The Journey
By Janet Lynne

Part 8

-15-


See Part 1 for disclaimers

Anticipation and excitement coursed through her body as Janna checked her guitars for the fifth time, then stood and rejoined her mate, who stood nearby talking to Jeff, with a curious, bright-eyed Halley in a backpack on her back. She wrapped her arm around a clearly nervous Janna's shoulder. It was ten minutes before show time and all of the musicians were fidgety. Janna rubbed her hands on her jeans and grinned up at her wife. "I guess I am a little nervous after all. It's been a while since I've been in front of a crowd this size." She shrugged, somewhat embarrassed.

"Honey, it's understandable, but don't worryÖI've seen you play enough to know that you're gonna knock 'em dead. You all are." She addressed Jason and Brian as well.

"Thanks, Ryan," Jason replied. "We sure feel a lot more confident with the old pro here out there with us." He nodded toward Janna with a grin.

"Old is rightÖdid you get a look at the crowd out there? The median age is about eighteen." Janna scowled mildly.

"Cool!" Remarked Jason, adding with a smirk, "I hope they're all cute and gay. And male."

Janna grinned widely. "It sure looks that way, Jase. But I do see a lot of women, too."

"Oh, oh, Ryan, you'd better keep an eye on her!" Jeff piped in.

Ryan pulled her wife close and stole a quick kiss. "I'm not worried."

"You shouldn't be." Janna said as she rested her hand on Ryan's stomach and her head on her shoulder. Then she took a deep breath and addressing Jason and Brian added, "The vibe out there from the crowd feels goodÖif it stays that way, I might surf. Just play the riff we practiced, and if you guys want to do it, I'll take each of your parts. Okay?" They both nodded enthusiastically and as she tucked her shirt firmly into her jeans, she added, "Well, guys, let's get ready. I think they're about ready to announce us."

The two young men responded by picking up their drumsticks and bass respectively. Janna grabbed a full water bottle and took a long swig, then turned in Ryan's embrace and hugged her tightly. "Wish me luck, babe."

Ryan gazed down into her wife's eyes as she held her face in her hands. "Good luck, my love. You don't need it thoughÖyou're the best, Janna. Blow 'em away, baby." She leaned down and kissed Janna for luck, lingering over her lips and communicating her devotion and respect. "I love you, baby. See you in a while. Halley and I will watch as long as we can."

Janna, still looking up into her wife's lovely face and holding her about the waist, replied, "Okay, love, but don't push it. When she's tired, just go and I'll see you later." She glanced at the baby's ears. "She's got her earplugs?"

"Mm, hm. She's all set." She pulled Janna close again and they shared another long kiss, then Janna left her family to pick up her new Strat. She strapped on the instrument and began to run through a few fast fingering exercises, then checked the controls.

Out front, the announcer, a disc jockey from a local college radio station began her introduction. Janna took a deep breath and missed the first part of the intro, but heard, "Seattle welcomes Janna Norden and Attack of the Pansies!"

As the crowd erupted into cheers, Janna scowled at both the misreading of her married name and at her featured billing status. Jesus Christ. Well, at least I made it clear during the radio interview this morning that this is not my backup band and my name is Norden-Zamora now. She shook off the negative emotion and followed her band mates onto the stage with a smile. As soon as she stepped onto the stage and plugged in her guitar, she knew it would be a great show, as the vibe from the crowd was already enthusiastic and expectant before they had played a single note.

Janna turned to Jason and grinned, then nodded and he hit his sticks together, counting out the beat, and Janna yelled, "One, two, one two three four!" On the fourth beat she and Brian jumped up in unison and raked out the opening chord and note of the intro, hitting them in unison as their feet hit the ground, and the band launched into the lightspeed-paced opening number, Janna's "Teenaged Queer".

As they played the thundering, driving intro, Janna stepped to her microphone and yelled, "Hello Seattle! Thanks for coming tonight! This song is called, 'Teenaged Queer'. Are there any queers here tonight?" She raised her right arm and grinned and threw her head back in laughter as a sea of hands rose up, along with a deafening cheer. I see the word got outÖtoo cool! Her grin grew wider as she noted that her two band mates had raised their hands as well and she stepped back from the mic as Brian, standing eight feet to her left, launched into the vocal part.

As she pounded out the melodic chords, Janna was transported, as she always was. The sheer joy of playing overcame her and she became aware of little else but the music, jumping in place in time to the beat and feeling like a kid again.

Ryan stood backstage, stage right, near Janna, and proudly watched as her mate played. And play she did. Like a child; joyouslyÖrapturously. I'm so glad that she gets so much enjoyment out of something. It makes me happy to see her happy. And she's good. She began nodding her head and tapping her foot, enjoying Janna's song, and feeling Janna's joy through their link. She closed her eyes and just felt the music. Felt it like Janna felt it: with her entire being. Jesus Christ! It's such a highÖ

Jeff joined her and she looked over at him, noting that his grin matched hers. "They love 'em!" He yelled over the din.

Ryan nodded and grinned more widely, then began singing along with the vocalist, "'Cause I'm a teenaged queer, a teenaged queer!" and Jeff joined in, shrugging when Ryan looked at him askance.

From her spot on the stage, Janna could see Ryan and Halley watching her and when her wife smiled warmly, joyfully, she felt her elation rise to a new level. Jesus, this feels good! She mouthed, "I love you," and Ryan nodded, echoing the sentiment. Janna turned from her family and plunged back into the song, leaving her earthly bonds for the duration of the two and a half minute song.

As the band began the next song, Ryan watched as Janna skillfully wielded her instrument, her left hand and fingers flying over the neck as her right hand raked the strings with her favorite thick, yellow picks. All the while, her body was in constant motion. Jumping, pogoing, strutting, head nodding in time to the beat. And then there was the constant grin. A wide, happy, contented smile that betrayed her completely. It had always been part of her trademark, even in her angriest days. The joy of playing live always overcame the anger and dissatisfaction with the status quo, betraying her true nature as basically a warm, happy person.

Halley lasted through about five more songs before she tired of her confinement and needed to eat again. But not before her mother enjoyed the incredible sight of her other mother crowd surfing.

The vibe from the crowd was incredibly positive, even Ryan could feel it backstage, and after a particularly rousing song, Janna turned to Jason, motioning from herself to the crowd. He grinned and nodded, understanding her intention, and launched into a beat-heavy riff. Like a seasoned pro, Brian picked up and followed right along on the bass, providing the heavy backbeat. Janna turned back toward the crowd and with a huge grin, removed her guitar, setting it carefully against the drum platform, and stood at the very edge of the six-foot high stage, facing her happy fans. She held her arms out at her sides, letting them know what she wanted, and a sea of hands rose, offering to support her.

She closed her eyes and soaked in the positive energy, reveling in it momentarily, then slowly fell forward, onto the supportive hands, and was slowly passed along the crowd, from person to person. As she floated above the audience, she gleefully, thankfully, noted that they must be mostly gay, because they were respectfully not groping her. Not intentionally anyway. Except for the occasional baby butch, but she really didn't mind that. She made a short jaunt out into the crowd, enjoying the intimate contact with her fans immensely, then indicated that she would like to return to the stage, and they respectfully complied. Before reaching the stage again, she felt a brief instant of pure, unbounded joy, which traveled along her bond with Ryan and nearly knocked her wife over with its intensity.

As Janna landed back on her feet on the stage, she bowed to the crowd and threw her hands up in joyous victory, then turned to her wife and motioned for her to come on stage. Ryan did so, shaking her head in embarrassment, and Janna pulled her into an intense kiss. The crowd erupted, most of them appreciating the gesture, and then Janna kissed her daughter and bid the loves of her life good night.

After Ryan and the baby left the stage, Janna went to the drum platform and held out her hands, asking for Jason's sticks, which he handed her with a large grin plastered on his face. He had never stage dived or crowd surfed, but was eager to try it. And it was definitely the right crowd for it. While Brian continued to pound out the beat on his bass, Janna settled behind the drums and joined him skillfully. She watched, pleased, as Jason stood at the edge of the stage, and receiving permission from the crowd, launched himself into them. They caught him and passed him to the back of the club as they had Janna. When he returned to the stage, he was so juiced that he jumped in the air several times, pumping his fist and yelling. He looked positively straight there for a minute, pumped like some macho athlete who had just scored a winning touchdown, and Janna threw her head back and laughed with glee.

A minute later, she extended the same courtesy to Brian, donning his large instrument and pounding out the beat, again, skillfully upholding the backbeat. When she finally returned to her spot and picked up her own instrument again, she was sweating profusely and was as high as a kite, wishing she could swing from the rafters as she had once seen her friend Eddie do at a concert. She remained planted on the stage, but resumed her wide stance and pogoing, and led the band and the crowd through joyously rousing renditions of several Pansy Division songs, paying homage to the groundbreaking queer group.

Janna played on, feeling very happy to have agreed to do the show, and very appreciative of both the band and the crowd. I was born for this. The only thing that makes me happier is loving my wife and daughter. Thank you, God.

~~~~~~~~~~

Without stopping to take a breath, the band launched into a second encore, playing Janna's favorite song, the Ramones', "Highest Trails Above." Janna pounded out the swirling, chiming guitar part and felt the surge of appreciation from the crowd. She enjoyed the feeling of the solid instrument in her hands as she looked out over the surging sea of bodies and grinned widely, feeling as if she actually were flying over mountain peaks and Alpine lakes, as the song suggested.

As she played joyously, sweat pouring from her body, she felt incredibly high, enjoying a mostly natural euphoria that playing live always gave her. But here, in front of the large, appreciative crowd, the energy...the love...from the kids in the audience carried her away. She closed her eyes and left her body as her hands played on by rote and her Essence was carried on the tides of the undulating positive energy that the crowd was emitting. She felt as one with the music, with the kids, and with the Universe during the duration of the song, and when it was over, slowly drifted back to Earth.

Janna let the feedback recede into the thunderous applause and opened her eyes to see the crowd going wild. She closed her eyes, threw her head back and stretched her arms out at her sides, letting the loving energy from the audience hit her full force and flow over her body. An involuntary, huge grin lit her cute features and a laugh bubbled up from her belly. Suddenly, she was pulled into a fierce hug by Brian and she opened her eyes again to see a wondrous grin on his face. She embraced him tightly and patted his back, the instruments that hung from their necks clanging together noisily, adding more screeching feedback to the din of the room. A moment later, Jason joined them and they held each other joyously as they reveled in the sheer unbounded joy of the moment.

It was an old, familiar feeling for Janna, but an entirely new experience for the youngsters, and she let them hold onto her and rejoice in it. Then, they turned as one and faced the crowd, bowing and waving their thanks. Janna approached the mic and yelled, "Thank you, Seattle! We love you! Get home safely now and we'll see you later!" She was met by another cheer and chants of, "More! More! More!"

But after more than two hours of playing, her thirty-four year old body was exhausted and she could tell that the sheer emotion was taking its toll on her young friends, so she just smiled and waved as she moved off the stage. Two encores is plenty, people.

Her friends joined her and as they appeared backstage, Jeff whooped with joy. "You killed them! You guys fuckin' blew them away! Shit!" He was nearly beside himself with joy and Janna grinned as she nodded. She lifted the guitar strap over her head and blew out an exhausted breath as she approached her guitar case. Kneeling beside it, she picked up a clean, soft towel, and wiped down her beloved instrument before checking the strings and laying it gently in its velvet-lined case. She snapped the case closed and stood to face her friends.

Grinning widely at the young men she said, "You guys were awesome! Absolutely out of this world!" They shared a round of high fives and raucous laughter.

"Thanks, Janna," Jason replied. "But you're the one who was fuckin' awesomeÖI swear to God, you blew them away all by yourself." He shook his head in wonder.

Janna shook her head. "No way, Jase. You guys were incredibleÖbelieve me. I've been there and done that, remember? This crowd was here to see you and you guys stepped up and delivered." She graced them with an enchanting grin and then ran her fingers through her hair. "WhooÖI'm feeling good! How about you guys?"

She was answered by whoops and hollers and she threw her head back in laughter as she made her way to the snack-laden counter to grab a water bottle. Twisting the cap off, she threw her head back, downing the ice-cold refreshment. As it slid down her throat, she realized that the mild euphoria she had been feeling wasn't diminishing and she smiled knowingly. I'm high.

She chuckled and closed her eyes, letting herself enjoy the buzz as it vibrated pleasantly through her being. As it did so, it created a very familiar throbbing between her legs and she noted the pulsating need that she knew only her wife could satisfy. The feeling reenergized her and she determined that she needed to get to her mate as quickly as she could. Somehow, I don't think she'll mind taking care of this need for me, she told herself with an internal grin.

The small rocker pulled on her jacket and picked up her guitar case, and after congratulating her companions again on the fine show, she gave her apologies for taking off and left them partying backstage under the watchful eye of their slightly older manager. Then, feeling euphoric, she made her way outside the club. She nodded to the burly security guard, pushed open the backstage door, and as she exited into the night, was hit by the fine mist that blanketed the city. Janna tilted her face up into the light rain and let it cool her for a moment. As she gazed up, her slightly warped brain found the play of the raindrops in the glow of the orange streetlights fascinating. CoolÖlooks like orange spears streaking downÖBut her surging blood quickly reasserted itself and she was drawn toward her mate.

She made her way quickly through the alleyway and out onto the street, still quite busy despite the late hour. Cautiously, she made her way across the rain-slicked avenue and approached their hotel, guitar case swinging purposefully at her side as she strode along the city block. Before entering the glass doors of the hotel, she turned and looked back down the block at the nightclub, soaking in its visage. While the hundreds of clubgoers streamed out, dozens of them milled about in front, some smoking, some drinking, most laughing and talking loudly, and she smiled, knowing that she'd had a part in creating the jovial atmosphere. That's another reason why I do it. She sighed inwardly and enjoyed the warm sensation of her blood pumping through her body, contributing to the gentle, euphoric throb in her head. The after-show high isn't too damn bad either.

Janna smiled and pushed the front doors open, entering the lobby. As she made her way across the lush, attractive space to the elevators, several people yelled and waved. "Janna! Janna Norden!"

Janna glanced to her left and saw three young women waving at her. She smiled and waved back but didn't stop, so they followed her, quickly catching up.

"Janna," said a young thing with spiky brown hair, "Can we have your autograph?" Her brown puppy dog eyes were quite imploring and her friends, standing somewhat timidly behind her, had similarly eager looks on their faces.

"Sure," she replied with a smile, and set down her guitar case. "Did you see the show?" She asked as she signed their cocktail napkins with the pen she was handed.

"Oh, my God, yes! It was fantasticÖyou were killer!" The young woman squealed as she jumped up and down. The other two nodded their heads vigorously in agreement. One of the others added, "We loved it when you crowd surfed! Shit, we've never seen a chick do that."

Janna smiled warmly as she signed the other napkins. "Well, I only do it when the vibes are right, you know?" She added with a smirk, "I don't do it with frat boy crowds. I'm glad you enjoyed it." She looked each of them in the eye and with a friendly smile said, "You take careÖget home safely, okay?"

"Oh, we will, I'm designated driving tonight," replied the one with the platinum blonde crew cut. Janna nodded with approval. "Cool. Bye now."

"Hey, um JannaÖwould you like to party with us for a while? We've got some really good shit." Asked the spiky brunette.

Janna smiled again, apologetically. "No, sorry. I'm going up to party with my wife right now." She grinned and nodded toward the elevator, then with a more serious smile, added, "You be careful, okay?"

They nodded, disappointed that she wouldn't be partying with them but pleased at her personal interest. "Okay. Hey, thanks again, JannaÖthe show was awesome!"

Janna nodded her thanks and moved on toward the bank of elevators. She pressed the lighted button as she leaned against the wall between the two lifts. As the pleasant buzz continued, she sighed and thought about what awaited her up in their room, her heartbeat increasing as she saw her wife's gorgeous face and body in her mind. God, I hope she's still awakeÖI want my woman.

She ran her left hand through her sweat-damp hair and shook her head. JesusÖI haven't been this high in years. She felt the rumble as the car approached and heard it slide to a stop just before the doors opened with a, "Ding." Stepping into the empty car, she pressed the glowing number five, then leaned back against the mirrored wall, enjoying the tingling that danced through her brain and body, and the pleasant charge that was beginning to surge as she neared her mate.

The golden doors opened onto the maroon-carpeted hallway of her floor and she made her way purposefully down the hallway to the right, quickly finding her door and passing the card through the slot. The lock clicked and she pulled the handle down, pushing the door open.

The room was dimly lit, only the television providing illumination, and she could see her mate lounging on the bed. The reclining figure moved and hopped up off the bed, her form becoming more clearly defined as she approached, clad only in her underwear.

Ryan's warm, velvety voice oozed around her like honey as she said, "Baby, you're back already?"

Janna dropped her guitar case and shrugged out of her leather jacket, letting it drop to the floor as she held her arms out toward her wife. "Mm, yes. I wanted to get back to my lover." Her sultry voice, in turn, wrapped itself around Ryan and she melted into Janna's embrace.

"Well, here I am, baby." Ryan's low voice rumbled through Janna's slightly foggy brain, it's timbre meshing perfectly with the pleasant tingling, and her raging blood responded by pooling hotly in her groin. She reached up and pulled Ryan's face down to hers, capturing her lips fiercely, and pushing her against the door.

Ryan responded to the rough kiss and pulled Janna tightly against herself, her body responding automatically to her wife's desire. After a moment, however, she sensed that something wasn't quite right, not the least of which was Janna's aggressiveness, and she could taste an odd, bitter tang in her mate's mouth. She pulled away slightly and looked at her mate. In the dim light, she thought that Janna's pupils appeared much larger than they should, even accounting for the low light.

Confusion knit her brow as she asked, "Are you high, Janna?"

Janna grinned, somewhat embarrassed. "Yeah."

Ryan's brow furrowed more deeply as she suddenly felt extremely uncomfortable. She put her hands on Janna's shoulders and directed a pointed gaze at her before she took a breath and asked, "Did you smoke?"

Janna looked confused for a moment, and then concern softened her features as she answered, "No! Ryan, baby, noÖI don't do that. You know me better than that." She lifted her hand to Ryan's face and cupped her cheek. "It's just a mild contact high. The smoke in there was thick, and then combined with the adrenaline and the vibes coming from the crowdÖit produces a little high." She tried hard to focus seriously on her wife's face, though the gently throbbing ecstasy made it difficult, and she softly said, "I've told you about this, love. There's not much I can do about itÖit's part of the job." As she ran a finger along her mate's pronounced jaw line, she added, "But we can take advantage of it can't we?"

Ryan could feel the desire coming from her wife, both in waves emanating palpably from her body and coming through their link, and sighed resignedly. She leaned forward and kissed Janna softly. "I'm not comfortable with this Janna, but I love you, so if you want to make love, I will."

"Honey, we make love almost every night anyway, what's the difference? If I weren't high unnaturally, I'd be high on you anyway." She captured Ryan's lips softly, trying to convince her of her sincerity.

Ryan leaned her forehead against Janna's and sighed again. "I know, baby, and I want you really bad right now, too, but you know how much I hate drugs."

"I do too, RyanÖyou know that. But this is a fact of my life right now. It's only a very mild pot high, Ryan. Most of it is from the adrenaline rush and it's natural endorphins, and the positive energy from the crowd...it was really, really intense tonight...an awesome show. Really, love." She captured Ryan's eyes with her deep green gaze and drew her in.

Ryan gazed at her steadily for a moment and then answered her with a heartfelt kiss, which quickly deepened. After a few moments, her lips traveled down to Janna's chest, her tongue stroking her through the thin, black "Ramones" t-shirt she wore. Janna gasped at the contact and mumbled into Ryan's hair, "Me firstÖplease? I want to taste you."

Ryan moaned her permission and Janna sank to her knees, pulling Ryan's underwear down as she did so. As she kissed her wife's already slick curls, she breathed deeply of her scent, letting it fill her senses and fuel her desire. Her somewhat dulled senses were sharpened by the proximity of her wife's essence and Janna stroked her with a hot, demanding tongue.

As her wife's talented lips and tongue delivered delirious pleasure, Ryan leaned back against the hotel room door and rolled her head from side to side. "God, JannaÖ" she mumbled as she ran her fingers through her wife's short hair, encouraging her.

A short few minutes later, her strong legs weakened and buckled as a result of the passionate assault and the powerful tremors that shook her body and curled her toes, and she sank to the floor. Ryan immediately wrapped Janna in her embrace and rolled over her, kissing her way from her lips, down her chin, over her breasts, down her stomach, to her jeans. She quickly, deftly unbuttoned the fly and pulled the pants off her legs, ripping the underpants down with them and sank her face into Janna's curls.

"God, Ryan, yes!" Janna gasped as Ryan returned the pleasure.

Her hips bucked and she spread her legs, pushing her wife's head down gently with strong fingers. Ryan returned the loving gift and very shortly thereafter, Janna was moaning her name loudly. Ryan mumbled against her hot, wet, honey-sweet skin, "Shh, you'll wake the baby," and reached up with her hand, letting Janna bite down on it before she continued the passionate assault. Janna fell into ecstatic release moments later and Ryan crawled back up her body and claimed her mouth, allowing her to scream her pleasure into it while not waking the baby or their neighbors.

A half hour later, after more impassioned wrestling, they lay sprawled on the floor, resting in each other's arms, slick bodies entwined, when Janna muttered against a luscious breast, "Welcome to the world of sex, drugs and rock 'n roll, baby."

-16-


Ryan smiled in her sleep and pulled Janna closer as the dream played on.

The dark warrior's grin was feral as she faced down her male opponent, and it morphed into a deep laugh as he turned and ran, joining his retreating brethren. Joyously, she gave her war cry and vaulted up onto a wagon, sheathing her sword as she did so, and surveyed the scene of her victory as adrenaline coursed through her veins. She was surrounded by her comrades in arms, women all, and sighed happily as she noted that all of the dead and wounded on the ground were male.

"Xena! Xena, we did it!" Her friend, the Amazon Queen exclaimed as she approached the proud warrior.

The warrior smiled down at her rakishly and drawled, "Yes, we did. You've trained your fighters well, Ephiny."

The young Queen nodded her thanks and turned to face her tribe. "Listen up! Let's get our wounded to the healer's hut and then get these dead scum out of here. CooksÖready the feast!"

A cheer from her women met her proclamation, while the dark warrior scowled mildly. Had she been the marauding warlord, and she had been in the past, she would have waited for a few hours, until the tribe was sated with food and drink, and attacked again. Gabrielle and I won't be partying tonight...or sleeping. As she thought of her mate-sidekick, she wondered where she was. Not seeing her, she was briefly gripped by an icy fear, but calmed herself and reached out with her senses. Ah, there. She felt her mate's proximity through their bond and looked in that direction. I should have knownÖhelping the injured.

She watched as her small, but strong, partner helped the last of the wounded hobble into the hut, and then turned around, scanning the village for her warrior. She was well pleased to note how her bard's face lit up when she spied her warrior, and the adrenaline still coursing through her veins took on a new component as her gaze traveled down her mate's pleasing body. Suddenly, she was consumed with a burning lust, and jumped high in the air, flipping and flying through the air, landing nearly at her soulmate's feet.

"Showoff." Gabrielle grinned up at her tall partner.

"Nah. Come 'ere," she said as she wrapped the bard within her embrace. The bard melted against her strong body and wrapped her arms tightly around her warrior.

"Mm, Xena. Um, they don't know that we're, umÖ"

The tall, leather-clad warrior mumbled into her mate's hair, "They must, Gabrielle. They're not blind. They can see how you look at me, and I know that I look at you the same wayÖI see it reflected in your eyes." She pulled the bard's chin up and gazed deeply into her eyes. "I love you and I don't care if they know it." Then she dipped her head and captured the bard's lips possessively, causing all the activity in the village around them to cease momentarily. When she pulled back, she saw her own lust mirrored in her bard's clouded gaze and pulled her by the hand toward a guest hut. "Come on." Knowing eyes and smiles followed them as they disappeared into the hut together.

As soon as they were hidden within the dark hut, away from prying eyes, the warrior pulled the bard close and captured her lips again. Her mate wrapped herself around her and returned the deep, hot kiss, running her hands down a firm, well-muscled backside as she moaned into her mouth.

"I need you, Gabrielle, right now," Xena breathed as she broke the kiss.

"Yes," was the panted reply as warm, nimble hands began impatiently untying the laces on her green bodice.

She brushed the large hands away and removed the top herself, pulling it off and flinging it to the ground, gasping as a breast was captured by a hot mouth. As her lover fed hungrily on her breasts, large hands pushed her short skirt from her hips and in a few quick, deft movements, removed her briefs and boots as well. Then she was picked up bodily and carried to a soft bed in a corner of the hut, the soft, suckling lips never losing contact with her excited anatomy.

After laying her mate down before her, the warrior stepped back and quickly shrugged out of her armor, letting it fall unceremoniously to the ground, then pulled her leathers off over her head with such force that they hit the ceiling and dropped behind her. She stepped out of her own briefs, hurriedly unlaced and kicked off her boots and fell upon her partner's prone body, kissing her passionately as she thrust a strong thigh between her legs.

"Gods, XenaÖ"

"I love you, GabrielleÖ"

"MmmÖ"

As they kissed deeply, the warrior pulled her smaller mate against her so that their intimate centers were touching and lay back, turning slightly onto her side and initiating a slow grind against her. Her partner responded in kind, moaning at the rough, pleasant contact as their bodies moved against each other in unison.

They had only been lovers for a short time and had previously only made love gently, with the warrior using her skilled fingers and mouth to deliver pleasure to her younger mate, who had returned it in kind. But the young woman enjoyed the new position and moaned deeply, clutching at the blanket beneath her. As their bodies neared climax, the warrior increased the pace of their grinding, and her lithe mate followed in perfect synchrony. Suddenly, as one, they arched and cried out, the warrior's deep moan reverberating loudly out through the open window and traveling the length of the small village.

"Gabrielle..."

"XenaÖ"

They both lay gasping for breath against the rough blanket of the bed, letting the waves of satiation roll over them, then the warrior sat up, pulling the bard into her lap and hugging her close.

"Gods, GabrielleÖI needed that. Thank you," she mumbled against her lover's neck.

"Xena, gods," her bard panted, still unable to catch her breath.

"Shh. Take slow, deep breaths, love."

Gabrielle nodded and did so, finally sighing deeply as she reveled in her mate's warm, strong embrace. She let their love wash over her, as her mate was doing, and they sat entwined for a long while, until the warrior gently laid her back down and kissed her again.

They kissed softly, slowly, initiating a gentle, loving encounter that lasted well into the Amazons' feast. They were not disturbed, however, as no one wanted to die by the hands of the warrior after having survived a fierce battle with an enemy army.

Ryan was roused slowly by her daughter's soft cries and blinked as she tried to remember where she was. She felt the bed move as Janna sat up and went to the nearby portable crib, picking up their hungry daughter. When they returned to the bed, Ryan glanced at the bedside clock. 3:00. She sighed and rubbed her eyes, feeling exhausted. As she noted her exhaustion, she remembered the reason for it, and her frown was replaced by a smile. At that point she also remembered the dream she'd just had and smirked. Hm, tonight's not the first time we've been carried away by adrenaline-driven lust.

Ryan turned to face her family as Janna switched on the small lamp and began to check Halley's diaper. The baby whimpered, hungry, and Ryan leaned down to kiss her softly. "It's okay, sweetheart, breakfast is coming." She looked back up at Janna, who was rubbing tired, red eyes and yawning as she removed the wet diaper. Oh, shit. She can't feed the baby. FuckÖ

Silently, the partners worked together to dress their daughter, and when Janna sat on the bed and began to pull her t-shirt off, Ryan gently laid her hand on her arm.

"Janna, loveÖyou can't feed her."

"What? It's my turn, isn't it?" She asked, confused.

"Yes, but you've got marijuana in your bloodstream, Janna. You can't feed her."

Janna's eyes widened before her face collapsed in despair. "Oh, my God," she gasped. "You're right. I do." She looked at Ryan, her bloodshot green eyes filled with pain and she swallowed hard. "ShitÖ" She sighed and shuddered, then began to cry. "My God, I can't believe it. What have I done?"

"Janna, it's okayÖyou didn't do it on purpose. Here, let me have her loveÖshe's hungry."

Janna looked sadly down at her daughter and was consumed by grief. She handed her to her wife and began to cry harder, sobs wracking her body.

Ryan pulled her shirt off and got Halley situated, then tried to pull Janna against her side. But Janna, heartbroken and severely disappointed in herself, pulled away and lay down, facing away from her family. Her body shuddered as she cried, softly, trying not to bother the baby, and Ryan felt her pain intensely. She reached over and caressed Janna's back with her free hand, saying, "Honey, it's okayÖplease don't be down on yourself. I can feed herÖit's okay."

Janna shook her head against the pillow. "This is so wrong, Ryan. What have I done? I never should have put myself back into this position. I got stoned, for God's sake, and I enjoyed itÖnow I can't feed my baby. What kind of mother would do that?"

"Janna, for God's sake, it was an accident. You didn't try to get stoned. Stop blaming yourself."

"But I knew, Ryan. I fucking well knew it used to happen all the time, and I never even considered it, or how it would affect the baby. What an idiot! I'm a an absolute fucking idiot."

"JannaÖ"

"Ryan, please, just leave me alone." A dark melancholy settled upon the normally bright soul, aided in no small part by the wearing off of the drug in her system. Janna sighed again and let out a breath before biting off, "God damned, fucking drugs! I hate them! And I hate those kids for being so stupid and inflicting that shit on me! JesusÖ"

Ryan winced at Janna's uncharacteristic sworn diatribe, and tried, "Honey," but Janna shook her head vehemently, quieting her. She let Janna stew quietly and tried to calm herself so as not to affect the ever more sensitive Halley. A tear quietly tracked down her cheek as she felt her mate's pain, and while she shared her anger at the pot-smoking kids. Jesus fucking Christ.

Quietly, Janna muttered, "I don't write my music to be experienced under a drugged out haze. When they're stoned, they're not experiencing my music as they're supposed toÖas I wrote it. Fucking idiots. I don't know why I even try."

Ryan remained quiet, agreeing with Janna, but not feeling that she needed to hear it just then. They both remained quiet, and Halley's soft suckling sounds filled the small hotel room. Finally, Ryan quietly offered, "Janna, tomorrow I'll call the pediatrician and ask how long you need to refrain from feeding her. I can check with La Leche, too, if you want."

Janna turned slightly, so that Ryan could see her tear-stained face and quietly said, "Okay. Thanks, Ryan." She met Ryan's sincere gaze and whispered, "I'm sorry."

Ryan's own tears were released then as she said, "Honey, it's okay. It's not your faultÖin any way. You forgot about this aspect of performingÖso did I, and I knew about it. Please, we'll work it out. In the meantime, keep pumping so you can feed her as soon as you're clean again. Okay?"

Janna nodded meekly.

Ryan added, "Why don't you pump now, love? You must be full. Keep your flow going, Janna, come on."

Janna sat up and gazed sadly at Ryan, nodding her agreement, before slowly getting out of bed and retrieving the small, hand held, battery-operated pump and rejoining her loves. She pulled her shirt off over her head and dejectedly began the pumping process.

Halley, from her perch in her Momma's arms, turned to look at her Mommy and offered an encouraging, "Geck," before returning to her meal.

Janna smiled down at her baby, feeling warmed by her love and leaned down to kiss her head. She was rewarded by another interruption in the suckling, which accompanied a little smile. "My sweet girl."

"She's just like you, Janna."

"I hope not, Ryan."

"Janna," Ryan said as she pulled her wife close. Janna didn't fight the gesture and leaned against her wife. A small smile curved her lips as she felt Ryan sending her silent love and reassurances.

"Thank you, Ryan."

"De nada. I love you, Janna."

"Love you, too. So much."

A half hour later, Halley was again sleeping soundly in her crib, and her mothers slept as well, curled within each other's arms. Their friend Luna shared an extra measure of energy with them, sensing that the minor trauma would not be completely vanquished for some while yet.

~~~~~~~~~~

Janna lay sprawled in Ryan's arms as the morning gray entered their room. Ryan had been awake for some time, but didn't want to disturb Janna. She had had a rough night, and as long as the baby was sleeping in, there was no reason why they shouldn't also. She sighed as she remembered Janna's pain from the previous night. I wish she wouldn't be so down on herselfÖshe didn't do it on purpose. I would take all of her pain away if I could. I would take it on myself.

Janna awakened to the always-pleasant sensation of being wrapped in Ryan's embrace, and smiled. As she snuggled more deeply against her mate, as was her habit, warm hands began gentle caresses against her skin. Ryan's hands roamed gently up under her t-shirt, guiding her through her morning fog to wakefulness.

"Mm, that's nice," Janna mumbled against her mate's chest.

"Morning, Janna. You feel good, too. My blood's starting to wake up, baby."

Janna smiled. Nothing changes. Will there ever be a time when we don't turn each other on so readily? This is so amazing. "Same here, love. Is the baby still asleep?" She asked without opening her eyes.

"Mm, hm. Yep. Little angel." Ryan grinned.

Our angel. Whose turn is it to feed her? Oh, noÖJanna's eyes flew open as she remembered the night before and she felt a jolt of pain. "Oh, God, RyanÖlast night."

Ryan closed her eyes and sighed. "Janna, it's over. Let's get past it, okay? I'm gonna call the doctor today and we'll know more, alright?" She kissed the blonde head beneath her chin and hugged her love close.

"Okay," was the dejected reply.

Ryan could feel the melancholy creeping over her partner again. "JannaÖplease don't be so down about this. It wasn't your fault and I'm not upset with you. Halley is fineÖshe has me as a backup. There's really nothing to be so down about."

Janna was quiet for a moment, then replied, "Ryan, tell me how you would feel if it had happened to you. PleaseÖtell me honestly."

Fuck. Ryan sighed and said, "Like an asshole."

"There you go. I feel like an idiot, and am not going to feel better about myself for some time. Okay?"

"No, it's not okay, but I understand. I love you, Janna."

Janna sighed as she felt her wife's love for her embrace her soul. She squeezed Ryan tightly as she said, "God, I love you, RyanÖso much. Thank you for being so understanding."

"Like I said, I love you, Janna." She kissed her mate's hair again. "Can we have our cuddle time before the baby wakes up?"

"Sure, love. That's a good idea." She rolled off her mate and lay on her side. Ryan turned onto her side as well, and they both reached down to gently connect while their lips gently sought each other out.

They shared their love gently that way for several minutes and then Ryan intensified the encounter, feeling the need to reassure Janna. She made love to her wife so tenderly and with such devotion, that Janna had no doubt as to her wife's feelings on the matter or of her acceptance of her.

Afterward, as they lay in each other's arms in the gray gloom, Janna sighed again. Ryan's unconditional acceptance of her had raised her spirits and she determined not to let the situation drag her down any further. She turned her head and gently kissed a full breast.

"Will you be okay handling all the feedings for a while?"

"Sure, love. I'm plenty full, and her increased demand should increase my production even more. We'll be fine, Janna."

"Good. Um, you know the doctor wouldn't mind seeing us start to supplement her diet with cereal."

"I know, Janna, but he did say that she's so big that it's not necessary, and we both believe that we should keep her on breast milk alone for as long as possible. Honey, I don't see why this situation should change our routine at all, so let's not, huh?"

"Yeah, okay, Ryan. I just want the best for her."

"She's getting the best, Janna, believe me." She pulled Janna up so that they were face to face. "You're a wonderful mother, JannaÖplease don't doubt that. Please, love."

"Alright, RyanÖthank you. She's a lucky little girl, you know. She has two mothers who are absolutely devoted to her."

"Mm, hm. Kiss me again, baby and then let's catch a quick shower before she wakes up."

"Done, Ryan."

~~~~~~~~~~

Ryan turned away from the window and faced the interior of their hotel room. Janna was lying on the bed talking on the phone while Halley sat in her crib, surrounded by toys. As Janna hung up the phone Ryan said, "Janna, is that rain out there or fog? Or both?"

Janna got up and approached the window. Peeking at the bleary weather, she scrunched up her nose and replied, "Both, I think. Welcome to Seattle."

"Jesus. It's like Christmastime at home. I haven't seen the sun yet today."

"And I don't think you will, either."

"Who was on the phone, babe?"

"Joan, from New York. She said she heard from a few friends that there was an incredible punk show here last nightÖone of her old friends was in the band." She grinned mischievously.

Ryan matched the grin with one of her own. "Oh, yeah, I was there. It was incredible. The chick on guitar blew me away. She was so hot."

"Oh, yeah? Tell me more." Janna said as she wrapped her arms around Ryan's waist.

"More? Okay. She was this really hot looking blonde babe with green eyes and the cutest body I think I've ever seen." She shook her head and grinned wickedly. "Jesus, what I could do to a body like that. Really nice rack on her too. Shit."

"Mm. What else?" Janna asked coyly.

"Helluva guitar player. She could probably duel with Springsteen and come out on top. And she did this thing where she jumped into the crowd and surfed along their outstretched hands. And then she played her band mates' instruments so they could do it too. It was incredible."

"Mm, sounds cool."

"She was. So cool. I'm gonna try to become her groupie after tonight's show."

"Are you?"

"Mm, hm. I think I'm her type."

"You do, huh?"

"I do. There was this special vibe between us whenever she looked at me."

"And you think she's gay?"

"Shit, baby, my gaydar went pinging right off the scope. The instant I laid eyes on her."

"Cool."

"Way cool."

"Well, good luck with that." Janna said as she laid her cheek against Ryan's chest.

Ryan pulled her wife closer and kissed her head. "Oh, I'm the luckiest woman in the world." After a moment, she sighed and chuckled. "So, is that all Joan wanted?"

"Nope. She had a proposition for me."

"Oh?"

"Mm, hm. She's had this idea for some time about putting together a sort of all-star women's band. She's got a drummer, a guitarist, a bassist, a keyboardist and a singer lined up already, as well as a recording contract and distribution and video deals in place. She wants me to consider signing on."

"Wow, really?"

"Yep. I, um, told her that I'm not interested."

Ryan wondered if she'd heard right. "You're what?"

"I'm not interested. Not in the leastÖespecially after last night." She pulled back from Ryan's embrace and looked up at her. "I love my life the way it is right now. It's perfect. I don't want to get into music again. It's too unsettled. It's too hard to have a family and be in a bandÖnearly, if not impossible, to do right. And, I don't need the money."

"Was she really disappointed?"

"She made me promise that I would think about it. When I told her I didn't need to think about it, she said I wouldn't have to tourÖjust record with them and maybe do a few special shows and the videos."

"And?"

"No way. It would still take me away from my family too often. Ryan, I'm too attached to you and Halley right nowÖyou two are everything to me. I don't want to be apart from you for even a night."

"I appreciate that, Janna, I really do. But isn't this an extraordinary opportunity?"

"Well, yes. But I'm a photographer now, Ryan. That's what I love. And a wife and mother. I am truly not interested in being a rock star. It's way overrated."

Ryan pulled her mate close again. "Okay, Janna. I appreciate your putting us first. That means a lot to me. But let me just say, sweetheart, that you should think of yourself too. We could make it work if we had to. Just like we are now. Maybe you should give it some thought."

"Ryan, she would have to sweeten it a lot more first. Make it so I would only have a few commitments. I honestly don't see that happening. Anyway, she's in the band too, and they aren't going to need a third guitarist."

"Okay, baby. I'll trust that you'll do what's best for us all. Shit, she must think a lot of your talent."

"Yes, I think she does, but umÖI think there might be a little more to it, too. She's unattached again, and may be halfway hoping for something between us again. And, um, obviously, I am not open to that." She shrugged. "I could be wrong, but I know herÖI used to live with her and I picked up on a little neediness."

"Hmm. I may have to kick her ass for her when I see her again."

"No, honey, you will not. She didn't come on to meÖshe wouldn't do that. She's a good lady."

"She may be, Janna, but she'd better keep her distance or there's gonna be trouble."

"Ryan, Jesus, don't start going there, please. Nothing is gonna happen. I won't join the group and there won't be the opportunity for her to start wanting me again."

"Oh, she wants you now, Janna. I can see it. I can see it when she looks at you and when she speaks of you. You broke up with her, didn't you?"

"Yes, I did."

"And she wasn't expecting it?"

"No, not really."

"And all of your friends were shocked?"

"Well, yeah, sort of. Most of them."

Ryan gazed at Janna with raised eyebrows, prompting Janna to add, "Ryan, she knows how much in love with you I am. Soon after we met, I wrote her a long letter about you. I poured my heart out. She knows how completely devoted I am to you and she wouldn't try to mess with that."

"That may be, Janna, but if she loves you, she may not be able to stop herself."

"Well, maybe I need to have a talk with her then, because there is no way in hell that there will ever be anything between us ever again and if she thinks there's a chance she's sadly mistaken. I will end our friendship if she can't handle that. You mean too much to me."

Ryan sighed. "Janna, I know she means a lot to youÖyou said yourself she's like the sister you never had. I don't want you jeopardizing that. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe it's just a little bit of jealousy raising it's ugly head."

"I wouldn't worry about it, Ryan, either way. I really have no desire to join another band. I just want to finish this silly little tour and get back home to our happy life together. I honestly can't wait."

"I can't either, to be honest. But this is kinda fun, too, so let's make the most of it. Okay, baby?"

"Okay, love." She rested her head on her favorite spot on Ryan's chest again.

A few minutes later, the phone rang again and Ryan picked it up. After a short conversation, she addressed Janna. "Baby, that was the doctor. He said that you really need to wait several weeks after the last exposure, because the THC in the pot can stay in your system for that longÖeven from a contact high." She pulled Janna close and looked at her apologetically. "I'm sorry, love. It, um, looks like you can't feed her again until after we get home. He, uh, said that you have to pump religiously three times every day, too, or your milk will dry up."

"Jesus, Ryan. That kills me," Janna said as she pulled away from her wife's embrace and sat on the edge of the bed. "Fuck," she muttered quietly, under her breath.

"God, I'm sorry, Janna. But it will work out. I'm gonna make sure that you don't forget to pump and we're gonna keep your milk flowing. I'll, uh, do my part for you too, if you want." She grinned lecherously at her wife.

Janna laughed. "Oh, God, baby, that's fine with me. You do that. I'll pump at breakfast, in the afternoon and before bed, and you can suck on them whenever the hell you want to."

"I'm there, baby." She kissed her mate softly and bit her lower lip as she turned to check on their baby. "Um, do you think she'll nap soon?"

Janna smiled widely. "She's due to any time now, yeah."

"Cool."

"Way cool."

Part 9

Feedback is appreciated

Thanks for reading!

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


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