The Challenge
By Janet Lynne

Part 9

-17-

As Janna approached her mate's room, she heard Ryan's voice raised in anger. Oh, no…not again. She sighed and steeled herself before entering the room.

Upon seeing her mate, Ryan whined, "Janna, where have you been? This damn woman is insisting that I take these goddamn pills and I don't want them."

"Honey, I was just down getting some lunch. And what pills are these?" She set her sandwich and juice on the tray next to the bed.

"Some goddamn stupid pain pills. I told her I'm trying to do without."

The exasperated nurse looked plaintively at Janna as she said, "Mrs. Norden-Zamora, the doctor needs to see how she responds to these, because he absolutely won't send her home until he's certain that her pain can be managed." She looked down at her patient. "And she's obviously still in a lot of pain."

"Ryan, honey, I thought we had talked about this. You agreed to give it a try."

"I agreed to talk to the damn doctor about it, Janna. The goddamn shit makes me dopey." She turned her frosty gaze to the hapless nurse again and said, "Get the goddamn doctor in here…I want to talk to him."

"I'm sorry, he won't be making his rounds until this evening."

"I don't care if he's up to his fucking armpits in surgery...call him…now!" Ryan roared, and then winced at the pain it reawakened in her body.

"Mrs. Norden-Zamora, there is no need for that kind of language in here. I will call his office and ask that they have him call the desk as soon as he's free."

"You do that. And I'll use any goddamn, fucking language I want to in here. That's why I got a private room…that and so I can fuck my wife." She sneered at the nurse's look of alarm.

"Ryan!" Janna gasped before turning to the nurse, embarrassed. "I'm sorry, she's in so much pain…we don't…in here," she stammered. The nurse simply furrowed her brows and left in a hurry.

"Janna, don't fucking apologize for me. I meant what I said and you know it."

"Ryan, I'm sorry you're hurting so much. I'll call the doctor's office too and try to get him in here. But honey, please try not to treat the nurses badly. They really are doing all that they can."

"Oh, they're useless…absolutely fucking useless, Janna." She winced as a sharp pain shot from her thigh to her ankle and left a burning ache in its wake. "Fuck! Janna this damn pain is too much."

"Ryan, take some medication for it, for God's sake!" She caressed her mate's sweating brow. "You should still be on the morphine, honey. Your injuries were incredibly severe…you can't expect to be pain-free this soon…not even with the Reiki."

Ryan closed her eyes and moaned, "But Janna, as long as I still need such heavy pain killers, they won't let me go home…and I've gotta get home, Janna. I'm starting to go nuts in here." She rolled her head from side to side on the pillow. "Janna, it's been a week since the leg surgery…I'm going fucking nuts!"

Janna forgot her lunch, despite her nausea and lay down beside her wife, pulling her into her arms. She sent her soothing, loving energy through their link and began to run Reiki as well. Soon, her mate had drifted to sleep. Janna kissed her brow, which was still furrowed in pain, and said a silent prayer to the grandfathers, asking them to continue to watch over her mate. She sighed deeply. This certainly isn't going to be an easy road.

"Remember the love, Granddaughter."

I will. Thank you, Grandfather.

Later, shortly after the sun had set, Janna finished giving Ryan more Reiki and leaned over to kiss her forehead. She thought that Ryan had fallen asleep, but as she touched her lips to her mate's head, she heard a quiet, "Thanks, love."

"You're welcome, sweetheart. We'll do it again in an hour." She caressed Ryan's cheek and smiled warmly at her as she settled next to her on the bed.

"No, Janna. You don't feel up to healing me so often. I've decided to take the pills. Who knows, maybe they'll work now." She nuzzled her face against Janna's shoulder as she mumbled, "I'm sorry I've been such an asshole."

"I understand, love. Don't worry about it."

"Buzz the nurse, will ya babe? Tell her I'll take the damn things now."

When the nurse arrived some time later, Janna said to her, "We've decided to take the pain pills now."

The nurse smiled and nodded without saying a word and left to retrieve them. When she returned several minutes later, both women were asleep and she had to awaken the patient to administer the medicine.

~~~~~~~~~~

Janna awakened to lips on hers and insistent fingers trying to gain access under her panties. She smiled into her wife's kiss and threw herself around her mate…and solidly kicked her casted ankle.

"Ow!" Ryan hissed. "Shit…god…fuck…"

Janna's eyes flew open as she suddenly realized where they still were. "Ryan! God, I'm sorry! I was still half asleep." She turned toward Ryan and raised onto her elbow as she tried to console her.

"S'okay…it was a bad idea…anyway," she groaned.

"No it wasn't. Come here." Janna tried to pull Ryan close, but she resisted.

"It's okay, Janna. Can you just give me some Reiki?"

As Janna began to nod affirmatively, she was hit by a wave of nausea, and her face contorted in discomfort.

Ryan saw it and said, "Oh, shit, Janna…you're sick. Never mind." And she turned away sullenly. "I need the bedpan anyway."

"I'll get it…I'm sorry, honey."

"It's okay, Janna."

Janna rolled off the hospital bed and drowsily got to her feet. She helped Ryan take care of her business and as she walked the full bedpan to the bathroom, her stomach lurched and she barely made it to the toilet before she vomited. She got up off her knees, shook her head disgustedly, and reached for her toothbrush.

When she walked back out into the room, she heard, "You okay?"

"Yeah." She set the clean bedpan on the bedside table and stood looking at her mate. "Wonderful morning, huh?"

"Just fuckin' grand." She sighed sadly, then added, "Janna, I need to get out of this damn place…we both do." She looked tiredly at her mate. "You don't have to be here, you know. You can start sleeping at home…come in for a few hours." She looked down at her hands dejectedly.

"Ryan, I can't do that. I need to be here. I think I need it as much as you do." She turned around and grabbed her jeans and bra from the chair and went back into the bathroom to change. She came back out and smiled weakly at her wife. "I need to get some food so I don't lose it again…I'll be back in a few minutes."

"Okay. Hey, grab me a steak while you're there." Ryan said with a half smile.

Janna returned the smile and gave her mate a hug. "I love you, Ryan. We'll get back to normal real soon…I promise."

"I know, baby."

Janna pulled back and gazed at her beautiful wife, then her face contorted in confusion. "Hey! Why isn't your leg up in traction?"

"The nurse came in during the night and took it down…said it can be down at night now."

"Well there's some progress right there."

"Yeah."

"Except for when your wife forgets where she is and kicks you. Maybe it should be up at night and down during the day."

"Maybe…clumsy woman…" Ryan grinned lopsidedly.

"Hey!"

"Go get your breakfast and come back to me."

"I'm gone."

When Janna returned, Ryan's doctor was in the room.

"Ah, here she is." Ryan grinned at her wife.

"Morning." Janna set her breakfast on the tray and went to her wife's side.

"Good morning, Janna. I see she's making some progress in the pain department."

"Yeah, babe, I told him that the Demerol is helping some now." She looked at the doctor as she added, "Though it makes me sleepy and dopey."

"That's why they call it 'dope', Ryan. We'll get you onto something milder as soon as we can. So, ladies, I think that one or two more days of observation will be plenty and we can get you home." He lifted Ryan's gown and gazed at her incision. "Everything is looking good. You're doing okay off the catheter?"

"Yes. I've got my own private nurse here who handles the bedpan duty and sponge baths." Ryan grinned at her mate.

"And Janna, you're informing the nurse of her urine output?"

"Yes."

"Good. Well, Ryan, I'd like to start you on solid foods today. We'll give that a day or two, see how you handle it and go from there. Alright?"

"Jesus…yes that's alright!"

He smiled and added, "Can I assume that since you're responding better to the pain medication that you'll be a little easier on the nurses?"

Ryan blushed mildly. "Yeah…sorry about that. I was trying to do without the pills and I guess I became Super Bitch. It won't happen again."

"I'm glad to hear that, because your body heals while you're resting and if you're not resting because of the pain, healing is reduced, obviously."

Ryan nodded.

He added, "Though I must say, your surgical incision is healing up very quickly."

Ryan threw a quick, knowing smile her mate's way and then smiled at the doctor. "Good."

"Well, ladies, I'll be in again tomorrow morning. Have a good day."

"Thanks doctor," Ryan and Janna replied in unison.

As soon as he was gone, Janna crawled onto the bed and hugged her mate. "Ryan, honey, that's great news!"

Ryan returned the hug, saying, "God, yes, baby." She looked at Janna and added, "Is that a light I see at the end of this tunnel?"

"It is, I think." Janna's eyes reflected the light that they both could now see, and she kissed her wife soundly.

When they parted, Ryan said, "God, Janna, we haven't kissed like that in weeks." She sighed. "I miss loving you so much."

Janna snuggled against her mate and sighed. "I do too, love. Um, have you had your Demerol this morning?"

"Yesss…" Ryan drew out the word with a smile.

"And the nurse has been in to do your vitals?"

"Mm, hm."

"I'm feeling better, why don't we, um, try our cuddle time again?"

"Close the door and draw the curtain, baby."

Janna was up, out of her pants, and back into bed almost before Ryan could blink, and she grinned widely. "Come 'ere then, love." She reached out to her mate and was scooped into Janna's loving arms.

They kissed gently, not wanting to become overly passionate, and both reached down to connect gently with each other.

"God, Janna…" Ryan moaned into her wife's mouth.

"Mmm," was the response.

After several minutes of incredibly warm, satisfying bonding, both women began to crave more, so it was fortunate, in a way, that Ryan's partner walked into the room.

As their kiss deepened and Ryan's blood began to pound, waking up raw, sore nerve endings in the process, they heard someone clear his throat.

"Um, guys, you up?"

"John, yeah…uh, just a sec." Ryan choked out.

"Hey, Ry, if it's not a good time I can come back…"

"No, buddy, it's a good time…really…just a sec."

Ryan gazed comically into her wife's eyes and sighed. "Later, baby." She whispered before kissing her tenderly.

"Absolutely."

Janna rolled off her wife and took a deep breath before sitting up. She looked down at her mate and shook her head, grinning. "I'll need to wash that hand for you."

Ryan returned the smile and nodded.

Janna got out of bed and poked her head around the curtain. "Hi, John…could you, um, hand me those jeans there please?"

"Sure," he said as he handed them over.

"Thanks."

Janna slipped into them and struggled to zip them.

Ryan grinned as she watched. "Honey, you're ready for my shorts, I think."

"Yep, I'm afraid so...and your shirts. I think I'll run home and get some."

She emerged from behind the curtain and pulled it back to reveal a smirking John Stewart. The smirk grew wider when Janna went to the bathroom, retrieved a soapy washcloth and proceeded to wash her wife's hands.

Ryan grinned at her friend and said, "Don't say a fucking word, John."

John laughed and held up his hands innocently, shaking his head. "I had no intention of saying anything, Ry."

"That'll be the fuckin' day, John. What's up?" Janna sat next to her and Ryan pulled her close.

"I'm back on duty…thought I'd check in on my way to the station."

"That's good, bud. Who're they partnering you with?"

"I don't know…I guess I'll find out today. I truly hope it's not a clueless rookie. I'm used to working with the best." He gazed sincerely at his partner, who smiled her thanks.

"Well, John, a rookie could learn from worse. And anyway, anyone they would assign has already had some patrol training. There aren't many rookies in training now, are there?"

"I don't think so."

"Then I think you don't need to worry."

"Probably. Frankly, Ryan, I'm not looking forward to being out there with anyone other than you. We're a team…we've learned to work together like a machine…I trust you at my back. I don't want to have to build that trust with someone else, just to have you come back in a few months."

"It looks like at least six, John."

"Shit…"

"Sorry, buddy…you have no idea how much." Ryan shook her head sadly and received a squeeze from her mate.

"It's okay, Ry, don't stress about it. I'll manage. I'll be counting the days until you come back, but I'll manage." He grinned. "So, when you getting out of here?"

"Maybe day after tomorrow. If I'm a good girl." She grinned at her mate.

"Well, then, you're sunk Ryan. You'll be in here until hell freezes over."

She happily flipped him the bird as she grinned and he sat and enjoyed his doughnuts and coffee with them until it was time to leave. "I'll stop by on my way home. Janna, if you want to get out of here for a while, I'll sit with the patient."

"Thanks, John. But I just need to run home and get a few things. I think she'll be okay alone for that little while."

Ryan's expression said, "Oh, yeah, absolutely," but when Janna left several minutes later with John, she murmured quietly, imploring her mate, "Hurry back, love."

Janna kissed her sweetly and promised that she would.

Later, the nearly full moon hung gracefully in the southeastern sky as their softball team entertained Ryan and Janna again before a late game. They were regaling them with tales of the game that they had missed, and won, despite the absence of two of their best players, beating their archrivals, which was very satisfying for all.

Carrie, the stocky, short brown-haired catcher, said, "So, Ry, how long are you out of commission for?"

"Four to six months, Car."

"Shit no! You're out for the season?"

"Well, yeah, Car, I am. I figured you knew that."

"God, that sucks, Ry. I'm sorry." Jackie commented.

Sharon added, "Don't worry abut it, Ryan. Elaine is doing fine and one of the new girls is backing her up."

"Yeah, Ry…she's working me like a slave. I haven't thrown so many pitches since college."

"And it's paying off, isn't it Elaine?" The coach eyed her pointedly.

"Yeah, but Jesus, Sharon…my arm kills me the next day."

"Well we appreciate it, Elaine. Thank you." Janna said sincerely.

Everyone shared a nice visit and Ryan assured them both that their second baseman would return soon and that she herself would be making it out to watch soon thereafter.

Shortly after the team left, Sam and Georgie stopped by after a dinner out.

As her Captain walked in, Ryan, having recently received a dose of Demerol boomed happily, "Cap! Georgie!"

Janna grinned next to her. "We're still on the happy pills!"

Their friends both grinned. "Hell, whatever works. You look a hell of a lot better than you did a week ago, Ryan."

"Thanks, Cap." Ryan looked at Janna briefly, then back at her friends as she said sincerely, "Last week, I don't think I thanked you two for being so supportive of Janna when this happened. I really appreciate it. Thanks."

Georgie waved her hand at Ryan and said, "Oh, hon…that's what friends do. I'm glad I was able to help."

"Georgie, I can't thank you enough either. You were so there for me." Janna looked at Ryan and added, "She even helped me to send you Reiki when you were so critical."

Ryan's mouth dropped open. "Georgie…thank you so much. Come 'ere." She held her arms open and her friend accepted a warm hug.

"It was no trouble, Ryan. I was happy to do it."

Ryan eyed her Captain. "And Sam, you took good care of my wife for me the night it happened. I couldn't ask for more from a friend. Thank you."

"Just doing my job, Norden-Zamora."

"Yeah, okay, Sam…thanks anyhow."

"What's the prognosis as far as returning to work?" He changed the subject.

"It's too soon to know, Cap. I'd like to return to desk duty, at the very least, as soon as possible. But right now, the doctors aren't telling us much past getting me home in a few days."

"A few days, hell, Ryan, that's great!"

Ryan beamed. "You have no idea how great, Cap! I'll be in a wheelchair for a few weeks, but shit, at least I'll be home." She looked to her mate and picked up her hand. "We'll be home."

Janna nodded happily.

"Ryan, let me tell you something. I broke my leg playing football in college…a bad break, like yours…and I found out that I couldn't dwell on what I couldn't do. I had to focus on the things that I could do. Took me a while to figure it out, but once I did, I was a lot happier." He nodded at his friend to emphasize his point.

"That's good advice, Sam. I'll definitely keep it in mind." She looked at Janna, who nodded her agreement.

When they left a short time later, Janna saw them out and as Georgie hugged her she stood back and grinned. "You look so cute in Ryan's shirt, Janna. It's almost a dress on you."

Janna looked down at herself and laughed. "Yeah, can you tell that I have shorts on underneath?" She lifted the police t-shirt to reveal a pair of Ryan's biking shorts.

"Oh, my, honey…you're starting to show!" Georgie exclaimed happily as she patted Janna's little tummy.

"Yep, hence the reason for wearing Ryan's clothes. I graduated out of my jeans just this morning." Janna beamed up at her taller friend.

"And you're glowing, too, Janna." She sighed. "Oh, I just loved being pregnant…and don't worry, you'll feel better very soon and then you'll just love it so much…especially when the baby starts to move."

Janna's eyes twinkled merrily as she replied, "I can't wait, Georgie." She looked back at her wife. "We're both so excited."

"I can see that. Honey, you couldn't have chosen a better partner, as far as I'm concerned. She'll be a wonderful parent."

"I know." They hugged once more and then their friends left, with a promise to visit soon after Ryan returned home.

Later, their friend in the sky glowed brilliantly outside of Ryan's window, filling the room with a comforting glow as they lay together in bed.

Janna cradled Ryan's head against her shoulder and idly played with the front of her hospital gown. Ryan grabbed the playful hand and brought it to her lips. She kissed each finger and then gently sucked Janna's index finger into her mouth. Janna gasped at the intimate touch and rose onto her elbow, looking down at her mate. Slowly, she leaned down and captured Ryan's lips softly. They kissed tenderly, enjoying the contact that they had missed so much over the previous two weeks.

Janna broke the kiss and then leaned in for another before pulling back and asking, "How do you feel, love?"

"Not too bad, Janna…you?"

"Pretty good."

"You want to close the curtain, babe?"

"I do."

"Please do, then."

Janna did so and removed her t-shirt before climbing naked back onto the bed. Ryan's sharp intake of breath was audible.

"God, Janna, it's been way too long since I've seen that beautiful site."

"For me too, Ryan." She leaned forward and gently pulled Ryan to a sitting position so that she could untie her gown in the back. She did so and pulled it off, leaving Ryan sitting before her clad only in the bandaging around her ribs, which unfortunately covered her breasts from the nipples down.

Janna gently traced a fading bruise on Ryan's torso and then leaned down to kiss it. Ryan gasped and pulled Janna up into her arms, where she kissed her passionately. They spent several very pleasant minutes tasting each other before Janna gently pushed Ryan down onto the bed and gingerly leaned over the top of her and kissed her again.

"Mmm, Janna, I want you baby." Ryan mumbled sexily into her mouth.

"I want you too, Ryan…me first, okay?"

"Yes, baby." Ryan gasped as Janna's soft lips moved down to her throat. She tilted her head back and ran her hands through Janna's hair as she enjoyed the sensuous contact.

Janna nibbled and tasted her wife as if she hadn't partaken of her pleasure in months, rather than fewer than two weeks. "God, love, you taste good."

"Mmm…"

Janna's lips continued their journey downward and when she reached a bound breast, she kissed it tenderly and said, "Does that hurt, love?"

"No, baby. Do it some more please."

Janna smiled against Ryan's breast and commenced a more ardent caress, eliciting moans from her mate. As she ran her tongue along the unbound curve of Ryan's upper breast, a hard nub appeared under the brown bandaging below it, and Janna tended to it passionately. She slipped her tongue partially under the wrap and tasted a velvety nipple before moving her mouth to the opposite breast and treating it equally, slowly running her fingers down Ryan's torso as she did so.

When she reached Ryan's dark curls, her mate flinched. Janna looked up quickly, asking, "Did I hurt you, love?"

"God, Janna, no…the opposite. I'm just incredibly turned on. Your touch is like fire."

Janna smiled, feeling the electricity within her own body as well, and bent her head back to it's task while her fingers sought out sensitive nether regions. Ryan gasped as her hips bucked when Janna gently entered her.

"God, baby, you're already so close."

Ryan panted, "It's been a long time, baby."

Janna stroked her gently, lovingly, bringing her wife to full arousal within mere seconds. She began stroking her mate rhythmically, matching her mouth's rhythm above. After long minutes, as she continued to fondle and stroke Ryan's inner folds, she moved her mouth off the breast it was loving and kissed her way down to join her fingers.

At the first stroke of her mate's tongue, Ryan lost control of her hips and they bucked rhythmically of their own accord, as much as they could under the weight of the adjacent cast.

"God, Janna, yes…baby, yes," she began to moan. After another few minutes, her muscles began to contract and Janna stroked her deeply with both tongue and finger, while her thumb tended to the hard little bundle of nerves at the top, and Ryan began to moan loudly. Janna quickly disengaged her mouth and moved back up to capture Ryan's mouth with hers, silencing her cries. Her mate's release came quickly then, and she moaned loudly into Janna's mouth, gasping deeply for air.

"Oh, fuck, Janna…fuck," she panted.

Janna kissed her sweetly and asked, "Did you like that, baby?"

"Oh, God…yes." Ryan winced slightly through her satisfied smile.

Janna's brows knit in concern. "Are you hurting?"

"Yes…but it was…so worth it."

"Where are you hurting, Ryan?"

"My…ribs…Jesus, it's killing me to breathe." She gasped.

"Christ!"

"It's okay, I just need…need to catch my breath. Then it's…my turn."

"No, Ryan. We're done." Janna said emphatically.

"Janna, yes! Please? I need...to taste you, baby." She looked up at her wife, passionate blue eyes imploring her seriously. "Please?"

Janna caved, of course, under pressure from the beautiful blue eyes. "You can have a taste, but I will not let you tax yourself."

Ryan grinned happily and tried to take a deep breath, but winced instead as it wouldn't come. "Fuck this."

"Lie still and take it easy for awhile."

"Yes, doctor."

Janna held Ryan tenderly until her breath no longer came in ragged gasps and the lines from the pain no longer creased her brow.

"I'm ready, love. Let me love you, Janna," she said softly.

"Okay, but let me do all the work." Janna insisted.

"It's a deal…since I can't really move much anyway. I want to taste you, love. Sit on my face?"

"My pleasure!" Janna grinned and then moved into position. Ryan delved immediately into her dessert and Janna gasped aloud, "Oh, my God!"

"You're close too, baby."

"That's because I'm married to the sexiest, most beautiful...woman…on the…oh, God…planet. Oh, God, Ryan…yes!"

Ryan smiled against Janna's soft, sweet cleft as her mate began to moan her pleasure. She began to rock against Ryan's mouth and quickly succumbed to the loving barrage. As she climaxed and her juices were released, they both moaned loudly at their combined pleasure.

Janna sat above Ryan, holding onto the bed rail as she caught her breath, and shortly crawled back down to embrace her mate. They kissed deeply and then rested, both utterly sated.

A few minutes later, Ryan mumbled, "It took me a long time, didn't it? Must be the drugs. Make me horny as hell, then dull my senses."

"It must be that, honey…you did take a lot longer than normal. But it was good, wasn't it?"

"Oh, God, yes, Janna. Incredible…when I finally came. That's another reason for going off the drugs as soon as possible." She grinned against Janna's chest.

"Mm, yep," Janna replied sleepily as she pulled the sheet up over their bodies and hugged her mate tightly. "We needed that, Ryan."

"Mm."

Grandmother Moon smiled, as she saw that her friends had taken an important step toward healing. She knew that the road ahead of them contained more bumps and hidden curves, but they were negotiating it very well. Well done, my friends. Rest well.


-18-

Janna supervised the positioning of the bed and checked her watch. Three hours. I need to get back to her. She felt an acute anxiety at having left Ryan alone for so long and was anxious to return to her. Jesus Christ…who's attached to whom? She grinned at the realization of how much she needed to be with her soulmate and shook her head.

"Okay, ma'am…here's the paperwork," said the beefy deliveryman as he handed over a packet of papers.

"Thanks. I guess all the instructions are self-explanatory?"

"Yep…it's all there. Any questions?"

"Nope, I don't think so. Thanks."

"Thank you Ms. Norden-Zamora. Good luck to you."

Janna smiled and nodded before seeing the man and his partner out. When she returned to the family room, she surveyed the new layout. The large hospital bed now sat against the wall where the sofa used to be, and the two nightstands from their bedroom sat to either side of it. Looks good…it's not too big for the room at all. She sat on the end of the bed, testing it. Comfy...good. I think this will work well. I hope she doesn't mind that I didn't consult her on this.

She gazed around the bright, pleasant room, enjoying their collection of Native American art and artifacts. I think she'll be very comfortable in here…with the stereo and the TV…instead of being stuck in the guest room in the back. And if she's happy and comfy, then I will be, too.

She sighed, hopped off the bed, and made her way to the front door, grabbing her backpack and keys as she went. After locking the door, she walked down the new wheelchair ramp, testing its strength. The attractive structure was well built and solid, attesting to her brother's craftsmanship, and she smiled, pleased. She turned and gazed at the lovely sunshine-yellow Victorian-era home that she shared with Ryan. Tomorrow. We'll be back home tomorrow. Finally.

Ten minutes later, she strode through the door into Ryan's room, to find her mate watching TV. Ryan's face lit up when she saw her mate, matching Janna's.

"Hey, baby…there you are. Didja get everything done?"

Janna set her backpack down and kissed her wife before climbing onto the bed and parking herself next to her.

"Yep. Everything's all set. Dan did a super job on the ramp."

"I'll bet. The man is talented." She lay her head against Janna's shoulder as they reclined and tried to settle her cast more comfortably in it's sling.

"I'll tell ya, Janna, one of the best things about going home is gonna be getting out of traction. This is murder on my butt."

"Well, honey, Miss Bicycle Athlete, you don't have much padding back there, you know. Not like I do."

Ryan grinned. "Oh, yeah, Janna, you're just huge."

"I have more butt than you do, love."

"It's a perfect little ass, I'll tell you that."

Janna smiled. "Thank you, love. When did you last have some Demerol?"

"'Bout a half hour ago."

"Mm, hm…thought so. Let's take a nap before dinner, huh? I'm tired."

"Okay, babe. Sounds good."

Janna left her mate briefly to shut the blinds and pull the curtain around the bed, then put the head of the bed down and joined her wife in slumber for a few hours.

The next day, by mid-morning, Ryan was becoming extremely antsy. "Janna, Jesus…where's the damn doctor? I can't leave until he signs me out…he said last night that I can go home today if my pain isn't too bad. I've had two doses of the Percodan since the middle of the night and I'm okay…where the fuck is he, Janna?" She sighed deeply as frustration twisted her usually pleasant features.

Janna doubted that Ryan felt as okay as she claimed, but tried to be understanding as she said, "Honey, I'm sure he'll be in as soon as he can."

Ryan continued her whine. "He fucking well better be, Janna, or I'm gonna commit murder. If I have to spend one more night in this God damned place, I swear to God, I'll kill the prick."

"Ryan, for God's sake, calm down. Let me go check with the nurse again." She sighed as she left the room, and nearly ran into the doctor.

She smiled weakly at him. "Boy am I glad to see you. My wife needs to get home." She shook her head ironically as she added, "And I'm sure your staff would agree."

He nodded as he smiled and guided Janna back into the room. "Ryan…I hear you're ready to go home."

"Christ, Doc, I sure am."

"How's the pain today?"

"Manageable."

"Your stomach isn't upset?"

"Nope."

"Okay. Let me give you a quick check and I'll sign the release forms."

Ryan sighed her relief as her wife beside her smiled. As the doctor gently palpated her ribs, Ryan winced. He gazed down at her apologetically and said, "Sorry…I'm afraid ribs take a long time to heal."

"Yeah…and I'll have to try to remember not to overexert myself…that deep breathing is killer."

He looked at her questioningly and asked, "And have you overexerted yourself while you've been in here?"

She actually blushed mildly and shrugged as she looked sheepishly at her wife, giving him all the answer he needed. As he turned away to write in her chart, he was grinning.

After giving them thorough instructions as to Ryan's care, including the necessity of staying off the leg completely for two to three weeks, he hugged both women and wished them well. As he left, he said he would send the nurse in with a wheelchair.

Janna smiled down at her mate, then turned and glanced around the room. There were potted plants and vases of flowers on every surface, filling the room, as well as colorful balloons and boxes of candy. "Honey, I asked my mom and Dan to come help us get all of this stuff home, but do you mind if I send the balloons down to pediatrics?"

"Not at all, baby. Why don't we leave the flowers, too? Just keep the cards. There might be people here whose rooms can use some brightening."

"That's a good idea, love. I'll check with one of the nurses...she can probably call one of the nuns. I'm going to call my mom…I'll be right back."

As she lay waiting to return home, Ryan reflected on the turn of fate that had so drastically changed her life, at least temporarily. Among other things, she would take home with her the knowledge that she had the benefit of the love and support of wonderful friends and coworkers. Then there was her devoted mate. She began to cry softly as she considered the depth of Janna's devotion to her. She was nearly overwhelmed by the fact of the depth of Janna's love and sent a silent prayer of thanks to the Universe for her great blessing. She was so fully here for me. She spent nearly every second here by my side, even when I was a total fucking asshole. I am so blessed. So very blessed.

"Always remember the love, Granddaughter," her grandfather's voice rang clearly in her mind.

I will, Grandfather. Thank you. I love you, Grandfather.

She sighed deeply, and wiped her tears when she heard Janna and a nurse approaching her room.

Janna said cheerily, "Okay, love, we can go home. We'll leave the flowers and balloons, and they'll be distributed by the nuns and pink ladies. I do want to take the plants though, so my mom and Dan are on their way to get them."

"Great, Janna, let's go."

The nurse stepped up to the bed and said, "Mrs. Norden-Zamora, your wife has all of the post-op and recovery instructions, as well as your pain pills. The surgeon's office will be calling to schedule an appointment for a week or so from now for a checkup. Now, you have a wheelchair at home, right?"

"Yes." Janna replied. "Ready and waiting."

"Good. Then you're all set. Do you have any questions?"

Ryan answered, with a rakish grin, "Just one. How happy are you all to see me leave?"

The nurse laughed. "Not as happy as you'd think, probably. You were a walk in the park compared to some patients. And we fully realize how excruciating pain affects people. Don't worry about it."

"Thanks, but I want to say that I'm really sorry with how I acted at times. I know I embarrassed my wife a few times."

"Actually, Ryan, we'll miss you. You take care. Drop by and visit us."

"We'll do that…in December when our baby comes. I should be back on my feet by then." She reached out to shake the nurse's hand, but received a hug instead, and then several other nurses came in and did the same.

As she was wheeled down the hallway, with Janna beside her carrying her belongings, a number of staff greeted them and wished them well. When they reached the elevator, they ran into Beth and Dan and more hugs were exchanged before Janna's mother and brother left to empty the room.

When they reached the lobby, Janna was about to go ahead to pull the Explorer to the front curb, when several people wearing press badges approached them.

One man, who was followed by a TV camera operator, said, "Officer Norden-Zamora?"

At Ryan's confused, affirmative nod, he continued, "I'm Rick Ibanez, from Channel Three…do you feel up to a few words?"

"I guess so, sure." She looked up at Janna, who stood by her side.

"Thank you. I'd like to record a short piece for tonight's broadcast. I'll do a short lead in and then I'll ask a few questions. Okay?"

Ryan nodded, as Janna added, "Please make it brief. She's anxious to get home."

The friendly-faced man nodded and asked, "And you are…family?"

"Wife." Ryan replied matter-of-factly, her tone daring the man to question the statement.

"Nice to meet you Mrs. Norden-Zamora," the seasoned pro replied, before turning to face the camera. "Okay, Joe, let's roll."

He began, "I'm here with Officer Ryan Norden-Zamora, the Stockton police officer who was run down almost two weeks ago during a vice raid that netted the county over two million dollars in drugs and guns. Officer Norden-Zamora shot and killed the two leaders of the ring before their car went out of control and hit her, and is being credited with almost single-handedly stopping the two extremely dangerous, wanted felons. She sustained life-threatening injuries and was listed in critical condition for one week."

He turned to Ryan and said, "Officer Norden-Zamora, congratulations on your release from the hospital. What exactly were your injuries?"

Ryan faced the camera with grace and replied, "Thank you. But first, I would like to say that I did not single-handedly stop the suspects. I was part of a very large team effort, and my partner, John Stewart, actually disabled their car so that I could get clear shots at them. As far as my injuries, I suffered a broken leg and ankle, a ruptured spleen, a dislocated shoulder and a few broken ribs." She grinned winningly and added, "Just a hard day at the office."

The reporter chuckled and added, "Are you aware that you have been cited for bravery and valor, and are being spoken very highly of in local law enforcement circles?"

Ryan blushed mildly and looked down briefly before looking back up and answering, "No, I wasn't aware of that. I'm honored." She felt Janna's warm hands on her shoulders, communicating her love and pride.

"Are you aware also, that local and national gay and lesbian groups are hailing you as a hero and a shining example of a gay American?"

Fuck. "No, I didn't know that. Um, I must say that I was simply doing my job, and I'm very honored to serve my community, including my own gay and lesbian community." She looked over her shoulder at Janna, and added, "I would like to publicly thank St. Joesph's hospital and all of its staff for the tremendous care I received, and for treating my wife and myself with the dignity afforded any married couple. It was very much appreciated."

"So, you suffered no discrimination based on your sexual preference?"

"On my sexual identity…no. My wife and I were treated fairly and with dignity and she was allowed to stay by my side throughout my stay."

With that, Janna stepped forward and politely said, "If that's all, we'd like to get home. Ryan is still recuperating and needs her rest."

"Of course, thank you very much. This is Rick Ibanez for Channel Three Reports."

As soon as the red light on the camera went out, Ryan blew out her breath and looked at the reporter. "I'm glad we're already out, dude, or that would have been extremely uncomfortable."

The reporter shrugged and said, "It's been widely reported that you and your wife are active members of the gay and lesbian communities both here and in San Francisco. Your story has been of great interest. I'm sorry if I sprung it on you unaware."

Ryan half-smiled. "That's okay. We just didn't know. We both have been pretty out of it."

Janna nodded her agreement. After the reporter thanked them and shook their hands, three more reporters, one television and two newspaper, stepped up and Ryan repeated her words verbatim from the first interview.

When they finally reached the car, and Ryan, with Janna's assistance, had lifted herself into the back seat, she blew out a breath and said, "What the fuck was that, Janna?"

"You got me, Ryan. John mentioned that you had been on the news, but I haven't watched any TV, or read a paper, since the accident, so I had no idea it had reached these proportions. Jesus." She started the Explorer and began the short drive home.

After a few moments, she said quietly, "Um, you know, honey, that there may be some backlash against you from the religious right…I don't think that they will appreciate the fact that you referred to me as your wife during a news interview."

"You know what, baby? I couldn't care less about the assholes and how they think. Bring 'em on." She lay her head back against the window and breathed deeply to try to dispel the excruciating pain that was setting in again. Time for another pain pill already. Not that they do any good.

Janna felt a flash of Ryan's pain through their bond and winced. I need to get her to bed. I hope no one decides to come by for a visit today. She pulled into the driveway, saying, "We're home, love."

Ryan opened her eyes and was heartened beyond belief at the sight of their home, which sat behind the lovely, flower-filled yard. Home. "Yes, we are, love."


Part 10

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