The Homecoming
By Janet Lynne

Part 6

-13-

Janna's breath came in ragged gasps as she panted, "Oh yes...oh God...Ryan..." She followed up with a breathless, "Thank you" as Ryan crawled back up her luscious body and cradled her in her strong arms while the delightful tremors subsided.

"I love you, Ryan."

"Love you too, baby. So much." As Ryan leaned down for a kiss Janna saw that she had a little chocolate around her mouth and on the tip of her nose. It was too adorable and she giggled.

"Honey, come here. Let me clean you up a little now." She pulled Ryan's face closer and slowly licked the chocolate from her face. Ryan slowed her progress with an errant tongue and they enjoyed the taste of one another for another few minutes.

As they parted again Ryan sighed happily. "That was such a good idea love. I have a whole new appreciation for chocolate now. Not to mention strawberries." She grinned happily and pulled Janna into an even tighter embrace, so glad that Janna had kept the promise she had made at the gym.

"I thought you'd like it. I'll have to make that dessert for you more often," she said saucily.

"Oh yeah, at least once a week, love." Ryan grinned widely as she squeezed Janna.

After their workout they had skipped showers down at the gym in favor of their planned interlude in Janna's tub. They ate a quick, light meal of salads and bread and practically skipped up the stairs to the master suite, both barely able to control their enthusiasm. What began in the tub by candlelight quickly escalated and had to be moved, candles and all, to the bedroom. Both women now lay sated in each other's arms. The nearly full moon shining in through the open blinds bathed them in a warm, silvery glow, as if in approval.

Ryan lay enjoying the feel of contentment that holding Janna in her arms filled her with. "Janna, I've never had such a fulfilling physical relationship before. Is it because we're soulmates, do you think?"

"I guess so honey. This is the best ever for me too. It could be because I love you so very much. I've never experienced love on this level before."

"Yeah, this is new for me too. I never would've thought it possible to love someone this much...to... to feel so completed by someone else. It's incredibly emotionally satisfying too." She kissed Janna's hair and sighed contentedly. "I never want this to end Janna. I don't like being apart from you, even for a little while." She shook her head and grinned self- deprecatingly, "Look at me...big tough cop who never needed anyone before, can't leave her little lady without feeling lost and so lonely that she can't concentrate. But Jesus, I just feel so incomplete without you."

Janna kissed the breast near her mouth and replied, "I certainly know the feeling love. I can no longer imagine life without you. I want to spend every minute of every day with you."

"But Janna, do you know what's cool?" Ryan's excited look charmed Janna.

"What, love?"

"Our link! With it, it's almost like we're not apart. I can feel you even when we're miles apart. I'm even starting to be able to tell which feelings are mine and which are yours. And you know what else? The other day when you met John and me at the café, I felt you before I saw you...I knew you were coming up behind me. God, I love this!" She embraced Janna more tightly and lifted her up so that she could kiss her.

Janna returned the kiss and felt absolutely giddy at Ryan's enthusiasm. "Sweetheart, I know. I've read about these links, but never imagined that I'd experience one of my own. We're very blessed. I wish everyone could experience this."

"So do I. You know, I used to laugh at John. After he met Sara, he never wanted to hang out with me and the guys anymore. And if he did he always insisted on including her. Some of our friends called him, 'Whipped', and I guess I went along with that, but now I understand it completely. I have no desire whatsoever to do anything separate from you... and I don't see that changing, ever."

She looked Janna deeply in the eyes, serious blue meeting enchanted green. "In fact, I want to set up housekeeping with you Janna. I don't want to wait. I want to move in here with you. Jesus, I'd marry you tomorrow if it were legal." She squeezed Janna tightly and a single tear slid down her cheek.

Janna matched her tear with some of her own and answered, "Then let's do it honey. Why don't we do as much, legally, as we can? I mean, like, power of attorneys and life insurance beneficiaries, and such? And I'd like to add your name to the title of this house."

"Okay, yeah, let's do that. I mean, if you're sure about it."

"Oh, I'm positive. I know this is moving fast, Ryan, but I've never felt so sure about anything."

"Neither have I. Hell, Janna I'd be willing to move us to the first State that legalizes gay marriage. Country even. I hear there's talk of it happening in Canada, and Norway, I think."

"Yeah. I've heard that Hawaii is thinking about it. And Vermont. Also the Netherlands. I'd be willing to, love. In a heartbeat."

Ryan's eyes gained an additional sparkle and she grinned as she said, "In the meantime, we can have a good old-fashioned commitment ceremony."

"Yeah...lets do that sweetheart. Um...why don't we talk about it in the morning though?" The sparkle in Janna's eyes matched Ryan's as she turned and lay atop her lover, re-igniting their passion.

Luna watched silently as the two lovers began their now familiar dance of love again, smiling in approval in her own special way.

~~~~~~~~~~

As it turns out, Ryan and Janna were much too busy the next morning doing other, more enjoyable, things to talk about their near-future plans. That talk had to wait until later, as they ate dinner at Ryan's place. Over a dinner of grilled beef and veggie burgers, French fries, salad and wine, the ladies discussed their plans. They sat on the deck under a beautiful sky, the sun still warm as it sank in the west. The edge of the deck was bordered with planters and flowerpots and the sweet scents sat heavily on the warm air.

Over a mouth full of burger, Janna said, "This is really good, honey. And you say you can't cook!"

"I can't cook. But I can grill up a storm!" Ryan replied jauntily as she popped a French fry into her mouth.

"You sure can. I'd be happy with a grilled meal a few times a week if you were so inclined" Janna replied with a grin.

"You got it, babe. I'd be more than happy to do that. I usually grill three or four times a week anyway." Ryan sat back in her lounge chair and sipped her wine, eyes sparkling as she watched her love enjoy her meal. Janna enjoyed few things as much as she enjoyed a good meal, it seemed, and it pleased Ryan immensely to not only cook for her, but to watch her savor a meal.

"So," Janna started, around another mouth full of food, "When do you want to move in to my place?" She washed her food down with a sip of wine and smiled contentedly.

"Well, how about this weekend? Did you have anything else planned?"

"Nope, nothing else planned. This weekend it is." She took another few fries and munched them contentedly.

"Great! You know, unless you want anything in particular, I think I'll leave most everything here. What John and Sara don't want to use I can put into storage. I'll basically just need my everyday stuff: clothes, weights, sports equipment, books, music, and movies. I think I can leave most of the furniture and appliances here. " Then as if as an afterthought she added with a smile, "And I'll bring my R.C. Gorman prints of course."

"Of course! Thank you love." Janna's soft smile melted Ryan's heart just a little bit more and she leaned over and snared a kiss.

"Mmm, good fries...they taste like you."

"Here, love, have some wine with your fries," Janna suggested, then took a sip from her glass and leaned over to share with Ryan.

"Mmm, tastes so much better when you share it. Come 'ere." Ryan beckoned to Janna to sit on her lap and she happily complied. Ryan commenced hand feeding her the rest of her meal and Janna shared a little of each bite with her love. Very shortly they became more engrossed in the meeting of lips than in the sharing of food and soon became breathless.

"God, Janna, I never get tired of kissing you. I can't seem to get enough."

"I feel the same way, so why don't we get dinner cleaned up and go upstairs?"

Ryan liked that idea immensely and nearly dropped Janna in her haste to get up. They got the food and dishes squared away in record time and had lots of time for more intimate pursuits upstairs.

As they lay together in Ryan's bed a few hours later, light from the full moon poured in through the large, open window, accompanied by a cool breeze. The night-cool air felt good on superheated and sweat-slicked skin and Janna sighed. Ryan moaned contentedly as she traced lazy circles on the skin of Janna's back.

"I've always loved the moon", Janna remarked quietly. "I always have the blinds open on moonlit nights...to let the light in."

"Mmm, me too love. I miss her when she's not out." Ryan commented.

"So you consider it a female spirit too, huh?" Janna grinned.

"Yeah, Native American lore. I've never known whether or not to believe in that stuff, but I think deep down I want for it to be true."

"Same here. Only I do tend to believe a lot of it now. I believe there is a consciousness, or a spirit in the moon, and in the sun too, though it's a more masculine energy."

"Yep, so say the Natives. It's hard to argue with information passed down from so many different ancient cultures that all basically agree with each other, you know?" Ryan turned her face toward the window and enjoyed the feeling of the silver light on her face.

"Mm hmm. That's so right. I've studied a number of ancient belief systems and I find what I believe are bits of truth in all of them. That goes for religions too," Janna said as she turned to look into Ryan's beautiful face. She reached up and lovingly caressed a high cheekbone.

"So you're a Christian but you are open to other belief systems?" Ryan looked at Janna with an open curiosity as she grabbed Janna's fingers and brought them to her lips.

"Uh huh. I believe in Christ's basic message of love being the way, but the dogma of organized churches turns me off. I find some truth in Taoism, and in Buddhism and some of the old pagan religions too. It works for me." Janna shrugged and smiled meekly.

"I basically feel the same way, honey. I think that similar information came to the planet in different ways and by different messengers, but that the source was the same. I think that when each bit of information came it was right for the time and delivered in a way that the people of the time could understand and identify with.

"You know", Ryan continued, "I read once where someone said that in the Universe there is only love and fear, and that every negative emotion and energy is just a different manifestation of fear, including what we consider evil. I've given that a lot of thought, because of some of the awful things I see as part of my job. A thing might appear to be evil, but if you really think about it, it could just be a manifestation of fear. It makes sense to me when I look at it that way."

"Yes, sweetheart, that mirrors my belief exactly! Like, anger is the fear of unmet expectations. Someone doesn't do what you expect them to and you get angry. It's better not to have expectations. Or, um... impatience is the fear of missing out on something. I read a whole list of them once and it really made sense to me. I'll have to see if I can dig that up again...I need a refresher if we're going to have a lot of conversations like this." Janna smiled as she caressed the strong arm around her waist.

Ryan replied, "Cool love, I'd like to read that. You know I saw a lot of books on your shelves that looked really interesting. There was one on the use of medicinal herbs that I'd like to take a look at. I've always been kind of interested in that but never studied it. Probably goes back to my great-grandfather who was a shaman."

"Oh, cool. Or it could be a past life thing too. You may have been a healer before." Janna remarked.

Ryan looked interested and replied, "Yeah, I suppose so. That's another thing I've never been sure about...reincarnation...but sort of want to believe in. It would explain a lot of things, especially having to do with you. Like some dreams I've been having lately."

"What kind of dreams Ryan?" Janna became still, waiting for Ryan's answer.

"Well, they're very strange, but also very realistic...not abstract or symbolic like dreams tend to be...but more like real images of my life. Only it seems to be a very long time ago. I'm usually wearing leather and a sort of armor outfit. I have a beautiful tan horse and an even more beautiful companion...Janna, she looks just like you."

Janna took up the story. "But her hair is shorter than mine and she rides a white horse, or else rides behind you on yours. They're warriors, or you are anyway, although sometimes she fights too, either with a quarterstaff or with small dagger-like weapons."

"Jesus Christ, Janna. What's going on here? I've seen the same things."

"I'm not completely sure...how can you be sure about something like this? But I think its recollections from a past life we shared. A very significant past life, apparently. I've had the dreams every night we've been together, Ryan. All of them so far have been different, but the one common element is our love for each other. We were a couple then too, and as much in love as we are now, I think."

"Yep, that's the same impression I get, love. This is very strange but also cool!" Ryan hugged her mate closer as she yawned. "Sweetheart I want to look into this some more, but right now I need to get some sleep, okay?"

"Sure honey. I'm tired too. You wear me out, you know?" She could make out Ryan's rakish grin in the moonlight and laughed quietly just before Ryan gathered her up for a goodnight kiss and embrace. Ryan's grin continued as realization dawned as to just why she and Janna slept so well together...it was always after great sex.

Luna smiled down on her friends compassionately as they drifted off into sleep.

~~~~~~~~~~

All that Ryan was aware of was a mind-numbing, bone-chilling cold. She was lying in snow, vaguely aware of it falling on and around her. The cold filled her awareness to the exclusion of everything else...except...what was that? Janna's voice, weak, as if miles away, yet she felt nearby.

Suddenly, she realized that Janna was lying not far from her and calling her name. What is she calling me? It sounded like, "Zena". Her mind cleared somewhat at the sound of her soul mate's voice and she realized that they were both strapped by their arms and legs to planks of wood and were surrounded by soldiers.

She looked to her right and saw Janna looking back at her.

Her faced filled with love as she said, "I love you, Zena".

Ryan felt some of the ice melt from around her heart and replied, "I love you too, Gabrielle." As she said this, a soldier approached her soul mate, knelt beside her, and placed a large iron nail against her open palm. In his other hand he held a hammer, which he quickly brought down on the head of the nail, driving it through Janna's (Gabrielle's?) palm. At this, Ryan screamed, "No! Janna!"

Ryan's scream awakened Janna from a sound sleep. She sat up and looked down at her mate. Ryan's face was covered with perspiration as she tossed in her sleep, apparently still in the throes of the nightmare.

She reached for Ryan's face, caressing it gently as she said softly, "Ryan, sweetheart. Wake up. It's just a dream."

Ryan continued to twist on the bed, agony and grief written on her beautiful features. Janna reached down and folded her into an embrace, repeating, "Ryan, it's okay. Wake up now."

Ryan's eyes flew open, terror emblazoned on them. She sat up in a daze, automatically wrapping her arms around Janna. After a moment of confusion, she looked at her mate and relief replaced the terror on her face. She burst into tears as she pulled Janna tightly to her chest. "Oh, God, Janna, they were killing you."

Janna returned the embrace, squeezing Ryan tightly. "Shh, sweetheart. It was just a dream. I'm fine."

Ryan relished the comforting contact with her mate and slowly rocked them back and forth, tears still spilling from her eyes.

"But it was so real. I think you were being nailed to a cross. Oh, God Janna. I know we died together that day."

"It's over Ryan. Long over. We're here now, and we're fine." She kissed the pulse point that throbbed beneath her lips and felt Ryan relax a little.

They held each other in silence for long moments, comforting each other with their closeness and with gentle touches. Ryan broke the silence with, "It was one of those warrior dreams. You called me, 'Zena' and I called you, 'Gabrielle'. I think the soldiers were Roman." Feeling somewhat better, she then remarked wryly, "We musta pissed off Caesar or something."

"We must have", Janna grinned. Then she added thoughtfully, in a quiet voice, "So we lived in the time of the Caesars. I thought it seemed to be around then. I was thinking it was in Greece though, or someplace hot and dry like that."

"It was Greece", Ryan remarked offhandedly, unsure of how she knew that. "And my name was Xena." She shivered as the cool breeze hit her damp skin and remembered the awful pain of seeing her love put to death. She swallowed hard and kissed Janna's hair. "Jesus Christ, it hurt to see them do that to you. I feel it as if it really happened."

"It did really happen Ryan. We carry those memories in our bodies...in our chakras. There's probably a reason why you're remembering that life now. Something having to do with your soul's growth and evolution. It's part of this life's lesson."

"Well, I was doing just fine without that horror, thank you very much. I prefer the other dreams I've had, where we're swimming or relaxing together, or making love. Hell, even the fighting dreams are better, at least we always kicked their asses."

"Yeah, most of my dreams have been happy ones too. Tomorrow, lets talk about what we remember of those dreams, okay?"

"Sure baby." Ryan groaned as she noted the time: 3:15. "Come on, let's try to get back to sleep or I'm not gonna be worth shit tomorrow." Quietly, she added, "I'm glad you were here, Janna. It would've been even more terrifying to wake up alone." Her mate gave her a reassuring squeeze and she lay back down, bringing her Janna with her.

As her mate settled back against her side, Ryan silently asked Grandmother Moon to protect them from further nightmares. Luna complied.

~~~~~~~~~~

Janna awakened as a dabble of warm sunlight hit her face. She could feel a hot breeze caress her mostly bare skin and smelled the scent of sun-warmed grasses. As she stirred and opened one eye she realized that her head was pillowed in Ryan's lap.

Before she could open the other eye she heard Ryan, using the softest voice she'd ever heard, say, "Sweetheart, looks who's finally awake. It's your other mama. Yes, it is."

She was answered by a sweet baby's gurgle and a, "Goo!"

Janna turned to face her mate and the baby she was nursing. Warmed to the core by the sight of her family, she sat up and moved to sit against the tree, next to her partner. She wrapped an arm around her mate's waist and leaned down to kiss their child.

"Hello my sweet little Eve. Is it dinnertime again?"

"Sure is. Didja have a nice nap, love?" her Warrior asked with a grin and a twinkle in her brilliant blue eyes.

"Of course. I had my favorite pillow didn't I?" Equally twinkling green eyes met her gaze.

The Warrior looked down as the infant's suckling slowed. "She's getting sleepy. We might as well just camp here for the night. We made good distance today."

"Mmm." The Bard stretched and then reached into a nearby saddlebag, pulling out a scroll. "Sounds good to me. I want to get this scroll finished while that last adventure is fresh in my mind."

"Mmm". The tall warrior gently shifted the now sleeping infant to her shoulder and softly patted her back. She watched as her mate brought a quill to her mouth, deep in thought. She reached out a long arm and folded it around her partner's shoulders, her mate instinctively moving against her side. The warrior sighed contentedly and leaned her head back against the tree, thinking, I have, right here in my arms, all I will ever need to be happy. I am finally complete.

The Bard, sensing her mate's feelings, put her work down and turned in her lover's embrace. "And I have everything I will ever need. I love you Xena." She reached up and pulled the Warrior's face down to meet her lips.

The feel of the sun on her face and Ryan's lips softly kissing hers awakened Janna. She was greeted by a rich, low, "Morning sweetheart. Were you having a sweet dream?"

Janna blinked and pulled Ryan back down for another kiss. After it ended, she gazed at Ryan and said, "Oh, love, it was a wonderful dream. You were nursing our baby. We were incredibly happy." Her eyes shone with love and she let their link communicate her feelings to her partner.

"That does sound wonderful. Was it one of the Warrior dreams?"

"Yeah. And you know what? I was a writer...a bard, I guess they called it back then."

"Ah, that makes sense. You're still a bard, you know." Ryan rolled over onto her back, pulling Janna down against her, and kissed her cheek. "So, we had a baby, huh? Or I did?"

"Yep, but she seemed to be truly both of ours. I felt an intense love for her. Her name was Eve."

"Eve. I've always liked that name. So, we were Xena, Gabrielle and Eve. I wonder how the baby happened." Janna giggled, so Ryan continued, "Okay smarty, I know how it happened, but there had to be a guy involved somewhere...we were a couple weren't we?"

"Definitely. I don't know...maybe we used some ancient form of sperm donation."

"Honey in those days, there was only one form of sperm donation." She grinned wryly.

"I know. I'm just fooling with ya. We could find out you know. Do a past life regression with a therapist and find out all about that life, and others."

"Or we could just keep sleeping together and have these incredible dreams...visions...whatever you want to call them."

"Mmm, I think I like that idea best. Know what else we did a lot of in that life?" She nibbled on a nearby collarbone to give Ryan a clue.

"Mmm, I think I have an idea, yeah. No wonder we're so compatible Janna. We've been doing this for two thousand years." She embraced her mate and sought out her lips, arms slowly caressing her back. Janna responded with a moan and deepened the kiss, enjoying the feel of Ryan's hard body under hers. She inclined her head and lightly kissed Ryan's breastbone, eliciting a moan and an intake of breath from her partner. Her lips then moved farther down to more sensitive spots and the moaning intensified. "Ohh, baby, we don't have time for this do we?" Ryan groaned. Janna stopped her loving ministrations long enough to glance at the clock.

She groaned and replied, "Uhh, no, actually. It's almost 7:30 already."

"Shit! I'm gonna be late." Ryan gently disengaged herself from under Janna and jumped up out of bed. Janna enjoyed the view as she made her way into the bathroom.

"I guess separate showers are in order then?" Janna asked, disappointment coloring her voice.

A tousled dark head appeared from around the bathroom door, grinned and said, "You can join me if you promise to be good."

"Oh, love, I don't know if I can promise that." Then she added with a grin, "But I can try." With that she jumped up as well and joined her partner, who in turn admired the vision approaching her.

Janna was not good, as it turns out, and neither was Ryan. Ryan made it to roll call just as the Captain began the morning briefing, her stomach empty but her soul fulfilled.

-14-

As he pulled up to his sister's house, Dan Norden noticed that the green Explorer was parked in her driveway again. As he attempted to smother a smug grin, the front door opened and the beautiful cop that he'd seen there previously exited, followed by Janna. He watched as the cop glanced his way before climbing into her truck. Janna walked over with her and leaned in the driver's side window, where the two women shared a short kiss. As the dark haired woman backed out of the drive, Dan caught her eye and waved. She returned the wave with a big smile and returned her attention to her mate, who blew her a kiss. After watching Ryan's truck turn the corner, Janna sauntered over to her brother's pickup and greeted him with a wide smile that closely matched his own.

"Morning Dan".

"Good morning, Sis! Looks like your day got off to a great start." He enjoyed the mild blush that crept into his sister's features, then added, "This is the second time this week I've seen her leave in the morning. Is there something you feel like sharing with me Sis?"

"Yes, Danny, I guess there is. Come on in for some coffee." As she waited while he gathered his jobsite papers, she took a deep breath of the slightly cool morning air, enjoying the fragrance of roses and iris that hung on the damp atmosphere. Her brother, who was of medium height and build and shared Janna's coloring except for blue eyes, joined her and they walked up the curved paving to the front porch.

Dan sat himself at the kitchen table and said, "Okay, Sis, spill it. Who's the beautiful babe?"

Janna handed him a mug and sat opposite him with her tea. They both added two sugars and two creams in nearly perfect synchrony and grinned at each other. "Do you remember Sissy Zamora from school?" She hid a smug smile behind her mug as he stopped his movement, mug hanging in midair, a look of incredulity sweeping his features.

"No way! Sissy Zamora?"

"Ah, so you remember her then?" Janna's eyes twinkled as she enjoyed her brother's surprised reaction

"Hell, yeah I remember her. Shit, Sis, half the guys in the junior class were hot for her, even though she made no secret of the fact that she was gay. Do you remember when she dated that cheerleader? Half the school was scandalized and the other half was titillated. What was her name...April?"

"Hmm, I don't remember that. In my senior year I was pretty focused on my music, remember? I didn't pay much attention to anything else."

"Yeah, that's right, you were. Sissy Zamora..."

"Actually, her name's Ryan." She met her brother's eyes over the rim of her mug.

"Oh, didn't know that. Yeah, she was a lettered athlete wasn't she? Soccer, softball and track?"

"Mmm, probably, yeah. She's an amazing ball player still. She plays on two teams right now. In fact, I may be joining her on the fast pitch team soon." Janna sat back in her chair and savored her tea. "So, anyway, yeah, we're involved. To be honest, Danny, I've never been this much in love in my life." Her face became radiant as she made the admission and Dan smiled gently at her.

"Sis, that's great. I'm happy for you." He let his brotherly concern show a little on his face and he added, "So it's pretty serious huh?" and waited for his sister's reply.

"Very. Um, she's moving in here this weekend. This is it for me Dan, I'm sure of it. It's like we've been best friends forever. We both feel that we complete each other." Janna's smile warmed his heart and he leaned forward and grabbed her hand across the table.

"That's super, Jan. Congratulations!"

"Thanks Danny!" She intertwined their fingers for a moment, then separated and leaned back in her chair again.

"So, have Mom and Dad met her?" he asked with a twinkle in his eye.

"Yes, briefly, at the hospital last week. They don't know how involved we are though. I thought I might have you all over for a family barbecue soon and introduce her around."

"Sounds good. We haven't all been together since Dad's birthday. I'll bet the kids will like her. You know how into cops Robbie is right now." Janna smiled at the mention of her darling nephew, only three and already the most headstrong member of the family.

"She'll like them too. She interacts with kids a lot as part of her job and loves it. She's one of the new Bike Patrol cops."

"Oh, really? I've seen them around. That's cool. So, tell me Jan, what's she like?" He finished his coffee as he awaited her reply.

How to answer that? She's the most perfect woman on the planet. "Well, God, Dan, she's just awesome in every way. I mean...she's warm, funny, caring, strong, independent, smart, and ethical." Then she added jauntily, "Not to mention gorgeous and sexy as hell." Her slight blush gave away the extent to which she believed the latter and her brother grinned.

"Sounds like you've hit the jackpot, Jan. Way to go!" He smiled as he got up and walked to the sink, placing his cup in the dishwater there.

"Thanks Dan. I really feel like I have. We're talking Publisher's Clearinghouse, Reader's Digest and Super Lotto all combined here!" Her brother laughed and gave her a hug.

"Great Sis. I'm gonna get out there now so when my guys get here they'll think I've been doing something constructive. Oh," he added, "I think we'll be finished with the darkroom early next week. I have the painter set for Monday."

"That's great Dan, thanks. It's really starting to come together. If you need anything I'll probably be in the temporary darkroom down the hall most of the day."

"Okay Sis, have a good day." He grinned rakishly and added, "Hey, don't work too hard...save some strength for that babe of yours."

"You better believe it!" She threw a rakish grin of her own right back at him and saw his face take on a blush before he turned quickly away, saying over his shoulder, "Shit Sis, I do not need that picture in my mind. You're my sister for chrissakes!"

Janna laughed as she dropped her own mug in the sink and then made her way to the family room for her morning meditation.

~~~~~~~~~~

Janna manipulated the tongs, carefully removing a print from the solution. She held it up and examined it closely in the red glow of the room. Yes, I like that tone a lot better. She carefully pinned the black and white print onto the drying line. I will never tire of photographing that gorgeous hunk of rock she mused as she studied the photo of Yosemite's Half Dome. Speaking of gorgeous hunks, I can't wait to take Ryan there. She smiled warmly at the prospect. A large part of the joy, for Janna, of shooting in Yosemite National Park, besides the obvious natural splendor, was the hiking required to attain some of the best shots.

As she turned from the sink and reached for the negative sleeve to choose her next shot, her heart center began to thrum pleasantly and she reached for the cordless phone instead. Clicking it on barely before the first ring had finished sounding, she answered, "Hi sweetheart. What's up?"

"Jesus Janna, you're starting to freak me out, babe" her partner's voice replied cheerfully. Ryan sat casually on the edge of her desk. John sat at the desk backed up against hers and raised his eyebrows in question. Ryan lifted a finger, indicating that she would tell him about it in a minute.

Janna balanced the phone between her ear and her shoulder and picked up the negative sleeve while answering, "Just wait until you get the hang of it. Then it won't be freaky at all."

"I know sweetheart, actually I'm starting to do it too. I think I need to learn to trust my intuition more."

"Exactly, love." She found the shot she liked and slipped the negative carefully out of the clear plastic sleeve, then placed it gently into the enlarger's tray.

"Honey, I'm calling because Jackie, one of the girls from my team, called. She and another teammate, Carrie and their partners are going to the Rainbow tonight and wondered if we'd like to join them. I told her that I'll be there working the Avenue Market but can join them a little later. I said I'd need to check with you first to see if you were up to it. What do you think love? There's no pressure, now" she added, concern coloring her voice.

At the mention of the Rainbow Lounge, Janna's gut clenched in fear as her Power Chakra reacted to her prior experience there. She took a calming breath and answered honestly, "Wow, I don't know Ryan. My Power Chakra is doing back flips at the thought of going back there. But at the same time, I want to go out with you and your friends...very much so, actually."

Reaching a decision, she added, "Yeah, hon, I think I'll give it a try. I feel fine physically and I think going back there will help me to heal emotionally as well. As long as I'm with you I think I'll be fine."

"All right honey, that's great." Pride at her lover's courage filled her heart and her voice and nearly choked her up. She continued, "I'll let Jackie know to expect us around 8:00 then. You want to park at the Starbuck's at the north end? I'll meet you there and we'll walk over together."

"Okay, Ryan sounds like a plan. How's your day going, love?"

"Oh, same ole, same ole. Been pretty quiet today, actually."

"Good. Quiet's good. Quiet's safe." Janna's voice nearly broke and she tried to clamp down on the emotion she was feeling.

Ryan felt her concern however, through their link, and softly urged, "Janna, love, please don't worry about me. I'm very careful out there and I've never been hurt...and I don't intend to be...ever." She looked at her partner and shrugged at his understanding look. "Besides, I have a great partner backing me up." She winked at John.

"Okay, Ryan, I'll try...I promise. This is just taking some getting to used to."

"That's my girl. I love you Janna. I'll see you in few hours, okay?"

"Okay. I love you too, Ryan. See you later."

As Ryan hung up the phone and glanced at her partner, he said, "You know, it helped Sara a lot after we first got married when one of the veteran cop's wives called her and had a talk with her. Why don't I ask Sara to give Janna a call? It might help her work through this."

"I think that's a good idea John, thanks. I appreciate it and I know Janna will too. She likes Sara a lot."

"Sara likes her too. Hey what was that stuff about her freaking you out, anyway?" He stepped in at her side as they made their way back out through the squad room.

"Oh...uh... well we've got this kind of a link thing going. It seems she can always tell when I'm about to call her and she answers the phone in some sort of a cute smart-assy way. Um...we can also feel what the other one is feeling, even when we're apart. It's strange, for sure, but kinda cool too."

"So that's how you knew she was behind you the other day at the café?" As his partner nodded he continued, "I knew there was no way you had seen her. That is cool, Ryan. Kind of like a woman's intuition thing. Sara's that way with me. I can't get a thing past her." He grinned as he glanced at her and put his sunglasses on as they exited back out into the glaring sun.

"Good for her!" Ryan grinned widely as she pulled her sunglasses out of her shirt pocket.

~~~~~~~~~~

By 7:00 that evening, Janna was famished. She had elected to wait to eat with Ryan when she got off of duty. She was not used, however, to missing meals, so she decided to go down to the street market a little early and grab a quick bite from one of the food booths.

As she drove south down the wide avenue and approached the block where the market started, her heart began to pound and her stomach tightened nervously. As she pulled into the lot near Starbuck's she took several deep, calming breaths. She locked her Jeep and headed toward the Market. As she approached the first side street, where the brewpub was located, her heart began to pound furiously and she felt sick to her stomach. She stopped and rested against an old-fashioned lamppost, trying to catch her breath and slow her heart rate. What am I doing? I should have waited for Ryan. I must be an idiot, she berated herself.

A few blocks south, Ryan stood, her bike between her thighs, talking to a man with two young children. As she handed one of the kids a police badge decal, she suddenly felt the pleasant buzz in her heart center that she associated with her mate and smiled inwardly. She's early She reached into her pocket for a second decal for the girl's older brother, but then stopped mid-motion when the pleasant buzz suddenly turned into a gut-wrenching fear. She looked up quickly, her brows furrowing in concern and turned her head toward the north end of the avenue.

Sensing that her lover was in that direction, she quickly said goodbye to the man and kids and called over her shoulder, "John, I think Janna's in trouble."

She hopped up onto her bike and took off at a breakneck speed, down the center of the street, dodging booths and the many pedestrians who found the sidewalks too crowded, her partner following. As she neared the beginning of the market she sensed Janna's presence to her left and looking in that direction, saw her leaning against a lamppost, appearing stricken. When she reached Janna, she fairly flew off of her bike and let it crash to the ground. She ran to her mate and seeing that she didn't appear to be physically injured, scooped her into an embrace.

"Janna, honey what's wrong?" Concern etched deep lines into her beautiful features as she held her shaking partner.

"Oh Ryan, I'm so glad you're here. I'm sorry. I thought I could handle it on my own...I got hungry," she added sheepishly.

Ryan laughed quietly with relief, "Of course you did honey." She patted Janna's back consolingly and added, "It's okay. I'm here now." She kissed the top of her partner's head, not caring who might be watching. John pulled up to a stop and stood nearby.

"It's not okay. I feel like an idiot. Like a six-year old idiot." Janna's face flushed in embarrassment and she turned into Ryan's embrace, burying her face against her mate's shoulder.

"Janna, listen. You had a very traumatic experience here. This is a natural reaction to your returning to the scene of your attack. Attempted murder is a very serious crime...you have every right to be feeling the way you are. Come on now. Don't be down on yourself. I'm proud of you for trying." She kissed Janna's head again and caressed her back through her t-shirt.

John stepped forward and suggested, "Ry, why don't you knock off for the day and take care of Janna. I'll take care of things here."

Ryan started, "John, I don't..." but was interrupted by his upraised hands.

"No Ryan, you go ahead. I mean it. I know you'd do the same for me...hell, you have done the same for me. Go on now. I'll see you tomorrow. Lock up your bike here and I'll take care of it for you later."

"Thanks John. I owe you another one. I'll see you tomorrow then...or Monday rather...we're off tomorrow."

"No problem." He directed his gaze at Janna and said, "You take care Janna."

Janna looked at him gratefully and said, "Thanks a lot John. We both owe you." He waved them off and leaned over to pick up Ryan's bike.

"Well, honey, feel like going on to the Rainbow, or would you rather go home?" Ryan asked with concern.

"I'm feeling a lot better now." Then she added sardonically, "For some reason."

Ryan grinned and turned, wrapping an arm around Janna's shoulders. "Let's go then."

"Oh, wait. I brought a change of clothes for you. Thought you might want to get out of your uniform and relax. They're in the Jeep."

"Janna, that was very thoughtful, thanks. I would like to get out of these grimy clothes. I can clean up at the bar."

After retrieving the gym bag with Ryan's clothes in it they made their way to the bar, deciding to eat there with their friends. They entered the cool, dark bar and stood briefly, waiting for their eyes to adjust. Then they saw Ryan's friends sitting at a table across from the bar and joined them. Ryan reintroduced Janna to Jackie and Carrie and they in turn introduced her to their partners while Ryan went into the bathroom to clean up and change. She joined them just a few minutes later, stopping first at the bar and picking up a pitcher of Foster's.

She reached the table and sat next to Janna, her hand automatically gravitating to her mate's thigh. Janna smiled and reached down, covering Ryan's hand with hers.

As Ryan filled mugs for herself and Janna and refilled everyone else's Carrie said, "Hey Ry, thanks for the brew!"

"No problem. Thanks for the invite." She took a large gulp of the ice-cold brew and enjoyed the fresh coolness of it as it slid down her dry throat.

Janna mimicked her action and sighed contentedly. "Ah, that's good. Thanks honey." Ryan smiled at her warmly and caressed her thigh again. She found that she didn't want to break contact with Janna and could feel Janna's gratitude for that through their link. She momentarily felt overcome with love for her mate and silently thanked the Creator, again, for her great blessing. Janna, not surprisingly, did the same thing at the same moment and then laid her head happily on Ryan's shoulder.

Spying this, Carrie laughed, "Ah, aren't you two cute!" Her partner, Michelle, elbowed her good-naturedly as Ryan, equally good-naturedly, flipped her off, a huge grin lighting her face. Everyone at the table laughed heartily and commenced their good time.

A few minutes later, Ray and Jose, the bar's owners caught sight of Ryan and Janna and came over to the table. "Ryan Zamora", Ray boomed, "Long time girl!"

"Hi Ray, Jose, yeah it has been a while...how ya doin'?" Ryan graced them each with a lazy smile.

"We're doing great girl, but it looks like you're doing better!" remarked Jose, glancing at Janna and smiling. "I didn't know you and Janna were together! Honey, I want to hear all about it" he said as he parked himself next to Janna. Ray joined him at the table and they had a nice visit with their old and new friends.

"So, Ray, how're the burgers tonight?"

"As if you need to ask!" her old friend replied disapprovingly.

"Okay, we'll have two then, with the works, make one of them veggie." Looking at Janna she asked, "That sound okay, love?"

"Just perfect" was the response.

Just as their meal arrived and Jackie's partner, Kathy retrieved another full pitcher of beer, a band took the stage. Ryan and Janna enjoyed the meal, the beer, the camaraderie and the music immensely and finally called it a night after 11:00.

Friday morning was uncharacteristically gray, the overcast holding in the moist, stifling heat. Ryan wiped her brow with the back of her hand for what seemed like the hundredth time that morning and lugged another box of books to her truck. Janna followed behind with a box of clothes and Ryan said, "This will do it for this trip hon. No more room."

"Okay" came the reply and after settling her box next to Ryan's, Janna climbed into her Jeep as Ryan locked the house and then got into her Explorer. Since Ryan had the day off, she and Janna decided to start moving her things into Janna's place. As Ryan drove the short distance to Janna's house, her mate following, she reflected on the lovely morning they had shared.

Even though she had turned off the alarm, Ryan awakened with the dawn, as had long been her habit. She had lain, full of contentment, watching the shifting colors of the new day play over her lover's features. She became filled anew with the tremendous sense of love and completeness that Janna brought to her life. Her mind wandered to their plans for the future and she found herself thinking about locations for their commitment ceremony. She knew that Janna loved the mountains, as did she, so was leaning towards Lake Tahoe as a possible location. She had a friend with a large cabin right on the lake and considered looking into procuring it for a weekend. She felt herself giddy at the prospect of discussing it with her partner. If she ever wakes up, that is.

She grinned, thinking of her mate's typical morning lethargy, until she realized that the habit was beginning to rub off on her. She decided to move the day along a little and bent her head to nibble on a nearby earlobe. This maneuver earned her an indecipherable grumble and her mate shifted slightly in her arms, moving away from the offending lips. Deciding to take another tack, she ran her fingers slowly down Janna's bare back, stopping to caress a smooth buttock. This time she was greeted with a low moan and a clenching of the muscles that rested against her body. She continued the caresses and, without opening her eyes, Janna slid higher up Ryan's body and captured her lips. They explored each other's mouths sensuously for long minutes, tongues meeting playfully, then more ardently until both women were breathless.

"Mm, that's my favorite way to wake up. Thank you, love" Janna expressed lovingly after they parted.

"Anytime baby, I aim to please", Ryan drawled. She then sought out one of her favorite earlobes again and sucked it gently, suggesting, "Why don't we take this into the whirlpool?"

As Ryan's warm breath tickled her ear, Janna gasped, both at Ryan's intimate touch and at her suggestion, and said breathlessly, "Let's go baby."

Ryan rose from the bed and held her hand out to her lover, who grasped it tenderly and followed her tall partner into the bathroom. They took care of their morning needs while the tub filled and then Ryan climbed in and sat down at one end, gesturing for Janna to join her. Janna complied, but instead of taking up her usual position with her back against Ryan's chest, she sat in her lap, facing her. Ryan moaned sensuously as Janna settled into place and she wrapped her arms around her small blonde's body, bringing their bodies close together. Janna leaned forward and licked at Ryan's throat, then nibbled and kissed her way up to the full lips. Ryan's lips met hers hungrily and her hands played slowly up and down Janna's back, bringing forth moans from her mate. Janna broke the kiss and leaned down to caress the curve above a breast with her tongue. Ryan gasped and stiffened, bringing more of her luscious anatomy out of the water, which Janna immediately took advantage of. Ryan straightened and sat taller, bringing her hands gently up behind Janna's head and urging her to continue her devoted attention to her breasts.

She moaned, "Oh God, baby, I love that" and gasped as a talented tongue flicked out and caressed an aroused nub.

Janna spoke around a mouthful of velvety dark areola, "I'm gonna love you like this forever, Ryan." Her mate's sweet voice rumbling against her aroused anatomy sent Ryan careening toward the abyss of pleasure she was beginning to know so well. Janna moved her fingers lower down Ryan's body and caressed her, joining her tongue's rhythm, sending Ryan completely over the edge into ecstasy.

Ryan shivered behind the wheel as she recalled their lovemaking, her skin tingling and center throbbing in remembrance. She realized that they had made love every day that they had been together, usually more than once, and was determined to continue the wonderful habit. Janna had mentioned something about the Tantric practice of connecting sexually every day being very healthy and she decided to look into that idea more thoroughly.

She was dragged from her reverie when she realized she had pulled into Janna's driveway. Janna was already walking up to the Explorer and looked at her comically, saying, "Honey, are you all right? You looked about a million miles away."

Ryan grinned shyly and responded, "Only about fifty feet away, honey...in your bathtub."

Janna grinned radiantly, "You liked that huh? Well, there's a lot more where that came from you know. I picked up some more chocolate and strawberries at the store yesterday too." She grinned back at Ryan saucily and sauntered ahead of her into the house, with Ryan grinning and following like a panting puppy dog. She was sent back to the truck, however, to bring in her boxes first.

Late that night, they lay together in the whirlpool again. The room was lit only by a single candle and by moonlight streaming in through the room's skylight. They had made love repeatedly for several hours and were now content to simply remain touching. Both were unwilling, in fact, to break their contact. They kissed and caressed and washed each other. They talked and made plans. They both felt gloriously happy and complete and tears came more than once with confessions of love.

Ryan kissed the back of Janna's neck and quietly asked, "Sweetheart, would you like to be married at Tahoe? I know someone who has a nice home there, right on the lake."

Janna quietly exclaimed, "Married at Tahoe? My love, that would be an absolute dream come true. But so are you, so I shouldn't be surprised." She turned and faced Ryan, straddling her once more. "Yes, Ryan, I would be delighted to marry you at Lake Tahoe. Overjoyed." She leaned forward and sealed her declaration with a passionate kiss.

"Thank you, love" Ryan replied graciously and added, "You are my dream come true Janna. Thank you for agreeing to be my wife." Then she showed her gratitude with an adoring kiss. When the kiss ended Ryan suggested that they retire to the bed and Janna happily complied, eager to curl up against her favorite body and to be held within Ryan's loving arms until morning.

~~~~~~~~~~

They spent the rest of the weekend moving Ryan in and getting her settled. Though she had thought that she wouldn't be bringing much with her, Ryan was surprised at how much stuff she actually did want to bring. Janna's house was large however, so they had no problem finding a place for everything. Janna really wanted to add an exercise room, for both their benefits, and they decided to put it in the spare room closest to where she would spend most of her time while working: the darkroom.

On Sunday morning, Janna announced that they were going down to the athletic equipment supplier and outfitting their exercise room. This led to their first tiff (albeit a very small one). Janna wanted to make a gift of it to Ryan, but Ryan wanted to contribute to the cost, which was no small amount. Ryan already had a bit of a problem with the fact that Janna would not accept rent from her, since there was no mortgage payment to contribute too. Being a very self-sufficient and proud woman, Ryan said that she didn't want to feel "kept". Janna found the notion ridiculous: she had plenty of money and didn't see the problem with sharing it with Ryan. So, instead of going down to the athletic store, they found themselves sitting at their kitchen table hammering out the details of a mutually equitable financial plan.

It was decided that since Janna was providing the home, Ryan would pay all utility costs. Their shared salaries would provide for groceries and all other needs. Any large home improvements and renovations to come would be paid for with funds in an account which Janna had already set up for the purpose and which Ryan would also begin paying into. They would also open up joint savings and checking accounts. Actually, Janna had insisted on converting all of her existing accounts to joint accounts, and Ryan finally gave in and agreed. They sealed their agreement with a kiss and tender words of apology and decided to go out for lunch to celebrate, before Ryan's game at 2:00. After the game they would go down and order their exercise machines.

Ryan's Peace Officer game was again held at the large County softball complex. Janna took her seat and watched Ryan throw warm up with a tall man. As she sat on the sun-warmed bleachers watching her mate she felt a curious sense of being right where she belonged. It was a sensation that she had never quite grasped before. Even though she had felt at home in the City, in rock bands, and in activist groups, that sense of belonging never quite approached what she was feeling now. She wondered if it had everything to do with finally being with her soul mate. A cop's wife. A photographer and a cop's wife. If anyone had told me that's how I would end up I would never have believed them. And Ryan. Wow. I'll bet she never ever, in a million years, thought she'd ever be married. The Lone Wolf. A warm smile lit her pretty face.

As she sat lost in her musings, several people, apparently wives and husbands of Ryan's teammates joined her on the bleachers and she was startled out of her reverie. Two women approached and sat near her. She looked over at them and smiled as they greeted her. Cops wives? Indeed, one the women introduced herself and her friend as wives of cops on the SCPD #1 team. She asked Janna if she was there watching anyone in particular and she thought Well, here goes. Let's see just how accepting these people can be.

Janna replied, "Yes, I'm here with my partner, Ryan Zamora. I'm Janna Norden." She was surprised; indeed almost startled at the pleased look both women's faces took on.

"You're with Ryan?" the first woman asked, incredulous. Before Janna could do more than nod, the other woman remarked, "That's wonderful! Welcome to the team!"

"Thank you. Actually, I came out to watch last week too, but I was the only one here."

"Oh, we had a charity event last Sunday. The rest of us were all there. Pat, we'll have to introduce Janna to the rest of the ladies." Her friend nodded her agreement.

The first woman, Georgia, sat next to Janna and began a pleasant dialogue, pointing out players and telling her their names and ranks within the department. She also added funny little tidbits about each person and Janna found herself liking the older woman. The other woman, Pat, sat on Janna's other side and when her friend had finished she casually inquired as to the status of Janna's and Ryan's relationship.

"Pat! That's her business, not ours" scolded her friend.

"Oh Georgie, I know, but it must be serious-Ryan's never brought a girlfriend out before. I think our stoic friend may have finally fallen in love...wouldn't that be wonderful!" She looked so pleased at the prospect that Janna decided to take a leap of faith and confide in the women.

She began, "Ryan and I are serious...um...in fact, we're living together."

"See! I knew it! That is good news. Honey, we've been trying to fix her up with nice women for years and she would have nothing to do with it. Now she's gone and done it on her own." Pat seemed beside herself with pleasure.

Her friend Georgie added, "So how are you doing, honey? It's not easy living with a cop, we know."

Janna blew out a breath and replied, "Yes, I'm finding that out. I nearly drive myself crazy with worry every day when she leaves for work."

"I think you might be interested in the spouses' group, Janna. When I first married Sam I found it very useful at helping me to cope. We've been married fifteen years and I still feel the need for support from time to time."

Pat nodded her agreement and added, "I've been with Mike almost twenty-five years. Being a cop's wife doesn't get any easier but our coping skills improve, mainly with the support of our friends. I hope you'll consider joining us."

"I will. I've definitely felt the need to talk to someone about what I'm feeling...about my fears mainly."

"Well, we meet for lunch every Wednesday, usually at a restaurant downtown, near the station. Please join us when you feel ready." She retrieved a business card from her purse and handed it to Janna. If you'd like to give me your number, I'll let you know where we'll be meeting each week. Janna nodded and gave the woman her phone number.

"I would like to join you for lunch. Thanks so much."

Just then their mates returned from warming up and entered the nearby dugout. Janna's mate, however, came to join her in the stands. "Hi sweetheart. These ladies aren't giving you any trouble are they?" She grinned as she faced her old friends.

"No honey, as a matter of fact they've been giving me some good advice on how to live with a cop." Janna grinned widely.

"Oh, God, I'm in trouble then." Ryan mock-groaned.

"Yes, you are! Now, go have a good game." She gave her partner a warm smile and a loving pat on the arm and sent her off.

"Okay, bye love. Georgia, Pat, watch what you say to her please? I don't want to lose her when I've only just landed her." Ryan smirked before she turned and sauntered back to the dugout.

"Oh, she's awful!" Pat pulled a mock frown.

"Janna, you've got your hands full with that one, I hope you know." Georgie laughed.

"Oh, I know. I definitely know." Janna smiled warmly as she watched her mate take the mound. She added quietly, almost to herself, "But I wouldn't have it any other way."

The SCPD #1 team played well against the firefighters, winning a close game and maintaining a slim lead in the league standings. Janna enjoyed watching Ryan play, of course, but also enjoyed seeing the camaraderie that the police officers enjoyed, not only with each other, but also with their friendly rivals in the fire department. Regardless of the sporting rivalry, it was obvious that the city police, county sheriffs, firefighters and paramedics all considered themselves members of the same large family.

After the game, the players and their families sat around for a long time laughing and visiting with each other, many with a beer in hand. It was evident that these dedicated public servants made the most of their time off and were enjoying themselves. Ryan sat behind Janna on the seat above her, with Janna leaning back between her partner's legs. They endured, or rather Ryan did, much ribbing about their obvious devotion to each other. The kidding was much more intense than what Ryan's other teammates had thrown at her the week before but Ryan was a good sport. Janna figured (correctly) that Ryan had probably doled out her share of teasing in the past and was just now receiving her due. Janna was surprised to find herself blushing more than once at some of the comments being made, including some of Ryan's own. She smiled inwardly as she thought, she is truly just one of the guys.

She took a swig from the beer bottle and handed it back up to her partner. Ryan caressed her shoulders lovingly as she joked with Georgia and her husband, Sam, a Captain in the department. Janna lay back against Ryan and enjoyed the pleasant day. A prevailing Delta breeze was moderating the intense heat and the sky was dotted with beautiful white, puffy cumulus clouds. Her partner's low voice rumbled pleasantly through Janna and she felt their link not only binding them, but also surrounding them, wrapping them in its loving energy. At that moment, life was perfect.


Part 7

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