The Journey
By Janet Lynne

Part 10

-19-

See Part 1 for disclaimers

Nearly one week later on a Thursday night, shortly after feeding Halley and retiring, Ryan and Janna sat side by side on the bed. They were in Los Angeles, Hollywood actually, having arrived earlier in the day after shows in Fresno and Bakersfield. The next show was the following night, at a huge gay club in West Hollywood, and they would play there again the night after as well.

The shows at the southern end of the San Joaquin Valley had been successful; sold out, but the group had not been as well received. The crowds had been enthusiastic but not as raucously so, and the obvious homosexual element did not seem to be present. The audiences had consisted of mainstream punk and heavy metal fans, alluding to the less open environment of the valley towns. Still, the sold out nature of the show attested to the fact of the group's growing underground following, and the shows were satisfying in that respect.

For the group, it was really very much like playing at home (except at the Rainbow Lounge.) Their town was similar; not terribly openly accepting of gays and lesbians, if not outright hostile. The kids in the audience had been properly respectful, for the most part, but Janna and the guys all felt strongly that they should not flaunt the homosexual aspects of themselves or their music so much. They played the songs hard and fast, and included no homosexual references, nuances or innuendo. To Janna's seasoned eye, there were very few openly gay people in attendance. She knew there were more, but they weren't obvious, so she was forced to play to the punk element.

The mainstream crowd was not Janna's favorite to play for, obviously. At both shows, she had to endure taunts and leering suggestions from drunk males to, "Show us your tits, babe!" And at the Bakersfield show, she had been mildly groped. She was playing away, eyes closed, when she felt rough hands circle her torso from behind. Before the action could even register in her brain, security was on the man and had pulled him away from her, but it had been a shock. The act had caused her guitar to hit the mic stand hard, and as the band played on, she was forced to re tune mid-song, shaking her head in frustration as she did so.

An hour later, when the show ended, she could still feel the man's hands on her breasts and visibly shuddered at the memory. Later, when told of the incident, her mate had become livid, angrily declaring that she would personally pay for increased security. Backstage, Jason had remarked, only half joking, that he hoped they weren't jumped on their way back to the hotel. His friends wholeheartedly agreed and they all packed up quickly and left together for the short drive back.

"I'm glad to be out of the valley," Janna remarked quietly as she lay against her mate.

"I am too, babe. There shouldn't be any assholes groping you here at the next two shows."

"Mm, thank God for small miracles," Janna muttered.

Ryan looked at her mate. "The fun's wearing off, isn't it, Janna?"

She sighed before answering. "Yeah, it is. This is what it was like when I quit. These last two shows, I mean. Playing live is usually always great, and fun, but there's just no magic. All the hassle, and hard work, and long miles just aren't worth it if there's no magic."

"I hear you, baby. These next few shows should be good though, right? And then San Francisco…you're gonna see a lot of your old friends and show me around, remember?"

Janna squeezed her mate, thankful to her for trying to cheer her up. "Yeah, it should be fun. But still, Ryan, I'm ready to go home." She laid her head on Ryan's shoulder and sighed.

Ryan could feel her melancholy and thought she knew how to alleviate it. "Hey, um, I'll bet I can show you some magic. Right now. I'll bet you I can have you seeing stars in less than ten minutes."

Janna smiled. "Stars? Usually it's fireworks."

"Well, this time, baby, it's gonna be stars…shooting stars. Are you game?" She smiled mischievously down at her mate.

"Oh, yes, absolutely. This I've gotta see."

"Good," Ryan said as she rolled over, taking her mate with her and settling above her. She pulled off her undershirt, baring her beautiful, buff and bronzed body, and leaned down and softly, sensuously, stroked Janna's lips with her tongue.

"Oh, God, there went the first one. Damn, you're good, woman."

~~~~~~~~~~

Janna sighed loudly and looked comically over at her channel-surfing mate. "Honey, that makes me nuts, and you know it."

"I'm sorry, Janna, but Jesus, there's nothing worth watching, it's too early to sleep, and I already showed you your shooting stars." She landed on an interesting channel and her eyebrows rose. "Shit, do all hotels offer free porn now?"

Janna glanced at the screen and half-winced. "Geez, I guess so. God, honey, that's pretty raw. Is there, um, a lesbian channel by chance?"

"Yeah it is raw, and I doubt it. Jesus, that blonde…takes me back…way back." She looked at her mate with raised brows.

"It does, huh? Wanna tell me about it?"

Ryan closed her eyes and blew out a breath. "I don't know, Janna…it was back in the dog days. I'm not sure it's something you want to hear about. And I, um, wouldn't want you to think less of me." She looked down at the remote in her hands.

"Honey, that is completely impossible. I'm curious, but if you don't want to talk about it, it's okay."

Ryan looked back up into her wife's sincere green gaze and sighed. "No, we promised that we would always be completely honest, and I don't want anything left hanging between us, so I'll tell you." She picked up Janna's hand and kissed it, then nodded toward the screen.

"The woman…blonde, sort of cute, but in a hard way…fake tits. I um, had a stripper once who looked a lot like her."

Janna's blonde brows rose. "A stripper? There aren't any strip clubs in town are there?"

"No, it's not legal within the city limits. No, uh, it was in San Francisco."

"Oh, well, there are definitely strip clubs there," Janna remarked drolly.

"Shit yeah. Um, anyway, about ten years ago a guy on the force had his bachelor's party there...in the City. We weren't really friends, but I think he thought it would be a laugh to invite me. So he did and I called him on it and showed up. He was pissed at first, but quickly realized that I was not the sort of woman who would ruin their fun…um, in fact, I may have been the biggest dog of all." She shook her head disgustedly. "Shit."

"Go on, love," Janna softly encouraged.

"So, we went to about four different strip clubs, bar hopping all along the way. Janna, I do not understand a woman who wouldn't mind her husband having a party like that, or attending one. They were all pigs and I think they all got laid eventually." She shook her head disgustedly again. "Women must know that they're being cheated on at those things…why do they allow it?"

"I don't know, honey. I don't think all bachelor parties are like that…you've told me about others you've been to that weren't. I guess they're just willing to allow their men some freedom…to hold on loosely, you know?"

"Nope, I don't. Anyway," she sighed, "at the last club we went to there was this cute blonde stripper. Looked a little like you, of course…all the women who interested me did…isn't that strange? Hmm…" She became pensive for a moment.

"I guess at some level you knew what your soulmate looked like. Go on, please."

"Yeah, okay. Um, so there's this sort of down-to-earth, wholesome-looking girl, except for her big, fake boobs, and after she danced I tipped her a twenty. I noticed that most of her tips were ones and I thought she deserved more. So she, um, leaned against me, kissed me, and asked if I'd like a private dance."

"Oh, and you were there."

"Oh, shit, so there baby, you have no idea." Ryan smirked and shook her head.

"Actually, I think I do, love."

Ryan's smirk became a smile as she said, "Yeah, baby, you probably do…though it's so much more incredibly good with you…there's no comparison. None whatsoever." She squeezed her wife's shoulders and reveled in her loving warmth before continuing.

"So, she led me into a more private room where there were some soft chairs, and she um, gave me a lap dance." Ryan cleared her throat. "It was very hot…she was quite good…and I know I wanted more, but I didn't come on to her at all…I just sat and enjoyed the dance…I figured that they never went any farther than that. But then, um, she looked me in the eye and told me, very quietly, that she really wanted me. I nodded and she got off of me and led me by the hand to another room. This one was completely private…no one else was in there, and it had a couch. She closed the door, locked it, and we fucked on the couch." She looked down at her hands and then back up at Janna. "That's all it was, Janna…a fuck…that's all it ever was back then. I, uh, tried to give her some more money, but she wouldn't take it. She thanked me for the good time and I left with the guys."

"Wow," was all Janna could muster and Ryan pulled her close.

"That's what I was like then, Janna. Women were just for sex. There was no feeling involved. In fact, it was feeling that I was running from."

"I know, Ryan. I'm glad you shared that with me. It's, um, not real comfortable thinking about you with other women, but I know that I don't ever have to worry about it happening again."

"Oh, God, Janna," Ryan gasped. "Absolutely not. Baby, you are my everything. You fulfill me in every way. Shit, Janna…physically, emotionally, spiritually. You're the other half of my soul for God's sake. The thought of being with anyone else actually sickens me now."

"I know the feeling, Ryan. Very well," Janna said as she laid her head against her mate's arm. She was pulled over into Ryan's lap and kissed sweetly.

"God, I love you, Janna. You are my perfect woman."

"I'm so glad to hear that Ryan, because you are mine."

~~~~~~~~~~

Friday and Saturday night's shows in West Hollywood exceeded even the wildest expectations of Janna, Brian, Jason, and their manager. They had been welcomed with open arms and the sides of the stage had featured male go-go dancers, severely hampering the guys' ability to concentrate…until they had become used to the phenomenon.

The show sported a definite party atmosphere, as well as a very large lesbian contingent, so Janna's spirits had been raised exponentially. As she played, she was graced with many displays of lovely bared breasts and the smile of appreciation rarely left her face. In fact, she had been sorely tempted to return the favor, but modesty had prevented it. Jason and Brian, however, had not been so shy, and had both pulled their shirts off when yells from the crowd requested it.

Before the first show, there had been a steady stream of visitors backstage. Journalists, from both the mainstream musical press and gay and lesbian publications, kept them busy right up until show time, as did radio personalities and local GLBT activists. Ryan and Halley were present for all of the pre-show activities and for the first half of the gig, and Ryan was blown away by the reception her wife and friends were enjoying.

Janna sat on the worn couch, enjoying a brief respite between interviews, and gulped from a bottle of ice water. Ryan was sitting beside her with the baby on her knee when a small group of women approached. They weren't wearing press passes, so Ryan assumed that they were local activists…they all certainly appeared to be out lesbians…and Ryan smiled and nudged Janna gently as they approached.

"Ms. Norden?" Said the forty-something with short hair.

"Yes, but it's Norden-Zamora. This is my wife, Ryan." Janna smiled warmly as she indicated her wife beside her.

"Sorry, the press materials say, 'Norden'."

"That's okay. What can I do for you?"

"We're from GLAAD and were wondering if you would like to autograph some items for our annual charity auction."

Janna's face lit up as she replied, "Oh, yes, I'd love to. But, um, I'm not exactly a celebrity."

The woman just looked at her with raised eyebrows. "You're kidding, right?"

Janna shook her head. "No."

"There's been a buzz in the community about this band for months, and about all the work you've done up in San Francisco."

"Really? I haven't been active in the community for several years, and I'm retired from music."

"That may be, but you're still very popular. May I show you the items?"

"Sure."

The women produced a bag with various memorabilia and mementos, both rock and pride related, and Janna signed each item. When she had finished, they all thanked her for her time and then asked her out for drinks after the show.

Janna politely declined, citing the desire to be with her family after the show. Several minutes later, while she was talking with Ryan and playing with the baby, three more women approached but didn't identify themselves. They were dressed alluringly, and simply starting fawning over Janna, complimenting her on everything from her music, to her political ideals to her gorgeous body. Her mate, sitting beside her, raised her eyebrows and planted a fist on her hip, looking disbelievingly at them, but the women were oblivious to her presence, acting as if she were invisible, and continued with their blatant come ons and outright propositions.

Janna, exasperated, finally said, "Excuse me…do you see the woman sitting here next to me…the one with the wedding ring that matches mine?"

They looked down their noses at Ryan and nodded.

"Good. She's my wife and I don't think she's appreciating your behavior. Neither am I. Why don't you take off?"

"Maybe she'd like to join us later. Can you lose the kid?"

Ryan exploded, erupting from her seat with the force of a volcano. "Get the fuck away from my wife, now!"

The ninnies jumped, startled, and scattered like frightened sheep and Ryan sat back down, fuming.

Janna laid a soft hand on her thigh as she said, "I'm sorry, love…groupies." She added humorously, "I wondered if I was gonna get any offers on this tour."

Ryan gasped, "What, Janna?"

"I'm kidding…well, sort of. Honey, you can't possibly feel threatened by them can you? The idea is absurd."

"Yes, it may be absurd, but I didn't find it funny. They're lowlifes. You introduced your wife to them, for Christ's sake, and they made a pass at me too!"

"Yes, that's an apt description. They obviously have no self-respect, or self-value. They measure themselves against the people they are able to take to bed. I pity them, really."

"You never fell prey to them?"

"Well, you know the story, Ryan, once…maybe more…but generally, no. I prefer to be in love with the women I sleep with."

"Thank the gods for that," Ryan muttered, not quite under her breath.

"Put the jealously away, Ryan. It's misplaced. No one else on this planet has even a remote chance with me. People like that are a fact of this life and the best thing we can do is ignore them."

Ryan, still steaming, wasn't satisfied. "I do not like women coming on to my wife after she's made it clear that she's not interested. If it happens again, I'm gonna kick some ass from here to Long Beach."

"Ryan, Jesus, get a grip, please. So what if they do? They won't get anywhere with me. Just ignore it. They're pathetic…feel sorry for them if anything. Please?"

"I don't think I can, Janna…I'm too pissed off."

Janna hugged a quiet Halley to her chest and kissed her cheek, then caught Jeff's eye and called him over. "Jeff, can you take Halley on stage for a few minutes, please?" She nodded toward her fuming wife and he nodded, understanding, and picked up the baby. He carried her away, talking animatedly with her.

After Jeff and the baby left, Janna grabbed Ryan's hand and kissed it. "Honey, calm down, please."

"Jesus, Janna, the slut wanted us to 'lose the baby'! What a fucking bitch! I can't believe this."

"She's a pathetic, drugged out, fucking bitch, Ryan, and she doesn't matter. Honey, there are going to be groupies around me…there's no avoiding it…and you're going to have to get used to it."

"Fuck, Janna…I didn't see this coming." She looked at the ground and then back at her wife. "I've, um, never felt so jealous in my life. Hell, I don't think I've ever felt jealousy before." She shook her head. "I do not like this emotion."

"Ryan, love, you have absolutely nothing to feel jealous about. None of those women have a ghost a chance with me. No one does. You know that, honey. Where is this coming from?" Janna asked, concerned.

Ryan sighed and shook her head. "I don't know, Janna. First, there was Joan last week, then Diana showed up, now this. It just got to be too much, I guess. I um, have never felt threatened before."

"Ryan, God damn it! You are not threatened in any way by any of them. Not one of those women can hold a candle to you. This is irrational."

"Well, Janna, I guess I'm just human." Ryan declared and sat back dejectedly against the sofa.

Janna felt her pain then and sighed, realizing that she wasn't being as understanding as she should be. How would you feel, Janna…to see women hanging all over her? Throwing themselves at her? Shit. "Sweetheart, I'm sorry. You're right…that wasn't fair. But listen, you have nothing to worry about, okay? I love you more than life itself and no mere woman could ever come between us. I appreciate your concern, and I thank you for scaring those twits off." She faced Ryan and looked up into her dejected face. "It was funny the way they scattered when you exploded. I wouldn't mind seeing that again."

Slowly, a smile curled at Ryan's lips and she looked up at Janna through her long, thick eyelashes. The smile turned jaunty as she said, "Yeah, it was kinda funny, huh? I guess I can be pretty imposing when I need to be."

"Oh, God, honey. Like the warrior you once were. My Amazon." She leaned forward and captured Ryan's lips gently. "And I love you, so, so much."

Ryan reached out and pulled Janna against her, murmuring against her throat, "I love you, too, baby. So much." She pulled away and kissed Janna again, more deeply, and they communicated their boundless devotion to each other for several minutes. Until Jeff returned with the baby and hesitantly cleared his throat.

Still kissing Janna, Ryan mumbled against her lips, "We hear ya, Jeff, just hold on a minute, huh?"

"Sure, Ryan, yeah. No problem, but it's um, ten minutes to show time and Janna hasn't done the final check on the guitars yet."

Together, the Norden-Zamoras sighed and pulled apart, resting their foreheads together as a blue gaze swam within green.

"I've gotta go, love."

"I know, baby. We'll be here until Halley says it's time to go. Love you, Janna."

"Love you, Ryan. Love of my life."

"Light of my soul."

"Dawn of my joy."

Jeff thought he just might be sick right there backstage, next to the worn sofa, while he held the baby.

~~~~~~~~~~

The groupie problem didn't resolve itself with Ryan's outburst. After the show, somehow, even more hopefuls, of both sexes, had found their way backstage. To say that Jason and Brian were rather pleased at the selection of attractive men awaiting their favor would have been a gross understatement.

Janna's problem, however, was the exact opposite. The attentions of the half a dozen or so women vying for her eye were completely unwanted. And her Amazon was not available to ward them off.

"Jeff, for Christ's sake…where's security? And how did all these people get passes? I don't know any of them."

"Yes, but they want to know you guys."

"Tough shit."

"Damn, you sound like Ryan."

"I wish she were here right now. I need to get out of here…will the guys be alright?" She glanced nervously toward her young band mates, who were both engaged in flirtatious conversations with attractive men.

"I'd say so…it looks like they're both gonna get lucky."

"Jesus, Jeff, he's your younger brother."

"He's a man, Janna. And he's got a good head on his shoulders. He's not stupid."

"He's a good looking, young gay man, in West Hollywood, Jeff, and he's not thinking with his head right now. I'd hate to see him taken advantage of."

"They're having the time of their lives, Janna. What can I do? Tell me."

She shook her head. "I don't know…just…remind him to be safe, I guess. Let him know you care."

Jeff held out his hands. "That's all we can do, Janna. Don't worry…he's a bright kid. They both are. Now, you've got a date waiting, and I just might too, so let's get out of here."

"What, are you gonna let them party back here alone?"

"No, I am not. I'll take care of things here…that's my job…and they're going to take off and hit some clubs. You go get some rest, or uh, whatever the hell you and Ryan do after a show." He laughed as he added, "I know it's not rest! Have fun, Janna. I'll see you tomorrow…when you get up around noon."

"Jeff, when did you become such a smart ass?" And grow balls? He's talking to me like a real manager for God's sake…

"Good night, Janna."

"Good night, Jeff."

Jeff called Janna a cab and she waited in front of the club for it, faithful Stratocaster case in hand. She always left her other guitars with the rest of the equipment at the club, or to be loaded on the bus, but her beloved new instrument stayed with her, safely tucked into its case.

As she stood near the front door to the popular club, she garnered many looks from interested patrons and passersby, as well as more than a few comments on her performance…all favorable and gracious. She nodded her thanks and enjoyed the warm southern California night.

The few stars visible through the light-filled haze twinkled at her as she waited. The early June late-night was bustling with Friday activity, as the many clubs and bars in the popular gay-centered neighborhood were packed.

As she lounged against the wall, two attractive women approached her. "Are you Janna Norden?" the dark-haired butch in a black leather motorcycle jacket and jeans asked.

"Yes." Janna nodded with a smile.

The other woman, a red-headed femme in a short, black leather skirt offered, "We saw the show. It was amazing."

"Thank you," Janna replied graciously.

The dark-haired woman offered, "We aren't usually fans of punk rock, but your sound is more universal than that. We both really liked it. Do you have a CD out?"

"Yes, though I'm not actually in the band. I'm filling in for the guitarist until he recovers from surgery. I'm their producer."

"Wow, shit, you could have fooled us, and everyone else there. You guys are so tight together."

"Well, thanks. We're friends and we've played together a lot…I guess that comes through."

"It sure does," replied the attractive woman as she smiled warmly.

God, she reminds me of Ryan. I need to get to the hotel. Fast.

"Janna, can we buy you a drink?" Asked the woman's partner. Janna noted that they wore matching gold wedding bands and was warmed.

"Thanks, but no. I'm anxious to get back to my wife."

The butch smiled perceptively. "Ah, the woman you kept looking at backstage... and whom you kissed after you surfed. She's beautiful."

Janna blushed mildly. "Thank you. Yes, my wife, Ryan. She's waiting for me at the hotel with our daughter."

"Oh, I see. Well, Janna, thanks again for a super show. I think we'll check out the band's CD. Good luck to you."

"Thanks a lot. I'm so glad you enjoyed the show." Her cab pulled up to the curb and she added, "Ah, here's my ride. Take care." And she took her leave of the two gracious fans.

She gave directions to the driver and settled against the seat, enjoying the lights and the many sights of the full-flavored atmosphere of LA at night.

Ryan checked the digital readout on her watch. 12:05. She's due any time…how cool is that? She smiled to herself as she glanced at the crib. Halley was sleeping peacefully on her back, with both arms bent above her head. My God, she's an angel. Just like her mother.

She settled against the headboard and returned to her book. But her mind kept straying to the events earlier in the night. She trusted Janna implicitly, she really did. But she knew that there were women out there, especially in this city, who would stop at nothing to possess a sweet, lovely woman like her. Women like the woman she used to be. She sighed deeply and shook her head, feeling an anguish that logically, she should not have felt.

As she pondered the situation, she heard the door lock click. Shit, I didn't feel her coming. I have got to snap out of this idiotic funk.

"Bend, Granddaughter. As a tall tree in the wind."

What? Oh, my God. Thank you, Grandfather. She shook her head, realizing that she had not been bending, and she knew damn well that she should have been. Love makes us so goddamned vulnerable. But my love with her makes me stronger. I should never forget that.

"Yes. A tree's trunk becomes stronger when it allows itself to bend with the wind."

Thank you for your guidance, Grandfather. Ryan smiled as she jumped up off the bed and hurried to the door. When it opened, she greeted her soulmate with a warm hug.

"God, Ryan, you don't know how much I needed that." Janna said as she dropped her guitar case and melted into her wife's warm, loving arms.

"I think I did know, Janna, but I needed it even more." She held her lover close and drank in her warmth, breathing deeply of her scent and swimming in the electric feelings awakened within her body. She nuzzled Janna's neck as she said, "I need to love you, baby."

"I need that too, Ryan."

"How about a shower, love? Halley just went down about a half hour ago. She should sleep till about four."

Janna tilted her head back and sighed. "Yes. That sounds perfect. Will you make love to me in the shower? Please?" She looked back at Ryan with silently imploring green eyes.

"Janna, I will make love to you in the shower and wherever else you want me to until the end of time."

"God, I knew I chose the right soulmate. Come on."

She pulled her mate by the hand into the adjacent bathroom and they hurriedly undressed each other while the water warmed. When they were both naked, Janna pulled Ryan against her body and held her close. She lost herself within her mate's firm-soft, warm body for long minutes, enjoying the feel of the full-body tingling that was set into motion whenever they touched that way. Soft electricity began to course through their bodies as well, at the close contact, and both were swept away by the sensations.

Ryan dipped her head and nipped lightly at Janna's throat, eliciting soft moans that ignited her passion. Unexpectedly, she picked Janna up bodily and stepped into the shower with her.

"Ryan, baby…"

"Mmm. Janna." Ryan set her down and took possession of her lips, savoring them lustfully before bending and tending to full breasts.

"Did you pump earlier, baby?" Ryan mumbled against the full curve of a breast.

"No, I'm overdue."

"I can tell. Let me, Janna."

"Go for it, Ryan." Janna threw her head back and let the warm water flow around her face as her mate tended to her engorged breasts. Ryan's suckling served the purpose of both relieving her of the pressure of too much milk, and assuring that her body would continue to produce their daughter's nourishment.

After several minutes, Janna grasped Ryan's head and pulled her face up to join hers. She kissed Ryan passionately and turned her, pushing her gently against the back of the stall. Immediately, she sank to her knees and began a fervent exploration of Ryan's body with her lips and tongue, finally ending buried deep within Ryan's dark curls.

As her mate's tongue delved deeply into her most sensitive cleft, Ryan moaned loudly, the sounds muffled by the stall and the water flowing within it. Janna increased the pace of her stroking, and Ryan's head lolled from side to side, delirious pleasure overtaking her senses. She reached down and ran her fingers through Janna's slicked-back hair.

When she sensed that her mate was close, Janna brought a hand up and her fingers joined her mouth, paying devoted attention to the sensitive, swollen bud at the top, and setting in motion a powerfully building climax. Ryan's body signaled its impending orgasm with clenching muscles and deep moans, and Janna skillfully guided her mate into the pleasurable abyss. Ryan screamed as she was rocked by the powerful tremors and Janna caught her as her legs buckled and she fell into a heap on the shower floor.

"Janna…," she gasped, unable to manage anything more.

"I…love you, Ryan," Janna murmured, breathless.

"I can tell…baby. Shit…" Ryan lay against Janna, catching her breath, yet eager to repay the pleasure. "Let…let me catch my breath, Janna, and…and I'll love you."

"'Kay," was the quiet reply.

A few minutes later, Ryan took a deep breath and kissed her wife, tasting her own body's essence in her mouth. "God, I want you, Janna. Let me fuck you, baby."

"Please do, Ryan," Janna whispered breathlessly.

She kissed her wife once more and reached down to connect with her, gingerly slipping a finger inside of her as her thumb played with her sensitive nubbin.

Janna gasped and arched into her lover's touch. "God, Ryan, yes!"

"I love you so much, Janna. Let me love you."

"Love me, Ryan. Like no one else ever will."

Those words were exactly what Ryan needed to hear at that moment. They reassured her that no one, ever, could win Janna's heart as she had done. Janna would never, ever allow herself to be touched by anyone but her soulmate. As well, Janna needed to be possessed by Ryan as much as Ryan needed to possess her.

Ryan sucked an erect nipple into her mouth and caressed it lovingly with her tongue as she stroked her mate below, enjoying her slick, velvet smooth depths. As her mouth and fingers worked together to deliver her mate, Ryan became weak with pleasure. Her moans mingled with Janna's and her mate became weak and delirious within moments, calling her wife's name repeatedly as the intense climax shook her body.

They lay together, on the floor of the shower stall, as the warm water continued to cascade over their spent, sated bodies, not to rise and claim their bed for nearly another hour.

It was only a very short time afterward that they both were awakened by their child's hungry cries, and Ryan tended to her daughter's need as her mate clung to her. The light of the last-phase moon illuminated them, and their old, old friend smiled upon them.

Soon, my friends. Soon you will be back home and returned to your normal routine. You have done well to remember yourselves and your love along this journey. I am proud and heartened.


-20-

As the bus traveled up the breathtaking California coastline, Janna's old friend sang softly, the pleasant song emitting from the speakers:

I wish I was the sentimental ornament you hung on
The Christmas tree, I wish I was the star that went on top

I wish I was a sailor with someone who waited for me
I wish I was as fortunate as fortunate as me

I wish I was a messenger and all the news was good
I wish I was the full moon shining off a Camaro's hood

I wish I was an alien at home behind the sun
I wish I was the souvenir you kept your house key on

I wish I was the pedal brake that you depended on
I wish I was the verb to trust and never let you down

I wish I was a radio song
The one that you turned up…

The song faded and Ryan remarked, "God, Janna, that's nice. I've never heard that one before."

"Mm, it's not released yet. Yeah, I love the sentiment."

"Your Entity brother is talented. And sensitive."

"Mm, hm. Sensitivity is actually one of the strong flavors of our Entity. Some channels refer to it as the 'Sweetheart Entity'."

Ryan chuckled softly. "Oh, baby, that makes so much sense. Or, how about the 'Earth Mother Entity'?"

Janna giggled. "Yep, that works, but I don't know if Ed would appreciate that."

"From what I picked up about him, he wouldn't be too pissed."

"Nope."

"What about mine, Janna. Which Entity am I in…have you found out?"

"Of course! You're in the first…the 'Trailblazers'. You all have strong, independent spirits. You make things happen. Anna is a mate of yours, and several of the other Michael channels. It makes sense, with the groundbreaking information they're bringing through for the planet."

"Mm, yeah. Sounds like I'm in cool company. So, after we finish all our lives on the planet, we reconnect with the rest of our Entity on the other side?"

"Mm, hm, yep. We reunite…become like one huge soul and all of our varied experiences are integrated. Then we move onto the next higher plane together and reunite with the larger group. You and I will be one forever, then. Eventually, we all find our way back to the Creator, to the Tao, and become fully one with everything again, adding our unique experiences from all of our lives, and they're recorded in the Universal data bank...the Akashic Records."

"God, Janna, it sounds like the Borg."

Janna laughed. "Yeah, in a way! But in a positive, loving way. It's all about love. That is truly what the Universe consists of. Universal, unconditional love. It binds the Universe together."

"That sounds like The Force."

Janna laughed again. "Yes! George Lucas was absolutely right. Love and ki, between everything, binding everything."

"Agape."

"Yes."

"Cool, babe. I like it. And I like being able to form a picture in my mind of just how the Universe works. It's a simplistic picture, I know, but it still helps. Thinking of being created in groups, with each group having a unique energy is interesting. Hey," she added, "We need to find out which Entity Halley is in."

"Right. Add it to the list of questions for the 'Omniscient Ones'," Janna giggled.

"They don't like being called that, Janna. They're not God."

"I know. I like to have fun with them."

"Lucky them." Ryan removed her chin from Janna's shoulder and glanced across the bus to where a Nintendo skirmish was taking place. "Hey, I play the winner, right?"

"Right, Ry, I'll be putting him away in just about a minute," Brian replied, eyes transfixed on the large television screen in front of him as his hands worked the controls on the gamepad.

"Dream on, Bri. I just let you get ahead…shit! Jesus…okay, Ryan, you're up," Jason informed her dejectedly as he got up.

Ryan kissed the shoulder that was spooned up against her and said, "I've gotta go kick some ass right now, babe. I'll be back."

Janna smiled back at her mate. "I'm counting on it."

~~~~~~~~~~

They continued their journey northward along the coast to San Francisco, where they would play their final two shows. It appeared that the shows would mark the sparkling culmination of the very successful tour, and the mood onboard was exceptionally upbeat. The gigs themselves promised to be as exciting as the Hollywood shows had been, due to the expected heavily gay and lesbian attendance. They weren't playing a gay club, pre se, as they had down south, rather, they were playing one of the city's largest and most popular rock clubs. However, being San Francisco, a heavy GLBT faction was virtually guaranteed. As well, that night would be their last spent aboard the cramped quarters in the bus. They were due to arrive in the City By The Bay sometime during the night.

The sun made his journey west and glowed a brilliant orange as he sank into the sea, and Ryan and Janna gazed at the lovely scene together. They sat spooned, as always, next to the large window. Janna sank more heavily into her mate and sighed, communicating silently with her through their bond.

"I know, Janna. Grandfather is glorious." She kissed her wife's neck and closed her eyes.

"How do you guys do that?" Asked Jason, curious.

Ryan opened her eyes and looked at him. "Do what?"

"Communicate without words."

She shrugged. "I don't know, Jase. It just happens. It's a soulmate thing, I guess."

"And you don't fight. At least I've never seen it."

"Oh, we fight," Ryan grinned. "But it usually only lasts about a minute and a half." Janna chuckled in front of her, agreeing

"Hm," he pondered. "And, um, you're always touching. It's like you're one person sometimes. Or, it's like you want to be one person, so you stay in contact all the time."

"That's about the size of it, Jase," Janna replied as she caressed the large hands that rested on her waist.

"Hm. I've never seen anything like it before." He pondered for a minute before adding, "I think it's cool."

"Well thanks for your approval, Jase. I don't know what we would've done without it," Ryan drawled softly.

"I'm not trying to be a smart ass, Ryan, I'm trying to understand it. Tell me, from a spiritual standpoint, are there other precedents for it...in literature and stuff?"

Janna playfully shoved an elbow back into her mate, who sat up, surprised by Jason's interest. "Well, yes, Jase, there are. Janna, would you like to handle this? You're the resident spiritual scholar."

Janna grinned. "Sure, love. But feel free to jump in at any time. You know quite a bit yourself."

Ryan grinned. "Done!"

Janna proceeded to launch into a discussion of her knowledge and beliefs with a very interested Jason, who nodded thoughtfully at times and asked insightful questions. It proved to be an interesting way to pass the early evening before the bus stopped for dinner.

~~~~~~~~~~

Ryan was lying on her side, pressed up against Janna as she fed Halley, when they felt the bus come to a stop. Janna picked up her wife's wrist and looked at her watch.

"Little after midnight. The driver made good time." Janna remarked quietly.

"Mm, hm. No traffic, I guess." Ryan gazed down as Halley's suckling slowed and caressed her cheek gently with a finger. "Come on, sweetheart, it's not naa naa time yet."

The baby's eyes flew open and she made a comment from around her momma's nipple before continuing to suckle again.

"She's always got something to say, Janna. Wonder who she takes after there?" She grinned as her wife tickled her ribs.

"Well, it's certainly not tall, dark and silent."

"Nope."

"Ever the laconic one, Ryan."

"Yep."

"Oh you!" Janna giggled as she tickled her wife again.

"Hey, you're gonna make Halley mad and we're gonna wake up the whole bus. Be good." Ryan whispered.

"If I have to."

"For now, you do. But later…"

Janna could just feel Ryan's rakish grin and her skin began to tingle as she sighed. "God, Ryan, what you can do to me with just a vocal inflection."

Her mate's low voice drawled sexily, "Yes, I have many skills."

"Jesus. The most skilled woman on the planet, as far as I'm concerned."

"Why thank you, baby."

"Don't mention it."

They passed the next few minutes in silence as they enjoyed their family closeness, then Ryan spoke. "Honey, when are we getting together with everyone?"

"Tomorrow night. I figure, it's our last show, so we'll have a big blowout. Go out on the town afterward. Missy and Lisa are going to both shows and have offered to watch Halley during the second so we can go out. So, I think we can have dinner with them before the show tonight, then get together tomorrow night with Doug and Jay, Marcy and Donna, and Jordan and Pam. That sound okay?"

"Yeah, babe. So, I finally get to meet Jordan, huh?"

"Mm, hm. After that you will have met three of my four prior girlfriends. The last I heard, Sarah was living in New York, so I don't know if you'll ever meet her."

"She was your first."

"Yes. Do you think I'll ever meet your first, Ryan?"

"You already have, babe."

"I have? Who?"

"Michelle."

"Michelle? Carrie's wife? Jesus, Ryan, that's a pretty juicy tidbit to have never shared with me, don't you think?"

"Christ, Janna, no, not really. We were thirteen and we hardly did anything...just some kissing and grinding. We didn't even get completely naked. She didn't even know she was gay yet, either. Remember, I only chased straight girls. It was only the one time, too. So no, babe, it wasn't all that meaningful."

"You stayed friends?"

"Yes…how do you think I met Carrie?"

"Jesus, you two are so close. I thought you'd been friends first."

"Nope."

"Wow."

"I'm sorry, Janna, it just never occurred to me to share that. Honey, I haven't purposefully withheld anything from you...ever. If I haven't told you everything about my past it's simply because it's never come up. You know that I'm not in the habit of talking about myself. Laconic, you know...like you said." She shrugged self-deprecatingly.

"I know, love. You're right. And I do appreciate the fact that you have shared everything openly with me when I've asked about things."

"Well, Janna, honesty is one of the things that I pride myself on. Sometimes it can be painful, but ultimately, I think it's always the way to go."

"Your brutal honesty, yes, I know, love. And I agree. It's always the best way to go."

Halley fell asleep then, and her Momma's nipple popped out of her mouth. Ryan grinned down at her precious daughter and used a finger to wipe a dribble of milk from her the side of her mouth. "She's done, Janna. Let's get some sleep, huh?"

"Absolutely. Come here, you two."

Ryan turned with the baby and settled her gently between them on the large mattress. Leaning over her, she kissed Janna. "Good night, baby."

"'Night, love. Sweet dreams."

"You too, babe."

The small family proved Jeff wrong, sleeping only as late as 10:00 the next morning. Ryan rubbed her hands through tousled hair as she grinned crookedly at her still reclining mate.

"Jesus Christ, Janna. I've never slept past 7:00 for two days in a row in my life…and here I am now, two weeks in a row? More?"

Janna grinned winningly up at her. "I must be rubbing off on you, honey."

"Ooh, Janna, you are. Big time. Wish we could right now, too." She leered gently at her wife and caressed her arm. "We miss out on our cuddle time when the baby sleeps with us."

Janna pouted. "I know." Then, a coy smile replaced the pout as she said, "But we'll make up for it later, won't we?"

Ryan closed her eyes and sighed. "Yes, we will. God…"

Janna gazed quietly at her for a moment, then said, "I know. The sexual attraction just doesn't diminish, does it?"

"Not a freakin' iota, babe. I'm throbbing as we speak." Ryan grinned her endearing lopsided grin.

Janna fanned herself and laughed. "Jesus…I've never had a relationship where we needed to have sex so often. But, um, I'm not complaining."

"Neither have I, Janna, and neither am I." Ryan smiled widely. "Come 'ere, baby. Let's get up. I'm hungry." She reached down to her mate, who grasped her hand.

"Me too. At least Halley's full. For a while." She scooted off the bed and tickled her baby's tummy as she lay on the bed playing with her booties.

Halley giggled cutely and launched into a spate of verbal babbling. She reached up to Ryan and said, "Mamamama."

"Do you want up, punkin? Huh? Come here my little love," Ryan said as she picked up her baby and cuddled her. She kissed her and Halley responded with a happy wiggle and a grin.

She gently hit at Ryan's face and said, " Mamamama," again.

"Ryan…I think she's calling you that!" Janna gasped.

"What? That's what she says when she wants to be held."

"Not to me. She only says it with you." Janna's eyes filled with tears as she looked from Halley to Ryan. "It's her name for you, Ryan…I'm sure of it."

"Janna, is she old enough to be using language? I mean, I know it's not really English, but if she says the same thing every time it's language."

"It's approximating English, honey, and she's definitely old enough. Babies develop at vastly different rates. Remember when I told you that Brit starting talking at around nine months, but Robbie was almost two?"

Janna looked back to her daughter, who at that moment decided to make her Mommy's day when she reached for Janna and babbled, "Mememememe."

"Shit! Janna, you're 'me' and I'm 'ma'! This is awesome!"

Despite her elation, Janna glared mildly at her wife's crude slip. "Language, Ryan…now more than ever."

"Shit, you're right." Shit. Ryan winced. "Christ, sorry, Janna. But you're right. God, baby, this is so incredible." She pulled Janna into a hug and the three of them enjoyed some family warmth, which lasted until Jeff sauntered back and made a smartass remark.

"Just you wait, man. You'll have a baby one day and I'm gonna tease you mercilessly when you act like a fool."

"It'll never happen, Ryan." He said cockily.

"Hah! Never say never, Jeff. Believe me. I'm a prime example. Who'd have thought that I'd be a happy mom, even breastfeeding, for Christ's sake?"

"You've got a point, I guess."

"Believe me, Jeff, she's right. All of her friends…and I do mean all of them…were shocked when she settled down. If she can, anyone can," Janna pointed out.

"I'm so glad you pointed that out to me, Janna. Now I have something to look forward to." Jeff drawled sarcastically as he turned and walked away.

Ryan and Janna just looked at each other and said, in unison, "Clueless!" They shared a quick kiss, with Halley between them and went in search of breakfast.

~~~~~~~~~

After checking into their room at their hotel in Union Square, they walked along the wonderful streets of the vibrant city, finally stopping in at small bagel and espresso shop for brunch.

Janna sat back and savored her small meal. Gazing out the window she sighed, "God, this is my City. I love it here so much. I can't believe we haven't been here together before this."

"We've been busy, Janna. Our life together has been remarkably full."

"That it has."

"Mememememe."

Janna turned to see Halley, sitting in her stroller, reaching up to her.

"Are you tired of sitting down there, honey? Come see Mommy, then." She removed Halley from her confinement and the baby immediately kicked her chubby little legs happily. Janna settled her on her lap and the bright-eyed tiny girl gazed around at her surroundings.

"Look at her take it all in, Janna. She's amazing."

"Yes, and since she's discovered crawling, she has a lot less patience in the stroller."

"Yep. She's gonna be running us ragged soon, I can see it. Hand her here, babe."

As Ryan reached for her Halley giggled and babbled, "Mamamamama."

"Oh my little talking girl, Momma loves you so much! Yes I do!" Ryan kissed her daughter, eliciting another grin and full-body happy wiggle. She cuddled Halley against her shoulder and she settled against her mother. Ryan looked at Janna and said, "She's getting sleepy, hon."

"Mm. Let's finish eating and take a walk along the embarcadero. She can nap in the stroller."

"Sounds good, baby. So, are you gonna show me all the sights today?" Ryan grinned around her large bagel.

"Yep! Whatever you want to see. And I think we'll go down to the Haight and I'll show you my first house here. We can have a late lunch in the park, if you want. The sun should be out by then," she added, looking out at the gray that enveloped the city.

"Let's do it, babe. I love Golden Gate Park. Halley can crawl to her heart's content."

Janna grasped Ryan's hand across the table and smiled. "Okay, love. We'll have a nice, laid back day until we meet Mis and Lise for dinner."

"I'm there, baby."

~~~~~~~~~~

Ryan lay on the grass with her eyes closed, enjoying the warmth of the sun on her face. An ever-present cool sea breeze blew across her body, ruffling her hair pleasantly and raising slight goose bumps on her bare arms. "Mm, this is nice. I'll bet at home it's in the nineties today, Janna."

Janna, lying next to her with the baby on her stomach replied, "Probably." She replaced the choo choo in Halley's mouth and handed her another toy, then gazed back up into the sky. Several multi-colored kites danced on the breeze. She tried to follow the lines of their strings down to see in which happy child's hand each ended, but was unsuccessful. Sighing, she closed her eyes and rested against the Earth.

"Don't fall asleep, Janna."

Janna opened one eye behind her Ray Bans and said, "How did you even know my eyes were closed?"

Ryan shrugged. "I know you, my love. You lay down in the sun and you fall asleep." She reached for the baby. "Here, you'd better give her to me."

Janna scowled, but handed the baby over to her wife, who sat her between them. "This doesn't mean I intend to fall asleep."

Ryan grinned. "Sure, love."

"All right, so I'm tired. You've walked me all over town today. We went through every room in the museum, the aquarium, the planetarium, the Exploratorium. God, honey, you'd think you haven't been to San Francisco in years."

"I haven't. Not since…"

"Right. Don't go there. Well, I'm glad we did all that, then. All we need to do is catch a cable car back to the hotel and the experience should be complete."

"Right!"

"Cool." Janna watched as a large box kite joined the others.

"Well, except for dinner in a fine restaurant tonight and San Francisco bar hopping tomorrow night. Though, um, it'll be virgin drinks for me all night."

"Mm, hm. And me. Correction: San Francisco gay bar hopping. There's a difference. I just hope all my old favorites are still around. They have a way of fading away; replaced by gay places with new names, or different businesses altogether, or worst of all, replaced by straight bars."

"Mm, it's a transient industry, huh? Even here?"

"For some reason, yeah. Oh well, the guys will know where to go. And I know for a fact that The Continental is still open…that's number one on my list anyway. It's a lesbian bar but they aren't militant about it, and Doug and Jay don't mind going in there."

"So, where are Missy and Lisa watching Halley…our room?"

"I don't know…I think I'll leave it up to them, if that's okay with you."

Ryan nodded.

"Whatever works best for them. They live just over near the Castro, so we won't have to go far to pick her up if they keep her at their place. We'll probably be in that neighborhood all night. You know, it was really nice of them to make the offer. We'll have to buy their dinner tonight, honey."

"Oh, yes. Absolutely." Ryan turned to her side and lifted up onto an elbow. "Um, Janna…they do know how to care for a baby, don't they?"

Janna grinned. "Yes, honey, they do. They watch Lisa's niece and nephew all the time. They're about…let's see…two and four now, I guess." She reached over to caress a jeans clad thigh. "Don't worry, love. They're very experienced and two great ladies. I trust them completely."

"That's all I need to hear, Janna." Ryan lay back down. Beside her, Halley spit out her choo choo and explored her toys with her mouth, chortling and chattering happily at them as she did so.

Janna folded her arms under her head and lay back, breathing deeply of the crisp sea air and enjoying the peaceful afternoon. She let the relaxing energy of the surroundings and of her happy family wash over her, feeling her mate do the same. Before she knew it, she was being shaken awake. She opened her eyes to gaze into the beautiful grinning face leaning above her.

"What?"

"Nothing, Janna. We should go, honey. It's almost time to meet your friends."

"Okay. How long did I sleep?" She asked as she sat up, brushing bits of grass from her polo shirt.

Ryan looked at her watch. "You and your daughter both slept for an hour and a half." She grinned crookedly at her mate. "You must have some sort of psychic link going, because you two do that a lot. And, you both look like angels when you sleep." She leaned over and gently captured Janna's lips, lingering there as the kiss was returned. When she pulled away, she smiled and said, "I like it here, Janna. We could never do that at home."

"It's one of the best things about this city, in my book. I miss it."

"One day, honey. One day maybe we won't have to worry about showing our affection in public. Some day, some where."

"I pray, Ryan. I pray," she repeated quietly.

Ryan gracefully hopped to her feet and helped her wife up before picking up her daughter and placing her in the stroller. Hand in hand, the two mothers walked out of Golden Gate Park as the sun lowered in the western sky, beyond the shining Golden Gate.


To be concluded in part 11

**Poetry Copyright 1998 E. Vedder

Feedback is appreciated


Thanks for reading!

Thanks to the following artists for providing inspiration in the form of music during the writing of this story: Pearl Jam, Green Day, Screaming Trees, Melissa Etheridge, Blink 182, Lit, Ramones (always), Joan Jett (forever), 3 Doors Down, Nirvana, Bikini Kill, Team Dresch, Tribe 8 (my Tribe), k.d. lang, Katherine Fugate for her 'When Fates Collide' mix, John Huling, Dead Can Dance, Sarah Brightman, Sacred Spirits, Sarah McLachlan, classic dudes Schumann, Grieg, and Chopin, and of course, Joseph Loduca for his Xena soundtracks.


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