The Journey
By Janet Lynne

Part 4

-7-

Six weeks later – early March

Janna laughed heartily as she held her daughter to her chest. They were sitting on a sunny bench at a rest stop, having their lunch, and Ryan was entertaining her with the tale of her recent conversation with their authoritarian softball coach, Sharon.

"I swear, baby, her eyes got this wide!" Ryan held her hands a saucer's width apart as she bent over in laughter. "But then I said, 'Oh, did I say we were leaving on the 14th? I meant the 7th'."

"Ryan! That was mean, honey!" Janna chastised, though it was through a grin.

Ryan returned the grin, her dark eyebrows lifting above her Ray Bans. "I know. And she thought so too."

"What did she say? Wait a minute, let me cover the baby's ears." Janna did so, with another large grin.

Ryan laughed again and replied, mimicking Sharon's deep, Missouri-tinged voice, "You son of a bitch! You goddamned, fucking son of a bitch! I should throw your ass off this team, Zamora! You fuckin' well better not be missing the first two games of the season again!"

"Oh, honey…she was mad. That was very dangerous, considering she blames our absence during our New Mexico trip last spring for the team losing the championship."

"Oh, and the fact that I missed the second half of the season with a broken leg had nothing to do with it? That was an unreasonable assumption and I told her as much."

"I know, honey, but at the beginning of the season she hadn't yet been able to line up replacements for us, and she felt that the poor start affected the team mentally. They aren't used to losing, you know."

"True, but Christ, Janna, she gets worked up. I asked where that military discipline had disappeared to." She sighed and took another bite of her sandwich. "Anyhow, she's okay now. I told her that only an act of God would prevent us from making the first game this year." As she chewed her lunch, she sat back against the table and spread her long legs out in front of her, crossing them at the ankles.

Janna did the same thing and sighed happily. As they relaxed side-by-side, in nearly matching outfits of Levi's, polo shirts, and Birkenstocks, they made a lovely picture. And baby made three. "God, this sun is nice, Ryan. The baby seems to love it, too."

"Yeah, she does." Ryan grinned. "Little sun worshipper!" She reached over and lifted the receiving blanket up over the back of her head. "She doesn't need a sunburn, though."

"Nope, thanks, love." She glanced down at her daughter. "Grandfather has put her to sleep."

Ryan grinned and threw her arm across Janna's shoulders. "That happens to her Mommy, too. Every time we lay out in the sun, she falls asleep."

"Sleeping happens to be one of my favorite activities…especially now."

"Yeah, I hear that love…me too…and I never thought I'd be thinking that…but Jesus, kids tire you out. Even when they're tiny like this little squirt." She smiled warmly down at her baby and Janna saw their reflections in her sunglasses.

Janna returned the smile and snuggled against her mate. "It's finally starting to feel like spring."

"Yeah, especially down here. It's milder here in the south than it is at home."

"True, but even at home. Did you notice my daffodils?" Janna grinned cutely up at her mate.

"I did, baby…they were gorgeous…and the tulips. Your hard work last fall paid off beautifully this spring."

"Thanks, love." She sighed again, enjoying the warmth from her mate even more than that from the sun. "Tomorrow afternoon we'll be in Las Cruces."

"Mm, and getting ready for your birthday dinner."

"Ryan, I hope you haven't gone overboard."

Ryan looked mock-seriously at her and pointed to her chest as she said, grinning, "Who, me?"

"Yes, you. I know you've been up to something…all those phone calls to New Mexico…and emails coming in marked, 'Ryan's Eyes Only'. Your brother is a little obvious, honey, for someone with a high security clearance."

Ryan laughed. "I know…I told him the same thing. He said I wouldn't know a security clearance if it bit me in the ass, and told me that I need to get my own email account. I told him not to hold his breath."

"Good." She gazed at the surrounding mountains, enjoying their stark beauty. "Mmm…it's too bad we can't hit Disneyland while we're down here. I haven't been there in ages."

"Me either. Let's give it a year or two, so Halley can enjoy it somewhat, huh?"

"Let's."

Ryan stretched, dislodging her mate from her side. "Well, babe, this is nice, but let's get back on the road. It's a long way to Phoenix yet."

"Mm, okay. My turn to drive. You try to get a nap…you're not getting enough sleep."

"Neither of us are, honey…but I'm fine. We'll rest tonight….and when we get to Zac's."

Later, as the sun set behind them in the west with a burst of orange brilliance, they entered the inviting city of Phoenix, quickly finding the comfortable Holiday Inn just off the Interstate.

After checking in, Janna and Halley opened the door to their room as Ryan handled their bags. The door swung open onto a comfortable suite, and Ryan exclaimed, "Geez, babe, you do know how to book the hotel rooms." She set their bags down and looked around her.

"Thanks, love." Janna grinned widely as she looked around at the large suite. She approached her wife with a sly grin and said, "There's a whirlpool, baby."

"God, Janna…" She pulled Janna and the baby close and they shared a family hug. "Hear that, little one? There's a great big bathtub for us to play in."

Halley regarded her mother seriously before grinning, her entire little face lighting up, and then the joy traveled down her tiny body in a wave, ending with a kick against her Mommy's ribs.

"Ow, sweetie pie! Ryan…I think she's gonna be a goalie rather than a ballplayer. And don't think I didn't see those Youth Soccer League forms that arrived in the mail last week."

"Just gathering information, babe." Ryan said with a jaunty grin as she reached for her daughter. "Come here baby puma, let's check this place out."

"You two do that…I'll order some dinner. What do you feel like, honey?"

"A cheeseburger, fries and a shake sounds good, love."

Janna scowled as she perused the menu and shook her head as she realized that she was having only a minimal impact on her wife's eating habits. Mm, chef's salad, baked potato and chocolate milkshake. That sounds good. And cake for dessert. Two cakes…we both have to keep up our caloric intake.

After placing the order, she joined her family on the balcony. It offered an enchanting view of the city at night and the surrounding mountains were dotted with lights.

"Nice view."

"Mm, Janna, yes. Halley says she wants to sit in the whirlpool until dinner arrives."

"Does she? She's full of good ideas lately. Well, let's go, then." She led her family back inside and entered the large bath suite to prepare the tub. When Janna returned to the bedroom, her two loves were both lying naked on the bed, playing together. Halley was on her back and Ryan leaned over her with a colorful rattle, shaking it playfully, her face lit by a large grin.

"What are you two doing?" Janna asked happily as she plopped beside Ryan on the bed.

Her wife grinned and pulled her close. "Halley's showing me how this toy works."

"It looks like she's making you do all the work."

"I told you she's smart, Janna…just like you, baby."

"Ryan Swift Puma…"

"What, Janna White Owl?"

"Stop diminishing yourself. You're one of the brightest, most capable women I've ever known." She leaned more solidly against her mate and added, "And I love you very, very much."

Ryan answered her with a heartfelt kiss, and Halley interrupted them with a series of gurgles and baby almost-giggles.

"Oh my God, Ryan…she does like to be the center of attention. You two are gonna have to work that out between you."

"Me?" Ryan asked, shocked. "I'm not the rock star, baby."

"Ex, love, and never a star."

"Honey, that's not what 'Rolling Stone' said."

"Ryan, the writers for 'Rolling Stone' are nothing but self-important assholes…their opinion never meant a thing to me, and it certainly doesn't now. My priorities are so far removed from what they once were that it's not even funny."

"Janna, I'm sorta proud of what your priorities were…and what you accomplished. Come on, baby, I know you weren't in it for the chicks…like most are,"

Janna interrupted with a grin, "True…a lot of the women as well as the men."

"Right. Honey, what you did was noteworthy…don't knock yourself for it. Don't you diminish yourself."

Janna inclined her head slightly as she gazed at her mate and slowly smiled. "Thank you, Ryan. It means a lot to me that you feel that way."

"Come 'ere, baby…I love you." Ryan rolled onto her back and pulled her wife over onto her stomach, and they engaged in more of the heartfelt activity that Halley objected to. And she did, loudly.

"Sweetheart…what's wrong my little one? Don't you like to see your mommas loving? Come here, baby." Janna spoke sweetly to their daughter as she lifted her to Ryan's chest and she and Ryan made over her.

Ryan whispered, as if Halley could understand, "Jesus, Janna, she needs to be the center of attention at not yet three months? We've got to nip that in the bud."

"We will, honey…but remember what the spirit dudes told us…she's a natural leader…she has been a leader of men in many, many lives. She'll need some guidance and we'll give it to her." She brought her infant's soft cheek to her lips and kissed her tenderly. "I think we're the right people to gently show her that a true leader serves her people…is sensitive to their needs above her own. She's an Old Soul, love…it will come easily enough for her when she's old enough to understand it."

"If you say so, Janna…you've studied this stuff a lot longer and a lot more intensively than I have."

"And I'm grateful that I have the knowledge…it's very useful to have this information about our child...and really, about everyone close to us. I mean, I now totally understand why my brother, a very masculine straight man, is so artistic. And why my mother is so studious."

"Yeah, babe, good point. The knowledge has been helpful to me, too. Honey, what are we…to each other? My grandfather calls us Twin Souls, but what does Michael call it?"

"Essence Twins. They use the term 'Essence' for 'soul'. 'Essence Twin' is their term for the closest soulmate bond."

"Essence Twins, right. It's cool that it's similar to the ancient native term."

"Mm, very. Michael is extremely knowledgeable. I consider them my spirit guides."

"Mm, baby, I do too, now. We've had some fuc…um, great talks, Janna. They're very funny!"

"Yeah, I know! I think some of that may be Anna's personality coming through too, though. She has the same kind of dry humor. Any channeled information comes through the channel's own filters, no matter how good they are at putting their own personality aside while bringing the information in."

"Good point. Yeah, she does have a dry wit. But also warm at the same time."

"Yeah. Hey, speaking of warm, are we getting into the tub?"

"Yeah, Halley says she's ready."

"Oh, she does? Tell me, are you two telepathic as well?"

"We are. We have our own secret language." Ryan said as she picked the happy baby up and hugged her to her breast. Halley squirmed and cooed happily under her Momma's loving attention. "Hello, little Miss Pretty Blue Eyes…hello my little love. Are you ready for your bath? Yes?" Ryan looked pointedly at Janna. "She's ready for her bath now, Mom."

"Cool!"

A few minutes later, she was splashing happily in the large tub with her mothers. Ryan watched her daughter and exclaimed, "Janna, she's gonna wear herself out!"

"Good." Was the saucy reply.

Ryan found out later exactly why Janna thought that was good.

~~~~~~~~~~

"Grandmother is luminous tonight." Ryan said softly as she gazed at the full moon. "Is it possible that I feel her energy even more strongly here?"

"Possibly…because the energy of this region is different than the energy at home. Somehow, it's stronger, cleaner, more pure. That's the sense I get, anyway. I'm not sure exactly why it seems that way…from a metaphysical standpoint."

"Could it be because of all of the vortexes nearby?" Ryan asked as she continued to gaze at the moon.

"Could be…it's also, historically, a very spiritual region."

"So true, babe…as we well know." Ryan wrapped her arms more tightly around the blonde in her lap and kissed her neck.

"I'm looking forward to the sweat, Ryan."

"God, Janna, so am I. It's been many years since I've done one."

"I hope I have a vision, Ryan. I won't be disappointed if I don't, but it will be cool if I do."

"That's a good attitude, baby…they don't come every time. You are pretty happy and balanced right now, so you may not need any extra guidance at this time. I feel the same way about myself."

"Ryan, I'm not pretty happy, I am extremely happy right now." She closed her eyes and felt the moonlight on her face. "I feel very honored at the invitation…I know that not all Native people agree with Whites trying to walk the Red Path. I appreciate Marty's cousin's including me."

"Janna, you are Native…don't discount that. The amount of blood doesn't matter. Remember that the Cherokee…your tribe…say, 'You are Native to the last drop of blood'. Plus, you are an honorary member of the Comanche tribe now, as well as a member by marriage, because many Indian peoples honor homosexuals." She kissed her wife's neck again as she added, "Besides, you walk the Red Path even more than I do, and Marty's cousin knows that."

"In any case, honey, I'm appreciative. We'll have to pick up some blankets and tobacco to share with him."

"Definitely." Ryan pulled Janna close and encouraged her to turn in her lap and straddle her. When Janna was settled in the new position, Ryan whispered against a soft, triple-studded earlobe, "But right now I want to share with you."

Janna closed her eyes at the touch of Ryan's hot breath against her ear and said, "Mm, I like the sound of that. What did you have in mind?"

Ryan answered her with her lips, very softly, on her breastbone.

"Yes, Ryan, I like that idea. Here on the balcony?"

Ryan mumbled against Janna's chest, "Here for a bit. It's dark."

"Mmm…okay."

Ryan kissed her way up, softly, gently, to Janna's mouth and their tongues met and danced together ardently. Under the light of the moon, their friend, they necked passionately for long minutes, sharing their love respectfully. They were both very happy to be back in the land of their ancestors and of their past selves, and that joy was translated into their expression of love.

A short time later, they shared their love together in a much more intimate manner in the privacy of the bedroom, as their daughter slept soundly in her portable crib. Luna's light streamed in through the south-facing window, illuminating them as their entwined bodies writhed as one. Their soft moans of pleasure rose from the bed and floated out the open window on the cool night air.

Late the next afternoon, they arrived at Zac and Marty's small ranch on the outskirts of Las Cruces. The whitewashed adobe walls of the ranch-style home were bathed in a warm, pleasing, golden hue as the light emitted by Grandfather Sun slanted through the atmosphere, just before he dipped below the horizon. The roof tiles shone a rich, dark red in the lowering light.

As they approached the ranch, several horses could be seen grazing in the meadow adjacent to the house. It was a pleasant, somewhat surprising, patch of green amidst the surrounding desert landscape, with its mountainous backdrop, and had not existed the previous time Ryan and Janna had visited.

"Look, Ryan…horses!" Janna exclaimed as Ryan pulled to a stop on the circular drive in front of the house. Janna gazed wide-eyed at the beautiful appaloosas and palominos.

"I see them, babe…Jesus, I love the Indian paints…used to always ride them in Texas."

"Ryan, the golden ones are like the horse from our dreams…" her voice said in awe, trailing off as she glanced at Ryan and saw the look of recognition there.

"They sure are, Janna. Jesus…" The beautiful golden animals had white manes and tails, just like their ancient counterparts' horse had. Their hides were all the more golden in the light of the setting sun.

Janna grinned as she rubbed Ryan's thigh. "Whoa…déjà vu."

"Ditto." Ryan shook her head, as the very real feeling of déjà vu washed over her, leaving her feeling somewhat confused and more than a little amazed.

As they sat quietly in the Explorer, the front door opened and their brother and sister-in- law jogged out. As she caught the movement in her peripheral vision, Ryan turned her head and smiled as she saw her brother's smiling face. His wide, white grin mirrored hers as Janna threw the door open and greeted them.

"Hey guys…you made it!" Zac laughed.

"Yep…how's it going bro?" Ryan said as she exited and smiled warmly at him.

"Just great…you two look great. Janna, baby…you're still glowing!" He pulled Janna into a warm hug and pulled back to look at her. Over his shoulder, his wife Marty smiled as Ryan approached. The cop pulled the Native woman into a warm hug and kissed her cheek.

"Hey you guys…it's great to be back. And," she turned to the back door of the car, and said as she pulled it open, "We've got someone special for you to meet." She reached in and unstrapped the sleeping baby, then gently pulled her out. Ryan held her close to her chest and tenderly kissed her head as she turned to face her family.

At the site of the baby, Marty's face melted into a happy smile and she reached towards Halley. "Oh, my…may I?"

Ryan, proud Momma, smiled widely. "Sure." She gently placed her precious daughter into the arms of her aunt. Technically speaking, she was her stepmother, but for all practical purposes, would assume the role of aunt by marriage. "Ryan, Janna, she's beautiful. Absolutely beautiful. I can see you both in her face." She gazed down warmly at the infant, feeling an instant connection with her. She looked to her husband. "Zac…come see your sweet little niece."

Janna took Ryan's arm as they watched their family make over their baby and said quietly, "Niece-slash-daughter."

Zac turned his eyes from his daughter to his sister-in-law and said with great feeling, "She's my niece, Janna. You two are her parents." Janna and Ryan looked at each other and Ryan pulled her into her side, kissing her head and then laying her cheek against the soft blonde hair.

Zac added, "As a matter of fact, I have those papers you sent me to sign. Come on in…dinner's about ready, and we can go over things."

Ryan nodded and nudged Janna toward the house. Marty still happily cradled the baby, as Zac looked on over her shoulder, so she pulled their two bags and Halley's diaper bag out of the car, then followed her family inside.

She carried their bags on into the guest room, with which they were so familiar, leaving them by the bed, and then rejoined Janna, the baby, Zac and Marty in the comfortable family room.

Zac and Marty sat on the couch, and were still making over the baby, so Ryan joined Janna on the loveseat. She leaned against the back of the comfortable seat and pulled Janna against her as she watched her brother fawn over his niece/daughter. Beside her, Janna sighed contentedly as she watched the happy scene and Ryan let her gaze drift up from the happy faces of her family to the surrounding warm space.

The room was paneled in a warm, light pine. Pinon? Thought Ryan. Whatever it is, it is quite attractive. The matching furniture pieces were covered in a pleasing Navajo print design, in desert colors. This is actually a lot like our family room. A large entertainment center contained a television and stereo system, and a matching unit next to it held dozens of videotapes and many more CD's.

Just like their home, this room contained many Native American art pieces and cultural objects. On the rough pine table in front of them, a large abalone shell filled with sand sat, holding a smudge stick.

Ryan smiled, feeling very at home, and not because she and Janna had spent many happy days there. "Marty, Zac, being here is like being at home….right down to the sage on the coffee table."

"Glad you feel that way, Sis. I really am." He looked from Ryan to Janna. "Guys, your baby could not be cuter."

"Well thanks, Zac, but you had more to do with that than I did." Ryan smirked faintly.

"Same genes, Sis. She looks a lot like you." He pulled his arm from around his wife as he said, "The papers you need are right here….all filled out." He leaned forward and picked up a large envelope, then handed it across the table to Ryan.

Ryan looked down at it and sighed. She bit her lower lip before swallowing hard and looking up at her brother. "Zac, I can't tell you how much we appreciate this…there just aren't words, Red Hawk."

"Sis, I'm so happy to do it. I did the first part, now this finishes it. You can adopt her, Ryan…make her your daughter legally. Hell, she is in every other sense of the word." He gazed sincerely at his older sister and smiled. "Really, Sis…giving up my parental rights is fine with me. She couldn't have a better second parent than you."

Zac's words nearly overwhelmed Ryan and she closed her eyes as she took a deep breath. She let the breath out, sighing deeply, and was pulled into her mate's embrace. Janna held her tough wife tenderly while her tears flowed and gently kissed her silky black hair. She looked over at Zac and mouthed a silent, "Thank you," as her eyes conveyed the depth of her gratitude.

He nodded and picked up his wife's free hand before looking back down at his niece. The family passed the short time before dinner was ready in a quiet silence, broken occasionally by easy conversation.

Before going in to dinner, the small family retired to their room to freshen up and rest for a few minutes. As they entered the space that was so special to them, Ryan pulled Janna close and hugged her tightly. With the baby resting between them, they both felt complete…as if life could not get any better…and they both swam in the feeling.

"God, Janna…" Ryan sighed.

"I know, baby. This is what we were born for. This right here." Janna nuzzled the strong shoulder in front of her.

"Exactly." She kissed the top of Janna's head, then reached down and gently tilted her face up so that their lips could meet. They shared the kiss for a minute with Halley watching, quietly rapt, as was becoming her nature.

Ryan lingered over Janna's lips before pulling back and she gazed at her daughter, who sat quietly in Janna's arms. "She didn't interrupt us this time, Janna."

"No, she didn't. Do you think it's possible she picked up on the meaning of the moment? Of the special energy we're sharing?"

"I don't know…it doesn't seem possible, but it sure looks that way." As she gazed at Halley, the little imp smiled at her Momma and gave a happy kick, accompanied by a series of vocal gurgles. "Is that right, sweetheart? That is so cool!" Ryan tickled her daughter's tummy as she addressed her, causing more happy gurgles and vocalizations. "Come here you two loves of my life…let's rest for a while."

"Gladly, love. Come on sweetheart, let's get on the bed with Momma."

They settled on the bed on their backs, Janna with her head pillowed on Ryan's stomach, and sat the baby next to them. Halley sat up against the pillows, in the "V" created by her mothers' bodies, her increasingly strong little body supporting her well. Ryan reached a long arm behind herself and deftly reached into the diaper bag, digging out a brightly colored toy. She waved the red and yellow rattle in front of Halley, who reached for it with a happy smile. She rather deftly, for her age, grasped it and her mother let it go. It went straight into her little mouth, and her eyes lit up as she explored it with one of her most sensitive organs.

"She loves that rattle, Ryan. Good choice."

"Mm, yeah…I'm glad she does. Well, you know, it's one of those developmental toys…with those moving parts inside and the little noisy bits…she can see that her actions have consequences." She chuckled, adding, "Though right now, she's just happy to see the spirals turn."

"Mm, right…it keeps her interest. I like the soft ends that she can chew on safely, too."

"Speaking of chew on…she loves that damn pacifier. I'm not sure that was a good idea." Ryan remarked with chagrin.

"Honey, they say now that it's fine. Some babies have a strong sucking impulse and it's okay if that comforts them. As far as I'm concerned, it's better than her thumb…at least we can take it away when she gets older…my poor mom had to deal with an eight year old who still sucked her thumb…destroyed my teeth."

"Did you, baby? That long?" Ryan asked as she rubbed Janna's arm.

"Mm, hm…I sure did. And slept with my blankie." She turned her face and grinned shyly at her wife. "You wouldn't understand that, I guess."

"Oh, I think I can. I, um, had a special stuffed bunny that I slept with until I was twelve." She looked down at her hand where it caressed Janna's arm, somewhat embarrassed. "Johnny Rabbit."

"Johnny Rabbit? That sad little pink bunny with the fur worn off that sits on the top shelf of our closet?" Janna asked with a wide-eyed, astonished grin.

Ryan returned the grin sheepishly. "Yeah. I couldn't bear to throw him out." She looked at Janna and shook her head. "Christ."

"Ryan, I love that! Don't be embarrassed. I, um, still have my blankie, too." She turned onto her side and rested her cheek on Ryan's stomach, resting one hand on her daughter's chubby little leg. "Um, in fact, when you were in the hospital and we had that horrible fight?"

Ryan winced and nodded.

"I slept with it." She sighed, remembering the intense pain she had felt during that one-night separation. "What a horrible night that was, Ryan. The worst of my life. I held onto that blankie and your pillow…they helped me to get through the night…and what a long night that was."

Ryan felt her soulmate's pain, which merged with her own at the memory. "I know Janna…Christ. I don't ever want to spend another night apart." She moved her hand from Janna's arm to her face and caressed her cheek gently. "And I never want to have another fight like that either."

"We won't Ryan. Those were extraordinary circumstances. You were in agonizing pain, mental as well as physical, and I was terribly sick from the pregnancy." She grasped the long fingers that were lightly grazing her cheek and kissed them. "We haven't had a fight since then, have we?"

"Well…except for that occasion a few weeks later, after I came home…when I broke your guitar and you took off on the bike?" She reminded her mate gently, reliving the pain and embarrassment of that little scene.

"Ah, true, yes. Not since then. Still, love, the same factors were at work. After that, when we talked it out, things were great again." She raised her eyebrows as she nodded, trying to punctuate her point.

"Yeah…that's true, baby. Things have been great. In fact," she pulled Janna up along her strong body, so that she was partly laying atop Ryan, "Things are awesome. Better than awesome. Every day is better then the one before." She captured Janna with her brilliant, piercing eyes, which were sparkling with the love she was feeling, and drew her in. Janna succumbed and kissed her deeply. They quickly became lost in each other, as was their habit, and several minutes later, when his quiet knock wasn't answered, Zac opened the door to see his sisters making out while their daughter sat beside them, happily gumming her toy.

He shook his head, grinned widely and said, "Lord, you two…is there something about this room?"

Ryan grinned against Janna's mouth and gave her one last, deep stroke with her tongue before raising her head and looking at her brother, saying rakishly, "Goddamn right, Zac. We fucked our brains out in this room and got pregnant…that energy will live on in here for years."

Zac shook his head as Janna gasped and slapped her naughty mate playfully. She felt her cheeks burn with embarrassment as she said, "Ryan, maybe I should start fining you…the transgression you just committed would almost pay for Halley's college tuition. She's sitting right here, for God's sake!"

"Oh, baby, Christ…she's all caught up in her toy…she doesn't even know we're here right now."

"Ryan Swift Puma Norden-Zamora…"

"Ooh, Sis…I think you're in the doghouse! You wanna just grab a blanket and set up your bed in the horse barn now? While it's still a little light out?"

Ryan looked quickly at her daughter, noted that she was still engrossed with her toy, and flipped her brother off happily. When Janna opened her mouth to chastise her again, Ryan pulled her down and captured her lips before she could utter a word. Janna quickly forgot what she was mad at and Zac shook his head again and quietly closed the door.


-8-

Janna blushed crimson as her family sang, "Happy birthday, dear Janna…happy birthday to you!" For the second time that night, her cheeks and ears burned hotly and she slapped playfully at her mate. Ryan, bursting with joy as she sang to her partner, took the gentle hit with a grin.

"Okay, now, baby, make a wish and blow them out before they start a fire!" Ryan laughed as she indicated the cake overflowing with thirty-four candles.

Janna grinned at her mate and looked at each of her friends in turn. "I guess I'd better, huh?" She closed her eyes and sighed, then furrowed her brows in concentration as she thought of a wish. Geez…I want happiness for my wife and children more than anything else…okay, I wish for my wife and children and I to have long, happy, productive lives together. She repeated the wish silently as she leaned over the cake and blew with all her might. Ryan added her hot air, and together they extinguished all the candles.

"Yay, Janna! All right, baby…you did it." Ryan threw her arm around her mate as she laughed happily.

"With your help, love…thanks." She leaned into her mate and shared a quick kiss with her. "Love you," she whispered.

"Love you too, baby. So much." Ryan returned the sentiment and gave her a quick squeeze, then backed away so that Janna could cut the cake. Marty added scoops of ice cream to each plate and they all sat around the large dining room table to eat the delicious chocolate dessert.

"Mm, Marty, this is wonderful. I love German chocolate…how did you know?" Janna asked around a mouthful of the delightful confection.

"Oh, I had several top secret communications with an admirer of yours." Marty said with a conspiratorial wink at Ryan.

"Mm, hm. I saw some of those communications…it took all of my willpower not to open those messages and read them before she got home from work." She took a spoonful of chocolate fudge ice cream and savored it, closing her eyes and licking her lips.

Ryan, sitting beside her, added, "We knew we could trust you to be good." She neatly separated a bite of cake with her fork and leaned close to her wife, offering it to her.

Janna accepted the offering and with twinkling eyes, made a return offering, sharing a kiss with her wife. "Mm, Janna…good." Ryan's eyes twinkled back at her. She leaned forward and licked a bit of chocolate from Janna's upper lip, eliciting a groan from her brother, who sat across the table from them.

"Ugh, you guys…do you have to do that?" Zac looked mournfully at them, imploring them with furrowed brows.

"Sorry, Zac…can't help it." Ryan's eyes sparkled as she shrugged apologetically at her brother.

"Yeah, right."

"It's true, Zac," Janna added. Looking her tough, but adorable, mate in the eyes she added, "We can't help it."

Zac's reply was to throw his hands up in surrender, while his wife giggled. Marty added, "Ryan, Janna, don't worry about it…we do it too…he just doesn't want you to know it." She elbowed her husband of five months as he groaned again.

"I give up…I'm outnumbered three to one," Zac said with a frown.

"It takes a big man to admit when he's beaten, Zac." Ryan encouraged her brother with a grin.

"Gee, thanks, Puma."

"Don't mention it, Red Hawk." Ryan lifted her eyebrows at her brother before returning her attention to her cake and ice cream.

Several minutes later, Halley was heard from, as she sat in her carrier on the couch in the next room. "Oops, Janna, look who's awake. It's my turn." She took a last bite of cake and stood up as she wiped her mouth, setting the napkin on her empty plate.

"You want to bring her in here, love?" She glanced at Marty and Zac. "Do you mind if Ryan nurses her in here?"

The Native couple looked at each other and shook their heads. Marty answered, "Of course not, Janna…that would be fine." Zac nodded his agreement as he served himself another slice of cake.

Ryan picked up her fussy daughter and held her close. "Okay, sweetheart, Momma's here…Momma's here, don't worry. Let's get you a clean diaper and then we'll eat, okay?"

She carried her daughter back into the guest room and grabbed a clean receiving blanket from her bag, tossing it open onto the bed and then gently laying her infant down on it. "Are you dirty, punkin? Or just wet? Let Momma check." Ryan unsnapped her warm sleeper, laying it open and pulled off the plastic waterproof pants.

Halley gazed up at her with a look of complete trust as her Momma winced. "Ooh, we're dirty…very, very dirty." Ryan looked her daughter pointedly in the eye as she said, "You're gonna need a new sleeper, my little honey."

She directed her attention back down to the sopping cotton diaper and noted with a measure of distaste that the little mess had seeped out from the diaper and run down the baby's legs. She removed the warm, yellow, terrycloth sleeper and the equally soiled tiny t-shirt and, holding a large hand gently on her daughter's belly, she used her other hand to dig in the nearby Winnie-the-Pooh emblazoned diaper bag for the plastic container of wet wipes. She popped the flip top and pulled out a fragrant wipe, then proceeded to gently clean her daughter of the small disaster.

As she lie there naked, Halley, apparently feeling her freedom, began to kick her legs wildly, and gurgled happily as she looked up into her beautiful mother's eyes. Eyes whose brilliance and hue closely matched her own. The dark, liquid blue that she had been born with had lightened into the piercing light blue of the Zamora clan. A color that belied her part Comanche, Cherokee, Hispanic and Greek culture, borrowing more from her Mommy's Irish and Scandinavian heritage.

Ryan gazed into the eyes that so closely mirrored her own and fell under their spell. "You're my beautiful girl, aren't you? You look so much like your Mommy…yes you do." Ryan was filled with love for her child, for only about the hundredth time, literally, that day and sighed deeply. Despite her shock of fuzzy, black hair and bright blue eyes, Halley did resemble her birth mother. She had Janna's cute nose and elfin chin, as well as her cherubic mouth.

While Ryan cleaned her daughter of the sweet-smelling yellow-brown mess, Janna entered the room. "There you are…I was starting to wonder." She gazed down at her baby and smiled, eliciting a return smile from her daughter.

"Yep, we had a huge mess, Mommy. A big girl sized mess…all over everything." Ryan said as she smiled down at her baby.

Janna wrinkled her nose, "Ooh, okay, I thought that's what I smelled." She looked at Ryan and grinned apologetically. "Sorry, love."

"No big deal. Our baby's shit doesn't stink, Janna…you know that!" Ryan said with a smirk.

Janna elbowed her playfully. "Language, Ryan. You're right, though. Breast milk poops are very mild mannered. Sara says we'll really notice a change when she starts eating other food." She picked up the soiled diaper and clothes and took them into the bathroom to rinse out, then brought them back and dropped them into the scented plastic bag they had brought for the purpose. Later, when they arrived back home, the diaper would go into the large green plastic bag for the diaper service pick up.

"I'm glad we're sticking with the breast milk for a good long while, then." Ryan said with a smile as she dusted Halley with a little baby cornstarch. Janna retrieved clean clothes, diaper and pants from the bag and helped Ryan dress her. When she was all dressed, Ryan picked her up and kissed her cheek. "There we go, Miss Halley, all nice and clean and ready for your supper. Come on little Miss Pretty Blue Eyes…let's go eat." She held the bright-eyed baby to her shoulder and carried her back to the dining room, trailed by her wife.

Ryan settled comfortably into the high-backed antique chair and handed the baby to Janna as she pulled up her shirt and unlatched the front flap of her bra, exposing her breast. Janna then handed her the baby again and Ryan settled her along her left arm as Halley latched onto her adeptly. Ryan pulled her close with a warm smile and the baby rested her left hand on her Momma's breast as she closed her eyes happily and nursed voraciously.

Janna leaned down and gently kissed her wife's head before sitting next to her. Ryan looked warmly at her, returning the smile.

"Ryan, that is so cool. I didn't know that was a possibility." Zac said as he gazed proudly at his sister.

"I didn't either, Zac. I'm glad Janna knew about it, or I would have missed out on this." She looked into her brother's eyes as she added, "It's the most incredible thing I've ever experienced. I highly recommend it."

Zac nodded, acknowledging his sister's opinion, but added, "I'm afraid I don't have the equipment for it, but Marty plans to do it when we get around to having one of our own." He looked at his wife and waggled his eyebrows.

Janna grinned. "Anything you want to tell us, guys?"

Marty laughed. "No, Janna, not yet. We're waiting a little while…not too long, we think, but a little while yet."

"Good, because I highly recommend parenthood. She's turned our lives upside down, but in the best possible way." She looked at her wife and caught her eye. "I had no idea it was possible to feel such an instant, all-consuming love." Ryan smiled and nodded her agreement and then looked back down tenderly at their daughter. Janna added, "We really feel complete…our relationship was great before, but it's awesome now." Ryan looked up and locked eyes with her wife, communicating the nearly infinite love she felt for her and nodded once, bringing tears to Janna's eyes.

"Wow, Jesus…I can feel the love between you two. I hope you don't mind my saying that." Both Ryan and Janna smiled shyly and shrugged. Zac continued, "I felt it when I came up for your wedding and was amazed that it was so strong that I could feel it. But Christ, now…I swear the air nearly crackles between you."

Marty nodded and added, "Yes, and to anyone even slightly gifted with the ability to see energy, the glow around you and between you is intense."

Janna remarked, "Well, Marty, both Ryan and I can see energy and we see the same thing between you and Zac."

"Really?" Zac said, wide-eyed.

"Yep, bro. I would guess that you two have the soulmate thing going on too. It's pretty incredible, isn't it?"

Zac looked reverently at his mate as he replied, "That it is, Sis. And a blessing." He smiled warmly at his wife and then broke the mood, as only a guy could, by saying, "Hey, uh, Ryan...we were wondering if you were still breastfeeding too, but as soon as you got out of the car, we could tell you were. He raised a thick, expressive eyebrow and smirked at his sister.

"You would notice that, Zac." She chuckled, "I had to get a size larger uniform shirt when I went back to work after my parental leave ended." She looked rakishly at Janna as she added, "Yep, the side benefits of breast feeding are pretty god damned nice! Check out Janna's set."

"Ryan!"

"What baby? I'm paying you a compliment!"

"Shit, Ry, still a dog." Zac contributed.

"I am not! I'm just not afraid to say that I'm enjoying my wife's assets." She raised her eyebrows at Janna. "And she's enjoying mine."

Janna's response was a groan as she laid her head on her arms and covered her blushing face.

Everyone enjoyed a laugh and then the family shared the special time quietly as Halley tugged at Ryan's breasts, finishing her meal nearly a half hour later.

~~~~~~~~~~

"Ryan, what is this?" Janna asked with surprise as she gaped wide-eyed at the huge gift-wrapped item sitting on the hearth.

Her mate grinned slyly. "You'll have to open it to find out."

She turned to her mate and planted her hands on her hips, raising her eyebrows as she replied, "I thought I asked you not to make a fuss."

"Well, Janna, you know how that it is…when you care about someone, you just feel like making a fuss. Now go, sit down over there so we can watch you open it."

Janna did not respond, as she knew perfectly well that Ryan had a very good point. She had just used one of Janna's own arguments…verbatim…and could not very well be called on it. So she shook her head at her mate, sighed, and sat beside the humongous box. As she gazed at it, trying to guess what could possibly be in it, she asked, "What on Earth did you do, Ryan and how did you manage to get it here?"

Ryan grinned at her mate as she said, "Ah, ah, ah, now…first things first. You need to open it. Come on, Janna!"

She was like a little kid on Christmas and Janna grinned at her. "Oh, all right…but I hope it's not something embarrassing."

"Oh, yeah, right, not like a $15,000 Harley-Davidson motorcycle is, huh?" Ryan smirked at her overly generous mate, who had purchased the bike for her before they were even married.

"Okay, smarty. Come here and help me open it then."

Ryan happily obeyed, handing Janna's camera to Marty so that she could snap pictures, and flitted over to stand on the other side of the large package. It was wrapped in a lustrous red paper and measured a good four feet long by three feet deep and high. She eyed her mate. "Come on, baby, just rip into it."

From across the room, where she sat on her uncle's knee, Halley squealed and happily lifted a chubby palm in the air, which held her Momma's favorite rattle.

"Oh, all right, help me, love." Janna said as she began ripping the pretty paper off. Ryan grinned as she watched and began to tear the paper from her side of the box at the same time. The flash from Janna's Pentax lit the room several times as the spouses ripped away at the present together. When it was partially uncovered, Janna gasped. She had uncovered the word, "Peavey."

"Ryan…an amplifier?"

"Keep goin', babe," Ryan said through a wide grin. She stopped unwrapping to let Janna have the honor and her mate suddenly squealed when she had removed the paper down to the floor.

"Oh my God! A Stratocaster?" She looked dumbstruck over at her widely grinning mate. "A vintage Stratocaster? My God, Ryan…I love it…how…how did you know?" She gazed, shocked, from her mate's happy face down to the large, long box marked "Fender Guitars".

"It's to replace the one I broke, honey. You really do like it?" Ryan looked expectantly at her, which was adorable on the tough cop.

"Ryan, my God…the one you broke was a modern model…a fine guitar…but this is vintage. This had to cost more than your Harley did. And an amp?" Janna gazed back down at the large Peavey box.

"Yeah, um, it's the latest. It's supposed to have all the features of your old one but in a compact size."

Janna dropped to her knees next to the guitar box and pulled it toward her. She closed her eyes as she said, "I can't believe you did this, honey…I really can't."

Ryan's features crinkled in concern as she asked, "Um, it's okay, isn't it? I read in your guitar magazine that musicians prefer the tone and workmanship of the vintage models, so I thought you might like it. Um, if you don't…"

"Ryan, come here right now." Janna demanded.

Ryan somewhat uncertainly made her way around the large box and dropped to her knees next to Janna. She was immediately scooped into a tight hug as Janna cried, "Honey, I love it…I've always wanted one but never got around to looking for one." She looked deeply into her mate's eyes as she added, "Thank you, Ryan…this is so incredibly thoughtful of you."

She pulled Ryan close again and kissed her sweetly. Ryan, of course, deepened the kiss and they fell over onto the floor, still kissing. The kisses quickly morphed into laughter and they rolled happily on the floor together as their family looked on and Marty snapped pictures, laughing behind the lens.

"I'm glad you like it, baby. You can thank me properly later." Ryan drawled as she leaned over her mate.

"I'll do that, love." Janna drawled back.

"Christ, that room'll never be the same." Zac supplied, sarcastically.

"Hey, it's not like someone was murdered in there or anything." Ryan shot a pointed look at her brother as she rose to her feet, helping Janna up as well.

"No, but Jesus, Sis. We don't have enough sage to clear out the energy after you two have been at it in there. We might want to make it into a nursery someday." Zac grinned.

"I'll believe that when I see it, Zac." She smirked at her brother before turning her attention back to her wife, who was struggling to open the guitar box. "Here, babe, let me do that." Ryan dropped to her knees again and deftly pulled the box open. A few minutes later, Janna was reverently gazing at the original case of golden tweed.

"My God, honey, an original case too. Where did you find this?" Janna looked up at her mate in awe.

Ryan grinned down at her, "Oh, I have my sources!"

Janna simply shook her head as she opened the case. Her breath was taken away a moment later when she gazed at the beautiful instrument that lay inside and hesitantly touched it.

"Janna, love…I got it for you to play…are you afraid to touch it?"

"A little, yeah. Ryan…do I want to know how much this cost?"

"No, you don't babe."

"Cool." She stroked the sunburst finish lovingly. "'60…is it a 1960, Ryan?"

"Yep, very good, Janna. Jesus, I told the guy you know your guitars and you've proven me right."

"I'd like to meet this guy, Ryan…okay?"

"Sure, love." Ryan sat on the floor beside her mate as she pulled the guitar onto her lap and tried out the fit.

"Oh, wow, it's so light!" She held it in position and mock-strummed it. "Oh, wow, this will be a dream to play." She looked over at her mate and added, "Now I really do hope that the Pansies ask me to sit in on some more gigs! Oh, God, Brandon is gonna shit!"

"Language, babe…the baby's in here." Ryan admonished gently.

"Hmm?" Janna looked up at her mate. "What did I say?"

"That Brandon's gonna shit." Ryan grinned.

"Jesus, Ryan, you're rubbing off on me." Janna grinned sardonically as she met her wife's amused gaze.

An eyebrow reached rakishly toward her bangs. "As often as I can, baby."

Janna's chin fell to her chest as she shook her head. God, I can't resist her when she grins like that. Her attention quickly turned back to the beautiful instrument in her hands, however. "Geez, I wish I had some strings with me…I'd love to try this out."

"Check the case, babe." Ryan's eyes sparkled as she reveled in her partner's joy.

"What? No way! Ryan…" Her wife's grin told her that she was serious and Janna searched the case and quickly came up with a set of strings. "My favorite kind, too. Honey, are you that observant or did you guess?"

"I guess I pay attention to your things, Janna…what you like." She shrugged.

She met Ryan's gaze warmly. "God, honey, I appreciate that." She looked at Zac and Marty. "Um, do you guys mind if I try out the guitar?"

"You'd better try it out, Janna, so we can enjoy the fruits of our labor." Zac said with a grin as he lifted Halley to his shoulder.

"Oh, so you guys were in on this? That's what those emails were about."

"Yep. My sister had it delivered here and we wrapped it up."

Marty added, "We're so glad to see how much you like it, Janna."

"Thanks so much, guys. I really do love it." She looked at her mate and added, "And I've um, had a little song stuck in my head…that I'm trying to write…this will help because I thought of a new verse this morning and have had no way to try it out." She looked down at the electric guitar again and shook her head. "This is just so great." She sent a burst of love and gratitude to her mate through their link and Ryan looked up at her sharply and smiled…a clear indication that she had received the message.

"Well, get it strung, Sis, so we can hear a little something."

"Okay!" Janna grinned as she ripped open the packages of string and proceeded to deftly install them on the guitar. A few minutes later, she was tuning it as Ryan removed the amplifier from its box and got it set up.

"Okay, um, nothing too loud, huh? I've heard your music, Janna!" Zac joked.

Janna laughed. "Okay, Zac…nothing too loud…the baby's in here anyway. I'm careful around her. I'll do some punk, but make it quiet punk." She grinned as she looked back down at the tuning keys and adjusted one to her satisfaction, the quiet strummed tone lifting into the proper range as she did so.

Zac laughed. "Quiet punk...is there such a thing?"

"You'd be surprised, Zac." Ryan offered.

Janna grinned, struck by a thought. "Honey, why don't you sit here and help me with 'Take it easy'?"

Ryan frowned and groaned, "Oh, baby, no, huh? You do something. Music's not my thing, it's yours."

"Sweetheart, you have a beautiful voice…I'm afraid music is your thing…please?" She turned her vibrant green eyes on her and sent more love through their link, which was completely unfair.

"Shit…" Ryan mumbled, unable to refuse her when she did that, as Janna well knew. "Okay."

Janna wriggled happily and jumped up to finish the setup of her new system. While she did that, Marty retrieved the coffeepot and refilled everyone's mugs. A few minutes later, Ryan and Janna sat side by side on the sofa as Janna tried the guitar for the first time.

She adjusted the knobs on the body and gently raked her thumb down the strings, creating a deep, rich tone. She looked up with a look of pure bliss on her face and sighed. "Oh, God…that is so nice." She quietly strummed a few chords and then ran through some fingering exercises, which in themselves produced an entertaining sound.

Zac looked at Marty and raised his eyebrows, nodding toward Janna.

Janna turned her gaze on her mate and said, "Okay, honey, I'll start and you join in whenever you're ready."

Ryan nodded her agreement and began tapping her foot as Janna began the familiar song…their song. Janna noted Ryan's readiness and leaned against her shoulder to share a kiss, then Ryan began, watching her wife as she sang.

The classic instrument produced a rich, warm tone…perfect for the chosen song and Ryan's clear, strong voice complemented it perfectly. She closed her eyes and sang from her heart, especially when they reached their favorite verse. As she sang about the girl in the flatbed Ford, her wife's lovely image came to mind. The same thing exactly happened to Janna, and their smiles of joy lit the large room. They both were taken back to their youth, when each had invisioned the other as the girl in the truck, many, many years before they met up again and fell in love.

As he held their baby, Zac felt the richness of her mothers' love for each other and felt warmed to the core. He wrapped his free arm around his wife's waist and they swayed gently together to the soft beat of the music.

Part 5

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