The Journey By Janet Lynne

The Journey
By Janet Lynne
Part 3 in the Homecoming series

Part 1

-1-

Ryan Norden-Zamora negotiated the fog-shrouded avenue carefully, cutting her speed as she turned off the main thoroughfare and onto the smaller, less heavily traveled residential street. The fog was thicker there, the street not having been warmed by heavy traffic, and it billowed around her SUV as Ryan drove through it.

The gray gloom was cut by Christmas lights shining brightly from the porches, rooflines, and eaves of the homes in her neighborhood and the festive brilliance of the multicolored and white lights brought a smile to her face. She checked the digital clock on the dash. 4:30. Still afternoon, but you wouldn’t know it in this gloom. Maybe for Christmas tomorrow we’ll have a visit from the sun. I’ve almost forgotten what he looks like.

As she neared her lovely early twentieth-century Victorian-styled home, her face was lit by another smile. In addition to the small but brilliant white lights hung icicle-fashion from the home’s eaves, warm yellow light spilled from the front windows, welcoming her. Beckoning her inside, to where her family awaited her. As she pulled her Explorer into the driveway, she shook her head as she thought, every year I swear I won’t leave my shopping until the last minute, but every year I find myself out shopping on Christmas Eve.

She exited the truck and stepped into the freezing fog, which enveloped her and attempted to pierce the protective shield of her layers of warm clothing. She pulled the collar of her leather jacket up more tightly around her throat as she pulled the shopping bag from the back seat and then made her way along the side of the house to the kitchen door.

Upon entering the warm house, she dropped her car keys onto the counter and unzipped her jacket, blowing out a breath and physically shaking off the cold. She made her way quietly to her small office at the back of the house, where she deposited her bag, and then proceeded back down the hallway toward the front of the large but cozy house.

Reaching the family room, she stopped in the doorway, struck by the lovely vision of her wife nursing their newborn baby as she reclined on the long sofa. As the tall, dark-haired cop stood quietly gazing at her family, her wife felt her presence through the unique energetic bond that linked their heart centers, and looked up with a smile.

“I’m glad you’re home, love. It’s getting foggy and dark out there.”

Ryan returned her blonde wife’s warm smile and replied, “You mean foggier and darker. Yeah, it’s a mess out there…lousy for Christmas Eve travel. I feel for the guys working tonight.” In her early years on the police force, Ryan had worked many a Christmas Eve and did not envy her coworkers who were working this inclement night.

“I’m glad we’re staying in, then.” Janna gazed down at their daughter, whose suckling had slowed as she drifted off to sleep.

Ryan approached them, shrugged out of her jacket as she did so, and laid it on the arm of a large, comfortable armchair. She sat beside her mate on the edge of the sofa as she remarked quietly, “Looks like she’s done.”

“Mm, hmm. She’s been awake since early afternoon. I think she may sleep for a while now.” Janna smiled down at her infant as she used a finger to break the suction and dislodge the tiny mouth from her breast. Then she gingerly lifted the sleeping baby to her shoulder and hugged her close as she burped her delicately.

Ryan gazed at her wife and child with adoration as she watched the tender scene. She gently reached a long-fingered hand to her wife’s forehead and brushed her long bangs from her eyes.

“You need a haircut, sweetheart.”

“Mm. I know. I’ve been a little busy the last few weeks.” She smiled at her wife, who leaned forward and kissed her before standing.

“Do you want me to take her, honey?”

“No…I think we’ll just sit here for a while. I’m pretty tired. Sit…tell me about your day.”

Ryan grinned. “Okay. I need to pump again anyway.” She sat at the other end of the sofa, next to where a large, electric breast pump sat on an end table. She lifted the warm sweater off over her head and unbuttoned the cotton shirt she wore beneath it. She left her shirt hanging open as she unhooked the closure on the nursing bra she wore, uncovering a dark nipple. As she settled the bell of the pump over her areola, she looked up to see her mate watching her intently. She grinned rakishly as she felt her lover’s desire for her through their bond.

“Ryan, love, do you have any idea how sexy I find your working so hard to be able to nurse our baby?”

“Yes, Janna, I do.” Her crooked smile and raised eyebrows took her wife’s breath away and as she felt Janna’s emotions and physical sensations through their link, Ryan found that she had to work hard to focus her attention on her task. She sighed inwardly as she thought, Jesus, I’ll be glad when she feels up to having sex again. She seems to get sexier every day.

Janna’s thoughts mirrored Ryan’s almost exactly as she watched her devoted mate affix the pump and flip it on. As she saw Ryan settle back against the chair, holding the pump to her breast with her left hand, she allowed her pride at her wife’s desire to share in the nursing duties surface again.

The night they had brought their daughter home, eight days earlier, Ryan had expressed an interest in sharing in the nurturing activity, and a call to the local La Leche League office the next day had resulted in a visit from a warm, friendly representative, who had briefed them on non birth mother lactation. She had set them up with the pump and a supplemental feeding system. The pump was being used to encourage Ryan’s body to lactate, while the feeding system allowed her to simulate nursing while feeding her daughter, which in turn encouraged milk production as the baby fed at her breast, receiving Janna’s expressed breast milk through a tubing system.

Janna had been thrilled, and not a little surprised, that her tough, rather butch mate wanted to nurse their baby. The depth of her partner’s soul and the warmth of her heart would never fail to amaze and thrill her.

Janna lightly caressed Ryan’s jeans-clad thigh with a sock-covered foot. “So, how was the Christmas party?”

Ryan grasped the playful foot and gently tickled it. “It was okay. I enjoyed seeing everyone again.” She grinned jauntily as she added, “My cigars…both the bubblegum and the Cubans…were a huge hit.”

Janna grinned. “I’ll bet.”

“Yeah…I sort of promised the Lieutenant that we’d smoke some Cubans together after the baby is weaned.” She laughed as she added, “I don’t think he quite understood just how I’m managing to be breastfeeding, but he didn’t pry and I didn’t enlighten him.”

Janna wrinkled her nose, but grinned. “Ew…okay, love, just as long as you don’t smoke them here.”

“Absolutely not, baby.” She reached a long arm out toward her mate. “Come ‘ere, love. I’ve missed you today.”

Janna happily complied, getting up gingerly so as not to disturb the newborn and settled next to her mate. Ryan wrapped her arm around Janna and pulled her two loves close as she kissed Janna’s temple. They snuggled together and enjoyed the quiet warmth of their love, as well as the physical warmth of the pleasing fire burning in the hearth.

Janna sighed her contentment, and as she gazed at her mate, gasped, “Ryan…look! You’re producing milk!”

Ryan looked down at the large, clear plastic bell she held against her breast and was thrilled to see droplets of thin milky fluid resting inside it.

“Oh, yes! It’s working…finally, Janna!” She gazed at her wife gleefully with brilliant blue eyes.

“Your hard work is paying off, honey…I knew it would. You, Ryan Norden-Zamora, accomplish everything you set your mind to. I’m so proud of you!”

“Thanks, Janna.” Ryan replied warmly.

“You’re welcome, babe.”

Ryan checked her watch. “Twenty minutes…do you think I should stay on this side a while longer, since it’s producing?”

“Maybe for a few more minutes, yeah, then see how the other side does. And I think when Halley feeds next we should put her to your breast first…that should really stimulate lactation.” She smiled winningly up at her mate.

“Jesus, it should that…she’s a mighty little sucker isn’t she?” She gazed adoringly at her daughter. “Our big girl. I think you got the miniature Ryan that you wanted, hon.”

“I couldn’t be happier about that, my love.”

Ryan’s warm smile morphed into an enchanting leer as she said, “I know something else that will stimulate lactation…if you feel up to helping me with it later.”

Janna’s heart rate increased as she both noted the desire written on her mate’s face and felt it through their link.

“Anything, Ryan, as long as it doesn’t involve penetration…I won’t be able to handle that for several more weeks, I’m afraid.”

“Of course not, baby.” She pulled her wife close and kissed her temple. “I love you, Janna.”

“Love you, Ryan. So much.”

Simultaneously, they both kissed their sleeping baby’s soft, black hair as she rested on her mother’s shoulder. Janna sighed happily, feeling utterly content. This is what life is all about. This right here.

“So, babe…what would you like for dinner? Shall we do Chinese take out like we did last year?” Ryan asked as she nuzzled Janna’s hair.

“Yeah, let’s. Since our families are away…start our own Christmas Eve tradition.

“Okay. You hungry now?”

“Silly question!”

“Right!” Ryan chuckled as she picked up the cordless and phoned in the order. After clicking the phone off, she said, “An hour, babe…they must be busy.”

“No problem.”

Later, quiet Celtic-flavored holiday music played softly in the master suite as Ryan sat on the bed, warm robe opened in the front, cradling her daughter in the nursing position.

“Okay, Janna, now you know that she’s gonna be piss…uh, upset when she doesn’t get enough milk, right?”

“Yes, honey, but your milk may be ready to let down…let’s wait and see.”

“Okay.” Ryan lifted the tiny newborn to her breast and the hungry baby deftly sought out the source of her nourishment and latched on. She was accustomed to her Momma’s breasts, in addition to her Mommy’s, as Ryan had been taking roughly one third of her feedings, using the supplemental system. Little Halley patiently suckled for several minutes before Ryan felt the interesting sensation of her milk letting down, and the baby closed her eyes as she nursed happily. “Janna…it’s working, baby!

Janna smiled warmly as her eyes misted. “Wonderful, Ryan! Great job, love.” She threw her arm around her taller mate’s shoulder and drew her close, kissing her temple proudly.

“Oh, God, Janna…this is so incredible. It feels even better without the tubing there in the way.” Ryan gazed with a look of disbelief and love at her tiny daughter, then looked up into adoring, vibrant green eyes.

“It’s wonderful, isn’t it? It’s the most special thing I’ve ever experienced and I’m so happy that you get to share it with her too, love.”

“Janna…” Ryan couldn’t finish the thought, as she became too choked up with the emotion she was feeling. Tears slowly tracking down her cheeks betrayed the tough cop’s soft heart and her mate’s incredible love for her grew even stronger.

“I know, love. I know.” Janna laid her head against her wife’s shoulder and caressed her daughter’s soft head as she devoured her meal. Janna felt fully her love for her mate and their child and became choked up as well, small sobs betraying her, echoing her wife’s.

Several minutes later, Ryan shifted Halley to her other breast and the small Norden-Zamora showed only mild displeasure at the disruption, as her Momma’s milk had let down fully and was flowing at full capacity.

Ten minutes later, Ryan was burping the alert, content baby as her Mommy readied her bath in the next room.

Ryan carried Halley into the bathroom and set her gently into the small tub which sat on the counter. “Bath time, my little angel. I know you like your bath… just like your Mommy does.” Ryan grinned at her wife.

“You’d better believe it..and as soon as my bleeding stops, our baths will take place in the whirlpool, together. You can bathe the both of us.”

“Janna, babe, it will be my great pleasure…but I think I’ll be joining you more often than not…if that’s okay with you two.”

“Oh, I think we’ll allow that…won’t we Halley sweetie?”

A short time later, Ryan leaned over and kissed her baby’s soft belly as she changed her. “Oh, you’re such a good girl…yes you are.” Ryan smiled at her baby as she gazed lovingly down at her. Halley gazed back with still-cloudy blue eyes, but actually seemed to focus on her mother briefly.

“Hey, Janna,” Ryan called over her shoulder to her wife in the adjacent bathroom. “She’s starting to focus on my face.”

Janna walked into the room, folding a baby towel as she approached the changing table and stood next to her wife.

“Yes, I think she is. She’ll look at my face and then look away, but then look back again, focusing on my eyes.”

“Yeah, she just did that with me, too.” Ryan dusted a small amount of cornstarch on her diaper area, then laid a cotton diaper inside the waterproof pants and pulled them closed. She pulled the baby’s undershirt down, then gently maneuvered tiny arms and legs into the soft, warm, sleeper, and snapped it closed.

“Okay, we’re all ready for bed. And Halley says she’s gonna sleep for four hours before she needs to eat again, so her mommies can have some alone time.”

“Oh, did she?”

“She did. And she’s a woman of her word.”

“Just like her police officer momma.”

“Dam…darn right, love.” Ryan grinned, aware of her near-miss verbal slip in front of the baby, and her wife returned the grin with a playful swat to her behind. She gently lay the baby in her bassinet next to their bed and both mommas leaned in to kiss their daughter good night.

“Night my precious…sleep well.”

“Sweet dreams, little puma.”

Janna looked at Ryan. “I like that. Who will give her a tribal name?”

“Tribal elders, generally. She’s connected to the Navajo and Cheyenne tribes now, in addition to your Cherokee and my Comanche, since her daddy has married into those tribes. We’ll have to maintain connections with all of them, love, and see what comes up for her. For her sake.”

“Definitely, my Puma.”

Ryan turned to her mate and grasped her waist, pulling her close. “Janna, I love it when you call me that.”

“Mm, do you Puma?”

“I do,” Ryan mumbled against Janna’s neck. Her warm, soft lips traveled up to Janna’s and captured them softly. She reveled in the taste of her wife, and the texture of her lips and mouth before breaking the kiss and pulling back slightly. “Are you very tired, baby?”

“No more than you are, Ryan. You’re up with the baby as much as I am.”

“Can we play a little?” Ryan gazed adorably at her smaller mate through thick, black eyelashes, her mouth quirked into a cute grin.

“Yes, please. It’s been much too long.” She untied her mate’s robe and pushed it from her shoulders. As it fell to the floor, revealing Ryan’s nakedness, Janna’s breath caught in her throat. “God, Ryan.”

Ryan only smiled and undid Janna’s robe, with the same result and effect. “Janna,” she breathed as she ducked her head to gently kiss a large, heavy breast.

“Mmm…”

“God, baby, your boobs are huge.”

“So are yours, love.”

Ryan’s eyes clouded over with desire as she mumbled, “There’s a lot to be said for breastfeeding.”

Janna’s back arched as her wife ran her hot tongue gently around her nipple, and as her eyes closed involuntarily, she mumbled in reply, “Mainly that it’s best…ahh, yes…best for the baby. Healthiest for…for her.”

“Mm, but the side benefits are pretty damn nice.” Ryan gently kissed the tender nipple below her lips as Janna sighed deeply.

“Yes, especially for a breast woman…like…like you. Oh God, Ryan.”

Ryan laid Janna on the bed and settled beside her. She gently traced a darkened areola with her finger, raising velvety nubs at it’s perimeter. She gazed longingly into her mate’s eyes as she said, “John told me that Sara made hers off limits while she was nursing. Do you feel the same way, Janna?”

“She did? Why?”

“I’m not sure…I think maybe she was concerned about cleanliness or something.” Ryan gently stroked the sensitive area, making her wife smile.

“I don’t think that’s necessary, do you? If we’re careful? If we’re diligent about cleaning up after ourselves?”

“I agree, baby. Thank you. I can’t imagine not being able to love you here for a year.”

“Neither can I, frankly. And remember, babe, you’re nursing now too. I’d rather not be prevented from making love to one of my favorite parts of your anatomy.”

With that, Ryan hopped up off the bed and retrieved a new box of baby wipes, setting it on Janna’s nightstand, right next to a tube of lanolin. Then she plopped back down next to her wife.

“There, baby. We’ll make the cleanup part of our lovemaking. We’ll finish with a nice lanolin rub.”

“Perfect, Ryan.” She pulled her dark mate’s face down to meet hers. “Now let’s play a little, huh? Before our daughter wakes up again.”

“Your wish is my command, baby.” Her wife’s demanding lips muffled the last part of Ryan’s statement and the only sound in the room for some time was the muted music still playing, followed by quiet moans of pleasure. Until, that is, their newborn daughter’s shrieks pierced the quiet Christmas morning.

~~~~~~~~~~
Ryan sighed contentedly as she noted the entrance of the first of the dawn’s pink rays into the bedroom. She turned onto her side to gaze at her sleeping wife. Their baby lay between them-where she had fallen asleep while nursing, and her mother had quickly followed her into slumber. Rather, both exhausted mothers had. Ryan smiled inwardly…she had mildly chastised Janna the first time it had happened, citing the baby’s safety, but she now fully understood how one could be so completely relaxed as to fall asleep with her baby at her breast. I’m gonna have to apologize to her. Actually, I kinda like this family bed thing.

The contentment she felt lulled her, filled her, captivated her. She had never imagined that such happiness was possible. Since marrying Janna, she had experienced mind-blowing happiness, and now Halley’s presence was adding to it exponentially. Her gaze rose from her tiny sleeping angel to her wife’s angelic face. God, I love her. Jesus Christ…

Her mind drifted to the night before, just after retiring. They had made love for the first time since Halley’s birth. It was an abbreviated sort of session, since Janna was still too sore to enjoy any type of stimulation down below, but she had skillfully brought Ryan to an ecstatic climax and had experienced her own, aided by their bond. Ryan sighed as her body remembered Janna’s touch and reacted to it anew.

Warm lips had suckled erotically at mildly engorged breasts as skillful fingers stroked slick inner folds. Ryan had succumbed to her wife’s loving ministrations very quickly and had then given Janna as much pleasure as she was able to handle.

“Mmm,” Ryan mumbled around an excited nipple just before stroking it robustly with her tongue, while her hand caressed its mate.

“Ohhh,” Janna murmured. “Yes, Ryan…thank you.”

Ryan had responded by sucking the hard nub gently into her mouth, tasting her wife’s milk in the process. She had been unsure as to how she would handle the taste, but was surprised to find it quite pleasantly sweet, and didn’t mind it’s presence at all. She suckled and stroked energetically, bringing Janna intense pleasure and it was at that point that they switched, and when Ryan quickly reached orgasm, Janna accompanied her. They had held each other tightly for long minutes, both grateful to the other for the blissful sharing, and then fallen into deeply restful sleep. Before sleeping however, they had each lovingly washed her wife’s breasts and spread lanolin on sore nipples to prevent drying.

As Ryan gazed happily at her peacefully sleeping family in the light of the Christmas dawn, the baby stirred, and stretched, her tiny pink face almost immediately scrunching into a scowl. Uh oh…another non-morning person, I see. Ryan grinned. God, she’s a lot more like Janna than she realizes…I’m glad of that. Ryan smiled as she picked up her daughter and hugged her to her chest.

“Shh, sweetheart. Momma’s here. Are you hungry?” Ryan whispered quietly. The baby’s scowl deepened and Ryan could sense an oncoming squeal. “Let’s check your diaper, and then have some breakfast, sweetheart.”

Ryan rolled out of bed adroitly and walked naked to the changing table, cradling Halley to her chest, calming her in the process. After cleaning the small, surprisingly sweet-smelling little mess, she returned to bed and lay facing Janna. She settled Halley between them and guided her breast into the tiny mouth, feeling immense satisfaction when her daughter began to suckle in earnest. She sighed and closed her eyes as she thought, Thank you, God, for this incredible gift. For all of it. For Janna, our baby, our life together. What an amazing journey this has been…and it’s only just beginning.

-2-

On Christmas morning, Janna awoke to the incredibly heartwarming sight of her wife nursing their daughter. She reached out and caressed her mate’s cheek before leaning close and kissing her tenderly. They both lingered over the kiss, enjoying the first of the day’s gifts.

“Merry Christmas, Janna.”

“Merry Christmas, Ryan.”

“Merry isn’t the word for it, baby.” Ryan reached over their baby and grasped Janna’s hand, bringing it to her lips.

“You’re right. Has she been eating long?”

“No, she’s still on the first side…in fact, it’s about time to switch.” Ryan gently reached down and disengaged the voracious little mouth. Halley made her displeasure at the interruption known, and quite loudly. Ryan and Janna glanced at each other with raised eyebrows, each thinking that the baby took after the other, but not voicing the opinion.

“Whoa, little one, just a second, huh? You’re drinking Momma dry…I need to switch.”

Janna helped Ryan to lift her as she turned over onto her other side. When the baby was settled and happily suckling again, Janna scooted up against Ryan and threw her arm over her waist.

“Mm, you feel good there, Janna.”

“You’re nice to hold onto, Ryan.” Janna rose onto her elbow and kissed the strong shoulder in front of her as she watched Halley nurse. “It’s also nice to have help with the nursing, love. I appreciate it.”

“So glad to do it, babe.” Ryan gazed down at their daughter, whose sucking was slowing noticeably. “She’s still sleepy…should I wake her?”

“Why don’t you, yeah…I think she should take more.”

“Okay.” Ryan gently tickled her baby’s cheek with a long finger and in a low, soothing voice said, “Halley, wake up, sweetheart. Time to eat.”

The baby startled awake, flinging all four limbs out as her eyes flew open and she began sucking again.

“That’s my good girl.” Ryan leaned down to kiss her hair and nuzzled her lovingly with her cheek. “Should we do like last year, Janna? Stay in here for Christmas morning?”

“Yeah, love, let’s. That was really nice.”

“I agree. As soon as Halley finishes, I’ll make a fire.”

“Okay, and she and I will go get breakfast and bring it in.”

“Sounds good, baby.”

A short time later, Janna and Halley were busy in the kitchen, assembling juice, pastries, and fruit on a large tray, Halley from the comfort of a carrier on her Mommy’s chest. All the while, Janna spoke to her animatedly, telling her what she was doing and why. As Janna turned from the counter with the large tray in hand, she saw her mate standing in the doorway, watching her with a huge grin plastered on her face.

“How long have you been standing there?”

“Long enough to hear all about what we’re having for breakfast.” She stepped into the room and grabbed the tray, trading a kiss for it. “Come on my angels, time for breakfast.”

“Did you hear that, Halley? Momma says we’re angels.” As she followed her wife down the hallway to the garland-bedecked stairway, Janna remarked, “Ryan, Halley and I have discussed it and we concur: you’re an angel too…when you want to be.”

“That’s right, baby…when I want to be.” Ryan looked back at her with a devilish smile, which had the intended effect on her mate and Janna found herself wondering how long Halley would nap.

Ryan fed Janna another morsel of flaky pastry and her wife sighed with pleasure. Halley sat between them, still awake, in her little bouncy seat, apparently trying to figure out the contraption with black and white designs that hung above her face.

“Look, honey…she’s looking at the mobile.”

“She is…cool, Janna! I told you she’s smart, Janna. She’s gonna take after you in the brains department.”

Oh, and what are you, Ryan? Chopped liver? John told me how high you scored on all your exams at the academy.”

“How the hell does he know that?”

At Janna’s furrowed brows, Ryan winced and said, “Oh, Christ, sorry.” Addressing her daughter, she said apologetically, “Sorry little sweetheart. Momma forgets her mouth.” Gazing back at Janna, she repeated, “Sorry, love.”

“It’s okay, honey. You really have been doing remarkably well. That’s the first slip in several days.”

“Anyway, how the heck does he know what I scored?”

“Apparently he’s friendly with one of the instructors. He told him that you were the most talented student he’s ever taught and he expected great things of you. You’ve proven him right, Ryan.”

“Wilson. It must have been fuc…um, that Don Wilson. I’m gonna have some words with him.”

“Honey, he was very proud when you got the commendations…everyone was…and it reflected positively on the academy instructors and on the entire department.”

“Yeah, Janna, but anyone would have done as well. John did. I’m tired of still being singled out for it. It was half a year ago now, for fu…for Christ’s sake.” She turned her pointed gaze from Janna to her daughter and made the funny pictures move for her. Halley’s eyes tracked one particular image for several seconds before she had to look away, but quickly looked back at the strange moving device and focused on another one.

“She likes this, Janna.”

“Mm, yes. In a month or so we should change to bright, primary colored images.”

“That soon?”

“I think so…depending on how interested she stays in these. But she’s showing abilities a little ahead of her age.”

Ryan grinned proudly. “Of course she is!”

“Look at you, proud Momma! Could you puff your chest out a little more, Ryan?”

“Why, baby, you hungry again?”

“Oh, you!”

“You love it, Janna…admit it!”

Janna shook her head, but said, “I do. I really do. Kiss me.”

Ryan complied and as the kiss lingered and intensified, Halley had something else of interest to gaze at.

Later that day, as Halley took another nap, her mothers took full advantage of the opportunity to play again.

“Mmm, Janna…you can do that all day, baby.” Ryan murmured happily as Janna’s tongue did very pleasant things to her breasts. The mid-day, surprise appearance of the sun had brightened the room, even through the closed blinds, and illuminated the two figures writhing happily on the bed.

“I just may, Ryan. I love these new toys of yours.”

Ryan chuckled. “I like yours too, Janna, though we both had pretty good sized sets before. Neither of us were what you’d call flat.”

Janna giggled. “True, love. This proves that we’re both breast women, doesn’t it?”

“Mm, yeah. Is this my Christmas present, Janna? I thought you gave me that last night.”

“I did. This is your Christmas bonus.”

Ryan’s answer was a soft moan and, “Mm, God, Christmas can come every day if it wants to.”

“It does, Ryan and so do you. Halley notwithstanding.”

Ryan moaned again, then muttered, “That’s true. Will we…oh, yes, Janna. Um, will we ever get back to…to loving every day again, do…do you think?”

Janna murmured against an erect nipple, her lips tickling it pleasantly, “That’s the plan, baby.”

“God…”

“The baby’s asleep, Ryan. Let me love you.”

“Yes,” was the panted reply.

“How do you want it, love?”

“Mmm.”

“Okay, my mouth it is.” Janna grinned as she slowly moved down the length of Ryan’s long body, trailing warm kisses all along the way, and began planting kisses in her most sensitive spot.

“Oh, God, Janna, yes!” Ryan threw her head back against the pillow and writhed uncontrollably as her wife delivered the intense pleasure to her body. “Janna,” she panted. “I can swear in here, right? As long as…oh, fuck…as long as the baby’s asleep?”

Janna mumbled against her inflamed anatomy, “Yes, baby.”

“Yes! Thank you ba…baby. Oh, God, Janna, you love me good…shit, baby.”

“Glad you like it, love.”

Ryan’s response was unintelligible as she plunged into the depths of pleasure that she knew so well. Her moans quietly filled the large room, and uncharacteristically quietly so, as the happy day wore on. She then bestowed a similar gift upon Janna and they enjoyed each other’s bodies until the baby awoke for her next meal.

~~~~~~~~~~
“Oh, my God, Ryan! How cute! Where did you find this?” Janna gasped as she held up a tiny leather jacket, just like hers and Ryan’s.

Ryan grinned widely as she replied, “At the Harley shop. They have them in toddler and kids’ sizes too, so she’ll always have one just like ours.”

“Oh, honey, I love it! I can’t wait to put it on her.”

Janna gazed at the adorable jacket for a moment longer before carefully folding and replacing it in its box. She and Ryan sat amongst multi colored gift-wrapping that nearly covered the large bed. They had decided not to exchange gifts amongst themselves, as they felt that their greatest gift to each other was their daughter, but both had bought the baby many things.

Halley’s Mommy had bought her mainly clothes, of a very cute variety, while her Momma’s only clothing concession had been the leather jacket and a tiny San Francisco 49’ers football jersey. All the rest of Ryan’s gifts to her had been toys, appropriately so, since her Momma was basically a big kid herself. Janna noted with great humor that all of the toys appeared to be things that Ryan herself would enjoy playing with too.

The afternoon sun, so pleasing after nearly two solid weeks of fog, streamed into the room through the open blinds, and Halley seemed fascinated by it. While her mothers happily opened her gifts, she was content to sit in her bouncer and watch the play of the sunshine across the room.

A few hours later, the small family arrived at Halley’s grandparents house for Christmas dinner. After everyone had appropriately made over the ten-day old guest of honor, they sat down to a lovely meal of both ham and roast turkey and all of the trimmings.

Noting that both Ryan and Janna were drinking sparkling cider, their sister-in-law Kris remarked, “Ryan, I thought that you were only abstaining from alcohol while Janna was pregnant.”

“Well, that was the plan, Kris, but I’ve decided to help out with the nursing, so I still have to watch what I drink.”

“What? Ryan…that’s amazing! I didn’t know that was possible!” Kris remarked, wide-eyed.

Janna smiled proudly at her mate and answered, “Yep. We had a visit with a woman from La Leche League, and she showed Ryan how to induce lactation. She’s been working very hard at it, and last night was able to nurse Halley for the first time. She takes every other feeding now.”

“Ryan, that’s wonderful, honey! I’m so proud of you!” Her mother-in-law said as she gazed warmly at her daughter’s tough wife.

Janna’s dad said, “That’s quite impressive, Mrs. Norden-Zamora,” as he gazed pointedly at her before a small smile appeared on his handsome face.

“Yeah, Sis…great going!” Added her brother-in-law with a wide smile.

Ryan blushed brilliantly under all of the praise and waved them off as she buried her face into her plate of food. Janna grinned at her family and leaned over to kiss her wife’s temple. Just then, Halley, asleep in her carrier a few feet away, awakened and made her presence loudly known.

Ryan looked at Janna and grinned as she said, “My turn, love.”

“Want some company?”

“No, honey…you finish eating. I’ll check her diaper and take her into the living room to feed her.”

A few minutes later, Ryan settled comfortably on the couch with her daughter and used a light receiving blanket to preserve her modesty as Halley fed. The preserving of the modesty, was, of course for the benefit of Janna’s family, as Ryan would have happily whipped out a breast at the dinner table and seen to Halley’s need.

Several minutes into the feeding, Janna appeared and sat beside the two loves of her life. Ryan wrapped her free arm around her wife and pulled her close.

“Finished eating, love?”

“No, I missed my two girls.”

“I love you, Janna. It’s been a great Christmas, baby.”

“Love you too, Ryan. And it’s been the best Christmas ever. I thought last year was wonderful, but this surpasses it.”

“It does. And yeah, last year was incredibly wonderful. Think we can repeat the lovemaking in front of the fire later?” Ryan’s eyes sparkled the question at Janna.

“Even though we’ve made love twice in the last twenty hours?”

“Just making up for lost time, babe. I went…I mean, we went almost four weeks without, remember? We did better than that even when I was laid up after the accident.”

“Okay, baby…as much as you want. I’m there.” Janna leaned into her mate’s warm embrace, relishing the closeness as she did nothing else.

“Thanks, Janna. Merry Christmas, baby.”

“Merry Christmas, my love.

Their friend, Luna, the spirit within the moon, smiled later, though her friends couldn’t see her, as they made beautiful love in the shadow of their Christmas tree, in front of the warm fire. As their daughter slept in her nearby bassinet, they shared ecstatic touches and blazing strokes in the giving of intense pleasure. It was their final gift to each other on that Christmas of 1995 and their friend, as she was accustomed to doing, wrapped the three of them within her warm, loving energetic embrace.

~~~~~~~~~~
Ryan smiled in her sleep as the dream/memories flashed across her subconscious mind. She sat astride her horse as she and her companion made their way leisurely down a dusty road. She smiled as she gazed at the small blonde-haired woman’s lithe, compact body as she walked ahead of her. She felt her desire for the young woman begin to build again, pooling in her groin and she sighed. Gods, I want her. I don’t believe I’ve ever loved anyone so much. She shook her head. I know I haven’t.

She gently nudged her horse and the mare responded, bringing her alongside her friend.

“Gabrielle, you’ve been walking all day. Why don’t you ride this last stretch before we reach the village?”

The cute blonde bard stopped and leaned on her staff, shielding her eyes from the sun with her other hand as she looked up at her strong warrior friend. Xena’s warm smile beckoned to her, stirring a warmth in her soul, and she nodded.

“Okay. Thanks, Xena,” she said as she returned the warm smile.

“No problem,” the strong, low voice murmured. The tall, dark warrior reached a long arm down to her companion and deftly lifted her up onto the saddle behind her.

As her smaller friend wrapped her arms around her waist and settled happily against her back, the warrior’s desire for her mushroomed and she had to call up her considerable reserves to stave it off. Gods, I hope she’s ready for me soon…

As the sun set ahead of them, they reached the good-sized village, and Xena guided Argo to the small inn. They both dismounted and Gabrielle entered the warm, inviting tavern ahead of the warrior. She approached the wooden bar and smiled at the innkeeper, a relatively well-kept man of middle age.

“We’d like a room, please. Do you have one with a bath?”

He answered honestly, “I have one room with a bath left, but it’s a big one and it’ll cost you.”

“We’ll take it,” responded the deep voice behind her, and the bard turned toward her friend in surprise.

“Um, Xena, we don’t know how much it is.”

“Doesn’t matter. Let’s go, huh?” She started toward the back of the room, leaving her friend standing at the bar.

The bard shrugged and smiled at the innkeeper. “I guess we’ll take it.”

“Five dinars.”

Gabrielle frowned, but dug into her pouch for the coins and handed them over to the man. He handed her the key and directed her down a hallway that exited off the large main room.

“The room at the end of the hall.”

When Gabrielle reached the doorway, Xena was waiting there for her and the bard inserted the key into the large lock and let them in.

The room was quite large, holding two beds and a big, round, wooden bathtub, which sat next to the wide hearth.

“This is nice, Xena.”

“Mm, I’ve been here before. They keep a clean inn.”

The warrior immediately started shrugging out of her armor as she said, “I’ll make a fire so we can start heating the water.”

Gabrielle approached her and began unhooking the various parts of the warrior’s armor, as had become her habit…and her pleasure.

“Okay…a bath sounds nice. While you do that, I’ll go down and get us some dinner.”

The dark woman turned to her and laid her large hands gently on her shoulders. “Thanks, Gabrielle.” Then she pulled the younger woman into a hug and held her closely.

“Mmm…you’re welcome, Xena.” The bard enjoyed the strong warmth of her almost-mate and felt the older woman’s love for her through the tenuous link that they shared. She pulled back slightly and looked up into the warrior’s piercing blue eyes. “I’d like to make this a special night for us.”

The former warlord’s eyes softened as they reflected the young woman’s love and she replied, “Whenever you’re ready, Gabrielle,” before she leaned down and kissed her softly.

The bard returned the kiss and sighed deeply into her warrior’s sensuous mouth. “I’m very ready, Xena. Thank you for being so patient.”

“I love you, Gabrielle.”

“Love you too, Xena. So much.”

Sometime later, the full moon illuminated the two women as they sat entwined in the large tub. The love that they were sharing fairly lit the room with its energy, and was aided by the warmth of the silvery moonlight, the many candles that were glowing around the room, and by the warm fire in the hearth.

“Xena,” the young woman panted. “Love me, please.”

“My pleasure, Gabrielle.”

The strong warrior kissed her mate deeply once more and then rose from the lukewarm water, bringing Gabrielle with her as she adeptly stepped from the tub. She carried her partner to the bed and laid her down gently, covering her body with hers and capturing her lips lovingly.

One week previously, soon after the warrior had miraculously (with the help of the food of the gods) returned from the dead, the two women had shared their first kiss and both had revealed their love for each other. But since the bard was so young, barely nineteen, the warrior had not wished to rush into a physical relationship with her. She wanted the young woman to be sure it was what she wanted, because she knew that once they became lovers, there would be no turning back for them. Her love for Gabrielle was that strong…she knew in her heart that they were soulmates and would be united forever.

The night of their first kiss, they had begun sleeping together, curled around each other happily, reveling in their blossoming love. But the warrior had always let the bard take the lead and the young woman had always stopped their affections before her warrior’s desire cascaded out of control.

Now, as their bodies entwined, their love was sealed by a passion that would not be denied, and the young blonde called out into the night, her soul soaring and her heart racing as her lover brought her to delirious, ecstatic release.

“By the gods, Xena…”

Ryan moaned in her sleep as she relived the passionate night from their long-ago life and hugged her wife closely to her. Her mate responded and snuggled more deeply into her embrace.

-3-

Ryan reread the letter and sighed, leaning back in her chair as she did so, and hugged her infant daughter to her chest. Halley slept contentedly in her carrier, blissfully unaware of the important decision that her Momma was mulling over in her mind. At two and a half weeks of age, she was already showing a definite proclivity to being held and carried close to her mothers’ bodies.

Ryan tossed the letter onto her desk and put her hands behind her head, contemplating its implications. The formal letter of promotion, from the Chief of Police, no less, while extremely flattering, also meant great changes in her career. A career that she had, until very recently, been extremely content with.

She had always loved her job as a bicycle patrol cop, however, after nearly having been killed in the line of duty, neither she nor her wife were looking forward to her returning to active patrol duty when her six-week parental leave was up.

Janna dreaded the occasion because of the gut-clenching fear that something similar would happen again and she would lose her wife, while Ryan dreaded it because she now felt the enormous responsibility of parenthood, and frankly, wanted to be around to see Halley grow up. There was also the fact that she no longer felt driven to succeed. She felt complete…felt that Janna and the baby were infinitely more important to her than the achieving of status in her career was.

So she sat, gazing at the letter which promoted her to Detective, First Grade. Ryan had been considering retiring from patrol duty before receiving the promotion, but wasn’t sure that the promotion to Detective was what she wanted either. The promotion offer extended, as well, to a position as coordinator of the community resource division, so the choice was basically hers: remain a beat cop, promote to Detective, or accept the position as community liaison officer, which including working directly with young people.

Ryan very much enjoyed her interaction with the public as part of her job, and especially that of kids. While recovering from her injuries and off active duty, she had become involved in the anti-drug D.A.R.E. campaign, and felt that her strengths lay in that faction of crime fighting.

She loved working with kids and had been assigned to a classroom of hearing impaired elementary school children, finding she had both a natural affinity for teaching and for American Sign Language. Sitting at her desk, looking at the class picture the children had given her in a holiday card, Ryan realized that she very much wanted to remain with those kids, so she made her decision. She would decline the promotion to Detective, feeling that she could move on to that facet of law enforcement at a later date, if she so desired. In fact, the Chief had implied that in his letter.

Her decision made, she sighed, kissed her sleeping daughter’s adorable head, stood up, stretched, and went in search of her mate. She didn’t have to go far, as Janna was in her office, in the next room.

The tall cop stood holding her baby in the doorway to her wife’s office. As Janna sat intently working at her desk, Ryan gazed around the comfortable space. I love how she decorated our offices. Both rooms used understated desert colors, matching the rest of the house, and sported Janna’s photography on the walls, in addition to southwestern-styled prints. Ryan gazed at a large image of herself, but rather than wince, she noted how Janna had skillfully managed to capture her personality within it. She’s very good.

She quietly entered the room and noted that her mate was staring intently at her computer screen. Janna looked up and smiled at her two girls, pushing away from the desk and beckoning for them to approach.

“Hey, guys. I was just needing some advice. Take a look at this, will you love?”

“Sure, babe. What is it?” Ryan walked around to look at Janna’s monitor and found three cute pictures of Halley gracing the screen.

“Oh, shit, Janna…those are awesome.”

“Oh what, hon?”

Ryan looked at her questioningly for a brief instant, then her face fell as she realized her slip. “Christ,” she muttered. “Sorry. At least she’s asleep.”

“A good thing for you, too, Ryan.” Janna grinned.

“Yeah, right, love. What’s your question?” Ryan returned the cute grin.

“I’m trying to decide which image to use on Halley’s birth announcement. Here, let me bring that up for you.” She deftly maneuvered the computer’s mouse and the images of their daughter were overlaid by an image of text on parchment-like white paper.

The announcement, presented in a pleasing calligraphic font, read,

“Ryan and Janna Norden-Zamora
Joyously announce the birth of their daughter
Halley Rebecca
On December 15, 1995, at 3:04pm
Weighing in at 8 pounds, 14 ounces and 22 inches in length.”
There was room at the top of the attractive document for a photo.

“Honey, I love that…states the facts without being too sugary. So, which picture do you like?”

“I don’t know…I love them all. And then there’s this one, which I think is my best photo of the baby yet, but we’re in it too.” She called up a beautiful image of herself holding the baby, with Ryan gazing adoringly at her over Janna’s shoulder. Both moms and baby were dressed in white cotton and Janna had used a soft focus lens, producing an incredibly lovely image.

“Oh, God, Janna…I love that one. Why haven’t I seen that yet?”

“I just processed it a little while ago. I was going to show you all the photos in a bit.”

“I like that one the best, honey…can you focus in on the baby more…cut a little of the background out?”

As Ryan spoke, Janna did just that, creating a close up of the baby which clearly showed her adorable features, while still showing her mothers’ happy, glowing faces.

“Jesus, Janna…that’s nice. I’d pick that one, honey. I’d also take an enlargement of it for my office.” She grinned winningly at her wife, knowing that she would be more than happy to go into the darkroom and produce such an image.

“Done, love. On both counts. As long as you don’t mind being in the photo, I’ll use this one. It’s my favorite too.”

“Cool, babe. Do I see a trip to Kinko’s in my near future?” She grinned crookedly at her wife.

“You must be psychic, Ryan. We’ll need about two hundred copies.” Janna smiled widely and stood to face her mate. She was pulled in for a quiet kiss and after it ended, both moms kissed their daughter tenderly. “So, love, what’s been keeping you and Halley so busy this afternoon?”

“We’ve been discussing my career, and she’s helped me make a decision.”

“Oh? Well, I can’t wait to hear what it is. Do I need to sit down?”

“Only if you’re worried about my getting tendonitis in my hands from signing all day.”

Janna’s face lit up with joy and relief. “Ryan! Really? Are you sure that’s what you really want? You really are a terrific cop, you know.”

“So, don’t kids need terrific cops to work with them?”

“They do, actually. Honey, I’m so happy about this. And your superiors don’t mind?”

“Janna, they’ve all pretty much given me free rein to choose what I want to do. I’ll be doing a lot more than the classroom work too, you know. Um, this involves a promotion to something they’re calling ‘Community Liaison Officer’. I’ll be heading up the Community Policing Division, coordinating all community resource officers below me, and they’ve asked me to consider teaching at the Academy and training rookies.”

“Ryan, really? You didn’t tell me that.”

“I wanted to surprise you, baby.”

“And you did, love. You have continuously surprised me for over a year and a half now.” She approached her mate again and with a very sultry look, added, “And I absolutely love your brand of surprises, Ryan. Most of them.”

“I’m glad, baby. Pleasing you is my primary function in life.”

“Now you sound like Lt. Commander Data.”

“Do you want to play ‘Captain and Ensign’ again tonight, baby?” Ryan asked with a leer as she pulled Janna close.

Janna looked up at her coyly and said, “Yeah, but I get to be Captain Janeway this time.”

“Ooh, yeah, I’m there, love. I can’t wait. We’ll make our own fireworks upstairs instead of watching the New Year’s Eve fireworks on TV.” She leaned in and captured Janna’s mouth possessively, not breaking contact until Halley insisted that they do.

“Oops, looks like we woke up the little Admiral. I think it’s your turn, Janna.”

“Yep, it is. I’m a little tired, so I think I’ll go upstairs to feed her. Bring her up for me?”

“Sure thing. And I’ll change her for you too.”

“You’re a dream.”

“I’m horny.”

“Like I said, you’re a dream.” Janna grabbed her wife’s hand and pulled her up the stairs behind her. “After the baby’s been fed and settles in for her nap, I’ll take care of your hunger.”

“Janna, you’re the dream, baby.”

“Just a woman in love with her wife, honey.”

Ryan didn’t answer, as she was too busy looking at the ceiling and thanking whichever guiding spirits were listening.

~~~~~~~~~~
Janna quietly sang to her baby as she changed her diaper, smiling sweetly down at her. Halley, mildly fussy before her Mommy’s soft voice began the quiet lullaby, gazed seriously up at her mother, quietly rapt. The peace of the moment was shattered, however, when a string of curses floated up the stairs from the front of the house.

“Fuck! Jesus fucking Christ, you guys…is it too much to ask for the Pac 10 team to win the Rose Bowl one year? Just once? Come on! Get some fucking offense going for Christ’s sake!”

Janna shook her head and scowled mildly, and then smiled at her daughter and asked, “What are we going to do with your Momma, huh?” We’re gonna love her…just as she is, that’s what.

“Come on my little love. Let’s go see if we can make your Momma’s day a little better.” Janna picked up the baby and settled her against her shoulder, gently supporting her head as she walked down the hallway and down the stairs.

As they entered the family room, Ryan jumped up and screamed at the TV, “Shit! What the hell was that? They haven’t generated enough offense on their own, so you have to go and fumble the goddamn ball? Give me a fuckin’ break you guys. Come on! You’re killing me here!”

Janna cleared her throat and Ryan turned around to see her wife and daughter standing in the doorway, watching her comically.

“Oh, shit. I’m in the doghouse now, huh? Sorry, Janna…I didn’t know you were in here.”

“Obviously. But that doesn’t matter…we heard you upstairs.”

Ryan hung her head as she muttered, “I’m sorry, it’s just so frustrating. Every year, Janna. Every God…darn year my teams lose.” Ryan looked very sad standing there in her bright red “Stanford” jersey, and Janna’s heart went out to her.

“Come here, love. Let’s sit and root for them.” She planted herself and Halley on the couch and patted the cushion next to her, waiting for Ryan to join her. Her wife did, sitting dejectedly beside her, until Janna handed her the baby, at which point her frown immediately disappeared.

“Hello my sweet little girl. What have you and Mommy been doing, huh?”

“We’ve been eating…again. It was only two and a half hours this time, Ryan…between feedings…and her doctor wants us to wait at least three. But boy does she get mad if I try to put her off.”

“Well, baby, she takes after you doesn’t she? You get pretty da…darn grumpy when you’re hungry too, remember.”

“Ryan! I do not.”

“Oh, you do too, baby. I’m sorry.”

Janna folded her arms in front of her chest and raised her eyebrows. “Humph. We came down here to try to comfort you, but now I’m not so sure I want to.”

“Oh, Janna, I’m sorry. Come ‘ere.” Ryan settled the baby in the crook of her left arm and reached toward Janna with her right, but Janna stayed where she was.

“Janna, don’t be pissed at me, please? It’s been a bad enough day without that.”

“How much did you bet, Ryan?”

“What?”

“On the game. How much did you bet? I know that John went to Michigan.”

Shit. Ryan looked pointedly at the floor. “A hundred bucks.”

“So what’s the big deal?”

“It’s not the money, Janna, it’s the principle. He’s gonna be so goddamn smug for the next month.”

“It’s only the third quarter, Ryan, and they’re only two touchdowns behind. Have a little faith.”

“Oh, it’s not only that. Sam’s alma mater is in the Orange Bowl later…again…and my team never does shit.”

“Ryan, you went to UOP…they don’t even have a football team anymore.”

“Cutting the football program was the worst goddamn, fuc…it was the worst decision they ever made, too.”

“Oh, I disagree. They’ve been able to put a lot of money and resources into women’s sports. Look at the volleyball program…nationally ranked for how many years in a row now?”

“Well, there is that…”

“Damn right, there’s that. Not to mention softball, which your own team has benefited from.”

“Janna, watch your mouth, baby.”

“The baby’s asleep, Ryan.”

“She’s asleep?” Ryan asked with surprise as she glanced down at the tiny girl resting on her arm.

“Yes, she is.”

“Well, let’s put her down, baby, and play a little.”

“Ryan, for God’s sake, have you had a testosterone injection that I’m unaware of? You’re insatiable lately.”

“Aw, Janna, shit. Don’t tease me, please. It must be breastfeeding hormones or something. I can’t help it.”

“Honey, I don’t think there’s any such thing. I’m certainly no hornier than usual. It must be the more visual side-effects of the nursing.”

“Um, yeah, could be…you’re so damn sexy, Janna. You’re still glowing, and your ti…um, breasts are just gorgeous.” She grinned rakishly as she added, “I can’t resist you baby.” Even under normal circumstances, Janna was unable to resist that grin.

Nor can I resist you, Ryan…especially when you talk to me like that…”Put the baby in her carrier, Ryan.”

Ryan quickly did so, covering Halley with her soft, warm, yellow blankie, then brought the carrier to the coffee table next to the sofa, and carefully set it down. She then turned to her wife and gently pushed her down onto the sofa and lay atop her, nuzzling her throat with soft, warm lips.

“What about the Rose Bowl, Ryan?” Janna asked as she ran warm hands up under the back of Ryan’s football jersey.

“Fuck the Rose Bowl.”

“Mm, yeah, ditto…”

~~~~~~~~~~
The freezing, gray gloom from outside did not pierce the warmth of their cozy home as Ryan held Janna while she nursed Halley. A warm fire glowed in the fireplace, adding to the glow of several candles as they sat spooned together on the sofa. In the background, Enya sang softly of Celtic mysteries, adding a nice ambiance to the room.

The baby nursed voraciously at Janna’s breast, prompting her to comment, “I’m glad you’re helping me with the nursing, honey…otherwise her demand would have me huge by now.”

Ryan mumbled against the side of her neck, “You’re huge anyway, babe.”

“Can you imagine if I were bigger?” Janna felt a grin against her neck and supplied, “Never mind…don’t answer that.” She half turned her head to address her mate, adding, “You letch.”

“Only for you, baby.” She kissed her wife’s temple.

Janna closed her eyes and muttered, “I’m so glad of that, Ryan.”

Ryan embraced Janna more tightly as she felt Janna’s conviction through their link. “Mm.”

Several minutes of peaceful silence followed and then Ryan muttered, “Babe, I’m gonna need some flyers printed up for next Monday night’s class…about the promotions in a few weeks?”

“Okay, love, sure. Do you have the list ready for me?” She looked down as she disengaged the baby from her right breast and switched her over to the left. Halley’s tiny face showed confusion briefly, then quickly changed to anger, but her mother quickly presented her other breast before the little tiger could complain. She latched on and her eyes closed peaceably as she continued her meal.

“Nice job, babe. Yeah, I do have the list ready. I’ll help you with it if you’d like.”

“Okay, love, that’ll be great.” She looked back at Ryan again, with a coy grin. “Am I being promoted?”

“You know you are, Miss Smarty Brown Belt. I’m a little afraid the rest of the class is gonna think I’m showing favoritism, with you moving up so fast.”

“Oh, Ryan, they know you don’t cut me any slack. Don’t worry about it.”

“I’m not. Joe knows what’s up…that’s what counts. He trusts his instructors…that’s why he picked them. You know, he remarked about your natural ability the first time he saw you in class.”

“Did he?”

“Mm.”

“Have you told him about the past life stuff?”

“Some of it, yeah. He said he and Ellen’d like to get together with us and talk about it more deeply. They’re really into that.”

“Good…’cause so are we. Let’s do that, love…it sounds fun.”

“Okay. We’ll invite them over soon.” Ryan rested her chin on Janna’s shoulder and breathed deeply of her wife’s scent. God, will there ever be a day when she doesn’t turn me on so damn much?

“Have I told you lately, Ryan, how much you turn me on?”

Jesus! “Jesus, Janna, I was just thinking that about you. I hope you’re not starting to read my mind, babe.”

“Ooh, now that’s a scary thought!” They shared a chuckle and Janna added, “But it wouldn’t be the first time that’s happened with soulmates, from what I’ve read.”

“Christ.”

“I think its cool. And I think we do share that already, to a certain extent. There have been so many times that we haven’t needed any words between us.”

“Well, yeah, our bond makes that possible, but it’s like you just picked up on my actual thoughts. We haven’t done that before, I don’t think.”

“There have been many times, though, that thoughts haven’t even been necessary. Do you see what I mean?”

“Okay, yeah, I do. You’re right.” She squeezed Janna tightly and nuzzled her neck. “I think its cool too, love. So cool.”

“What am I thinking now, Ryan?”

“Oh, that’s easy babe. It’s that you’re gonna have your way with me out in the hot tub tonight.”

“Jesus, Ryan! That’s amazing!”

Ryan chuckled. “Not really. I can feel your desire right now through our bond, and there’s a full moon tonight.”

Janna laughed heartily as she nodded her agreement, and Halley scrunched up her cute little face in frustration, as she had to reacquire her grip on Mommy’s breast. Janna helped her to latch back on and leaned back contentedly into her wife’s warm, firm body. And sighed her contentment.

Later, as Ryan helped her in the kitchen, Janna remarked, “Honey, I talked to Jeff earlier. He said the band’s CD has reached 100,000 units sold.”

“You’re kidding! That’s incredible, Janna! I’m glad for them.”

“Yeah, it’s great, isn’t it? That’s the best ever for a CD produced locally here…and really pretty amazing for an independent band’s first release…and in just one year…with virtually no airplay or videos. They’ve really kind of exploded here on the West Coast, mainly through word of mouth. In fact, in a few months they’re doing a mini tour…from Seattle down to San Diego.” Janna smiled widely, happy that the young friends whom she had been mentoring, as well as producing, were beginning to enjoy some success.

“They have you to thank for it, you know. It was your production skills and contacts in the business that made it possible. I hope they realize that, Janna.”

“Yes, Ryan, they’re appreciative, but if they weren’t talented it wouldn’t have happened for them in the first place.”

“They are good, that’s true. But remember, there are three of your songs on that CD.”

“True, as that first little royalty check showed.” Janna grinned.

“Right!”

“Also, MTV has expressed interest, but the guys still feel that making a video will be selling out.”

“Jesus, babe…did you give them idealism lessons while you were producing the disk?”

“Nope, but I am proud of them. I think its great that they’re so idealistic, but I don’t want to see them hurt. I think I’ll remind them that even Eddie and Pearl Jam make videos occasionally, and that if they want to achieve the kind of success that will make long-term music careers possible, they need exposure.”

“Yeah, that should have an impact…I remember you said they love that band. Did you ever talk to Eddie about coming down to see them play?”

“I did, yeah. He said he’d like to, when they’re in the area next…probably when they play in the City again. They were down in October for Neil’s Bridge School Concert, but we were in New Mexico then.”

“Aw, shit, baby, sorry we missed them. I know how much you miss them.”

“It’s okay, babe, that’s why God invented email.” Janna smiled warmly as she bent to place the casserole in the oven. “How’s the salad coming?”

Ryan dumped a handful of onions into the large bowl in front of her and said, “Done,” then lifted the bowl and carried it to the refrigerator.

“All right, dinner’s taken care of. I think I’ll check on the baby and go do a little work in the darkroom.”

“Sounds good, babe. I’ve got some aikido business to take care of, so I’ll take the baby monitor into the office with me…I have feeding duty next anyway. See you in a bit.” She grabbed the monitor from the counter and pulled Janna into a hug, holding her there for a bit. “Mm, love you, baby.”

“Me too, love.” Janna sighed. “You can do that all day if you want.”

“I want.”

“Mm, but duties call, huh?”

“Yep. God, Janna, I could get used to this life. I am not looking forward to my parental leave ending. I’m telling you right now.”

Janna snuggled more deeply against Ryan’s strong shoulder. “Well, love, you know you don’t have to work…”

“Oh, Janna, be careful what you say! I know you don’t want me hanging around here under foot all day long…I’d eventually drive you nuts. Or away.”

“No freaking way, love. I would love having you around all the time. No doubt about it.”

“I’m afraid I’d eventually get too restless.”

“You haven’t so far.”

“That’s because Halley keeps me busy. And so do you.” She grinned rakishly down at her mate, letting a bit of the lust she was feeling for her transfer through their link.

“Well that wouldn’t change.”

“Oh, fuck, baby…there’s all the incentive I need right there.”

“Language, babe…only in the bedroom, remember?”

“Your fault…I lose the ability to think clearly when there’s lust traveling two ways through our bond.”

“Okay, you’re excused. Now go, before the kitchen table gets another workout.” Janna disengaged herself from the loving embrace.

“Oh, Jesus, Janna…” She reached out to the short blonde but was gently pushed away.

“Go!”

“Shit, baby, now you’ve turned me on.”

“You’re like a light switch, honey, just turn it off until after dinner.”

“Janna…”

“Ryan! We both have work to do. Go!” She gave her mate a light kiss and turned her toward her office with a pat on the behind.

“Shit…”

Janna grinned as she followed her tall mate down the hallway and pushed her into her office, then made her way upstairs to check on the baby.

~~~~~~~~~~
The freezing, heavy gray fog magnanimously lifted and allowed the light of the full moon to illuminate the landscape, bathing the interior of the gazebo with a pleasant silver glow. The warmth from the hot water filled the small structure, warming it enough to allow the baby to accompany her parents. She was bundled warmly and tucked into her carrier on the decking, and slept soundly as her mothers enjoyed the bubbling water beside her.

“When she’s a little bigger, I’ll bet Halley will love this.” Ryan murmured as she cupped soothingly warm water onto Janna’s arms.

“Mm, yes. She’s a little fish like I am.” Janna muttered as she sat against her mate.

“Is she, Janna? Is water her element?”

“Oh, let me think…um, she’s a Sagittarius…so, no, actually, her element is fire. Sagittarians love freedom…maybe it’s the feeling of freedom that water gives her.”

“Could be. That feels right…I get that sense from her. She loves to be held close, but also seems to love it when she’s lying naked on the bed, or being changed.”

“Mm, yes.”

“What else does her sign tell us about her, Janna?”

“Well, let me think…they love independence, like I said. Love the outdoors…she’ll probably be an outdoorswoman,” she turned to grin at Ryan, “Like her mommas. Um, she’ll probably love to run, will have long, strong legs,” she grinned back at Ryan again. “That’s genetic, though.”

Ryan laughed gently. “It sure is. I was nearly six feet tall at thirteen.”

“I remember. Mmm, mmm…”

“You should have let me know at the time that you were interested.”

“You would have led me astray.”

“You got there anyway, baby, eventually.” Ryan grinned into Janna’s soft hair.

“Mm, again, thanks to you.”

“No way. You were a scarlet woman before I ever met you.”

Janna threw her head back as she chuckled, tickling Ryan’s face with her hair. “Oh, yeah, I was wild…I had four lovers before you. My friends in the bands I was in had four lovers a month…the women. The men had that many a week, or a night, a few of them. Oh, yeah, I was so wild, babe.”

“You were perfect.”

“So were you, for me.” She ran her hands sensuously along her lover’s long, lean legs, sighing as her desire for her mate was reawakened. My God, she turns me on. When we’re old, gray and ancient we will still be turning each other on. I can feel it.

Ryan softly kissed the slender neck before her as she sighed and said, “God, Janna, I can so see us sitting in this spa together when we’re eighty.”

Oh, my God… “Ryan, love, we did it again. I was just thinking that.”

“Shit, baby.”

“Ditto.”

“Turn around and kiss me, Janna.”

“You read my mind again, Ryan,” Janna murmured as she turned in Ryan’s embrace and captured her lips, kissing her passionately.

Ryan held Janna tightly against herself as they happily shared their love, running hot hands gently down her back. She pulled back and leaned down to nibble a throbbing pulse point and mumbled, “God, I want you, baby…how much can you handle tonight?”

Janna dipped her head and mumbled against Ryan’s chest, “Not a lot yet…sorry, love…still too sore. Just do what you want, gently and I’ll let you know if it’s too much, okay?”

“Yes, baby.” Ryan captured Janna’s lips again and stroked her tongue sensuously as her hands began slow, sensuous strokes below the water. Presently, she muttered, “That okay?”

“Yes, but no harder than that.”

“Okay, love.” She left one hand gently stroking Janna’s curls and brought the other up to caress a breast. She dipped her head and her tongue joined in, swirling around an excited nipple.

“Mmm, Ryan…” Janna threw her head back as Ryan did now very familiar things to her body, thinking, I will never get enough of this beautiful woman. “Ryan, yes… that’s so good, baby.”

“You taste so good, Janna. I’ll never get enough of you.”

“God, I hope not,” she panted breathlessly.

“Don’t worry, baby.”

As Ryan’s fingers and tongue moved over her skin erotically, Janna moaned, “God, yes…um, love, let me love you…that’s about all I can handle right now.”

Ryan mumbled sexily against her skin, “Are you sure, baby?”

“Yes…I’ll come with you…I’m already close.”

Her sexy mate grinned against the curve of her breast. “Whatever you want, babe.”

“I want you…up on the side of the spa…now.”

Ryan wasted no time in complying with the loving demand and lifted herself out of the water and onto the decking beside the spa.

Janna rose from the water, leaned forward and gently stroked the sensitive skin around Ryan’s navel with her tongue before planting kisses on her firm, flat stomach. She then looked up at her wife with passion-clouded green eyes and drawled, “Now sit back and spread your legs.”

Her wife swallowed hard and closed her eyes as she did as instructed, and a moment later flinched as Janna buried her face in her slick curls. She grabbed onto the rim of the spa and moaned, and as Janna began to methodically stroke her, she wrapped her legs gently around her shoulders and arched into the tender caresses.

“God, Janna…fuck, baby…you love me so…so good.”

“Mmm.”

As Janna’s loving, talented tongue found it’s way into very sensitive clefts, Ryan lost the power of speech, and indeed, of coherent thought, and moaned deliriously. Janna felt her pleasure through their bond and joined her, moaning loudly and sending the vibrations through Ryan’s body. They climaxed together and cried out in unison a short time later, waking their baby in the process.

Before tending to the baby, Ryan slipped back into the water and wrapped Janna in a loving embrace, kissing her deeply to communicate the depth of her love. Their friend, Grandmother Moon, smiled knowingly at them and threw some additional rays of her powerful energy their way.

Ryan, becoming ever more perceptive spiritually, smiled up at her and remarked, “Janna, baby, Grandmother is grinning at us tonight.”

Janna, still lost in the depths of pleasure, mumbled against Ryan’s chest, “Is she, love? Cool.”

-4-

Ryan slowly walked the perimeter of the family room, starting at the eastern wall, and used a fan of Eagle feathers to gently spread the white smoke rising from the sprig of sage. As her mate smudged the room, Janna carried a straight-backed chair into the room, settling it in the middle of the floor, and then lit the many candles sitting throughout the space.
Ryan finished smudging and set the abalone shell containing the sage on the coffee table, next to a lovely soft-pink cluster of rose quartz. Then she took a deep breath and sat in the chair, awaiting her Reiki attunement. Halley sat in her bouncer on the armchair, awake but quiet, almost as if she were respectful of the special occasion.
It had been many months since Ryan had received her last attunement, achieving the second degree of the healing art, and she felt ready to move on to the master level. Her Reiki master and wife stood gazing at her proudly, filled with love and admiration. She is truly a wonderful healer; possessing the necessary skill, compassion and desire to learn. And humility. My God, she’s special. My heart and soul. My Universe.
Ryan felt Janna’s love for her and looked up into misty green eyes, becoming misty-eyed herself. She reached out to Janna, who stepped forward and grasped her hands. They gazed at each other, communicating silently the boundless emotion they were both feeling. It was yet another occasion when words were not needed. In point of fact, the appropriate words did not even exist. Janna bent forward and kissed each of her mate’s hands, then stepped back and began the process of centering herself.

Ryan watched Janna center herself and wondered, what on Earth did I ever do to deserve this incredible woman. An asshole like my myself? A gentle voice rose up in her mind and gently chastised her.

“Swift Puma, do not belittle yourself so. Trust in your Twin Soul’s estimation of you. She will never steer you wrong. Neither will your heart. Listen to it, my granddaughter.”

Thank you, Grandfather. Ryan bent her head and sighed, and when she looked back up at Janna, tears streaked her cheeks.

“Honey?”

“Another message from my grandfather, love.”

Janna closed her eyes and sighed before smiling. Thank you, Grandfather. “Are you ready, love?”

“Yes, Janna.”

Janna stepped toward her mate and began the short, ancient ritual that would give her master-level abilities. As she finished a short time later, with her hand resting on Ryan’s heart chakra, she silently asked the ancient Reiki guides if they had a message for Ryan.

A clear thought, in the voice that she associated with Ryan’s Comanche-elder grandfather, spoke, “Bend as a tall tree in the wind. Do not resist.” Janna opened her eyes and stepped back.

Softly, she said, “Ryan, take a deep breath and when you feel ready, open your eyes.”

After several moments, Ryan opened her eyes and sighed contentedly. She smiled warmly, mirroring Janna’s smile and blew out a breath.

“Whew! Feel that incredible Reiki energy. The Masters were here in the room, weren’t they, Janna?”

“They were, and they had another message for you. Bend as a tall tree in the wind. Do not resist.”

“Wow, that sounds like good advice. I’ll definitely tuck it away.”

“Great, baby. Feel like standing?”

Ryan grinned up at her mate. “Not really!”

Janna laughed quietly and knelt in front of her. “Okay, just relax a while then. Here,” she reached for a glass of water. “Drink.”

“Thanks, love. I’m parched.”

Halley, apparently also parched, gave an abbreviated squeal, just to get someone’s attention. Janna glanced over at her and smiled. “Right on cue.” Looking back at Ryan she remarked, “We could just about set our watches by her.”

“That we could, Janna. Let’s sit together while you feed her. I’m feeling pretty squirrelly right now.”

“Okay, sweetheart. Here, get up slowly.” She stood and reached reached down to her strong mate, helping her to her feet, and steadying her as she swayed a little.

“Jesus…” She shook her head, trying to clear the subtle fog that had settled there and Janna led her to the couch.

As Ryan sat back against the side, Janna leaned forward and kissed her gently, then gazed into her eyes and said, “Hold me while I feed our daughter.”

“Gladly, my love.”

Janna removed their three-week old bundle of joy from her bouncy seat, and she kicked her legs vigorously as her Mommy picked her up, almost as if she knew it was time to eat.

“Look at that, Janna, she seems happy.”

“She does. Maybe she’s picking up on the happy energy in the room.”

“I’ll bet she is, babe…remember when the spirit dudes told us that she would be an empathic individual?”

“Yes, I do. Remember that Michael added that that meant we need to limit emotional displays in front of her, at least while she’s very young, because she’ll be so sensitive to others’ emotions.”

“I do, babe. You know, now that she’s here, I’d like to pay them another visit and get some more advice.”

“I would too, Ryan…I’ll give Anna a call and set up a session. We owe them a visit anyway… they haven’t seen our little precious yet.” Janna, holding the baby, settled between her mate’s legs and Ryan gently pulled her back against her chest. From behind Janna, she helped her shrug out of her sweatshirt and when Janna had the baby situated, wrapped her arms around her smaller mate’s waist. She kissed Janna’s neck and laid her chin happily on her shoulder.

The family sat there in that position, the three of them completely content, for the forty-five minutes that Halley took to eat. It had become their favorite way to spend a Sunday afternoon, and the habit would continue regularly for another full year.

~~~~~~~~~~

Ryan settled the baby into her car seat and buckled her securely. “We’re gonna go bye bye now, my little one…I think you’ll like this.”

“I’ll bet she does love it…our little Sagittarius. She loved her trip to the doctor last week, didn’t she? Too bad it’s not a longer drive to the dojo.”

“Mm, maybe after class we can drive her around a little.”

“Yeah, we’ll see. See how her schedule goes. She’ll be due to be hungry shortly after class ends.”

“I love the way you engineered that, babe…adjusting her feedings slightly all day to accommodate us.”

“Well, it’s what her pediatrician recommended…gently encouraging her to fit into our routine, rather than having to plan our lives around her. He’s only been practicing for fifty years, so it’s hard to argue with experience like that.” Janna grinned at her wife as she climbed into the front seat of the Explorer.

“True…but what I like is that he’s kept up to date with the latest advances and ideas…he’s a cool guy, Janna. I like him a lot.”

“Me too, love. He delivered me, you know.”

“I know.” Ryan grinned. “You told me.” She looked over her shoulder as she slowly backed out of the driveway. The visibility was nearly zero in the pea-soup fog and she made her way very carefully. “God, this fog can go away any day now. I’m sick of it.”

“Well, hon…that’s life in the valley. One of the things I loved about living in San Francisco was that is was beautiful there in the winter.”

“Yeah, but foggy in the summer.”

“True!”

“What about Seattle, babe? All that rain had to be tough for a California girl to handle.”

“Ugh…yeah. It did begin to get me down after a while. But there were plenty of diversions there.”

“Mm, like a certain tattooed rocker chick?” Ryan grinned slyly at her mate.

Janna returned the grin. “Among other things, yeah. Music-oriented pursuits, mainly. It’s a fertile place for my kind of music.”

“Mm…I’d like to visit there sometime babe…it looks like a pretty place.”

“It is…gorgeous.”

The large building that housed the dojo suddenly appeared, looming ahead of them in the fog, and Ryan pulled up next to the curb in front. The cop in her noted the unsafe speeds many cars were driving in the thick fog and she shook her head glumly. “I hope there aren’t any parents tonight who are stupid enough to drop their kids off across the street…in this fog they just can’t be seen and these assholes are driving too fast.”

She exited the car on the drivers side, next to the curb on the one-way street and said to Janna, “Honey, I’ll get the baby out on this side…you watch it getting out over there.”

“Okay, love.”

Ryan opened the rear door and reached in for her precious cargo. Halley was surprisingly still awake and looked up at her mother with apparent interest. Janna joined Ryan on the sidewalk and her mate remarked, “Janna, she does like riding.”

“Thought she would.” Janna smiled as she grabbed the diaper bag and followed her mate and daughter inside. As always, as they stepped inside, they were greeted with the welcoming aroma of sandalwood incense.

Ryan stopped inside and smiled. “It’s good to be back here, Janna.”

“Mm, love. It is. The holidays were great, but it’s good to get back to normal.”

“Yeah, even if normal isn’t quite what it once was.” She grinned as she looked down at the sweet baby in the carrier she held.

Janna was about to agree when they heard a friendly voice exclaim, “Janna, Ryan!”

They both looked up to see the owner of the aikido dojo, their friend Joe.

“Hey there, Joe. We brought someone for you to meet.” Ryan grinned at her old friend.

“Oh, my,” he said softly as he gazed at the tiny Norden-Zamora. “She looks like the both of you. She’s precious.”

“Thanks, Joe…we think so too.” Janna said as she smiled warmly at her friend.

“Ellen’s in the office, come on over.”

They followed their sensei into the office he shared with his wife, who sat in front of a computer. “Ellen, look who came to visit.”

Ellen, a trim, blonde woman in her late forties, turned from her editing of the newsletter and beamed as she saw the baby. “Oh! Let me see her!”

Ryan gently removed Halley from her carrier and offered her to Ellen, a mother of three. Ellen carefully took her and held her gently in her arms.

“Ryan, Janna, she’s beautiful…just beautiful!” She said as she gazed down at the baby. “Hello Miss Halley. How are you?”

She looked up at Janna. “Janna, the birth announcement was lovely.” She grinned. “You’ll find a copy of it on the bulletin board.”

“Thank you Ellen.”

“That reminds me,” Ryan remarked. “I have to put up the flyer for my class promotion. I’ll be right back, honey.”

“Okay, love.”

Before entering the foyer area outside the mat room, Ryan shrugged out of her leather jacket and hung it on a hook just inside the office, then exited to the outer room. She kicked off her shoes and put them on the shelf below the bulletin board, standing in her socks as she attached the flyer to the corkboard.

She heard the chimes sound as someone entered the front door of the dojo and glanced briefly toward the door. She saw a tall, thin woman with shoulder-length brown hair enter and she smiled a friendly greeting before turning back to the bulletin board.

The stranger was immediately struck by the beautiful black-haired woman wearing the black belt and wide, black, skirt-like pants of a sensei, and she thought, whoa…I hope she’s my instructor. She is beyond hot.

Ryan noted the woman’s approach and said, “Evening,” as the stranger bent to slip off her boots.

“Good evening. You wouldn’t happen to be teaching the adult beginning class, would you?”

Ryan replied, “Yes, I would, as a matter of fact,” and extended her hand as she added, “I’m Ryan Norden-Zamora. Welcome.”

“It’s great to be here.” She looked Ryan in the eye warmly and moved closer as she added, “I’m so glad I decided to take this class. I look forward to working closely with you.”

Oh boy, Ryan thought as she returned the woman’s smile. She didn’t, however, acknowledge the obvious come on. Doesn’t she recognize a wedding ring when she sees one? Jesus… “Good luck to you,” Ryan said, nodding, as she neatly extricated herself from the woman’s presence and returned to the office.

As she entered, she saw Janna looking at her comically, eyebrows raised. Ryan grinned at her wife as she said, “You saw that, huh? Jesus, some women.” She shook her head and Janna chuckled, but thought, she’d better keep her hands off my wife, or this almost brown belt will really teach her some aikido moves.

Ryan picked up on her mate’s emotion and grinned as she pulled her in for a hug. “I love you, baby. Be good.”

“Oh, I will if she will.”

“Should I tell her what’s what?” Ryan offered.

“No, I think if she’s in your class for more than a few minutes, the nature of our relationship will quickly become obvious to her.”

Ryan grinned warmly. “I’m sure it will, babe.” She turned to Ellen. “Ellen, we’d like to have you and Joe over for a visit soon.”

“Oh, we’d like that Ryan. You know our only free night is Sunday though.”

“Sunday is fine. This week, next?”

“This week should work, thank you.”

“Great, we’ll do dinner. You two like pasta don’t you?” Janna asked.

“Yes, we love it. Let us know what we can bring.” Ellen said as she carefully placed Halley back into her carrier.

“Will do, Ellen…it’ll be fun.” Ryan grinned at her long-time friend. “It’s been a while since we got together.”

“It has. Too long.”

“Bring the boys, too.”

“We will, thanks, if they don’t have other plans this weekend.”

“Well, Sensei, it’s time for class.” Janna looked cutely up at her mate. “Um, you’ll excuse me from having to do anything too energetic tonight? I do have an excuse.”

Ryan returned the grin jauntily. “Sure, baby, but it’ll cost ya later.”

“I see that parenthood hasn’t slowed down that aspect of your relationship,” Ellen remarked drolly as she sauntered out of the office.

“No way, Ellen,” Ryan called after her, grinning.

Ryan took her partner’s arm and picked up her baby’s carrier and they walked out into the foyer. As Janna removed her shoes and stowed them, the stranger stood against a nearby wall, obviously sizing up the small blonde who had been on Ryan’s arm.

Hm, looks like she’s attached…that explains the ring. It figures, as gorgeous as she is. That little blonde doesn’t look like much competition though. The baby could present a problem, however. Unwilling to concede graciously, as a decent person would, the woman determined to push matters, deeming the tall, beautiful woman a prize catch.

She watched as the happy couple greeted friends and students and glowed happily as they showed off their baby before moving off into the mat room. This may not be an easy task.

While her mothers engaged in their aikido class, little Halley sat in her carrier, in the company of her new friend, Ellen, who had finished her classes for the day. The baby was quiet as she tried to take in all the activity in the huge room, however, it quickly became too much for her and she settled off into sleep.

As all classes at this particular dojo did, Ryan’s also started out with a relaxing aikido-mai workout, to soothing, yet energetic new age music. As her regular students flowed into the graceful, enchanting movements and spread out around the huge mat, Ryan approached her new student and explained the concept to her.

The woman nodded her understanding and smiled coyly as she said, “I think I’ll watch you for a few minutes…to get an idea of how it should be done.”

Ryan nodded. “Fine.” She moved away from the troublesome woman and began to move gracefully around the mat, emptying her mind of negative thoughts as she did so. Naturally, as soon as the negative thoughts retreated, thoughts of her wife and baby replaced them and she smiled, glowing with an inner warmth. She caught site of Janna and uncharacteristically approached her, moving in beside her, as if in a dance. Normally, she didn’t let their private life enter into their sensei-student relationship.

“Hi, love. This is different.” Janna said, smiling warmly at her mate.

“I need to send a message, babe. Do you mind?”

“Are you kidding? We’ll shout it out if you’d like.”

“Thanks, baby.” She shook her head as she glanced at the woman, who was leering openly at her. “This isn’t the place for that shit.” She gracefully grabbed Janna’s hands and pulled her around to face her, and they danced together happily, moving skillfully across the room as one, almost like ballroom dancers. When the music faded, they embraced and shared a quick kiss, prompting several of Ryan’s students, all cops, to offer comments.

Ryan shrugged off the good-natured kidding with a smile and called her class together. She delved into the lessons, not giving the new student another thought, except when she was engaged in teaching her. She had Janna and her other more advanced students do all of the engaging of maneuvers with the woman, however, not wanting to let the woman into her space or to encourage her advances in any way.

After the hour-long class was finished and Ryan had bid farewell to most of her students, the woman approached Ryan and asked to be shown a few of the basic moves again. Ryan agreed, adding graciously, “Normally I won’t be able to do this, because I take the black-belt class that’s starting now, but since this is your first class, I’ll be glad to go over the moves.”

“That’s so wonderful of you.”

“No problem. What did you need help with?”

“That first move. I can’t seem to remember it.”

“Sumi otoshi, and we also covered ikkyo. Yes, it takes some repetition before becoming second nature.” She turned to face the woman and had her place her hands on Ryan’s shoulders as she showed the woman the maneuver a few times. She finished by saying, “It’s very important not to miss any classes, so you can get a lot of practice in. Any of the students will be happy to work out with you for a few minutes before class starts. Just ask.”

“All right, I’ll do that. You don’t happen to offer private lessons, do you?” She eyed Ryan seductively.

“No, I’m sorry, I don’t. Have a good night.” Ryan turned away and started toward her wife and baby, who were sitting in the gallery.

“Sensei Zamora…could we meet some time…to discuss the philosophical ideals of aikido, perhaps?”

Ryan looked at the floor as she reined in her frustration and composed herself, before she looked up pointedly into the woman’s face. “No, that won’t be possible. I don’t do any private tutoring, and as you may have noticed, I have a wife and baby with whom I prefer to spend all of my free time. I’ll see you next week. Oh, and, it’s Norden-Zamora.” With that, she turned and left the woman without a second glance, making her way to where Janna sat with the baby’s carrier on her lap.

Ryan grabbed a cup from the nearby water cooler and downed some water as she stood beside her family.

“Tough student, love?”

Ryan blew out a breath. “Woman shows a definite lack of common sense. With an attitude like that, she won’t get far in aikido.”

“I wonder if she’s even really here to learn. She looks to be on the make.”

“Well she came to the wrong place for that. I’ve gotta go, love. Let me know if Halley gets hungry.”

“Sweetheart, I’ll take the next feeding if she needs to eat early…don’t miss your class.”

“No, babe. I’m fine. I kinda need some grounding and she can give me that.”

“I’ll give you some of that later, too.”

“Thanks, baby, I know you will. Bye.” Ryan leaned down and kissed her baby, bestowing a heartfelt look of love on her wife as she did so, and returned to the mat to work out with her fellow black belts and teachers. Janna sat back, enjoyed the awesome display of skills, and realized happily that in a few months, she would attain her black belt and be able to join them.

As Ryan sat with her class, she saw Janna pick up a wide-awake Halley and hold her in her arms, talking to her quietly all the while. She smiled and sent a message of love to her mate through their link, and Janna looked over at her and sent her own silent message in return.

The unpleasant student was nowhere to be seen.

~~~~~~~~~~
Janna opened the blinds, letting in the moonlight both she and her wife so loved, and then joined her family on the bed. Ryan was handling the very early morning feeding, sitting against the headboard as she nursed Halley, and Janna scooted up next to her and wrapped her arms around her.

“She should start feeding less often before too long,” Janna remarked quietly.

“Mm, right. That’ll be okay, Janna, because even with both of us doing this, it’s exhausting.”

“Yeah. But I’ll miss it in a way.”

“You’ll still be nursing her, Janna…for a full year if things go according to plan.”

“That’s true. It’s just so enjoyable. Such a wonderful, loving, quiet time.” She caressed her baby’s soft, fine hair and smiled.

“Bonding time…that it is, love. It’s so special. I’m gonna miss it like crazy when I go back to work in two weeks.”

“We’ll make sure you keep your production up, so you can handle more of the evening feedings if you want.”

“Let’s do that, Janna. I can pump at work, at least once a day, if I need to.”

“Mm, you may need to.” Janna paused a moment and added thoughtfully, “Honey, we didn’t take her out too soon, did we?”

“No, I don’t think so, Janna. The doctor said she could go out after three or four weeks and she’s a month old today…or yesterday now. I think it was fine, baby, I really do. Don’t worry.”

“Okay, but this time of year there are so many germs floating around…”

“Honey, our breast milk is giving her natural immunity, remember? And she’s big and healthy. She’s fine, love.”

After several more minutes, Ryan switched the baby to her other breast, fielding loud complaints as she interrupted the meal, and laughed. “Jesus, she’s getting loud.” Addressing the baby she softly said, “Are you gonna be a rock singer like your Mommy? Huh? I think so.”

“No ma’am, she is not. Nor is she going to be a cop.”

Ryan quieted the baby with a fresh breast and pulled Janna closer. “Oh, yeah? Babe, I have a strong feeling that this little girl is gonna have mind of her own and will end up doing whatever the hell she wants to do…regardless of what her parents want.”

“Just like we did, huh Ryan?”

“Just like we did, baby.”

“Hmm.” Janna burrowed into her wife’s side and enjoyed it so much that she soon fell asleep in the position. When Ryan realized, she smiled warmly and shook her head. Both of my girls have fallen asleep on me tonight…I must be boring company. Rather than disturb either Janna or the baby, she gently burped Halley and then lay down with her, careful not to jostle Janna. She quickly fell into slumber and the three of them slept blissfully curled up together.

-5-

A drizzling fog sent rivulets of water running down the windows, obscuring the view into the backyard, and decreasing the already low late afternoon light as the happy family lay on the bed. Ryan and Janna lay side-by-side on their backs as Ryan held the baby above them.

“Was that a smile? Huh, was that a smile Momma saw?” She lowered the baby to her face and planted a kiss on her soft cheek. “Yes, it was. It was a smile!” Ryan turned her head to glance at her mate. “She’s smiling, Janna!”

“I see that, love. That’s not unheard of at five weeks, sweetheart.” Janna returned her mate’s warm grin and reached up to tickle her daughter’s tummy, eliciting another semi-smile.

“Oh, Janna, she’s trying so hard to smile…look at that!”

“God, that’s cute, honey. She definitely has your smile. Oh, boy, I think we’ve got another lady-killer on our hands.”

“I don’t know, babe, she just might like boys.”

“True. Whatever, she’s gonna be a heartbreaker.”

“Just like her Mommy.”

“Oh, yeah, right…you mean just like her Momma.” Janna turned onto her side and wrapped an arm around her wife’s waist, snuggling into her side as she did so. “Is it nap time yet?”

“Baby, we just had our nap. Are you that tired, Janna?”

“Sort of, yeah. I didn’t sleep well after Halley ate during the night.”

“I’m sorry, babe…would you like us to leave so you can rest?”

Janna tightened her grip on Ryan, as she murmured, “Absolutely not. You stay right where you are.”

Her mate grinned and pulled the baby down to sit on her chest. “Can you sit, my big girl? Huh? Look, Janna, how strong she’s getting.”

“Mm, hmm. She sure is. Her head is not nearly as wobbly as it was.”

“Mm. Come here, baby, give Momma a kiss.” Ryan brought the baby’s mouth to hers and stole a kiss, eliciting a grin. “Jesus, Janna, I could look her smile all day…just like yours.”

Janna reached over and caressed the baby’s head, and Halley slowly turned her head to look her way. “And so much more alert. God, Ryan, she changes every day.”

“Another reason I’m not looking forward to going back to work next week.” She sighed and Janna moved her hand to her arm in consolation. “But at least the shift is shorter…I can deal with nine to five a little easier than I would with the old eight to six.”

“I’m glad of that, too, Ryan. You’ll be home with us later in the morning and earlier in the evening. So glad, baby.” She leaned forward and kissed a firm shoulder, at which her mate leaned down and captured her lips.

At that, Halley said, “Gip,” and her parents looked wide-eyed at each other.

“Jesus Christ…she just said something, Janna!”

“I think somebody likes being the center of attention, Ryan. Kiss me again and see if she does it again.”

“Sure, babe…all in the interest of scientific inquiry, you understand.”

“Oh, yes, honey, I fully understand…kiss me.”

Ryan did and Halley repeated her little display, this time adding a leg kick into her Momma’s chest.

“Hey! Watch it there, missy! Jesus, Janna, she’s got some power in those tiny legs.”

“I think you can handle it, honey. Hey, speaking of powerful legs, I realized the other day that we didn’t make it skiing this winter.”

“We were a little busy having a baby, love…and recovering from an accident. Next year…I wanna take you snowboarding, too.” She pulled the baby close again for another kiss, extracting another near-smile from her.

“Ooh, I can’t wait. It looks fun.” Janna tickled the baby’s belly.

“It is. It’s a blast, actually.”

“Hard?”

“A little, at first, but if you have good balance, it’s pretty easy to catch on. And, easier if you’re already used to the snow, I think.”

“Mm, yeah. My balance used to be very good…I was quite a good skateboarder in the late ’70’s…of course, I was a teenager.”

“It’s a natural ability, Janna…I’m sure it’s still good…and you’re in great shape. So, did you ride the ramps and the pipes and such?”

“I did, yeah. Remember the skateboard park that used to be out by the motor movies? I had an expert rating there…it was a blast…as much a rush as downhill skiing is.”

“I don’t remember the skateboard park, but I certainly remember the motor movies.” She turned to her wife and delivered a rakish grin, accompanied by raised eyebrows.

“I’ll just bet you do. How many innocent young girls lost their virginity in the back seat of your mom’s car, Ryan?”

“Oh, Jesus, baby, I don’t wanna go there.”

“Honey, it doesn’t bother me…I’m just curious.”

“Too many, Janna…I was a dog…you know that. Let’s change the subject.”

Janna smiled, still on the subject. “You know, when I first told Dan about us, the thing he most remembered about you from high school was that you had openly dated a cheerleader in our senior year.”

“Shit, he would.” She furrowed her brows, pondering. “What was her name…”

“Ryan! It was April something, wasn’t it?”

“Oh, yeah, April Olson. Jesus, she was a babe. Lost her cherry that first night, too…”

“Ryan!”

“You brought it up, babe. Shall we change the subject now?”

“Please.”

Ryan laid the baby on the bed between them and turned toward her mate. She leaned over Halley and captured Janna’s lips fervently, effectively changing the subject, as requested.

~~~~~~~~~~
Janna turned in her sleep as the dream played on, smiling as the past-life pleasure bled into her present life. She held an ink cone above her mate’s strong, firm body, then dipped it, touching it to her skin and creating an intricate, black design. Her partner sighed with pleasure as her bard applied the thick henna paste to her back.

“Gods, Gabrielle, that feels nice,” purred the rich, deep voice.

“Mm, I’m glad. Pleasing you gives me pleasure, Xena.”

“Well, you can show me that again later, if you want.”

“Oh, I want. How about one more floral design down here, at the base of your spine?” She gently caressed her lover’s lower back.

“Mm, whatever you feel like doing, love.”

“Well that would involve an activity that would ruin all this hard work of mine.”

“Like I said, later,” drawled the low voice.

“Later it is.” The warrior-bard refocused her attention on her artwork, breathing deeply to slow her heartbeat. Through the link with her soulmate, she could feel her partner doing the same thing and smiled. Gods, I want her…all the time. She sighed deeply, eliciting a pleased smile from her strong mate.

Presently, she withdrew her hand and shook it out. “Okay, love. That’ll do it.”

“Thanks, Gabrielle. Your turn now. Front or back first?”

Her small mate smiled coyly at her. “Front.”

The warrior returned the smile, but hers was accompanied by a rakish twist to her mouth and a single raised eyebrow. “Whatever you want, Gabrielle.”

She sat her partner on the table in front of her and knelt before her. Before lifting the ink cone to the smaller warrior’s firm belly, however, she leaned forward and snaked out a hot tongue, stroking her mate’s navel, and was well pleased at her bard’s sharp intake of breath.

“Gods, Xena…”

“Hmm?” She continued the sensual stroking and kissing of her mate and the small blonde reached forward, twining her fingers in the warrior’s long, black hair.

“That’s not fair Xena, we can’t play right now…not without ruining your mehndi.”

“Later then, baby.”

“Absolutely.”

Janna smiled again as the dream continued, feeling the pleasure that her ancient counterpart felt at her mate’s touch, as well as their shared love. It echoed the love she and Ryan shared in their present life; which had been built upon by the love they had shared in the many lives in between.

Janna was awakened a short time later by her mate’s gentle touch. “Janna…Janna, hon, time to wake up.”

Janna sighed and turned toward the warmth sitting beside her.

“Hmm?”

“Sorry, honey, it’s time to wake up. Joe and Ellen will be here soon and I need help with the marinara.”

“Oh, God…I feel asleep?” Janna blinked her eyes in the dim light of the room.

“You were tired, love. Come on…I’ve got the salad done, but you need to do the sauce or it won’t be edible.”

Janna rubbed her eyes and grinned. “That’s true, love. You didn’t manage to burn the water again, did you?”

“I haven’t cooked it yet, little Miss Smarty. But I probably will burn it if you don’t come down and help me.”

“Did you say you made the salad?”

“Yep.”

“Ryan…thank you…but you shouldn’t have let me sleep.”

“Hey, I’m capable of making a salad!”

“Yes, you are…and very well…but I know you don’t enjoy it.”

“I enjoy helping you. But come on…get up…I need your help now.”

“Okay, love. Where’s the baby?”

Ryan grinned and looked to her left, at the baby’s bassinet. “She decided that if Mommy was gonna nap, so was she.”

“So you’ve had some alone time? That’s great, honey.”

“Not really, Janna. I adore my girls.”

Janna reached up and pulled her love’s face down to meet hers. “So do I mine.”

Ryan enjoyed the kiss, and then mumbled against her wife’s mouth, “Don’t start this now, Janna. That’s how past meals have been burned.”

“Mm, and pots of water…including the pot.”

“Okay…let’s just go back there for a minute, huh? What am I supposed to do when you throw your arms around me, push me against the kitchen table and begin devouring me? Answer me that, Janna.”

“Ryan, what am I supposed to do when I come into the kitchen and see you cooking in the nude? It was just too much for me.”

Ryan grinned jauntily down at her. “Okay, I’ll give you that one. Just don’t blame me for ruining the pot, huh? It was both our faults.”

“Okay…that’s fair.” Janna giggled as she added, “Honey, do you know long it takes for such a large pot of water to boil away?”

Ryan grinned. “Long enough for both of us to come, and then some. I’m so glad you bought such a sturdy kitchen table, Janna.”

“So am I. Come on, my love. Let’s get dinner fixed.”

“After you, baby.” Ryan helped her mate off the bed and after glancing at their sleeping daughter, picked up the baby monitor receiver before following Janna from the room and down the stairs. God, she’s got a cute ass.

~~~~~~~~~~
“Mm, hold on…I need one more taste.”

“Ryan, you do not.”

“I do…come on.”

Janna lifted the large wooden spoon to her wife’s mouth again and looked expectantly at her. “Well?”

Ryan grinned widely. “It’s perfect.”

“Thank you. Did you take care of the wine?”

Ryan nodded. “The white’s cooling and the red’s on the table. Anything else?”

Janna eyed her salaciously. “Um, just your wardrobe.”

Ryan looked down at herself and grinned. “What…a tank top and jeans aren’t good enough for Joe and Ellen?”

“An undershirt, minus bra, and torn, faded jeans, you mean. No…they aren’t. Go change, please. And shoes would be nice. Ryan, how you can wear so little in the wintertime is beyond me.”

Ryan sauntered up behind her wife and wrapped long, warm arms around her as she kissed her neck, “I’m hot-blooded, baby.”

Janna closed her eyes and sighed as she replied, “Oh, God, don’t I know it.” She leaned back into her strong mate, reveling in her warmth, her scent and the intense emotions that her proximity alone set off, as she said, “This is very dangerous, Ryan. Go, please.”

“Okay, love. I’ll check on the baby while I’m up there.”

“Thanks, honey.”

~~~~~~~~~~
Ryan laughed heartily as she refilled Joe’s wineglass with the fine, rich Merlot.

“Thanks,” he replied, his smiling eyes dancing. “Ryan, I’ve never known you not to drink wine…what’s the occasion if you don’t mind my asking?”

“Well, Joe,” she started, but was interrupted by her daughter, who was sitting nearby in her bouncer. Ryan grinned widely and said, “Ahh, there’s the little reason. Give me a minute and I’ll show you.”

She got up and removed her daughter from her seat, bringing her to the table and settling her in her lap. “She’s hungry, and it’s my turn to feed her. Do you mind if I nurse her here?”

Janna grinned as both of their down-to-earth friends looked shocked, but shook their heads, indicating that they didn’t mind. She looked on proudly as Ryan unbuttoned her cotton shirt and pulled down the nursing flap on her bra.

Ryan guided her breast into the hungry baby’s mouth, then looked up at her friends and grinned widely, saying, “I’ll bet you never expected to see this!”

Her good friends laughed. “No, Ryan, I’m sure we didn’t. That’s amazing!” Joe looked at his wife and grinned.

Ellen added, “Yes, this is wonderful, Ryan. I’ve heard of adoptive mothers nursing their babies, but I guess I never thought of it with respect to lesbian couples. How wonderful!”

“God, it’s incredible. I can’t tell you how happy I am that it worked out for me.” Ryan grinned down at the little bundle in her arms who was tugging gently, but methodically at her nipple.

Ellen added warmly, “I nursed all three of our boys…even though their pediatrician recommended against it…and it was the most wonderful experience.”

“Why on earth did he recommend against it?” Janna asked, her blonde brows furrowed in confusion.

“At that time, Janna, it was felt that modern formulas were better, I guess.”

Ryan remarked disgustedly, “Formula companies must have bought off the A.M.A.”

“How sad,” Janna added.

“How ignorant,” corrected Joe. He nodded toward Ryan. “How could anything possibly be more healthful than that?”

Ryan shook her head and leaned forward to kiss the top of Halley’s head. Her suckling stopped for an instant, as if she were trying to figure out who was doing what to her, but she quickly deemed it unimportant and continued her meal.

The warm conversation continued as Ryan nursed the baby, and soon the friends, old souls all, were talking about spirituality.

Janna remarked, “We’re going back to New Mexico in March, for my birthday, and plan to visit Taos and Santa Fe again on the way. Did Ryan tell you about the regression we experienced together at the Taos Pueblo?”

Their friends nodded, as Joe said, “Yes…what an amazing experience that must have been. We’ve had similar together, but they were in a clinical setting, with a therapist. The fact that you both regressed on the spot is wondrous.”

“It was cool, guys…beyond cool. And we have this other life that we both visit, almost every single night, in our dreams. It took place in ancient Greece.” Ryan commented matter-of-factly as she switched Halley to her other breast.

“Really? And you both have the dreams?” Joe asked.

Janna answered, “Yes…often the same dream at the same time…which we find incredibly cool. Um,” she blushed as she added, “Especially the romantic ones.”

“I should think,” Joe remarked dryly. He grinned at his wife and soulmate. “We do that too, once in a while.”

Ryan, of course, puffed out her chest a little, even though she had an infant latched on, and said, “And of course, we take full advantage of the situation when it occurs,” and grinned rakishly at her wife, who blushed even more deeply.

“Ryan, do lesbians have a term for stud?” Joe asked, with a twinkle in his eye.

“Stud.” Ryan replied with a grin.

“Just wondering.”

Ryan laughed heartily again, and had to reattach her daughter’s mouth, and not before hearing a loud complaint.

“Whoa, she knows who’s boss!” Ellen laughed.

“Are you kidding? Only five weeks old and she already knows that she rules this household. I’m gonna start calling her the Little Queen.” Ryan remarked as she gazed pointedly at her daughter.

“She’s not all that little, Ryan.” Ellen pointed out.

Janna replied, “She takes after her Momma…well, you know what I mean…after her Momma’s side of the family.” She gazed softly at Ryan and Halley before adding, “Ryan and Zac are remarkably similar…I feel so blessed about that.”

“Me too, love. Though I think that’s gonna come back and bite you in the ass…we were both handfuls as kids.”

“And you’re not now, Ryan?” Her wife asked sweetly.

“Oh, Janna, very good point,” Joe laughed as Ryan gazed with disbelief at her sweet wife.

“Just kidding, love…you know that.” Janna leaned over and planted a kiss on her wife’s brow, receiving a small smile in return.

“So, can we assume that Halley will be one of the youngest students that our dojo has ever seen?” Joe asked with a wide smile.

Ryan returned the warm smile as she replied, “I’d like that, Joe, but we don’t want to break any rules. We know you don’t want them younger than five.”

“Ryan, I have a feeling about Halley. I think that at three she may be like a typical five-year old. We’ll have to wait and see of course. We taught our kids beginning at three.” He gazed thoughtfully at Halley. “She feels like a very old soul.”

Ryan and Janna both looked over at Joe and nodded as Janna said, “Yes, Joe…we feel that way about her too. Um, my best friend channels a wonderful entity named Michael…”

“The Spirit Dudes!” Ryan interjected with a smile.

Janna smiled at her wife, “Yes, the Spirit Dudes…and Michael told us as much before she was born. Actually, we knew quite a lot about her before she was born, and all of it is proving to be true.”

“That’s wonderful. Channeling, when done well and by first-rate people, can be a marvelous tool.”

Ellen added, “I saw a book recently in the bookstore claiming to be channeled material from an entity called Michael. It looked very interesting but I didn’t pick it up…I was buying alternative healing books at the time. I have been thinking about going back for it, though. Let me see…what was it called?” She thought for a moment, and continued, “Ah, ‘The Journey of Your Soul’…and I believe the author was named Hoodwin.”

Janna said, “Yes, Anna told me that another Michael channel was writing a book…we’ll have to check that out, honey.” She addressed her friends, “Michael’s information is so amazing…so informative. They specialize in explaining the personality traits that we choose for each life, which really helps us to understand and relate to our fellow human beings.”

“That does sound marvelous. So, is Michael a group of souls…like an Oversoul?”

“Yes, the same as an Oversoul, I believe. Like Jane Roberts’ Seth…actually, Michael is closely aligned with Seth. They call themselves an Entity, which is a group of about a thousand souls who have all finished all of their lives on the planet. They now teach from a higher plane…the plane above the astral, which they call the causal.”

“Yes,” Joe nodded. “That gels with my beliefs. I’d love to learn more about Michael.”

“We’ll have to get the book, honey.” Ellen said as she glanced at her husband, who nodded enthusiastically.

“Yeah, Janna, us too. Where did you see it El?”

“At Barnes and Noble.”

“And I’m sure, if you want to find out about your personality traits, and that of your loved ones…Michael calls them ‘overleaves’…my friend Anna will be happy to do a session with you.” Janna added.

“I think that’s a distinct possibility, Janna. I’ll get back to you on that. We’re always looking to expand our knowledge.”

“So is Janna, and she’s passed the habit on to me,” Ryan said with a grin. Halley let go just then, signaling the completion of her meal and Ryan settled her on her shoulder as she burped her gently.

“Let me see that little angel, Ryan, if I may.” Joe asked, and Ryan happily handed over her daughter as soon as she had released the air in her little tummy. As he held her gently, he beamed up at his old friend. “It’s been a long while since I did this.”

“And she looks good there, Joe,” Ryan said with a grin.

“Oh, Ryan…don’t give him any ideas! Please!” Exclaimed Ellen.

“Sorry, El!” Ryan replied as she buttoned her shirt. At that point they decided to move their visit into the living room and, bringing the wine and sparkling cider with them, proceeded to visit happily for several more hours.

Later, as Ryan and Janna lay in bed, entwined in their favorite position, they talked about their visit with their dear friends. “Honey, what Joe said about you was nice…but I could have told you what a gifted aikido teacher you are.”

“Thanks, baby. But I don’t know, Janna. I didn’t show a lot of patience or compassion with that woman who came on to me last week. Normally I’m happy to stay late and work with students, or visit with them. But God, babe, she pissed me off so.”

“Honey, don’t worry about it. She’s not worth it. And I’m sure if she were truly there to become enlightened about the most enlightening of all martial arts, she wouldn’t have behaved as she did. You made it clear to her that you were married, and not interested, yet she persisted. That’s nasty, Ryan…disgusting. I don’t blame you at all.”

“Yeah, but honey, Michael has told us about agape…unconditional love for all beings …and how attaining it is the purpose for having all these lives…and that’s not what I showed her. I feel bad about that. Maybe I should have given her a chance.”

“Honey, you did, didn’t you? You worked with her after class…you just declined to see her socially, which is proper as a married woman. No, honey, it’s not your teaching she’s interested in…believe me. I saw her leering at you.”

“Janna, I only want you leering at me.”

“I’m happy to oblige, baby.”

“And you do it so well.”

“Mm, but you’re the master, Ryan. You with those expressive eyebrows and sensuous mouth.” Janna grinned and fanned herself. “Whew, I’m turning myself on!”

“Cool, baby…let me soothe your need.” Ryan drawled.

“Please do, Ryan…as only you can,” Janna responded as she was pulled into Ryan’s embrace and her lips were captured passionately.

-6-

The passion from the previous night still held them within its grasp as Grandfather Sun made a rare January appearance the next morning. As the soft, pink glow resulting from his light’s journey through the Earth’s atmosphere lit their bedroom, Ryan pulled Janna more tightly against her body as they lie linked together, sharing loving energy.

As she reveled in the connection with her wife, nearly drunk with pleasure, Janna murmured, “I want more, Ryan. Stroke me, please.” As she made the request, Ryan was already doing so, having picked up on her wife’s need.

“Okay, baby. Are you sure? Do I still need to be gentle?”

“I’m sure, love. I’m fine now…all healed.”

“God, Janna, I’m glad.” She said just before kissing her wife more deeply and then sat up, bringing Janna with her. “Straddle me, love.”

“Yes.”

Janna did so, wrapping her legs tightly around Ryan, and they began stroking each other in earnest. The energy, the kundalini, in both their bodies, ignited and sat, coiled like a serpent, at the bases of their spines…waiting to be unleashed in the explosion of ecstasy. But first, the electric fire would build, and then, with skillful control of breath and muscles, move slowly up their spines, accompanying gentle orgasms that would build, one upon the other, increasing in intensity until the final peak would burst, plunging them into an ethereal pleasure beyond the confines of the physical plane that they normally existed on.

As Ryan’s pleasure exploded, seemingly bursting from the top of her head, she screamed Janna’s name, and took Janna with her. They rode the waves of intense pleasure for many more minutes, entwined tightly, mouths meeting and devouring each other hungrily while large breasts crushed together in the caress of love.

When their bodies had finally slowed, and stilled, Ryan sighed deeply, letting the satiation bathe her soul, and ran her hands down Janna’s back tenderly.

“God, Janna…”

“I know, love. There aren’t words.”

“Shit…how long, baby?”

Janna turned her head slightly to glance at the bedside clock. “An hour.”

“Holy shit…no wonder I’m spent.” She pulled back from her mate slightly and grinned at her. “I have to go to work today, baby. But what a way to start the day!”

Janna returned the grin and replied, “At least you don’t have to ride a bike for eight hours.”

“True. It’s mostly meetings and orientation today…thank God.” She leaned back in and kissed her wife gently. “Hold me baby…until I have to leave.”

“Gladly, my love.” Janna wrapped her strong, beautiful mate in her arms and reveled once again in her warmth.

A few adorable gurgles and, “Goos” rose from the bassinet beside their bed and Ryan added with a grin, “Or rather, hold me until Halley wakes up and needs to eat. I wonder how long she’s been awake.”

“Oh, I would guess that coincided with the screams we let loose several minutes ago, wouldn’t you?”

“I would think, yeah, babe.” Ryan kissed Janna a final time before lifting her from her lap and rolling out of bed. On her way to the bathroom, she stopped to greet her happy daughter, and when she returned, Halley was in bed with her Mommy.

“All cleaned up and ready, love?” Janna asked as Ryan settled beside her two ladies on the bed.

“Yep, hand the hungry munchkin over.”

As the baby settled in for her meal, her mothers sat snuggled together and discussed Ryan’s impending return to work.

“Will it be hard seeing John, do you think, honey?”

“I imagine it will, yeah. He was very understanding about my decision, but I could still feel that he was hurt a little by it…though he told me that since becoming a parent, he’s had second thoughts about staying a beat cop and thinks that if he’d been hurt too, he’d have made the same decision. For Sara’s sake.”

“He’s doing all right with his new partner isn’t he?”

“Micah? Yeah, supposedly. They’ve gelled pretty well. He’s a nice young kid…not too experienced, but a good cop. And John likes him…that’s key, obviously.”

“Right.”

An hour and a half later, Ryan walked beside her Lieutenant, Andy Gutierrez, as he showed her to her new desk. She had been offered a small, private office, but had turned it down in favor of a desk in the squad room, wanting to be near her long-time co-workers and her old partner and best friend. She wanted to be where the action was, as well. She didn’t want to feel insulated from the realities of the department…wanting to continue to feel fully involved.

The very large room housed many desks, and semi-private cubicles lined two walls. As Ryan was led to one of the cubicles, she was greeted by many friends…welcomed back from her maternity leave. She hadn’t seen most of them since the Christmas party and accepted the well wishes of her coworkers in her typically friendly and gracious manner before entering her cubicle and setting the small box she carried on her new desk.

“Well, Ryan, here you go. There’s a meeting scheduled for 9:30 to meet your staff and get everything in gear.” He held out his hand. “Congratulations, Ryan…you earned this promotion…good luck.”

Ryan returned the strong handshake warmly, saying, “Thanks Lt. I’m looking forward to making a difference here.”

He nodded and smiled before leaving. Ryan watched him go and then turned to her desk. She sighed, letting out the small amount of nervousness she had been holding, and dug into her box. She retrieved her treasures…three photos for her desk…and set them next to the computer screen, and then settled into her comfortable chair and gazed at them. Janna and the baby gazed back at her, making her smile. The third was the photo of the three of them in white from Halley’s birth announcement.

Ryan sat back in her chair and looked around at the busy squad room. Detectives shared the space easily with patrol cops, making for an atmosphere of camaraderie that bode well for working together. As she looked out over the space, she was filled with a sort of pride in her accomplishment. She would miss the bike duty, no doubt, but she looked forward to having a direct positive impact on young peoples’ lives, and was thankful for the opportunity to do so.

“Look at her, will ya…sitting on her ass already…Jesus, Norden-Zamora…it must be nice.”

Ryan looked up from her reverie into the smiling face of her best friend. Her fitting response was, “And just what do you do all day, Stewart, if it’s not sitting on your ass?”

“Fuck you,” he replied with a wide grin. “So…how does it feel Ry?”

“Pretty damn good, John…but I’ll miss patrol. And my old partner.”

“We’ll always be partners, buddy.”

Ryan didn’t reply…didn’t want to risk hearing her voice crack with emotion…so she nodded and smiled.

“Hey, Sara wants us to take you guys out Friday night…to celebrate. How about it?”

“Wow, that’s nice, John, but I don’t know. We haven’t left the baby yet.”

“She’s six weeks old, Ry…you’ve gotta cut the cord sometime. Do you think you could leave her with Beth or Kris for a few hours?”

Ryan thought a moment. “I think we probably could, yeah. At this point, we would only leave her with one of them or Sara. I’ll talk to Janna, John…see what she thinks. Thanks for the invitation. So, what’re you doing in here?”

“I knew when you were coming in…knew it wouldn’t be the same if I didn’t come in and give you some shit.” He grinned at his friend. “I wanted to make you feel at home.”

Ryan smirked. “Thanks, buddy…it worked.”

“Anytime, bud. Well, I’ve got to get back out there. Those streets are mean, you know.”

“Don’t I know it…and they’ll be a helluva lot meaner once you’re back out there. Tell Micah I said hi.”

“Will do, Ry…good luck here. And let me know about Friday, huh?”

“I’ll do that, John. Take care.”

He saluted her with a grin, turned, and left.

Ryan sat back in her chair again and sighed as she thought about her partner and the times they’d had…both good and rough. I miss him all ready.

The lovely crescent moon hung in the clear sky before them as Ryan escorted her ladies down the downtown sidewalk. The crisp air hung thickly around them, the smell of wood smoke thick from the many chimneys in use on the freezing night, and their breath crystallized in front of them as they talked and breathed.

As she walked arm-in-arm with her wife, Halley’s carrier slung on her right arm, Ryan smiled. Up ahead, near the entrance to their favorite Mexican place, a familiar panhandler caught her eye. As they strode up to the man, he fixed his gaze on them and started to approach, then shrank back as he recognized the tall woman.

Ryan grinned at the disheveled homeless man. “Jimbo, buddy…I didn’t see you panhandling, did I?”

“Officer Ryan…absolutely not, ma’am. No ma’am. How you doin’ tonight?”

“I’m doing great, Jimbo. Been a while…how are you doing?” She asked sincerely.

“Oh, you know…hangin’ in. Just hangin’ in…can’t complain. Say, I’ll watch your car for you while you’re eatin’…let me do that, huh?”

“Sure, Jimbo…if you’re gonna be out here anyway…and if you let me get you some food to take back to the shelter…okay? And hey, that red Mustang behind mine is Officer Stewart’s…could you keep an eye on it too?”

“Sure thing, Officer Ryan…yeah, sure thing. Won’t nobody touch your cars while you’n the little lady are in there.”

“I appreciate it, Jimbo. See you in a bit. You like beef quesadillas, right?”

The man smiled widely, his mostly toothless grin showing how pleased he was that the cop had remembered. “I sure do…that I do!” As the women and their baby entered the warm restaurant he rubbed his hands together gleefully, knowing that his belly would be full later, and that the cop would probably give him a little cash…she usually did. He sauntered happily down the street, pulling his ratty coat closed against the chill wind, and took up his vigil opposite the dark green Explorer…determined to see that no harm came to it.

As the cold winter night blew on outside, the four friends and their two children shared a warm visit inside. Ryan gave their order to the friendly waitress, adding, “Oh, and Rosa, I’ll want a beef quesadilla dinner and a large coffee to go when we’re done.”

“Okay, Ryan. I’ll be right back with your drinks.”

John grinned at his friend. “What’s the extra dinner for Ry? Breastfeeding taking a lot out of you?”

“No, smart a…um, smart guy, Jimbo’s out front. He’s watching the cars for us…it’s his payment.”

“Jesus, Ry…softhearted as always. But hey, he’s not a bad guy. He wasn’t there when we came in.”

“Yeah, well, I caught him panhandling but I’m cutting him some slack.”

“Like I said, Ry…softhearted.” He refilled her glass from the pitcher of 7-Up. “So, buddy, how’d the first week go?”

“Smoothly, John. It’s an adjustment, I’ve gotta tell you, though. I’m not too sure about being a desk jockey.” She added with a grin, “I’ll have to engineer myself more time out in the community.”

Janna smiled at her mate and said, “If anyone can do that, honey, it’s you!”

“Right, Ryan, create some new school programs…put that new Democratic money coming in to some good use.”

“I’m definitely looking into that, Sara.” Ryan smiled at her friend as the blonde handed her 9-month old son a softened tortilla chip.

Janna grinned as the little guy mashed it all around his mouth before getting just a little bit inside. “This worked out okay with the kids along, didn’t it?”

Sara answered, “Yeah, Janna…it was a good idea. But you know, we want to have Halley over some time soon so that you and Ryan can get out for a bit.” When Janna and Ryan both opened their mouths to respond, she added, “Now…we know you don’t feel ready to leave her yet…but you need some alone time, whether you realize it or not. Come on, guys…you started watching John John here for us starting at two months, and it was so great. We didn’t realize how much we needed it until we were out and alone together. So think about it. I mean it!” She directed a pointed gaze at her friends.

“Oh, oh, guys, she means business…take it from me!” John grinned, then added. “She’s right, you know. I know what it’s like not to want to do anything without your baby, but you do need it…so let us know.”

“Yes, sir, Sgt. Stewart!” Ryan saluted.

“God…darn, right Sgt. Norden-Zamora!” He grinned widely at his best friend. “So, Ry, how’s it feel to have underlings?”

“God…darn good, John.” She grinned around her glass of soda.

“She’s a natural leader.” Janna added proudly.

“Natural tyrant, more like it.” John smirked.

“Oh, fu…screw you, John! You wish you were under me.” She returned the smirk.

John waved his hands and exclaimed, “Oh, God, Ry, don’t go there, please!”

“Yes, please you two…let’s not go there again.” Sara added with a tight smile.

Ryan sobered. “Sorry…um, poor choice of words…wasn’t thinking.”

Janna looked from John to Ryan with confusion as she asked, “What’s that about guys?”

Ryan blew out a breath as John sat quietly and Sara said, “Ry…um, you never told Janna about…?”

“No, uh…I meant to but it never came up.” She looked apologetically at her wife. “I’ll tell you later, honey…I promise.” She reached across the baby carrier in the seat between them and grasped Janna’s hand tenderly.

Janna, though intensely curious, knew she could trust her wife to share whatever it was with her later. She could tell, however, that Ryan was a little upset about it.

Shit. Fuckin’ Christ…how could I forget to tell her that? Fuckin’ idiot…she’s gonna think I hid it from her deliberately. Shit… Ryan downed her soda and poured herself more, then refilled Janna’s, afraid to meet her eyes.

My God…she won’t look at me…what the hell is going on? “Ryan…?” She picked up Ryan’s hand again. “Whatever it is…it’s okay, love. Don’t worry about it.”

Ryan met her understanding wife’s eyes, thoroughly grateful to her and for her, and replied, “Thanks, Janna. Um, it’s not really a big deal…just something that I should have shared with you a lot sooner…I honestly never even thought about it.” She looked at John and shrugged, then added, “Because, frankly, it’s not something I ever think about.”

John laughed. “Gee, thanks, Ry! It was that unforgettable, huh?”

Ryan said apologetically, “You know it was a drunken mistake, bud…and something I never would have done otherwise. Nothing personal, buddy…you’re just the wrong gender.” She shrugged.

Janna’s eyes widened in surprise as she gasped, “Oh my God! You two had se…”

“Janna, Jesus, baby, not here, okay?” Ryan implored, embarrassed.

Across the table, John laughed as he choked out, “Oh, come on, Ry! It’s out…why not share it?”

“Christ…”

“I agree with Ryan,” Sara added. “I’d rather not dredge it up.”

John looked at this wife. “Honey, I didn’t even know you then.”

“I know, John, but I was jealous of your beautiful partner the moment I met her, and when I found out you two had a past, I was extremely uncomfortable…so much so that I don’t like to relive it.”

“Well, you know what? I think this is something that we need to put to rest right now. It was an absurd event, completely comical, a huge mistake…on both our parts…and not something either of you should worry about…ever.” John said as he addressed Sara and Janna.

Ryan added, “You have a point, John.”

She looked at Janna who grinned and shrugged, then at Sara, who shrugged resignedly. She turned back to Janna as she began. “Janna, it was over six years ago now. We had only been partners a short time, but were already close friends. But that’s all we were…I made it clear to him that I didn’t do men….had never done men…and that he didn’t have a chance. Besides which, I felt it would be wrong…too complicated for partners on the job to be partners off the job as well. So…”

Janna smiled her encouragement and Ryan continued, after receiving a nod from Sara. “But then one of our patrol sergeants had a bachelor party…I was the only woman invited, of course,”

John interrupted with a smile, “Because no one considered you a woman, Ry!”

“Right smart a…smart mouth. Can I finish?” She directed a pointed gaze at him and he gestured for her to do so.

“So, anyway…we…he and I…both got shit-faced. I mean plastered out of our friggin’ minds…what the hell were they serving, John? Did we ever find that out?”

“Nope, and I hope I never encounter it again. Must’ve been some kind of hooch.”

“Yeah, so, I have no idea how we got to John’s place…neither one of us could remember who drove…which is scarier than sh…uh, hell…two cops.” She shook her head disgustedly and John mirrored the gesture. “After that, at least, I realized that I shouldn’t drive home, so I crashed on his couch.”

She sighed before continuing and Janna encouraged her with a smile. “The next thing I know, I’m in his bed, under him. I figured later that I must have figured, ‘What the hell, sex is sex’…you know how I am, Janna…when I drink…hornier than hell and no sense.”

Janna grinned and shrugged, remembering an alcohol-induced encounter in the ladies room of the Rainbow Lounge.

“So, um, yeah, we did the deed. I remember very little of it…John, your recall wasn’t any better was it?”

“No…only that I had, uh, you know,” he looked around to make sure the conversation was private, “Gotten off.” He shrugged, almost apologetically.

“Don’t worry about it, bud.” Ryan looked at Sara and Janna. “I didn’t, I don’t think. No offense to him…guys just don’t do it for me. Anyway, the next day, after our hangovers had let up some, we talked it out…promised it wouldn’t happen again, nor would it be an issue between us, and it hasn’t been.”

John continued, “Right, not an issue, not even close. Our wives, who mean the world to us, have nothing to worry about. Hell, when she flashed me on her wedding day, I could’ve slapped her. She’s like a sister to me now. Plain and simple.”

Janna sighed. “Wow…”

Sara agreed, “Yeah, wow. It bothered me for a long time, though I knew I had nothing to worry about…but look at her for God’s sake…could she be more gorgeous? I felt severely lacking for months.”

“Sara, that’s…”

“Ry, it’s okay…I’m okay, now. Really.” She smiled warmly to punctuate her point.

“Good, Sara, I’m glad. Hell, when you two first met…Jesus, I’ve never in my life seen a man so smitten. The guys at work gave him major hell. Remember that, John?”

He smiled, “Hell, yeah. I just told them all to, uh, screw themselves. I knew she was it, and there was nothing anyone could say to convince me otherwise.”

“That’s nice, John.”

“Well, Janna, your wife was as bad as I was…worse maybe.” He grinned at his friend as she blushed.

Sara added, “Right, Janna…none of us could believe it when she fell so hard for you. She had been such a devout loner for so long.”

“The Lone Wolf,” John added with a grin.

“Well, my friends, the Lone Wolf has mated for life.” Ryan said as she pulled her wife close. The fact that the restaurant was full of people didn’t deter them from sharing a quick kiss.

“Okay, you two, break it up, break it up. Christ!” John laughed.

Ryan smirked at John as she said to Janna, “Later, baby.”

“You’d better believe it, love.” Janna shared the warm moment with her wife and then looked to her friends and said, “I want you guys to know that she proved her monogamy to me last week when a gorgeous, tall brunette made a pass at her at the dojo.”

Ryan groaned as her friends raised their eyebrows. “Really, Ry?”

“Shit…yeah. What a loser. I made it clear I wasn’t interested, even pointed out my wife and baby, for Christ’s sake, but she just kept trying. It really pissed me off, and I think my little wife here was about ready to take after her with a jo stick.” She grinned widely as she nodded toward Janna.

“Darn right. She was flagrant. It’s a good thing for her I’m a pacifist.”

“Alright, Janna…you go, babe!” John said proudly. “Defend your woman’s honor. So, that was last week? What happened this week?”

Ryan answered, “She didn’t show up for class. I wouldn’t be surprised if we don’t see her in my class again. I hope not anyway.”

“So, guys, other than that, the aikido’s going well?”

Ryan smiled. “Yep…Janna’s my best student…she’s getting her brown belt next week. We’re both loving it.”

“Guys, Ryan’s the most incredible teacher. I knew she would be. She’s articulate, patient, funny…just the greatest,” Janna said proudly as she looked at her wife.

Ryan looked down at her large plate of food. “Thank you, honey. That means a lot to me.”

“Don’t mention it, love.”

“Very cool, buddy. Very cool!”

Later, as they sat together in bed while Janna nursed the baby, Ryan shared with Janna the details of the long-ago encounter. “It really was a joke, honey…no offense to John…but Jesus, it did absolutely nothing for me. I remembered a lot more than I let on to him…I didn’t want to hurt his feelings. I guess…I hope…it was because he was drunk. But he just kind of pumped away, you know? No tenderness, no caressing, no foreplay…some rough kissing, but that’s it.”

“It wasn’t horrible though was it?”

“Well, not completely. It was pleasurable to some extent. You know how it is with a strap-on, honey…it was pleasant enough, but it just never went anywhere for me, and there was no finesse…I think he just expected me to come right along with him as he pounded away. And then he rolled off me and fell asleep, and I’m thinking, ‘Um, hello? Is that it?’ I couldn’t believe it. I truly hope that’s not typical, I really do. I feel for Sara if it is.”

“I’m sure it’s not, honey.”

Ryan thought quietly for a moment before adding, “I was pretty down on myself… pretty disgusted…for a while after that. Hell, I even turned down a three-way not too long after that…and she was a babe. Looked like you, but with longer hair.”

“Oh, yeah?” Janna asked with interest. “Tell me about that.”

“Nothing to tell, Janna. I went in to the Rainbow, sat at the bar, started on my Jack and this cute blonde sidles up, asks me if I want to leave with her. I downed my shot, picked up my jacket and said, ‘Let’s go, babe.’ But she led me to a table where her boyfriend was sitting. She says, ‘Can we make it a threesome?’ I said, ‘Nope’, turned around, and went back to the bar. Went home alone that night, if I recall.”

“Wow…okay.”

“So, anyhow…it did nothing for me…absolutely fuckin’ nothing, baby. It’s a mistake I wouldn’t even make if I got that drunk again. With Harrison Ford. Hell, with Brad Pitt.”

“Mel Gibson? George Clooney?”

Ryan laughed, “Nope!”

“Wow, okay…I understand, love.”

“Oh, I see how it is, I wouldn’t even do George Clooney, so I must be a true dyke, huh?”

“You must be, love, because I think I’d do George Clooney!”

“Janna! Baby, no!”

Janna grinned. “I don’t know, babe…maybe Brad Pitt, too.”

“Oh, Janna, love…you’re killing me, baby…stop!”

“I’m kidding, Ryan. There’s not a person on the planet, baby. No one. Not Lucy Lawless…and she looks like you.” She leaned over and stole a kiss from her beloved, bringing a huge smile to her wife’s beautiful face.

“Same here, my love. No one else. Without a doubt.”

-7-

Six weeks later – early March

Janna laughed heartily as she held her daughter to her chest. They were sitting on a sunny bench at a rest stop, having their lunch, and Ryan was entertaining her with the tale of her recent conversation with their authoritarian softball coach, Sharon.

“I swear, baby, her eyes got this wide!” Ryan held her hands a saucer’s width apart as she bent over in laughter. “But then I said, ‘Oh, did I say we were leaving on the 14th? I meant the 7th’.”

“Ryan! That was mean, honey!” Janna chastised, though it was through a grin.

Ryan returned the grin, her dark eyebrows lifting above her Ray Bans. “I know. And she thought so too.”

“What did she say? Wait a minute, let me cover the baby’s ears.” Janna did so, with another large grin.

Ryan laughed again and replied, mimicking Sharon’s deep, Missouri-tinged voice, “You son of a bitch! You goddamned, fucking son of a bitch! I should throw your ass off this team, Zamora! You fuckin’ well better not be missing the first two games of the season again!”

“Oh, honey…she was mad. That was very dangerous, considering she blames our absence during our New Mexico trip last spring for the team losing the championship.”

“Oh, and the fact that I missed the second half of the season with a broken leg had nothing to do with it? That was an unreasonable assumption and I told her as much.”

“I know, honey, but at the beginning of the season she hadn’t yet been able to line up replacements for us, and she felt that the poor start affected the team mentally. They aren’t used to losing, you know.”

“True, but Christ, Janna, she gets worked up. I asked where that military discipline had disappeared to.” She sighed and took another bite of her sandwich. “Anyhow, she’s okay now. I told her that only an act of God would prevent us from making the first game this year.” As she chewed her lunch, she sat back against the table and spread her long legs out in front of her, crossing them at the ankles.

Janna did the same thing and sighed happily. As they relaxed side-by-side, in nearly matching outfits of Levi’s, polo shirts, and Birkenstocks, they made a lovely picture. And baby made three. “God, this sun is nice, Ryan. The baby seems to love it, too.”

“Yeah, she does.” Ryan grinned. “Little sun worshipper!” She reached over and lifted the receiving blanket up over the back of her head. “She doesn’t need a sunburn, though.”

“Nope, thanks, love.” She glanced down at her daughter. “Grandfather has put her to sleep.”

Ryan grinned and threw her arm across Janna’s shoulders. “That happens to her Mommy, too. Every time we lay out in the sun, she falls asleep.”

“Sleeping happens to be one of my favorite activities…especially now.”

“Yeah, I hear that love…me too…and I never thought I’d be thinking that…but Jesus, kids tire you out. Even when they’re tiny like this little squirt.” She smiled warmly down at her baby and Janna saw their reflections in her sunglasses.

Janna returned the smile and snuggled against her mate. “It’s finally starting to feel like spring.”

“Yeah, especially down here. It’s milder here in the south than it is at home.”

“True, but even at home. Did you notice my daffodils?” Janna grinned cutely up at her mate.

“I did, baby…they were gorgeous…and the tulips. Your hard work last fall paid off beautifully this spring.”

“Thanks, love.” She sighed again, enjoying the warmth from her mate even more than that from the sun. “Tomorrow afternoon we’ll be in Las Cruces.”

“Mm, and getting ready for your birthday dinner.”

“Ryan, I hope you haven’t gone overboard.”

Ryan looked mock-seriously at her and pointed to her chest as she said, grinning, “Who, me?”

“Yes, you. I know you’ve been up to something…all those phone calls to New Mexico…and emails coming in marked, ‘Ryan’s Eyes Only’. Your brother is a little obvious, honey, for someone with a high security clearance.”

Ryan laughed. “I know…I told him the same thing. He said I wouldn’t know a security clearance if it bit me in the ass, and told me that I need to get my own email account. I told him not to hold his breath.”

“Good.” She gazed at the surrounding mountains, enjoying their stark beauty. “Mmm…it’s too bad we can’t hit Disneyland while we’re down here. I haven’t been there in ages.”

“Me either. Let’s give it a year or two, so Halley can enjoy it somewhat, huh?”

“Let’s.”

Ryan stretched, dislodging her mate from her side. “Well, babe, this is nice, but let’s get back on the road. It’s a long way to Phoenix yet.”

“Mm, okay. My turn to drive. You try to get a nap…you’re not getting enough sleep.”

“Neither of us are, honey…but I’m fine. We’ll rest tonight….and when we get to Zac’s.”

Later, as the sun set behind them in the west with a burst of orange brilliance, they entered the inviting city of Phoenix, quickly finding the comfortable Holiday Inn just off the Interstate.

After checking in, Janna and Halley opened the door to their room as Ryan handled their bags. The door swung open onto a comfortable suite, and Ryan exclaimed, “Geez, babe, you do know how to book the hotel rooms.” She set their bags down and looked around her.

“Thanks, love.” Janna grinned widely as she looked around at the large suite. She approached her wife with a sly grin and said, “There’s a whirlpool, baby.”

“God, Janna…” She pulled Janna and the baby close and they shared a family hug. “Hear that, little one? There’s a great big bathtub for us to play in.”

Halley regarded her mother seriously before grinning, her entire little face lighting up, and then the joy traveled down her tiny body in a wave, ending with a kick against her Mommy’s ribs.

“Ow, sweetie pie! Ryan…I think she’s gonna be a goalie rather than a ballplayer. And don’t think I didn’t see those Youth Soccer League forms that arrived in the mail last week.”

“Just gathering information, babe.” Ryan said with a jaunty grin as she reached for her daughter. “Come here baby puma, let’s check this place out.”

“You two do that…I’ll order some dinner. What do you feel like, honey?”

“A cheeseburger, fries and a shake sounds good, love.”

Janna scowled as she perused the menu and shook her head as she realized that she was having only a minimal impact on her wife’s eating habits. Mm, chef’s salad, baked potato and chocolate milkshake. That sounds good. And cake for dessert. Two cakes…we both have to keep up our caloric intake.

After placing the order, she joined her family on the balcony. It offered an enchanting view of the city at night and the surrounding mountains were dotted with lights.

“Nice view.”

“Mm, Janna, yes. Halley says she wants to sit in the whirlpool until dinner arrives.”

“Does she? She’s full of good ideas lately. Well, let’s go, then.” She led her family back inside and entered the large bath suite to prepare the tub. When Janna returned to the bedroom, her two loves were both lying naked on the bed, playing together. Halley was on her back and Ryan leaned over her with a colorful rattle, shaking it playfully, her face lit by a large grin.

“What are you two doing?” Janna asked happily as she plopped beside Ryan on the bed.

Her wife grinned and pulled her close. “Halley’s showing me how this toy works.”

“It looks like she’s making you do all the work.”

“I told you she’s smart, Janna…just like you, baby.”

“Ryan Swift Puma…”

“What, Janna White Owl?”

“Stop diminishing yourself. You’re one of the brightest, most capable women I’ve ever known.” She leaned more solidly against her mate and added, “And I love you very, very much.”

Ryan answered her with a heartfelt kiss, and Halley interrupted them with a series of gurgles and baby almost-giggles.

“Oh my God, Ryan…she does like to be the center of attention. You two are gonna have to work that out between you.”

“Me?” Ryan asked, shocked. “I’m not the rock star, baby.”

“Ex, love, and never a star.”

“Honey, that’s not what ‘Rolling Stone’ said.”

“Ryan, the writers for ‘Rolling Stone’ are nothing but self-important assholes…their opinion never meant a thing to me, and it certainly doesn’t now. My priorities are so far removed from what they once were that it’s not even funny.”

“Janna, I’m sorta proud of what your priorities were…and what you accomplished. Come on, baby, I know you weren’t in it for the chicks…like most are,”

Janna interrupted with a grin, “True…a lot of the women as well as the men.”

“Right. Honey, what you did was noteworthy…don’t knock yourself for it. Don’t you diminish yourself.”

Janna inclined her head slightly as she gazed at her mate and slowly smiled. “Thank you, Ryan. It means a lot to me that you feel that way.”

“Come ‘ere, baby…I love you.” Ryan rolled onto her back and pulled her wife over onto her stomach, and they engaged in more of the heartfelt activity that Halley objected to. And she did, loudly.

“Sweetheart…what’s wrong my little one? Don’t you like to see your mommas loving? Come here, baby.” Janna spoke sweetly to their daughter as she lifted her to Ryan’s chest and she and Ryan made over her.

Ryan whispered, as if Halley could understand, “Jesus, Janna, she needs to be the center of attention at not yet three months? We’ve got to nip that in the bud.”

“We will, honey…but remember what the spirit dudes told us…she’s a natural leader…she has been a leader of men in many, many lives. She’ll need some guidance and we’ll give it to her.” She brought her infant’s soft cheek to her lips and kissed her tenderly. “I think we’re the right people to gently show her that a true leader serves her people…is sensitive to their needs above her own. She’s an Old Soul, love…it will come easily enough for her when she’s old enough to understand it.”

“If you say so, Janna…you’ve studied this stuff a lot longer and a lot more intensively than I have.”

“And I’m grateful that I have the knowledge…it’s very useful to have this information about our child…and really, about everyone close to us. I mean, I now totally understand why my brother, a very masculine straight man, is so artistic. And why my mother is so studious.”

“Yeah, babe, good point. The knowledge has been helpful to me, too. Honey, what are we…to each other? My grandfather calls us Twin Souls, but what does Michael call it?”

“Essence Twins. They use the term ‘Essence’ for ‘soul’. ‘Essence Twin’ is their term for the closest soulmate bond.”

“Essence Twins, right. It’s cool that it’s similar to the ancient native term.”

“Mm, very. Michael is extremely knowledgeable. I consider them my spirit guides.”

“Mm, baby, I do too, now. We’ve had some fuc…um, great talks, Janna. They’re very funny!”

“Yeah, I know! I think some of that may be Anna’s personality coming through too, though. She has the same kind of dry humor. Any channeled information comes through the channel’s own filters, no matter how good they are at putting their own personality aside while bringing the information in.”

“Good point. Yeah, she does have a dry wit. But also warm at the same time.”

“Yeah. Hey, speaking of warm, are we getting into the tub?”

“Yeah, Halley says she’s ready.”

“Oh, she does? Tell me, are you two telepathic as well?”

“We are. We have our own secret language.” Ryan said as she picked the happy baby up and hugged her to her breast. Halley squirmed and cooed happily under her Momma’s loving attention. “Hello, little Miss Pretty Blue Eyes…hello my little love. Are you ready for your bath? Yes?” Ryan looked pointedly at Janna. “She’s ready for her bath now, Mom.”

“Cool!”

A few minutes later, she was splashing happily in the large tub with her mothers. Ryan watched her daughter and exclaimed, “Janna, she’s gonna wear herself out!”

“Good.” Was the saucy reply.

Ryan found out later exactly why Janna thought that was good.

~~~~~~~~~~
“Grandmother is luminous tonight.” Ryan said softly as she gazed at the full moon. “Is it possible that I feel her energy even more strongly here?”

“Possibly…because the energy of this region is different than the energy at home. Somehow, it’s stronger, cleaner, more pure. That’s the sense I get, anyway. I’m not sure exactly why it seems that way…from a metaphysical standpoint.”

“Could it be because of all of the vortexes nearby?” Ryan asked as she continued to gaze at the moon.

“Could be…it’s also, historically, a very spiritual region.”

“So true, babe…as we well know.” Ryan wrapped her arms more tightly around the blonde in her lap and kissed her neck.

“I’m looking forward to the sweat, Ryan.”

“God, Janna, so am I. It’s been many years since I’ve done one.”

“I hope I have a vision, Ryan. I won’t be disappointed if I don’t, but it will be cool if I do.”

“That’s a good attitude, baby…they don’t come every time. You are pretty happy and balanced right now, so you may not need any extra guidance at this time. I feel the same way about myself.”

“Ryan, I’m not pretty happy, I am extremely happy right now.” She closed her eyes and felt the moonlight on her face. “I feel very honored at the invitation…I know that not all Native people agree with Whites trying to walk the Red Path. I appreciate Marty’s cousin’s including me.”

“Janna, you are Native…don’t discount that. The amount of blood doesn’t matter. Remember that the Cherokee…your tribe…say, ‘You are Native to the last drop of blood’. Plus, you are an honorary member of the Comanche tribe now, as well as a member by marriage, because many Indian peoples honor homosexuals.” She kissed her wife’s neck again as she added, “Besides, you walk the Red Path even more than I do, and Marty’s cousin knows that.”

“In any case, honey, I’m appreciative. We’ll have to pick up some blankets and tobacco to share with him.”

“Definitely.” Ryan pulled Janna close and encouraged her to turn in her lap and straddle her. When Janna was settled in the new position, Ryan whispered against a soft, triple-studded earlobe, “But right now I want to share with you.”

Janna closed her eyes at the touch of Ryan’s hot breath against her ear and said, “Mm, I like the sound of that. What did you have in mind?”

Ryan answered her with her lips, very softly, on her breastbone.

“Yes, Ryan, I like that idea. Here on the balcony?”

Ryan mumbled against Janna’s chest, “Here for a bit. It’s dark.”

“Mmm…okay.”

Ryan kissed her way up, softly, gently, to Janna’s mouth and their tongues met and danced together ardently. Under the light of the moon, their friend, they necked passionately for long minutes, sharing their love respectfully. They were both very happy to be back in the land of their ancestors and of their past selves, and that joy was translated into their expression of love.

A short time later, they shared their love together in a much more intimate manner in the privacy of the bedroom, as their daughter slept soundly in her portable crib. Luna’s light streamed in through the south-facing window, illuminating them as their entwined bodies writhed as one. Their soft moans of pleasure rose from the bed and floated out the open window on the cool night air.

Late the next afternoon, they arrived at Zac and Marty’s small ranch on the outskirts of Las Cruces. The whitewashed adobe walls of the ranch-style home were bathed in a warm, pleasing, golden hue as the light emitted by Grandfather Sun slanted through the atmosphere, just before he dipped below the horizon. The roof tiles shone a rich, dark red in the lowering light.

As they approached the ranch, several horses could be seen grazing in the meadow adjacent to the house. It was a pleasant, somewhat surprising, patch of green amidst the surrounding desert landscape, with its mountainous backdrop, and had not existed the previous time Ryan and Janna had visited.

“Look, Ryan…horses!” Janna exclaimed as Ryan pulled to a stop on the circular drive in front of the house. Janna gazed wide-eyed at the beautiful appaloosas and palominos.

“I see them, babe…Jesus, I love the Indian paints…used to always ride them in Texas.”

“Ryan, the golden ones are like the horse from our dreams…” her voice said in awe, trailing off as she glanced at Ryan and saw the look of recognition there.

“They sure are, Janna. Jesus…” The beautiful golden animals had white manes and tails, just like their ancient counterparts’ horse had. Their hides were all the more golden in the light of the setting sun.

Janna grinned as she rubbed Ryan’s thigh. “Whoa…déjà vu.”

“Ditto.” Ryan shook her head, as the very real feeling of déjà vu washed over her, leaving her feeling somewhat confused and more than a little amazed.

As they sat quietly in the Explorer, the front door opened and their brother and sister-in- law jogged out. As she caught the movement in her peripheral vision, Ryan turned her head and smiled as she saw her brother’s smiling face. His wide, white grin mirrored hers as Janna threw the door open and greeted them.

“Hey guys…you made it!” Zac laughed.

“Yep…how’s it going bro?” Ryan said as she exited and smiled warmly at him.

“Just great…you two look great. Janna, baby…you’re still glowing!” He pulled Janna into a warm hug and pulled back to look at her. Over his shoulder, his wife Marty smiled as Ryan approached. The cop pulled the Native woman into a warm hug and kissed her cheek.

“Hey you guys…it’s great to be back. And,” she turned to the back door of the car, and said as she pulled it open, “We’ve got someone special for you to meet.” She reached in and unstrapped the sleeping baby, then gently pulled her out. Ryan held her close to her chest and tenderly kissed her head as she turned to face her family.

At the site of the baby, Marty’s face melted into a happy smile and she reached towards Halley. “Oh, my…may I?”

Ryan, proud Momma, smiled widely. “Sure.” She gently placed her precious daughter into the arms of her aunt. Technically speaking, she was her stepmother, but for all practical purposes, would assume the role of aunt by marriage. “Ryan, Janna, she’s beautiful. Absolutely beautiful. I can see you both in her face.” She gazed down warmly at the infant, feeling an instant connection with her. She looked to her husband. “Zac…come see your sweet little niece.”

Janna took Ryan’s arm as they watched their family make over their baby and said quietly, “Niece-slash-daughter.”

Zac turned his eyes from his daughter to his sister-in-law and said with great feeling, “She’s my niece, Janna. You two are her parents.” Janna and Ryan looked at each other and Ryan pulled her into her side, kissing her head and then laying her cheek against the soft blonde hair.

Zac added, “As a matter of fact, I have those papers you sent me to sign. Come on in…dinner’s about ready, and we can go over things.”

Ryan nodded and nudged Janna toward the house. Marty still happily cradled the baby, as Zac looked on over her shoulder, so she pulled their two bags and Halley’s diaper bag out of the car, then followed her family inside.

She carried their bags on into the guest room, with which they were so familiar, leaving them by the bed, and then rejoined Janna, the baby, Zac and Marty in the comfortable family room.

Zac and Marty sat on the couch, and were still making over the baby, so Ryan joined Janna on the loveseat. She leaned against the back of the comfortable seat and pulled Janna against her as she watched her brother fawn over his niece/daughter. Beside her, Janna sighed contentedly as she watched the happy scene and Ryan let her gaze drift up from the happy faces of her family to the surrounding warm space.

The room was paneled in a warm, light pine. Pinon? Thought Ryan. Whatever it is, it is quite attractive. The matching furniture pieces were covered in a pleasing Navajo print design, in desert colors. This is actually a lot like our family room. A large entertainment center contained a television and stereo system, and a matching unit next to it held dozens of videotapes and many more CD’s.

Just like their home, this room contained many Native American art pieces and cultural objects. On the rough pine table in front of them, a large abalone shell filled with sand sat, holding a smudge stick.

Ryan smiled, feeling very at home, and not because she and Janna had spent many happy days there. “Marty, Zac, being here is like being at home….right down to the sage on the coffee table.”

“Glad you feel that way, Sis. I really am.” He looked from Ryan to Janna. “Guys, your baby could not be cuter.”

“Well thanks, Zac, but you had more to do with that than I did.” Ryan smirked faintly.

“Same genes, Sis. She looks a lot like you.” He pulled his arm from around his wife as he said, “The papers you need are right here….all filled out.” He leaned forward and picked up a large envelope, then handed it across the table to Ryan.

Ryan looked down at it and sighed. She bit her lower lip before swallowing hard and looking up at her brother. “Zac, I can’t tell you how much we appreciate this…there just aren’t words, Red Hawk.”

“Sis, I’m so happy to do it. I did the first part, now this finishes it. You can adopt her, Ryan…make her your daughter legally. Hell, she is in every other sense of the word.” He gazed sincerely at his older sister and smiled. “Really, Sis…giving up my parental rights is fine with me. She couldn’t have a better second parent than you.”

Zac’s words nearly overwhelmed Ryan and she closed her eyes as she took a deep breath. She let the breath out, sighing deeply, and was pulled into her mate’s embrace. Janna held her tough wife tenderly while her tears flowed and gently kissed her silky black hair. She looked over at Zac and mouthed a silent, “Thank you,” as her eyes conveyed the depth of her gratitude.

He nodded and picked up his wife’s free hand before looking back down at his niece. The family passed the short time before dinner was ready in a quiet silence, broken occasionally by easy conversation.

Before going in to dinner, the small family retired to their room to freshen up and rest for a few minutes. As they entered the space that was so special to them, Ryan pulled Janna close and hugged her tightly. With the baby resting between them, they both felt complete…as if life could not get any better…and they both swam in the feeling.

“God, Janna…” Ryan sighed.

“I know, baby. This is what we were born for. This right here.” Janna nuzzled the strong shoulder in front of her.

“Exactly.” She kissed the top of Janna’s head, then reached down and gently tilted her face up so that their lips could meet. They shared the kiss for a minute with Halley watching, quietly rapt, as was becoming her nature.

Ryan lingered over Janna’s lips before pulling back and she gazed at her daughter, who sat quietly in Janna’s arms. “She didn’t interrupt us this time, Janna.”

“No, she didn’t. Do you think it’s possible she picked up on the meaning of the moment? Of the special energy we’re sharing?”

“I don’t know…it doesn’t seem possible, but it sure looks that way.” As she gazed at Halley, the little imp smiled at her Momma and gave a happy kick, accompanied by a series of vocal gurgles. “Is that right, sweetheart? That is so cool!” Ryan tickled her daughter’s tummy as she addressed her, causing more happy gurgles and vocalizations. “Come here you two loves of my life…let’s rest for a while.”

“Gladly, love. Come on sweetheart, let’s get on the bed with Momma.”

They settled on the bed on their backs, Janna with her head pillowed on Ryan’s stomach, and sat the baby next to them. Halley sat up against the pillows, in the “V” created by her mothers’ bodies, her increasingly strong little body supporting her well. Ryan reached a long arm behind herself and deftly reached into the diaper bag, digging out a brightly colored toy. She waved the red and yellow rattle in front of Halley, who reached for it with a happy smile. She rather deftly, for her age, grasped it and her mother let it go. It went straight into her little mouth, and her eyes lit up as she explored it with one of her most sensitive organs.

“She loves that rattle, Ryan. Good choice.”

“Mm, yeah…I’m glad she does. Well, you know, it’s one of those developmental toys…with those moving parts inside and the little noisy bits…she can see that her actions have consequences.” She chuckled, adding, “Though right now, she’s just happy to see the spirals turn.”

“Mm, right…it keeps her interest. I like the soft ends that she can chew on safely, too.”

“Speaking of chew on…she loves that damn pacifier. I’m not sure that was a good idea.” Ryan remarked with chagrin.

“Honey, they say now that it’s fine. Some babies have a strong sucking impulse and it’s okay if that comforts them. As far as I’m concerned, it’s better than her thumb…at least we can take it away when she gets older…my poor mom had to deal with an eight year old who still sucked her thumb…destroyed my teeth.”

“Did you, baby? That long?” Ryan asked as she rubbed Janna’s arm.

“Mm, hm…I sure did. And slept with my blankie.” She turned her face and grinned shyly at her wife. “You wouldn’t understand that, I guess.”

“Oh, I think I can. I, um, had a special stuffed bunny that I slept with until I was twelve.” She looked down at her hand where it caressed Janna’s arm, somewhat embarrassed. “Johnny Rabbit.”

“Johnny Rabbit? That sad little pink bunny with the fur worn off that sits on the top shelf of our closet?” Janna asked with a wide-eyed, astonished grin.

Ryan returned the grin sheepishly. “Yeah. I couldn’t bear to throw him out.” She looked at Janna and shook her head. “Christ.”

“Ryan, I love that! Don’t be embarrassed. I, um, still have my blankie, too.” She turned onto her side and rested her cheek on Ryan’s stomach, resting one hand on her daughter’s chubby little leg. “Um, in fact, when you were in the hospital and we had that horrible fight?”

Ryan winced and nodded.

“I slept with it.” She sighed, remembering the intense pain she had felt during that one-night separation. “What a horrible night that was, Ryan. The worst of my life. I held onto that blankie and your pillow…they helped me to get through the night…and what a long night that was.”

Ryan felt her soulmate’s pain, which merged with her own at the memory. “I know Janna…Christ. I don’t ever want to spend another night apart.” She moved her hand from Janna’s arm to her face and caressed her cheek gently. “And I never want to have another fight like that either.”

“We won’t Ryan. Those were extraordinary circumstances. You were in agonizing pain, mental as well as physical, and I was terribly sick from the pregnancy.” She grasped the long fingers that were lightly grazing her cheek and kissed them. “We haven’t had a fight since then, have we?”

“Well…except for that occasion a few weeks later, after I came home…when I broke your guitar and you took off on the bike?” She reminded her mate gently, reliving the pain and embarrassment of that little scene.

“Ah, true, yes. Not since then. Still, love, the same factors were at work. After that, when we talked it out, things were great again.” She raised her eyebrows as she nodded, trying to punctuate her point.

“Yeah…that’s true, baby. Things have been great. In fact,” she pulled Janna up along her strong body, so that she was partly laying atop Ryan, “Things are awesome. Better than awesome. Every day is better then the one before.” She captured Janna with her brilliant, piercing eyes, which were sparkling with the love she was feeling, and drew her in. Janna succumbed and kissed her deeply. They quickly became lost in each other, as was their habit, and several minutes later, when his quiet knock wasn’t answered, Zac opened the door to see his sisters making out while their daughter sat beside them, happily gumming her toy.

He shook his head, grinned widely and said, “Lord, you two…is there something about this room?”

Ryan grinned against Janna’s mouth and gave her one last, deep stroke with her tongue before raising her head and looking at her brother, saying rakishly, “Goddamn right, Zac. We fucked our brains out in this room and got pregnant…that energy will live on in here for years.”

Zac shook his head as Janna gasped and slapped her naughty mate playfully. She felt her cheeks burn with embarrassment as she said, “Ryan, maybe I should start fining you…the transgression you just committed would almost pay for Halley’s college tuition. She’s sitting right here, for God’s sake!”

“Oh, baby, Christ…she’s all caught up in her toy…she doesn’t even know we’re here right now.”

“Ryan Swift Puma Norden-Zamora…”

“Ooh, Sis…I think you’re in the doghouse! You wanna just grab a blanket and set up your bed in the horse barn now? While it’s still a little light out?”

Ryan looked quickly at her daughter, noted that she was still engrossed with her toy, and flipped her brother off happily. When Janna opened her mouth to chastise her again, Ryan pulled her down and captured her lips before she could utter a word. Janna quickly forgot what she was mad at and Zac shook his head again and quietly closed the door.

-8-

Janna blushed crimson as her family sang, “Happy birthday, dear Janna…happy birthday to you!” For the second time that night, her cheeks and ears burned hotly and she slapped playfully at her mate. Ryan, bursting with joy as she sang to her partner, took the gentle hit with a grin.

“Okay, now, baby, make a wish and blow them out before they start a fire!” Ryan laughed as she indicated the cake overflowing with thirty-four candles.

Janna grinned at her mate and looked at each of her friends in turn. “I guess I’d better, huh?” She closed her eyes and sighed, then furrowed her brows in concentration as she thought of a wish. Geez…I want happiness for my wife and children more than anything else…okay, I wish for my wife and children and I to have long, happy, productive lives together. She repeated the wish silently as she leaned over the cake and blew with all her might. Ryan added her hot air, and together they extinguished all the candles.

“Yay, Janna! All right, baby…you did it.” Ryan threw her arm around her mate as she laughed happily.

“With your help, love…thanks.” She leaned into her mate and shared a quick kiss with her. “Love you,” she whispered.

“Love you too, baby. So much.” Ryan returned the sentiment and gave her a quick squeeze, then backed away so that Janna could cut the cake. Marty added scoops of ice cream to each plate and they all sat around the large dining room table to eat the delicious chocolate dessert.

“Mm, Marty, this is wonderful. I love German chocolate…how did you know?” Janna asked around a mouthful of the delightful confection.

“Oh, I had several top secret communications with an admirer of yours.” Marty said with a conspiratorial wink at Ryan.

“Mm, hm. I saw some of those communications…it took all of my willpower not to open those messages and read them before she got home from work.” She took a spoonful of chocolate fudge ice cream and savored it, closing her eyes and licking her lips.

Ryan, sitting beside her, added, “We knew we could trust you to be good.” She neatly separated a bite of cake with her fork and leaned close to her wife, offering it to her.

Janna accepted the offering and with twinkling eyes, made a return offering, sharing a kiss with her wife. “Mm, Janna…good.” Ryan’s eyes twinkled back at her. She leaned forward and licked a bit of chocolate from Janna’s upper lip, eliciting a groan from her brother, who sat across the table from them.

“Ugh, you guys…do you have to do that?” Zac looked mournfully at them, imploring them with furrowed brows.

“Sorry, Zac…can’t help it.” Ryan’s eyes sparkled as she shrugged apologetically at her brother.

“Yeah, right.”

“It’s true, Zac,” Janna added. Looking her tough, but adorable, mate in the eyes she added, “We can’t help it.”

Zac’s reply was to throw his hands up in surrender, while his wife giggled. Marty added, “Ryan, Janna, don’t worry about it…we do it too…he just doesn’t want you to know it.” She elbowed her husband of five months as he groaned again.

“I give up…I’m outnumbered three to one,” Zac said with a frown.

“It takes a big man to admit when he’s beaten, Zac.” Ryan encouraged her brother with a grin.

“Gee, thanks, Puma.”

“Don’t mention it, Red Hawk.” Ryan lifted her eyebrows at her brother before returning her attention to her cake and ice cream.

Several minutes later, Halley was heard from, as she sat in her carrier on the couch in the next room. “Oops, Janna, look who’s awake. It’s my turn.” She took a last bite of cake and stood up as she wiped her mouth, setting the napkin on her empty plate.

“You want to bring her in here, love?” She glanced at Marty and Zac. “Do you mind if Ryan nurses her in here?”

The Native couple looked at each other and shook their heads. Marty answered, “Of course not, Janna…that would be fine.” Zac nodded his agreement as he served himself another slice of cake.

Ryan picked up her fussy daughter and held her close. “Okay, sweetheart, Momma’s here…Momma’s here, don’t worry. Let’s get you a clean diaper and then we’ll eat, okay?”

She carried her daughter back into the guest room and grabbed a clean receiving blanket from her bag, tossing it open onto the bed and then gently laying her infant down on it. “Are you dirty, punkin? Or just wet? Let Momma check.” Ryan unsnapped her warm sleeper, laying it open and pulled off the plastic waterproof pants.

Halley gazed up at her with a look of complete trust as her Momma winced. “Ooh, we’re dirty…very, very dirty.” Ryan looked her daughter pointedly in the eye as she said, “You’re gonna need a new sleeper, my little honey.”

She directed her attention back down to the sopping cotton diaper and noted with a measure of distaste that the little mess had seeped out from the diaper and run down the baby’s legs. She removed the warm, yellow, terrycloth sleeper and the equally soiled tiny t-shirt and, holding a large hand gently on her daughter’s belly, she used her other hand to dig in the nearby Winnie-the-Pooh emblazoned diaper bag for the plastic container of wet wipes. She popped the flip top and pulled out a fragrant wipe, then proceeded to gently clean her daughter of the small disaster.

As she lie there naked, Halley, apparently feeling her freedom, began to kick her legs wildly, and gurgled happily as she looked up into her beautiful mother’s eyes. Eyes whose brilliance and hue closely matched her own. The dark, liquid blue that she had been born with had lightened into the piercing light blue of the Zamora clan. A color that belied her part Comanche, Cherokee, Hispanic and Greek culture, borrowing more from her Mommy’s Irish and Scandinavian heritage.

Ryan gazed into the eyes that so closely mirrored her own and fell under their spell. “You’re my beautiful girl, aren’t you? You look so much like your Mommy…yes you do.” Ryan was filled with love for her child, for only about the hundredth time, literally, that day and sighed deeply. Despite her shock of fuzzy, black hair and bright blue eyes, Halley did resemble her birth mother. She had Janna’s cute nose and elfin chin, as well as her cherubic mouth.

While Ryan cleaned her daughter of the sweet-smelling yellow-brown mess, Janna entered the room. “There you are…I was starting to wonder.” She gazed down at her baby and smiled, eliciting a return smile from her daughter.

“Yep, we had a huge mess, Mommy. A big girl sized mess…all over everything.” Ryan said as she smiled down at her baby.

Janna wrinkled her nose, “Ooh, okay, I thought that’s what I smelled.” She looked at Ryan and grinned apologetically. “Sorry, love.”

“No big deal. Our baby’s shit doesn’t stink, Janna…you know that!” Ryan said with a smirk.

Janna elbowed her playfully. “Language, Ryan. You’re right, though. Breast milk poops are very mild mannered. Sara says we’ll really notice a change when she starts eating other food.” She picked up the soiled diaper and clothes and took them into the bathroom to rinse out, then brought them back and dropped them into the scented plastic bag they had brought for the purpose. Later, when they arrived back home, the diaper would go into the large green plastic bag for the diaper service pick up.

“I’m glad we’re sticking with the breast milk for a good long while, then.” Ryan said with a smile as she dusted Halley with a little baby cornstarch. Janna retrieved clean clothes, diaper and pants from the bag and helped Ryan dress her. When she was all dressed, Ryan picked her up and kissed her cheek. “There we go, Miss Halley, all nice and clean and ready for your supper. Come on little Miss Pretty Blue Eyes…let’s go eat.” She held the bright-eyed baby to her shoulder and carried her back to the dining room, trailed by her wife.

Ryan settled comfortably into the high-backed antique chair and handed the baby to Janna as she pulled up her shirt and unlatched the front flap of her bra, exposing her breast. Janna then handed her the baby again and Ryan settled her along her left arm as Halley latched onto her adeptly. Ryan pulled her close with a warm smile and the baby rested her left hand on her Momma’s breast as she closed her eyes happily and nursed voraciously.

Janna leaned down and gently kissed her wife’s head before sitting next to her. Ryan looked warmly at her, returning the smile.

“Ryan, that is so cool. I didn’t know that was a possibility.” Zac said as he gazed proudly at his sister.

“I didn’t either, Zac. I’m glad Janna knew about it, or I would have missed out on this.” She looked into her brother’s eyes as she added, “It’s the most incredible thing I’ve ever experienced. I highly recommend it.”

Zac nodded, acknowledging his sister’s opinion, but added, “I’m afraid I don’t have the equipment for it, but Marty plans to do it when we get around to having one of our own.” He looked at his wife and waggled his eyebrows.

Janna grinned. “Anything you want to tell us, guys?”

Marty laughed. “No, Janna, not yet. We’re waiting a little while…not too long, we think, but a little while yet.”

“Good, because I highly recommend parenthood. She’s turned our lives upside down, but in the best possible way.” She looked at her wife and caught her eye. “I had no idea it was possible to feel such an instant, all-consuming love.” Ryan smiled and nodded her agreement and then looked back down tenderly at their daughter. Janna added, “We really feel complete…our relationship was great before, but it’s awesome now.” Ryan looked up and locked eyes with her wife, communicating the nearly infinite love she felt for her and nodded once, bringing tears to Janna’s eyes.

“Wow, Jesus…I can feel the love between you two. I hope you don’t mind my saying that.” Both Ryan and Janna smiled shyly and shrugged. Zac continued, “I felt it when I came up for your wedding and was amazed that it was so strong that I could feel it. But Christ, now…I swear the air nearly crackles between you.”

Marty nodded and added, “Yes, and to anyone even slightly gifted with the ability to see energy, the glow around you and between you is intense.”

Janna remarked, “Well, Marty, both Ryan and I can see energy and we see the same thing between you and Zac.”

“Really?” Zac said, wide-eyed.

“Yep, bro. I would guess that you two have the soulmate thing going on too. It’s pretty incredible, isn’t it?”

Zac looked reverently at his mate as he replied, “That it is, Sis. And a blessing.” He smiled warmly at his wife and then broke the mood, as only a guy could, by saying, “Hey, uh, Ryan…we were wondering if you were still breastfeeding too, but as soon as you got out of the car, we could tell you were. He raised a thick, expressive eyebrow and smirked at his sister.

“You would notice that, Zac.” She chuckled, “I had to get a size larger uniform shirt when I went back to work after my parental leave ended.” She looked rakishly at Janna as she added, “Yep, the side benefits of breast feeding are pretty god damned nice! Check out Janna’s set.”

“Ryan!”

“What baby? I’m paying you a compliment!”

“Shit, Ry, still a dog.” Zac contributed.

“I am not! I’m just not afraid to say that I’m enjoying my wife’s assets.” She raised her eyebrows at Janna. “And she’s enjoying mine.”

Janna’s response was a groan as she laid her head on her arms and covered her blushing face.

Everyone enjoyed a laugh and then the family shared the special time quietly as Halley tugged at Ryan’s breasts, finishing her meal nearly a half hour later.

~~~~~~~~~~
“Ryan, what is this?” Janna asked with surprise as she gaped wide-eyed at the huge gift-wrapped item sitting on the hearth.

Her mate grinned slyly. “You’ll have to open it to find out.”

She turned to her mate and planted her hands on her hips, raising her eyebrows as she replied, “I thought I asked you not to make a fuss.”

“Well, Janna, you know how that it is…when you care about someone, you just feel like making a fuss. Now go, sit down over there so we can watch you open it.”

Janna did not respond, as she knew perfectly well that Ryan had a very good point. She had just used one of Janna’s own arguments…verbatim…and could not very well be called on it. So she shook her head at her mate, sighed, and sat beside the humongous box. As she gazed at it, trying to guess what could possibly be in it, she asked, “What on Earth did you do, Ryan and how did you manage to get it here?”

Ryan grinned at her mate as she said, “Ah, ah, ah, now…first things first. You need to open it. Come on, Janna!”

She was like a little kid on Christmas and Janna grinned at her. “Oh, all right…but I hope it’s not something embarrassing.”

“Oh, yeah, right, not like a $15,000 Harley-Davidson motorcycle is, huh?” Ryan smirked at her overly generous mate, who had purchased the bike for her before they were even married.

“Okay, smarty. Come here and help me open it then.”

Ryan happily obeyed, handing Janna’s camera to Marty so that she could snap pictures, and flitted over to stand on the other side of the large package. It was wrapped in a lustrous red paper and measured a good four feet long by three feet deep and high. She eyed her mate. “Come on, baby, just rip into it.”

From across the room, where she sat on her uncle’s knee, Halley squealed and happily lifted a chubby palm in the air, which held her Momma’s favorite rattle.

“Oh, all right, help me, love.” Janna said as she began ripping the pretty paper off. Ryan grinned as she watched and began to tear the paper from her side of the box at the same time. The flash from Janna’s Pentax lit the room several times as the spouses ripped away at the present together. When it was partially uncovered, Janna gasped. She had uncovered the word, “Peavey.”

“Ryan…an amplifier?”

“Keep goin’, babe,” Ryan said through a wide grin. She stopped unwrapping to let Janna have the honor and her mate suddenly squealed when she had removed the paper down to the floor.

“Oh my God! A Stratocaster?” She looked dumbstruck over at her widely grinning mate. “A vintage Stratocaster? My God, Ryan…I love it…how…how did you know?” She gazed, shocked, from her mate’s happy face down to the large, long box marked “Fender Guitars”.

“It’s to replace the one I broke, honey. You really do like it?” Ryan looked expectantly at her, which was adorable on the tough cop.

“Ryan, my God…the one you broke was a modern model…a fine guitar…but this is vintage. This had to cost more than your Harley did. And an amp?” Janna gazed back down at the large Peavey box.

“Yeah, um, it’s the latest. It’s supposed to have all the features of your old one but in a compact size.”

Janna dropped to her knees next to the guitar box and pulled it toward her. She closed her eyes as she said, “I can’t believe you did this, honey…I really can’t.”

Ryan’s features crinkled in concern as she asked, “Um, it’s okay, isn’t it? I read in your guitar magazine that musicians prefer the tone and workmanship of the vintage models, so I thought you might like it. Um, if you don’t…”

“Ryan, come here right now.” Janna demanded.

Ryan somewhat uncertainly made her way around the large box and dropped to her knees next to Janna. She was immediately scooped into a tight hug as Janna cried, “Honey, I love it…I’ve always wanted one but never got around to looking for one.” She looked deeply into her mate’s eyes as she added, “Thank you, Ryan…this is so incredibly thoughtful of you.”

She pulled Ryan close again and kissed her sweetly. Ryan, of course, deepened the kiss and they fell over onto the floor, still kissing. The kisses quickly morphed into laughter and they rolled happily on the floor together as their family looked on and Marty snapped pictures, laughing behind the lens.

“I’m glad you like it, baby. You can thank me properly later.” Ryan drawled as she leaned over her mate.

“I’ll do that, love.” Janna drawled back.

“Christ, that room’ll never be the same.” Zac supplied, sarcastically.

“Hey, it’s not like someone was murdered in there or anything.” Ryan shot a pointed look at her brother as she rose to her feet, helping Janna up as well.

“No, but Jesus, Sis. We don’t have enough sage to clear out the energy after you two have been at it in there. We might want to make it into a nursery someday.” Zac grinned.

“I’ll believe that when I see it, Zac.” She smirked at her brother before turning her attention back to her wife, who was struggling to open the guitar box. “Here, babe, let me do that.” Ryan dropped to her knees again and deftly pulled the box open. A few minutes later, Janna was reverently gazing at the original case of golden tweed.

“My God, honey, an original case too. Where did you find this?” Janna looked up at her mate in awe.

Ryan grinned down at her, “Oh, I have my sources!”

Janna simply shook her head as she opened the case. Her breath was taken away a moment later when she gazed at the beautiful instrument that lay inside and hesitantly touched it.

“Janna, love…I got it for you to play…are you afraid to touch it?”

“A little, yeah. Ryan…do I want to know how much this cost?”

“No, you don’t babe.”

“Cool.” She stroked the sunburst finish lovingly. “’60…is it a 1960, Ryan?”

“Yep, very good, Janna. Jesus, I told the guy you know your guitars and you’ve proven me right.”

“I’d like to meet this guy, Ryan…okay?”

“Sure, love.” Ryan sat on the floor beside her mate as she pulled the guitar onto her lap and tried out the fit.

“Oh, wow, it’s so light!” She held it in position and mock-strummed it. “Oh, wow, this will be a dream to play.” She looked over at her mate and added, “Now I really do hope that the Pansies ask me to sit in on some more gigs! Oh, God, Brandon is gonna shit!”

“Language, babe…the baby’s in here.” Ryan admonished gently.

“Hmm?” Janna looked up at her mate. “What did I say?”

“That Brandon’s gonna shit.” Ryan grinned.

“Jesus, Ryan, you’re rubbing off on me.” Janna grinned sardonically as she met her wife’s amused gaze.

An eyebrow reached rakishly toward her bangs. “As often as I can, baby.”

Janna’s chin fell to her chest as she shook her head. God, I can’t resist her when she grins like that. Her attention quickly turned back to the beautiful instrument in her hands, however. “Geez, I wish I had some strings with me…I’d love to try this out.”

“Check the case, babe.” Ryan’s eyes sparkled as she reveled in her partner’s joy.

“What? No way! Ryan…” Her wife’s grin told her that she was serious and Janna searched the case and quickly came up with a set of strings. “My favorite kind, too. Honey, are you that observant or did you guess?”

“I guess I pay attention to your things, Janna…what you like.” She shrugged.

She met Ryan’s gaze warmly. “God, honey, I appreciate that.” She looked at Zac and Marty. “Um, do you guys mind if I try out the guitar?”

“You’d better try it out, Janna, so we can enjoy the fruits of our labor.” Zac said with a grin as he lifted Halley to his shoulder.

“Oh, so you guys were in on this? That’s what those emails were about.”

“Yep. My sister had it delivered here and we wrapped it up.”

Marty added, “We’re so glad to see how much you like it, Janna.”

“Thanks so much, guys. I really do love it.” She looked at her mate and added, “And I’ve um, had a little song stuck in my head…that I’m trying to write…this will help because I thought of a new verse this morning and have had no way to try it out.” She looked down at the electric guitar again and shook her head. “This is just so great.” She sent a burst of love and gratitude to her mate through their link and Ryan looked up at her sharply and smiled…a clear indication that she had received the message.

“Well, get it strung, Sis, so we can hear a little something.”

“Okay!” Janna grinned as she ripped open the packages of string and proceeded to deftly install them on the guitar. A few minutes later, she was tuning it as Ryan removed the amplifier from its box and got it set up.

“Okay, um, nothing too loud, huh? I’ve heard your music, Janna!” Zac joked.

Janna laughed. “Okay, Zac…nothing too loud…the baby’s in here anyway. I’m careful around her. I’ll do some punk, but make it quiet punk.” She grinned as she looked back down at the tuning keys and adjusted one to her satisfaction, the quiet strummed tone lifting into the proper range as she did so.

Zac laughed. “Quiet punk…is there such a thing?”

“You’d be surprised, Zac.” Ryan offered.

Janna grinned, struck by a thought. “Honey, why don’t you sit here and help me with ‘Take it easy’?”

Ryan frowned and groaned, “Oh, baby, no, huh? You do something. Music’s not my thing, it’s yours.”

“Sweetheart, you have a beautiful voice…I’m afraid music is your thing…please?” She turned her vibrant green eyes on her and sent more love through their link, which was completely unfair.

“Shit…” Ryan mumbled, unable to refuse her when she did that, as Janna well knew. “Okay.”

Janna wriggled happily and jumped up to finish the setup of her new system. While she did that, Marty retrieved the coffeepot and refilled everyone’s mugs. A few minutes later, Ryan and Janna sat side by side on the sofa as Janna tried the guitar for the first time.

She adjusted the knobs on the body and gently raked her thumb down the strings, creating a deep, rich tone. She looked up with a look of pure bliss on her face and sighed. “Oh, God…that is so nice.” She quietly strummed a few chords and then ran through some fingering exercises, which in themselves produced an entertaining sound.

Zac looked at Marty and raised his eyebrows, nodding toward Janna.

Janna turned her gaze on her mate and said, “Okay, honey, I’ll start and you join in whenever you’re ready.”

Ryan nodded her agreement and began tapping her foot as Janna began the familiar song…their song. Janna noted Ryan’s readiness and leaned against her shoulder to share a kiss, then Ryan began, watching her wife as she sang.

The classic instrument produced a rich, warm tone…perfect for the chosen song and Ryan’s clear, strong voice complemented it perfectly. She closed her eyes and sang from her heart, especially when they reached their favorite verse. As she sang about the girl in the flatbed Ford, her wife’s lovely image came to mind. The same thing exactly happened to Janna, and their smiles of joy lit the large room. They both were taken back to their youth, when each had invisioned the other as the girl in the truck, many, many years before they met up again and fell in love.

As he held their baby, Zac felt the richness of her mothers’ love for each other and felt warmed to the core. He wrapped his free arm around his wife’s waist and they swayed gently together to the soft beat of the music.

-9-

The small blonde was awakened by the sound of her mate singing softly to their daughter. She lay amongst the thick furs, enjoying their warmth and the pleasant sound of her mate’s rich voice…so much so that she did not want to move. The sunlight had already brightened into a soft yellow and shafts of it were cutting through the dense foliage above her, suffused by the light morning mist, and creating dappled patterns of light and dark on the ground around her.

The lilting sounds of the lovely lullaby were carried on the light breeze and she closed her eyes again, allowing the pleasing melody to wash over her, setting her soul adrift. The strong warrior’s beautiful singing voice contrasted sharply with both her tough image and her battle-roughened speaking voice, which had been hardened by many years of piercing war shrieks. The bard smiled as the sweet song warmed her to her very essence, settling over her like a soft, warm blanket.

She did not need to open her eyes to know that her mate was nearby, sitting against a log next to the campfire as she nursed their baby. This had become their morning ritual. Her mate often left the furs to feed the baby so as not to disturb her sleeping partner. The strong, disciplined warrior didn’t mind the fact that her mate liked to sleep longer than she did, and in fact, relished it about her.

At that very moment, as she fed her baby, the dark woman was gazing at her still-resting mate, smiling at her happy, contented visage. She knew, of course, that the smaller warrior was awake, as she could discern her breathing pattern, even from that distance. She does hate to leave those furs in the morning. Hades, so do I anymore. She makes staying in bed so pleasant.

She looked down as the baby’s suckling slowed and then stopped as she fell asleep at her mother’s breast. The warrior chuckled softly as she disengaged the tiny mouth from her dark red nipple and lifted the sleeping infant to her shoulder and burped her gently. Guess I’ll be able to return to the furs after all. She smiled as she glanced at her mate, whose short, blonde hair was spread out on the small pillow, and desire began to pool in her groin as her heart rate picked up and her blood began to race. What is it that she does to me? No man has ever had that effect on me. She shook her head at the realization that she was powerless under the spell of her small, feisty lover.

She silently returned to the sleeping area under the tree and gently lay the baby in her woven cradle, kissing her head tenderly and covering her against the morning chill. Then she turned to her mate and smiled as she noted that her breathing had deepened in sleep once again. Oh, no, my love…not this morning. She knelt beside her mate and pulled her leathers off over her head before climbing naked under the thick covers and covering her partner’s body with hers.

The warrior-bard smiled as she felt her mate’s body meld with hers and wrapped her arms around her even before she was fully awake. The tall warrior gently thrust her strong thigh between her mate’s legs and kissed her softly.

“Mm…morning Xena,” the bard whispered as the warrior’s lips left hers.

“Morning Gabrielle.” She gazed down at her mate and smiled as her eyes fluttered open.

“Gods,” the small blonde breathed. “What a beautiful sight to wake up to.”

“Mm, I could say the same thing.” She said as she leaned down and gently captured a delicious earlobe between her teeth.

The bard tightened her grip around her lover and ran her hands down the soft skin of her back, throwing her head back and sighing as her mate’s lips started doing wondrous things to her throat. Her warrior skillfully pulled her short top off with one hand and lifted it from under the covers, tossing it aside, her lips never losing contact with the soft, sweet skin of her mate’s throat.

“Gods, Xena, you’re good at that.” She cupped her hands under her partner’s firm behind and began gentle caresses. She felt her warrior’s strong muscles clench at the intimate touch and was pleased to note that her breathing had deepened.

“So are you, Gabrielle.” Her name rolled silkily off her warrior’s tongue and rumbled through Gabrielle’s body pleasantly. She lowered her head to devote attention to her bard’s breasts and smiled against a coral nipple as she caused a deep moan to emanate from her partner’s chest.

“Mmm, yes, Xena…” She brought her hands up and tangled them in the warrior’s long, thick hair, as the oh so pleasant exhilaration of love began to course through her body under her lover’s skillful touch.

They commenced their familiar loving dance, sharing their deep love and strengthening their special bond as their child slept soundly beside them. Around them, the beings of the forest began their day under a brilliant blue sky dotted with clouds, either oblivious to or not interested in the activity of the two humans beneath the large evergreen tree.

Janna awoke to the lovely sound of Ryan humming a lullaby. Still wrapped within the comfortable warmth of the loving dream, she smiled and snuggled more deeply against her mate’s thigh. Ryan glanced down at her and smiled as she nursed Halley. She continued softly humming the old lullaby and caressed her baby’s soft cheek with a finger.

Janna wrapped her arm around Ryan’s waist as she lay facing her. As the lovely melody of the lullaby continued, it worked its way into her sleep-fogged brain and her consciousness slowly rose to wakefulness. As she blinked her way through the morning fog, she realized that Ryan was humming, rather than her warrior counterpart, and that she was humming the same melody Xena had been singing in the dream. Oh my God…

“Morning, love.”

Janna looked up at her mate’s smiling face and grinned happily. “Morning, Ryan.” She closed her eyes as she reveled in her mate’s warmth. Warmth was flooding her soul through their bond as well, as Ryan experienced a deep love for her daughter and mate. “God, honey, I feel good…you feel good…the Universe feels good.”

“Mm,” Ryan agreed.

“I was just having a wonderful dream. My warrior was feeding our baby and singing the same melody that you were just humming.”

“Really, Janna? That’s remarkable.”

“The whole thing is remarkable, Ryan. Every damn thing about our lives.”

“I can’t argue with that, Janna.” Ryan said softly as she gazed at Halley. She had finished nursing and was lying contentedly, looking up at her mother, whose wet nipple was lying against the baby’s chin. “God, Janna, the baby is becoming so alert. Look at her, she’s just watching me quietly.”

Janna sat up to look at her daughter. “I know. Look at her eyes, honey. I see such wisdom there. As if she carries the knowledge of the Universe.”

“She does, in a way, doesn’t she? Babies are so much closer to Essence. I read recently that toddlers and young children very commonly see angels and talk to their spirit guides. I totally believe that, Janna.”

“So do I, love. And they remember their past lives. When I was very young I had very clear memories of living in an Indian cliff dwelling and in an English cottage with a flower garden in front…and I had never been farther away from home than Disneyland.”

“That’s so cool, love. I want Halley to feel that she can talk openly about those things…if she experiences them.”

“Absolutely.”

A soft knock sounded at their door and Ryan called, “Come in.”

As Marty entered, Janna pulled the covers up and tucked them under the baby, covering Ryan’s bare breasts, and herself as well.

Marty smiled. “Good morning…I didn’t wake you did I?”

“No, Halley was just having her breakfast and we were talking. What are you up to this morning?” Ryan asked.

Marty smiled at her niece and said, “Well, my timing is perfect then, because I wanted to ask if when Halley had finished her breakfast, Zac and I could take her for a walk around the ranch. May we? Give you a little quiet time for an hour or two?”

Ryan and Janna looked at each other wide-eyed, so much so that they appeared almost comical. Marty thought they looked adorable and smiled. She tilted her head in question and said, “Well?”

Ryan overcame the shock first and out stumbled, “Gee, Marty, um…”

Janna took over for her flustered wife. “Wow, um, Marty, we’ve never left her before, but…” she looked at her mate and added, “I guess we could…for an hour or so. Honey, what do you think?”

Ryan blew out a breath, which ruffled her bangs cutely, and looked at her wife. “I don’t know, Janna…um, I don’t know if I’m comfortable with that.” She glanced quickly over at Marty. “No offense, Marty…we’ve just never left her with anyone else.”

Marty approached the bed and sat down. As she did so, the baby turned her head away from her mother’s chest and looked at her. “I understand. But, she’ll be perfectly safe with us, and you’ll be right here. She is three months old.” She raised her eyebrows in question.

Janna turned to her mate and caressed her arm as she softly said, “Honey, I think it will be fine. We have to leave her with someone else some time…why not let the first time be when we’re so close by? Hm?” She suddenly looked up, and exclaimed, “Oh my gosh! What am I thinking? Marty, you’re watching her for us tomorrow while we do the sweat lodge. I guess a trial run is a good idea.”

Marty smiled and nodded as Ryan looked down at the infant in her arms, who was gazing with such interest at her aunt, and sucked in a breath before letting it out, saying, “Okay. I guess it will be okay. But you won’t take her far will you?”

Marty smiled. “No, Ryan. Not off the property. We need to feed the horses and check some fencing…just walking the perimeter of the place will take about an hour. I think she’ll enjoy it. May I use the carrier?”

“Sure, Marty, and I’ll think she’ll enjoy it too. Thanks so much.” Janna picked up her hand in thanks and Marty squeezed hers in return. “Here, um…let me get my robe on and I’ll get it and some pacifiers for you.”

Ryan, not at all sure of the idea, nevertheless offered, “She’s um, been changed and what she’s wearing is fine, but I think she’ll need her little sweatshirt too.” She handed the baby to Marty, who began cooing at her, causing baby giggles and gurgles.

“Okay, love,” Janna said as she shrugged her robe on. She walked over to where the diaper bag sat, tying her robe as she went, and dug out a tiny, navy ‘Police’ sweatshirt and a handful of pacifiers. She returned to the bed and slipped the shirt on over Halley’s head as Marty held her.

“Baby, maybe they should take the diaper bag…she hasn’t done her morning poop yet.”

Janna grinned as she faced Marty. “Oh, lucky you!”

Marty returned the grin. “Oh, I don’t mind.” She added with a wink, “It will be good practice for Zac.” At that, Ryan and Janna both laughed, and some of the tension they felt was allayed.

“Okay, are we set?” Marty asked the baby.

“It looks like you are. Marty, thanks, this was a nice idea.”

“We’re more than happy to do it, Janna. It’s not entirely unselfish on our parts, you know…we want to spend a little time with her.”

“Well, thanks anyway, Marty…we appreciate the offer. Have fun.” Ryan said from where she sat on the bed, arms wrapped around her knees over the sheet.

“Oh, we will. Won’t we little one? Your uncle Zac is waiting…shall we go find him?” She directed her gaze to Halley’s two mothers, and then looked down at her watch. “It’s 7:30…we won’t be back before 9:30.” Her eyes twinkled a silent message.

Ryan grinned, almost shyly, and then looked at her daughter. “Come here, baby girl…give Momma a kiss.” She reached for her daughter and Marty lifted her to her mother’s lips. Ryan kissed her sweetly on the cheek and said, “Now you be a good girl for your aunt and uncle, okay? Momma loves you. Bye bye.” She watched somewhat morosely as Janna approached and did the same thing, then walked Halley and her aunt to the door. She stood watching them walk down the hallway and then slowly closed the door, leaning against it and gazing sadly at her mate.

“I know, Janna…I feel like I have a hole right here.” Ryan said, her voice cracking slightly as she lifted her hand to her heart.

“God,” Janna exclaimed, “That shouldn’t have been so hard should it?”

Ryan held her arms open to her wife as she said, “I don’t know, I’ve never been through that before. Jesus Christ…” She shook her head and pulled her mate onto the bed, to sit in her embrace.

They sat quietly together for several minutes, both missing their daughter acutely before Ryan broke the silence. She muttered against Janna’s hair, “I guess this is the first in a very long line of firsts. There will be many more on her path to adulthood.” She kissed Janna’s hair and looked at her. “We’d better get used to it.”

“I guess we’d better.” She sighed and pulled the sheet down so that she could wrap her arm around Ryan’s bare waist. Ryan responded by pulling the tie on her robe and letting it drape open so that she could do the same thing.

They sat in the warm comfort of their love for several more minutes, letting it soothe the mild ache that their daughter’s absence caused. Presently, Ryan chuckled. “Shit, Janna, look at us…a couple of grown women reduced to fawning idiots when their baby goes outside to play without them for the first time.”

Janna responded with chuckles of her own. “I’m glad no one else is around to see it.” She pulled Ryan closer and burrowed into her side, kissing her neck as she did so.

“Yep, I’m glad too. It would not be good for my reputation.” She nuzzled the soft head that was nestled against her shoulder and sighed as another, more pleasant emotion made itself known. She cleared her throat. “Um, so…what should we do with ourselves and all this privacy?”

Janna grinned into Ryan’s strong shoulder. “Oh, I don’t know…do you have any ideas?”

“I have ideas, sure. Did you have anything in mind?” Ryan bit her lip stoically and tried to clamp down on the desire that was starting to wield its control, so as not to influence Janna.

“Other than catching up on some sleep, you mean?” She grinned up at her mate and ran a finger gingerly along her collarbone. “Yeah, um, I do have some ideas. You’re not overly tired are you?” She could feel her mate’s cascading desire, as well as the fact that she was trying to control it…albeit unsuccessfully…and it was causing a similar cascading of sensations in her own body.

“No, I’m not tired at all. You?” Ryan looked down at her with serious, darkening blue eyes.

“Nope. I’m feeling very good, as a matter of fact.” She grinned slyly up at her mate and Ryan mirrored the look, both finally admitting what they wanted.

“Mm, Janna, I’m glad,” she said as she turned to face her mate, “Since last night’s loving was interrupted by a little someone and I’m feeling kinda needy.”

“Well, we can’t have that, can we?” Janna answered as her robe was gently pushed from her shoulders.

“Absolutely not, “Ryan answered just before softly biting the inviting bare shoulder before her. “What should we do, love?”

“What you’re doing is just fine, Ryan.”

“After that.”

“Mmm…what? Oh, um, do you think we have time for…” her concentration was broken by the gently exploring lips that were making their way across her breastbone. “Time for some Tantric love? Do…do you think?” She brought her hands up to tangle in Ryan’s soft black locks.

“Mm, I don’t know, baby…we’ve been going for more than an hour lately…and that’s just the good part…that’s not…mmm, God, you taste good….that’s not counting the preliminaries.”

“Well, Ryan, the pre…preliminaries are already under way.” She threw her head back as Ryan’s lips moved lower down her chest and thoroughly enjoyed the sensation of her desire building exponentially.

Ryan gave a taut pink nipple a sensuous caress with her tongue before answering, “That’s very true. They’re well under way.”

“Tantra it is, then.” Janna ran her hands down Ryan’s back, softly grazing her skin with her short nails.

“Mm, baby, yes. Get in my lap, love.” As Janna positioned herself in her taller mate’s lap, Ryan continued her loving assault on her breasts.

Janna sighed, “God, Ryan, I’ll never get enough of that.” Ryan didn’t answer, as the taste of her mate’s sweet skin was beginning to carry her away. She fed hungrily at Janna’s breasts, feeding her desire and quickly losing control.

Janna mumbled, “Tantra, love…let’s slow it down,” as her desire swirled within. Ryan’s touch awakened a need in her unlike any she had ever experienced and she was quickly losing control as well.

“Sorry, babe…you turn me on so…I lose control.” She looked back up and captured her mate’s lips, tenderly, communicating love rather than raw need.

Janna reached forward and laid her palm flat on Ryan’s heart chakra, and Ryan did the same, feeling her mate’s heartbeat synchronize with hers. They connected physically with their already existing energetic bond and the energy flowed between them twofold. Then Janna reached down with her right hand and entered her lover gently with two fingers, and Ryan did likewise, creating a closed circuit within which their shared energy could flow. They came together for another passionate kiss and began to move together as one, beginning the cycle of love that would continue for more than an hour.

The sunlight, in warm tones of yellow and pink, illuminated them as they made love in their favorite position, a position with which their souls were very familiar, and they had only been resting together in each other’s arms for a very few minutes afterward when their daughter returned to them.

~~~~~~~~~~
Ryan cinched the leather strap and checked the set of the saddle. Satisfied, she nodded and looked back at her brother, who sat astride one of the appaloosas. She gazed back at him, blinking in the bright sunlight.

“You look good up there, Zac. Takes me back.”

“Yeah, Sis. We had a lot of great times on horseback, didn’t we?” He patted the neck of his favorite mount thoughtfully. “About the only good times I can remember having as a teenager.”

Ryan hoisted herself skillfully onto the horse’s back as she replied, “Great times, Zac. I wish there’d been more.” She grasped the reins and held them loosely in her hand as she gazed sincerely at her brother.

He grinned lopsidedly at his sister. “The best is yet to come, Ry. Giddup!” Clucking loudly, he encouraged his faithful friend and they took off, leaving Ryan and her golden mount sitting in a cloud of dust. She grinned widely and shook her head as she yelled, “Hah!” and her mare answered, following her stable mate’s dusty trail.

Earlier, after Halley had returned from her outing, the three of them had shared breakfast with their hosts and then gone back to their room to share a bath. They sat in the warm, bubbly water together in a row: Janna cradling the baby to her chest as Ryan cradled her. Gently, Ryan cupped water over Janna’s head and poured a small amount of lavender-scented herbal shampoo in her hair.

“Mm, lavender today, huh?” Janna asked as she lay contentedly against her mate’s chest.

“Mm, hm. I love to smell this in your hair.” Ryan said as she began to gently massage the shampoo into Janna’s scalp.

“And I like the gardenia on you.” Janna said as she turned the baby to face her and was greeted by a tiny, lopsided grin.

“Janna, you just insist on making me smell like a girl, don’t you?” Ryan asked, mock-indignantly.

“You are a girl, remember?” Janna reminded her.

“That’s not the point. I don’t like to smell frilly. I like a clean, practical scent.”

“Of course you do, honey. I also like the ylang-ylang on you.” Janna grinned as she half turned and eyed her mate.

“Hmm…didn’t you tell me that ylang-ylang is an herbal aphrodisiac?”

“Mm, hm.”

“Then I’m glad you like it, baby.” She finished her declaration with a gentle nip to her partner’s neck.

“Yes, it goes nicely with that natural spicy musk scent that you insist on excreting. It turns me on no end.”

“I’ll have to get some ylang-ylang cologne then.”

Janna laughed. “I’m sure we can get some from Joe and Ellen.”

“Enough talk about aphrodisiacs, Janna, I’m getting hot again, and I’m still feeling sated from earlier.”

“Then you must not have been sated, Ryan.”

“Oh, I was sated, Janna, believe me. Sated to the point of paralysis, and so were you. I just can’t get enough of you, baby.” She ran her hands down Janna’s sides and tenderly kissed her neck.

“I’m glad.”

“Mm,” Ryan sighed. “So, do you want to ride with Zac and I? Marty said she’d be happy to watch the baby again.”

Janna’s brows furrowed as she considered. “I don’t know, honey. I’m not all that fond of riding…I’ve only done it a few times, though. Why don’t you and Zac go…I’d just hold you back. I do not like to go fast, and I’m sure you’d enjoy letting loose a little, wouldn’t you?” She looked back to see her mate thinking seriously.

“Honey, that’s okay. I can let loose some other time.”

“No, you go on. Marty and the baby and I can have a visit, and you and Zac can have some alone time. I think he’d like that, Ryan.”

“Well, only if you’re sure.”

“I am.”

“Okay, but I’d love to take you out with me before we leave. Since we’ve been here I’ve been having riding dreams from our warrior life…and you did feel good holding on to me while we rode with the wind…very, very good.”

“I’ve been uncomfortable on horseback in many of those dreams, but I think I did eventually grow to love it. I do remember one dream where we were riding fast, just for fun, and it was exhilarating.”

“Yeah, it can be.”

“Okay, let’s plan on it…maybe later today or tomorrow after the sweat.”

“Done, love.”

Ryan returned to the present and smiled as her horse carried her swiftly along the high desert plateau. She missed her mate, but smiled at the thought of her lovely face, and felt her through their link. She leaned low over her mount’s neck as she followed her brother across the dry landscape, enjoying the feeling both the freedom and the sense of being close to her Comanche roots gave her.

The Comanche had been masters of riding, known for incredible feats of warfare and hunting arts astride. As teenagers, she and Zac had reveled in that part of their heritage and both felt extremely at home on horseback. They would ride for miles and miles along the hot, mostly barren plains of west Texas, their skill giving them feelings of power and strength that nothing else in their young lives did.

Their grandfather and father had taught them to ride during summer visits when they were very young: Ryan had sat astride her first horse at four, and Zac had joined her four years later. As teenagers, after their father died and Zac had moved to Texas, they would often ride together bareback, displaying immense skill as they raced and jumped gullies and fences, both proudly reveling in the expression of their Native heritage.

Remembering those days brought a smile to Ryan’s face as Zac pulled up to a stop under a rare copse of cottonwood trees. With a wide grin, he slung his leg over the horse and dropped to the ground.

“You’ve still got it, Sis.” He grabbed his canteen and downed a large swallow of water.

Ryan dropped to her feet as well, grabbed her canteen, twisted the top off, tilted her head back and drank deeply, letting the water soothe her parched throat. She had forgotten how the dust tended to coat the inside of her mouth and throat, but didn’t mind it. It was a part of the experience. “Thanks, Zac. I hope to hell I wouldn’t lose a skill that had been so ingrained in me.”

Zac grinned as he led his horse to the tiny stream that still trickled in the gully under the trees. “Not you, Ry.” He released the reins, let his mount stand in the stream to drink his fill, and sat on the bank in the sparse shade.

Ryan’s horse joined Zac’s and she joined her brother. She tilted her head back and took a lungful of the clean air. “God, I love it out here, Zac. You picked a nice place to live.”

“Thanks, Sis…we love it, too. I was lucky to get the house as cheaply as I did…but it needed a lot of work.”

“So, you’re planning on hanging around here for a while, huh?” She took another sip from her canteen as she gazed around.

“Yeah.” He remarked laconically.

“And if the Army has different ideas?”

“It’s called ‘retirement’, Sis.” He grinned at her look of surprise.

“Really? What would you do then?”

“Raise horses, what else?” He grinned widely at her, white teeth flashing in the sun as a breeze parted the meager shade.

Ryan laughed, “Yeah, what else? Zachary Zamora, Comanche Horse Trader. Breeder of fine Indian Paints! I can just see it, Red Hawk. That’s cool.”

“Yeah, and don’t forget palominos.”

“True, that’s a beautiful pair you have.” She became pensive for a moment as a strong dream memory flashed across her awareness. Zac noticed but looked away and let her have her moment. After a moment, she said quietly, “Hey, you remember when I told you that Janna and I think we’ve been together in other lives?”

“Of course, Puma…you are her Twin Soul.”

Ryan nodded. “Right. Well there’s this one life…took place in ancient Greece, we think. Anyway, we both visit it all the time in our dreams…it’s like the pivotal life in our series of lives together, I think. We were warriors…both women, but a couple…and we had a palomino. Or at least whatever ancient breed they descended from. Looked exactly like this one.” She gained a faraway look as she recalled her ancient counterpart’s beloved mare. “She was a beautiful horse…carried the both of us with ease.” She gazed at her mount as she rooted along the streambed.

“They’re a good, strong breed.”

“Mm. Yeah. This horse here really takes me back there, Zac. The only thing missing is having Janna behind me, holding on and laughing.”

“It’s remarkable that you have such clear recall, Ryan. That’s very rare.”

“Yep. Like Janna said not too long ago, ‘Every damn thing about our lives is remarkable’.”

“It is that, Puma. It is that.” He agreed as he picked up a small stone and tossed it into the creek. He looked up at the sun and noted that it was noon. “Well, Sis, shall we get back?”

“Yep…if I know our ladies, they’ll have a nice lunch spread waiting for us.” She grinned in anticipation of the fine meal.

Zac grinned. “You got that right. And Marty wants to go into town to do some shopping…you guys want to tag along?”

“Yeah, I think so. We want to get some blankets and tobacco to share with Two Crows.”

“Sounds good,” Zac said as he pulled his horse up the bank of the gully and mounted him. As soon as Ryan was astride her mare, he said, “Race you!” And took off.

Ryan threw her head back and laughed deeply, her voice becoming lost behind her as she raced with the wind.

-10-
After their ride, Zac and his sister entered the house noisily, laughing heartily, but quickly quieted as they saw their wives meditating together in the family room. Janna and Marty sat side-by-side, each holding a quartz crystal as they quietly chanted in a Native tongue. An incense holder sat on the floor between them, with a thin, white wisp of smoke rising from the burning stick.

Zac grabbed Ryan’s arm and pulled her into the kitchen, where he explained, “That is a Cherokee meditation that one of Marty’s friends taught her. I’m glad she’s teaching it to Janna.”

“Yeah, that’s cool…since it’s Janna’s tribe. I’ll have to have her teach it to me. It’s for achieving balance?”

Zac looked sharply at his sister. “How did you know that?”

Ryan answered honestly, “I can feel it…she’s very balanced right now.”

“Shit,” Zac mumbled. Looking back up at his sister, he grinned as he added, “Speaking of balance…are you ready for the sweat? Have you abstained from the things that I told you that you need to abstain from?”

Ryan looked down at her hands, embarrassed. “Um, well, most of them.” She faced her brother and added, honestly again, “You know that one of them was gonna be pretty goddamn hard for us, Zac.”

He grinned at his sister. “Yeah, I know. But I think if you can keep your hands off of each other until after the sweat tomorrow, it’ll be okay.” He punched his sister in the arm. “Come, on, Ry…if Marty and I can do it, so can you guys.”

Ryan grinned jauntily at her brother. “Oh, I don’t know, Zac…it’s already been established that I’m the bigger stud…you just don’t know what you’re asking, bro!”

“What! No fucking way, Ryan. That was a fluke. You are not gonna tell me that nine times in one week is normal for you two. I didn’t believe it then and I don’t believe it now.”

“Well, okay…I will admit that now, since the baby’s here, we’re down to about eight…but I know that still has you beat…admit it, bro!”

“Ryan, I am just about ready to kick your ass…” Zac said as he reached for his sister, but she was too fast and had run from the room and exited out onto the patio. He chased after her and several minutes later, they could be seen rolling around in the meadow. Their wives watched from the family room after the meditation was finished and both laughed aloud at their mates’ antics.

~~~~~~~~~~
The faint light from the dawn sun slanted through the trees, and the Native and part-Native people present nodded respectfully at their Grandfather’s appearance. The medicine man, Two Crows, led a short chant to welcome him and then spoke to his sweat participants.

“Since this will be a mixed male-female sweat, I will ask that you only disrobe to the point at which you are comfortable. As you may know, sweats are usually done naked…we take none of our pretensions in there with us…but if you prefer to stay in your under things or in your swimsuits, that will be fine, and should not affect the outcome for you. There is no shame in participating comfortably. There is also no shame in not finishing the sweat. If you should feel overcome by the heat or by anything you may experience, please leave and wait for us outside. I may even leave early…every sweat experience is different…even for me.” He looked to his three participants and nodded. “Now, if you will prepare yourselves, we will enter the sweat lodge.”

He nodded again and began pulling his clothes off, and so did his guests. Ryan untied her robe and pulled if off, then helped Janna off with hers as well, and set them on a log together. As she stood naked in the cool forest, she grabbed her naked wife’s hand and squeezed it gently, letting her pride flow through their link. Janna felt her mate’s emotion and squeezed her hand in return.

Zac had also elected to do the sweat in the nude and stood unashamedly behind his sisters. When the shaman saw that his guests were ready, he said a short prayer and then dropped to his knees and crawled into the lodge. His guests followed in the same fashion and seated themselves inside the small structure in a circle around a fire pit.

A teenaged girl, Two Crows’ niece and assistant, entered, still clothed, as she would be tending the fire outside, and, using large tongs, dropped a large rock into the small fire pit. She made the trip three more times, each time placing a stone in one of the four directions, and then a few more were added until Two Crows felt it was enough. The girl placed the last stone and then exited, closing the flap behind her and stayed outside to tend the large fire.

Ryan gazed around briefly and noted that the sweat lodge seemed nearly identical to others she had been in. It was a temporary structure, constructed of a frame of saplings which were covered by several large, heavy tarps. It measured roughly twelve feet across and the floor on the inside perimeter was lined with pine boughs. Smells like cedar.

The small opening that served as the doorway faced the east, letting the light from Grandfather Sun enter when the tarp was pulled aside.

Ryan’s attention was pulled back to the sweat leader when he began to sing softly, leading them in song. She joined in, hearing her wife beside her do the same, and smiled as she sang the ancient sweat chant.

After the first chant was complete, Two Crows rose and picked up a bucket of water. He approached the pit that held the hot rocks and said a prayer before pouring water over the them. As the steam began to rise, he began another chant and returned to his place.

The steam and heat quickly filled the small structure and as the medicine man led them through more chants and singing, Ryan felt increasingly at peace and whole. She closed her eyes and sighed, letting out a deeply held breath, and felt her soul connect with Gaia, the Earth Spirit. Intuitively, she felt her soulmate beside her do the same thing, and she reached over and grasped Janna’s hand.

Together, they embarked upon a spiritual journey, led by the wise shaman, which would strengthen their bond more than anything else they had ever done together…in any life.

~~~~~~~~~~
Two Crows led the sweat participants out into the forest and they breathed deeply of the cool, fresh air. He then led them into the nearby stream to cleanse themselves further. Ryan stepped into the cold water, still holding Janna’s hand and gasped as her breath was taken away. Nevertheless, she immersed herself, bringing her partner with her, without complaint, and they relished the cooling water.

Ryan sat on the stream bottom and lay back, letting the cool waters soothe her super-heated skin. Dappled sunlight hit her in the face and she thanked Grandfather for his energy. She looked to her left and saw Janna do the same, and smiled. My God…there aren’t words for what we just experienced together…nor for how much I love her. We are so deeply connected that I no longer know where I end and she begins…thank you, Great Spirit…with all of my being, I thank you.

Her silent musings and words of thanks were interrupted then, as Two Crows began a prayer thanking the water for giving itself to them. He thanked the water as he had thanked all of the spirits involved in their sweat; from the trees who had become their shelter, to the wood for the fire, to the rocks who had given up their life energy to the humans. Ryan, Janna, and Zac bowed their heads reverently and felt their gratitude as Two Crows solemnly recited the prayer. He then led them from the water and told them to dress and join him beside the fire. When his guests had rejoined him, those who wanted to discuss what they had seen and experienced, did so, and he answered their questions as well.

An hour later, as the sun sat high in the sky, they bid the shaman goodbye and thanked him for his services by presenting him with several blankets and a bag of tobacco. He thanked the women and Zac graciously and invited them to contact him again if they ever wished to do another sweat or needed anything at all.

On the drive back down the mountain, to Las Cruces, they were all very quiet, each still feeling rather ethereal and digesting what they had experienced. As the ranch came into view, Ryan broke the silence. “Zac, that was an incredible experience. Thank you so much for arranging it.”

“Don’t mention it, Puma. I’m very glad that both of you found it fulfilling.” He nodded to her and then to Janna, who smiled and nodded in return.

“Fulfilling is not the word for it, Red Hawk.” Ryan said as she glanced at her wife in the back seat of Zac’s Cherokee. Janna quietly nodded her agreement and smiled, filling her wife with joy.

Later, as Zac and Marty prepared dinner and Halley slept beside them in her bouncer, Ryan and Janna lounged in the hot tub on the patio. Marty and Zac had wisely and correctly assumed that the soulmates needed some time alone to discuss their visions, so they had graciously declined their offers to help cook and steered the women outside.

As Janna lay against her chest, Ryan hugged her tightly while she gazed out over the desert. The blue of the sky was beginning to darken as Grandfather made his way toward the west. “God, it’s beautiful here in the spring, Janna.”

“Mm, hm.” Janna mumbled in response, feeling utterly content. Her eyes were closed but she knew of what Ryan was speaking.

Ryan took a deep breath, pulling in fresh, clean air mixed with her wife’s scent and smiled. “Janna, I wanna tell you about what I saw in the sweat…about my vision. Though, I have a feeling that you may already know about it.”

“Mm, tell me about it, Ryan, and we’ll compare.” Janna murmured.

Ryan began, “Well, it was a combination, I think…a vision and out-of-body travel.”

Janna smiled and nodded, knowing then that they had in fact shared the experience. “Yes, mine too.”

Cool. “It started out as a vision. We were together, Janna, holding hands, like we were in the lodge, and we took off, flying. We flew low over the forest that the lodge was in and then we came to a raging river with a bridge high above it. I had the strongest feeling that the river represented the past…past challenges we have faced and overcome…and we flew easily across the bridge. We flew some more and came to another bridge. You got there a little ahead of me and waited for me on the other side…holding your hand out to me. I crossed the bridge and grasped your hand and we…”
Janna continued, “We continued on and each time we came to a bridge, one of us would be slightly ahead of the other and would cross, then wait for our partner. We would meet, hold hands, and continue on. And all of the bridges were different. Some were rope, some were wood…”

Ryan continued, “Some were steel. They ranged from flimsy and fragile to strong and sturdy, but each time, we had no trouble crossing, because we could see our mate on the other side, reaching out to us.”

“Yes, Ryan! Yes.”

“And the last one, Janna…”

“The last one was golden and we crossed it together, into a beautiful land. I think it was paradise.”

“Yes, love. I think it was. But I could see beyond the beautiful meadows and forests and there were many more sets of bridges, waiting to be crossed together at later times.”

“My God, Ryan…we did experience the vision together!” Janna exclaimed and began to cry softly. She lifted Ryan’s hand from her waist to her cheek and reveled in her warm touch. Ryan leaned forward and rested her cheek against Janna’s hair.

After several minutes, she asked, “What happened then, Janna? After the vision?” She waited while Janna gathered her thoughts.

“We returned to the sweat lodge. I opened my eyes and saw Two Crows looking at us. He smiled…a kind of knowing, kindly smile…and chanted something, then dropped some herbs into the firepit and I felt like I was whisked out of my body.”

Ryan grinned, elated because she had experienced the same thing. “Yes, me too, Janna. I floated up out of my body and hovered at the top of the lodge. I looked down and could see all of us sitting around the fire.”

“I saw you and I sitting together, holding hands and then Two Crows looked up…he looked right at us and nodded.” Janna turned her head slightly and smiled at Ryan.

“Yep. He is a very gifted shaman. Then I grabbed your hand and we sort of popped out through the top of the lodge and we were outside, hovering above it.”

“Yes,” Janna added. “I saw the girl pick up another rock from the fire and go into the lodge. She came out a few seconds later and set down the tongs, then splashed water on her face and she sat next to the fire. And then,”

Ryan interrupted, laughing, “She looked up…right at us…and smiled!”

“Yes! That was so amazing! We both smiled and waved and then we took off. We rose above the trees and started flying over the forest.”

“Yes! It was incredible, Janna! The feeling of flying. I felt so free and so unencumbered, and then I looked to my side and saw you and was filled with joy. My soul itself was joyous.”

“Yes, that’s a good description of how I felt. We flew together over the forest and then down the mountainside to the desert and then we were at Zac’s house.”

“Yes, I thought of the baby and suddenly we were there. We sort of popped through the family room wall and there she was. Marty was sitting in the wooden rocker, feeding Halley a bottle.”

“And Marty stopped rocking for a minute, then started again and looked at us, and smiled!” Janna gasped.

“Yep, there’s yet another wise Navajo woman, Janna. Um, when we came home, she smiled at me…a real warm smile…and said, “Did you enjoy your journey?” All I could do was hug her and nod.

“I saw that, honey. It made me cry.”

“Everything makes you cry, baby.”

“True. Back to the journey.” She caressed the arms which were wrapped tightly around her abdomen and sighed. “Then we left and flew fast, toward the ocean. I was amazed at the sight of our home valley…how green it was. And then we reached the coast…”

“Santa Cruz…I saw the boardwalk.” Ryan added.

“Yes, it was. Then we flew up, high into the sky. We left the Earth’s atmosphere and headed toward the moon. I have always wanted to visit her…”

“That’s why we did, Janna.”

“Mm, yes. That was so unbelievable, Ryan! We flew low over the moon and I couldn’t believe how many shades of gray it consisted of…and the sunlight was so stark…so…cold, yet intense.” She glanced quickly back at her mate as she added, “Did you, um, see structures?”

“I sure did. In a huge crater…on the far side. I wonder if NASA knows about them?” Ryan mused. “I’ll have to tell Zac, though he probably knows all about it and won’t be able to confirm or deny it.” Ryan’s eyes sparkled, mirroring the grin she sported.

“Right, not without having to kill you!” Janna laughed, then sobered as she added, “I didn’t get any sense of malice regarding the structures there, though.”

“No, I didn’t either. It was as if it were a friendly base or something. Very interesting.”

“Yeah, very…and right up my alley of interest. I definitely want to explore that further sometime.” She added thoughtfully, “If I’m supposed to.”

“Yeah, baby. If you’re supposed to. Then where did we go?” Ryan asked gleefully, nuzzling Janna’s neck.

“Oh, that was so cool…we swooped back down into the sky and we were above…”

“Wait, don’t tell me. Just tell me something cool about what you saw.”

Janna grinned, “Okay. It was beautiful…it was night and this country, most of the edges, the coastlines, were brightly lit, while the interior…”

“Was as black as night. Yes, Janna! It was…”

“Australia! My God, Ryan, it was impressive. Such a huge place and so obviously sparsely populated. I’d love to visit there one day.”

“Then we will, baby. We’ll find a ship to take us there so you won’t have to fly.”

“Thank you, love.” Janna sighed deeply and a tear rolled down her cheek.

“Then what did we see, Janna?” Ryan squeezed her mate as she kissed her neck.

“We continued on over the Pacific Ocean, and the sky slowly brightened and suddenly, Grandfather appeared over the horizon in front of us in a brilliant orange burst.”

“Yes, and as we flew eastward, his light went from orange to yellow to white, and we were suddenly over the desert again, and then in the forest and then above the sweat lodge.”

Janna continued, “We slowly drifted down and popped back into the lodge…it was cool the way there was an actual physical sensation to that…and then I was back in my body. I opened my eyes and saw you looking at me, with tears rolling down your cheeks, and then my waterworks started.” She grinned at her normally stoic mate.

“Yep, baby, that is exactly what happened. We did have visions, Janna…and we had them together! That was so incredible. It was beyond incredible.”

“Way, way beyond incredible, Ryan.”

Ryan thought for a moment, then added, “But there was one more thing…um, maybe you didn’t see it.”

Janna grinned and turned in Ryan’s embrace, straddling her lap. “Before the astral travel, at the end of the vision part…I was lying in your arms, in bed. We were kissing, very gently, very softly, and I felt filled with love for you. I opened my eyes and looked at you and you were old. You had white hair and a lined face. You smiled down at me…that same crooked smile that I can’t resist…and I kissed you again.”

Ryan swallowed hard and tears appeared in her bright eyes. “Jesus, Janna. Yes. You had white hair too. And such a beautiful, kindly face. I loved you so much. I felt like the most blessed woman on the planet to have spent my life so happily with you.”

Janna responded to Ryan silently, with a love-filled gaze and a heartfelt kiss, and they shared their love together like that, quietly and respectfully, for long minutes. Grandfather sun smiled warmly upon them before he disappeared for the day, very pleased with the spiritual and emotional step they had taken together.

He almost envied the two humans for the journey they were traveling together. Not quite, but almost.

~~~~~~~~~~
The next morning, the Zamoras bid the Norden-Zamoras goodbye and wished them a safe trip home. They headed north, through Albuquerque, and on to Santa Fe. While in Albuquerque, they visited with Janna’s favorite great aunt, who was staying with her daughter. Over a delicious dinner, they shared the tale of the sweat journey, and though they weren’t as deeply involved in their Native heritage as Janna was, her relatives were intrigued by the story.

As they drove on through the early evening twilight, toward the quaint Santa Fe inn they had stayed in before, Ryan remarked, “I need to tell you again how much I love your Aunt May, honey. She is so great.”

“Yeah, she is. She’s seen a lot…endured a lot…and has much to share. I think the thing that impresses me the most about her is that through everything, through terrible loss and hard times, she’s retained her positive outlook. She has such a sunny disposition, and I admire that so much.”

“You’re just like her, you know, Janna.”

“Am I? I don’t know, Ryan. I’ve seen some things that have hardened me…especially in the music scene.” She shook her head, not entirely sure she agreed with her mate.

“It’s true, Janna. Look at how your positive attitude pulled me through after my accident. I would not have made it without you, Janna. No way.”

“Oh, Ryan. You are the strongest woman I know…and not just physically.”

“Janna, I have no doubts that you pulled me through. I felt so worthless and you pounded some sense into me. There is no one else in my life who would have done that…not and been successful at it. You have me so wrapped around your little finger that there was no way I was gonna disappoint you.” She took her eyes from the highway and grinned at her mate.

“Is that right? Wrapped around my finger, huh? We’ll just have to see about that, won’t we?” Janna promised, and Ryan grinned again.

“Yes, we will, baby. How about later?”

“It’s a date. Let’s hope little Miss Halley doesn’t have other plans.” She rested her hand on Ryan’s thigh as she turned to gaze at their baby in the back seat.

“I don’t think she’ll mind, Janna. She’s been so good on this trip. Way better than I even dared to hope. Do you think the nice energy here agrees with her or something?”

“I think that it does, yeah. Plus, remember, she’s empathic and picks up on the emotions of those around her. It’s been an incredibly happy vacation for us, Ryan.”

“Jesus, baby, it has that.” She removed the soft hand from her thigh and brought it to her lips. “As good as last year’s trip when I made you pregnant.” Ryan’s eyes sparkled at the memory and Janna felt a jolt of lust from her partner.

“God, Ryan…we’re gonna have to do that again one of these days.”

“Absolutely, baby. We know there’s another little soul out there waiting to arrive.”

“Mm.” Janna became pensive for a moment before saying, “A little boy, I think.”

Ryan looked sharply at her. “How do you know, Janna?”

“Just a feeling.” She looked at Ryan and smiled.

“Jesus, Janna, you’re good. You are right…it is a boy. That’s one of the things my grandfather showed me when he gave me the warning vision last year.”

Janna raised her eyebrows at her wife in surprise. “Oh? What else haven’t you shared with me, love?”

“Nothing that won’t be revealed to you in time, my love. Grandfather’s wishes, Janna…not mine.” Ryan gazed apologetically at her, then returned her attention to the highway. “We’re coming up to our exit, baby…help me find it, huh?”

Janna shook her head at the successful change of subject, but smiled as she watched the highway signs fly by overhead. We are definitely going to finish this conversation later, I think.

Later, however, she found herself wrapped blissfully around her mate as she was made love to under the light of a waning gibbous moon. Past visions were about the farthest thing from her mind as Ryan’s strong, loving hands did wondrous things to her body, while her lips consumed Janna’s passionately.

“By the gods, Ryan…” Janna panted against the hot, soft mouth.

“By all the gods and spirits, Janna, I love you.” Was the deep, mumbled reply.

The next morning found them again gazing at the site of one of their past lives. The three of them stood together, before Taos Pueblo, gazing thoughtfully at it before entering. Ryan held the sleeping Halley in the carrier on her chest as she held Janna’s hand.

“Janna, do you think that Halley lived here with us? We had two children…a girl and a boy.”

Janna thought for a moment. “My sense is that yes, she did…but I’m not sure she was our child.” She furrowed her brows in thought and gazed at her daughter. “I feel an older, wiser energy about her. As if she were a parent to one of us, or maybe an elder or a shaman.”

“I kinda do too, but she has that feel in this life too, even though she’s our child.”

“Well, yeah, that’s true. It may just be that she’s an older soul than either of us are and she was actually our child in that life. I think she was male, though.”

“So do I, but don’t ask me why.”

“It’s an intuitive thing, honey, and you’re becoming good at intrepreting it.”

Ryan smiled at her mate. “Thanks, Janna. Shall we go on in?”

“Lead on, babe.”

-11-

The mid day sun sat high overhead as Ryan paid the fee for the tour of the pueblo. They had visited it only one year previously, but both felt strongly drawn to take the tour again, wanting to re-experience the home of their past-life selves.

As they walked through the narrow adobe passageways of the ancient dwelling, Ryan felt drawn to stop for a moment. She grabbed Janna’s hand and gently pulled her to a stop, letting the tour continue without them.

“What is it, honey?” Janna asked quietly. “I think they want us to stay with the group.”

“I don’t know, Janna. I felt like I should stop here for a minute,” Ryan muttered, feeling a distinct tingling in her skin.

“Okay,” Janna said as she looked around them. Just to their right was a small room and Ryan turned to enter it. “Ryan…um…should you go in there, love?” Janna asked as she cautiously looked to see if they were being observed.

“Probably not, but I feel like it’s drawing me in.” Ryan whispered as she continued on into the room.

A shaft of yellow light illuminated the space and as she stood in the middle of the room, cradling her baby to her chest, Ryan experienced a very strong sense of being at home.

“Janna,” she murmured reverently. “We lived here.” She gazed seriously at her wife as she added, “In this room.”

Janna was struck by Ryan’s direct gaze and looked around her at the old yellow walls, taking a deep breath. “Yes,” she said as she turned in a circle. “I’m feeling that too, now.”

Ryan pulled Janna against her as they stood in the middle of the room, soaking in it’s ambiance. Halley, as well, seemed to take notice and turned her tiny head slowly to try to gaze at the old walls.

“Look at the baby, Ryan…she’s picking up on it too, I’ll bet.”

“Yes.”

Ryan removed her arm from Janna’s shoulders and walked to a corner. She placed a hand on each of the walls and closed her eyes. Breathing deeply, she calmed and grounded herself, letting the familiarity of the room surround her, fill her. Suddenly, she heard voices, not much more than whispers, but she could tell that the language was not English. Beyond the voices, even more faintly in the background she could hear drumming, and beyond that, as if outside, the laughter of children playing. Then she detected the distinct aroma of wood smoke…mesquite, pinon?…and what smelled like baking bread.

Janna joined her and closed her eyes as well. She began to feel, to experience, the same thing. She opened her eyes and turned, and saw that the room was no longer empty. Against the wall opposite her was a thick pile of bedding. In the center of the room sat a kind of clay or stone hearth, and along the edges of the walls were neatly stacked pottery jars of varying sizes, as well as leather and skin bags, piles of furs, and various tools and implements. On the wall above the bedding hung several drums and a flute-type instrument, and a woven blanket covered the doorway.

She turned to Ryan beside her and could tell by her wide-eyed stare that she was seeing the same thing. Gently, silently, she grasped Ryan’s hand and her mate looked down at her and swallowed as she nodded. They both looked toward the doorway just then as a man and woman entered, laughing. They were Indian, both wearing their long hair in braids, and dressed in simple leather clothing. The tall, strong man kissed his wife’s cheek before turning her and unlacing the carrier on her back, and removing a tiny sleeping baby. He held the infant tenderly in his arms as he and his mate gazed down upon it. Then slowly, gingerly, he laid the infant in a small woven cradle next to the sleeping blankets.

His wife stood beside him and gazed adoringly at him as he put their child to bed. Then he stood and faced her, pulling her into his arms with a wide grin. She smiled warmly at him as she threw her hands around his neck. He said something to her, very softly and she replied before leaning forward and kissing him. Their kiss deepened and then he led her to the bed, where he sat and pulled her gently down onto his lap. They kissed again, their love so strong and obvious that Ryan and Janna could feel it’s energy fill the room, and then, they slowly faded from view.

As the couple, their former selves, disappeared, Ryan felt faint and leaned against the wall behind her, pulling Janna with her. They stood together, speechless, trying to process what they had just seen.

Ryan broke the silence first, several minutes later. “Oh my God, Janna. Was that what I think it was?” She turned shocked blue eyes on her mate.

Janna rubbed her hands along her arms, where the hair was still standing on end. “Yes, Ryan, I think it was. That was incredible.”

“It was us, Janna.” Not a question.

“Yes, I know.” She blew out a breath. “Wow, I feel…drained.”

“Janna, that was freakin’ mind blowing.”

“You’re not kidding, Ryan. I think I need some fresh air.”

“Right, baby. Let’s go.” She wrapped her arm protectively around Janna’s shoulders and guided her out of the room. They reached the doorway, and she stopped and turned. They both gazed silently back into their long-ago home, taking in and storing away the incredible scene they had just witnessed.

They exited the dim, ancient building into the glaring sun. The mountain air was fresh and cool, however, and they both drank it in thirstily.

Ryan ran her hands through her hair and grinned at Janna, shaking her head. “Jesus, baby…”

Janna returned the grin and grabbed Ryan’s arm. “Come on…I need a drink.”

Ryan chuckled, wondering just what her mate considered “a drink,” since they both had to abstain while breastfeeding. She found out a moment later, however, when Janna led them to their truck and retrieved an ice-cold bottle of spring water from the ice chest. Ryan grabbed the offered bottle with a wide grin and gulped the refreshment down. She wiped her mouth and handed the bottle to Janna, who drank just as thirstily.

“Whew…I guess time travel takes a lot out of you,” she said with a grin.

“Definitely babe,” Ryan replied, matching her grin. “I’ll say it again, Janna. That was intense.”

Janna shook her head incredulously and grabbed Ryan’s hand, leading her to a pine-shaded bench. “My studies have taught me that stone…rocks…hold onto energy for a long time. I guess it’s the same with adobe. Unless it’s a particular energy that we were able to dial into because of our history there.”

“I don’t know, babe…but I would like to understand it.” She pulled Janna against her side as she took another sip of water. Glancing at the pueblo again, she added, “I suppose we can ask the spirit dudes about it.”

“Yeah, they’ll be able to explain it to us.” She grinned up at her mate. “Remind me to add it to the list when we get home.”

“Done, babe.” Ryan’s gaze dropped from the pueblo down to her baby daughter. “She’s asleep again, Janna. I wonder if that was too intense for her.”

“If she even noticed it, love.”

“I mean the energy, Janna. She had to have picked up on that.”

“True. It was intense in there even before we saw the vision.”

“That it was, love.” Ryan sighed and leaned back, looking up at the brilliant blue sky above. “Janna, if I had happened on this place without ever having met you, I’ll bet I wouldn’t have picked up on any of that. The things you have introduced me too have opened up my perceptions so incredibly, it’s almost like I’m a completely different person.”

“Ryan, I don’t know. I still think you would have gotten here at some point. The whole planet is changing, remember. The Age of Aquarius is definitely beginning and everyone’s perceptions are expanding now.” She looked at her mate and squeezed her hand. “Don’t sell yourself short, Ryan…please?”

“It’s not so much that, Janna, as recognizing how much you’ve enriched my life. I appreciate it, baby. I appreciate you.”

Janna was warmed by the statement and showed it in her smile. “Thanks, Ryan.”

“Any time, my love. Hey, um, why don’t we stop in and see our friend over in the shop across the way there?” She nodded toward the nearby row of small shops.

“Great. After you, love.”

Lynn Littlefeather looked up from her stock book as the faint chime announced a customer. As she noted the entry of the two familiar women, she smiled. Ah, it’s good to see them again. She was struck by the happy, glowing countenance both women sported. They look very well. She smiled as the tall woman looked her way, a charming grin lighting her face as she rested her arm lazily about her mate’s shoulders, and nodded at Lynn. The woman’s mate graced her with a smile too…a warm, sincere smile that spoke of long time friendship rather than mere acquaintanceship.

Ryan approached the friendly woman who had unselfishly offered her advice a year earlier. That advice had helped to steer her and Janna through the rocky course that fate had thrown their way. She offered her hand to the woman who was smiling graciously at them.

Lynn grasped the warm, strong grip and said, “Welcome back. It’s good to see you again. And all healed.”

The tall, attractive cop answered, “Thank you. It’s good to see you too, and great to be back here.” She smiled down at her smaller companion and looked sincerely back at Lynn. “You know, you feel like an old friend to us, but we don’t even know your name.”

The Native woman smiled and offered her hand. “Lynn Littlefeather. Pleased to meet you.”

“Nice to meet you, Lynn. I’m Ryan Norden-Zamora and this is my wife, Janna.”

Janna smiled warmly and extended her hand. “Lynn, hi.” She softly caressed the baby’s head as she said, “And this is our daughter, Halley.”

Lynn’s features melted into a warm grin as she saw the baby, who had apparently decided that there had been entirely too much going on and had fallen asleep in the pack on her tall Momma’s chest.

Ryan continued, “Lynn, we couldn’t possibly buy you lunch, could we?”

Lynn returned Ryan’s direct gaze and smiled as she said, “That would be very nice, thank you. I can’t be away long, though…I don’t like to leave my daughter alone here.”

Ryan nodded. “I noticed a little café up the block, would that do?”

“Yes, that would be fine…their food is very good. Let me find my daughter and let her know.” She turned and exited into a back room, returning a short time later with a teenaged girl. “Ryan, Janna, this is my daughter, Amanda.”

Ryan smiled and nodded at the girl, “Hi, Amanda.” Janna echoed her greeting.

“Hi.” The girl of perhaps sixteen greeted Ryan and Janna with a friendly smile.

“Honey, I won’t be long. I’m only expecting one delivery today, but it will probably be later in the afternoon.”

“Okay, Mom. Have a nice lunch.”

“Can I bring you anything?”

“No, I have my sandwich…oh, another Coke would be nice.”

“Okay. See you in a while.”

“Bye Mom. Bye,” she addressed Ryan and Janna with a wave. They responded with friendly smiles.

The Navajo woman reached behind the counter and picked up a small purse, then led Ryan and Janna from her shop. They walked along the pleasant pueblo-styled outdoor mall and entered a small, charming cafe.

Lynn led them to a quiet corner table next to the window. After ordering salads and sandwiches, and receiving their drinks, Ryan sat back in her chair and eyed Lynn. She had a hunch and vocalized a question.

“So, Lynn…you’re not surprised to see us again, are you?”

The Indian woman chuckled and grinned. “No, I’m not. I had a feeling that I would be seeing you again soon.”

“Do you mind my asking…are you a medicine woman?” Ryan asked as she sipped her orange soda.

“I don’t mind…no, I’m not. I practice the traditional ways, but I am not a shaman. My father is, however, and he is training my daughter.”

Ryan nodded. “Ah. The reason I ask is because you seem incredibly perceptive.”

“Thank you. I do consider myself psychic, as well as knowledgeable in the old ways. I could ask the same of you two. You both have the feel of shamen about you.”

Janna grinned. “Nope, just practitioners in our own small way. We share an Indian heritage and enjoy practicing the traditional arts together.”

“Oh, may I ask what tribes you’re related to?”

Ryan answered, “Sure. Janna is descended from the Cherokee and I from the Comanche and Navajo.”

Lynn nodded sagely. “I am Navajo as well. Welcome, sister.”

Janna added, “Our daughter is now affiliated with the Cheyenne tribe as well, through her father’s wife.”

“That is wonderful. I’m very glad to see people try to carry on the Old Ways. It seems that fewer and fewer of us walk the Red Path any more.”

Ryan replied, “We intend to raise our daughter to know of the traditional ways. Actually, I have my wife to thank for bringing me back to my roots. Before I met her, I was not at all involved in my culture…or hadn’t been since I was a kid.”

“That’s wonderful, Janna.”

Ryan grasped her wife’s hand as she gazed at her. “Yes. I’m eternally grateful.” Her sparkling blue eyes were met by equally sparkling green, accompanied by a sweet smile.

Janna added, “Even though I’m just barely blooded, that part of my ancestry has always been very important to me. I’m, um, very proud of my tiny bit of Cherokee blood.” She grinned again as her wife squeezed her hand. “Then later, when I became aware of my past lives, I gained an understanding of why I was so interested in those roots. I’ve had many, many Indian lives. So has my soulmate here, of course.”

“Of course,” Lynn grinned. She added, “I take it you are aware of the life you had together here?”

Ryan laughed. “Oh yes! Very well aware. We, um, saw ourselves the first time we were here and today we actually met ourselves.” Her wide grin lit her beautiful face.

“Yes,” Janna exclaimed. “And in a very intense and rather mind-blowing way.” She shook her head as she sipped her water. “I think even the baby picked up on the energy.”

“That’s wonderful…did you have a vision?” Lynn asked, interested.

Ryan looked at Janna and grinned. “You could say that. We were in the pueblo and I felt very strongly drawn to go into one of the rooms. When I went in, I knew…I’m not sure how, but I just knew…that we had lived there…in that very room. Janna felt it too.”

Janna nodded her agreement and Ryan continued. “Then, I touched the walls and all of a sudden we were back in that time. We saw our past selves come in with their baby.”

Janna continued, excitedly, “Yes! And we could hear other people talking and drumming, and could even smell wood smoke and food baking. It was incredible!”

Lynn smiled warmly at them. “That is wonderful…a very special gift.”

The waitress delivered their food then and Ryan waited before asking, her brow furrowed in question, “Lynn, can you tell us what actually was happening? I mean, I know we weren’t suddenly whisked physically back in time…so what exactly was that about, do you know?”

“Yes, I think so. Are you aware of the nature of time?” She looked from Ryan to Janna and Janna nodded.

“Somewhat, yes. A spirit guide of mine is fond of saying, ‘All time is now’.”

Lynn nodded her agreement. “Yes. That is right. Past, present, future…all are happening now…and some people are able to tap into the other timelines, so to speak. Time is not linear, or rather, only seems linear here on the Earth plane. It is fluid, and people gifted with the ability to see into the other realms can look into the past and the future with ease.”

Janna nodded. “Yes, that makes sense. So we simply…or I should say, our awareness, simply shifted into the past?”

Lynn smiled. “Yes.”

“Jesus,” Ryan muttered.

“My God, that is so amazing!” Janna exclaimed with glee.

Lynn then offered, “When you were here the first time, as I was looking at you, my perception shifted and I saw your past selves standing there, looking at your home with your children.”

Ryan gasped, “So that’s how you knew! I remember, you said, ‘Welcome home’. I gotta tell ya, Lynn, you blew me away with that!”

Lynn laughed. “I’m sorry, Ryan. I didn’t intend to. I had a sense of what you were seeing, so I thought you would understand.”

“That’s okay…my wife here understood. She took it in stride.”

Janna giggled. “If you say so, honey. That was a new experience for me too, you know.” She looked at Lynn and added, “I’ve been regressed to former lives by a therapist and had done some self regressions…where I had visions…but having it happen right there, as a result of returning to a past life home, that was remarkable.” She looked at Ryan as she added, “And I must say, it was remarkably easy…for both of us.”

“You have both been shamen and medicine women before.” Lynn stated matter-of-factly. “Such skills go with you from life to life…you need only be aware of the fact and then you can tap into that knowledge.”

“Yes, I agree with that and I think that we have been shamen, Lynn. Well, we know for certain of a few instances where we were.” Janna supplied as Ryan nodded.

“Yep.” She took a bite of her sandwich and looked down at Halley as the baby woke up with a huge yawn. “Oh, Janna, looks like someone else is gonna want to eat soon, too.”

“Okay, love, it’s my turn, I think.” Janna said as she leaned over and nuzzled her daughter’s fuzzy head with her lips.

“I’ll handle it, baby, if you want to eat.” Ryan offered.

“Thanks, honey, but you know that’s not necessary. I, um… I wonder if I can do it inconspicuously here?” She said as she looked around. It was early afternoon and the café was not terribly crowded.

“I don’t see why not, hon. I’m sure there’s a blankie in here that you can use,” Ryan said as she rummaged though Halley’s bag.

“Would you mind if I nursed her here, Lynn?”

Lynn smiled warmly. “Of course not.”

“Thanks.” Janna stood and reached for the now awake baby, whose features were beginning to show signs of displeasure. “Come here, sweetheart, let’s go check your diaper before lunch.” She lifted Halley from the snug carrier that Ryan wore and kissed her sweetly before making her way to the nearby restroom.

They returned a few minutes later and Janna said as she sat, “Well, she had reason to be grumpy.”

Ryan reached for her daughter so her Mommy could get settled. “Did you have a mess, my precious? Huh, my little puma?” She nuzzled the baby’s soft hair, unable to keep from kissing her child. “Give Momma a love, sweetheart.” Halley did so, accompanied by a tiny, lopsided grin, and Janna’s heart nearly melted at the site.

“My God, you two…that smile that you share.” She shook her head with a grin.

“Hear that, little one? Mommy likes our smile. Yes, she does.” A dark eyebrow rose rakishly as Ryan felt the pleasure of her mate’s attraction to her.

Janna threw the blanket over her shoulder and said, “Okay, love, I’m ready…hand her over.”

As Ryan did so, Janna tucked Halley gently under the light blanket, and she latched on. When the familiar light tugging ensued, Janna gave a pleased smile and reached for her chocolate milkshake.

“That’s so sweet. It’s been a long while since I did that,” Lynn mused.

“Do you just have the one daughter, Lynn?” Ryan asked she took another bite of her sandwich.

“No, I have two older sons too. They are both away at school.”

Janna frowned. “Oh, that must be hard for you. I don’t even want to think about that as far as Halley here is concerned.”

Lynn smiled. “It is hard…I miss them…but I had eighteen years to prepare for the occasion. They aren’t far…one is in Phoenix and the other is at Albuquerque, so they make it home often. And we go to visit them occasionally, too. Plus, they both plan to return to this area when they’re finished.”

“That’s nice, Lynn. I’m glad.” Ryan offered with a smile.

The three women, former strangers who had much in common, enjoyed the rest of their quick meal together and returned shortly thereafter to Lynn’s store.

Ryan bought Janna yet another turquoise necklace and Janna, yet again, picked out a many months’ supply of sage and cedar smudge sticks and incense.

As she lay her purchases on the counter, Janna exclaimed, “Lynn, this copal is wonderful…very powerful. I’m not able to find it at home, so it’s great that you sell it.

“Thank you, Janna. This is gathered and prepared by a good friend of mine. I’ll tell her that you enjoy it.”

Janna thought for a moment, and then asked, “Lynn, I may need more of this before we come back again next year…do you do any mailorder business?”

“I do, some, yes.” She reached over to her left and grasped a business card from where they sat next to the cash register. “Here, Janna. Give me call and I’ll be happy to send something out to you.”

“Oh, great! Thanks, Lynn.” Janna grinned up at her mate, who was standing patiently beside her, holding the baby. “This is great, love.”

Ryan grinned. “Yep. Lynn, that stuff’ll probably only last her a few months. She does like to burn it.”

“They are very useful tools, Ryan.” Lynn offered, gazing at Janna’s mate.

“I know, and um, actually, I’ve gotten into the habit too. I think I handled the last two house smudgings, as a matter of fact.”

“Yes, love, you did. To my great, but happy, surprise.” Janna laughed. “Hold on just a minute, honey…I want to grab one of those blankets, too.” She turned away and grabbed a soft Indian blanket from the nearby shelf, bringing it to the counter. “This will be great for Halley to play on…on the floor. Soft and warm.”

“Great, babe. I think we’re set, Lynn.” She added pointedly, “And we will be paying for all of the items this time.”

Lynn smiled and nodded graciously. “All right, Ryan. Thank you.”

“No problem…you are in business, you know. As far as I’m concerned you’ve been more than generous in the past, and it’s the least we can do.”

They made their purchases and bid their friend goodbye. After stowing the bags in the cargo area, Ryan shut the window and turned to gaze at the nearby pueblo. She took a deep breath and sighed, knowing that what they had experienced that day would take some assimilating.

As she climbed behind the wheel, she grinned, realizing that she and Janna would have a great time assimilating the experience together. I can’t wait. God, I love this journey that we’re making together.

~~~~~~~~~~
The drive back to their inn in Santa Fe was mostly quiet as both women silently pondered what they had experienced. They both were feeling a quiet sense of wonder and a profound gratitude. They felt gratitude both for being given the vision, and for being allowed to experience it together, as they had their sweat lodge vision.

Janna gazed out the passenger window as the mountainous terrain passed by. Soon, the many red-roofed, adobe homes of Santa Fe appeared among the low hills.

Ryan drew her gaze from the highway to her mate’s face. She felt a warm sense of contentment flowing from her through their bond, and she smiled. Through her smile, Ryan asked, “Sun’s setting in a few hours, Janna. What would you like to do?”

Janna rolled her head lazily to meet her wife’s gaze. She rested her hand on Ryan’s, which sat, as usual, on the gearshift knob. “I’d like to find some water and laze in it until dinner. Is that okay? This whole thing has really wiped me out…I need to ground some.”

“That sounds great, baby. Hotel pool or whirlpool tub?” She grinned jauntily, warming Janna from the inside out.

“Whirlpool, I think. And room service…a big dinner with an even bigger dessert.”

“I’m there, love.” She brought Janna’s knuckles to her mouth and kissed them softly. “I think you need to eat some meat, honey…if you’re feeling spacey.”

Janna pinned her with a direct gaze and replied, “Ryan, I intend to eat something later…after Halley goes down…that will ground me better than anything I know of.” She raised one blonde eyebrow rakishly and Ryan’s blood pressure shot off the chart.

“God, Janna, I am so there. Jesus.” She licked her lips, took a deep breath, and pressed her foot a little more firmly on the gas pedal, though they were already nearly at their destination.

~~~~~~~~~~
“Ohh, yes,” Janna moaned. “That is so good, Ryan.”

“I’m glad you like it, baby,” drawled the deep, sexy voice as she dipped the spoon into the sundae and took the next spoonful of the delightful dessert for herself. “God, I think I could live on chocolate if I had to.”

Janna rolled her head toward her mate and sighed before saying, “Oh, so could I.” She glanced over at the baby and noted that she had fallen asleep in the nearby crib. “Um, especially if I had you to eat it off of. The baby’s asleep now, Ryan.”

“Is she?” Ryan sat up slightly in the tub and turned to see their daughter. “Mm, she is. I believe it’s time for the best part of this dessert, then. Come ‘ere, love.” Her eyes gained a devilish gleam as she eyed her mate, causing said mate’s blood to start pounding in earnest.

Janna smiled and remarked coyly, “I thought I was the one who needed grounding.”

“Oh, baby…so do I. Now come ‘ere, please.”

Janna complied, floating easily into Ryan’s arms as the water supported her. She wrapped her arms around her mate and said, “Here I am.”

“Yes, you certainly are.” Ryan leaned forward and stole a hungry kiss, not letting go until she had thoroughly explored Janna’s mouth with her tongue. She pulled back and gazed sexily at her mate.

“Mm, Ryan,” Janna panted.

“Sit up on the edge, Janna.”

Janna complied without a word, using strong arms to lift herself out of the water. Ryan enjoyed the view lasciviously as Janna’s body left the water, gleaming rivulets running down it, and surged forward to run a hot tongue around her navel even before Janna was fully settled.

“God, Ryan…”

“Mmm, Janna. I need my dessert now, baby.” Ryan mumbled against Janna’s firm stomach. She pulled back and gazed proudly at her wife. “You’ve lost all of the weight you had gained, Janna. Your stomach is as firm as it was before.”

Janna reached forward and caressed Ryan’s hair with her fingers, answering softly, “Breastfeeding does that, love. Burns the weight right off.”

“Mmm,” Ryan mumbled in answer, her lips against Janna’s belly again. Her hot, talented tongue then snaked out and made it’s way toward Janna’s curls, accompanied by light kisses.

“Ryan…”

Ryan answered with a kiss and a stroke just above her wife’s sensitive cleft and pulled back to reach for the huge hot fudge sundae they had been sharing. She spooned a dab of the fudge onto each of her breasts and then moved lower and let the thick confection dribble slowly down onto Janna’s golden curls.

Janna threw her head back and moaned and Ryan grinned wickedly before going in for her feast. She slowly, seductively licked the chocolate from first one breast and then the other, taking time to suckle lovingly while she was there. As her mate’s milk began to flow, Ryan looked up at her and smiled warmly before cupping warm water onto the engorged glands.

“Ryan, my God…go down, please.”

“Absolutely, love.” She tenderly kissed her way down Janna’s body, interspersing the kisses with sultry strokes of her tongue. After reaching her wife’s soft curls, her talented tongue made quick work of both the chocolate and of Janna’s resilience. She went in seriously after her wife’s sweet nectar then, and only a few short minutes later, Janna was moaning loudly as her body was wracked by the powerful climax.

Listlessly, she sank into the water, into Ryan’s arms, where she was held and kissed tenderly until she regained herself.

“Thank you, my love,” she mumbled quietly while she hung in Ryan’s arms. “I really, really needed that.”

“My pleasure, Janna.”

“Is there any fudge left?”

“Mm, hmm.”

“Good. Cherries?”

“Yep, one.”

“Cool.” She pulled back and gazed at her mate. “May I have my dessert now, please?”

“Oh, shit, Janna, please do, baby.” Ryan shuddered with anticipation, pleasing Janna enormously, and she pulled her strong wife against her as they kissed. The kiss was long and slow, and Janna’s fingers began dancing lightly over her mate’s dark curls. Ryan’s breath became ragged and she pulled away from Janna, lifting herself from the tub without being prompted. Janna rewarded her for her enthusiasm by diving in and burying her mouth in Ryan’s soft mound before even adding the chocolate.

Ryan buried her fingers in Janna’s hair, pulling her head firmly against her center as she moaned. Janna stroked her beloved mate delicately, then more firmly as she was encouraged by sensuous moans. She nearly lost herself in the pleasure of her mate’s taste before she remembered that she could draw out the pleasure by supplementing with the chocolate. Janna pulled back, separating from her mate, and reached for the large, deep glass. She neatly plucked the lone remaining cherry from the bottom and gently, deftly, inserted it into a portion of Ryan’s anatomy where it would stay until retrieved.

Ryan’s eyes rolled back in her head as she gasped, “Oh, Janna, baby…fuck…”

“Mmm…the cherry’s the best part, baby,” Janna said seductively while she dribbled chocolate fudge atop silky dark curls.

Ryan took a deep breath and fairly panted, “Janna, Christ…hurry before I come all by myself.”

“You’d better not, Ryan. Here I come, love.” Janna said as she set aside the large container and moved slowly toward her wife. She reached her dessert and breathed deeply of Ryan’s scent, letting her mate’s essence fill her being. “God, I’m hungry for you, Ryan,” she mumbled against her mate’s soft, sweet anatomy, setting already inflamed nerve endings afire.

“Go for it, Janna…please,” Ryan encouraged, breathlessly.

Janna closed her eyes and stroked her lover soundly, receiving a tongue-full of sweet sauce and her wife’s essence. She moaned blissfully as she swallowed the sweet treat and dove in for more, saving the cherry for last. She almost waited too long…by the time she used her tongue and teeth in concert to neatly pluck the fruit from the entrance to Ryan’s womb, her mate was already teetering on the edge of ecstasy. The loving stroke of Janna’s tongue pushed her over the edge and she screamed as the powerful orgasm rocked her, body and soul.

As the joyous, powerful tremors wracked her mate’s body, Janna rose with the cherry in her mouth and shared it with Ryan, prolonging the event and pulling more deep moans from her mate. Ryan savored the half of the cherry that Janna shared with her, tasting both her wife’s and her own juices amidst the syrupy treat. Unable to tolerate any more pleasure, Ryan slipped into the tub and was embraced by her smaller mate. Janna held her tenderly, whispering sweet words of love in her ear as she fell back to Earth.

~~~~~~~~~~
Luna’s light during her third quarter phase was weak, but her energy was strong, as she bathed her friends within her glow. They lay, entwined as one, in the king-sized bed in their room, both holding on to each other as if for dear life.

As Janna lay in Ryan’s arms, she mumbled against her chest, “Ryan, that loving earlier was so amazing…so intense. And I needed it so much.” She shifted slightly to reach the nearby breast and kissed its curve tenderly. “After those incredible visions the last few days, I was feeling pretty spacey. Ethereal, almost.”

“I was too, Janna, so I can only imagine how the experiences hit you. And yes, that loving grounded us beautifully. God, Janna.” She kissed the blonde head that rested beneath her chin and released a deep sigh.

“I feel more connected to you now than I ever have…and we were already like one soul at times, Ryan.”

“Yes, baby. We received a sense of the true nature of our existence, I think. Of the interconnectedness of our souls. This bond goes so far back: through time; through space; through dimensions, even.”

“Yes,” Janna breathed.

Ryan swallowed hard as a thought struck her. She voiced her idea quietly. “Honey, we should go to Greece.”

The realization of what such a trip would entail, what it would both symbolize and reveal, struck Janna deeply and she gasped, “My, God…yes.”

At that point, both women were overcome by emotion and their shared tears spoke for them, as words were no longer suitable.

-12-

Thursday evening, at dusk, one week after their short, but very sweet vacation began, Ryan pulled the truck into their driveway. She and Janna both sat for a minute before getting out, not wanting the trip to be over. Ryan looked over at Janna, who rested her head against the seat back, and grinned wryly.

“Well, love, we’re home.”

“Mm. That was a great trip, Ryan. I’m sorry it had to end.” She looked at her mate and smiled wistfully. “But it is good to be home.”

“Mm, yeah. It always is good to get home. Come on, Janna…let’s get unloaded.” She glanced into the back seat and noting that the baby was asleep, remarked, “It um, looks like we may have a long night ahead of us…she slept that whole last stretch home. She’s gonna be off her schedule.”

Janna turned and gazed at their tiny sleeping angel. “I think you’re right, honey, and hungry as a bear too, when she wakes up. We should probably play with her a lot after she eats and then take a long bath.”

Ryan grinned widely. “Sounds good, love…I’m game.”

Janna returned the grin. “Oh, I know you’re game, love…on both counts. I know of little else you enjoy more than playing with your daughter.”

“You’re right, Janna.” She sighed and grasped her wife’s hand. “She is my daughter, Janna…at least as soon as I get the papers filed, and the decree is made. God, Janna…” She was so struck by emotion that she could not continue and Janna pulled her into a hug.

“She is most definitely your daughter Ryan, whether we have a legal document stating the fact or not.” She kissed her wife’s forehead before adding, “Grab our daughter, love, and I’ll get the bags.” Ryan nodded as she pulled away and removed her seat belt.

Fifteen minutes later, Ryan was trying to change an infuriated child who was screaming at the top of her exceedingly healthy little lungs. Halley’s little body, from the tips of her toes to her forehead was as red as a beat as she screamed inconsolably. As she struggled against powerful little legs, which were kicking wildly, Ryan thought to herself, Jesus fucking Christ…we should have awakened her to eat two hours ago. It took seemingly all of her dexterity to still a chubby little leg long enough to secure the diaper with the safety pin. Well, Christ, now I see one obvious benefit to disposable diapers. Fuck this. She gave up and dropped the pin disgustedly into the small jar that held its mates and picked up her naked daughter.

She wrapped the baby snugly in her soft, warm blankie and cuddled her tightly to her chest as she softly cooed, “Sweetheart. My little one, okay, okay, Momma’s here. Let’s go eat.”

She made her way out of the bedroom and down the hallway, down the stairs and past the kitchen. Over Halley’s screams, she could hear Janna listening to phone messages and as they entered the kitchen, Janna looked up from the counter, concerned.

“My God, she’s mad, Ryan.”

“Tell me about it, Janna. We’re going into the family room to eat.”

“Okay, love. I’ll join you in a minute…maybe I can help settle her.”

“Janna, I think at this point the only thing that’s gonna settle her is my tit.” Janna scowled mildly, but nodded. “She couldn’t possibly have heard that, Janna, over her screaming.”

“Right. Okay, Ryan. I’ll be there in a minute anyway. Good luck.”

“Thanks.” She left the kitchen, still cradling the angry baby, and made her way toward the comfortable family room. The tall cop settled herself on the long sofa, against the side, and deftly pulled her t-shirt off with one hand, then quickly uncovered a breast. “Okay, Halley, love…here you go,” she said as she introduced her nipple into the little mouth. The baby hungrily latched on and began to feed voraciously, her complaints dying in her throat. A few muffled sobs rose from her small throat and her mother caressed her soft head, soothing her further. Her loud cries had quickly become contented gurgles. Just like her Mommy, Ryan thought with a grin.

“What are you grinning at?” Janna asked as she knelt beside her girls and caressed her daughter’s head.

“Oh, nothing!”

Janna gazed at her disdainfully. “Yeah, right, Ryan. I’m glad she’s happy now. She does get mad when she’s hungry.”

Ryan graced her mate with a warm grin and Janna suddenly understood what she had been grinning at. She slapped her mate’s arm playfully. “Oh, you!”

“What?”

“You know what. Scoot up…I want to sit behind you.” She stood up and pushed playfully at Ryan’s back.

Ryan laughed as she shook her head. “God, it should be scary how well you know me. Should be, but isn’t.”

“It better not be. Where is her diaper?”

“Ooh, you’re in a feisty mood, aren’t you? She was so mad that I couldn’t get it on her,” Ryan said as she scooted forward slightly to let her wife squeeze behind her. As she moved, she jostled the baby, who pulled back and started to voice her complaint, her little face quickly scrunching into a scowl. Ryan swiftly guided her breast back into place and Halley was mollified, forgetting why she was upset.

Janna wrapped her arms around Ryan’s waist and rested her cheek against a strong shoulder. “I’m a little pissed off. That real estate office isn’t happy with one of the images I delivered before we left. The manager left some rather irate messages. It seems he feels that I’m ignoring him.”

“Jesus Christ, what an ass. I think I’ll give him a call when I’m done here and inform him that you were on vacation out of state all week.”

“Oh, I made it clear that I would be away for a week. You’re right, he is an ass, and just likes to hear himself complain.”

Ryan turned slightly to glance at her mate. “Janna, what could he possibly not like about one of your photographs?”

“He doesn’t like the black and white one…says that I was commissioned to do color shots. But his designer specifically asked me for a black and white shot of Half Dome. I have it in the contract…a copy of which I’ll fax to him in the morning.”

“You could fax it tonight. If I’m picturing the right guy, he strikes me as the weasely type who works night and day.”

Janna laughed. “You’re probably right, and I could fax it tonight, but why should I? Let him stew overnight.” She added, whispering, “Asshole.”

Ryan squeezed the thigh that was embracing her and laughed. “You’re right.” She looked down at their daughter as the little tyke stopped nursing momentarily, probably because she needed to take a breath. She smiled adoringly at her daughter as she began suckling again in earnest, closing her eyes happily. “Don’t take this wrong, please, Janna, but she loves to eat as much as you do.”

Janna chuckled. “No offense taken, love. I do enjoy eating…more than almost anything else.”

“Mmm.” Delivered with a rakish twist to her mouth that Janna couldn’t see but correctly intuited nevertheless.

“Don’t go there right now, Ryan. She’s not gonna sleep anytime soon.”

Ryan sighed wistfully. “True.”

True to Janna’s word, several hours later, Ryan was still lying on the bed, alternately playing with her daughter and watching her play alone. Halley was currently on her back, apparently fascinated with her bare feet, and kept gleefully grabbing for them. Having finished checking their email and taking care of other business down in her office, Janna entered the bedroom and flopped onto the bed beside her mate. “She’s not tired yet, huh?”

“Nope. But I am.” She turned her head to gaze into Janna’s pretty eyes. “I don’t think I’m up to loving tonight…it’s been a long day. I’m sorry, baby.”

Janna caressed Ryan’s arm as she replied, “It’s okay, love…I’m tired too. Anyway, we loved this morning, remember?”

“So? We’ve never let that fact stop us from loving again at night.”

Janna grinned. “I know…what I mean is that neither of us should be too awfully needy tonight.” She moved closer and snuggled against her mate as she added, “You loved me good, Ryan.”

Ryan grinned, proud. “Thank you, baby.” An image from earlier of Janna pressed up against her on her side as Ryan reached a long arm around in front of her crossed her mind and she shuddered at the memory. “That’s not an easy position but we seem to have mastered it, Janna.”

“Mm, hm. Among many others, Ryan.” She nuzzled her wife’s neck and planted a soft kiss there.

Ryan sighed. Christ, I’m getting hot for her. What this woman does to me. She shook her head and grinned. “Janna you are an absolute master at turning me on…do you know that?”

“Ditto, baby.”

Shit. She cleared her throat. “Um, why don’t we all get in the tub. Halley can have more playtime in there.”

“Okay, love…should I make it a cold bath?” Janna asked coyly.

“Probably, yeah, but I don’t think the baby would appreciate it. Don’t worry, Janna, I can handle this.”

“I know, love…I was just teasing. Um, why don’t we plan on an extra long, extra sexy cuddle time in the morning…since you’re still on vacation?”

“I’m there, love. Thank you.” She rolled over and gazed down at Janna. “Um, we haven’t played with the toy in while.”

God. “You’re right, and I kinda miss it. I’m there, too, Ryan.”

“Good, baby. Then it’s a date.” She leaned down and very softly kissed her mate. “I love you, Janna.”

“Love you too, Ryan.”

They gazed into each other’s eyes for a while before Janna remembered to get up and fill the large whirlpool tub.

Twenty minutes later, laughter, both adult and infant, filled the large bathroom as the family played happily together in the bathtub.

Ryan chuckled, “Jesus, Janna, water’s another thing she likes as much as you do.”

“Mm, hm,” Janna agreed as the baby held firmly within her grasp splashed at the water with her tiny hands. She smiled delightfully as the results of her movements splashed water onto her face, and that of her mother.

Ryan moved from behind Janna and came around next to Halley. “Here, love, let me see her.” She grinned widely as the wet, squirming baby was passed to her. “Come here, my little one. Show Momma how you like to splash. Show me. Come on!”

Halley eagerly complied, using her tiny fist to splash a good sized wave into her Momma’s face. “That’s my girl! You got Momma good…yes you did!”

“Hold her honey, while I soap her.”

“Okay, love.” Ryan turned the baby to face her Mommy as she said, “It’s time to wash now, sweetheart. Let Mommy get you clean.” As Janna began to gently scrub their daughter, Ryan yawned and glanced at her watch. 11:30, Jesus. I’m wiped out. I must be a parent.

~~~~~~~~~~
The red lights danced softly on the baby monitor receiver, indicating that the baby was still asleep upstairs, as Pearl Jam blared loudly from the speakers in the darkroom downstairs. Janna removed a print from the stop solution and held it up so that her mate could see it. As her wife held the dripping print up in the red glow of the room, Ryan tilted her head to look at it.

“Oh, God, Janna! That’s awesome!” She rubbed her partner’s back happily. “I love that…it’s perfect.”

Janna smiled widely. “Thanks, love. She makes a great subject, though.”

Ryan continued to gaze at the image of her daughter after Janna hung it on the line to dry. “And you got her with her head up…she hasn’t been doing that well for very long.”

“I know…I took that at Zac’s.” In the photo, Halley was lying on her stomach on an Indian blanket, and holding her head up strongly as she gazed with interest at her mother behind the camera.

“Well, there’s another picture for my desk. All those guys are gonna figure out that I’m nothing but a mushball if I keep this up.”

“Oh, honey, they already know it.” Janna giggled.

“Janna! They do not. And if any of them say anything, I’m gonna kick some ass.”

“Okay, love. If you say so.”

“Janna Norden-Zamora, you’d better watch yourself.”

“Oh yeah? And what are you gonna do if I don’t?” Janna asked, tilting her head coyly.

Ryan slipped her arms around her mate’s waist and pulled her close. “Mmm, you know what,” she said as she nuzzled a soft neck.

“Oh, and that’s supposed to scare me? I have news for you, Ry…” she was interrupted by a pair of hot, sweet lips. As soon as her wife tore her mouth away, along with most of Janna’s breath, she gasped, “You didn’t get enough this morning, love?”

Predictably, Ryan answered, “Baby, I will never get enough of you.”

Janna smiled widely, her pleasure obvious. “I’m so glad to hear that, Ryan. I need to finish this so the chemicals don’t go to waste…later, okay?”

“Absolutely, baby,” Ryan drawled, setting Janna’s blood aflame.

Janna picked up a large sheet of photosensitive paper and fanned herself with it, pleasing her wife no end. She turned back to the enlarger, and Ryan reseated herself on the stool next to her. As Janna refocused her attention on her printing, Ryan’s mind wandered, to their happy, extremely pleasurable interlude that morning.

After a shared erotic dream/memory from their warrior life, they had both awakened ready and very willing to make more memories for their future lives to gaze back on through their dreams. Ryan had been so turned on, and correctly read her mate’s similar state, that she had wordlessly rolled over on top of Janna and captured her mouth hungrily. All four of her mate’s limbs had immediately wrapped themselves around her as her tongue answered Ryan’s passionately, and their bodies became tightly entwined.

After several minutes of impassioned wrestling, Janna mumbled against Ryan’s lips, “Get the strap-on, Ryan.”

Without a word, and without breaking their lip lock, Ryan had reached over to the top drawer of her nightstand and pulled out the harness and its accompanying toy. She ended their kiss with a deep stroke of her tongue and lifted herself to her knees, skillfully donning the leather harness, and locking the firm, blue latex toy into place in the front. As it settled against her excited anatomy, she closed her eyes and sighed.

Ryan’s eyes few open in surprise when she felt a tug on the appendage and looked down to see Janna trying to bring the vibrator closer to her body. The dark woman grinned ferally then, as she lowered herself onto her mate’s body and entered her gently.

At the gentle, loving penetration, Janna gasped and sucked in her breath, moaning as she fully enjoyed the sensations that her skilled partner was awakening within her body. Several minutes of heated thrusting resulted in a thundering climax, and before her body had stopped shuddering, Ryan had pulled out and encouraged her to turn over onto her stomach. Janna did so willingly, as always, and Ryan entered her again, moaning deeply as the pressure against her own center set her own climax into motion. They came together, simultaneously, powerfully, as Ryan’s strong body pushed rhythmically against her smaller mate’s.

As she sat in the darkroom, eyes unfocused and slightly glazed in remembrance, Ryan smiled as she remembered Janna’s ear-splitting scream of pleasure, which had been scant decibels less than hers had been at the same instant. I would love to know what I did so right in this sorry lifetime to deserve such an incredible woman who actually loves me as much as I love her. She shook her head, confused, but eternally grateful.

Just then, as her cute mate was thrusting her head forward energetically while Eddie Vedder sang, “I want you, in my, rearview mirror,” Ryan noted that the columns of lights on the nursery monitor were spiking rhythmically.

She tapped Janna on the shoulder and her mate stopped singing along with her old friend as she turned to look at Ryan. Ryan pointed to the monitor and said, The baby’s awake, hon. I’ll go get her.”

Janna smiled and said, “Okay, love, thanks. I’m just about done here.” She grinned coyly as she added, “And I agree…that was some mighty awesome loving we had this morning.”

Ryan’s jaw dropped, but she grinned as she said, “Um, yeah. You picked up on that, huh?”

“Absolutely, love. I can’t stop thinking about it either. And I’m hot for you again already.”

“Jesus, Janna, I’m so glad I took today off. Later, baby.”

“Again, absolutely, love.” She turned back to the enlarger and picked up the paper. “I’m almost done here…then I’ll come and fix us some lunch while you give Halley hers. Let me just get this in the solution before you open the door.”

“Okay, baby.” Ryan stood and wrapped her arms around her adorable mate’s waist, kissing her neck as she dropped the exposed paper into the developing solution.

“Mm, God, love you, Ryan.”

A verbal response from her wife was unnecessary, as at that moment, Ryan was communicating her love to Janna silently, through their link.

~~~~~~~~~~
Janna sat on the edge of the bed and enjoyed the view tremendously as she watched her mate dress. Ryan pulled the dark green, sleeveless, v-necked softball shirt down over her well-muscled torso and ample bosom and when her head popped out through the neck, was very pleased to see her wife leering at her.

Ryan grinned winningly. “Like what you see, baby?”

Janna raised an eyebrow at her. “You know I do, Ryan.” She rose and approached her wife, smiling lecherously at her. When she reached Ryan, she wrapped her arms around her solid waist and pulled her close. As she buried her face against Ryan’s strong shoulder, breathing deeply of her musk, she asked, “What is it that we do to each other?”

Ryan ran her hands down Janna’s back and closed her eyes as she reveled in her mate’s closeness. “I don’t know, Janna. We’ve talked about this before, remember? It’s a mystery.”

“Mm, a timeless, age old mystery, I’ll bet. God, I can’t get enough of this sexy body.” Janna pulled away a bit and ran her hands up along Ryan’s chest.

“Ditto, babe,” Ryan said with a grin as she looked down at her wife. “And if you keep doing that, my milk is gonna let down and mess up my shirt.”

Janna grinned. “Oops, sorry, right. Did you put some nursing pads in your bra?”

“Nope, I forgot. I guess I’d better. Sometimes I only have to look at her and my milk flows. Or hear her.” She pulled Janna close again as she added, “I also have a physical reaction every god damn time I look at you. Or think of you. Or hear you.”

“Mm, do you? Cool, ’cause so do I with you. Kiss me, sexy.”

“Mm, Janna.” Ryan pulled her face up to meet hers and they shared a deep, meaningful kiss for a few moments.

Until Halley said, “Gip!”

As one, they turned to face their daughter, who sat in her bouncer on the bed, and approached her, then smothered her with wet kisses.

“There you go, little one…you get some love, too.”

Halley replied to her Momma’s statement with a happy double kick and a full-body smile. Ryan was enchanted and picked her daughter up out of the bouncy seat, eliciting more happy kicks and gurgles and held her close. She kissed her baby tenderly and passed her to her Mommy so that she could put her shoes on.

“What time will your Mom be there, hon?”

“6:30, so we’ll both have plenty of time to warm up. Sara and the guys might come out too.”

“Oh yeah? Cool. Maybe we can do something afterward.” Ryan said as she stood and straightened her shirt.

Janna approached her and with her free hand, helped to straighten the top that had become considerably tighter since the end of the previous season. “God, honey, your shirt is tight. Maybe you should get a bigger one.”

“I think I will…I hate to feel restricted when I play. And you should too, babe.” She shook her head and chuckled. “The girls are gonna give us shit for this, you know.”

“Yeah, I know, and watch the language, babe.” Janna grinned up at her mate, who winced.

“God, sorry.” She addressed her daughter, “Sorry, sweetheart. Momma forgets herself. Where’s your choo choo, huh?” She reached over to Halley’s changing table and snagged a pacifier, then neatly popped it into the baby’s mouth. Halley went right to work on it, sucking happily as she gazed at her parents. “Are we ready, love?”

“Nursing pads.”

“Right. Jesus, you two women distract me no end.”

“And that fact pleases the both of us immensely, Ryan.”

~~~~~~~~~~
Twenty minutes later, the three Norden-Zamoras were sitting in the softball bleachers, awaiting their friends and family, and then the start of their game. Ryan leaned forward and tickled the belly of the infant sitting in Janna’s lap and Halley gave a cute baby almost giggle. Ryan followed the tickle with a slurpy kiss on her daughter’s cheek.

“Well, ain’t that just an amazing sight,” a low voice drawled, and they both looked up into the grinning face of their tough coach.

Ryan grinned. “Hey, Sharon. It’s good to see ya. Come over here and meet the kid.” She inclined her head, inviting the stout woman to come closer. Sharon did so and sat next to Janna.

“Well hi there, little lady!” The tough, usually reserved crew-cutted woman said softly as she tenderly grasped Halley’s tiny hand, and the little girl slowly turned her head to take in the new person. “Jesus, you two…she looks just like you. How’d you manage that, Ry?”

Ryan grinned widely as she said, “Like I told you once, Sharon, I have many skills.”

At that her coach burst into laughter. “Zamora…excuse me…Norden-Zamora…if any woman could it’d be you.” She shook her head comically. “Who’s watching the munchkin while you play?”

“My mom,” Janna said, looking around for her parents.

“Ryan, why don’t you come do some warm up with me until Carrie gets here. I want you fully warmed up for this first game…no sense in injuring yourself after being off all winter.” She looked sincerely at her star pitcher, evoking a warm grin from her player.

“Sure, Sharon. That’s sounds like a good idea…thanks.” She leaned over and kissed first Halley and then Janna, saying, “Honey, I’ll see you in a bit.”

“Um, that is if you can tear yourself away from your little family for twenty minutes.”

Ryan grinned widely at her coach as she said, “Screw you, Sharon!” Then hopped up and grabbed her friend’s arm, pulling her toward the dugout.

One by one, as their friends and teammates arrived, Janna proudly introduced them to her precious daughter, who seemed to absolutely revel in all the attention. Ryan had rejoined her family when John, Sara and their nearly one-year old son, John, Jr. arrived. The small boy had adorable blonde curls, making him resemble his mother.

“Hey guys…it’s good to see you!” Ryan said as she rose to clasp hands with her best friend and former partner.

“You, too, bud. Jesus, the baby’s gotten big. What’re you guys feeding her?”

“Just momma’s milk still, John.” Janna said, grinning.

“Ryan, I see you’re still nursing her too.” He smirked.

“Damn right, buddy. Hey, we need to warm up. You guys want to do something after the game?”

“Yeah, sure, Ry…that sounds good.” Sara replied.

“Cool…enjoy the game.”

Janna handed the baby to her grandmother and pointed out the location of her necessities. “Okay, Sweetie, have a good game.”

“Thanks, Mom…and hey, thanks for helping us out. We really appreciate it.”

“Sweetheart, I’m more than happy to, and you know we enjoy watching you play. Now don’t worry…go have fun.”

“Give ’em hell, sweetheart,” Janna’s dad encouraged with a smile, to the disdain of his wife, who scowled mildly at him and reminded him to watch his language.

~~~~~~~~~~
Just before the game began, Carrie, Ryan’s catcher, sat beside her on the bench. She leaned over and asked conspiratorially, “Did you, uh, see who’s batting leadoff for them?”

Ryan looked surprised. “No. Who?”

Carrie inclined her head toward the opposing team’s on deck circle, where a slim blonde was swinging the bat. “Camille-the-bitch-Jones. I didn’t know she’d switched teams, did you?”

“Nope.” Ryan said as she took a swallow of water.

Carrie added, “I don’t want to piss you off or anything, Ry, but a few minutes ago, she and a teammate were overheard dissing the ‘dyke freaks with the baby’.” She raised her eyebrows as Ryan looked at her, shocked.

“No fuckin’ way, Car.”

“Oh, yeah. Sorry, Ry. What a fuckin’ bitch, huh? If she waited a million years she couldn’t find what you and Janna have, not to mention a wonderful baby like Halley.”

Ryan smiled warmly at her friend. “Thanks, Car…I think I agree with that. I pity her, really.”

“Pity her if you want, Ry, but I’d love to see you scorch her ass.”

Ryan grinned devilishly. “I’ll have to see what I can do about that.”

Janna joined them then and sat next to Carrie as she said, “Honey, look who’s on the Rockettes now.”

“I saw her, babe.”

Carrie added, “Yeah, we were just discussing our strategy.”

Janna grinned, but said, “Okay, you two, be good!” Her teammates turned “who me?” looks on her and both grinned widely.

A few minutes later, Ryan stood on the mound as the batter, with whom she and Janna had a very unpleasant history, approached the plate. In Janna’s first meeting against the woman nearly two years before, the dirty player had deliberately slid into Janna at second base, injuring her. Relations between the three women had been strained ever since, to put it mildly.

As the woman stood at the plate, taking a practice swing while Ryan set herself, she glared unabashedly at the beautiful pitcher.

Ryan smiled maliciously just before delivering a blistering pitch that was high and inside, forcing the woman to step back. The blonde scowled deeply at Ryan, who only lifted her eyebrows and sneered in challenge before setting herself again, delivering a scorching called strike. Janna and her teammates cheered the pitch along with their fans in the stands, but Ryan was in the zone, only noticing the opposing batter and the invisible plate-wide strike zone that began at her knees. Ryan set, wound up and put another beautiful pitch right down the middle of the strike zone, again at an unbelievably blistering speed, and the batter swung and missed.

“Shit,” the blonde could be heard to mumble and she backed away from the plate. She pretended to adjust her batting glove as she tried to psyche herself up. She stepped up to the plate, holding up her left hand toward the pitcher to indicate that she wasn’t ready, and swung the bat out towards Ryan before dropping her left hand onto the handle of the bat.

“All right, Ry…another beauty just like that one,” Carrie called from her crouch behind the plate.

Ryan nodded arrogantly and eyed the batter, playing her own psyche out game. Unfortunately for Camille Jones and her team, the soul that was Ryan Norden-Zamora had had centuries, millennia, actually, to hone her psychological game play. Ryan wound up and delivered the pitch. It was a beautiful change-up, traveling so slowly that the batter swung at it and missed before it had come within a foot of the plate.

“Shit! Fuck you, Zamora!” The blonde screamed and began to charge the mound. Carrie jumped up and immediately put her solid, stocky self between the angry batter and Ryan, and the woman’s base coaches also ran up and physically restrained her. Ryan stood on the mound, grinning victoriously, as her mate came up beside her.

“That was nasty, Ryan, but oh so beautiful.” She grinned as she patted her wife’s fanny.

“Yeah…I’ll tell you about it later, Janna.” She and Janna both eyed the woman as she made her way to the dugout, still screaming obscenities. The umpire then made his way over to have a word with her, after which she plopped sullenly on the bench. All of her teammates gave her a wide berth, none condoning her behavior.

The game continued on, with Ryan continuing to throw major heat, and her Bob’s Shell women won handily. As expected.

After the game, the rest of their family and many of their teammates joined the small family as they gathered at the neighborhood pizza and pool place and had a warm, marvelous time. Ryan was toasted more than once on her pitching performance, as was Janna on her skillful defensive play and three base hits.

Later, the moon sat hidden as she readied to begin her new phase, and the Norden-Zamoras gazed up at seemingly thousands of brilliant stars on the dark, clear night as they sat spooned together in their hot tub. Their friend Luna felt their energy a little later, as they engaged in their very familiar loving activity, and figuratively smiled and nodded her agreement.

-13-

Two months later, late May

Ryan turned at the doorway to the classroom and gave one last wave to the children. As she did so, she was nearly knocked over by the force of the hug she received from a small, brown-haired little ten-year old. She wrapped her arms around him and pulled him close, then knelt next to him and signed, “I’ll see you in September, Andrew. Have a fun summer.”

The little boy nodded, near tears, and said, “Buh buh.”

“Bye bye, Andrew,” Ryan spoke as she signed. She then displayed the three-fingered hand sign for, “I love you,” and stood, showing the sign to the rest of the class as they looked on.

She was greeted with nine little hands displaying the sign in return, accompanied by vocalizations of the phrase in varying degrees of understandability. Her heart lurched as she gazed at the classroom of children whom as she had grown to love, two of whom were moving on to Junior High in the fall. As the emotion stuck in her throat, she sent a private prayer to the Universe, asking it to look after the children as they made their journey through life. For these children, it would not always be an easy journey and she prayed that no one would ever…ever…take unfair advantage of any of them. She gave a final wave and bid the teachers goodbye again, then turned and left the small, portable classroom.

As she made her way across the grass field, toward the parking lot, she was reminded, as always, of the terrible tragedy that had occurred on the playground six years previously. As her heart was once again gripped by the pain and horror she had experienced on that unforgettable day, she thought, mother fucking asshole. I hope you’re rotting in hell. Then, recalling what the spirit dudes had told her about the nature of the afterlife, restated the thought as, or, rather, have created for yourself an astral hell because of what you did. Prick. Grinning wickedly, she thought, karma’s a bitch, dude. Every one of those little ones is gonna kill you just as horribly. Your next five deaths will be hell, just like theirs were. Ha! The thought, morbid though it was, gave her a small amount of pleasure. She couldn’t muster so much as an iota of compassion for the killer, and didn’t feel the least amount of guilt over the fact.

Ryan shook her head, trying to shake off the anger. It was difficult though, as she could still see the small bodies lying on the asphalt in pools of blood where the deranged gunman had shot them down before taking his own life. An expressive eyebrow rose knowingly. At least he did that right. She knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that had the coward not taken his life, she or one of her comrades would have…without giving it so much as a second of consideration. As he had not given the innocent children any, and all because their parents had sought refuge in America from the murdering, marauding communists in their home countries of southeast Asia, and the horrible, racist, pathetic excuse for a human had taken exception to that fact. Ryan had been one of the first responding officers to the scene, having been patrolling nearby, and her lovely, tear-streaked image had made news reports and newspaper front pages nationwide.

She blew out a breath, trying to physically let go of the anger and horror. Come on, get a grip, woman. As she reached her patrol car and sat behind the wheel, Ryan thought of her wife and daughter, and happy images replaced the terrible ones. I think I’ll stop at home for a minute on the way back to the station.

While driving the short distance to their home, Ryan let the love she shared with Janna soothe her. She didn’t allow the horror of the real world to pierce the protective shield that surrounded their life, always striving to leave “work” at work.

As she entered the pleasant neighborhood where they resided, she let the atmosphere of home and family calm her further. In the last fifteen years or so the more than a century old neighborhood had been transformed, changing from an old, worn down area full of derelict homes and rundown apartment buildings to an area where the pride of ownership was beginning to shine. A large percentage of the homes had been renovated to their former glory, including theirs under Janna’s guiding hand, and high quality senior and low-income units were housed in the old apartment buildings. It was an example of urban renewal and historic preservation at their most successful, and Ryan and Janna both were pleased and honored to make their home there. Now, rather than dirty lots overrun with weeds, most of the homes featured green lawns and pleasant landscaping.

Ryan turned into her driveway and admired, as always, Janna’s handiwork in the garden. Rose bushes in full bloom bordered both property lines, while an English-styled country garden bursting with summer color lined the entire front of the attractive sunshine-yellow two-story house. The lovely yard had never failed to raise Ryan’s spirits when they were low, or after a long day at the station or on patrol.

She pulled her black and white patrol car into the driveway behind Janna’s Wrangler and exited, making her way toward the kitchen door at the side of the house. She let herself in and dropped her keys on the counter, halfway expecting to hear music playing semi-loudly. As a silent home greeted her, she wondered, hmm, maybe she’s in the darkroom. After grabbing a juice from the refrigerator and taking a large swallow, she nimbly used one hand to unfasten the buttons on her dark blue uniform shirt, and pulled the tails out of her pants, letting it hang open over the bulletproof vest that she still chose to wear, since she still responded to calls on occasion. As she left the kitchen, Ryan heard a guitar being strummed softly in the family room, accompanying Janna’s soft singing voice, so she headed in that direction.

Halley lay on the floor, her attention focused on one of several toys that surrounded her, her pacifier bobbing happily in her mouth as it was sucked upon, while her mother sat on the nearby sofa working on a new song. Janna felt her mate’s presence before even hearing her enter the house, and smiled. I love it when she drops in on us. She kept playing as the warmth caused by her wife’s proximity bathed her heart center, and she closed her eyes, letting the feeling inspire her further. She softly sang the new line, then, somewhat pleased with it, stopped strumming and leaned forward to jot the words and chords down on the sheet of music paper lying on the coffee table.

Ryan stopped at the doorway to gaze at her girls. Halley was on her Navajo blanket on the floor, lying on her back under an activity center that sported various interesting objects suspended below it. She playfully grasped at a colorful toy, enjoying the movement she created. Ryan’s smiling gaze traveled from her baby up to her mate, who sat relaxed on the comfortable sofa. Her eyes were closed as she strummed a pleasant melody and softly sang a verse. Ryan turned her ear toward Janna, straining to hear what she was saying.

“Love of my life, light of my soul…dawn of my joy; finally, I’m home.”

Tears sprang to Ryan’s eyes as she realized that Janna was writing the song, but even more so because, through their bond, she could feel the emotion behind the words. It’s about me.

Janna let the softly strummed chord fade as a smile lit her face. She knew that Ryan was watching her and could feel her wonder. She leaned forward and set the guitar on the floor, resting it against the side of the couch, then turned toward her tall mate. Her wife stood gazing at her teary-eyed, a forgotten bottle of juice suspended from her hand. She looked adorably rumpled with her shirt askew…no, not adorable…sexy…and Janna smiled warmly at her. She wore her black bulletproof vest over a starched white t-shirt and looked every bit the tough, proud cop…except for the tears threatening to spill.

As Janna turned her loving gaze on her, Ryan’s heart lurched and she stepped into the room, wordlessly setting the juice on the coffee table, and knelt at her wife’s knee. Janna reached out and pulled her into her embrace, kissing her dark head and sighing deeply.

As soon as she was certain that she could speak without faltering, Ryan muttered, “Janna, that was beautiful.” She looked up into Janna’s pleasant face with bright, love-filled blue eyes.

Janna shrugged self-deprecatingly as she said, “Thank you, honey, but I don’t know. I’m having a hard time with it.” She grinned wryly as she added, “I’ve never tried to write a love song before. I’ve always written songs out of anger, about injustice…I’ve never tried to write when I’ve been happy. I’ve been working on this since our New Mexico trip.” She laughed. “I’m afraid I haven’t had any practice writing happy songs.” She gazed deeply into Ryan’s eyes as she added, “But this is my life now. The anger is gone, for the most part. I’m filled with my love for you and I wanted to try to write about that.” She shrugged again. “It should be so easy, because of what I feel for you, but…”

“God, Janna.” The emotion rose to Ryan’s throat again, blocking her ability to speak. However, she didn’t need to. Janna pulled her up onto the sofa beside her and wrapped her arms around her tough cop’s waist, resting her head on her strong shoulder. They sat in the quiet warmth of their love for several minutes, the silence broken only by the light sucking sounds of their baby’s pacifier and of the rattle of her toys as she batted and kicked at them.

Ryan gently grasped Janna’s chin and captured her lips. They communicated their feelings to each other that way for several more minutes, until Ryan pulled away and grinned lopsidedly, saying, “I’m not in the habit of having sex while on duty, baby, so we’d better stop now.”

“If we have to, Ryan.” She leaned forward and gently kissed her wife once more, then rested her head once again on her shoulder. Together, they turned their gaze on their daughter, who had turned and was quietly gazing back at them.

“She’s feeling our love, Ryan.”

“Mm, hmm. God, that’s amazing Janna. Let’s always try our best only to have positive emotions between us when she’s in the room, okay?”

“Somehow, I don’t think that’s gonna be hard, love. We’ve fought exactly, what…two, three times…in two years together?”

“Yep.”

Janna snuggled more deeply against her mate’s shoulder as she absentmindedly played with a button on her open shirt. “I felt your pain a while ago, Ryan. Were you at the school?”

Ryan closed her eyes in remembrance and sighed. “Yes, love. It still hurts as much as it ever did, but you know what?” At Janna’s shake of the head, she added, “Now I have something that takes my mind off it beautifully. Two somethings, actually, and they’re both here in this room.” She kissed the blonde head under her cheek.

“We’re so glad we can help, love.”

“What about you, Janna. Earlier I thought I felt some anxiety coming from you. Is everything okay?”

“Mm, wow…I’m surprised you felt that. I got some weird news but decided not to stress over it. I decided to focus on the song instead.” She pulled away from Ryan and sat up. “Do you, um, have a few minutes, or should I tell you after work?”

“Well, what is it, Janna…is something wrong?” Ryan asked, concerned.

“No, not seriously…it’s not to do with us…well, not really. I’ll make it quick. You know that the guys, the Pansies, are starting that little west coast tour on Monday?” At Ryan’s nod and small grin, she continued, “Of course, it’s all they’ve been able to talk about for weeks! Well, anyway, they’re supposed to leave Sunday for Monday’s show in Seattle, but Brandon is in the hospital…he had to have an emergency appendectomy this morning.”

“Oh, shit.” Shit. “Sorry, Janna…shoot. That’s terrible. Is he okay? Will they have to cancel?”

Janna nodded, then shook her head, concerned. “He’s okay, yeah, but can’t travel for several weeks. They don’t know yet what they’ll do. Um, they won’t have to cancel if they can get a guitarist to fill in for those few weeks.” She let that sink in, trying to gauge Ryan’s reaction.

It didn’t take her sharp wife long. Ryan’s mouth curled into a grin as she said, “Oh, I see. And they happen to know a talented guitarist who also just happens to know all of their songs as well as they do…having produced them.”

Janna looked down at her hands and smiled. “Yeah, something like that.” Looking back up at Ryan, she added, “I’m glad you’re smiling at the idea, Ryan, because it doesn’t exactly thrill me.”

“Well, Janna, what are their options? Is there anyone else?”

Janna shook her head negatively. “No. No one.”

“And this tour is a huge opportunity for them? When their CD is already selling remarkably well?”

Janna nodded, affirmatively this time.

“Well, babe, how do you feel about it?”

“Very torn, Ryan. I will not leave you and the baby for three weeks…there is no way. But I don’t want to let them down. This tour is really huge…beyond huge…they’re becoming very popular on this coast.” She sighed deeply. “I told Jeff that I would think about it, but I’m afraid I’m gonna have to tell him ‘no’.”

“Why, Janna? Do you not want to play?”

“No, Ryan, that’s not a problem…I love to play. The problem lies in the fact that I won’t leave you and the baby for three weeks.”

“No problem. We’ll go with you.”

Janna sat, stunned, gaping at her wife. “What?”

Ryan grinned widely. “I said, we’ll go with you. Is that a problem?”

Janna shook her head, her brows furrowing in confusion. “No, that’s not a problem…are you serious? Wait…let me rephrase that. Ryan, you can’t be serious! You, me and the baby spending three weeks on a rock and roll tour bus with two nineteen-year old guys and their twenty-five year old manager?”

Ryan shrugged, grinning. “Could be fun.”

Janna let out a nervous laugh. “Oh, no, honey, fun is not quite the word for it. It’s very hard and boring. The drives are long, the nights are late, sleep is short, tempers become even shorter…you often end up hating your band mates and can’t wait to not have to see them again for six months.”

Ryan smiled warmly and pulled her cute mate into her arms. “Admit it, Janna, you’re dying to do it again.” Janna collapsed against her, shaking her head and laughing, and Ryan added, “And with Halley and me along, it’ll be fun. You won’t be bored and I’ll make sure you get the proper sleep.” She nuzzled her wife’s head, grinning wickedly into her soft hair. “You know I have my ways of making sure you’re very tired at night.”

Janna sighed, letting out the lust that had instantly begun to course through her body. “Oh my God, yes…you sure do.”

“Well?”

“You’re really serious about this?”

Ryan’s expression grew serious. “Yes, Janna. Look, it’ll kill those guys if they have to miss this tour, and they’re good kids…they deserve this shot. And let’s face it, having you in the band, even for just a few weeks, can’t hurt them.”

Janna grinned, pleased at her mate’s compliment. She shook her head as she gazed into Ryan’s sparkling eyes. “Well, okay. I’ll let Jeff know. Thank you, honey…so much. Um, what about work?”

“I have two more weeks of paid vacation time, which I can take whenever I want…and if we’re gone longer than that, it will just be unpaid. They’re giving me lots of leeway, Janna. I think that someone up high must consider me an asset…politically.” She shrugged, then added wryly, “I’m female and gay…it’s probably an ‘affirmative action’ quota type thing.”

“Whatever it is, you are a tremendous asset to that force and they finally realize it. I’ll bet you become the first ever female Captain there, Ryan…maybe even Chief.”

“Oh, Janna, bullsh…no way, babe. I’m not looking for that.”

“But it’s in you, Ryan…no question.” She buried her face against her wife’s warm neck. “Mm, how long did you say you could stay?”

Ryan sighed. “I should’ve been back ten minutes ago. I didn’t log out on personal time. Later, baby, okay?”

“Mmm, but you’re so sexy in your uniform…it’s not fair.” Janna breathed deeply of her mate’s sweet, spicy scent and ran her hand under an edge of her vest.

“I have a few loose ends to tie up if I’m gonna be gone for a few weeks, so let me go take care of them and then I’ll come home and leave my uniform on for a while. That okay?” She nuzzled her mate’s sweet-smelling hair, the longing for her coursing powerfully through her body.

“More than okay. I’ll play with Halley, then feed her an early dinner, and put her down for her nap. Then I’ll be waiting for you. And um, leave the vest at work, will ya?”

“Absolutely, baby. Give me a kiss that’ll last the next couple of hours, Janna.”

Janna happily complied.

~~~~~~~~~~
Janna clicked the mouse, sending off the last of her email correspondence and glanced at the digital display at the bottom right of the monitor. No sooner did the thought, mm, she should be home any time now, come to mind, than she felt the soft warmth of her mate wrapping itself around her heart, signaling her closeness. She smiled and pushed away from her desk, stretching. Glancing at the nursery monitor receiver, she noted the gentle, just perceptible rise and fall of the columns of lights, indicating Halley’s gentle respirations in sleep.

She sat back in the chair and sighed, enjoying the buzz that her soulmate’s proximity was setting off in her body. Just then, the ringing of the doorbell startled her. Hmm… She stood and made her way to the front of the house. As she neared the door, she could see a distorted dark blue form through the stained glass yin and yang design of warm yellow and white.

A cop…what? Briefly, she was gripped by the clenching fear that something had happened to her wife again, but the reassuring warmth from Ryan’s heart chakra immediately replaced it. Maybe it’s John, she thought as she pulled the door open.

Standing before her was a tall, dark police officer, looking all business. The cop nodded at Janna and said in a low, sexy drawl, “You reported a prowler, ma’am?”

Janna bit off a grin and tried to control the elation she felt as she replied seriously, “Yes, Officer, I did. Come in, please.” She ushered the gorgeous cop into her home and said, “Um, I heard noises out back, near the gazebo. My baby is sleeping, so let me just, um, grab the nursery monitor and I’ll show you the way.”

“Thank you, ma’am.” The cop nodded politely.

Janna led the tall police officer down the hallway to her office, where she ducked in quickly and grabbed the small unit, then joined the cop again and led the way to the French doors that led to the back deck.

As the cop followed the attractive woman through the house, the thought, Jesus, I wish all my calls were from babes like this, came to light and a large, feral grin found it’s way onto the dark, attractive face.

The blonde woman thrust open the doors and motioned to the cop. “Right this way, Officer,” she said as she walked to the gazebo and entered the attractive white structure. “I was in here, soaking, when I heard the noise.”

“Okay, ma’am. Stay here, please, while I check out the yard. I wouldn’t want you getting hurt.” I wouldn’t want anything bad happening to that beautiful body of yours.

Janna stood back and enjoyed the view with a large grin as the cop made a show of thoroughly checking the small yard. The officer soon returned to the gazebo and removed sunglasses, revealing brilliant blue eyes. “I’m sorry, ma’am, but whoever it was seems to be gone now. Could it possibly have been a cat or some other pet?”

Janna furrowed her brows in thought and responded, “You know, it very well could have been. My next-door neighbors have several large cats and they like to jump from the roof to the gazebo. I’m so sorry, Officer, if I’ve wasted your time.” Janna looked coyly at the attractive cop, her green eyes glittering in the bright sunlight, and noted a tensing of the cop’s strong jaw.

“It’s no problem at all, ma’am. In fact, I’ve enjoyed being of service to you. Is there anything else I can do for you while I’m here?” The deep voice asked seductively.

Janna batted her eyelashes coyly at the handsome cop and replied, “Why yes, um, I think there may be,” as she approached, laying warm hands on the cop’s strong chest.

“I live to serve, ma’am,” the tall officer said with a wide grin as she swept the small blonde into her arms. “And I would like nothing more than to serve you personally right now.” She lowered her head and captured Janna’s mouth possessively.

Janna moaned and wrapped her arms around her wife’s strong body, enjoying the feel of the starched cotton of her uniform beneath her hands. “Mm, what did you say your name was?” She mumbled against the hot mouth after breaking the kiss.

“Norden-Zamora. Sergeant Ryan Norden-Zamora, at your service,” she replied, grinning as she began to unbutton her shirt.

“I am so pleased to meet you, Sergeant. I cannot tell you how much.”

Sometime after her incredible erotic encounter with the police sergeant in the spa, on the deck and on the darkroom worktable, Janna sat at the dining room table going over the tour itinerary while Ryan sat beside her, nursing Halley. Ryan looked over at her mate and grinned. “Janna, I am spent, baby. I just want you to know.”

Janna looked up from the calendar and various printouts and smiled as she leaned back in her chair and stretched. “Oh, yeah? So if I wanted to go some more later, you’d be too tired?”

Ryan’s eyes grew wide as she gazed at her mate. “Are you kidding? Um, no, of course I wouldn’t be too tired…but um, where is this coming from, Janna?”

“I’m anticipating the total lack of privacy on the tour bus, Ryan, and thinking that maybe we should get in as much loving before we leave as we can.”

“Wait a minute…you’re serious? What do you mean ‘total lack of privacy’?”

“Just that, honey. The bus we’ll be using has six berths…sleep areas…and they’re all together, separated by curtains. There will be no privacy. We’re, um…let me see.” She stuck the pencil in her mouth as she looked through the pile of papers. “Oh, yeah, here it is. We’ll be on the bus, it looks like six or seven of the eighteen nights. And then there’s all the travel time.”

Ryan gazed seriously at her mate before smiling and saying, “Well, baby, those young men may just get an education then, because I am not missing out on my daily loving.”

“Well, then, Ryan, you’d better brush up on your quiet lovemaking skills, because I don’t care to have the entire bus know what we’re up to when we’re up to it. Okay?”

“Done, baby.”

Janna eyed her mate mischievously and grinned, matching Ryan’s sparkling smile. “We’ll have to think of ways to keep Halley corralled too, since she’s just discovered her knees.”

Ryan winced. “Ooh, yeah, that’s right. She would start to crawl just before this trip.” She gazed down at the five-month old in her arms. “Isn’t that right little Miss Halley? Momma’s gonna be chasing after you for three weeks straight, I can see it now.”

Halley stopped nursing for a moment and eyeing her mother, said, “Gick.” Then went right back to her suckling.

“Yes, gick is right, my baby girl.” Ryan smiled and leaned down to plant a kiss on her baby’s forehead. “Janna, her hair is really getting long. Should we give her a haircut soon, do you think?”

“Probably, honey. She must get that from you. My hair doesn’t grow that fast.”

“I’m needing a haircut too…maybe you can take care of both of us before we leave on Sunday. What time do we leave on Sunday?”

Janna winced, which was really all the answer Ryan needed. “Okay, love, say no more…it must be before 8:00.”

“It most definitely is. The bus leaves at 6:00 sharp.”

Even Ryan winced at that early time. “Jesus, why? The show isn’t until 9:00 Monday night. It’s only 800 miles to Seattle.”

“It’s wise to allow plenty of time, and Jeff knows that. He’s actually done a great job of planning this thing. And yes, we’ll do haircuts tonight, okay?”

“Okay, babe. And you, little Miss Pretty Blue eyes, time to switch…this side is dry.” Ryan deftly switched her daughter to her other arm and uncovered a fresh breast for her. Halley latched on like the old pro that she had become and closed her eyes contentedly. Ryan leaned back in the high-backed chair, also content. She watched as Janna delved back into the paperwork. Thoughtfully, she asked, “You’re getting excited about this, aren’t you, Janna?”

Janna looked up again and smiled, warming Ryan’s heart. “Yeah, I am, Ryan.” She reached for her wife’s free hand and grasped it tenderly. “Thank you so much for doing this for me. I really appreciate it.”

Ryan lifted their linked hands to her mouth. “I know, love. You’re welcome. I think it’s gonna be fun. I’m looking forward to it, too.”

-14-

The large, modern bus traveled smoothly along Interstate 5, heading north out of California to Washington and Oregon for concerts in Seattle and Portland. After visiting the Pacific Northwest, the tour would continue in California, with the entourage turning south and hitting first Chico, then Sacramento, Fresno, Bakersfield, Los Angeles, San Diego and back up north to finish with two dates in San Francisco.

The atmosphere aboard was jovial and lighthearted, with a definite air of excitement. The young, all-gay band, Attack of the Pansies, had played numerous shows in and around their hometown, but this was their first real tour…short though it was. The length of the tour didn’t matter to the young men…they would have been thrilled with a three-day tour.

Though the band remained unsigned to any record label…they preferred to remain independent, at least for the time being…Janna’s music industry contacts had secured for them both interest from clubs, labels and distributors, and financial backing from interests who felt the neo punk band had a promising future. Ryan and Janna themselves could be counted among their backers, and Janna had produced their CD as well. The band, consisting of the rock standard trio of guitarist, bassist and drummer, played mainly gay-themed songs of their own composition, but also relied heavily on punk and queer punk standards, including several of Janna’s songs. Their CD included three of her songs, in fact.

As the bus traveled along the Northern California coastline, through beautiful redwood forestland under a deep blue sky, its inhabitants visited raucously. The mood was high, as it tended to be on the opening days of a tour…later on, weeks into the travel, the mood would possibly be much different. However, on this particular tour, Janna knew, it was likely that the mood would remain upbeat the entire three weeks, as the young men reveled in their newfound profession.

Janna, Ryan, and Halley were seated at the table that sat beneath a large window behind the driver. Jeff, the band’s manger, sat across the bus on the comfortable couch with his brother, Jason, the drummer. Their friend Brian, who handled the bass, sat nearby. They were all discussing their set list for the first show, to be held in a large club in downtown Seattle.

Janna sat quietly, not offering advice unless it was asked for. She felt that as a replacement player, she didn’t have the right to intrude, however, the other members of the band considered her a full member. In fact, they each secretly felt that she made the band complete and, while concerned about their friend Brandon’s health and sorry at his misfortune, were thrilled that Janna had agreed to take his place. The several times that she had performed with them locally had been exceptionally exciting shows. Plus, they all admired her both for her talent and experience, and also for her mentoring skills. They had all delighted in her friendship.

Ryan handed another rattle to Halley, who was seated at the table in a portable seat, and grinned at Jeff before saying, “So, Jeff, how does it feel to be the only breeder on a bus full of queers?”

The sandy-haired man threw his head back in laughter as he replied, “I’m pretty used to it, Ryan, thanks. Though all these female hormones floating around can be a little overpowering.”

Jason added, “Yeah, but what Bri and I lack in testosterone, Ryan makes up for!”

Ryan laughed deeply, nodding her head in agreement as Jeff added, “Yeah, I guess so! But anyway, I’m more concerned about the age factor…I just hope I can keep these little boys out of trouble.” He gave his younger brother a punch in the arm to punctuate his point.

“Hey, watch it, old man! We may be pansies, but together we can kick your ass!” His brother Jason replied.

“Hey, Jase…I hate to be an old woman, but watch the mouth, huh? This little one soaks up everything like a sponge.”

“Sorry, Ryan, I forgot. It’s not gonna be easy, but I’ll work on it.”

“Yeah, we know it’s not easy…God knows I know how hard it is…and we hate to cramp your style, but it is important to us.” She looked at Janna and then at each of the guys as she added, “I, uh, appreciate that you didn’t mind me and Halley tagging along, so I’ll try not to get too bitchy about the language…or anything else.”

Brian responded, “Ryan, don’t worry about it. We can watch ourselves, and we think it’s great that you all wanted to stay together. It’s cool.”

Ryan grinned. “Thanks, Brian.” She threw her arm around her wife’s shoulders. “Yeah, I had to come along to keep an eye on her. She has a reputation for stealing the virtue of young groupie women.”

“Ryan!” Janna slapped her mate playfully. “One time! One time in how many years, and then we ended up living together.”

As Ryan grinned widely, the guys laughed and Jeff said, “Well, now I know who to keep my eyes on!”

Janna stuck her tongue out at him and slapped her wife again. “Troublemaker.” She changed the subject by addressing Jeff. “Can I see the set list?”

“Sure,” he said as he handed her a sheet of paper.

She perused it quickly, nodding her head in agreement. “Yeah, this looks good. But where are the encores?” She looked from Jeff to each of the other musicians.

“Do you think we’ll need encore songs?” Jason asked, wide-eyed.

Janna smiled widely. “I do!”

“Wow, well, um…” Jeff faltered. “We’ve already got all of our songs, including yours, covered. Plus a few Pansy Div covers. Should we just use one of those?”

Janna thought for a moment as she looked at the song list. “No, I think the length of the show as you have it here is just right. We’ll have to see, of course. See how the first show goes, but this looks good to me.” She looked thoughtful again, trying to remember what other songs they had done while jamming together. She suggested, “How about classics? Something from the Ramones, or Pearl Jam…Nirvana, Black Flag?”

“Yeah!” Jeff exclaimed. “The last time you jammed I thought you did a great job with ‘Outsider’, ‘Highest Trails Above’ and ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’.”

“Yeah,” added Brian, “And Green Day’s ‘Welcome to Paradise’.”

“Right,” Janna said, grinning. Why don’t you decide on two of those?”

“Yeah, yeah…” Jeff said as he looked back down at the titles he had jotted down. “Let’s try ‘Teen Spirit’ and ‘Highest Trails’, and see how they come off.”

“Sounds good,” Janna said and the others nodded in agreement.

Jeff wrote in the other two songs and held up the paper. “There it is…the set list for the first show. I think it’s gonna be great, guys.” He smiled widely at his brother and friends.

“Cool,” Janna said.

Halley, sitting beside her, then started to fuss a bit. Ryan replaced her choo choo in her mouth, but she spit it right out and frowned, her fuss becoming more vocal. “Janna, hon, I think it’s time for her to eat.”

“Okay, babe.” She stood up and removed her hungry daughter from the seat attached to the edge of the tabletop. “Come here, my little love. Time to eat.”

“Mind some company, sweetheart?”

“Absolutely not, love. Come on.” Janna smiled at her mate, pleased to share her company. They made their way together to the back of the bus. Their bed was a double that sat at the very back, across the width of the vehicle, and offered a surprisingly comfortably large space. It was also the most private cubicle, with an actual door…a thin, sliding pocket door.

Janna climbed onto the bed with Halley and Ryan closed the door behind them before joining them. “She’s probably wet, Janna.”

“Mm, hm. More than wet, I think, by the smell of it.”

Ryan gazed down at her daughter and said softly, “Well no wonder she’s grumpy…I would be, too. Yes, I would, little Halley.”

“Hand me the diaper bag, love.”

Ryan did, keeping her yes locked with her daughter’s all the while and eliciting a smile from her. “There’s my pretty girl.” She looked up at Janna. “God, Janna, is it me, or is she getting cuter by the day?”

“Well, I hardly think we’re objective, but she does seem incredibly cute. Jesus, look at her mother…why wouldn’t she be?”

Ryan did…look at her mother…and grinned as she nodded in agreement.

“Oh, you! I didn’t mean me, silly. I meant you.” Janna said as she pulled the dirty diaper away from Halley’s soft skin, blushing faintly at her wife’s compliment.

“Janna, you are the cuter one, by far, and she looks so much like you.” She reached forward and pushed a strand of hair behind Janna’s ear. “You are so pretty, my love.”

“Honey, that’s sweet, but you are the gorgeous one…we’ve discussed this before…and I don’t think either of us is prepared to change her opinion.”

“Nope!” Ryan agreed. She helped Janna to pull a clean sleeper into place and she picked up her daughter so Janna could ready herself. Janna pulled the vertical blinds closed and pulled her shirt off over her head, then removed her bra. She sat facing Ryan, and with heavy, full breasts, was a vision of lovely womanhood.

The sight of her wife topless never failed to take Ryan’s breath away, even though they had been intimately involved for nearly two years, and she leered gently at Janna. “God, baby…I will never get tired of seeing you like that. I just wanna touch you, and caress you, and kiss you, and…” She sighed.

“A little later, honey, okay? We’ll be in a hotel tonight.” Janna said as she gently removed Halley’s pacifier and introduced her to her breast.

Ryan crawled over next to the window and lay on her side, gesturing for Janna to curl up in front of her. They lay spooned together, the three of them, and remained that way for a long nap after Halley finished her meal. About an hour into their nap, Ryan woke up and lay still, enjoying the closeness of her wife and child so much that she could not put words to the emotion she felt. She cried quiet tears of joy and joined her loved ones in slumber once again, not to awaken until the bus stopped hours later for dinner near Portland.

~~~~~~~~~~
Later, under the light of a gibbous moon, the bus entered Seattle. The city at night was sparkling with lights, and the moonlight shone on the waters of the sound with a rippling, silvery glow.

As the bus made its way to their downtown hotel, Janna gazed with a growing sense of excitement out at her former home. She had loved Seattle, loved living there. It had reminded her very much of her beloved San Francisco, and she had found similarities, in her mind, in the weather, as well as the cities’ cosmopolitan and seaside atmospheres, and similar music scenes.

She opened a window partially and breathed deeply of the cool, wet, sea-fresh air, letting the essence of the city at night fill her. It brought back happy memories of an earlier, happy time of her life…a more carefree time. It had not been fulfilling personally, as she had suffered a painful breakup while there, but professionally, creatively, it had been a fertile time for her. When she had lived there, as well, she had begun to taste her first small bite of real success. Her band, ‘The Tribe’ began to hit big while they were relocated to Seattle, working with well-known musicians and producers involved in the grunge and punk scenes.

She had worked with and become acquainted with some of the biggest names in the late 80’s, early 90’s punk genre: Pearl Jam; Nirvana; Screaming Trees; Bikini Kill, and still counted some of the members of those groups among her friends. As they passed by the towering Space Needle, she felt a true sense of being in a former home and smiled widely.

Ryan felt Janna’s excitement and squeezed her hand. Janna turned to her and said, “Oh, honey, I wish I had more time to show you around.”

“Well, babe, we’ll have two afternoons.”

“Yeah, but that’s not nearly enough. We have to come back some time and stay longer,” she implored.

“We will, love…I promise.”

“Tomorrow, if it’s nice, we’ll go to Pike Place. It’s a wonderful place to spend the day…and there’ll be lots for Halley to look at.”

“Sounds like fun, baby.”

A short time later, Ryan lay Halley in her portable crib and joined Janna on the large bed. She pulled her t-shirt clad bride into her arms and held her close. Janna snuggled into her place in Ryan’s side, their bodies molding to each other perfectly.

Ryan spoke softly in the dark, quiet room. “I’m having a great time so far, Janna. I’m so glad to have the chance to share this with you.”

“Ryan, I can’t tell you how happy I am to have you here with me. I wouldn’t have come without you, of course, but having you and the baby with me just makes this so special. It’s not simply work for me now…it’s a nice family trip.”

“Mm. So, are you nervous at all?”

“No, I’m not, really. This is old hat for me. I don’t mean to sound arrogant, but I have done thousands of shows…many at huge arenas much, much bigger than the big clubs we’re playing on this tour…so I feel more at home than nervous. I think it’s gonna be great to be back out on the stage. I’m looking forward to it.”

“I’m glad, baby.” She pulled Janna closer and kissed her hair. “Um, I know it was a really long trip today…are you too tired to love a little bit?”

Janna turned in Ryan’s embrace and kissed her chin. “No, I’m only a little tired. I’m actually feeling kind of energized. I’m jazzed at being back, I guess.”

“Good.”

“That’s good, huh?”

“It’s real good,” Ryan said as she pulled Janna’s t-shirt up, revealing her lack of underwear and soft, full breasts beginning to come to attention in the draft of cool air, and in anticipation of being touched. The silver light of the moon softly illuminated Janna’s body, just enough for Ryan to see her way around her wife’s beautiful curves…not that she couldn’t have found her way around Janna’s body in complete, pitch black.

~~~~~~~~~~
The rolling motion of the ship nudged the small blonde from her slumber, and she lay, still nestled within the warmth of the dream, until the clanking of rigging above decks roused her completely. She opened her eyes and realized where she was, and the emptiness settled in her heart immediately once more. She swallowed a sob as the dark loneliness threatened to overcome her.

She still felt the warrior’s strong arms and legs wrapped around her from the dream and she sighed deeply. Gods, it was only a dream…a memory. The realization sent a bolt of agony through her soul, her broken heart shattering into even smaller bits. Is this what you wanted, Xena? For me to carry on our good work with a broken heart…a tortured soul? The small warrior sighed. I know I told you I’d try, but I can’t do it. Please forgive me, Xena. Eli promised me that those souls would be alright, so please don’t be angry with me. I need you so much. I would rather be with you on the other side than without you here.

She uncharacteristically allowed herself to wallow in her misery, until a misery of another sort took hold. The rolling movements of the ship awakened her motion sickness and unleashed a wave of nausea, accompanied by a mild lightheadedness. She sighed and resignedly tapped the inside of her wrist, hitting the pressure point that would allay the sickness…as her partner had taught her.

She lay for a few minutes longer in her sleep netting and considered her loneliness. The pain in her heart continued unabated, never relieved but only put aside temporarily when she focused on other matters. So that’s what she did…she refocused her attention on her mission. I must get home, so that she can be resurrected and return to me.

Her mind, unable to keep from returning to her lost mate, returned there briefly, and an image of herself entwined with Xena flashed across her awareness, accompanied by a jolt of pleasure. Gods, Xena, I miss your touch. She sighed deeply and frowned. Enough of this! Dwelling in the past will not help me right now. I have a serious task ahead of me. She chastised herself as she rolled to a sitting position and sat on the edge of the hammock. It swayed gently from her movement and she sighed as she settled her booted feet to the decking.

She arose, running her hands through her short hair, trying to straighten it. Somewhat unsteadily…sea’s a little rough this morning…she made her way to the stairs and plodded up. She pushed up on the hatch and it opened, piercing the darkness behind her with a low, gray light, and she stepped out onto the deck and shut the door behind her, letting the bracing sea breeze wake her fully.

The biting, cool, wet wind hit her in the face and she breathed deeply, filling her lungs with the fresh air. It was extremely refreshing after the stuffy, stale air below decks and she determined that she would spend as much of the day as possible out on deck, despite the threat of rain.

Looking up into the gray dawn sky, she noted that it was heavy with thick clouds, announcing an impending storm. Great, I just love rough seas, she thought sarcastically. Sighing again, the warrior-bard went in search of fresh water and a little fruit for her morning meal.

Janna was awakened by her mate’s soft caresses on her arm, but she stayed enmeshed within the dream for a bit longer. It had not been a happy dream but it had a happy conclusion…she had seen that in an earlier dream/memory. Therefore, she lay in bed, safely enfolded in her soulmate’s arms, and finished the dream in a half-waking state, re-experiencing the resurrection and reuniting with her mate from that long ago life.

Lying in Ryan’s arms felt exactly as it had felt for the bard lying in the warrior’s strong arms, and she let that feeling wash over her, renewing her soul. In turn, Ryan’s soul was renewed as well, through their strong bond. Janna sighed as the happiness filled her. She realized that the memory had been awakened by her proximity to the sea, and let the power of the ocean, her most comfortable natural element, soothe her soul.

“Morning, baby,” Ryan’s rich voice drawled, sending shivers the length of Janna’s body.

Janna closed her eyes again and enjoyed the warm blanket of love that surrounded her. She was still feeling the loving effects of the dream, and coupled with Ryan’s physical and emotional warmth, she was nearly carried away by the force of the sensation.

“Morning, love of my life.” She added, quietly, “Light of my soul, dawn of my joy,” and was rewarded by a warm hug and softly seeking lips. She returned the kiss and let it deepen as Ryan initiated their morning connection, which in turn deepened into a gentle lovemaking, lasting until Halley’s soft gurgles and chatter signaled the end of her slumber.

~~~~~~~~~~
The sun warmed them comfortably as Janna walked beside Ryan, who pushed Halley’s stroller. The baby sat upright, brightly taking in the new experience. The many sights, sounds, and smells of the Pike Place Market surrounded them as they strolled its length, bathing them in its rich textures.

“This place is great, Janna,” Ryan remarked as they strolled along. “So much more than just the fish market that I expected.”

“I know, it’s great! I always loved coming down here, even though I’m not a big fan of seafood.” She wrinkled her nose cutely.

“I think I’ve seen just about every humanly thing possible offered for sale down here.” She glanced around, adding, “And in such a pleasant atmosphere.” They passed a trio of musicians, and stopped for a minute to listen. The guitarist, violinist and bongo drummer were quite good, and Janna deposited some cash in their collection box with a large smile, garnering nods of appreciation from the trio.

They walked on and presently came to a booth sporting rainbow flags and various other rainbow decorations. As Janna gazed at the booth and they made their way toward it, she looked at Ryan and said, “It can’t be, can it? We’re in Seattle, not San Francisco.”

Ryan grinned and said, “I don’t know, babe, let’s go see,” and urged Janna on. They reached the colorful booth and noted that it did indeed sport pride items, as well as typical mainstream favorites.

“Ooh, honey, how about a rainbow sticker for the Explorer? Like mine?”

“Honey, I’ve never been into proclaiming my sexuality to the world, but if you want it, we’ll get it.”

Janna smiled cutely from behind her dark glasses, warming Ryan’s heart. “Come on, honey…the truck is positively naked without one, and I know you’re not ashamed of being gay.”

“Absofurkinlutely not.”

“Well?

It was Ryan’s turn to warm Janna with a wide grin. “Okay, Janna, grab a couple.”

“Cool!” Janna joyfully snatched a handful of the small, colorful decals, as well as a rainbow flag. As they walked away from the stall, Janna remarked, “I know our town isn’t quite ready for a pride flag flying in front of our house, so I’ll put it in back, over the deck.”

“Good idea, Janna.” As a cop, Ryan was all too familiar with her hometown’s lack of tolerance toward homosexuals. She had not only arrested people for harassment and physical attacks, most notably her soulmate’s attackers, but had also interceded on behalf of friends when they had been out together and targeted. She had earned a reputation within the department as the officer most likely to bring people up on gay bashing charges, and her coworkers didn’t begrudge her the fact. They respected her and admired her ideals, even if not wholeheartedly agreeing with her “lifestyle”.

As Ryan, Janna and the baby walked on, a refreshing breeze blew in off the water, moderating the mercifully present, but warm, sunshine. They enjoyed the market with it’s friendly atmosphere and wonderful food for a few more hours before Janna had to check in down at the club for the equipment and sound check.

~~~~~~~~~~
Ryan held Halley as she sat in a chair near the front door, watching from a safe distance as the sound check proceeded. Janna, up on stage, sawed off a scorching guitar lick and stood, waiting for Jeff at the back of the club to give her a thumb up. She received a thumb down. Cupping his hands around his mouth, he yelled, “No, Janna. I can still only hear your monitor…the speakers aren’t picking up at all.

“Fuck,” was the quiet muttered reply picked up by her mic, which did happen to be working. “So much for not wanting to spend money on a road crew. Jeff, can you get the club manager down here? I don’t think the problem’s in our equipment. I checked the sound board the day before we left, for Christ’s sake.” She turned to face Jason, sitting behind his drum kit. “Jase, check your drums now while we try to sort out the guitar mess.” He nodded and launched into a riff.

They had been attempting to sort out the various kinks in the sound system for over two hours. Fortunately, Janna’s experience had taught her that there tended to be bugs to be fleshed out before the first date on a tour, and had convinced Jeff that an early sound check would be necessary. She had taken on the mantle of guitar technician for the tour as well, and thankfully, that equipment had checked out fine.

As Ryan sat, trying to keep the squirming child on her lap happy, the door opened behind her, letting sunshine into the dim room.

“Ryan…how are you?”

Surprised to hear her name spoken by a deep, female voice, Ryan turned to see Joan, Janna’s ex. She stood and offered her hand. “Joan, hi. I’m fine. You?”

The short, dark rocker smiled as she brushed away the offered hand and pulled Ryan into a hug. “Can’t complain. Is this Halley?” She asked as she stepped back and smiled at the cute dark-haired baby in Ryan’s arms.

“Yes. Halley, this is our friend Joan. Can you say hi?”

“Gick gur baa,” the adorable girl gurgled, smiling.

Joan laughed, lighting her beautiful face from within. “Hi there, little one. It’s good to meet you, too.” Addressing Ryan she said, “Jesus…she looks just like both of you. She’s beautiful.”

Ryan beamed. “Thanks.”

“So, uh, it sounds like the sound check is progressing?” She said as she looked toward the stage.

“You might say that. There seems to be a problem with the club’s equipment.”

Joan frowned, surprised. “Really? This is the hottest live club in town…their equipment is the best. I know the owner…let me see if I can lend a hand.”

“I’m sure they’ll appreciate it. Janna’s getting pretty frustrated up there.” Ryan said as she glanced at her mate, who was several rows up in the seating, talking to the sound person.

“Then it must be bad. She’s usually pretty low key about these things.”

“Mm, hmm.”

“Well, I’ll go see if I can help. It’s good seeing you again, Ryan.”

“You too, Joan.” She watched as the diminutive woman with the huge aura strolled toward the sound area.

“Hey, what the hell’d you do Janna, blow the system out?” Ryan heard as the other woman approached Janna.

“Joanie…what the fu?” Janna said as she spied her old friend.

As Joan pulled Janna into her arms she said, “That’s what I was gonna say…what the fuck’s up?”

Janna kissed her old mate’s cheek and stood back to look at her. She was dressed rather inconspicuously, for her, in worn jeans and a Harley-Davidson tank top, matching almost identically what Ryan and Janna were both wearing. Janna scowled as she shook her head. “I don’t know. We’ve traced the problem to the board here. Our equipment all checks out.”

Joan turned to address the young man manning the control board. “Where’s Ben?”

“Um, he’s off today. I’m his backup.”

“Uh, huh. How come I haven’t seen you before?” The direct woman queried.

“Um, because I just started yesterday.” He replied, beginning to blush.

Joan turned back to face Janna and muttered under her breath, “I think I just figured out the problem.”

“Where is Ben…is he home?”

The young man’s reply was a nonchalant shrug of his shoulders.

“This is bullshit. Let me talk to the owner. He owes me about ten favors. He should be training this guy, not putting him in charge of a show. I’ll be right back.” She turned and made her way back to the club’s offices and Janna began to feel hopeful for the first time in hours.

She turned and addressed the guys on the stage. “Hey, guys, let’s take ten, huh?” She received nods of approval and turned, making her way toward her family.

Ryan reached out and pulled her wife against her, kissing her head and flooding her with warmth. “Maybe Joan can get it worked out, huh?”

“Probably, yeah.” She leaned down and kissed her daughter, who was beginning to fuss mildly. “What’s wrong, sweetheart…is this boring for you?” She kissed Halley’s forehead and then Ryan’s, before relieving Ryan of her happy burden and hugging the baby close to her chest. “I’m sorry about this, honey. I was hoping it would be a quick check and we could relax together the rest of the afternoon. But now I see she’s tired and hungry and we’re nowhere near done.”

“It’s okay, babe, I understand. You said there might be problems.”

“Yeah, but not this bad.”

“Well it’s good you’re getting it looked at this early, then.” She pulled Janna close again, trying to lift her spirits.

Janna and the baby melted into her embrace and Janna sighed. “Mm, that feels good, my love. I’m so glad you’re here.” Janna sent her soulmate a burst of love through the link and felt Ryan’s embrace around her tighten.

“I am too, baby. Both of us.” She kissed her wife’s head again and said, “Speaking of whom, it’s time for dinner and a nap. I think we’ll go back to the room for a while…if you’re okay with that?”

“Yeah. I’d rather have you here than across the street, but I can tell that she needs her nap. She had a busy day.”

Ryan grinned. “She sure did. She had so much to look at that I thought she might give herself whiplash!” She mimicked Halley’s head turning from side to side.

Janna laughed. “I know! She’s nothing if not curious.”

“Okay, baby, we’ll go then.” Spotting Joan approaching in the company of a man, she added, “Sweetheart, if you’d like to go do something with Joan after this is fixed, go on. We’re gonna be out for a while it looks like. Get some dinner or something if you’d like…just let me know, okay?”

Janna frowned, having no desire to do anything without her family, and Ryan noticed the emotion through their bond. Janna sighed and nodded, saying, “Okay. I would rather just come rest up with you two, but I rarely see her anymore and I would like to visit some. Thanks love. If I decide to do something, I’ll let you know.” She handed the baby back to her Momma and kissed her goodbye before capturing Ryan’s lips and savoring them for a moment. “Bye, love.”

“Later, baby.”

As she approached her ex-girlfriend and her wife and baby, Joan was struck by the beauty of the moment that they seemed to be sharing. Shit, that’s so nice. She watched as Janna kissed Ryan soundly and then watched her and the baby leave the club, sighing as she turned around to face Joan and the club owner.

“Janna, Max here has called the regular sound man, Ben, in to work the show. If there’s a problem with the board, he’ll be able to track it down. He should be here in about fifteen.”

Janna, relieved, said, “Great, Joan, Mr. Greenfield. Thanks.”

“Ms. Norden, it’s Max, please and I’m sorry for the inconvenience.”

“Thanks, Max, and it’s Janna.”

The man smiled and nodded and went to talk to his now-trainee soundman.

“Joanie, can we have dinner?”

“Oh, babe, I have a flight out at 6:00…I have to be in New York. If I’d known sooner that you were coming, I could’ve changed it.”

“Darn. Well, can you stay a few more minutes?”

Joan looked at the clock on the wall and grinned. “I can give you forty-five minutes.”

Janna mock-scowled. “Gee, thanks, for fitting me in, Joan.”

“Anytime, Janna.” She grinned, wrapped an arm around Janna’s shoulder, and walked her over to the bar, procuring a mug of Foster’s draught for her old friend. They sat together and talked about old times, the good ones at least, and the tough rocker with the heart of gold left having enjoyed her old flame’s company immensely. She found herself wishing she hadn’t made the recording commitment in New York, feeling intuitively that she would be missing an incredible show.

-15-

Anticipation and excitement coursed through her body as Janna checked her guitars for the fifth time, then stood and rejoined her mate, who stood nearby talking to Jeff, with a curious, bright-eyed Halley in a backpack on her back. She wrapped her arm around a clearly nervous Janna’s shoulder. It was ten minutes before show time and all of the musicians were fidgety. Janna rubbed her hands on her jeans and grinned up at her wife. “I guess I am a little nervous after all. It’s been a while since I’ve been in front of a crowd this size.” She shrugged, somewhat embarrassed.

“Honey, it’s understandable, but don’t worryÖI’ve seen you play enough to know that you’re gonna knock ’em dead. You all are.” She addressed Jason and Brian as well.

“Thanks, Ryan,” Jason replied. “We sure feel a lot more confident with the old pro here out there with us.” He nodded toward Janna with a grin.

“Old is rightÖdid you get a look at the crowd out there? The median age is about eighteen.” Janna scowled mildly.

“Cool!” Remarked Jason, adding with a smirk, “I hope they’re all cute and gay. And male.”

Janna grinned widely. “It sure looks that way, Jase. But I do see a lot of women, too.”

“Oh, oh, Ryan, you’d better keep an eye on her!” Jeff piped in.

Ryan pulled her wife close and stole a quick kiss. “I’m not worried.”

“You shouldn’t be.” Janna said as she rested her hand on Ryan’s stomach and her head on her shoulder. Then she took a deep breath and addressing Jason and Brian added, “The vibe out there from the crowd feels goodÖif it stays that way, I might surf. Just play the riff we practiced, and if you guys want to do it, I’ll take each of your parts. Okay?” They both nodded enthusiastically and as she tucked her shirt firmly into her jeans, she added, “Well, guys, let’s get ready. I think they’re about ready to announce us.”

The two young men responded by picking up their drumsticks and bass respectively. Janna grabbed a full water bottle and took a long swig, then turned in Ryan’s embrace and hugged her tightly. “Wish me luck, babe.”

Ryan gazed down into her wife’s eyes as she held her face in her hands. “Good luck, my love. You don’t need it thoughÖyou’re the best, Janna. Blow ’em away, baby.” She leaned down and kissed Janna for luck, lingering over her lips and communicating her devotion and respect. “I love you, baby. See you in a while. Halley and I will watch as long as we can.”

Janna, still looking up into her wife’s lovely face and holding her about the waist, replied, “Okay, love, but don’t push it. When she’s tired, just go and I’ll see you later.” She glanced at the baby’s ears. “She’s got her earplugs?”

“Mm, hm. She’s all set.” She pulled Janna close again and they shared another long kiss, then Janna left her family to pick up her new Strat. She strapped on the instrument and began to run through a few fast fingering exercises, then checked the controls.

Out front, the announcer, a disc jockey from a local college radio station began her introduction. Janna took a deep breath and missed the first part of the intro, but heard, “Seattle welcomes Janna Norden and Attack of the Pansies!”

As the crowd erupted into cheers, Janna scowled at both the misreading of her married name and at her featured billing status. Jesus Christ. Well, at least I made it clear during the radio interview this morning that this is not my backup band and my name is Norden-Zamora now. She shook off the negative emotion and followed her band mates onto the stage with a smile. As soon as she stepped onto the stage and plugged in her guitar, she knew it would be a great show, as the vibe from the crowd was already enthusiastic and expectant before they had played a single note.

Janna turned to Jason and grinned, then nodded and he hit his sticks together, counting out the beat, and Janna yelled, “One, two, one two three four!” On the fourth beat she and Brian jumped up in unison and raked out the opening chord and note of the intro, hitting them in unison as their feet hit the ground, and the band launched into the lightspeed-paced opening number, Janna’s “Teenaged Queer”.

As they played the thundering, driving intro, Janna stepped to her microphone and yelled, “Hello Seattle! Thanks for coming tonight! This song is called, ‘Teenaged Queer’. Are there any queers here tonight?” She raised her right arm and grinned and threw her head back in laughter as a sea of hands rose up, along with a deafening cheer. I see the word got outÖtoo cool! Her grin grew wider as she noted that her two band mates had raised their hands as well and she stepped back from the mic as Brian, standing eight feet to her left, launched into the vocal part.

As she pounded out the melodic chords, Janna was transported, as she always was. The sheer joy of playing overcame her and she became aware of little else but the music, jumping in place in time to the beat and feeling like a kid again.

Ryan stood backstage, stage right, near Janna, and proudly watched as her mate played. And play she did. Like a child; joyouslyÖrapturously. I’m so glad that she gets so much enjoyment out of something. It makes me happy to see her happy. And she’s good. She began nodding her head and tapping her foot, enjoying Janna’s song, and feeling Janna’s joy through their link. She closed her eyes and just felt the music. Felt it like Janna felt it: with her entire being. Jesus Christ! It’s such a highÖ

Jeff joined her and she looked over at him, noting that his grin matched hers. “They love ’em!” He yelled over the din.

Ryan nodded and grinned more widely, then began singing along with the vocalist, “‘Cause I’m a teenaged queer, a teenaged queer!” and Jeff joined in, shrugging when Ryan looked at him askance.

From her spot on the stage, Janna could see Ryan and Halley watching her and when her wife smiled warmly, joyfully, she felt her elation rise to a new level. Jesus, this feels good! She mouthed, “I love you,” and Ryan nodded, echoing the sentiment. Janna turned from her family and plunged back into the song, leaving her earthly bonds for the duration of the two and a half minute song.

As the band began the next song, Ryan watched as Janna skillfully wielded her instrument, her left hand and fingers flying over the neck as her right hand raked the strings with her favorite thick, yellow picks. All the while, her body was in constant motion. Jumping, pogoing, strutting, head nodding in time to the beat. And then there was the constant grin. A wide, happy, contented smile that betrayed her completely. It had always been part of her trademark, even in her angriest days. The joy of playing live always overcame the anger and dissatisfaction with the status quo, betraying her true nature as basically a warm, happy person.

Halley lasted through about five more songs before she tired of her confinement and needed to eat again. But not before her mother enjoyed the incredible sight of her other mother crowd surfing.

The vibe from the crowd was incredibly positive, even Ryan could feel it backstage, and after a particularly rousing song, Janna turned to Jason, motioning from herself to the crowd. He grinned and nodded, understanding her intention, and launched into a beat-heavy riff. Like a seasoned pro, Brian picked up and followed right along on the bass, providing the heavy backbeat. Janna turned back toward the crowd and with a huge grin, removed her guitar, setting it carefully against the drum platform, and stood at the very edge of the six-foot high stage, facing her happy fans. She held her arms out at her sides, letting them know what she wanted, and a sea of hands rose, offering to support her.

She closed her eyes and soaked in the positive energy, reveling in it momentarily, then slowly fell forward, onto the supportive hands, and was slowly passed along the crowd, from person to person. As she floated above the audience, she gleefully, thankfully, noted that they must be mostly gay, because they were respectfully not groping her. Not intentionally anyway. Except for the occasional baby butch, but she really didn’t mind that. She made a short jaunt out into the crowd, enjoying the intimate contact with her fans immensely, then indicated that she would like to return to the stage, and they respectfully complied. Before reaching the stage again, she felt a brief instant of pure, unbounded joy, which traveled along her bond with Ryan and nearly knocked her wife over with its intensity.

As Janna landed back on her feet on the stage, she bowed to the crowd and threw her hands up in joyous victory, then turned to her wife and motioned for her to come on stage. Ryan did so, shaking her head in embarrassment, and Janna pulled her into an intense kiss. The crowd erupted, most of them appreciating the gesture, and then Janna kissed her daughter and bid the loves of her life good night.

After Ryan and the baby left the stage, Janna went to the drum platform and held out her hands, asking for Jason’s sticks, which he handed her with a large grin plastered on his face. He had never stage dived or crowd surfed, but was eager to try it. And it was definitely the right crowd for it. While Brian continued to pound out the beat on his bass, Janna settled behind the drums and joined him skillfully. She watched, pleased, as Jason stood at the edge of the stage, and receiving permission from the crowd, launched himself into them. They caught him and passed him to the back of the club as they had Janna. When he returned to the stage, he was so juiced that he jumped in the air several times, pumping his fist and yelling. He looked positively straight there for a minute, pumped like some macho athlete who had just scored a winning touchdown, and Janna threw her head back and laughed with glee.

A minute later, she extended the same courtesy to Brian, donning his large instrument and pounding out the beat, again, skillfully upholding the backbeat. When she finally returned to her spot and picked up her own instrument again, she was sweating profusely and was as high as a kite, wishing she could swing from the rafters as she had once seen her friend Eddie do at a concert. She remained planted on the stage, but resumed her wide stance and pogoing, and led the band and the crowd through joyously rousing renditions of several Pansy Division songs, paying homage to the groundbreaking queer group.

Janna played on, feeling very happy to have agreed to do the show, and very appreciative of both the band and the crowd. I was born for this. The only thing that makes me happier is loving my wife and daughter. Thank you, God.

~~~~~~~~~~
Without stopping to take a breath, the band launched into a second encore, playing Janna’s favorite song, the Ramones’, “Highest Trails Above.” Janna pounded out the swirling, chiming guitar part and felt the surge of appreciation from the crowd. She enjoyed the feeling of the solid instrument in her hands as she looked out over the surging sea of bodies and grinned widely, feeling as if she actually were flying over mountain peaks and Alpine lakes, as the song suggested.

As she played joyously, sweat pouring from her body, she felt incredibly high, enjoying a mostly natural euphoria that playing live always gave her. But here, in front of the large, appreciative crowd, the energy…the love…from the kids in the audience carried her away. She closed her eyes and left her body as her hands played on by rote and her Essence was carried on the tides of the undulating positive energy that the crowd was emitting. She felt as one with the music, with the kids, and with the Universe during the duration of the song, and when it was over, slowly drifted back to Earth.

Janna let the feedback recede into the thunderous applause and opened her eyes to see the crowd going wild. She closed her eyes, threw her head back and stretched her arms out at her sides, letting the loving energy from the audience hit her full force and flow over her body. An involuntary, huge grin lit her cute features and a laugh bubbled up from her belly. Suddenly, she was pulled into a fierce hug by Brian and she opened her eyes again to see a wondrous grin on his face. She embraced him tightly and patted his back, the instruments that hung from their necks clanging together noisily, adding more screeching feedback to the din of the room. A moment later, Jason joined them and they held each other joyously as they reveled in the sheer unbounded joy of the moment.

It was an old, familiar feeling for Janna, but an entirely new experience for the youngsters, and she let them hold onto her and rejoice in it. Then, they turned as one and faced the crowd, bowing and waving their thanks. Janna approached the mic and yelled, “Thank you, Seattle! We love you! Get home safely now and we’ll see you later!” She was met by another cheer and chants of, “More! More! More!”

But after more than two hours of playing, her thirty-four year old body was exhausted and she could tell that the sheer emotion was taking its toll on her young friends, so she just smiled and waved as she moved off the stage. Two encores is plenty, people.

Her friends joined her and as they appeared backstage, Jeff whooped with joy. “You killed them! You guys fuckin’ blew them away! Shit!” He was nearly beside himself with joy and Janna grinned as she nodded. She lifted the guitar strap over her head and blew out an exhausted breath as she approached her guitar case. Kneeling beside it, she picked up a clean, soft towel, and wiped down her beloved instrument before checking the strings and laying it gently in its velvet-lined case. She snapped the case closed and stood to face her friends.

Grinning widely at the young men she said, “You guys were awesome! Absolutely out of this world!” They shared a round of high fives and raucous laughter.

“Thanks, Janna,” Jason replied. “But you’re the one who was fuckin’ awesomeÖI swear to God, you blew them away all by yourself.” He shook his head in wonder.

Janna shook her head. “No way, Jase. You guys were incredibleÖbelieve me. I’ve been there and done that, remember? This crowd was here to see you and you guys stepped up and delivered.” She graced them with an enchanting grin and then ran her fingers through her hair. “WhooÖI’m feeling good! How about you guys?”

She was answered by whoops and hollers and she threw her head back in laughter as she made her way to the snack-laden counter to grab a water bottle. Twisting the cap off, she threw her head back, downing the ice-cold refreshment. As it slid down her throat, she realized that the mild euphoria she had been feeling wasn’t diminishing and she smiled knowingly. I’m high.

She chuckled and closed her eyes, letting herself enjoy the buzz as it vibrated pleasantly through her being. As it did so, it created a very familiar throbbing between her legs and she noted the pulsating need that she knew only her wife could satisfy. The feeling reenergized her and she determined that she needed to get to her mate as quickly as she could. Somehow, I don’t think she’ll mind taking care of this need for me, she told herself with an internal grin.

The small rocker pulled on her jacket and picked up her guitar case, and after congratulating her companions again on the fine show, she gave her apologies for taking off and left them partying backstage under the watchful eye of their slightly older manager. Then, feeling euphoric, she made her way outside the club. She nodded to the burly security guard, pushed open the backstage door, and as she exited into the night, was hit by the fine mist that blanketed the city. Janna tilted her face up into the light rain and let it cool her for a moment. As she gazed up, her slightly warped brain found the play of the raindrops in the glow of the orange streetlights fascinating. CoolÖlooks like orange spears streaking downÖBut her surging blood quickly reasserted itself and she was drawn toward her mate.

She made her way quickly through the alleyway and out onto the street, still quite busy despite the late hour. Cautiously, she made her way across the rain-slicked avenue and approached their hotel, guitar case swinging purposefully at her side as she strode along the city block. Before entering the glass doors of the hotel, she turned and looked back down the block at the nightclub, soaking in its visage. While the hundreds of clubgoers streamed out, dozens of them milled about in front, some smoking, some drinking, most laughing and talking loudly, and she smiled, knowing that she’d had a part in creating the jovial atmosphere. That’s another reason why I do it. She sighed inwardly and enjoyed the warm sensation of her blood pumping through her body, contributing to the gentle, euphoric throb in her head. The after-show high isn’t too damn bad either.

Janna smiled and pushed the front doors open, entering the lobby. As she made her way across the lush, attractive space to the elevators, several people yelled and waved. “Janna! Janna Norden!”

Janna glanced to her left and saw three young women waving at her. She smiled and waved back but didn’t stop, so they followed her, quickly catching up.

“Janna,” said a young thing with spiky brown hair, “Can we have your autograph?” Her brown puppy dog eyes were quite imploring and her friends, standing somewhat timidly behind her, had similarly eager looks on their faces.

“Sure,” she replied with a smile, and set down her guitar case. “Did you see the show?” She asked as she signed their cocktail napkins with the pen she was handed.

“Oh, my God, yes! It was fantasticÖyou were killer!” The young woman squealed as she jumped up and down. The other two nodded their heads vigorously in agreement. One of the others added, “We loved it when you crowd surfed! Shit, we’ve never seen a chick do that.”

Janna smiled warmly as she signed the other napkins. “Well, I only do it when the vibes are right, you know?” She added with a smirk, “I don’t do it with frat boy crowds. I’m glad you enjoyed it.” She looked each of them in the eye and with a friendly smile said, “You take careÖget home safely, okay?”

“Oh, we will, I’m designated driving tonight,” replied the one with the platinum blonde crew cut. Janna nodded with approval. “Cool. Bye now.”

“Hey, um JannaÖwould you like to party with us for a while? We’ve got some really good shit.” Asked the spiky brunette.

Janna smiled again, apologetically. “No, sorry. I’m going up to party with my wife right now.” She grinned and nodded toward the elevator, then with a more serious smile, added, “You be careful, okay?”

They nodded, disappointed that she wouldn’t be partying with them but pleased at her personal interest. “Okay. Hey, thanks again, JannaÖthe show was awesome!”

Janna nodded her thanks and moved on toward the bank of elevators. She pressed the lighted button as she leaned against the wall between the two lifts. As the pleasant buzz continued, she sighed and thought about what awaited her up in their room, her heartbeat increasing as she saw her wife’s gorgeous face and body in her mind. God, I hope she’s still awakeÖI want my woman.

She ran her left hand through her sweat-damp hair and shook her head. JesusÖI haven’t been this high in years. She felt the rumble as the car approached and heard it slide to a stop just before the doors opened with a, “Ding.” Stepping into the empty car, she pressed the glowing number five, then leaned back against the mirrored wall, enjoying the tingling that danced through her brain and body, and the pleasant charge that was beginning to surge as she neared her mate.

The golden doors opened onto the maroon-carpeted hallway of her floor and she made her way purposefully down the hallway to the right, quickly finding her door and passing the card through the slot. The lock clicked and she pulled the handle down, pushing the door open.

The room was dimly lit, only the television providing illumination, and she could see her mate lounging on the bed. The reclining figure moved and hopped up off the bed, her form becoming more clearly defined as she approached, clad only in her underwear.

Ryan’s warm, velvety voice oozed around her like honey as she said, “Baby, you’re back already?”

Janna dropped her guitar case and shrugged out of her leather jacket, letting it drop to the floor as she held her arms out toward her wife. “Mm, yes. I wanted to get back to my lover.” Her sultry voice, in turn, wrapped itself around Ryan and she melted into Janna’s embrace.

“Well, here I am, baby.” Ryan’s low voice rumbled through Janna’s slightly foggy brain, it’s timbre meshing perfectly with the pleasant tingling, and her raging blood responded by pooling hotly in her groin. She reached up and pulled Ryan’s face down to hers, capturing her lips fiercely, and pushing her against the door.

Ryan responded to the rough kiss and pulled Janna tightly against herself, her body responding automatically to her wife’s desire. After a moment, however, she sensed that something wasn’t quite right, not the least of which was Janna’s aggressiveness, and she could taste an odd, bitter tang in her mate’s mouth. She pulled away slightly and looked at her mate. In the dim light, she thought that Janna’s pupils appeared much larger than they should, even accounting for the low light.

Confusion knit her brow as she asked, “Are you high, Janna?”

Janna grinned, somewhat embarrassed. “Yeah.”

Ryan’s brow furrowed more deeply as she suddenly felt extremely uncomfortable. She put her hands on Janna’s shoulders and directed a pointed gaze at her before she took a breath and asked, “Did you smoke?”

Janna looked confused for a moment, and then concern softened her features as she answered, “No! Ryan, baby, noÖI don’t do that. You know me better than that.” She lifted her hand to Ryan’s face and cupped her cheek. “It’s just a mild contact high. The smoke in there was thick, and then combined with the adrenaline and the vibes coming from the crowdÖit produces a little high.” She tried hard to focus seriously on her wife’s face, though the gently throbbing ecstasy made it difficult, and she softly said, “I’ve told you about this, love. There’s not much I can do about itÖit’s part of the job.” As she ran a finger along her mate’s pronounced jaw line, she added, “But we can take advantage of it can’t we?”

Ryan could feel the desire coming from her wife, both in waves emanating palpably from her body and coming through their link, and sighed resignedly. She leaned forward and kissed Janna softly. “I’m not comfortable with this Janna, but I love you, so if you want to make love, I will.”

“Honey, we make love almost every night anyway, what’s the difference? If I weren’t high unnaturally, I’d be high on you anyway.” She captured Ryan’s lips softly, trying to convince her of her sincerity.

Ryan leaned her forehead against Janna’s and sighed again. “I know, baby, and I want you really bad right now, too, but you know how much I hate drugs.”

“I do too, RyanÖyou know that. But this is a fact of my life right now. It’s only a very mild pot high, Ryan. Most of it is from the adrenaline rush and it’s natural endorphins, and the positive energy from the crowd…it was really, really intense tonight…an awesome show. Really, love.” She captured Ryan’s eyes with her deep green gaze and drew her in.

Ryan gazed at her steadily for a moment and then answered her with a heartfelt kiss, which quickly deepened. After a few moments, her lips traveled down to Janna’s chest, her tongue stroking her through the thin, black “Ramones” t-shirt she wore. Janna gasped at the contact and mumbled into Ryan’s hair, “Me firstÖplease? I want to taste you.”

Ryan moaned her permission and Janna sank to her knees, pulling Ryan’s underwear down as she did so. As she kissed her wife’s already slick curls, she breathed deeply of her scent, letting it fill her senses and fuel her desire. Her somewhat dulled senses were sharpened by the proximity of her wife’s essence and Janna stroked her with a hot, demanding tongue.

As her wife’s talented lips and tongue delivered delirious pleasure, Ryan leaned back against the hotel room door and rolled her head from side to side. “God, JannaÖ” she mumbled as she ran her fingers through her wife’s short hair, encouraging her.

A short few minutes later, her strong legs weakened and buckled as a result of the passionate assault and the powerful tremors that shook her body and curled her toes, and she sank to the floor. Ryan immediately wrapped Janna in her embrace and rolled over her, kissing her way from her lips, down her chin, over her breasts, down her stomach, to her jeans. She quickly, deftly unbuttoned the fly and pulled the pants off her legs, ripping the underpants down with them and sank her face into Janna’s curls.

“God, Ryan, yes!” Janna gasped as Ryan returned the pleasure.

Her hips bucked and she spread her legs, pushing her wife’s head down gently with strong fingers. Ryan returned the loving gift and very shortly thereafter, Janna was moaning her name loudly. Ryan mumbled against her hot, wet, honey-sweet skin, “Shh, you’ll wake the baby,” and reached up with her hand, letting Janna bite down on it before she continued the passionate assault. Janna fell into ecstatic release moments later and Ryan crawled back up her body and claimed her mouth, allowing her to scream her pleasure into it while not waking the baby or their neighbors.

A half hour later, after more impassioned wrestling, they lay sprawled on the floor, resting in each other’s arms, slick bodies entwined, when Janna muttered against a luscious breast, “Welcome to the world of sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll, baby.”

-16-

Ryan smiled in her sleep and pulled Janna closer as the dream played on.

The dark warrior’s grin was feral as she faced down her male opponent, and it morphed into a deep laugh as he turned and ran, joining his retreating brethren. Joyously, she gave her war cry and vaulted up onto a wagon, sheathing her sword as she did so, and surveyed the scene of her victory as adrenaline coursed through her veins. She was surrounded by her comrades in arms, women all, and sighed happily as she noted that all of the dead and wounded on the ground were male.

“Xena! Xena, we did it!” Her friend, the Amazon Queen exclaimed as she approached the proud warrior.

The warrior smiled down at her rakishly and drawled, “Yes, we did. You’ve trained your fighters well, Ephiny.”

The young Queen nodded her thanks and turned to face her tribe. “Listen up! Let’s get our wounded to the healer’s hut and then get these dead scum out of here. CooksÖready the feast!”

A cheer from her women met her proclamation, while the dark warrior scowled mildly. Had she been the marauding warlord, and she had been in the past, she would have waited for a few hours, until the tribe was sated with food and drink, and attacked again. Gabrielle and I won’t be partying tonight…or sleeping. As she thought of her mate-sidekick, she wondered where she was. Not seeing her, she was briefly gripped by an icy fear, but calmed herself and reached out with her senses. Ah, there. She felt her mate’s proximity through their bond and looked in that direction. I should have knownÖhelping the injured.

She watched as her small, but strong, partner helped the last of the wounded hobble into the hut, and then turned around, scanning the village for her warrior. She was well pleased to note how her bard’s face lit up when she spied her warrior, and the adrenaline still coursing through her veins took on a new component as her gaze traveled down her mate’s pleasing body. Suddenly, she was consumed with a burning lust, and jumped high in the air, flipping and flying through the air, landing nearly at her soulmate’s feet.

“Showoff.” Gabrielle grinned up at her tall partner.

“Nah. Come ‘ere,” she said as she wrapped the bard within her embrace. The bard melted against her strong body and wrapped her arms tightly around her warrior.

“Mm, Xena. Um, they don’t know that we’re, umÖ”

The tall, leather-clad warrior mumbled into her mate’s hair, “They must, Gabrielle. They’re not blind. They can see how you look at me, and I know that I look at you the same wayÖI see it reflected in your eyes.” She pulled the bard’s chin up and gazed deeply into her eyes. “I love you and I don’t care if they know it.” Then she dipped her head and captured the bard’s lips possessively, causing all the activity in the village around them to cease momentarily. When she pulled back, she saw her own lust mirrored in her bard’s clouded gaze and pulled her by the hand toward a guest hut. “Come on.” Knowing eyes and smiles followed them as they disappeared into the hut together.

As soon as they were hidden within the dark hut, away from prying eyes, the warrior pulled the bard close and captured her lips again. Her mate wrapped herself around her and returned the deep, hot kiss, running her hands down a firm, well-muscled backside as she moaned into her mouth.

“I need you, Gabrielle, right now,” Xena breathed as she broke the kiss.

“Yes,” was the panted reply as warm, nimble hands began impatiently untying the laces on her green bodice.

She brushed the large hands away and removed the top herself, pulling it off and flinging it to the ground, gasping as a breast was captured by a hot mouth. As her lover fed hungrily on her breasts, large hands pushed her short skirt from her hips and in a few quick, deft movements, removed her briefs and boots as well. Then she was picked up bodily and carried to a soft bed in a corner of the hut, the soft, suckling lips never losing contact with her excited anatomy.

After laying her mate down before her, the warrior stepped back and quickly shrugged out of her armor, letting it fall unceremoniously to the ground, then pulled her leathers off over her head with such force that they hit the ceiling and dropped behind her. She stepped out of her own briefs, hurriedly unlaced and kicked off her boots and fell upon her partner’s prone body, kissing her passionately as she thrust a strong thigh between her legs.

“Gods, XenaÖ”

“I love you, GabrielleÖ”

“MmmÖ”

As they kissed deeply, the warrior pulled her smaller mate against her so that their intimate centers were touching and lay back, turning slightly onto her side and initiating a slow grind against her. Her partner responded in kind, moaning at the rough, pleasant contact as their bodies moved against each other in unison.

They had only been lovers for a short time and had previously only made love gently, with the warrior using her skilled fingers and mouth to deliver pleasure to her younger mate, who had returned it in kind. But the young woman enjoyed the new position and moaned deeply, clutching at the blanket beneath her. As their bodies neared climax, the warrior increased the pace of their grinding, and her lithe mate followed in perfect synchrony. Suddenly, as one, they arched and cried out, the warrior’s deep moan reverberating loudly out through the open window and traveling the length of the small village.

“Gabrielle…”

“XenaÖ”

They both lay gasping for breath against the rough blanket of the bed, letting the waves of satiation roll over them, then the warrior sat up, pulling the bard into her lap and hugging her close.

“Gods, GabrielleÖI needed that. Thank you,” she mumbled against her lover’s neck.

“Xena, gods,” her bard panted, still unable to catch her breath.

“Shh. Take slow, deep breaths, love.”

Gabrielle nodded and did so, finally sighing deeply as she reveled in her mate’s warm, strong embrace. She let their love wash over her, as her mate was doing, and they sat entwined for a long while, until the warrior gently laid her back down and kissed her again.

They kissed softly, slowly, initiating a gentle, loving encounter that lasted well into the Amazons’ feast. They were not disturbed, however, as no one wanted to die by the hands of the warrior after having survived a fierce battle with an enemy army.

Ryan was roused slowly by her daughter’s soft cries and blinked as she tried to remember where she was. She felt the bed move as Janna sat up and went to the nearby portable crib, picking up their hungry daughter. When they returned to the bed, Ryan glanced at the bedside clock. 3:00. She sighed and rubbed her eyes, feeling exhausted. As she noted her exhaustion, she remembered the reason for it, and her frown was replaced by a smile. At that point she also remembered the dream she’d just had and smirked. Hm, tonight’s not the first time we’ve been carried away by adrenaline-driven lust.

Ryan turned to face her family as Janna switched on the small lamp and began to check Halley’s diaper. The baby whimpered, hungry, and Ryan leaned down to kiss her softly. “It’s okay, sweetheart, breakfast is coming.” She looked back up at Janna, who was rubbing tired, red eyes and yawning as she removed the wet diaper. Oh, shit. She can’t feed the baby. FuckÖ

Silently, the partners worked together to dress their daughter, and when Janna sat on the bed and began to pull her t-shirt off, Ryan gently laid her hand on her arm.

“Janna, loveÖyou can’t feed her.”

“What? It’s my turn, isn’t it?” She asked, confused.

“Yes, but you’ve got marijuana in your bloodstream, Janna. You can’t feed her.”

Janna’s eyes widened before her face collapsed in despair. “Oh, my God,” she gasped. “You’re right. I do.” She looked at Ryan, her bloodshot green eyes filled with pain and she swallowed hard. “ShitÖ” She sighed and shuddered, then began to cry. “My God, I can’t believe it. What have I done?”

“Janna, it’s okayÖyou didn’t do it on purpose. Here, let me have her loveÖshe’s hungry.”

Janna looked sadly down at her daughter and was consumed by grief. She handed her to her wife and began to cry harder, sobs wracking her body.

Ryan pulled her shirt off and got Halley situated, then tried to pull Janna against her side. But Janna, heartbroken and severely disappointed in herself, pulled away and lay down, facing away from her family. Her body shuddered as she cried, softly, trying not to bother the baby, and Ryan felt her pain intensely. She reached over and caressed Janna’s back with her free hand, saying, “Honey, it’s okayÖplease don’t be down on yourself. I can feed herÖit’s okay.”

Janna shook her head against the pillow. “This is so wrong, Ryan. What have I done? I never should have put myself back into this position. I got stoned, for God’s sake, and I enjoyed itÖnow I can’t feed my baby. What kind of mother would do that?”

“Janna, for God’s sake, it was an accident. You didn’t try to get stoned. Stop blaming yourself.”

“But I knew, Ryan. I fucking well knew it used to happen all the time, and I never even considered it, or how it would affect the baby. What an idiot! I’m a an absolute fucking idiot.”

“JannaÖ”

“Ryan, please, just leave me alone.” A dark melancholy settled upon the normally bright soul, aided in no small part by the wearing off of the drug in her system. Janna sighed again and let out a breath before biting off, “God damned, fucking drugs! I hate them! And I hate those kids for being so stupid and inflicting that shit on me! JesusÖ”

Ryan winced at Janna’s uncharacteristic sworn diatribe, and tried, “Honey,” but Janna shook her head vehemently, quieting her. She let Janna stew quietly and tried to calm herself so as not to affect the ever more sensitive Halley. A tear quietly tracked down her cheek as she felt her mate’s pain, and while she shared her anger at the pot-smoking kids. Jesus fucking Christ.

Quietly, Janna muttered, “I don’t write my music to be experienced under a drugged out haze. When they’re stoned, they’re not experiencing my music as they’re supposed toÖas I wrote it. Fucking idiots. I don’t know why I even try.”

Ryan remained quiet, agreeing with Janna, but not feeling that she needed to hear it just then. They both remained quiet, and Halley’s soft suckling sounds filled the small hotel room. Finally, Ryan quietly offered, “Janna, tomorrow I’ll call the pediatrician and ask how long you need to refrain from feeding her. I can check with La Leche, too, if you want.”

Janna turned slightly, so that Ryan could see her tear-stained face and quietly said, “Okay. Thanks, Ryan.” She met Ryan’s sincere gaze and whispered, “I’m sorry.”

Ryan’s own tears were released then as she said, “Honey, it’s okay. It’s not your faultÖin any way. You forgot about this aspect of performingÖso did I, and I knew about it. Please, we’ll work it out. In the meantime, keep pumping so you can feed her as soon as you’re clean again. Okay?”

Janna nodded meekly.

Ryan added, “Why don’t you pump now, love? You must be full. Keep your flow going, Janna, come on.”

Janna sat up and gazed sadly at Ryan, nodding her agreement, before slowly getting out of bed and retrieving the small, hand held, battery-operated pump and rejoining her loves. She pulled her shirt off over her head and dejectedly began the pumping process.

Halley, from her perch in her Momma’s arms, turned to look at her Mommy and offered an encouraging, “Geck,” before returning to her meal.

Janna smiled down at her baby, feeling warmed by her love and leaned down to kiss her head. She was rewarded by another interruption in the suckling, which accompanied a little smile. “My sweet girl.”

“She’s just like you, Janna.”

“I hope not, Ryan.”

“Janna,” Ryan said as she pulled her wife close. Janna didn’t fight the gesture and leaned against her wife. A small smile curved her lips as she felt Ryan sending her silent love and reassurances.

“Thank you, Ryan.”

“De nada. I love you, Janna.”

“Love you, too. So much.”

A half hour later, Halley was again sleeping soundly in her crib, and her mothers slept as well, curled within each other’s arms. Their friend Luna shared an extra measure of energy with them, sensing that the minor trauma would not be completely vanquished for some while yet.

~~~~~~~~~~
Janna lay sprawled in Ryan’s arms as the morning gray entered their room. Ryan had been awake for some time, but didn’t want to disturb Janna. She had had a rough night, and as long as the baby was sleeping in, there was no reason why they shouldn’t also. She sighed as she remembered Janna’s pain from the previous night. I wish she wouldn’t be so down on herselfÖshe didn’t do it on purpose. I would take all of her pain away if I could. I would take it on myself.

Janna awakened to the always-pleasant sensation of being wrapped in Ryan’s embrace, and smiled. As she snuggled more deeply against her mate, as was her habit, warm hands began gentle caresses against her skin. Ryan’s hands roamed gently up under her t-shirt, guiding her through her morning fog to wakefulness.

“Mm, that’s nice,” Janna mumbled against her mate’s chest.

“Morning, Janna. You feel good, too. My blood’s starting to wake up, baby.”

Janna smiled. Nothing changes. Will there ever be a time when we don’t turn each other on so readily? This is so amazing. “Same here, love. Is the baby still asleep?” She asked without opening her eyes.

“Mm, hm. Yep. Little angel.” Ryan grinned.

Our angel. Whose turn is it to feed her? Oh, noÖJanna’s eyes flew open as she remembered the night before and she felt a jolt of pain. “Oh, God, RyanÖlast night.”

Ryan closed her eyes and sighed. “Janna, it’s over. Let’s get past it, okay? I’m gonna call the doctor today and we’ll know more, alright?” She kissed the blonde head beneath her chin and hugged her love close.

“Okay,” was the dejected reply.

Ryan could feel the melancholy creeping over her partner again. “JannaÖplease don’t be so down about this. It wasn’t your fault and I’m not upset with you. Halley is fineÖshe has me as a backup. There’s really nothing to be so down about.”

Janna was quiet for a moment, then replied, “Ryan, tell me how you would feel if it had happened to you. PleaseÖtell me honestly.”

Fuck. Ryan sighed and said, “Like an asshole.”

“There you go. I feel like an idiot, and am not going to feel better about myself for some time. Okay?”

“No, it’s not okay, but I understand. I love you, Janna.”

Janna sighed as she felt her wife’s love for her embrace her soul. She squeezed Ryan tightly as she said, “God, I love you, RyanÖso much. Thank you for being so understanding.”

“Like I said, I love you, Janna.” She kissed her mate’s hair again. “Can we have our cuddle time before the baby wakes up?”

“Sure, love. That’s a good idea.” She rolled off her mate and lay on her side. Ryan turned onto her side as well, and they both reached down to gently connect while their lips gently sought each other out.

They shared their love gently that way for several minutes and then Ryan intensified the encounter, feeling the need to reassure Janna. She made love to her wife so tenderly and with such devotion, that Janna had no doubt as to her wife’s feelings on the matter or of her acceptance of her.

Afterward, as they lay in each other’s arms in the gray gloom, Janna sighed again. Ryan’s unconditional acceptance of her had raised her spirits and she determined not to let the situation drag her down any further. She turned her head and gently kissed a full breast.

“Will you be okay handling all the feedings for a while?”

“Sure, love. I’m plenty full, and her increased demand should increase my production even more. We’ll be fine, Janna.”

“Good. Um, you know the doctor wouldn’t mind seeing us start to supplement her diet with cereal.”

“I know, Janna, but he did say that she’s so big that it’s not necessary, and we both believe that we should keep her on breast milk alone for as long as possible. Honey, I don’t see why this situation should change our routine at all, so let’s not, huh?”

“Yeah, okay, Ryan. I just want the best for her.”

“She’s getting the best, Janna, believe me.” She pulled Janna up so that they were face to face. “You’re a wonderful mother, JannaÖplease don’t doubt that. Please, love.”

“Alright, RyanÖthank you. She’s a lucky little girl, you know. She has two mothers who are absolutely devoted to her.”

“Mm, hm. Kiss me again, baby and then let’s catch a quick shower before she wakes up.”

“Done, Ryan.”

~~~~~~~~~~
Ryan turned away from the window and faced the interior of their hotel room. Janna was lying on the bed talking on the phone while Halley sat in her crib, surrounded by toys. As Janna hung up the phone Ryan said, “Janna, is that rain out there or fog? Or both?”

Janna got up and approached the window. Peeking at the bleary weather, she scrunched up her nose and replied, “Both, I think. Welcome to Seattle.”

“Jesus. It’s like Christmastime at home. I haven’t seen the sun yet today.”

“And I don’t think you will, either.”

“Who was on the phone, babe?”

“Joan, from New York. She said she heard from a few friends that there was an incredible punk show here last nightÖone of her old friends was in the band.” She grinned mischievously.

Ryan matched the grin with one of her own. “Oh, yeah, I was there. It was incredible. The chick on guitar blew me away. She was so hot.”

“Oh, yeah? Tell me more.” Janna said as she wrapped her arms around Ryan’s waist.

“More? Okay. She was this really hot looking blonde babe with green eyes and the cutest body I think I’ve ever seen.” She shook her head and grinned wickedly. “Jesus, what I could do to a body like that. Really nice rack on her too. Shit.”

“Mm. What else?” Janna asked coyly.

“Helluva guitar player. She could probably duel with Springsteen and come out on top. And she did this thing where she jumped into the crowd and surfed along their outstretched hands. And then she played her band mates’ instruments so they could do it too. It was incredible.”

“Mm, sounds cool.”

“She was. So cool. I’m gonna try to become her groupie after tonight’s show.”

“Are you?”

“Mm, hm. I think I’m her type.”

“You do, huh?”

“I do. There was this special vibe between us whenever she looked at me.”

“And you think she’s gay?”

“Shit, baby, my gaydar went pinging right off the scope. The instant I laid eyes on her.”

“Cool.”

“Way cool.”

“Well, good luck with that.” Janna said as she laid her cheek against Ryan’s chest.

Ryan pulled her wife closer and kissed her head. “Oh, I’m the luckiest woman in the world.” After a moment, she sighed and chuckled. “So, is that all Joan wanted?”

“Nope. She had a proposition for me.”

“Oh?”

“Mm, hm. She’s had this idea for some time about putting together a sort of all-star women’s band. She’s got a drummer, a guitarist, a bassist, a keyboardist and a singer lined up already, as well as a recording contract and distribution and video deals in place. She wants me to consider signing on.”

“Wow, really?”

“Yep. I, um, told her that I’m not interested.”

Ryan wondered if she’d heard right. “You’re what?”

“I’m not interested. Not in the leastÖespecially after last night.” She pulled back from Ryan’s embrace and looked up at her. “I love my life the way it is right now. It’s perfect. I don’t want to get into music again. It’s too unsettled. It’s too hard to have a family and be in a bandÖnearly, if not impossible, to do right. And, I don’t need the money.”

“Was she really disappointed?”

“She made me promise that I would think about it. When I told her I didn’t need to think about it, she said I wouldn’t have to tourÖjust record with them and maybe do a few special shows and the videos.”

“And?”

“No way. It would still take me away from my family too often. Ryan, I’m too attached to you and Halley right nowÖyou two are everything to me. I don’t want to be apart from you for even a night.”

“I appreciate that, Janna, I really do. But isn’t this an extraordinary opportunity?”

“Well, yes. But I’m a photographer now, Ryan. That’s what I love. And a wife and mother. I am truly not interested in being a rock star. It’s way overrated.”

Ryan pulled her mate close again. “Okay, Janna. I appreciate your putting us first. That means a lot to me. But let me just say, sweetheart, that you should think of yourself too. We could make it work if we had to. Just like we are now. Maybe you should give it some thought.”

“Ryan, she would have to sweeten it a lot more first. Make it so I would only have a few commitments. I honestly don’t see that happening. Anyway, she’s in the band too, and they aren’t going to need a third guitarist.”

“Okay, baby. I’ll trust that you’ll do what’s best for us all. Shit, she must think a lot of your talent.”

“Yes, I think she does, but umÖI think there might be a little more to it, too. She’s unattached again, and may be halfway hoping for something between us again. And, um, obviously, I am not open to that.” She shrugged. “I could be wrong, but I know herÖI used to live with her and I picked up on a little neediness.”

“Hmm. I may have to kick her ass for her when I see her again.”

“No, honey, you will not. She didn’t come on to meÖshe wouldn’t do that. She’s a good lady.”

“She may be, Janna, but she’d better keep her distance or there’s gonna be trouble.”

“Ryan, Jesus, don’t start going there, please. Nothing is gonna happen. I won’t join the group and there won’t be the opportunity for her to start wanting me again.”

“Oh, she wants you now, Janna. I can see it. I can see it when she looks at you and when she speaks of you. You broke up with her, didn’t you?”

“Yes, I did.”

“And she wasn’t expecting it?”

“No, not really.”

“And all of your friends were shocked?”

“Well, yeah, sort of. Most of them.”

Ryan gazed at Janna with raised eyebrows, prompting Janna to add, “Ryan, she knows how much in love with you I am. Soon after we met, I wrote her a long letter about you. I poured my heart out. She knows how completely devoted I am to you and she wouldn’t try to mess with that.”

“That may be, Janna, but if she loves you, she may not be able to stop herself.”

“Well, maybe I need to have a talk with her then, because there is no way in hell that there will ever be anything between us ever again and if she thinks there’s a chance she’s sadly mistaken. I will end our friendship if she can’t handle that. You mean too much to me.”

Ryan sighed. “Janna, I know she means a lot to youÖyou said yourself she’s like the sister you never had. I don’t want you jeopardizing that. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe it’s just a little bit of jealousy raising it’s ugly head.”

“I wouldn’t worry about it, Ryan, either way. I really have no desire to join another band. I just want to finish this silly little tour and get back home to our happy life together. I honestly can’t wait.”

“I can’t either, to be honest. But this is kinda fun, too, so let’s make the most of it. Okay, baby?”

“Okay, love.” She rested her head on her favorite spot on Ryan’s chest again.

A few minutes later, the phone rang again and Ryan picked it up. After a short conversation, she addressed Janna. “Baby, that was the doctor. He said that you really need to wait several weeks after the last exposure, because the THC in the pot can stay in your system for that longÖeven from a contact high.” She pulled Janna close and looked at her apologetically. “I’m sorry, love. It, um, looks like you can’t feed her again until after we get home. He, uh, said that you have to pump religiously three times every day, too, or your milk will dry up.”

“Jesus, Ryan. That kills me,” Janna said as she pulled away from her wife’s embrace and sat on the edge of the bed. “Fuck,” she muttered quietly, under her breath.

“God, I’m sorry, Janna. But it will work out. I’m gonna make sure that you don’t forget to pump and we’re gonna keep your milk flowing. I’ll, uh, do my part for you too, if you want.” She grinned lecherously at her wife.

Janna laughed. “Oh, God, baby, that’s fine with me. You do that. I’ll pump at breakfast, in the afternoon and before bed, and you can suck on them whenever the hell you want to.”

“I’m there, baby.” She kissed her mate softly and bit her lower lip as she turned to check on their baby. “Um, do you think she’ll nap soon?”

Janna smiled widely. “She’s due to any time now, yeah.”

“Cool.”

“Way cool.”

-17-

Janna sat on the sofa, strumming her guitar in the pre-show quiet. It was two hours before show time and she was alone backstage. The guys had not arrived yet and Ryan was back at the hotel, feeding Halley. The equipment was all set up, having been left mostly intact the night before. She played her new song once more, letting the peace of the moment fill her. I love this quiet before the storm. Soon, everything will erupt into a frenzy, but for now, this is nice. As she played on, eyes closed, reveling in the solitude, said solitude was broken by a self-assured voice.

“Janna.”

She opened her eyes and turned her head to see an attractive brown-haired woman dressed in tight jeans and a leather vest, sans shirt, standing a few feet away and gazing at her with a cocky smile. Oh, my God, itsÖ

“Diana.” She set her guitar down and turned toward her ex-girlfriend. “Jesus, what are you doing here?”

The tall woman smirked as she said, “Well, that’s an interesting greeting. It’s good to see you, too, Janna.” The popular singer approached and sat beside her ex-mate. “I’m in town working on my new album, and I heard about your hot show last night. I had to come down and see you. Do you mind?”

Janna had been hurt deeply by the woman three years earlier when she had left her with the distinct impression that she had simply been using Janna and her band as a stepping stone to success. It was a fair assessment, as it turns out. Janna shrugged. “Not really. Though you must realize that you’re not one of my favorite people.”

Diana put on a mock hurt look, which made her appear as shallow as she actually was. “Janna, I’m hurtÖafter what we had?”

“Apparently, Diana, what we had meant very little to you. A lot less than what it meant to me.” She added, “At the time,” before she picked up her guitar again and began strumming a series of rock chords. “Is there something in particular you want, Diana?” She asked without looking at the woman.

“I just wanted to see you, Janna. Is that a crime? It has been a while.”

It hasn’t been nearly long enough, bitch. “No, it’s not a crime. How are you?”

“Oh, I’m fineÖjust fine. I’m here doing my third album. Did you hear my first two?”

“No, can’t say I did. So, don’t tell me you’re going for a grunge sound nowÖI’d heard that you had gone pop for your solo efforts.”

“Gone pop? Well, that’s not how I’d describe my music. Rolling Stone called my first album, ‘A soulful collection of folk-tinged rock ballads’.”

JesusÖ “Oh, sorry. Well, you must admit, after singing in a militant dyke punk band, your new sound was pretty light and poppy in comparison.” Friggin’ sell-out…I’ll bet you’re straight now, too.

“I can see where you would think thatÖyou always did have pretty narrow tastesÖmusically.”

God, I wish she’d leave, or better yet, shove her snobbish attitude up her tightÖ Janna blinked, startled, realizing that Diana had asked a question. “I’m sorry, what?”

She smiled coyly. “I said, ‘what are you doing after the show’?” She scooted closer to Janna and laid a warm hand on her thigh. “You look wonderful, Janna. Can we have a drink later?”

“I don’t think that will be possible,” said a deep, slightly menacing voice behind them.

Janna grinned widely, immensely relieved, and she took great pleasure in the look on Diana’s face when she turned to see who had spoken, and faced a tall, gorgeous woman dressed in black jeans and a white tank top, who obviously meant what she had just said.

“Oh, and who the hell are you?” The singer asked haughtily.

Ryan raised an eyebrow and smiled without a hint of humor. “I’m her wife. Who the hell are you?”

Diana adopted a lofty air as she replied, “I’m her ex.”

At that point, before the women could come to blows, Janna jumped up and fell into Ryan’s arms. She kissed Ryan deeply before stepping back and looking at Diana. “Diana, this is my wife, Ryan Norden-Zamora. Ryan, this is Diana Marshall.”

“Nice to meet you, Diana.” Not.

“Yes,” was the snotty reply. “Well, I have a dinner date. Janna, think about it. I would like to talk to you about possibly working together again. I’m not at all happy with the guitarist I’m working with now.”

“I don’t think that will be possible, Diana. We’re leaving tomorrow morning.” Janna replied pointedly.

“Yes, well, I would consider it if I were you. It’s quite an opportunityÖmy first two CD’s went platinum.”

“Well, Diana, you are most certainly not me, and I have no interest whatsoever in working with you againÖor in doing anything else involving you. Thanks for stopping by.”

She turned from the stunned woman and linked arms with Ryan, pulling her from the room. They went down the hall and into the women’s restroom, where Janna collapsed against her mate, laughing. “Oh, my GodÖyou came at the perfect moment, thank you.”

“My pleasure. She almost lost her left hand, I hope you know.”

“Oh, my warrior. Ready to defend my honor?” Janna gazed lovingly up into her protector’s eyes.

“Always.”

“Thank you, baby.” Suddenly, she realized that someone was missing. “Where’s the baby?”

“Jeff has her. He’s showing her the drum kit.”

“Cool.” Janna said as she wrapped her arms around her mate, sinking into her favorite place within her embrace. “God, it’s amazing how blind you can be when you think you’re in love. What a complete and utter bitch.”

“Yes, I agree with that assessment. Was she, um, like that back thenÖwhen you were together?” Ryan asked as she rubbed her wife’s back in slow, gentle circles.

“No, not really. Of course, I was blind to the fact that she was a back-stabbing, conniving gold-diggerÖbut she was much warmer, despite that.”

“Mm.”

“Jesus, what nerveÖshowing up here. She must know that I feel something just short of outright hatred for her.”

“She seems pretty full of herself, Janna. As if fame has gone to her head. I, uh, think she probably can’t fathom why you wouldn’t want her.”

“Jesus. What a deluded loser. Come ‘ere, love. I’ve missed you.” Janna said, pulling her mate’s face down to meet hers.

“It’s only been a half hour, babe.”

Janna looked up into Ryan’s deep, blue gaze. “Seems like forever. Kiss me.”

Ryan did. Deeply, passionately, letting Janna know how much she appreciated her putting off of the troublemaking woman.

“God, Ryan. Did you say earlier that you intend to be my groupie after the show?”

“I did.”

“Cool.”

~~~~~~~~~~
Janna gazed happily over at her wife, who sat beside her on the long sofa, with Halley on her lap. As her pseudo-tough wife cooed and babbled baby talk with their daughter, Janna’s mind strayed to earlier. Her body tingled in remembrance as she recalled Ryan’s hot, wet mouth on her body.

She had been sitting in a comfortable chair by the window in their hotel room, idly reading, when two warm hands found her breasts from behind, and began kneading them softly. She stiffened and arched into the touch.

“God, Ryan.”

“She’s asleep, love.”

“Mmm”

Ryan turned Janna’s chair around so that she was facing her and knelt between her knees. As she gazed with longing up into her wife’s eyes, her silent question was answered by a swift nod and, “Yes, Ryan. Please.”

Ryan smiled warmly and pulled Janna’s t-shirt off over her head, uncovering her mildly engorged breasts. With a gaze proclaiming love and longing, she leaned forward and kissed a delicate pink nipple.

Janna closed her eyes at the tender touch and brought her hands up to run through Ryan’s soft hair.

“God, Ryan, that’s nice,” she sighed.

“Mmm,” was the only reply, before Ryan’s tongue snaked out and gently circled her wife’s nipple. Janna moaned at the pleasant contact, encouraging her wife to cover her areola with her lips, suckling softly.

“God, baby, how that can be so different when you ahh when you do it am amazes me. So incredibly…incredibly sexy.”

“Janna, you taste so good,” Ryan muttered around her sweet mouthful. As her passion rose, she began stroking and suckling in earnest, and Janna’s milk started to flow.

“Ry Ryan, baby, don’t swallow it it’ll Oh God! It’ll taint your milk,” Janna gasped, breathless.

“Okay, baby,” was the murmured reply as Ryan reached for the towel she had laid on the table beside them. She continued to suckle vigorously, until her mouth was full of her wife’s sweet fluid. She gave Janna’s breast one more hot, sensuous swipe before pulling back and putting the towel to her mouth. After emptying her mouth, she returned to her toy and sucked Janna’s entire areola into her mouth, running her tongue hotly around the sensitive flesh.

“Jesus, Ryan,” Janna gasped, throwing her head back against the soft upholstery.

Ryan took another few mouthfuls of milk, extracting them sensually from Janna’s body, and disposed of them before lifting a warm washcloth to her wife’s breast and laying it there. She then attended to the other breast in exactly the same manner. When she finished, Janna stood abruptly and pulled her up, then pushed her toward the bed, where she proceeded to repay the pleasurable gift, albeit lower on her wife’s anatomy.

Janna sighed and tried to calm her racing heartbeat and surging blood. God, that was a nice interlude. After that, they had enjoyed a light, late afternoon meal together, feeding each other from a shared plate.

Ryan glanced at Janna and smiled perceptively. “It was a nice day, wasn’t it, love?”

“Mm, hm.”

“We can have a nice night, too.”

“Do you know how to be a groupie, Ryan?”

“I think I can figure it out,” she replied with a rakish grin.

Janna groaned. “Oh, God, I know you can.” She sighed deeply and tried to re focus on her warming up. As she ran through some progressions on her guitar, she heard raucous male voices approaching.

“Where is she? Hey, Janna, are you in here?”

Janna turned, surprised as she heard the voice of one of her dearest friends. “Eddie! What the hell, baby?” She jumped up and into the arms of her old friend, who was like a second brother to her.

“Hey, babe how’s it goin’?” Drawled her good friend with the somewhat scraggly, shoulder length brown hair.

“It’s going great, E. Come here.” She said after pulling back and she dragged him toward the sofa where her wife and baby sat.

Ryan started to stand, but the thoughtful man said, “Hey, no, sit please. I’m Ed,” and extended his hand.

Ryan grasped it warmly and said, “Ed. I’ve heard so much about you. I’m Ryan. It’s really great to meet you.”

Janna added, “And Eddie, this is our daughter, Halley.”

“Shit, Janna, she’s great. Babe, you look so happy.” He pulled her into another hug.

“I am, buddy. You know that I’ve written you often enough and told you.”

“Yeah, I know. Sorry we couldn’t make it down for the wedding.” He shrugged. “You know how it is.”

“No!” Janna laughed. “I never quite made it to your level of success, Eddie.” She added, “But it’s okay, I understand. How’s Beth?”

“Oh, she’s great. She sends her love. They’re playing tonight, or she’d be here.”

“Are they? I’d love to see her.”

“Yeah, they’re over in Redmond tonight. I’m meeting her there later.”

“Well give her a kiss for me.”

“I will.” He looked around at the gathered musicians and back to Janna. “So, you’re back in it, huh?”

“Just temporarily, believe me. I’m just helping my friends out. Their regular guitarist is in the hospital.”

“That’s cool, Janna.”

She shrugged and motioned Jason and Brian, who were standing shyly nearby, closer. “Guys, come here. Meet one of your heroes. Eddie, this is Jason, and Brian.” As the gifted musician graciously met with the two star struck kids, Janna grinned at Ryan, who winked at her with an equally large grin.

Ryan’s gaze and upraised eyebrows said, “He’s nice.”

Janna nodded. “Yeah.” She turned back to her old friend. “So how are the guys?”

“They’re all cool. Mike and Jeff are out front bullshitting with Ben. Yeah, here they come.”

Janna smiled as her other friends arrived backstage and greeted them warmly before introducing them around. They visited happily for a while, catching up on each other’s loves.

“So, can you guys stay a while? Jam a little, maybe?” Janna asked hopefully.

Eddie smiled apologetically. “Sorry, we can’t, Janna. I sorta half way promised Beth that we’d jam with her band tonight. We’ve been away for a few weeks and I kinda need to spend some time with her. So we need to get going, babe.”

Janna was disappointed, but said, “Oh, well, that’s okay. I understand completely.” She grinned and glanced at Ryan. “Gotta keep the wife happy.”

Ryan grinned lopsidedly and said, “And you do, baby,” prompting the guys to laugh and make comments inappropriate for mixed company.

“All right, you guysÖgive it a rest, huh? My baby doesn’t need to be hearing that,” Janna laughed.

“Oh, right. Sorry, Janna,” Eddie offered. They visited for a while longer before they had to leave and shared warm hugs and promises to try to get together more often.

After they had left, and the space felt strangely empty, Ryan said, “God, Janna, they’re great guys.”

“Mm, yes. They really are. Eddie’s an Entity mate of mine.”

“No shit? You mean in a Michael Spirit Dudes sense?”

“Yep, we’re in the same soul group. Me, him and Terry.”

“That’s cool, babe. It’s cool that you know about it, too.”

“Yeah, I think so. You, Halley, me, most of our friends, familyÖwe’re all in the larger group togetherÖthe Cadre of seven thousand soulsÖbut it’s cool to meet people in the smaller group of a thousand or so souls. When you meet, it feels like meeting a long-lost friend or sibling.”

“Mm. I think I’ve met a few.”

“Definitely. We tend to reincarnate close byÖgeographically. That way we’re never truly alone in this Earth game. We may not have conscious memories of our past lives together, but on a spiritual level, we pick up on the familiarity. It’s really very special.”

“Mm, hm. But then, some of us are lucky enough to have conscious memories of the other lives…or at least memories that are viewed and then awakened through dreams.” Janna nodded her agreement with a smile and Ryan reached out to her mate. “Come ‘ere, baby. Sit and relax until the show starts.” She pulled Janna down next to her and settled the baby on both their laps, and they played together quietly until it was time for Janna to perform again.

~~~~~~~~~~
Ryan checked on the baby and returned to bed. Glancing at the clock, she noted that it was shortly past midnight. Hm. She was back by 11:30 last night. She sighed, realized that she missed her mate acutely, and experienced a jolt of embarrassment. Big, tough, cop my ass.

She plopped down on the bed and flipped through the TV channels again. Shit. Shit. Crap. More shit. Tripe. Drivel. Holy shit! She lingered on the adult channel, watching with curious interest as two nude women wrestled passionately on a carpeted floor. A devilish grin curled her lips. That could be us last night…Jesus. She spoke aloud to the empty room, “Janna, babe, you can get back any time now.” She watched with half an eye as the wrestling became increasingly erotic. Shit, can they show that on regular cable? She cleared her throat and looked toward the door. Any time now, baby. I’d much rather be looking at your naked body. Feeling your naked bodyÖeatingÖuhhh.

Just then, she felt the jolt of warmth that signaled her mate’s proximity and heard the lock on their door click as the key card was passed through it. Yes! Quickly, she changed channels and dropped the remote on the bed beside her.

Janna entered and dropped her guitar case by the door. She spotted her mate lying coyly on the bed and grinned, shrugging out of her jacket as she approached her. “Hi, love,” she said as she crawled onto the bed and into her lover’s arms. “Sorry I’m late. I wanted to buy Jase and Bri their first semi-legal drinks to celebrate our first successful tour dates.”

Ryan pulled Janna close and buried her face in her hair. “S’okay, love. I’ve just been bored out of my mind. There isn’t shit on TV…or rather, that’s all that’s on TV.”

Janna scooted more comfortably into Ryan’s arms and as she did so, her knee landed on the remote control, switching the channel to the previous station. The impassioned lovers reappeared, now sharing an orgasmic moment, and Ryan gulped guiltily.

“Mm, hm. I see what’s on TV. Very interesting, Ryan. I didn’t know your late night viewing habits includedÖJesusÖis this regular cable?”

“Yeah, shocked the hell out of me, too. I don’t think that’s simulated either. Um, are you tired, baby? We can play rock star and groupie now if you’re not,” she said as she nipped at Janna’s neck.

Janna craned her neck somewhat to see around her mate, curiosity getting the best of her. “I think you’re rightÖthat does look real. I think they’ve just edited it carefullyÖmy God! What is she doÖ”

A hungry mouth stopped her exclamation short, and she felt around on the bed for the remote, finding it and turning the TV off. “Mm, Ryan, yesÖ”

Ryan pushed her down on her back and straddled her stomach, leaning over her as she said, “Baby, we do not need porn.”

Janna grinned up at her. “No, we don’t. Kiss me again.” Ryan complied, but not before pulling Janna’s shirt off and running large hands over her bra. She tasted the bitter tang in Janna’s mouth again and muttered into the kiss, “You’re high again, baby?”

Janna separated slightly from Ryan and gazed up into her eyes. “A little, yeah. And the guys wanted me to drink with them too, so I had a little. Is that okay? Are you disappointed in me?”

“No, baby, I’m not disappointed in you. I want you to have a good time.”

“Thanks, love. I did. It was another incredible showÖsometimes it’s hard not to keep partying after getting off the stage. It’s such a rushÖyou don’t want it to end.”

“It’s trap, JannaÖa pitfall. Don’t fall into it, baby.”

“Ryan, I didn’t as a kid so I certainly won’t now. We were just celebrating. I don’t think it’ll become habit on this tour. I’d like to set a good example for them.”

“That’s good, Janna. I hope you do. However, um, I can’t say I mind how feisty you are after a show.” She nipped at Janna’s neck again, leaving a red mark.

“Oh, God, RyanÖthat’s gonna leave a mark.” She pulled Ryan down fully atop herself and returned the gesture, biting her neck gently, and feeling the blood coursing beneath her warm skin.

“Shit, JannaÖI need you, baby.”

“Take me, love.” No sooner had she said that than Ryan was sitting up, straddling her again as she removed her own t-shirt. She freed beautiful, dark-tipped breasts, taking her wife’s breath away. “God, Ryan,” Janna gasped as she pulled Ryan down atop herself again.

As they kissed fervently, Janna ran her hands along Ryan’s back and then lowered them, pushing at her underwear and removing them as far as her thighs before Ryan sat up again and removed them herself. As she straddled Janna once more, her wife felt her slick wetness against her stomach and moaned loudly. “God, you’re wet, Ryan.”

“You make me that way, Janna. No one has ever turned me on like you do.” She pulled Janna’s sports bra down, freeing her breasts as well, and buried her face into them. She licked and stroked sensuously before sitting up again and moving against Janna’s firm stomach. Janna encouraged her with hands first on her breasts and then on her hips and Ryan began undulating against her mate. She reached large, warm hands down to knead Janna’s breasts as she moved rhythmically above her, moaning at the intense pleasure.

“Yeah, baby, ride me. Come for me,” Janna panted, nearly delirious with pleasure herself at the sight and feel of her beautiful mate rocking against her, her large breasts swaying with her movements.

Ryan moaned again, then stopped her motion. “No, I want to come with you, baby. Sit up.” She pulled Janna up and deftly removed the rest of her clothing, then lay her back down. “How do you want it, love?”

“I need some groundingÖlet me taste you, Ryan.”

“Sixty-nine, okay?” Ryan eagerly asked, pinning Janna with a cloudy blue stare.

“God, yes. Turn around.”

Ryan did so, quickly, and buried her face into Janna’s lush mound. Janna did likewise and they both quickly lost themselves in the pleasures they were giving and receiving and lost track of time as delirious climaxes carried them away. They played for hours, until Halley awakened for her middle-of-the-night feeding.

As moonlight poured into their hotel room, Janna lay against Ryan as Halley fed, and Ryan quietly asked, “Tell me about the show tonight, Janna.”

“It was another great one. We even added a third encore.” She said quietly as she shook her head. “It’s amazingÖthese two shows have been amongst the best ever for me. The crowds were just so into us. I think we have word of mouth in the gay community to thank for it, too. I really do. The queer quotient seems extraordinarily high. It feels very much like a Pansy Division show…or a Tribe show…or Team Dresch. If it’s this good here, I can’t wait until we get to West Hollywood. Or The City. Jesus…San Francisco may not be left standing after we leave.” She grinned into Ryan’s shoulder.

“That is so cool, baby. I’m happy for you.”

“Yeah, it’s satisfying. It hasn’t been perfect, like with the dope mess, and there will be other hassles, but it should continue to be fun. I hope it does, anyway.”

“Me too, babe. And don’t worry about the dope, please. There’s nothing you can do about it. And if you want to drink with your friends after the show, I think you should. Cut loose a little bit, baby. You deserve it. You’ve earned it. You’ve been a devoted mother since the moment you became pregnant. Enjoy this little vacation from your responsibilities while you can.”

“Ryan, that’s very sweet, but I really don’t want to without you. When the baby is weaned, we’ll cut loose together, okay?” She squeezed her mate tightly as she added, “And in the meantime, we’ll cut loose together in our favorite wayÖby making lots and lots of love.”

“Ooh, Janna, I’m there, baby. So there.” She leaned over and captured a kiss, and Halley grinned against her breast.

-18-

The bus rolled on, nearing Portland in the late afternoon, the second city on the whirlwind nine-city, two-state tour. Janna sat spooned against Ryan on the soft couch next to the large window as Jeff and Jason played with Halley at the table across the way.

Ryan watched the lush, forested countryside pass by as she mumbled into Janna’s ear, “Baby, you’ve never really told me about the first time you were gay-bashedÖin Seattle. What happened?”

“Oh, well, um, let’s see. It was about five, six years ago now, maybe more. I was living thereÖweÖmy band mates in the Tribe and IÖhad relocated to there about nine months earlier to work with Joan and a few other grunge-punk producers. It was real soon after Joanie and I split, and I was still pretty down, so after a show, my friends took me out bar hopping.

“We were coming out of a lesbian bar when some skinheads jumped out at us. We were all pretty seriously wasted so really couldn’t do anything to protect ourselves.” She shook her head disgustedly. “Stupid. Anyway, they did the usual name calling, you know, ‘fuckin’ dykes, dirty lezzies, cunts’Öthe usual intelligent male drivel.” Ryan nodded, having had the same experience more than once.

“Well, you know me, too feisty for my own good sometimes,” she looked back at her wife and grinned, receiving a friendly squeeze about the waist. “I had to open my mouth to challenge them. Unfortunately, I didn’t notice that one of them had a clubÖactually, I think it was a police baton.”

Ryan winced and whispered, “Oh, fuck, Janna.”

“Yeah. So, he hit me with it, right across the side of my head and I went down. I don’t remember anything after that. I woke up in the emergency room, it must have been hours later. One of the girls with usÖshe wasn’t in the bandÖhad a broken arm, and Marcy had cuts and scratches on her face and arms. Apparently, she tried to fight the guys and before she could get hurt worse, the cops arrived. Since it was right outside the bar, there were lots of witnesses and someone dialed 911 right away. We were lucky. They could’ve been smarter and waited until we were down the street. It was late and all of the regular businesses were closed. No one would’ve knownÖpossibly for quite some time.”

“God, baby. Thank God.” Ryan hugged her tightly, feeling an intense pain at the thought of her beloved being hurt that way.

Janna felt Ryan’s pain and caressed the hands that rested on her stomach. “It’s okay, love. It wasn’t a bad concussion. But we left on tour the next day, and God, what a miserable tour that was. I was in terrible pain and couldn’t get the rest I needed. I, um, I’m afraid I did a lot of drinking to try to self medicate, and I know that didn’t help matters. I was a mess.” She shook her head again and sighed. “Playing just killed me. The loud, pounding musicÖJesus. It took weeks to heal. Plus, I didn’t know Reiki yet. That would’ve helped.”

“God, yes.” Ryan kissed Janna’s hair. “Jesus, I’m sorry, baby. Fuckin’ ‘phobes.”

“Yep. They’re a lower form of lifeÖthere’s no doubt in my mind.”

“Mine either, baby.”

“Here, here, Janna,” Jeff piped in. He added sincerely, “I don’t know what straight guys are so afraid of, I really don’t.” He shook his head.

“Well, Jeff, they’re just not all as enlightened as you are. Maybe if some of them had a gay family member, they’d be like you are.”

“I don’t know, babeÖlook at Newt Gingrich.”

“Oh, shit, yeah. What a prick.” Ryan shook her head disgustedly.

“Language, love,” Janna gently reminded.

“Right, sorry.” Ryan said as she glanced at her happy daughter. If she turns out to be gay and if anyone hurts her because of it, they will have the most miserable death that any human has ever endured.

Janna murmured quietly, “I’m right there with you, love.”

“You, um, picked up on that, Janna?”

“I did, love.”

“Jesus, babe. You’re scaring me.”

“You love it, Ryan, admit it.” Janna turned and grinned against Ryan’s cheek.

Ryan chuckled. “I do.”

~~~~~~~~~~
Janna stepped up to her microphone and yelled, “Thank you, Portland! How about one more?”

The deafening response pleased her mightily and she grinned widely before she adopted her trademark wide stance in front of the mic and said, “This is for everyone who has ever felt different,” then immediately launched into another punk classic. As she raked her hands down her instrument in a three-chord attack, she sang loudly,

“I’m an outsider,
Outside of everything
I’m an outsider
Outside of everything
Everything you know
Everything you know
It disturbs me so

Everyone tries to push me
Push me around
Everybody tries to put me
Tries to put me down
I’m an outsiderÖ”

The crowd went wild at the classic Ramones tune, many of the old and gay souls feeling that they could relate, and Janna felt full of glee. She adopted Johnny Ramone’s wide, irreverent stance, which she had copied early in her career, and happily pounded out the chords as she sang. It was the only song she sang lead on, as it didn’t require great vocal mastery. Just a loud, strong voice.

The song ended, ending the show, and she threw her hands up in the air ecstatically, breathing hard and beaming. Glowing with an inner joy. The typical euphoria was throbbing as well, and she bounded backstage, high as a kite.

“Whoo, baby! That was awesome! Fuck!” She screamed as her mates joined her.

“Yeah, whoo! FuckÖmeÖbaby!” Brian yelled as he grabbed his buddy and pounded his back.

Jeff joined them and exchanged raucous high fives, then passed around bottles of beer. They saluted each other and swigged thirstily. Janna wiped the back of her hand across her mouth and grinned. “God, that’s good!” But she was immediately struck with the reminder that her wife couldn’t share the pleasure of drinking, so she quickly downed the rest and removed her guitar.

“Janna, another one?” Jeff asked, holding up an open bottle.

“No, Jeff, thanks. I wanna get back to Ryan.”

“Ah, Janna, why don’t you party here for a while? She’ll be thereÖready for you, tooÖwhen you get there.”

“Because, my friend, for me, if she’s not here, it’s not a partyÖsorry.” She grinned lecherously as she added, “Besides, if you had any ideaÖ”

“Hah! I do have an idea. She, um, brags like a guy.”

“What? She doesn’t!”

Jeff grinned and waggled his eyebrows.

“I’m gonna kill herÖ”

“Oh, heyÖshe’s not bad, really. She’s only bragged a little. Cut her some slack. She’s a fuckin’ stud, Janna.” He smiled more widely at Janna’s furrowed brows.

Maybe I should party without her. That pisses me off. Somewhat angrily, she plopped beside her guitar case and wiped down her instrument. As she tended to her trusty sidekick, the action calmed her some, along with the mellowing effects of the ever-present contact high, and she sighed. God, I can’t be mad at her. It’s just how she is. And I’m crazy about her just the way she is. She shook her head as a small grin broke through, and she felt her partner’s warmth reach out to her. You know I’m coming, don’t you, love? She chuckled as she thought, and you’re gonna be coming real soon now too, my favorite groupie.

~~~~~~~~~~
“Oh, shit, JannaÖfuck!” Ryan groaned. Janna had Ryan stretched out in front of her and was doing incredible things to her body from behind.

“You like that, love?” Janna drawled.

Ryan tried to laugh through her breathless panting. “What, youÖyou can’t tell?”

“Mm, I can tell. But you know what? I want you to stop tellingÖokay?”

“What?” Ryan muttered through her delerium.

“Stop kissing and telling, please. Women don’t appreciate that.”

“Oh, baby, I’mÖoh, fuucckkkkÖI’m sorry. It’s just soÖso good, baby, I can’t help brÖbragging a little. God, Janna!” She practically screamed as she grasped Janna’s hand and held it tightly in place.

“Well, you need to try, okay,” Janna drawled quietly.

“Yes, baby, yes. I promiseÖoh, God, Janna, yesss!”

Janna smiled against her mate’s damp hair, and continued to stroke her rhythmically. Her right hand was buried within Ryan’s warm, wet curls, while her left caressed a breast, matching it’s partner’s rhythm. She wrapped a leg around Ryan’s long leg, pulling them closer together, and gasped as her own inflamed center contacted Ryan’s firm backside. She moaned and closed her eyes, enjoying beyond measure the feeling of Ryan’s writhing body in front of her pressing against her breasts.

“God, Ryan, I’m close.”

“Come with me babeÖbabyÖhere I come,” her wife moaned.

“YesÖ”

Their quiet cries of release mingled together as their bodies continued their impassioned writhing, taking their time slowing, letting the pleasure extend long minutes.

A short time later, silver moonlight illuminated Janna as she held her strong partner in her arms and murmured, “Let’s enjoy tonight, Ryan, because tomorrow night we’re on the bus.”

“Done, baby,” Ryan said as she rolled over in Janna’s arms and pushed her down gently against the mattress. She captured her wife’s lips and didn’t release them for a long while.

~~~~~~~~~~
The tour rolled on, with basically the same energetic response from the crowd each show… as well as the same outcome after the show. Ryan reaped the benefits of Janna’s after-show exuberance and enjoyed herself immensely. After returning to their home state and visiting a club near the University in Chico, they returned to their home valley for a show in Sacramento.

Janna sighed happily as she gazed out the window at the flat, agricultural countryside. “Guys, it feels good to be back homeÖeven if we really aren’t.”

“Yeah, I know what you mean, Janna. I wish I could stop at home, just for a minute, to see my dog,” Jason said, rather wistfully.

“You mean, Mom, baby brother. You want to stop and see Mom.” Jeff laughed.

“I do not, assholeÖI mean, I do, but I really miss Sascha.”

“Yeah, right.” Jeff smirked.

“Hey, there’s nothing wrong with missing your familyÖI miss my Mom,” Janna offered.

“Yeah, but you’re a girlÖyou’re allowed.” Brian supplied.

“Well, you guys are self-proclaimed pansies, so why are you trying to act all tough? If you miss your parents and your friends, say so.” Ryan pointed out matter-of-factly. “Hell, I miss my friends, and if I were out here traveling without my wife and baby, I’d be a basket case.”

“Right,” Janna agreed.

“OkayÖthen I do miss my momÖand my dog,” Jason corrected. “Um, we’re going right through town, couldn’t we stop, just for a few minutes?”

“No way! We’re on a tight scheduleÖif we all have to stop and visit, it’ll throw us hours off. Sorry, can’t do it,” Jeff intoned. “We’ve only been on the road a week, for chrissakes.”

“Um, guys, I had a feeling you might be missing your friends, so I sent both your moms a bunch of tickets to hand out for the Sac. show.” Janna grinned at the delighted, shocked looks on her young friends’ faces. “I think you’ll be seeing your friends and family backstage.”

“Janna! GodÖI love you!” Brian blurted as he jumped from the couch and swept her into a hug.

“Thanks, Bri. That makes it worth it right there,” she said as she stepped back and gazed at him with a warm smile and tears in her eyes.

Ryan gazed proudly at her mate and blinked back a few tears as well. Jeff noticed and shook his head. “Shit, this band definitely has the right name. You’re all fuckin’ pansiesÖeven you, Ryan.”

She threw him an intense glare, but softened it with an affirmative shake of her head and a shrug. “So what, Jeff?” She pinned him with a harder look as she added, “And you’d better be glad that my daughter is asleep in the back. Watch the fuckin’ mouth, huh?”

He held up his hands and grinned sheepishly, “Sure, Ryan, yeah.”

Ryan turned from the band’s manager and wrapped her arms around her mate again, watching with her as the familiar countryside passed by.

“I love Sacramento,” Janna murmured. “It’s a nice city.”

“Mm, hm,” Ryan agreed.

“There are a lot of older souls hereÖa lot of hard-driving younger ones too, in the State government, but there’s a nice-sized older soul community. You can tell by the number of metaphysical shops, spiritual advisors, massage therapists and the like.”

“Mm, and there’s a nice-sized gay and lesbian community. I’ve been to a few nice lesbian bars here,” Ryan added.

“Yeah, true. And small bookstores, coffee houses, used record storesÖit feels a little like San Francisco to me in places. I love downtown,” Janna sighed.

“Me too. Maybe we can check a few places out while we’re here. It’s only just now noonÖthe show’s at nine again?” Ryan asked.

“Yep.”

“Cool. Hey, why don’t we take Halley to Old Sac? There’s lots for her to see there,” Ryan suggested excitedly.

“Yeah, love, good idea,” Janna replied.

“Um, guys,” Jeff interrupted, “She’s only, like, six months oldÖwhat can she get out of an Old West town?”

Ryan and Janna just looked at each other and shook their heads before Ryan replied, “Five and a half months old, and she’s taking in information right now at an astounding rate. Everything she sees, hears, feels, tastes, experiences is stored away. The more she is exposed to the more she learns and the faster she learnsÖdoofus.”

“Yeah, JeffÖwhat’d your Mom do? Leave you in a dark closet until you were four?” Brian laughed.

“Fuck you, Brian, I’m only sayingÖ”

“Never mind, Jeff, and watch your god damned mouth will ya? Suffice it to say that there is a lot to interest her. She’s very bright and alert and loves music and interesting sights.”

“Okay,” was the subdued response as he poked his nose back into his tour business.

Janna turned halfway and elbowed Ryan gently. “Don’t be so hard on himÖhe’s a young manÖhe’s still clueless.”

“Okay, baby.” She pulled Janna back against her chest and they returned their gaze to the passing sights.

An hour later, they were checked in at their hotel and sitting together while Ryan fed Halley. “So, love, who’s all coming tonight, do you know?” Ryan asked as she rearranged the baby slightly.

“Baa, gickÖdoo,” said Halley, glaring at her mother.

“Sorry, baby girl, but you were pinching Momma. Jesus, Janna, she’s getting big.”

“Mm, hm. My miniature Ryan.”

Ryan smirked as she shook her head. And it’s biting me in the ass already. Like I say, ‘karma’s a bitch’. Are you happy Mom? She chuckled as she glanced toward the heavens.

“What’s funny, baby?” Janna asked as she absentmindedly played with the hem of Ryan’s shorts.

“Oh, I just asked my Mom if she’s happy. I’ll bet she’s overjoyed to see me get a dose of my own medicine.”

Janna laughed. “Yes, she may be! I am so glad that I was a perfect angel growing up.”

Ryan sputtered. “What? That’s not what your brother says! Give me a break, Janna. You were a hellion and you know it.”

“My Grandpa, I’ll have you know, referred to me as a ‘wild Indian’. I was not a hellion.”

“Okay, a wild Indian, then. That fitsÖmy little Indian tomboy.”

“I can’t argue with that. So, what did Dan tell you, anyway?”

Ryan laughed deeply. “How long do you want this story to be? You, apparently, got him into all kinds of trouble.”

“He didn’t have to follow me, you know. He could’ve developed a mind of his own a little sooner,” she replied contritely.

Ryan cleared her throat. “Okay, babe, yeah. Let’s change the subject, huh?” She kissed the blonde head that rested against her arm. “So, who’s showing up tonight?”

Janna mock-glared up at her mate briefly, then supplied, “My Mom, Carrie and Michelle, Jackie and Kathy, Sharon and Sandy, Ray and Jose, umÖ”

“Jesus Christ, baby, that’s fantastic!” Ryan interrupted. “I wonder who Ray got to look after the Rainbow for them?”

“Well Craig is more than capable isn’t he? And his backup bartender, umÖ”

“Steve.”

“Yeah, Steve.”

“True. So the girls are coming, huh? That’s great, baby. I wonder if they won last night.”

“I guess we’ll find out.”

Ryan grinned. “Yeah, one look at Sharon’s face as she approaches should tell us all we need to know.”

“Oh my God, that’s true, Ryan!”

“Janna, I hope they do all right without us. I feel guilty about leaving them in the lurch again.” She looked down at her mate with raised brows.

“I know, me too, but um, you said that Sharon was surprisingly okay about the whole thing, remember?”

“Yeah, she was. She learned her lesson and has kept in touch with some good reserve players. I’m gladÖit makes it not quite so hard to take.”

“Mm, hm.” Janna looked up at her wife. “Um, honey, my Mom has offered to watch the baby tonight so you can see the show and go out afterward.”

“Really? Wow, umÖ”

“I know we’ve only left her with Marty, but let’s think about it, okay? You haven’t had a break and I know you can use oneÖ”

Ryan started to interrupt but Janna stopped her. “Whether you think so or not, my love.”

Ryan blew out a breath as she gazed down at her daughter. “Yeah, you’re right, Janna. I just love her so muchÖI don’t like the idea of being away from her.”

Janna squeezed her mate. “I know, love. I’ve had to get used to being away from her for three hours every night. It is hard. You know. You go to work every day too.”

“Mm, yeah. Well, I suppose we couldn’t leave her in more capable hands, could we? Than your Mom’s?”

Janna smiled warmly. “Nope. She’s a wonderful grandma and she adores her granddaughter. She’s really looking forward to it, honey. It’s why she’s comingÖshe’s really not interested in seeing the show. A rocker she’s not!”

“Okay, Janna, tell her we’d love it if she’d watch Halley for a whileÖbut not too late!”

“She’s staying over, Ryan, and my show may not end until nearly midnight.”

Ryan sighed again. “Jesus, okay, Janna. Whatever you want.”

“Hey, we’ll have fun. We haven’t been out with the girls in a long timeÖsince before the baby was born. It’ll be great!”

“Yeah, we haven’t hung out with Ray and Jose either in a while.”

“That’s what I said, honey, ‘out with the girls’!”

Ryan threw her head back as she chuckled deeply. “You’re right, baby. Jose’ll get a kick out of that one.”

Janna sighed. “I can’t wait. I’m glad there was a Sacramento stop on the tour.”

“Me too, baby. It’s good to be home. Almost.”

“We’re always home, Ryan.”

“True my love. Very true.”

~~~~~~~~~~
Ryan kissed her daughter yet again and nuzzled her soft, black hair. “I love you, sweetheart. You be good for Grandma, okay?” She gazed down into the brilliant blue eyes that mirrored her own and sighed, as the emotion at leaving her daughter in someone else’s hands stuck in her chest.

Janna, standing beside her mother, laid her head on the shorter woman’s shoulder and they shared a warm chuckle. Janna’s mate, an exceptionally strong, independent, tough, butch, capable woman, was also proving to have a heart made of mush, and it was incredibly endearing to the two Norden women.

“Okay, Janna, let’s go, I guess,” Ryan said reluctantly as she handed her baby to Beth Norden.

“Okay, love. Bye my little sweetheart. You have fun with Grandma.”

Halley looked brightly at the grandmother whom she adored and gurgled happily. “Oh, we’ll have a wonderful time,” Beth said as she gazed at the chubby infant in her arms. “You two try to as well, please. She’ll be just fine, and Ryan, I have your pager numberÖI’ll page you if I need anything. I don’t plan to leave this room, except maybe to take a few short walks, so don’t hesitate to call if you’d like to check on her.”

“Okay, Mom, thank you. I’m sure you’ll be hearing from me,” Ryan said with an embarrassed grin.

Beth returned the grin, and it lit her pleasant face. “Go, now. Have fun. Honey, have a good show. Break a legÖdo they say that to musicians?”

“Not really, Mom, but thanks!” Janna laughed.

Ryan pulled her mate toward the door. “Come on, baby, I’m hungry.” They both turned to look at their daughter as they left Beth’s room and the fifty-five year-old woman shook her head, chuckling. “Okay, Halley sweetie, what should we do first?”

“Gur! Ga gur!” Was the happy reply, and Beth hugged her grandbaby to her chest happily. Halley would not miss out on an ounce of love while in her Grandma’s care.

While they rode down in the elevator together, Janna’s tough mate sniffled. “Janna.”

Janna pulled her close as she said softly, “Oh, baby, I know. I miss her too. But we’re going to have to get used to this. She’s almost half a year old, love, and growing so fast. This is good for her and it’s good for us.”

“It doesn’t feel good.”

“I know. Here we are, loveÖdry your eyes. The girls may be waiting for us already.”

“ShitÖI’d never live that down.”

“I’m afraid not, love.” She pulled Ryan close for a quick kiss. “Love you.”

“Love you, baby.”

The elevator doors swished open and they exited, making their way to the hotel’s bar, where they had made plans to meet their friends before going to dinner together.

As they entered the dim but pleasant, sports-themed room, they heard, “There they are! Hey Norden-Zamora, both of youÖover here!” And they saw Carrie waving to them.

“Hey guys,” Ryan greeted their friends. “Glad you could make it.”

“Yeah, this is great, thanks guys!” Janna added as she gave Carrie’s partner, Michelle, a hug. “It’s good to see some friendly faces.”

“We’re glad you invited us, Janna. This is fun,” Jackie remarked.

Ryan grinned, “Yeah, look out Sacramento, here we come, huh?”

“RightÖhere come the fagsÖoh, literally, there’re Jose and Ray!” Carrie laughed. They all shared the laugh as the two men approached.

“Janna, my baby, RyanÖthere you are. Oh, it’s been so longÖweeksÖsince I saw you. Give us some sugar!” Jose said dramatically as he presented his cheek to Janna. She kissed his cheek and then his lips, grinning as she did so. “Ooh, honey, you know how to make on old queen’s heart dance!”

Ryan shook her head. “Jesus, Jose, always the drama queenÖyou’re not even fifty are you?”

“Honey, if you only knew,” he replied, batting his eyelashes.

“Ray, how ya doin’?” Ryan grabbed her friend’s hand.

“Just fine, Ry. It’s good to see you. The lounge has been positively empty without you ladies.”

“Thanks, bud, we’ve missed it too.” She turned to address the group at large. “Shall we have a drink, or, what’s the plan?”

Carrie spoke up, “Um, Ry, Janna, we’d like to take you to our favorite gay bar here in townÖthey have great food, tooÖreminds us of the Rainbow,” she added, smiling at it’s owners. “Why don’t we go there?”

Ryan looked at Janna, who nodded. “Sounds good. Let’s head.”

“GreatÖMish and I have our van, so I think we can all make it in two cars.”

Ryan smiled widely, glancing around at all of their friends as she said, “Well all right then, let’s go and have a good time!” She threw her arm around her wife’s shoulders and they led the way out of the bar.

~~~~~~~~~~
“Honey, tonight was so great.”

“It was, Janna, yeah. Starting with dinner, on to your showÖJesus, baby, you were awesomeÖand then ending up back here. It was a fantastic night.” She squeezed her love tightly and kissed her hair.

“Mm.”

“Janna, you smell like me. You need a shower, baby.”

“Tomorrow. Like smelling like you,” Janna murmured quietly against Ryan’s chest.

“Okay. We don’t leave until late afternoon, so we can dawdle if you want.”

“I always want to dawdle with you.”

“Mm, and you make it fun. We’re on the bus again tomorrow night though.”

“Yuck.”

“Yeah, but it’s kinda nice sleeping the three of us together.”

Janna turned slightly to look up at her partner. “That’s true. We don’t have enough privacy to play, but having the baby sleep with us makes up for it somehow.”

“Mm, hm, and she seems to like it. And then we make up for the lost loving time when we get to the hotel, don’t we, baby?”

“Yes, we do. So far, being on the road hasn’t cramped our love life at all.” She kissed the strong chest below her lips. “Night love. Love you.”

“Love you, baby. Sweet dreams.”

“Always.”

Ryan didn’t fall asleep for some time. It had been a very exciting evening and her mind was racing. She had also experienced a modified version of Janna’s contact high, and was feeling unsettled by it.

Truthfully, she wasn’t quite sure how much of it was due to actual smoke contact, and how much was coming through her link with Janna. This is very strange. I’ve been high before, and it felt sort of like this, but I didn’t think I’d been exposed to any smoke, staying backstage. I didn’t smell any, really. Not much anyway. Carrie and Jackie and their partners had spent much of the concert in the pit, right at the stage below Janna, and had reported that the smoke in there was extremely thick, and they all were sporting rather strong highs by the time they retreated backstage.

Ryan and Janna had talked it out and decided that she had probably had very minimal marijuana contact, if any, and was probably simply experiencing Janna’s feelingsÖthe mixture of light drug contact, adrenaline and focused positive energy. Still, she had made the decision to only feed Halley from the bottles of milk she had expressed before the show, and would use them until they were goneÖwhich should take them through the end of the next day. Just to be safe.

Janna’s assurance that she had probably not been high from drugs did little to reassure her partner however. I’ve grown to hate drugs. I’ve seen how they destroy livesÖstarting with potÖand I want nothing to do with them. I teach children to resist them, for Christ’s sake. After making love, she and Janna had talked very frankly about Ryan’s past history and Janna had gained a sense of her wife’s adamancy.

“Have you been high before, Ryan?”

“Janna, I was a wild teenager, remember? And in the 70’s, it’s what teenagers did.”

“True, but I managed to resist them. I can imagine that other kids did, tooÖthough I didn’t know any.”

“That’s because you’re a saint, Janna.”

Janna had laughed aloud. “Oh, GodÖa saint? No way. Ryan, you’re one of the most upstanding people I know. You have a very strong character.”

“It didn’t develop at a young age, Janna, and I’m somewhat ashamed of that fact.”

“It doesn’t matterÖhoney, you’re not down on yourself about tonight are you?”

Ryan shrugged against the sheet. “Yeah, I am sort of. Just like you were the first night, I guess, Janna.”

“That’s silly…you had no control over thatÖ”

“Which is exactly what I told you, I think.”

“Um, yeah.”

Ryan’s mind raced backward, to watching Janna perform. God, she was like poetry. I know it’s very hard driving rock, but it was like art. She is truly an artist. Ryan marveled at how the crowd had been captivated. Sure, the mood of the crowd was dictated not by Janna alone, but she had seemed to be the architect, the painter. Her exuberance and talent had seemed to help transport them.

A rousing song ended and the band launched immediately into another, seemingly without taking a breath. Janna jumped up and pounded out the opening chord, then proceeded to jump in place, to pogo, throughout most of the song. Her excitement was obvious and very contagious. No wonder she’s losing weight. I need to make sure she eats more. This is like a two and a half hour aerobic workout for her.

From backstage, stage right, where she stood watching her mate, Ryan danced along with the music, banging her head like she’d been doing it for years, in time with her mate, though they were separated by several yards. The beat was infectious as was Janna’s excitement, and Ryan felt a bubbly happiness filling her being. This is what she feels when she plays? It’s wonderful! Magnificent. Ryan found herself fully understanding Janna’s after-show sexual appetite. I feel in love with the UniverseÖ

She gazed out at the crowd. They were an enraptured, surging sea of bodies, captured by the pounding, driving live music and by the musicians who were delivering it; especially by the magnetic, attractive little blonde woman. My God, she’s charismatic on stage. She has stage presence. I never fully understood that term before. FuckÖI feel like bowing at her feet. Ryan’s summation was upheld at that very instant when she saw a young woman lifted to her male friend’s shoulders, and looking directly at Janna, she raised her shirt, exposing her breasts. Janna grinned and gave her a thumb up, then looked at Ryan to her right and laughed, shaking her head as she played on. At Janna’s apparent approval, the young girl had grabbed her head and screamed. Jesus, it’s like the fuckin’ Beatles.

The show had ended after a third encore and as the crowd raged, almost to the point of scaring Ryan, Janna motioned for her to join her. She did, mesmerized by her wife’s shining face, and crossed the short distance with her eyes never leaving Janna’s. She reached Janna and scooped her into a fierce hug, and then they enjoyed a long, deep kiss. Ryan vaguely recalled the crowd going wild, accompanied by the pop and flash of cameras, but she paid it little mind. She was lost in the moment. And then it was over and they were gazing at each other, and then Janna waved to the crowd and led Ryan from the stage.

Backstage, they had been greeted joyously by their friends, who had congratulated Janna warmly and patted her proud wife on the back, and a half hour later were sitting in another gay bar, having a great time together.

Ryan returned to the present and looked down at the small woman sprawled asleep in her arms. I am so blessed. She loves me. She loves me like I love her. I can’t fuckin’ believe it. Thank you, Great Spirit, Grandfathers and Grandmothers. You too, Jesus, Buddha, Krishna, Lao TsuÖsince you’re all the same energy. Thank you for blessing me so. Thank you for granting me this journey with my soulmate. I hope…I pray… that it continues for many more decades.

Ryan’s friend, whom she referred to as Grandmother Moon, smiled, for she held the wisdom of the ages…of the Universe…and she knew that her friend’s prayer would be answered.

-19-

Nearly one week later on a Thursday night, shortly after feeding Halley and retiring, Ryan and Janna sat side by side on the bed. They were in Los Angeles, Hollywood actually, having arrived earlier in the day after shows in Fresno and Bakersfield. The next show was the following night, at a huge gay club in West Hollywood, and they would play there again the night after as well.

The shows at the southern end of the San Joaquin Valley had been successful; sold out, but the group had not been as well received. The crowds had been enthusiastic but not as raucously so, and the obvious homosexual element did not seem to be present. The audiences had consisted of mainstream punk and heavy metal fans, alluding to the less open environment of the valley towns. Still, the sold out nature of the show attested to the fact of the group’s growing underground following, and the shows were satisfying in that respect.

For the group, it was really very much like playing at home (except at the Rainbow Lounge.) Their town was similar; not terribly openly accepting of gays and lesbians, if not outright hostile. The kids in the audience had been properly respectful, for the most part, but Janna and the guys all felt strongly that they should not flaunt the homosexual aspects of themselves or their music so much. They played the songs hard and fast, and included no homosexual references, nuances or innuendo. To Janna’s seasoned eye, there were very few openly gay people in attendance. She knew there were more, but they weren’t obvious, so she was forced to play to the punk element.

The mainstream crowd was not Janna’s favorite to play for, obviously. At both shows, she had to endure taunts and leering suggestions from drunk males to, “Show us your tits, babe!” And at the Bakersfield show, she had been mildly groped. She was playing away, eyes closed, when she felt rough hands circle her torso from behind. Before the action could even register in her brain, security was on the man and had pulled him away from her, but it had been a shock. The act had caused her guitar to hit the mic stand hard, and as the band played on, she was forced to re tune mid-song, shaking her head in frustration as she did so.

An hour later, when the show ended, she could still feel the man’s hands on her breasts and visibly shuddered at the memory. Later, when told of the incident, her mate had become livid, angrily declaring that she would personally pay for increased security. Backstage, Jason had remarked, only half joking, that he hoped they weren’t jumped on their way back to the hotel. His friends wholeheartedly agreed and they all packed up quickly and left together for the short drive back.

“I’m glad to be out of the valley,” Janna remarked quietly as she lay against her mate.

“I am too, babe. There shouldn’t be any assholes groping you here at the next two shows.”

“Mm, thank God for small miracles,” Janna muttered.

Ryan looked at her mate. “The fun’s wearing off, isn’t it, Janna?”

She sighed before answering. “Yeah, it is. This is what it was like when I quit. These last two shows, I mean. Playing live is usually always great, and fun, but there’s just no magic. All the hassle, and hard work, and long miles just aren’t worth it if there’s no magic.”

“I hear you, baby. These next few shows should be good though, right? And then San Francisco…you’re gonna see a lot of your old friends and show me around, remember?”

Janna squeezed her mate, thankful to her for trying to cheer her up. “Yeah, it should be fun. But still, Ryan, I’m ready to go home.” She laid her head on Ryan’s shoulder and sighed.

Ryan could feel her melancholy and thought she knew how to alleviate it. “Hey, um, I’ll bet I can show you some magic. Right now. I’ll bet you I can have you seeing stars in less than ten minutes.”

Janna smiled. “Stars? Usually it’s fireworks.”

“Well, this time, baby, it’s gonna be stars…shooting stars. Are you game?” She smiled mischievously down at her mate.

“Oh, yes, absolutely. This I’ve gotta see.”

“Good,” Ryan said as she rolled over, taking her mate with her and settling above her. She pulled off her undershirt, baring her beautiful, buff and bronzed body, and leaned down and softly, sensuously, stroked Janna’s lips with her tongue.

“Oh, God, there went the first one. Damn, you’re good, woman.”

~~~~~~~~~~
Janna sighed loudly and looked comically over at her channel-surfing mate. “Honey, that makes me nuts, and you know it.”

“I’m sorry, Janna, but Jesus, there’s nothing worth watching, it’s too early to sleep, and I already showed you your shooting stars.” She landed on an interesting channel and her eyebrows rose. “Shit, do all hotels offer free porn now?”

Janna glanced at the screen and half-winced. “Geez, I guess so. God, honey, that’s pretty raw. Is there, um, a lesbian channel by chance?”

“Yeah it is raw, and I doubt it. Jesus, that blonde…takes me back…way back.” She looked at her mate with raised brows.

“It does, huh? Wanna tell me about it?”

Ryan closed her eyes and blew out a breath. “I don’t know, Janna…it was back in the dog days. I’m not sure it’s something you want to hear about. And I, um, wouldn’t want you to think less of me.” She looked down at the remote in her hands.

“Honey, that is completely impossible. I’m curious, but if you don’t want to talk about it, it’s okay.”

Ryan looked back up into her wife’s sincere green gaze and sighed. “No, we promised that we would always be completely honest, and I don’t want anything left hanging between us, so I’ll tell you.” She picked up Janna’s hand and kissed it, then nodded toward the screen.

“The woman…blonde, sort of cute, but in a hard way…fake tits. I um, had a stripper once who looked a lot like her.”

Janna’s blonde brows rose. “A stripper? There aren’t any strip clubs in town are there?”

“No, it’s not legal within the city limits. No, uh, it was in San Francisco.”

“Oh, well, there are definitely strip clubs there,” Janna remarked drolly.

“Shit yeah. Um, anyway, about ten years ago a guy on the force had his bachelor’s party there…in the City. We weren’t really friends, but I think he thought it would be a laugh to invite me. So he did and I called him on it and showed up. He was pissed at first, but quickly realized that I was not the sort of woman who would ruin their fun…um, in fact, I may have been the biggest dog of all.” She shook her head disgustedly. “Shit.”

“Go on, love,” Janna softly encouraged.

“So, we went to about four different strip clubs, bar hopping all along the way. Janna, I do not understand a woman who wouldn’t mind her husband having a party like that, or attending one. They were all pigs and I think they all got laid eventually.” She shook her head disgustedly again. “Women must know that they’re being cheated on at those things…why do they allow it?”

“I don’t know, honey. I don’t think all bachelor parties are like that…you’ve told me about others you’ve been to that weren’t. I guess they’re just willing to allow their men some freedom…to hold on loosely, you know?”

“Nope, I don’t. Anyway,” she sighed, “at the last club we went to there was this cute blonde stripper. Looked a little like you, of course…all the women who interested me did…isn’t that strange? Hmm…” She became pensive for a moment.

“I guess at some level you knew what your soulmate looked like. Go on, please.”

“Yeah, okay. Um, so there’s this sort of down-to-earth, wholesome-looking girl, except for her big, fake boobs, and after she danced I tipped her a twenty. I noticed that most of her tips were ones and I thought she deserved more. So she, um, leaned against me, kissed me, and asked if I’d like a private dance.”

“Oh, and you were there.”

“Oh, shit, so there baby, you have no idea.” Ryan smirked and shook her head.

“Actually, I think I do, love.”

Ryan’s smirk became a smile as she said, “Yeah, baby, you probably do…though it’s so much more incredibly good with you…there’s no comparison. None whatsoever.” She squeezed her wife’s shoulders and reveled in her loving warmth before continuing.

“So, she led me into a more private room where there were some soft chairs, and she um, gave me a lap dance.” Ryan cleared her throat. “It was very hot…she was quite good…and I know I wanted more, but I didn’t come on to her at all…I just sat and enjoyed the dance…I figured that they never went any farther than that. But then, um, she looked me in the eye and told me, very quietly, that she really wanted me. I nodded and she got off of me and led me by the hand to another room. This one was completely private…no one else was in there, and it had a couch. She closed the door, locked it, and we fucked on the couch.” She looked down at her hands and then back up at Janna. “That’s all it was, Janna…a fuck…that’s all it ever was back then. I, uh, tried to give her some more money, but she wouldn’t take it. She thanked me for the good time and I left with the guys.”

“Wow,” was all Janna could muster and Ryan pulled her close.

“That’s what I was like then, Janna. Women were just for sex. There was no feeling involved. In fact, it was feeling that I was running from.”

“I know, Ryan. I’m glad you shared that with me. It’s, um, not real comfortable thinking about you with other women, but I know that I don’t ever have to worry about it happening again.”

“Oh, God, Janna,” Ryan gasped. “Absolutely not. Baby, you are my everything. You fulfill me in every way. Shit, Janna…physically, emotionally, spiritually. You’re the other half of my soul for God’s sake. The thought of being with anyone else actually sickens me now.”

“I know the feeling, Ryan. Very well,” Janna said as she laid her head against her mate’s arm. She was pulled over into Ryan’s lap and kissed sweetly.

“God, I love you, Janna. You are my perfect woman.”

“I’m so glad to hear that Ryan, because you are mine.”

~~~~~~~~~~
Friday and Saturday night’s shows in West Hollywood exceeded even the wildest expectations of Janna, Brian, Jason, and their manager. They had been welcomed with open arms and the sides of the stage had featured male go-go dancers, severely hampering the guys’ ability to concentrate…until they had become used to the phenomenon.

The show sported a definite party atmosphere, as well as a very large lesbian contingent, so Janna’s spirits had been raised exponentially. As she played, she was graced with many displays of lovely bared breasts and the smile of appreciation rarely left her face. In fact, she had been sorely tempted to return the favor, but modesty had prevented it. Jason and Brian, however, had not been so shy, and had both pulled their shirts off when yells from the crowd requested it.

Before the first show, there had been a steady stream of visitors backstage. Journalists, from both the mainstream musical press and gay and lesbian publications, kept them busy right up until show time, as did radio personalities and local GLBT activists. Ryan and Halley were present for all of the pre-show activities and for the first half of the gig, and Ryan was blown away by the reception her wife and friends were enjoying.

Janna sat on the worn couch, enjoying a brief respite between interviews, and gulped from a bottle of ice water. Ryan was sitting beside her with the baby on her knee when a small group of women approached. They weren’t wearing press passes, so Ryan assumed that they were local activists…they all certainly appeared to be out lesbians…and Ryan smiled and nudged Janna gently as they approached.

“Ms. Norden?” Said the forty-something with short hair.

“Yes, but it’s Norden-Zamora. This is my wife, Ryan.” Janna smiled warmly as she indicated her wife beside her.

“Sorry, the press materials say, ‘Norden’.”

“That’s okay. What can I do for you?”

“We’re from GLAAD and were wondering if you would like to autograph some items for our annual charity auction.”

Janna’s face lit up as she replied, “Oh, yes, I’d love to. But, um, I’m not exactly a celebrity.”

The woman just looked at her with raised eyebrows. “You’re kidding, right?”

Janna shook her head. “No.”

“There’s been a buzz in the community about this band for months, and about all the work you’ve done up in San Francisco.”

“Really? I haven’t been active in the community for several years, and I’m retired from music.”

“That may be, but you’re still very popular. May I show you the items?”

“Sure.”

The women produced a bag with various memorabilia and mementos, both rock and pride related, and Janna signed each item. When she had finished, they all thanked her for her time and then asked her out for drinks after the show.

Janna politely declined, citing the desire to be with her family after the show. Several minutes later, while she was talking with Ryan and playing with the baby, three more women approached but didn’t identify themselves. They were dressed alluringly, and simply starting fawning over Janna, complimenting her on everything from her music, to her political ideals to her gorgeous body. Her mate, sitting beside her, raised her eyebrows and planted a fist on her hip, looking disbelievingly at them, but the women were oblivious to her presence, acting as if she were invisible, and continued with their blatant come ons and outright propositions.

Janna, exasperated, finally said, “Excuse me…do you see the woman sitting here next to me…the one with the wedding ring that matches mine?”

They looked down their noses at Ryan and nodded.

“Good. She’s my wife and I don’t think she’s appreciating your behavior. Neither am I. Why don’t you take off?”

“Maybe she’d like to join us later. Can you lose the kid?”

Ryan exploded, erupting from her seat with the force of a volcano. “Get the fuck away from my wife, now!”

The ninnies jumped, startled, and scattered like frightened sheep and Ryan sat back down, fuming.

Janna laid a soft hand on her thigh as she said, “I’m sorry, love…groupies.” She added humorously, “I wondered if I was gonna get any offers on this tour.”

Ryan gasped, “What, Janna?”

“I’m kidding…well, sort of. Honey, you can’t possibly feel threatened by them can you? The idea is absurd.”

“Yes, it may be absurd, but I didn’t find it funny. They’re lowlifes. You introduced your wife to them, for Christ’s sake, and they made a pass at me too!”

“Yes, that’s an apt description. They obviously have no self-respect, or self-value. They measure themselves against the people they are able to take to bed. I pity them, really.”

“You never fell prey to them?”

“Well, you know the story, Ryan, once…maybe more…but generally, no. I prefer to be in love with the women I sleep with.”

“Thank the gods for that,” Ryan muttered, not quite under her breath.

“Put the jealously away, Ryan. It’s misplaced. No one else on this planet has even a remote chance with me. People like that are a fact of this life and the best thing we can do is ignore them.”

Ryan, still steaming, wasn’t satisfied. “I do not like women coming on to my wife after she’s made it clear that she’s not interested. If it happens again, I’m gonna kick some ass from here to Long Beach.”

“Ryan, Jesus, get a grip, please. So what if they do? They won’t get anywhere with me. Just ignore it. They’re pathetic…feel sorry for them if anything. Please?”

“I don’t think I can, Janna…I’m too pissed off.”

Janna hugged a quiet Halley to her chest and kissed her cheek, then caught Jeff’s eye and called him over. “Jeff, can you take Halley on stage for a few minutes, please?” She nodded toward her fuming wife and he nodded, understanding, and picked up the baby. He carried her away, talking animatedly with her.

After Jeff and the baby left, Janna grabbed Ryan’s hand and kissed it. “Honey, calm down, please.”

“Jesus, Janna, the slut wanted us to ‘lose the baby’! What a fucking bitch! I can’t believe this.”

“She’s a pathetic, drugged out, fucking bitch, Ryan, and she doesn’t matter. Honey, there are going to be groupies around me…there’s no avoiding it…and you’re going to have to get used to it.”

“Fuck, Janna…I didn’t see this coming.” She looked at the ground and then back at her wife. “I’ve, um, never felt so jealous in my life. Hell, I don’t think I’ve ever felt jealousy before.” She shook her head. “I do not like this emotion.”

“Ryan, love, you have absolutely nothing to feel jealous about. None of those women have a ghost a chance with me. No one does. You know that, honey. Where is this coming from?” Janna asked, concerned.

Ryan sighed and shook her head. “I don’t know, Janna. First, there was Joan last week, then Diana showed up, now this. It just got to be too much, I guess. I um, have never felt threatened before.”

“Ryan, God damn it! You are not threatened in any way by any of them. Not one of those women can hold a candle to you. This is irrational.”

“Well, Janna, I guess I’m just human.” Ryan declared and sat back dejectedly against the sofa.

Janna felt her pain then and sighed, realizing that she wasn’t being as understanding as she should be. How would you feel, Janna…to see women hanging all over her? Throwing themselves at her? Shit. “Sweetheart, I’m sorry. You’re right…that wasn’t fair. But listen, you have nothing to worry about, okay? I love you more than life itself and no mere woman could ever come between us. I appreciate your concern, and I thank you for scaring those twits off.” She faced Ryan and looked up into her dejected face. “It was funny the way they scattered when you exploded. I wouldn’t mind seeing that again.”

Slowly, a smile curled at Ryan’s lips and she looked up at Janna through her long, thick eyelashes. The smile turned jaunty as she said, “Yeah, it was kinda funny, huh? I guess I can be pretty imposing when I need to be.”

“Oh, God, honey. Like the warrior you once were. My Amazon.” She leaned forward and captured Ryan’s lips gently. “And I love you, so, so much.”

Ryan reached out and pulled Janna against her, murmuring against her throat, “I love you, too, baby. So much.” She pulled away and kissed Janna again, more deeply, and they communicated their boundless devotion to each other for several minutes. Until Jeff returned with the baby and hesitantly cleared his throat.

Still kissing Janna, Ryan mumbled against her lips, “We hear ya, Jeff, just hold on a minute, huh?”

“Sure, Ryan, yeah. No problem, but it’s um, ten minutes to show time and Janna hasn’t done the final check on the guitars yet.”

Together, the Norden-Zamoras sighed and pulled apart, resting their foreheads together as a blue gaze swam within green.

“I’ve gotta go, love.”

“I know, baby. We’ll be here until Halley says it’s time to go. Love you, Janna.”

“Love you, Ryan. Love of my life.”

“Light of my soul.”

“Dawn of my joy.”

Jeff thought he just might be sick right there backstage, next to the worn sofa, while he held the baby.

~~~~~~~~~~
The groupie problem didn’t resolve itself with Ryan’s outburst. After the show, somehow, even more hopefuls, of both sexes, had found their way backstage. To say that Jason and Brian were rather pleased at the selection of attractive men awaiting their favor would have been a gross understatement.

Janna’s problem, however, was the exact opposite. The attentions of the half a dozen or so women vying for her eye were completely unwanted. And her Amazon was not available to ward them off.

“Jeff, for Christ’s sake…where’s security? And how did all these people get passes? I don’t know any of them.”

“Yes, but they want to know you guys.”

“Tough shit.”

“Damn, you sound like Ryan.”

“I wish she were here right now. I need to get out of here…will the guys be alright?” She glanced nervously toward her young band mates, who were both engaged in flirtatious conversations with attractive men.

“I’d say so…it looks like they’re both gonna get lucky.”

“Jesus, Jeff, he’s your younger brother.”

“He’s a man, Janna. And he’s got a good head on his shoulders. He’s not stupid.”

“He’s a good looking, young gay man, in West Hollywood, Jeff, and he’s not thinking with his head right now. I’d hate to see him taken advantage of.”

“They’re having the time of their lives, Janna. What can I do? Tell me.”

She shook her head. “I don’t know…just…remind him to be safe, I guess. Let him know you care.”

Jeff held out his hands. “That’s all we can do, Janna. Don’t worry…he’s a bright kid. They both are. Now, you’ve got a date waiting, and I just might too, so let’s get out of here.”

“What, are you gonna let them party back here alone?”

“No, I am not. I’ll take care of things here…that’s my job…and they’re going to take off and hit some clubs. You go get some rest, or uh, whatever the hell you and Ryan do after a show.” He laughed as he added, “I know it’s not rest! Have fun, Janna. I’ll see you tomorrow…when you get up around noon.”

“Jeff, when did you become such a smart ass?” And grow balls? He’s talking to me like a real manager for God’s sake…

“Good night, Janna.”

“Good night, Jeff.”

Jeff called Janna a cab and she waited in front of the club for it, faithful Stratocaster case in hand. She always left her other guitars with the rest of the equipment at the club, or to be loaded on the bus, but her beloved new instrument stayed with her, safely tucked into its case.

As she stood near the front door to the popular club, she garnered many looks from interested patrons and passersby, as well as more than a few comments on her performance…all favorable and gracious. She nodded her thanks and enjoyed the warm southern California night.

The few stars visible through the light-filled haze twinkled at her as she waited. The early June late-night was bustling with Friday activity, as the many clubs and bars in the popular gay-centered neighborhood were packed.

As she lounged against the wall, two attractive women approached her. “Are you Janna Norden?” the dark-haired butch in a black leather motorcycle jacket and jeans asked.

“Yes.” Janna nodded with a smile.

The other woman, a red-headed femme in a short, black leather skirt offered, “We saw the show. It was amazing.”

“Thank you,” Janna replied graciously.

The dark-haired woman offered, “We aren’t usually fans of punk rock, but your sound is more universal than that. We both really liked it. Do you have a CD out?”

“Yes, though I’m not actually in the band. I’m filling in for the guitarist until he recovers from surgery. I’m their producer.”

“Wow, shit, you could have fooled us, and everyone else there. You guys are so tight together.”

“Well, thanks. We’re friends and we’ve played together a lot…I guess that comes through.”

“It sure does,” replied the attractive woman as she smiled warmly.

God, she reminds me of Ryan. I need to get to the hotel. Fast.

“Janna, can we buy you a drink?” Asked the woman’s partner. Janna noted that they wore matching gold wedding bands and was warmed.

“Thanks, but no. I’m anxious to get back to my wife.”

The butch smiled perceptively. “Ah, the woman you kept looking at backstage… and whom you kissed after you surfed. She’s beautiful.”

Janna blushed mildly. “Thank you. Yes, my wife, Ryan. She’s waiting for me at the hotel with our daughter.”

“Oh, I see. Well, Janna, thanks again for a super show. I think we’ll check out the band’s CD. Good luck to you.”

“Thanks a lot. I’m so glad you enjoyed the show.” Her cab pulled up to the curb and she added, “Ah, here’s my ride. Take care.” And she took her leave of the two gracious fans.

She gave directions to the driver and settled against the seat, enjoying the lights and the many sights of the full-flavored atmosphere of LA at night.

Ryan checked the digital readout on her watch. 12:05. She’s due any time…how cool is that? She smiled to herself as she glanced at the crib. Halley was sleeping peacefully on her back, with both arms bent above her head. My God, she’s an angel. Just like her mother.

She settled against the headboard and returned to her book. But her mind kept straying to the events earlier in the night. She trusted Janna implicitly, she really did. But she knew that there were women out there, especially in this city, who would stop at nothing to possess a sweet, lovely woman like her. Women like the woman she used to be. She sighed deeply and shook her head, feeling an anguish that logically, she should not have felt.

As she pondered the situation, she heard the door lock click. Shit, I didn’t feel her coming. I have got to snap out of this idiotic funk.

“Bend, Granddaughter. As a tall tree in the wind.”

What? Oh, my God. Thank you, Grandfather. She shook her head, realizing that she had not been bending, and she knew damn well that she should have been. Love makes us so goddamned vulnerable. But my love with her makes me stronger. I should never forget that.

“Yes. A tree’s trunk becomes stronger when it allows itself to bend with the wind.”

Thank you for your guidance, Grandfather. Ryan smiled as she jumped up off the bed and hurried to the door. When it opened, she greeted her soulmate with a warm hug.

“God, Ryan, you don’t know how much I needed that.” Janna said as she dropped her guitar case and melted into her wife’s warm, loving arms.

“I think I did know, Janna, but I needed it even more.” She held her lover close and drank in her warmth, breathing deeply of her scent and swimming in the electric feelings awakened within her body. She nuzzled Janna’s neck as she said, “I need to love you, baby.”

“I need that too, Ryan.”

“How about a shower, love? Halley just went down about a half hour ago. She should sleep till about four.”

Janna tilted her head back and sighed. “Yes. That sounds perfect. Will you make love to me in the shower? Please?” She looked back at Ryan with silently imploring green eyes.

“Janna, I will make love to you in the shower and wherever else you want me to until the end of time.”

“God, I knew I chose the right soulmate. Come on.”

She pulled her mate by the hand into the adjacent bathroom and they hurriedly undressed each other while the water warmed. When they were both naked, Janna pulled Ryan against her body and held her close. She lost herself within her mate’s firm-soft, warm body for long minutes, enjoying the feel of the full-body tingling that was set into motion whenever they touched that way. Soft electricity began to course through their bodies as well, at the close contact, and both were swept away by the sensations.

Ryan dipped her head and nipped lightly at Janna’s throat, eliciting soft moans that ignited her passion. Unexpectedly, she picked Janna up bodily and stepped into the shower with her.

“Ryan, baby…”

“Mmm. Janna.” Ryan set her down and took possession of her lips, savoring them lustfully before bending and tending to full breasts.

“Did you pump earlier, baby?” Ryan mumbled against the full curve of a breast.

“No, I’m overdue.”

“I can tell. Let me, Janna.”

“Go for it, Ryan.” Janna threw her head back and let the warm water flow around her face as her mate tended to her engorged breasts. Ryan’s suckling served the purpose of both relieving her of the pressure of too much milk, and assuring that her body would continue to produce their daughter’s nourishment.

After several minutes, Janna grasped Ryan’s head and pulled her face up to join hers. She kissed Ryan passionately and turned her, pushing her gently against the back of the stall. Immediately, she sank to her knees and began a fervent exploration of Ryan’s body with her lips and tongue, finally ending buried deep within Ryan’s dark curls.

As her mate’s tongue delved deeply into her most sensitive cleft, Ryan moaned loudly, the sounds muffled by the stall and the water flowing within it. Janna increased the pace of her stroking, and Ryan’s head lolled from side to side, delirious pleasure overtaking her senses. She reached down and ran her fingers through Janna’s slicked-back hair.

When she sensed that her mate was close, Janna brought a hand up and her fingers joined her mouth, paying devoted attention to the sensitive, swollen bud at the top, and setting in motion a powerfully building climax. Ryan’s body signaled its impending orgasm with clenching muscles and deep moans, and Janna skillfully guided her mate into the pleasurable abyss. Ryan screamed as she was rocked by the powerful tremors and Janna caught her as her legs buckled and she fell into a heap on the shower floor.

“Janna…,” she gasped, unable to manage anything more.

“I…love you, Ryan,” Janna murmured, breathless.

“I can tell…baby. Shit…” Ryan lay against Janna, catching her breath, yet eager to repay the pleasure. “Let…let me catch my breath, Janna, and…and I’ll love you.”

“‘Kay,” was the quiet reply.

A few minutes later, Ryan took a deep breath and kissed her wife, tasting her own body’s essence in her mouth. “God, I want you, Janna. Let me fuck you, baby.”

“Please do, Ryan,” Janna whispered breathlessly.

She kissed her wife once more and reached down to connect with her, gingerly slipping a finger inside of her as her thumb played with her sensitive nubbin.

Janna gasped and arched into her lover’s touch. “God, Ryan, yes!”

“I love you so much, Janna. Let me love you.”

“Love me, Ryan. Like no one else ever will.”

Those words were exactly what Ryan needed to hear at that moment. They reassured her that no one, ever, could win Janna’s heart as she had done. Janna would never, ever allow herself to be touched by anyone but her soulmate. As well, Janna needed to be possessed by Ryan as much as Ryan needed to possess her.

Ryan sucked an erect nipple into her mouth and caressed it lovingly with her tongue as she stroked her mate below, enjoying her slick, velvet smooth depths. As her mouth and fingers worked together to deliver her mate, Ryan became weak with pleasure. Her moans mingled with Janna’s and her mate became weak and delirious within moments, calling her wife’s name repeatedly as the intense climax shook her body.

They lay together, on the floor of the shower stall, as the warm water continued to cascade over their spent, sated bodies, not to rise and claim their bed for nearly another hour.

It was only a very short time afterward that they both were awakened by their child’s hungry cries, and Ryan tended to her daughter’s need as her mate clung to her. The light of the last-phase moon illuminated them, and their old, old friend smiled upon them.

Soon, my friends. Soon you will be back home and returned to your normal routine. You have done well to remember yourselves and your love along this journey. I am proud and heartened.

-20-

As the bus traveled up the breathtaking California coastline, Janna’s old friend sang softly, the pleasant song emitting from the speakers:

I wish I was the sentimental ornament you hung on
The Christmas tree, I wish I was the star that went on top

I wish I was a sailor with someone who waited for me
I wish I was as fortunate as fortunate as me

I wish I was a messenger and all the news was good
I wish I was the full moon shining off a Camaro’s hood

I wish I was an alien at home behind the sun
I wish I was the souvenir you kept your house key on

I wish I was the pedal brake that you depended on
I wish I was the verb to trust and never let you down

I wish I was a radio song
The one that you turned up…

The song faded and Ryan remarked, “God, Janna, that’s nice. I’ve never heard that one before.”

“Mm, it’s not released yet. Yeah, I love the sentiment.”

“Your Entity brother is talented. And sensitive.”

“Mm, hm. Sensitivity is actually one of the strong flavors of our Entity. Some channels refer to it as the ‘Sweetheart Entity’.”

Ryan chuckled softly. “Oh, baby, that makes so much sense. Or, how about the ‘Earth Mother Entity’?”

Janna giggled. “Yep, that works, but I don’t know if Ed would appreciate that.”

“From what I picked up about him, he wouldn’t be too pissed.”

“Nope.”

“What about mine, Janna. Which Entity am I in…have you found out?”

“Of course! You’re in the first…the ‘Trailblazers’. You all have strong, independent spirits. You make things happen. Anna is a mate of yours, and several of the other Michael channels. It makes sense, with the groundbreaking information they’re bringing through for the planet.”

“Mm, yeah. Sounds like I’m in cool company. So, after we finish all our lives on the planet, we reconnect with the rest of our Entity on the other side?”

“Mm, hm, yep. We reunite…become like one huge soul and all of our varied experiences are integrated. Then we move onto the next higher plane together and reunite with the larger group. You and I will be one forever, then. Eventually, we all find our way back to the Creator, to the Tao, and become fully one with everything again, adding our unique experiences from all of our lives, and they’re recorded in the Universal data bank…the Akashic Records.”

“God, Janna, it sounds like the Borg.”

Janna laughed. “Yeah, in a way! But in a positive, loving way. It’s all about love. That is truly what the Universe consists of. Universal, unconditional love. It binds the Universe together.”

“That sounds like The Force.”

Janna laughed again. “Yes! George Lucas was absolutely right. Love and ki, between everything, binding everything.”

“Agape.”

“Yes.”

“Cool, babe. I like it. And I like being able to form a picture in my mind of just how the Universe works. It’s a simplistic picture, I know, but it still helps. Thinking of being created in groups, with each group having a unique energy is interesting. Hey,” she added, “We need to find out which Entity Halley is in.”

“Right. Add it to the list of questions for the ‘Omniscient Ones’,” Janna giggled.

“They don’t like being called that, Janna. They’re not God.”

“I know. I like to have fun with them.”

“Lucky them.” Ryan removed her chin from Janna’s shoulder and glanced across the bus to where a Nintendo skirmish was taking place. “Hey, I play the winner, right?”

“Right, Ry, I’ll be putting him away in just about a minute,” Brian replied, eyes transfixed on the large television screen in front of him as his hands worked the controls on the gamepad.

“Dream on, Bri. I just let you get ahead…shit! Jesus…okay, Ryan, you’re up,” Jason informed her dejectedly as he got up.

Ryan kissed the shoulder that was spooned up against her and said, “I’ve gotta go kick some ass right now, babe. I’ll be back.”

Janna smiled back at her mate. “I’m counting on it.”

~~~~~~~~~~
They continued their journey northward along the coast to San Francisco, where they would play their final two shows. It appeared that the shows would mark the sparkling culmination of the very successful tour, and the mood onboard was exceptionally upbeat. The gigs themselves promised to be as exciting as the Hollywood shows had been, due to the expected heavily gay and lesbian attendance. They weren’t playing a gay club, pre se, as they had down south, rather, they were playing one of the city’s largest and most popular rock clubs. However, being San Francisco, a heavy GLBT faction was virtually guaranteed. As well, that night would be their last spent aboard the cramped quarters in the bus. They were due to arrive in the City By The Bay sometime during the night.

The sun made his journey west and glowed a brilliant orange as he sank into the sea, and Ryan and Janna gazed at the lovely scene together. They sat spooned, as always, next to the large window. Janna sank more heavily into her mate and sighed, communicating silently with her through their bond.

“I know, Janna. Grandfather is glorious.” She kissed her wife’s neck and closed her eyes.

“How do you guys do that?” Asked Jason, curious.

Ryan opened her eyes and looked at him. “Do what?”

“Communicate without words.”

She shrugged. “I don’t know, Jase. It just happens. It’s a soulmate thing, I guess.”

“And you don’t fight. At least I’ve never seen it.”

“Oh, we fight,” Ryan grinned. “But it usually only lasts about a minute and a half.” Janna chuckled in front of her, agreeing

“Hm,” he pondered. “And, um, you’re always touching. It’s like you’re one person sometimes. Or, it’s like you want to be one person, so you stay in contact all the time.”

“That’s about the size of it, Jase,” Janna replied as she caressed the large hands that rested on her waist.

“Hm. I’ve never seen anything like it before.” He pondered for a minute before adding, “I think it’s cool.”

“Well thanks for your approval, Jase. I don’t know what we would’ve done without it,” Ryan drawled softly.

“I’m not trying to be a smart ass, Ryan, I’m trying to understand it. Tell me, from a spiritual standpoint, are there other precedents for it…in literature and stuff?”

Janna playfully shoved an elbow back into her mate, who sat up, surprised by Jason’s interest. “Well, yes, Jase, there are. Janna, would you like to handle this? You’re the resident spiritual scholar.”

Janna grinned. “Sure, love. But feel free to jump in at any time. You know quite a bit yourself.”

Ryan grinned. “Done!”

Janna proceeded to launch into a discussion of her knowledge and beliefs with a very interested Jason, who nodded thoughtfully at times and asked insightful questions. It proved to be an interesting way to pass the early evening before the bus stopped for dinner.

~~~~~~~~~~
Ryan was lying on her side, pressed up against Janna as she fed Halley, when they felt the bus come to a stop. Janna picked up her wife’s wrist and looked at her watch.

“Little after midnight. The driver made good time.” Janna remarked quietly.

“Mm, hm. No traffic, I guess.” Ryan gazed down as Halley’s suckling slowed and caressed her cheek gently with a finger. “Come on, sweetheart, it’s not naa naa time yet.”

The baby’s eyes flew open and she made a comment from around her momma’s nipple before continuing to suckle again.

“She’s always got something to say, Janna. Wonder who she takes after there?” She grinned as her wife tickled her ribs.

“Well, it’s certainly not tall, dark and silent.”

“Nope.”

“Ever the laconic one, Ryan.”

“Yep.”

“Oh you!” Janna giggled as she tickled her wife again.

“Hey, you’re gonna make Halley mad and we’re gonna wake up the whole bus. Be good.” Ryan whispered.

“If I have to.”

“For now, you do. But later…”

Janna could just feel Ryan’s rakish grin and her skin began to tingle as she sighed. “God, Ryan, what you can do to me with just a vocal inflection.”

Her mate’s low voice drawled sexily, “Yes, I have many skills.”

“Jesus. The most skilled woman on the planet, as far as I’m concerned.”

“Why thank you, baby.”

“Don’t mention it.”

They passed the next few minutes in silence as they enjoyed their family closeness, then Ryan spoke. “Honey, when are we getting together with everyone?”

“Tomorrow night. I figure, it’s our last show, so we’ll have a big blowout. Go out on the town afterward. Missy and Lisa are going to both shows and have offered to watch Halley during the second so we can go out. So, I think we can have dinner with them before the show tonight, then get together tomorrow night with Doug and Jay, Marcy and Donna, and Jordan and Pam. That sound okay?”

“Yeah, babe. So, I finally get to meet Jordan, huh?”

“Mm, hm. After that you will have met three of my four prior girlfriends. The last I heard, Sarah was living in New York, so I don’t know if you’ll ever meet her.”

“She was your first.”

“Yes. Do you think I’ll ever meet your first, Ryan?”

“You already have, babe.”

“I have? Who?”

“Michelle.”

“Michelle? Carrie’s wife? Jesus, Ryan, that’s a pretty juicy tidbit to have never shared with me, don’t you think?”

“Christ, Janna, no, not really. We were thirteen and we hardly did anything…just some kissing and grinding. We didn’t even get completely naked. She didn’t even know she was gay yet, either. Remember, I only chased straight girls. It was only the one time, too. So no, babe, it wasn’t all that meaningful.”

“You stayed friends?”

“Yes…how do you think I met Carrie?”

“Jesus, you two are so close. I thought you’d been friends first.”

“Nope.”

“Wow.”

“I’m sorry, Janna, it just never occurred to me to share that. Honey, I haven’t purposefully withheld anything from you…ever. If I haven’t told you everything about my past it’s simply because it’s never come up. You know that I’m not in the habit of talking about myself. Laconic, you know…like you said.” She shrugged self-deprecatingly.

“I know, love. You’re right. And I do appreciate the fact that you have shared everything openly with me when I’ve asked about things.”

“Well, Janna, honesty is one of the things that I pride myself on. Sometimes it can be painful, but ultimately, I think it’s always the way to go.”

“Your brutal honesty, yes, I know, love. And I agree. It’s always the best way to go.”

Halley fell asleep then, and her Momma’s nipple popped out of her mouth. Ryan grinned down at her precious daughter and used a finger to wipe a dribble of milk from her the side of her mouth. “She’s done, Janna. Let’s get some sleep, huh?”

“Absolutely. Come here, you two.”

Ryan turned with the baby and settled her gently between them on the large mattress. Leaning over her, she kissed Janna. “Good night, baby.”

“‘Night, love. Sweet dreams.”

“You too, babe.”

The small family proved Jeff wrong, sleeping only as late as 10:00 the next morning. Ryan rubbed her hands through tousled hair as she grinned crookedly at her still reclining mate.

“Jesus Christ, Janna. I’ve never slept past 7:00 for two days in a row in my life…and here I am now, two weeks in a row? More?”

Janna grinned winningly up at her. “I must be rubbing off on you, honey.”

“Ooh, Janna, you are. Big time. Wish we could right now, too.” She leered gently at her wife and caressed her arm. “We miss out on our cuddle time when the baby sleeps with us.”

Janna pouted. “I know.” Then, a coy smile replaced the pout as she said, “But we’ll make up for it later, won’t we?”

Ryan closed her eyes and sighed. “Yes, we will. God…”

Janna gazed quietly at her for a moment, then said, “I know. The sexual attraction just doesn’t diminish, does it?”

“Not a freakin’ iota, babe. I’m throbbing as we speak.” Ryan grinned her endearing lopsided grin.

Janna fanned herself and laughed. “Jesus…I’ve never had a relationship where we needed to have sex so often. But, um, I’m not complaining.”

“Neither have I, Janna, and neither am I.” Ryan smiled widely. “Come ‘ere, baby. Let’s get up. I’m hungry.” She reached down to her mate, who grasped her hand.

“Me too. At least Halley’s full. For a while.” She scooted off the bed and tickled her baby’s tummy as she lay on the bed playing with her booties.

Halley giggled cutely and launched into a spate of verbal babbling. She reached up to Ryan and said, “Mamamama.”

“Do you want up, punkin? Huh? Come here my little love,” Ryan said as she picked up her baby and cuddled her. She kissed her and Halley responded with a happy wiggle and a grin.

She gently hit at Ryan’s face and said, ” Mamamama,” again.

“Ryan…I think she’s calling you that!” Janna gasped.

“What? That’s what she says when she wants to be held.”

“Not to me. She only says it with you.” Janna’s eyes filled with tears as she looked from Halley to Ryan. “It’s her name for you, Ryan…I’m sure of it.”

“Janna, is she old enough to be using language? I mean, I know it’s not really English, but if she says the same thing every time it’s language.”

“It’s approximating English, honey, and she’s definitely old enough. Babies develop at vastly different rates. Remember when I told you that Brit starting talking at around nine months, but Robbie was almost two?”

Janna looked back to her daughter, who at that moment decided to make her Mommy’s day when she reached for Janna and babbled, “Mememememe.”

“Shit! Janna, you’re ‘me’ and I’m ‘ma’! This is awesome!”

Despite her elation, Janna glared mildly at her wife’s crude slip. “Language, Ryan…now more than ever.”

“Shit, you’re right.” Shit. Ryan winced. “Christ, sorry, Janna. But you’re right. God, baby, this is so incredible.” She pulled Janna into a hug and the three of them enjoyed some family warmth, which lasted until Jeff sauntered back and made a smartass remark.

“Just you wait, man. You’ll have a baby one day and I’m gonna tease you mercilessly when you act like a fool.”

“It’ll never happen, Ryan.” He said cockily.

“Hah! Never say never, Jeff. Believe me. I’m a prime example. Who’d have thought that I’d be a happy mom, even breastfeeding, for Christ’s sake?”

“You’ve got a point, I guess.”

“Believe me, Jeff, she’s right. All of her friends…and I do mean all of them…were shocked when she settled down. If she can, anyone can,” Janna pointed out.

“I’m so glad you pointed that out to me, Janna. Now I have something to look forward to.” Jeff drawled sarcastically as he turned and walked away.

Ryan and Janna just looked at each other and said, in unison, “Clueless!” They shared a quick kiss, with Halley between them and went in search of breakfast.

~~~~~~~~~
After checking into their room at their hotel in Union Square, they walked along the wonderful streets of the vibrant city, finally stopping in at small bagel and espresso shop for brunch.

Janna sat back and savored her small meal. Gazing out the window she sighed, “God, this is my City. I love it here so much. I can’t believe we haven’t been here together before this.”

“We’ve been busy, Janna. Our life together has been remarkably full.”

“That it has.”

“Mememememe.”

Janna turned to see Halley, sitting in her stroller, reaching up to her.

“Are you tired of sitting down there, honey? Come see Mommy, then.” She removed Halley from her confinement and the baby immediately kicked her chubby little legs happily. Janna settled her on her lap and the bright-eyed tiny girl gazed around at her surroundings.

“Look at her take it all in, Janna. She’s amazing.”

“Yes, and since she’s discovered crawling, she has a lot less patience in the stroller.”

“Yep. She’s gonna be running us ragged soon, I can see it. Hand her here, babe.”

As Ryan reached for her Halley giggled and babbled, “Mamamamama.”

“Oh my little talking girl, Momma loves you so much! Yes I do!” Ryan kissed her daughter, eliciting another grin and full-body happy wiggle. She cuddled Halley against her shoulder and she settled against her mother. Ryan looked at Janna and said, “She’s getting sleepy, hon.”

“Mm. Let’s finish eating and take a walk along the embarcadero. She can nap in the stroller.”

“Sounds good, baby. So, are you gonna show me all the sights today?” Ryan grinned around her large bagel.

“Yep! Whatever you want to see. And I think we’ll go down to the Haight and I’ll show you my first house here. We can have a late lunch in the park, if you want. The sun should be out by then,” she added, looking out at the gray that enveloped the city.

“Let’s do it, babe. I love Golden Gate Park. Halley can crawl to her heart’s content.”

Janna grasped Ryan’s hand across the table and smiled. “Okay, love. We’ll have a nice, laid back day until we meet Mis and Lise for dinner.”

“I’m there, baby.”

~~~~~~~~~~
Ryan lay on the grass with her eyes closed, enjoying the warmth of the sun on her face. An ever-present cool sea breeze blew across her body, ruffling her hair pleasantly and raising slight goose bumps on her bare arms. “Mm, this is nice. I’ll bet at home it’s in the nineties today, Janna.”

Janna, lying next to her with the baby on her stomach replied, “Probably.” She replaced the choo choo in Halley’s mouth and handed her another toy, then gazed back up into the sky. Several multi-colored kites danced on the breeze. She tried to follow the lines of their strings down to see in which happy child’s hand each ended, but was unsuccessful. Sighing, she closed her eyes and rested against the Earth.

“Don’t fall asleep, Janna.”

Janna opened one eye behind her Ray Bans and said, “How did you even know my eyes were closed?”

Ryan shrugged. “I know you, my love. You lay down in the sun and you fall asleep.” She reached for the baby. “Here, you’d better give her to me.”

Janna scowled, but handed the baby over to her wife, who sat her between them. “This doesn’t mean I intend to fall asleep.”

Ryan grinned. “Sure, love.”

“All right, so I’m tired. You’ve walked me all over town today. We went through every room in the museum, the aquarium, the planetarium, the Exploratorium. God, honey, you’d think you haven’t been to San Francisco in years.”

“I haven’t. Not since…”

“Right. Don’t go there. Well, I’m glad we did all that, then. All we need to do is catch a cable car back to the hotel and the experience should be complete.”

“Right!”

“Cool.” Janna watched as a large box kite joined the others.

“Well, except for dinner in a fine restaurant tonight and San Francisco bar hopping tomorrow night. Though, um, it’ll be virgin drinks for me all night.”

“Mm, hm. And me. Correction: San Francisco gay bar hopping. There’s a difference. I just hope all my old favorites are still around. They have a way of fading away; replaced by gay places with new names, or different businesses altogether, or worst of all, replaced by straight bars.”

“Mm, it’s a transient industry, huh? Even here?”

“For some reason, yeah. Oh well, the guys will know where to go. And I know for a fact that The Continental is still open…that’s number one on my list anyway. It’s a lesbian bar but they aren’t militant about it, and Doug and Jay don’t mind going in there.”

“So, where are Missy and Lisa watching Halley…our room?”

“I don’t know…I think I’ll leave it up to them, if that’s okay with you.”

Ryan nodded.

“Whatever works best for them. They live just over near the Castro, so we won’t have to go far to pick her up if they keep her at their place. We’ll probably be in that neighborhood all night. You know, it was really nice of them to make the offer. We’ll have to buy their dinner tonight, honey.”

“Oh, yes. Absolutely.” Ryan turned to her side and lifted up onto an elbow. “Um, Janna…they do know how to care for a baby, don’t they?”

Janna grinned. “Yes, honey, they do. They watch Lisa’s niece and nephew all the time. They’re about…let’s see…two and four now, I guess.” She reached over to caress a jeans clad thigh. “Don’t worry, love. They’re very experienced and two great ladies. I trust them completely.”

“That’s all I need to hear, Janna.” Ryan lay back down. Beside her, Halley spit out her choo choo and explored her toys with her mouth, chortling and chattering happily at them as she did so.

Janna folded her arms under her head and lay back, breathing deeply of the crisp sea air and enjoying the peaceful afternoon. She let the relaxing energy of the surroundings and of her happy family wash over her, feeling her mate do the same. Before she knew it, she was being shaken awake. She opened her eyes to gaze into the beautiful grinning face leaning above her.

“What?”

“Nothing, Janna. We should go, honey. It’s almost time to meet your friends.”

“Okay. How long did I sleep?” She asked as she sat up, brushing bits of grass from her polo shirt.

Ryan looked at her watch. “You and your daughter both slept for an hour and a half.” She grinned crookedly at her mate. “You must have some sort of psychic link going, because you two do that a lot. And, you both look like angels when you sleep.” She leaned over and gently captured Janna’s lips, lingering there as the kiss was returned. When she pulled away, she smiled and said, “I like it here, Janna. We could never do that at home.”

“It’s one of the best things about this city, in my book. I miss it.”

“One day, honey. One day maybe we won’t have to worry about showing our affection in public. Some day, some where.”

“I pray, Ryan. I pray,” she repeated quietly.

Ryan gracefully hopped to her feet and helped her wife up before picking up her daughter and placing her in the stroller. Hand in hand, the two mothers walked out of Golden Gate Park as the sun lowered in the western sky, beyond the shining Golden Gate.

-21-

Janna, laughing, threw her arms around her wife’s neck and pulled her over to the bed. Ryan laughed as she was pushed onto the soft surface, and pulled her mate down with her. “Janna, I’m gonna have to take you out on the town more often, aren’t I?” She said as her wife nuzzled her neck playfully.

“I wouldn’t complain if you did.”

“Well I’ll have to see what I can do about that.” She pulled Janna close and they lay on their sides, bare legs entwined. “It was a great night, Janna.”

“Yes.” Janna closed her eyes and sighed. “Starting with dinner. And then the gig… God.”

“Yep, it definitely got the evening off to a great start.” She shook her head. “Jesus, Janna. I thought the Seattle and L.A. shows were exciting, but tonight took the cake. I thought they might carry you guys off as royalty.”

Janna laughed. “Yeah…nothing is outside the realm of possibility in this town. God, honey…it’s great to be appreciated. Shows like tonight’s make everything else we have to go through worth it.”

“It had that magic you love?”

“Yes. It was magical. And so was the rest of the evening. Being with you, here. Seeing Missy and Lisa again. Showing you some of the places that were important to me. It all came together beautifully tonight.”

“And the night isn’t over yet.” Ryan’s eyes sparkled as they gazed into Janna’s.

“No, it’s not.” Green eyes returned the sparkling gaze. Mirrored it. Janna leaned forward and kissed Ryan gently, softly, sending love to her through their bond, then laid back on the bed and encouraged Ryan to follow.

“Janna, I do believe you want me to love you,” Ryan said quietly as she gazed down at her mate.

“Astute observation,” Janna whispered, just before her lips were captured.

As she kissed her wife, Ryan shrugged out of her robe and broke the kiss long enough to help Janna shed hers.

“I love you, sweetheart. Thank you for making my life complete.”

“Oh, Ryan.”

Ryan gently lay atop her wife and they kissed again, with as much feeling as they ever had, and their passion, always just below the surface for both women, ignited, sending the pleasant electricity they knew so well coursing through their bodies.

Ryan broke the kiss and brought a hand up to gently, reverently caress Janna’s breast. “You are so beautiful, baby. So beautiful.”

“So are you, love,” was the breathless reply.

Ryan leaned down slowly and kissed the lovely breast, then captured its happy nipple gently in her teeth. Her tongue replaced her teeth and caressed it lovingly before it was sucked into her mouth. Janna moaned and rolled her head to the left, and gazed directly into the curious eyes of her daughter.

“Jesus!” She pushed Ryan away and sat up. “The baby’s watching us!”

Ryan was so startled that her libido evaporated instantly and she hopped off the bed and approached her daughter’s portable crib. Halley was on her stomach, supporting herself on her arms and gazing at her mothers through the fabric mesh. When her Momma reached her, she giggled drowsily and lay back down, then turned her face to look coyly up at Ryan.

“Christ, Janna, she’s your daughter one hundred percent.”

Janna rolled over and moaned.

Ryan leaned down into the crib and gently caressed her baby girl’s head. Very softly, she said, “Sweetheart, it’s time for naa naa now. You go naa naa.” Her rich voice comforted Halley and had the desired effect, as her eyes closed immediately. Ryan gently turned her onto her back and covered her, whispering soothing words as she did so. “That’s our good girl. Night little sweetheart.”

Ryan gazed down at her sleeping daughter and sighed, then turned to look at her wife. She shook her head and smiled wryly before climbing back into bed. “Jesus.”

“Jesus is right. Should we cover the sides in case she wakes up again?”

“Janna, I don’t think that will make much difference. We’d better just make good and sure she’s asleep or not have sex at all when she’s in the room. I think that when we get home we’ll have to consider moving her into the nursery.”

“You’re right. Since she’s beginning to crawl, we can’t keep her in the bassinet anymore anyway…she’ll climb right out.” Janna sighed deeply. “And, she’s getting older…she’s so sensitive, so empathic, that it’s probably not a good idea to make love with her in the room…whether she’s asleep or not.”

Ryan winced, but nodded her agreement.

“I’m sorry, Ryan.”

“I know, Janna. It can’t be helped.” She gazed over at Halley’s sleeping form. “God, I’m gonna hate not having her in our room with us.”

“So am I. I’ve been dreading it.”

“But it’s time, Janna. Our baby is growing and developing so fast.”

“Yes. It’s such a miracle.”

“That it is, baby.”

Ryan wrapped Janna in her arms. “Come on, love. If we can’t play, let’s get a good night’s sleep.

Janna sighed resignedly, but then chuckled. “Ryan, I can’t remember what a good night’s sleep is like, can you?”

She thought for a moment and replied, “Nope, can’t say I do. Well then, let’s get as much sleep as we can before Halley needs to eat again in a few hours…how’s that?”

“That works.” A few minutes passed quietly before Janna mumbled, “You know what?”

“What, baby?”

“No contact high tonight.”

“That’s great, Janna. Why not…do you think?”

“Super ventilation system. They always did have a good one there.” She snuggled more firmly against the solid body beneath her. “I’m glad. The experience was getting a little old, and the morning-after headaches sucked.”

“Cool, baby. That means we can count three weeks from the last San Diego show and mark it on the calendar as when you can start nursing Halley again. And, um I was a little worried about hanging out backstage with you tonight…tomorrow…you know what I mean. But it sounds like it will be safe. I’m glad. I’m really getting into this groupie thing.”

“Cool. You’re the hottest groupie I’ve ever had. Night, baby.”

“Night, Janna.”

~~~~~~~~~~
The new day dawned gloriously, San Francisco style, as a thick layer of fog, accompanied by a biting breeze, shrouded the magical city. Ryan zipped her leather jacket closed and pulled her mate closer to her side as they walked along the pier. Janna leaned down to make sure Halley’s blanket was wrapped around her securely enough to keep out the wind, and they continued on.

It was early yet and the typically crowded tourist spot was nearly deserted. Only a few vendors, those offering coffee and bakery goods, were open. They strolled to a bench next to the wooden railing and sat, gazing out over the bay. Janna held a hot cup of café mocha between her hands and sipped at it gingerly.

“This is nice, Janna,” Ryan said after sipping her cappuccino. She gazed out toward the Golden Gate. “So peaceful right now.”

“Mm, yes, it is. It won’t be, later, when the hordes of tourists arrive, but it’s still a nice place to visit, even then.”

They watched as a lonely tug made its way out to meet a new arrival: a cruise ship or possibly an enormous tanker. It would return mightily guiding the imposing vessel to a safe berth. The shrill call of seagulls sounded above them and was answered by the bark of sea lions.

Ryan turned toward the direction of the amusing sound and exclaimed, “Look, Janna,” as she pointed to a group of the comical animals lying on the adjacent pier.

“Oh, honey, they’re so cute!”

“They are. Look, they’re all huddled together.”

“Mm, later they’ll be warming themselves in the sun. That is, if he ever makes an appearance.” She glanced overhead at the softly billowing grayness. “It’s pretty thick this morning. I don’t see any signs of the sun poking through.”

As she spoke, Ryan smiled and said, “Look,” and she nodded toward the great bridge. Above one of its towers, the clouds were parting and a tiny speck of blue sky could be seen.

“All right! We will have Grandfather’s company today. Cool!” She turned and was pulled against her mate. They sat together and enjoyed their coffees as the day began around them: shopkeepers arrived to open their stores, delivery trucks pulled into the hidden lanes behind the shops to deliver their goods, and employees began arriving to ready for another day of business. It was Thursday, but still promised to be a busy day on the popular pier. City residents tended to shop there mid-week, when at all, preferring to avoid the wall-to-wall tourist crowds on the weekends.

“Honey, I’d like to go into the Christmas shop, okay?”

“Sure, babe. And, surely the incense shop, too?”

“Oh, yeah, I forgot about that one! Yes, for sure.”

“Okay, baby. We’ll do some shopping and then how about walking down to Fisherman’s Wharf for lunch?”

“Ooh, that sounds great.” She checked her watch. “The baby should be hungry around then, too. Then we can take a cable car back to Union Square and relax until dinner, okay?”

“It sounds perfect, Janna. I’m, um, looking forward to meeting Jordan.”

“Are you? I’m glad….I don’t want you to be uncomfortable. After we patched things up after the breakup, we became good friends. She’s a good person…so is her wife, Pam. God, I haven’t seen them in a couple of years. They have a little girl…she must be two, two and a half now. God, time flies.”

“Mm, it does, babe. Look at our little one. It seems like yesterday that you were pregnant with her and sick all the time.”

“Ughh, yeah. But you know, I’ve forgotten most of the discomfort.” She kissed her wife’s cheek. “I’m starting to think about when we should do it again.”

“Oh, God, Janna, are you? I’m not sure I’m quite ready for that again, baby. Can we let Halley get a little older before we start planning the second one? Like when she’s sleeping though the night?”

“Yeah, I’m not in that much of a hurry, either, love. Just starting to think about it some.”

“Okay, baby. We won’t wait too long. I’d like for them to be pretty close in age. But you know what?”

“What love?”

“I’m enjoying Halley so much that I don’t want to have to divide my attention between her and another child. Is that selfish?”

“No, it’s normal. I feel the same way. I’m sure that when the time is right, we’ll have our little boy and we’ll all be very happy together. He’ll fit right in and our family will feel complete.”

“That’s the ideal, anyway.”

“That’s how it’s gonna be, Ryan.”

As Janna lay her head against Ryan’s shoulder, Ryan remembered something her Grandfather had shown her in the vision the prior year and thought wistfully, you’re right, baby…we may not be expecting what life sends us, but together, we’ll face it and we’ll be just fine…and our family will be complete. Ryan smiled and soaked in her wife’s essence as they sat in the pleasant surroundings. She gazed down at Halley in her stroller. She was quiet, lying on her back, enjoying her pacifier as she held a small, stuffed bunny above her face and played with it’s whiskers. God, I’m blessed.

She shook her head in amazement and her perceptive wife said, “We are so blessed, Ryan,” just before capturing Ryan’s lips and bestowing another blessing on her.

~~~~~~~~~~
Ryan pulled the sweater over her head and heard a knock at the door. “They’re here, babe,” she called to Janna in the bathroom as she moved to answer the door.

“I’ll be right out.”

Ryan opened the door and grinned as she said, “Hi, Missy, Lisa…it’s good to see you again,” and gestured for them to enter the hotel room.

“Hi, Ryan, thanks. You look great!” Missy bubbled as she gazed appreciatively at Ryan in her black v-necked sweater over a crisp, white t-shirt and faded jeans.

“Thanks, so do you,” Ryan smiled.

“Guys!” Janna exclaimed as she exited the bathroom dressed for her gig in a black t-shirt and faded 501’s, and swooped toward her old friends. Lisa pulled her into a full-bodied hug and kissed her cheek as she exclaimed, “God, girl, you look wonderful!”

“Thanks,” Janna said as she moved to hug Lisa’s wife. “Hi, babe.” She stepped back and inclined her head at her. “You look really good.”

“Thanks,” her tall friend beamed.

Ryan walked to the bed, where Halley sat in her carrier/car seat, all ready to go. She knelt in front of her daughter and kissed her cheek. “Okay, my little love. You’re going bye bye with some nice friends now. You be a good girl, okay?”

“Mamamamama, goo.”

Ryan kissed her again and rested her cheek against Halley’s soft hair. She felt an acute pain at sending her baby off and wasn’t at all sure it was a good idea. But Janna had assured her that she would fine. Despite that, Ryan knew that her wife was experiencing the same feelings at the moment.

Janna knelt by Ryan’s side and stroked her daughter’s cheek gently before kissing her goodbye. “Bye sweetie, see you tomorrow.” A sob stuck in her throat and she leaned against her mate.

“Jesus, Janna, don’t start or you’ll get me going too. Come on, baby. She’ll be fine,” Ryan said as she stood and picked up the carrier.

“I know,” Janna sniffled. She turned and faced her friends with a wry smile. “No offense you guys, we’re just not used to this.”

“It’s okay, we understand,” Missy said thoughtfully. “She’ll be fine, and we’re really looking forward to this.”

Janna picked up the loaded diaper bag. “Everything you need is in here, including her bottles. You’ll need to get them in the refrigerator as soon as you get home. There should be plenty and you’ll probably have a few left over. Um, we wrote out a list of instructions, but basically, she should eat one more time before bed, and if you keep her awake she might go five or six hours before waking during the night. Um, any questions?”

“Nope! We’re old hands at this. Oh, did you put some of her favorite toys in? We have a few, but we’d like for her to have some of her own favorites.”

“Yes,” Ryan replied. “And she loves her bunny. We usually put her down with it and her blankie…the yellow one.”

“Okay, I think we’re set then.” Lisa said. “Now, you two go out and have a great time and try not to worry,” the curly-haired brunette added. “We have your pager number and you can call and check on her as often as you want.”

“Thanks, Lise. You don’t know how much we appreciate this,” Janna added. “And, um, I’m sorry she’ll need to eat during the night. We’re still only feeding her breast milk.” Janna shrugged apologetically.

“It’s fine, hon,” Missy said. “We agree with that attitude, and um, it’ll be good practice for us.” Her lips began to curl into a shy smile as she glanced at her partner.

“Practice?” Janna exclaimed as a smile lit her face. “You’re not…”

Missy nodded happily and pulled her shorter mate close. “Yes, we are. Two months along!”

“Oh my God!” Janna screamed and embraced her friend. “I knew you were glowing! That’s wonderful…I didn’t even know who were trying!”

“We wanted to keep it under wraps, you know, in case it didn’t work out,” Lisa supplied. “But we used your tried and true method and got pregnant on the first shot…so to speak! So, uh, thanks guys, for the inspiration and the advice.”

“Shit, Lisa, Missy, congratulations,” Ryan offered. “You’re gonna be so happy.”

“We see that, Ryan. All we have to do is look at you two.”

“You’ll make wonderful mothers. My God, guys…your lives will be turned upside down, but in the best possible way. There’s no way to describe the happiness a baby brings.” Janna said, teary-eyed. “No way.”

“Janna’s right,” Ryan said as she wrapped an arm around her wife.

“Well,” Lisa said, “We should go so you can take off.”

“I’ll walk you down and show you how the car seat works,” Ryan said as she grabbed her jacket.

“I’ll go too,” Janna added, as she picked up the long blue bag containing the portable crib, and together the five friends made their way down to the parking garage.

Ten minutes later, Ryan and Janna could be found holding each other back in their room as they shared the pain of missing their daughter. The room felt very empty without the presence of their special baby’s aura./p>

~~~~~~~~~~
Ryan sat with her back against the bar, watching people enter the sophisticated room as her wife sat beside her, chatting with the friendly bartender. She noted the entrance of an attractive male couple and smiled. They hadn’t seen Doug and Jay since their wedding reception almost two years previously. She waved, catching their eye, and gently nudged Janna.

“Doug and Jay are here, love.”

Janna smiled at the friendly man tending bar and turned, “Cool!” She waved to her friends and hopped off the barstool.

“Baby,” Jay squealed as he threw his arms around his small friend. “It’s been way too long, my girl!” His deep brown eyes twinkled merrily as he appraised his friend.

“Yes, Jay Jay, for sure,” Janna replied as she hugged her tall, thin friend, and kissed his cheek.

“Doug, how are you?” Ryan asked as she extended her hand to the fair-haired man.

He looked shocked as he brushed her hand away and pulled her into a hug. “We’re all fags here, love, we do hugs. Give me one of those full-body lesbian hugs that your kind are so famous for.”

Ryan laughed deeply and complied, nearly squeezing the air out of the shorter man.

“God, I guess I asked for that,” he gasped, grinning. “Janna, babe, you look marvelous! Give me a little sweet sugar, sugar.”

Janna grinned widely and did as asked, and then the friends seated themselves at a large table to await the rest of their party. A few minutes later, Ryan noted the entrance of a stocky blonde woman with a crew cut and multiple tatoos, and her taller friend, who sported short, dark hair and numerous piercings. She stood and waved, “Marcy, Donna…over here.”

The women spotted her and headed their way, winding amongst the tables in the crowded bar. After exchanging similar greetings to what they had with the men, the friends continued to visit while awaiting the remaining two members of their party.

Ryan listened with half an ear to the friendly conversation while scanning the bar. Presently, she saw two extremely attractive women enter. She knew immediately that Jordan was the tall woman of about twenty-five, with shoulder-length brown hair. She was dressed very much as Ryan was, in a sweater, jeans and leather jacket, while her blonde partner was more feminine, wearing tan slacks and a powder-blue polo shirt.

“Janna, this looks like Jordan.”

Janna turned from her conversation and followed Ryan’s nod. When she spotted her ex-girlfriend, a warm smile lit her face and she rose to meet her friends.

“Jordan.”

“Hey, Janna, you look great, babe.”

“So do you.” She leaned forward and kissed Jordan’s cheek, lingering for a moment as Jordan pulled her close.

Ryan stood behind her, feeling her jaw tense as Janna kissed the other woman. Bend, bend, bend…

Janna stepped back and said, “Jordan, Pam, this is Ryan.”

Ryan stepped forward and nodded as she extended her hand and said, “Nice to meet you.”

Jordan returned the firm handshake and looked Ryan in the eye sincerely as she said, “It’s great to meet you, too, Ryan. Janna’s told us so much about you. And Halley.” She smiled winningly.

Jesus Christ, she reminds me of a younger me. It’s uncanny.

Janna caught her mate’s eye and winked at her as she placed a warm arm around her waist and turned her toward the table. They seated themselves and as the others exchanged greetings, she felt Janna’s warm hand rest on her thigh. She looked at her wife and received an enormous burst of love through their link. She sighed and smiled wryly, then nodded at Janna and rested her hand on Janna’s, squeezing it to indicate all was well.

Jesus, she felt that. She gave an internal shake of her head and plunged in to the happy conversation.

~~~~~~~~~~
Janna lifted the guitar strap over her head and flung her hands in the air, thrusting her trusty sidekick toward the sky. “Yes! God, that was awesome!” She yelled, pumping her other fist in the air.

Brian and Jason both whooped in unison and jumped up and down, pumped. Jeff ran up and threw his arms around both their shoulders, pulling them close. “You guys did it! You fuckin’ rocked the house! You killed them…again!” He looked from his brother to Brian. “I’m so proud of you guys. Shit!”

Then he looked over at Janna, who stood nearby holding her guitar in one hand, with a huge grin on her face. Her black ‘The Tribe’ tour shirt was soaked through with sweat and her shaggy, short blonde hair was soaked with sweat as well, plastered to her face and scalp. “Janna. I don’t…”

She interrupted, “Hey, it was my great pleasure, Jeff. Believe me. It was great. I might even do it again.” She approached and shook his hand. “You’re a fine manager.” Turning to her young friends, she said, “And you guys are rockers! Plain and simple. You blew the crowd away at every show and you blew me away too. I had a fuckin’ great time playing with you. I’d do it again…in a heartbeat.” She pulled them close and they shared a warm hug and some tears.

Ryan watched as Janna shared the special moment with her band mates. As she did so, she was overcome with emotion. It had been a wildly successful tour, and she was very, very happy for their young friends. But her happiness at her friends’ good fortune nowhere near approached the pride she felt for her mate. Her wife was a gifted professional musician and a charismatic performer, and she felt honored to have shared so many special moments on this tour with her.

She was anxious to pull Janna into her arms and congratulate her, but she let the musicians have their moment. Janna’s friends joined Ryan, eager to offer their congratulations as well, but also stopped, not wanting to intrude on the moment. The three friends shared one more tearful hug, then separated and put their instruments away.

As Janna turned from her guitar case, she was scooped into her wife’s arms and they shared a long, passionate kiss.

“Baby, you were so fuckin’ awesome…there aren’t words.” Ryan shook her head. “There just are not words. Or for how proud I am of you. You were poetry…magic…art. Baby…” She shook her head, speechless.

“Thanks, love. That means so much…I can’t tell you.” Janna teared up and hugged her wife again, letting Ryan’s solid warmth caress her soul and bring her down to Earth. She gazed up adoringly at her wife, smiled, and added, “And what about you? You were wonderful, Ryan! Thank you for doing that, baby…I know it was putting you on the spot, but it just occurred to me on the spur of the moment.” She shook her head wondrously at the memory of her wife singing beside her, and her breath caught as she recalled the passionate kiss they had shared at the end of the song, to a rousing ovation. “The crowd loved you…I think that song got the biggest ovation all night. You were incredible.”

Ryan blushed faintly. “Shit, Janna, it wasn’t that good…but thank you.” She added with a wink and a crooked grin, “It was a fuckin’ blast, baby. So exciting… and you’re right, the energy coming from the crowd is an incredible high. I’m, um, glad I know ‘Teenaged Queer’ well enough to have sung it. Thank you, Janna. That was a once in a lifetime experience.”

“Maybe not.” Janna returned the wink with a jaunty grin. “Maybe we’ve both found new careers.” She pulled Ryan close again and they shared another passionate kiss, nearly losing themselves in each other. Again.

Janna’s friends had to wait through that emotional display as well, but finally the lovers parted and Janna opened her arms to her friends. “Guys, I’m so glad you were here. It made it that much more special. Thank you.”

As she was congratulated and praised by her friends, Ryan stepped back and watched once again. She let them have their own special moment until she was motioned to join them. A short time later, Janna’s friends left to give her space to wind down and clean up and Ryan went to the restroom.

Janna sat alone on the long sofa, contemplating the awesome show and letting the buzz from the satisfaction fill her. She closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and laid her head on the back of the sofa. Presently, she felt someone sit beside her and smiled when a warm hand caressed her thigh.

“Back already, love?” She said without opening her eyes.

She was answered by a soft kiss, but knew almost before the other lips touched hers that they were not Ryan’s, and her eyes flew open.

“Diana! What the hell was that?” She yelled, shocked, bringing her hand to her mouth.

“You looked so inviting…I couldn’t resist. Don’t tell me you don’t want it, Janna. What we had was so good. I miss it.” She ran her hand farther up Janna’s thigh.

Janna was too stunned to speak. She could only shake her head slowly as she tried to form the word, “No.”

Her ex-lover took her silence to mean agreement, and took the situation even further. She reached a long hand down to her vest and unbuttoned it, pulling it open and exposing large, augmented breasts, then leaned in for another kiss.

Janna suddenly regained the ability to think and brought her hand up in front of Diana’s face. “No! What are you doing? Get away from me!” She tried to scoot away from her seductive stalker, but was stopped by the end of the sofa.

“Janna, you know you still want me, admit it. And I definitely want you.” She pinned Janna with cold, brown eyes. “I can give you everything you want.”

She leaned in toward a shocked Janna again and was reaching for her stunned face when she was stopped by a firm hand on her shoulder and a deeply menacing voice saying, “Get the fuck away from her. Now!”

She turned angrily to see who had the audacity to intrude and looked up into Janna’s wife’s roiling blue eyes. Every muscle in her body was tensed and her glare shot daggers at the singer.

“I said, get the fuck away from my wife.” The words were individually accented and bitten off with a barely controlled anger.

The arrogant singer glared at her and spat, “Fuck you.”

She never saw the punch coming. It was so lightning-fast that it didn’t even register that she had been hit. All she knew was a lancing pain in her jaw as her body flew over the back of the sofa and landed on the floor behind it.

As she sat on the floor in shock, the singer screamed, “Shit! You fucking lunatic!” She brought her hand to her mouth and wiped away blood. Looking down at her bloody fingers, she screamed, “I am going to sue the shit out of you for that…count on it, cunt!”

Ryan, struggling to control her rage, replied calmly, in a dangerous voice, “Fine, Diana, you do that. I think the press will find the proceedings extremely interesting. Especially when it becomes known that we were fighting over a woman.” She took a step toward the irate woman and added coldly, “I’ve been keeping tabs on you and read a very interesting article recently in Spin in which you stated, and I quote, ‘My childish experimentation with bisexuality ended several years ago. I am most decidedly heterosexual, and looking for an exciting, strong man who doesn’t mind a strong, independent woman.’ End quote. It sounds to me, Diana, as if your record company doesn’t want it known that you’re queer.”

Diana looked as if she were about to burst a vessel, and her eyes bugged out most unattractively as she screamed, then stood up, pulled her vest closed, and left.

Janna watched her ex-girlfriend leave and flew off the couch. She gently grasped Ryan’s hand, inspecting her knuckles. “Ryan…are you alright?” She softly kissed her mate’s red knuckles as she gazed into her eyes. “My protector.”

Ryan laughed, releasing the tension from her body. “Your jealous, hotheaded wife, you mean.” She shook her head. “That was a pretty stupid thing to do. She could have me arrested.”

“Oh, but she won’t…and for the very reason you so eloquently stated. God, Ryan, that was satisfying. I wanted to do that three years ago when she dumped me so cruelly.”

“I’m glad I could avenge you then, my love.” She pulled Janna close as she added, “So glad.”

Janna sank into Ryan’s embrace, letting the surging adrenaline in her body settle and calm. She could still feel, could sense, the powerful emotions running through her mate’s body and ran her hands down Ryan’s strong back reassuringly.

“I love you, Ryan,” she mumbled into her mate’s throat.

“God, Janna…” Ryan nuzzled her wife’s hair and took a deep breath. “I wanted to kill her.”

“Your reaction was appropriate, Ryan, and I’m very grateful. I was too stunned to react.”

“Still, Janna,” Ryan shuddered.

Janna reached up and gently grasped her wife’s face between her hands as she stated sincerely, “I love you, Ryan,” and kissed her.

Ryan melted into the kiss gratefully and pulled Janna roughly against her, deepening the kiss and running her hands down Janna’s body. Janna moaned and Ryan gently turned them and sat on the couch, still kissing Janna, and pulled her into her lap. Janna straddled Ryan and continued the passionate kiss as they lost themselves in each other and hands began roaming fervently. As she savored her wife’s lips and tongue, her blood began surging, and Ryan ran her hands up under Janna’s shirt and caressed her back, moaning her pleasure into her wife’s mouth.

Janna pulled back and as she gazed seriously into Ryan’s eyes, pulled off her shirt and removed her bra, then fell back against her mate and continued the kiss. At the sight and feel of her mate’s naked breasts, Ryan lost all semblance of self-control and ripped her own shirts off over her head, followed by her bra, and when her breasts met Janna’s, their passion was ignited. They continued the fervent necking, so lost in each other that neither cared that their location was far from private, though they were currently alone in the room.

Janna’s old band mates, Donna and Marcy, laughed raucously together as they led Dougie, Jay Jay, Jordan and Pam back to the dressing room area. They rounded the corner and burst through the door, only to stop short at what they saw taking place on the sofa.

“Holy shit!” Marcy gasped, a little too loudly.

Janna was in Ryan’s lap, and both were naked to the waist, necking deeply and caressing each other’s torsos sensuously. Marcy’s outburst startled them and Ryan broke the kiss and stared from behind her lover with wide eyes. Janna’s shoulders slumped and she fell against her mate, her body shaking with silent laughter.

Jordan smiled knowingly as Marcy asked sarcastically, “We’re um, not interrupting anything are we?” And boldly planted herself on the sofa next to her friends.

“What makes you think that, Marcy?” Ryan asked as she held her wife against her.

“Oh, nothing in particular.” She rolled her eyes.

Donna added, also sarcastically, “It couldn’t wait until later, huh?”

“You had to be here,” Janna replied, glancing at her old friend with a smile. She looked proudly back at her mate and added, “Diana was here. She made a move on me and Ryan decked her. I was just showing her my gratitude,” she added with a smirk.

“No shit? No fuckin’ shit?” Marcy gasped.

“No shit,” Janna confirmed.

“Good for you, Ryan. She’s a bitch and I’m sure she deserved it,” complimented Donna.

Ryan nodded, as did everyone else in the room.

“So are you two gonna fuck or are we gonna go out? I’m thirsty,” Marcy stated in her no nonsense way.

While their other friends laughed, Janna scowled at her friend and held out her hand. “Hand me my shirt please.”

Marcy picked up the sports bra that lay beside her on the sofa and presented it with two fingers to Janna.”

“Jesus, Marcy, it’s not on fire.”

“Yeah, but it’s all sweaty. Why don’t you leave it off. We won’t mind.” She smirked as she glanced at her other friend, who raised her eyebrows and returned the smirk.

“Yeah, babe, it’ll make it easier for me later,” Ryan drawled sexily.

Janna grinned saucily at her wife and tossed the bra over her head, where it landed in a heap at an astonished Jeff’s feet. At his shocked grunt, Janna turned partly, exposing most of a breast to the startled young man.

“Oops, sorry, Jeff,” she giggled.

He cleared his throat. “It’s okay, Janna, really.”

She grinned as she turned back to her mate and slipped her black t-shirt on over her head. Ryan smiled wickedly at her, and then at their friends and gently pushed Janna from her lap, exposing her exceedingly beautiful assets to all in the room.

“Fuckin’ shit,” murmured Jeff, Marcy and Donna in unison, while Doug and Jay applauded, and Jordan and Pam nodded appreciatively, and they all gaped as Ryan lazily grabbed her shirts and slipped the white tee back on, leaving the bra and sweater off for the time being.

Janna sat beside her playful wife and just grinned. “Did you all get a good look?”

“Sure did, babe. Thanks for asking.” Marcy replied smartly. “And thank you, Ryan. I haven’t seen tits that nice since the last time they had strip night down at the Kat Club.” She shook her head and glanced at her other friend. “Don, babe, you’re in real danger of getting dumped tonight, ’cause I’m gonna try to find some sweetness to take home. Sorry.”

Donna waved her off. “You’re in the same danger, bud.” The two women were best friends, but not lovers. They had been involved briefly years before, but had found to their amusement that they clicked best as friends.

Ryan laughed and pulled Janna back into her lap, where she kissed her sweetly. Then looked up at their gathered friends and stated, “Well, people, what’s the plan?”

Jay Jay thrust his hands in the air and shook his slim hips as he trilled, “We’re gonna paint the town red! Let’s go!”

And paint the town red, they did.

-22-

Ryan lit the last candle and lay on the bed. I’m glad we spent the morning at Pier 39…we got some nice candles and incense. The aroma of ylang-ylang filled the air, lending a romantic ambiance to the room along with the warm, soft lighting the candle provided. Ryan could hear her mate humming lightly in the bathroom and smiled as the door opened and the light shut off.

Janna’s breath caught at the vision before her. Ryan was lying naked on the bed, in wait, with a dashing smile on her face. Oh…my…God… Her heart began to pound, sending her blood surging through her veins as she approached her lover.

As Janna approached, Ryan forgot to breathe. Her mate’s naked form was glorious in the soft candlelight. Full breasts swayed gently as she moved and Ryan couldn’t take her eyes off them. She reached out to her wife as she said, “Come here, baby, I need you so much.” As Janna fell into her arms, she added, “We missed out on our loving yesterday and I’m wanting you badly.”

“The feeling’s mutual, Ryan,” Janna replied as she settled against her mate’s long body.

Ryan laid them down and covered Janna’s body with hers. “Where were we when we were interrupted last night?”

Janna grinned and pointed to her right breast. “You were right here.”

“Oh, yes, that’s right,” Ryan muttered as she lowered her mouth to said breast. She kissed the already taut nipple and stroked it before gently sucking it into her mouth. At her wife’s intake of breath, she smiled and went to work, lavishing devoted attention on both Janna’s breasts. Several minutes later, she mumbled, “How do you want to love, baby?”

“Tantra style…it’s been a long time. Okay?”

“Yes,” Ryan practically moaned as she sat up and pulled Janna with her. As she sat against the pillows, Janna settled in her lap and wrapped her legs tightly around her hips. “Gods, Janna…”

“I love you, Ryan.”

“I love you, Janna. You’re my Universe.”

“And you’re mine,” Janna said as she kissed her mate and they began their sacred dance of love.

Nearly an hour later, the lovers were still entwined in the same position, writhing as one as gifted fingers and mouths delivered delirious pleasure, and Ryan gasped as her orgasm exploded, sending her seemingly into another dimension and taking her wife with her. They rode out the culminating orgasm together for several minutes, gasping for air as the waves of pleasure rocked their bodies.

“Fuck…Janna, every time we do that it’s better than the last.” She rested her sweating forehead against Janna’s and sucked in more air.

Janna sagged against her mate as she responded, “That’s the idea, love…to improve with,” she sighed before continuing, “with experience.”

Ryan removed her hand from Janna’s vagina and wrapped both arms tightly around her, reveling in their closeness, and Janna did likewise, grasping Ryan about the waist. Ryan rocked them slowly back and forth for several minutes, not wanting to part, feeling as one with her soulmate.

“Two halves…two halves, Janna, of the same soul,” Ryan said as she swallowed the strong emotion she felt and tears began to stream down her cheeks.

“Without a doubt, my love. Without a doubt.” Janna pulled back and gazed at her mate, and tears started down her face as well.

Ryan leaned in and captured her lips, savoring them, feeling blessed by the gods for her greatest gift, then gently parted from her mate and laid them down together. They drifted quickly into sleep together and slept blissfully until mid morning.

The warrior held her sleeping mate-sidekick in her arms and silently thanked the gods for bringing them together. Her body shuddered and tingled as she thought about the love they had shared earlier, after she had presented her mate with her birthday gift.

She loved the poem I gave her. Sappho captured my feelings for her perfectly. And my bard showed me her gratitude, too, she smirked. Gods. She shivered again and closed her eyes as she recalled their lovemaking. They had learned the skill during their visit to India, and practiced it at every opportunity. The technique, already ancient, allowed them to draw out their physical pleasure for many long minutes, and her lithe, agile mate had become exceptionally talented at the practice. Gods, I thought I was good, but she puts me to shame. I have never had a more talented, more giving lover.

She smiled at the memory of her mate’s body wrapped tightly around hers and her breath caught as a jolt of pleasure shot through her, emanating from her groin. She took a deep breath and tried to calm herself. What does this woman do to me? I loved her until my body was spent, and yet I want her again. Gods…

The small, blonde warrior-bard shifted against her partner’s firm body. She felt the electricity of arousal coursing through her body and it helped her to awaken completely. She opened her eyes and gazed into the cloudy lavender depths of her lover. Ah, it’s her arousal that I’m feeling, through our link. She sighed and smiled. I love this effect that I have on her, and that she has on me. Gods, I love her. Silently, she turned in her partner’s embrace and pushed up to claim her lips. She kissed her lifemate deeply and was quickly turned onto her back. Her warrior began making love to her again, gently, sensually, communicating her devout love for her.

“Gods, love. What do we do to each other?”

“I don’t know, my bard. I only know that if I could make love to you all day, forever, it wouldn’t be enough.”

“But we can give it a try,” the bard responded coyly.

“Yes,” the warrior replied with a smirk. “We can try.” She captured her mate’s lips again and moved her body sensually against the smaller woman’s.

Her mate wrapped her arms and legs tightly around her and matched her sensuous, writhing movements. Under the light of the full moon, they shared their love together again, and were awake to welcome the dawn.

~~~~~~~~~~
Ryan smiled and let the dream memory warm her. No wonder we’re so good at that particular technique…we’ve been perfecting it for two thousand years…over how many countless lifetimes? Gods… Janna stirred in her arms and settled more deeply against her. I will never get tired of that.

“Mm, Ryan…is it morning?” Janna asked without opening her eyes.

“Yes, babe. Almost nine.”

“Nine…my God! The baby’s due…”

The knock at their door interrupted her. “You were saying?” Ryan said with a smile as she removed herself from beneath her wife and stood, grabbing her robe. She threw it on quickly and didn’t bother to tie it as she hurried to the door, opening it to find Missy standing with Halley’s carrier in her hands.

“Sweetheart! Come in,” Ryan invited with a warm smile.

“Why Ryan, I didn’t know you cared!” Missy said coyly. Noting Ryan’s state of undress, she added, “I’m sorry, were you not up yet?”

“Nope, but it’s okay, Mis,” Janna responded from the bed. “It was a late night.”

“A very late night,” Ryan added with a drawl. She took the carrier from their friend and proceeded to babble and coo at her baby, while Janna sat up, pulling the sheet up under her armpits, and greeted Missy.

“Mis, thanks so much. We can’t tell you how much we appreciate this. How was she?”

“She was an angel, Janna.” Looking at Ryan she smirked and said, “She must take after you.”

“Definitely,” Ryan responded with a smirk of her own as she set up Halley’s crib next to the bed..

“She went down at 10:30 and didn’t wake up to eat until almost 5:30, and was very content the rest of the time. She’s a very happy baby…she really was a joy.”

“Oh, I’m glad.” Janna said as she removed her daughter from the carrier.

“Well, guys, I have to go in to the office. It was great seeing you…let’s not make it so long next time, huh?” She said as she leaned down to give Janna a hug.

“Okay, babe, we won’t. You take care now…call me if you have any pregnancy questions…though I’m still a little miffed at you for not having any morning sickness.”

“Sorry! Ryan, bye. Take care of my girls, please.”

“Will do Missy. Tell Lisa thanks, huh?”

“I will. Bye guys!”

Ryan let Missy out and returned to the bed, pulling her robe off before sitting next to Janna.

“And what do you think you’re doing?”

“We haven’t had our cuddle time. Halley says that we should never overlook our cuddle time. She’s prepared to go into her crib and play for a few minutes to give us some privacy.” She added, seriously, “Honey, that’s okay, isn’t it? It’s not actual sex. I don’t think it should affect her at all and we can stay under the covers.”

“I think you’re right. And it is bonding time for us…not that we especially need it,” she smirked.

“We do need it, every couple does. And besides, we love it.” She picked up Halley, kissed her, and deposited her in her crib, then joined her wife on the bed and pulled the covers over them both.

Pulling Janna into her arms she remarked, “I had a nice dream just before waking up.”

“Did you? So did I. What was yours about?”

“Well, you know what we did last night? Just before falling asleep?”

“Yes,” Janna replied with a smile.

“That’s what we were doing in the dream too. Baby, no wonder we’re so good at it,” Ryan said as she squeezed her mate. “Look how long we’ve been practicing.”

“Mm, yes. Same dream again, Ryan. How cool. But first, you gave me a beautiful poem. It was my birthday. God, I wish I could remember it.”

Ryan recited from memory,

“There is a moment when I look at you
And no speech is left in me
My tongue breaks
Then fire races under my skin and I tremble
And grow pale, for I am dying of such love
Or so it seems to me.”

Janna gasped, “My God, yes…that’s it. You remember it?”

Ryan shrugged. “I have a good memory.” She caressed Janna’s cheek and added, “It’s perfect. It’s how the warrior felt about the bard and its how I still feel about you.”

“God…you’re perfect, Ryan.”

Ryan kissed her mate and embraced her tighter, initiating their sacred connection and reveling in their shared energy and love for a time.

~~~~~~~~~~
The bus rolled along the Altamont Pass, heading east toward home. As she gazed out the window at the dried hills and the windmills that stood tall among them, Janna was reminded of the last time she had passed that way. It was when I was coming home. Just before I met Ryan.

Her soulmate could sense her contemplation and squeezed her gently from behind. “Penny for your thoughts, love.”

Janna smiled and leaned back against her wife, turning her face to steal a quick kiss. “I was remembering that the last time I came this way was two years ago when I moved back home. Just before we met.”

“Oh.” She took a deep breath, letting it out and caressing Janna’s waist softly. “That is a homecoming that I will forever be thanking the gods for. I am so glad that you listened to your heart and left the City.”

“Me too, baby. Me too.”

“Mm. In about a half hour, baby, we’ll be home.”

“Yes, it’s gonna feel so good.”

“How about…you, Halley and I play in the spa when we get there? It should be nice and refreshing. We’ll just relax until game time.”

“God, honey, I am so there. Good idea. Have you let Sharon know that we’ll be making the game?”

“No, not yet. She was so friggin’ hardcore about it last week that I thought I’d let her stew a while longer. They only lost one of the games while we were gone, for crying out loud.”

“Ryan, you two must have been enemies in a life or several…you each seem to delight in pissing the other off.”

“I know! I’ve had the same thought.” She nuzzled Janna’s neck and gave her a sultry monkey bite. “I think that Sandy just doesn’t give her enough pussy.”

“Ryan! Jesus…could you be a little more crude, honey?”

“Oh, yeah, I think I can…wanna…”

“No!” Janna half turned to look back at her mate.

“Okay, but I can be a lot worse than that,” Ryan said sexily in Janna’s ear as she ran her hands up under Janna’s shirt and latched on to two soft breasts.

“Stop that! What’s gotten into you?” Janna stilled Ryan’s hands and removed them, glancing to see that no one was watching. They both were…with smug grins on their faces. “Jesus…”

“Um, do you two wanna get a room?” Jeff suggested with a smirk.

“No need. I’m gonna fuck her silly at home in, oh,” Ryan glanced at her watch. “About twenty minutes.” She leaned heavily against Janna and whispered, “I think I’ll get the strap-on out and chase you around the house. We haven’t used the kitchen table in a while.”

Janna closed her eyes and fought the desire that was taking hold, not wanting to encourage her naughty mate’s very naughty behavior. Gods. I can’t. I can’t resist her. She turned and straddled Ryan’s lap. “That sounds like a plan.” Then she kissed her surprised wife, to whoops and whistles from their friends.

Janna pulled back and looked at her wife with raised eyebrows. “What…you can dish it out, but you can’t take it?”

“Oh, baby, I’ll take whatever you wanna give me. Anytime, anywhere, anyhow, anyway.”

“I know you will,” Janna said as she sat back, then turned and settled once more against Ryan’s chest. Ryan’s hands immediately resumed their place around her waist, and she was pulled even closer.

Just then, Halley came crawling from the back of the bus, chased by a crawling Jason.

“Jason, what the hell are you doing with my kid?”

“I’m playing with her, Ryan. Just like you do, tough stuff.”

“Just watch you’re not too rough, huh?”

“Geez, Ry…this kid’s as strong as an ox. Can’t imagine who she gets that from,” he added sarcastically as he picked the happy baby up.

Ryan smiled proudly and puffed out her chest.

“Easy there, Dad. I’m no creampuff either, you know.” Janna reminded her.

“That’s true, Janna.” Ryan admitted. “You are one tough little cookie. Sweet too. I could nibble on you all day.” She playfully nipped at her favorite nibbling spot on Janna’s neck, illustrating her point.

Jason handed the baby to a giggling Janna, and the little one immediately settled against her Mommy’s shoulder. “She’ll be ready for a nap when we get home, honey.”

“Cool, babe,” Ryan said with a jaunty grin.

Mm, hm. Very cool.

~~~~~~~~~~
Janna’s brother Dan met the bus and the returning family and drove them home. After kissing her brother goodbye, Janna joined her loved ones in the bedroom, where Ryan was changing a drowsy baby.

Janna sidled up next to her and said, “I guess we’ll have to have playtime after her nap.”

“Family playtime, anyway,” Ryan drawled. She looked sideways at Janna and added, “I, um, got a little worked up thinking about fooling around when we got home, but if you’re tired…”

“Honestly, honey, I am a little dragged out from the trip…maybe we can just do a little something in the spa? Something relaxing?”

“Sure, Janna. We just had some awesome sex last night, so I’m really not feeling needy. I think I was just getting a little stir crazy on the bus, is all.”

“I know what you mean. Tell you what…why don’t we relax in the spa and let nature takes its course?”

“Janna, I absolutely love letting nature take its course. Thank you, baby.” She deftly pinned the clean diaper and put a fresh undershirt on the baby, then lifted her to her shoulder. “Honey, I think we should put her down in the nursery…let her get used to the crib.”

“Good idea. I’ll go ahead and turn it down.” Janna walked ahead of Ryan into the next room and pulled the shade to darken the space, then went to the Winnie-the-Pooh bedecked crib and turned down the comforter. Ryan laid the baby down gently on her back, cooing softly to her.

“Mamamama,” Halley said quietly, gazing up at her mothers. Janna placed her pacifier in her little mouth and she closed her eyes as she sucked contentedly on it. Quietly, her mothers backed out of the room and stood together in the doorway, gazing at her.

Ryan draped an arm around Janna’s shoulders as she said, “She’s in her own room now, Janna.”

“God…” Janna turned into Ryan’s hug. “Let’s go into our room now, Ryan. We can do the spa later when Halley wakes up.

“Let’s go, babe.”

A few minutes later, they were in their own bed, stripped down to their underwear, kissing softly, and glad almost beyond measure to be back home.

~~~~~~~~~
A few days later, after working a very long Monday following her vacation, Ryan returned home to prepare for her aikido class. Janna was preparing a light snack for them to eat before class, as they usually went out to eat afterward, often with students or fellow teachers.

Ryan tiredly set her gym bag on the counter and tossed her keys into the key basket.

“Hi sweetheart, long day, huh?”

“God, Janna, the headaches…” She shook her head. “My entire department practically fell apart without me there, but do you think they would call me on the road? No. So I had to try to sort everything out today. Jesus, what a fuckin’ mess.” She looked wryly into Janna’s eyes. “So, how was your day?”

Janna shook her head and laughed. “It was fine. I had to push myself to get anything done, though. I have two projects that I really need to finish, but I had trouble getting back into gear. I got a little lazy on the trip, I guess.”

“I hear ya, babe. Didn’t you, uh, tell me once that the spirit dudes say that old souls tend to be lazy anyway…that they basically don’t like to have to do anything? That we, um, prefer to have fun…even when we know there’s work to be done?”

“Yep. And I was feeling every single one of my two hundred and fifty or so lives today, let me tell you.”

Ryan laughed and shook her head. “So was I, babe. So was I.”

“Honey, let’s wind down in the spa before class. I can tell that you need to relax and I can give you some Reiki. Come on…you don’t want to try to teach when you’re exhausted. We can eat our snack out there.”

“God, Janna, that sounds good. Where’s the baby?”

“She’s in her new playpen, visiting with the baby in the mirror the last time I checked. Go get undressed and I’ll bring her out to join us.”

“Oh, she’ll like that. But let me get her…I need a Halley hug. You go get the spa ready, okay?”

“Done, love.” She stood on her tiptoes to kiss her wife, who pulled her close and prolonged the kiss. Pulling back to gaze into her mate’s eyes, Janna said, “At this rate we’ll miss class.”

“Oh, but the alternative is looking so damn nice, Janna.”

“Scoot. Go get our daughter.”

“Yes, ma’am.” Ryan scooted and Janna readied the spa.

An hour later, the family entered the dojo. Ryan and Janna both felt more relaxed almost immediately upon entering the calming space and both noted and appreciated the fact.

“It’s good to be back here, Janna.”

“Yes, it is. And I’ll bet your students will be glad to see you.”

Ryan shrugged as they heard, “Well, there they are…the two rock stars, home to visit the mere peasants!”

They smiled as their friend Joe approached and exchanged hugs. “What do you mean rock stars, Joe? I was but a mere groupie,” Ryan said with a smirk.

“Oh yeah? That’s not what they said on the evening news,” he said, gray eyes sparkling.

“Evening news?” They said in unison.

“Yes, I think it was Friday night. It was a quick story about the success a local band was having on tour, and they showed a certain highly decorated local police officer singing.”

“Fuckin’ shit…”

“What? It was wonderful! You couldn’t really be heard over the poor video equipment, but you looked good. And so did your guitar playing wife.” He smiled widely.

“Jesus Christ, Joe, I was singing ‘I’m a teenaged queer’!” She hung her head and sighed. “Christ, I hope no one else saw that.”

“Oh, why not, honey? You were incredibly good. It was a highlight, if not the highlight, of that show. I wish I had it on tape.”

“Fuck…”

“Well, at any rate, it’s great to have you two back. Your students missed you. I know they’re glad to be rid of me.” He smiled warmly as he added, “See you in awhile.”

“Bye, Joe,” they both said, and Ryan turned to Janna, red-faced. “Come on, Janna, we’re almost late.”

“Okay, babe.” Janna grinned at her tough mate’s discomfiture and shook her head.

They proceeded to the mat room’s foyer and removed their shoes, then entered the large teaching space, Ryan carrying the baby in her seat. As they entered, the assembled students, all from Ryan’s class, applauded and whistled, and it was at that point that both Ryan and Janna realized that a tape of Ryan’s performance did exist, and that their buddy had shown it to everyone present.

“Oh, fuck…” Ryan moaned under her breath, as Janna giggled.

“Take a bow, you guys…both of you!” Called one of Ryan’s buddies from the force. Ryan calmly flipped him the bird, to a round of laughter, and tried to corral her class instead. Janna gave her a quick squeeze and sent her a burst of love, receiving a thankful nod in return and left to deposit Halley with their friend Ellen in the stands.

As she returned to Ryan’s side, the class parted to begin their calming movements, and both women heard a seductive, “Well, hello. Long time no see,” and looked up to see the attractive, but troublesome, student from months earlier who had made a pass at Ryan.

At the sight of the woman, Ryan and Janna looked at each other and said in unison, “Oh, no!” And then fell together in laughter, hugging each other closely to keep from falling down as they shared their very private joke. Ryan kissed her beloved mate and parted from her to approach the confused woman.

She pinned the woman with a serious gaze as she said, “If you’re seriously here to learn aikido, you’re welcome to stay. But if you’re here for extracurricular reasons….especially having to do with me… I would suggest that you leave right now. Because I am here to teach aikido to serious students, and I am not now, nor will I ever be, interested in any woman other than my soulmate, to whom I’m happily married and completely devoted.” She added, “Make up your mind right now, please, and either join the class or leave,” and turned and walked away, signaling for Ellen to turn on the music.

The woman stared after Ryan for a minute and then turned and left the room, to both Ryan’s and Janna’s great relief. They came together to practice the aikido mai together, dancing gracefully across the mat. Neither guided the other, and they weren’t touching, yet they moved as one.
The End

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