The Homecoming

Part 2

BY

Janet Lynne




Disclaimer: Xena, Gabrielle and Eve are owned by Pacific Renaissance/MCA Universal/USA Studios. I have only borrowed some of their identifying characteristics for this work of original fiction.
Content Warning: This is a story of two women who are very much in love. There are many love scenes. While most are rated PG13, a few are more graphic. If you are under the age of consent where you live or have homophobic tendencies, please give this story a miss. Thanks!
Language: Imagine Xena in the 1990's ¯ yep, she swears. And she's a cop, so there's some violence too.
"New Age" Content warning: I'm a "new age" kind of girl, so my characters are too. All new age/metaphysical type occurrences presented here are actual phenomena that I have personally experienced.
Author's note: This is my first story. Since I really have no idea just how good or bad this may be, I would welcome comments and constructive criticism. Flames and homophobic mail will be joyously burned in a ceremonial cleansing ritual :-)

The story is currently approximately 75% complete at 15 parts and roughly 325k.  All parts can be found at: http://www.xenarealm.com/th.html

Thanks for reading! ¯ JL, 2001 headgeek@xenarealm.com


-3-



Officer Zamora sat, her tall frame stretched out uncomfortably, in the soft waiting room chair. Hospitals made her extremely uncomfortable. For reasons unknown to her, she always felt very claustrophobic in them, and she hated feeling confined. She sighed and returned her attention to the packet of forms in her lap. Her partner, John, had wisely realized that she might have a long wait before being allowed to question the victim, so had dropped off the necessary report forms for her to start filling out. They would be classifying this attack as a hate crime and that entailed extra paperwork, so Ryan was glad to be getting a start on it rather than sitting doing nothing. She was glad, also, of the diversion, as she did not like the path her thoughts were taking.

Her mind kept straying to the cute, brave blonde, wondering how she was doing and trying to think of ways to prolong their encounter. What I am doing? she thought yet again. I do not want to get involved again! With anyone. Stop thinking about her that way! She knew that she needed to retain a degree of professional detachment, but it was becoming increasingly hard. Especially when that damn warm feeling insisted on continuing to envelope her gut and her heart.

Janna's friends sat together across from Ryan, talking quietly and trying not to disturb the intense cop who seemed intently focused on her paperwork. Missy kept stealing surreptitious glances at the strikingly beautiful woman, admiring her classically defined features. Her high cheekbones and long, straight nose, coupled with darkly tanned skin and black hair, hinted at Native American bloodlines, yet her pale blue eyes made guessing her exact heritage difficult. Whatever her heritage, she certainly is gorgeous...and she seems drawn to Janna.

Despite the officer's obvious preoccupation with her work, Jay couldn't help trying to get to know this intriguing woman a little better. He thought happily to himself, I am just a nosy nellie, after all!

"So" he started, "Officer Zamora. How long have you been on the force?"

Ryan gritted her teeth but looked up pleasantly and said, "Twelve years. I started right out of college."

"Oh, I see. That would make you about the same age as our Janna, wouldn't it? Early 30's?"

"Yes, actually we're the same age. We went to school together here."

She bent down to return to her writing but Jay Jay continued unabashedly in his sing song voice, "Well, what a small world! Our little one returns home from the big city and is immediately saved by a tall, dark knight from her past! How lucky she was that you were nearby!"

Embarrassed, Ryan scowled mildly and replied, "Actually sir, she didn't seem to need much in the way of saving. It appeared that it was she who was acting as your protector. My partner and I just showed up and did our jobs."

"Oh you're much too modest." Then he added conspiratorially, "You're just her type you know - tall, dark and mysterious. Did you know that she's a famous rock musician ¯ now retired of course, but stillŠ"

Now acutely bothered, Ryan didn't try to hide her irritation. "Sir, no offense, but I really need to concentrate on this paperwork."

"Oh, sorry. No offense taken. You go ahead." He waved his hand at her and turned back to Doug, who scowled at him while Missy just shook her head.

Jesus Christ, that's all I needed to hear, I'm her 'type'. She stopped writing and contemplated her pen as she mused, Rock musician, huh? Doesn't sound like my type at all. She continued to comprehend the enigma who was Janna Norden, now oblivious of the presence of the clipboard and file folder on her lap.

Just then a lean middle-aged doctor in blue scrubs appeared and asked, "Is there someone here with Ms. Norden?" Janna's friends and Ryan immediately stood and the doctor addressed them all. "Are you family?"

Missy answered, "No we're friends visiting from San Francisco. She has family here but we don't know how to get in touch with them."

The doctor turned to Ryan and said, "I'm Dr. Turner, Officer. Do you have her emergency contact information?"

Ryan's gut clenched in fear as he said this, but her face remained impassive, as she replied, "No I haven't been able to get that yet. Is she all right?"

Her heart beat wildly until the doctor finally responded, "She'll be fine. She has a mild concussion and a badly bruised humerus in her right arm, as well strained ligaments in her shoulder. She is resting now, but was concerned that her parents be notified. Apparently she had planned to stop in at their house tonight and thought they might be worried when they couldn't reach her."

Ryan sighed visibly with relief, an action that did not go unnoticed by Jay Jay, who raised an eyebrow perceptively, and by Missy, who smiled inwardly at her friend's good fortune. The doctor continued, "We'll need to keep her here overnight for observation, but she should be able to go home tomorrow." Looking at Ryan, he said, "Officer, she may not be up to answering questions tonight, but you're welcome to wait around and see if you want."

"I think I'll do that, thanks."

Turning to Janna's friends he said, "You can see her briefly if you'd like to, but don't tire her. She needs to rest."

"Sure, doctor, thanks," said Missy. As Dr. Turner left, Jay turned to his friends and said, "Let's go see our girl kids! Officer, are you coming?"

Startled, Ryan replied, "Um, no. You go ahead. I'll wait until you've had your visit."

"Suit yourself", sang Jay and Doug and Missy smiled at her as they walked by.

A short time later the three friends emerged from Janna's cubicle and returned to the waiting room. As they approached Ryan, Doug said, "Officer, she says she feels up to talking to you now. She gave us her house keys so we're going to her place now. We also have her Mom's phone number so we'll let her know what's going on."

Missy reached out for Ryan's hand and grasped it gently, saying, "Thanks so much for your help Officer. If you need to talk to us again we'll be at Janna's ¯ here's her number" and she handed her a scrap of paper.

Ryan replied, "Thanks, I appreciate that. I think I have all the information I need though. Janna mentioned that you were on your way to the Lake, I don't see a problem if you want to go ahead and go tomorrow."

"Oh, ok, we'll keep that in mind. But I think we'll wait and see how she's doing tomorrow before we decide. Thanks again." Doug and Jay repeated their thanks, Jay with a twinkle in his eye, and both shook the officer's hand.

After they left, Ryan took a calming breath before turning and heading toward the cubicle where Janna Norden rested.

As she lay on the uncomfortable gurney, Janna heard someone approaching her area and looked at the entrance expectantly. When she saw Officer Zamora peek her lovely, concerned face around the doorway, the butterflies in her stomach started fluttering again and a pleasant warmth spread throughout her being. She smiled weakly and said, "Hi Officer. Sorry to keep you here so long."

Smiling gently, Ryan responded, "Call me Ryan please, and don't worry about it. It's part of the job." As she pulled a chair up next to the gurney she said, "So do you feel up to answering some questions for me?"

Janna grinned mildly and said, "Sure do. Shoot!"

At that Ryan winced and said, "Ooh, don't ever say that to a cop!" then smiled.

"Ah, right. Got ya'. Go ahead."

Ryan's grin disappeared, though her expression remained soft and concerned as she resumed her role as police officer and set about asking Janna about the attack.

Sometime later, her last question answered, Ryan sat back in the large vinyl-covered chair and relaxed a little. She looked thoughtfully at Janna and said, "So, how are you feeling? Is there much pain?"

"Not much right now, no. They gave me some pretty heavy painkillers. I ought to really feel it tomorrow though."

"Well, try to take it easy and get a lot of rest. These things take a little time to heal."

"Yeah, I remember. I think it will be a little easier to follow doctor's orders this time, since I'm not in a touring rock band." She grinned wryly at the pleasant cop.

Ryan raised her eyebrows in interest and asked, "Oh, is that why you were in Seattle? At the time of the other attack I mean?"

"Yes and no. I was living there at the time but we had just finished the first gig on a U.S. tour. We left the next day for California. On a bus. God, I do not miss those days!"

"It must have been an exciting way of life though."

"Actually the excitement wore off for me pretty early on. I'm basically a homebody, not at all into heavy partying and that type of scene. It was the love of performing that got me through. As soon as that went away, I quit. Started doing only session work, then producing. Then when the joy went out of that I drifted into photography. That's what I do now."

"Oh, I see. I would have thought that being in punk bands would have generated a pretty wild lifestyle. That's another confirmation, I guess, that generalizations can be unfair."

"In my case yeah. I've always been into a pretty natural, healthy lifestyle. And the people in the bands I was in tended to be cerebral and idealistic. 'Striving to enact social change through our music'. Obviously we were quite naïve as well."
 

"But well-meaning. That's a pretty noble cause as far as I'm concerned."

"Well thanks, I think so too." Janna smiled warmly at Ryan as she said this and received a warm smile in return. "Um, our main 'cause' was civil rights, especially for gays and lesbians. Obviously tonight's little episode was proof positive that we still have a long way to go in that area."

"I'm afraid you're right about that. People will always fear what they don't understand, and the weakest lash out in fear." She gazed intently at Janna and added, "I'm no fan of 'phobes myself, if you know what I mean." One of her dark eyebrows lifted knowingly as she said that and Janna nodded, warmed by the intimate confession and curiously elated as well.

Ryan continued, "I guess coming here from the City, you were unprepared for the degree of backward thinking here. I'm sorry you received such an awful reminder of just how far we have to go here, compared with there."

At that Ryan stood up and moved closer to the gurney. She rested her hand lightly on Janna's arm and said, "Well, listen, I'd better let you get some rest. Will they be moving you into a regular room for the night?"

Janna gingerly reached over with her injured arm, which was resting in a sling, and covered Ryan's larger hand with hers, saying, "Geez, I hope so. This 'bed' is far from comfortable. I wish they'd just let me go home. I've got friends there if I need any help."

"Yeah, I know" Ryan replied with compassion. "But regulations, you know. They don't want any unnecessary liability." She looked down at Janna's hand on hers but made no move to leave. She allowed herself to revel, momentarily, in the warmth their shared touch created in her. Then she briefly covered Janna's hand with her other one, giving it a gentle squeeze as she did and said, "Well, goodbye then. I hope you have a good night. I think I'll stop by in the morning on my way into the station and see how you're doing."

Janna reluctantly let go of Ryan's hand and said, "Thanks Ryan, but that's not necessary, you must be busy."

The cop grinned pleasantly and said, "Nope, tomorrow's my day off. I'm just going in for a while to catch up on some paperwork. I live nearby so it's no trouble at all. You take care now." She smiled gently at Janna and left, stopping and turning briefly at the doorway to give a little wave.

Janna sighed and said to the empty room, "'Night Ryan. Sweet dreams."

Ryan sat in her borrowed patrol car, unwilling to leave the hospital parking lot and dwelling on the reasons why. She shook her head softly thinking, I am in a lot of trouble here. She looked up at the emergency room doors and softly said, "Good night Janna. Sweet dreams."
 

-4-
 

The next day dawned hazy and warm, a typical July day in the arid San Joaquin Valley. There wasn't a cloud in the sky as Ryan drove the short distance to Janna's hospital. As she drove, she reflected on her meeting with the interesting young woman the night before. She had made quite a strong impression on the usually implacable and unimpressionable cop. In fact, Ryan had not slept well for thinking of the cute blonde and the effect she was having on her resolve not to become involved, not to mention the effect it was having on her libido. When she did sleep, it was fitfully, fraught with strange dreams of herself and Janna in a strange and ancient land. She awoke feeling confused and somewhat shaken, but upon remembering that she was going to visit Janna, her disquiet disappeared instantly, replaced by an uncharacteristic giddiness.
 

Ryan strode through the front entrance of the hospital and stopped at the information desk to enquire as to Janna's whereabouts. She was told that the patient had been moved during the night to a room on the 3rd floor. As she rode the elevator up, she realized that she was feeling apprehension at seeing her new friend again. Friend, she thought. Yeah I really do want to be her friendŠActually, I feel like we're already old friends...Strange. Feeling apprehension in any situation was rare for her. She was usually able to maintain a calm reserve, even in the most stressful and heated situations. But this little blonde really had her going. She felt almost like a teenager on her first date.

As she approached room 329 she heard laughter and gay voices. Gay, she smiled inwardly, how appropriate! So, it was with a soft, warm smile that she came through the open doorway and stood looking at the room's occupants. Janna was sitting in the bed, right arm still in a sling and butterfly strips on the wound over her right eye, looking adorably rumpled (in Ryan's estimation). Her friends from last night as well as an older man and woman surrounded her bed. Janna looked up as Ryan entered the room and a large smile appeared on her pretty face. Ryan returned the smile unabashedly and quietly said, "Hi. How ya feeling this morning?"

As if her sustained wide grin weren't enough, Janna answered, "Pretty good. I've got lots of company as you can see!"

At that Jay Jay jumped up and trilled, "Beth, Marv, you just have to meet the brave police officer who saved us last night!" He flitted over to Ryan and touched her arm.

As a blush swept swiftly up her face, Ryan said, "Hi, I'm Ryan Zamora. Janna's friend here is prone to exaggeration, as you probably know."

"Nonsense!" trilled Jay, adding, "If you and your partner hadn't shown up when you did we all would probably have been killed! Don't you dare downplay your bravery. I won't hear it!"

"Well, thank you Mr. Sampson, but like I said last night, it was Janna who was the brave one and my partner and I were just doing our jobs."

"Oh you! Janna how will you put up with this one?" At that remark Janna blushed crimson, Missy coughed, and Doug grabbed his mate by the arm and dragged him out of the door. All the while, poor Ryan stared down at her shoes, which had apparently suddenly become fascinating.

Janna's mother Beth broke the tension by saying, "Officer Zamora, we realize that you were only doing what you are paid to do but we appreciate it tremendously nevertheless. So thank you."

"Yes, we can't thank you enough," added her husband Marv.

Ryan looked up at Janna's parents and graciously said, "Your welcome. I'm so glad I was there to help. I appreciate your kind words." She felt very warmed in the presence of these nice people and glanced shyly over at Janna, who gazed back at her fondly and smiled, then quickly looked down at her hands.

Missy cleared her throat and said, "Well buddy of mine, since you're doing so well and have assured us that you don't need us hanging around, we're gonna take off for the Lake, okay?"

"You bet, Mis. You guys go and have great time. You all deserve it."

"Oh, I wish you could come too" she pouted. "Who knows what these guys are gonna put me through without you there on my side."

Janna beckoned her friend closer and as she leaned in, whispered, "I happen to know that they plan to take you to all the big stage shows. They figure you'll enjoy seeing the topless showgirls while they get to ogle the cute gay dancers. You'll have a blast!"

Grinning, Missy answered with interest, "Oh really? All right, sounds good to me. And while I'm there and taking in the beautiful sights I'll be thinking of you!" Janna smirked and Missy added, "I'm talking the beauties of nature: the mountains, the lake, the fresh air? You naughty girl!"

Janna grinned, "I know what you were talking about!" Then she glanced over at the beautiful cop lounging against the wall, one knee bent and propped behind her on the wall. She was dressed for her day off in faded jeans and a white tank top, which showed off her dark tan. Her position, arms crossed behind her back, served to highlight her full breasts and strong shoulder muscles. Janna sighed softly and said, "I've got all the natural beauty I need right here."

"Whoo baby you sure do! Good luck with that!" Missy whispered. "I'll tell the guys that you said goodbye and for them to be good at the Lake!" With that Missy kissed her friend goodbye, bid her parents farewell, thanked the cop once again and left in search of her trip mates.

With the room suddenly much quieter, Ryan leaned forward, intending to step up to the bed to say goodbye, when Janna's mom said, "Well honey, we have to get going. We have a date at the gym. Now you be sure and give me a call when you're ready for a ride home."

"Thanks Mom, Dad. I'm sorry to have to trouble you. I know you're both working today."

"Oh honey, it's no trouble. I'll be glad of the excuse to stop for a while and get out. See you later." She leaned forward and kissed her daughter on the cheek as her husband said, "You get some more rest now sweetie. I know you won't once you get home."

"OK, Dad, I will. Bye."

They each shook Ryan's hand as they left and then the two women were left alone. They gazed quietly at one another in comfortable silence, both of them simultaneously sharing the identical thought: I want to get to know this woman. Ryan broke the silence by clearing her throat quietly and said, "Um, you know, I only have to work for a few hours. I'd be happy to swing back by and take you home. You only live a few blocks from me." She gazed at Janna expectantly and waited for her to answer.

When Janna did answer, it was somewhat sadly. "Oh, I can't ask you to do that Ryan, but thanks anyway."

Ryan pushed down the feelings of disappointment those words caused and tried again. "Really Janna I don't mind. And um, to be perfectly honest, I'd like to see you some more." Then she quickly added, "If that's what you want, I mean, and you don't find it inappropriate." She gazed hopefully and somewhat shyly at Janna, and this time her heart was warmed when her friend smiled happily and nodded.

"Oh God, Ryan, that would be great, and not at all inappropriate", Janna gasped with relief. She added, grinning, "In fact I've been sitting here wondering what I could possibly do to get your attention again. Short of committing a crime that is!"

Ryan let out her held breath with relief and grinning rakishly, said, "You certainly wouldn't have to go to any trouble to get me to notice you." Jesus, did I really just say that? Then, "Well, um, I'll see you in a few hours then. Try to get some rest until then, okay?"

Yeah right! Not when I have seeing you again to look forward to! Janna thought just before replying, "All right, I'll do that. See you in a bit."

At that Ryan pushed away from the wall and started to leave but then abruptly stopped and tentatively came to the side of the bed, where she leaned over and planted a quick kiss on Janna's cheek. Then she quickly turned and left the room. Janna was left sitting in shock, eyes wide, mouth open in a silly grin. Oh my God, I think I'm gonna die! Now there's no way in hell that I'll be able to get any rest. The warmth left by Ryan's lips on her cheek quickly spread to every part of her body, aided by the pounding of her heart.

As soon as Ryan escaped Janna's room, she leaned back against the wall and ran one hand through her hair. Fucking Christ, what did I just do? What is this woman doing to me? She shook her head in disgust but then grinned at the tingling warmth still lingering on her lips. The silly grin was still plastered on her face as she entered the station house ten minutes later.

~~~~~~~~~~
Needless to say, 3 hours later, Janna had neither slept, nor had Ryan accomplished anything productive at the office. Both women were shocked at the intensity of their attraction for the other and puzzled both over the reasons for it and how to handle it.

Janna was a voracious reader, and had a lifelong fascination with metaphysics and mysticism, so in her spare time on long road trips she had made an exploration into esoteric studies. As a result, she believed in the concept of soulmates, but had never given much thought to ever actually meeting hers. In fact, she had become somewhat jaded in her views on love. She had only given her heart away a few times, but each time she had been hurt a little more when the relationship had ended.

Now, however, she was starting to believe that she might have met her soul's match. A small part of her didn't want to believe it, because it would mean committing to the idea of being in a relationship again ¯ something she would have sworn only days ago that she was not yet ready to do. Yet, whenever she was with Ryan, she felt a deep familiarity, a comfort, as if they had been very close their whole lives. She was experiencing an intense physical and emotional longing to be close to Ryan, more than she had ever experienced with anyone else before. Janna was beginning to believe that there was a strong possibility that the two of them had been together before, in another life ¯ possibly in many other lives. This concept both thrilled and terrified her. On top of all that, she was at that very moment feeling an actual physical pain, near her heart, at being separated from Ryan.

Ryan, on the other hand, had very little use for what she considered to be impractical, abstract, "new age" ideas. Though she had been raised to believe in the wisdom of traditional Native American knowledge, she was still a realist. She believed in what she saw with her own eyes and in what she could quantify. She liked dealing with facts, not relying on elusive theories pulled from the ether. She had never particularly believed in the concept of soulmates. She had certainly never met hers, if she even had one, nor did she expect to.

She had enjoyed some satisfying relationships, but she had also endured a few truly horrible ones. So bad were a few, in fact, that she didn't particularly care to commit herself to anyone ever again. She wasn't even sure that she believed that humans were capable of monogamy - at least not over a lifetime. She had surely not been lucky enough, she thought, to find someone who wanted to be with her forever, nor had she ever felt that way about anyone else. Her longest previous relationship had lasted not quite a year, and she had been badly hurt at the end. The majority of her past relationships had consisted mainly of meaningless affairs and one night stands. She liked to be in control of her own destiny, but in this situation with Janna, she felt like she had no control over what was happening.

Yet here she was, feeling as if she couldn't go even an hour without seeing this woman. A woman she had only just met yesterday. Yes, she remembered Janna from school, but they had run in completely different crowds and she had quickly squashed the schoolgirl crush that she had developed on the little blonde. This was a skill that she would become adept at in adulthood. This whole attraction was just incredibly strange. She felt that she needed Janna. Needed to be near her, to touch her, to protect her. Needed to love her. Ryan had never needed anyone before. And way the hell does my heart ache when we're apart, like it does right now?

After almost three hours of trying to concentrate on her paperwork, Ryan came to the realization that she needed to be with Janna. Needed to get to know her. Was, in fact, falling in love with her. How could this be?

A few miles away in her hospital bed, Janna came to the same realization about Ryan. She admitted to herself that she was falling in love with her. Is this really happening?

At noon Ryan finally threw in the towel and decided to leave for the hospital. Driving there her palms were so sweaty that she had to repeatedly wipe them on her jeans, despite the air conditioning in her truck. As the large hospital came into view she still had no idea of how to proceed with Janna. She only knew that she would do everything within her power to become close to the woman. She had no choice but to do so. God, I want her. I hope I don't jump her like some horny beast and scare her away.

Janna's doctor finally released her at 11:00. In the ensuing hour she felt like a nervous wreck. She was too wired to eat or to watch TV or even to read. She didn't even notice the dull throbbing in her head or the sharp, knife-like pains in her shoulder. All she could think about was Ryan, but she hadn't a clue what she would do when she arrived. Just play it by ear and pray that it goes well, I guess. God, please don't let me act like a lovesick idiot and scare her off!
 
 
 

-5-
 
 

When Ryan walked into Janna's hospital room she found her new friend standing by the window, gazing out at her tree-filled hometown. Through the haze, she could just barely make out the faint outline of the Coast Range of mountains to the west. The more distant Sierras to the east were not visible at all. She was still wearing her hospital gown, but now had her jeans and sandals on again. Ryan was struck by how the sunlight turned Janna's hair golden, bringing out faint red highlights and she had the strongest impression that she had seen Janna just that way many, many times before. Her heart clenched at the lovely sight and a lump formed in her throat. Oh my God. I have fallen in love.

As she heard Ryan enter, Janna turned. Her heart warmed impossibly at the sight of her new friend and smiling, she greeted Ryan with a, "Hi there".

"Hi".

Janna's smile became apologetic. "I'm sorry, I'm not quite ready to go yet. I was having trouble getting dressed with this sling on so the nurse said she'd be in shortly to give me a hand. That was about twenty minutes ago" she scowled.

"That's ok. I'm not in a hurry" Ryan replied, smiling warmly, as she sat at the end of the bed, facing the wall. Her first inclination was to offer to help Janna dress, but she quickly quashed that idea, as it would put Janna's virtue at extreme risk. She sat on the bed, feeling somewhat nervous, not quite knowing what to say or do, but feeling happy at being in the small blonde's presence again.

Janna approached and sat tentatively next to her, wriggling clumsily up onto the bed and bending a leg under her. As she faced Ryan she said, "So, did you get all your paperwork done?"

"Oh, I uh, made a dent in it" Ryan lied. She hadn't really wanted to finish the arrest report today anyway. Let the asshole cool his heels in jail all weekend. Fucker. The better she got to know, and care for, Janna, the more she hated the son of a bitch.

"Oh. There must be a lot of it huh?"

"Oh yeah". Lying again. She had been all caught up before Janna's incident.

"Sounds like a drag."

"Oh, God, it is. Worst thing about the job."

"Huh. So, do you really enjoy the other aspects of the job? I hope?" Janna asked, with an expectant smile.

Smiling, "Yeah. Yeah I really do. It's all I ever really wanted to do. I love bike patrol duty. When the department created the unit a few years ago I jumped at the chance to do it. Before that I drove a patrol car and hoped to one day get on a motorcycle." Turning now to face more toward Janna, she then asked, "How about you ¯ are you happy with your career?" Then mentally kicking herself, God what a fuckin' dorky question. Shit.

Janna apparently didn't find the question at all dorky because her face lit up as she answered, "Oh yeah. I'm loving it, and already have had a few small successes."

Ryan felt curiously warmed at hearing Janna say that she was happy. "Oh that's great. I'm really glad to hear that. You said you were a photographer now, didn't you?"

"Yes, I did. I'm working mostly freelance, doing a lot of nature work. I absolutely love being outdoors so much. And traveling. I adore the mountains and have been spending a lot of time up there."

Ryan found Janna's lovely smile infectious and sported an equally lovely smile of her own. "Oh, that sounds fantastic. I love the mountains too. I do a lot of mountain biking and backpacking up there. Maybe we can make a trip together some time?" Ryan asked hopefully.

"Oh, I'd love that Ryan!" Janna responded happily, with a smile that warmed Ryan to her very core. Janna added, "You've got to really love biking to spend so much time on one don't you?"

"Yeah" Ryan smiled shyly. "It's not just the biking. It's the whole package. Being outdoors, exercising, breathing in the fresh, clean air. In the mountains I mean!"

"Yeah, I know what you mean. It sounds like we have that in common too." Janna's smile widened and then she looked down at her hands shyly, warming Ryan's heart even more. "Hey, I got some good news from the doctor today!" She said as she looked back up at Ryan.

"Oh yeah, what's that?" delivered with an endearing rakish grin and one lifted eyebrow.

"He said that I should be able to play ball in a few weeks ¯ if I'm good and let the ligaments heal properly. Any strenuous activity too early will also stress the bone bruise. Cause inflammation I think he said." Then she added, "I didn't tell him that I heal pretty fast though."

"Well, I'll have to make sure you stick to the plan then. I'd like to see you play." That's not all I'd like to see you do.

"I'm dying to get out there and play so I will definitely be following doctor's orders, Coach."

As she said this she picked up Ryan's hand and looked at her fondly. They held each other's gaze and both became lost in a timeless moment. Shining emerald eyes locked with brilliant sapphire and the message conveyed was not lost on either woman. Ryan looked down at their hands and intertwined their fingers. She cleared her throat gently and holding the other woman's gaze said, "Janna, I'm really looking forward to spending some time with you."

Janna's face became even more radiant as she replied, "I'm very much looking forward to that too, Ryan. I must say that I, um, feel like something very special is happening here. As strange as it may seem."

"I'm feeling the same way Janna" Ryan said as she brought their linked hands to her lips and gently kissed Janna's fingers, her eyes never leaving Janna's.

Janna's heart lurched violently at the contact, but the moment was broken when the nurse suddenly returned, completely oblivious of the fact that she had just interrupted a very special moment.

"Ok, hon, let's get you dressed and out of here!"

The two friends, who had been sitting cross-legged facing each other, clumsily unclasped their hands and parted, and Janna dropped her feet to the floor.

Ryan, somewhat embarrassed, quickly said, "I'll wait outside in the hall." She sought refuge, as before, just outside the door and took a shaky breath. One more second and I would have kissed those beautiful lips. Jesus. I am gone. Totally and completely gone on this woman. She marveled at the fact that her heart was pounding and she was shaking. No one has ever had this kind of effect on me.

The nurse stepped out a few moments later, with Janna trailing her. "Okay ladies, let me grab a wheelchair and we'll wheel you out to your car."

When Janna started to protest, the nurse held up her hand and said, "I know. But it's hospital policy. I have to wheel you to the curb. Just sit down and enjoy the ride hon."

Janna grudgingly sat down in the chair and scowled as Ryan unsuccessfully smothered a grin. Then, smiling, added, "Just you wait, Coach. I'll have you in an embarrassing situation some time, then who'll be smiling?"

Oh, I am so counting on that baby. You have absolutely no idea! Ryan thought, but said instead, "Yeah, yeah, babe, promises, promises!" She winked at Janna as she bestowed upon her another of her patented rakish grins.

Janna's blush lasted all the way down to the parking lot.

~~~~~~~~~~
With Janna seated comfortably in Ryan's Ford Explorer, the cop made the short drive to Janna's place. They both lived within the nearby historical district, their homes only a few blocks apart.

"Small world, huh, that we live in the same neighborhood? Coincidental, but nice."

"Yeah", replied the cop. "Very nice". She glanced thoughtfully at Janna. "I'd call it a case of mutual good taste and yet another thing we have in common." She began to blush and looked quickly back to the road in front of her.

Janna smiled as her heart lurched. She's got the cutest blush I've ever seen. Probably because she doesn't do it much.

Ryan scowled inwardly at herself and thought, Jesus, she's got me blushing again.

A companionable silence ensued before Janna said, "So, you have my address, right?"

"Yeah, I got it from the file. It's just about a block ahead on the left isn't it?

"Yep. It's the gray two-story in need of a paint job, just up there" and she pointed to an attractively styled large, two-story Victorian with a rather new Jeep parked in the driveway. There was construction scaffolding lining one entire wall of the house.

Seeing the house, Ryan smiled and said, "I thought that might be your house. I was glad to see that someone finally bought it a while back. I've been curious as to how much renovation the new owner might do."

Janna grinned and said, "Well the new owner is planning on restoring it completely to its original state ¯ on the exterior anyway. I'm modernizing it on the inside."

"Sounds great. What was the original color, do you know?"

"Yes, I researched that. It was a warm yellow with white trim. I think it will be really bright and cheery.

Ryan nodded, agreeing, "Oh, yeah, sounds real nice." She then looked warmly at Janna and added, "I'm glad you're taking an interest in restoring it correctly. This neighborhood was in really poor shape, but now it's really starting to come back again."

"Oh, I know. I couldn't believe it when I first came back here and saw it. When we were kids this was a pretty rough neighborhood, remember?"

"Sure do."

"And downtown! I can't believe how much redevelopment is going on. When we were kids it was called 'skid row', but I went down to City Square to eat lunch the other day and I was truly impressed."

Ryan smiled proudly because it was her beat that Janna was talking about. "Oh, yeah? My partner and I eat lunch in the Square a lot. Yeah, downtown is changing dramatically. I'll have to show you the master plan sometime. In a few years the waterfront will be completely redeveloped as well. I'm really looking forward to it."

Ryan pulled the Explorer to a stop behind Janna's Jeep and jumped out to assist her friend.

"Nice Jeep!"

"Thanks! Your Explorer is nice too. We both drive SUV's - typical lesbians!" Janna giggled.

Ryan threw her head back and laughed. It was a deep, full-throated laugh that turned Janna's knees to jelly. "Yep", she said, "I guess we are!" She walked Janna to the porch, her hand on the small of her friend's back. When they got to the door Janna reached into her pocket for her keys, saying, "Will you come in for a bit?"

"Um, well, you really should rest shouldn't you?"

"Nah, I slept pretty well last night ¯ I must have been wiped out. I'm really not tired now. Please come in, just for a while? I'd like to show you the renovations I'm doing."

"All right, if you're sure you're not tired, I'd like that." Janna's open smile melted her heart even further and Ryan followed the smaller woman into the house.

Janna commenced the grand tour, pointing out finished and future renovations. She started with the completed rooms, which were upstairs. The first to be completed was the large master suite. It occupied fully one half of the upper floor and contained a large bedroom with sitting area, fireplace and large walk-in closet. Adjoining it was a large, luxurious bath with double sink, shower and a large, square whirlpool tub set into a corner. A skylight in the ceiling flooded the room with light.

"Wow," exclaimed Ryan with a wide grin. "You don't do anything halfway do you?" With a raised eyebrow she added, "I love the tub."

Janna blushed mildly and smiled. "I plan to stay here so I wanted to do everything right. And I happen to love bubble baths."

Ryan clamped down on what she almost said and just grinned jauntily instead. Janna grabbed her hand and said, "Come on. There are two more bedrooms and an office finished. Then we'll go back downstairs."

Ryan followed along happily, not unlike a puppy dog, relishing the warm contact with Janna's hand. For both women, the warmth in their clasped hands shot straight to their hearts and stayed there, the first tendrils of a life-long bond forming.

During the rest of the tour, Ryan nodded thoughtfully, making occasional knowledgeable comments, having had experience with that type of historical renovation.

The tour finished on the bottom floor at the back of the house where the studio and darkroom were under construction. "This will be my pride and joy," Janna said happily. "I designed it myself to be both functional and comfortable. I plan to spend many long, happy hours in here". At the same time she thought, Although with you in my life I can think of another room where I'd rather spend many long, happy hours.

Coincidentally, Ryan was having remarkably similar thoughts and as they looked at each other, they both were blushing slightly. Ryan recovered first and leered at Janna shamelessly, watching her friend's face turn beet red. Ryan quickly took pity on her and, offering her hand said, "Come on. I think we both could use something cold to drink."

"You better believe it," mumbled Janna, still holding Ryan's hand. Ryan led them to the kitchen and leaned back, elbows on the counter.

"I see you've finished the kitchen too," Ryan said as she looked around, admiring the large space. It had whitewashed cabinets with glass fronts, matching white appliances and a large central island.

"Yep, the most important rooms first!" Janna grinned as she walked to the refrigerator and asked, "What would you like?"

"Oh, I don't know. Whaddya have?"

"Let's see. Spring water, beer, iced tea, soda, wineŠ"

"What are you having?"

"Well, I'm still on painkillers so alcohol is out. A Coke I think."

"Sounds good. I'll have one too."

Janna inclined her head towards the living room and Ryan went on in. The room was very comfortable looking with a large, soft sofa, two overstuffed armchairs and a loveseat positioned in a semi-circle around a rough pine coffee table. The room was done up in a Southwestern motif, the furniture sporting muted desert colors. Opposite the loveseat was a large entertainment center, which housed state of the art audio and video equipment. Two electric guitars and one acoustic sat on stands on either side of the entertainment center, as did a large Peavey amplifier. Next to the amp stood a large pine tower filled with CD's. The titles represented an amazingly eclectic mix of musical styles. Besides the expected punk titles there were titles ranging from classic and modern rock, to new age to classical.

On the other side of the entertainment unit stood a tall tower filled with videotapes. Quickly scanning the titles, Ryan noted many current and classic favorites, a large percentage of which were science fiction and action films. The top shelf, she noted with a smirk, contained gay and lesbian titles, including her current favorite, the recent lesbian classic, "Desert Hearts." Smiling inwardly, she thought, I'd love to watch that one with her some time!

The walls of the attractive room held several Native American art prints, and numerous Native American ceremonial and artistic objects dotted the various surfaces in the room. Smiling, Ryan realized that the Native American décor made her feel right at home. Every surface in the room contained at least one candle. Against another wall stood a floor to ceiling bookshelf filled with books.

Janna returned with their sodas and took a seat at one end of the sofa and Ryan sat next to her. From where she sat, Ryan could see that the bookshelf contained numerous books on music and almost as many esoteric titles. There were also many books on science and astronomy, as well as science fiction. The top two shelves were filled with Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual titles, ranging from novels to essays, to art books to self-help and instructional books. She noticed more than a few titles matched some in her own library and was struck again at how very similar their interests seemed to be, as well as how well-matched they seemed to be intellectually. I don't believe I've ever found anyone so attractive in every way, she thought as she casually looked around the room and sipped her drink. My God, I want this woman. I want to know her completely.

Janna noticed Ryan thoughtfully observing the room and asked, "Do you like what you see?"

Ryan turned to her and replied seriously, "Yes I do. Very much so."

"Good. I'm glad. I'd like for you to feel comfortable and welcome here Ryan." She smiled quietly at her new friend and held her gaze.

"I do Janna. Thank you." She looked down at the drink sitting on her knee and played with the moisture on the rim with her thumb. "Um, Janna, I want to be honest with you about something, if you're feeling up to having a serious discussion." She looked back up at Janna expectantly, her blue eyes serious.

Janna, concerned, said, "Sure, Ryan, I'm feeling okay right now. What is it?"

Ryan looked back down at her glass and began, stammering a little, "It's just that, well, I want you to knowŠ umŠhow I feel." A look of dejection marred her perfect features and she shook her head, saying, "I'm sorry, I'm not good at expressing my feelings. Damn." She took a sip from her glass and set it on the table in front of her.

Janna's heart filled with compassion for this woman whom she was beginning to love. She reached over and picked up one of Ryan's hands, holding it in hers, and said, "It's okay Ryan. Just take your time. I care and I'm listening."

Ryan smiled weekly and began, "OkayŠI'm sure you've noticed the feelings passing between us, right?"

Janna nodded in the affirmative and smiled gently, squeezing Ryan's hand.

Ryan took a breath and continued, "Right. Well, I'm feeling myself very strongly attracted to you Janna. Not just physically, although that's undeniable". She smiled crookedly and suddenly her words were upheld by a warmth which shot from her groin and spread out in every direction.

She cleared her throat again. "Not entirely physical. It's emotional as well. I've never been so strongly attracted to anyone before and certainly not this fast. I mean, I've only known you for one day, for Christ's sake." At this she shook her head and continued, "What I'm trying to say, besides that I'm starting to care deeply for you, is that, I'm not used to this. I haven't been in a relationship for a long time ¯ several years ¯ by choice. The last relationship I was in ended very badly and I haven't wanted to risk that again. It just wasn't worth it. But now, I don't knowŠI think I very much want to be involved with you. I can't fight it, and it's scaring the hell out of me." Her face was etched with concern, her brilliant eyes misty, as she looked up into Janna's loving gaze.

Janna found herself moved beyond all reason. Her eyes filled with tears and took on a depth of compassion and love that Ryan had never before witnessed, warming her instantly and easing her fear. She reached out for Ryan with her good arm and pulled her tightly to her, holding her close. In a breaking voice, she said, "Oh Ryan, thank you for telling me that. I feel exactly the same way for you. I don't completely understand it myself and it scares me too, because I've been burned as well."

She added, somewhat embarrassed, "At the risk of sounding hokey, I think we just might have an 'eternal soulmates' type thing happening here." She chuckled nervously and a similar laugh bubbled up from Ryan's chest.

Her head still buried against Janna's uninjured shoulder, Ryan replied, "Yeah, well I used to think that stuff was hokey too but now I'm not so sure." Lifting her head and looking deeply into Janna's eyes, she said, "I feel like I've known you forever...um...like I've loved you forever."

Janna answered her by gently capturing Ryan's lips with her own. Immediately they were both swept up in an all-consuming warmth and the rest of the world seemed to fall away from them. Ryan returned the kiss gently, broke away for an instant, then kissed Janna again passionately. She lightly brushed her tongue against Janna's lips, which parted instantly in acceptance. The kiss deepened, tongues dancing and intertwining ardently. A soft gasp escaped from Janna's throat as Ryan moaned. The kiss continued until both women were breathless. They separated a little, still holding one another and Ryan gasped, "Jesus!"

Janna, eyes closed and breathing hard, could only smile and nod her head. Finally she said, "My God Ryan, I've never felt this way about anyone!" Looking seriously at Ryan, she added, "I've never wanted anyone so much."

Ryan pulled her into another tight embrace, resting her cheek against Janna's blond head. "Neither have I, Janna. Not even close." She lightly kissed Janna's hair and reluctantly said, "I hate to say this, but we'd better stop now. You're really not up to this, I know, and you should be resting." With a wry look, she added, "Not to mention the fact that we should slow this down some."

Janna nodded tearfully and said, "I know, you're right. I'm feeling kind of faint at the moment. However," she added with a smile, "I think that's your fault, not the concussion's."

Ryan laughed her wonderful, deep laugh and nodded her agreement. "Will you rest now then?"

"Only if you stay with me," said Janna looking up through long blonde lashes.

"I'd love to, more than I can say. Come 'ere." She grinned as she kicked off her Birkenstock's and sat back against the end of the sofa, beckoning to Janna with outstretched arms. Janna snuggled happily into her arms, head resting on her chest, and closed her eyes. Ryan wrapped her arms around her new love and realized immediately that she felt utterly complete. Her entire being was filled with a warmth that emanated from her heart center and expanded out to include the woman lying in her arms. Janna felt the same unique sensation and knew, from the very depths of her soul, that she had just become bonded for life. Both women could feel the strong cord which now linked their hearts, and they silently, simultaneously, thanked whatever Universal powers that existed for bringing them together. For bringing them home.

Part 3

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