The Journey
By Janet Lynne

Part 3

-5-

A drizzling fog sent rivulets of water running down the windows, obscuring the view into the backyard, and decreasing the already low late afternoon light as the happy family lay on the bed. Ryan and Janna lay side-by-side on their backs as Ryan held the baby above them.

"Was that a smile? Huh, was that a smile Momma saw?" She lowered the baby to her face and planted a kiss on her soft cheek. "Yes, it was. It was a smile!" Ryan turned her head to glance at her mate. "She's smiling, Janna!"

"I see that, love. That's not unheard of at five weeks, sweetheart." Janna returned her mate's warm grin and reached up to tickle her daughter's tummy, eliciting another semi-smile.

"Oh, Janna, she's trying so hard to smile...look at that!"

"God, that's cute, honey. She definitely has your smile. Oh, boy, I think we've got another lady-killer on our hands."

"I don't know, babe, she just might like boys."

"True. Whatever, she's gonna be a heartbreaker."

"Just like her Mommy."

"Oh, yeah, right...you mean just like her Momma." Janna turned onto her side and wrapped an arm around her wife's waist, snuggling into her side as she did so. "Is it nap time yet?"

"Baby, we just had our nap. Are you that tired, Janna?"

"Sort of, yeah. I didn't sleep well after Halley ate during the night."

"I'm sorry, babe...would you like us to leave so you can rest?"

Janna tightened her grip on Ryan, as she murmured, "Absolutely not. You stay right where you are."

Her mate grinned and pulled the baby down to sit on her chest. "Can you sit, my big girl? Huh? Look, Janna, how strong she's getting."

"Mm, hmm. She sure is. Her head is not nearly as wobbly as it was."

"Mm. Come here, baby, give Momma a kiss." Ryan brought the baby's mouth to hers and stole a kiss, eliciting a grin. "Jesus, Janna, I could look her smile all day...just like yours."

Janna reached over and caressed the baby's head, and Halley slowly turned her head to look her way. "And so much more alert. God, Ryan, she changes every day."

"Another reason I'm not looking forward to going back to work next week." She sighed and Janna moved her hand to her arm in consolation. "But at least the shift is shorter...I can deal with nine to five a little easier than I would with the old eight to six."

"I'm glad of that, too, Ryan. You'll be home with us later in the morning and earlier in the evening. So glad, baby." She leaned forward and kissed a firm shoulder, at which her mate leaned down and captured her lips.

At that, Halley said, "Gip," and her parents looked wide-eyed at each other.

"Jesus Christ...she just said something, Janna!"

"I think somebody likes being the center of attention, Ryan. Kiss me again and see if she does it again."

"Sure, babe...all in the interest of scientific inquiry, you understand."

"Oh, yes, honey, I fully understand...kiss me."

Ryan did and Halley repeated her little display, this time adding a leg kick into her Momma's chest.

"Hey! Watch it there, missy! Jesus, Janna, she's got some power in those tiny legs."

"I think you can handle it, honey. Hey, speaking of powerful legs, I realized the other day that we didn't make it skiing this winter."

"We were a little busy having a baby, love...and recovering from an accident. Next year...I wanna take you snowboarding, too." She pulled the baby close again for another kiss, extracting another near-smile from her.

"Ooh, I can't wait. It looks fun." Janna tickled the baby's belly.

"It is. It's a blast, actually."

"Hard?"

"A little, at first, but if you have good balance, it's pretty easy to catch on. And, easier if you're already used to the snow, I think."

"Mm, yeah. My balance used to be very good...I was quite a good skateboarder in the late '70's...of course, I was a teenager."

"It's a natural ability, Janna...I'm sure it's still good...and you're in great shape. So, did you ride the ramps and the pipes and such?"

"I did, yeah. Remember the skateboard park that used to be out by the motor movies? I had an expert rating there...it was a blast...as much a rush as downhill skiing is."

"I don't remember the skateboard park, but I certainly remember the motor movies." She turned to her wife and delivered a rakish grin, accompanied by raised eyebrows.

"I'll just bet you do. How many innocent young girls lost their virginity in the back seat of your mom's car, Ryan?"

"Oh, Jesus, baby, I don't wanna go there."

"Honey, it doesn't bother me...I'm just curious."

"Too many, Janna...I was a dog...you know that. Let's change the subject."

Janna smiled, still on the subject. "You know, when I first told Dan about us, the thing he most remembered about you from high school was that you had openly dated a cheerleader in our senior year."

"Shit, he would." She furrowed her brows, pondering. "What was her name..."

"Ryan! It was April something, wasn't it?"

"Oh, yeah, April Olson. Jesus, she was a babe. Lost her cherry that first night, too..."

"Ryan!"

"You brought it up, babe. Shall we change the subject now?"

"Please."

Ryan laid the baby on the bed between them and turned toward her mate. She leaned over Halley and captured Janna's lips fervently, effectively changing the subject, as requested.

~~~~~~~~~~

Janna turned in her sleep as the dream played on, smiling as the past-life pleasure bled into her present life. She held an ink cone above her mate's strong, firm body, then dipped it, touching it to her skin and creating an intricate, black design. Her partner sighed with pleasure as her bard applied the thick henna paste to her back.

"Gods, Gabrielle, that feels nice," purred the rich, deep voice.

"Mm, I'm glad. Pleasing you gives me pleasure, Xena."

"Well, you can show me that again later, if you want."

"Oh, I want. How about one more floral design down here, at the base of your spine?" She gently caressed her lover's lower back.

"Mm, whatever you feel like doing, love."

"Well that would involve an activity that would ruin all this hard work of mine."

"Like I said, later," drawled the low voice.

"Later it is." The warrior-bard refocused her attention on her artwork, breathing deeply to slow her heartbeat. Through the link with her soulmate, she could feel her partner doing the same thing and smiled. Gods, I want her...all the time. She sighed deeply, eliciting a pleased smile from her strong mate.

Presently, she withdrew her hand and shook it out. "Okay, love. That'll do it."

"Thanks, Gabrielle. Your turn now. Front or back first?"

Her small mate smiled coyly at her. "Front."

The warrior returned the smile, but hers was accompanied by a rakish twist to her mouth and a single raised eyebrow. "Whatever you want, Gabrielle."

She sat her partner on the table in front of her and knelt before her. Before lifting the ink cone to the smaller warrior's firm belly, however, she leaned forward and snaked out a hot tongue, stroking her mate's navel, and was well pleased at her bard's sharp intake of breath.

"Gods, Xena..."

"Hmm?" She continued the sensual stroking and kissing of her mate and the small blonde reached forward, twining her fingers in the warrior's long, black hair.

"That's not fair Xena, we can't play right now...not without ruining your mehndi."

"Later then, baby."

"Absolutely."

Janna smiled again as the dream continued, feeling the pleasure that her ancient counterpart felt at her mate's touch, as well as their shared love. It echoed the love she and Ryan shared in their present life; which had been built upon by the love they had shared in the many lives in between.

Janna was awakened a short time later by her mate's gentle touch. "Janna...Janna, hon, time to wake up."

Janna sighed and turned toward the warmth sitting beside her.

"Hmm?"

"Sorry, honey, it's time to wake up. Joe and Ellen will be here soon and I need help with the marinara."

"Oh, God...I feel asleep?" Janna blinked her eyes in the dim light of the room.

"You were tired, love. Come on...I've got the salad done, but you need to do the sauce or it won't be edible."

Janna rubbed her eyes and grinned. "That's true, love. You didn't manage to burn the water again, did you?"

"I haven't cooked it yet, little Miss Smarty. But I probably will burn it if you don't come down and help me."

"Did you say you made the salad?"

"Yep."

"Ryan...thank you...but you shouldn't have let me sleep."

"Hey, I'm capable of making a salad!"

"Yes, you are...and very well...but I know you don't enjoy it."

"I enjoy helping you. But come on...get up...I need your help now."

"Okay, love. Where's the baby?"

Ryan grinned and looked to her left, at the baby's bassinet. "She decided that if Mommy was gonna nap, so was she."

"So you've had some alone time? That's great, honey."

"Not really, Janna. I adore my girls."

Janna reached up and pulled her love's face down to meet hers. "So do I mine."

Ryan enjoyed the kiss, and then mumbled against her wife's mouth, "Don't start this now, Janna. That's how past meals have been burned."

"Mm, and pots of water...including the pot."

"Okay...let's just go back there for a minute, huh? What am I supposed to do when you throw your arms around me, push me against the kitchen table and begin devouring me? Answer me that, Janna."

"Ryan, what am I supposed to do when I come into the kitchen and see you cooking in the nude? It was just too much for me."

Ryan grinned jauntily down at her. "Okay, I'll give you that one. Just don't blame me for ruining the pot, huh? It was both our faults."

"Okay...that's fair." Janna giggled as she added, "Honey, do you know long it takes for such a large pot of water to boil away?"

Ryan grinned. "Long enough for both of us to come, and then some. I'm so glad you bought such a sturdy kitchen table, Janna."

"So am I. Come on, my love. Let's get dinner fixed."

"After you, baby." Ryan helped her mate off the bed and after glancing at their sleeping daughter, picked up the baby monitor receiver before following Janna from the room and down the stairs. God, she's got a cute ass.

~~~~~~~~~~

"Mm, hold on...I need one more taste."

"Ryan, you do not."

"I do...come on."

Janna lifted the large wooden spoon to her wife's mouth again and looked expectantly at her. "Well?"

Ryan grinned widely. "It's perfect."

"Thank you. Did you take care of the wine?"

Ryan nodded. "The white's cooling and the red's on the table. Anything else?"

Janna eyed her salaciously. "Um, just your wardrobe."

Ryan looked down at herself and grinned. "What...a tank top and jeans aren't good enough for Joe and Ellen?"

"An undershirt, minus bra, and torn, faded jeans, you mean. No...they aren't. Go change, please. And shoes would be nice. Ryan, how you can wear so little in the wintertime is beyond me."

Ryan sauntered up behind her wife and wrapped long, warm arms around her as she kissed her neck, "I'm hot-blooded, baby."

Janna closed her eyes and sighed as she replied, "Oh, God, don't I know it." She leaned back into her strong mate, reveling in her warmth, her scent and the intense emotions that her proximity alone set off, as she said, "This is very dangerous, Ryan. Go, please."

"Okay, love. I'll check on the baby while I'm up there."

"Thanks, honey."

~~~~~~~~~~

Ryan laughed heartily as she refilled Joe's wineglass with the fine, rich Merlot.

"Thanks," he replied, his smiling eyes dancing. "Ryan, I've never known you not to drink wine...what's the occasion if you don't mind my asking?"

"Well, Joe," she started, but was interrupted by her daughter, who was sitting nearby in her bouncer. Ryan grinned widely and said, "Ahh, there's the little reason. Give me a minute and I'll show you."

She got up and removed her daughter from her seat, bringing her to the table and settling her in her lap. "She's hungry, and it's my turn to feed her. Do you mind if I nurse her here?"

Janna grinned as both of their down-to-earth friends looked shocked, but shook their heads, indicating that they didn't mind. She looked on proudly as Ryan unbuttoned her cotton shirt and pulled down the nursing flap on her bra.

Ryan guided her breast into the hungry baby's mouth, then looked up at her friends and grinned widely, saying, "I'll bet you never expected to see this!"

Her good friends laughed. "No, Ryan, I'm sure we didn't. That's amazing!" Joe looked at his wife and grinned.

Ellen added, "Yes, this is wonderful, Ryan. I've heard of adoptive mothers nursing their babies, but I guess I never thought of it with respect to lesbian couples. How wonderful!"

"God, it's incredible. I can't tell you how happy I am that it worked out for me." Ryan grinned down at the little bundle in her arms who was tugging gently, but methodically at her nipple.

Ellen added warmly, "I nursed all three of our boys...even though their pediatrician recommended against it...and it was the most wonderful experience."

"Why on earth did he recommend against it?" Janna asked, her blonde brows furrowed in confusion.

"At that time, Janna, it was felt that modern formulas were better, I guess."

Ryan remarked disgustedly, "Formula companies must have bought off the A.M.A."

"How sad," Janna added.

"How ignorant," corrected Joe. He nodded toward Ryan. "How could anything possibly be more healthful than that?"

Ryan shook her head and leaned forward to kiss the top of Halley's head. Her suckling stopped for an instant, as if she were trying to figure out who was doing what to her, but she quickly deemed it unimportant and continued her meal.

The warm conversation continued as Ryan nursed the baby, and soon the friends, old souls all, were talking about spirituality.

Janna remarked, "We're going back to New Mexico in March, for my birthday, and plan to visit Taos and Santa Fe again on the way. Did Ryan tell you about the regression we experienced together at the Taos Pueblo?"

Their friends nodded, as Joe said, "Yes...what an amazing experience that must have been. We've had similar together, but they were in a clinical setting, with a therapist. The fact that you both regressed on the spot is wondrous."

"It was cool, guys...beyond cool. And we have this other life that we both visit, almost every single night, in our dreams. It took place in ancient Greece." Ryan commented matter-of-factly as she switched Halley to her other breast.

"Really? And you both have the dreams?" Joe asked.

Janna answered, "Yes...often the same dream at the same time...which we find incredibly cool. Um," she blushed as she added, "Especially the romantic ones."

"I should think," Joe remarked dryly. He grinned at his wife and soulmate. "We do that too, once in a while."

Ryan, of course, puffed out her chest a little, even though she had an infant latched on, and said, "And of course, we take full advantage of the situation when it occurs," and grinned rakishly at her wife, who blushed even more deeply.

"Ryan, do lesbians have a term for stud?" Joe asked, with a twinkle in his eye.

"Stud." Ryan replied with a grin.

"Just wondering."

Ryan laughed heartily again, and had to reattach her daughter's mouth, and not before hearing a loud complaint.

"Whoa, she knows who's boss!" Ellen laughed.

"Are you kidding? Only five weeks old and she already knows that she rules this household. I'm gonna start calling her the Little Queen." Ryan remarked as she gazed pointedly at her daughter.

"She's not all that little, Ryan." Ellen pointed out.

Janna replied, "She takes after her Momma...well, you know what I mean...after her Momma's side of the family." She gazed softly at Ryan and Halley before adding, "Ryan and Zac are remarkably similar...I feel so blessed about that."

"Me too, love. Though I think that's gonna come back and bite you in the ass...we were both handfuls as kids."

"And you're not now, Ryan?" Her wife asked sweetly.

"Oh, Janna, very good point," Joe laughed as Ryan gazed with disbelief at her sweet wife.

"Just kidding, love...you know that." Janna leaned over and planted a kiss on her wife's brow, receiving a small smile in return.

"So, can we assume that Halley will be one of the youngest students that our dojo has ever seen?" Joe asked with a wide smile.

Ryan returned the warm smile as she replied, "I'd like that, Joe, but we don't want to break any rules. We know you don't want them younger than five."

"Ryan, I have a feeling about Halley. I think that at three she may be like a typical five-year old. We'll have to wait and see of course. We taught our kids beginning at three." He gazed thoughtfully at Halley. "She feels like a very old soul."

Ryan and Janna both looked over at Joe and nodded as Janna said, "Yes, Joe...we feel that way about her too. Um, my best friend channels a wonderful entity named Michael..."

"The Spirit Dudes!" Ryan interjected with a smile.

Janna smiled at her wife, "Yes, the Spirit Dudes...and Michael told us as much before she was born. Actually, we knew quite a lot about her before she was born, and all of it is proving to be true."

"That's wonderful. Channeling, when done well and by first-rate people, can be a marvelous tool."

Ellen added, "I saw a book recently in the bookstore claiming to be channeled material from an entity called Michael. It looked very interesting but I didn't pick it up...I was buying alternative healing books at the time. I have been thinking about going back for it, though. Let me see...what was it called?" She thought for a moment, and continued, "Ah, 'The Journey of Your Soul'...and I believe the author was named Hoodwin."

Janna said, "Yes, Anna told me that another Michael channel was writing a book...we'll have to check that out, honey." She addressed her friends, "Michael's information is so amazing...so informative. They specialize in explaining the personality traits that we choose for each life, which really helps us to understand and relate to our fellow human beings."

"That does sound marvelous. So, is Michael a group of souls...like an Oversoul?"

"Yes, the same as an Oversoul, I believe. Like Jane Roberts' Seth...actually, Michael is closely aligned with Seth. They call themselves an Entity, which is a group of about a thousand souls who have all finished all of their lives on the planet. They now teach from a higher plane...the plane above the astral, which they call the causal."

"Yes," Joe nodded. "That gels with my beliefs. I'd love to learn more about Michael."

"We'll have to get the book, honey." Ellen said as she glanced at her husband, who nodded enthusiastically.

"Yeah, Janna, us too. Where did you see it El?"

"At Barnes and Noble."

"And I'm sure, if you want to find out about your personality traits, and that of your loved ones...Michael calls them 'overleaves'...my friend Anna will be happy to do a session with you." Janna added.

"I think that's a distinct possibility, Janna. I'll get back to you on that. We're always looking to expand our knowledge."

"So is Janna, and she's passed the habit on to me," Ryan said with a grin. Halley let go just then, signaling the completion of her meal and Ryan settled her on her shoulder as she burped her gently.

"Let me see that little angel, Ryan, if I may." Joe asked, and Ryan happily handed over her daughter as soon as she had released the air in her little tummy. As he held her gently, he beamed up at his old friend. "It's been a long while since I did this."

"And she looks good there, Joe," Ryan said with a grin.

"Oh, Ryan...don't give him any ideas! Please!" Exclaimed Ellen.

"Sorry, El!" Ryan replied as she buttoned her shirt. At that point they decided to move their visit into the living room and, bringing the wine and sparkling cider with them, proceeded to visit happily for several more hours.

Later, as Ryan and Janna lay in bed, entwined in their favorite position, they talked about their visit with their dear friends. "Honey, what Joe said about you was nice...but I could have told you what a gifted aikido teacher you are."

"Thanks, baby. But I don't know, Janna. I didn't show a lot of patience or compassion with that woman who came on to me last week. Normally I'm happy to stay late and work with students, or visit with them. But God, babe, she pissed me off so."

"Honey, don't worry about it. She's not worth it. And I'm sure if she were truly there to become enlightened about the most enlightening of all martial arts, she wouldn't have behaved as she did. You made it clear to her that you were married, and not interested, yet she persisted. That's nasty, Ryan...disgusting. I don't blame you at all."

"Yeah, but honey, Michael has told us about agape...unconditional love for all beings ...and how attaining it is the purpose for having all these lives...and that's not what I showed her. I feel bad about that. Maybe I should have given her a chance."

"Honey, you did, didn't you? You worked with her after class...you just declined to see her socially, which is proper as a married woman. No, honey, it's not your teaching she's interested in...believe me. I saw her leering at you."

"Janna, I only want you leering at me."

"I'm happy to oblige, baby."

"And you do it so well."

"Mm, but you're the master, Ryan. You with those expressive eyebrows and sensuous mouth." Janna grinned and fanned herself. "Whew, I'm turning myself on!"

"Cool, baby...let me soothe your need." Ryan drawled.

"Please do, Ryan...as only you can," Janna responded as she was pulled into Ryan's embrace and her lips were captured passionately.


-6-

The passion from the previous night still held them within its grasp as Grandfather Sun made a rare January appearance the next morning. As the soft, pink glow resulting from his light's journey through the Earth's atmosphere lit their bedroom, Ryan pulled Janna more tightly against her body as they lie linked together, sharing loving energy.

As she reveled in the connection with her wife, nearly drunk with pleasure, Janna murmured, "I want more, Ryan. Stroke me, please." As she made the request, Ryan was already doing so, having picked up on her wife's need.

"Okay, baby. Are you sure? Do I still need to be gentle?"

"I'm sure, love. I'm fine now...all healed."

"God, Janna, I'm glad." She said just before kissing her wife more deeply and then sat up, bringing Janna with her. "Straddle me, love."

"Yes."

Janna did so, wrapping her legs tightly around Ryan, and they began stroking each other in earnest. The energy, the kundalini, in both their bodies, ignited and sat, coiled like a serpent, at the bases of their spines...waiting to be unleashed in the explosion of ecstasy. But first, the electric fire would build, and then, with skillful control of breath and muscles, move slowly up their spines, accompanying gentle orgasms that would build, one upon the other, increasing in intensity until the final peak would burst, plunging them into an ethereal pleasure beyond the confines of the physical plane that they normally existed on.

As Ryan's pleasure exploded, seemingly bursting from the top of her head, she screamed Janna's name, and took Janna with her. They rode the waves of intense pleasure for many more minutes, entwined tightly, mouths meeting and devouring each other hungrily while large breasts crushed together in the caress of love.

When their bodies had finally slowed, and stilled, Ryan sighed deeply, letting the satiation bathe her soul, and ran her hands down Janna's back tenderly.

"God, Janna..."

"I know, love. There aren't words."

"Shit...how long, baby?"

Janna turned her head slightly to glance at the bedside clock. "An hour."

"Holy shit...no wonder I'm spent." She pulled back from her mate slightly and grinned at her. "I have to go to work today, baby. But what a way to start the day!"

Janna returned the grin and replied, "At least you don't have to ride a bike for eight hours."

"True. It's mostly meetings and orientation today...thank God." She leaned back in and kissed her wife gently. "Hold me baby...until I have to leave."

"Gladly, my love." Janna wrapped her strong, beautiful mate in her arms and reveled once again in her warmth.

A few adorable gurgles and, "Goos" rose from the bassinet beside their bed and Ryan added with a grin, "Or rather, hold me until Halley wakes up and needs to eat. I wonder how long she's been awake."

"Oh, I would guess that coincided with the screams we let loose several minutes ago, wouldn't you?"

"I would think, yeah, babe." Ryan kissed Janna a final time before lifting her from her lap and rolling out of bed. On her way to the bathroom, she stopped to greet her happy daughter, and when she returned, Halley was in bed with her Mommy.

"All cleaned up and ready, love?" Janna asked as Ryan settled beside her two ladies on the bed.

"Yep, hand the hungry munchkin over."

As the baby settled in for her meal, her mothers sat snuggled together and discussed Ryan's impending return to work.

"Will it be hard seeing John, do you think, honey?"

"I imagine it will, yeah. He was very understanding about my decision, but I could still feel that he was hurt a little by it...though he told me that since becoming a parent, he's had second thoughts about staying a beat cop and thinks that if he'd been hurt too, he'd have made the same decision. For Sara's sake."

"He's doing all right with his new partner isn't he?"

"Micah? Yeah, supposedly. They've gelled pretty well. He's a nice young kid...not too experienced, but a good cop. And John likes him...that's key, obviously."

"Right."

An hour and a half later, Ryan walked beside her Lieutenant, Andy Gutierrez, as he showed her to her new desk. She had been offered a small, private office, but had turned it down in favor of a desk in the squad room, wanting to be near her long-time co-workers and her old partner and best friend. She wanted to be where the action was, as well. She didn't want to feel insulated from the realities of the department...wanting to continue to feel fully involved.

The very large room housed many desks, and semi-private cubicles lined two walls. As Ryan was led to one of the cubicles, she was greeted by many friends...welcomed back from her maternity leave. She hadn't seen most of them since the Christmas party and accepted the well wishes of her coworkers in her typically friendly and gracious manner before entering her cubicle and setting the small box she carried on her new desk.

"Well, Ryan, here you go. There's a meeting scheduled for 9:30 to meet your staff and get everything in gear." He held out his hand. "Congratulations, Ryan...you earned this promotion...good luck."

Ryan returned the strong handshake warmly, saying, "Thanks Lt. I'm looking forward to making a difference here."

He nodded and smiled before leaving. Ryan watched him go and then turned to her desk. She sighed, letting out the small amount of nervousness she had been holding, and dug into her box. She retrieved her treasures...three photos for her desk...and set them next to the computer screen, and then settled into her comfortable chair and gazed at them. Janna and the baby gazed back at her, making her smile. The third was the photo of the three of them in white from Halley's birth announcement.

Ryan sat back in her chair and looked around at the busy squad room. Detectives shared the space easily with patrol cops, making for an atmosphere of camaraderie that bode well for working together. As she looked out over the space, she was filled with a sort of pride in her accomplishment. She would miss the bike duty, no doubt, but she looked forward to having a direct positive impact on young peoples' lives, and was thankful for the opportunity to do so.

"Look at her, will ya...sitting on her ass already...Jesus, Norden-Zamora...it must be nice."

Ryan looked up from her reverie into the smiling face of her best friend. Her fitting response was, "And just what do you do all day, Stewart, if it's not sitting on your ass?"

"Fuck you," he replied with a wide grin. "So...how does it feel Ry?"

"Pretty damn good, John...but I'll miss patrol. And my old partner."

"We'll always be partners, buddy."

Ryan didn't reply...didn't want to risk hearing her voice crack with emotion...so she nodded and smiled.

"Hey, Sara wants us to take you guys out Friday night...to celebrate. How about it?"

"Wow, that's nice, John, but I don't know. We haven't left the baby yet."

"She's six weeks old, Ry...you've gotta cut the cord sometime. Do you think you could leave her with Beth or Kris for a few hours?"

Ryan thought a moment. "I think we probably could, yeah. At this point, we would only leave her with one of them or Sara. I'll talk to Janna, John...see what she thinks. Thanks for the invitation. So, what're you doing in here?"

"I knew when you were coming in...knew it wouldn't be the same if I didn't come in and give you some shit." He grinned at his friend. "I wanted to make you feel at home."

Ryan smirked. "Thanks, buddy...it worked."

"Anytime, bud. Well, I've got to get back out there. Those streets are mean, you know."

"Don't I know it...and they'll be a helluva lot meaner once you're back out there. Tell Micah I said hi."

"Will do, Ry...good luck here. And let me know about Friday, huh?"

"I'll do that, John. Take care."

He saluted her with a grin, turned, and left.

Ryan sat back in her chair again and sighed as she thought about her partner and the times they'd had...both good and rough. I miss him all ready.

The lovely crescent moon hung in the clear sky before them as Ryan escorted her ladies down the downtown sidewalk. The crisp air hung thickly around them, the smell of wood smoke thick from the many chimneys in use on the freezing night, and their breath crystallized in front of them as they talked and breathed.

As she walked arm-in-arm with her wife, Halley's carrier slung on her right arm, Ryan smiled. Up ahead, near the entrance to their favorite Mexican place, a familiar panhandler caught her eye. As they strode up to the man, he fixed his gaze on them and started to approach, then shrank back as he recognized the tall woman.

Ryan grinned at the disheveled homeless man. "Jimbo, buddy...I didn't see you panhandling, did I?"

"Officer Ryan...absolutely not, ma'am. No ma'am. How you doin' tonight?"

"I'm doing great, Jimbo. Been a while...how are you doing?" She asked sincerely.

"Oh, you know...hangin' in. Just hangin' in...can't complain. Say, I'll watch your car for you while you're eatin'...let me do that, huh?"

"Sure, Jimbo...if you're gonna be out here anyway...and if you let me get you some food to take back to the shelter...okay? And hey, that red Mustang behind mine is Officer Stewart's...could you keep an eye on it too?"

"Sure thing, Officer Ryan...yeah, sure thing. Won't nobody touch your cars while you'n the little lady are in there."

"I appreciate it, Jimbo. See you in a bit. You like beef quesadillas, right?"

The man smiled widely, his mostly toothless grin showing how pleased he was that the cop had remembered. "I sure do...that I do!" As the women and their baby entered the warm restaurant he rubbed his hands together gleefully, knowing that his belly would be full later, and that the cop would probably give him a little cash...she usually did. He sauntered happily down the street, pulling his ratty coat closed against the chill wind, and took up his vigil opposite the dark green Explorer...determined to see that no harm came to it.

As the cold winter night blew on outside, the four friends and their two children shared a warm visit inside. Ryan gave their order to the friendly waitress, adding, "Oh, and Rosa, I'll want a beef quesadilla dinner and a large coffee to go when we're done."

"Okay, Ryan. I'll be right back with your drinks."

John grinned at his friend. "What's the extra dinner for Ry? Breastfeeding taking a lot out of you?"

"No, smart a...um, smart guy, Jimbo's out front. He's watching the cars for us...it's his payment."

"Jesus, Ry...softhearted as always. But hey, he's not a bad guy. He wasn't there when we came in."

"Yeah, well, I caught him panhandling but I'm cutting him some slack."

"Like I said, Ry...softhearted." He refilled her glass from the pitcher of 7-Up. "So, buddy, how'd the first week go?"

"Smoothly, John. It's an adjustment, I've gotta tell you, though. I'm not too sure about being a desk jockey." She added with a grin, "I'll have to engineer myself more time out in the community."

Janna smiled at her mate and said, "If anyone can do that, honey, it's you!"

"Right, Ryan, create some new school programs...put that new Democratic money coming in to some good use."

"I'm definitely looking into that, Sara." Ryan smiled at her friend as the blonde handed her 9-month old son a softened tortilla chip.

Janna grinned as the little guy mashed it all around his mouth before getting just a little bit inside. "This worked out okay with the kids along, didn't it?"

Sara answered, "Yeah, Janna...it was a good idea. But you know, we want to have Halley over some time soon so that you and Ryan can get out for a bit." When Janna and Ryan both opened their mouths to respond, she added, "Now...we know you don't feel ready to leave her yet...but you need some alone time, whether you realize it or not. Come on, guys...you started watching John John here for us starting at two months, and it was so great. We didn't realize how much we needed it until we were out and alone together. So think about it. I mean it!" She directed a pointed gaze at her friends.

"Oh, oh, guys, she means business...take it from me!" John grinned, then added. "She's right, you know. I know what it's like not to want to do anything without your baby, but you do need it...so let us know."

"Yes, sir, Sgt. Stewart!" Ryan saluted.

"God...darn, right Sgt. Norden-Zamora!" He grinned widely at his best friend. "So, Ry, how's it feel to have underlings?"

"God...darn good, John." She grinned around her glass of soda.

"She's a natural leader." Janna added proudly.

"Natural tyrant, more like it." John smirked.

"Oh, fu...screw you, John! You wish you were under me." She returned the smirk.

John waved his hands and exclaimed, "Oh, God, Ry, don't go there, please!"

"Yes, please you two...let's not go there again." Sara added with a tight smile.

Ryan sobered. "Sorry...um, poor choice of words...wasn't thinking."

Janna looked from John to Ryan with confusion as she asked, "What's that about guys?"

Ryan blew out a breath as John sat quietly and Sara said, "Ry...um, you never told Janna about...?"

"No, uh...I meant to but it never came up." She looked apologetically at her wife. "I'll tell you later, honey...I promise." She reached across the baby carrier in the seat between them and grasped Janna's hand tenderly.

Janna, though intensely curious, knew she could trust her wife to share whatever it was with her later. She could tell, however, that Ryan was a little upset about it.

Shit. Fuckin' Christ...how could I forget to tell her that? Fuckin' idiot...she's gonna think I hid it from her deliberately. Shit... Ryan downed her soda and poured herself more, then refilled Janna's, afraid to meet her eyes.

My God...she won't look at me...what the hell is going on? "Ryan...?" She picked up Ryan's hand again. "Whatever it is...it's okay, love. Don't worry about it."

Ryan met her understanding wife's eyes, thoroughly grateful to her and for her, and replied, "Thanks, Janna. Um, it's not really a big deal...just something that I should have shared with you a lot sooner...I honestly never even thought about it." She looked at John and shrugged, then added, "Because, frankly, it's not something I ever think about."

John laughed. "Gee, thanks, Ry! It was that unforgettable, huh?"

Ryan said apologetically, "You know it was a drunken mistake, bud...and something I never would have done otherwise. Nothing personal, buddy...you're just the wrong gender." She shrugged.

Janna's eyes widened in surprise as she gasped, "Oh my God! You two had se..."

"Janna, Jesus, baby, not here, okay?" Ryan implored, embarrassed.

Across the table, John laughed as he choked out, "Oh, come on, Ry! It's out...why not share it?"

"Christ..."

"I agree with Ryan," Sara added. "I'd rather not dredge it up."

John looked at this wife. "Honey, I didn't even know you then."

"I know, John, but I was jealous of your beautiful partner the moment I met her, and when I found out you two had a past, I was extremely uncomfortable...so much so that I don't like to relive it."

"Well, you know what? I think this is something that we need to put to rest right now. It was an absurd event, completely comical, a huge mistake...on both our parts...and not something either of you should worry about...ever." John said as he addressed Sara and Janna.

Ryan added, "You have a point, John."

She looked at Janna who grinned and shrugged, then at Sara, who shrugged resignedly. She turned back to Janna as she began. "Janna, it was over six years ago now. We had only been partners a short time, but were already close friends. But that's all we were...I made it clear to him that I didn't do men....had never done men...and that he didn't have a chance. Besides which, I felt it would be wrong...too complicated for partners on the job to be partners off the job as well. So..."

Janna smiled her encouragement and Ryan continued, after receiving a nod from Sara. "But then one of our patrol sergeants had a bachelor party...I was the only woman invited, of course,"

John interrupted with a smile, "Because no one considered you a woman, Ry!"

"Right smart a...smart mouth. Can I finish?" She directed a pointed gaze at him and he gestured for her to do so.

"So, anyway...we...he and I...both got shit-faced. I mean plastered out of our friggin' minds...what the hell were they serving, John? Did we ever find that out?"

"Nope, and I hope I never encounter it again. Must've been some kind of hooch."

"Yeah, so, I have no idea how we got to John's place...neither one of us could remember who drove...which is scarier than sh...uh, hell...two cops." She shook her head disgustedly and John mirrored the gesture. "After that, at least, I realized that I shouldn't drive home, so I crashed on his couch."

She sighed before continuing and Janna encouraged her with a smile. "The next thing I know, I'm in his bed, under him. I figured later that I must have figured, 'What the hell, sex is sex'...you know how I am, Janna...when I drink...hornier than hell and no sense."

Janna grinned and shrugged, remembering an alcohol-induced encounter in the ladies room of the Rainbow Lounge.

"So, um, yeah, we did the deed. I remember very little of it...John, your recall wasn't any better was it?"

"No...only that I had, uh, you know," he looked around to make sure the conversation was private, "Gotten off." He shrugged, almost apologetically.

"Don't worry about it, bud." Ryan looked at Sara and Janna. "I didn't, I don't think. No offense to him...guys just don't do it for me. Anyway, the next day, after our hangovers had let up some, we talked it out...promised it wouldn't happen again, nor would it be an issue between us, and it hasn't been."

John continued, "Right, not an issue, not even close. Our wives, who mean the world to us, have nothing to worry about. Hell, when she flashed me on her wedding day, I could've slapped her. She's like a sister to me now. Plain and simple."

Janna sighed. "Wow..."

Sara agreed, "Yeah, wow. It bothered me for a long time, though I knew I had nothing to worry about...but look at her for God's sake...could she be more gorgeous? I felt severely lacking for months."

"Sara, that's..."

"Ry, it's okay...I'm okay, now. Really." She smiled warmly to punctuate her point.

"Good, Sara, I'm glad. Hell, when you two first met...Jesus, I've never in my life seen a man so smitten. The guys at work gave him major hell. Remember that, John?"

He smiled, "Hell, yeah. I just told them all to, uh, screw themselves. I knew she was it, and there was nothing anyone could say to convince me otherwise."

"That's nice, John."

"Well, Janna, your wife was as bad as I was...worse maybe." He grinned at his friend as she blushed.

Sara added, "Right, Janna...none of us could believe it when she fell so hard for you. She had been such a devout loner for so long."

"The Lone Wolf," John added with a grin.

"Well, my friends, the Lone Wolf has mated for life." Ryan said as she pulled her wife close. The fact that the restaurant was full of people didn't deter them from sharing a quick kiss.

"Okay, you two, break it up, break it up. Christ!" John laughed.

Ryan smirked at John as she said to Janna, "Later, baby."

"You'd better believe it, love." Janna shared the warm moment with her wife and then looked to her friends and said, "I want you guys to know that she proved her monogamy to me last week when a gorgeous, tall brunette made a pass at her at the dojo."

Ryan groaned as her friends raised their eyebrows. "Really, Ry?"

"Shit...yeah. What a loser. I made it clear I wasn't interested, even pointed out my wife and baby, for Christ's sake, but she just kept trying. It really pissed me off, and I think my little wife here was about ready to take after her with a jo stick." She grinned widely as she nodded toward Janna.

"Darn right. She was flagrant. It's a good thing for her I'm a pacifist."

"Alright, Janna...you go, babe!" John said proudly. "Defend your woman's honor. So, that was last week? What happened this week?"

Ryan answered, "She didn't show up for class. I wouldn't be surprised if we don't see her in my class again. I hope not anyway."

"So, guys, other than that, the aikido's going well?"

Ryan smiled. "Yep...Janna's my best student...she's getting her brown belt next week. We're both loving it."

"Guys, Ryan's the most incredible teacher. I knew she would be. She's articulate, patient, funny...just the greatest," Janna said proudly as she looked at her wife.

Ryan looked down at her large plate of food. "Thank you, honey. That means a lot to me."

"Don't mention it, love."

"Very cool, buddy. Very cool!"

Later, as they sat together in bed while Janna nursed the baby, Ryan shared with Janna the details of the long-ago encounter. "It really was a joke, honey...no offense to John...but Jesus, it did absolutely nothing for me. I remembered a lot more than I let on to him...I didn't want to hurt his feelings. I guess...I hope...it was because he was drunk. But he just kind of pumped away, you know? No tenderness, no caressing, no foreplay...some rough kissing, but that's it."

"It wasn't horrible though was it?"

"Well, not completely. It was pleasurable to some extent. You know how it is with a strap-on, honey...it was pleasant enough, but it just never went anywhere for me, and there was no finesse...I think he just expected me to come right along with him as he pounded away. And then he rolled off me and fell asleep, and I'm thinking, 'Um, hello? Is that it?' I couldn't believe it. I truly hope that's not typical, I really do. I feel for Sara if it is."

"I'm sure it's not, honey."

Ryan thought quietly for a moment before adding, "I was pretty down on myself... pretty disgusted...for a while after that. Hell, I even turned down a three-way not too long after that...and she was a babe. Looked like you, but with longer hair."

"Oh, yeah?" Janna asked with interest. "Tell me about that."

"Nothing to tell, Janna. I went in to the Rainbow, sat at the bar, started on my Jack and this cute blonde sidles up, asks me if I want to leave with her. I downed my shot, picked up my jacket and said, 'Let's go, babe.' But she led me to a table where her boyfriend was sitting. She says, 'Can we make it a threesome?' I said, 'Nope', turned around, and went back to the bar. Went home alone that night, if I recall."

"Wow...okay."

"So, anyhow...it did nothing for me...absolutely fuckin' nothing, baby. It's a mistake I wouldn't even make if I got that drunk again. With Harrison Ford. Hell, with Brad Pitt."

"Mel Gibson? George Clooney?"

Ryan laughed, "Nope!"

"Wow, okay...I understand, love."

"Oh, I see how it is, I wouldn't even do George Clooney, so I must be a true dyke, huh?"

"You must be, love, because I think I'd do George Clooney!"

"Janna! Baby, no!"

Janna grinned. "I don't know, babe...maybe Brad Pitt, too."

"Oh, Janna, love...you're killing me, baby...stop!"

"I'm kidding, Ryan. There's not a person on the planet, baby. No one. Not Lucy Lawless...and she looks like you." She leaned over and stole a kiss from her beloved, bringing a huge smile to her wife's beautiful face.

"Same here, my love. No one else. Without a doubt."


Part 4

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