The Challenge
By Janet Lynne

Part 11

-21-

Three months later, October

Ryan hobbled down the rampway into the airport, struggling to carry her bag while manipulating her crutches. Janna walked ahead of her, sporting her own carry-on bag on a strap around her shoulders, and turned to wait for her mate.

"Honey, let me get your bag, please. That's too much work for you."

"Baby, I've got it. You're carrying too much as it is." She stopped next to her very pregnant wife. "Whew. It's not easy, though." She grinned at Janna's 'told you so' look and then took a deep breath. "Where's my brother anyway?" She said as she looked around the passenger area.

"Ryan! Janna!" Zac's voice rose above the din of the busy Albuquerque airport.

"Zac!" Ryan exclaimed as her brother rushed up to them, looking extremely sharp in his uniform. He scooped her gently into a hug and kissed her cheek before greeting Janna similarly.

"How was your flight?" He asked as he relieved them both of their bags.

Ryan grinned as she replied, "It depends on whom you ask! If you ask me, it was great. If you ask my wife here, it was horrendous." She leaned onto her right crutch as she threw her left arm around Janna's shoulders.

"Really, Janna? Why?"

"I don't fly well, Zac. To tell you the truth, I usually get plastered when I fly, just to get me through it, but I couldn't do that this time." She expelled a held breath. "It's a phobia, I guess." She looked at her mate. "Thank God I had Ryan to comfort me."

"Sorry, Janna. You guys couldn't drive, huh?"

"Not in this humongous cast, bro, no...not comfortably, and anyway, Janna would have to do all the driving, and in her condition that's not an option. I think we may look into taking Amtrak home." Ryan grinned at Janna's relieved look and rubbed her back. "It'll probably be more comfortable for both of us. I was supposed to be in a right-side aisle seat so I'd have room for my leg, but they put us on the wrong side. Thankfully, we found a nice couple willing to switch with us."

"Shit, I should have put you on a military flight. Sorry, guys." He gazed into his sister's eyes. "You look really good, Sis. About a thousand percent better than the last time I saw you."

"I feel that much better too, Zac. Let's get Janna off her feet and I'll tell you about it."

"Marty's expecting us for dinner, so let's get on the road, huh?" He looked to the two tired travelers. "Unless you want to rest a while...get something to drink?"

"Something to drink you would be great, Zac, then we can get going." Janna answered.

"Okay, there's a nice café just up the way here. While you get something I'll grab your other luggage."

They sat, enjoying their cold drinks in air-conditioned comfort while gazing out over the sunny desert. "Still hot here in the Fall, huh Zac?"

"Not as, but pretty warm, Sis, yeah. Actually, at our elevation it is usually pretty comfortable here in the Fall. Warm days, cool nights."

Ryan grinned, "Not like the Indian Summer back home, huh? Ninety, one hundred degree days, hot nights."

Janna sighed. "Here, there, it's still too hot for me." She looked at her mate disparagingly. "You couldn't have timed my getting pregnant a little better, could you? So I was biggest in the winter?" A grin softened her words, and Ryan returned the smile.

"Sorry, love. It'll be over soon now. They say the last trimester goes fast."

"That's not what Sara said. Or Kris." Janna pouted into her seven-up.

Zac looked compassionately at Ryan, who shrugged. "She's already in trouble, huh Janna?"

Janna half-smiled. "No, not really. I'm not even that big yet, and the heat is almost over. I'm really starting to feel tired though...and fat."

"Janna, you have never looked more beautiful in your whole life. And I'm not the only one who has said that." Ryan added sincerely.

"Thanks, honey. That's nice to hear." She smiled warmly at her mate, and then turned her gaze to Zac. "Enough about me...let's hear about the wedding, Zac."

"Well, if you're almost done, we can talk about it in the car. It's a pretty long drive to Las Cruces. Okay?"

"Sure. Let's go. You ready, love?" Ryan addressed Janna.

"Yep. I'm looking forward to seeing Marty again."

"I'm looking forward to Marty's cooking," Ryan said with a grin.

"You would be, Sis! Come on."

Three and a half hours later, Zac pulled his Cherokee into his driveway and helped his sisters out. Ryan rested against the side of the car and breathed deeply.

"Ah, that nice, dry, desert air. I love it, Zac!" She gazed up at the western sky, which sported a lovely orange sunset. Janna stood beside her and threw her arm around her waist.

"God, it's great to be back here." She took a deep breath as well, filling her body with the clean, pure energy of the region.

"I'm glad you guys like it. You're sure welcome here."

"Hey, there you are!" Marty's rich, pleasant voice called as she exited the house.

"Marty...it's great to see you," Ryan said as she threw one arm around Marty's shoulders.

"Ryan, you look wonderful. It's so good to see you on your feet." She turned to Janna and gave her a hug. "Hi, Janna...and you look beautiful!"

"Thank you, Marty, but I'm starting to feel far from it."

"Janna, there is no one more special or more beautiful than a woman giving life. Remember that." She looked from Ryan to Janna. "Come in...you must be very tired and dinner is ready."

She was answered by two very large grins.

Some time later, as they still sat around the large dining room table, digesting the large meal, Marty said, "Janna, Zac said that you were having a hard time with morning sickness. Is it still bothering you?"

"No, thank God. I had a terrible time...six months, Marty. Six months of almost constant nausea, but for the last several weeks I've felt great. Oh, I'm so relieved. I feel like I can finally start to enjoy this pregnancy a little bit."

"And," Ryan said happily, leaning over to pat her baby, "The baby is moving around a lot."

"Yes, especially when her Momma talks to her every night." Janna beamed.

"Is that true, Ryan?" Marty asked.

It was Ryan's turn to beam. "Yep! We have a nice visit every night after dinner. We talk, I read to her, massage her Mommy's belly, and she becomes very active. It's unfuckinbelievable!" She leaned closer and kissed her wife sweetly. Gazing into Janna's eyes she repeated, "Unfuckinbelievable."

"I see you two are no less stuck on each other." Zac added with a smile.

"More so, Red Hawk. Especially after what we've come through." Ryan turned her gaze to her brother. "We had a pretty hard time of it right after I got hurt. I didn't handle things too well...took it out on Janna some."

"Honey, I didn't handle things well myself. I didn't have enough patience."

"You were sick, Janna, and under the influence of raging hormones."

"Well, in any case, we're great now. Again." She kissed Ryan's hand.

"Yes, we are, baby."

"I think I'm gonna be sick now." Zac declared playfully and his wife-to-be slapped him lightly.

"Leave them alone. They deserve to be as happy as they are."

"Well, I guess I can't argue with that." Zac looked around the table at his family. "Hey, let's take this out on the patio and we'll talk about the ceremony."

"Good idea...it's beautiful tonight. I'll get the coffee and dessert," Marty said as she stood.

"I'll help you," Janna added.

"Janna, no, I can get it. You go on out."

"Marty, I'm not that pregnant! And I'd like to help. Come on." She rose from the table and led Marty into the kitchen. Zac and Ryan simply looked at her, smiled, and shrugged.

"Come on, Sis...let me give you a hand."

"Hey, I'm not helpless either. I've been doing this for four months now."

Zac held up his hands. "Okay...all right...go on. Lead the way, Sis."

Ryan made her way rather gracefully out to the lovely tiled patio and looked out over the desert before she had a seat. Zac admired the way she handled the crutches, her strong body making it look easy.

"We have Grandmother Moon gracing us tonight." Zac said reverently as he gazed up at the nearly full moon.

"Mm, I'm glad. She's a special friend to Janna and I." She looked at Zac and half-smiled. "She feels like it anyway."

Zac nodded as he left the chair next to Ryan for Janna to use and sat across from her at the table. "So, Sis. Things are going well, it looks like? Between the two of you?"

Ryan smiled warmly. "Zac, it couldn't be better. What we went through made us stronger, I think...if that's possible. When I got home from the hospital, after you left, we had a rough patch...a real rough patch. Um, she actually left...only for a few hours, but it shook me up pretty bad. Scared the shit out of me, Zac. Scared the sense into me too, I guess." She looked seriously at her brother. "Scared her too, I think. Anyway, after that, we really talked things out and it's been fine since. Of course, it helped that I started to feel noticeably better around then, but honestly, I think that had a lot to do with my improved outlook."

"I'm sure it did, Sis. Well, if it helps any...I thought you two would be fine. You've got such a special thing going, I thought it would take an awful lot to screw it up."

"Red Hawk, it was pretty touch and go there for a while, I've gotta say. If Grandfather hadn't given me the warning, or hadn't shown up the several times he did to remind us of it, I'm not sure we would have made it." She shook her head. "I'm just not sure. As good as it is for us, I don't know."

"Well, then, we all thank the Great Spirit for Grandfather and his message." Zac said solemnly.

"Yes, we do. We, uh, plan to have a little ceremony, tomorrow, before you get too busy with the festivities, and we'd like you two to join us." Ryan gazed at her brother sincerely and he nodded. "Sunrise?" Another nod, and a smile.

Marty and Janna arrived then with desert, setting two trays on the round table.

"Are you talking about our giving thanks?" Janna asked as she served Ryan.

"Yeah, babe." She grabbed Janna's hand and sat her down. "We have so much to be thankful for." She kissed Janna's hand, and then Janna leaned in for a real kiss.

"Yes, we do. Without a doubt."

~~~~~~~~~~

Ryan lit another candle and then joined Janna in the large bed. She was naked, stretched out on her back, rubbing her belly.

"How's our baby tonight?" Ryan said softly as she reached out to caress Janna's swollen abdomen.

"She's been pretty active today...I think she's resting now."

"I'll bet she didn't like the plane flight any more than her Mommy did."

"Probably not. But honey, I have the strongest feeling that she is going to take after you...I'm not sure why." She gazed up at Ryan, who leaned above her on an elbow. "Wishful thinking, maybe."

"You actually want a little Ryan running around? Janna, why?" Ryan's eyebrows rose in question, making her look adorable to her mate.

"In case you've forgotten, I love you. I adore the person that you are...everything about you. Why wouldn't I want a miniature you?" She picked up Ryan's hand and kissed it.

"I was a brat, Janna...a tomboy. I never had a feminine bone in my body and I think that really bothered my mom. I was never the girl she wanted me to be. She had two sons...plain and simple."

"Well so did my mom. I was a tomboy too. I still consider myself a tomboy, Ryan. Frankly, if Halley isn't a tomboy, I don't know quite how I'll deal with her. I'll have to learn about the things that little girls like."

"Oh, come on, baby...don't tell me you didn't play with dolls!"

"I did...but I also played with trucks and Dan's GI Joe's and army men...and played ball. I was much more into boys' things, really. Let me guess...no dolls for you?" She grinned up at her wife.

"Not a one. Actually, no, I got one for Christmas one year and I don't think I ever took it out of the box. It pissed me off that my mom even bought it for me...I think I was six."

"Fighting stereotypical roles even then, huh?"

"Damn right. I resented the fact that I was expected to want to play with dolls. Thank God for my dad...he accepted me exactly as I was. Always. Even when I came out."

"How old were you, love?"

"Fourteen."

"Jesus! I came out to my parents from the relative safety of San Francisco when I was nineteen."

Ryan shrugged. "I was sure. I actually knew a lot sooner than that but it wasn't an issue."

"Ah, I see...it became an issue when you wanted to start seeing girls?"

"Absolutely! And I didn't just want to see them, babe."

"Ah, yes. Okay...I see where you're going with this. If Halley is like you, it's likely that she'll be a mother's worst nightmare by the time she's thirteen...chasing their daughters around the playground."

"Around the ball diamond, but yeah, that's what I'm getting at."

"We'll have to guide her then, won't we? As any parent would. Love her and respect her for who she is and give her the tools to make good, moral decisions. I think we're good people, Ryan. We will be good role models for her."

"Honey, with us as role models, she'll be chasing little girls when she's four. We're not exactly chaste."

"What we have is a very healthy love life and she will be raised to realize that. She'll be raised to respect girls, or boys, and not simply see them as sex objects. To respect them as people first and foremost." She looked seriously as Ryan. "Support me on that?"

"Yes, Janna, of course. I'm not a dog any more, and I'll tell her, if she'll listen when she's old enough, that's it's a very unfulfilling lifestyle."

"Good." Janna smiled and grabbed her belly. "She's awake again. She must have heard your voice."

Ryan grinned widely and pressed her lips softly to Janna's tummy. "Hi, sweetheart. Are you awake again? It's time for your story. Momma loves you, baby."

As Ryan spoke to their child, Janna ran her fingers through her thick, dark hair, filled with love for her mate.

Ryan reached to the table behind her for a book and brought it forward.

"What is it tonight?"

"Navajo children's stories."

"Nice."

Ryan settled comfortably next to Janna and began to read. Her rich voice flowed as fluidly as song as she read to her baby, and her mate relaxed to the point of falling asleep...as was usually the case. Ryan finished the nightly ritual by massaging Janna's belly tenderly with aromatic oil and they wrapped themselves around each other for the night.

Grandmother Moon smiled at her friends, happy to see them so happy, and turned her gaze to her other friends, who were readying themselves for the ceremony that would unite them in marriage.

The next morning, after sharing a long cuddle time, Ryan and Janna lay together, both glowing somewhat from their shared love. Janna sighed as she played with Ryan's fingers.

"It so great to be back here in New Mexico, love."

"Mm, it is." She looked down at the blonde head under her chin. "I was just thinking the same thing. And remembering last month...that was a wonderful trip too, Janna." She squeezed her mate and sighed.

The previous month, they had gone to the mountains to celebrate their first anniversary, to the little inn South of Lake Tahoe that they had visited before they married. The reservation had been made before Ryan's accident, and since she was feeling much better by the time their anniversary, and her birthday, rolled around, they decided to go. They had not been able to hike, of course, but had been able to enjoy just being in the mountains they so loved, and spent hours sitting on the deck of their suite, or beside the river, or in bed.

"Oh, yes, honey...wasn't it?" She giggled and Ryan knew exactly why. The sex had been wonderful...life affirming, in fact.

"I know, Janna. I still can't get over how great it was. I thought that there'd be no way in hell we could top our first trip there, especially with you so pregnant and me in this cast, but Jesus, baby, we did, didn't we?" She ran her hands along Janna's torso as she added, "God, you loved me good, baby." She trembled slightly in remembrance.

"Mmm. And you know what?" She turned over and leaned into her mate.

"What?" Ryan grinned, knowing full well what was what, thanks to their link.

"I'm getting hot again just thinking about it."

"Oh, are you? I suppose you want me to do something about that, huh?"

"Absolutely, babe."

"Your wish is my command, my baby. Come 'ere," she said as she pulled Janna down on top of herself. "Let me love you, Janna." She said as she captured her mate's lips sensuously.

Janna returned the kiss and muttered breathlessly, "God, I still can't get enough of you, Ryan."

"Or I you, love. And I love feeling the baby between us, Janna." She said between kisses, then stopped and asked, "Is that okay for her...you're not too heavy?"

"I'm not putting all of my weight down...this position won't be possible much longer though."

"Well, babe, let's take advantage of it while we can." She pulled Janna's face back down to meet hers and all conversation stopped for a good long while. Unless one counted moans, groans, pants and other unintelligible utterances.

~~~~~~~~~~

Two days later, Ryan stood next to her brother at the edge of a butte under a brilliant blue sky as the tribal elder declared him married. Ryan, and Martha's attendant, her sister Mary, stepped forward and each removed the blue blanket from her sibling's shoulders and then together, placed a single large white blanket around them, enveloping the couple.

Soft Native flute music played as they embraced, and through her tears, Ryan looked over at Janna and smiled happily. My baby brother is a married man now. Mom and Dad would be so proud of him...of how far he has come. And Grandfather.

"I am proud of both of my grandchildren. They honor me."

Thank you Grandfather.

Later, pow wow drummers pounded joyously on their large drums as they sang during the merry reception. Ryan sat with her leg stretched out as Janna sat beside her, hand on her thigh, clearly enjoying the music. Ryan gazed with wonder at her wife as she sat with closed eyes, her head nodding to the beat of the drum, feet tapping, obviously having been carried to another place...an ancient place. She carries far less Indian blood than I do, yet she is so much closer to the spirit of the people. Ryan's eyes misted as she felt an immense pride and joy in her lovely mate.

Janna wore the billowy sundress from her own wedding, which still fit, but just barely, and sported her turquoise wedding necklace around her neck. Ryan wore her wedding clothes as well, as the pants were loose enough to accommodate her cast, and her bone and turquoise wedding choker adorned her throat.

From his place at the head of the table, Zac watched his sisters and thought they looked as lovely as they did at their own wedding. They are light and dark...like night and day...yet they complement each other perfectly. Just as the night needs the day, and the dark needs the light. They embody the concept of yin and yang. Zac smiled at that thought, as he knew that Janna was very fond of the ancient Chinese symbol. I only hope that Marty and I can approach what they have.

As if reading her husband's mind, Marty leaned over just then and kissed his cheek before saying, "I believe that what we have is just as strong, Zac."

Zac turned to gaze into his wife's beautiful, brown eyes. "So do I, Marty. I knew it a year ago when I was with them at their wedding. I love you Martha Two Rainbows Greyeagle-Zamora."

Marty's gaze spoke the volumes of love that she felt for her new husband, but she spoke the words nevertheless. "And I love you, Zachary Red Hawk Zamora."

Six hours later, the Zamoras were on an airplane bound for Hawaii, while the Norden-Zamoras were making beautiful love in their brother and sister-in-law's home in Las Cruces.

The next day they would journey to Taos, to revisit a stranger who had paid them a kindness on their previous visit there. The Navajo woman was not surprised when the couple walked/hobbled into her shop, the part-Native woman smiling warmly, knowingly, at her and greeting her wordlessly. She returned the silent, reverent greeting, warmed greatly that the couple had survived their trial. As before, she bestowed upon them a lovely gift, but this time, the tall, strong woman had made several large purchases in addition to the gift for her pregnant wife.

As the train sped along the California coastline, Ryan held Janna's hand tightly as they gazed at the magnificent rocky shore. At that moment, while gently physically connected with her soulmate in the presence of the breathtaking natural splendor, she felt complete. Through their bond, Janna felt Ryan's sense of serenity and wholeness and sighed happily, feeling the same sense of peace wash over her own soul. The soul that was at that moment in time physically and ethereally merged with Ryan's.


-22-

Three weeks later, early November.

Ryan leaned back on her hands, holding her breath as the technician manipulated the small saw. A fine white dust floated up from where saw blade met plaster and the colorful, decorated cast began to loosen. As she approached her upper thigh, Ryan got the woman's attention and motioned for her to saw around a particular section. She nodded, smiling behind her mask, and directed the line of the cut away from the colorfully written passage.

Several minutes later, Ryan sat gazing at her freed leg. "My God, but that's ugly," she said, chuckling. Her leg was almost grotesquely white and oddly textured from the cast and liner. She ran her hands over the fracture sites. The thigh break had been clean and had left no visible outward sign, but the lower leg and ankle breaks sported nasty scars from the compound fractures themselves and from the surgery. She tried to move her ankle and found it incredibly stiff, and she winced.

"So, you say you want to keep the cast?" The woman said as she lay the large now-empty shell on the table next to Ryan.

"Yep, it's a trophy to show the grandkids." Ryan grinned.

The woman returned the grin and added, "I can see why you wanted to preserve that poem. It's beautiful...Elizabeth Barrett Browning, right?"

Ryan smiled warmly as she nodded.

"That's some special guy you have...to write something like that on your cast. Um, just how many 'I love you's are written on that thing, do you know?"

Ryan blushed mildly. "Oh, uh, I don't know...one for each day I had it on, I think." She shrugged. "Over a hundred, I guess."

"Wow. Well, enjoy your freedom!" The woman smiled cheerily as she cleaned Ryan's leg.

"Oh, I will." Ryan's warm grin widened as she reread the special passage that Janna had written on her upper thigh, so that she could see it all the time. She had read it so often that it had become burned into her memory permanently.

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways
I love thee to the breadth and depth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday's
Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints, - I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life! – and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

The tech helped her to her feet and led her from the cast room, carrying the plaster monstrosity for Ryan. When they entered the exam room, Janna jumped up and exclaimed, "Oh, honey!" and threw her arms around her wife, crutches and all.

As they embraced, the tech stood wide-eyed for a moment, but then smiled and shook her head as she caught Ryan's eye. Ryan returned the grin and shrugged.

As she left the room, the woman could be heard mumbling, "Should have known it was too sweet to be from a guy..."

A few minutes later, the doctor returned with Ryan's x-rays, looking somewhat dumbfounded. He sat down on the stool beside the exam table and shook his head, smiling. "Ryan, the fractures are all completely healed. It's remarkable. I'm not even sure I need to put a walking cast on you, but I'm going to, to play it safe." He shook his head again. "I really expected to see you in a full cast for another six to eight weeks."

Ryan's crooked grin and raised eyebrows warmed him and he returned the smile.

"I told you I heal fast, Doc." She squeezed Janna's hand as she sat beside her.

"Care to share your secret with me?" He joked.

Ryan hesitated a moment, then said, "Actually, Doc, we do know an ancient healing method. If you're interested, let us know. Janna teaches the technique." Ryan's sincere gaze convinced him that she was serious.

"I'll keep that in mind and let you know. This certainly does attest to something extraordinary going on." He nodded and then went into his instructions for the patient, emphasizing that she must use the removable cast at all times, except for while sleeping and bathing.

A half hour later, Ryan walked out the door using only a cane, carrying the huge cast under her arm, while Janna carried her crutches.

As she reached the car, she exclaimed happily, "Janna, honey, I can drive!"

"Yes, and I get to be passenger again!"

As she settled into the driver's seat, Ryan looked at Janna and grasped her hand. "We're celebrating in the spa tonight, baby."

"I'm way ahead of you, Ryan."

Ryan closed her eyes and sighed, feeling that she couldn't wait to find out what her wife had in store for later.

~~~~~~~~~~

Janna lowered herself cautiously into the spa. Her added bulk made her feel awkward and she worried about slipping. She needn't have however, as her wife grasped her hand gently and guided her into the seat next to her.

"Just about six more weeks, honey, and our baby will be here."

"Mm. Yes. And I'm really looking forward to Lamaze class tomorrow, Ryan." Janna sighed as she leaned against her mate's strong shoulder.

"Me too, love. It seems like such a special way to bring a baby into the world."

"Yes, and special for you. You get to help her enter, Ryan, and support me."

"God, Janna, I'm glad I'm out of the monster. It would have been so much harder if I were still wearing that thing."

"I'm glad for you, love." She turned to face Ryan and pushed a few wayward strands of hair behind an ear. "Things are almost back to normal for you, honey. I can't tell you how happy I am about that."

"You don't need to, Janna...I can feel it. Thank you."

"Now you can start rehab and regain nearly normal use of your leg and ankle."

"Yep, but I'm shooting for normal, babe."

"I know, Ryan, but remember how severely injured you were...I don't want you to be disappointed if you don't quite get back there."

"Don't worry, Janna, I think my expectations are realistic." She squeezed her mate tightly and grinned. "You don't have to worry about my becoming a fucking asshole again when things don't go my way."

Ryan gazed up at the nearly full moon and became pensive for a few minutes before saying softly, "Janna, even if I regain full use of my leg and ankle, I'm not sure I want to return to patrol duty."

Janna raised her eyebrows in surprise. "Oh, why not, honey?"

Ryan blew out a breath. "It's just so dangerous...we've seen that first hand, haven't we?" At Janna's nod, she continued, "And I have such huge responsibilities now...not to mention the fact that I want to be around to help raise my kids." She sank lower into the pleasantly warm water and pulled Janna onto her lap.

"I don't think I'm afraid...I really don't...it's not fear I feel, but responsibility. And face it, I've changed. My career isn't everything to me anymore...you are. And the baby is. I think I want to focus more of my energy on being a parent and a spouse." She ran her fingers through her hair and shook her head incredulously. "Jesus! Can you believe I'm saying this?"

"Yes. It is exactly what I would expect from this woman whom I love so much." Janna kissed her cheek and lay her own cheek against it.

"Does becoming a parent mellow everyone out this much?"

"Honey, I think it's more a shifting of priorities, isn't it?"

"Sure, with a corresponding mellowing of attitude."

"Mm, yeah, I suppose. Well, Ryan, whatever you decide, I will support you. I know what a fine cop you are, and how much you love being a cop, despite any mellowing that may occur."

"Thanks, baby. But you know what? These last three months that I've been on desk duty, and doing so much community outreach? I've loved it, Janna! I have so enjoyed meeting kids, and especially working on the D.A.R.E. program with them. And God, the little class of deaf kids, Janna. I was thinking the other day when I was there about how much I'll miss them when I return to patrol." She smiled at a special memory. "Especially that little Andrew...what a character!"

Janna smiled warmly, feeling her mate's happy heart. "Is that the little boy who has other problems too?"

"Mm, hm...yeah. He's mildly retarded...or, I should say, 'developmentally disabled'. God, what a sweet kid...always lights up when I come into the room and gives me a big hug. That's what life's about, Janna. Not chasing fucking lowlifes who don't have a chance in hell of reforming, or rehabilitating, after I catch them and send them to the can. But working with kids, to teach them right and wrong...to help them develop a sense of self worth and respect for others...to prevent them from ever getting onto that path of drugs and crime. To make a difference to a kid."

Ryan's sincerity touched Janna deeply and she whispered, "That does sound wonderful, Ryan, and I'm behind you one thousand percent." She added, "I don't want to influence you one way or the other, but I will be honest and tell you that I would feel much more comfortable with you off of patrol." She gazed into her wife's eyes as tears began to fall. "To be perfectly honest with you, Ryan, I've been dreading...absolutely dreading...the day when you go back out there. It terrifies me."

Ryan said nothing, but sighed and wiped Janna's tears as she pulled her closer, her own eyes misting. She kissed Janna's head before saying, "I'll give it some serious thought, and talk to John about it...and Sam and the Lt. I have a while yet before I need to make a decision one way or the other. The doctor won't be releasing me back onto active duty until after the first of the year anyway."

"Okay, love."

"Whew, Janna...that's a load off my mind. A huge fuckin' load off my mind. Thank you, baby." She nuzzled Janna's hair with her cheek.

Janna smiled warmly at her and said, "Don't mention it. Um, honey, are we gonna have to have another talk about language?"

Ryan adopted a sheepish look. "Yeah, shit, I haven't been doing too well, have I?"

Janna shook her head, but smiled at her wife.

"I told you it would be hard for me..."

"I know, Ryan, and with all you've been through in the last four, five months, I don't blame you, but honey there's not a lot of time left for you to work on it...and, well, you know how important it is to me that our little girl's first words aren't something like, 'fuck' or 'shit'."

Ryan dropped her chin to her chest in embarrassment. Looking back up at Janna through long, black lashes, she replied, "You're right, Janna...or her first sentence, 'God damned fucking asshole.' I don't want that either. Um, maybe you could start fining me or something...that's what Sara did with John, remember?"

"Yes, I do, and I thought that it was very funny at the time, but now I don't." She gazed thoughtfully at her mate. "I don't know, Ryan...I really don't think I want to do that. I trust that you can manage to do it on your own." Her eyes brightened as she added, "Now, remember, the no swearing rule doesn't apply in the bedroom, when we're alone. That should help." Her bright grin matched her smiling eyes.

Ryan grinned widely at her adorable mate. "That's not fair, love! You only made that exception because that's about the only place where you do swear!"

"Ryan! That's so not true...I swear!"

"Honey, 'Jesus Christ' and 'hell' and 'damn' are not swearing."

"Are you gonna love me tonight, Ryan? Because if you are, I'll show you some swearing." Janna's eyed sparkled a challenge that Ryan wouldn't dream of ignoring.

"Oh, shit yeah, baby. I'm gonna love you good while I fuck you silly." She grinned rakishly before burying her face against Janna's neck and then began to nip lightly at the soft skin there. She mumbled, "We'd better make that exception good out here in the spa, too."

"Absofuckinlutley," Janna murmured as she turned in Ryan's lap and straddled her, as best she could, capturing her lips possessively as she did so.

Ryan returned the kiss just as possessively and moaned her pleasure into Janna's mouth while her hands began to roam sensuously.

Exactly fifteen minutes later, her sweet wife was swearing a blue streak as Ryan made passionate love to her.

~~~~~~~~~~

Five weeks later, December 15

Ryan stood in front of the chalkboard, waiting while the teacher interpreted her words for the students. The African-American woman looked back to Ryan with a smile, indicating that she could continue, and Ryan smiled and returned her gaze to the children sitting at their desks in front of her.

"Now, who would like to tell me why non-medicinal drugs are dangerous?" She looked expectantly around the semi-circle of ten, nine through thirteen-year olds and waited while their teacher signed to them.

As soon as their teacher finished, ten sets of eyes settled again on Ryan and she raised her eyebrows expectantly. She signed, "Anyone know?"

Three children raised their hands and she pointed to a girl and signed her name, "Yasmine?"

The black-haired eleven-year old signed, "Because if they aren't medicine they are very bad for your body."

Ryan smiled and signed, "Yes." She added, speaking, "That's right. Who gives us medicinal drugs?"

She waited again as the teacher rapidly signed her words to the students and then called on a thin, brown-haired little boy with glasses.

She smiled as she signed, "Andrew."

The ten-year old gleefully signed, "Doctor, nurse, mom, dad, grandma, grandpa, auntie."

Ryan smiled widely and signed, "Yes. Very good, Andrew!"

The little boy's face lit up with joy at having pleased his special friend and his small body could barely contain his enthusiasm as he clapped for himself.

The tall, strong cop, standing before them in her impressive dark blue uniform, turned the page of the red workbook and started, "Now, let's talk about non-medicinal drugs..." but was interrupted by her pager sounding. She stopped talking, startled momentarily, and then as realization hit as to whom must be paging her, she pointed to the pager, and addressing the class said, "I have a message...excuse me."

She nervously grabbed the small unit from her belt and looked at the display. 911. Jesus! Janna. She looked up at the teacher, a look of startled amazement on her face and said, "It's my baby...my wife...our baby." She shook her head, trying to dislodge the cobwebs and smiled widely. "My wife is in labor...I have to go...sorry!"

The teacher, Marly, replied with a huge grin, "Congratulations...go...hurry!"

Ryan turned to the children and signed, "I need to go help my friend now. Merry Christmas!"

All the children happily signed, "Merry Christmas" in return, some vocalizing the words as well, and little Andrew said, "Buh buh!"

Ryan smiled warmly at him and signed, "Bye bye, Andrew. I'll see you after Christmas."

Then she set the workbook down on the teacher's desk and hurriedly shrugged into her warm jacket before rushing from the room. As she ran to the patrol car, wincing as her nearly-healed ankle sent prickling pains up her leg, she retrieved the keys from her pocket and activated the remote locks, then jumped behind the wheel and was off within seconds, lights and sirens in motion.

Jesus, the baby...oh God. As she maneuvered the car into traffic, some of which actually parted so she could pass, she reached for the cell phone and speed dialed Janna.

"Hi, honey."

"Janna...you're in labor?"

"Yes, my water just broke."

"Shit! I'm two minutes away, baby...I was at the school. I'm coming, Janna. Are you all ready?"

"Yes, honey. I'm standing by the front door."

"Okay, I'll be right there!" Ryan said excitedly.

"All right, honey...hey...calm down."

"Janna, our baby's coming!"

"I'm aware of that, love...get here safely please."

"Yeah...are you having contractions?"

"Yes...they're seven minutes apart, so we're fine." As she spoke, Janna could hear the siren from her wife's patrol car approaching. "I hear your car, love. I'm gonna hang up."

"Okay, bye!" Ryan quickly radioed in, checking herself out on personal time and then turned down their street, tires squealing as the car spun around the corner.

As Janna stood on the front porch, she watched as Ryan's police cruiser raced down the street, skidded to a stop, and then slid up into the driveway. As she raced out of the car, neighbors all up and down the street stuck their heads out of doors to see what the commotion was. Many of them smiled as they saw the police officer help her hugely pregnant wife down the walkway and into the police car.

"Baby, are you okay...here, careful getting in....I'll get the bag..." Ryan's mind and body were in hyperdrive as she tried to get them coordinated. She threw Janna's athletic bag into the back seat and jumped in behind the wheel.

"Okay, let's go."

Janna looked at her mate and grinned as she laid a calm hand on her thigh. "Relax, honey...it's not an emergency."

"Honey, just let me get you there, okay?" Ryan spared her a serious gaze before checking the mirrors and shooting out the driveway in reverse. She skillfully handled the car and took off at breakneck speed again. She reached up to the overhead console and flipped the siren on and as she raced down the residential streets and onto the busier thoroughfares, the traffic parted and cars pulled over to let them pass.

As they came upon slower traffic ahead of them, Ryan mumbled with frustration, "Come on, asshole, move the hell over." She reached up and flipped the siren switch again, turning it off and on to try to get the dopey driver's attention. Finally, the man woke up and pulled over, and Ryan fixed an impressive glare on him as she passed. "Turn your stereo down, dickhead," she muttered as she sped on.

She picked up the cell phone and speed dialed the hospital's maternity ward, saying, "This is Officer Norden-Zamora, SCPD, I'm enroute with my wife, who's in labor...oh, and just so you're prepared, we're a lesbian couple. ETA is one minute." She listened for a moment and replied, "Great, thanks."

Looking at Janna, she said, "Okay, babe, they're waiting with a wheelchair at the emergency entrance."

"Great, love...thank you." Smiling warmly at her wife she said, "God, you're good to have around in an emergency." Her face then contorted in pain, and she said, "Whoa!"

"A strong one, Janna?"

"Yes...God, that started in my back and went all the way through." She took a deep breath.

"That's good, baby, breathe. How far apart now?"

Janna looked at her watch. "Five minutes."

"Fuck!"

"It's okay, Ryan, we're almost there."

"Honey, I thought you were gonna call me when they were ten minutes apart."

"Sweetheart, I knew you were in the middle of your DARE lesson and I didn't want to bother you."

"Janna, Jesus! Fuck...I knew I shouldn't have worked today...I had a feeling those mild contractions during the night were more than just Braxton-Hicks."

"I called the doctor when they were ten minutes apart. It's done, honey, and now we're here...stop worrying, please." She pleaded with her wife, using her pretty green eyes to proper effect.

Ryan sighed and smiled. "Okay, Janna. Jesus, I can't resist you." Just then, they arrived at the hospital and she pulled the cruiser into the ambulance bay. As expected, a nurse was waiting for them with a wheelchair.

Ryan jumped out of the car and motioned to the nurse to follow. They got Janna situated in the chair and five minutes later, she was undressing in a birthing room on the third floor.

As a nurse helped Janna to settle on the bed, Ryan removed her police belt and holstered weapon and put them into the athletic bag they had brought.

She remarked as she removed her badge and unbuttoned the top buttons of her shirt, "I'll have to try to get comfortable in this uniform."

"Oh, honey...I packed a t-shirt and sweats for you...they're in the bag."

"Janna, honey...that's great! Thank you, baby."

"Don't men...ohhh," she groaned.

"Mrs. Norden-Zamora, let's get a fetal monitor on you, alright?" The obstetrical nurse who was assisting her said. "How far apart are they now?"

"Still five minutes."

She nodded. "Good. We've called the doctor and she's on her way. Since your water has already broken and the contractions are five minutes apart, I don't think there's time to do an enema...have you eaten much today?"

"Very little...herbal tea and toast for breakfast and nothing since. I've been having the contractions since the middle of the night and didn't feel like eating."

"Okay, that sounds fine. Do you want to lie down to deliver, or sit upright? These beds go either way."

"I'd like to be as upright as possible, but with my wife sitting behind me, Lamaze-style."

"Okay, that'll work. We'll have the bed partially upright, then." She addressed Ryan, who had proceeded to change into the more comfortable clothes, "If you're ready, Mrs. Norden-Zamora, you can get in the bed first and your wife can sit back against you."

"Okay, and please, it's Ryan and Janna."

The nurse nodded and grinned as she directed Ryan onto the bed. She set their bag on the bedside table, within her reach. As soon as Janna was settled against her and as the nurse affixed the fetal monitoring strap around her belly, Ryan reached for her cell phone and called Janna's mother. After clicking the phone off, she said, "Your parents and Kris are on their way, love."

"Good, thanks honey. I know my mom wanted to be here, and Kris wants to tape this for us." She sighed and took a deep breath as the excitement of the moment began to settle in on her. She leaned back into Ryan's warm, strong body and said quietly, "I'm a little scared, Ryan."

Ryan tightened her embrace around her wife and though she felt a little afraid herself, said, "Don't worry, love. It's gonna be fine. I've got ya." She kissed Janna's neck and murmured, "Soon our baby girl will be here with us. It's gonna be so great, sweetheart...you, me and our little Halley. I can't wait, baby."

Janna started to respond, but was hit by another strong contraction and groaned instead.

Ryan checked her watch. "Four and a half minutes, Janna. She's getting ready, baby."

"Mm," Janna said, still feeling the tightening in her abdomen.

"Breath deeply, love."

Janna did, and felt better. When her wife was breathing normally again, Ryan asked, "I know it hurts, honey, but what does it feel like, exactly?"

"Like a really severe menstrual cramp...you know, the kind that burn? Only now, it's getting a lot worse, and my uterine and belly muscles feel really, really tight. It's like a wave; the muscles contract, it hurts like hell, and then it passes."

Ryan winced in sympathy and kissed her wife again. "You're doing great, Janna...I love you so much, baby."

The nurse came into the room again and as she glanced at the fetal heart rate monitor asked, "How are we doing?"

Ryan replied, "Four and a half minutes now, and they're getting stronger."

"Okay, I'm going to have a look at your cervix now, Janna." She knelt between Janna's knees and checked her dilation. "Good. Janna, you're already dilated to eight centimeters...your baby is about ready to be born. Do you know the sex?"

Janna nodded. "Girl."

"Her heart rate looks real good. I'll be back in a bit. Do you need anything...ice chips?"

Ryan answered, "Yes, please...I'd like to have some here in case she gets thirsty."

"I'll be right back with those."

"Hear that, love? Halley is coming."

"I know that, Ryan...she's getting a little pushy." She stiffened as another contraction began. "Ohh, Jesus..." She blew out a breath. "God, that's starting to hurt." She took a deep breath, moderating the pain somewhat. "God, Ryan..." As the contraction passed and her breathing evened out again, she said, "Honey, let me apologize right now for anything mean I say to you during this...the pain is just so intense." She turned her head slightly to glance at her wife and grinned as she said, "You're already starting to get on my nerves and you've been an absolute angel."

"Don't worry about it, baby. I understand pain...not that mine approached this, but I do understand."

"Thanks, love." She relaxed against her mate until another one hit a few minutes later. "Ohh...ouch..."

Ryan checked her watch. Three and a half, where's the damn doctor?

Janna panted, "How long, Ryan?"

"Three and a half, honey."

"I'd love to see the doctor any time now."

"Don't worry, Janna...the nurse said she's on her way." She'd better be on her way, God damn it.

Janna stiffened again and moaned loudly as the wave hit. "Oh Christ...I might need drugs, Ryan...I'm sor...ahh!...I'm sorry."

"Whatever you want, Janna. Slow, even breaths now."

The nurse came back in and checked the monitor. "Are they getting closer?"

"Yes...three minutes...the doctor's on her way, huh?" Ryan was beginning to show the frustration she felt.

"Yes, but I'll give her a call and see how close she is."

"God, Ryan...what if she doesn't get here in time?"

"She will, Janna...and anyway, there are obstetricians on call."

"'Kay." Janna sighed, beginning to feel the drag on her body. She had been awake since just after 2:00am when the contractions had started, and the pain was beginning to take its toll.

Two minutes later, another pain came and Janna screamed. The nurse came back into the room, pulling a gown on as she said, "The doctor just arrived and is scrubbing...she'll be right in." She looked at Ryan and said, "Okay, coach, have her do her fast breathing on the next one. Janna, hon, listen to Ryan and don't push yet, okay?"

"Okay."

Less than two minutes later, the next pain hit and Ryan coached, "Breathe, baby, blow...blow...blow...good, Janna."

"Oh, God, I need to push! Oh, Jesus..."

"Not yet, honey, breathe, now...don't push. Blow...blow...blow..."

Janna screamed as the contraction burned through her uterus and tried to do as her coach and partner instructed. "Ow, God, Ryan! Ohh, Jesus Christ," she moaned. "You're doing this the next time, Ryan...I swear to God!" She rolled her head against Ryan's chest as the agonizing pain blazed through her body and moaned again loudly.

Ryan felt the contraction lessen under her hands and said, "Okay, love, breath slowly now. You're doing great, Janna...just hang in there." She kissed her mate's neck and mopped the sweat from her brow with a towel, then brought her hands up to Janna's shoulders and massaged them lightly. "You're tense, honey, try to relax a little."

"How can I fucking relax, Ryan?" Janna snapped.

"Try, Janna. Take a deep breath for me."

Janna did and some of the tension left her shoulders as Ryan continued to massage them.

"Oh, God, here comes another one." Janna stiffened and grabbed Ryan's hands. "Ohh, God...ohhh...I have to push...I have to push..."

"The nurse, who had parked herself between Janna's knees, said, "Not quite yet, Janna. Blow."

"Blow, honey, fast...blow."

"You blow, Ry...Ryan...ahhhh!" Janna's whole body contorted under the severe pain of the contraction and she dug her short fingernails into her wife's hands. "Jesus, fu...ck, Ry..."

"Breathe, Janna, fast. Blow, blow, blow."

Janna relaxed as the pain passed, and most blessedly so. Just then, her doctor entered.

"Janna, I see Halley decided to arrive a little early!" She addressed the nurse as she pulled on a pair of gloves, "Where are we?"

"Fully dilated, contractions at just under two minutes, fetal heart rate is good."

"Glad you could make it, Pat." Ryan said, eyebrows raised.

As the doctor seated herself between Janna's legs, she grinned behind her mask, saying, "No reason to come any sooner, Ryan." She inserted her hand into Janna's cervix and gazed upward as she felt the area. "Everything's looking great, Janna." She extracted her hand and palpated Janna's abdomen. "Okay, hon. The baby is starting to move down the birth canal...it should be real soon now. How is the pain?"

"Killer, Pat, but I'm trying to do without drugs."

"You don't have to be a hero, Janna...these drugs are quite safe now."

"I'll see, Pat. Oh, God, here I go again..." She squeezed Ryan's hand again and moaned loudly.

Ryan looked at the Ob/Gyn and said, "One minute, Pat."

The doctor looked at Janna and said, "Hang on, Janna, don't push yet....don't push yet..."

"Ahhhh! I need to push, please...now...ow, Ryan, I need to pu...push."

"Breathe, honey...just breathe...you can push in a minute." Just then, Ryan felt a portion of Janna's pain through their link and would have doubled over had her wife not been lying against her. "Fuck! Jesus Christ, that hurts," she panted.

The doctor and nurse both looked at her in alarm. "What hurts, Ryan?"

Ryan was trying to take a deep breath and figure out how to block off the pain coming from Janna as she panted breathlessly, "I feel what she feels...it's a...a soulmate thing." The pain passed and Janna relaxed against her as she caught her own breath. "Fucking Christ..." She shook her head as the nurses and doctor gazed at her in amazement.

Janna moaned, near delirium, but managed to mutter, "Ground yourself, Ry...Ryan...sorry."

"It's okay, baby...I'll do that. Don't worry about me. You're doing great, love. Beautiful."

"I'm thirsty."

Ryan grabbed the cup of ice chips and tipped it against Janna's mouth. "Here, love. Just a little, now."

Janna sighed and murmured, "Thanks, love."

Less than a minute later, another spasm hit and Janna moaned. "Okay, Janna, it's time to push. Ryan, coach her."

"Push now, baby, push for me."

As the baby moved into her birth canal, Janna screamed, the pain literally cutting through her. "Ahhh! Jesus, please, get it out, please...ohhh, God..."

"That's great, Janna, now relax and breath normally. She's coming. Just a couple more pushes will do it."

Janna lay against Ryan and panted, near exhaustion. "God, honey, I feel...feel like this is killing me."

"Relax, baby, it's almost over. You're doing great. I love you, Janna. You're doing great, my love." Ryan winced as the pain cut through her as well, though not as severely as previously. She refocused her grounding cord and felt the welcome, steady pull of the Earth.

Thirty seconds later, the strongest contraction yet hit and Janna let loose a piercing scream.

"Push, Janna!" Ryan and the doctor said in unison.

"Ahh! Ryannnn!" She screamed again and rolled her head wildly against Ryan, feeling as if she were being split apart. "Ahh, get it out...get it out!" She screamed, her voice reaching higher and higher pitches as the agony took hold."

"Okay, I see her head, Janna...give me one more good push. Come on now, Janna, one more push. Coach her, Ryan."

"Push, baby, push!"

"Ahhh, God, I can't! It's ripping me open..."

"Push, Janna, she's almost here."

"Don't fucking tell me to push Ryan, God...damn...it! Ohh, Jesus...this is your...fault." Janna screamed uncontrollably then, unable to form words.

"Push, Janna, she's almost completely out. Here come her shoulders. I need you to push, Janna...now!"

Janna bore down and put every remaining bit of her energy into the effort, and the baby finally, mercifully, slipped out.

"Good, Janna...she's here...great job. Ryan, can you see her?"

Ryan craned her neck around her listless, crying wife, and saw the baby lying in the doctor's hands.

"Oh, Jesus, there she is Janna. You did it, baby! You did it! Oh, God, baby, there's our Halley!"

"It's done?"

"Yes, honey. She's here," Ryan cried.

"Oh, God," Janna sobbed.

"You have a healthy baby girl, Janna." The doctor lifted the baby onto Janna's belly then as she said to Ryan, "Mom, do you want to cut the cord?"

Ryan gazed at her wide-eyed and nodded dumbly. The nurse handed her a pair of scissors and showed her where to cut. Very carefully, Ryan reached forward and gingerly cut the tough cord, crying as she did so. The nurse deftly tied off the umbilical and settled the baby more comfortably on Janna's belly as the doctor delivered the afterbirth.

Ryan and Janna gazed in wonder at the small, pink being with the tuft of fuzzy black hair that they had brought into the world, and cried softly together. They were allowed to share the baby's first few minutes quietly before she was picked up and removed to be assessed. Several minutes later, she was placed, wrapped in a blanket, in Janna's arms.

"God, Ryan, she's beautiful. She's so beautiful." Janna was filled with a love for her child unlike any she had ever experienced. Ryan too, fell instantly in love with her daughter, and the tough cop sobbed openly as she reached around Janna to touch their daughter.

"Janna, God...she's perfect. Just like you...I love you so much, honey." She embraced Janna and felt her love returned to her through their bond.

"I love you, Ryan. So much." Janna turned her head toward Ryan's and they kissed gently, their tears of joy intermingling. They both gazed back down at their daughter and cried quietly, sharing an intense, almost overwhelming joy.

As they sat together, holding their baby while the nurses cleaned the patient and the room of the surprisingly large amount of blood, Janna's mother and sister-in-law entered the room.

When Janna looked up into her mother's eyes, her tears intensified. "Mom, meet your granddaughter, Halley Rebecca."

"Oh, Janna, Ryan...," Beth cried. "Look at all that black hair! She's beautiful."

Kris began video taping the happy event and captured luminous, exultant smiles on the two moms' faces as they gazed affectionately at their baby girl.

Ryan remained on the bed behind Janna, holding her lovingly within her arms, stunned by the love she felt for her mate and their baby. She looked up at the ceiling and closed her eyes. Thank you, Great Spirit, Grandfathers, Grandmothers, for blessing us with this child. Please guide us as we raise her to be a good, happy human being. She nodded and swallowed the emotion that choked her throat.

Janna sensed Ryan's prayer and echoed it, almost word for word, before leaning back more deeply into her wife's embrace. She turned her face wordlessly and her lips were captured by her devoted wife, and savored for long moments as they silently communicated their love to each other.

Their friend, Luna, from her perch above the land across the Atlantic Ocean, smiled as she sensed the birth of a new friend, and wrapped the three Norden-Zamoras within her loving energetic embrace.


The End

Thank you for sharing this journey with me.
Ryan's and Janna's adventures will continue.

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