The Journey
By Janet Lynne

Part 2

-3-

Ryan reread the letter and sighed, leaning back in her chair as she did so, and hugged her infant daughter to her chest. Halley slept contentedly in her carrier, blissfully unaware of the important decision that her Momma was mulling over in her mind. At two and a half weeks of age, she was already showing a definite proclivity to being held and carried close to her mothers' bodies.

Ryan tossed the letter onto her desk and put her hands behind her head, contemplating its implications. The formal letter of promotion, from the Chief of Police, no less, while extremely flattering, also meant great changes in her career. A career that she had, until very recently, been extremely content with.

She had always loved her job as a bicycle patrol cop, however, after nearly having been killed in the line of duty, neither she nor her wife were looking forward to her returning to active patrol duty when her six-week parental leave was up.

Janna dreaded the occasion because of the gut-clenching fear that something similar would happen again and she would lose her wife, while Ryan dreaded it because she now felt the enormous responsibility of parenthood, and frankly, wanted to be around to see Halley grow up. There was also the fact that she no longer felt driven to succeed. She felt complete…felt that Janna and the baby were infinitely more important to her than the achieving of status in her career was.

So she sat, gazing at the letter which promoted her to Detective, First Grade. Ryan had been considering retiring from patrol duty before receiving the promotion, but wasn't sure that the promotion to Detective was what she wanted either. The promotion offer extended, as well, to a position as coordinator of the community resource division, so the choice was basically hers: remain a beat cop, promote to Detective, or accept the position as community liaison officer, which including working directly with young people.

Ryan very much enjoyed her interaction with the public as part of her job, and especially that of kids. While recovering from her injuries and off active duty, she had become involved in the anti-drug D.A.R.E. campaign, and felt that her strengths lay in that faction of crime fighting.

She loved working with kids and had been assigned to a classroom of hearing impaired elementary school children, finding she had both a natural affinity for teaching and for American Sign Language. Sitting at her desk, looking at the class picture the children had given her in a holiday card, Ryan realized that she very much wanted to remain with those kids, so she made her decision. She would decline the promotion to Detective, feeling that she could move on to that facet of law enforcement at a later date, if she so desired. In fact, the Chief had implied that in his letter.

Her decision made, she sighed, kissed her sleeping daughter's adorable head, stood up, stretched, and went in search of her mate. She didn't have to go far, as Janna was in her office, in the next room.

The tall cop stood holding her baby in the doorway to her wife's office. As Janna sat intently working at her desk, Ryan gazed around the comfortable space. I love how she decorated our offices. Both rooms used understated desert colors, matching the rest of the house, and sported Janna's photography on the walls, in addition to southwestern-styled prints. Ryan gazed at a large image of herself, but rather than wince, she noted how Janna had skillfully managed to capture her personality within it. She's very good.

She quietly entered the room and noted that her mate was staring intently at her computer screen. Janna looked up and smiled at her two girls, pushing away from the desk and beckoning for them to approach.

"Hey, guys. I was just needing some advice. Take a look at this, will you love?"

"Sure, babe. What is it?" Ryan walked around to look at Janna's monitor and found three cute pictures of Halley gracing the screen.

"Oh, shit, Janna…those are awesome."

"Oh what, hon?"

Ryan looked at her questioningly for a brief instant, then her face fell as she realized her slip. "Christ," she muttered. "Sorry. At least she's asleep."

"A good thing for you, too, Ryan." Janna grinned.

"Yeah, right, love. What's your question?" Ryan returned the cute grin.

"I'm trying to decide which image to use on Halley's birth announcement. Here, let me bring that up for you." She deftly maneuvered the computer's mouse and the images of their daughter were overlaid by an image of text on parchment-like white paper.

The announcement, presented in a pleasing calligraphic font, read,

"Ryan and Janna Norden-Zamora
Joyously announce the birth of their daughter
Halley Rebecca
On December 15, 1995, at 3:04pm
Weighing in at 8 pounds, 14 ounces and 22 inches in length."

There was room at the top of the attractive document for a photo.

"Honey, I love that…states the facts without being too sugary. So, which picture do you like?"

"I don't know…I love them all. And then there's this one, which I think is my best photo of the baby yet, but we're in it too." She called up a beautiful image of herself holding the baby, with Ryan gazing adoringly at her over Janna's shoulder. Both moms and baby were dressed in white cotton and Janna had used a soft focus lens, producing an incredibly lovely image.

"Oh, God, Janna…I love that one. Why haven't I seen that yet?"

"I just processed it a little while ago. I was going to show you all the photos in a bit."

"I like that one the best, honey…can you focus in on the baby more…cut a little of the background out?"

As Ryan spoke, Janna did just that, creating a close up of the baby which clearly showed her adorable features, while still showing her mothers' happy, glowing faces.

"Jesus, Janna…that's nice. I'd pick that one, honey. I'd also take an enlargement of it for my office." She grinned winningly at her wife, knowing that she would be more than happy to go into the darkroom and produce such an image.

"Done, love. On both counts. As long as you don't mind being in the photo, I'll use this one. It's my favorite too."

"Cool, babe. Do I see a trip to Kinko's in my near future?" She grinned crookedly at her wife.

"You must be psychic, Ryan. We'll need about two hundred copies." Janna smiled widely and stood to face her mate. She was pulled in for a quiet kiss and after it ended, both moms kissed their daughter tenderly. "So, love, what's been keeping you and Halley so busy this afternoon?"

"We've been discussing my career, and she's helped me make a decision."

"Oh? Well, I can't wait to hear what it is. Do I need to sit down?"

"Only if you're worried about my getting tendonitis in my hands from signing all day."

Janna's face lit up with joy and relief. "Ryan! Really? Are you sure that's what you really want? You really are a terrific cop, you know."

"So, don't kids need terrific cops to work with them?"

"They do, actually. Honey, I'm so happy about this. And your superiors don't mind?"

"Janna, they've all pretty much given me free rein to choose what I want to do. I'll be doing a lot more than the classroom work too, you know. Um, this involves a promotion to something they're calling 'Community Liaison Officer'. I'll be heading up the Community Policing Division, coordinating all community resource officers below me, and they've asked me to consider teaching at the Academy and training rookies."

"Ryan, really? You didn't tell me that."

"I wanted to surprise you, baby."

"And you did, love. You have continuously surprised me for over a year and a half now." She approached her mate again and with a very sultry look, added, "And I absolutely love your brand of surprises, Ryan. Most of them."

"I'm glad, baby. Pleasing you is my primary function in life."

"Now you sound like Lt. Commander Data."

"Do you want to play 'Captain and Ensign' again tonight, baby?" Ryan asked with a leer as she pulled Janna close.

Janna looked up at her coyly and said, "Yeah, but I get to be Captain Janeway this time."

"Ooh, yeah, I'm there, love. I can't wait. We'll make our own fireworks upstairs instead of watching the New Year's Eve fireworks on TV." She leaned in and captured Janna's mouth possessively, not breaking contact until Halley insisted that they do.

"Oops, looks like we woke up the little Admiral. I think it's your turn, Janna."

"Yep, it is. I'm a little tired, so I think I'll go upstairs to feed her. Bring her up for me?"

"Sure thing. And I'll change her for you too."

"You're a dream."

"I'm horny."

"Like I said, you're a dream." Janna grabbed her wife's hand and pulled her up the stairs behind her. "After the baby's been fed and settles in for her nap, I'll take care of your hunger."

"Janna, you're the dream, baby."

"Just a woman in love with her wife, honey."

Ryan didn't answer, as she was too busy looking at the ceiling and thanking whichever guiding spirits were listening.

~~~~~~~~~~

Janna quietly sang to her baby as she changed her diaper, smiling sweetly down at her. Halley, mildly fussy before her Mommy's soft voice began the quiet lullaby, gazed seriously up at her mother, quietly rapt. The peace of the moment was shattered, however, when a string of curses floated up the stairs from the front of the house.

"Fuck! Jesus fucking Christ, you guys…is it too much to ask for the Pac 10 team to win the Rose Bowl one year? Just once? Come on! Get some fucking offense going for Christ's sake!"

Janna shook her head and scowled mildly, and then smiled at her daughter and asked, "What are we going to do with your Momma, huh?" We're gonna love her…just as she is, that's what.

"Come on my little love. Let's go see if we can make your Momma's day a little better." Janna picked up the baby and settled her against her shoulder, gently supporting her head as she walked down the hallway and down the stairs.

As they entered the family room, Ryan jumped up and screamed at the TV, "Shit! What the hell was that? They haven't generated enough offense on their own, so you have to go and fumble the goddamn ball? Give me a fuckin' break you guys. Come on! You're killing me here!"

Janna cleared her throat and Ryan turned around to see her wife and daughter standing in the doorway, watching her comically.

"Oh, shit. I'm in the doghouse now, huh? Sorry, Janna…I didn't know you were in here."

"Obviously. But that doesn't matter…we heard you upstairs."

Ryan hung her head as she muttered, "I'm sorry, it's just so frustrating. Every year, Janna. Every God…darn year my teams lose." Ryan looked very sad standing there in her bright red "Stanford" jersey, and Janna's heart went out to her.

"Come here, love. Let's sit and root for them." She planted herself and Halley on the couch and patted the cushion next to her, waiting for Ryan to join her. Her wife did, sitting dejectedly beside her, until Janna handed her the baby, at which point her frown immediately disappeared.

"Hello my sweet little girl. What have you and Mommy been doing, huh?"

"We've been eating…again. It was only two and a half hours this time, Ryan…between feedings…and her doctor wants us to wait at least three. But boy does she get mad if I try to put her off."

"Well, baby, she takes after you doesn't she? You get pretty da…darn grumpy when you're hungry too, remember."

"Ryan! I do not."

"Oh, you do too, baby. I'm sorry."

Janna folded her arms in front of her chest and raised her eyebrows. "Humph. We came down here to try to comfort you, but now I'm not so sure I want to."

"Oh, Janna, I'm sorry. Come 'ere." Ryan settled the baby in the crook of her left arm and reached toward Janna with her right, but Janna stayed where she was.

"Janna, don't be pissed at me, please? It's been a bad enough day without that."

"How much did you bet, Ryan?"

"What?"

"On the game. How much did you bet? I know that John went to Michigan."

Shit. Ryan looked pointedly at the floor. "A hundred bucks."

"So what's the big deal?"

"It's not the money, Janna, it's the principle. He's gonna be so goddamn smug for the next month."

"It's only the third quarter, Ryan, and they're only two touchdowns behind. Have a little faith."

"Oh, it's not only that. Sam's alma mater is in the Orange Bowl later…again…and my team never does shit."

"Ryan, you went to UOP…they don't even have a football team anymore."

"Cutting the football program was the worst goddamn, fuc…it was the worst decision they ever made, too."

"Oh, I disagree. They've been able to put a lot of money and resources into women's sports. Look at the volleyball program…nationally ranked for how many years in a row now?"

"Well, there is that…"

"Damn right, there's that. Not to mention softball, which your own team has benefited from."

"Janna, watch your mouth, baby."

"The baby's asleep, Ryan."

"She's asleep?" Ryan asked with surprise as she glanced down at the tiny girl resting on her arm.

"Yes, she is."

"Well, let's put her down, baby, and play a little."

"Ryan, for God's sake, have you had a testosterone injection that I'm unaware of? You're insatiable lately."

"Aw, Janna, shit. Don't tease me, please. It must be breastfeeding hormones or something. I can't help it."

"Honey, I don't think there's any such thing. I'm certainly no hornier than usual. It must be the more visual side-effects of the nursing."

"Um, yeah, could be...you're so damn sexy, Janna. You're still glowing, and your ti…um, breasts are just gorgeous." She grinned rakishly as she added, "I can't resist you baby." Even under normal circumstances, Janna was unable to resist that grin.

Nor can I resist you, Ryan…especially when you talk to me like that…"Put the baby in her carrier, Ryan."

Ryan quickly did so, covering Halley with her soft, warm, yellow blankie, then brought the carrier to the coffee table next to the sofa, and carefully set it down. She then turned to her wife and gently pushed her down onto the sofa and lay atop her, nuzzling her throat with soft, warm lips.

"What about the Rose Bowl, Ryan?" Janna asked as she ran warm hands up under the back of Ryan's football jersey.

"Fuck the Rose Bowl."

"Mm, yeah, ditto…"

~~~~~~~~~~

The freezing, gray gloom from outside did not pierce the warmth of their cozy home as Ryan held Janna while she nursed Halley. A warm fire glowed in the fireplace, adding to the glow of several candles as they sat spooned together on the sofa. In the background, Enya sang softly of Celtic mysteries, adding a nice ambiance to the room.

The baby nursed voraciously at Janna's breast, prompting her to comment, "I'm glad you're helping me with the nursing, honey…otherwise her demand would have me huge by now."

Ryan mumbled against the side of her neck, "You're huge anyway, babe."

"Can you imagine if I were bigger?" Janna felt a grin against her neck and supplied, "Never mind…don't answer that." She half turned her head to address her mate, adding, "You letch."

"Only for you, baby." She kissed her wife's temple.

Janna closed her eyes and muttered, "I'm so glad of that, Ryan."

Ryan embraced Janna more tightly as she felt Janna's conviction through their link. "Mm."

Several minutes of peaceful silence followed and then Ryan muttered, "Babe, I'm gonna need some flyers printed up for next Monday night's class…about the promotions in a few weeks?"

"Okay, love, sure. Do you have the list ready for me?" She looked down as she disengaged the baby from her right breast and switched her over to the left. Halley's tiny face showed confusion briefly, then quickly changed to anger, but her mother quickly presented her other breast before the little tiger could complain. She latched on and her eyes closed peaceably as she continued her meal.

"Nice job, babe. Yeah, I do have the list ready. I'll help you with it if you'd like."

"Okay, love, that'll be great." She looked back at Ryan again, with a coy grin. "Am I being promoted?"

"You know you are, Miss Smarty Brown Belt. I'm a little afraid the rest of the class is gonna think I'm showing favoritism, with you moving up so fast."

"Oh, Ryan, they know you don't cut me any slack. Don't worry about it."

"I'm not. Joe knows what's up…that's what counts. He trusts his instructors…that's why he picked them. You know, he remarked about your natural ability the first time he saw you in class."

"Did he?"

"Mm."

"Have you told him about the past life stuff?"

"Some of it, yeah. He said he and Ellen'd like to get together with us and talk about it more deeply. They're really into that."

"Good…'cause so are we. Let's do that, love…it sounds fun."

"Okay. We'll invite them over soon." Ryan rested her chin on Janna's shoulder and breathed deeply of her wife's scent. God, will there ever be a day when she doesn't turn me on so damn much?

"Have I told you lately, Ryan, how much you turn me on?"

Jesus! "Jesus, Janna, I was just thinking that about you. I hope you're not starting to read my mind, babe."

"Ooh, now that's a scary thought!" They shared a chuckle and Janna added, "But it wouldn't be the first time that's happened with soulmates, from what I've read."

"Christ."

"I think its cool. And I think we do share that already, to a certain extent. There have been so many times that we haven't needed any words between us."

"Well, yeah, our bond makes that possible, but it's like you just picked up on my actual thoughts. We haven't done that before, I don't think."

"There have been many times, though, that thoughts haven't even been necessary. Do you see what I mean?"

"Okay, yeah, I do. You're right." She squeezed Janna tightly and nuzzled her neck. "I think its cool too, love. So cool."

"What am I thinking now, Ryan?"

"Oh, that's easy babe. It's that you're gonna have your way with me out in the hot tub tonight."

"Jesus, Ryan! That's amazing!"

Ryan chuckled. "Not really. I can feel your desire right now through our bond, and there's a full moon tonight."

Janna laughed heartily as she nodded her agreement, and Halley scrunched up her cute little face in frustration, as she had to reacquire her grip on Mommy's breast. Janna helped her to latch back on and leaned back contentedly into her wife's warm, firm body. And sighed her contentment.

Later, as Ryan helped her in the kitchen, Janna remarked, "Honey, I talked to Jeff earlier. He said the band's CD has reached 100,000 units sold."

"You're kidding! That's incredible, Janna! I'm glad for them."

"Yeah, it's great, isn't it? That's the best ever for a CD produced locally here…and really pretty amazing for an independent band's first release…and in just one year...with virtually no airplay or videos. They've really kind of exploded here on the West Coast, mainly through word of mouth. In fact, in a few months they're doing a mini tour...from Seattle down to San Diego." Janna smiled widely, happy that the young friends whom she had been mentoring, as well as producing, were beginning to enjoy some success.

"They have you to thank for it, you know. It was your production skills and contacts in the business that made it possible. I hope they realize that, Janna."

"Yes, Ryan, they're appreciative, but if they weren't talented it wouldn't have happened for them in the first place."

"They are good, that's true. But remember, there are three of your songs on that CD."

"True, as that first little royalty check showed." Janna grinned.

"Right!"

"Also, MTV has expressed interest, but the guys still feel that making a video will be selling out."

"Jesus, babe…did you give them idealism lessons while you were producing the disk?"

"Nope, but I am proud of them. I think its great that they're so idealistic, but I don't want to see them hurt. I think I'll remind them that even Eddie and Pearl Jam make videos occasionally, and that if they want to achieve the kind of success that will make long-term music careers possible, they need exposure."

"Yeah, that should have an impact…I remember you said they love that band. Did you ever talk to Eddie about coming down to see them play?"

"I did, yeah. He said he'd like to, when they're in the area next…probably when they play in the City again. They were down in October for Neil's Bridge School Concert, but we were in New Mexico then."

"Aw, shit, baby, sorry we missed them. I know how much you miss them."

"It's okay, babe, that's why God invented email." Janna smiled warmly as she bent to place the casserole in the oven. "How's the salad coming?"

Ryan dumped a handful of onions into the large bowl in front of her and said, "Done," then lifted the bowl and carried it to the refrigerator.

"All right, dinner's taken care of. I think I'll check on the baby and go do a little work in the darkroom."

"Sounds good, babe. I've got some aikido business to take care of, so I'll take the baby monitor into the office with me...I have feeding duty next anyway. See you in a bit." She grabbed the monitor from the counter and pulled Janna into a hug, holding her there for a bit. "Mm, love you, baby."

"Me too, love." Janna sighed. "You can do that all day if you want."

"I want."

"Mm, but duties call, huh?"

"Yep. God, Janna, I could get used to this life. I am not looking forward to my parental leave ending. I'm telling you right now."

Janna snuggled more deeply against Ryan's strong shoulder. "Well, love, you know you don't have to work…"

"Oh, Janna, be careful what you say! I know you don't want me hanging around here under foot all day long…I'd eventually drive you nuts. Or away."

"No freaking way, love. I would love having you around all the time. No doubt about it."

"I'm afraid I'd eventually get too restless."

"You haven't so far."

"That's because Halley keeps me busy. And so do you." She grinned rakishly down at her mate, letting a bit of the lust she was feeling for her transfer through their link.

"Well that wouldn't change."

"Oh, fuck, baby…there's all the incentive I need right there."

"Language, babe…only in the bedroom, remember?"

"Your fault…I lose the ability to think clearly when there's lust traveling two ways through our bond."

"Okay, you're excused. Now go, before the kitchen table gets another workout." Janna disengaged herself from the loving embrace.

"Oh, Jesus, Janna…" She reached out to the short blonde but was gently pushed away.

"Go!"

"Shit, baby, now you've turned me on."

"You're like a light switch, honey, just turn it off until after dinner."

"Janna…"

"Ryan! We both have work to do. Go!" She gave her mate a light kiss and turned her toward her office with a pat on the behind.

"Shit…"

Janna grinned as she followed her tall mate down the hallway and pushed her into her office, then made her way upstairs to check on the baby.

~~~~~~~~~~

The freezing, heavy gray fog magnanimously lifted and allowed the light of the full moon to illuminate the landscape, bathing the interior of the gazebo with a pleasant silver glow. The warmth from the hot water filled the small structure, warming it enough to allow the baby to accompany her parents. She was bundled warmly and tucked into her carrier on the decking, and slept soundly as her mothers enjoyed the bubbling water beside her.

"When she's a little bigger, I'll bet Halley will love this." Ryan murmured as she cupped soothingly warm water onto Janna's arms.

"Mm, yes. She's a little fish like I am." Janna muttered as she sat against her mate.

"Is she, Janna? Is water her element?"

"Oh, let me think…um, she's a Sagittarius...so, no, actually, her element is fire. Sagittarians love freedom…maybe it's the feeling of freedom that water gives her."

"Could be. That feels right...I get that sense from her. She loves to be held close, but also seems to love it when she's lying naked on the bed, or being changed."

"Mm, yes."

"What else does her sign tell us about her, Janna?"

"Well, let me think…they love independence, like I said. Love the outdoors…she'll probably be an outdoorswoman," she turned to grin at Ryan, "Like her mommas. Um, she'll probably love to run, will have long, strong legs," she grinned back at Ryan again. "That's genetic, though."

Ryan laughed gently. "It sure is. I was nearly six feet tall at thirteen."

"I remember. Mmm, mmm…"

"You should have let me know at the time that you were interested."

"You would have led me astray."

"You got there anyway, baby, eventually." Ryan grinned into Janna's soft hair.

"Mm, again, thanks to you."

"No way. You were a scarlet woman before I ever met you."

Janna threw her head back as she chuckled, tickling Ryan's face with her hair. "Oh, yeah, I was wild…I had four lovers before you. My friends in the bands I was in had four lovers a month…the women. The men had that many a week, or a night, a few of them. Oh, yeah, I was so wild, babe."

"You were perfect."

"So were you, for me." She ran her hands sensuously along her lover's long, lean legs, sighing as her desire for her mate was reawakened. My God, she turns me on. When we're old, gray and ancient we will still be turning each other on. I can feel it.

Ryan softly kissed the slender neck before her as she sighed and said, "God, Janna, I can so see us sitting in this spa together when we're eighty."

Oh, my God… "Ryan, love, we did it again. I was just thinking that."

"Shit, baby."

"Ditto."

"Turn around and kiss me, Janna."

"You read my mind again, Ryan," Janna murmured as she turned in Ryan's embrace and captured her lips, kissing her passionately.

Ryan held Janna tightly against herself as they happily shared their love, running hot hands gently down her back. She pulled back and leaned down to nibble a throbbing pulse point and mumbled, "God, I want you, baby…how much can you handle tonight?"

Janna dipped her head and mumbled against Ryan's chest, "Not a lot yet…sorry, love…still too sore. Just do what you want, gently and I'll let you know if it's too much, okay?"

"Yes, baby." Ryan captured Janna's lips again and stroked her tongue sensuously as her hands began slow, sensuous strokes below the water. Presently, she muttered, "That okay?"

"Yes, but no harder than that."

"Okay, love." She left one hand gently stroking Janna's curls and brought the other up to caress a breast. She dipped her head and her tongue joined in, swirling around an excited nipple.

"Mmm, Ryan…" Janna threw her head back as Ryan did now very familiar things to her body, thinking, I will never get enough of this beautiful woman. "Ryan, yes... that's so good, baby."

"You taste so good, Janna. I'll never get enough of you."

"God, I hope not," she panted breathlessly.

"Don't worry, baby."

As Ryan's fingers and tongue moved over her skin erotically, Janna moaned, "God, yes...um, love, let me love you...that's about all I can handle right now."

Ryan mumbled sexily against her skin, "Are you sure, baby?"

"Yes...I'll come with you...I'm already close."

Her sexy mate grinned against the curve of her breast. "Whatever you want, babe."

"I want you...up on the side of the spa...now."

Ryan wasted no time in complying with the loving demand and lifted herself out of the water and onto the decking beside the spa.

Janna rose from the water, leaned forward and gently stroked the sensitive skin around Ryan's navel with her tongue before planting kisses on her firm, flat stomach. She then looked up at her wife with passion-clouded green eyes and drawled, "Now sit back and spread your legs."

Her wife swallowed hard and closed her eyes as she did as instructed, and a moment later flinched as Janna buried her face in her slick curls. She grabbed onto the rim of the spa and moaned, and as Janna began to methodically stroke her, she wrapped her legs gently around her shoulders and arched into the tender caresses.

"God, Janna...fuck, baby...you love me so...so good."

"Mmm."

As Janna's loving, talented tongue found it's way into very sensitive clefts, Ryan lost the power of speech, and indeed, of coherent thought, and moaned deliriously. Janna felt her pleasure through their bond and joined her, moaning loudly and sending the vibrations through Ryan's body. They climaxed together and cried out in unison a short time later, waking their baby in the process.

Before tending to the baby, Ryan slipped back into the water and wrapped Janna in a loving embrace, kissing her deeply to communicate the depth of her love. Their friend, Grandmother Moon, smiled knowingly at them and threw some additional rays of her powerful energy their way.

Ryan, becoming ever more perceptive spiritually, smiled up at her and remarked, "Janna, baby, Grandmother is grinning at us tonight."

Janna, still lost in the depths of pleasure, mumbled against Ryan's chest, "Is she, love? Cool."


-4-

Ryan slowly walked the perimeter of the family room, starting at the eastern wall, and used a fan of Eagle feathers to gently spread the white smoke rising from the sprig of sage. As her mate smudged the room, Janna carried a straight-backed chair into the room, settling it in the middle of the floor, and then lit the many candles sitting throughout the space.

Ryan finished smudging and set the abalone shell containing the sage on the coffee table, next to a lovely soft-pink cluster of rose quartz. Then she took a deep breath and sat in the chair, awaiting her Reiki attunement. Halley sat in her bouncer on the armchair, awake but quiet, almost as if she were respectful of the special occasion.

It had been many months since Ryan had received her last attunement, achieving the second degree of the healing art, and she felt ready to move on to the master level. Her Reiki master and wife stood gazing at her proudly, filled with love and admiration. She is truly a wonderful healer; possessing the necessary skill, compassion and desire to learn. And humility. My God, she's special. My heart and soul. My Universe.

Ryan felt Janna's love for her and looked up into misty green eyes, becoming misty-eyed herself. She reached out to Janna, who stepped forward and grasped her hands. They gazed at each other, communicating silently the boundless emotion they were both feeling. It was yet another occasion when words were not needed. In point of fact, the appropriate words did not even exist. Janna bent forward and kissed each of her mate's hands, then stepped back and began the process of centering herself.

Ryan watched Janna center herself and wondered, what on Earth did I ever do to deserve this incredible woman. An asshole like my myself? A gentle voice rose up in her mind and gently chastised her.

"Swift Puma, do not belittle yourself so. Trust in your Twin Soul's estimation of you. She will never steer you wrong. Neither will your heart. Listen to it, my granddaughter."

Thank you, Grandfather. Ryan bent her head and sighed, and when she looked back up at Janna, tears streaked her cheeks.

"Honey?"

"Another message from my grandfather, love."

Janna closed her eyes and sighed before smiling. Thank you, Grandfather. "Are you ready, love?"

"Yes, Janna."

Janna stepped toward her mate and began the short, ancient ritual that would give her master-level abilities. As she finished a short time later, with her hand resting on Ryan's heart chakra, she silently asked the ancient Reiki guides if they had a message for Ryan.

A clear thought, in the voice that she associated with Ryan's Comanche-elder grandfather, spoke, "Bend as a tall tree in the wind. Do not resist." Janna opened her eyes and stepped back.

Softly, she said, "Ryan, take a deep breath and when you feel ready, open your eyes."

After several moments, Ryan opened her eyes and sighed contentedly. She smiled warmly, mirroring Janna's smile and blew out a breath.

"Whew! Feel that incredible Reiki energy. The Masters were here in the room, weren't they, Janna?"

"They were, and they had another message for you. Bend as a tall tree in the wind. Do not resist."

"Wow, that sounds like good advice. I'll definitely tuck it away."

"Great, baby. Feel like standing?"

Ryan grinned up at her mate. "Not really!"

Janna laughed quietly and knelt in front of her. "Okay, just relax a while then. Here," she reached for a glass of water. "Drink."

"Thanks, love. I'm parched."

Halley, apparently also parched, gave an abbreviated squeal, just to get someone's attention. Janna glanced over at her and smiled. "Right on cue." Looking back at Ryan she remarked, "We could just about set our watches by her."

"That we could, Janna. Let's sit together while you feed her. I'm feeling pretty squirrelly right now."

"Okay, sweetheart. Here, get up slowly." She stood and reached reached down to her strong mate, helping her to her feet, and steadying her as she swayed a little.

"Jesus…" She shook her head, trying to clear the subtle fog that had settled there and Janna led her to the couch.

As Ryan sat back against the side, Janna leaned forward and kissed her gently, then gazed into her eyes and said, "Hold me while I feed our daughter."

"Gladly, my love."

Janna removed their three-week old bundle of joy from her bouncy seat, and she kicked her legs vigorously as her Mommy picked her up, almost as if she knew it was time to eat.

"Look at that, Janna, she seems happy."

"She does. Maybe she's picking up on the happy energy in the room."

"I'll bet she is, babe…remember when the spirit dudes told us that she would be an empathic individual?"

"Yes, I do. Remember that Michael added that that meant we need to limit emotional displays in front of her, at least while she's very young, because she'll be so sensitive to others' emotions."

"I do, babe. You know, now that she's here, I'd like to pay them another visit and get some more advice."

"I would too, Ryan...I'll give Anna a call and set up a session. We owe them a visit anyway... they haven't seen our little precious yet." Janna, holding the baby, settled between her mate's legs and Ryan gently pulled her back against her chest. From behind Janna, she helped her shrug out of her sweatshirt and when Janna had the baby situated, wrapped her arms around her smaller mate's waist. She kissed Janna's neck and laid her chin happily on her shoulder.

The family sat there in that position, the three of them completely content, for the forty-five minutes that Halley took to eat. It had become their favorite way to spend a Sunday afternoon, and the habit would continue regularly for another full year.

~~~~~~~~~~

Ryan settled the baby into her car seat and buckled her securely. "We're gonna go bye bye now, my little one…I think you'll like this."

"I'll bet she does love it…our little Sagittarius. She loved her trip to the doctor last week, didn't she? Too bad it's not a longer drive to the dojo."

"Mm, maybe after class we can drive her around a little."

"Yeah, we'll see. See how her schedule goes. She'll be due to be hungry shortly after class ends."

"I love the way you engineered that, babe…adjusting her feedings slightly all day to accommodate us."

"Well, it's what her pediatrician recommended…gently encouraging her to fit into our routine, rather than having to plan our lives around her. He's only been practicing for fifty years, so it's hard to argue with experience like that." Janna grinned at her wife as she climbed into the front seat of the Explorer.

"True…but what I like is that he's kept up to date with the latest advances and ideas…he's a cool guy, Janna. I like him a lot."

"Me too, love. He delivered me, you know."

"I know." Ryan grinned. "You told me." She looked over her shoulder as she slowly backed out of the driveway. The visibility was nearly zero in the pea-soup fog and she made her way very carefully. "God, this fog can go away any day now. I'm sick of it."

"Well, hon…that's life in the valley. One of the things I loved about living in San Francisco was that is was beautiful there in the winter."

"Yeah, but foggy in the summer."

"True!"

"What about Seattle, babe? All that rain had to be tough for a California girl to handle."

"Ugh…yeah. It did begin to get me down after a while. But there were plenty of diversions there."

"Mm, like a certain tattooed rocker chick?" Ryan grinned slyly at her mate.

Janna returned the grin. "Among other things, yeah. Music-oriented pursuits, mainly. It's a fertile place for my kind of music."

"Mm…I'd like to visit there sometime babe…it looks like a pretty place."

"It is…gorgeous."

The large building that housed the dojo suddenly appeared, looming ahead of them in the fog, and Ryan pulled up next to the curb in front. The cop in her noted the unsafe speeds many cars were driving in the thick fog and she shook her head glumly. "I hope there aren't any parents tonight who are stupid enough to drop their kids off across the street…in this fog they just can't be seen and these assholes are driving too fast."

She exited the car on the drivers side, next to the curb on the one-way street and said to Janna, "Honey, I'll get the baby out on this side…you watch it getting out over there."

"Okay, love."

Ryan opened the rear door and reached in for her precious cargo. Halley was surprisingly still awake and looked up at her mother with apparent interest. Janna joined Ryan on the sidewalk and her mate remarked, "Janna, she does like riding."

"Thought she would." Janna smiled as she grabbed the diaper bag and followed her mate and daughter inside. As always, as they stepped inside, they were greeted with the welcoming aroma of sandalwood incense.

Ryan stopped inside and smiled. "It's good to be back here, Janna."

"Mm, love. It is. The holidays were great, but it's good to get back to normal."

"Yeah, even if normal isn't quite what it once was." She grinned as she looked down at the sweet baby in the carrier she held.

Janna was about to agree when they heard a friendly voice exclaim, "Janna, Ryan!"

They both looked up to see the owner of the aikido dojo, their friend Joe.

"Hey there, Joe. We brought someone for you to meet." Ryan grinned at her old friend.

"Oh, my," he said softly as he gazed at the tiny Norden-Zamora. "She looks like the both of you. She's precious."

"Thanks, Joe…we think so too." Janna said as she smiled warmly at her friend.

"Ellen's in the office, come on over."

They followed their sensei into the office he shared with his wife, who sat in front of a computer. "Ellen, look who came to visit."

Ellen, a trim, blonde woman in her late forties, turned from her editing of the newsletter and beamed as she saw the baby. "Oh! Let me see her!"

Ryan gently removed Halley from her carrier and offered her to Ellen, a mother of three. Ellen carefully took her and held her gently in her arms.

"Ryan, Janna, she's beautiful…just beautiful!" She said as she gazed down at the baby. "Hello Miss Halley. How are you?"

She looked up at Janna. "Janna, the birth announcement was lovely." She grinned. "You'll find a copy of it on the bulletin board."

"Thank you Ellen."

"That reminds me," Ryan remarked. "I have to put up the flyer for my class promotion. I'll be right back, honey."

"Okay, love."

Before entering the foyer area outside the mat room, Ryan shrugged out of her leather jacket and hung it on a hook just inside the office, then exited to the outer room. She kicked off her shoes and put them on the shelf below the bulletin board, standing in her socks as she attached the flyer to the corkboard.

She heard the chimes sound as someone entered the front door of the dojo and glanced briefly toward the door. She saw a tall, thin woman with shoulder-length brown hair enter and she smiled a friendly greeting before turning back to the bulletin board.

The stranger was immediately struck by the beautiful black-haired woman wearing the black belt and wide, black, skirt-like pants of a sensei, and she thought, whoa…I hope she's my instructor. She is beyond hot.

Ryan noted the woman's approach and said, "Evening," as the stranger bent to slip off her boots.

"Good evening. You wouldn't happen to be teaching the adult beginning class, would you?"

Ryan replied, "Yes, I would, as a matter of fact," and extended her hand as she added, "I'm Ryan Norden-Zamora. Welcome."

"It's great to be here." She looked Ryan in the eye warmly and moved closer as she added, "I'm so glad I decided to take this class. I look forward to working closely with you."

Oh boy, Ryan thought as she returned the woman's smile. She didn't, however, acknowledge the obvious come on. Doesn't she recognize a wedding ring when she sees one? Jesus… "Good luck to you," Ryan said, nodding, as she neatly extricated herself from the woman's presence and returned to the office.

As she entered, she saw Janna looking at her comically, eyebrows raised. Ryan grinned at her wife as she said, "You saw that, huh? Jesus, some women." She shook her head and Janna chuckled, but thought, she'd better keep her hands off my wife, or this almost brown belt will really teach her some aikido moves.

Ryan picked up on her mate's emotion and grinned as she pulled her in for a hug. "I love you, baby. Be good."

"Oh, I will if she will."

"Should I tell her what's what?" Ryan offered.

"No, I think if she's in your class for more than a few minutes, the nature of our relationship will quickly become obvious to her."

Ryan grinned warmly. "I'm sure it will, babe." She turned to Ellen. "Ellen, we'd like to have you and Joe over for a visit soon."

"Oh, we'd like that Ryan. You know our only free night is Sunday though."

"Sunday is fine. This week, next?"

"This week should work, thank you."

"Great, we'll do dinner. You two like pasta don't you?" Janna asked.

"Yes, we love it. Let us know what we can bring." Ellen said as she carefully placed Halley back into her carrier.

"Will do, Ellen…it'll be fun." Ryan grinned at her long-time friend. "It's been a while since we got together."

"It has. Too long."

"Bring the boys, too."

"We will, thanks, if they don't have other plans this weekend."

"Well, Sensei, it's time for class." Janna looked cutely up at her mate. "Um, you'll excuse me from having to do anything too energetic tonight? I do have an excuse."

Ryan returned the grin jauntily. "Sure, baby, but it'll cost ya later."

"I see that parenthood hasn't slowed down that aspect of your relationship," Ellen remarked drolly as she sauntered out of the office.

"No way, Ellen," Ryan called after her, grinning.

Ryan took her partner's arm and picked up her baby's carrier and they walked out into the foyer. As Janna removed her shoes and stowed them, the stranger stood against a nearby wall, obviously sizing up the small blonde who had been on Ryan's arm.

Hm, looks like she's attached...that explains the ring. It figures, as gorgeous as she is. That little blonde doesn't look like much competition though. The baby could present a problem, however. Unwilling to concede graciously, as a decent person would, the woman determined to push matters, deeming the tall, beautiful woman a prize catch.

She watched as the happy couple greeted friends and students and glowed happily as they showed off their baby before moving off into the mat room. This may not be an easy task.

While her mothers engaged in their aikido class, little Halley sat in her carrier, in the company of her new friend, Ellen, who had finished her classes for the day. The baby was quiet as she tried to take in all the activity in the huge room, however, it quickly became too much for her and she settled off into sleep.

As all classes at this particular dojo did, Ryan's also started out with a relaxing aikido-mai workout, to soothing, yet energetic new age music. As her regular students flowed into the graceful, enchanting movements and spread out around the huge mat, Ryan approached her new student and explained the concept to her.

The woman nodded her understanding and smiled coyly as she said, "I think I'll watch you for a few minutes…to get an idea of how it should be done."

Ryan nodded. "Fine." She moved away from the troublesome woman and began to move gracefully around the mat, emptying her mind of negative thoughts as she did so. Naturally, as soon as the negative thoughts retreated, thoughts of her wife and baby replaced them and she smiled, glowing with an inner warmth. She caught site of Janna and uncharacteristically approached her, moving in beside her, as if in a dance. Normally, she didn't let their private life enter into their sensei-student relationship.

"Hi, love. This is different." Janna said, smiling warmly at her mate.

"I need to send a message, babe. Do you mind?"

"Are you kidding? We'll shout it out if you'd like."

"Thanks, baby." She shook her head as she glanced at the woman, who was leering openly at her. "This isn't the place for that shit." She gracefully grabbed Janna's hands and pulled her around to face her, and they danced together happily, moving skillfully across the room as one, almost like ballroom dancers. When the music faded, they embraced and shared a quick kiss, prompting several of Ryan's students, all cops, to offer comments.

Ryan shrugged off the good-natured kidding with a smile and called her class together. She delved into the lessons, not giving the new student another thought, except when she was engaged in teaching her. She had Janna and her other more advanced students do all of the engaging of maneuvers with the woman, however, not wanting to let the woman into her space or to encourage her advances in any way.

After the hour-long class was finished and Ryan had bid farewell to most of her students, the woman approached Ryan and asked to be shown a few of the basic moves again. Ryan agreed, adding graciously, "Normally I won't be able to do this, because I take the black-belt class that's starting now, but since this is your first class, I'll be glad to go over the moves."

"That's so wonderful of you."

"No problem. What did you need help with?"

"That first move. I can't seem to remember it."

"Sumi otoshi, and we also covered ikkyo. Yes, it takes some repetition before becoming second nature." She turned to face the woman and had her place her hands on Ryan's shoulders as she showed the woman the maneuver a few times. She finished by saying, "It's very important not to miss any classes, so you can get a lot of practice in. Any of the students will be happy to work out with you for a few minutes before class starts. Just ask."

"All right, I'll do that. You don't happen to offer private lessons, do you?" She eyed Ryan seductively.

"No, I'm sorry, I don't. Have a good night." Ryan turned away and started toward her wife and baby, who were sitting in the gallery.

"Sensei Zamora…could we meet some time…to discuss the philosophical ideals of aikido, perhaps?"

Ryan looked at the floor as she reined in her frustration and composed herself, before she looked up pointedly into the woman's face. "No, that won't be possible. I don't do any private tutoring, and as you may have noticed, I have a wife and baby with whom I prefer to spend all of my free time. I'll see you next week. Oh, and, it's Norden-Zamora." With that, she turned and left the woman without a second glance, making her way to where Janna sat with the baby's carrier on her lap.

Ryan grabbed a cup from the nearby water cooler and downed some water as she stood beside her family.

"Tough student, love?"

Ryan blew out a breath. "Woman shows a definite lack of common sense. With an attitude like that, she won't get far in aikido."

"I wonder if she's even really here to learn. She looks to be on the make."

"Well she came to the wrong place for that. I've gotta go, love. Let me know if Halley gets hungry."

"Sweetheart, I'll take the next feeding if she needs to eat early…don't miss your class."

"No, babe. I'm fine. I kinda need some grounding and she can give me that."

"I'll give you some of that later, too."

"Thanks, baby, I know you will. Bye." Ryan leaned down and kissed her baby, bestowing a heartfelt look of love on her wife as she did so, and returned to the mat to work out with her fellow black belts and teachers. Janna sat back, enjoyed the awesome display of skills, and realized happily that in a few months, she would attain her black belt and be able to join them.

As Ryan sat with her class, she saw Janna pick up a wide-awake Halley and hold her in her arms, talking to her quietly all the while. She smiled and sent a message of love to her mate through their link, and Janna looked over at her and sent her own silent message in return.

The unpleasant student was nowhere to be seen.

~~~~~~~~~~

Janna opened the blinds, letting in the moonlight both she and her wife so loved, and then joined her family on the bed. Ryan was handling the very early morning feeding, sitting against the headboard as she nursed Halley, and Janna scooted up next to her and wrapped her arms around her.

"She should start feeding less often before too long," Janna remarked quietly.

"Mm, right. That'll be okay, Janna, because even with both of us doing this, it's exhausting."

"Yeah. But I'll miss it in a way."

"You'll still be nursing her, Janna…for a full year if things go according to plan."

"That's true. It's just so enjoyable. Such a wonderful, loving, quiet time." She caressed her baby's soft, fine hair and smiled.

"Bonding time...that it is, love. It's so special. I'm gonna miss it like crazy when I go back to work in two weeks."

"We'll make sure you keep your production up, so you can handle more of the evening feedings if you want."

"Let's do that, Janna. I can pump at work, at least once a day, if I need to."

"Mm, you may need to." Janna paused a moment and added thoughtfully, "Honey, we didn't take her out too soon, did we?"

"No, I don't think so, Janna. The doctor said she could go out after three or four weeks and she's a month old today...or yesterday now. I think it was fine, baby, I really do. Don't worry."

"Okay, but this time of year there are so many germs floating around…"

"Honey, our breast milk is giving her natural immunity, remember? And she's big and healthy. She's fine, love."

After several more minutes, Ryan switched the baby to her other breast, fielding loud complaints as she interrupted the meal, and laughed. "Jesus, she's getting loud." Addressing the baby she softly said, "Are you gonna be a rock singer like your Mommy? Huh? I think so."

"No ma'am, she is not. Nor is she going to be a cop."

Ryan quieted the baby with a fresh breast and pulled Janna closer. "Oh, yeah? Babe, I have a strong feeling that this little girl is gonna have mind of her own and will end up doing whatever the hell she wants to do…regardless of what her parents want."

"Just like we did, huh Ryan?"

"Just like we did, baby."

"Hmm." Janna burrowed into her wife's side and enjoyed it so much that she soon fell asleep in the position. When Ryan realized, she smiled warmly and shook her head. Both of my girls have fallen asleep on me tonight…I must be boring company. Rather than disturb either Janna or the baby, she gently burped Halley and then lay down with her, careful not to jostle Janna. She quickly fell into slumber and the three of them slept blissfully curled up together.

Part 3

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