The Homecoming
By Janet Lynne

Part 7

-15-

Ryan removed another pair of jeans from the moving box and laid them in a drawer. Her mind was only partly on her task, however: the majority of her focus was upon the small woman downstairs cooking their dinner. She felt so connected to Janna; it was as if their souls had merged. It was an incredible feeling, making her feel bubbly and joyous. The delicious aroma wafting up the stairs wasn't helping her concentration any either. Ooh, smells like Mexican. She nearly rubbed her hands together in glee as she left the half empty box sitting on the bed and made her way downstairs to see what smelled so good.

As she descended the stairs she heard the Indigo Girls singing about Galileo. Love that song. She hummed along with the tune as she rounded the doorway into the kitchen. She was greeted with the site of her mate singing and swaying to the music as she stood in front of the stove. Ryan stood watching Janna for a moment, enjoying the sensual sway of her slim hips. Quietly, she crept up behind her mate and wrapped her arms around her waist.

At the contact, Janna nearly jumped out of her skin as she exclaimed, "Jesus Ryan! You nearly scared me to death. How do you do that?" Without turning, she relaxed back into Ryan's embrace; enjoying the touch so much that she forgot her startlement.

Ryan nuzzled her neck and mumbled, "I'm sorry baby. It must be an Aikido thing. What's cooking? It smells great." She delicately kissed the soft skin under her lips. "Mmm, and so do you."

"Chicken fajitas and Spanish rice," replied Janna, smiling.

Ryan continued to nuzzle Janna's neck while softly caressing her stomach through the t-shirt the blonde wore. "I love the way you smell." Janna moaned softly at the tender caresses and arched back into her mate, dropping the large spoon into the pot of rice and turning the burner off.

"Oh, and what do I smell like?" she murmured, nearly overcome by the sensations playing across her body.

"Like a summer breeze, with just a hint of flowers." She nibbled an earlobe as her hands began to roam both above and below the firm abdomen where they had rested. "Oh, baby, I can't get enough of you. What are you doing to me?"

Janna moaned as Ryan's hands caressed her more fervently and turned in her embrace, meeting her lips. She kissed her mate deeply and then pulled away and went for Ryan's neck, licking and then kissing her pulse point. She moved lower and nipped at Ryan's breastbone; which was easily accessible above the tank she wore. Ryan gasped and moaned, then quickly turned them around so that Janna's back was against the island countertop in the center of the large room. Janna threw her arms around Ryan's neck as Ryan tightened her grasp around the small blonde's waist and gently lifted her onto the island. Ryan laid her mate down on the counter, kissing her neck and moving down toward her breasts as she did so. Janna wrapped her legs around Ryan, bringing her partner even closer to her. Ryan's breath caught as her center was brought into firm contact with Janna's. She nipped at Janna's breasts through her shirt before bending her head and grabbing the bottom of Janna's shirt with her teeth, pulling it up.

Breathless, Janna moaned, "Oh, God, RyanŠ"

Ryan's deep voice rumbled against her abdomen, hot breath tickling fine hairs, "Tell me what you want baby."

"Ohh, mmmŠ" Janna mumbled incoherently. But Ryan needed no words. She instinctively knew what her partner wanted most at the moment and reached up to caress a breast with skilled fingers. At the same time she moved her head down to the waistband of Janna's running shorts and grabbed at it with her teeth, pulling the shorts down.

Janna brought her hands up and tangled them in Ryan's hair. "Oh, Ryan, yesŠpleaseŠ" but she was interrupted by a knock at the kitchen door.

"Fuck!" Ryan hissed against Janna's underwear.

Janna, suddenly realizing who it must be at the door, pushed Ryan away and jumped to the floor, exclaiming, "ShitŠit's my Mom!"

Ryan suddenly looked stricken, completely forgetting her dashed libido, and she tried to help Janna pull her clothing back into place. "Jesus, baby I'm sorryŠI shouldn't haveŠ"

Janna interrupted her with a quick, "It's okay love. Let's finish this later, okay?" She gave her partner a warm, somewhat embarrassed smile as she reached for the kitchen door, then terror struck as she saw her mother's concerned face, eyes wide, looking at her through the small leaded window in the door and realized that she had witnessed the erotic display. Her face drained of color as she turned to look at Ryan, whose face was also now devoid of color.

Janna opened the door for her mother, cleared her throat, and squeaked, "Hi, Mom".

Her mother replied cautiously, eyebrows raised, "Hello honey. I'm sorry for just dropping by, but I have some fruit for you."

"Um, it's okay MomŠyou know you're welcome any timeŠuh, do you remember RyanŠuh, Officer Ryan Zamora from the hospital?" She weakly gestured towards Ryan, who was standing right behind her.

Ryan quickly pulled herself together and stepped from behind Janna, offering her hand. "Hello, Mrs. Norden. It's good to see you again. Let me apologize for that uhŠdisplay of affection. I happen to be very much in love with your daughter and I sort of lost control there for a minute." She stepped back next to Janna and wrapped an arm protectively around her shoulder.

Beth Norden could see the obvious devotion in the tall cop's manner and her look softened as she replied, "I see. Well, let me apologize for barging in. I should have called first."

At that point Janna stepped forward and grabbed her mother's hand, saying, "No, Mom, you don't need to call first. We should have been more discreet. Come on in, have some coffee. We need to talk to you." She took the large grocery bag from her mother as she gestured her toward the kitchen table, and she and Ryan busied themselves making a pot of coffee.

When they were all seated around the table with mugs in hand, Janna began, "Thanks for the plums Mom. Looks like you had another great crop."

The attactive, silver-haired woman replied, "Oh, you're welcome sweetie. You know your father and I can't possibly eat them all, and I've made all the pies that I intend to this year."

"Mom, I'm sorry I've been out of touch the last week or so. I'veŠumŠkind of had a lot going on."

"I can see that honey." She smiled at her daughter and offered Ryan a smile as well.

Janna smiled shyly and Ryan laid a warm hand on her thigh in encouragement. "Yeah, Mom, um...Ryan has moved in here." She looked lovingly at her mate and Ryan leaned over and kissed her cheek. She moved her hand from Janna's thigh to her shoulders.

Janna's mother knew that her daughter didn't give her heart away easily, so she realized that their relationship must be very serious. She smiled warmly at her daughter and her new mate and said, "Honey, I'm happy for you. For both of you. I can see that you're very close."

Janna reached up and intertwined her fingers with Ryan's, which rested on her shoulder. "Yes, we are MomŠand we're very happy. UmŠI thought that maybe we'd have you and Dad, and Dan, Kris and the kids all over for a barbecue soon, so you could all meet Ryan properly. Maybe next weekend?" She looked at Ryan, who nodded her assent.

"Oh, honey that sounds like a wonderful idea. We're available either day. What can we bring?"

"Oh, I don't know MomŠoh, wait, how about one of those awesome plum pies?" Her eyes sparkled at the prospect and Ryan shook her head lovingly. Janna elbowed her good-naturedly and looked to her mother expectantly.

"Sure, sweetheart. I'll be happy to. Are you sure that's all?"

"Yes, Mrs. Norden, that will be plenty." Ryan spoke up.

"Please Ryan, call me Beth." She smiled pleasantly at the attractive, dark-haired cop.

"I will. Thank you Beth."

Janna turned to Ryan and asked, "So honey, which day is best?"

Ryan thought for a moment and answered, "I have to work for a few hours on Saturday afternoon. How about Sunday? I have an early game and we should be home by 2:00."

"Okay, Mom, how about Sunday afternoon, around 3:00 or so?"

"That sounds good, Janna. We'll see you then." She finished her coffee and stood up. "I have to get dinner started. Ryan, it was good to see you again." She smiled somewhat devilishly.

Ryan, blushing mildly, replied, "Yes, wellŠit was nice to see again too. Please give Mr. Norden my best."

"I will Ryan, thank you. Sweetheart, you take care. I'll talk to you in a day or two."

"Okay, Mom, bye." Janna walked her mother out and to her car, where they shared a hug.

Upon returning to the kitchen, Janna made a beeline for her partner and they collapsed against each other, laughing.

"Shit, Janna, we are so busted." Ryan laughed.

"How much do you think she saw?"

"Judging by her expression, I'd say a hell of a lot."

"Oh, GodŠ" Janna groaned.

Ryan wrapped her in a warm embrace and kissed her head. "Sweetheart, she's an adult and so are you. Don't worry about it. She knows we love each other."

"Ryan, she knows a whole lot more than any parent wants to know about their kid's love life, and way more than I'm comfortable having her know. Jesus, I could have crawled into a hole."

"Come on baby. Let's have some of that wonderful dinner you made and then we'll take the lovemaking discussion upstairs, huh?" Twinkling eyes accompanied her trademark rakish grin and Janna's heart melted just a little bit more at the sight.

"You got it love." Suddenly, Janna's complexion paled again and she looked at Ryan wide-eyed.

Ryan's brows knit in concern and she caressed Janna's check as she exclaimed, "Sweetheart, what's wrong?"

"Oh my God, Ryan, what if my Mom had come just a few seconds laterŠthink of what she would have seen."

Ryan's face suddenly became as white as Janna's, not an easy task with her complexion, and she gasped, "Oh, shit JannaŠ"

"Yeah, oh shit." Janna smiled up at her mate.

Ryan pulled Janna back within her embrace and declared, "Baby, the first thing I'm gonna buy for this house is a blind for that window." She raised her eyebrows sexily and continued, "I wanna be able to love you in every room of this house."

"Okay, love. It's a deal." Janna kissed the collarbone below her lips and suggested, "Um, how hungry are you Ryan?"

The answer came in a sexy drawl. "It depends on what kind of hunger you're talking about JannaŠhungry for food or hungry for you?"

Their dinner required reheating a few hours later.


-16-

Late that night, the rich scent of myrrh incense and the light from the waning gibbous moon lent an air of magic to the candlelit bedroom as Janna gave Ryan a relaxing Reiki treatment. She sat Indian-style on the bed, next to her mate, who was stretched out on her back. Ryan was the very image of relaxation as she lay in shorts and bra with her hands resting lightly on her stomach, her face a calm mask.

Janna slowly drew her hands back from Ryan's chest and gracefully rose to her knees and moved around to sit at the crown of her head. If Ryan noticed Janna's change of position, she gave no indication of it. Her peaceful visage remained unchanged and Janna wondered if she had fallen asleep. She reached down and gently laid her hands on each of her partner's shoulders. Janna took a deep breath, enjoying the feel of the energy flowing through her. Reiki is as calming and healing for the practioner as it is for the recipient.

"Mm, honeyŠyour hands are so warm," Ryan murmured contentedly.

"I thought you might have fallen asleepŠyou were so quiet," Janna replied softly.

"Just about. This is so relaxing."

"I'm glad you enjoy it. It's a beautiful thing to be able to share it with you." She leaned down and gently kissed Ryan's brow.

"What's not to enjoy, love?" Ryan smiled as the warm, loving energy soothed tightened muscles and left behind a gentle tingle.

Feeling that Ryan's shoulders had received all the energy they required, Janna gently removed her hands and placed them on either side of Ryan's head, covering her ears. After a few minutes she felt complete in that position and gently removed her hands. She then placed one on Ryan's forehead and one on the top of her head.

After a moment, Ryan giggled and remarked, "Oh, that's so nice. It's a pleasant buzz. What do you feel honŠwhile you're giving the Reiki?"

"I feel the same pleasant buzz all through my body, starting where the energy comes in at the top of my head, through my crown chakra. Plus, my hands feel hot and my palms tingle where the energy comes out."

"This is so cool. I'll bet you've done it in other lives, haven't you?"

"I think so, yes. I think you have too." Janna, feeling the session was complete, pulled her hands back and sighed deeply. Then she stretched out next to her partner on the bed and Ryan folded her into her arms.

"Thank you sweetheart. It feels wonderful. Could you teach me to do it?"

"Sure. Anyone can do it. That's the beauty of Reiki. All you need is an attunement and then you can start using it."

"So what does an attunement involve?" She ran her fingers gently along Janna's back and the touch felt as good to her as it did to her partner.

"MmŠumŠan attunement? Oh, it's basically just a simple little ritual where a Reiki Master places the ancient symbols into your aura. Only takes a few minutes. It actually feels very nice, similar to what you're feeling now," she smiled at her partner's obvious state of bliss, and added, "And afterwards you have a period of adjustment. Usually for about a week afterward, your body detoxifies and becomes used to the increased energy flow.

Honey, if you're serious about becoming a practioner I'll give you a book to study so you'll understand what it's all about and also so you can learn the beginning symbols. If after about six months you feel that you'd like to advance your knowledge, I'll teach you the more advanced symbols and give you a second level attunementŠafter which you'll be able to do distance healing. If you want to advance even further and get a third level attunement you will have reached the master levelŠthat's my level."

"Yeah, babe, I think I'd like to go all the way with it. I'm really fascinated by it, especially after experiencing it last week over a distance. That was amazing!" She squeezed her blonde mate and kissed her head.

"I know, it's greatŠyou know, the first day after I moved in here, my Mom was helping me bring boxes in and she wrenched her back. It was so bad that she couldn't moveŠcouldn't straighten up or bend over or twist, and she was in agony. She asked me to drive her to the doctor and I convinced her to let me give her some Reiki firstŠI was sure it would relieve the worst of the pain. Well, she wasn't sure about it but she let me try it.

I stood behind her and applied the energy all along her spineŠRyan it was so cool! I gave her Reiki in about four different places and as I got to the base, her spine, from the top all the way down, popped. PopŠpopŠpopŠpopŠpopŠright back into place. We could both hear it and I could actually see her vertebra moving back into place." Janna giggled as she remembered the scene. "Honey you should have seen her, she was going, 'Oh, wowŠoh, myŠgoodness!' and her face was just precious. The pain was almost completely gone right away, and the next day completely. She never needed to go to the doctor for it." Janna sighed with pleasure and added, "She was so grateful and has been asking me for an attunement ever since."

"Honey, that's awesome. Jesus, it's like having a doctor in the family!"

"Well, I wouldn't go that far! Although my teachers and their teacher have cured every possible human condition, I think. Including cancer. Their teacher, Diane, has reportedly mended broken bones on the spot." Janna grew somewhat reflective and continued, "It's truly an awesome gift and I feel blessed that it came into my life. I'm more than happy to share it with anyone who wants it. Especially with those that I love." With that she snuggled more deeply into Ryan's embrace and kissed the collarbone next to her lips.

"Mm. So Janna, can you give Reiki to yourselfŠI mean when you're sick or hurt?"

"Yep, sure, although I prefer to get it from someone else if I can. Sometimes it's hard to place your hands correctly on yourself. Although as a practitioner, I have lots of energy in my body all the time. I hardly ever get sick any more."

"Is that why your injuries healed so fast?"

"Mm hmm, yep."

"Cool babe. Tell me Janna, what other cool little 'new-age' type secrets do you have?" She smiled devilishly, her eyes glowing in the candlelight.

"Hmm, I don't know. What'll you give me for the information?" She matched Ryan's wicked look with one of her own.

Ryan rolled over on top of her mate as she drawled, "I think I have something you want, baby" and leaned down and kissed Janna passionately. Which was all the negotiating she needed.

~~~~~~~~~~

As Ryan buttered her toast, she remarked, "I feel really good this morning, even though you didn't let me get a lot of sleep." She glanced slyly at her mate in the chair next to her and grinned.

"Well, you know honey, most people have to pay for Reiki sessionsŠyou're just lucky you have something valuable to barter with." She smugly took a sip of her tea and watched Ryan's eyebrow's rise in surprise.

"Well, babe, if that's how you care to conduct Reiki transactions, I think I'd like do business with you on a daily basis." She grinned rakishly as Janna's face was transformed by a huge smile.

"Sweetheart, need I remind you that we conduct that business daily anyway?"

"Mmm, we do don't we?" She leaned over and stole a kiss. "How'd I ever get so lucky?" Her eyes shone with love as she gazed at her mate.

"We've discussed this beforeŠI'm the lucky one." Janna grasped her hand and brought it to her lips, then to her cheek.

"Okay, why don't we agree that we're both lucky?" She smiled and returned her attention to her breakfast. "Seriously, Janna, I feel like I spent yesterday at a spa or someplace like that. I feel renewed."

"That's the idea love."

"What does 'Reiki' mean, anyway?"

"I think the literal translation from Japanese is 'universal life force energy'."

"Ah, I thought it sounded Japanese. It has 'ki' in itŠlike in 'aikido'."

"Mm, hmm. Although it's origins are most likely ancient Tibetan, it was rediscovered by a Japanese man in the 1800's and brought to the west by his students. 'Ki' means energy. Aikido uses the movement of energy for defense doesn't it?" Janna took another sip of her tea as she gazed at Ryan.

"Yeah, it does. I guess the two disciplines are connected some how, aren't they?" Ryan's brows rose in thought.

"Yes, everything is connected. Literally. By energy. By the ki. It's how the Universe works." A thought occurred to Janna and her face lit up. "Hey, I've been wanting to learn aikido for yearsŠhow about I trade you Reiki treatments and attunements for aikido lessons?"

Ryan's face fell in a mock pout. "But I like the trading that we've been doing." She looked up expectantly at Janna through long, dark lashes.

Janna grinned and said, "Okay honey, you can still throw in the other stuff too if you want." She reached over and ruffled her mate's hair.

"Thanks baby!"

"Don't mention it love. So, will you consider teaching me aikido?"

"Yeah, as a black belt, I could. Actually, the owner of the dojo where I work out has asked me to consider teaching a beginner's class in the fall. I hadn't given him an answer yet, but now that I already have a prize student, I think I'll tell him yes."

"I'd rather be teacher's pet."

"Oh, you are baby. You are!" Ryan's sexy drawl nearly stopped Janna's heart, as usual, and she let herself be pulled over into Ryan's lap for a long, deep kiss.

As they parted slightly, Ryan rested her forehead against Janna's and sighed before asking, "How did I ever get along without you?"

"I ask myself the same thing my love." She pulled Ryan into another embrace and held her there.

As they sat holding each other, a sunbeam slowly played across the room and illuminated them, almost as if it were a physical manifestation of their glowing bondŠor perhaps the Universe spotlighting their union. At least that's how Janna would have interpreted it. Ryan probably would have noted the dust motes floating in it and determined that she had done an imperfect job of dusting the previous morning.

Oh Janna, that hug is gonna last me all dayŠthanks baby." Ryan kissed her forehead as she settled her mate onto her feet. She drank her last swallow of coffee and got up with her dishes.

Janna sighed as she gazed at her mate. "Me too love, but I'll still miss you."

"I know baby, but we'll still be together, won't we?" Her sparkling eyes lifted Janna's spirits immediately.

"Yes, Ryan. We will." She followed Ryan out into the hallway where she picked up her gym bag and car keys.

"Would you like to go down to the dojo later? I'd like to introduce you to the owners, Joe and Ellen. They're good friends of mine." She added with a smile, "And they share a lot of your metaphysical interests. They're both healers and sell incense and that aroma stuff."

"Aromatherapy? Cool. It's hard to find decent supplies in a town with not a single metaphysical shop." Janna frowned her displeasure at her hometown's seeming resistance to leave the dark ages.

"Okay. You can get an introduction to aikido too. Maybe I'll take my gi and work out someŠI've been neglecting that part of my workout lately. Would you mind?" Her eyebrows rose expectantly.

"Mind? Honey I'd love thatŠthanks!"

"Great. We'll get something to eat afterward, so you may want to grab a late afternoon snack." With that she patted her mate playfully on the rump and got a swat in return.

"Have a good day, love. Please beŠ"

"I know, Janna. I'm always carefulŠespecially now. Please try to remember that baby. I love you."

"I love you Ryan." She reached up and embraced her mate, who in turn scooped her into her arms and held her tightly. They shared a loving kiss and Janna followed Ryan out to her truck. As was now her habit, she watched the truck turn the corner, sighed, and went back into the house to begin her morning meditation.

~~~~~~~~~~

"The Tribe", with Janna on lead guitar and background vocals, sang sarcastically about the joys of being a teenaged queer as Janna drove them to the dojo in her Jeep.

Janna took another admiring glance at her partner. She looked as wonderful in her bleached-white gi as she did in her dark cop's uniform. The stark white of the gi accentuated her deep tan and Janna loved the fact that Ryan wore only a sports bra beneath it. As she sat turned slightly toward Janna, her gi opened partially, revealing some cleavage. Janna leered gently as she refocused her eyes on the road, trying to ignore the gentle throbbing beginning between her legs.

"Honey, did you write that song?" Ryan asked with disbelief.

"Um, yeahŠis it that a good thing or a bad thing?" Janna glanced sideways at Ryan and wrinkled her nose.

Ryan laughed and said, "Oh, it's good! I love it! It's very sardonicŠcaptured what the teen years were like for me anyway."

"Whew, I was worried there for a minute." She grinned and looked at Ryan again, adding, "Honey, if I remember correctly, you seemed very together in high school. You appeared to be comfortable with your sexuality anyway."

"I wasn't Janna. I mean, I knew I was gay, but the bravado was an act. I had lost my father a few years before and it hit me hard. He had been my best friend and biggest supporter. I felt very alone after he died...my mom and I weren't that close and my brother was four years younger. I became the 'big man on campus' basically out of insecurity. That's when the promiscuity started too. What I really felt, deep down inside is exactly what you wrote about in that song: very alone, very insecure, like a freak. Hell, I never even dated gay girlsŠI didn't want to identify with them. I only went out with straight girls. I didn't really come to honest terms with who I was until I was at the police academy."

She looked at her mate and touched the hand that rested on the gearshift knob. "Jesus, Janna, why didn't we hook up then?"At Janna's perplexed look and timid shrug she looked away and swallowed hard. "I had a crush on you but I just couldn't handle it." She caressed Janna's hand and added, "I'm sorry."

"Ryan, don't apologize. We were kids. I know I wasn't ready for a serious relationship thenŠwith anyone...and I was attracted to you too. Anyway, I was so focused on my music by then that I noticed little else. I think it filled the lonely, painful void for me. Helped me not to face the truth. I could go on stage and get so high on the music that it had the effect of a drug for me. It removed me from reality."

She looked at her mate and smiled. "It was only later, after I'd gone to the City that I began to really come to terms with my sexuality. That's when I started writing the songs that specifically dealt with being queer and that's when I learned to value the company of people like me."

"Yeah, but honey, we could've been friends at least. That would have helped both of us. We could've skipped a lot of the painful shit."

"No honey, I don't agree with that. Neither one of us was in a place to be able to deal with a friendship on those terms. And that 'painful shit' was a crucial part of our growthŠand of this life's lesson. It helped to shape who we are today. I agree that it would have been wonderful to have your friendship, but it just wasn't in the cards for us. I think that what we have today is so special because of some of the things we lived through. It's like a great big beautiful, awesome, happy, warm, loving reward. Which we've both earned, by the way." As she turned to check for traffic she noticed Ryan's adoring gaze and her heart lurched.

"You're right Janna. Absolutely right."

The music continued, and Janna sang along quietly.

"Did you ever sing lead Janna?"

"Oh my God, no!" Janna looked almost stricken. Then she grinned and added, "I can't carry a tune to save my life."

"That's not true!" Ryan protested. "You sound fine to me" she added petulantly.

"I do all right, but only as a background vocalist and only after many years of practice." She grinned at Ryan and continued, "In fact, at some of my earliest shows, the rest of the band had the sound guy turn off my mike. I'd be singing my heart out and not even realize that my mike wasn't on." She laughed, "God, I never knew it until my girlfriend at the time ratted them out." She smiled and shook her head fondly in remembrance.

"Christ, baby, I'm sorry!" Ryan grinned despite her sincerity.

"Oh it's okay. Live and learn right? I went out and got voice lessons." She grinned and drove on as the music continued.

Ryan listened to the music with half an ear and began to fill her mate in on some of the history and philosophy of aikido. Janna was somewhat surprised to learn just how seemingly metaphysical in nature the art was. The martial art didn't simply theorize on the existence of ki within the body, it embraced the concept wholeheartedly. In fact one of the basic concepts of the art is learning to harness that energy for defense.

Ryan instructed Janna to pull the Jeep to a stop at the curb in front of the old building that housed the dojo. At the small city park across the street, figures in white judo gi's could be seen practicing graceful movements with staves, or jo's, as Ryan pointed out they were called.

Janna watched for a moment, impressed, and felt something else as well. She identified that feeling as familiarity and remembered one of the recent "warrior" dreams that she'd had. Yes, I've used that weapon before. Ryan touched her elbow and guided her toward the front door.

As they entered, a wind chime jingled, announcing their presence. Janna immediately noted the scent of incense. Sandalwood. The foyer was clean and spare, with only a single Japanese-styled art print on a wall. As Ryan led her straight ahead down a hallway, pleasant new age-styled music could be heard. Sounds like Gabrielle Roth.

As they passed a small office they heard, "Hey, Ryan!" and a compactly built, handsome middle-age man popped out of the office.

"Hi Joe, how are you?"

"Just fine. What've you been up to? I haven't seen you around here in a few weeks." As he spoke he gestured them into the office, out of the way of a class of young people that were exiting the mat area en masse.

"Oh, I've been busy, you know how it is. Joe, I want you to meet Janna Norden." She turned and put her arm around Janna's shoulders, smiling proudly. "Janna, this is Joe Swift. He and his wife Ellen run this place."

Janna extended her hand and the friendly man grasped it warmly. "Hi Joe, it's nice to meet you. This is a lovely dojo."

"It's nice to meet you too, Janna. Thank you. Come on in and see the rest of it though. Do you practice aikido?"

"No, but I intend to start. It seems fascinating." Her eyes sparkled a vibrant green, proving her sincerity.

"Joe, Janna shares some of your more interesting hobbies. She's a healer and into incense, crystals, candles, you name it, just like you are." Ryan grinned as Janna slapped playfully at her arm.

"Oh, I see...a very intelligent woman. And she's with you?" His warm smile softened his words.

"Yes, she's most definitely with me." Ryan grinned warmly and pulled Janna closer.

"Ryan, that's super. Congratulations. I see she's a saint as well." The three of them shared a laugh as he guided them back out into the hallway. He continued, "Janna, what kind of healing do you do?"

"Reiki."

"Oh, wonderful. My wife and I are Reiki Masters."

"Wow, so am I. I had no idea that there were any others here in town."

"There aren't many yet, but the word is spreading. You know how it is here. A few of us have to act as trailblazers." He smiled and shrugged.

"Yep, so true." Ryan had kicked off her sandals and placed them on a shelf so Janna did likewise. Joe was already barefoot.

"Whom did you study with, if you don't mind my asking?"

"Some good friends in the Bay area who were trained by Diane Stein."

He nodded his approval. "Diane is super. She's revolutionary, but I think it's a long time past due. That's a good lineage to be associated with."

"Well, thanks, I agree, though many people don't. I intend to carry on her tradition of sharing the symbols openly and not charging for training" Janna said, sincerity filling her voice.

"That's our philosophy as well. It's a small Universe isn't it?" He smiled warmly at the both of them and gestured them through a doorway.

Upon entering the mat room, Janna was struck by three things: a gentle, pleasing aromatherapeutic scent filled the large room; the pounding beat of one of Gabrielle Roth's more energetic songs; and the twenty or so graceful figures on the mat who were moving separately, but also seemingly as one in time to the music. All of the participants wore black belts and some, like Joe, wore wide black, skirt-like pants.

Ryan leaned close to Janna and quietly explained, "Janna this is aikido-mai. We feel the energy in our bodies and move it around as we let it move us around the mat." Janna was transfixed by what appeared to be a modern dance. Every person was moving as if to a song that only they could hear, but all were keeping time to the beat. It was almost magical.

Ryan pointed across the room to some chairs. "You can sit over there sweetheart. If you need to walk on the mat, bow first to either the Sensei, Joe, or to the altar. She pointed to an altar against one wall. It consisted of a table which held a large framed picture of an elderly Japanese man, a vase of flowers, and an incense burner. Next to it, on the floor, stood a large ceremonial gong.

Ryan continued, "Also bow as you leave the mat. Like this", and she demonstrated a low bow, facing the center of the room.

"Okay Ryan. Have a good session."

"I will sweetheart." Her face glowed with love as she added, "I'm so glad you're here." With that she stepped onto the mat, bowed to the Sensei, and joined in the dance.

Janna took her seat against a far wall and soon became entranced watching her partner. She had thought that Ryan had looked graceful on the softball diamond, but that didn't even approach her beauty and grace here. She swirled and swayed and turned, her flowing movements at one with the music and with the ki within her body. It was almost like a ballet and she was breathtaking. Her appearance was of one at peace with the Universe and that is what Janna felt through their link. She has found it tooŠbalance...peaceŠthe meaning of life...the other half of her soul.

The realization brought tears of joy to Janna's eyes and a lump to her throat. She reached out through her link to Ryan and communicated her love to her mate. At that instant Ryan faltered almost imperceptibly in her movement and looked at Janna, her eyes mirroring the love showing in Janna's, and she smiled radiantly. The love surged through their link and was solidified permanently. It became indissoluble and the rest of the Universe, for just an instant, faded away, leaving the two lovers alone, but as one.

The timeless moment passed, but not before Ryan's friend and Sensei became aware of it. His soul was warmed at the sight of the wide, glowing cord of energy that he could see linking the two women, it's power surrounding and engulfing them as their auras blazed and merged across the room. It was a memory that would remain engraved on his mind and in his heart for the rest of his life. He had only ever seen such a link once before: his own, which he shared with his wife and soul mate.

The dance music slowly faded and was replaced by peaceful Japanese flute music. The students stopped their movements and lined up in the center of the mat, each facing the Sensei and bowing to him. Then they moved as one to the far edge of the mat and Joe gestured for two of them to join him in the center of the mat, while the rest of the class sat, hands resting on their knees, and watched.

Ryan and another woman joined Joe in graceful defensive movements, effortlessly ducking, rolling, blocking, pinning. It was almost a dance in itself. In reality it was attack and defensive countermoves, the participants often using the ki within their bodies to force the opponent off balance. It was a beautiful art and Janna became thrilled with the prospect of learning it with Ryan.

At one point Ryan gracefully brought her hands up in front of her body and brought them closely together, as if she held an invisible ball, and then gracefully lunged at the Sensei, throwing the "ball" as she did so. Joe went to the mat, as if he'd been thrown and Janna, who was directly in Ryan's line of attack, felt a gentle surge of energy hit her. She looked up, startled, to see Ryan grin and mouth, "Sorry!" Janna just sat, momentarily dumbfounded until a silly grin crept onto her face.

Later in the session, the Sensei gestured to Ryan and instructed her to pick up a bokken. Ryan gracefully rose to her feet, walked to the equipment shelf and grabbed a wooden practice sword. Her opponent, a very large man who even towered over her, picked up a wooden knife, or tanto.

They met at the center of the mat and respectfully bowed to each other. Her opponent quickly went on the offensive but Ryan feinted and dodged him expertly, spinning and swinging the sword gracefully as she did so. My, GodŠshe looks like she was born with that sword in her hand. As they continued to parry and feint for several more minutes, Janna was awestruck at Ryan's skill and grace. Before she knew it, Ryan's opponent was flat on his back on the mat, grinning up at his conqueror. She returned the grin and reached down to help him to his feet.

"Beautiful Ryan, George, thank you. Okay, Cheryl, take tanto and Bill, bokken" the Sensei instructed.

For the rest of the hour Janna sat completely transfixed and in awe of the skill of the black belts. Most particularly that of her partner.

Before they left the dojo that evening, Janna had purchased a gi and signed up for the new beginning class which would be starting in about a month, and which would be taught by her mate.

As she drove them to the restaurant, Janna couldn't stop her excited chatter about what she had witnessed. "Honey, why didn't you tell me that aikido was so metaphysical?"

"I've never looked at it that way Janna. It just isŠwhat it is." She shrugged her shoulders.

"Honey, you were throwing balls of ki at each otherŠI'm afraid you don't get much more metaphysical than that!"

"Oh, I can think of some pretty off the wall things that I've heard of that are way more metaphysical than goshin-mai."

"We'll have to discuss that in depth, because I find very little that is not within the realm of possibility" Janna declared matter-of-factly.

"It's a deal thenŠI look forward to having my mind opened by you." Ryan's sincere statement was accompanied by a warm smile.

Janna returned the warm smile and a feeling of gratitude passed through their link. "You know what else I was struck by? It seems very non-violent...as if only used for self defense." She glanced at her partner.

"That's exactly what it is honey. You know, a lot of cops are starting to learn it too. There were four other cops in that black belt class tonight. It's been a great help to me personally. When disabled non-violently with aikido, perps are usually so stunned that they give up willingly." She looked thoughtfully at Janna and remarked, "I think I'll put some flyers up at the stationŠtry to get some cops signed up for my class in the Fall."

"Sounds like a great idea love. " Janna pulled into the parking lot behind a small café on the Avenue, a few blocks from the Rainbow Lounge. "Come on, I'm starving!"

Ryan laughed, "Why am I not surprised?" She took her mate's arm as they made their way inside. The growing twilight had receded to a quiet darkness by the time they exited and made their way home.


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