The Challenge
By Janet Lynne

Part 5

-9-

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

"You awake, baby?"

"No."

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

"Can't."

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

"Yeah."

"The baby?"

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

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

"I think she heard you...it's a little better." Janna said, then frowned as she added, "Why did I say, 'she'?"

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

"Do you know, Ryan?"

She nodded.

"Okay, sure, love. Then you won't have to be careful to not let it slip."

Ryan nodded again and smiled. "It's a girl, Janna."

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

Ryan grinned at Janna's statement and replied, "Be careful what you ask for, baby...you'll probably get it."

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

"She might be just like me in other ways."

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

"Let's have our cuddle time, Janna...maybe that will help."

"Okay, love."

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

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

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

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

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

Ryan's eyebrows shot up happily as she grinned. "Sure, babe...come on."

"Ryan, do you think pregnancy hormones affect libido?"

"I believe I've read that they do...in the second trimester."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Janna, honey...your nipples are dark."

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

"That's one of the first signs, isn't it?"

"Mm, hm. I guess your vision was accurate, love."

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

"What, Ryan?"

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

"How cool! I wonder what the significance was...did you pick up on anything?"

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

"True. But I think I'll look up comet's meaning in Native lore, too. Can't hurt." Janna became thoughtful and then added, "Do you remember when Halley's comet came by nine or ten years ago? I was fascinated by it. I even came home to use my big, old telescope to see it."

"Yes! I was fascinated by it, too. I was working graveyard then, so I saw it a lot...especially when I was outside the city limits. It was very cool."

Janna added thoughtfully, "I thought at the time that if I were pregnant, I would name the baby 'Halley'."

"I like that name, Janna. Maybe that is the significance of the comet."

"Maybe." She gazed into Ryan's eyes. "I like it, too."

The lovers became lost in their thoughts before Janna's unsettled stomach made itself known again.

"Ugh...I think maybe I should put some food in my stomach. Maybe that will help." Janna sat up, resting her hand on Ryan's thigh. "I think I remember Sara saying that it helped to keep food in her stomach."

"How long was she sick again, sweetheart?"

"Three months...through the first trimester."

Ryan groaned. "That's right, I remember now. I hope you have it better, baby, and not just because I feel what you feel." She grinned up at her mate.

"I do too, but she also told me that some women are sick through the whole pregnancy, while others aren't at all."

"Maybe Reiki would help?"

"Yeah, I think I'll give Terry a call...see if she knows."

"It would be safe, wouldn't it?"

"Oh, of course...Reiki can do no harm...that's how it was set up." As she stood up, she glanced at the clock and noted that it was 10:00. "Geez, honey, we really lazed today."

"But in the best possible way, love."

~~~~~~~~~~

3 weeks later, early May

Janna finished setting the places and arranged the candles around the spa in the gazebo as she heard Ryan's Harley pull into the driveway. She smiled, feeling her mate's proximity as a loving warmth in her heart center as she strode around the back of the house to greet her.

She stood watching, arms crossed, as her gorgeous partner climbed off of her bike and removed her helmet. When she spotted Janna, Ryan's face broke into a huge grin and she set the helmet on the bike and unhooked her gym bag from Janna's seat. She smiled widely as she strode toward her grinning mate, and scooped her into her arms when she reached her.

They shared a long, loving kiss before Ryan said, "Hi, baby. I've felt your happiness all afternoon...what did the doctor say?"

Janna grinned widely as she looked up at Ryan. "The test was positive, of course! I'm four weeks along and we're due on December 22."

"A Christmas baby! Oh, Janna, that's great!" She kissed her wife's cheek before walking her toward the kitchen door.

"I know...honey, my Mom's birthday is on Christmas.... wouldn't it be special if she arrived then?" Janna's eyes were sparkling merrily and Ryan could feel her extreme happiness.

"It would, baby." As they entered the house, she set her bag on the counter and embraced Janna tightly. "God, baby, what a Christmas we'll have...even better than our first one together...and that's saying a lot." Her eyes twinkled as she pulled back and gazed at her wife.

"It sure is!" Janna grinned as a memory flashed across her awareness, involving a very special lovemaking session in front of the hearth on Christmas night. "Can you think of a more wonderful gift to each other, Ryan?"

"I cannot, love." She kissed her mate and added warmly, "I absolutely cannot."

"Come on, babe. I've got a special dinner all ready for us in the gazebo."

"Janna! Did you feel up to that, love?"

"Well, it helped to take my mind off of the nausea, so I didn't mind."

"God, baby, I wish this morning sickness would go away...I hate that you're hurting." Ryan's uncharacteristic misty eyes conveyed her sincerity and warmed Janna's heart.

"Let's go eat, honey and I'll tell you everything the doctor told me." She began to lead Ryan out of the kitchen, but was halted.

"Janna...there's nothing wrong is there?" Ryan's brows creased in concern as she looked pointedly at Janna.

"No, no...not at all. Everything is just fine, honey. Come on...I'm hungry."

"Well that's a good sign." Ryan grinned.

"Oh, Ryan...will you grab the drinks, please? I just can't bear the smell of the refrigerator...and I don't want to throw up again."

"How many times were you sick today, love?"

Janna grimaced. "Three. Twice while I was fixing dinner. This ultra-sensitive sense of smell is the strangest thing. I mentioned it to Sara earlier and she said the worst thing for her was dog food...she absolutely couldn't feed the dog for nine and a half months."

"Babe, I'm sorry. From now on, you let me help you in here, okay?" She grasped Janna about the waist and gazed into her eyes.

"Ryan, you don't enjoy cooking...it's okay, I can manage."

"Janna Norden-Zamora, I'm not asking...I'm stating a fact. I will help you in here from now on, so you don't get sick and endanger yourself and our baby." She softened her words with a small smile before adding, "I'm afraid you're throwing up too much, and not getting the proper nutrition. Did you talk to the doctor about that?"

"Yes, I did...and I'll tell you about it while we eat. I really need to eat now, Ryan, or I will be sick again. Grab me an Odwalla, please."

"Okay." Ryan grinned and waited for Janna to leave the room before opening the refrigerator door, then grabbed two bottles of juice and joined her mate in the bedroom.

"So, it's suits instead of skins, huh?" Ryan asked with a smile as she stripped out of her uniform. She had adopted the habit of not changing at the station after her shift...so she could get home to Janna sooner. Since they often unwound in the spa together when she got home, she found it worked out well: it was relaxing and rinsed off the day's grime.

"Well, it doesn't really matter how we go in, does it? Since we usually lose the suits at some point anyway?" Her mate remarked coyly as she stepped into her green one piece bathing suit.

"It would save a bit of time and frustration though, when things heat up, if I didn't have to fight with your clothes. I mean, why bother, baby?" Ryan grinned rakishly to drive her point home.

"Um, the neighbors, love?"

Ryan's answer was a grin and a shrug and she stepped into her black suit and pulled it up, then followed her mate back downstairs and out onto the deck, where the spa sat within the lovely gazebo.

A short time later, Ryan fed Janna a forkful of pasta and received some salad from Janna's plate in return. She sighed, enjoying the meal. "So, how many times did you pee today, love?"

Janna laughed, nearly losing the mouthful of spaghetti. "Honey, what made you think about that just now?"

"Just wondering how your day went, hon, besides the puking." Ryan grinned.

"Oh, God...honey, that doesn't help, let me tell you." Janna frowned at her mate, who adopted a sheepish look. "And, to answer your question...about seventy-five times."

"Shit!"

"I'm kidding, silly! I'd say probably two or three times an hour or so. The doctor said that should get better any time now...until the last few months, at least."

"What else did she say, love?"

"Not a lot...it was just a short visit, really...to confirm the blood test. But she started me on prenatal vitamins and gave me some nutritional information. I have a comprehensive examination scheduled for next week."

"When, sweetheart? I'd like to go with you."

Janna smiled. "I thought you might, so I scheduled it for late afternoon next Thursday...that way you won't have to miss much of your shift."

"Great, Janna...thanks. What about the throwing up?"

"Well, she said it sounds more severe than usual, so she wants to keep an eye on it. If I start losing any more meals than I already am, she may give me an anti-nausea medication."

"Is that safe, Janna? You're being so careful, not even taking Tylenol...I don't want to hurt the baby."

"She says it is...but I agree, I will only take it if I really have to. She says its important for me not to get dehydrated from the vomiting, so you can help me watch that, okay?"

"Done, love." Ryan handed Janna her bottle of fruit juice and grinned. "Here, drink."

"Thanks, Doc."

"Don't mention it." Ryan finished the last of the delicious pasta and sat back against the side of the spa, feeling wonderfully full. "That was so good, baby. Thank you."

"Don't mention it!" Janna finished her last bite of salad and joined Ryan, who folded an arm around her shoulders. They sat together and enjoyed the pleasant evening, both noting the lengthening days as spring marched on. Through the lathe privacy screening they watched as the sky darkened; turning from the light blue of late afternoon, to the vivid turquoise of evening. Soon it would be velvety black and dotted with twinkling stars.

"Mm, it's a nice night. Hey, there's Luna." Ryan pointed to the crescent moon that decorated the southern sky.

Janna smiled toward their friend. "Hello, Grandmother Moon."

"I feel like she's a friend to us, Janna. I love her energy."

"Mm, me too, love. She is our friend. She always seems to be there for us...supporting us." Janna glanced at her mate by her side and remarked, "You must have a lot of Lunar energy in your body, like I do, Ryan. We're both very affected by her cycles."

"Yes, is that why we always cycle together, at the full moon?"

"Possibly...though I think that it's common for women who live together to cycle together, and women who try to live balanced lives in harmony with nature tend to cycle at the full moon and ovulate with the new."

"I didn't know that, Janna."

"Yes...you've heard of the Native tradition of the moon lodge?"

Ryan nodded. "Yes, that's right. Most, or all, of the women of the tribe would cycle together and go to the moon lodge during the full moon." She gazed at the moon again and said reverently, "Her energy is powerful." Ryan turned her gaze from Luna to Janna and asked, "What do you mean by my having Lunar energy in my body, though?"

"We all choose the physical characteristics that our bodies will have before beginning each life. One of the characteristics is planetary energy...planetary influence. Some people choose the lunar influence, some Jupiter, some solar, Mercury, Saturn, and so on. You've heard the terms 'mercurial' and 'saturnine' to describe people?"

At Ryan's nod, she continued, "Descriptions of body type, based on the amount of a particular energy. I'm almost totally lunar, while I think you're a mixture of mainly lunar and some solar. You have that strong, attractive body type."

"So, this is ancient knowledge, I take it?"

"Yes, though I found out my body type in a channeling session."

Ryan grinned. "Ah...the spirit dudes!"

"Yep! My spirit friends told me."

"I'd like to go talk to them again soon, babe...they're fascinating. They told me the most interesting stuff about the criminal mind and why people do the things they do...about how their motivations are based on soul-age level, personality traits chosen for that life, and karma."

"You know, Anna may write a book based on her conversations with this Spiritual entity. It's information the whole planet can benefit from."

"Absolutely, babe. It's helped me immensely...to understand people. To understand why my baby thinks the way she does." She grinned and pulled Janna close.

"That goes both ways, love...my warrior."

"Mm, and I'd like to do another past-life regression with them. That was so cool, babe...just like being there." She smiled as she added, "It's amazing to me that I was a peacemaker in the life right after the warrior life...and you were a warrior working for peace, supporting me."

Janna grinned. "It's called 'karma', babe. Let's plan on seeing Anna and Terry soon, then. In addition to more channeling, I'd like to get another Reiki attunement while I'm pregnant. That way the baby will be born attuned."

"She'll be born with the ability to run Reiki? Honey, that's incredible!"

"It's wonderful...such a special gift." Janna smiled warmly as she leaned into her mate's shoulder.

"Jesus, the kid will probably be a Reiki Master by the time she's four." Ryan shook her head in amazement, grinning.

"If she's anywhere near as determined as you are, she will...though I would hold off on that level until she could fully understand it."

"Well, if she's anywhere near as intelligent as her Mommy is, that will be around three or four, babe."

"Or as precocious as her other Momma...God, honey, I feel for your Mom." Janna laughed.

"Babe, I have a strong feeling that I'm gonna be getting a dose of my own medicine before too long."

"I hope so, baby." Janna said as she turned and sat in her wife's lap.

"Janna, that's not nice...give me a kiss, baby." Janna did as requested and pulled Ryan's swimsuit down off her torso as she did so. She ran her hands sensuously over Ryan's breasts as they kissed, coaxing soft moans from her partner.

"Mmm, Janna...are you gonna have your way with me, baby?"

"I am, love. Here, or in bed?"

"Here, since Grandmother Moon is out...okay?"

Janna answered her with a searing kiss, which took her breath away and made further conversation both impossible and undesirable. Luna smiled on her friends, as was her habit, as she saw them begin their loving dance. When they finally exited the spa, she had already journeyed into the western sky.

~~~~~~~~~~

Ryan rubbed her soulmate's thigh gently as they sat together on the bench. She could feel her mate's trepidation as she awaited the start of their game against their main rivals, Mid-Valley Auto. The previous season, in only her second game with the team, Janna had been injured...deliberateley taken out by a nasty, sliding player, when they had played the same team. Her sprained ankle had healed quickly, thanks to her mate's loving attention and Reiki, but now she worried about facing the dirty player again.

"Janna, honey, it's alright. There is no way in hell that she will try anything like that again. She will be out of the league permanently if she does, and I know that I made it perfectly clear to her what would happen if she did ever try to hurt you again."

"I know, Ryan, but there is so much more at stake now than just a sprained ankle. I don't want to endanger the baby." Janna looked up into Ryan's concerned gaze with worried green eyes.

"Look, baby...just calm yourself, take some breaths, and sit here quietly. She hasn't even looked our way...but if she does, I'm on it. She will not come near you, love...I promise. How's your stomach?"

"Not too bad right now. I just hope I don't barf on the field later."

"You have your Power Bars, right?"

At Janna's nob, she said, "Good, you can nibble on those...and drink plenty of water, too." She reached an arm around her mate and patted her back. "Everything will be fine, honey... I promise. Try to enjoy the game."

Janna felt somewhat reassured by Ryan's words and took her advice, breathing deeply to calm herself. When the game started a few minutes later, she felt much more centered.

Their team was up first, with Janna batting lead-off, and as she strode to the plate, she was accompanied by her protective mate...under the guise of giving her hitting advice. As she walked Janna to the plate, Ryan eyed the opposing shortstop menacingly, leaving no question as to her message. The player in question looked down at the ground rather sheepishly and kicked at the dirt as she pounded her fist into her glove.

Ryan, satisfied that her message had been delivered, patted Janna's behind gently as she said, "Wait for a good one, babe."

Janna did, and slammed a line drive just over the shortstop's head, beginning the game in fine fashion and leading her team to a shutout victory. She had a little help from her mate, the pitcher, who struck out seven and hit two home runs.

After the game, Ryan and Janna treated their teammates to dinner at the Rainbow Lounge and shared their happy news. While their teammates were congratulating them boisterously, the bar's owners, Ray and Jose, sauntered over.

In his singsong voice, Jose twittered, "What is this that we overheard?"

Ryan grinned widely as she replied, "We're gonna be mommas, guys!"

Jose's hands flew dramatically to his mouth as he screamed, "Oh my God! A baby... my babies are having a baby!"

He parked himself next to Janna, knowing better than to try to sit between the devoted women, and said, "I want to hear all about it, honey."

As his mate began to happily receive the details of the conception, Ray said, "Ryan, congratulations...I think this calls for another round on the house. If you and Janna keep up with this habit of bringing your celebrations here, you will eventually run us broke!"

Ryan grinned as she said, "Where else would we take our celebrations, Ray? Yours is the only gay bar in town." At his mock hurt look, she added, "And there is no place in town where we would rather go. Thanks, buddy." Her warm smile pulled even at his tough heart strings.

A short time later, the band that was appearing, having been told of Janna's presence, asked her to play a few numbers with them. As usual, she took the stage somewhat reluctantly, and at the loud encouragement of the bar's patrons and her friends, but went on to blow everyone away. They played three classic rock songs, with Janna taking over the lead guitar part, and Ryan was as proud as always of her mate, as well as incredibly turned on. A fine time was had by all until late into the night, and even Sharon, the Master Sergeant, lightened up and had a good time.

Later, at home, Ryan gave Janna a fairly good idea of just how turned on she had become while watching her play guitar.

-10-

Four weeks later, Early June

Janna bent over her task, and pulled up another clump of stubborn Bermuda grass. She idly tossed it into the pile behind her and sat back, wiping her brow with the back of her gloved hand. She lazily reached for her bottle of spring water and took a healthy swig.

The late afternoon sun burned down upon her, the sleeveless t-shirt and cut-off shorts she wore offering little protection from its intensity. She savored the lukewarm water as it slid down her parched throat. It's not even summer yet and already nearly one hundred degrees. It's gonna be a miserable summer for this pregnant lady, I'm afraid. She shook her head, but grinned; joyous at the prospect of her developing pregnancy, despite the discomfort that she knew was in store for her.

"Hi."

Janna looked up, startled from her musing by the sweet young voice that greeted her, and spied a toddler on the other side of the fence, in the next yard.

"Hi! What's your name?" Janna smiled at the adorable brown-haired, brown-eyed tot of approximately three years of age.

"Michaela...but Mommy and Daddy call me Micki."

"Well, I'm happy to meet you, Michaela. My name is Janna."

"What cha' doing?" The little girl asked as she peered curiously through the split-rail fence.

"I'm pulling out weeds so that I can plant flowers here."

"Oh..." Just then, her mother called to her from the front porch. "I'm over here, Mommy."

As her mother, a slim, attractive brunette approached, Janna stood and wiped the dirt from her shorts and knees.

"Michaela, go on in the house now. It's time for dinner."

"'Kay...bye Janna."

"Goodbye, Michaela." Janna smiled as the young girl trotted dutifully toward her house and turned her gaze to the girl's mother. "Welcome to the neighborhood...I'm Janna Norden-Zamora."

The woman frowned and then scowled at Janna. "I would appreciate it if you didn't speak to my daughter again. If you do so, I will call the police. If we had known there were your kind on the block, we never would have moved here." With that, she turned on her heel and left a stunned Janna looking after her. Her shock quickly turned to sorrow, and she blew out a breath as she rested her hands on her hips and shook her head sadly.

As she stood there with the sun burning down upon her relentlessly, her sorrow turned to anger at the woman's narrow–mindedness, and what the fact of her prejudice bode for her little girl. She scowled as she bent to retrieve her gardening tools. The woman's hatred had given her a sour stomach, which had, in turn, reawakened the nausea that her physical activity had held at bay for nearly a blessed hour.

After returning the tools to the garage and dumping the weeds in the trash can, Janna made her way to the kitchen to retrieve a small snack of crackers and cheese, hoping that it would settle her upset stomach. She then made her way into the family room and picked up her black Stratocaster, aiming to relieve the stress she was feeling.

She plugged the jack into the guitar and flipped the power switch on the amplifier, pausing to adjust the volume controls. Through the open front window, she could hear her unpleasant neighbor, and glanced out to see her in the side yard, talking on a cordless phone. Janna smiled wickedly and turned both the master and volume controls on the amp to full blast, and did the same with the knobs on the guitar's body.

As she pulled the guitar strap over her shoulder, the motion caused a surge of vibrating feedback, which crescendoed loudly, especially when Janna pushed the instrument up against the amp. The resulting screech of feedback, pleasing to her accustomed ears, startled her neighbor, whose eyes grew wide as she looked toward Janna's house.

Janna pulled the guitar away and then thrust it again toward the amp, increasing the warbling sound, before grabbing a pick and raking it down across the strings and hitting a power chord. She then launched into a speed metal rendition of one of her songs, pleased beyond measure at the neighbor's look of dismay and distaste. She watched as the woman covered her left ear with her hand and hurried into her house.

After the unfriendly woman's departure, Janna continued with her stress-relieving exercise, which had the added benefit of taking her mind off of the ever-present nausea, transporting her to place beyond which the discomfort didn't seem to pass.

As Ryan exited her truck and locked it, she could her the pounding, booming guitar and smiled briefly. But then she felt a renewed surge of her partner's unhappiness. Shit, she is upset. I guess that is what I felt a while ago. She strode purposefully into the kitchen and set her bag and keys on the counter before making her way to the front room.

Her wife stood right in front of the amplifier, apparently enjoying the vibrations that were being emitted. Though her back was to the door, Janna felt Ryan's presence and therefore was not startled when long arms wrapped themselves around her from behind. She smiled and leaned back against her mate, continuing to play, but quickly turning the guitar's volume to a more comfortable level for her mate.

Ryan kissed her hair and mumbled, "What, or whom, are you pissed at, baby?"

Janna raked out one more sequence of power chords and let the feedback reverberate through the room before stilling the strings and shutting the power down. She lifted the strap over her head and set the instrument back onto its stand before facing her mate.

She kissed Ryan and replied, "Hi, sweetheart. I met the new neighbor and her little girl a while ago. She not very politely indicated that she doesn't want 'my kind' interacting with her daughter."

"Oh, fuck. Baby, I'm sorry." Ryan shook her head and pulled Janna into an embrace. "Jesus...that's pathetic."

"Yeah...sweet little girl, too. Her name is Michaela." Janna reveled in her partner's warmth and strength and let Ryan's abundant love for her wrap itself around her, soothing her frayed nerves. "You feel good, love. Thank you...I needed that."

She kissed the dark blue uniform shirt below her lips. "You're a little early today."

"I felt you...thought you might be upset. I wanted to get right home."

"Honey...thank you. I hope I didn't distract you at an inopportune moment." Janna looked up at her with concern.

"Nope, I'm learning how to deal with the feelings when they come across." She grinned down at her wife. "How are you feeling otherwise?"

"Lousy. I wish this so-called morning sickness would confine itself to the mornings. I think I could deal with it better if it would."

"So do I, love. I wish there was something that I could do."

"You help with your presence, Ryan. Believe me. And you're very good at finding ways to distract me." She grinned jauntily up at her wife, who returned the grin just as jauntily.

"Glad I can oblige you, baby. Anything along those lines I can do for you right now...possibly in the spa?" Her brilliant blue eyes sparkled under raised eyebrows.

"There just might be. Why don't you show me what you have in mind"?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Oh, yes...that was soooo nice, my love. Thank you." Janna sighed and smiled as she lazed against Ryan in the spa. She was still throbbing gently, and very pleasantly, and let her satiated state soothe her, body and soul.

"My pleasure, Janna. So glad I could oblige." Ryan drawled lazily as she ran her hands lovingly along Janna's torso. She brought her hands down to the slight bulge in her wife's belly and caressed it gently.

"You're starting to show, baby." She mumbled in Janna's ear.

"Mm, hm. This morning I noticed that my shorts were tight, too. I'm gonna have to start thinking about getting some maternity clothes, I guess."

"Either that or you can wear mine."

"I think I like that idea. I love to wear your clothes...especially when I'm missing you. They smell like you."

"Hm, is that good or bad?" Ryan smiled against Janna's neck.

"Oh, it's very good!" Janna turned her head a little and breathed deeply of her mate's scent. "I love the way you smell."

"Good. You can start wearing them right away, 'cause I found out today that John and I will be working some extra shifts over the next week or so."

"Oh, why?"

"We'll be providing extra backup for a vice/narc sting op." She blew out a breath. "I don't like working vice, but since we're the most senior bike team, they want us for our experience. Hopefully, it'll go down soon and I won't have to work too many nights. I don't like your being here alone at night."

"Honey, it sounds dangerous. Not that your everyday patrol isn't dangerous, but this sounds more so."

"Well, sweetheart, I won't lie to you...there is more risk in it than in everyday beat patrol, but honestly, Janna, these things are planned down to the nth degree. Don't worry about it, honey. Anyway, we're acting in a backup capacity...we won't be on the front line."

"Vice, huh? You've mentioned before that you don't like vice."

"I hate it, frankly. They always wanted to use me as a john decoy, and Jesus, I hate that. But also, I hated having to hassle the working girls...and busting young gay guys for hustling. It's a very depressing detail. That and narcotics." She shook her head in disgust.

"And this is both vice and narcotics?"

"Mm." Ryan nodded.

"Must be quite some ring someone has going."

"I think it's the biggest we've ever infiltrated. This is a multi-agency operation, county-wide. We start Saturday night." Ryan felt Janna's trepidation and moved to soothe it. "Janna, baby, you know how safe I am out there...how careful I am...especially now that I have so much to come home to." She wrapped her arms tightly around her wife. "Please don't worry."

"I know, love. But I need to be honest and tell you that I can't help but worry. Until you're safe at home in my arms, I'll be nervous." A nervous wreck is more like it.

"Okay, baby. Just don't let it get out of hand...too much worry isn't good for the baby." She grinned before adding, "I read once where some scientist theorized that too much stress during pregnancy causes homosexuality."

"Oh, God...how horrible...we wouldn't want that terrible fate to befall our child, would we?" Janna remarked sarcastically.

Ryan gently encouraged Janna to turn in her lap and she drawled sexily, "Mm, no, we wouldn't. Kiss your wife again, lady."

~~~~~~~~~~

Ryan groaned in her sleep as she experienced the blow of the weapon. Her own weapon. The round, razor-sharp weapon hit her in the back with such force that it knocked her to the ground. She knew immediately that it was over...that the weapon had broken her back, and she slid to the ground. Her soulmate, her warrior-bard, was nearby, fighting off her own small legion of soldiers when she saw the weapon take flight and strike her partner in the back.

As she lay on the ground, unable to move, the warrior watched in a daze as her mate stood dumbfounded, then rushed to her side and began fending off the advancing soldiers, protecting her mate as the warrior had always protected her.

As she frantically fought off one advancing soldier after another, the smaller warrior yelled, "Xena...let's go!" She had picked up her mate's sword and was wielding it impressively, though unfamiliar with it. As she fought valiantly she glanced at her partner on the ground and screamed, "Get up!"

The warrior answered, "Can't...my spine. I can't move." The dark warrior, unable to stand, lay on her stomach, watching her bard fight. When she saw that her partner was killing men furiously, in a blind rage, she felt a measure of dismay and yelled, "No, Gabrielle. No!"

Just before she lost consciousness, she felt a sharp pang of self-hatred for setting her gentle mate on the violent road on which she now walked.

She came to some time later and found herself resting in her partner's arms. She noted that both she and the bard were dressed only in rags, which barely preserved their modesty. Her mate was sitting on the ground in a dark, stinking cell and was holding her broken body tenderly in her arms.

"Gabrielle." The dark woman whispered.

"Xena." Her partner answered before leaning down and tenderly kissing her. As she gazed at her fallen mate, tears streaked down her cheeks.

"Crying? Don't cry." Her warrior whispered.

"Okay."

They gazed at each other quietly, not needing to speak, when a man approached their cell and called gruffly, "It's almost time."

They gazed deeply into each other's eyes and the warrior felt heartsick at destroying her beloved's life before her world darkened and she lost consciousness again.

Ryan gazed solemnly into her cup of decaffeinated coffee. The images from the dream, and their apparent implication, were weighing heavily on her. She had not told Janna about the dream. They had shared their regular morning connection but had not made love, because Janna was too ill, so her partner had not had the opportunity to realize that anything was bothering her mate. Now they sat quietly at their kitchen table, neither wanting to burden the other with her worries.

Janna assumed that Ryan's mind was on her stakeout duties in the sting operation scheduled for later that night, and Ryan had no intention of adding to Janna's worries while she was in such a delicate state. So they sat; close but separated by fear and worry.

Janna took a sip of her herbal tea and gazed at her mate. Ryan's brow was creased with tension, and she reached out through their link and tried to ease her worry. Ryan looked up sharply at the contact and smiled crookedly as she said, "Thanks, baby, but you don't have to do that. I'm fine and I know you don't feel well."

"I want to do it, Ryan, and will whenever I feel that you need it."

Ryan smiled at her mate, then stood and drained her cup. After walking to the sink and dropping it in, she returned to Janna's side and knelt beside her. "Let me give you a little Reiki before I leave, love."

Janna smiled weakly and nodded. "Thanks."

Ryan gazed into her eyes and softly said, "Don't mention it." Then she gently placed her hands on Janna's abdomen and began sharing the healing energy with her. After several minutes, she felt that Janna had received what she needed and removed her hands before standing. She moved behind her mate and, laying her still-warm hands on her shoulders, bent and kissed her head.

"I love you, Janna. Take it easy today, love. Please."

"I will, Ryan. Days that start out like this have a way of not improving much."

"I'm sorry, baby." Then she added, with frustration tingeing her voice, "God, I'm sorry I agreed to do this extra duty...I won't see you until the middle of the night again."

"Honey, it's okay. And you know you didn't have much choice in the matter. I'll be fine. If I feel better, I'm going to Dan and Kris' for dinner."

"Okay, baby." She stood for a moment, not wanting to leave her mate, or to lose contact with her.

Janna sensed her reluctance and felt the sharp stab of anguish that her wife had tried to hide from her all morning. She reached up and grasped Ryan's hand, which was lying on her shoulder, and pulled her around in front of her.

Concern colored her voice and etched her face as she said, "Ryan, you're very worried about something. Is it the stakeout?"

Ryan closed her eyes and took a deep breath. She knew she couldn't hide anything from Janna, and had never lied to her, but didn't want her to worry excessively. She looked away from her mate's concerned gaze and stared at the floor. "Yeah, I guess it is."

"I thought you said that everything was going as planned and that you were bored out of your mind the first two nights."

"It is, baby...I was, it's just..." Ryan faltered, unused to lying, especially to Janna. An unwelcome image of herself as the mortally wounded warrior flashed through her mind just then, and she couldn't stop the pain that pierced her soul. I caused her death in that life.

Janna, very perceptive even when their link wasn't involved, felt the anguish quite clearly and gasped. "Ryan, there's something you're not telling me."

Shit. "Janna, I just hate this extra work detail, that's all. I need to be home, taking care of you."

Janna gazed seriously at her and Ryan averted her gaze again. Janna knew then that she was lying and tried to swallow the pain that the knowledge caused. "Ryan, please don't lie to me. Please...tell me what's going on."

Ryan rubbed her tired eyes with her hand and blew out a breath. "Janna, it's nothing. I just had a bad dream last night and didn't sleep well. I don't want you worrying about it."

"A bad dream? A warrior dream?" Janna questioned.

Ryan turned away, running her hands through her hair and sighed. "Jesus...yes, a warrior dream. Janna, I need to get to the station."

Janna stood and walked around to face her wife. "Ryan, it was a past-life memory, and I want to hear about it."

Fuck! "Janna, it's not important...I'm just tired. I don't want you worrying about it," she repeated.

"Ryan Norden-Zamora, I'm sorry, but I decide what I will and will not be concerned about. Please share this with me. Your refusing to share this and lying about it is what is worrying me." She used her unfair advantage then, and reached out to Ryan through their bond.

As Ryan felt her wife's love surround her heart, she groaned. "Shit, Janna, that is so not fair. You know I can't refuse you anything when I'm feeling your love."

Janna reached out and wrapped her arms around Ryan's waist, resting them on her officer's utility belt. "We share everything, Ryan. Everything. Remember your vow to me."

Double fuck... "Come 'ere." She sat on a kitchen chair and pulled Janna onto her lap. After taking a deep breath she sighed, "I was wounded...in battle...and it led to our deaths on the crosses."

"You were wounded in battle?" Janna gazed at her seriously, wide-eyed. Then as the realization struck, her eyes filled with terror. "Ryan, you don't think..."

"I'm trying not to think about it, Janna." She gazed intently into Janna's worried green eyes. "I can't be afraid out there and still do my job. No cop can." She sighed again. "All I can do is treat this like a warning and use it to be extra careful."

"But Ryan, you're always careful...you're already careful. Baby, I don't want..."

"Janna, do you see why I didn't want to share this with you? You don't need this extra worry, and neither does the baby."

"Ryan...for God's sake...I have the right to know what is going on! This involves me...Jesus, Ryan, anything involving you involves me. Don't shut me out!"

Ryan felt Janna's pain then, and could have kicked herself for causing it. She reached forward and pulled Janna against her. "You're right, Janna. You have every right. I was just trying to protect you...I'm sorry." She looked down into sad, green eyes. "I love you more than anything...more than life...I'm so sorry." She kissed her wife's forehead and rested her cheek against it.

"Ryan, please don't love me more than life. I need for you to want to live more than you want anything else...do that for me, please?"

"Okay, because I want your happiness more than I want anything else...and that's as good a promise as you're gonna get out of me."

"I'll take it. Thank you, Ryan."

Ryan accepted the thank you with a sweet kiss and they sat together for several minutes, quietly sharing their love.

~~~~~~~~~~

As she sat on the stoop of a vacant building, Ryan glanced briefly up at the moon and looked back down at the luminous dial of her watch. 2:15. She idly wondered if Janna was sleeping peacefully or if she was stubbornly waiting up for her. She smiled, knowing the answer. She glanced over at her partner, John, and said, "Well, bud, it's looks like a bust again tonight...or should I say, 'non bust'?"

"Non bust it is, Ry. Shit...I wish they'd get their act together. I have someplace I'd much rather be this time of night."

Ryan laughed quietly, "Shit...you and me both."

John Stewart grinned at his best friend, being all too familiar with her personal life.

"So, how's the baby, John? Still feeding twice at night?"

"Still is, yep...and growing like a weed. He sure likes that Momma's milk." He glanced at his partner as he added, "I hate like hell not to be there to help Sara at night...she's exhausted." At Ryan's nod he added, "How's Janna doing?"

"She's still sick most of the time, but managing to keep most of her meals down...thank God." She smiled. "Stubborn woman...the last two stakeout nights, she waited up for me."

"I hope you made it worth her while."

"Goddamn right I did." Ryan grinned widely, white teeth flashing in the streetlight. Hell, he doesn't have to know we cuddled ourselves to sleep.

Suddenly, the quiet of the night was shattered by a barrage of gunshots and both cops jumped to their feet. A split second later, their radios erupted into frenzied communication. The two cops listened intently, listening for orders or word about what was happening and heard the most dreaded words a cop can hear: "Officer down! Officer down! Corner of Eighth and B."

As Ryan and John stared at each other, near shock, their orders came: the suspects that had fired on their fellow officers were fleeing in a dark, late-model car and the pursuit was coming right toward them. They were to attempt to apprehend, with lethal force if necessary. Both Ryan and John made the decision to stay on foot, as that would allow for better shots, and the patrol cars already involved in the chase would be much more capable of continuing if necessary.

As they took their positions behind parked cars on opposite sides of the street, they could hear the sirens approaching, accompanied by squealing tires and roaring engines. A block straight up the street, a late model sedan raced toward them, lights off, followed by several patrol cars with lights flashing and sirens blaring.

Ryan and John each spared a quick glance at the other and nodded slightly as they trained their weapons on the approaching car. Since she was on the driver's side of the street, Ryan took aim at the driver, while John aimed at the car's tires. They had to wait until the last possible moment, to get the best angle and to prevent shots from going astray and into their comrades who were right behind the suspect car, while not waiting until the car exactly paralleled their positions, as they would risk hitting each other at that point.

When the car was nearly upon them, they both opened fire. John's shots cleanly took out the right side tires and Ryan hit the driver several times. As the car careened by them, beginning to spin, Ryan saw a passenger in the front seat attempt to gain control of the vehicle. She couldn't get any more shots off without endangering her partner, so she followed the car on foot as it slid into an alleyway a few doors down, still spinning.

She ran after the car, her speed taking her ahead of her partner, and entered the alley. It dead ended ahead at a wide loading zone behind a warehouse, and the dark car spun around haphazardly and headed back out of the alley. Right toward Ryan. She set herself in the firing position and fired, getting off two shots. Both shots hit the suspect and he slumped onto his fallen companion on the front seat, causing the car to lurch wildly. It slammed into the brick building that bordered the alley and before even her quick reflexes could get her out of the way, it bounced back into the alley and careened into Ryan. She knew only a brief instant of fear before she was hit, and a single thought flashed across her mind: Janna.

Janna was sitting in bed, attempting to read, but kept nodding off. As her chin hit her chest again, she sat upright and scowled, upset with herself for being tired. She wanted to be awake when Ryan returned. She glanced at the clock. 2:20. She smiled as she remembered that her mate had returned at around 2:30 each of the other two nights.

She decided to get a bottle of water and as she swung her feet to the floor was hit by a strong jolt of fear, followed by a stabbing pain in the chest. She doubled over as she heard Ryan's voice whisper, "Janna."


Part 6

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