know. He knew that he would certainly expect to be told the truth if something similar had happened to his wife.

Without preamble, he began, “She was on foot, chasing suspects fleeing in a car. They had fired on two officers…one of them is down, too. She followed them into an alley, took them out, but the car crashed into her. She was thrown quite a distance I guess.” He glanced quickly at Janna and then back to the street.

“What are her injuries, Sam?”

“Janna, I’m not sure…the ambulance got there right away and I left to get you before they took off.”

“Sam, tell me what you saw.” Janna pinned him with a pointed stare.

“She was unconscious, Janna. She looked to have head and leg injuries…possibly more.”

“What do you mean, ‘more’?”

“They were loading her onto a backboard…but that’s pretty standard, Janna.” When he saw her flinch in pain, he added, “She’s getting the best possible care and she’s got a whole lot of people pulling for her, Janna. I don’t think there is a more popular cop in the entire department.”

As he looked at Janna he saw her close her eyes and swallow hard and her tears began to flow again, silently, as her lips began to move in prayer.

Grandmothers, Grandfathers, Great Spirit, Jesus, Buddha…please look after my wife. Keep her in your loving protection and give her the strength she needs to fight this and return to me. Thank you. Amen and Aho.

Grandmothers, Grandfathers, Great Spirit, Jesus, Buddha…please look after my wife. Keep her in your loving protection and give her the strength she needs to fight this and return to me. Thank you. Amen and Aho.

Grandmothers, Grandfathers, Great Spirit, Jesus, Buddha…please look after my wife. Keep her in your loving protection and give her the strength she needs to fight this and return to me. Thank you. Amen and Aho…The silent prayer continued until they reached the hospital.

The Captain pulled up into the ambulance bay and Janna vaguely noted that there were dozens of emergency and police vehicles parked around the emergency entrance to the hospital…many either haphazardly or double-parked or parked in restricted zones. Sam parked his unmarked department car between an ambulance and a fire truck and he and Janna hurried into the waiting room.

Janna was completely unprepared for what she encountered when they entered the emergency department. There were peace officers, dozens and dozens of them, of every possible persuasion, milling about everywhere. And they all looked up, seemingly as one, when she entered the area. Their hearts ached at the sight of the small, cute woman in the over-sized “Police” t-shirt and faded jeans.

Sam wrapped an arm around her shoulder and whispered, “They’re all here for Ryan, Janna. Every last one of them.”

Janna stopped and looked at the ceiling, unable to handle the emotion that overcame her at that moment. It passed though, when Ryan’s partner rushed to meet her and scooped her into his arms.

“Janna.”

“John,” Janna cried as she lay her head on his shoulder. She looked up into his eyes and croaked, “How is she?”

“She’s hanging on, Janna. They won’t let me in there…they’re still working on her. We should tell them that you’re here.”

“Let’s go.” She stopped and remembered Sam, then, and grabbed his hand. “Thank you, Sam.”

“Go take care of her, Janna. If you need anything, Georgie’s on her way. ”

“Thanks, Sam.”

John led Janna down the clean, white hallway to the triage nurse’s desk. An officious looking middle-aged woman dressed in blue scrubs was on the phone there and looked up as they approached. She held up her finger as John started to speak. “All right,” she said. “I’ll handle it at this end.” She hung up the phone and looked expectantly at them.

“This is Officer Norden-Zamora’s next of kin.”

The woman looked at Janna. “You’re family?”

“I’m her wife and her legal next of kin…and I have power of attorney as well.”

“Do you have the documents? Because, unfortunately, until this State recognizes same sex marriage, you don’t have many legal rights here. I’m sorry.”

Janna shoved the large envelope at her and said impatiently, “They’re all in here…may I see her?”

The woman took the envelope and quickly scanned its contents. “Okay, these seem to be in order…I’m sorry, you can’t see her yet…she’s still being treated.”

“How is she?”

“The doctor will be out as soon as there is anything to tell you. In the meantime, I have some forms for you to fill out.” She thrust a clipboard at Janna, but John intercepted it.

“Look, these can wait…let her see her wife.”

She looked sharply at John and then turned her gaze to Janna. “I’m sorry, but no one can be in there while the trauma team is working, and we really do need her medical history from you.”

John handed the clipboard to Janna. “She’ll fill that one out, but the rest can wait…please tell the doctors that Ryan’s spouse is here.”

“I’ll do that, Officer.”

“Right now, please.” He pinned her with a fixed stare.

The woman looked pointedly at him, as if she were wondering just who the hell he thought he was, but Janna’s soft plea of, “Please,” swayed her and she left the desk and walked down the hallway.

John placed his hand on Janna’s back and said, “Come on,” and they followed the nurse. She turned into a bay marked, “Trauma 2,” and they stopped just outside the door. John cautiously poked his head around the corner and looked into the room. He saw a battalion of doctors and nurses surrounding a gurney. All he could see of Ryan was one arm hanging over the side and one of her feet. The team was working frantically, but he saw one of the doctors look up toward the doorway after the nurse spoke to him.

The doctor spoke briefly to a colleague and then made his way out into the hallway, pulling off bloody gloves before exiting the room and tossing them into a receptacle.

He spoke to John. “You’re Officer Zamora’s next of kin?”

Before John could speak, Janna said, “I’m Officer Norden-Zamora’s wife.”

The doctor seemed stymied, but only for a second, before he got down to business. “Does she have any medication allergies or pre-existing conditions?”

Janna shook her head. “No.”

“Any previous surgeries or injuries?”

“None.”

“All right, good. She sustained compound fractures of her left leg and ankle, has several broken ribs, one of which punctured a lung, a severe concussion, and we suspect internal injuries, because we can’t keep her blood pressure up. We’re trying to stabilize her enough to get her into surgery. We’ll need you to sign a surgical release.”

“Okay…anything.”

The doctor looked at the triage nurse. “Sylvia, get that form for …” He looked questioningly at Janna, “Mrs. Norden-Zamora?” At Janna’s nod, he continued, “For Mrs. Norden-Zamora, so we can take her wife up to surgery.”

The nurse nodded and left. The doctor then looked at Janna and added, “I think we’ll be able to stabilize her enough to get her into surgery, but it’s still touch and go…until we know what the extent of the internal injuries are, I can’t tell you much more.”

Janna nodded and said, “Okay, thank you, doctor.”

He nodded and hurried back into the trauma room and Janna collapsed against John’s side. He wrapped his arm around her shoulder and guided her back to the triage desk, but not before she spared a quick glance into the trauma room and murmured, “Hang on baby…I’m here. I love you, Ryan.”

Ryan floated on a cloud of white-hot pain. She vaguely felt Janna’s presence through the pain-filled haze and that was all she needed. She didn’t attempt to feel anything else. That was all she needed and she allowed the black to seep back in and overtake her consciousness again. But not before the fuzzy thought fought its way out of her foggy brain: Love you too, baby.

-12-

John led Janna back to the large waiting room. She briefly recalled that the last time she had been there, she had been the patient and it had been Ryan who had sat waiting for word on her condition. It was the night that they had met, nearly one year earlier, and Ryan had driven her there to have her assault injuries treated.

Ryan told her later that she had fallen in love with Janna instantly…in fact while she was still sitting on the sidewalk after the beating. Janna, in turn, had admitted that she had realized her love for Ryan the instant the cop had gently touched her face to peer at her injury…while she sat on the sidewalk after the beating. Lord, Jesus…she can’t die. We’re only just beginning our life together. I need her…her baby needs her. Please, Jesus, please…

As she sat silently praying and imploring the Universe to save her soulmate, cop after cop, firefighter after firefighter, paramedic after paramedic approached her and offered their support. Most of them simply nodded and touched her hands. Very few of them could come up with appropriate words, but Janna appreciated that. She needed their support, not their pity, and she didn’t feel up to having to speak with any of them. She simply nodded her appreciation to each one. She knew many of them, in passing at least, from the Peace Officer’s Softball League. She had, in fact, watched her wife strike almost all of them out at one time or another.

John left briefly to use the phone. He had called his wife, their close friend Sara, earlier and wanted to update her. He knew she wouldn’t be sleeping; that she would be terribly worried and waiting for word. They had a month-old son who most likely would be keeping her up anyway.

While John was gone, Sam’s wife Georgia arrived. She rushed to her younger friend and wordlessly embraced her as she sat beside her.

“Janna, how is she?” Her concerned brown eyes conveyed her depth of compassion for Janna and Ryan.

“They don’t know yet, Georgie. She has some broken bones and a concussion, and they suspect internal injuries. They’re trying to stabilize her now for emergency surgery.”

Georgie closed her eyes in pain and sighed. “Honey, can we send her Reiki? Are you up to it?” Georgie had become an enthusiastic student of Janna’s several months earlier after witnessing the Norden-Zamoras’ healing of one of her son’s severe insect stings, and had recently attained the second degree of the healing art.

“I hadn’t thought of that, Georgie…I’ve been too upset. Let’s give it a try…though I don’t know how effective I’ll be.” Janna gazed at her friend with green eyes dulled by grief.

Georgie nodded and hugged Janna briefly before setting herself to the task of visualizing the healing symbols and sending the energy on its way.

As she and her friend sent the powerful, loving energy to her mate, Janna felt connected to Ryan for the first time in the half hour since she had been injured, and it served to soothe her own aching heart center. It was reassuring to again feel Ryan’s familiar warmth, if only just a spark of it. Along with the Reiki, which flowed from her palms, Janna sent her love to her mate through their heart chakra link. She visualized it washing over her mate, encompassing her body and soul with the full breadth of her love.

The Reiki energy flowed exceptionally strongly for both women, as it tended to do when most needed. Janna received the distinct impression that her beloved’s body was eagerly soaking up the healing energy. They had been running the energy for a full fifteen minutes when a nurse approached Janna and informed her that Ryan was being taken up for emergency surgery, and invited her to follow them up.

Janna jumped to her feet and held out her hand to Georgie, who grasped it as she stood, and followed Janna down the hallway. They stopped outside of Ryan’s trauma bay and watched as the team hurriedly pushed the gurney out.

As Janna got a glimpse of her mate, her gut clenched in fear and horror. Her beloved’s beautiful body was a mass of bruises, contusions, and bloody bandages. Her entire left leg, from foot to thigh, was dressed and splinted, and her head was wrapped in a wide bandage, with blood seeping through on the left side of her head. There were wires and tubes protruding from what seemed to be every part of her body, and to top off the horrifying scene, her torso was uncovered immodestly, as a thin sheet covered only her pubic region.

The team pushed the gurney quickly past the patient’s wife without so much as slowing down and hurried into a waiting elevator. One of the nurses accompanying Ryan motioned for them to wait for the next lift and Janna was left watching her soulmate as the elevator doors closed her out. As she lost sight of her mate, Janna burst into tears and Georgie threw an arm around her as she hustled Janna onto the next elevator, hurriedly punching the second floor and “Close Door” buttons.

When they arrived at the surgical suite the doors were already swinging shut and Janna could only stand and watch them close. She suddenly felt totally defeated and dejection overcame her, as she was wracked by powerful sobs. Georgie led her to the nearby private waiting room and sat her down. A minute later, John arrived, carrying Janna’s backpack, which she had forgotten in her haste.

As he sat down next to Janna, he caught Georgie’s eye and they exchanged meaningful worried glances. John looked at Janna and patted her hand. “Janna, do you need to eat something? Can I get you anything?”

She sniffled and shook her head dejectedly, then whispered, “I have some meal bars and water. That’s all I need.” She looked up at John and added, “Thanks.” She felt nauseus but was unwilling and unable to dwell on it, being much more preoccupied with her mate’s condition.

He nodded and sat back in the chair. Sighing deeply, he fought to hold the images of his partner’s broken body at bay. But they were powerful images and a few tears escaped his eyes. Janna quietly reached over and picked up his hand, doing the same with Georgie’s on her other side, and they sat there together, waiting, holding hands and silently supporting each other.

~~~~~~~~~~

The surgeon tiredly pulled the covering from his head as he hit the plate to open the surgical doors. As they swung open, he noted the three occupants of the small waiting room across the hallway. He knew that the attractive, shorthaired blonde woman was whom he needed to speak with and steeled himself as he approached them.

As Janna dozed quietly against Georgie’s arm, she dreamed uncomfortably about a large, black wolf stalking a puma. “Janna.”

The quiet voice repeated, “Janna,” and she opened her eyes to see Georgie gently shaking her. “The surgeon is here, hon.”

“Oh.” She sat upright and shook her head before glancing at the clock on the wall. 6:30. It took almost three hours?

The surgeon kneeled before the obviously exhausted woman, despite his own exhaustion. “Mrs. Norden-Zamora, she’s stable.”

Janna closed her eyes with relief and took a breath, then gazed at the surgeon, steeling herself as she did so. “And?”

“She’s still critical. When she leaves recovery, she’ll go into the Intensive Care Unit. She had a ruptured spleen, which we removed, and her blood pressure improved right away. How much did the doctor in the E.R. tell you about her injuries?”

“That she has broken ribs, a concussion, a badly broken leg, um, a punctured lung, dislocated shoulder. Internal injuries.”

He nodded, “Right. We’ve taken care of the internal injury, though her liver was badly bruised and they’ll have to keep an eye on it as well. Her concussion is worrisome because she hasn’t regained consciousness since she’s been here. We’ll see how she does coming out of recovery. Then, as soon as she’s stable enough, she’ll need surgery on her leg and ankle.”

He eyed Janna seriously as he added, “She’s got a lot of swelling from the concussion, and may need surgery to relieve it…but we can hold off as long as possible and see how she recovers in, say, the next twenty-four to forty-eight hours.”

Janna swallowed hard and nodded.

“You can see her in recovery, but only for a few minutes, and she’s not awake. Do you have any questions?”

“Not right now, no, but I may think of some when my head clears a little.”

“Just have the operator page me…I’ll be on call all day.”

“Thanks, doctor.” Janna gave him a small smile as she grasped his hand.

He nodded and stood, then nodded at John and Georgia before turning to leave.

The three friends stood and John wrapped his arm around Janna’s shoulders. “I’ll go downstairs and make some phone calls while you see her. Should I call your parents, Janna?”

“My parents, God…yes, thank you, John.”

He smiled and nodded and Georgia said, “I’ll go help you, John.” She turned to Janna. “Kiss her for us, hon.”

“I will, Georgie, thanks. I’ll come find you when they kick me out.” She left her friends and walked through the doors into the surgical wing. As she approached the desk, a nurse in surgical scrubs said, “Mrs. Norden-Zamora?”

Janna nodded.

“Follow me, please.”

Janna followed the woman in blue scrubs into the large recovery area. She was led into the first bay and thought at first that the woman had brought her to the wrong bed. The patient in the bed appeared small and frail and Janna gasped when she realized that it was actually her wife’s form.

“Ryan,” she whispered as she gently touched the hand that wasn’t bandaged. She looked down upon her mate’s battered body and a large sob choked her. Ryan was unconscious, with a sheet covering her body up to her chest, her arms lying on top of it. Her right arm was in a sling, while her left sported an I.V. Her head was freshly bandaged, her face was bruised, a nasal cannula delivered oxygen to her system, and her badly broken leg protruded from under the sheet at the foot of the gurney. Tears rolled down her cheeks as Janna said, “I’m here, baby. All of your friends are here. I love you…we all love you. You rest now…get better for me. I’ll be right here.”

As she leaned over and gently kissed her beloved’s forehead, the recovery nurse approached and checked her vitals. She glanced at the distraught woman and felt deeply for her. “She took quite a beating…but she seems very strong. That’s a big plus on her side…and so is having someone here, supporting her.”

Janna nodded at the woman and gazed back down at her wife. In a small voice she said, “I just hope they let me stay with her in the ICU. Not everyone recognizes the legitimacy of gay marriages.”

The nurse nodded her agreement, then said, “Listen, why don’t I have one of the hospital social workers come talk with you? She has advocated for gay patients’ rights in the past and can probably help you out if you run into problems.”

“That would be great, thank you.” Janna said sincerely.

The curly-headed blonde said, “Glad to help…we have to stick together, you know,” and she smiled warmly.

Janna returned the smile with a nod before gazing down at Ryan again. “How long can I stay with her here?”

“A few more minutes. We’ll have someone find you when she’s moved to ICU.”

“Okay, thanks.”

The woman smiled and returned to her desk across the room.

“I’m here, sweetheart. I love you, baby. I’ll be right here when you wake up.” She kissed Ryan again, this time tenderly on the lips, and gently stroked her hand, avoiding the bruises that covered it. As she touched Ryan, Reiki began to flow, unasked for, so she placed her other hand lightly on the sheet above her wife’s abdomen. She stood gazing at her mate, sending her healing energy for several more minutes, until the nurse gently told her that she would have to leave. She kissed Ryan one last time and backed away from the bed, then turned and left the room.

Ryan still floated on the clouds of pain, but the sensations were dulled somewhat and a blip of awareness made itself known through the thick fog that blanketed her. Janna. She felt the sweet warmth that she associated with her mate, and let it creep slowly through her being before the blackness returned and she slept again. However, that little glimmer of love from her mate served to heal her a small measure, setting her on the road to recovery. Another thought pushed its way through the black and forced its way into her awareness, and it was an even stronger medicine: I’ll be right here when you wake up.

Janna left the recovery room and exited the surgical wing, but instead of joining her friends downstairs, returned to the small surgical waiting room. She wanted to stay there while her mate was in recovery and then follow her to the ICU…whether the hospital personnel would allow it or not. She needed to be near Ryan.

She had waited perhaps a half hour, alternately alone with her thoughts and sending Reiki to her love, when John arrived with her parents and brother. As she sat with eyes closed, hands held in front of her, palms out, sending the healing energy to her mate, she heard, “Janna, honey,” and opened her eyes to see the welcome sight of her mother.

“Mom.” She jumped up and into her mother’s loving arms. Beth Norden wrapped her daughter in her embrace, and despite being a few inches shorter than Janna, kissed her head.

“Honey, I’m so sorry. How is she?” Her mother’s concerned blue eyes communicated boundless love and sympathy for her daughter.

“She’s still in recovery…I’m waiting for them to take her to the ICU.” She took a deep breath. “Did John tell you what happened?”

Her mom nodded sadly and then Janna’s Dad and brother stepped up and joined in the embrace, and Dan said, “Will they let you stay with her, Sis?”

“They’re going to, Dan…regardless of hospital policy. I’m not leaving her side.” She gazed at each of her family members in turn. “Not for a minute. I promised her.”

Her Dad remarked, “I understand your not wanting to leave her, sweetheart, but you have to take care of yourself too.”

“I’m fine, Dad, and so is the baby. Right now I need to devote all of my energy to her.” She looked down briefly and then back up into her father’s eyes. “If she’s not okay, then I won’t be either…so I need to make sure she gets better.” She turned and sat down again and her family and John joined her.

“Janna, Kris sends her love and wants you to know she’s praying for Ry. As soon as she can get the kids to a sitter, she’ll be here too.”

“Thanks Danny. Hey, um, can I borrow your cell? I need to call her brother, but I don’t want to miss her if they bring her out.”
As he handed over the cell phone, he said, “Sure Sis, here you go.”

“Thanks.”

Janna walked to a nearby window and made the call, asking information to connect her to the missile base. After a wait of several minutes, Zac finally came on the line. “Lt. Col. Zamora.”

“Zac,” her voice cracked.

“Yes…Janna, is that you?” He sounded confused.

“Yes, Zac, it’s me. Zac…” she began to cry and took a deep breath.

“Janna…what’s wrong?”

“It’s Ryan, Zac…she’s been badly hurt…on duty.”

“Oh, God, Janna…what happened?” She could hear the fear in the tough soldier’s voice.

“She was involved in a big sting operation and tried to stop the suspects in a speeding car…it ran her down. She’s had emergency surgery to remove her spleen and will be heading to the ICU shortly.” Janna stopped and took a deep breath to try to waylay the sobs that were threatening to overcome her again and continued, “She has a severe concussion that’s worrying the doctors, plus a badly broken leg and ankle, broken ribs, punctured lung, dislocated shoulder…God, Zac, she’s a mess.” The tears returned then as she added, “She’s not out of the woods yet, Zac.”

“Jesus fuck…” Zac muttered, then added, “Janna, I’m coming out there. I’ll get the next flight out and see you later today, all right? You hang in there and be strong for her, Sis, okay? Marty and I will be praying and I’ll see you later.”

“Thanks, Zac. She’s at St. Joseph’s. Will you need a ride from the airport?”

“No, Janna…I’ll take care of it…might take a military transport to Mather or Travis so I don’t know where I’ll land. You just stay with our Puma and make sure she hangs in there, okay?”

“Okay, Zac.”

“I love you, Janna. I’ll see you later.”

“Love you too, Zac, bye.”

Janna clicked off the phone and leaned against the smooth glass of the window. Ryan, baby, please hang on. I love you so much. She sighed, feeling the full breadth of her pain. It filled her being and knotted her stomach. She took a deep breath and slowly released it, trying to let go of some of the fear she felt, but was unsuccessful. She returned to the waiting room, joining her parents, Dan and John.

An hour or so later, the surgery doors swung open and a nurse and an orderly wheeled Ryan’s bed out. Janna threw her backpack over her shoulder and jumped up, followed by her family and stepped in alongside her wife. She was still out. “Has she regained consciousness?”

“No, not yet.” They continued their purposeful strides, not stopping to allow Janna to touch her wife.

When they came to the elevator, Janna stepped in with them, while her family waited for the next one. Janna picked up Ryan’s left hand and held it as they ascended, then continued the contact as they wheeled her wife into the intensive care unit. They were met by a stern-looking nurse, who directed them to a room that was waiting ready. The surgical nurse introduced Janna as the patient’s next of kin, so she was allowed to stay with Ryan.

After getting Ryan settled in the unit, and attached to the various monitors, the nurse took her vitals and then advised Janna of the visiting policy, which precluded her presence during shift changes and from 10:00pm until 8:00am.

Janna nodded, but said calmly, “I’m her wife and will not be leaving her side. I’ll sleep on the floor if I have to, but I will not leave her.”

The nurse looked at her as if she had spoken in a foreign language. “You’re her…”

“Wife.”

The woman raised her eyebrows, but nodded and left the room. As she exited she thought, I can see this one is going to be trouble. Might need to call security later.

Janna pulled a large, blue vinyl-covered chair as close to the left side of the bed as it would go and sat down beside her wife, gently grasping her uninjured hand. “I’m here, baby. You rest a while, then wake up and give me a kiss, okay.” I need a kiss, love… and a big, warm Ryan-hug.

A minute later, John came in. “Hey…they will only let two in here at a time, so we’ll keep you company in shifts.”

Janna spared him a small smile. “Okay, John. But you should get some rest.”

“Janna, I can’t rest until she wakes up. And anyway, I’m here to see that you get some rest.” When she began to protest, he added, “Now, don’t argue. That’s why someone else will stay here with you. When she wakes up, you’ll know right away.” He rested his hands on Janna’s shoulders and added softly, “Janna, you have to take care of the baby…for her. She’s gonna wake up and want to know that you’re okay, you know that.”

Janna nodded, knowing he was right. “Okay, John, I’ll try to rest, but I don’t think I can.” John nodded and left briefly to retrieve another chair, then returned and sat on the other side of the bed, and they continued their vigil together.

Janna lowered the side rail on the bed so that she could get closer to Ryan and eventually laid her head on her arms, next to her mate, on the bed. Within a few minutes, she was asleep.

Ryan’s consciousness was still mired in the thick fog, but she could feel her mate’s closeness, like a beacon. It kept her there, kept her earthbound. When her spirit wanted to give up, to sleep, the beacon of her wife’s love kept her grounded and safe. Additionally, some of the spirits that Janna had been calling on repeatedly to watch over her love were in the room with them, doing just that.

-13-

The early evening sun of late spring shone brightly on the cream-colored building, but its intense rays did not enter the cool darkness of the Intensive Care Unit on the third floor. In Ryan’s room, next to the window, the blinds were tightly drawn, casting the room in a peaceful blue tint, broken only by the intermittent flashing of red, green, and amber lights on the medical equipment and monitors. Janna slept soundly, with her head resting beside her wife on the bed, and Ryan’s brother sat quietly nearby, watching his sisters sleep.

He sat, silently suffering an acute pain, and pondered his sister’s life. He had never known her to be as happy as she had been the past year, since meeting Janna. In fact, he had never really known her to be happy. Content, perhaps, but not happy. She had always been a tough, solitary soul: going through life without ever becoming really close to anyone. There had been her father, and her grandfather before that, and to some extent, their mother, and later, her best friend John, but never any deep love interests that he had been aware of. As far as he knew, all of her previous lovers had not been much more than conquests.

How different she was now, he thought, after meeting her soulmate. And how cruel was fate, to possibly separate two who had so much to live for. Finally. A tear tracked down his cheek as he said another prayer to the Grandfathers. He added a prayer to their own grandfather, who had so recently appeared to his sister in a dream, warning her of, apparently, this very occurrence and its aftermath. Grandfather, you have shown Puma and her mate how their bond might survive this. Please, now, help her to survive to face the challenge. Give her the chance to overcome and conquer it as I know she can. Thank you, grandfather.

He bowed his head solemnly and looked back up into tired green eyes, gone gray in the dim light.

“Zac.”

“Janna,” he said as he stood and walked around the bed to greet his sister-in-law. They hugged tightly and he held her close.

“How long have you been here?”

“About an hour. I didn’t want to wake you. John told me what a rough night you had.”

Janna glanced at her love in the bed as she said, “I’m surprised I slept…I’ve been so upset.”

“It’s good that you did, Janna. The baby needs for you to get lots of rest.”

“I know. So, did you get all of the details?” Janna sighed as she looked up at him sadly.

“I did. God, I’m sorry, Janna.” He looked at his battered sister. “She just had to be the hero, didn’t she?”

“Of course she did. She wouldn’t be who she is otherwise.” Janna choked up as she added, “Damn brave, silly, stubborn woman.”

“Strong. She’s a strong woman, Janna. I’m sure she will survive this. I’m sure that you both will.”

“You think it’s what your grandfather warned her about, don’t you?”

“Yes, I do. And I have the strongest faith in the both of you.” He pulled his sister’s wife close again and added, “Have faith, Janna. Think positively. Our thoughts affect our reality.”

Janna gazed into the blue eyes that were so much like her wife’s as she replied, “I know…I believe that too. Thank you for reminding me of it, Zac.”

Janna returned to her perch beside her mate, to resume her vigil. She picked up Ryan’s hand, kissing it tenderly, and began speaking to her, as if she were awake and aware.

Ryan was aware, on some level. No one had mentioned the word ‘coma’ to Janna, but she knew that it was a reality. Her mate was in a coma. As her body healed, Ryan’s mind shut down and her spirit rested. The small portion of awareness that remained, heard and stored away Janna’s tender words and caresses, and her mate smiled, deep within; the loving warmth from Janna healing her slowly, but surely.

Later that night, John Stewart took his shift at Janna’s side, replacing Zac in the large chair while the MP retired to a sofa in the ICU waiting area. John wanted to be present when, if, the nursing staff refused to allow Janna to stay the night. One nurse did begin to raise a fuss but was curiously not supported by the security personnel whom she summoned, so she gave in, deciding that she would rather not get involved.

A few hours later, John went home to the wife and son he had not seen for a day and a half and to try and get some rest. He had taken a leave of absence to be with his partner and intended to return to her side early the next morning. Before leaving the ICU waiting room, he and Zac had watched the local evening news, on which their loved one was featured as part of the top story.

The blonde talking head read from the teleprompter, “In our top story tonight, two valley police officers are hospitalized, one in critical condition, after an early morning vice raid that netted the confiscation of over one million dollars worth of narcotics and firearms, including automatic weapons, and broke up a suspected prostitution ring. One of the officers, Paul Johnson, a ten-year veteran of the Police Department, who was shot while entering the suspected ringleader’s headquarters on Eighth Street, is listed in good condition with gunshot wounds to the arm and leg.

The other officer, Ryan Norden-Zamora, a thirteen-year veteran of the Police Force, was run down by a car driven by the two suspected ringleaders. Officer Norden-Zamora shot and killed both suspects before she was injured. She remains in very critical condition at St. Joseph’s hospital. Both Officers are being cited for bravery and Officer Norden-Zamora and her partner, John Stewart, are being credited with stopping the two extremely dangerous criminals.

The raid, which resulted in fifteen arrests, was the culmination of a nine month undercover sting operation which was a joint venture of the City Police Department, County Sheriff’s Department and the Federal Narcoatics Task Force.” Footage of the crime scene and shots of the crowds of well-wishers at the hospital in support of their fallen comrades completed the news story.

Zac and Dan both experienced sharp jolts of pain as Ryan’s image was flashed on the screen and both men looked down as they attempted to swallow sobs.

“Son of a bitch,” John muttered. He gazed at Zac with moist eyes. “She’s the best cop …and the bravest…that I’ve ever known, Zac.”

Ryan’s brother simply nodded.

The next morning, the consulting neurologist examined Ryan, and was encouraged that the swelling in her brain had decreased.

“This is a positive sign, and the CT scan also looks good. It appears that we won’t have to go in and relieve the pressure surgically. We’ll continue to watch her closely for another day or so and if she remains stable, the orthopedists can go in and repair her leg fractures.”

“What about the coma, Doctor? Would they operate on her in that state?” Janna asked as she held her mate’s hand.

“Well, we can’t know what will happen, of course, but I expect her to come out of it soon. As I said, we’ll watch her for another day or so and make that determination.” He nodded. “Okay?”

“Yes, thanks.”

The man left and Janna resumed her vigil at her wife’s side. Soon thereafter, John returned, spelling Zac, and pulled the bed tray around in front of Janna. He then set two bags on it and said, “Breakfast. Eat.”

Janna grinned at him. “Yes, sir.” She opened the bag to find bottled juice and bagels. “Thanks, John. I was getting kind of tired of meal bars.”

He frowned. “I can imagine. How can you eat that stuff?”

“It’s only supposed to be for emergencies…for when I start to get nauseous.” She gazed at her mate in the large bed. “As it turns out, they were for an emergency.” She kissed her wife tenderly and then sat down to eat, talking to Ryan all the while.

John smiled, and so did Ryan, from the far-away place where she rested.

Sometime during the second night, she wasn’t sure quite when, Janna got very tired of sleeping in the chair and thought, fuck it. She may have even muttered it aloud, though it’s not likely. So she climbed into the large bed next to Ryan, on her least injured right side. Oh, yes…this is so much better, she thought as she carefully snuggled next to her mate.

She draped her arm carefully over Ryan’s slinged arm and against her bandaged chest and leaned up to gently kiss her lips. “Good night, love. Sweet dreams. I love you Ryan.” She spoke quietly and then sighed deeply before dropping into the deepest sleep she had experienced since Ryan’s accident.

The next morning, when John arrived to spell Zac, Ryan’s brother met him outside the ICU unit.

“You’ve got to see this,” he said, grinning, and led John into the room. “But be quiet,” he warned.

As he walked in, John was greeted by the lovely sight of Janna wrapped protectively around her wife, deeply asleep. They looked adorable and both tough men grinned goofily.

Zac grinned widely as he said, “The nurses are pissed…they need to check her vitals but are too embarrassed to come in, and I told them not to wake Janna.”

“Good for you, bud. This has got to be good for both of them.” As they stood gazing at the women, Janna stirred and stretched, yawning cutely. Instead of opening her eyes, though, she settled more snugly against her mate and smiled. And then Ryan smiled.

Zac looked at John wide-eyed. “Did you see that?”

“Shit…she smiled!”

They both approached Janna and Zac tapped her shoulder lightly. “Janna…Janna!”

Janna opened her eyes with a frown. “Hmm?”

Zac said excitedly, “Ryan just smiled!”

Janna repeated, groggily, “Hmm?”

“She smiled, Janna! When you snuggled against her. She smiled!”

Janna’s eyes opened fully then. “She smiled?”

“Yes!” Answered the happy chorus.

Janna raised up on one arm and gazed down at her wife. She gently caressed Ryan’s cheek as she said, “Ryan, sweetheart, are you awake?”

She was answered by a soft groan and Janna’s tears were immediate.

“Ryan…Ryan, love…can you hear me?” She gently kissed her mate’s cheek. “Ryan?”

“Mm,” was the hoarse reply.

“Oh, God…oh my God! Call the nurse!” She looked excitedly back down at her mate, saying, “Honey, it’s time to wake up.”

John ran from the room to get the nurse and when they returned, Janna was leaning over her wife, kissing her tenderly.

As she pulled back, Ryan’s eyes slowly fluttered open. It seemed to take a few moments for her to focus, but then her eyes tracked to Janna’s face and she smiled faintly.

“Janna,” she whispered.

“Ryan, my love.” Janna’s tears dropped onto her wife’s face as she leaned above her and caressed her cheek. “Welcome back, honey. I’ve missed you so much.” She gently kissed Ryan again.

“Janna…where are we?” Ryan croaked, trying to speak above a whisper.

“We’re in the hospital, love…you were hurt on Monday night…on duty.”

“What day is it now?”

“Wednesday.”

“Shit…what happened to me, Janna?” She looked dazed and confused as she searched Janna’s eyes for some answers.

The nurse stepped up then and said, “Ms. Norden-Zamora, I’m glad you’re back with us, but I need to check your vitals now, if you all don’t mind.”

Ryan tried to move, but was stopped by the pain. “Ow, fuck…” she moaned and then whispered coarsely, becoming upset, “Will someone tell me what’s going on?”

Janna gently laid her hands on her shoulders as she said, “You were hit by a car…by the suspects…after you shot them. Do you remember that?”

“No, but it feels like it was a truck. What happened to me?” She closed her eyes as a wave of pain swept over her.

The nurse answered, “Broken ribs, broken leg, broken ankle, ruptured spleen and dented head. How’s that?”

“Shit…that’s plenty, thanks.” She smiled crookedly, or tried to, and warmed everyone’s hearts.

“Can I please do my job now, people?” The wisecracking nurse asked.

Janna grinned, “Sure!” And moved off of the bed, but not before kissing her wife again…at which Ryan smiled successfully.

As the RN tended to her business, Ryan closed her eyes, exhausted by the act of regaining consciousness. Janna, John and Zac, stood back, Janna embraced by the men, and waited for the nurse to finish.

“Okay…now don’t tire her out…and I don’t see three of you in here, do I?” She raised her thick, black eyebrows at John and Zac and they both grinned sheepishly. “I didn’t think so. Say your hi’s and then let her rest…I mean it.”

“Yes, ma’am!” Zac replied.

When she heard her brother’s voice, Ryan whispered, “Zac?”

“Hey, Sis.” He approached the bed and kissed his drowsy sister. “You sure know how to get attention, don’t cha?” He grinned down at his sister.

“Zachary Red Hawk…what the hell are you doin’ here?”

“I came to keep you in line. Your little lady here needs you well and back home.”

Ryan looked at her mate. “Janna, are you okay, baby?” She asked weakly.

“I’m fine love…especially now. You rest now. I’ll be right here.”

“‘Kay.” She closed her eyes again, but they flew open again a few moments later. “I was hurt on duty?” She asked. “On the raid?”

“Yes, love.”

“John…is John okay?” She asked, fear coloring her voice.

Her best friend’s familiar voice answered, “I’m fine, Ry. Now that you’re done scaring the shit out of us.”

“John.” She smiled weakly. “Come ‘ere.”

John approached and grasped her left hand. “I’m here, buddy.”

“How’d the raid go?”

“We kicked their asses.”

“Good. But it looks like they kicked mine too. Anyone else hurt?”

“Yeah, Paul Johnson got shot…he’ll be fine. He’s downstairs.”

“Just me and him?”

“You and him and the badasses you killed, Ry. They were true slime, Ryan…you did good. Saved a lot of lives.” Her partner gazed at her proudly and she nodded slightly.

“Jesus…I’ve got a fuckin’ headache that’d stop a train.”

“Honey, you rest now. I’ll see about pain medication.” Janna said with concern.

“No, Janna. I just need you…okay?” Her eyes misted and she closed them, lest the guys notice.

“Absolutely, baby. I’m right here. Let’s go back to sleep.” She gingerly climbed back into the bed and very gently embraced her mate. Ryan’s eyes closed and she fell almost immediately back to sleep.

Janna began to cry softly as she held Ryan, and she looked at her friends. “Guys, will you let everyone know that she’s awake, please? And thank them for their prayers?”

The guys nodded in unison, and left, smiling. Janna curled protectively around her mate and proceeded to thank every deity she could think of for returning her soulmate to her.

~~~~~~~~~~

Janna and Ryan slept most of the day, awaking only when Ryan’s pain got so severe that it roused her. She grudgingly accepted pain medication, putting up only a small fight, because she knew that her body needed rest but couldn’t do so when the pain was too bad.

Janna’s mother sat with them much of the day. She looked up from her book once more as a stray beam of sunshine floated in. As she gazed at her daughter and her mate, she was warmed by their obvious devotion. Janna was gently wrapped around Ryan as she lay immobile. With splinted leg, slinged arm, broken ribs, surgical incision, IV lines, and catheter, it was not only difficult for her to move, but the slightest movement caused intense pain…in addition to the ever-present dull, throbbing aches.

At lunchtime, Beth left briefly to retrieve lunch for herself and Janna. While she was gone, Ryan stirred and groaned.

Janna roused and mumbled, “Am I hurting you, Ryan?”

“Ugh…no, baby, you’re comforting me.” She reached for the pain medication delivery switch and flicked it, then waited for it to kick in. “Jesus, Janna, I didn’t know it was possible to hurt this much.” She groaned as she tried to take a deeper breath, wincing as she did so.

“I’m so sorry, love. I’d give you more Reiki but I’m not sure it would do much through the heavy painkillers…they seem to hinder it somehow.”

“‘S’okay, love. Just lay here with me…as long as you’re comfortable.” She closed her eyes as the throbbing aches began to dull, and a pleasant, mild euphoria set in. “What are they giving me, Janna? It sure works fast.”

“Morphine, sweetheart. So don’t get too used to it.” She smiled down at her mate, who was sporting a goofy grin.

“Mm…’kay.” She slowly rolled her head to look at her mate. “Love you, baby.”

Janna smiled down at her lover and caressed her cheek. “Love you, Ryan.” She leaned down and pressed a gentle kiss to her wife’s lips, which Ryan opened playfully, allowing Janna’s tongue to slip in. She tenderly caressed Ryan’s tongue with hers, just briefly.

Still kissing Janna, Ryan somewhat drowsily mumbled, “Mmm, baby. Now my clit is awake but we can’t do a goddamn thing about it.”

Janna ended the kiss and scowled at her naughty mate, but softened it with a smile and said, “Sorry, Ryan…but look at the catching up we’ll have to do when we get you home.”

“It’s what I’ll use to motivate myself.” She sighed and closed her eyes, as exhaustion, in concert with the morphine, put her back to sleep.

Janna resumed her position next to her mate, as exhaustion still claimed her as well, and was already asleep again when her mother returned. Beth smiled and lay Janna’s lunch on the tray next to the bed, and sat to quietly eat hers.

Later that afternoon, Ryan’s attending physician arrived with the orthopedic surgeon to discuss the leg surgeries. They arrived to find the two women still curled up together, asleep. Beth gently shook her daughter awake, and Janna disengaged herself from her sleeping partner and sat up on the bed.

The middle-aged surgeon remarked, “I didn’t think these beds were big enough for two,” and he chuckled. Janna grinned, happy that he hadn’t had a completely different reaction to seeing the two women sleeping together.

“Well, we’re definitely glad they are, because I can’t leave her, and that chair just does not make a comfortable bed.” Janna grinned winningly. “Um, should I wake Ryan?”

The attending said, “Yes, why don’t you. I’d like to check her responses.”

Janna nodded and gently rubbed her mate’s arm as she softly said, “Sweetheart, can you wake up? Sweetheart…”

“Mm…don’t wanna, Janna. Tired. Hurts.”

“Honey, the doctors are here. They’d like to talk to you.”

Ryan sighed, then opened her eyes and smiled weakly at the intruders. “Hey.”

“Hello, Ryan. I’m Doctor Jensen and this is Doctor Mattos. We’d like to have a look at you, if you don’t mind.”

Ryan nodded and Janna moved away from the bed. The first doctor pulled the sheet down to Ryan’s waist and then lifted up her gown to check her surgical incision and ribs. Most of her torso, what wasn’t tightly wrapped, was covered by dark bruising.

“Jesus…” Ryan muttered as she got the first good look at her body. “Are you sure it wasn’t a train that hit me?”

The doctor smiled and then remarked, “Everything looks fine…no infection, no swelling…won’t be much of a scar. How do the ribs feel?” He asked as he gently palpated them.

“Like shit.”

“That’s to be expected. How about here?” He palpated her liver area.

“Pretty sore.”

“Your liver was bruised. We’ll need to watch it…but it feels pretty good now.”

Next he carefully removed her arm from the sling and examined her shoulder and its movement. “Much pain here?”

“Not too bad. I did this once before.”

“I think we can lose the sling, then, since you’ll be confined to bed for the near future.”

At that, Ryan scowled and groaned, lying her head back against the pillow. “Christ.”

“Ms. Norden-Zamora, you were very critically injured…it will take some time for your body to repair itself.” He pulled his stethoscope up to his ears and placed the bell against Ryan’s chest as he leaned over her. “Take a deep breath, please.”

Ryan complied, grimacing. “That’s pretty painful…did I puncture a lung, too?”

“You sure did, but it sounds good now.”

Ryan rolled her head, looked at her mate and sighed, looking as if she were resigning herself to some horrible fate.

Janna slipped up to the head of the bed and rested a hand on Ryan’s shoulder. “We’ll get through it together, Ryan.”

Ryan simply blew out a frustrated breath. Addressing the doctors, she said, “So what’s going on with my leg?”

The surgeon stepped to the bed then, as he said, “Your leg is broken in four places. The femur is broken here,” he touched her mid thigh, “And you have compound fractures of both the tibia and fibula, right about here,” and he gently touched her splinted leg about halfway between her knee and foot. “And, your ankle is shattered. We need to go in and place four or five pins, possibly more, so that we can restore something approximating normal movement.”

Ryan murmured, “Fuck…,” before looking the doctor in the eye and asking, “How close to normal are we talking about?”
The man assessed his patient and replied honestly, “I’d say, if we’re lucky, 75 to 80%.”

Ryan put down the waves of pain that were beginning to roll over her again and rose above them, replying steadily, “I’d like to shoot for closer to 90 to 100%, if we can, Doc. My job depends on it and I love to play softball.”

“We’ll do all we can for you here, and then you’ll have to work hard in physical therapy. If you do, and, like I said, with luck on our side, maybe we can approach that figure. But, I really won’t have a good idea of what we’re facing until I get in there and take a look. And, we should do it as soon as possible.” He turned to the other physician and asked, “What do you think, Scott, can we do it tomorrow?”

“Yes, from my standpoint, she’s looking good. I see no reason to wait.”

“Alright…tomorrow it is…first thing.” He nodded to Ryan.

“What kind of recovery are we talking about, doctor?” Janna asked.

“Providing things are as I expect, I would say, four to six months in a cast, followed by a walking cast and physical therapy. Hopefully there won’t be a need for further surgery after that.”

“Four to six MONTHS?” Ryan practically bellowed.

“Months,” the doctor replied calmly. “The largest bones in your body are broken.”

“Fuck!” She looked despondently at Janna, then back to the doctors. “Janna, Jesus! There’s no fucking way I can be in a cast for six months. I have to work…I pitch for two softball teams…I teach an aikido class.” Her eyes then grew wide as she added, “Oh, shit…and my wife is pregnant… due at Christmas. How the hell am I going to support her through the pregnancy? She’s sick constantly, she needs me…we have Lamaze in October…” Ryan shook her head in disbelief.

“Honey, it’s okay…we’ll work it all out.”

“Janna, God…this can’t be…” Ryan rolled her head miserably and swallowed hard. “Fucking Christ,” she murmured unhappily.

“Ms. Norden-Zamora…”

“Mrs. Norden-Zamora,” Ryan replied sullenly.

“I’m sorry…I expect that a woman in your condition should make a nearly complete recovery…there’s no reason to think that you won’t…but, unfortunately, it takes time.” He looked at the unhappy woman with sympathy, then gently patted her leg. “I’ll see you in the morning.”

Ryan didn’t respond, so Janna thanked the doctors, and they left.

-14-

Ryan lay quietly in her hospital bed, growing more sullen by the minute. Janna sat beside her in the chair, thoroughly frustrated and Ryan glanced sadly at her mate. “I don’t blame you for not wanting to sit by me…I’m nothin’ but a fuckin’ loser.”

Janna counted to five before answering, as she had become accustomed to doing over the past hour. “Ryan, where is this coming from? You are so far removed from a loser that I could laugh at that statement.”

“Fuck, Janna…I can no longer support my wife…in any way…financially, physically, spiritually, nothing. I am absolutely and completely good for nothing like this.”

Janna gave the soft touch one more try, though she was quickly becoming frazzled, and her nausea had returned with a vengeance. “Ryan, love. Please don’t be so hard on yourself. None of this was your fault…”

“I could have said, ‘no’, Janna…my wife is pregnant and sick for Christ’s sake…I should never have agreed to take the duty. I should have told the Lt. to fuck himself.” She shook her head, wincing when it hurt. “No, I never should have been out there.”

“Honey, I disagree, but let’s go on to the other points. Financially…that is not a problem, and you know it. We have plenty saved…”

Ryan didn’t let her finish. She closed her eyes to try to shut out the pain, then said, “Janna, stop. You know how I feel about that. I will not be kept by you. I financially support this marriage equally.”

“Ryan, you will be getting disability. Probably nearly what you make normally, and the Peace Officer’s benefits…”

“I will not take charity, nor will I accept pay when I’m not working!” Ryan grasped her head as she was gripped by pain from the still-healing concussion.

Janna groaned and dropped her head into her hands. Suddenly, she was overcome by nausea and had to run to the bathroom. Ryan could hear her retching from her bed and had she not been flat on her back, would have hung her own head in her hands.

When Janna returned and looked at Ryan, she saw a face full of pain and dejection. Quietly, Ryan muttered, “See, I can’t even help you when you’re sick. I can’t even get out of this goddamned bed.”

Janna, sick, tired and frustrated, simply looked at Ryan and quietly said, “Ryan, self-pity does not become you,” and stood looking at her mate with disappointment written all over her face.

Ryan, pressed by the pain and the drugs, the frustration and self-loathing, then said something she would regret for a very long time. With a gaze as cold as ice, she said, “If you’re so goddamned, fucking disappointed in me, then leave. Get out of here. I’m hurting so bad I can’t see straight and I can’t do this fight right now. So leave. I don’t fucking want to see you right now, Janna.” She turned her head away from her wife and closed her eyes tightly, trying to shut out the pain.

If she had seen the intense look of pain on Janna’s face, Ryan would have retracted the statement immediately and reached out to Janna…even through her own pain. But she didn’t. So Janna was left standing there, staring in disbelief at her wife, and feeling a sting of pain like she had never experienced in her life. With tears streaming down her face, she quietly picked up her backpack and left the room without looking back.

Ryan was so lost in her own world of pain, both physical and emotional, that she didn’t feel Janna’s through their link. When she opened her eyes and saw that Janna was gone, she angrily flipped the morphine switch, needing desperately to feel numb. Suddenly, all of her pain, all of her fear, all of her frustration, merged and coalesced into something primal and she screamed, “I should have fucking stayed single!”

Janna felt the words like a blow and slid to the floor where she stood just outside of Ryan’s doorway. Zac, hearing his sister’s scream, came running and knelt at Janna’s side, thinking that she was hurt. Janna looked up at him with pain-filled eyes overflowing with tears.

“What is it, Janna? Is Ryan okay?”

Janna shook her head. “No, she’s not. She’s taking this all very badly and taking it out on me. I didn’t know she could be so mean, Zac,” she cried as she stood.

Zac helped her to her feet and put an arm around her. “Janna, she’s not. She’s talking through the pain, and the drugs…don’t you know that?”

At the negative shake of Janna’s head, he added, “Oh, Janna, she is. She loves you more than anything…you have to know that, Janna. Come here.”

He led her to the waiting room and sat her down, then sat beside her. He continued, “Look, she’s very like a man in some ways, Janna. She considers herself the provider. She feels like your protector. She’s even told me that you both found out that she has been your protector in literally dozens and dozens of lives and she continues in that role in this life. Janna, it’s inbred in her. It’s an essential part of who she is, and right now she feels useless. She feels like a liability to you.”

He gazed seriously into his sister-in-law’s eyes as he added, “I’ve gotta tell ya, Sis, that as a man, that is the worst thing you can feel. She feels powerless and, I would even say, emasculated. Please don’t take to heart anything she says in this state.” He searched her eyes. “You’ve got to understand how much physical pain she’s in, too, on top of feeling so down on herself.”

Janna looked at the floor as more tears fell. “I know Zac, that’s what I’ve been telling myself for the last two hours…but what she just said…there has to be a grain of truth in it somewhere, or it wouldn’t have come out.” She looked deeply into Zac’s eyes. “Zac, nothing has ever hurt me as much as what she just said does.”

“What exactly did she say?”

“I should have fucking stayed single.” Janna repeated, choking on the last word.

Zac closed his eyes and muttered, “Shit.” He picked up Janna’s hand and held it gently. “Janna, I know that hurts…I know you’re sick and hurting, but please try to understand her. Okay? Please?”

Janna bowed her head and muttered, “Zac, I’ll try, but right now, I don’t have the energy to see past this nausea. I just want to go home and take a bath and crawl into bed, okay?” She felt totally defeated, and powerless to battle it at that moment.

“Let me drive you home, then.”

“No, please stay with her. She needs company, whether she believes it or not, and I can’t do it right now, so it has to be you. I’ll ask my mom, or John, or whoever’s around, or I’ll get a cab.” She looked up sadly into Zac’s stirring eyes. “I’ll see you later, Zac.”

~~~~~~~~~~

Three hours later, as the moon, their loyal friend, sat in the southern sky, half full, the two estranged lovers both tossed and turned miserably. For her part, Ryan was in severe physical pain, but it didn’t come close to the pain she felt emotionally at being separated from her mate. And Janna, terribly sick to her stomach because she had been unable to choke down any dinner, moaned and writhed miserably on the bed. She too, felt an even more intense emotional pain than the physical. Both women cried themselves to sleep and slept fitfully, when at all. In their nearly one year together they had never once slept apart, and the fact of their separation was tearing both of them apart.

Luna tried to send subtle, loving energy to remind her friends of the special vision message: to remember the love, but she was unsuccessful, as both women were too lost in their pain. Tomorrow is another day, she thought as she went on her way, continuing her eons-old cycle.

The next morning, Janna, still feeling deeply hurt and thinking that Ryan wouldn’t want to see her, waited to go to the hospital when she knew that Ryan would already be in surgery.

When Janna didn’t show up before she was taken into surgery, Ryan fell into an even deeper depression and found herself wishing that she could just slip away during the operation. She just wanted the pain to be over. As the anesthesiologist pressed the mask to her face and she went under, her last, mournful thought was, she doesn’t love me any more. I don’t want to live like this.

Janna arrived in the surgery waiting room, feeling very down and as if Ryan didn’t want or need her there. She sat sullenly by herself, feeling sick and not wanting to visit with Zac or John. Both men gave her the space she needed, but after about an hour of silence, John had to say something.

“Janna, don’t um, take this wrong, okay…I’m not upset with you…Zac told me what happened yesterday, so I know how hardheaded she was being. I just want you to know that she was very upset when you didn’t show up this morning. She tried to bluff her way through it, but we both saw it. She thinks you don’t love her anymore, Janna…and when they took her away, she was crying.”

“What? She’s crazy. She’s the one who was acting like she doesn’t love me.”

Zac answered her, softly. “Yes, Janna, she is crazy. Crazy with pain and fear. She loves and needs you so much that she’s feeling desperate. Please try to understand where she’s coming from.” Zac got up and knelt before Janna, taking her hands in his. “This is what grandfather was warning you about, Janna. It’s this…not her accident, but it’s aftermath. Do you see that?” He pinned her with his piercing blue gaze.

Janna had not seen it…not until that very moment. She looked at Zac wide-eyed. “Oh, my God, Zac…you’re right. He told us to remember the love. We haven’t done that. Neither one of us.”

She gazed unseeing at the blue-carpeted floor. “Remember the love…” she murmured quietly. “Oh, Jesus…what an idiot I’ve been.” She looked back up into Zac’s eyes. “Oh, God, Zac…I’ve hurt her badly, haven’t I?” Tears began to flow and she looked up at the ceiling.

“You’ve hurt each other, Janna, because you did not remember the love.” He gently grasped his sister’s chin and forced her to make eye contact with him. “But it’s not too late…with a love like yours it is never too late. Remember the rest of her vision. How many people have a love that can survive so strongly for over fifty years? How many, Janna?”

Janna sighed. “I don’t know, Zac, but I know that we do.” She burst into tears and sobbed openly. “Oh, God…”

“Be there for her when she comes out, Janna. Just be there…and remember. It will be hard, but if you just remember, you will prevail.”

“Yes, Zac. You’re right. I’ll do that.” She gazed seriously at him. “I have to.”

From where she sat above the Coral Sea, Luna smiled, and wrapped her friends within her loving energetic arms.

~~~~~~~~~~

The warrior walked sadly through the forest, leading her horse behind her. She felt very alone. The feeling surprised and frustrated her. She had always been solitary, had never needed anyone before. Why was the small blonde’s departure hitting her so hard? Because I love her. Gods, I love her, I miss her, and it hurts. It felt like an arrow through her chest and she sighed deeply, trying to dispel the pain. I love her. I want her to be happy. She is happy now…she never could have been happy with me…not really. It’s better this way…he can give her the things that I never could. When she reached the boundary of the forest and came upon a dusty road, she mounted her horse and galloped off, in search of peace.

As she rode her horse with the wind, the dream shifted and she became the horse…no, she was a puma, loping swiftly across a meadow. She raised her proud head and gazed at the sky. A red-tailed hawk soared majestically above on unseen thermals of air.

“Hello, my brother. Thank you for showing me the way.”

She continued her lope across the meadow and reached the forest. As she slowed and entered the cool, dark forest, she gazed upward again and her gaze settled on a beautiful white owl, sitting on a pine branch.

“Hello, my love.”

The owl gazed at her seriously and took flight, sailing down and coming to rest on her back. As her soulmate settled into place, she suddenly felt complete again.

They continued through the forest and reached a clear pond, with a lovely brook babbling into it. As they rested together near its edge, they reveled in their partnership. Though seemingly very different to outside eyes, they were, in reality, wonderful together. They made a perfect team. Each embodied qualities that complemented the other. As they sat together, a large bear appeared. The puma smiled and welcomed him.

“Hello Grandfather.”

“Hello Swift Puma, White Owl. I am glad that you found your way back to each other. You have remembered the love. I am very proud.”

“Thank you, Grandfather.

Ryan groaned and writhed uncomfortably. Her brain felt very fuzzy, and as her awareness began to clear, the image of the wise, old bear, and his words, faded, replaced by a consistent, muted, high-pitched beeping sound. She felt a warmth in her heart center…no longer the pierce of the arrow…and could feel a loving touch on her arm. The touch and the warmth translated into a thought: Janna. She smiled. The clouds of fog swirled around her fuzzy mind and she struggled to form another cohesive thought, and another and then to put them together.

Janna gazed down at Ryan’s still form. The heart monitor beeped rhythmically, and Janna noticed that it matched her own pulse. She smiled as she caressed Ryan’s cheek and then dropped her hand to her mate’s arm as she waited for her to awaken in recovery. The same nurse was on duty that had been there the other day, and Janna had talked her into letting her stay with Ryan the whole time she was there. Something in Janna’s serious eyes had implored her and she had relented, bending hospital policy.

She lovingly caressed her mate’s arm while she watched and waited. Ryan’s left leg now bore a huge, heavy plaster cast, from the top of her thigh to the bottom of her foot. She smiled faintly as she shook her head. She’s not gonna like that one bit. The nurse returned and checked the monitors.

“She should be waking up any time…why don’t you start talking to her? Try to wake her for me. I’ll be back in a bit.”
Janna nodded and turned to look back at her precious mate. I’m so sorry I hurt you yesterday, love. I will never hurt you again, I promise. Her eyes misted as she sent a surge of love to Ryan through their link and she saw her mate stir.

“Ryan…Ryan, honey, wake up.”

The beeping sound slowly morphed into longer syllables and Ryan’s fuzzy brain recognized a familiar voice. Her body reacted to the familiar sound and she struggled to open her eyes.

“Ryan, love. Can you hear me? I’m here, baby. Wake up for me now.”

I’m here, baby. Wake up for me now. Janna! I love you, Janna. Ryan turned her head drowsily toward the welcome sound of her wife’s voice and forced her eyes open. As they fluttered open and her focus sharpened on her wife’s lovely, concerned features, Ryan smiled dopily.

Janna returned the smile warmly. “Hi, love. The surgery is over.” She leaned down slowly and kissed her mate tenderly, lingering on her lips to communicate her love.

Ryan blinked several times as she continued to try to focus her sight and her brain. “Surgery’s over?” She whispered hoarsely as Janna continued to hover just above her face.

“Yes, and it went very well. We’re gonna be out of here real soon, Ryan, and back to our life.” She kissed Ryan again and pulled back.

Ryan tried to smile. “Love you, Janna. So much.” A tear appeared at the corner of her eye and slid down and over a high cheekbone.

“Love you too, Ryan. Always and forever.”

A half hour later, Ryan was settled in a new room and rested with her left leg in traction above the bed. Janna sat beside her in a large chair. John and Zac occupied the two other chairs in the room, and her family watched quietly as Ryan dozed.

John stood up and said, “I think I’ll go home for a bit and come back later when she’s more up to company, okay, Janna?”

“Oh, sure, John. Give Sara and John, Jr. my love.”

John smiled. “I’ll do that, Janna.” He gazed at his partner in the bed and blew out a breath. “Jesus, this has been hard…but I think she’s turned the corner. ”

Zac nodded. “She has, John. No question. We’ll tell her you’ll be back later. Go take care of your family now, bud.”

John nodded and kissed Janna’s cheek before leaving.

“Zac, what about you? I know you can’t be away from your duties for too long…not to mention Marty.”

“Don’t worry about it, Janna…I can stay as long as I need to. I’ll leave when I feel it’s time. And Marty understands how important family is. She wants me to be here for Ryan.”

Janna nodded as she smiled. They quietly passed the time together, conversing softly about Ryan and many things until their special one awakened. When she did so, Zac spent a few minutes with her and then departed for the cafeteria, knowing that his sisters needed to talk.

-15-

Spoiler warning: This part contains a major spoiler from the Xena Series Finale, “A Friend in Need.” If you do not wish to be spoiled, skip the first part of chapter 16, the italicized dream sequence.

Ryan stretched, as much as she could under the constraints placed upon her body, as she watched her brother leave the hospital room. She looked at her hands and fiddled with the IV stuck in the large vein on the back of her left one.

Without looking at her mate, she said somewhat sheepishly, “Um, Janna, I said some pretty stupid things yesterday. I hope you know that I didn’t really mean them.” She gazed over at her wife then, adding, “I could never mean them. I’m so sorry.”

Janna sighed and smiled weakly. “I know, Ryan. I wasn’t very understanding, myself. I’m sorry too.”

Ryan continued. “But, um, I need you to understand that I do feel useless like this…and I feel guilty about putting myself in the position that I did, and getting hurt.” She looked back at her hands, adding, “The last thing that I want to be is a burden to you…especially now.”

“Ryan, I understand that. First of all, let me say that I don’t blame you at all…not in the least. But let’s move beyond that, okay? What’s done is done. What we need to do now is figure out how to go on from here…let’s get you healed and home and then rehabilitated, and continue with our life together.

You know, our relationship won’t stop and wait until you’re back to one hundred percent, we need to live day by day, right now, and make every day the best it can be…for both of us.” She gazed seriously into Ryan’s eyes before adding, “And you could never, ever, be a burden to me…you are my life, Ryan. You and this baby that’s coming. I joyfully take on whatever comes along.”

She stood up, walked to the bed, sat down next to Ryan, and picked up her hand. “I love you, Ryan…in sickness and in health.” She held up her hand as she added with a grin, “I know…it’s a cliché, and people have said it without truly meaning it, or thinking anything would ever happen to challenge it, but I do mean it, Ryan. I mean it with all of my heart.” She kissed her wife’s hand. “I love you with everything that I am and nothing will challenge that ever again. I will never forget our love again.”

“Not even when I’m being an asshole?” Ryan grinned sheepishly.

“Not even then, love.” Janna’s eyes sparkled, punctuating her point.

“Thanks, Janna, ’cause I can be, you know.”

Janna just smiled.

Ryan looked back up at Janna and said quietly, “I’m kinda scared, baby. I don’t think I’ve ever really been afraid of anything before, but this scares the shit out of me.”

Janna sighed. “I know, honey. I’m scared too. Our future is an unknown right now. But you know what? We have each other and that’s a huge plus. Even with troubles and hardships and challenges, what we have is pretty damn great.”

Ryan nodded, and Janna added, “Honey, I’ve gotta tell you…I’ve never been so scared in my life as when I felt something was wrong with you that night, and then Sam came to the door. I was so paralyzed by fear that I forgot to breathe, I think.” She blew out a breath as she felt the knot in her stomach return in remembrance.

“Janna, baby, I’m so sorry that I did that to you.” Ryan’s eyes misted as she gazed at Janna mournfully.

“God, Ryan, it was a nightmare…an absolute nightmare, for three days, but it wasn’t your fault, love. Please, please stop blaming yourself.” She kissed her wife’s fingers.

“Janna…you felt something was wrong? That night?”

“Yeah, I guess I felt your fear, just for an instant, and then pain, and then you felt very far away. I just knew that something was terribly wrong…and I can’t even say that it was an entirely physical sensation. I’m pretty sure that there was some intuition involved.”

“Jesus…and Sam came? To the house?”

“Yes. He came to take me to the hospital. First I called the station, but the dispatcher wouldn’t tell me anything, though I could tell she knew something. She asked if I was at home.” Janna raised her eyebrows, and Ryan closed her eyes and grimaced.

“Then the doorbell rang and I think my heart nearly stopped. Everything from then on is pretty much a blur…until you woke up.” She grinned, “I didn’t even really notice the morning sickness too much while I was so worried about you.”

“Well there’s a plus,” Ryan said sarcastically.

“But now, I have you back…and I’m not letting you get away from me ever again.”

“Great…kiss me then, baby.”

Janna did. And when they parted, she lay down and stretched out on the bed, pulling Ryan’s head onto her shoulder.

In an uncharacteristically small voice, Ryan murmured, “Janna, it’s gonna be hard for me. I hate hospitals…hate pain…hate being confined. You’re gonna need patience, I’m afraid. And, shit, I hate feeling like I’m going to be needing too much from you when you’re not well yourself. I hate that, Janna.”

“Honey, it’s okay. I know we’ll manage. And Jesus, I should be feeling better before too long, don’t you think? I mean, I’m almost through the first trimester.”

She kissed her wife’s head. “We’ll take care of each other, okay? It won’t be easy, but we’ll manage somehow. Anyway, I have a lot of faith in you. I know you’ll work hard and do what you need to do to get better in record time.” She laughed. “I know you, Ryan.”

“Oh, yeah?”

Janna looked at the still-battered face of her beloved and grinned. “Yeah, I do…so there.”

“Okay.”

“Ryan, I do want to ask something of you. I want you to be honest with me about how you feel, okay? If you’re having a lot pain, or a bad day emotionally, let me know…don’t try to be tough and hide it from me, please? That would really hurt me. I want to know so that I can do what I can to help.”

Ryan started to speak and Janna hushed her. “No…don’t hold back to try to protect me or think that you shouldn’t burden me with it…like if I’m sick or something…I want to know immediately…even if I’m having a bad day too. It will give me something else to focus on, and I guarantee you that helping you, or comforting you, or soothing you, will help me to feel better.” She looked at her mate pointedly. “I mean it, Ryan…please promise me.”

Ryan sighed resignedly. “Okay, Janna. I promise. But I can be pretty tough, you know.”

“Oh, I know. But I also know how soft you are.”

Ryan looked quickly toward the door to make sure no one was around. “Shit, baby, quiet…I don’t want anyone else hearing that.”

“Oh, Ryan…anyone else who means anything to us already knows it.”

“What? No…”

Janna kissed her forehead. “I’m afraid so, love. Come on, rest now. Do you want your head up or down?”

“Up. I’m tired of being flat on my back.”

Janna grinned. “I kind of like you flat on your back.”

“Well, I like it too, baby, but ugh, God…don’t go there, please. I don’t need to be horny on top of everything else.”

“Honey, you are naturally horny…the pain and the morphine are just mellowing it out. In fact, you are the horniest woman I have ever known.”

“Are you complaining?”

“Oh, absolutely not! I’m thanking you.”

“Good. Lie down here with me and take a nap and we’ll have a sexy dream together.” Ryan depressed the button on the handheld bed control and the head of the bed rose, allowing them to recline against it.

“Okay, which dream shall we have?” Janna smiled coyly.

“How about the warrior one where we were making love by the lake?”

“Oh, God, Ryan…that’s a sexy one.” She sighed. “You know, you were as sexy in that life as you are in this one.”
“So were you, babe.”

With that, Janna curled around Ryan and as they slept together, the sexy dream commenced. When Zac returned later, they both had very pleased smiles on their faces.

~~~~~~~~~

The naked warrior stretched her long frame out in the sun as her partner finished her bath. The clear, blue lake spread out majestically before her and as she gazed at the sky, she breathed deeply, filling her essence with the beauty of the place. She returned her gaze to the lake just as her mate was walking out of the shallow water.

Her breath caught as she watched the water drip from her partner’s lithe, strong body. Her gaze lingered on the bard’s soft, full breasts and her heart rate sped up as a gentle, but insistent, throbbing began between her legs. Her mate either picked up on her desire through their link, or read the leer on her face, because instead of settling beside her to dry off in the sun, she walked up to the dark warrior and knelt between her legs.

“By the gods, Xena…you are so beautiful,” she said quietly as she gazed openly at her mate.

“And, so are you, Gabrielle. Come ‘ere.” She sat up and reached out to the blonde, who fell into her warrior’s warm embrace.

The dark woman held her close and nipped at her throat. The smaller warrior threw her head back, enjoying the sensuous contact, and the warrior took full advantage, kissing and sucking at her throbbing pulse point.

“Gods, I want you Gabrielle.” She sought out her partner’s lips and kissed her deeply, leaving no question as to her desire on that warm, breezy afternoon in India.

“I need you, Xena…love me.”

“I do, Gabrielle. Let me show you how much.” Without waiting for an answer, she lowered her head to her bard’s lovely assets and suckled erotically, coaxing deep moans from her smaller partner.

“Gods, Xena…”

The tall warrior then lifted her eyes to her mate’s face and murmured against her sweet breast, “I haven’t loved you since your hair has been short.”

“It’s, ahh, yes, gods…it’s um…only been short half a day, Xe…Xena.”

“Mmm…” The warrior slowly moved her lips down her partner’s body, pausing to lick seductively at the intricate mehndi design that surrounded her navel. “Gods, I love this body art on you.”

“It’s uh, pretty…it’s pretty hot on you too, love.” She threw her head back and moaned loudly as her mate’s talented tongue drew immense pleasure from her body. “Oh, gods…”

The tall, dark warrior then laid her mate down gently and covered her body with hers, reaching a long arm down to run talented fingers through golden curls. Time fell away from them then, as they lost themselves in each other for long hours.

When the full moon rose at dusk, they were still entwined…still writhing together and dancing their sacred dance. Luna, the spirit within the moon, smiled at them and winked. The warrior-shamaness looked up at her and winked back before returning her attention to enjoying her mate’s delicious body.

~~~~~~~~~~

Zac gazed pointedly at his sister when she opened her eyes several hours later.

“Jesus, Sis, do you think it’s a good idea for you two to sleep together in a public place like this?” His voice was serious but his eyes twinkled merrily. “I thought the poor nurse was gonna have a heart attack.”

Ryan actually blushed. “It’s a private room…and anyway, a girl can’t help what her brain does while she’s sleeping, you know.” She stretched gently, trying to work out kinks that couldn’t be easily worked out, and groaned as the ever-present pain reasserted itself.

“Well apparently, Ryan, both your brains were thinking the same thing.” He grinned.

“Shit…,” she groaned. “Sorry, Zac.”

“No problem, I uh, actually kind of enjoyed it.”

“Pervert!”

“Who’s a pervert?” Janna mumbled as she yawned next to her mate’s ear.

“Zac…apparently he enjoyed our dreams as much as we did.”

“Ugh….” Janna pulled the sheet up over her head in embarrassment. A meek little voice rose from under the cover, saying, “I had a feeling that wasn’t a good idea.”

“Well, baby, just because I’m laid up doesn’t mean we should stop living. I’m only half dead, you know.” Despite her constant pain, her voice took on a coy note as she added, “As soon as I’m a little better healed, we’re gonna do a lot more than dream about it…whether I’m still here in the hospital or not.”

She was answered by another groan, and she grinned devilishly while her brother scowled playfully at her.

“Christ, you two.” He shook his head. “Sis, I’m very happy to see that you are definitely on the road to recovery.”

“Thanks, Zac.” She cleared her throat gently and added, “I, um, couldn’t have done it without you guys…you, Janna, John. I’m not sure I would have pulled through without you.” She gave Janna’s hand a squeeze under the sheet.

Janna’s head reappeared and she turned onto her side to hug her mate…carefully. “It was our pleasure, love. And our joy. We love you so much.” They enjoyed a gentle kiss and snuggled together contentedly as Zac looked down at his hands.

A little later, as Ryan attempted to keep down a clear, liquid meal and Janna and Zac ate cafeteria sandwiches, a pleasant face popped around the corner of the door and grinned.

“Hey, guys! How’s our patient doing?” The cute curly-haired blonde asked as she entered the room.

“Sara!” Janna jumped up to greet their friend. As they hugged, Janna said, “She’s doing so much better…look, they’re letting her try to eat.”

Ryan scowled at her friend. “Try is the operative word. Janna, honey, I don’t think I can get any more down…not and have it stay down.” She pushed the tray away and leaned back, groaning.

“Okay, love. That was great for your first try…you don’t want to push it.”

Ryan nodded lightly and looked at Sara, grinning weakly. “Hey, Sara. How’s the baby?”

“He’s great, Ry…how are you?” She knit her brows in concern as she gazed at her battered friend. Ryan still sported many bruises and scrapes on every visible portion of her body, and was somewhat painful to look at. Sara approached the bed and grasped her hand gently. “John says you’re doing a lot better, but honestly, my friend, I’m afraid of what you must have looked like before.”

Ryan grinned. “Sara, brutally honest as usual!”

“Well? How are you feeling?”

“Like shit, frankly, but a little better today…and it’s better than the alternative. It sure helps to be surrounded by love.” She reached for her mate’s hand and pulled her close to the bed.

“I can imagine. Look, John is down in the car with the baby, so I can’t stay long…I just had to see you.” Her eyes teared as she added, “You gave us a terrible scare, Ry. I’m so glad to see you awake and eating and doing better. God…” Her emotions began to get the best of her and Ryan reached her other hand out to her friend and pulled her close as well. The three of them shared a quiet hug and then Sara left to send John up.

As he entered the room a few minutes later, he said playfully, “What’s this about making my wife cry, Ryan? Always have to be the heartbreaker, huh?”

Ryan grinned as she wiped one of her own tears away. “Fucker.”

“Ooh, she’s feeling better…the real Ryan is coming out now.”

That statement earned him a flipped finger and he laughed heartily.

As the evening went on, Ryan received a steady stream of visitors, most of them cops, and by the end of visiting hours, she was exhausted.

After saying goodbye to Zac for the night and giving him their house key, Janna crawled onto the bed next to her mate and settled gently beside her.

“Hmm, wasn’t that cute, earlier, when John suggested that we could request a bed for me in here, and we both shouted, “No!”

Ryan chuckled quietly, “Yeah, it was. I thought he was gonna pee his pants from laughing. Asshole.” She grimaced then, as she was hit by a sharp pain, and sighed. “Med’s wearing off again.”

“Where does it hurt, hon? I mean mostly?”

“The surgical incision is the worst right now, but the lower leg and ankle are pretty bad, too.” She groaned as another pain hit. “Jesus…sorry, Janna…I don’t mean to whine.”

“Ryan, you’re in agony…whine for God’s sake. And hit the med switch, love.”

“I was thinking of trying to do without…stuff gives me weird dreams.” She took a deep breath before continuing. “Last night, I had a mixed up warrior dream. I was the warrior, but I was on a flying horse, and had superhuman powers. Very strange…”

“Hm, yeah, wow. Want some Reiki, then? Maybe you won’t need as much morphine.”

“Yeah, Janna, thanks.”

“Anytime, baby. Close your eyes. Try to sleep, and I’ll give you a bunch. I need some myself right now.”

“Okay, baby, night.”

“‘Night, love. Sweet dreams.”

“I’ll dream of you tonight, so they will be.”

-16-

Within the throes of an intense dream, Janna tossed her head on the pillow she shared with Ryan.

“Ares! Ares, I need you, now!” The small, powerfully built blonde warrior shouted at the top of her lungs as she gazed at the ceiling of the dark temple, attempting to summon the usually meddlesome god. “Gods be damned, Ares…show yourself!”

Suddenly, in a showy flash of twinkling lights, the god appeared, with a smirk plastered on his darkly handsome face. “I knew the day would come, Gabrielle, when you would call on me again.” He bowed chivalrously, an absurd gesture coming from him. “How may I serve you…or, should I say, how may you ser…”

“Shut up, Ares. Xena needs your help.” The warrior-bard interrupted, her face deadly serious.

The haughty god adopted a wary air as he asked, “What is it…and why isn’t Xena asking me herself?”

The bard took a deep breath and sighed, swallowing the painful lump in her throat as she did so. “Because she’s dead.” She gazed sadly at the ground as sobs rose in her throat yet again. Looking back up, she stated, “She’s dead, Ares.”

“Dead. Yeah, right…if she were dead, Gabrielle, I would know about it. Try again.”

“Ares, gods…” Gabrielle took a deep breath and blew her frustration out with the breath. “She is dead, Ares. It happened across the sea to the east, in Japa. It didn’t happen in your realm.” As she gazed at the brutal being, he could see the deep pain in her eyes. She added, “We can bring her back, Ares…I have her ashes here.” See pulled the small urn from her silk robes.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa…wait a minute. Her ashes? Gabrielle, only Zeus could bring back a mortal from ashes, and Hercules took care of him real good, didn’t he?” He shook his head. “I’m sorry, Gabrielle, I really am, but I don’t have the power to do it.”

“Yes, you do, Ares…with the help of Aphrodite and our friend Eli.” She implored him with her serious gaze.

He shook his head in disbelief, but spread his hands as he said, “Okay, this I’ve got to see. Let’s give it a shot.”

Gabrielle closed her eyes in relief and then nodded her head. “Thank you, Ares.” Then she gazed at the ceiling again and called, “Aphrodite! Aphrodite, I need you… please.” As the bard called on her goddess friend, the god of war stood behind her, scowling, arms crossed impatiently across his chest.

With a poof of smoke, the goddess of love appeared before her eyes. “Hi sugar! What’s up?”

The god of war answered sarcastically, “Hey Sis…it’s good to see you , too.”

“Aphrodite, thanks for coming. I need your help. Xena’s been killed, and I need your help to resurrect her.” At the voluptuous goddess’ look of surprise, the bard added, “It’s true, Aphrodite, but you and Ares together can revive her. Please, Aphrodite…” The warior-bard implored, teary eyed.

The goddess gazed sincerely at her friend as she said, “Sure, girlfriend. Whatever I can do to help.”

Gabrielle threw her arms around the goddess and hugged her tightly. “I’ll be grateful to you forever.”

When they separated, she nodded at Ares, who scowled again as he said, “Sure, she gets the hug. Whatever. Let’s get this over with.”

Gabrielle nodded again and walked to the altar set against the back wall of the temple. She carefully placed the small, black, ceramic urn upon it, her fingers lingering on the smooth clay. She gazed lovingly at it as she said, “We’re bringing you back, love…please don’t be upset…everything will be alright.”

She took a deep breath and turned to the gods. “You’ll need our friend Eli’s help. He’s crossed over, but is still a powerful healer. He helps to rule the kingdom of heaven.” She knelt before the altar and brought her hands together in prayer.

As she prayed silently to her old friend, the air before her shimmered and the image of Eli appeared. He smiled at Gabrielle, but said nothing. Gabrielle looked back at Ares and Aphrodite and nodded. They both stepped forward and stood before the altar.

Eli closed his eyes and the air around the can containing Xena’s ashes began to shimmer with energy. At the same time, Ares and Aphrodite both closed their eyes in concentration and the air around the urn became even more luminous. The urn was lifted on the currents of energy and began to glow from within. Suddenly, a golden fire shot out of the urn and hung in the air above it, coalescing into a vaguely human form.

As the energy swirled within the human-like form, it began to solidify and take shape. Gradually, Xena’s body could be discerned among the fiery, golden energy. Then, as suddenly as it had begun, the fire disappeared and Xena’s resurrected body hung in mid air briefly before falling to the altar with a thud.

Gabrielle gasped and rushed to her mate’s side. The ghostly image of Eli smiled, then disappeared, and Ares and Aphrodite did the same, smiling as they vanished in swirls of smoke and twinkling lights.

Gabrielle gazed down at the warrior’s naked, still body. Gently, she reached down and cradled her beloved’s head, caressing her cheek as she whispered softly, “Xena. Can you hear me, Xena?”

She held her breath as she waited. Come on, Xena, wake up. Please, wake up.

She repeated the words aloud. “Come on, Xena, wake up. Please, wake up.”

She caressed her partner’s cheek again.

“Xena, please. I love you…don’t leave me again. Wake up.”

The tall warrior flinched, and her bard’s heart jumped. “Xena! Xena, can you hear me?” She bent over, placing a gentle kiss on the warrior’s lips, lingering there as if sharing life-giving warmth. She deepened the kiss, sharing her breath and her energy with her mate, and the dark warrior coughed.

“Xena, oh Xena, gods…” The bard cried, rocking her warrior in her arms. “Come back to me, Xena.”

“Gabrielle.” Her voice rose barely above a whisper. “I’m here, Gabrielle.”

The bard pulled the warrior up into her arms and held her close, then kissed her again. This time, the kiss was returned, very lightly. The warrior-bard’s warm tears bathed her warrior’s cheeks as she held her close, rocking her gently.

“Xena, Xena, by the gods, Xena, I love you. I love you, Xena.”

“Love you, Gabrielle.”

Gabrielle looked up at the sky, to the dark god and his sister, whom she knew were observing them, unseen, and whispered, “Thank you, Aphrodite, Ares. I will never forget this.”

“Ares?” The warrior asked weakly.

“I’ll tell you later, love. Right now I need to get you warm. I’ll be right back.” The small woman left and returned a minute later with their bedrolls. She placed them near the temple’s altar and then helped her partner onto them, covering her warmly. She then busied herself making a fire and soon the temple was beginning to warm perceptibly.

As her partner slept, she gathered the few scraps of food they had left in their packs and fixed a meager meal. After coaxing her mate to eat a small bit, she lay next to her and pulled her into her arms.

Xena held tightly to Gabrielle, as if not wanting to part from her again even for an instant. “Gabrielle, why? I told you that bringing me back would condemn those 40,000 souls.”

“Xena, Eli came to me in a dream. He told me that no spirit had to remain tormented… that he would welcome them into his realm. He places no restrictions or limitations on any soul…all are welcome there. He said he could feel my torment at losing my soulmate and wanted to do one last thing for us.” She caressed Xena’s brow. “So see, those souls are alright…Xena, I had to do it. I need you so much. I know you were nearby…I could feel you…but it wasn’t the same, Xena. I would rather be with you on the other side than live without you.”

Xena nodded weakly. “Thank you, Gabrielle. I missed you too.”

A short time later, as they lay in each other’s arms, Gabrielle said softly, “Xena, it was way too close this time. I can’t go through that again. I just can’t.” The bard mumbled against her partner’s temple, “Remember when we were on the ship on our way to Japa, you said that we should take a break from this life and go away for awhile?”

The warrior nodded.

“I want to do it Xena. Let’s leave as soon as you’re strong enough. I don’t care where we go…let’s just go.”

“Alright.”

“Alright?”

“Yes.” The normally strong warrior added weakly, “I’m done with this, Gabrielle. I figure freeing 40,000 souls is redemption enough. I’m ready to go away with you.”

“Oh, gods, Xena…” The bard began to cry softly.

“Hey…what’s that for?”

“I’m happy, Xena. You’re alive, we’re going away to a safe place and we’re going to have a life together.” She gazed into her partner’s usually brilliant eyes, which were still dulled somewhat, but at least held life. “That makes me so happy, Xena.”

“Me too, Gabrielle.”

They held each other quietly for a few moments and then the bard softly said, “Lesbos.”
“Hmm?”

“Let’s go to Lesbos for the winter…as long as I can get a promise out of you that you won’t be distracted by any other women.” She grinned against her mate’s hair.

“Gabrielle! I wouldn’t.” She turned to look up into her smaller mate’s eyes and said seriously, “Gabrielle, you are everything that I will ever want or need. You are my soulmate…Gabrielle, you complete me.” As she spoke, tears began to fall from her eyes and her mate was insured of her sincerity.

“I know that, Xena. I love you, too…always and forever.”

“Always and forever, Gabrielle.”

Ryan blinked her eyes awake and frowned. Jesus Christ, they get stranger and stranger. Friggin’ drugs. She sighed and tried to stretch, and the pain settled in again. Fuck, when will it start to improve?

She blew out a breath and tried to settle herself more comfortably in the hospital bed. Janna stirred then and Ryan used the control to raise the head of the bed.

“Morning, honey. How are you doing?”

“Shitty, Janna. God, I can’t get comfortable,” she said, anger beginning to color her voice.

“Honey, maybe I shouldn’t sleep with you…maybe I prevent you from moving around like you need to or from getting the rest you need.”

“No, Janna, your presence is comforting…it’s this god damned, fucking five hundred pound cast that prevents me from getting comfortable. And the incision in my gut.” She looked at her mate and smiled weakly, adding, “Shit, baby, I don’t think I can sleep without you. I’m so used to your presence.”

Janna smiled. “I know, me too. I don’t think I’ve used a regular pillow since before we met, have I?”

“Nope, that’s my job now, baby. Give me a kiss, love…that’ll send some of this pain away.”

Janna did, and it did. They snuggled for a while, until Ryan’s breakfast was delivered and then Janna got up.

A short time later, after retrieving bagels, fruit and herbal tea for herself from the cafeteria, Janna sat beside Ryan while they ate. Rather, while she ate and Ryan drank her breakfast, as she was still on a liquid diet.

“Ryan, I had a really intense warrior dream last night. It was realistic, like they always are, but it also had some very strange elements.”

“What was it about?”

“Well, the intense part was where you had died, love, in Japan, I believe. The weird part was that you were resurrected and you recovered. Then we decided to go away and rest and not fight any more. I felt then just as I do now, with you recovering…just so happy and relieved that you are alive.”

Ryan had listened quietly to Janna, and set her spoon down in the broth. “Shit, Janna, we did it again…we had the same dream. I thought it was the drugs that made it weird, but you saw the same things. Jesus.” She shook her head and picked up her spoon again.

“What was it about, Ryan? I mean, the man and woman that helped you were gods…does that mean that the mythical gods were real? And we actually knew some of them?”

“Well, my Grandfather told me that in the ancient times, there were powerful beings, Star People, who were on the planet helping humans, and they were considered gods. Maybe that’s what they were.” She shook her head, confused. “I don’t know, babe. Maybe the only way to find out the truth is to consult with the spirit dudes. They seem to be pretty near omniscient.”

“Mm, true…but remember hon, they’re the first to admit that they don’t know all, and only have the experience of their own thousands of lives, along with the perspective of the plane of existence that they now exist on.”

“Well, yeah, Janna, but still, compared to an earthbound human they are pretty damn near omniscient, as far as I’m concerned.”

“We’ll have to put that at the top of our list of questions for our next channeling session then, love.” A thought struck and Janna looked at Ryan curiously. “You know, I haven’t told Terry and Anna about your accident yet, but I’ll bet when I do, they’ll want to come right out and do a healing session. Are you up to that, honey?”

“Janna, I’d kill for a massive dose of Reiki. This pain is really starting to get me down.”

“I’ll give them a call, then. See if they can make it over this way soon.”

“Thanks, baby.” She patted her mate’s thigh and sighed. “You know, it’s been almost a week since we made love. I had thought that we just might go our entire lives making love every day. I’m sorry I blew that for us, Janna.”

“Ryan, honey, don’t worry about that. The number of times is meaningless. We’ll get back into our routine soon.”

“We haven’t even been able to make our morning connection…I really miss that too.” Ryan said sadly.

“I do too, love. Um, why don’t we tomorrow? We can be discrete about it…stay under the covers. Especially if we wake up early…which isn’t a problem for you. Will you feel up to it?”

Ryan’s wide grin was answer enough.

Later that evening, as they were having their dinner with Zac, their entire softball team stopped by on their way to their game.

As Sharon, the manager, walked in and saw her star pitcher’s battered and bruised body, with her leg in traction, she gasped, “Aw, fuck, Zamora! We’re sunk…no offense Elaine,” she said as she quickly turned and glanced at her backup pitcher.

Elaine laughed. “None taken, Sharon…I’m well aware that Ryan’s in a league of her own.”

Ryan smiled sheepishly. “Sorry, coach. And, um, I’m afraid that your second baseman isn’t playing tonight either.”

Sharon looked at Janna and then back at Ryan and actually almost grinned. “I didn’t expect she would be. I went ahead and called a couple of the girls you scouted for me Ry.” Addressing Janna, she added, “Janna, you come back when you’re ready.”

Ryan’s jaw dropped in shock. “Somebody check Sharon’s temperature…I think she’s sick.”

“Yeah, Ry, she’s been awful mellow…we’ve been wondering about her too!” Carrie, the catcher, said, eliciting laughter from everyone else.

Sharon scowled, a more natural look for her. “Fuck…you…all.” That received an even bigger laugh.

Ryan shook her head as she grinned, looking around at her teammates. “Jesus, there haven’t been so many dykes in one room in this hospital since Jackie’s wife had her baby here a few years ago!”

Janna laughed and threw her arm around her wife’s shoulders, kissing her temple.

After a short, friendly visit, Sharon said, “Well, guys, we’ve gotta run…we have a game to win. You take care, you two. Zamora,”

“It’s Norden-Zamora now, Sharon and you goddamn well know it.” Ryan smiled and raised her eyebrows at her friend and coach.

“Sorry!” Sharon said dramatically. “Habit. Anyway, you get better. We’re all thinking about ya.”

“Thanks guys…it was good to see you. Win it for us tonight.”

“It’s a done deal, Ryan.” Sharon said, before doing the most surprising thing she had ever done in any of the ballplayers’ presence…she kissed her pitcher’s cheek and gave her infielder a hug before quickly turning away.

The players all looked at each other wide-eyed and smiled at Ryan and Janna before following their coach out of the room. Carrie and Jackie, Ryan’s closest friends on the team, lingered and kissed both of their friends goodbye.

Carrie held Ryan’s hand as she said, “We’ll come see you again in a few days and bring our wives…Michelle and Kathy both send their love.”

“Thanks, Carrie. We’ll see you then. Go give ’em hell!” Janna nodded her agreement and they watched their friends go.

“That was nice,” Janna said as she settled Ryan’s head on her shoulder.

“Yeah, God…it was good to see them…and Jesus, this must have really shaken Sharon up…I’ve never seen her show tenderness to anyone before.”

“It’s shaken everyone up, Ryan. Everyone who knows and loves you. This has been very hard, honey…you almost died, you know.”

“I know.” She snuggled against her wife’s shoulder and let their love, and their gratitude, pass between them as they watched the sun travel toward the western horizon outside of Ryan’s window. Their brother watched them, in turn, as he realized that his sister was on the road to recovery and that it was time for him to return home. He quietly thanked the Grandfathers and the spirits as a silent tear tracked down his cheek.

Two days later, on Sunday morning, he bid his sister and her wife goodbye. Ryan sent him away with the promise that she would work diligently to be able to attend his wedding in mid October. He told her that he would hold her to that promise.

~~~~~~~~~~

As Ryan lay quietly on the bed, with Janna sitting beside her, their friend Terry walked the perimeter of the room. She held in one hand an abalone shell with smoking bits of sage in it, while with the other hand she fanned the rising wisps of smoke with a bundle of eagle feathers.

Ryan breathed deeply, becoming quite relaxed despite her pain, and Janna smiled as she felt her mate’s calm. Terry’s mate, Anna, picked up on Ryan’s relaxed state as well, and smiled as she leaned nonchalantly against a wall.

“Okay, guys, I think that’s good.” Terry said softly as she placed the still smoking shell on the dinner tray. She gazed at it for a moment and remarked, “It looks like it wants to keep burning for a while, so we’ll let it.”

Anna nodded as she approached the bed. Terry stood beside her on the side opposite where Janna stood and they closed their eyes, centering themselves before starting the healing session.

Just before they were ready to begin, a nurse came into the room and frowned as she detected the acrid-sweet aroma. “What…” She started to say, and Ryan opened her eyes.

“Relax…it’s not what it smells like…it’s sage. I’m Native American and this is one of our traditions. Please respect that.”

The nurse looked thoughtful for a moment and then nodded and turned to leave.

“Thank you,” Ryan said sincerely, though her pain was wearing her patience thin.

The nurse half turned and smiled before exiting.

“Well done, love.” Janna smiled down at her mate. Ryan grasped her hand where it lay beside her and brought it to her lips, kissing it gently.

“Are you ready, Ryan?” Anna asked.

“Yep.”

Each of the three women then did the quick ritual which each used to help to call forth the energy, and then they placed their hands on Ryan’s body.

Each woman knew intuitively where to begin, and Janna started at Ryan’s heart and power centers. Her mate had begun to feel very confined the previous few days and Janna wanted to send her comforting, healing love as quickly as possible. Terry started on Ryan’s abdominal surgery site, while her wife applied energy to Ryan’s ankle. The healing continued for almost an hour, with the women changing positions as they felt a particular area was complete, until they had covered Ryan’s entire body.

About half way through the session, Ryan had fallen blissfully asleep, as the energy relaxed her body while it helped to heal her. When they were finished, Janna took Anna and Terry down to the cafeteria and bought them lunch.

As Janna and Terry enjoyed salads and Anna ate a bowl of pasta with meatballs, they visited.

“Guys, thanks so much for coming out. She’s been having a hard time and I know this will help her.”

“We don’t mind, really, Janna. You should have called us earlier, you know.” Her dark-haired friend gently admonished.

“I know, Ter, but I was pretty numb myself. Trying to get by from minute to minute.”

Her friend nodded sagely. “How are you doing now, Janna? This has got to be so hard for you.”

Janna nodded. “It is, but I’m hanging in there. Looking after her actually takes my mind off of my own discomfort much of the time…though when she becomes difficult, it usually rears its ugly little head at the same time.”

Terry nodded compassionately and continued, “Hon, did Ryan tell you what I told her when I was giving her the massage the last time you guys were over?”

Janna nodded as she took a sip of her juice. “Yes, she did. That was very interesting. Do you think it’s affecting her recovery now?”

Terry nodded. “Yes, I think it is. I think she’ll need lots of Reiki and maybe even a regression or two to work through those ancient wounds.” Terry was referring to the fact that she had picked up on Ryan’s subconscious tendency to hold onto emotional issues within her body at the sites of past-life traumatic injuries. She had apparently suffered many, many serious injuries in previous lives, or perhaps in one particular life, and those areas of her body were currently giving her major problems.

Janna nodded as Anna added, “We’ll be happy to come out as often as you think she would benefit, like weekly, if you’d like.”

“Thanks guys…that would be great. I’m afraid I’m not much use to her when I’m not feeling well. And anyway, you two are powerful healers.”

“Janna, don’t discount your abilities…you’re pretty powerful yourself. But I know how it is to not feel up to running it. When I blew out my knee, I never gave any to myself…I always had to have Terry do it.” She took a big bite of her pasta and then added, “Hey, you mentioned wanting an attunement while you were pregnant…is today good, or would you rather wait until you’re farther along?”

“I don’t know…does it matter?”

“No, it’s just whatever you feel like.”

“I think I’ll put if off for a while then. When Ryan’s better, we want to come over for some channeling…maybe we can do it then?”

Anna nodded. “Yes, sounds good.”

Terry looked up from her salad and frowned as she said, “Hey, what about the Pride Parade in two weeks? Will you still be able to come out for it? Will Ryan be up and about by then?”

“Oh, God…I don’t know. I had forgotten all about it. I don’t imagine she will be able to travel yet. The doctor said something about using a wheelchair the first few weeks and I’d hate for her to push herself too hard too soon. I don’t even know if she’ll be out of the hospital by then.” She sat back in her chair and frowned. “Darn. We were really looking forward to that trip. She’s never been to the parade, and I was gonna try to show her a great time at all of my old haunts.”

Terry’s eyes sparkled as she said, “Maybe it’s for the best, Janna. She’s so damn gorgeous she would probably cause a riot.”

Janna laughed as she said, “I can’t argue with that. I must admit that I was looking forward to showing her off.”

Anna grinned and punched her friend’s arm before saying, “We’ll just have to enjoy all the babes for you and tell you all about it later.”

“Gee, thanks, guys. That makes me feel so much better.” Her eyes brightened as she added, “Hey, can you take a camcorder and make a video for us?”

Her friends looked at each other and grinned. “Yeah, we’ll do that…it should be fun.” Terry answered with a grin.

“Just make sure you get the Dykes on Bikes…they always lead the parade and are the highlight for me.” Janna giggled.

“I can’t imagine why,” Anna said sarcastically, “Since a good half of them are usually topless.”

“Exactly!” Her eyes lit up again and she added, “Hey, Ryan would be great, wouldn’t she? She’s a gorgeous dyke, loves her Harley, and possesses no modesty whatsoever.”

Terry fanned herself as she said with a grin, “Try and talk her into it for next year, will ya, hon?” Addressing her mate she said, “We’ll have to get that tape for them hon, so she’ll see what fun it is.”

“You are so bad, Miss Terry.” Janna said as she playfully slapped her friend’s arm.

“I’m just a little ole red blooded Southern girl, Miss Janna.” Terry smiled coyly and batted her eyelashes.

The rest of the lunch was finished amidst a flurry of giggles and good-natured teasing and the three friends arrived back at the room to find Ryan still sleeping peacefully after her healing session. Janna and her best friends spent the remainder of the afternoon visiting pleasantly and she saw her friends off shortly before Ryan’s dinner arrived.

Later, Janna settled next to her mate, tired after the long day, and Luna, from her perch outside Ryan’s window, saw her safely to sleep wrapped tightly around her wife.

-17-

As Janna approached her mate’s room, she heard Ryan’s voice raised in anger. Oh, no…not again. She sighed and steeled herself before entering the room.

Upon seeing her mate, Ryan whined, “Janna, where have you been? This damn woman is insisting that I take these goddamn pills and I don’t want them.”

“Honey, I was just down getting some lunch. And what pills are these?” She set her sandwich and juice on the tray next to the bed.

“Some goddamn stupid pain pills. I told her I’m trying to do without.”

The exasperated nurse looked plaintively at Janna as she said, “Mrs. Norden-Zamora, the doctor needs to see how she responds to these, because he absolutely won’t send her home until he’s certain that her pain can be managed.” She looked down at her patient. “And she’s obviously still in a lot of pain.”

“Ryan, honey, I thought we had talked about this. You agreed to give it a try.”

“I agreed to talk to the damn doctor about it, Janna. The goddamn shit makes me dopey.” She turned her frosty gaze to the hapless nurse again and said, “Get the goddamn doctor in here…I want to talk to him.”

“I’m sorry, he won’t be making his rounds until this evening.”

“I don’t care if he’s up to his fucking armpits in surgery…call him…now!” Ryan roared, and then winced at the pain it reawakened in her body.

“Mrs. Norden-Zamora, there is no need for that kind of language in here. I will call his office and ask that they have him call the desk as soon as he’s free.”

“You do that. And I’ll use any goddamn, fucking language I want to in here. That’s why I got a private room…that and so I can fuck my wife.” She sneered at the nurse’s look of alarm.

“Ryan!” Janna gasped before turning to the nurse, embarrassed. “I’m sorry, she’s in so much pain…we don’t…in here,” she stammered. The nurse simply furrowed her brows and left in a hurry.

“Janna, don’t fucking apologize for me. I meant what I said and you know it.”

“Ryan, I’m sorry you’re hurting so much. I’ll call the doctor’s office too and try to get him in here. But honey, please try not to treat the nurses badly. They really are doing all that they can.”

“Oh, they’re useless…absolutely fucking useless, Janna.” She winced as a sharp pain shot from her thigh to her ankle and left a burning ache in its wake. “Fuck! Janna this damn pain is too much.”

“Ryan, take some medication for it, for God’s sake!” She caressed her mate’s sweating brow. “You should still be on the morphine, honey. Your injuries were incredibly severe…you can’t expect to be pain-free this soon…not even with the Reiki.”

Ryan closed her eyes and moaned, “But Janna, as long as I still need such heavy pain killers, they won’t let me go home…and I’ve gotta get home, Janna. I’m starting to go nuts in here.” She rolled her head from side to side on the pillow. “Janna, it’s been a week since the leg surgery…I’m going fucking nuts!”

Janna forgot her lunch, despite her nausea and lay down beside her wife, pulling her into her arms. She sent her soothing, loving energy through their link and began to run Reiki as well. Soon, her mate had drifted to sleep. Janna kissed her brow, which was still furrowed in pain, and said a silent prayer to the grandfathers, asking them to continue to watch over her mate. She sighed deeply. This certainly isn’t going to be an easy road.

“Remember the love, Granddaughter.”

I will. Thank you, Grandfather.

Later, shortly after the sun had set, Janna finished giving Ryan more Reiki and leaned over to kiss her forehead. She thought that Ryan had fallen asleep, but as she touched her lips to her mate’s head, she heard a quiet, “Thanks, love.”

“You’re welcome, sweetheart. We’ll do it again in an hour.” She caressed Ryan’s cheek and smiled warmly at her as she settled next to her on the bed.

“No, Janna. You don’t feel up to healing me so often. I’ve decided to take the pills. Who knows, maybe they’ll work now.” She nuzzled her face against Janna’s shoulder as she mumbled, “I’m sorry I’ve been such an asshole.”

“I understand, love. Don’t worry about it.”

“Buzz the nurse, will ya babe? Tell her I’ll take the damn things now.”

When the nurse arrived some time later, Janna said to her, “We’ve decided to take the pain pills now.”

The nurse smiled and nodded without saying a word and left to retrieve them. When she returned several minutes later, both women were asleep and she had to awaken the patient to administer the medicine.

~~~~~~~~~~

Janna awakened to lips on hers and insistent fingers trying to gain access under her panties. She smiled into her wife’s kiss and threw herself around her mate…and solidly kicked her casted ankle.

“Ow!” Ryan hissed. “Shit…god…fuck…”

Janna’s eyes flew open as she suddenly realized where they still were. “Ryan! God, I’m sorry! I was still half asleep.” She turned toward Ryan and raised onto her elbow as she tried to console her.

“S’okay…it was a bad idea…anyway,” she groaned.

“No it wasn’t. Come here.” Janna tried to pull Ryan close, but she resisted.

“It’s okay, Janna. Can you just give me some Reiki?”

As Janna began to nod affirmatively, she was hit by a wave of nausea, and her face contorted in discomfort.

Ryan saw it and said, “Oh, shit, Janna…you’re sick. Never mind.” And she turned away sullenly. “I need the bedpan anyway.”

“I’ll get it…I’m sorry, honey.”

“It’s okay, Janna.”

Janna rolled off the hospital bed and drowsily got to her feet. She helped Ryan take care of her business and as she walked the full bedpan to the bathroom, her stomach lurched and she barely made it to the toilet before she vomited. She got up off her knees, shook her head disgustedly, and reached for her toothbrush.

When she walked back out into the room, she heard, “You okay?”

“Yeah.” She set the clean bedpan on the bedside table and stood looking at her mate. “Wonderful morning, huh?”

“Just fuckin’ grand.” She sighed sadly, then added, “Janna, I need to get out of this damn place…we both do.” She looked tiredly at her mate. “You don’t have to be here, you know. You can start sleeping at home…come in for a few hours.” She looked down at her hands dejectedly.

“Ryan, I can’t do that. I need to be here. I think I need it as much as you do.” She turned around and grabbed her jeans and bra from the chair and went back into the bathroom to change. She came back out and smiled weakly at her wife. “I need to get some food so I don’t lose it again…I’ll be back in a few minutes.”

“Okay. Hey, grab me a steak while you’re there.” Ryan said with a half smile.

Janna returned the smile and gave her mate a hug. “I love you, Ryan. We’ll get back to normal real soon…I promise.”

“I know, baby.”

Janna pulled back and gazed at her beautiful wife, then her face contorted in confusion. “Hey! Why isn’t your leg up in traction?”

“The nurse came in during the night and took it down…said it can be down at night now.”

“Well there’s some progress right there.”

“Yeah.”

“Except for when your wife forgets where she is and kicks you. Maybe it should be up at night and down during the day.”

“Maybe…clumsy woman…” Ryan grinned lopsidedly.

“Hey!”

“Go get your breakfast and come back to me.”

“I’m gone.”

When Janna returned, Ryan’s doctor was in the room.

“Ah, here she is.” Ryan grinned at her wife.

“Morning.” Janna set her breakfast on the tray and went to her wife’s side.

“Good morning, Janna. I see she’s making some progress in the pain department.”

“Yeah, babe, I told him that the Demerol is helping some now.” She looked at the doctor as she added, “Though it makes me sleepy and dopey.”

“That’s why they call it ‘dope’, Ryan. We’ll get you onto something milder as soon as we can. So, ladies, I think that one or two more days of observation will be plenty and we can get you home.” He lifted Ryan’s gown and gazed at her incision. “Everything is looking good. You’re doing okay off the catheter?”

“Yes. I’ve got my own private nurse here who handles the bedpan duty and sponge baths.” Ryan grinned at her mate.

“And Janna, you’re informing the nurse of her urine output?

“Yes.”

“Good. Well, Ryan, I’d like to start you on solid foods today. We’ll give that a day or two, see how you handle it and go from there. Alright?”

“Jesus…yes that’s alright!”

He smiled and added, “Can I assume that since you’re responding better to the pain medication that you’ll be a little easier on the nurses?”

Ryan blushed mildly. “Yeah…sorry about that. I was trying to do without the pills and I guess I became Super Bitch. It won’t happen again.”

“I’m glad to hear that, because your body heals while you’re resting and if you’re not resting because of the pain, healing is reduced, obviously.”

Ryan nodded.

He added, “Though I must say, your surgical incision is healing up very quickly.”

Ryan threw a quick, knowing smile her mate’s way and then smiled at the doctor. “Good.”

“Well, ladies, I’ll be in again tomorrow morning. Have a good day.”

“Thanks doctor,” Ryan and Janna replied in unison.

As soon as he was gone, Janna crawled onto the bed and hugged her mate. “Ryan, honey, that’s great news!”

Ryan returned the hug, saying, “God, yes, baby.” She looked at Janna and added, “Is that a light I see at the end of this tunnel?”

“It is, I think.” Janna’s eyes reflected the light that they both could now see, and she kissed her wife soundly.

When they parted, Ryan said, “God, Janna, we haven’t kissed like that in weeks.” She sighed. “I miss loving you so much.”

Janna snuggled against her mate and sighed. “I do too, love. Um, have you had your Demerol this morning?”

“Yesss…” Ryan drew out the word with a smile.

“And the nurse has been in to do your vitals?”

“Mm, hm.”

“I’m feeling better, why don’t we, um, try our cuddle time again?”

“Close the door and draw the curtain, baby.”

Janna was up, out of her pants, and back into bed almost before Ryan could blink, and she grinned widely. “Come ‘ere then, love.” She reached out to her mate and was scooped into Janna’s loving arms.

They kissed gently, not wanting to become overly passionate, and both reached down to connect gently with each other.

“God, Janna…” Ryan moaned into her wife’s mouth.

“Mmm,” was the response.

After several minutes of incredibly warm, satisfying bonding, both women began to crave more, so it was fortunate, in a way, that Ryan’s partner walked into the room.

As their kiss deepened and Ryan’s blood began to pound, waking up raw, sore nerve endings in the process, they heard someone clear his throat.

“Um, guys, you up?”

“John, yeah…uh, just a sec.” Ryan choked out.

“Hey, Ry, if it’s not a good time I can come back…”

“No, buddy, it’s a good time…really…just a sec.”

Ryan gazed comically into her wife’s eyes and sighed. “Later, baby.” She whispered before kissing her tenderly.

“Absolutely.”

Janna rolled off her wife and took a deep breath before sitting up. She looked down at her mate and shook her head, grinning. “I’ll need to wash that hand for you.”

Ryan returned the smile and nodded.

Janna got out of bed and poked her head around the curtain. “Hi, John…could you, um, hand me those jeans there please?”

“Sure,” he said as he handed them over.

“Thanks.”

Janna slipped into them and struggled to zip them.

Ryan grinned as she watched. “Honey, you’re ready for my shorts, I think.”

“Yep, I’m afraid so…and your shirts. I think I’ll run home and get some.”

She emerged from behind the curtain and pulled it back to reveal a smirking John Stewart. The smirk grew wider when Janna went to the bathroom, retrieved a soapy washcloth and proceeded to wash her wife’s hands.

Ryan grinned at her friend and said, “Don’t say a fucking word, John.”

John laughed and held up his hands innocently, shaking his head. “I had no intention of saying anything, Ry.”

“That’ll be the fuckin’ day, John. What’s up?” Janna sat next to her and Ryan pulled her close.

“I’m back on duty…thought I’d check in on my way to the station.”

“That’s good, bud. Who’re they partnering you with?”

“I don’t know…I guess I’ll find out today. I truly hope it’s not a clueless rookie. I’m used to working with the best.” He gazed sincerely at his partner, who smiled her thanks.

“Well, John, a rookie could learn from worse. And anyway, anyone they would assign has already had some patrol training. There aren’t many rookies in training now, are there?”

“I don’t think so.”

“Then I think you don’t need to worry.”

“Probably. Frankly, Ryan, I’m not looking forward to being out there with anyone other than you. We’re a team…we’ve learned to work together like a machine…I trust you at my back. I don’t want to have to build that trust with someone else, just to have you come back in a few months.”

“It looks like at least six, John.”

“Shit…”

“Sorry, buddy…you have no idea how much.” Ryan shook her head sadly and received a squeeze from her mate.

“It’s okay, Ry, don’t stress about it. I’ll manage. I’ll be counting the days until you come back, but I’ll manage.” He grinned. “So, when you getting out of here?”

“Maybe day after tomorrow. If I’m a good girl.” She grinned at her mate.

“Well, then, you’re sunk Ryan. You’ll be in here until hell freezes over.”

She happily flipped him the bird as she grinned and he sat and enjoyed his doughnuts and coffee with them until it was time to leave. “I’ll stop by on my way home. Janna, if you want to get out of here for a while, I’ll sit with the patient.”

“Thanks, John. But I just need to run home and get a few things. I think she’ll be okay alone for that little while.”

Ryan’s expression said, “Oh, yeah, absolutely,” but when Janna left several minutes later with John, she murmured quietly, imploring her mate, “Hurry back, love.”

Janna kissed her sweetly and promised that she would.

Later, the nearly full moon hung gracefully in the southeastern sky as their softball team entertained Ryan and Janna again before a late game. They were regaling them with tales of the game that they had missed, and won, despite the absence of two of their best players, beating their archrivals, which was very satisfying for all.

Carrie, the stocky, short brown-haired catcher, said, “So, Ry, how long are you out of commission for?”

“Four to six months, Car.”

“Shit no! You’re out for the season?”

“Well, yeah, Car, I am. I figured you knew that.”

“God, that sucks, Ry. I’m sorry.” Jackie commented.

Sharon added, “Don’t worry abut it, Ryan. Elaine is doing fine and one of the new girls is backing her up.”

“Yeah, Ry…she’s working me like a slave. I haven’t thrown so many pitches since college.”

“And it’s paying off, isn’t it Elaine?” The coach eyed her pointedly.

“Yeah, but Jesus, Sharon…my arm kills me the next day.”

“Well we appreciate it, Elaine. Thank you.” Janna said sincerely.

Everyone shared a nice visit and Ryan assured them both that their second baseman would return soon and that she herself would be making it out to watch soon thereafter.

Shortly after the team left, Sam and Georgie stopped by after a dinner out.

As her Captain walked in, Ryan, having recently received a dose of Demerol boomed happily, “Cap! Georgie!”

Janna grinned next to her. “We’re still on the happy pills!”

Their friends both grinned. “Hell, whatever works. You look a hell of a lot better than you did a week ago, Ryan.”

“Thanks, Cap.” Ryan looked at Janna briefly, then back at her friends as she said sincerely, “Last week, I don’t think I thanked you two for being so supportive of Janna when this happened. I really appreciate it. Thanks.”

Georgie waved her hand at Ryan and said, “Oh, hon…that’s what friends do. I’m glad I was able to help.”

“Georgie, I can’t thank you enough either. You were so there for me.” Janna looked at Ryan and added, “She even helped me to send you Reiki when you were so critical.”

Ryan’s mouth dropped open. “Georgie…thank you so much. Come ‘ere.” She held her arms open and her friend accepted a warm hug.

“It was no trouble, Ryan. I was happy to do it.”

Ryan eyed her Captain. “And Sam, you took good care of my wife for me the night it happened. I couldn’t ask for more from a friend. Thank you.”

“Just doing my job, Norden-Zamora.”

“Yeah, okay, Sam…thanks anyhow.”

“What’s the prognosis as far as returning to work?” He changed the subject.

“It’s too soon to know, Cap. I’d like to return to desk duty, at the very least, as soon as possible. But right now, the doctors aren’t telling us much past getting me home in a few days.”

“A few days, hell, Ryan, that’s great!”

Ryan beamed. “You have no idea how great, Cap! I’ll be in a wheelchair for a few weeks, but shit, at least I’ll be home.” She looked to her mate and picked up her hand. “We’ll be home.”

Janna nodded happily.

“Ryan, let me tell you something. I broke my leg playing football in college…a bad break, like yours…and I found out that I couldn’t dwell on what I couldn’t do. I had to focus on the things that I could do. Took me a while to figure it out, but once I did, I was a lot happier.” He nodded at his friend to emphasize his point.

“That’s good advice, Sam. I’ll definitely keep it in mind.” She looked at Janna, who nodded her agreement.

When they left a short time later, Janna saw them out and as Georgie hugged her she stood back and grinned. “You look so cute in Ryan’s shirt, Janna. It’s almost a dress on you.”

Janna looked down at herself and laughed. “Yeah, can you tell that I have shorts on underneath?” She lifted the police t-shirt to reveal a pair of Ryan’s biking shorts.

“Oh, my, honey…you’re starting to show!” Georgie exclaimed happily as she patted Janna’s little tummy.

“Yep, hence the reason for wearing Ryan’s clothes. I graduated out of my jeans just this morning.” Janna beamed up at her taller friend.

“And you’re glowing, too, Janna.” She sighed. “Oh, I just loved being pregnant…and don’t worry, you’ll feel better very soon and then you’ll just love it so much…especially when the baby starts to move.”

Janna’s eyes twinkled merrily as she replied, “I can’t wait, Georgie.” She looked back at her wife. “We’re both so excited.”

“I can see that. Honey, you couldn’t have chosen a better partner, as far as I’m concerned. She’ll be a wonderful parent.”

“I know.” They hugged once more and then their friends left, with a promise to visit soon after Ryan returned home.

Later, their friend in the sky glowed brilliantly outside of Ryan’s window, filling the room with a comforting glow as they lay together in bed.

Janna cradled Ryan’s head against her shoulder and idly played with the front of her hospital gown. Ryan grabbed the playful hand and brought it to her lips. She kissed each finger and then gently sucked Janna’s index finger into her mouth. Janna gasped at the intimate touch and rose onto her elbow, looking down at her mate. Slowly, she leaned down and captured Ryan’s lips softly. They kissed tenderly, enjoying the contact that they had missed so much over the previous two weeks.

Janna broke the kiss and then leaned in for another before pulling back and asking, “How do you feel, love?”

“Not too bad, Janna…you?”

“Pretty good.”

“You want to close the curtain, babe?”

“I do.”

“Please do, then.”

Janna did so and removed her t-shirt before climbing naked back onto the bed. Ryan’s sharp intake of breath was audible.
“God, Janna, it’s been way too long since I’ve seen that beautiful sight.”

“For me too, Ryan.” She leaned forward and gently pulled Ryan to a sitting position so that she could untie her gown in the back. She did so and pulled it off, leaving Ryan sitting before her clad only in the bandaging around her ribs, which unfortunately covered her breasts from the nipples down.

Janna gently traced a fading bruise on Ryan’s torso and then leaned down to kiss it. Ryan gasped and pulled Janna up into her arms, where she kissed her passionately. They spent several very pleasant minutes tasting each other before Janna gently pushed Ryan down onto the bed and gingerly leaned over the top of her and kissed her again.

“Mmm, Janna, I want you baby.” Ryan mumbled sexily into her mouth.

“I want you too, Ryan…me first, okay?”

“Yes, baby.” Ryan gasped as Janna’s soft lips moved down to her throat. She tilted her head back and ran her hands through Janna’s hair as she enjoyed the sensuous contact.

Janna nibbled and tasted her wife as if she hadn’t partaken of her pleasure in months, rather than fewer than two weeks. “God, love, you taste good.”

“Mmm…”

Janna’s lips continued their journey downward and when she reached a bound breast, she kissed it tenderly and said, “Does that hurt, love?”

“No, baby. Do it some more please.”

Janna smiled against Ryan’s breast and commenced a more ardent caress, eliciting moans from her mate. As she ran her tongue along the unbound curve of Ryan’s upper breast, a hard nub appeared under the brown bandaging below it, and Janna tended to it passionately. She slipped her tongue partially under the wrap and tasted a velvety nipple before moving her mouth to the opposite breast and treating it equally, slowly running her fingers down Ryan’s torso as she did so.

When she reached Ryan’s dark curls, her mate flinched. Janna looked up quickly, asking, “Did I hurt you, love?”

“God, Janna, no…the opposite. I’m just incredibly turned on. Your touch is like fire.”

Janna smiled, feeling the electricity within her own body as well, and bent her head back to it’s task while her fingers sought out sensitive nether regions. Ryan gasped as her hips bucked when Janna gently entered her.

“God, baby, you’re already so close.”

Ryan panted, “It’s been a long time, baby.”

Janna stroked her gently, lovingly, bringing her wife to full arousal within mere seconds. She began stroking her mate rhythmically, matching her mouth’s rhythm above. After long minutes, as she continued to fondle and stroke Ryan’s inner folds, she moved her mouth off the breast it was loving and kissed her way down to join her fingers.

At the first stroke of her mate’s tongue, Ryan lost control of her hips and they bucked rhythmically of their own accord, as much as they could under the weight of the adjacent cast.

“God, Janna, yes…baby, yes,” she began to moan. After another few minutes, her muscles began to contract and Janna stroked her deeply with both tongue and finger, while her thumb tended to the hard little bundle of nerves at the top, and Ryan began to moan loudly. Janna quickly disengaged her mouth and moved back up to capture Ryan’s mouth with hers, silencing her cries. Her mate’s release came quickly then, and she moaned loudly into Janna’s mouth, gasping deeply for air.

“Oh, fuck, Janna…fuck,” she panted.

Janna kissed her sweetly and asked, “Did you like that, baby?”

“Oh, God…yes.” Ryan winced slightly through her satisfied smile.

Janna’s brows knit in concern. “Are you hurting?”

“Yes…but it was…so worth it.”

“Where are you hurting, Ryan?”

“My…ribs…Jesus, it’s killing me to breathe.” She gasped.

“Christ!”

“It’s okay, I just need…need to catch my breath. Then it’s…my turn.”

“No, Ryan. We’re done.” Janna said emphatically.

“Janna, yes! Please? I need…to taste you, baby.” She looked up at her wife, passionate blue eyes imploring her seriously. “Please?”

Janna caved, of course, under pressure from the beautiful blue eyes. “You can have a taste, but I will not let you tax yourself.”

Ryan grinned happily and tried to take a deep breath, but winced instead as it wouldn’t come. “Fuck this.”

“Lie still and take it easy for awhile.”

“Yes, doctor.”

Janna held Ryan tenderly until her breath no longer came in ragged gasps and the lines from the pain no longer creased her brow.

“I’m ready, love. Let me love you, Janna,” she said softly.

“Okay, but let me do all the work.” Janna insisted.

“It’s a deal…since I can’t really move much anyway. I want to taste you, love. Sit on my face?”

“My pleasure!” Janna grinned and then moved into position. Ryan delved immediately into her dessert and Janna gasped aloud, “Oh, my God!”

“You’re close too, baby.”

“That’s because I’m married to the sexiest, most beautiful…woman…on the…oh, God…planet. Oh, God, Ryan…yes!”

Ryan smiled against Janna’s soft, sweet cleft as her mate began to moan her pleasure. She began to rock against Ryan’s mouth and quickly succumbed to the loving barrage. As she climaxed and her juices were released, they both moaned loudly at their combined pleasure.

Janna sat above Ryan, holding onto the bed rail as she caught her breath, and shortly crawled back down to embrace her mate. They kissed deeply and then rested, both utterly sated.

A few minutes later, Ryan mumbled, “It took me a long time, didn’t it? Must be the drugs. Make me horny as hell, then dull my senses.”

“It must be that, honey…you did take a lot longer than normal. But it was good, wasn’t it?”

“Oh, God, yes, Janna. Incredible…when I finally came. That’s another reason for going off the drugs as soon as possible.” She grinned against Janna’s chest.

“Mm, yep,” Janna replied sleepily as she pulled the sheet up over their bodies and hugged her mate tightly. “We needed that, Ryan.”

“Mm.”

Grandmother Moon smiled, as she saw that her friends had taken an important step toward healing. She knew that the road ahead of them contained more bumps and hidden curves, but they were negotiating it very well. Well done, my friends. Rest well.

-18-

Janna supervised the positioning of the bed and checked her watch. Three hours. I need to get back to her. She felt an acute anxiety at having left Ryan alone for so long and was anxious to return to her. Jesus Christ…who’s attached to whom? She grinned at the realization of how much she needed to be with her soulmate and shook her head.

“Okay, ma’am…here’s the paperwork,” said the beefy deliveryman as he handed over a packet of papers.

“Thanks. I guess all the instructions are self-explanatory?”

“Yep…it’s all there. Any questions?”

“Nope, I don’t think so. Thanks.”

“Thank you Ms. Norden-Zamora. Good luck to you.”

Janna smiled and nodded before seeing the man and his partner out. When she returned to the family room, she surveyed the new layout. The large hospital bed now sat against the wall where the sofa used to be, and the two nightstands from their bedroom sat to either side of it. Looks good…it’s not too big for the room at all. She sat on the end of the bed, testing it. Comfy…good. I think this will work well. I hope she doesn’t mind that I didn’t consult her on this.

She gazed around the bright, pleasant room, enjoying their collection of Native American art and artifacts. I think she’ll be very comfortable in here…with the stereo and the TV…instead of being stuck in the guest room in the back. And if she’s happy and comfy, then I will be, too.

She sighed, hopped off the bed, and made her way to the front door, grabbing her backpack and keys as she went. After locking the door, she walked down the new wheelchair ramp, testing its strength. The attractive structure was well built and solid, attesting to her brother’s craftsmanship, and she smiled, pleased. She turned and gazed at the lovely sunshine-yellow Victorian-era home that she shared with Ryan. Tomorrow. We’ll be back home tomorrow. Finally.

Ten minutes later, she strode through the door into Ryan’s room, to find her mate watching TV. Ryan’s face lit up when she saw her mate, matching Janna’s.

“Hey, baby…there you are. Didja get everything done?”

Janna set her backpack down and kissed her wife before climbing onto the bed and parking herself next to her.

“Yep. Everything’s all set. Dan did a super job on the ramp.”

“I’ll bet. The man is talented.” She lay her head against Janna’s shoulder as they reclined and tried to settle her cast more comfortably in it’s sling.

“I’ll tell ya, Janna, one of the best things about going home is gonna be getting out of traction. This is murder on my butt.”

“Well, honey, Miss Bicycle Athlete, you don’t have much padding back there, you know. Not like I do.”

Ryan grinned. “Oh, yeah, Janna, you’re just huge.”

“I have more butt than you do, love.”

“It’s a perfect little ass, I’ll tell you that.”

Janna smiled. “Thank you, love. When did you last have some Demerol?”

“‘Bout a half hour ago.”

“Mm, hm…thought so. Let’s take a nap before dinner, huh? I’m tired.”

“Okay, babe. Sounds good.”

Janna left her mate briefly to shut the blinds and pull the curtain around the bed, then put the head of the bed down and joined her wife in slumber for a few hours.

The next day, by mid-morning, Ryan was becoming extremely antsy. “Janna, Jesus…where’s the damn doctor? I can’t leave until he signs me out…he said last night that I can go home today if my pain isn’t too bad. I’ve had two doses of the Percodan since the middle of the night and I’m okay…where the fuck is he, Janna?” She sighed deeply as frustration twisted her usually pleasant features.

Janna doubted that Ryan felt as okay as she claimed, but tried to be understanding as she said, “Honey, I’m sure he’ll be in as soon as he can.”

Ryan continued her whine. “He fucking well better be, Janna, or I’m gonna commit murder. If I have to spend one more night in this God damned place, I swear to God, I’ll kill the prick.”

“Ryan, for God’s sake, calm down. Let me go check with the nurse again.” She sighed as she left the room, and nearly ran into the doctor.

She smiled weakly at him. “Boy am I glad to see you. My wife needs to get home.” She shook her head ironically as she added, “And I’m sure your staff would agree.”

He nodded as he smiled and guided Janna back into the room. “Ryan…I hear you’re ready to go home.”

“Christ, Doc, I sure am.”

“How’s the pain today?”

“Manageable.”

“Your stomach isn’t upset?”

“Nope.”

“Okay. Let me give you a quick check and I’ll sign the release forms.”

Ryan sighed her relief as her wife beside her smiled. As the doctor gently palpated her ribs, Ryan winced. He gazed down at her apologetically and said, “Sorry…I’m afraid ribs take a long time to heal.”

“Yeah…and I’ll have to try to remember not to overexert myself…that deep breathing is killer.”

He looked at her questioningly and asked, “And have you overexerted yourself while you’ve been in here?”

She actually blushed mildly and shrugged as she looked sheepishly at her wife, giving him all the answer he needed. As he turned away to write in her chart, he was grinning.

After giving them thorough instructions as to Ryan’s care, including the necessity of staying off the leg completely for two to three weeks, he hugged both women and wished them well. As he left, he said he would send the nurse in with a wheelchair.

Janna smiled down at her mate, then turned and glanced around the room. There were potted plants and vases of flowers on every surface, filling the room, as well as colorful balloons and boxes of candy. “Honey, I asked my mom and Dan to come help us get all of this stuff home, but do you mind if I send the balloons down to pediatrics?”

“Not at all, baby. Why don’t we leave the flowers, too? Just keep the cards. There might be people here whose rooms can use some brightening.”

“That’s a good idea, love. I’ll check with one of the nurses…she can probably call one of the nuns. I’m going to call my mom…I’ll be right back.”

As she lay waiting to return home, Ryan reflected on the turn of fate that had so drastically changed her life, at least temporarily. Among other things, she would take home with her the knowledge that she had the benefit of the love and support of wonderful friends and coworkers. Then there was her devoted mate. She began to cry softly as she considered the depth of Janna’s devotion to her. She was nearly overwhelmed by the fact of the depth of Janna’s love and sent a silent prayer of thanks to the Universe for her great blessing. She was so fully here for me. She spent nearly every second here by my side, even when I was a total fucking asshole. I am so blessed. So very blessed.

“Always remember the love, Granddaughter,” her grandfather’s voice rang clearly in her mind.

I will, Grandfather. Thank you. I love you, Grandfather.

She sighed deeply, and wiped her tears when she heard Janna and a nurse approaching her room.

Janna said cheerily, “Okay, love, we can go home. We’ll leave the flowers and balloons, and they’ll be distributed by the nuns and pink ladies. I do want to take the plants though, so my mom and Dan are on their way to get them.”

“Great, Janna, let’s go.”

The nurse stepped up to the bed and said, “Mrs. Norden-Zamora, your wife has all of the post-op and recovery instructions, as well as your pain pills. The surgeon’s office will be calling to schedule an appointment for a week or so from now for a checkup. Now, you have a wheelchair at home, right?”

“Yes.” Janna replied. “Ready and waiting.”

“Good. Then you’re all set. Do you have any questions?”

Ryan answered, with a rakish grin, “Just one. How happy are you all to see me leave?”

The nurse laughed. “Not as happy as you’d think, probably. You were a walk in the park compared to some patients. And we fully realize how excruciating pain affects people. Don’t worry about it.”

“Thanks, but I want to say that I’m really sorry with how I acted at times. I know I embarrassed my wife a few times.”

“Actually, Ryan, we’ll miss you. You take care. Drop by and visit us.”

“We’ll do that…in December when our baby comes. I should be back on my feet by then.” She reached out to shake the nurse’s hand, but received a hug instead, and then several other nurses came in and did the same.

As she was wheeled down the hallway, with Janna beside her carrying her belongings, a number of staff greeted them and wished them well. When they reached the elevator, they ran into Beth and Dan and more hugs were exchanged before Janna’s mother and brother left to empty the room.

When they reached the lobby, Janna was about to go ahead to pull the Explorer to the front curb, when several people wearing press badges approached them.

One man, who was followed by a TV camera operator, said, “Officer Norden-Zamora?”

At Ryan’s confused, affirmative nod, he continued, “I’m Rick Ibanez, from Channel Three…do you feel up to a few words?”

“I guess so, sure.” She looked up at Janna, who stood by her side.

“Thank you. I’d like to record a short piece for tonight’s broadcast. I’ll do a short lead in and then I’ll ask a few questions. Okay?”

Ryan nodded, as Janna added, “Please make it brief. She’s anxious to get home.”

The friendly-faced man nodded and asked, “And you are…family?”

“Wife.” Ryan replied matter-of-factly, her tone daring the man to question the statement.

“Nice to meet you Mrs. Norden-Zamora,” the seasoned pro replied, before turning to face the camera. “Okay, Joe, let’s roll.”

He began, “I’m here with Officer Ryan Norden-Zamora, the Stockton police officer who was run down almost two weeks ago during a vice raid that netted the county over two million dollars in drugs and guns. Officer Norden-Zamora shot and killed the two leaders of the ring before their car went out of control and hit her, and is being credited with almost single-handedly stopping the two extremely dangerous, wanted felons. She sustained life-threatening injuries and was listed in critical condition for one week.”

He turned to Ryan and said, “Officer Norden-Zamora, congratulations on your release from the hospital. What exactly were your injuries?”

Ryan faced the camera with grace and replied, “Thank you. But first, I would like to say that I did not single-handedly stop the suspects. I was part of a very large team effort, and my partner, John Stewart, actually disabled their car so that I could get clear shots at them. As far as my injuries, I suffered a broken leg and ankle, a ruptured spleen, a dislocated shoulder and a few broken ribs.” She grinned winningly and added, “Just a hard day at the office.”

The reporter chuckled and added, “Are you aware that you have been cited for bravery and valor, and are being spoken very highly of in local law enforcement circles?”

Ryan blushed mildly and looked down briefly before looking back up and answering, “No, I wasn’t aware of that. I’m honored.” She felt Janna’s warm hands on her shoulders, communicating her love and pride.

“Are you aware also, that local and national gay and lesbian groups are hailing you as a hero and a shining example of a gay American?”

Fuck. “No, I didn’t know that. Um, I must say that I was simply doing my job, and I’m very honored to serve my community, including my own gay and lesbian community.” She looked over her shoulder at Janna, and added, “I would like to publicly thank St. Joesph’s hospital and all of its staff for the tremendous care I received, and for treating my wife and myself with the dignity afforded any married couple. It was very much appreciated.”

“So, you suffered no discrimination based on your sexual preference?”

“On my sexual identity…no. My wife and I were treated fairly and with dignity and she was allowed to stay by my side throughout my stay.”

With that, Janna stepped forward and politely said, “If that’s all, we’d like to get home. Ryan is still recuperating and needs her rest.”

“Of course, thank you very much. This is Rick Ibanez for Channel Three Reports.”

As soon as the red light on the camera went out, Ryan blew out her breath and looked at the reporter. “I’m glad we’re already out, dude, or that would have been extremely uncomfortable.”

The reporter shrugged and said, “It’s been widely reported that you and your wife are active members of the gay and lesbian communities both here and in San Francisco. Your story has been of great interest. I’m sorry if I sprung it on you unaware.”

Ryan half-smiled. “That’s okay. We just didn’t know. We both have been pretty out of it.”

Janna nodded her agreement. After the reporter thanked them and shook their hands, three more reporters, one television and two newspaper, stepped up and Ryan repeated her words verbatim from the first interview.

When they finally reached the car, and Ryan, with Janna’s assistance, had lifted herself into the back seat, she blew out a breath and said, “What the fuck was that, Janna?”

“You got me, Ryan. John mentioned that you had been on the news, but I haven’t watched any TV, or read a paper, since the accident, so I had no idea it had reached these proportions. Jesus.” She started the Explorer and began the short drive home.

After a few moments, she said quietly, “Um, you know, honey, that there may be some backlash against you from the religious right…I don’t think that they will appreciate the fact that you referred to me as your wife during a news interview.”

“You know what, baby? I couldn’t care less about the assholes and how they think. Bring ’em on.” She lay her head back against the window and breathed deeply to try to dispel the excruciating pain that was setting in again. Time for another pain pill already. Not that they do any good.

Janna felt a flash of Ryan’s pain through their bond and winced. I need to get her to bed. I hope no one decides to come by for a visit today. She pulled into the driveway, saying, “We’re home, love.”

Ryan opened her eyes and was heartened beyond belief at the sight of their home, which sat behind the lovely, flower-filled yard. Home. “Yes, we are, love.”

-19-

Ryan slid carefully from the back seat to the ground, into Janna’s arms, who then sat her carefully in the wheelchair she had parked next to the truck. She carefully raised the leg extension on the chair and gently lifted Ryan’s cast-encased leg onto it, gazing down into her mate’s eyes as she did so.

“That okay, honey?”

“Yep.”

“Good. Let’s get you inside.”

“Just a minute, Janna. Let me enjoy the fresh air for a bit.” Ryan tilted her head back and enjoyed the feeling of the sun on her face, and breathed deeply of the late-spring, flower-scented air. “God, babe, that feels nice. I had missed the sky…and the sun.” She looked around at the impeccable yard. “Who’s been taking care of the yard?”

“Dan and the kids.”

Ryan smiled. “I’ll bet Robbie’s been a big help.” She held a real soft spot for her four-year old nephew.

“Yeah. When I was here yesterday he had his little play mower and was following his Dad around as he mowed the lawn. It was the cutest thing.” She grinned.

“I want to see the pictures, Janna.”

Janna put her hands on her hips mock-indignantly and asked with a smile, “Now, how do you know I took pictures?”

“Because, babe, I know you better than I know myself. Besides, how do you make your living?”

“Taking pictures.”

“I rest my case. Wheel me around back?” She looked up at her wife adorably.

Janna grinned. “Sure.”

She pushed Ryan along the driveway around to the back of the house and parked her beside the deck.

As Ryan gazed around their comfortable yard, her gaze rested on the lovely gazebo next to the house, and she sighed.

Somewhat sadly she said, “I won’t be able to enjoy that for quite some time, will I, love?”

“Honey, let’s just think about how nice it will be when we can use it again, okay?” She leaned down and kissed the dark head in front of her.

“What’s this, ‘we’, Janna?” She looked back and up at her mate.

“I’m not using it without you.”

“That’s silly, Janna.”

“Ryan, it wouldn’t be the same, and if you can’t enjoy it, neither can I. Besides, is it any sillier than giving up alcohol and caffeine because your wife is pregnant?”

Ryan just gazed at her with a wide-eyed look of amusement. Finally, she grinned and shook her head. “I guess not.”

“Come on, love. Let’s get you settled, and then I need to go to the grocery store. There is no food in this house.”

“Okay, yeah. I am pretty tired.”

Janna turned her around and wheeled her around to the ramp in front. “I wonder if we should put a ramp there in back, too?”
She wondered aloud and then looked at Ryan. “So you can go out in back.”

“I wouldn’t bother, hon. I can use the front ramp and go around. I’ll probably be glad to get the exercise. Anyway, I don’t need to go farther than the deck in this thing, do I?”

“I guess not.”

As they rolled up the walkway, their unfriendly neighbor could be seen working on a flower bed next to their property line.

“Afternoon!” Ryan called, smiling.

The woman pointedly ignored the cheerful greeting, but her little girl, Michaela, ran to the fence and called happily, “Hi Janna. Hi Officer Ryan!”

“Hi Michaela!” They called in return as her mother scowled. Just then, the woman’s husband exited their garage and walked to the fence.

“Officer…welcome home.”

Ryan held her shock in check as she replied with a warm smile, “Thanks, and it’s Ryan.”

He nodded. “Ryan. Good luck to you.” He smiled at each of them and then glanced pointedly down at his wife and returned to his garage. “Micki, come help Daddy, please.”

“Okay, Daddy. Bye Janna, bye Officer Ryan!”

“Goodbye Michaela,” they called warmly in unison.

Janna smiled and shook her head as she unlocked the front door and pushed it open.

“Janna, one day soon, I’m afraid I’m gonna give that damn woman a piece of my mind.”

“Honey, don’t make waves. You’ll just give her more ammunition. Let’s not play her game, huh? Her game sucks.” She pushed Ryan into the front room and stopped in the entranceway.

“Janna, what’s this?” Came the shocked response.

“This is our bedroom for the near future. You can’t make it up the stairs anytime soon, and I didn’t want you stuck in the back guest room, so I fixed us up in here.” She walked around and knelt in front of Ryan. “Don’t you like it?”

“Um, yeah…I like it…a lot. Thank you honey.” She grasped Janna’s hand. “That was very thoughtful, Janna.”

“Honey, your comfort means a lot to me. Here you have the TV, the stereo, a nice bed, all your books. It wasn’t a hard decision.” She moved back behind the chair and pushed Ryan over to the bed. “Come on. Let’s get you settled.”

Ryan nodded and Janna engaged the chair’s brakes. “Look, the bed lowers to make it easy to get in and out of the chair. She showed Ryan the bed control and depressed it, lowering the bed.

“Excellent, Janna,” Ryan said as she used her strong arms to lift herself out of the chair and onto the bed, wincing as she did so. Janna helped swing her heavy leg on to the bed.

“That hurt, huh?”

“Yeah, my damn ribs.” She blew out a breath. “I think it’s about time for a pain pill, too, Janna.”

“It hasn’t been four hours, honey.”

“I’m taking them every three, Janna.”

Janna gazed at her with concern, but nodded. “I’ll get them out of the truck. Be right back.”

When she returned, she caught Ryan grimacing in agony and trying to take a deep breath.

“Here you go, love.” She said as she entered the room. Ryan quickly wiped the agonized look from her face and tried to smile.

“Thanks, Janna.” She said as Janna handed her the pill and a bottle of water.

Jesus, she’s still hurting badly. She lied about that. Janna took a deep breath, feeling rather dejected, but buried the emotion and put on a cheerful face for her wife. “Any special requests for dinner, love?”

“No, hon. Whatever you feel like. Don’t go to any trouble.” She gazed compassionately at Janna as she added, “Janna, I don’t expect you to cook when you don’t feel well. We can do take out…every night if you want. You know that’s no problem as far as I’m concerned.”

Janna smiled and brushed Ryan’s hair from her eyes. “I know, honey…you’d have no problem with In and Out Burgers every night. We may do a lot of take out until I feel better…cooking is very hard when I’m nauseous, and the kitchen odors…” She scrunched up her nose and frowned.

“I know, Janna, so you take it easy too. I expect you to spend a lot of time resting in this big bed with me.” She looked down at the massive bed. “This thing is huge, Janna!” She grinned jauntily up at her mate and added, “Plenty of room for fun, too.”

“Ryan, you are so incorrigible! Barely home five minutes and already thinking about sex. You get some rest and we’ll discuss it later.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

Janna leaned over and kissed her. “That’s my girl. I’m going to the store. Be back in a bit.”

“Bye, love. Be careful.”

Janna grinned. “Always.”

Ryan winced and quietly said, “I’ve heard that one before…and so have you. Look how true it was.” She looked down at herself and sighed.

Janna went back to her and gave her a warm, loving hug. “I love you, Ryan. Rest now.”

As she pulled the Explorer out of the driveway, Janna thought, her emotions are so much closer to the surface right now. I’ll need to watch my step. She sent a burst of love to her mate through their link, and felt it return. She smiled.

~~~~~~~~~~

“Janna, hurry up…it’s starting,” Ryan called from her bed.

“I’m coming!” Her mate replied as she came down the hallway, juggling a large bowl of popcorn and two bottled juices. She handed the big bowl to Ryan and set her juice on the table beside the bed, then climbed up next to her mate.

Janna grinned as she saw the parade beginning. “Cool, just in time. Honey, this first group is the highlight of the entire parade for me.” She uncapped her mango juice and took a sip.

Ryan read the banner at the start of the parade. “Dykes on Bikes?” She looked at Janna, amazed. “They’re serious?”

“Yes! Why wouldn’t they be?” Janna looked comically at her mate. “Honey, it is San Francisco, and it is the Pride Parade, so most everything is done tongue in cheek, but that is a legitimate group, and they always begin the parade. Ooh, look, here they come!”

Janna’s enthusiasm was infectious, and Ryan grinned happily as she took a handful of popcorn. Her eyes nearly popped out of her head moments later, however, when a Harley sporting two bare-breasted women was featured prominently on the screen.

“Jesus, Janna! Can they show that on local TV?” She looked at her mate wide-eyed.

“Yep! They always do. Though, I’m usually there enjoying it in person.” She smiled. “Good old channel 20.”

“I’ll bet you are…enjoying it, I mean. Is that typical? I mean, is there lots of nudity?”

“Oh, my God, honey…it’s San Francisco. Of course! Ryan, even the non-queer events usually feature open nudity. Like the Bay-to-Breakers Race. Oh, God, what a blast that is to see!”

Ryan looked at her mate as if she were seeing an entirely new side to her. “Janna, have you ever been nude in public there?”

“No…well, um, sort of, once.” She giggled.

“No fucking way, Janna! My modest little girl?”

“Honey, it was years ago and I was incredibly drunk. I, um only know about it because my friends took pictures. I don’t actually remember it.” She looked sharply at Ryan as she added, “Anyway…what do you care? You have no modesty whatsoever, Mrs. Norden-Zamora! I can totally see you topless on one of those bikes, Ryan!”

“Oh, hell no! No fuckin way, babe…I’m an officer of the law, for Christ’s sake!”

“Honey, no one would know that. And anyway, it’s all in the spirit of fun and freedom.”

Ryan took a sip of her juice as she eyed the screen and muttered, “There’s such a thing as too much freedom.”

“Ryan! I’m surprised. I really thought you might be able to get into something like that.” She pointed to the screen showing the very large contingent of women on motorcycles.

Ryan gazed thoughtfully at the TV Screen. “Well, I might sort of enjoy us riding our bike, but topless? I don’t know, Janna.”

“Honey, it’s a political statement. You know, ‘We’re here, we’re queer, we’re strong, we’re independent, deal with it’.”

“Hm, I guess.” She looked sideways at Janna and grinned jauntily as she added, “I definitely wouldn’t mind being surrounded by all those tits.”

“Yeah, there is that, too!” She returned the grin, but slapped her mate lightly. “Maybe taking you there isn’t such a good idea.”

Ryan grinned, but sobered quickly as she added, “I’m sorry we couldn’t make it this year, baby. I know how much you wanted to go. March, see your old friends, show me your old hangouts. I really am sorry, Janna.”

“It’s okay, Ryan…you couldn’t help that. We can see it on TV and not have to deal with the wall-to-wall humanity. And honestly, the sheer number of big, swinging penises can be a little overwhelming.”

“Oh, yeah? I’ll bet Jay and Doug have a great time!”

“Oh, Jesus…you have no idea. You’ll find out next year. What an experience that is! Last year I rode on the AIDS Crisis Center float with them. I think I actually blushed a few times. But, God, it was great.” She sighed, and Ryan’s sense of dejection at disappointing her mate was renewed.

Fuck. I have really let her down. Fucking asshole. Stupid, arrogant, fucking asshole. She sighed deeply and spared a quick glance at her mate. Janna’s face lit up with a smile just then, as the queer family legion marched by.

“Honey…there we are…next year.” She looked at Ryan and nodded toward the screen. “How about it?”

Ryan gazed at the gay and lesbian couples marching joyfully with their children, many of whom were being pushed in strollers. Sure…if I haven’t gotten myself killed in the line of duty by then. Shit…I need another fuckin’ pain pill already. She was so lost in her morbid thoughts that she didn’t answer Janna, and then Janna felt her melancholy through their link.

“Ryan…honey? Don’t get down on yourself, please? It’s not a big deal. The way I’ve been feeling, I don’t think I’d have an enjoyable day out in the fog all day, marching, dealing with the crowds, fighting for a toilet, trying to find food.” She grabbed Ryan’s hand and caressed it. “This year I’m much better off watching it from here.”

Ryan gazed at her sadly. “If you say so, Janna.” She returned her gaze to the screen and continued to wallow in self-loathing, spurred on by the chronic pain that was returning vengefully. God damn this fuckin’ pain!

“Honey, do you want some Reiki?” Janna asked softly. She was feeling Ryan’s pain as stabbing sensations in her own leg and chest.

“No, Janna. Just watch the parade. Maybe you’ll see some friends.”

Oh, boy. Here comes the self-pity and hatred again. Jesus! Janna sighed as she wondered what tack to take to counter Ryan’s sudden sour mood.

“Janna. I can feel that you’re worrying about me. Stop it, please. I don’t deserve it.”

Janna counted to three but said what was on her mind anyway. “What do mean you don’t deserve it?”

Ryan blew out a breath. “Never mind. I don’t feel like talking about it right now. Just watch the parade.”

Janna counted to ten and then just sighed and checked her watch. Silently, she got out of bed and went to the kitchen for a bottle of water, which she handed to Ryan with a Percodan tablet when she returned. “If you won’t take Reiki, at least take your pain medicine.” She returned to the bed and sat quietly by her mate’s side.

“Alright.” Ryan downed the pill and looked sheepishly at her mate. “I’m sorry…I’m not trying ruin your show.”

Janna said nothing, but picked up Ryan’s hand and laid it in her lap. They spent the remainder of the afternoon watching the Pride festivities in a less than jovial mood.

~~~~~~~~~~

One week later.

“Oh yes, Janna…fuck me, baby…make me forget,” Ryan moaned. She rolled her head on the pillow as Janna stroked her deeply. “Make me forget, baby.”

Janna kissed her again and inserted a third finger, knowing her mate loved to feel her fully inside of her on occasion.

“God, yes! More, baby…your fist…please,” she panted.

Janna took a deep breath and relaxed, sending calming energy to Ryan through their link. She felt Ryan’s body relax and then her own arm and hand relaxed and she gently inserted the fourth finger, then slowly made her hand as long and as narrow as she could, tucking her thumb inside her hand, and slowly, gingerly slipped her hand completely inside her lover. With great care, she slowly opened her hand, filling her wife’s soft, warm cavity. She gently, slowly flexed her hand, feeling Ryan’s velvet-smooth walls envelope it.

“Oh, shit…yes, Janna…yessss,” Ryan moaned. As her lover’s hand filled her completely, the pleasure nearly overcame her and her strong climax was set into motion. “Janna, baby…my love.” She rode the waves of pleasure deliriously, mumbling, “Janna… that’s so good, baby…thank you.”

“You’re welcome, love.” Janna kissed her mate’s warm belly and moaned her own pleasure as Ryan’s muscles contracted almost painfully around her hand. She shifted onto Ryan’s healthy thigh and rode out her own release as her mate writhed in ecstasy below her.

When both bodies had stilled, they lay together, letting the warmth of their love fill their souls. For more than an hour, Ryan forgot her pain and her despondency, while Janna forgot her mate’s intense pain and the corresponding ache that washed over her own soul.

Later, as the sun sat high in the western sky, filling the room with a soothing, deep yellow glow, Janna folded the towel and set it on the bed bedside the others. Ryan sighed as she did the same from where she sat on the bed.

“What’s wrong, Ryan?”

“Nothing, Janna. Nothing new anyway.” She said sullenly.

“You’ve been pretty upbeat today…may I ask what changed that?”

Ryan considered glaring at her wife, but reminded herself that she was only asking because she cares, so answered, “I realized that the Fourth of July is Tuesday, and Friday is the anniversary of the day we met. I had plans, that’s all.” She shrugged unhappily.

Janna looked down at the towel in her hands and sighed. “I’m sorry, Ryan, but we can still celebrate, you know. And face it, you are okay…you’re alive…you’re here with me…we’re happy. Can you try counting your blessings?”

Ryan dejectedly tossed the towel on the bed and ran her hands through her hair. “At the moment, no, Janna…I’m having trouble doing that.” She blew out a breath, not wanting to be angry with her wife, but having a hard time fighting the oppressive emotion.

Janna was engaged in the same war at that moment and suddenly, the weeks of her wife’s despondency caved in on her. “How many times do I have to tell you, Ryan, that self pity does not become you?” She faced her wife angrily.

“How would you handle this, Janna? In the same situation? I’ve got a fucking cast on my leg that weighs a hundred pounds, I can’t move, much less walk, the fucking pain pills don’t work, I’m bored out of my mind, I can’t help you, I can’t be there for you in any way, I’m nothing but a burden…”

“Stop! Fucking stop it already, Ryan! I’ve heard it all…a hundred times. I’m sorry this happened to you. I’m more sorry than you can ever know, but we have to work together to make the best of this.” She shook her head and rubbed her stomach as more nausea hit. “I’m sick, Ryan. I don’t have the strength right now to deal with another bout of self pity.” She left the room, saying quietly, “Call me if you need anything. I’ll be on the couch.” She went across the hall to the living room and lay down.

“Fine! Go hide…see if I fucking care. And don’t worry, if I need anything I’ll get it myself. You don’t have to trouble yourself.” Ryan yelled angrily, the anger taking full control of her senses. Despite her love for Janna, she couldn’t see past her pain and depression. Self pity…fuck that! She has no idea. No fuckin’ idea.

Janna tried to take a deep breath, but was stopped by the sobs in her chest. She wanted desperately to be able to deal compassionately with Ryan, but her own discomfort overcame her, and left her severely short of patience. As she lay trying to calm herself, and put down the nausea so she could go in and comfort her mate, she heard a crash in the other room, followed by a string of curses. She jumped up and ran to the doorway of the family room, only to see Ryan haul back and throw another book. The large hardcover bounced off the entertainment center and hit one of her guitars, knocking it off its stand and breaking a string.

Janna gasped and looked at her wife wide-eyed, then tore her gaze away and looked at her favorite guitar lying broken on the floor. She walked over and picked it up, then held it before her and said, “This is a two thousand dollar guitar!” She looked back down at the instrument, assessing the damage done to it.

“Big fucking deal, Janna…you can afford ten times that!” Ryan sneered angrily.

Janna looked at her wife with disbelief. “Forget the cost then…it’s my favorite guitar!”

“Great…you care more about that fucking thing than you do about me!”

Janna gasped, feeling like she had been slapped. When her breath returned, she whispered, “I can’t believe you think that, Ryan. It’s absurd.”

“Believe whatever you want. Leave me alone.” She rolled over sullenly and looked at the opposite wall.

Janna stood in front of the bed, stunned. “Fine. I’m out of here. I’ll see you later.” She carried the guitar with her and left the room.

When she sensed that Janna was gone, Ryan rolled back over and looked up at the ceiling. “Fine.” She whispered. “Just fucking go.”

A few minutes later, Janna returned holding her backpack and motorcycle helmet. She spoke coldly, “I’m leaving. I’ll be back later with dinner.” She didn’t wait for a response and turned away.

Ryan looked after her, shocked. “What? You’re taking the bike? Where are you going?” She received no answer. “Janna!” She heard only the kitchen door slam, followed a few moments later by the roar of the Harley’s engine.

“Fuck! Fuck it all! Janna!” She tried to get out of bed and into her chair, but heard the motorcycle leave as she did so. No! She can’t handle it well enough yet! Janna…God!

Janna started the bike, immensely pleased when it roared to life under her. She gunned it and took off down the driveway, enjoying the pleasant rumble beneath her and between her legs, but not as much as she usually did…when her arms were wrapped around her mate. She shook off the happy memory, wanting only to feel numb for a while. She flew down the street, with no particular destination in mind. She knew only that she had to be alone for a while. She needed space to think through their dilemma.

As she heard the bike roar away, Ryan’s shock and anger turned to concern. She had only given Janna a few lessons on the machine, and though she had done quite well, her small frame handling the large bike impressively, Ryan didn’t believe she was accomplished enough yet to try to take off on her own. Shit…Janna, please be careful…God, please be careful! She covered her eyes with her hands. Fuck! What have I done? I’ve driven her away. She rolled her head in agony and began to sob.

Neither woman could feel the other’s pain through her own pain. Both felt lost and alone, though they were neither. Their unseen guides, including their grandfathers, kept them within their compassionate gaze.

As Janna headed west, into the setting sun, she realized where she was going: to the quiet spot on the island where Ryan liked to take her. Where her father had taken Ryan and Zac to fish when they were children. Through the dark visor, she gazed at the sun as it sat just above Mt. Diablo. El Diablo. So beautiful…so unlike your name, Janna thought. Some of the ice around her heart melted at the lovely site, and she had to admit, at the thought of going to Ryan’s special place. God, I love her, but she’s making it so hard…

As she roared along the twisting two-lane highway, she reveled in the feeling of freedom the motorcycle gave her. The bike felt good…very, very good, beneath her. It felt good to control the harnessed power and energy of the large machine. To shift her body slightly and have it respond by turning. It gave her a feeling of power…something she had lacked the past month. She realized then that she had been feeling completely powerless since Ryan’s accident. I should have noticed. I should have felt the imbalance in my power chakra. I have really been neglecting myself.

She turned the bike off the highway and onto the small road that ran along the river. Soon, she came upon the large oak. Their oak. They had come to this spot several times, the first immediately after their wedding reception. They liked to go there to watch the sun set, always sitting spooned together, as one. Janna pulled the bike to a stop and hopped off. She took off the helmet and set it on the seat, then sat against the majestic oak.

At home, alone in the large bed, Ryan was miserable, worried sick about Janna. God, please let her be all right. Bring her back to me. Grandfather, please watch over her. Through her worry, she completely forgot about her own physical and emotional pain.

Janna sat for long minutes, lost in her thoughts and seeking guidance. As she watched the sun dip below the twin peaks, she missed her mate acutely. I wish she were here with me. I don’t ever want to watch a sunset alone again.

“Be patient with her, Granddaughter. She is a proud and stubborn woman.” The wise voice of her wife’s grandfather spoke clearly in her mind.

I know, Grandfather. But isn’t pride a sin?

“No, Granddaughter. It is a silly emotion…born of fear. Help her to work through it. Use the love.”

I will, Grandfather, thank you.

“Remember…”

Remember the love…yes.

“She’s afraid, Janny. Be there for her. Be strong.” Her own grandfather’s voice spoke then.

Grandpa? Yes, she is. I’ll try…I love you, Grandpa.

“I love you, too, Janny. Remember.”

Yes. Janna threw her head back against the tree and cried quietly, moved by the loving presence of their grandfathers. Thank you. As Grandfather Sun sank below the horizon, she took a deep, cleansing breath and blew it out, releasing the fear and anger she had been holding onto. She centered herself, pulling clean fresh air and energy into her body and reasserting her intention to love her mate no matter what. To remember their love. Always.

As the sun set, plunging the room into darkness, fear clenched at Ryan’s gut. Janna…where are you? She looked at the clock on the VCR. Almost an hour and a half. Where is she? She began to pray quietly, asking her guides to watch over her mate.

“Granddaughter. Your pain has opened the door to fear. You have let it in. You must chase it away. Remember.”

Grandfather! I’m sorry…I’m afraid to lose her, Grandfather. How can she want me when…

“Granddaughter! She loves you. You must chase this fear away before it eats you. Remember, Granddaughter.”

Ryan sobbed. Yes, Grandfather…thank you. I will not forget the love again. “Remember the love,” she spoke aloud to the empty room. “Remember the love.”

A few minutes later, she heard the motorcycle roar home and was filled with relief. God! Janna…thank you! When she heard the kitchen door open quietly, she sat up in bed and looked expectantly at the door to the hallway. She heard Janna striding down the hall and then she turned the corner and entered the room, pulling the helmet off as she approached, dropping it and her backpack to the floor as she climbed onto the bed wordlessly and pulled Ryan into her arms.

Ryan returned the embrace tightly. “Janna…I was so worried about you…I’m sorry. I’m sorry, Janna.”

Janna kissed her hair and mumbled, “I’m sorry I worried you.” She pulled back and looked into Ryan’s eyes. “I didn’t mean to. I just needed some space. I love you, Ryan.”

“Love you, Janna…so much. So much.” Ryan mumbled as she pulled Janna close again.

Janna turned her face and captured Ryan’s lips gently, then with more passion as she tried to communicate her love to her mate. The message was received and returned, and the burgers and fries in Janna’s backpack grew cold before they were remembered and retrieved some time later.

-20-

The warm crystal gave off subtle, but very definite, vibrations, tickling the hand that gently grasped it. Thank you, rock-friend. Janna silently voiced her gratitude for the crystal’s amplification of the healing energy as she held it above her wife’s injury. She felt the Reiki enter her body and travel along her arm, into the crystal, where it exited, magnified.

“That is so hot, Janna…right through the cast.” Ryan remarked as she lay on her back.

“Good…that’s the idea. What does it feel like at the fracture site?”

“Besides heat…a comfortable heat…it’s tingling. It’s not the usual gentle tingle of Reiki, it’s more…energetic. I can almost picture the bone knitting.”

“Keep picturing that…that in itself will speed healing. Our minds definitely affect reality.”

“Yep.” She remained quiet for a few moments, then added, “I guess when I get down and in a pessimistic mood, it doesn’t help my healing, does it?”

“No, hon. I don’t think it does.”

“Janna, there won’t be any more episodes like I had yesterday…I promise you.” She gazed sincerely into her partner’s vibrant eyes.

“I know, Ryan. And I will be more understanding when you’re down. Since we talked everything out, I think we both understand where the other has been coming from.”

“Yeah Janna, you’re sick and I’m an asshole.” Ryan grinned to soften her words.

Janna smiled and held a finger to Ryan’s lips. “Shh! I won’t hear that about my beloved.”

Ryan grinned and kissed the finger, then licked it seductively.

“Honey, we’re doing healing right now…save that for later, please.” She sent calming energy to Ryan through their bond and Ryan relaxed, closing her eyes. Janna smiled. “Mm, I think that’s good there. I’ll do your lower leg now.”

“Okay,” Ryan replied sleepily. “The energy’s hitting me hard, babe,” Ryan said as she yawned.

“You’re gonna miss your sponge bath at this rate, love.” Janna said as she moved to sit next to Ryan’s lower leg.

Ryan’s eyes flew open. “I’m awake.”

Janna grinned but didn’t say anything. God, she’s so transparent! She must have plans for us later. She took a deep breath to dispel the excitement she felt at the prospect and tried to refocus on her healing.

Next to her, on the bed, Ryan smiled. She felt Janna’s desire and excitement as a giddy joy and it filled her with happiness. We’re gonna be okay. Thank you, Grandfathers. Thank you so much. As a solitary tear escaped from Ryan’s eye, Janna leaned down and kissed it away, knowing exactly what emotion had caused it.

Later, the comforting light of a dozen candles illuminated the makeshift bedroom as Janna entered, carrying a plastic tub of water. She set it on the table next to Ryan’s side of the bed and gazed comically down at her wife. Ryan was stretched out on the bed, already naked, waiting patiently for her.

“All ready, are we?” Janna smiled down at her.

“Mm, hmm. Are you ready? Tonight it’s a double bath.”

“Oh, it is?”

“Mm, hmm. Sit down here. You’re first.” Ryan sat up, gently grasped her hand and pulled her down onto the bed, settling her between her legs. “But first, these clothes have to go.” She leaned forward and kissed Janna’s neck while she tugged at the oversized t-shirt she wore. “God, I love you in my clothes, baby.”

“I love to wear them, Ryan.” Janna murmured as she leaned back against Ryan. “I don’t think they’ll work much past the sixth or seventh month though, do you?”

“I guess not.” Ryan mumbled against Janna’s neck before kissing it again.

“Is this a bath, or a seduction?”

“Both.”

“The seduction part is progressing nicely, I must say.”

“Mm…good.” She pulled Janna’s shirt off. “No bra…thank you, baby.”

“My pleasure.”

Ryan caressed Janna’s breasts while kissing her neck and throat and the soft moans nearly distracted her from the job at hand. She pulled back and sighed as she gazed at her beautiful wife, then reached for the soft, soapy washcloth. She dipped it in the warm, scented water and rung it out before bringing it to Janna’s back. She tenderly washed her mate, gently scrubbing with loving care.

“Ryan, that’s so nice,” Janna murmured contentedly. “But are you sure you feel up to it?”

“Yes, I do. I’m still feeling the Reiki…not hurting at all right now. You’ve been taking such good care of me for a month, let me take care of you a little, okay?”

“Sure, love. Thank you, baby.” She picked up Ryan’s left hand and kissed it tenderly.

“My pleasure,” Ryan responded as she continued with the loving attention.

She finished with Janna’s back and moved down the length of an arm. As she leaned forward, her breasts caressed her mate’s back.

“Mmm, Ryan…”

Ryan answered her with a soft bite to the side of her neck, and Janna threw her head back and moaned.

“God, Ryan, forget the bath,” she mumbled as she turned and embraced her mate, capturing her lips as she settled in her lap. “Does this hurt your thigh?”

“No, stay there.”

“Good.” She captured Ryan’s soft lips again and savored them passionately.

Ryan mumbled into Janna’s mouth, “You’re gonna have to go get hot water again, love.”

“‘S’okay…you’re gonna need washing after what I do to you anyway.”

“Oh, Jesus, baby…” Ryan fairly panted as she pulled Janna tightly against her, kissing her deeply.

Janna continued the kiss for several minutes, then gently pulled back and leaned down to capture Ryan’s breasts with her mouth. “Oh God, baby, you taste good…I haven’t been able to do this for way too long.”

Ryan’s answer was an unintelligible part moan, part pant. She buried her hands in Janna’s short hair and arched her back, forcing closer contact. Her ribs had been wrapped on the previous occasions they had made love since the accident and the renewed contact was driving her nearly to delirium.

“God, Janna, it’s…it’s been so long, it’s…like the first time,” she gasped.

“Mmm…” Janna was enjoying her dessert too much to break away to comment. She stroked an excited nipple erotically with her tongue while gently rolling its twin between two fingers.

“Janna, God…” Ryan moaned. “I need you, baby.”

“Mmm…” She switched and attended to the other nipple, nearly sending Ryan over the edge.

“Janna, please, baby…that’s too good.” She tried to pry Janna’s lips from her breast and when she was successful, captured them with hers. She kissed her mate deeply again, and then went for her breasts.

Janna leaned back on her hands without complaint. “Ryan…God, Ryan, I’m seeing fireworks.”

“Already, baby? Good.” Ryan mumbled around a mouthful of nipple.

“No…uh, really…oh, God…no, really, love…outside…I just saw a…a firework in the sky,” she muttered breathlessly.

“What?” Ryan looked up into Janna’s eyes. “Oh, yeah…they must be starting…I didn’t know we could see them from here…trees are so tall.”

“We’re pretty close.”

“I’m very close, baby.” Ryan grinned against her treat.

“Close to where they’re firing them, silly!”

“Oh!” Ryan gave the nipple below her lips one last delicious lick, and pulled back. “Help me to the window, baby.”

Janna sighed, but hopped off the bed and pulled Ryan up. “You’re not supposed to be up on this leg yet.”

“It’s just to the window, Janna…please?”

The gorgeous, imploring baby blues just could not be denied…the ability didn’t exist within Janna’s framework, so she held her arms out to her mate. Ryan grinned as she grabbed them and pulled herself to her feet, rather unsteadily.

“Whoa, that’s a little tough after a month on my back.”

“Be careful, love…take it slow.” Janna backed up, holding Ryan securely, and helped her the several feet to the west-facing window. They stood arm-in-arm watching the colorful show in the sky for several minutes. The relative darkness of the room behind them preserved their modesty as they both stood naked by the window.

After several minutes of standing, Ryan tired and Janna helped her back to the bed, where she gently lay her down and knelt between her legs.

“May I continue with my dessert now?”

“Please do, Janna.”

“Thank you.”

She commenced gently making love to her wife, slowly and thoroughly, to the boom of the nearby fireworks. Very shortly, Ryan saw fireworks of an entirely different variety as she blissfully screamed Janna’s name.

The act was repeated for Janna very shortly thereafter, making it a Fourth of July that they would remember for quite some time.

~~~~~~~~~~

Janna lay blissfully sprawled across her mate’s increasingly strong body as the morning sun filtered in from the back of the house, illuminating them in it’s soft light. As her mate slept, Ryan ran her fingers gently through her soft hair. It almost feels like my accident never happened. As if today were June 4 instead of July 4. Somehow, I know now that we will be okay.

Janna stirred then, and smiled against Ryan’s breast. Before even opening her eyes, she gently kissed the soft skin below her lips. Ryan closed her eyes and smiled as she embraced Janna.

“Morning, Janna.”

“Morning, Ryan. How are feeling today?”

“Blissful, Janna. Absolutely blissful. That loving you gave me last night was some mighty fine medicine, baby.”

“Not to mention the crystal Reiki, huh?” Janna said as she grinned up at her wife.

“Oh, well, that too!” Ryan squeezed her mate as she added, “Janna, I feel like we’ve come through a major battle. Like, I don’t know, there are still some minor skirmishes to be faced, but we’ve won the biggest battle.”

“Honey, I’m feeling the same way. It’s like we’ve faced the major challenge and conquered it. It’s a wonderful feeling.” She moved off Ryan and leaned on her elbow. “I had help…throughout the process. During the roughest times, your Grandfather visited me, and yesterday, out on the island, my Grandpa did too.”

“Christ. My Grandfather kept reminding me too. To…”

“Remember the love.” Janna finished, quietly.

“Yes, to remember the love.” Ryan caressed Janna’s cheek with a long finger.

“I would venture to say, Ryan, that from this point on, we will both be hard put to forget the love.”

“Can’t see it ever happening, Janna. I honest-to-God cannot.”

Janna’s answer was to lean down and kiss her wife tenderly, after which they commenced their morning Tantric connection, which progressed into slow, gentle lovemaking. After sharing their love, they lay together quietly, Ryan in Janna’s arms.

“Ryan, last week, Georgie called and invited us over for a barbecue today. Since things weren’t going too smoothly then, I told her it didn’t look like we’d feel up to making it. She said that if we were feeling better, to come on out. It’s only a few cops and their families.” She looked down at the strong cop in her arms. “Would you like to give it a try for a little while? It’s up to you, and we certainly wouldn’t have to stay long.” She kissed the dark hair below her chin. “But I think it might be good for you to get out for a while…see some of your friends. John and Sara are going.”

“Are they?” Ryan continued caressing Janna’s arm, which lay draped around her, as she considered the idea. “I would sort of like to get out for a while. Why don’t we, honey? See how it goes. But if I start hurting, I’d want to leave before Super Bitch makes another appearance.”

“Super Bitch has been vanquished. She won’t be making another appearance.” She kissed Ryan’s head again. “And I would definitely want to leave as soon as you start hurting. You’re making progress now and I don’t want any setbacks.”

“I feel like I am making progress, that’s true…finally. Maybe when I see the doctor on Friday, he’ll tell me that I can start using crutches.”

“Maybe, honey. That would be great. I have an ob/gyn appointment next week…if you’re on crutches, you can go with me. That would really be great.” She kissed her love again and sighed before adding, “I need to get up, love. My stomach needs food again, and then I think I’ll get a shower. Do you want a sponge bath before I shower?”

Ryan grinned. “That would be nice, Janna, thanks. Just in a few strategic areas, though. I, um, I think I’ll wheel myself in to the guest bathroom and we can do it in there.”

“Sounds good, baby. Come into the kitchen with me?” Janna hopped to the floor and held her arms out to Ryan.

A grinning cop let herself be helped into a t-shirt and shorts, and then into her wheelchair and wheeled into the kitchen for a pleasant breakfast with her wife. It was the first one they had shared together in the kitchen since the day over a month earlier when she had nearly been killed.

~~~~~~~~~~

“To Ryan!” Captain Sam Carlson boomed.

“To Ryan!” The chorus of voices shouted as the guest of honor blushed fiercely. Her wife, standing behind her, leaned down and kissed Ryan’s cheek before taking a sip of sparkling cider, and then sharing the glass with her wife.

Shortly after their arrival at Sam and Georgie’s Fourth of July barbecue, her Captain had offered a toast, honoring his Officer for her bravery. It was a precursor to the official award ceremony to be held a few weeks later. Ryan found herself wishing she could wheel her chair into a hole in the ground, but took the praise graciously.

After the toast, Janna wheeled her to a round table under a large umbrella and parked her next to their friend Sara, then left to fill their plates with food.

As Ryan leaned over to see the baby she was nursing, Sara said, “Ryan, it’s great to see you here. How are you doing?”

Ryan grinned down at the beautiful three-month old boy and answered, “Not too bad, Sara, thanks. I think I’ve turned the roughest corner. This is my second pretty good day in a row. I feel like I’m on a roll now.” She grinned, then looked her friend in the eye as she added, “I owe so much to Janna, Sara. She’s really stuck by me…and I haven’t made it easy for her.”

“She loves you, Ryan.”

“Yeah, well, at this point that’s almost a miracle, so I’m counting my blessings.”

Just then, Janna returned with their food and sat down. “I see John, Jr is having his lunch too.”

“This is actually his fourth meal today, but I guess since it’s lunchtime, we’ll call it lunch,” Sara said happily as she grinned down at her son.

“When will he start taking a bottle so his Aunt Ryan can feed him?” Ryan asked.

“He takes a bottle now from John. He handles the night feedings.”

“Oh, my God…what a prince!” Janna exclaimed.

“Jesus…I didn’t know he had it in him.” Ryan grinned.

“Didn’t know who had what?” John asked as he arrived and sat next to his wife and son. He kissed first his son, then his wife before he started eating.

Ryan looked at Janna and grinned widely. “Didn’t know you were so into the Daddy thing. So that’s why you’re tired in the morning, huh?”

“Nah…it’s nothing.” He waved off the question.

“Yeah, right, like all guys do that.”

John eyed his friend. “I’ll bet you plan to, Ryan.”

“Well, yeah, John, but I’m not a guy. I’m her mother.”

“You may be her mother, Ryan, but you’re also as much a guy as any man here…and you know I mean that as a compliment.” He pointed his fork at her.

“I do, yeah. Thanks, buddy.” She grinned at her friend, warmed by his endearing statement. Janna and Sara looked at each other and shrugged.

“Ry, where’s your beer?”

“I’m abstaining, John…because Janna has to.”

“Christ…you’re kidding!”

“Nope. It something I want to do.”

“Shit, I never even considered that.” He looked sideways at his wife, who declared, “That’s okay, honey, I didn’t either.”

She raised her eyebrows at Ryan and said, “That’s commendable, Ry.”

Ryan shrugged. “Not really.” She attacked the steak on her plate. “Lots of meat here, honey…thanks.” She grinned at her mate.

“No problem, babe…you need your protein…eat up.” Janna smiled before taking a big bite of salad. She returned the fork to her plate and speared a tomato, then fed it to her wife.

“Mm, good.” Ryan’s eyes sparkled her thanks.

John and Sara watched in fascination as Ryan and Janna continued to share food with each other from their plates, oblivious to the attention, and obviously very much in love.

The day ended with Ryan and Janna sitting spooned together against a tree, enjoying the backyard fireworks display with their friends.

-21-

Three months later, October

Ryan hobbled down the rampway into the airport, struggling to carry her bag while manipulating her crutches. Janna walked ahead of her, sporting her own carry-on bag on a strap around her shoulders, and turned to wait for her mate.

“Honey, let me get your bag, please. That’s too much work for you.”

“Baby, I’ve got it. You’re carrying too much as it is.” She stopped next to her very pregnant wife. “Whew. It’s not easy, though.” She grinned at Janna’s ‘told you so’ look and then took a deep breath. “Where’s my brother anyway?” She said as she looked around the passenger area.

“Ryan! Janna!” Zac’s voice rose above the din of the busy Albuquerque airport.

“Zac!” Ryan exclaimed as her brother rushed up to them, looking extremely sharp in his uniform. He scooped her gently into a hug and kissed her cheek before greeting Janna similarly.

“How was your flight?” He asked as he relieved them both of their bags.

Ryan grinned as she replied, “It depends on whom you ask! If you ask me, it was great. If you ask my wife here, it was horrendous.” She leaned onto her right crutch as she threw her left arm around Janna’s shoulders.

“Really, Janna? Why?”

“I don’t fly well, Zac. To tell you the truth, I usually get plastered when I fly, just to get me through it, but I couldn’t do that this time.” She expelled a held breath. “It’s a phobia, I guess.” She looked at her mate. “Thank God I had Ryan to comfort me.”

“Sorry, Janna. You guys couldn’t drive, huh?”

“Not in this humongous cast, bro, no…not comfortably, and anyway, Janna would have to do all the driving, and in her condition that’s not an option. I think we may look into taking Amtrak home.” Ryan grinned at Janna’s relieved look and rubbed her back. “It’ll probably be more comfortable for both of us. I was supposed to be in a right-side aisle seat so I’d have room for my leg, but they put us on the wrong side. Thankfully, we found a nice couple willing to switch with us.”

“Shit, I should have put you on a military flight. Sorry, guys.” He gazed into his sister’s eyes. “You look really good, Sis. About a thousand percent better than the last time I saw you.”

“I feel that much better too, Zac. Let’s get Janna off her feet and I’ll tell you about it.”

“Marty’s expecting us for dinner, so let’s get on the road, huh?” He looked to the two tired travelers. “Unless you want to rest a while…get something to drink?”

“Something to drink you would be great, Zac, then we can get going.” Janna answered.

“Okay, there’s a nice café just up the way here. While you get something I’ll grab your other luggage.”

They sat, enjoying their cold drinks in air-conditioned comfort while gazing out over the sunny desert. “Still hot here in the Fall, huh Zac?”

“Not as, but pretty warm, Sis, yeah. Actually, at our elevation it is usually pretty comfortable here in the Fall. Warm days, cool nights.”

Ryan grinned, “Not like the Indian Summer back home, huh? Ninety, one hundred degree days, hot nights.”

Janna sighed. “Here, there, it’s still too hot for me.” She looked at her mate disparagingly. “You couldn’t have timed my getting pregnant a little better, could you? So I was biggest in the winter?” A grin softened her words, and Ryan returned the smile.

“Sorry, love. It’ll be over soon now. They say the last trimester goes fast.”

“That’s not what Sara said. Or Kris.” Janna pouted into her seven-up.

Zac looked compassionately at Ryan, who shrugged. “She’s already in trouble, huh Janna?”

Janna half-smiled. “No, not really. I’m not even that big yet, and the heat is almost over. I’m really starting to feel tired though…and fat.”

“Janna, you have never looked more beautiful in your whole life. And I’m not the only one who has said that.” Ryan added sincerely.

“Thanks, honey. That’s nice to hear.” She smiled warmly at her mate, and then turned her gaze to Zac. “Enough about me…let’s hear about the wedding, Zac.”

“Well, if you’re almost done, we can talk about it in the car. It’s a pretty long drive to Las Cruces. Okay?”

“Sure. Let’s go. You ready, love?” Ryan addressed Janna.

“Yep. I’m looking forward to seeing Marty again.”

“I’m looking forward to Marty’s cooking,” Ryan said with a grin.

“You would be, Sis! Come on.”

Three and a half hours later, Zac pulled his Cherokee into his driveway and helped his sisters out. Ryan rested against the side of the car and breathed deeply.

“Ah, that nice, dry, desert air. I love it, Zac!” She gazed up at the western sky, which sported a lovely orange sunset. Janna stood beside her and threw her arm around her waist.

“God, it’s great to be back here.” She took a deep breath as well, filling her body with the clean, pure energy of the region.

“I’m glad you guys like it. You’re sure welcome here.”

“Hey, there you are!” Marty’s rich, pleasant voice called as she exited the house.

“Marty…it’s great to see you,” Ryan said as she threw one arm around Marty’s shoulders.

“Ryan, you look wonderful. It’s so good to see you on your feet.” She turned to Janna and gave her a hug. “Hi, Janna…and you look beautiful!”

“Thank you, Marty, but I’m starting to feel far from it.”

“Janna, there is no one more special or more beautiful than a woman giving life. Remember that.” She looked from Ryan to Janna. “Come in…you must be very tired and dinner is ready.”

She was answered by two very large grins.

Some time later, as they still sat around the large dining room table, digesting the large meal, Marty said, “Janna, Zac said that you were having a hard time with morning sickness. Is it still bothering you?”

“No, thank God. I had a terrible time…six months, Marty. Six months of almost constant nausea, but for the last several weeks I’ve felt great. Oh, I’m so relieved. I feel like I can finally start to enjoy this pregnancy a little bit.”

“And,” Ryan said happily, leaning over to pat her baby, “The baby is moving around a lot.”

“Yes, especially when her Momma talks to her every night.” Janna beamed.

“Is that true, Ryan?” Marty asked.

It was Ryan’s turn to beam. “Yep! We have a nice visit every night after dinner. We talk, I read to her, massage her Mommy’s belly, and she becomes very active. It’s unfuckinbelievable!” She leaned closer and kissed her wife sweetly. Gazing into Janna’s eyes she repeated, “Unfuckinbelievable.”

“I see you two are no less stuck on each other.” Zac added with a smile.

“More so, Red Hawk. Especially after what we’ve come through.” Ryan turned her gaze to her brother. “We had a pretty hard time of it right after I got hurt. I didn’t handle things too well…took it out on Janna some.”

“Honey, I didn’t handle things well myself. I didn’t have enough patience.”

“You were sick, Janna, and under the influence of raging hormones.”

“Well, in any case, we’re great now. Again.” She kissed Ryan’s hand.

“Yes, we are, baby.”

“I think I’m gonna be sick now.” Zac declared playfully and his wife-to-be slapped him lightly.

“Leave them alone. They deserve to be as happy as they are.”

“Well, I guess I can’t argue with that.” Zac looked around the table at his family. “Hey, let’s take this out on the patio and we’ll talk about the ceremony.”

“Good idea…it’s beautiful tonight. I’ll get the coffee and dessert,” Marty said as she stood.

“I’ll help you,” Janna added.

“Janna, no, I can get it. You go on out.”

“Marty, I’m not that pregnant! And I’d like to help. Come on.” She rose from the table and led Marty into the kitchen. Zac and Ryan simply looked at her, smiled, and shrugged.

“Come on, Sis…let me give you a hand.”

“Hey, I’m not helpless either. I’ve been doing this for four months now.”

Zac held up his hands. “Okay…all right…go on. Lead the way, Sis.”

Ryan made her way rather gracefully out to the lovely tiled patio and looked out over the desert before she had a seat. Zac admired the way she handled the crutches, her strong body making it look easy.

“We have Grandmother Moon gracing us tonight.” Zac said reverently as he gazed up at the nearly full moon.

“Mm, I’m glad. She’s a special friend to Janna and I.” She looked at Zac and half-smiled. “She feels like it anyway.”

Zac nodded as he left the chair next to Ryan for Janna to use and sat across from her at the table. “So, Sis. Things are going well, it looks like? Between the two of you?”

Ryan smiled warmly. “Zac, it couldn’t be better. What we went through made us stronger, I think…if that’s possible. When I got home from the hospital, after you left, we had a rough patch…a real rough patch. Um, she actually left…only for a few hours, but it shook me up pretty bad. Scared the shit out of me, Zac. Scared the sense into me too, I guess.” She looked seriously at her brother. “Scared her too, I think. Anyway, after that, we really talked things out and it’s been fine since. Of course, it helped that I started to feel noticeably better around then, but honestly, I think that had a lot to do with my improved outlook.”

“I’m sure it did, Sis. Well, if it helps any…I thought you two would be fine. You’ve got such a special thing going, I thought it would take an awful lot to screw it up.”

“Red Hawk, it was pretty touch and go there for a while, I’ve gotta say. If Grandfather hadn’t given me the warning, or hadn’t shown up the several times he did to remind us of it, I’m not sure we would have made it.” She shook her head. “I’m just not sure. As good as it is for us, I don’t know.”

“Well, then, we all thank the Great Spirit for Grandfather and his message.” Zac said solemnly.

“Yes, we do. We, uh, plan to have a little ceremony, tomorrow, before you get too busy with the festivities, and we’d like you two to join us.” Ryan gazed at her brother sincerely and he nodded. “Sunrise?” Another nod, and a smile.

Marty and Janna arrived then with desert, setting two trays on the round table.

“Are you talking about our giving thanks?” Janna asked as she served Ryan.

“Yeah, babe.” She grabbed Janna’s hand and sat her down. “We have so much to be thankful for.” She kissed Janna’s hand, and then Janna leaned in for a real kiss.

“Yes, we do. Without a doubt.”

~~~~~~~~~~

Ryan lit another candle and then joined Janna in the large bed. She was naked, stretched out on her back, rubbing her belly.

“How’s our baby tonight?” Ryan said softly as she reached out to caress Janna’s swollen abdomen.

“She’s been pretty active today…I think she’s resting now.”

“I’ll bet she didn’t like the plane flight any more than her Mommy did.”

“Probably not. But honey, I have the strongest feeling that she is going to take after you…I’m not sure why.” She gazed up at Ryan, who leaned above her on an elbow. “Wishful thinking, maybe.”

“You actually want a little Ryan running around? Janna, why?” Ryan’s eyebrows rose in question, making her look adorable to her mate.

“In case you’ve forgotten, I love you. I adore the person that you are…everything about you. Why wouldn’t I want a miniature you?” She picked up Ryan’s hand and kissed it.

“I was a brat, Janna…a tomboy. I never had a feminine bone in my body and I think that really bothered my mom. I was never the girl she wanted me to be. She had two sons…plain and simple.”

“Well so did my mom. I was a tomboy too. I still consider myself a tomboy, Ryan. Frankly, if Halley isn’t a tomboy, I don’t know quite how I’ll deal with her. I’ll have to learn about the things that little girls like.”

“Oh, come on, baby…don’t tell me you didn’t play with dolls!”

“I did…but I also played with trucks and Dan’s GI Joe’s and army men…and played ball. I was much more into boys’ things, really. Let me guess…no dolls for you?” She grinned up at her wife.

“Not a one. Actually, no, I got one for Christmas one year and I don’t think I ever took it out of the box. It pissed me off that my mom even bought it for me…I think I was six.”

“Fighting stereotypical roles even then, huh?”

“Damn right. I resented the fact that I was expected to want to play with dolls. Thank God for my dad…he accepted me exactly as I was. Always. Even when I came out.”

“How old were you, love?”

“Fourteen.”

“Jesus! I came out to my parents from the relative safety of San Francisco when I was nineteen.”

Ryan shrugged. “I was sure. I actually knew a lot sooner than that but it wasn’t an issue.”

“Ah, I see…it became an issue when you wanted to start seeing girls?”

“Absolutely! And I didn’t just want to see them, babe.”

“Ah, yes. Okay…I see where you’re going with this. If Halley is like you, it’s likely that she’ll be a mother’s worst nightmare by the time she’s thirteen…chasing their daughters around the playground.”

“Around the ball diamond, but yeah, that’s what I’m getting at.”

“We’ll have to guide her then, won’t we? As any parent would. Love her and respect her for who she is and give her the tools to make good, moral decisions. I think we’re good people, Ryan. We will be good role models for her.”

“Honey, with us as role models, she’ll be chasing little girls when she’s four. We’re not exactly chaste.”

“What we have is a very healthy love life and she will be raised to realize that. She’ll be raised to respect girls, or boys, and not simply see them as sex objects. To respect them as people first and foremost.” She looked seriously as Ryan. “Support me on that?”

“Yes, Janna, of course. I’m not a dog any more, and I’ll tell her, if she’ll listen when she’s old enough, that’s it’s a very unfulfilling lifestyle.”

“Good.” Janna smiled and grabbed her belly. “She’s awake again. She must have heard your voice.”

Ryan grinned widely and pressed her lips softly to Janna’s tummy. “Hi, sweetheart. Are you awake again? It’s time for your story. Momma loves you, baby.”

As Ryan spoke to their child, Janna ran her fingers through her thick, dark hair, filled with love for her mate.

Ryan reached to the table behind her for a book and brought it forward.

“What is it tonight?”

“Navajo children’s stories.”

“Nice.”

Ryan settled comfortably next to Janna and began to read. Her rich voice flowed as fluidly as song as she read to her baby, and her mate relaxed to the point of falling asleep…as was usually the case. Ryan finished the nightly ritual by massaging Janna’s belly tenderly with aromatic oil and they wrapped themselves around each other for the night.

Grandmother Moon smiled at her friends, happy to see them so happy, and turned her gaze to her other friends, who were readying themselves for the ceremony that would unite them in marriage.

The next morning, after sharing a long cuddle time, Ryan and Janna lay together, both glowing somewhat from their shared love. Janna sighed as she played with Ryan’s fingers.

“It so great to be back here in New Mexico, love.”

“Mm, it is.” She looked down at the blonde head under her chin. “I was just thinking the same thing. And remembering last month…that was a wonderful trip too, Janna.” She squeezed her mate and sighed.

The previous month, they had gone to the mountains to celebrate their first anniversary, to the little inn South of Lake Tahoe that they had visited before they married. The reservation had been made before Ryan’s accident, and since she was feeling much better by the time their anniversary, and her birthday, rolled around, they decided to go. They had not been able to hike, of course, but had been able to enjoy just being in the mountains they so loved, and spent hours sitting on the deck of their suite, or beside the river, or in bed.

“Oh, yes, honey…wasn’t it?” She giggled and Ryan knew exactly why. The sex had been wonderful…life affirming, in fact.

“I know, Janna. I still can’t get over how great it was. I thought that there’d be no way in hell we could top our first trip there, especially with you so pregnant and me in this cast, but Jesus, baby, we did, didn’t we?” She ran her hands along Janna’s torso as she added, “God, you loved me good, baby.” She trembled slightly in remembrance.

“Mmm. And you know what?” She turned over and leaned into her mate.

“What?” Ryan grinned, knowing full well what was what, thanks to their link.

“I’m getting hot again just thinking about it.”

“Oh, are you? I suppose you want me to do something about that, huh?”

“Absolutely, babe.”

“Your wish is my command, my baby. Come ‘ere,” she said as she pulled Janna down on top of herself. “Let me love you, Janna.” She said as she captured her mate’s lips sensuously.

Janna returned the kiss and muttered breathlessly, “God, I still can’t get enough of you, Ryan.”

“Or I you, love. And I love feeling the baby between us, Janna.” She said between kisses, then stopped and asked, “Is that okay for her…you’re not too heavy?”

“I’m not putting all of my weight down…this position won’t be possible much longer though.”

“Well, babe, let’s take advantage of it while we can.” She pulled Janna’s face back down to meet hers and all conversation stopped for a good long while. Unless one counted moans, groans, pants and other unintelligible utterances.

~~~~~~~~~~

Two days later, Ryan stood next to her brother at the edge of a butte under a brilliant blue sky as the tribal elder declared him married. Ryan, and Martha’s attendant, her sister Mary, stepped forward and each removed the blue blanket from her sibling’s shoulders and then together, placed a single large white blanket around them, enveloping the couple.

Soft Native flute music played as they embraced, and through her tears, Ryan looked over at Janna and smiled happily. My baby brother is a married man now. Mom and Dad would be so proud of him…of how far he has come. And Grandfather.

“I am proud of both of my grandchildren. They honor me.”

Thank you Grandfather.

Later, pow wow drummers pounded joyously on their large drums as they sang during the merry reception. Ryan sat with her leg stretched out as Janna sat beside her, hand on her thigh, clearly enjoying the music. Ryan gazed with wonder at her wife as she sat with closed eyes, her head nodding to the beat of the drum, feet tapping, obviously having been carried to another place…an ancient place. She carries far less Indian blood than I do, yet she is so much closer to the spirit of the people. Ryan’s eyes misted as she felt an immense pride and joy in her lovely mate.

Janna wore the billowy sundress from her own wedding, which still fit, but just barely, and sported her turquoise wedding necklace around her neck. Ryan wore her wedding clothes as well, as the pants were loose enough to accommodate her cast, and her bone and turquoise wedding choker adorned her throat.

From his place at the head of the table, Zac watched his sisters and thought they looked as lovely as they did at their own wedding. They are light and dark…like night and day…yet they complement each other perfectly. Just as the night needs the day, and the dark needs the light. They embody the concept of yin and yang. Zac smiled at that thought, as he knew that Janna was very fond of the ancient Chinese symbol. I only hope that Marty and I can approach what they have.

As if reading her husband’s mind, Marty leaned over just then and kissed his cheek before saying, “I believe that what we have is just as strong, Zac.”

Zac turned to gaze into his wife’s beautiful, brown eyes. “So do I, Marty. I knew it a year ago when I was with them at their wedding. I love you Martha Two Rainbows Greyeagle-Zamora.”

Marty’s gaze spoke the volumes of love that she felt for her new husband, but she spoke the words nevertheless. “And I love you, Zachary Red Hawk Zamora.”

Six hours later, the Zamoras were on an airplane bound for Hawaii, while the Norden-Zamoras were making beautiful love in their brother and sister-in-law’s home in Las Cruces.

The next day they would journey to Taos, to revisit a stranger who had paid them a kindness on their previous visit there. The Navajo woman was not surprised when the couple walked/hobbled into her shop, the part-Native woman smiling warmly, knowingly, at her and greeting her wordlessly. She returned the silent, reverent greeting, warmed greatly that the couple had survived their trial. As before, she bestowed upon them a lovely gift, but this time, the tall, strong woman had made several large purchases in addition to the gift for her pregnant wife.

As the train sped along the California coastline, Ryan held Janna’s hand tightly as they gazed at the magnificent rocky shore. At that moment, while gently physically connected with her soulmate in the presence of the breathtaking natural splendor, she felt complete. Through their bond, Janna felt Ryan’s sense of serenity and wholeness and sighed happily, feeling the same sense of peace wash over her own soul. The soul that was at that moment in time physically and ethereally merged with Ryan’s.

-22-

Three weeks later, early November.

Ryan leaned back on her hands, holding her breath as the technician manipulated the small saw. A fine white dust floated up from where saw blade met plaster and the colorful, decorated cast began to loosen. As she approached her upper thigh, Ryan got the woman’s attention and motioned for her to saw around a particular section. She nodded, smiling behind her mask, and directed the line of the cut away from the colorfully written passage.

Several minutes later, Ryan sat gazing at her freed leg. “My God, but that’s ugly,” she said, chuckling. Her leg was almost grotesquely white and oddly textured from the cast and liner. She ran her hands over the fracture sites. The thigh break had been clean and had left no visible outward sign, but the lower leg and ankle breaks sported nasty scars from the compound fractures themselves and from the surgery. She tried to move her ankle and found it incredibly stiff, and she winced.

“So, you say you want to keep the cast?” The woman said as she lay the large now-empty shell on the table next to Ryan.

“Yep, it’s a trophy to show the grandkids.” Ryan grinned.

The woman returned the grin and added, “I can see why you wanted to preserve that poem. It’s beautiful…Elizabeth Barrett Browning, right?”

Ryan smiled warmly as she nodded.

“That’s some special guy you have…to write something like that on your cast. Um, just how many ‘I love you’s are written on that thing, do you know?”

Ryan blushed mildly. “Oh, uh, I don’t know…one for each day I had it on, I think.” She shrugged. “Over a hundred, I guess.”

“Wow. Well, enjoy your freedom!” The woman smiled cheerily as she cleaned Ryan’s leg.

“Oh, I will.” Ryan’s warm grin widened as she reread the special passage that Janna had written on her upper thigh, so that she could see it all the time. She had read it so often that it had become burned into her memory permanently.

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways
I love thee to the breadth and depth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints, – I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life! – and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

The tech helped her to her feet and led her from the cast room, carrying the plaster monstrosity for Ryan. When they entered the exam room, Janna jumped up and exclaimed, “Oh, honey!” and threw her arms around her wife, crutches and all.

As they embraced, the tech stood wide-eyed for a moment, but then smiled and shook her head as she caught Ryan’s eye.

Ryan returned the grin and shrugged.

As she left the room, the woman could be heard mumbling, “Should have known it was too sweet to be from a guy…”

A few minutes later, the doctor returned with Ryan’s x-rays, looking somewhat dumbfounded. He sat down on the stool beside the exam table and shook his head, smiling. “Ryan, the fractures are all completely healed. It’s remarkable. I’m not even sure I need to put a walking cast on you, but I’m going to, to play it safe.” He shook his head again. “I really expected to see you in a full cast for another six to eight weeks.”

Ryan’s crooked grin and raised eyebrows warmed him and he returned the smile.

“I told you I heal fast, Doc.” She squeezed Janna’s hand as she sat beside her.

“Care to share your secret with me?” He joked.

Ryan hesitated a moment, then said, “Actually, Doc, we do know an ancient healing method. If you’re interested, let us know. Janna teaches the technique.” Ryan’s sincere gaze convinced him that she was serious.

“I’ll keep that in mind and let you know. This certainly does attest to something extraordinary going on.” He nodded and then went into his instructions for the patient, emphasizing that she must use the removable cast at all times, except for while sleeping and bathing.

A half hour later, Ryan walked out the door using only a cane, carrying the huge cast under her arm, while Janna carried her crutches.

As she reached the car, she exclaimed happily, “Janna, honey, I can drive!”

“Yes, and I get to be passenger again!”

As she settled into the driver’s seat, Ryan looked at Janna and grasped her hand. “We’re celebrating in the spa tonight, baby.”
“I’m way ahead of you, Ryan.”

Ryan closed her eyes and sighed, feeling that she couldn’t wait to find out what her wife had in store for later.

~~~~~~~~~~

Janna lowered herself cautiously into the spa. Her added bulk made her feel awkward and she worried about slipping. She needn’t have however, as her wife grasped her hand gently and guided her into the seat next to her.

“Just about six more weeks, honey, and our baby will be here.”

“Mm. Yes. And I’m really looking forward to Lamaze class tomorrow, Ryan.” Janna sighed as she leaned against her mate’s strong shoulder.

“Me too, love. It seems like such a special way to bring a baby into the world.”

“Yes, and special for you. You get to help her enter, Ryan, and support me.”

“God, Janna, I’m glad I’m out of the monster. It would have been so much harder if I were still wearing that thing.”

“I’m glad for you, love.” She turned to face Ryan and pushed a few wayward strands of hair behind an ear. “Things are almost back to normal for you, honey. I can’t tell you how happy I am about that.”

“You don’t need to, Janna…I can feel it. Thank you.”

“Now you can start rehab and regain nearly normal use of your leg and ankle.”

“Yep, but I’m shooting for normal, babe.”

“I know, Ryan, but remember how severely injured you were…I don’t want you to be disappointed if you don’t quite get back there.”

“Don’t worry, Janna, I think my expectations are realistic.” She squeezed her mate tightly and grinned. “You don’t have to worry about my becoming a fucking asshole again when things don’t go my way.”

Ryan gazed up at the nearly full moon and became pensive for a few minutes before saying softly, “Janna, even if I regain full use of my leg and ankle, I’m not sure I want to return to patrol duty.”

Janna raised her eyebrows in surprise. “Oh, why not, honey?”

Ryan blew out a breath. “It’s just so dangerous…we’ve seen that first hand, haven’t we?” At Janna’s nod, she continued, “And I have such huge responsibilities now…not to mention the fact that I want to be around to help raise my kids.” She sank lower into the pleasantly warm water and pulled Janna onto her lap.

“I don’t think I’m afraid…I really don’t…it’s not fear I feel, but responsibility. And face it, I’ve changed. My career isn’t everything to me anymore…you are. And the baby is. I think I want to focus more of my energy on being a parent and a spouse.” She ran her fingers through her hair and shook her head incredulously. “Jesus! Can you believe I’m saying this?”

“Yes. It is exactly what I would expect from this woman whom I love so much.” Janna kissed her cheek and lay her own cheek against it.

“Does becoming a parent mellow everyone out this much?”

“Honey, I think it’s more a shifting of priorities, isn’t it?”

“Sure, with a corresponding mellowing of attitude.”

“Mm, yeah, I suppose. Well, Ryan, whatever you decide, I will support you. I know what a fine cop you are, and how much you love being a cop, despite any mellowing that may occur.”

“Thanks, baby. But you know what? These last three months that I’ve been on desk duty, and doing so much community outreach? I’ve loved it, Janna! I have so enjoyed meeting kids, and especially working on the D.A.R.E. program with them. And God, the little class of deaf kids, Janna. I was thinking the other day when I was there about how much I’ll miss them when I return to patrol.” She smiled at a special memory. “Especially that little Andrew…what a character!”

Janna smiled warmly, feeling her mate’s happy heart. “Is that the little boy who has other problems too?”

“Mm, hm…yeah. He’s mildly retarded…or, I should say, ‘developmentally disabled’. God, what a sweet kid…always lights up when I come into the room and gives me a big hug. That’s what life’s about, Janna. Not chasing fucking lowlifes who don’t have a chance in hell of reforming, or rehabilitating, after I catch them and send them to the can. But working with kids, to teach them right and wrong…to help them develop a sense of self worth and respect for others…to prevent them from ever getting onto that path of drugs and crime. To make a difference to a kid.”

Ryan’s sincerity touched Janna deeply and she whispered, “That does sound wonderful, Ryan, and I’m behind you one thousand percent.” She added, “I don’t want to influence you one way or the other, but I will be honest and tell you that I would feel much more comfortable with you off of patrol.” She gazed into her wife’s eyes as tears began to fall. “To be perfectly honest with you, Ryan, I’ve been dreading…absolutely dreading…the day when you go back out there. It terrifies me.”

Ryan said nothing, but sighed and wiped Janna’s tears as she pulled her closer, her own eyes misting. She kissed Janna’s head before saying, “I’ll give it some serious thought, and talk to John about it…and Sam and the Lt. I have a while yet before I need to make a decision one way or the other. The doctor won’t be releasing me back onto active duty until after the first of the year anyway.”

“Okay, love.”

“Whew, Janna…that’s a load off my mind. A huge fuckin’ load off my mind. Thank you, baby.” She nuzzled Janna’s hair with her cheek.

Janna smiled warmly at her and said, “Don’t mention it. Um, honey, are we gonna have to have another talk about language?”

Ryan adopted a sheepish look. “Yeah, shit, I haven’t been doing too well, have I?”

Janna shook her head, but smiled at her wife.

“I told you it would be hard for me…”

“I know, Ryan, and with all you’ve been through in the last four, five months, I don’t blame you, but honey there’s not a lot of time left for you to work on it…and, well, you know how important it is to me that our little girl’s first words aren’t something like, ‘fuck’ or ‘shit’.”

Ryan dropped her chin to her chest in embarrassment. Looking back up at Janna through long, black lashes, she replied, “You’re right, Janna…or her first sentence, ‘God damned fucking asshole.’ I don’t want that either. Um, maybe you could start fining me or something…that’s what Sara did with John, remember?”

“Yes, I do, and I thought that it was very funny at the time, but now I don’t.” She gazed thoughtfully at her mate. “I don’t know, Ryan…I really don’t think I want to do that. I trust that you can manage to do it on your own.” Her eyes brightened as she added, “Now, remember, the no swearing rule doesn’t apply in the bedroom, when we’re alone. That should help.” Her bright grin matched her smiling eyes.

Ryan grinned widely at her adorable mate. “That’s not fair, love! You only made that exception because that’s about the only place where you do swear!”

“Ryan! That’s so not true…I swear!”

“Honey, ‘Jesus Christ’ and ‘hell’ and ‘damn’ are not swearing.”

“Are you gonna love me tonight, Ryan? Because if you are, I’ll show you some swearing.” Janna’s eyed sparkled a challenge that Ryan wouldn’t dream of ignoring.

“Oh, shit yeah, baby. I’m gonna love you good while I fuck you silly.” She grinned rakishly before burying her face against Janna’s neck and then began to nip lightly at the soft skin there. She mumbled, “We’d better make that exception good out here in the spa, too.”

“Absofuckinlutley,” Janna murmured as she turned in Ryan’s lap and straddled her, as best she could, capturing her lips possessively as she did so.

Ryan returned the kiss just as possessively and moaned her pleasure into Janna’s mouth while her hands began to roam sensuously.

Exactly fifteen minutes later, her sweet wife was swearing a blue streak as Ryan made passionate love to her.

~~~~~~~~~~

Five weeks later, December 15

Ryan stood in front of the chalkboard, waiting while the teacher interpreted her words for the students. The African-American woman looked back to Ryan with a smile, indicating that she could continue, and Ryan smiled and returned her gaze to the children sitting at their desks in front of her.

“Now, who would like to tell me why non-medicinal drugs are dangerous?” She looked expectantly around the semi-circle of ten, nine through thirteen-year olds and waited while their teacher signed to them.

As soon as their teacher finished, ten sets of eyes settled again on Ryan and she raised her eyebrows expectantly. She signed, “Anyone know?”

Three children raised their hands and she pointed to a girl and signed her name, “Yasmine?”

The black-haired eleven-year old signed, “Because if they aren’t medicine they are very bad for your body.”

Ryan smiled and signed, “Yes.” She added, speaking, “That’s right. Who gives us medicinal drugs?”

She waited again as the teacher rapidly signed her words to the students and then called on a thin, brown-haired little boy with glasses.

She smiled as she signed, “Andrew.”

The ten-year old gleefully signed, “Doctor, nurse, mom, dad, grandma, grandpa, auntie.”

Ryan smiled widely and signed, “Yes. Very good, Andrew!”

The little boy’s face lit up with joy at having pleased his special friend and his small body could barely contain his enthusiasm as he clapped for himself.

The tall, strong cop, standing before them in her impressive dark blue uniform, turned the page of the red workbook and started, “Now, let’s talk about non-medicinal drugs…” but was interrupted by her pager sounding. She stopped talking, startled momentarily, and then as realization hit as to whom must be paging her, she pointed to the pager, and addressing the class said, “I have a message…excuse me.”

She nervously grabbed the small unit from her belt and looked at the display. 911. Jesus! Janna. She looked up at the teacher, a look of startled amazement on her face and said, “It’s my baby…my wife…our baby.” She shook her head, trying to dislodge the cobwebs and smiled widely. “My wife is in labor…I have to go…sorry!”

The teacher, Marly, replied with a huge grin, “Congratulations…go…hurry!”

Ryan turned to the children and signed, “I need to go help my friend now. Merry Christmas!”

All the children happily signed, “Merry Christmas” in return, some vocalizing the words as well, and little Andrew said, “Buh buh!”

Ryan smiled warmly at him and signed, “Bye bye, Andrew. I’ll see you after Christmas.”

Then she set the workbook down on the teacher’s desk and hurriedly shrugged into her warm jacket before rushing from the room. As she ran to the patrol car, wincing as her nearly-healed ankle sent prickling pains up her leg, she retrieved the keys from her pocket and activated the remote locks, then jumped behind the wheel and was off within seconds, lights and sirens in motion.

Jesus, the baby…oh God. As she maneuvered the car into traffic, some of which actually parted so she could pass, she reached for the cell phone and speed dialed Janna.

“Hi, honey.”

“Janna…you’re in labor?”

“Yes, my water just broke.”

“Shit! I’m two minutes away, baby…I was at the school. I’m coming, Janna. Are you all ready?”

“Yes, honey. I’m standing by the front door.”

“Okay, I’ll be right there!” Ryan said excitedly.

“All right, honey…hey…calm down.”

“Janna, our baby’s coming!”

“I’m aware of that, love…get here safely please.”

“Yeah…are you having contractions?”

“Yes…they’re seven minutes apart, so we’re fine.” As she spoke, Janna could hear the siren from her wife’s patrol car approaching. “I hear your car, love. I’m gonna hang up.”

“Okay, bye!” Ryan quickly radioed in, checking herself out on personal time and then turned down their street, tires squealing as the car spun around the corner.

As Janna stood on the front porch, she watched as Ryan’s police cruiser raced down the street, skidded to a stop, and then slid up into the driveway. As she raced out of the car, neighbors all up and down the street stuck their heads out of doors to see what the commotion was. Many of them smiled as they saw the police officer help her hugely pregnant wife down the walkway and into the police car.

“Baby, are you okay…here, careful getting in….I’ll get the bag…” Ryan’s mind and body were in hyperdrive as she tried to get them coordinated. She threw Janna’s athletic bag into the back seat and jumped in behind the wheel.

“Okay, let’s go.”

Janna looked at her mate and grinned as she laid a calm hand on her thigh. “Relax, honey…it’s not an emergency.”

“Honey, just let me get you there, okay?” Ryan spared her a serious gaze before checking the mirrors and shooting out the driveway in reverse. She skillfully handled the car and took off at breakneck speed again. She reached up to the overhead console and flipped the siren on and as she raced down the residential streets and onto the busier thoroughfares, the traffic parted and cars pulled over to let them pass.

As they came upon slower traffic ahead of them, Ryan mumbled with frustration, “Come on, asshole, move the hell over.” She reached up and flipped the siren switch again, turning it off and on to try to get the dopey driver’s attention. Finally, the man woke up and pulled over, and Ryan fixed an impressive glare on him as she passed. “Turn your stereo down, dickhead,” she muttered as she sped on.

She picked up the cell phone and speed dialed the hospital’s maternity ward, saying, “This is Officer Norden-Zamora, SCPD, I’m enroute with my wife, who’s in labor…oh, and just so you’re prepared, we’re a lesbian couple. ETA is one minute.” She listened for a moment and replied, “Great, thanks.”

Looking at Janna, she said, “Okay, babe, they’re waiting with a wheelchair at the emergency entrance.”

“Great, love…thank you.” Smiling warmly at her wife she said, “God, you’re good to have around in an emergency.” Her face then contorted in pain, and she said, “Whoa!”

“A strong one, Janna?”

“Yes…God, that started in my back and went all the way through.” She took a deep breath.

“That’s good, baby, breathe. How far apart now?”

Janna looked at her watch. “Five minutes.”

“Fuck!”

“It’s okay, Ryan, we’re almost there.”

“Honey, I thought you were gonna call me when they were ten minutes apart.”

“Sweetheart, I knew you were in the middle of your DARE lesson and I didn’t want to bother you.”

“Janna, Jesus! Fuck…I knew I shouldn’t have worked today…I had a feeling those mild contractions during the night were more than just Braxton-Hicks.”

“I called the doctor when they were ten minutes apart. It’s done, honey, and now we’re here…stop worrying, please.” She pleaded with her wife, using her pretty green eyes to proper effect.

Ryan sighed and smiled. “Okay, Janna. Jesus, I can’t resist you.” Just then, they arrived at the hospital and she pulled the cruiser into the ambulance bay. As expected, a nurse was waiting for them with a wheelchair.

Ryan jumped out of the car and motioned to the nurse to follow. They got Janna situated in the chair and five minutes later, she was undressing in a birthing room on the third floor.

As a nurse helped Janna to settle on the bed, Ryan removed her police belt and holstered weapon and put them into the athletic bag they had brought.

She remarked as she removed her badge and unbuttoned the top buttons of her shirt, “I’ll have to try to get comfortable in this uniform.”

“Oh, honey…I packed a t-shirt and sweats for you…they’re in the bag.”

“Janna, honey…that’s great! Thank you, baby.”

“Don’t men…ohhh,” she groaned.

“Mrs. Norden-Zamora, let’s get a fetal monitor on you, alright?” The obstetrical nurse who was assisting her said. “How far apart are they now?”

“Still five minutes.”

She nodded. “Good. We’ve called the doctor and she’s on her way. Since your water has already broken and the contractions are five minutes apart, I don’t think there’s time to do an enema…have you eaten much today?”

“Very little…herbal tea and toast for breakfast and nothing since. I’ve been having the contractions since the middle of the night and didn’t feel like eating.”

“Okay, that sounds fine. Do you want to lie down to deliver, or sit upright? These beds go either way.”

“I’d like to be as upright as possible, but with my wife sitting behind me, Lamaze-style.”

“Okay, that’ll work. We’ll have the bed partially upright, then.” She addressed Ryan, who had proceeded to change into the more comfortable clothes, “If you’re ready, Mrs. Norden-Zamora, you can get in the bed first and your wife can sit back against you.”

“Okay, and please, it’s Ryan and Janna.”

The nurse nodded and grinned as she directed Ryan onto the bed. She set their bag on the bedside table, within her reach. As soon as Janna was settled against her and as the nurse affixed the fetal monitoring strap around her belly, Ryan reached for her cell phone and called Janna’s mother. After clicking the phone off, she said, “Your parents and Kris are on their way, love.”

“Good, thanks honey. I know my mom wanted to be here, and Kris wants to tape this for us.” She sighed and took a deep breath as the excitement of the moment began to settle in on her. She leaned back into Ryan’s warm, strong body and said quietly, “I’m a little scared, Ryan.”

Ryan tightened her embrace around her wife and though she felt a little afraid herself, said, “Don’t worry, love. It’s gonna be fine. I’ve got ya.” She kissed Janna’s neck and murmured, “Soon our baby girl will be here with us. It’s gonna be so great, sweetheart…you, me and our little Halley. I can’t wait, baby.”

Janna started to respond, but was hit by another strong contraction and groaned instead.

Ryan checked her watch. “Four and a half minutes, Janna. She’s getting ready, baby.”

“Mm,” Janna said, still feeling the tightening in her abdomen.

“Breath deeply, love.”

Janna did, and felt better. When her wife was breathing normally again, Ryan asked, “I know it hurts, honey, but what does it feel like, exactly?”

“Like a really severe menstrual cramp…you know, the kind that burn? Only now, it’s getting a lot worse, and my uterine and belly muscles feel really, really tight. It’s like a wave; the muscles contract, it hurts like hell, and then it passes.”

Ryan winced in sympathy and kissed her wife again. “You’re doing great, Janna…I love you so much, baby.”

The nurse came into the room again and as she glanced at the fetal heart rate monitor asked, “How are we doing?”

Ryan replied, “Four and a half minutes now, and they’re getting stronger.”

“Okay, I’m going to have a look at your cervix now, Janna.” She knelt between Janna’s knees and checked her dilation. “Good. Janna, you’re already dilated to eight centimeters…your baby is about ready to be born. Do you know the sex?”

Janna nodded. “Girl.”

“Her heart rate looks real good. I’ll be back in a bit. Do you need anything…ice chips?”

Ryan answered, “Yes, please…I’d like to have some here in case she gets thirsty.”

“I’ll be right back with those.”

“Hear that, love? Halley is coming.”

“I know that, Ryan…she’s getting a little pushy.” She stiffened as another contraction began. “Ohh, Jesus…” She blew out a breath. “God, that’s starting to hurt.” She took a deep breath, moderating the pain somewhat. “God, Ryan…” As the contraction passed and her breathing evened out again, she said, “Honey, let me apologize right now for anything mean I say to you during this…the pain is just so intense.” She turned her head slightly to glance at her wife and grinned as she said, “You’re already starting to get on my nerves and you’ve been an absolute angel.”

“Don’t worry about it, baby. I understand pain…not that mine approached this, but I do understand.”

“Thanks, love.” She relaxed against her mate until another one hit a few minutes later. “Ohh…ouch…”

Ryan checked her watch. Three and a half, where’s the damn doctor?

Janna panted, “How long, Ryan?”

“Three and a half, honey.”

“I’d love to see the doctor any time now.”

“Don’t worry, Janna…the nurse said she’s on her way.” She’d better be on her way, God damn it.

Janna stiffened again and moaned loudly as the wave hit. “Oh Christ…I might need drugs, Ryan…I’m sor…ahh!…I’m sorry.”

“Whatever you want, Janna. Slow, even breaths now.”

The nurse came back in and checked the monitor. “Are they getting closer?”

“Yes…three minutes…the doctor’s on her way, huh?” Ryan was beginning to show the frustration she felt.

“Yes, but I’ll give her a call and see how close she is.”

“God, Ryan…what if she doesn’t get here in time?”

“She will, Janna…and anyway, there are obstetricians on call.”

“‘Kay.” Janna sighed, beginning to feel the drag on her body. She had been awake since just after 2:00am when the contractions had started, and the pain was beginning to take its toll.

Two minutes later, another pain came and Janna screamed. The nurse came back into the room, pulling a gown on as she said, “The doctor just arrived and is scrubbing…she’ll be right in.” She looked at Ryan and said, “Okay, coach, have her do her fast breathing on the next one. Janna, hon, listen to Ryan and don’t push yet, okay?”

“Okay.”

Less than two minutes later, the next pain hit and Ryan coached, “Breathe, baby, blow…blow…blow…good, Janna.”
“Oh, God, I need to push! Oh, Jesus…”

“Not yet, honey, breathe, now…don’t push. Blow…blow…blow…”

Janna screamed as the contraction burned through her uterus and tried to do as her coach and partner instructed. “Ow, God, Ryan! Ohh, Jesus Christ,” she moaned. “You’re doing this the next time, Ryan…I swear to God!” She rolled her head against Ryan’s chest as the agonizing pain blazed through her body and moaned again loudly.

Ryan felt the contraction lessen under her hands and said, “Okay, love, breath slowly now. You’re doing great, Janna…just hang in there.” She kissed her mate’s neck and mopped the sweat from her brow with a towel, then brought her hands up to Janna’s shoulders and massaged them lightly. “You’re tense, honey, try to relax a little.”

“How can I fucking relax, Ryan?” Janna snapped.

“Try, Janna. Take a deep breath for me.”

Janna did and some of the tension left her shoulders as Ryan continued to massage them.

“Oh, God, here comes another one.” Janna stiffened and grabbed Ryan’s hands. “Ohh, God…ohhh…I have to push…I have to push…”

“The nurse, who had parked herself between Janna’s knees, said, “Not quite yet, Janna. Blow.”

“Blow, honey, fast…blow.”

“You blow, Ry…Ryan…ahhhh!” Janna’s whole body contorted under the severe pain of the contraction and she dug her short fingernails into her wife’s hands. “Jesus, fu…ck, Ry…”

“Breathe, Janna, fast. Blow, blow, blow.”

Janna relaxed as the pain passed, and most blessedly so. Just then, her doctor entered.

“Janna, I see Halley decided to arrive a little early!” She addressed the nurse as she pulled on a pair of gloves, “Where are we?”

“Fully dilated, contractions at just under two minutes, fetal heart rate is good.”

“Glad you could make it, Pat.” Ryan said, eyebrows raised.

As the doctor seated herself between Janna’s legs, she grinned behind her mask, saying, “No reason to come any sooner, Ryan.” She inserted her hand into Janna’s cervix and gazed upward as she felt the area. “Everything’s looking great, Janna.” She extracted her hand and palpated Janna’s abdomen. “Okay, hon. The baby is starting to move down the birth canal…it should be real soon now. How is the pain?”

“Killer, Pat, but I’m trying to do without drugs.”

“You don’t have to be a hero, Janna…these drugs are quite safe now.”

“I’ll see, Pat. Oh, God, here I go again…” She squeezed Ryan’s hand again and moaned loudly.

Ryan looked at the Ob/Gyn and said, “One minute, Pat.”

The doctor looked at Janna and said, “Hang on, Janna, don’t push yet….don’t push yet…”

“Ahhhh! I need to push, please…now…ow, Ryan, I need to pu…push.”

“Breathe, honey…just breathe…you can push in a minute.” Just then, Ryan felt a portion of Janna’s pain through their link and would have doubled over had her wife not been lying against her. “Fuck! Jesus Christ, that hurts,” she panted.

The doctor and nurse both looked at her in alarm. “What hurts, Ryan?”

Ryan was trying to take a deep breath and figure out how to block off the pain coming from Janna as she panted breathlessly, “I feel what she feels…it’s a…a soulmate thing.” The pain passed and Janna relaxed against her as she caught her own breath. “Fucking Christ…” She shook her head as the nurses and doctor gazed at her in amazement.

Janna moaned, near delirium, but managed to mutter, “Ground yourself, Ry…Ryan…sorry.”

“It’s okay, baby…I’ll do that. Don’t worry about me. You’re doing great, love. Beautiful.”

“I’m thirsty.”

Ryan grabbed the cup of ice chips and tipped it against Janna’s mouth. “Here, love. Just a little, now.”

Janna sighed and murmured, “Thanks, love.”

Less than a minute later, another spasm hit and Janna moaned. “Okay, Janna, it’s time to push. Ryan, coach her.”

“Push now, baby, push for me.”

As the baby moved into her birth canal, Janna screamed, the pain literally cutting through her. “Ahhh! Jesus, please, get it out, please…ohhh, God…”

“That’s great, Janna, now relax and breath normally. She’s coming. Just a couple more pushes will do it.”

Janna lay against Ryan and panted, near exhaustion. “God, honey, I feel…feel like this is killing me.”

“Relax, baby, it’s almost over. You’re doing great. I love you, Janna. You’re doing great, my love.” Ryan winced as the pain cut through her as well, though not as severely as previously. She refocused her grounding cord and felt the welcome, steady pull of the Earth.

Thirty seconds later, the strongest contraction yet hit and Janna let loose a piercing scream.

“Push, Janna!” Ryan and the doctor said in unison.

“Ahh! Ryannnn!” She screamed again and rolled her head wildly against Ryan, feeling as if she were being split apart. “Ahh, get it out…get it out!” She screamed, her voice reaching higher and higher pitches as the agony took hold.”

“Okay, I see her head, Janna…give me one more good push. Come on now, Janna, one more push. Coach her, Ryan.”

“Push, baby, push!”

“Ahhh, God, I can’t! It’s ripping me open…”

“Push, Janna, she’s almost here.”

“Don’t fucking tell me to push Ryan, God…damn…it! Ohh, Jesus…this is your…fault.” Janna screamed uncontrollably then, unable to form words.

“Push, Janna, she’s almost completely out. Here come her shoulders. I need you to push, Janna…now!”

Janna bore down and put every remaining bit of her energy into the effort, and the baby finally, mercifully, slipped out.

“Good, Janna…she’s here…great job. Ryan, can you see her?”

Ryan craned her neck around her listless, crying wife, and saw the baby lying in the doctor’s hands.

“Oh, Jesus, there she is Janna. You did it, baby! You did it! Oh, God, baby, there’s our Halley!”

“It’s done?”

“Yes, honey. She’s here,” Ryan cried.

“Oh, God,” Janna sobbed.

“You have a healthy baby girl, Janna.” The doctor lifted the baby onto Janna’s belly then as she said to Ryan, “Mom, do you want to cut the cord?”

Ryan gazed at her wide-eyed and nodded dumbly. The nurse handed her a pair of scissors and showed her where to cut. Very carefully, Ryan reached forward and gingerly cut the tough cord, crying as she did so. The nurse deftly tied off the umbilical and settled the baby more comfortably on Janna’s belly as the doctor delivered the afterbirth.

Ryan and Janna gazed in wonder at the small, pink being with the tuft of fuzzy black hair that they had brought into the world, and cried softly together. They were allowed to share the baby’s first few minutes quietly before she was picked up and removed to be assessed. Several minutes later, she was placed, wrapped in a blanket, in Janna’s arms.

“God, Ryan, she’s beautiful. She’s so beautiful.” Janna was filled with a love for her child unlike any she had ever experienced. Ryan too, fell instantly in love with her daughter, and the tough cop sobbed openly as she reached around Janna to touch their daughter.

“Janna, God…she’s perfect. Just like you…I love you so much, honey.” She embraced Janna and felt her love returned to her through their bond.

“I love you, Ryan. So much.” Janna turned her head toward Ryan’s and they kissed gently, their tears of joy intermingling. They both gazed back down at their daughter and cried quietly, sharing an intense, almost overwhelming joy.

As they sat together, holding their baby while the nurses cleaned the patient and the room of the surprisingly large amount of blood, Janna’s mother and sister-in-law entered the room.

When Janna looked up into her mother’s eyes, her tears intensified. “Mom, meet your granddaughter, Halley Rebecca.”

“Oh, Janna, Ryan…,” Beth cried. “Look at all that black hair! She’s beautiful.”

Kris began video taping the happy event and captured luminous, exultant smiles on the two moms’ faces as they gazed affectionately at their baby girl.

Ryan remained on the bed behind Janna, holding her lovingly within her arms, stunned by the love she felt for her mate and their baby. She looked up at the ceiling and closed her eyes. Thank you, Great Spirit, Grandfathers, Grandmothers, for blessing us with this child. Please guide us as we raise her to be a good, happy human being. She nodded and swallowed the emotion that choked her throat.

Janna sensed Ryan’s prayer and echoed it, almost word for word, before leaning back more deeply into her wife’s embrace. She turned her face wordlessly and her lips were captured by her devoted wife, and savored for long moments as they silently communicated their love to each other.

Their friend, Luna, from her perch above the land across the Atlantic Ocean, smiled as she sensed the birth of a new friend, and wrapped the three Norden-Zamoras within her loving energetic embrace.

The End

Thank you for sharing this journey with me.
Ryan’s and Janna’s adventures will continue in part 3.

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