Issue 5: After the Storm

On her ride back down into Denver — a leisurely ride where she rarely exceeds eighty miles an hour — she ponders the day's activities, notes what still needs to be accomplished, and tries to recall how long it's been since she actually slept. They'll need to arrange transport of the Commerce City residents back to their homes. She's sure Old Mama and her people are caring for them; she's sure that most of them would like to be back in their own homes, however.

As she pulls into the parking lot at the Downtown Station, she looks over the fence into the employee lot. Not seeing Pablo's car could be a good sign — he might have gone home, he might be getting some rest, he might be laughing up a storm with Henry. Or it could be a bad sign — he might be out on a new case.

Well, his boss will know. And this time she's walking into the building as Ninja, not Andrea.

After taking the papers from the storage compartment, she walks through the door and waves in the direction of the officer on duty as she heads for the stairs. "Heading up to see Sanchez!" she calls over her shoulder. She doesn't recognize the guy — he looks like he's about sixteen, so she's going to go out on a limb and guess that he's a rookie. Before going up to the third floor, however, she peeks in the second floor area for Patrol officers. It's still close enough to shift change; she figures she might get lucky and find the pair she's looking for. Yep, and they look like they're about to head out. She opens the door and slips inside.

"Reynolds... Medina! A word, please?"

They appear startled and worried until they see who's calling them. Then they look at one another and roll their eyes.

"You heard Sally Banner's case is closed?" she quietly asks when they reach the nook between the door and lockers where she leans against the wall.

"Rumors," Medina replies. "Also, a directive from on high that there's to be no discussion of it."

She nods. It's probably better that way. "Okay. A reliable source is telling you that the case is closed, but the Powers That Be are probably smart to keep a lid on it."

That elicits raised eyebrows from both of them. She smiles crookedly and answers their unspoken questions. "Let's just say... if Captain Sanchez has more gray hair today than he did last week, it's probably my fault, hmm?"

"So the fact that Sanchez is not his usual quiet, calm and polite self is also your fault," Reynolds states rather pointedly.

"Quite likely," she responds, shrugging.

"We ever going to hear the whole story?" he asks.

"There are still some loose ends to tie off, but give me a few weeks and I'll come track you down on patrol some night." She pushes off the wall and opens the door to slip out again. "Don't do anything I won't do, guys," she says with a grin as she exits. As the door closes behind her, she realizes that statement has less impact after the night's and day's activities. She just shakes her head as she takes the stairs two at a time, heading up to the detectives' area and specifically to the Homicide section. There are a lot of people here now, considerably more than there were early this morning.

Damn, was it just this morning that she was here?!

Those who aren't on the phone look up, as people generally do when someone enters their work space. However, unlike the normal activity of focusing back on their tasks, they all just stare at her as she walks past.

She, of course, being the not so nice person her Librarian persona is... she smiles at them with the unnerving Ninja smile. That gets them back to work very quickly. Instead of knocking on Sanchez's door, this time she just leans against the door jamb.

"Afternoon, Captain. Got a few minutes?"

He looks up and groans. "Yes, come in. Shut the door. Did you bring antacid with your information?"

She closes the door and sits down. "You wound me, Captain. I come bearing tidings of great joy!"

Sanchez looks at her with a pained expression. "You are neither an angel nor is it Christmas."

"True on both counts, and I shall add that in order for the nativity story to accurate, Yeshua ben Yosef would have been born in the spring. That's when sheep have their lambs." She looks at him innocently.

He just stares for a moment and then shakes his head. "Why, oh why are you here, Ninja?"

She unfolds the sheets of paper, smooths them out, then places them on Sanchez's desk.

"This afternoon, Wolf and I — and a number of others — rescued eight kidnapped children being held by one William Stryker. Those..." She points to the papers. "...are the ninety two we couldn't save. Only one is from your jurisdiction, only six in total are from Colorado. Wolf has gathered electronic and hard copy data and is turning it over to her wizard to analyze. Within a few months, I should be able to collect bones to provide DNA evidence that those ninety two children were, indeed, held at Stryker's facility."

She pauses and just looks Sanchez in the eyes.

"I would be grateful if you could turn those names — and the accompanying messages — over to someone you trust at the FBI so their families can be notified. And so they can have the last message of their children."

He looks down and starts reading. After the second page, he stops reading and pinches the bridge of his nose. Without looking up, he asks, "Who gathered these names and messages?"

She swallows hard before answering. "Wolf and I did, sir."

Sanchez looks up, his eyes clouded with pain. "How could you stand it?"

"They just wanted to be heard, Captain. And what do you say when people ask you how you can stand to track down people's killers every day?" she asks, smiling sadly.

He nods. "Well put. I understand."

"The eight survivors were taken to a facility that is staffed by people Wolf trusts completely. They all needed medical attention, some more than others." She pauses, finding she needs a calming breath before she can continue. "The people at this facility have their names and are attempting to track down their families. But if you look in your Missing Persons records, I think you'll find a Jake Turner, who went missing at some point after Easter of this year. I got an image of him driving up to Cheyenne with his family to visit grandparents... I believe he's from the area around Sloan's Lake." She smiles, and it's more hopefully this time. "Perhaps a kind Denver Police detective could let the family know he's been found?"

Sanchez returns the smile. "Well, I've already sent Garcia home for the day, and technically one of the Missing Persons detectives should make the call... But if a gruff Denver Police detective would be acceptable, I'll stop by their place on my way home. Do you know when I can tell them he'll be home?"


I will ask our sibling Rene.

She grins. "I'm on hold with the Spirits." And it seems really weird to be talking to Cobra and not Raven. She must admit that Cobra is a much more comfortable Spirit to wear. And it doesn't pluck out bits of her hair either.

You're not on hold! Rene says, laughing. I needed to ask Hank how the kids are doing.

Yes. Exactly. I was on hold! she responds, laughing mentally in return.

She's warped you. You can't possibly have been this bad before you met Maddie.

Oh, yes, brother-in-law of mine... I was. Now how's Jake?

Hank says he's the least injured of them all. However, he'd like to keep him under observation for a week or so, just to make sure there's no lasting damage. And our kind and compassionate friend extends an invitation to the family to come visit young Jake... he will even provide transportation.

"The doctor out there would like to keep him for a week," she tells Sanchez, "to make sure he's not hurt more than is apparent at first glance... which is not much to my eyes," she hastens to assure him. "But I'm not going to lie to you, Captain. Stryker was doing some despicable stuff out there, so Hank wants to make sure Jake hasn't suffered any lasting damage. I don't doubt he'll have some nightmares, but if that turns out to be the worst of it... well." She shrugs.

Then she smiles as she glances to the side where Rene leans against the wall of Sanchez's office. Rolling her eyes at him, she says to the Captain, "Jake's family is welcome to out to visit him, however. The director would be happy to send transportation to pick them up if they'd like to see him immediately." She looks at the pictures of Sanchez's children on his desk. "I suspect they might have some interest, yes?"

"That's an incredibly generous offer," Sanchez replies. "If they decide to accept, who should they contact?"

They can call Charles directly. He takes a piece of notepaper and a pen from the desk and writes down the phone number. Sanchez's eyes grow large as he sees paper and pen moving on their own, sees numbers being written by an invisible hand.

She sighs. "Rene!" she says with exasperation. "Do you have to do that?"

I believe so. It is Halloween, isn't it? Don't you Americans have all sorts of ghostly events on Halloween?

"Jacobs?" Sanchez asks tentatively.

She rolls her eyes again. "Yes. Consider it a Halloween prank."

Sanchez relaxes and shrugs. "Better than having my house TP'd, I suppose."

She looks from one man to the other... one of whom only she can see. "I suppose you have a point." But... back to business. She does want to get home eventually. "About those other names you have...?"

I'll be going, Rene says, also more seriously. In addition to helping Hank — to the small extent that I'm able — I am trying to find ways to reconnect with my son. It's... difficult.

He's a good person, Rene. This is a shock to him. Give him time. And trust that everyone in your family wants what's best for everyone in your family.

He mentally harrumphs. I can't decide if that's the Navajo woman speaking or just the Buddhism you absorbed.

Just my heart speaking to yours, brother.

"The one I alluded to this morning is being watched very carefully," Sanchez says as Rene disappears. "The other three have been picked up. They've all got at least a dozen outstanding warrants; it was helpful to get current addresses for them."

"How long can you hold them?"

"Two of them are likely going to be held until hearings can be set since some of these warrants are for felony charges. The other one..." He shakes his head. "...forty eight hours, tops."

"Hmm. Which ones are which?"

He pulls the paper she'd given him that morning from his shirt pocket and unfolds it, then sets it on the desk between them. "This one," he says, pointing to one of the names, the one he'd circled earlier, "we're watching. This one..." He points to another name on the list. "...will be out on the streets in a day or two."

She nods. "I'll have some of my friends keep their eyes on these two. I don't expect things will go well when they hear the Commerce City mission was a bust."

He raises an eyebrow as he puts the paper back in his pocket. "Dare I even ask who you're going to get to watch them?"

"You can ask. Although, I have to say that Garcia never asked any questions for which he didn't want to know the answers," she says with a smile.

"Well, if I find the answer more than I bargained for, I'll follow Garcia's lead," Sanchez says. "Although he was your friend long before you started doing... this," he adds, indicating her attire.

"True. Well, at night, generally the stray cats are my best eyes around town. During the day, there are birds, stray dogs, rats, squirrels — not reliable witnesses, as you might imagine — more cats. Prairie dogs in some neighborhoods."

Sanchez stares for a moment, then blinks. "I may just leave you to deal with Garcia in the future."

She chuckles. "I think that will work out just fine in most cases, especially now that we don't need to talk in circles about this stuff anymore. However, for big problems like this?" She shrugs. "You need to be involved, and it's easier to chat with you directly than to go through Garcia."

He sighs and closes his eyes. "May this be the last big problem involving the City of Denver," he says fervently before opening his eyes again.

She stands and walks to the door, resting a hand on the door knob. "I'm going to agree with you there, Chief, and not because I don't love our chats. Big problems interfere with my day job." She sighs. "And I happen to actually like my day job an awful lot. Let me know if there's an FBI agent you think is trustworthy, okay? Just text me later."

He nods. "I need to do some checking... see who's still in the Denver field office."

"No problem, Chief," she says as she opens the door. "You know how to find me."

This time, as she walks through the unit, all eyes seem to be glued to the work in front of them. She grins as she heads out the door to the stairwell and is still grinning happily as she exits the building and walks toward her bike.

And that concludes the business portion of today's program, she thinks. She pulls out her personal phone and speed dials Pablo.

"Please tell me you're on your way home," he says as a greeting.

She laughs. "Henry driving you crazy?"

"What do you think?"

"I think Henry is driving you crazy. Did you buy candy for the beggars?"

"You mean trick or treaters?" he asks.

"Potato, potahto. Is that a yes?"

He sighs with exasperation. She's not sure if it's directed at her or her cousin. It could be both of them at this point. "Yes."

"Great! Due to various events of the day, I think the usual suspects will be staying home and not coming to Denver to cause mayhem. I'll actually be home to see the little beggars this year!"

"How soon?" he asks desperately.

She chuckles. "Five to ten minutes. I love you."

"Feel free to break all the traffic laws, just this once, with my blessing. I love you, too."

She disconnects and slips the phone back in her pocket. Oh well... no camouflage fun at the store to pick up candy. She straddles the bike and starts it up.

Homeward bound it is!

Henry must have arrived right after all her neighbors had driven off to work this morning, as the rental van is parked right in front of the house. Pablo had thoughtfully pulled into the driveway as close to the house as possible, leaving her plenty of room to maneuver around the car without running through Bobby's now fully harvested garden on her way into the garage. Since she hadn't bothered to put her helmet on, it's a relief to see neither Bobby's nor David's cars anywhere. Bobby's kitchen windows are still closed. No one is home next door.

After shutting the bike off, after the garage door has fully closed, she continues to sit for a few minutes. This has been a difficult day in many ways, and the coming evening is going to be difficult in entirely different ways. She has her hair completely unbraided before she even gets off her bike. And still she hesitates.

Coyote will ensure that your cousin is on good behavior this evening. There was little Coyote could do to stop your cousin from tormenting your Mate.

Poor Pablo. He could really use some help besides that slightly useless Aztec demi-god of his.

Cobra chuckles. As your Mate, he is entitled to a guardian. We will discuss among ourselves who should have that honor. As with the Elder, there may be many volunteers.

Are you kidding? she asks with surprise. Why?

Because he is the Mate of our Warrior. He is honored for his strength, and his courage, to spend a lifetime with the Warrior.

Cobra doesn't sound the least bit sarcastic. Yeah, well... I am a pain in the ass at times, and I suppose it would take strength and courage to put up with me.

As she gets off the bike, Cobra squeezes her waist as it flickers its tongue over her face. You purposefully mistake my meaning, Warrior. To spend a lifetime as a Warrior's Mate, one must be a Warrior in their own right. I believe you are... what is the word that you use? Cranky?

She sighs as she removes her staff from its holster, but then takes several deep cleansing breaths. You're right. I'm cranky. I'm emotionally exhausted, and Taiji doesn't seem to help as much for that condition as it does for physical exhaustion.

You need a sweat bath!

She chuckles as she walks to the door to the breezeway. Or just a hot shower and sitting with my husband's arms wrapped around me.

Cobra sways its head back and forth, watching her as she walks toward the house. Yes, that might be sufficient.

She shakes her head but grins as she opens the door into the kitchen.

"Honey, I'm home!"

"We're in here, Andi," Pablo calls from the living room. She's fairly certain she's the only person who would catch the faint tremor of stress in his voice.

She walks through the kitchen into the living room — her normal activity when coming home from her second job as she needs to go through the living room to get to the basement door. Both Pablo and Henry are sitting on the sofa, the television is turned on and a random basketball game is lighting the screen, Coyote is pretending to sleep under the coffee table. She looks between the two of them, then steps over to Henry and slaps him on the back of the head.

"Hey! What you go and do that for, Andi? What did I do?" he asks, attempting to sound innocent.

"That's for trying to drive Pablo crazy."

She steps around the table to the other end of the sofa to kiss Pablo's forehead. "Let me get changed and I'll sit with you," she whispers in his ear. "Peace will enfold us."

"It wasn't my fault, Andi! Coyote..."

"Oh, no, you don't, Henry Yazzie!" she says, shaking a finger at him. "Cobra assures me that Coyote was not able to keep you behaving in an appropriate manner."

Pablo's eyes are wide as he looks at me. "Yeah, about that... you seem to have a very large snake as a belt."

"She does?" Henry asks, confused.

She looks between the two of them, slightly confused herself. "Uh, what's under the table, Pablo?"

"Huh? There shouldn't be anything under the table, Andi. You hate clutter."

She notices Henry bend over to look under the table, then he sits back up with a look of embarrassment. She gives him a look that says, You might want to change your story, before looking back at Pablo with a smile.

"Just humor me, okay?"

Pablo shrugs then leans over to look under the table. He sits up so fast, for a second she wonders if he's going to continue moving backward and fling himself over the arm of the sofa.

"Andi? There's a... dog or wolf or something under the table. How did it get there? When?!"

Still a bit confused, she says, "No, no... that's Coyote. It's probably been there since Henry got here."

Except for the periods of time I needed to keep my charge my ransacking your house, yes, Coyote says.

Henry, having heard his guardian Spirit, looks even more embarrassed.

The rest of us should not become visible to you, Warrior? Raven asks from its perch atop the television set.

"Andi?" Pablo just points at Raven.

She sighs.

Yeah, heard and not seen seems to be the best idea right now, she replies to Raven.

"I'm going to guess it's because of our Bond and the fallen veils, but we won't know for certain until tomorrow." She brushes his cheek with the back of her hand. "Don't worry about it. Let me put my staff away and get changed, then we can sit and chat. Have dinner. Watch a movie. Act like normal people. Sound good?"

Pablo takes her hand and kisses her palm. "I like that idea."

Coyote is staring at Henry, who nods vigorously. "Oh, yes! Normal and well-behaved people."


She puts the staff away and gives Henry the stink eye as she passes back through the living room toward the bedroom. Raven has disappeared — although she still senses its presence, as well a Fox, Lion, Alligator and Opossum — and Pablo is watching the basketball game with an intensity that is not normal for him. Trying to avoid looking at Henry... that would be her guess.

You'll need to find somewhere else to be so I can shower and change my clothes, she says to Cobra as she sits on the bed to pull off her boots.

Unfurling from around her waist, Cobra curls itself in the middle of the bed. This is a nice place to nap.

She chuckles as she puts the boots in the closet. And it's my favorite place to sleep, so you'll want to take that into consideration when deciding how long you're going to nap.

Oh, merely as long as it takes you to return to your Mate.

She shakes her head, emptying the contents of the vest pockets onto her night stand. She pulls the vest off and inspects the damage. Damn. She should ask Mama to make her another just so she has a spare. She really doesn't feel like spending the two hours, minimum, it's going to take to repair it. She sighs again.

Just then, Pablo walks into the room. He looks at the vest in her hands, holes in the back obvious since that's what she was looking at when he walks in. Then he looks at the shreds of her shirt. Finally, he looks at her face, then closes the door behind him.

"Andrea, what the hell happened?" he asks softly, although the worry in his voice is loud and clear.

"Got shot. No big deal. Well, except that I have to repair my vest and have another ruined shirt," she says sadly.

"No big deal?" He steps closer to her and touches the shredded bit of her shirt over her abdomen. "Andi, to tear up your shirt like this, you had to have been shot multiple times."

She looks down at the shirt. "Well, Hank did say it looked like I was attacked by a pair of scissors. The back probably doesn't look any better."

"Andi. This isn't a joke. This is serious."

She drops the vest on the bed and wraps her arms around his waist, resting her head on his shoulder. "I know, Pablo. But it's how I deal with things, okay? And I'm fine. Please try not to worry so much."

His arms wrap around her and he rests his cheek on her head. "You know I can't help worrying, love. So... are you going to tell me what happened?"

"The parts about getting shot, or the whole sordid tale?" Gosh, she has really missed this. Aren't they supposed to be on their honeymoon? Well, their unofficial one anyway.

"I'd like the whole story, but I suspect the bit about getting shot is probably going to be the worst part," he says, holding her tightly. "Anything else will be less worrying, right?"

"Well... Maybe? Probably." She closes her eyes and hold him tightly as well. "I only got shot twice. Both gut shots. The first time, I took a bullet meant to kill someone else. Better me than him, I was thinking at the time. The second time, it was three of us against... two dozen, I guess. Wolverine and Wolf took most of them out. When Wolverine dropped, I was able to take out a few with my qi blasts. There were only three left, Wolf was nearly down, one of them noticed me. I dove to the side, and I moved fast, I promise. But the guy must have been a telepath because he aimed for where I was going and not where I was." She shrugs. "I fried his face before he could turn his attention back to Wolf."

Pablo is silent for long minutes, continuing to rest his cheek against her head, running a hand through her hair. It's almost as if he's trying to reassure himself that she is, indeed, fine. "How do you stand it, Andi?" he finally asks, his voice barely more than a whisper.

"Only hurts for a minute or so, honest, Pablo. It's the itching that's the worst part."

"That's not what I meant. I mean the killing. How can you so calmly talk about frying a man's face off?" He's shaking and she's so worn out it's hard to tell if it's from fear or from anger. It's probably both, she admits to herself.

She leans back so she can look up into his eyes. "Is it any different than you mention that you shot a man's knee to keep him from escaping?" she asks. "I use the weapons at my disposal. I was already on the ground and the only shot I had was a head shot. Would you rather I not speak of it at all, Pablo? You did ask what happened."

The pain in his eyes in intense, but he shakes his head as he brushes strands of hair from her face to tuck them behind her ear. "I'm not sure what I want, Andrea. I want to know what happened to you, but hearing such gruesome detail is more than a little disturbing."

She smiles softly. "Because you keep thinking I'm just your Andrea, the sweet librarian. You haven't seen me work enough to realize I am Ninja, the Diné Warrior. What I do is more soldier than police officer. You fight crime. I fight in a war."

"Is it really a war, my love? Isn't it just crime on a greater level?"

She raises a hand to his face and brushes her fingertips down his temple and cheek, down his neck to rest on his shoulder. "There is small evil and there is large evil. When fighting the greatest evils, I'm afraid it is always a war, my beloved."

He sighs. "All I ever dreamed of — from the first time I saw you — was a normal, happy life with you at my side, Andrea. That's not going to happen, is it?"

"Normal? No," she says with a smile as she shakes her head. "But happy? Oh, that, Pablo... That I will insist upon!"

"Well, two out of three ain't bad," he says with a chuckle, before kissing her.

After a few moments of eternity, she looks back into his eyes to see the pain starting to recede. "I need to shower and change, and I know it will take less time if you go pretend to watch the basketball game with Henry. I believe he'll be somewhat better behaved now that he knows I can see and hear Coyote."

"Mmmm... I'd rather help you," Pablo says mischievously, as he nuzzles her neck.

She laughs. "Yes, I know. But I promise you can help me later."

"Help you do what?" he asks with a chuckle.

"Oh, I'm sure I'll be able to think of something," she replies with a grin. "Now go... I'll only be ten minutes. Then we can have dinner."

"If your cousin hasn't eaten all the food again," he says, rolling his eyes.

"I told you he's going to behave. Now, scat!" She gives him a nudge toward the door as she giggles.

"I have plans for you later, Andrea Yazzie," he says with a wink as he leaves the room, closing the door behind him.

She smiles to herself. And she can't wait to find out what those plans are... although she's sure she can guess.

She finishes undressing, tossing the shirt in the trash, the leather pants beside the vest to be checked later, and everything else in the hamper. A hot shower with all the wall jets set full on is enough to wash out the stress of the last few days. It feels good to have clean hair, too. Rather than spending time drying her hair with the blow dryer, she simply towel dries it and lets it hang loose. It will dry on its own eventually. She heads back into the bedroom, pulls a clean pair of jeans from the shelf in the closet and a DU sweatshirt from another, then gets dressed. There's no need to bother with shoes.

Would it be acceptable to join you again, Warrior?

She looks at the bed where Cobra is still curled, visible once again. "Sure. Why not? But why so friendly? Not that I mind, of course. It's just a big change from Raven's torment."

The greater siblings will decide who best will suit you as an additional guardian. I have little to offer, I enjoy our energy, and would like to stay until the veils rise again. Once they rise, I will not likely have the chance to enjoy your company until there is another Dance.

She opens the door as Cobra wraps itself around her waist again, then she heads back to the living room. Swiftness is an excellent trait, and decisiveness is nothing to complain about either. I acknowledge that I sometimes do over-think things. And you don't try to pluck my hair out like Raven does, so that's a big plus. I think it's making a nest of my hair.

That is a possibility I would not rule out with sibling Raven.

She walks into the living room, around the coffee table — under which Coyote still rests — and sits on the sofa beside Pablo, snuggling close.

"Um, your hair is still wet, Andi," he says, trying to keep the mass of it from getting his shirt damp... and failing, of course.

"Ah, you're the most excellent detective of all, Detective!" she says, giggling.

"And you still have a snake wrapped around you."

"What? But Cobra's gone invisible. How do you know it's still there?" She looks at him suspiciously.

"I'm a detective, remember? The most excellent one of them all, in fact," he replies with a grin. "I can feel it when I wrap my around around you, silly."

"Hey, Andi, how's that possible?" Henry asks. "I can only see Coyote. I think I remember seeing others when I was a kid, but none lately except for Raven when it was having that staring contest with Coyote last night." He eyes Pablo. "What's that hombre got that I ain't got?"

She looks at Henry and grins... Ninja's grin. "Pablo has a marriage bond with the great Diné Warrior. You have anything that can compare with that?"

He glances at Coyote. "Nah. I got nothing. Okay, maybe I have jealousy, but that's about it."

She leans forward and pats his knee. "Trust me, Henry... you wouldn't want to be the great Diné Warrior, and you wouldn't want to be married to her even if she wasn't your cousin."

He looks at Pablo skeptically as his cousin settles back against her husband. "Yeah, maybe, Andi. But Pablo there, he looks like one happy hombre... seems like he doesn't mind being married to the great Diné Warrior."

She looks up at Pablo and smiles; his eyes are twinkling with merriment. For now, the hard part of their relationship has been pushed aside. For now, he has his Andi in his arms, and he can pretend — for a little while — that they have the 'normal' he dreamed about.

Looking back at Henry, she says, "Well, he needs some sort of consolation for being the Chosen One of the lunatic Aztec demi-god Quetzalcoatl. Which reminds me..." She looks back up at Pablo. "You wouldn't happen to know anything about your ancestral pest's Mirror, would you?"

"He has a mirror?" Pablo asks, confused.

Andi reaches up and pats his cheek. "I wish you'd paid more attention in History class, love. Don't worry, most of the library's Aztec, Mayan and Incan collections have been scanned and are available online. Well, for those of us who know how to find them."

Pablo groans. "This has something to do with all the shit that's been going on lately around here, doesn't it?"

"Tangentially, I suppose. It has more to do with what was going on out in Idaho Springs."

"And I don't want to know about that, right?" he asks.

"No, not at the moment."

"Good. Let's have dinner and watch a movie, and pretend to be normal people," Pablo says. "Although... the snake is making it hard to pretend we're normal."

"It's Cobra, not Snake. Related, true... like Raven and Crow are related. But not the same."

"My apologies, Cobra," he says, as if speaking to invisible reptiles was the most ordinary thing in the world. "I didn't mean to offend."

Your Mate is very polite, Warrior. Please assure him that I have not taken any offense. Like Raven and Crow, my cousin and I are often seen as interchangeable by those who do not know us well.

She smiles at... well, at the whole situation. "Cobra took no offense, dear."

Pablo just nods. "Ahhh... hey, why don't I just go out to the kitchen and get dinner? Salads, and I ran out to Willy's Wings and bought an extra large order. Staying warm in the oven." He slides out from behind her, gets up and heads towards the kitchen.

"Oooh, Willy's Wings! What a great idea!" Andi says happily. "We haven't had those in forever. Or at least a month."

"Yeah, Pablo told me about these chicken wing things when he got here. I don't see what the big deal is," Henry says. "Chicken wings are chicken wings, right? Well, except for the sauce on them, but wings are still wings."

"Ah, that is where you are so very wrong, my dear cousin! You have not had chicken wings until you have had Willy's Wings!" She just grins at him, a silly and goofy grin.

Pablo returns with plates, a roll of paper towels, glasses and a pitcher of water, setting it all carefully on the coffee table before heading back into the kitchen.

"Okay, Andi. I'll take your word for it." He pauses for a moment. "Hey, how's that nice girl, Mitch? You think she'd like to go out with me?"

"Hmmm. I don't know, Henry," his cousin replies, shaking her head. "I have a feeling she's more likely to pull her gun on you. I suppose you could ask her, but..."

"Who's pulling guns on who?" Pablo asks as he returns with the salads.

"Whom. Sorry. And, one of Wolf's friends, Mitch. She'd probably pull a gun on Henry if he asked her out."

Pablo nods. "I like her. Would she shoot him, do you think?"

"Ah... no, probably not," Andi admits. "Well, unless Henry got overly friendly."

Pablo sighs. "Too bad," he says, heading back to the kitchen.

"I don't think Pablo likes me, Andi," Henry says sadly.

"I think you drove him crazy this afternoon, Henry. He's had a rough couple of days. You kind of deserved that," she says, shrugging.

"I don't mean to make people crazy, Andi. It's Coyote!"

Henry Yazzie, you stop blaming me for every little annoying thing you do! Yes, yes... some things might be my doing... but most of it's on you, my Little One. Coyote stares at Henry from under the table.

Andrea giggles.

"What's so funny?" Pablo asks as he returns with a large bowl of chicken wings, and an empty bowl for the bones. He sets the bowl of wings in the middle of the table and the empty bowl beside it then sits down beside Andi again.

"Oh, just Henry and Coyote."

Pablo looks past me to Henry. "Think Coyote would bite his leg off?"

If my little one does not behave more respectfully toward the Warrior's Mate, I might gnaw on his foot.

Henry sits up with both feet tucked under him, watching Coyote cautiously. "Uh, hey there, Pablo... I'm really sorry for being such a pain in the backside this afternoon. It, uh, won't happen again."

I lean against Pablo and say in a stage whisper, "Coyote offered to gnaw on his foot."

Pablo tears into a wing, eating most of the meat off it before speaking again. "Do you think Coyote would mind if I hung your cousin by his ankles in your tree out back?"

Andi manages to finish off a wing and drops the cleaned bone in the bone bowl. Coyote comes out from under the table and sits across from them, looking back and forth between Henry and Pablo.

If I did not truly believe your Mate will need a more powerful Spirit than I, Warrior, I would offer to be his guardian, and argue well for the privilege. He is quite worthy of my attention. But in these times when the Shadow again rises, he would do well to have the protection of those who seek to guard the Elder.

"I've just been dissed by my own guardian Spirit," Henry say, stunned.

Pablo just looks at Andi, curious.

She pours herself some water and take a long drink before saying anything.

"Well, Coyote is impressed with you, Pablo, and would offer to be your guardian Spirit if you didn't need one with a higher pay grade."

"I need a guardian Spirit?" Pablo asks, definitely suspicious. "Don't I have enough problems with Q? I see how crazy Raven makes you. No thanks. One lunatic around me is plenty."

Before she can speak, Cobra becomes visible again. "Please, Beloved of our Warrior, do not judge us all by the actions of one. Raven has had its reasons for behaving less than..." Cobra's head swivels to the spot where Raven sits, still invisible, then back to Pablo. "...less than rationally. But there are dark times ahead, and we fear that your Guardian has been absent from this plane for too long, and no longer understands the world of man. If we are wrong, it will do you no harm to have one of the more powerful siblings watching over you in addition to your Guardian." Cobra swivels its head to look at Andrea. "After all, our Warrior will have an additional sibling to guard and guide her."

Pablo looks between Coyote and Cobra, then looks at his wife. She can see the stress in his eyes, the point where 'normal' is completely flung out the window and they need to embrace the 'crazy'. Then he looks at Henry before pouring a glass of water for himself and taking a sip. Picking up another chicken wing, he says, "I accept your apology, Henry. Don't ever do it again." Glancing at Andi, he asks, "So what movie were we going to watch?" And then he continues eating his dinner.

Oh good. They're just going to pretend the crazy doesn't exist. Yes indeed, sometimes, it's just easier that way. She opens the drawer in the table and pulls out the remote... switches the system to pull movies from their recorded collection on an external hard drive... and scrolls to her favorite movie.

She grins as the opening credits of Monty Python and the Holy Grail being to roll and puts the remote back in the drawer. Henry groans. Andi doesn't know what's wrong with her cousin-twin, but for some reason he does not find this movie as hysterically funny as she does. Pablo nods. "Good choice," he says before going for another chicken wing.

And so they spend the evening with a normal sort of crazy, the sort of crazy only the cast of Monty Python can provide. Henry offers to clean up and put things away after they've finished eating... she's not going to turn down the offer.

When the movie is over, and all the cleaning up has been finished, Henry quietly says, "Hey, you know, I think I'm just going to read a good book and get some sleep."

"You brought a book with you, Henry?" Andi asks from her very comfortable position leaning against Pablo.

"Nah, but you have a bunch of books up in your spare bedroom. I thought I should read one. Is Jane Eyre a sexy book?"

She snorts. "Henry, pick one of the John Grisham novels. I promise you'll be happier with them."

"Okay, Andi... good night. Good night, Pablo."

"Good night, Henry," they say in unison.

They sit quietly for a few minutes. It's still before midnight; the veils have yet to rise.


"Yes, Pablo?"

"We didn't get any trick or treaters."

"Hmm. You're right. The little beggars are probably so used to nobody being home here that they naturally avoid it. And Bobby's house is a beacon in the darkness anyway."

"I thought one or two might stop by," he says with disappointment.

Coyote peeks out from under the table. "We kept them away. Did we do wrong, Beloved of our Warrior?"

"I like Halloween," he says softly.

Coyote bows its head. "We will not make this mistake again. Will you forgive our ignorance?"

Pablo nods, but I can feel his sadness and disappointment.

We could make amends, Warrior, Cobra says. This seems very important to your Mate, and we have deprived him of joy. Would you allow us to make amends?

How? She knows... oh how she knows. She's more than a little suspicious. She blames Raven.

As simple as bringing beggars — as you call them — to your door. Have no fear. It will only be my siblings. Cobra moves back from its resting place on her shoulder and looks her in the eyes. We would very much like to do this.

She can't help but smile. Sure. Go for it.

A moment later, the doorbell rings. Pablo looks at the clock and draws his eyebrows together in concern. "Ten o'clock really is too late for trick or treaters," he says.

Andi leans forward so he can get up. "Go answer the door anyway."

He opens the door and she can see a long line of Spirits going down the stairs, across the walk, and down the sidewalk past Bobby's house... and even beyond. The First People have a lot of guardian Spirits, after all.

Monkey is the first one in line. "Trick or treat!" it says, bouncing up and down, and grinning broadly.

Pablo looks at Andi, confused.

"They're apologizing, silly. Give them your candy," she says with an equally broad grin.

Pablo smiles and gets the bowl of candy he'd set on the table near the door, and hands a candy bar to Monkey.

"Thank you, thank you!" Monkey says, then leaps over the others to run down the middle of the street, whooping for joy and brandishing the candy above its head. Thank goodness only Pablo and I can see and hear these goofs.

All of the Spirits larger than a candy bar come to the door, very politely say "Trick or treat!" and thank Pablo for the candy he gives them. Within a couple of minutes, he's grinning from ear to ear and Andi gets up to stand beside him as the Spirits come visit their home. It seems Horse is the last, but just as Pablo begins to close the door, she hears a familiar voice call out, "Wait, wait!" and Cat comes running up the stairs. "Trick or treat, good sir! I apologize for my tardiness, but as the Warrior can tell you, I have been concerned for my own Warrior and her Mate."

"Uh, sure... no problem," Pablo says as he hands Cat a candy bar.

"Thank you, you're very kind. I don't suppose I could impose upon you for a second one? I would like to give one each to my Warrior and her Mate." Cat looks at the fun size Snickers bar in its paws. "This is a very difficult thing to share between two adult humans, I'm afraid."

She grins and Pablo chuckles. "You're absolutely right about that. It's difficult to share between two human children... I think it would be impossible to share between two adults," Pablo says. He lowers the bowl so Cat can see the contents. "Choose what you think your Warrior would like."

"Oh, my... I haven't known her that long, but... Oh! This one is pretty! I hope she likes it!" Cat looks up at Pablo. "Thank you, that's so good of you. I hope I get to visit you again! I have to go now, though!" Cat dashes off into the night...

And she shakes her head, smiling. "I'm sure Wolf will like whatever Cat brings her."

Pablo closes and locks the door, then sets the nearly empty bowl on the coffee table. "Wait. Wolf is Navajo?"

Andi takes a deep breath and nods. "She is now. I adopted her into my clan as my sister. The other Spirits seemed upset that Cat had taken such a liking to her, what with Wolf not being Diné. So. I have a sister." She turns off the lights in the living room and takes Pablo's hand.

"I'm very confused by all this, but right now... I don't care," he says, bending down to kiss his.

"Let's go to bed, husband," she whispers against his lips as the kiss momentarily ends.

"An excellent idea, beloved wife," he says as he scoops her up in his arms. "I love you, Andrea."

It always makes her giggle when he does that. Well, after the first time that startled the heck out of her. "I love you, Pablo... always, and with all my heart.

# # #

The remainder of the compound has been walked, everything that needs to be seen has been seen, and everything that needs to be loaded in the truck has been loaded. Mitch has been given directions on where to take everything once she is ready to hit the road. Masterson and his people have gone back to where they came from, Ninja is off to take care of her things and the Spirits left with her, even Rene. Now it is just the two of them standing before the door she had come in.

They still have the pickup, an old blue and white Ford that had been driven from Commerce City. Its owner no longer has need of it. Logan leans his arms on the bedrail and looks around. He is not saying anything, but there is a certain tenseness to him. Thumbs hooked through belt loops, Madeline approaches him.


He turns, his eyes shadowed.

"We should get going. We can talk or whatever when we're away from here. Did you want to drive?"

"Don't know where I'm going," he says as he turns away.

"Does it matter?" she asks with a shrug and holds out the keys. "We drive up into the mountains and get lost for a while."

He turns back, looks at the keys, looks at her. After studying her face for a long moment, he takes the keys then opens the driver's side door. When he makes no move to get in, she slipped by him and climbed in, scooting over to the center seat. Turning to face him, she raises her eyebrows in question. He hesitates again before getting in and starting up the truck.

"Are you…"

"Yes," she interrupts.

He backs the truck out and gets it turned around, and they head out. When they reach the small town south of the mine, she asks him to stop at what looks like a general store. He waits for her in the truck, and when she comes out twenty minutes later with a bag in each hand, an employee follows her with two packs. Protective instincts flaring, Logan starts to get out of the truck.

"Just put them in the bed there," she tells the teen.

The boy sets them in the back but hastily goes back in the store, Logan's stare scaring him. Madeline puts the bags on the floorboards and climbs back in, pulling the door closed. "We should fill up the tank before we leave town. Go further that way."

He grunts assent and makes the short drive to the gas station. In addition to the full tank, she comes out of the attached convenience store with water and food. She has a feeling they will not be headed back to the cabin or the hotel tonight. He gets them back on the road, and with no further directions coming from her, follows where his instincts lead him.

They end up heading southwesterly down Colorado 103 as it runs along Chicago Creek and through forested land. One oh three turns south, then easterly, then south again toward Echo Lake. He slows and sniffs then pulls off the road into the woods. It's a bit of a jaunt down a fire road then into the trees. He parks and shuts down the engine. Without a word, she exits the truck with the bags and pulls the packs from the back. He is out and coming around the truck as she finishes packing the last of it.

"I thought you might want to head further in," she says, standing up and offering him one of the packs. "We've got enough to weather an overnighter or two."

He takes the pack and shoulders it. He waits until she has shouldered hers as well then offers her his hand. They walk at a steady pace, not pushing hard but constantly moving. There are no words exchanged as they go, but they also never lose contact. He picks the way through the trees with an eye to them always being side by side. They finally stop when they come out on a ridge overlooking a lake.

After taking in the view for many minutes, he turns to her finally. "Madeline?"

"Yes, Logan?" she answers, meeting his eyes.

"What happened while I was gone, and..."

He reaches out with this other hand and touches a finger through the middle rent in her shirt. "...this. I..."

"What happened there is not on you," she says as she places her hand on his and steps closer, pressing his palm against her abdomen. "And this was my choice. I knew the ripping of our bond would bring you back."

"But at what cost?"

"I knew I'd get back up, but I guess there is some cost. We are Mates, but what is between us was weakened. We must rebuild it, strengthen it."

"Are you sure you want to?"

In response, she presses her lips to his in a kiss. He hesitates briefly before responding. It starts out chaste enough, but Madeline's patience only goes so far.

Breaking the kiss, she tells him, "It seems you need reminding what kind of woman your Mate is."

She slips her hands from his, drops her pack and begins tugging his shirt from his pants. "Now stop thinking with your brain and feel what's between us, Wolverine."

His pack thuds to the ground and he wraps his arms around her, his kiss desperate and needful. She aggressively bites his lip causing him to growl and drop them both to the ground...

Later, the tent is pitched in the clearing they found, and their gear is stashed inside. She doesn't mind sleeping out under the stars, but she knows how cold it can get past sunset up here in the Rockies. A much more relaxed Logan sits in the 'doorway' facing out, looking down the mountains and over the lake. Madeline snuggles up against his back, arms around him, and dusts soft kisses on his shoulder.

"Mate?" he asks.


"What were you looking for on the Other?"

"The scars I used to have."

"And they were there. I remember them... on you. There were many, all over. Mostly they were the marks worn by a soldier, but not all."

"No, not all. But all of them are only a memory now, much like that life I lived before and the things that caused them."

"You dream of it still."

"I do, but not often."

"Did you ever tell your husband what happened?"

"I didn't have to. He saw the place after I was no longer there. He knew what was done. Then, when I was in the hospital, he would sit by my bedside and use his gift to give me good dreams."

"He was a good man."

"Yes, he was."

"He is a Nation's Spirit now, guarding you."

"Guarding us."

"You and the children."

"No, you and me. We are his priority. Because of our shared bonds between the three of us."

She waits as he falls silent for a time.

"When you died, I felt..."

When his words falter, she supplies her own. "As if your heart was shattered and your soul was being shredded, and you would never be whole again?"

Hearing the experience and pain as she speaks, he shifts to face her. "That is what you felt when Rene died?"

"Yes. You know the agony I was in when I came to find you."

"I knew but... I didn't understand it until now."

She smiles sadly. "I'm sorry for that. I wish there had been another way..."

He reaches up and brushes the hair from her face. "Don't be. You did what was necessary... How did you know?"

"How did I know what?"

"That I would kill you."

"I didn't, but knowing how Stryker operated, it seemed like it had a high probability. Knowing I'd get back up afterward made the risk more than acceptable."

"It pushed me into the animal state. I could have struck at you again."

"I knew you wouldn't."

"Why do you have such faith in me?"

"I love you. You love me. We are Mates."


"Do you remember when you first came to me bothered by the things you were remembering? You were worried because the things you had done were... not very nice."

"They weren't. They aren't."

"Do you remember what I told you?"

"That what you did wasn't either."

"It wasn't, and it isn't," she says, then adds with a smile, "We're something of a matched set I'd say."

"That could be dangerous for the world," he says with a smile of his own.

"No, just for anyone who crosses us."

He captures her lips with his. "I love you, Madeline."

She arches an eyebrow. "Show me how much?"

He grins and tumbles them back into the tent.

# # #

She's used to having birds making a joyful racket outside her bedroom window... and waking her up.

She's used to Bobby rummaging around in her kitchen and humming his little tunes... and waking her up.

She has quickly gotten used to Pablo's hands sliding over her body... and waking her up.

But clattering and clanking and a string of curse words in English, Spanish, and Diné Bizaad... this Andrea is not used to. She rolls over and looks at her alarm clock. Either she needs glasses — which she does not and never will need — or it's only four fracking thirty in the morning. It's probably a good thing Pablo's hearing is less acute than hers. Waking up this early because her cousin is crashing about the kitchen would not make him happy.

She carefully slides out of bed so as not to wake Pablo and grabs her robe before slipping out of the bedroom. She walks into the kitchen, still tying the belt, and stares at Henry. It occurs to her that he's not going to know she's staring at him since he hasn't bothered to turn on any lights — that could explain the excessive amount of noise — and the sun is only beginning to think about rising. She flips the light switch.

Which startles Henry, causing him to scream like a girl.

And drop her cast iron frying pan on his bare foot.

Which causes more swearing accompanied by a peculiar dance where he holds the affected foot and hops up and down on the other.

Causing her to grin ever so broadly.

He finally stops dancing and leans against the counter, still holding his foot. He's also stopped swearing, and is merely whimpering and whining with his eyes tightly closed. After a few moments, he slits his eyes open and looks at her.

"One, you are an evil woman, cousin. This much light so early in the day is dangerous for humans. Two, you are an incredibly evil woman, cousin. Taking such joy in my suffering is against your super duper rules."

"I would not be shining lights in your eyes or taking joy in your pain — which is not against any rules, by the way — if you were not making a racket in my kitchen, thereby waking me up.

"What the hell are you doing, Henry?"

"Making breakfast."

"In the dark."

"Yeah, I always make breakfast in the dark."

"Of course you do, Henry. In your own home, with which you are familiar. Why do you think you can make breakfast in the dark in my house?"

"Because... I can make breakfast in the dark at my house?"

She looks at him, just a blank stare, for a minute... she doesn't really know, maybe it's longer. Then she shakes her head.

"Sometimes I can't believe we're related, Henry."

I find it amazing as well. Good morning, Warrior.

"Good morning, Coyote. Do you think you can do something about him?"

"Hey, Andi... you can see Coyote?"

She looks at Henry like he's just lost his last brain cell. "Um, yeah. Duh."

"Are you supposed to be able to see Coyote? I mean, it's not Halloween anymore."

She shrugs. "Henry, I don't know and it's too early in the morning to care. I assume if one of the Spirits wants me to see it, I'll see it. Now put my frying pan away and sit down at the table." Andi waits until he does as she's asked before walking to the refrigerator and taking out a carton of orange juice and the leftover coffee cake Bobby had dropped off... wow, completely lost the sense of time... Tuesday, she thinks. She takes the foil off the coffee cake, pops it in the microwave, and starts it warming up. In the meantime, she gets a glass from the cabinet and pours some orange juice. After returning the orange juice carton to the refrigerator, she brings the glass, a knife, fork and napkin to Henry.

The microwave dings and she removes the plate, then carries that over to Henry as well.

"Plate's hot, don't touch it," she warns.

"Yeah, but you touched it, Andi. Carried it all the way from the microwave."

"Yeah, but my fingers are made of Teflon, Henry."



She goes into her office and boots up her computer. If she's going to be up this early... and it certainly appears that she is... she might as well get some work done.

What's up with Henry, Coyote? He always this crazy in the mornings?

This behavior is fairly normal for mornings he does not spend at his own home. If I understand correctly — and I cannot guarantee that I do, Warrior — there is some compulsion he is under to arrive at the nearest airport prior to the departure of the first airplane to which he owes his loyalty.

Ah. That makes sense. He flies stand-by.

I'm glad you understand it, Warrior. It is slightly more arcane than I find comfortable.

Do you actually go on the planes with him as he claims?

Oh, by the Great Spirit, no! Obviously, if he had dire need of my assistance, I would be at his side, but those things are powered by a magic that I do not trust.

Hmmmm. Yeah, a lot of humans feel the same way. As I understand it, the magic is similar to that birds use to fly.

But these airplanes of his do not flap their wings!

Well, no... not in the same way a bird does. But airplane wings do have flaps that can move up and down. I don't think I could explain it properly, but I did take a physics class where the professor explained it very well... to the point where I mostly understand what's happening and can trust the airplane to fly properly.

Interesting. Perhaps one of my other charges will take such a class and I will experience this understanding you have come to know.

She smiles at Coyote. Understand that I'm not saying this because my passion is teaching and helping others to learn... but I think attending classes when your others charges are learning important things might be interesting. It could even be fun. She heads back into the kitchen.

I will consider this, Warrior. Thank you for this advice.

"Andi, you talking about me behind my back to Coyote?"

"Self-centered much? No, we're talking about aerodynamics and education."

Henry stares at her for a minute before finishing his orange juice. "I love you, Andi, you know I do... but man! You are really weird."

"Coming from you, Henry, that's a compliment. So why are you up and having breakfast so early?"

"Oh, I need to be out at DIA with the van returned by six thirty. The first Southwest flight is at seven thirty."

"Okay." She walks over and take the dirty plate, glass, and utensils and puts them in the dishwasher. She spritzes a paper towel with spray cleaner and wipes off the table, then tosses the paper towel and used napkin in the trash.

"I'm really glad you could make it, Henry. You and Coyote absolutely made a big difference in the last thirty six hours. You have a keen talent for driving people crazy, but you have a good and very large heart, and you helped a lot of people. So... thank you, cousin-twin."

Henry gets up and walks over to her, trying very hard to look serious. The serious look doesn't last long, and he grins as he hugs her. "Thanks for thinking to ask for my help. Most people don't, you know."

She hugs him back, as hard as she dares. "I know. No one takes you seriously, Henry." She pats his back. "Except maybe your cousin-twin... sometimes. Now come on! Let's make sure you get to the airport on time, okay?"

Andi walks him to the front door where his duffel already waits.

"Hey, I borrowed a couple of your books. How come nobody ever told me before that this John Grisham person writes interesting stuff?"

"Probably because you don't go to libraries often enough. And that's fine, Henry. I don't suppose I'll ever see those books again, will I?"

He glances at Coyote before looking at her with a smile. "You might, Andi."

She nods. "However it works out... that's just fine. You think you could do me a favor, though?"

"What's that, Andi?"

"Own up to your own goofiness. Don't blame everything on Coyote."

His eyes open wide in surprise. "What? Admit I'm crazy?" He's grinning, though.

"Yes. Admit that you're crazy. It's quite refreshing."

"Okay, Andi. If you say so."

"I do. Now skedaddle... you want to make it back to Phoenix with enough time to move rocks, don't you?"

He picks up his duffel as she unlocks and opens the door. "I sure do! Rocks are lazy... they don't like to move themselves!"

She chuckles as he walks down the stairs and out to the rental van, then closes and relocks the door. Then she heads to her office to begin her research.

It seems like only minutes, but it's actually a couple of hours later when she hears the alarm go off in the bedroom. She's had enough time to research this Tezcatlipoca character and repair her vest. She gets up and walks to the next room, closing the door silently behind her as Pablo slaps the snooze button. Andi is fairly certain the first two times he hits it, he's still fully asleep. She slips her robe off and slides back into bed beside him.

"Morning, my love," she says, nuzzling his neck. "Are you going to work today?"

"Hmm, is it safe for me to stay home?" he responds, very sleepily.

"As long as you don't open the door to a patrolman to be named later."

"Kay, then. Nope. Staying home."

"Good." She reaches over to turn the alarm off completely. "I'm just going to stay right here, then, until Wolf calls."

He opens his eyes for a second or two, then pulls her close and wraps his arms around her. "Hmm. Better not call 'til noon. I need sleep. And you."

Andi rests her head on his shoulder, so comfortable and safe in his arms. "I'm all yours, husband. Sleep. I will be right here when you wake up."

# # #

By morning, their bond has not only been rebuilt but is stronger than it has ever been. It wraps around them and flows through them, present in their every look, every word, every touch and is strengthened by all of that. It had grown in strength even as they slept, entwining around each other as they had rested.

He wakes as dawn brightens the sky and touches the mountains. Without disturbing her, he pushes up to one elbow to watch her in sleep. Her face is soft in repose, and a faint smile curves her full lips. Her breathing is deep and even and steady with the rhythmic rise and fall of her chest. Her olive skin is smooth and unmarred by any mark, just a light dusting of freckles across her nose and cheeks.

He chuckles as a memory comes to him, and she stirs.

"What is funny, Logan?" she asks as she slits her eyes open at him.

"Just remembering something you said about raising kids."

"Oh? What was it?"

"How it's like being in a battle. Sudden silence is never a good thing."

She smirks. It's a true statement. "Yeah, it always seems to precede a sudden shit storm. What brought that up?"

"Thinking about kids."

"Kids in general or ours in particular?"

He freezes for a moment, attention turning inward. "Emelia and Vincent?"

She nods.

"And Leon, Rene's son."


"They are probably worried."

"They don't know. It was only a day, and I'm sure Charles has been keeping them occupied."

"Charles... bald man, wheelchair."

"Yes. A lot of it's still jumbled isn't it?"


"Maybe Charles can help. He's had experience with that sort of thing."

"I don't know. I think I just need to let everything settle."

"Sight or scent might help. They left some things at the hotel. And there is stuff of Leon's at the cabin from when he was small."

"We should head back then."

"It's still early. We have a little time."

He smiled at her look.

The sky is much bluer and brighter by the time they climb into the truck again. The packs are tossed in the back, and their bit of trash is in a small bag on the floor board. Logan is behind the wheel again, his right arm draped around Madeline's shoulders. Once they're motoring eastward along 103, she pulls her phone out of a pocket. Cat appears on the seat beside her.

"Hello, Warrior mine," it says.

"Good morning, Cat," she replies.

Logan bends his head forward and glances at it before turning his attention back to the road.

"How is your Mate?"

"Much better. Thank you."

"Good. I have brought you... Trick or Treat."

And from only it knew where, it produces a pair of candy bars.

"Okay. Um, thank you..."

"The Spirits played beggars for Raven's Warrior and her Mate. I thought you and you Mate would enjoy the Treat."

She chuckles and looks down at the candy. "Merci, Chat."

"You are Welcome, Warrior. Do you mind if I stay a while?"

"Feel free."

Cat gives her a pleased look, walks in a circle once then curls up against her leg.

"I'm going to check in with Andi. Let her know we're still alive and kicking," she tells Logan.

"Oh, she knows," Cat pipes up.

"It's an expression, Cat."

"Oh. Never mind then."

Logan just smiles.

She pulls up the number from her contacts list and hits call.

# # #

Andi feels tickling little taps on her ear, waking her from sleep again. "Stop!" she says with a giggle, as she moves her hand to brush Pablo's hand away from her ear.

Warrior! You must wake up! An enemy approaches!

She is immediately awake, realizes Pablo is still sleeping with his arms wrapped around her and looks at the clock. Except they seem to have knocked it off the table. Again. Well, from the ambient light, it's probably just past dawn.

Warrior, please!

She looks up to see Opossum sitting above her head on her pillow, reaching again for her ear.

Opossum? What's wrong?

Oh, please! The enemy approaches your home. He intends to harm you and your Mate.

She's already sitting up and gently shaking Pablo's arm. "Hon, wake up. Danger."

His eyes fly open; he's immediately awake but doesn't move.


"Trying to find out."

Raven appears, standing on the cedar chest at the end of the bed. "One of the small things in the great foe's army approaches with the intent to kill you both. He has one of those." Raven points with one wing to Pablo's gun.

"How long?" Andi asks as she heads for the bathroom and Pablo begins pulling on his clothes.

"Only minutes," Raven replies.

"Fuck, if he plans to shoot, I don't have another shirt to lose. I'll take the first shot, you take him out when I drop," she calls to Pablo as she brushes her hair into some semblance of order.

"Andrea, are you out of your mind?" Pablo says as he's checking his gun.

"No. Do you have an old shirt you don't care about?"

"What? Yeah, take one of my t-shirts from the left side of the drawer. Andi, I don't want you getting hurt."

"I won't be getting hurt... well, not for more than a minute or two," she replies, putting on an old t-shirt from a band she's never even heard of. "First line of defense, love. Teamwork. I can take hits you can't. That's how we worked it out yesterday... Wolf and Wolverine can take hits I can't, so they led and I followed." She grabs her jeans and pulls them on. "How long, Raven?" she asks as she pulls up the zipper, tucking the t-shirt in.

"He is getting out of his car. It is in front of the building on the other side of your good neighbor."

"Okay, a minute... two max. Pablo, I'll stall him. Unless he comes in shooting. Then just try not to get brains on my walls, okay?" Andi kisses his cheek, and heads towards the door, but he grabs her arm and pulls her in for a proper kiss.

She smiles when he releases her, but she shakes her head. "Battle is generally not the best time to be making out, my love," she says. "Go turn on the shower," she adds as she leaves the room.

"Any time is the best time to kiss my wife," he calls after her. But she hears him moving into the bathroom as she goes into her office and shuts down her computer. And tucks the repaired vest in a file drawer.

The doorbell rings. She glances back towards the bedroom as she pads barefoot out into the living room.

"Yes, dear," she hears Pablo say softly. "I'll be right here, out of sight until the time is right."

Andi is very glad he remembers her hypersensitive hearing.

She opens the door and smiles brightly at the blond, blue-eyed individual wearing the uniform of a Denver Police patrol officer. She glances at his name badge; she is not surprised by the name. He's the only one of the four people whose names she gave Sanchez that isn't in jail at the moment. He's standing casually, thumbs tucked into the waistband of his uniform pants — a very normal and ordinary stance for pretty much anyone out West.

Her watchers were obviously not going a very good job if the Spirits had to warn her of his approach. Or, she surmises, they saw the uniform worn by many of the people with whom she associates, and believed him to be no threat. She inwardly sighs.

"Good morning, Officer Grondahl. How can I help you?" His aura is filthy with hate; she's surprised he's managing to keep his disgust for her off his face. But she supposes those in the Knighthood are better trained than those in the Brotherhood.

"Come looking for Detective Garcia, ma'am," he says politely. "Captain Sanchez sent me to fetch him. I guess the Captain couldn't reach him by phone."

She displays a puzzled frown as she glances at the phone across the room. "Well, that's more than just a little strange. I haven't had problems with the phone service before." She shrugs and turns back to Grondahl with a pleasant smile. "Do you want me to pass a message along to the detective? Or do you need to speak with him?"

"It's a rather sensitive matter, ma'am. It would be better if I spoke to him directly," he says.

"Of course, of course! I understand." She opens the door wider. "He's still in the shower, but should be out in a minute or two. Why don't you come inside and wait?"

"Thank you, ma'am," he says oh so politely.

I need to turn my back on this scum to make this look natural and keep him from being suspicious. You'll warn me if he decides to shoot me in the back, won't you? she asks the Spirits. She's seen Opossum and Raven and senses others. And that's all very odd. Generally, only Raven is around. She's not going to spend energy figuring out who's here, however... not when she needs to keep a watch on Grondahl's aura.

We watch, Warrior, Opossum replies from the back of the sofa.

Good enough. She allows Grondahl to enter her home — and she does not like it — then turns to close the door behind him. Once the door is closed, she turns back to him, very pleased not to have been shot in the back.

"Would you like a cup of coffee or glass of water while you wait, Officer?" she asks politely, walking towards the kitchen.

"Now why would I want something offered by a shifty God-hating heathen Injun cunt like you?"

She turns to face him; not all of the shock and surprise on her face is feigned. In fact, most of it is pure, unadulterated shock and surprise. She's been called a lot of things, and a lot of really nasty things, but she's pretty sure this guy just won the prize for the nastiest thing ever said to her.

"I think you need to leave now," she manages to say.

"Hell, no. I hear your spic boyfriend and his spic boss are tight with that fucking bitch mutant that's making life miserable for my boss. Getting rid of them will make this a better world. Then I'll get rid of her."

Sometimes, she's just amazed by the irrational stupidity in this world. She hears the water in the bathroom shut off... um, okay, the evil one has yet to draw his weapon, but... damn it, Pablo, aren't you supposed to be ready to shoot this fucker?

Also... what kind of rational response does a person make to a statement like that?

"I... I don't know who your boss is..." Ha! Yes, she does! And he's dead, neener neener. Okay, now she's just being childish. "...but shooting police officers sounds like a pretty stupid idea, and trying to kill a super is just plain idiotic." She backs up into the kitchen area. Cleaning tile is so much easier than cleaning hardwood floors.

He slowly pulls his gun from his holster and points it at her as he says, "Are you calling me stupid and an idiot, bitch?"

See? This is what happens when people don't parse sentences correctly. They hear what they want to hear, and come to false conclusions. And the fact that he's pointing the gun at her head does not make her happy.

"Uhm... no." This just isn't going to get better, is it?

"That's sure what it sounded like," he says, taking a step closer.

She needs to hold her ground, or Pablo isn't going to have a shot. Yeah, she could take him out herself, but the hassle of the paperwork! Plus... the point of Taiji is to disable just to the point she's no longer in danger. Breaking both his arms would do that. And then he'd sit in jail for a while, then be out on the streets again looking for people to kill, Pablo and Sanchez in particular. Sometimes the concept of extreme prejudice is highly rational. Lately, she's actually become a real fan.

"No, no... definitely not what I said."

And if you'd actually listened, you'd know that I said your ideas were stupid and idiotic, dumbass. Of course, now I'm convinced you are, too.

She waves a hand at him, at his gun. "Could you not point that at me. You're starting to freak me out."

"Do you think I give a shit?" he asks, rhetorically she assumes. But he does lower the gun as he takes another step closer. Great. Looks like her spleen will be splattered again.

She relaxes when he lowers the gun. Although he doesn't show it outwardly, he is puzzled. Well, she supposes that she'd be puzzled, too, if she were the one holding a gun on someone and moving closer to them... and then they suddenly relaxed as if they had nothing at all in the world to worry about.

"That was a rhetorical question, right? You don't really want me to answer it?" Yeah, she can't help it. She turns into a smart ass in situations like this. She's working right now, and the smart ass Warrior can't keep her mouth shut. And she's not really a fan of guns being pointed at her, even if it isn't a kill shot.

"You know, you have some serious problems, squaw," he says, now grinning... no, not evilly... more like insanely.

Squaw??!? Oh, dude... you are so dead.

"Not half as many as you do, douche bag," she replies, smiling sweetly. Hey, as long as the gun is not pointed at her head or her heart, she's good. She might actually be able to survive a shot to the heart, but she'd rather not test that theory without plenty of medical personnel on the scene.

That's when he shoots. She suspects it was the douche bag comment... it's a little too much for him. She slides to the floor, in a hellacious amount of pain, and feels Cobra wrap itself around her legs.

Swiftness, Warrior?

Oh, that would be great, yes. Not so fast the healing makes me nauseous, though, okay? Yeah... itch from hell starting. Good job.

"That's going to be a slow painful death for you, bitch," Grondahl laughs.

"Oh... probably not," she responds with a smile.

The light colored t-shirt is not collecting nearly enough blood. A bullet wound to the stomach at close range would probably bleed more than this. He seems downright perplexed by the scarcity of blood. Also, he seems unnerved by the fact that she doesn't seem to be in as much pain as she should be.

Actually, she's starting to feel pretty good.

As he takes aim again — this time at her head — Pablo calls from down the hall.

"Hey, asshole."

Asshole turns to point his gun at the voice down the hall. He stops and his arms seem to float out to his sides and the gun skitters down the hall in Pablo's direction. Asshole gives the impression of dropping to the floor almost in slow motion — with a bullet sized hole in his forehead.

"Dumbass. You should have known Garcia is an expert marksman... best in the Department," she says to the dumb and idiotic dead man. This world in slow motion thing is a little unnerving, however.

"You okay, Andi?" Pablo asks.

"Yeah, will be in a few. Bring me a clean shirt, would you, dear?" she asks. "The story I'm currently making up for Bobby won't hold if I'm wearing a blood soaked shirt." Okay, blood soaked might be an exaggeration, but there's still a blood stain and a hole. She starts to sit up and grins when she realizes her legs are trapped.

Cobra, my wonderful friend, I need to sit up. The Spirit moves only enough for her to get purchase on the floor so she can scoot herself upright. The itching is crazy awful still, but that means everything is healing just fine. She pulls off the bloody t-shirt and notes that her skin is as smooth as always... not even a scar that sometimes lingers for an hour or so. Well, Cobra did offer swiftness.

"I like that look," Pablo says, with a grin that she would call lecherous on anyone else's features, as he drops the clean shirt on her legs, then hands her a warm, damp washcloth. "Figured you might need that."

She wipes the blood off her midriff, then hands the washcloth and t-shirt back to him before leaning forward. "I can't tell where the exit wound is... can you clean my back?"

As he wipes the blood off her back, he asks, "How long do you think it will be before Bobby's pounding on the front door?"

"A minute, maybe two or three if we're really lucky," she says as she pulls her polo shirt on. "Toss the t-shirt in the trash where I put my work shirts, okay? And do you want me to call 911, or do you want to call your people yourself?

"And Cobra, please... I need the use of my legs."

"Cobra's still here?" Pablo asks, surprised.

"Yeah, I can't explain it, and don't have time to figure it out." As Cobra moves up to wrap itself around her waist, she stands and glances out the window. "Here comes the Tsunami," she says, then looks at the asshole on the floor. "Whoa, hand me the washcloth again!" When he does so, she wipes the blood smear off the wall, then points to the bullet on the floor. "Evidence... it has my blood on it, but I have no blood on me. That's going to be weird. Get rid of the shirt. Police... you or me?"

"Wrap the washcloth around your arm, we'll say you were shot there. I texted Sanchez already, but you get to deal with Bobby."

She wraps the damp cloth around her forearm, just below the elbow, and tucks the loose end in just as the pounding starts on her front door.

"Andi! Andi, are you alright?! Open up, Andi!"

She steps over the asshole, rolling her eyes as she approaches the door. Holding her 'injured' arm across her stomach where the actual injury had been — resting on Cobra, incidentally — she opens the door and just looks at Bobby.

"You know, rushing over to someone's house when you hear gunshots is probably not a brilliant idea, you dork," she says affectionately, feigning weariness. "You should just call 911 and hide in the basement."

"Oh, my God, Andi! You're hurt!" He covers his mouth with both hands and looks like he's going to start crying.

She tugs on his arm with her 'good' hand and shuts the door behind him. "Go sit down before you faint, Bobby. And I swear by Harvey Milk that it's just a scratch," she says, nudging him towards the sofa. Of course, that's when he sees the dead asshole, and screams.

Pablo comes from the bedroom with Neosporin and a large Band-Aid and stands inches from their hysterical neighbor. "Bobby! Get a grip, or I'm going to have to toss you out the front door or slap you silly. What's it going to be?" Although not as angry as he's pretending to be, Pablo is a bit annoyed.

Bobby clamps his hands over his mouth again, then sits on the sofa as far away from the dead asshole as possible.

Pablo watches his every move, then steps over to give Andi a soft hug. "Let me take care of that, sweetheart," he says as he turns them both so he can continue to glance at Bobby over her shoulder... keeping her non-wound from being seen by Bobby at the same time. Ah, her clever Pablo! He carefully unwraps the washcloth and pretends to inspect her injury. "Oh, that's not so bad, Andi... I probably didn't even need a big Band-Aid for it. Does it hurt?"

"Hurts less than a paper cut," she answers honestly as she watches him pretend to spread the ointment on her arm. "I told Bobby it was just a scratch!" Pablo looks over her shoulder at Bobby and shakes his head as he peels open the bandage wrapper. He applies the bandage, then wraps his arms around her.

"I'm just glad you moved as fast as you did, love. That was quick thinking on your part." He pulls back and looks into her eyes. "You're okay otherwise? You're not going to faint or start screaming like Bobby, are you?"

"Not so much quick thinking as clumsiness, I'm afraid. And I'm fine. Really. How long have you known me?" Andi smiles, recalling that the night they met had been only slightly less traumatic than having a dead body on my floor. "I am fine, Pablo. I promise."

He kisses her forehead. "Okay... I just worry."

"I know. You don't have to. At least, not right now." She glances at the dead asshole and makes a face. "How long is that... thing... going to be in my house?"

"I called 911 before I came over!" Bobby exclaims before placing his hands over his mouth again.

Pablo just stares at him for a moment before turning his attention back to Andi. "I talked to my Captain, and he's going to come over here personally and handle this, okay?"

Andi nods. "Okay. I trust him."

"Something like this could take hours, though, Andi. And there's going to have to be a big investigation because I shot him and killed him, instead of just trying to incapacitate him." He looks at her closely. "You understand, right?"

She nods again, meeting his eyes. "Yes. It could get messy."

He holds her close and whispers very softly, "I don't know how closely they'll inspect the house; you need to get Ninja's things out. Can you do that?"

She kisses him on the cheek. "Yes, I know," she says with a smile. "And I love you, too."

She can hear sirens coming closer. She isn't sure what kind of message Pablo sent Sanchez, so she doesn't know if that would be the Captain getting closer, or the patrol Bobby called. Or even both. If it's Sanchez, she has time to do what needs to be done. If it's not, she needs to hurry. And she also has another problem, given the time of day. She bites her lip and looks up at Pablo. "Do I have to talk to a dozen people about this, Pablo? Can't I just talk to Captain Sanchez?" She shifts her eyes towards the front windows; he could probably hear the sirens by now, too.

He pulls her close again. "Oh, honey, no... listen, why don't you come sit in the bedroom until the Captain gets here. I'll deal with everything else." Pablo wraps an arm around her shoulder, and turns her toward the bedroom, but pauses to look at Bobby. "You... do not move." They walk down the hall, avoiding the dead asshole, and Pablo closes the bedroom door behind them. "What's the problem with talking to the patrol officers?" he asks, clearly puzzled.

"Oh, aside from the fact that I know half the patrol officers in the city because of the not librarian job? No problem at all." She starts making the bed; they didn't exactly have time to straighten up this morning. "I am most familiar with the officers who work the midnight to eight shift." She glances at the clock as she picks it up off the floor, then walks toward the closet to get Ninja's things. "So there's a darn good chance I know whoever is responding to Bobby's 911 call.

"There's a chance the majority of them won't make the connection," she continues, putting her leather pants and repair kit in the bag with her shredded turtlenecks and the t-shirt she'd been wearing not that long ago. "However, there are a few of your patrol officers who should have made detective years ago. In Wright's case, he doesn't want the job... but the others?" She shrugs.

"Wright? Jim Wright?" Pablo asks, surprised.

"I don't think I ever asked him his first name, dear... but he says he knows you." She hands the bag to Pablo. "I met him the first night I ever went out on patrol. I run into him and his partner of the month every few weeks. The vest is in the bottom file drawer in the office. Make sure you grab that, too."

Pablo takes the bag absently. "We were good friends... he and Denise and I. We drifted apart after I made detective," he said sadly. There's also a trace of guilt in his voice.

Andi rests a hand lightly on his arm. "It wasn't after your promotion, Pablo. And it wasn't because of your promotion, either."

He looks at her for a moment, then sighs. "Denise."


"Do you think..."

"Yes, dear," she interrupts him. "He probably would like to hear from you again. Now can you take that and put it in the cubby downstairs I showed you when you moved in? Put my staff in there, too. Thank you. Just tell everyone I'm lying down." She kisses him again, then opens the bedroom door. "Siren is at the end of the block... you need to hurry."

After closing the door behind him, she sits down on the bed and tries to relax, doing circular breathing with her eyes closed. She hears a knock on the front door and, after a moment, Pablo opening it and saying, "Morning, Captain. Hey... Wright. Been a long time. Come on in."

"Yeah, kinda missed your ugly mug, Garcia," Wright says, "but that Super you work with gossips about you sometimes. Looks like you've got yourself a dead body here. And one of our own."

"And who would this be, Detective?" asks Sanchez.

"This is our neighbor, Bobby Tompkins. He called 911," Pablo replies.

"Ah, the concerned citizen and panic dialer," says Wright. "Tell you what, Mr. Tompkins, why don't you step outside and give your statement to my partner, Officer Tryon?"

Tryon, eh? Last month, it was Casler. Andi... Ninja... thinks DPD uses Wright to train the rookies and weed out the ones who just aren't going to work out. She doesn't hear Bobby say anything, but she recognizes the tread of his feet across the floor.

"Wright, why don't you get Garcia's statement while I speak with Ms. Yazzie." That was more an order than a question or even a request.

"Sure thing, Captain." There's a slight pause... footsteps begin to head her way, then Wright continues, "Okay if we sit down while we do this, Garcia? I know you would have had a good reason for shooting a brother in blue... but I don't really want to look at the evidence, you know?"

Whatever Pablo says is covered by the sound of a knock on the bedroom door.

"Come in," she says, hopefully loud enough to be heard.

The door opens, so obviously she did speak loudly enough. She doesn't need to open her eyes to know Captain Sanchez is worried.

"How are you doing, Andrea?" he asks as he closes the door.

She opens her eyes and looks at him, then shrugs. "Okay. Glad I heal up as fast as I do."

"I saw the name badge. I saw a bullet on the floor. What's the story?"

"Official, or unofficial?" Just then, her phone rings. She glances over at her phone and sees the caller ID, then she sighs. "Do you mind if I get that, Captain?"

"No, no... go ahead."

She reaches over and picks up her phone and presses talk.

"Hi, Maddie. You and Logan okay?"

"About a hundred times better than we were when you last saw us. We're headed back to town from the Echo Lake area. I just wanted to check in with you. How's things there?"

"I'm glad to hear that, I was worried about you guys," she says. And then she sighs. "Oh, pretty good except for the dead body in my hallway and a DPD patrol officer who knows a mutual friend just a little too well. And I need to tell Captain Sanchez ALL about it.

"Dang, the Echo Lake area must be gorgeous this time of year."

Captain Sanchez gives her a look.

"Um, the Captain is a busy man. Would you like me to meet you somewhere later?"

"It was, and I'll call you. Not sure if we'll be up on the mountain or not. I expect to hear the details as well. Give the Captain my regards."

"Ah, you will... and I will." She glances up at Sanchez, not smiling... but she knows there's a glint of wicked humor in her eyes.

"And please don't leave me with these people for too long," she begs.

"I just don't know what I might do," she concludes with a fairly good Deep South accent.

"Try not to have vapors. We'll be in touch."

"I'll do my best. Hablamos más tarde." She presses disconnect, sets the phone back on the nightstand beside her other two, and looks back at Sanchez... more serious, perhaps looking and sounding a bit weary.

"Wolf sends her regards," she says, smiling faintly. "So did you want the official story first? It's considerably shorter."

He leans against the wall with his arms crossed. "Why don't you tell me what Garcia is telling Wright first."

She raises an eyebrow. "Really?" Then she shrugs. "Okay. Probably something along the lines of... we'd just gotten up and were getting dressed, the doorbell rang, I went to see who it was, maybe he heard some talking and maybe he didn't, but a few minutes later there's a shot, he grabbed his gun, saw somebody pointing a gun at me, yelled at him, shot him when he turned."

"Uh huh. And your story would be...?"

"Similar. Except when I open the door, there's a DPD patrol officer standing there. He asks to speak to Pablo... says you sent him because you couldn't reach him by phone.

"Me? I think this is a little odd, but I suppose it's theoretically possible for both house phones to be turned off, and maybe we were sleeping so soundly that we didn't hear his cell phone. I asked the officer if I could just give Pablo a message, but he said it was a sensitive matter. I figured, well, sure, police business and all that. It makes sense.

"I invite him in, offer him some coffee or water while he's waiting. I'm walking into the kitchen area anyway, because even if he doesn't want any coffee, I sure as heck do. But he says something extremely insulting and racist and sexist." Andi pauses, biting her lip. "Do you need to know exactly what he said? Because it was really foul."

"It would be helpful," Sanchez says, nodding slightly.

She takes a deep breath and lets it out slowly. "Okay. He said, 'Now why would I want something offered by a shifty God-hating heathen Injun cunt like you?' I... all I could do was turn around and stare at him, probably gaping at him. I mean, who says that kind of stuff? And a Denver Police officer?" She shakes her head. "I couldn't believe it. No one has ever said anything so hateful to me before, not even that nasty senator's son.

"That's when I told him he should leave. He said he wasn't going to leave, that he was going to kill Pablo and you, because... um, well, he called you spics, and then he was going to go after one of the Supers that you two work with. And he pulled out his gun and pointed it at me!"

She shudders, as an average, normal person in that situation might do. "At my head!" She says, eyes wide. "I was just shocked! I tried to get behind the counter, but I tripped... I guess I was lucky that I tripped, though, because when he fired the gun, he just hit me in the arm as I was falling down. That's when I heard Pablo say, 'Hey asshole,' and when the guy looked down the hall to the bedroom, Pablo shot him in the forehead."

Andi closes her eyes and shudders again. "And now there's a dead guy in my house."

After a few moments, Sanchez says, "Andrea?"

She opens her eyes again. "Too much?"

He just shakes his head. "Maybe a little there at the end. Now give me Ninja's version."

Ninja rolls her shoulders back and takes a cleansing breath.

"Just after dawn, I was awakened by one of the Diné guardian Spirits, warning me of an approaching enemy. I immediately woke Garcia and we devised a quick plan for me to draw the enemy's fire, allowing Garcia to take out said enemy within the strictures of the law.

"As stated previously, I answered the door while Garcia waited in the bedroom. I invited the enemy into my home and offered him refreshments. He insulted me, I requested that he leave, he refused. He then informed me of his plan to kill both Garcia and yourself, as well as an unnamed female Super who is... and I quote... 'making life miserable for my boss'.

"I opined that killing police officers was a stupid idea, that trying to kill a Super was an idiotic idea. The enemy misinterpreted my statements and drew his weapon. He asked if I had called him stupid and an idiot, which I had not, and so I denied doing so. He stated that his interpretation of my comment had sounded derogatory to him, and I again stated that I had not actually called him stupid or an idiot. I also requested that he not point his gun at my head, because it made me uncomfortable.

"The enemy then ask if I believed he valued my opinions but did lower the gun. I visibly relaxed, which caused the enemy to become puzzled. I then inquired of the enemy whether his question was rhetorical, or if he would like an answer. I am a smart ass, sir... this is a well-known fact among all my law enforcement contacts.

"The enemy stepped closer, stating that I had serious problems, again using derogatory language. I maintained my position and replied, very politely, that I did not have as many problems as he did. And then I called him a douche bag, which was the impetus needed for him to fire.

"I was shot in the upper left quadrant of the abdomen and dropped to the floor. One of the Diné guardian Spirits assisted in speeding my healing process even faster, which caused very little blood loss and only a minute or so of pain.

"The enemy stated that my death would be both painful and slow, to which I responded in the negative. He appeared to be disconcerted by the fact that I was not bleeding profusely, nor appeared to be in any pain. He raised his gun again, this time pointed at my head and prepared to fire.

"At that point, Garcia caught his attention by calling out to him. The enemy then turned towards Garcia, who shot him once in the forehead.

"Garcia then requested an update of my situation; I assured him I was fine and requested that he bring me a clean shirt, as I was fairly certain the sounds of gunshots would draw the attention of the neighbor. I believe this is the point at which the neighbor called 911. I do not know when Garcia contacted you.

"I changed shirts in anticipation of the neighbor's arrival, removed a small amount of blood from my person and the wall, then wrapped the washcloth around my arm to deceive the neighbor into thinking I had been grazed by the bullet. There is a bullet on my kitchen floor with my blood on it." She smiles wryly at Sanchez. "I needed to have some sort of injury to show for it.

"Shortly thereafter, the neighbor arrived, slightly hysterical, and informed us that he had called 911. I devised an excuse to not be present when the patrol officers arrived, as I have worked closely with the DPD officers of the graveyard shift for nine years."

Ninja... Andrea... shakes her head and sighs. "I love my neighbor, but he can be a handful. As it turns out, removing myself from the living room was a good move on my part. Wright's one of your best, and I've worked with him extensively in the past nine years. It wouldn't have taken him very long to note the striking similarities between Andrea Yazzie and Ninja."

Sanchez is silent for several minutes, then takes out his notebook and spends another few minutes making notes.

"Your statement... Andrea's statement, that is... makes a strong case for assault, perpetrated as a hate crime. Garcia's actions would not be considered undue force if he believed your life was in imminent danger. Do you happen to recall if you made a sound when you tripped?"

She considers the question, looks as though she's actually trying to remember, then shakes her head. "It all happened so fast. I might have yelped... more of a surprised sound when I tripped. It's possible I screamed or yelled, but really... all that's sticking in my mind at the moment is that gun pointed at me. Richard Dean Anderson could have been standing right there, and I wouldn't have noticed."


She looks at him suspiciously, as if he's a perfect stranger. "Jack O'Neill? Stargate SG-1? Seriously? You don't know who Richard Dean Anderson is?"

"Oh, that. My kids enjoyed it," he says as he shakes his head. "Angelina and I never really saw the appeal. But I understand that's the same actor who played MacGyver."


Sanchez shakes his head and mutters, "Young people... no appreciation for the classics."

She smiles, mostly because she knows exactly who MacGyver is. Just because she was living in Japan doesn't mean she doesn't have vague memories of Mama and Dad laughing over some of the episodes. In fact, to this day, Andrea and her Mama agree that Richard Dean Anderson is awesome.

She feels a tug on the leg of her jeans and looks down in puzzlement. Opossum is sitting at her feet with Fox. Cobra is still wrapped around her waist. She looks up, looks around the room, and sees Raven hanging upside down like a bat from the curtain rod. She closes her eyes. Perhaps she doesn't quite hold in the whine.

"Is something wrong, Andrea?" Sanchez asks... very kindly, very fatherly.

"I don't know. There are more guardian Spirits here than there should be."

Opossum scampers up her leg to sit in her lap.

"Okay, I'll bite... how many should there be, and how many are there?"

She opens her eyes and look at him. "One. And four."

We are all your guardians now, Warrior, Opossum says happily.

"What??! Nobody has four guardian Spirits! I've never heard of such a thing!"

Sanchez clears his throat. "I hope you're actually talking to real beings, and not having some sort of shock induced hallucination."

She sighs. It would be courteous to show yourselves to my Mate's boss.

There's a subtle shift of energy, and she feels a wave of surprise from Sanchez.

"I... Well, this is different. I should point out that I only see three, but I do see... something." Ah, now the detective — the boss detective, in fact — is very interested.

She looks at Cobra, Opossum, and Fox... all three of whom are looking at Raven. "I shouldn't even look, should I?" she mutters.

"I would recommend against it, Warrior," says Fox aloud. "I've spent a good deal of time in Coyote's company, and... well, I am at a loss to explain Raven's behavior."

"Oh, thank goodness," she says, relaxing visibly. "All this time, I thought there was something wrong with me. If it's Raven who's insane, that will make me feel so much better."

"Raven doesn't act like that when it's not around you, though," Opossum says, crawling over Cobra and up my arm to sit on my shoulder, the better to observe Raven.

"Great," she mutters. There is the sound of more people out in the living room... and wheels on her hardwood floor? "I think the coroner's here," she says to Sanchez.

"Hmmm, I suppose I should talk to them," he says, showing no real interest in doing so. "This phenomenon is much more interesting, however."

"Yeah... well, I don't think they're going anywhere," she says, indicating the three Spirits that can be seen. "And... you know... dead guy in my house."

"Right. And I suspect I'll have more questions... for Ninja," Sanchez says as he places his hand on the doorknob. "Big picture stuff."

She nods. "Sure. Might as well fill Garcia in on everything at the same time." Andi smiles weakly. "You can calm him down when he gets upset over certain things... he can calm you down when you get upset over other things. I just hope there's no crossover."

Sanchez just looks at her and my three new guardian Spirits for a moment, then shakes his head. "Poor Garcia." Then he leaves to speak with the coroner, closing the door behind him.

Cobra, Opossum, and Fox are watching her closely, and she's making a great effort not to look at Raven. After a minute or so, she picks up her phone again, scroll through her contact list, then dials her cousin's number.


"Tommy!" she whines. "Help!"

"Andi, what's wrong?"

"Have you ever heard of anyone ever in the whole history of our People having more than one guardian Spirit?"

He pauses a moment. "I'm really hesitant to ask why you want to know that sort of information, Andi." Poor Tommy sounds worried.

"And I'm just as hesitant to tell you why I want to know until I have the answer," she replies. If her emotions are carrying through to her voice, Tommy will hear that she's worried as well. And stressed. Frustrated. Tired.

"Legends say there was a Clan Mother before the White Men came who married a man whom the Spirits named Elder. Her guardian was Deer, as Tita Kai's is. When she married the one called Elder, she was blessed by Stag, who also became her guardian."

No, no. Not possible, not even slightly, not even a teeny tiny bit possible. But she has to ask anyway. "I don't suppose you know her clan, do you?" Andrea asks with trepidation.

"Of course," Tommy replies immediately. "She was of the Ts'ah Yisk'idnii."

She whimpers, and lets out a single soft sob.

"Andi... cousin... what's wrong? You're beginning to scare me."

"Ts'ah Yisk'idnii is my clan, Tommy." She doesn't say anything more, because... well, because she just doesn't know what else to say.

Finally, he speaks again. "You obviously are finding connections I'm not seeing. Please, Andi... tell me what's wrong."

She looks at Fox, who's resting its chin on her knee. She feels Opossum on her shoulder, holding onto the top of her hair. Cobra is wrapped around her with its head coming up over her other shoulder from behind and dipping its head down to nearly touch her clavicle.

"I don't know if 'wrong' is quite the word I'd use, but..." How do you tell someone that the seemingly impossible has happened? She sighs. Yet again. "Well, you know that Raven is my guardian Spirit, right."

"Yes, of course. Little Raven wasn't your nickname as a child simply because you have such pretty black hair." She can hear the smile in his voice. That helps more than she would have expected.

"Well, I have Cobra, Opossum, and Fox here telling me that they, too, are now my guardian Spirits."

Her statement is met with stunned silence.

"I haven't broken the universe, have I, Tommy?"

"No, cousin," he says. It almost sounds like awe in his voice and that makes her nervous. "Do you think you could get some time off to come visit? I think this is something Ha'atathli Ravenclaw would be very interested in discussing with you."

"Well, um, I've also adopted someone into my clan... and I thought it would be nice for her to meet the family." She can hear the people in her living room; it sounds like the coroner's people are finishing up. Maybe Wright will go away so she doesn't need to be trapped in the bedroom. "Ah, her and her children and her Mate."

"Cousin..." It's almost as if she can see him shaking his head. "I'm sure the family will adore anyone you think highly enough of to bring into the family. We all think Pablo is wonderful. He's well?"

"Tired and stressed because of work, still having nightmares, but..." She finally manages a true, heartfelt smile for the first time today. Well, since being rudely woken by the dead scum on her floor anyway. She's pretty sure she had a real smile for Henry. "...we are fine. All is well."

"Good. The nightmares... Well, as I said when you were out here, he may have them for quite some time. Just continue to be there for him, as I know you will. So, you'll be bringing children along? Were you planning to stay with your parents?"

"We both have nightmares, Tommy. But you're right. We are here for one another." She smiles again. "I was actually thinking that being on our land would be important. I thought I would ask Aunt Sonia and Uncle Leon if we could stay with them."

"Well, Mom and Dad do have considerably more room than I do. And more room than Uncle Junior and Aunt Alicia, too," Tommy says as he chuckles. "And how old are these children?"

She's starting to feel more relaxed. She is also fairly certain that's Tommy intent with the questions.

"The oldest, a boy, is fifteen. The twins, a boy and a girl, are ten. The oldest has a girlfriend, who may or may not join the family as well."

"That sounds like a handful. And your new sister's... husband, fiancé, boyfriend?"

"Mate." She pauses and bites her lip again. It's going to be obvious, at least to Tommy and Ha'atathli Ravenclaw, when they meet Logan... there's no point in not giving them some warning. "He's an Elder."

Tommy mistakes her meaning... she isn't sure it's intentional or not.

"Oh? Of what Nation? Your new sister must be nearly as old at Tita and Papa Bill to be in a relationship with an elder."

"Um. No. She's not. And I don't mean that sort of elder, Tommy. I mean the Elders who are whispered of in the stories of all the People."

"What?! Are you sure, Andi?" Is that fear, or just overwhelming worry that she hears in Tommy's voice?

"Oh, quite. The Spirits were quite clear on the matter yesterday. Their daughter is also an Elder."

"Andi, our histories say the Elders are... gone from this world."

"Well, I guess it's time to amend the histories, cousin. Two of them are in our family. One of them is of my clan. There are very few left, however. At least that's the impression I got from the Spirits."

"Andi, you speak to the Spirits more often than I do," Tommy says, his good humor returning. "Possibly more often than Ha'atathli Ravenclaw does. Maybe you should have been the Ha'atathli of the family."

She laughs. "No, no... I think I'm doing exactly what I'm supposed to be doing, Tommy. And yesterday was Halloween, the Day the Veils Falls. You know it's easier for anyone attuned to such things to see and hear the Benevolent Spirits. I'm sure things will go back to normal now.

"Well. Um, relatively normal? Four guardian Spirits, Tommy? FOUR?"

"I'm sorry, cousin, but I'm still what you would consider a journeyman. I can Sing the Songs and Dance the Dances, but my skills are still not perfected to Ha'atathli Ravenclaw's standards. And being able to explain this takes many more years of experience with the Spirits than I have."

She sighs yet again. "That's fine, Tommy. I'll talk to Ha'atathli Ravenclaw about it. He still refuses to get a phone, doesn't he?"

Tommy chuckles. "Yes, he does. I deliver all his messages to him." He pauses a moment. "Unless it's the sort of emergency you and Pablo had in the Fall. Then I'll call Mrs. Tsosie, who has her daughter run up the road to his hogan."

"All right. I'm always happy to come out there anyway. And it can wait. I hope. I'll try calling your folks later today, but if I get caught up in more of this saving the world stuff, would you mention it to them if you talk to them today?"

"I will, Andi," he says, the fondness in his voice quite clear. "Try to do some relaxing while you're still in Denver, will you?"

"I'll do my best, Tommy. Kind of hard to do when I have dead bodies in my house. Well, only one dead body, and it sounds like they've taken it away. Still."

She hears her cousin groan. "Andi, trouble seems to follow you wherever you go."

"Yeah. I think it has something to do with the fact that I'm.." She employs a bit of dramatics and makes the next few words sounds overly pretentious. "...the Great Diné Warrior." Then she attempts to laugh. "Trouble is stupid. And it sticks close to me because it doesn't realize I'm going to kick its ass."

Tommy does laugh. "You may be right. Now take care of yourself. And take care of Pablo. Make sure you take care of each other."

"Yes, O Wise One," she replies. "Thanks for chatting with me, Tommy. I feel a lot better. Still as confused as I can possibly be... but feeling better."

"Then I've done my job. I love you, Andi. See you soon."

"Love you, too, Tommy. Bye."

She disconnects the call and puts the phone back down on the nightstand. She looks at her three new guardian Spirits. "Well, you all seem saner than Raven. Is it safe to look yet?"

"No!" they chime in unison.

She just nods as the door opens and Pablo peeks his head in.

"The coast is clear, everyone's gone — including the dead guy — although the Captain will want to talk to both of us again."

"Good. Come sit by me."

He grins and opens the door all the way then steps into the room and immediately stops. "Andi... I see Cobra and a Fox and... is that a 'Possum hiding under your hair?"

"Opossum, please, Beloved of the Warrior," Opossum says, peeking out from the curtain of her hair.

"My apologies, Opossum." He walks toward the bed. "You're going to tell... Oh, querido Dios nos salve!" he exclaims as his gaze crosses the window. Then he sits down beside her and stares at the wall in front of them. "What the...?"

She wraps an arm around his shoulder as Fox jumps up and stretches out across both their laps. "I was warned not to look."

"I wish someone had thought to warn me. What in the name of all that's holy is wrong with Raven this time?"

Cobra stretches out to look across her body at Pablo. "We believe Raven is jealous."

Pablo looks at her, slightly sad and pathetic.

"Life is never going to be normal again, is it?"

"Nope. Sorry."

Opossum walks along her arm to sit on Pablo's opposite shoulder and she rests her head on the near one. Pablo sighs as he wraps an arm around Andi's waist, trying to avoid Cobra. Leaning his cheek against her hair, he asks, "Why do I see them?"

She shrugs. "Our bond, I guess."

He pauses a moment. "Yeah, okay. I can live with that."

# # #

"Everything all right?" Logan asks.

"One of the bad apples made the mistake of trying to take Andi out at her home. DPD is here taking official statements."

Cat's head whips up. "What??"

"Cat, if you're going to listen in on a conversation, you should pay attention to all the words. She is fine, as is Pablo."

"Those the details you expect?" he asks after Cat has settled back down.


"Where to first?"

"Cabin. Want to pick up the bike. Oh, need to call Joe and see if he's located yours yet. And we should let him take this truck."

"Why? Whose is it?"

"It belonged to one of the scumbags that tried to cause problems for Commerce City."


"He won't be looking for it. Not even sure anyone will even be looking for him," she answers with a shrug. "But I should pull the C4 off before we turn it over. Don't need any of Joe's people blowing themselves up on accident, so definitely the cabin first."

Using Colorado 103, it takes them a little more than an hour to get up to the cabin. Madeline secures the C4 while Logan puts their packs inside. He is standing on the porch leaning on the railing when she comes back from the bunker out back. She climbs up the steps to lean next to him.

"You still thinking about selling?" he asks.

"I'm reconsidering," she admits. "We could use it as a vacation home, I suppose. Let our friends use it when they need to get away. With the bunker out back, I wouldn't want to rent it. Heck, wouldn't want to do that even if the bunker didn't exist."

"You have been reconsidering."

"What a difference a week makes."

"Would you consider living here permanently again?"

That stops her and she turns toward him. "I hadn't. And as long as I'm running Marie's business, I couldn't. Maybe when I've turned it over to the next generation... but that could be a while from now. Leon's only fifteen... if he would even be interested. In any case, I'll have to find someone who will give Marie's legacy the care and respect it deserves."

"You should make that call, too."

"Yes, I should. Jeremiah's been spending more time there. I haven't seen him myself in years, but from what Hank says, his health is fading, too. And I'll have to figure out what to do with the house in Marseilles eventually, too. Gods, I hope Jeremiah doesn't leave us any property. We already have three houses."

"Which one is home?"

"Wherever you are."

"Me and the kids."

"No, just you. Kids leave eventually, at least that's what I'm told since I never actually left home in that manner. I was traveling and not there much, but I hadn't moved out when the plantation became mine. Funny, though... I still think of it as theirs."

"And this place?"

"This was ours, mine and Rene's. And Paris... as much as it is ours, I don't think it is a place we would have chosen if not for Marie's business. It still feels... temporary in some ways. Yet, we've made a life there, and that's the Wolf's home territory... I just don't know, Logan."

He puts his arm around her and pulls her close. "Just something to consider. It isn't like we don't have plenty of time."

"True that," she says with a small smile. "Did you want to clean up here or at the hotel? Rene's clothes are still here. Something should fit you."

He studies her for a moment, realizing how much really has changed since they had come out here. The offer of Rene's clothes is something she had never done before. In fact, the things he had left in Suriname had all been put away by Hank except for a few pieces she had taken to France.

"Here then. We have coffee here?"

"Yes. I'll get it started so it'll be ready when we get out of the shower."

"We?" he teases lightly.

"Yes, we. I am going to take full advantage of there being no kids here."

He chuckles as they head inside.

Later, he's in the kitchen pouring coffee into mugs as she comes out of the back rooms. He is wearing only jeans. She has to stop and admire him.

"Couldn't find a shirt that fit?" she asks with a smirk.

"Didn't feel like putting one on yet. You mind?" he dead-panned.

"Oh, no, not at all," she tells him with a grin as she walks over to him.

He offers her both a kiss and a mug. She accepts the kiss first and takes the mug without entirely letting go. "How long do you think we can leave the kids with Charles before they notice?"

"Charles or the kids?" he asks, kissing her again.

"The kids, of course."

"At Leon's age, he'll be able to figure out what's going on."

"And it'll embarrass the hell out of him," she says with a chuckle, then steals another kiss.

With a sigh, she admits, "I'd better call Joe before I get too distracted."

Somewhat reluctantly, she pulls her phone from a pocket and leans against the counter as she dials. Logan takes advantage of her attention being elsewhere and bends in to nuzzle at her neck, purposefully tickling her. A giggle escapes despite her efforts.

"Jefferson County Sheriff's Office," a voice answers.

"Logan," she admonishes him with a grin. "Sorry. Joe Baker, please. This is Madeline Jacobs."

"Just a moment, Mrs. Jacobs."

Logan next takes advantage of her waiting on hold to lift her hair and nibble along the back of her neck, his other sliding around her front to pull her close. She's so intent on the feel of his lips, it takes her a moment to realize Joe is speaking to her.

"Tell me this isn't a business call, Lin... Lin? Lin? Madeline?"

She clears her throat and takes a deep breath.

"Madeline? Are you okay?"

Another throat clearing is necessary before she says, "Hi, Joe. Yes... just... fine... Logan! Did you happen to find the bike?"

"We did. Undamaged even. It's here in the back when you want to pick it up. You sound... good."

"We'll be down in about half an hour, and we'll trade you a pickup for it. You sound... surprised."

"You'll trade...? You'll explain, won't you?"

"Sort of. See you then."

"All right, Lin. See you."

As she hangs up the phone, Logan whispers in her ear, "A half hour isn't long enough."

She laughs and turns in his arms to smile up at him. "No, it isn't. But after we pick up the other bike, we have that nice big hotel room all to ourselves with room service from the steak restaurant. And I'll be starving by the time we get down the mountain."

"Hmm, a pretty good argument you have there. Still..."

She stops his words with a deep kiss full of promises for later. "Let's get going, Mate."


"You say that now..." she teases, slipping from his grasp and collecting her keys. "You drive the truck. I'll ride the bike down. And put a shirt on so I don't have to beat the town's people off of you."

"That sounds like fun."

Rolling her eyes and shaking her head with mirth, she heads toward the front door.

A little more than half an hour later, the old blue and white pickup and the throaty bike pull up in front of the Sheriff's Office building. Joe is waiting out front for them. Madeline shuts down the bike and dismounts as Logan climbs out of the truck.

"That it?" Joe asks.

"Yes, sir," she says cheerily.

Joe looks from her to Logan and back again. "I'm not asking, it's just... I haven't seen you this happy since..."

"Since before Rene died," she finishes for him.

The matter-of-fact way she says it, without the hurt and anger, hits Joe hard. He stands there stunned for a moment, then impulsively wraps her in a hug.

"Amanda's going to be so happy about this," he tells her. "I am, too. I'm glad you finally found peace."

She blinks rapidly, and her smile becomes a bit embarrassed. "I had a little help. And I swear to all the gods if you make me cry I will kick your ass. So let go of me already."

Joe chuckles and releases her, and tries to surreptitiously wipe moisture from his own eyes.

"Who does the truck belong to?" he asks, trying to find a less heartwarming topic.

"No idea. Didn't get his name," Madeline tells him.

"Is he going to come looking for it?"


"Do I want to know?"

"No. But if you decide you really want to know, you can ask Ninja."

"Have you been causing trouble in this city again?"

"Puh-lease. To cause trouble, all I have to do is walk through town."

Joe studies her for a minute then just shakes his head. "Just leave it there with the keys in it. I'll have someone move it around back. You have spare keys for the other bike?"

"Yup. Any paperwork?"

"Already taken care of. How, exactly, did someone manage to steal it anyway?"

She shrugs. "Pure dumb luck?"

"I see," he says, which means, Bullshit, but I'll let it slide.

As Logan heads toward the back with Joe and the spare keys, Madeline calls Ninja.

# # #

"I'm sorry I brought work home, love," Andi says to Pablo. She feels the bond of their marriage flare and pulsate. It's been a hectic few days, she's spent so little time with her husband... She just lets the swirling wash of qi flood her meridians and watches as it floods Pablo's as well.

"You won't do it again," he says with a finality that sounds an awful lot like an order.

She raises her head and looks into his eyes. "I would most definitely prefer that the scum stay not only out of our house but away from our neighborhood entirely. It's too much to hope they'll stay out of our city, although I think this particular brand of scum is close to being eliminated."

"All right. Unfortunately, until this incident is cleared up and the case of the wrong-headed Denver Police Department patrol officer is closed, the Captain thinks it's best I take administrative leave. He seemed confident Internal Affairs won't give me a hard time."

"I hope not! I mean... how were you supposed to know he wanted to kill us?"

"That was precisely his point." He pauses a moment, just looking at her and smiling. He starts to lean down when one of her phones rings.

She sighs and reach for it... it being Ninja's phone. And the caller ID shows that it's Captain Sanchez calling. Oh, that's just way too fast. She presses the Talk button and puts him on speakerphone.


"Is there any reason you can think of for five members of the Denver Police Department not showing up for their shifts this morning, for not returning home last night, and for each of them to have told their respective wives or girlfriends the exact same story about going bowling up near Commerce City?" he demands. He's too far away for her to be able to read his aura, but she doesn't need to read it. She can hear it in his voice that he's having a bad day and is very annoyed about having a very bad day.

"Nope," is all she says.

Sanchez pauses a moment. Maybe it's her imagination — or what would be a guilty conscience if she felt guilty — but he sounds suspicious when he replies. "Really? Nothing at all?"

"No, sir. Not a thing."

"This is not something related to what happened in Commerce City on Tuesday night?" he almost demands.

"The only thing that happened in Commerce City on Tuesday night was the Army bring up several busloads of Unfortunates."

He grunts. "And this isn't something that's going to come back to haunt me later, is it? You know I have enough problems already."

"I don't see how it possibly could, sir. I believe the bowling alleys closest to Commerce City are all in Adams County. If something happened to the men in question up there, the Sheriff's Office would certainly contact the men's families and attempt to contact their supervisors in the Denver Police Department. At least, I would assume so, sir."

"Adams County isn't going to be contacting the families, are they?"

"I don't believe so, no."

Sanchez is silent for a moment. "I don't suppose you'll tell me what the hell is going on, will you?"

"Yes, sir. As soon as it is no longer a danger to you or your family to have the information."

"And I suppose Peregrine and Garcia know what's going on?" He does sound a little like someone who's miffed about being left out of a secret.

"No, sir. In fact, they have less information than you do."

"Fine." Then he hung up on her. For a second time.

She sighs as she puts the phone back on the bedside table. She turns back to Pablo. "And I'm sorry I somehow managed to piss your boss off."

Pablo brushes Andi's hair away from her face and tucks it behind her ears. "Andi, the last week has been a nightmare for us in Homicide, for the Captain and me particularly. You didn't piss him off; whoever killed Sally Banner did that. He's just frustrated that he doesn't have all the information." He grins that boyishly handsome grin of his. "He's not as patient as I am. I figure you'll tell me all about it when you're good and ready."

Then he leans down to kiss her, softly and tenderly at first, then more insistently. It makes her realize that fighting the bad guys is a fine profession, but like any other profession... overtime sucks. In the back of her mind, she knows that Maddie is going to call again, but damn it! She misses her husband! Her hands begin moving to the buttons of his shirt while his hands begin raising the hem of her polo shirt.

And the doorbell rings. Again.

Pablo pulls back and looks at her, deadly serious, as he says, "If that's Bobby, I'm going to kill him."

Her hands move up to cradle his face. "Don't worry. You won't have to. I move faster than you do, and I'll kill him first." She stands up and kisses his forehead. "The last members of the Aryan Knighthood Denver Chapter are all locked up, so you don't have to worry about them. Unfortunately, I seem to be making enemies. Maybe you should hover in the doorway, just in case, though."

Her fingers brush his cheek before she steps over to the doorway. Glancing back at him, she smiles. "I love you."

She stretches her senses towards the front door as she walks down the short hall. A familiar aura, but she can't quite tell why. At least it isn't Bobby.

Opening the door, she sees why the aura felt familiar. Was it yesterday morning that she saw Officer Kenyon at the station?

"Dave! What are you doing here?" she asks with a smile as she opens the door wider so he can step into the living room.

"First to say how horrified I am that anyone would try to hurt you and Detective Garcia!" he says with sincerity. "How are you holding up?"

"Okay, I guess. It was just so surreal, I'm not sure what to think."

"Yeah, I guess I get that. Oh... the other reason I came by was to play messenger." He indicates the large box he's holding. "This was delivered to Captain Sanchez, probably while he was here, and we all got a good snicker out of the return address."

She looks at the box and notes that the return address just says Martha Stewart. She smiles more broadly. "I'll bet you did!"

Perry must have told his wife about Ninja's nickname for her.

"Anyway, after reading the note that came with it, the Captain told me to bring it to Detective Garcia."

She giggles as she takes the box. "I hope it will help cheer Pablo up. Administrative leave sucks."

"Oh, crap! That's so not fair!" Dave says. "Listen, if there's anything Laura and I can do to help, let me know, will you, Andrea?"

Andi smiles at him. She didn't spend a whole lot of time with him back in college, but when she did, she always got the impression he was a truly decent person. And here he is... proving it. "Thanks, Dave. That's really kind of you. We appreciate it."

"Anytime. Listen, I'd better get back. Take care of yourself, okay?"

"I will." She watches him walk back to the squad car; by the time she's ready to close the door, Pablo is there to take the box from her.

"How do you know Kenyon?" he asks.

"From DU. We had a couple of classes together. I had no idea he'd joined DPD until I came to visit you..." She stops to think. " was yesterday morning, right? Yeah. He was at the front desk when I came in."

Pablo smiles and shakes his head. "I'm always amazed — and sometimes surprised — by the number of people you know."

"Not jealous, I hope," she says, grinning, as she watches him set the box on the coffee table.

"I don't know," he says grinning. "Should I be?"

Andi laughs. "No. You grew up in Los Angeles... you should realize what a small town Denver is, for all its determination to be a big city."

"You're right," he says, chuckling. "It still surprises me, though, just about every time."

"Want me to play psychic and tell you what's in the box, or do you want to be surprised?"

He looks at the return address and frowns with puzzlement. "Martha Stewart? Is this a joke?"

She giggles. "Kind of. That's my nickname for Peregrine's wife. I'm betting that's your awesome costume in there."

His eyes light up like a child's at Christmas, and he starts tearing the box open. Pulling his new uniform out of the box, he inspects it closely... ever the detective with a keen eye for detail. "Wow, she's amazing. Look at this quality, Andi!"

She wraps an arm around his waist as she looks at the seams of the anti-ballistic material. "She's certainly an excellent seamstress... as good as Mama and Tita." She looks at the contents of the box. "You opted to stick with the phasing mask, I see. Smart, I think. Oh! And it's the same breakaway design she did for Perry's cape!" Andi looks up at him. "I'm so glad I don't have to worry about you getting sucked into the engine of an airplane."

He laughs as he hugs her tightly with one arm. "First of all, I'm not going anywhere near an airplane while I'm flying..." He kisses her forehead. "And second, I watched The Incredibles, too, you know. I wanted a breakaway design... hers is much better than mine, though."

"Well, you're the best detective in Denver... it's okay for someone else to be the best costume designer."

He leans down and kisses her, light and lingering, but certainly not chaste... not the way their qi is swirling today. He drops the uniform back in the box and wraps his arms around his wife. "Maybe you'll let her design you something that will keep you safer?"

"Well... I'll certainly have her make me something should I decide I need a new uniform."

He tilts his head and gives her The Look. "This... coming from the woman who spent two hours repairing the holes in her vest last night... or perhaps it was early this morning?"

"This morning... after Henry left."

He just continues to look at her.

Her phone starts ringing then, and she grins. "Saved by the bell!" she says, before giving him a quick kiss.

"Andrea!" he says with exasperation as she jogs down the hall to the bedroom. She has a feeling he's rolling his eyes, too.

She sees the caller ID, presses talk and says, "Hi, Maddie. What I can I do for you?"

"We're picking up Logan's bike from Joe and then heading back to the hotel. Along with food, we're going to have a chat with Charles and I thought you might want to join in, being that you still need to get your folks home."

"Yes, thank you. I would like to see about getting everyone home to Commerce City," Andi replies. Pablo is standing in the doorway, leaning against the door jamb with arms crossed and one eyebrow raised.

"Mind if Garcia tags along? He needs to get used to working with me and apparently shooting someone dead gets one put on administrative leave until Internal Affairs stops twitching."

"Not at all. Any special requests for room service?"

Logan, on the other bike, pulls up beside Madeline, the engine rumbling.

"A couple of cheeseburgers each would be fine. We'll be there inside thirty minutes."

"Cheeseburgers it is. See you then."

Hanging up the phone, she looks at Logan. "Andi's coming by to talk to Charles with us and is bringing along her Mate." Starting up her bike, she challenges, "Race you back to the hotel!"

Logan grins and revs the engine just as Joe is stepping out the door to say something.

Joe shakes his head. "Never mind. I'll call you later."

She laughs and turns her bike around before roaring away, Logan at her side. They aren't breaking land speed records but are giving some local motorists a scare. The hotel appears before them in quick order, and the bikes are parked. Madeline stops to order from the restaurant directly, and they wander back to their room arm in arm.

After the computer is set up and ready to go, they settle onto the couch and occupy themselves, passing the time while waiting for the food and their guests.

# # #

She disconnects and sets the phone down. Again.

Then she turns and walks to Pablo, draping her arms over his shoulders. "So, Detective... want to come along? Meet some nice people, help me get the residents of Commerce City back to Commerce City?"

"Is there some reason why the residents of Commerce City aren't in Commerce City where, according to the laws of the State of Colorado, I believe they should be?" he asks as he straightens from his leaning position against the door jamb and wraps his arms around Andi's waist.

"There is a reason, yes. It has something to do with protecting them from some really bad people related to the really bad person who dropped by our house this morning." She looks up into his beautiful brown eyes, almost getting lost in them.

"So how many of the residents of Commerce City need to be returned to Commerce City?" His hands stray along her back, and he runs his fingers through her hair.

"All of them."

Pablo stops moving and stares at her in disbelief. "ALL of them?"

"Okay, no. I think sixty-four stayed behind to defend their homes," Andi admits.

"Sixty-four out of... what's the current census of Commerce City?"

She has that answer ready; Hank is meticulous about keep track of his people. "One thousand two hundred and seventy-seven."

He looks blankly at her for a moment, then closes his eyes as he shakes his head. "Dare I ask where the remaining one thousand two hundred and... ah... thirteen are?"

"Dare you may, my dearest detective," she replies cheerily and with a smile. "Sixty of the youngest children, some of their parents, and the highest level telepaths are in New York with a delightful, charming and generous gentleman at his school for gifted children. About a hundred and ninety who can pass as Normal — or are actually Normal — took a hike in the direction of Thornton. Hmm. Dennison is watching out for them. I need to call him and let him know things seem to be clear. He can track them down and let them know.

"All the rest are either in Five Points or — again, the ones who are Normal or who can pass as Normal — are in various shelters around Denver and Aurora."

Pablo just looks at his wife for a very long time. "You're serious."

"Of course I am."

"How did you...? No. Never mind. I'm not sure I'm ready to know how you managed that."

"With a lot of help from a lot of good people." She runs a thumb along his jaw. "So? Are you ready for another foray into the on the job training for Supers?"

"During the day?!"

She can feel her brows drawing together. She knows a rather confused look is forming on her face. "Ahh... yeah. Things to do... it's daytime... you're on leave. What better time than now?"

He blushes a little.

Oh my gods! Andi thinks to herself. That's so adorable!

Well, if his qi weren't vibrating at a level that makes her feel like what she's heard people describe as a panic attack it would be adorable.

"I... I... I think I'd feel... I don't know... kind of... um, weird wearing the costume during the day. I mean, until I get used to being Peacekeeper."

She hugs him. "Aw, Pablo, you don't have to wear the costume if you don't want to. Just be Pablo Garcia, ace detective of the Denver Police Department."

He relaxes immediately. "Okay, sure. I can do that. You want me to drive?"

She takes a step back and looks at him, shaking her head. "Noooo. You're going to need to fly."


"No, no!" she interrupts. "Just wear the phasing mask and whatever you'd wear off duty. Or undercover. Or... you know what I mean. We can put the rest of the outfit in my panniers, just in case you change your mind. You might, you might not. But it's better to have it and not need it than want it and not have it. Yes?"

He takes a deep breath and holds it, then shakes his head as he lets it out. "This is possibly a little more weirdness than I bargained for — at least for today. But I'm going to trust you, Andi."

She takes his hands in hers. "You're one of Denver's Supers, Pablo. You really ought to have a chat with Perry... but I can tell you that life is not going to be anything approaching normal for us. You haven't had a whole lot of time to get used to this yet. I get that. Meeting Black Wolf and Wolverine, being part of the day's activities — which I am fervently hoping are not anywhere near as miserable as the past couple of days — getting to know some of the folks from Commerce City... I think it's a good introduction to our slightly more unusual existence. It doesn't matter what you wear, love. It matters who you are."

"You know, right now I'm not sure if it's Andrea talking to me, or Ninja," he says wryly. "But let me just put on clean clothes and I'll be ready in a couple of minutes."

She pats his arm as she squeezes past him in the doorway. "It's both of us, darling. I keep telling you my personalities have been integrated."

She heads down to the basement to fetch the bag Pablo had stashed earlier, as well as her staff. Returning to the bedroom, she replaces the leather repair kit back in the closet in a box on one of the top shelves, tosses the bloody and bullet-torn shirts in the trash, and leans her staff against the wall. She dresses quickly and braids her hair. Pablo is dressed in a good pair of jeans, a polo shirt, and sneakers. He's ready by the time she finishes.

"I'll take our stuff out to the garage. You spy on our neighbor and see if he's spying on us," she says, heading to the living room to fetch his uniform, then carries that and her staff out to the garage. A moment later, Pablo follows her into the garage.

"The kitchen window is closed, which is the sign he's not home, right?"

She nods and hands him the phasing mask before putting the rest of his uniform first in a plastic bag and then in the pannier. Then she puts her staff in its holster.

"When the temperature is over thirty five, anyway... yes. Or he's still sleeping, and we know that isn't the case today. I just hope David came to fetch him and calm him down," she says, filling the other pannier with bottles of water. "You should probably take off from the back yard anyway." She turns to kiss him soundly and he responds with enthusiasm. After several minutes, she's able to pull away... oh, but it's so hard! They're still on their honeymoon, aren't they? "I love you, beloved Husband. I'll meet you in front of The Golden out in — surprise! — Golden. Fly safely."

He chuckles. "And you ride safely. I love you, beloved Wife."

She opens the garage door as he heads toward the back yard. Pulling out into the street, she can feel Pablo rising into the air. It's an odd sensation, as though part of her is rising above the treetops. Today, she's paying absolutely no attention to silly things like speed limits. The joy she feels when riding is compounded by the echoing joy Pablo is feeling from riding the air currents.

Their bond, once they re-established it that night on Lookout Mountain, is unbreakable. It has the strength of the fictitious tritanium from Star Trek... or the not at all fictitious adamantium of Wolverine's skeleton. But each day, it seems as though new layers are added, new nuances are discovered. She barely needs to concentrate anymore to feel Pablo as he flies above her.

The trip out to Golden is joy exponentially increased through their bond. As she parks her bike, it's as though she can feel herself returning to the ground... even though she never left. She shuts down the bike and checks the locks on the panniers — regular combination locks — then retrieves her staff. Pablo is just coming around the corner of the building as she walks toward the front door. He's grinning as broadly as she is.

"That was SO great!" he says as they enter the building.

She notes the concierge at his station and waggles her fingers at him. He acts like she did something unspeakably uncouth.

"What's his problem?" Pablo asks softly as they wait for the elevator.

Andi shrugs. "I think I upset him the other day. I'm not really sure what I did." She gets into the elevator and presses the button for Maddie's floor. "I don't think I took the How to Behave Like a Fancy Person class."

He shakes his head and smiles. "My dear, as Ninja you have this... endearing trait of taunting people."

She looks at him, somewhat suspiciously. The door opens and they step out into the corridor. She's still eyeing him. As they walk down the hall to Maddie's suite, she says, "Endearing, eh?"

"Well, I may be the only one who finds it endearing, possibly because I'm biased and love everything about you."

Twenty two minutes after hanging up with Maddie, Andi knocks on the door of the Jacobs' suite. She senses the presence of the Spirits, but they seem to be backing off a bit at the moment. That's good... for now. She was starting to feel smothered earlier. Also... it occurs to her that she never mentioned anything about Maddie and her family to Pablo. Well, not anything of consequence, anyway. And the one Spirit who is more present than any of the others is Rene. This could be interesting. Well, after one has conversed with and been tortured by Quetzalcoatl, meeting Rene Jacobs is a real pleasure.

"Yeah, you're biased all right, Garcia." She grins at him.

The Madeline that opens the door is casual and relaxed and positively glowing in that just well tumbled way.

"Entre vous, madame, monsieur," she says with an easy grin. "Sustenance should be arriving shortly."

She steps back and waves them to come inside.

"Gracias, señora," Andi responds. "I'm not trying the French today because without Hummingbird's help, you'd probably try to kill me for slaughtering a perfectly good language," she says, chuckling.

"I can switch to Spanish if you're more comfortable with that," Madeline says with a laugh.

Andi grins. "Oh, no. If there's one language all of us speak with proficiency, it's English. Let's stick with that."

Once inside the suite, with the door closed behind them, Andi performs the introductions. One doesn't need a Fancy Person class to do that!

"Pablo, let me introduce my newly adopted sister, Madeline Jacobs and her Mate, Logan. Maddie, Logan... this is my husband, Pablo Garcia."

Logan rises from the couch and comes over.

Pablo looks at Maddie, then looks at Andi with The Look, then back to Maddie again with his charming smile. "It's a pleasure to meet you, Ms. Jacobs..." He nods to Logan. "...Logan."

"Pleased to meet you, Pablo," Madeline says. "And it's 'Mrs.' if you must use a title, but I would prefer you didn't since we are family, after all. Madeline or Jacobs is just fine."

Logan sticks out his hand to shake hands with Pablo. "Pablo."

Pablo grins. "Madeline it is, then. And I'll agree that English is probably best. Andi's definitely better at Spanish than I am at Navajo, which isn't saying a whole lot. I have no idea what she's saying when she speaks Chinese. And I can never remember if domo is please or thank you in Japanese."

When Logan shakes hands with Pablo, Andi can feel Pablo's reaction. It's not something she'd try to describe to someone in a hurry. It's not that easy. A sense of déjà vu, recognition, dread... but also something like kinship, comrades in arms. None of it shows on his face — in fact, it may just be a very subconscious thing that's much easier for Andi to pick up because of their Bond. If pressed, she would guess it has something to do with the fact that Logan visited Quetzalcoatl's prison dimension.

He looks back at Andi and shakes his head. "Are there any other family members you're planning to spring on me?"

Andi looks — attempts to look — innocent and shakes her head in return. "Hey, I told you about Maddie! And no, unless you forgot about their kids. No. No one else. Well, okay, just Rene, but he's... more complicated."

"Rene... complicated," Madeline comments. "Yeah, you could say that."

Pablo stares at his wife for a moment before turning to Madeline. "Sustenance wouldn't happen to include alcohol, would it?"

"Alcohol we can do. Cerveza? Or something strong? We've got a full bar."

"Cerveza — Dos Equis, if you have it — but I reserve the right to head for the tequila if things get too weird."

"Beer it is," Logan says. His hand briefly touches Madeline's back. "Whiskey, darlin'?"

"Yes," she says with a smile.

Looking from Andi to Madeline and back, Pablo finally settles his sights on Andi. "No more family members, yet you mention this Rene, who is but... what? Isn't?"

Madeline turns her attention back to Pablo and winks at him. "Sit. Trust me, you will want to be sitting for this."

Andi looks at Maddie and shrugs. "I dunno... maybe Rene should just explain himself. He's paying more attention than any of the rest of them right now."

"Of course, he's paying closer attention. It's a perfect counterbalance to Cat. Or maybe Cat is that to him."

"Sure... well..." Andi pauses a moment, then shakes her head. "I'm not going to analyze the two of them, I'm just pointing out that even mine are backing the hell off. Refreshing, really, as they've been a bit smothering today."

She declines the offer of a drink for the moment and sits with Pablo on the loveseat. Because she's wearing her boots, she hesitates to curl up as she usually does, and simply tucks herself comfortably under Pablo's arm instead. She does consider Maddie's statement about Rene and Cat, however. Counterbalance? Well, maybe that could explain how she wound up with three additional Spirits rather than one. It takes Fox, Cobra, and Opossum to balance out Raven.

Once Pablo is settled with his beer — there had, indeed, been Dos Equis in the wet bar refrigerator — and comfortable, Madeline and Logan don't so much sit on the couch as curl up with and around each other on it.

You better start it off, love, Rene says to Maddie.

Of course, love.

She sips her whiskey and studies Pablo for a moment while considering where to start. He doesn't need the whole history, but Rene is special in many ways.

"To put it simply, Rene is my Guardian Angel, guardian Spirit in a... similar fashion as Raven is for Andi. He is also my deceased husband. We have a bond similar to the one you have with Andi, and when he died it broke me and trapped him... elsewhere. Andi and the Nation's Spirits made it possible for him to leave where he was, and the Spirits welcomed into their company. And he would like to make your acquaintance..."

As Maddie explains — in the very broadest terms — who Rene is, Andi watches and feels Pablo's qi... their qi. She feels the gut-wrenching pain he still remembers when Quetzalcoatl took him to that prison dimension for three years, only to return to a wife who barely remembered him. She takes his hand and holds it tightly, simply as a reminder that their strengthened bond would not allow what happened to Rene to happen to either of them.

At this point, Rene materializes behind the couch; he does make sure Pablo is not taking a drink first. He lays a hand on Madeline and Logan each. It's easy to see the unifying force between the three of them.

"Hello, Pablo. I am Rene Jacobs. Your wife was a godsend for Maddie and me and Logan as well. What she and the Spirits did for us is... It is something for which we will be eternally grateful. Maddie was able to find the peace she needed to move on and continue living her live. And I get to know my son..."

"And I was able to make a commitment I could not make before," Madeline adds, her fingers entwining with Logan's.

Three pairs of eyes look at Pablo waiting for his reactions or any questions. A fourth pair joins them as Cat makes itself comfortable on Madeline's lap.

When Rene appears and places a hand on both Maddie's and Logan's shoulders, Andi can see the blazing flare of qi, heavily colored with love. The three of them have the potential to be a formidable power for good when working together. What surprises her is Pablo's sense of wonder at seeing them... almost as if he can see what she sees. There is a strong pang in his heart — one that she feels just as strongly — when Rene speaks of Leon. Pablo still misses Juan, but at least now he is allowing himself to feel the loss rather than allowing it to stagnate and strangle his life force.

And he grins when Cat appears.

He looks down at Andi nestled beside him, smiling tenderly. "You truly did what they say. Freed Rene? Healed them? Made them whole?"

"I just figured out how to get Rene out of the place where he was. Maddie helped me with the portals. Rene himself made his case to the Spirits for entry into their world." She glances across at her friends, then looks back up at Pablo with a broad smile. "The healing and the unity? That they did themselves."

He kisses her forehead. "I think you're being extremely modest. You made it all possible. What you did for me — one of your best friends — when you helped me begin to heal from Rosalia's and Juan's murders, you did for them. Strangers."

"Well... sure. People need help, I help them. It's what I do."

Pablo just shakes his head again and hugs her, then turns again to look at Maddie, Logan, and Rene.

"Four months ago, I would have been looking for the tequila. Eight months ago, I would have been running out the door. I don't know if it's Andi's bad influence on me, or if I'm just going crazy... but some of the weirdest stuff seems almost ordinary today." He looks back at Andi. "Not Raven, however. That is one seriously demented bird."

Madeline can't help but chuckle as Pablo talks about looking for tequila and so forth. He should probably be counting himself lucky he wasn't involved in the goings on over the past couple of days... especially out at the mine.

"Luckily for us, things aren't any weirder than normal. They're just a different kind of weird," she says with a grin.

"I believe Raven is having what you might call a nervous breakdown," Cat says nonchalantly. "The others disagree with me."

Pablo looks at Cat for a moment, then nods. "I'm going to have to agree with you. I've never seen anything so bizarre as what it was doing this morning." He gestures to those on the sofa. "A talking cat who's a guardian Spirit... a man who became a Guardian Angel... the fact that I can actually see the connections between the three of you... the fact that Andrea now has four guardian Spirits? Yes, it's all perfectly normal."

He takes another sip of his beer, then looks at Andi.

"Okay, why do I see the connections between the three of them?" he asks her. Despite his bravado, that unnerves him just a bit.

"Pretty sure it's our bond," she says with a shrug.

He studies her for a moment, his eyes full of love. "Okay," he says finally. "That works for me."

She chuckles, then looks over at Cat. "So just why do you think Raven is having a nervous breakdown?"

Cat ignores her while it finishes carefully cleaning one paw. Then it begins purring loudly. "Raven is the Spirit of self-knowledge... among other things, of course. You have come to know parts of yourself, Warrior, that even Raven wishes to deny."

"Ah, you mean the cold-hearted bloodthirsty bitch?"

"Precisely." Then Cat stretches out and rolls over, a clear invitation to rub its tummy.

Madeline obliges Cat's unspoken request for a rub as if it were the most natural thing in the world.

Pablo shakes his head. "I'm not sure I'm a fan of the cold-hearted bloodthirsty bitch, dear... but on the other hand, she saved our bacon this morning."

"What?! That man was coming to steal our BACON?!?" Andi exclaims with mock indignation. "The bastard! I'm glad you shot him.!"

She's trying very, very hard not to even smile, but she can feel the laughter spiraling through their qi. Pablo first rolls his eyes and then mumbles, "You really do have a hard time being serious sometimes, don't you?"

Ninja shrugs unapologetically. "Sometimes."

"You don't have to be a fan of the bitch," Rene says. "You just have to understand the necessity for it and be there for her afterward."

"Rene speaks from many years of experience," Madeline adds softly. "We each need to be accepted for who and all that we are even when it is difficult for us to accept it ourselves."

Logan's arm tightens around her just a fraction.

Pablo regards Rene for a moment and seems to actually soak in his words. His arm tightens around Andi's shoulder. The wave of pure and unconditional love that washes over her as Maddie speaks almost brings tears to Andi's eyes.

Her husband nods, acknowledging the Jacobs' advice.

Andi smiles at Rene and Maddie. "Considering he didn't meet the cold-hearted bloodthirsty bitch until very recently, he's doing rather well. And I wasn't particularly bloodthirsty until he used Aztec blood magic in conjunction with my qi powers when we reforged our bond after the ancestral pest nearly snapped it." She looks up at Pablo, wrapping him in the same love, pure and unconditional. "A small price to pay for a bond that can't be broken. That and an integrated personality has made this past week a lot less traumatic than it would have otherwise been."

She chuckles as she looks back at Maddie, Rene, and Logan. "He's known me for eleven years and I've been doing this job for nine of them. All he's known for most of that time is the sweet college student and then the equally sweet librarian. It wasn't until about three months ago he met the cold-hearted bitch when I blasted the low life pond scum who had been going around Flagstaff stealing qi from old people." She narrows her eyes and her lip curls. "Including my grandmother."

"Well, the jerk deserved everything you hit him with," Pablo interjects, "although that Safeway didn't deserve the abuse."

"No, probably not," she says as she looks at him and shrugs. "But since it was the only way I had at the time to open a portal fast enough and to a nasty enough place to suck the demon out of little Ji-Ji... Well, a gal's gotta do what a gal's gotta do.

"And the bloodthirsty..." She turns back to their hosts. "He got his first taste of that when I mentioned a couple of details from our visit to the mine."

"There are details... and then there are details, Madeline says with a smile. "And rest assured, Pablo, I'll try not to corrupt Andi too much."

She is only half serious.

Pablo looks at Andi and then smiles at Madeline. "Gosh, ma'am," he says with a vaguely John Wayne accent, "I'd sure appreciate that."

But then he looked at Rene, serious again. "The cop in me recognized the necessity. As her husband, I'm not quite sure my heart will quite catch up to my brain. But as you said, being there for Andi is what's important."

"I was never an officer of the law," Rene said, "so I have no experience there. But your heart will surpass your brain because she will need it to."

After a moment of silence, Madeline cuts through some of the seriousness. "So now, Andi, you promised details of this morning events. However, after our meal would be fine."

The knock of room service comes just as she finishes speaking.

"Cat, it wouldn't do for them to see you."

When room service interrupts, Andi takes the chance to whisper, "Thank you, my dear husband, for trying to understand. I appreciate it and love you very much," before kissing his cheek.

Cat promptly vanishes, followed by Rene, and Madeline rises to answer the door. The youngster pushes in the food laden cart and sets everything on the table, then is quickly gone again.

"Shall we?" she asks with a wave at the table.

Andi allows Pablo to be the gentleman he can't help being, and takes his hand as he offers to help her up. They make their way hand in hand to plates of some of the best burgers in the Denver area.

"I don't mind sharing the details of this morning's adventure while eating," Andi says as she sits down. "It's up to you folks."

As they get settled at the table, Madeline makes herself comfortable between Rene and Logan. Rene looks wistfully at the food.

"What is it, love?" Madeline asks.

"Eating just doesn't seem to have quite the same appeal it used to have."

She laughs. "I'd say at least now you don't have to watch what you eat, but you never did."

"But neither did you... much."

She rolls her eyes and waves him off. Then as she opens a beer, she says, "Bon appetit!

"And yes... do tell us about this morning's events. We won't bore you with ours."

She and Logan tap their beers together and share a lascivious glance.

Andi snickers at the look Maddie and Logan share. "I'm sure our morning would have been just as boring as yours if the one Aryan Knighthood member in Denver who was both still alive and not in jail had been courteous enough to leave us alone. But alas, we were treated to a less pleasant way of passing the time."

Taking a sip of water before continuing, she says, "Pablo mentioned that I now have a quartet of guardian Spirits, something unheard of in our history. As an aside, according to my cousin, the only person to have ever had more than a single guardian Spirit was a Clan Mother of the Ts'ah Yisk'idnii, long before the White Man came to our lands." She looks at Maddie. "That would be our clan. And legend says she gained a second guardian when she married an Elder." Her gaze moves to Logan. "So I suspect you're partially responsible, simply because you're an Elder," she says to Logan, grinning broadly and shaking a finger at him with mock severity.

She picks up her burger and takes a bite. Pablo looks from her to Logan, then to Maddie and back to Andi several times before shaking his head. "Okay, I know I'm taking a chance on walking into another chapter of weird here, but... Why in the world would you call Logan an elder? He looks to be about the same age I am."

Ah, her poor dear husband truly does look confused. Not that Andi is going to tell him more than what she learned from Diné legends... Logan's personal history is for him to share or not share. She swallows the food and looks at Pablo.

Madeline, Rene, and Logan all share a look and smirk when Pablo makes that assumption about Logan's age.

Oh, he's in for a rude awakening... Madeline says.

Just wait until he finds out you're old enough to be his mother, Rene teases.

"It's not an age-related thing. Logan's ancestors were here before the People of all the Nations arrived. It's a title. To the People of the Nations — to Native Americans — Logan and all his kin who share his genetic markers are Elders. To us and to the Spirits."

Pablo shakes his head and sighs. "I really should have paid more attention in History class," he says before picking up his burger and starting to eat.

Andi chuckles. "I have a feeling that's something that wouldn't have been covered in class even if you had been paying attention, dear." She turns back to Maddie. "After Henry woke me at some ungodly hour before heading out to DIA to catch a flight back to Phoenix, and after I spent a couple of hours repairing my vest..."

Pablo makes a sound that is something like a cough stuck in a laugh and wrapped in a groan.

"Oh, hush you," she says with a smile. "I crawled back to bed for a couple of more hours of sleep. One of my new guardians, Opossum, woke me from a sound sleep with a warning that an enemy was approaching. Pablo wasn't completely thrilled with my plan to take a hit so he could legally take the guy out, but it was the only way to work it. I couldn't do it. As Andrea, all I'm legally allowed to do is defend myself. And by the ethics of Taijiquan, I can only disable my opponent to the point I and those I might be defending are no longer in danger. If I didn't take the hit, Pablo's only option — if he wanted to avoid being entangled for all eternity in the red tape of Internal Affairs — was disabling him as well.

"And even the smallest cockroach associated with Stryker needs to be permanently eliminated." She shrugs. "We didn't have a long discussion about — we had less than five minutes from the time Opossum woke me until the scum rang the doorbell. I just outlined the plan and we ran with it."

"For the purposes of full disclosure," Pablo says with a smile, "I strenuously objected to Andi deliberately standing in front of a speeding bullet."

She rolls her eyes and grins at him. "Andi wasn't doing it, Ninja was. I know, I know... emotionally there isn't a difference for you. But you'll trust my judgment next time, won't you, dear?"

He grins broadly. "Of course, my darling wife! Especially if you have Martha Stewart make you a nice new uniform made from that anti-ballistic polymer."

She sighs. "Oh, good grief." She shakes her head and continues the story. "There's a straight shot from the bedroom to the front door and Garcia here is an expert marksman. When I opened the door, Officer Slimy McDirtball Knighthood Grondahl was standing there, polite as could be in his perfectly pressed DPD patrol officer's uniform. He couldn't hide his filthy aura, however, and I was not happy about letting that thing into my house, but..." Again, Andi shrugs. " was part of the game.

"I made sure the guardians were watching my back just in case he decided to be premature in his execution of the undesirables. I offered him a beverage because, damn it, I am not going to spend an hour cleaning blood off the hardwood floors. He insults me; I express utter shock and horror, then ask him to leave. He refuses and explains his diabolical plan. I guess they must teach that in Villain School. Anyway, he says he's going to kill Pablo here, then Sanchez, then hunt down that annoying bitch of a Super that's making his poor boss' life just miserable."

As she takes another bite of her burger, Pablo picks up the story from his vantage point down the hall.

"I'm listening to this guy and wondering just how he managed to make it as long as he did in a police department where he's definitely a minority," Pablo says. "I don't just mean the racist bullshit... DPD cops are usually pretty open minded men and women, but I won't deny we've got some less pleasant people on the force. What I mean is the fact that he's a white man in a police force that's largely not Caucasian. And the fact that he thought he could just gun down a couple of detectives and go after a Super... any Super..." He just shakes his head. "Despite the fact that I see it day after day, it's still mind boggling that people are that confident in their stupidity."

Andi chuckles as she wipes her lips with her napkin. "Unfortunately, I made a similar observation of Officer Grondahl. I mentioned that it was a stupid idea to kill a couple of cops, and a pretty idiotic idea to try to kill a Super. He misinterpreted, of course, thinking that I was calling him stupid and an idiot, rather than his ideas. Okay, maybe I was taunting just a little. But not much! Yet. He pulled his gun out and pointed it at my head — I don't heal from dead, and a head shot would make me dead — so I asked him if he'd lower the gun because poor little me was so freaked out."

She rolls her eyes again.

"However, he actually did it, but then asked if I thought he cared about what I wanted. I believe that's when he used another racial epithet. Once the gun wasn't pointed at my head, though, I relaxed. Of course, that kind of scrambled his brain for a few seconds. Oh, right... and it probably didn't help that I asked him if his question was a rhetorical one or not."

"Someday, that smart mouth of yours is going to get you into trouble, Miss Ninja," Pablo says with a grin.

"Been there, done that. And hey... I can't help it. I like to play with my food." Andi snickers. "Grondahl then informed me that I had serious problems. Right, like I don't already know this. Of course, at this point, he's in the perfect position for Garcia to shoot him and keep the blood off my wood floor. So, in addition to disagreeing with him — by stating that I didn't have the number of problems he did — I called him a douche bag.

"Naturally, he shot me." She sighs again and shakes her head. "Three gut shots in two days. You never realize that a spleen can itch until you've got one pulling itself back together super quick. Oh, Cobra helped speed things along. So, I'm on the floor, he's chortling and cackling with glee about how slow and painful my death is going to be, and I'm just looking up at him with a sweet and innocent smile. Um, and taunting him again by telling him he's wrong about that, too. But as any of the law enforcement people I've worked with can tell you, I am a smart ass."

"Yes, dear. And when you provoked him to aim at you again, I was not a happy camper," Pablo says, giving her a sidelong look.

"Yeah," she says, looking at him with a sad smile, "I know. But it had to go down that way. And you know it. With me on the floor and him pointing his gun at me, you have justification for deadly force. You cops are held to a higher standard than the average Joe Homeowner."

He just grunts in what Andi thinks is agreement.

"So our expert marksman here," she continues, "called out to the asshole and when the dumb ass looked down the hall... pew! Bullet in the forehead, rattling around in the empty space between his ears.

"Unfortunately, my fabulous neighbor called 911. And since it was still before shift change, there was a pretty darn good chance the patrol car responding would be driven by someone who knows me.

"A little acting, a washcloth used to clean up the small amount of blood I spilled, a little sleight of hand with antibiotic ointment and a bandage... and the Human Tsunami was convinced my arm was nicked by the bullet. A little more acting on the part of the frail librarian and I manage to get shuffled off to the bedroom where I chatted with Sanchez. Garcia had the pleasure of chatting with Officer Wright, with whom I've worked closely over the past nine years."

Andi pauses a moment and addresses her next comment to Pablo. "Tryon is new, so I hope to run into Wright in the next few weeks. I do so like to meet the kids he takes under his wing!" She grins. "Even I could tell that last one — Casler — was going to escape his training torture at least as fast as Agars and Martinez did!"

Pablo gives her an uneasy look. "You make him sound diabolical."

She laughs. "Not at all. He's just probably the best training officer DPD has seen since your Captain was whipping rookies into shape." She nudges his shoulder and gives her attention back to Maddie, Logan, and Rene.

"The frantic neighbor undoubtedly entertained Wright's latest partner. Sanchez went to deal with the coroner while this one..." She tilts her head in Pablo's direction. "...talked entirely too long with Wright. I knew they'd been buddies back in the day, so... it was good. And it gave me a chance to chat with my cousin, the journeyman shaman. It's nice not to be the only one in the family baffled by the plethora of guardian Spirits I have."

"Maybe you could trade Raven in on a new model," Pablo mumbles.

Andi rolls her eyes. "If only. Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way. Raven needs to get counseling. Or maybe Fox and Cobra will eat it." She shrugs. "Finally, everyone leaves and I figure we might get a few minutes to ourselves before you call... but no.

"Sanchez called and was just a little — that is, quite a bit — concerned about five DPD men who didn't show up for roll call, hadn't been home all night and, according to their various wives and/or girlfriends, had told said said wives and girlfriends that they were going bowling up near Commerce City."

Pablo looks at her, still confused by that. "These women actually believed those guys were going bowling up there? Because, as far as I know, the closest bowling alley to Commerce City is somewhere in Thornton. Wouldn't they just say Thornton?"

"My guess is that either they're of a similar mindset as the missing men and knew exactly what they meant... or they're dumb as rocks and really wanted to believe their precious, precious menfolk." She shrugs. "I don't understand these people, Pablo. I just keep them from hurting my friends. Fortunately, the whole thing is a problem for Missing Persons to handle since I officially have no knowledge of the individuals in question."

She gives him a smile before turning back to Maddie. "Again, I foolishly think we might have some time for activities that would probably bore you, but no. This time it's the doorbell again." She sighs and looks at Pablo once more. "You know, we desperately need a vacation. The senior Ha'atathli wants to chat with me about the Spirits — or will, once Tommy tells him about the conversation we had this morning. I think it would be nice for my new family members to meet the rest of the family. I already told Tommy to warn his folks that there's going to be an invasion. You have administrative leave. That just leaves me the task of figuring out how to squeeze more off from my day job." She pauses a moment or two, then half shrugs. "Ah, I'll work something out with Mrs. K."

Andi turns to Maddie again with an enormous grin. "That's an invitation to come out to New Mexico, by the way.

"Anyway, the doorbell meant a delivery for Garcia here. He's got his official Peacekeeper outfit to wear while patrolling as Denver's third Super. You called before I could get him to model it for me.

"It might be that special anti-ballistic polymer material, but it sure looks like spandex to me," she says as she waggles her eyebrows.

Madeline and Logan eat and drink — occasional snogging — as Andi and Pablo relay the morning's events. Rene and Cat merely watch and listen as neither of them have a need for food or drink.

"Denver's got three Supers?" she asks. "And here I have France pretty much all to myself. Somehow that doesn't seem right." She pauses, thinking. "Actually I can't think of another Super in Europe... not since Banshee moved to the East Coast, anyway."

"You sure it isn't just Alois keeping you all to himself?" Rene asks.

"Could be. He never did like to share the talent he recruited," she muses. "But I really haven't heard of or had to work with any others. My backup has been a particular detective and a special tactical team she has access to. In any case, I think we should make this time away last as long as possible," she says to Logan.

"There's no telling how busy it's going to get. Lefroc's already tried making a mess of things and with Banshee gone, we may have to cross the Channel occasionally."

"Well..." Andi says. "Yes, Denver has three Supers. But only sort of. More like one and... maybe a half. Okay, three quarters.

"Newbie here hasn't even met with anyone except Sanchez, who knows much of the story. He's only been out on Patrol with me once. Peregrine's been here for two years, and he's Sponsored." She glances at Pablo, then shrugs as she turns back to Maddie. "He has obligations to his Sponsors, so there are times when he needs to attend to their requests. That leaves me to cover the Metroplex alone." She's rather pleased with how politely she manages to say that. But she does add, "However, since I handled things for seven years before he got here, I don't usually find it to be a problem. And having him around makes him a fantastic lightning rod for the press. He deals with the public, high profile problems that I'd rather avoid. He's charismatic and is good at schmoozing."

She grins. "I'd rather tell the entire press corps to go to hell. Well, there's that one kid who's with the Post now, but most of them are a pain in the ass. And I prefer the shadows. The Knighthood knew of Ninja's existence in all likelihood because the Brotherhood knows Ninja all too well, as do the various out of town Friends of Jesus Clubs. They don't like me because I won't let them trash my town or mess with my people.

"Oh, well. Poor babies.

"The average law-abiding citizens outside Five Points, Commerce City, the LGBT Community, and the boys and girls who work the streets don't even know I exist.

"Both of them," she says, giving Pablo the side eye, "this one and Peregrine for their own individual reasons, have been pushing Sponsorship on me. Peregrine made the pitch that the pay is considerable and the benefits are outstanding. There'd be no need to juggle two jobs and a life. Pablo..." She looks at him again, this time taking a hand and kissing his knuckles. "Pablo only wants my life to be easier."

She continues to hold his hand, turning back to Maddie. "The problem is that Sponsorship isn't going to solve the problems that make life difficult, even assuming Peregrine is correct in his belief that Utopia would be willing to Sponsor a smart ass, occasionally cold-hearted and bloodthirsty bitch who avoids the spotlight like the plague." Andi shrugs. "I don't like the idea of... putting any organization's priorities above those of the people I protect. Peregrine says they're not like that, but..."

Madeline looks at Andi and Pablo and half-jokingly asks, "You two wouldn't be interested in living in Europe, would you? Gives me some help, maybe solve one or two of your problems."

Pablo looks at Maddie, almost as if he's trying to gauge how serious she is about her comment. Andi, on the other hand, laughs... clearly cheered by the question, just as clearly assuming it's a joke. Pablo looks at her, however, as if he's seriously considering it.

"It's not a bad idea, Andi. You could do your thing and not have to worry about Bobby and David and all your other friends finding out about your Ninja job."

She just blinks, stares at him for a few seconds, then starts giggling again.

"You're crazy Pablo! Sexy, loveable, smart and funny... but you're crazy."

"No... seriously. I'm not."

"Really?" she asks, grinning broadly. "Then tell me what Chicago, Los Angeles, Omaha, Flagstaff, Gallup, Nageezi, Ganado, and Yah-Ta-Hey have in common."

He finally chuckles along with her. "Okay, yes. You have a point. I'm crazy."

"We'd love to visit Europe, Maddie, but home is here... because family is here." She sighs again, but this time it has the quality of peace and contentment. "I'll figure out how to make everything work out. I have Pablo to help me now."

Madeline looks at Logan, their earlier conversation in mind. She had been mostly joking when inviting them to move to Europe, yet... home... Home is an interesting concept for her. They had made one in Paris, yet it still feels temporary to her. She had felt the cabin was home until she had lost Rene.

Eventually, they will leave Paris. Her primary purpose there is looking after Marie's business. She'll turn that over eventually to another... someone who can properly look after it. What then?

"I can see the advantages from both sides," she says, speaking to Andi's concerns over Sponsorship. "It is, fortunately, not something I have to worry about. When there's an issue Interpol needs special assistance with, they call me. Beyond that, I make my own choices. Logan is not part of the equation, and we prefer to keep it that way. He's the ace up my sleeve in case I get into shit I can't get out of on my own."

Madeline then tries to carefully broach a subject that is always sensitive.

"Andi, not to pry, but is your librarian job necessary to pay the bills and so forth?"

"It's not about the money, Maddie," Andi responds with a smile. "One job I love and the other... Well, I'm not exactly obligated to do it, but I'm uniquely qualified to do it and I can't seem to stop myself from doing what I can to help other folks.

"But to address the actual question? Hmm..." The local woman does some quick calculations in her head. "Probably not entirely essential," she says cautiously. "In addition to DPD covering my Supers insurance — an expense that's considerably more than my mortgage — I get a small stipend from them." She smiles wryly. "I suspect the six counties each add a bit to the pot, but I'd do for them everything I do even if they couldn't pay me. My only stipulation when I told Garcia I'd work for DPD was that they cover the cost of the insurance premiums."

Andi pauses to consider all her expenses. She really should be buying her shirts in bulk, that would save a bit of money. Professionally, that's probably her biggest expense. Well, aside from upkeep and any repairs or mods to her bike.

"I've always been frugal because rumors of furloughs and layoffs are as much a part of my job as telling stories to toddlers. Pablo and I have combined our households, so I think we could manage to get by — have all the bills paid on time, feed ourselves — even if I lost the library job. Repairs and upgrades to my bike might be a little rough. Gods help us if the roof blows off during one of the spring wind storms or the furnace needs replacing during the January cold snap."

She smiles and pats Pablo's hand. "But we'd manage.

"So... no, I guess the job isn't necessary to pay the bills. Part of my... fine, I'll call it angst is that I love the job. Well, and it sure does help with the 'and so forth' things."

"Especially if that 'and so forth' includes the six — or was it nine — children we're going to have," Pablo adds playfully.

Andi slaps the back of his head. "ONE!" she exclaims with a grin. "You mad man! Six children? NINE children? No, absolutely not!"

"Awww, Andi..." he says, looking at her with those beautiful brown eyes of his. "Think how happy our parents will be... our grandparents... your aunts and uncles... my aunts and uncles... your cousins... my cousins... your brother... my sisters!"

She pats the top of his head this time. "Yes, dear. They'd all be so happy. So I'll have one...

"And you can carry the other five. Or eight."

She nods her head once, emphatically. "I think that's perfectly fair."

"If he continues to think that so many children is a good idea," Madeline says, "I can always make arrangements with Charles to have him sub at the school for a week or two. Or he can look after the twins for a few days..."

Even Logan snickers at that one.

"Anyhow, back to what I was getting at...

"When we first came out here, I was pretty much set on packing everything up and selling the cabin. But now..."

Madeline reaches over and picks up Logan's hand and Rene's as well. "Now, I'm not so sure. There are a lot of good memories there. Logan likes it here. I'm sure the kids will, too, with the wildlife and all. We talked about possibly moving back some day. Amanda likes to go in and dust, but I'd like to have someone keeping an eye on it who can check on the... other things. You know the place since you've been doing that anyway, and I'd be willing to pay you a stipend if you'd be willing..."

Andi looks at her, thoroughly puzzled.

"If you plan to keep your bunker up there, I'd check on it regularly regardless. Now that I know the big cats are purposefully tripping the prox sensors, I'll head up that way on a regular basis to see if I can at least make life easier for the folks in Joe's office who monitor those things."

She smiles at Maddie. "It's nice of you to offer a stipend, but keeping an eye on your munitions is just part of the full service Ninja package."

"Whether it is part of the Ninja package or not, this would not be between her and La Loup, but her and Madeline. And Madeline likes to be sure those who look after things for her have everything they need," she says with a grin.

"Love?" Rene says.

"Hmm?" she responds.

"Just do it. Like the donations you arranged for Old Mama to sort, no one can tell you nay..."

"He's right, Mate," Logan agrees. "In some things you don't know how to take no for an answer."

"So be it." She shrugs and laughs, then looks at Pablo. "I have a feeling you may have to force her to spend the money, however."

Pablo grins while looking from Andi to Madeline several times. "That will be fun."

Andi, on the other hand, just shrugs at Maddie's insistence about the stipend. She's more stubborn than most but has managed to learn which battles are worth fighting. This one isn't. And it's even a bit funny that Pablo won't be able to force her to spend money any more than he'll be able to talk her into having a baseball team of children.

"Now, having Pablo look after the twins for a few days sounds like a brilliant idea!" Andi says, returning to that particular topic. "I mentioned to Rene that I'd love for all of you to come out to New Mexico to meet the rest of your new family. Since my cousin thinks it's important that I come out and have a chat with Ha'atathli Ravenclaw, I thought we might impose on Tommy's parents, who have the largest house in the family."

Pablo had looked across the table when Logan snickered, as thoroughly puzzled about that reaction as Andi is about Maddie's offer.

So she grins mischievously at him. "I think a week of the twins and my cousin Billy just could get you to change your mind." She squeezes his hand. "And I'll be sure to tell Talia that she should not tell you any of her foresights unless it's a matter of life and death.

He looks back at her with a raised eyebrow. "I recognize your scare tactics, dear. Despite the snickering over there of their own father, I am up to the challenge. Your cousin doesn't frighten me either," Pablo says with a smile. "He is a delightful young man."

"Oh, yes! He certainly is!" she agrees. "I love that boy as much as I love my own brother. But he was pretty calm in Flagstaff. You have no idea what you're getting yourself into," she says, giggling.

"As I said, I am up to the challenge, and I'll even find a way to get you to change your mind," he responds, grinning as broadly as she is.

"Of course you are, dear.

"And it will never happen."

Andi turns back to Maddie, still grinning. "If my dear husband manages to survive Billy, Vin, and Em, then you'll probably need to make those arrangements with Charles." She pauses, thinking fondly of the children of Commerce City. "If his students are anything like some of the kids from Commerce City — and I suspect they're all that and more — he'll gain a better understanding of what it's like to be responsible for young people."

"I'm sure I will, love," Pablo says. "Six young people of our very own... at least."

Andi just rolls her eyes.

"New Mexico sounds lovely," Maddie says. "Charles is always happy to have extra help at the school. And yes... if he wants that many, he absolutely should be doing the actual bearing himself.

"Just one thing, Pablo. The twins know nothing of La Loup, and we're trying to keep it that way for a while longer."

Pablo nods. Confidentiality is a matter he takes very seriously.

Andi opens her eyes and grins at Maddie. "And Leon doesn't need to have yet another reason to act like an overly enthusiastic fan at a rock concert." She chuckles. "He was awfully adorable about the whole thing, though."

"Yes. Adorable and entirely too enthusiastic about it."

"I know plans never manage to stay on track, but it would be great to forget the whole Super Hero thing while we're with family," Andi says, sighing softly. "Ninja, La Loup, Wolverine, Peacekeeper... they can stay locked up in a couple of suitcases. Andi, Maddie, Logan, and Pablo are just some of the Cursed. As are the children and three of my cousins. My parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, brother and the rest of the cousins are Normal, and..." She closes her eyes and smiles. "...and when we're with family, there are no labels."

"And what? Pretend we're just like everyone else?" Madeline asks with a twinkle in her eyes. "Not sure if I can pull that one off."

"Good gods, no! Pretend? Be like everyone else?" Andi fakes a shocked and horrified look. "That would get you a talking to by Tita for sure!" She laughs. "You've met Henry. He's considered normal. Healing from the dead. Being an Elder? Being a Spirit? Pfft! So what?

"Just relax and leave your worries at the Nation's borders."

"Family does sound nice. It will be very different... for all of us. It is not something we have had much of outside of our immediate nucleus, so you'll have to forgive us if we seem a bit overwhelmed at first.

"And I like Henry and Coyote," Maddie responds. "And, pfft on normal versus gifted or cursed. I haven't always had that. Arriving in an armored vehicle and always carrying? That even raised an eyebrow at Charles' school."

"My cousin-twin is a loon and I love him dearly; Coyote is wonderful," Andi agrees. "And plenty of people are always carrying, Maddie... cops, the Feds, hell, even most of the ranchers I've met." She shrugs. "The armored vehicle, on the other hand..." She chuckles. "Well, you've got me there. And keep an eye on Dad when he's around it. He likes to tinker. And an honest to goodness Humvee? Yep, just keep an eye on him."

"As long as he doesn't mess with the armor plating, he can tinker all he wants. They are military stock."

"He's likely to take the engine apart. It's his thing." Andi shakes her head. "Well, taking anything mechanical or electronic apart, really. He'll never stop being an engineer."

"He and Mitch would get along famously then."

"You know... I think they would," Andi said. "So much so, that I could wind up with an unofficial sister." Andi smiles before finishing off her glass of water.

Without skipping a beat, Madeline goes back to the previous topic. "You know, somehow I don't think those people carry the way Logan and Em do," Madeline says with a laugh.

Logan shrugs. "At least they ain't bulging our waistbands."

Her eyes raise in agreement and she casually pulls the offending article from the back of her pants and sets it on the table. It is the pearl handled Colt 9. "I can't believe the son of a bitch kept that. Prick."

"And if you're going to include Logan's and Em's weapons, then I'd have to say that I'm always carrying, too." Andi raises an eyebrow at the gun and points her chin at it. "Hmm. I'm sure there's a story there. But if we're going to get the show on the road, that's a story that can probably wait.

"Before heading out of town, we just need to get the Commerce City folks resettled, and make sure those last three members of the Knighthood stay in jail for good." With Pablo sitting right there, she isn't going to add or disappear permanently because that will only upset him.

"Oh, and you really need to meet my fabulous friend, Maddie. Mention the possibility of throwing a huge party... then head out of town for a week or two."

She turns to Pablo. "He'd deserve that, right? I mean, it's a small thing, but I'm still disappointed we only got a babbling idiot instead of a massive coronary when we announced our new relationship status," she says with a pout.

"Oh, absolutely! In fact," Pablo says to Madeline, "the larger the carrot you dangle in front of him, just out of reach, the better. And then we'll disappear with absolutely no contact information." He turns back to Andi. "It could be enough to get a seizure of some sort."

"I'd like to think so," she responds with a sigh. "But David is a calming influence, so we might only get random twitching. It's really not fair that he eggs Bobby on while keeping him calm. Nope. Definitely not right."

Pablo puts an arm around her shoulder and hugs her close. "I know, love. But someday... someday we'll manage to get even with him."

Madeline smiles at them. "As for this fabulous friend, the only party-worthy event I can think of at the moment would be for the same young man who will be turning sixteen next year. With the industry I am in, it needs to be Fabulous and in France, probably Marseilles since I do not believe his grandmother would be up to the trip to Paris, let alone New York. There would be travel arrangements to make on top of the party itself."

She doesn't look at Rene but feels his mental touch. He knows she hopes Marie will live long enough to see Leon married even, but it is unlikely. She puts away the saddening thoughts and concentrates on offering an event for planning.

"Do you think your Fabulous Friend would mind planning a sixteenth birthday party?"

Andi and Pablo share a look. "That might just do it," she says.

"France and a sixteenth birthday? It just might," he agrees.

"Not to mention that the young man in question is nearly as charming and good looking as his father, and — rumor has it — has a very pretty girlfriend."

"Hmm..." Pablo ponders for a moment then nods his head. "David might not be able to calm him from this one."

Andi nods and grins, and then turns to Maddie.

"Mind? Sister mine, I may have to knock him over the head to keep him from kissing your feet," she says, laughing.

"Thank the gods there's only one girlfriend. If he had inherited his father's wild ways, I don't know that I could restrain myself to just the scathing scorn at which Marie excels."

Rene makes no protest at Madeline's statement. His expression only confirms the veracity of her words.

Andi mentally shrugs. She doesn't really know what to say about Leon and his similarity to his father. Sons don't grow up to be their fathers... although sometimes they do. Daughters don't grow up to be their mothers... although sometimes they do. Thinking about things like that, she's not sure she can handle raising one child, although she will, of course, do her best. She'd like to think Pablo is only teasing her, but she can't always tell. She looks at his aura when he talks about having a bunch of kids and all she sees is honesty and sincerity.

That scares her more than facing down Eaters.

"So when do we head out?" Logan asks in the lull of conversation.

"We can get the Commerce City folks back up to their homes this afternoon and evening if Chief Than left his buses at the Federal Building," Andi says to Logan. "Would be nice to get the kids and high level 'paths home if Charles can manage it. If you folks are coming out to New Mexico in the Humvees, it will take you considerably longer to get there than it will for Pablo and me.

"If we can get all the people moved this afternoon, how does first thing in the morning sound?"

Pablo looks less enthusiastic about... something.

"Bad plan? Not enough time?" she asks, frowning slightly.

"No, no... it would probably be fine," he says. "It's just that... well, with what happened this morning, the Captain's going to want to be able to get in touch with me and — no offense — cell service is likely to be spotty out there."

She smiles and kisses his cheek. "Uncle Leon has a couple of sat phones. He's one of two doctors for San Juan County and part of the neighboring one. I can never remember if it's Rio Arriba County or McKinley County. He's on call 24/7. He has reliable service. Give Captain Sanchez his home number."

"Why don't we call Charles and see if he can make it happen?" Madeline asks.

"And as for being available by phone, if you don't want to give out your uncle's number, I'm sure there are at least a couple of field radios in the bunker."

Andi nods. "Sure. Why don't you give Charles a call while I get in touch with Hank, Sergeant Dennison, and Chief Than? Oh, and Amanda's friend who's been caring for the livestock." She's not sure the return trip needs to be quite as secretive as the evacuation, but to play it safe they might want to wait until after sundown. At least for parts of the move.

She turns once again to Maddie. "I trust Captain Sanchez with my Aunt and Uncle's phone number. I know he'd only use it in case of emergency.

"I'm sure someone will have a van we can borrow," she says turning to Pablo. "Would you mind driving the sensitives back home? Henry was actually a calm influence taking them down to Five Points. But he needed to get home... something about rocks being lazy and not moving themselves."

Pablo looks hesitant, even worried. "Are you sure, Andi? Not many people up there would be comfortable around cops, right?"

She smiles at him. "Not many cops could have kept a freaked out college student from getting even more freaked out when she discovered the loon pressing charges against her was a Senator's son."

Pablo smiles but shakes his head. "That was mostly Denise."

"Well, I'll admit your comedy act helped, but you have a very soothing aura when you're in your kind, caring and helpful mode, Mr. Garcia."

"A soothing aura," he says with more than a small amount of skepticism.

"Yes," she says, nodding. "Perfect for the folks who pick up every little emotion around them."

He just looks at her for a moment and then shrugs. "Sure. Why not?" he replies. "Keep throwing the weird stuff at me, dear. I'll build up an immunity to it."

She chuckles. "That's the spirit! You're already much calmer about all this than Captain Sanchez was."

Madeline had risen and gone to hook up the computer to the large TV screen at the suggestion of calling Charles. Logan follows her over. Rene stays where he is, watching Madeline and Logan with a soft smile.

Logan's hand absently caresses her back. "Do you need to call him the regular way first?" he asks softly.

"Yes. He isn't in Cerebro anymore."

"Go ahead. I'll finish this up."


"Il n'y a pas."

Her smile brightens at his answer and she steals a quick kiss before dialing Charles.

"Good afternoon, Madeline. All is well?"

"Yes, Charles. All is well, better even. The children behaving?"

"As much as children do."

"Should I worry?"

"Not yet. To what do I owe the pleasure of this call?"

"We wanted to discuss bringing your guests home. Our friends are here so I thought by video would be best so we could all see one another."

"Certainly. I'll be waiting for your call."

"Talk to you in a few."

Andi had been watching Rene as he watches his wife and her Mate.

Your love for her is a powerful thing, Rene. It's allowed you to strengthen their bond, become part of it. It's not quite what Pablo and I have done in melding our souls into one, but it's similar.

She turns to watch Logan finish setting up the computer while Maddie talks with Charles.

There's the tiniest misalignment, though. You — both you and Logan — have made Maddie your focal point, a fulcrum analogy. You should be a triad... three legs of a stable stool, yes?

That's a hell of a system Maddie's got. Andi had been pretty impressed by it the first time she had parts of it out, and she again feels a moment of geek envy before she remembers that her PC at home is more than powerful enough for anything she needs to do.

You might have all of eternity together. And it could be several lifetimes before the minor misalignment, the lack of absolute balance is noticed. It could be even longer before it might ever become a problem.

Andi pauses as she turns around toward Pablo again and meets Rene's eyes.

You should know one another, trust one another, love one another as brothers. Yes?

Rene's eyes seem bluer now as he turns his attention from Maddie and Logan toward Andi.

Yes, but it will take time. There are things we will need to work out. The triangle is not unknown to us, but the nature of this one is quite different than the one we had before. I have a feeling, though, that the time in New Mexico will help.

I trust that the three of you will find your balance. You know it's necessary. I suspect Maddie does, too. And even if it's on a purely instinctive level, I suspect Logan does as well.

Logan is nearly finished with the setup; Maddie is still chatting with Charles. Andi bumps her shoulder against Pablo's. "You didn't tell me how your chat with Wright went. And I don't mean the interview about the dead body, either."

Pablo smiles. "Well... life could get even more complicated for you."

"Oh, joy! It went that well, huh?"

"Yep, 'fraid so."

"Great. While I'm happy that the two of you were able to reconnect, there are starting to be entirely too many people who know that Andi is Ninja is Andi," she says, sighing softly.

We can help you, Warrior, if your desire is to obscure your identity, Fox says as it leans against her leg. She has a feeling it's going to take some getting used to... this bit about having four guardian Spirits.

Maddie finishes her call with Charles. Logan has the computer and television set up for a video conference session.

She disconnects the line and turns to Andi and Pablo. "Whenever you're ready."

"Now's as good a time as any," Andi says.

And how difficult would it be to keep more people from seeing that the Librarian is the same person as the Warrior?

Fox tilts its head and looks almost amused. Less difficult that learning to become the Warrior, although perhaps as difficult as learning to become the Librarian. And perhaps not.

She sighs inwardly while waiting for Maddie to reconnect with Charles, this time via the computer. Great. Andi wonders when she'll have time to work on that.

"Come on over and make yourselves comfortable then," Madeline tells Andi and Pablo. "The camera doesn't pick up quite that wide of an angle."

As she walks across the room with Pablo, she takes another second to glance at Rene. And I agree. The journey to New Mexico is all the more important if you believe it will help. I think we all have things to work out, and things to learn, she says to him. Like this lunacy of having four guardian Spirits, she adds with a mental chuckle.

The visage of the distinguished headmaster appears on the screen at the touch of a button. Madeline smiles at him.

"Hello again, Charles. The new face is Andi's husband, Pablo. Pablo, Charles Xavier."

Logan gives his customary quiet nod, while Rene offers a respectful, "Sir."

Charles inclines his head in greeting. "Madeline, Logan, Andi, Pablo... and Rene. Pleased to meet you, Pablo."

"It's nice to meet you, sir," Pablo says to Charles as he and Andi take their seats and he wraps an arm around her shoulder. "Andrea mentioned you took some of the children out to your school..." He looks at her with that look that, without a doubt, says, And you told a huge fib while you were at it.

Andi laughs. "Hello, Charles. Pablo thinks I lied when I told him you have a Romulan cloaking device on your ship. Yes, yes..." She grins as she waves a hand at the man's image on the screen. "Blah blah blah, explainable technology, blah blah blah. Potato, potahto." She at least manages to keep herself from giggling.

Charles laughs, a rich and warm sound. "Romulan, you say? Are you sure it isn't Klingon or a joint effort between old enemies?"

Then Andi does giggle. "Oh, well played, sir! Well played!"

"Keeping up with what the kids are watching, Charles?" Madeline asks with a smile.

"Of course. Somehow, however, the Super Hero movies don't seem to impress them all that much."

As much fun as it is chatting and, yes, teasing her husband, there are more serious matters to discuss. One is the matter of getting Ninja's people back to their homes in Commerce City. The other...

"Charles, have you found the families of the children we rescued? We did find Jake Turner's parents. I suspect they've already contacted you. The others, though? And how are they doing? Will you be able to help little Heather's mind find its way back to herself?"

Yeah, okay... she worries a lot about children. She holds Pablo's hand, and she knows she's holding it as tightly as she dares. If she is so concerned about these children who are strangers, how can she possibly live through the everyday worries and pains of parenthood if she has as many children as Pablo insists they have?

You would manage, Warrior, Fox says. We would assist you, and each child would have a guardian as well.

You are so not helping, Fox.

Charles' smile fades at Andi's very serious question about the children. His compassion for the children knows no bounds and it is evident there in his eyes along with a deep sadness. He does not answer right away, his attention diverting to rest solely on Madeline.

"No..." Madeline says in a weak denial.

The cruelty of people is not something new to her at all. Logan's arm drops from her shoulders to snake around her waist and pull her closer. She grips his thigh and blinks back the moisture from her eyes.

"How many were not taken?" she asks sadly.

"Three, including little Heather."

"Is there anything...?"

"I don't know yet and, yes, I will let you know. But in good news, Jake's parents will be arriving shortly. They are very eager to see him."

"Their parents...?" Andi... no, Ninja can't even ask the question as she sits upright, staring at the man who can only look at Maddie. Her jaws are clenched so tightly it's a wonder her teeth aren't shattering. She can feel the rage burning from her eyes. She knows people can be evil. She knows there are people too cruel to be allowed near children... even their own. And even knowing this, she can't bank the fires of her anger. Maybe when she's lived as many years as Maddie, she might feel only sadness.

"Andi?" Pablo says with worry in his voice. When she turns toward him, he barely keeps from flinching when he sees the bright glow in her eyes. "Andi, what the hell...?"

"Three weren't taken," she manages to say. He places a hand on her shoulder and squeezes. I know, my love, I know you are here with me and for me. Some of the anger dies down, but not much. Enough that she can speak more easily, however. "Their parents gave..." she says softly before swallowing hard, "more likely sold them to Stryker."

She takes a deep breath. Even the news that Jake's parents are looking forward to seeing him — something that doesn't surprise her in the least, given his memories that she could see — doesn't settle her enough. She looks around the room, searching for the answer to the question her heart is asking. In this, can even the Spirits guide her?

Her gaze rests on Charles, the man whom Rene had said has infinite compassion.

"My mind and my heart are at war."

She can feel the fire dimming from her eyes. Her shoulder relaxes under Pablo's hand.

"The law and the courts should mete out justice in this matter; so says my mind.

"Track them, hunt them down like the animals they are, and remove the evil from this world; so says my heart."

For a moment, she looks into those eyes so full of compassion and understanding that it is balance that she seeks now. Just as the kindness and compassion of the Librarian must balance the fierceness of the Warrior, her heart must strike a balance between justice and retribution.

She closes her eyes, mostly in an attempt to regain her center and bleed off the anger, but partially to find and stand at the balance point of grace and fury.

"Hank seemed hopeful about Jake's recovery, and about Shawna's. What of the others?"

She will stipulate that what she isn't asking is how many parents will have their hearts shattered again... once from the loss of their child, and again from the knowledge that their child will never quite be whole again.

Damn, how she wishes it were possible to kill Stryker again! She will have to be satisfied with taking out every other low life piece of shit like him.

She doesn't think that makes her cold-hearted, but she'll certainly claim bloodthirsty bitch as a moniker.

"It's never enough," Rene says softly from behind Madeline, his hand now resting on her shoulder.

"No, it isn't," she agrees. "I'm sorry, Andi. I wish I could tell you this kind of thing is rare, but it isn't. Rene and I have come across them..."

"Too many times," he finishes for her. "Sometimes the parents or families are tricked into it."

"More often they are not..."

Cat jumps up into Madeline's lap and curls against her belly, purring softly. She feels the whisper touch of Charles' mind. He had seen many of her memories over the years.

"I am truly sorry," he says. It is directed at Andrea as much as it is to Madeline.

"Jake will recover. And Shawna as well. Their roads are not quite as long as the others. We, all of us, are doing what we can. I can make no promises or predictions; however, for those whose families are interested in their well-being, I have made the offer of extended visits. A couple of your Commerce City residents have volunteered to stay on and help as well."

Rene's soft words... Maddie's... Charles'... even Logan's silence...

The sounds and the silence make her soul feel the way her body had felt that time she wiped out on I-25 going nearly a hundred miles an hour. That had been six years ago. The bike had been totaled and it had taken nearly twenty minutes to heal enough to risk calling Forsythe, whom she had been heading down to check in with that night. Fucking black ice. And the Yamaha was a piece of shit, obviously; it did not survive the experience. Forsythe had looked at the remnants of the bike... Ninja's shredded leathers... and had just shaken her head. That had to have hurt, she'd said. Yeah, a little like taking a sander to your skin with coarse sandpaper... at least before the itching sets in, Ninja had replied.

Sandpaper rubbing her soul raw.

She feels Pablo's arm around her, pulling her closer. She doesn't feel like a Super Hero today, she feels like an angry woman raging at the injustice of the world. She rests her head on Pablo's shoulder. He doesn't say a word, but she can feel love — and so many other things, but mostly she feels the love — flowing over her, filling her through their bond. Love is the energy that flows through her meridians.

She hears Charles' words about the health of the rescued children. She hears his words about her people who are staying to help. Only a couple but no mention of children staying, as well. She would guess that he means Elaine and Paul, two of the strong telepaths. She manages a soft and sad smile.

"I need to talk to the Mayor, get things arranged on this end. I know one of the women who went up to Thornton is a Healer... something of a therapist, but..." Some people have abilities that even she simply can't quite describe. "Clarise helps the young ones, the tortured and tormented ones, knit their minds and hearts and souls back together. It's similar to what Logan and Maddie and I can do with our bodies. I'll ask her if she would be willing to help. Her partner is a Healer, too. Imala does some sort of laying on of hands and..." She pauses. "Well, they'll probably want to help."

"We would welcome their help," Charles says graciously and honestly.

As much as the walls of the school had been rebuilt, the loss of Jean and Scott had left a gaping hole in the faculty, not just for their skills but for who they were. Charles, Hank, and Ororo can only do so much. Certainly, more staff had been added to assist with the "normal" subjects, but the absence of Scott and Jean — especially Jean — weighed heavier on Charles than he cares to admit. Perhaps, however, with these people who are staying on, he will find new protégés and students.

What is Andi or Ninja supposed to do about the small evils that exist? Is she meant to simply let them be? Do the parents who give up their children like this balance the kindness and selflessness of people like Paul and Elaine and Clarise and Imala... and every other good-hearted person who thinks first of helping others before thinking of themselves?

She feels Fox lean heavily against her leg and she opens her eyes just enough to look at the Spirit.

It is a truth, Warrior, that when the great evils are removed, it is easier to see the smaller ones.

And when the greatest evils have all been removed, does that leave no place for the greatest of the good? All things must balance.

Fox rests its chin on her leg. This is why Raven is so distraught; you look more closely at yourself than it envisioned, you see more deeply into your own heart than it thought possible. We are not the Great Spirit, we have our limitations. Raven is trying to adjust.

You didn't answer my question.

There will always be a place for the greatest of good in this world. It is easier for humans to do nothing than to stand up and do good. Humans find it easier to do evil deeds; they take less effort — or so it seems to us — and so humans are less likely to sit and do nothing.

She sighs inwardly. I'm not sure I find that comforting.

Fox just looks up at her. It was not meant to be comforting. You and others who do great good must stand for the humans who find it easier to do nothing. Thus you balance the many who do the smaller evils. The greatest good still exists, Warrior, because you are acting on behalf of that greatest good.


She opens her eyes fully and looks again at Charles, although she is not ready to leave the comfort of her husband's embrace. "I'd like to arrange to get everyone home to Commerce City tonight if that's possible. I'm fairly certain we can make it work from our end.

"Tomorrow, I'd like to take my sister and her family out to New Mexico to meet the rest of the family — or as many as can get to Nageezi." Andi finally manages a smile. She has no doubt whatsoever that Tita will enfold each of them in her heart... and as Tita Kai goes, so goes the family. Well, it certainly seems that way, at any rate. "I hope you can spare Leon from his studies. He and his siblings will be tasked with the duty of convincing my husband that trying to raise six — or, gods forbid, even nine — children is a ludicrous idea."

Pablo chuckles as he kisses the top of her head. "Not going to happen, love."

She just sighs and shakes her head. She knows this is going to be a long conversation, one that will go on for years no doubt.

"Of course, it is possible to bring them home tonight. After sunset again?"

Andi nods. "I'll make sure parents who didn't travel with their children are in the first caravan back to Commerce City." She sighs and shakes her head. "So much has happened in the past two days that it almost seems like everyone's been gone for a week."

"And, yes. Leon will be able to join you. As Madeline well knows, our schooling here is very flexible. The makeup of our student body necessitates it. And if Pablo requires more convincing, perhaps he can come be our guest physical training educator. We haven't had one since our last one left to raise her family."

She grins slyly as she glances sidelong at Pablo. "A physical training instructor, eh? Oh, I hope there will be video recordings of that... should he need more convincing, that is."

At this, Madeline says, "I would strongly suggest avoiding field trips if possible."

She raises an eyebrow at Maddie's comment as she turns to her. "Do I even want to know why?"

The other woman shakes her head. "Probably not. But it could be an entertaining campfire story."

Looking back at Charles, Madeline says, "We'll meeting you and the kids in Commerce City. Logan and I still need to pick up the Humvees and pack up for the trip south, as well as get the bike trailer."

Andi pats Pablo's knee. "We should get out of here and get our part of this dance choreographed."

She stands, looking at the image of the man on the screen. Good news... bad news... don't shoot the messenger. "Thank you for all your help, Charles." There isn't really anything more to say without getting dreadfully mushy.

"Maddie... Rene... Logan... we'll meet you up in Commerce City whenever you make it up there."

"We'll see you in a few hours," Madeline tells her. Then Andi and Pablo slip out of the room, softly closing the door behind them.

After leaving Maddie and Logan's room, they head back downstairs, through the lobby where Andi once again wiggles her fingers at the concierge, and out the door to the parking lot.

"Why in the world do you do that?" Pablo asks. "Mess with the concierge, I mean."

She shrugs as they walk toward her bike. "I don't know. I guess it's just my..." She snickers. "...idiom."

He groans and shakes his head. "Dear God, you've been watching entirely too much of that Monty Python movie," he says, sounding very sad. "I blame that on the Human Tsunami."

"Yeah, normally I would say that it's his fault." She slides her staff into its holster and turns back to look at Pablo with a grin on her face. "Except I loved that movie the first time Deb convinced me to watch it."

The first call she needs to make is to Chief Than of Denver County. She leans against her bike with arms crossed before taking the phone out of her pocket; Pablo stands nearby. "You can be part of this as Detective Garcia or as Peacekeeper," she says, looking up at him. "It's up to you, really." She smiles with a shrug. "But Commerce City isn't Garcia's turf and it's about time you met the rest of my people... our people."

Pablo shakes his head and crosses his arms over his chest. "You're just trying to get me to model my costume for you."

She attempts an innocent look, but she can't help the grin that spread over her features. "Now is that such a terrible thing?"

He chuckles. "No. But I thought you could help dress me. And I don't see a handy phone booth."

"My dear, if I helped dress you, we wouldn't get anything else accomplished today," she says as she waggles her eyebrows. "You don't need a phone booth. There's not enough room in one to change clothes, let alone room for me to help you. I never did understand what Superman did with his Clark Kent duds when he flew off. It's not like he could just leave them in the phone booth, could he? He'd be buying more suits than I buy turtlenecks. Dumbest idea ever." She chuckles as she leans over to unlock the pannier with his costume. "Good thing I stuffed it a grocery bag first, huh?" She pulls it out and hands it to him. "Just go back inside, find the roof access stairs, change in the stairwell, and climb out onto the roof. Put your clothes back in the bag and toss it down to me."

"I'll probably set off an alarm getting out onto the roof," he says as he takes the bag. "The access door might even be locked."

Ninja opens the front compartment with the thumb lock and pulls out the new earbud radio. "Yours is in the bag. If you need help breaking down the door, just give me a call," she says with a grin as she hooks the radio over her ear. "Otherwise, just give me a heads up when you're about to toss the bag. And if you set off the alarm.." She shrugs as she continues grinning. "Hey, if you fly off, how are they ever going to know how it happened?"

He shakes his head again. "You've become incorrigible. I'm wondering where my sweet librarian went."

"Oh, she's around. The Warrior is working at the moment." Her smile fades and she sighs. "The past few days would have had me catatonic for a week if the two halves of my personality hadn't been integrated. So... yeah, I'm glad that happened. I seem to be the only one taking this in stride... well, as much as it's possible. You're less distressed than the Spirits are — particularly Raven — so that's a good sign."

She smiles and gives him a nudge. "Go. Change identities. I'll make my calls while I'm waiting for you."

"I'm going to get you to undress me later," he says quietly as he walks back toward the building, knowing that her hearing will pick it up.

She chuckles as she pulls out her phone. She dials the Chief's number, reaches his gatekeeper, and gets passed right through when she identifies herself.

"To what do I owe this honor, Ninja?"

"Just wondering what sort of hoops you'd like me to jump through to borrow your buses again to get my people home."

"No hoops," he says with a soft laugh. "Ask and you shall receive. All four of them are parked at the Federal Center, waiting for you."

"Are you psychic?" she asks with perhaps a touch of suspicion in her voice.

He laughs out loud this time. "No, no... not at all. Other than when we have a new class of recruits, we keep three of them downtown anyway. This class graduates tomorrow and finished the driving safety exercises last week. I figured you'd need them again at some point, so had the fourth one brought downtown last night."

"You're a prince among men, Chief," she says with a smile in her voice. "Keys tucked in the visors?"

"They are. You took good care of them last time," the Chief says. "I can expect the same this time?"

"This should be a nice safe set of shuttle trips, so I don't foresee any problems. We'll start the first run around sunset."

"I'm glad I could help out. You and the Wolf took care of the threat, I take it?"

"The biggest parts of it, yes. There's a loose end or two to tie up, but people should be safe in their homes again."

"Let me know if the County can help in any way in the future, Ninja."

"Will do, Chief. And thanks again."

She disconnects from that call and dials another number.

"Ninja, what the hell am I supposed to do with all those people gathering in Rotella Park?"

"Why, I'm fine, thanks for asking, Dennison! How are you doing today? Oh, a bit stressed out, are you? Well, how can I help you, my friend?" Uh huh, she's being her usual smart ass self.

"People. Many people. In Rotella Park," he says, sounding exasperated.

"Are they causing problems?"

"Other than the fact that they're just... camping out? No."

"I don't see what the big deal is then, Brian."

She can hear him sigh on the other end of the line. "You know how these things go, Ninja. Someone among the citizenry complains, pretty soon Sheriff Darr hears about it, and then the shit starts rolling downhill." He pauses for a moment. "And guess where it lands."

"Ahhh... at your feet?" she asks helpfully.

"On my head. Come on, Ninja! I thought there were only going to be a couple dozen folks coming up here." He really does sound more than his usual level of stressed out by all this. Way more than his usual level. "There are hundreds of people in the park!"

"Okay, now that's just a flat out exaggeration, Brian. Less than two hundred people headed up that way. And I have some good news for you."

"Well, I could sure use some good news today." He also sounds exhausted.

"Brian, you can't let the little stuff get you down," she says. "You know shit's going to get weird when I'm involved! I don't know why, but it always happens. Come on pal... keep it together. I don't want to have to train a new liaison," she says, grinning. She hopes that the humor gets through to him. He isn't usually this out of sorts. Exhaustion might cover some of it... but there's something else going on, too. Dennison doesn't usually let things get to him like this.

"Right. So what's the good news?" he asks, sighing.

"You can tell them it's okay for them to go home. Now tell me what's got you all in a tizzy," Ninja says in a faux stern way. "Getting caught in a shit storm doesn't usually throw you for such a loop."

He's quiet for a moment or two, and then he sighs again. "My parents have informed me that they're coming out to visit at Christmas."

Huh. Interesting. "Well, so are mine and I'm not freaking out." She undoubtedly sounds just as puzzled as she feels.

"Your parents aren't wealthy snobs from Long Island, who think a career in law enforcement is beneath you, are they?" he asks, his voice full of frustration.

"No. No, I have to admit my folks are totally cool with what I do. The parts I tell them about, anyway." She pauses, not sure what else she should say.

"Yeah, well, you're a Super Hero. I expect that would be a little different than County Sheriff."

"Actually, I think my folks have more cause to worry than yours, which is why I don't tell them everything," she says. Ahhh, but she thinks she might be starting to get what's going on. "Dennison? Would it help if I met with your parents and enthusiastically — but not over the top — informed them that you're a vital part of my support network?"

"If you mean it — the part about being a vital part of your support team — that might help," he says hopefully.

She laughs. "Are you kidding? Your predecessor was an idiot, and over in Arapahoe County Markensen wants to prove he can drive me insane. It's the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth!"

"So help you God?"

"All right, don't get carried away."

He chuckles. "I'd appreciate it, Ninja. And as an advance thanks, I'll even round up some school buses to take those folks home. You can wait until after all the classes and sports practices are done, right?"

"Oh, sure. We're not bringing the folks back up from Denver until after sunset anyway."

"Great. I should be able to commandeer the high school buses. Can I assume a few of your people can drive? Or will I need drivers, too?"

There we go... he seems to be back to his normal self. "I'm sure there are a number of them who can drive the buses, although I doubt they've got CDL licenses. You'll overlook a minor technicality like that, won't you?"

He laughs. "To get them out of Rotella Park and Sheriff Darr off my back... absolutely."

She smiles. "Okay, go around to the main entrance. I'll have Hank contact the folks who stayed behind to get the gates open before folks start arriving... preferably as soon as possible since I plan to head up that way shortly."

"Sounds like a plan," he says, sounding considerably better than he had when he answered the phone. "I'll see you up there."

After disconnecting, her last call is to Hank. She hasn't heard anything from Pablo on the radio, so she's going to assume he must have gotten the door open without any problems.

"Ninja! It's good to hear from you," Hank says. She can hear the sounds of children playing in the background.

"Everyone ready to go home, Hank?" she asks cheerfully.

"I don't know," he says, chuckling. "The folks here have been mighty hospitable."

She's grinning as she replies. "They are that, aren't they? But you don't want to wear out your welcome — or their resources — now do you?" She chuckles herself. "Besides, I have transportation for tonight."

"Well, in that case," he says sounding resigned to the fact of leaving new friends, "I suppose we'll be going home tonight." He pauses a moment, then chuckles again. "It's been a nice couple of days away from all the headaches. Mama sat Josie down and they talked for hours. But I have to admit I'm missing my own home. Not that Mama hasn't been absolutely gracious," he hastens to add, "but a person gets used to their own space, you know?"

"I do, Hank."

There's no place like home and all that jazz. She used to think of her house as a refuge and a home. It had always been the refuge she imagined it to be, but she didn't realize it hadn't truly been a home until Pablo moved in and made it one. Weird revelations at weird times.

"Can you gather up four folks who can drive big buses and have them meet me — or whoever is going to wind up being the contact person there — down at the Federal Building around six o'clock?"

She can almost see him nodding... that's how familiar the man has gotten to be. "No problem. Is that nice young man from Arizona going to drive our Sensitives home?"

She nearly bursts out laughing at that one. The wide grin is likely evident in her voice, however. "No, I'm afraid Henry had to get back to Phoenix. Would you ask Mama if she can find someone to take them home? If not, I can probably scrounge up a van and ask Newbie if he'll do it."

"Oh, I don't think that's going to be a problem," Hank says. "The Baptist minister invited them all to stay with him, and they've apparently become great friends. I wouldn't have believed it if I didn't see it myself. I suspect if I even hint at the fact that they'll need a ride up to Commerce City, the minister and his wife will have them in the church van and reluctantly on the road inside twenty minutes."

"Dang, Hank," she says with a bit of wonder, "I've always known the folks of Five Points are warm hearted and welcoming people, but they've really gone above and beyond in this case." She pauses to just shake her head. "I may have to tear up here."

He laughs. "Oh, hell no! There will be absolutely none of that," he says, chuckling through his words. "What kind of reputation will that give you?"

She chuckles as well. "I suppose sentimentality is not part of the Super Hero arsenal, is it?"

"Probably not."

"Well, I guess I'll have to save it for... hmm, for something else.

"Oh, as I hinted, I'm going to be bringing the Newbie with me and I want to introduce him around," she says as Newbie himself floats on the wind down from the roof. "Speaking of whom... I need to chat with him now. Have your folks start gathering in the park around six. We'll get the families and the elderly in the first convoy, okay?"

"That'll work. Anything else I should know?"

"Just that the folks coming back from Thornton are getting a ride. Sergeant Dennison is bringing them home in school buses he plans to borrow." She chortles at the idea. "If you could get in touch with Aaron and have him get the main gate open, they'll just roll right into the center of town. He figures after all the sports practices are over... so by maybe... five?"

Hank pauses another moment. "Is there... ah... going to be any cleanup we'll have to do?"

"Nope, Aaron and his crew disposed of any hardware that needed dumping; Wolf took the weapons, and the friendly neighborhood wildlife took care of any organic material."

"I..." He pauses, and she can hear him swallowing. "I... don't want to know what went on up there, do I?"

"No, sir... I don't believe that you do."

"Right. I'll get people moving, and give Aaron a call." He's about to hang up when he adds one more thing. "We've made some nice friends down here, Ninja... thanks to you. The best news is that there are at least a dozen volunteers to drive Missy's folks up to visit her anytime they'd like."

Maybe she will tear up after all. Although — to be perfectly honest — she's having entirely different thoughts running through her mind as she looks at Pablo in his uniform. Mmmm, yummy.

"That is simply wonderful news, Hank. And I know Missy and her folks are absolutely thrilled. Oh, and they love Jocko, too, don't they?"

He chuckles. "How did you guess?"

"I know everyone involved," she says. "The chances of any other outcome were so small, I didn't even entertain them." Again, in her mind's eye, she can see him shaking his head as they disconnect.

She puts her phone away as she inspects Pablo... now Peacekeeper.

"I don't know. That sure as hell looks like spandex," she says as she stares at his legs.

He hands the package of his regular clothing to her and Ninja puts it in the pannier, making sure the pannier is securely locked. He stands about arms' distance away, which is probably the best idea at the moment.

"Stop looking at me like I'm dessert, or we're going to head home right this minute," he says quietly. He's got his phasing mask on so she can't quite make out his expression. However, she knows him well enough to know he's looking at her in the same way that she's looking at him.

"Tempting, dear. Very tempting."

Ninja and Peacekeeper arrive in Commerce City before any of the residents do, so after introducing him to the daytime folks who had stayed behind, they take a walking tour of the enclave on their way to the northeast gate where they would meet Amanda's friend who is returning the farm animals. Along the way, she takes the opportunity to call Aunt Sonia to warn her of the impending influx of new family members. Aunt Sonia cheerfully laughs and informs Andi that Tommy had not only called her, but Tita, Andi's mother, and Aunt Alicia as well. She assures her niece that everyone will arrive by late Saturday afternoon — with the exception of Justin and Nicole, who can't wrangle the time off of work; Sam and Cynthia, who can't manage to arrange a flight on such short notice; and Henry, who got a call to cover the route of a fellow pilot who wound up in the hospital with a kidney stone. Sonia hints that there might be a Dance to welcome the new people into the family... another Dance Henry and Justin will be disappointed to miss.

The first caravan from Five Points arrives in Commerce City not long after Dennison arrives from Thornton with four school buses full of the community's residents who had walked up to Rotella Park. What makes the evening even more successful is Dennison's direction to take one of the school buses and stop at all the homes and shelters in Aurora and Denver where many of the Normal residents had disbursed so as not to put too much of a burden on the resources of Five Point's citizens. The other three buses join the caravans from Five Points.

Without the assistance of Masterson and his Chinook, Charles' Blackbird makes several trips back and forth from New York to Colorado. When Ninja explains their need, Clarise immediately runs off to pack. Her partner, Imala, watches after her fondly. "She'll pack for both of us, don't worry."

While Imala is not as adept a mind healer as Clarise, she is a superb body healer. She and Ninja seem to have mirror abilities, however — Ninja can heal herself from nearly anything but death, but hasn't been able to heal even Pablo without either using sexual magic or passing out. Imala can heal almost everyone else from near death, but can't heal the deformities of her own body. Her heart, her soul, her qi are utterly beautiful, however. Clarise — kind, loving, compassionate Clarise — only sees her beauty.

As each group of residents arrives, Ninja introduces them to Peacekeeper. The kids... well, the kids are their usual rambunctious selves. When Monica and Jeffrey get off the plane, they head right for her, but after only a moment, her spidery Monica is climbing up Peacekeeper's back... his cape being no deterrent at all. They are equally as interested in Wolf and Wolverine, and much less shy about approaching them this time around.

That's not going to be helpful in her campaign to have no more than two children. And it certainly doesn't help that all the children of Commerce City are charming.

Interestingly, Matthew elects to stay at the school. After Mamu describes his experience there, his foster parents are speechless with relief that their son has found a place where he finally feels completely at home. Ninja is more certain than ever that a visit to Charles and his school is an absolute must!

They try to stay on the periphery of the events in Commerce City... at least Madeline does. Charles has been worried, although not overly so. After the last trip from New York, after the Blackbird has taken off again, Madeline finds Andi and Pablo in the middle of a throng of children. She doesn't even get close enough to politely call out when Ninja looks up sharply at her. Although she smiles and thanks Wolf and Wolverine, assuring them that everything is as under control as it will get for a while, the Navajo woman's eyes seem to bore into Madeline. Ninja looks worried.

Several very busy hours later, not much before midnight, Ninja thinks about Maddie... and Logan... and Rene on her way home. She is worried, although not as worried as she had been after Logan had been taken by Stryker. And maybe 'worried' isn't even the right word. Perhaps 'concerned' might accurately describe her feelings surround the trio. They're out of balance, and yet... Well, she's fairly certain they'll figure things out. She pulls into their garage just as Peacekeeper lands in their backyard.

Andi has other things to think about now.

By the time she finishes her Becoming Andrea Again ritual and has her staff stowed in its proper place in the basement, Pablo has removed the hat, mask, gun holster, and cape of his new uniform. Andrea stands in the doorway and — she's going to be honest here — stares in open appreciation of her husband's fine physique. He was a delight to look at before he took his trip to Quetzalcoatl's prison world, and although he may have returned with a touch more gray in his hair, any weight he lost only accentuates the muscles he sculpted as he fled predators and learned to use his powers. And his uniform clings to those muscles in some places even better than spandex.

"Woman, what are you looking at?" he asks as he spies her in the doorway.

"Dessert," she replies with a sly grin. "Did you say you needed help getting out of that outfit?"

He chuckles. "Peregrine's wife did a great job of making this... fortunately, I won't need a costume assistant every time I wear it." He takes a step towards her. "However, I certainly won't turn down help if you're offering.

She closes the distance between them and runs her hands down his chest. "Oooh, nice material. I was imagining that this bullet resistant stuff would feel more like a wetsuit."

Pablo wraps his arms around his wife and pulls her close. "Willing to reconsider a new outfit yet?" he whispers before pulling on her earlobe with his teeth.

She moans lightly. "Keep that up, and you could talk me into almost anything."

"Mmmm, anything?" His lips and tongue move down her neck to the edge of her collar and then back up again. "I do want you safe, beloved wife."

Her hands roam down to his hips, and she runs her thumbs along his hip bones. His breath quickens and she smiles. "Bullet resistant and..." She massages his lower abs with her thumbs, and he groans softly. "...definitely not neoprene."

His hands move to pull her vest off.

"I'll reconsider, love. Now let's get you out of this, shall we?"

# # #

They still need to talk to the kids, let them know everything is fine and that they all have new travel plans... but not just yet. First, she needs to compartmentalize and put away those things they do not need to see. Children are frightfully perceptive, her children more so. Right now, she is grateful that they are too far away for the twins' Gifts to pick anything up.

Ice clinks in a glass behind her and she turns from the door. Logan is pouring them both highball glasses of scotch. Rene stands a couple of feet away, watching her. The corner of her mouth lifts in a sad smile. Rene holds his arms out to her and she goes to him, resting her head on his chest as he wraps his arms around her.

"I hate that it doesn't shock or surprise me anymore, Rene," she says dejectedly, still thinking about the earlier conversation with Charles.

"It hasn't in many years, Maddie."

"I know. But I still hate it."

"I know you do, love. I know. And you feel the pain for those children that they don't know to feel yet... the pain of the ultimate betrayal."

"I will never understand, even with all the blood on my hands..."

"Stop it, Maddie," he chastises. "No more guilt, remember?"

"Old habits..."

Logan comes up beside them and, holding out the glass to Madeline, asks, "How many?"

Rene kisses her forehead and releases her as she turns to answer Logan. "How many times? A couple dozen, at least. If I were to count each life affected..."

She shakes her head as she takes the scotch. "No... I won't do that... I just... can't..."

She sips from the glass, letting the burn of the drink warm her mouth and slide down her throat.

"That's why we fought the great wars," her Mate rumbles, brows lowered. "Part of why, at least."

Madeline sighs.

"We probably know more about that than most these days, Logan," Rene says. "My mother survived occupied France. My father was a soldier, and Maddie's parents were both in Japanese work camps. But there is still a lot of the world where things are... bad."

"And Rene and I have seen much of it. It's what kept us employed for all those years."

"How long did you work together," Logan asks.

"Twenty years, give or take," Madeline answers. "Then I retired."

"You really have never talked about this?" Rene asks with a bit of surprise.

Logan shrugs. "Never seemed to be the right time."

Rene meets Logan's eyes over Madeline's shoulder. He nods after a moment, understanding then that the omission had been on purpose... on Logan's part. He had done it to avoid causing his Maddie more pain. Well, he supposes she is their Maddie now.

"Logan's been very patient," she says quietly. "I've never been an easy person to live with and I'm fairly sure I've been extra difficult the last ten years."

Logan reaches out and cups her face. "We all have our demons, Madeline. I may not have understood much in the beginning, but I went with you willingly and I'd make the same choice again. You've never held back. You've always given me all that you could, without hesitation."

She puts her hand over his with a soft smile and turns her face to kiss his fingers. He steps forward, stopping her and replaces his fingers with his lips. She pulls him to her, her fingers threading through his hair. Their mutual desire hums through their bond.

Rene takes the drink from her hand and downs it... not that it affects him any more than it does her or Logan. Still, the burn helps. A bit. He keeps moving, straight to the wet bar for a refill, not looking back... not needing to. Even if he could not feel what she feels through the connection they share, he knows. There is no way he can't. He had shared love with her in every way possible — mind, body, and soul.

Was death not supposed to kill these desires? Apparently it does not. He had once told her that if he were ever too injured to make love to her that she should just put him out of his misery and bury him. Who knew it would not have helped?

He stands with his back to them and very carefully attempts to retreat from the influence of the bond. He purposely avoids brushing Madeline's mind with his. He mentally pulls back and shutters the thoughts he's having.

The thing he had not counted on, however, is the thing that happens. Through her contact with him over the years they had been together and then from her work with Charles, she has become sensitive to the touch of another's mind, even though she has no Gifts of her own. She feels him pull away and 'disconnect,' and although he tries to be subtle about it, the sensation is jarring to her... enough so that it travels to Logan as well.

They break from the kiss and turn toward him as one.

"Rene?" she asks. "What...?"

Without turning or speaking, he sends just a brief mind touch to her. The multitude of images in that quick flash answers her question.


Logan begins to ask, but a scent catches his attention. "He is still your husband."

"Yes. And our bonds are connected. What is felt in one reverberates through the other. It may make things more awkward, but I think we should talk about Vincent," she says.

"Are you sure, Maddie?" Rene asks, his voice rough.

"Yes, it was a similar situation," she answers. "But I think I need another drink first, one that I actually get to drink."

"Sorry about that," Rene apologizes. "I wish it still had the same effect."

She snorted. "Damn straight. I miss being able to get blind, stinking, paralytic drunk."

Rene refills the one glass and pours another. He returns across the room but keeps his eyes from Madeline, handing the glass to her without meeting her gaze. The brief contact of their fingers is enough torment; there are so many memories even in that small touch.

"Vincent..." Logan rumbles, searching through fragmented memories.

He knows he had somewhat met the man once. Her friend Frank had asked him to carry his body out from that place of death and pain. "He smelled of plastique... and you."

"Yes, that was our Vincent. You asked me if I had found my husband," she confirms with a fond smile, eyes distance. "Maybe we should share our memories of him. Do you think you can, Rene?"

"I can try. I've never tried with anyone but you, Maddie."

"We should probably sit down," she suggests, then leads the way to the sitting area.

The two men follow her... one her husband, the other her Mate. Two words that mean the same thing, and yet are different. Without vocal cues and planning, the three sit so that each can see the other two equally, effectively forming a triangle.

"I don't know quite where to start," she says.

"Vincent was your husband, too?"



"Kind of inadvertently, actually. We were on a job and had to pose as a couple looking to get married. We had to go through the legal ceremony to not blow our cover," she explains, "as well as the wedding night consummation."

She smiles and chuckles a little. "He was so nervous that night you would think he'd never been with me before. I know it had been a while, but really..."

Rene clears his throat. "That was partially my fault..."

The room seems to fade and they are observing that time long ago.

Rene smiles and nods to the guard as he crosses the room and drapes an arm around Vincent's shoulders. He leans in and speaks clearly and quietly into the other man's ear. "If you put Madeline at greater risk by not behaving toward her as a husband would, you will regret it."

Vincent turns enough to see the older man's eyes, the deadly seriousness there. They — the three of them — are in the middle of a delicate situation and they are improvising. Their fourth had been delayed at the last minute and the initial plan had already been in play. Adjustments have been made on the fly and now the people of this town, and the Commandant controlling it, expect Vincent and Madeline to marry, to prove that they are who they said they are — just a young couple wanting a romantic destination wedding.

The expected bridegroom's deep voice catches on her name. "Madeline..."

The best man and supposed brother of the bride holds his gaze. "Will do what is necessary. She's a survivor." He grins then. "And if I know my Maddie like I think I do, she'll enjoy herself, too."

"Rene!" Madeline says with a laugh as the scene fades. "And yes, I did enjoy myself."

"Yes, dear, I know."

"He did not live at the cabin," Logan states.

"No. He didn't come with us when we moved here. In fact, if he had chosen to stay, I don't know that we would have moved here... to the US."

Rene shakes his head. "Probably not."

"Why did he leave?" Logan asks.

"Leon wasn't his," Madeline says softly.

Logan looks at Rene. "Would you have left if he was Vincent's son?"

Rene does not hesitate in his answer. "No. Other than working, I would never willingly leave Maddie's side. She is the most important part of my world; there is nothing and no one more precious to me."

Madeline reaches over and takes up Rene's hand.

"Not even Leon?" Logan asks.

"Not even Leon. I love my boy, but he is more your son than mine. You've raised him. I'm just a faded memory and most of that memory for him is his mother's sorrow. Would it be different if I hadn't died? Probably, but Maddie would always come first. Children grow up and leave home. And he loves you. I'm his father, but you are his dad."

"Has he always been like this?" Logan now asks Madeline.


"And this is why you loved him so."

"Yes," she answers.

"It wasn't a question."

"I know."

"And why did you want to talk about Vincent?"

"I feel as if we are three parts of a whole. We had that with Vincent once and we made it work," she says, "until he left. I understand his choice and we carried on because it did not break us. But we three here... We are connected. What affects one affects all, but..."

"Something is off," Rene adds.

"Off..." Logan repeats and then nods. "Yes, but what is it and how is it fixed?"

Madeline begins to answer when Cat makes its presence known.

"We would offer advice," it says.

"We?" Madeline asks. "Who is we?"

"All of us who are the Spirits of the People."

Madeline, Logan, and Rene look at one another. The men shrug and nod.

"Okay, go ahead," Madeline tells Cat.

The suite fades away to be replaced by open land. Every Spirit of the Nations' Peoples and the Aboriginal Peoples gather around a boulder upon which Madeline sits alone. Rene and Logan stand near the boulder looking up at her. Cat jumps up on the rock... jumps up on the table... jumps up on the rock and sits before Madeline, seemingly searching her face for something.

And thus spoke the Spirits and the Holy People of the First People, with Cat as their Voice:

"It is true that Rene has learned to be in the Human dimension as well as he existed here prior to his death. Like all the Spirits, he must spend at least as much time in the world of the Spirits as he spends in the world of the Humans. The more strenuous his activities in the Human world, the more time he must spend in our world. That is true for all of us.

"This may not always be true for Rene.

"But Rene has lived in Human form and still possesses the emotions of Humans. There is Magic Rene can empower that the rest of us cannot... that of the truest of all Human Magics: sexual magic.

"We cannot say how his attributes, his traits, his qualities will manifest in the Human world, no more than we can say how any of our attributes, our traits, our qualities will manifest. The traits of Coyote manifested differently for the Warrior when Coyote assisted her than Coyote's traits manifest for the Warrior's cousin."

As an aside, Cat says, "Any of our traits — when shared with the Warrior — seem to become unpredictable."

Cat continued as the Voice of the Spirits and the Holy People of the First People...

"We would say to you, however, that never before has an Elder had a guardian Spirit. We did not see a need for such guidance. No Elder has requested such assistance. Yet, we believe Rene — the Spirit who once was human, who has been and always will be your Beloved — should act as guardian Spirit to the Elder known as Logan as well as guardian to you, O Sister of our Warrior.

"To speak in the analogy of the Diné, the People into whose Nation this Warrior was born, each life is a weaving — with threads pulled from life's events, with threads given from people in one's life. It is unusual for two lives to bind so closely that a single tapestry is created. Yet this is what happened with you and Rene. Your tapestry was strong and the colors vibrant. When his life in the Human world ended, the weaving continued — but the threads were weak and the colors dull. Now he is of our World and again the threads are strong and the colors vibrant. But you had begun weaving the threads of your life with Logan's — very strong threads, very beautiful colors.

"The weaving, although strong, is now discordant. The colors are vibrant, but they clash. By acting as guardian to the Elder Logan, the threads that are Madeline and the threads that are Rene and the threads that are Logan can weave even more strongly, too strong for any Human or Spirit to cut. And the Tapestry will blaze with a beauty not seen in the Human world since we came to this land with the Many Peoples.

"To see this so soon after the Warrior and her Mate..."

Cat looks at Eagle. "You are the one who speaks to the Great Spirit. Perhaps you should speak of these portents."

Eagle launches itself up to the boulder and tucks Cat under its wing as it nods to Madeline.

"Unlike the weavings so dear to the Diné, our Warrior and her Mate unconsciously chose the silver workings that are also close to the heart of the Diné. Rather than a weaving of great strength and beauty, they have become a band of silver — pure and untarnished, exquisite with a subtle beauty — the Warrior is barely indistinguishable from the Mate when seen with the sight of the Great Spirit; in the sight of any Lesser Beings, they are One. For the Warrior to have facilitated your Great Becoming, for her to have brought you not only into the Nation of the Diné but into her own clan... this is a thing worthy of the highest blessings of the Great Spirit.

"I have been tasked by the Great Spirit to say to you: the Triad and the Duo, the Five Spokes of the Wheel — be whole, be healed, be well. I speak this to you in the vision you share with your Beloved and your Mate, Madeline of the Ts'ah Yisk'idnii of the Diné, but know that I speak directly to the heart of the Warrior, your Sister Andrea of the Ts'ah Yisk'idnii of the Diné.

"You are Five. You are Three, yet One. You are Two, yet One. Your purpose as each is your purpose as all."

Everything fades and they are once again in the suite; all the Spirits are gone except Rene, Cat and Eagle.

Madeline looks straight at Cat and asks, "Wouldn't it have been simpler to say my instincts were on the right track?"

"It would have, yes. But you, all of you, needed to know that more than you are affected by what you do... or do not do. You must find a way to blend old and new beyond what we have done in aiding your true Strength to be fashioned, for it will be needed by the Warrior and her Mate."

"So no pressure at all to get our shit together?" she asks rhetorically.

Although it needs no answer, Cat does answer anyway... with a shrug. Then Cat and Eagle fade from view.

"Did both of you get out of all this that if we don't pull it together, Andi and Pablo could fail against the... against It?"

"Like you said," Rene answers, "no pressure at all."

Logan nods.

"Logan?" she asks.

"Madeline?" he responds.

"Logan, I need you to trust me on this."

"Of course. But what do you mean?"

"In a couple of minutes, I'm going to ask you what you felt."

Before he can say another word or question further, she straddles Rene and is kissing him. It is only a microsecond before Rene begins returning the kiss with passion. And as he always did, he lets her know of his need and desire for her with his mind.

She does not have to ask Logan what he feels. A rumbling growl comes up from his chest, aggressive but not hostile. He is standing behind her, chest slowly heaving, when she and Rene break from the kiss. She leans back and looks up at him, knowing he had felt from her and Rene what Rene had felt from them.

Rene looks up as well as says, "There is nothing I wouldn't do to keep Maddie safe."

"Nor I," Logan tells him.

It is as the Spirits had spoken: Rene's uniqueness among them allows him the use of a Magic particular to the Human world. And in the use of it, the tapestry is rewoven from three, made stronger and more vibrant than any that had been seen for millennium. Each one feels it — as though there are no longer two discordant bonds but a single one that connects the three of them.

Having spent considerable energy, Rene returns to the Spirit world. Logan and Madeline go about the business of collecting their vehicles and children — after Charles makes one last trip in the Blackbird — and preparing for the drive south. It's late when they finally get the children settled in bed.

# # #

Despite the stress of the past few days, Andi doesn't think she and Pablo sleep all that much overnight. She does let him continue sleeping when her internal alarm wakes her around five. She simply grabs her workout clothes and heads downstairs to practice.

After a short warmup, she starts with standing meditation: eyes closed, proper posture, arms raised as though hugging a tree. In fact, that's what some of Grandmaster Chen's students from America — themselves Masters — had called the pose: Hugging the Tree. As she scans her meridians, she notes something different about her qi. She stands for a good forty five minutes before beginning her practice, simply tasting... touching... smelling... listening to the difference. She allows the difference to surround her as she practices, for it is recognizable as Maddie. And yet, there is more.

After an hour of practice, she is able to discern the subtle touch of Cat... and the thoroughly balanced souls that are Maddie, Rene, and Logan. She finds it interesting that Rene is both a Spirit and yet still a human soul. There's a comfort in that and a rightness. She can see in her mind's eye a weaving done by the hands of the Great Spirit itself, woven from the lives and loves of these three. They are One, just as she and Pablo are One.

And even more, she can see the tendrils of their unity wrapping like delicate vines around her own qi. She doesn't doubt that she would see the same thing if she were to look at Pablo's meridians. She suspects, too, that the unity of her bond with Pablo is similarly wrapping around the qi of Maddie and Logan, the qi that is Rene.

It's as if — as impossible as it might seem — Madeline is as connected to her as a true sister born. Andi can see the same delicate tendrils of Justin's qi, although the tendrils that are Maddie-Rene-Logan are far stronger, far brighter. But she also believes it is simply because their light shines as brightly as does hers and Pablo's.

After some amount of time — yes, inspecting this new development certainly sends her into that place of No Time — she senses Pablo's presence very near. She slits her eyes open enough to see him moving with her, his eyes closed and a soft smile on his face. Closing her eyes again, she completes her current form and moves smoothly to another one. She can feel Pablo take the change in stride as if he, too, is a Master.

At the end of the last form, she performs the Qigong closing exercises... and so does Pablo. She has never taught these to him.

She feels full of energy, awake, alert, alive, joyous as she turns to Pablo with a smile on her face.

"How did you do that?" she asks as she holds out her hands to him.

He places his hands in hers, their lao gong points aligned and fingers resting on one another's wrists.

"You remember a few months back after we formed our bond for the first time?" He smiles that smile that tells her that he has lovemaking on his mind again. "I watched you practice and I could almost predict how you were going to move next. It was relaxing and energizing just watching you."

She nods. "I remember. We tested the remote healing thing... you got blood on my floor over there, you goof," she says, grinning as she nods toward the other side of the room.

"Well, I did clean it up, too," he replies.

"True. You are a good housemate and truly a gentleman." She sighs softly. "That was the week before you... you went away, and I thought that I had died."

Pablo pulls her into his arms and she wraps her arms around his waist. "Yes. And... well, then I came back and we reformed our Bond. It's so weird, Andi." She can feel his head shake a bit, she can hear his heart race and then settle quickly. "It seems like I can feel you practicing whenever you do it now. I don't even have to be in the same room."

She pulls back slightly and looks up into his eyes. "Really? Even when, oh, I don't know... when I was up at the Jacobs' place earlier in the week and you were at work?" It's really neat, but she doesn't want to be a distraction.

"Yes, really," he says, then kisses her forehead. "And I knew you were practicing, although the feeling that I could move along with you wasn't very strong when you were up in Golden. I still felt more relaxed and energized afterward, though."

"Wow." She doesn't know what else to say. This bond of theirs has got some interesting side effects and the side effects seem to be multiplying. "I would have practiced more if I'd known it was as beneficial for you as it is for me," she says with a smile.

"Oh." Her eyebrows furrow as her smile fades. "Is it just the Taijiquan? Or do you feel what I'm doing when... well, when I'm off doing my Ninja thing?"

He pulls her close again and holds her more tightly. "Just the Taiji, love. I promise. And when I woke up a little while ago, I could tell you were practicing and I had an almost overwhelming urge to join you."

She shakes her head slightly as she rests it on his chest. "I could feel you. I watched for a couple of minutes. You looked like a Master practicing, Pablo."

Her husband chuckles. "Well, I won't be getting any recognition of the fact. I've tried practicing when you're not around and I can barely keep from tripping over my feet on that one part... I think you called it something like Waving Hands Around in the Clouds."

She giggles and holds him tightly. "Close enough. And that also answers a question that popped into my mind. I could probably go to the shooting range with you and score as a marksman if we're in sync like we are now. But if I went on my own, I probably wouldn't be able to hit the broad side of a barn!"

Pablo laughs. "You probably wouldn't be that bad! But I don't think I'd trust you with a gun without a lot of lessons and a whole lot more practice."

She chuckles. "As I told Wolf — whenever it was that I told her — I'm much more accurate with my qi blasts and, depending on the weapon, my range is just as good, too."

They stand there in her dojo for a little while, just holding one another — just feeling the energies swirl around them and through them, enjoying the pace of the moment.

"Something is different," Pablo says finally. "It's hard to explain. It's not our Bond, exactly. But..." He pauses, a bit flustered that he can't describe the difference. "...there's something different."

"Yes." She watches the qi flow through his meridians; he's been taking the oddities of their Bond and things related to the Spirit world in stride the past few days. She hopes that's a sign of acceptance and not a sign of shock. "You and I... we have a Bond. We are two who became One. Well, Maddie and her husband and her Mate have stabilized and strengthened their Bond. They are three who have become One."

She looks up again, smiling with amusement and bemusement while looking into the depths of his brown eyes. "I think this difference we feel has something to do with the fact that I formally adopted Maddie into my clan. I suspect it may also have something to do with the fact that Rene is a Spirit because I seem to be getting better and better at communicating with them. And hell, it wouldn't surprise me if the fact that Logan is an Elder has something to do with it, too.

"But the two who are One and the three who are One seem to have become the five who are One."

Pablo studies her face for a long moment before shrugging. "Okay. The odd bit of — I guess I'll call it strength and energy and solidity — is just our connection to them then?" He nods slowly. "Sure. Okay."

Andrea looks at him somewhat suspiciously. "You seem to be taking all this rather well. You're not going to flip out on me suddenly at some inopportune moment, are you?"

He chuckles. "Andrea, my beloved... ever since that day I finally worked up the courage to tell you how much you mean to me, weird things have been happening more and more frequently and are becoming more and more normal. I think I'm getting fairly good at taking things in stride, don't you?"

She smiles and sighs softly. "You are. I think. I certainly hope so. You and the Captain seemed very tense — more stressed than I've ever seen you — this week."

"That was the job, Andi. Knowing that there is a murderer out there, knowing that our hands are virtually tied in fighting him, preventing him from killing again..." Pablo sighs. "That's hard."

"I think I understand," she says softly. "The things we learned, the depths of depravity to which humans sink... Yeah, I think I understand how you feel."

"Oh, Andrea, you should ever have to know about such things!" Pablo says with sadness.

Andrea only smiles, so much more sadly than he speaks. "But Ninja does. We're one and the same now," she says. "I'm not a delicate flower... I never really was, Pablo. I only pretended to be delicate, I only pretended to be Normal. I've known since that night I met you, when I dislocated the senator's son's precious elbow, that there are people in the world who do unpleasant or wrong or just plain evil things simply because they can. It was reinforced when Denise died. I see it now all the time, but I always try to see more of the good than the evil."

She can see the pain in his eyes and she is almost on the verge of tears herself at how much those words hurt his heart. He lightly brushes his fingers along her cheek. "Oh, Andrea, love... I hate that you have to know the darkness of humanity."

She shakes her head and manages a smile. "It's almost funny, Pablo. You accept the oddness that comes from me being the Warrior, but the duties are what upset you." She takes his hands and holds them between their hearts. "I still go to the library and I still help people in ordinary ways there, but I'm becoming more and more the Warrior. Think of me as another police officer, if you must... even though I'm really more of a soldier. It's part of me that you need to accept as well, beloved."

He sighs and attempts a smile. "I'll do my best. It's easier to accept the Spirits and all the metaphysical craziness that goes on than to see you as a soldier. But I will try. I promise." He kisses her hands, then holds them against his chest has he looks into her eyes.

"As Rene said yesterday, you don't have to like what I do," she says, "just understand that it's necessary."

"The Shadow."

"Well, yes... but more than that, too. When you went on patrol with me, it was a fairly quiet night." She pauses, lips tightening and nostrils flaring in anger for a moment. "Until we discovered Sally, at any rate." And the people responsible are quite dead now, so... Well. The cold-hearted bitch thinks that's just fine.

"I don't always get out of Charlie's without breaking a few heads. I try — every time, I promise — to talk the fools down out of their crazy place. But it's not always possible. I'm not going to let my people get hurt, however." She merely shrugs. "I just do what I have to do to keep my people safe. You can understand that, can't you?"

Pablo smiles, nearly chuckles. "You're like a mama cat protecting her kittens sometimes."

She does chuckle. "More like a mama bear... they're far more protective and ferocious. And more dangerous." Andi knows that Pablo will always be here for her when she needs him. She knows he will do his best to accept her changing life. If she's honest with herself, sometimes even she's a bit taken aback by all the changes since they first Bonded.

"I suspect there are still going to be things that throw you for a loop every once in a while — like, maybe if I told you how old Maddie and Logan really are — but I guess if we're going to stand and face down the Shadow, the less that surprises you, the better." She pauses, feeling the tiny tendrils of their connection to her sister and her sister's men. "And I think the five who are One, the Pentad, are meant to stand together on that day... may that day be decades from now."

"Okay, you got my attention with that one," he says, brushing strands of hair from her face. "Just how old are Maddie and Logan?"

She pauses, a puzzled look on her face. "Madeline," she says finally. "I think Rene only ever called her 'Maddie'. And I picked it up from him. Even Logan calls her Madeline." After another slight pause, she shakes her head. "No, the Bakers call her 'Lin'."

He grins at his wife. "I'm not sure if you're avoiding the question, or if the matter of your new sister's name is of vital importance."

"Definitely not the first, and I'm not sure about the second," she replies, still sounding puzzled.

"Madeline, then. I know a lady doesn't like to share her age, but you seem willing to share it for her."

"I don't think Madeline is any more a lady than I am, and we've had that discussion before, dear," Andi says, smiling.

"I know." He leans down to kiss her. "And I stand by my belief that you are a lady, beloved. Therefore, so is your sister."

She just rolls her eyes. "What will it take to convince you, you wonderful thick-headed man?"

Pablo looks into her eyes, a loving smile on his face, and shakes his head. "You had me convinced years ago, Andrea, that you are a lady. I don't think you can change my mind at this late date."

"Not even the fact that I am, on occasion, a cold-hearted bitch?" she asks with a grin.

"Oh, but that's Ninja, not my sweet Andrea," he replies with a corresponding grin.

"One and the same, my dear... remember?"

"Not when there is unladylike behavior involved. I will blame that on Ninja, and Andrea will always be a lady."

She groans and rolls her eyes. "Oh, good grief! And you have the audacity to call me incorrigible?"

"I never said I wasn't incorrigible." His eyes twinkle with merriment.

She sighs and shakes her head, although she is smiling and her heart is light. "Fine. Brat.

"And my sister is old enough to be our mother. Logan is old enough to be Papa Bill's great-grandfather."

His reaction is far less interesting than she had expected. Perhaps he really is starting to get used to the weird that has begun to permeate her life.

"Hmmm," he muses. "Does that mean you'll still look this sexy when you're well over a hundred?" he asks as he wraps his arms around her again.

She chuckles. "I have absolutely no idea, dear. My longevity — however long it might be — is related to my manipulation of qi. Logan's people are simply long-lived. Very long-lived."

"Madeline's too?"

She shakes her head. "No, she picked up the trait — and some of Logan's other abilities — when she was pregnant with the twins."

He tilts his head, forehead wrinkling with an expression that clearly conveys puzzlement. "That's possible?"

Andi shrugs. "Evidently." She doesn't think it's really necessary to go into the whole issue of malleable DNA. And she doesn't think she'll mention any of the children's abilities, either. Nope, surprises are good for Pablo.

He kisses her neck, then whispers, "And when are we going to start our family, dear wife?"

She nips at his ear, and whisper back, "Not until after the wedding... and not until I can be fairly certain I'm not going to get shot in the abdomen for nine or ten months."

"Time for a new uniform, love! That way, you won't have to worry about things like being shot in any of your lovely body parts."

She reaches around and swats one of his lovely body parts. "I said I'd consider it," she says with a grin, "so you can stop nagging now."

"I don't know... maybe I like it when you spank me," he says, grinning mischievously.


He laughs, then kisses the tip of her nose. "Let's go take a shower. I suppose we should show up at your Aunt and Uncle's house before your sister and her family do."

"Probably a wise idea, yes."

"So we should probably limit ourselves to a two-hour shower," he says matter-of-factly.

She rolls her eyes again. "Go! Get!"

And the brat laughs all the way up the stairs as she follows him. He's not the only one who's had to get used to weird things.

Sheesh. Men.

© Kelly Naylor and Ividia Kt