Issue 8: A Case of You

Andi wakes to the smell of coffee.

And that means either her internal alarm has stopped working, which would not normally be a good thing but she doesn't have to work today, or she briefly woke up and went right back to sleep, something she's been known to do on occasion.

She also senses Pablo standing at the side of the bed, no doubt holding the mugs from which the scent of that sweet elixir emanates. She smiles before opening her eyes.

"I can't believe you're up before me. What time is it?"

He sets the mugs down on the nightstand and sits beside her, gifting her with a kiss. "Not quite seven. You were sleeping restlessly... and I heard the coffee maker ding." He shrugs. "I figured you needed the sleep. You've been pushing yourself awfully hard."

She sits up and reaches for her mug, taking a sip of coffee before saying anything else. "Rough patrol last night, capped by another weird dream. So yeah, I needed sleep. Thanks."

"What time do we need to head out this morning?" He looks at her with a glint in his eyes that means they might not make it out to Golden before dinnertime if she lets him have his way.

She smiles, watching as their qi swirls around them. "Maddie said mid-morning. I figure ten would be reasonable."

"Hmm, plenty of time then," he says, waggling his eyebrows.

She laughs. "You know you look like a complete dork when you do that, right?" She takes another sip of coffee and looks over the rim of the mug at him. "Do you want to hear about the highlight of my patrol?"

He chuckles. "It makes you smile, love. And if the highlight of your patrol was the reason you took a shower long enough for me to notice, then I'm not really sure I need to hear about it."

She groans. "No, that was the low point of the night. Gods, I hate sports bars!"

"I can't disagree with you there." He picks up his mug as well.

"I bore the brunt of it, but Martinez looked like she wanted to shave her head, too." She shudders. "And some people claim washing your hair with beer is good for it!"

Pablo shakes his head. "I'd like to say this is business as usual, but from hearing talk around the station, this year is far worse than anyone can remember."

Andi shrugs. "Clarence blamed it on the Mayan Apocalypse."

He just looks at her for a minute, a pained expression on his face. "You know that has nothing to do..." He pauses then, the pain replaced by thoughtfulness. "Huh. There might be something to that idea."

"Seriously?! I hope you're not thinking of joining Clarence in another one of his conspiracy theories or something."

"Well, for the Mayans, it's just the end of the calendar year, right? And what do people do at the end of the year?"

She groans again and adds an eye roll this time. "They party like lunatics, making my job more hectic... and the Patrol officers overworked and more abused than usual."

He nods. "Exactly."

"Well, that only partially explains last night." She sighs, then leans over to put the coffee mug down before stretching out again, resting her head on Pablo's leg. "You didn't hear this from me, of course, since I wasn't there... and technically, neither was your buddy Wright, but the grapevine has got to get this story to you somehow so you can tease Bobby mercilessly about it."

"Oh, this can't be good," he says as he puts his mug down beside hers. "Wait... Ninja ran into Bobby?"

She nods. "And David. Ninja contemplated cracking Bobby over the head."

He begins running his fingers through her hair; she swears that's more calming than Taiji at times. Many times. Most times?

"Well, I know both of us have thought about it on a daily basis for at least a couple of weeks now. But where the heck did Ninja run into them?"


He stops moving; he practically stops breathing. "Andi... they didn't get a good look at Ninja, did they?"

She absently reaches up and pats his back. "No worries, love. I carry the distortion mask with me. I saw David's car in the lot before going in. Charlie was a little surprised, but didn't ask. He was pretty stressed, too."

"Where were your bouncer buddies? I thought you said they could handle pretty much anything." His fingers begin moving through her hair again, causing her to sigh softly.

"Both out sick."

"Well, that must have made for a rough night all around over there. Charlie isn't the bouncer type."

"Nope. He called Marlena up from Ms. C's. She's not anywhere near as intimidating as Donny and Teddy, but she can get an average size drunk in a headlock pretty quickly... or so Charlie says. I've only ever seen her tending bar."

"Mmm, that reminds me," he says with a teasing tone, "Peacekeeper still hasn't gone over to Ms. C's with you. I've been looking forward to seeing how the ladies react to you."

Andi playfully slaps him. "Brat. You may get your chance sooner than you think. With all the crazy going on, I think Peacekeeper ought to patrol a little more often."

"Seeing how bad this week has been for you, I might just agree with you. I'm still a bit uncomfortable going out on my own, though."

"I know. You just need to get comfortable with everyone. You're a people person. It shouldn't take you long." She smiles, watching how the energy between them moves from behind closed eyelids. It's just as mesmerizing now as it had been when she first saw it back in August... in Flagstaff.

"I really like Old Mama," he says. "That's one feisty old woman. Reminds me of my Abuela. And the few people I've met up in Commerce City are pretty solid folks."

"You met most everyone, goofy. But that was a pretty crazy day, so I can understand you not remembering everyone."

"Crazy doesn't even come close to describing what you and Madeline did up there. I know you've told me — more than once, in fact — how the two of you evacuated Commerce City, but I still can't wrap my brain around it."

She snickers. "Gods, you make it sound like we did it all single-handedly! We had tons of help... Masterson and his squad, Old Mama and her people, the folks of Commerce City themselves, Charles and Hank from the school, your boss — although he was a mad man by the end of it — Chief Than of the County, a friend of one of Maddie's friends, even that nut case out in Arapahoe County."

Pablo laughs. "You know, the story of the evacuation is one you're going to want to tell the children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Despite the circumstances, that part is zany, madcap and you make it sound hysterically funny. And yes, my boss is still a little annoyed with Ninja."

"Right. I don't think that's a story for children, as wacky as it is. After all, Ninja is a secret identity."

"No, no... Ninja is the Super Hero. Andi is your secret identity."

She opens her eyes and rolls her head so she can look up at his face. He's grinning. Of course.

"Brat," she repeats but she returns the grin. "However, I think this started out as a story about my best friend meeting one of Denver's Supers, didn't it?"

"Of course, my beloved. Please continue." He chuckles.

She shifts a bit so she can watch his face as she tells the tale. She can probably finish telling the story before she gets completely lost in his eyes. Or not. Gods, he has the most beautiful brown eyes she's ever seen. She sighs happily.

"I can tell you're not thinking about last night, dear wife," he says, his eyes glinting again with desire.


"Yes. I'm a detective, remember?" He brushes his fingertips along the side of her face. "And I'm getting better at feeling the energies moving."

"Good! It's pretty neat, isn't it? I wish you could see it more often... but maybe that will just take a lot more practice."

He laughs and shakes his head. "No, no... I'm happy not being able to see it all the time. I have a feeling it would get awfully darn distracting."

"Oh, you learn to compensate. Anyway! About last night...

"Okay, so last night was only the second time Charlie has ever texted me directly. I was down in LoDo and wanted to get over there right away, so I didn't get much information from him... just that there was a potential problem developing between one of the regulars and a new customer. I get there, scope out the parking lot to see which regulars are there who I know can sometimes get a little out of hand, and see David's car. Flip on the mask, pull out the staff, and head inside... where I find Charlie watching the back door. He sends Marshall Ninja on into the bar..."

She closes her eyes again and shakes her head. "Oh my gods, Pablo, you should have seen it. Both David and Marlena were trying to keep Bobby from scratching Carl's eyes out. Carl looked a bit freaked out... David was trying not to hurt Bobby... Marlena was trying not to hurt him while trying not to get hurt herself." Andi shakes her head. "I got in there between Bobby and Carl, and had David and Marlena back off... which Marlena was more than happy to do.

"Apparently, Carl said something — I'm not even sure he was having a conversation with Bobby and David, or if Bobby just overheard him — but he said something about Martha Stewart..."

Pablo groans. "Oh, dear God, no!"

She opens one eye and looks up at him. "Oh, yes. Yes, he did." She closes her eye again and continues. "It was fairly innocuous, if you ask me. And substantially true. But you know Bobby... he took it as an insult to his goddess and apparently felt the need to avenge her honor. Or something.

"So I've got one arm holding Bobby away from Carl, who's happy enough to just have Bobby go away... no need to bring the police into it and all that. Meanwhile, Bobby's starting to act like one of those zombies in a bad movie with flailing arms and inarticulate growling. I almost expected him to start droning on about brains. By this time, I've had just about enough, and simply pick him up and carry him out the back door. Damn, that boy is squirmy! Using typical blunt Ninja language, I told him to chill out..."

Andi pauses for a snicker and a bit of a laugh.

"That's another reason my best friend would never connect me with one of Denver's Supers. He told me I have a potty mouth and that my mother should have washed my mouth out with soap. It was all I could do to keep from laughing. Even if I'd only been using Fox's camouflage, there's no way he would connect the potty mouthed Super with the sweet and delicate librarian he's known all these years. And I reiterated the need for some Xanax or therapy. Even David looked stressed."

Pablo is grinning too. "Having watched a few zombie movies in my day, I'm enjoying the picture in my head of Bobby as Zombie. You say Wright didn't show up at the scene?"

"Nah, I handled it. He and Dorr had enough going on last night. I didn't want to waste his time."

"Darn. I'm wondering how to connect Ninja to Detective Garcia..."

She rolls over and reaches for her coffee mug, which Pablo graciously hands to her. As it's reached the perfect temperature — for her, anyway — she drinks considerably more than a sip.

"The last time I was over at Ms. C's, Marlena was telling the other bartender that the latest love of her life worked for DPD. She didn't give any details, and didn't mention any names — standard operating procedure. But the information could make the rounds and be overhead by Detective Garcia in a day or two. Or..." She looks at him speculatively. "you could admit you know the Supers and have worked with them on occasion. Well, you haven't actually worked with Peregrine, buy you are acquainted with him... and I don't think Bobby's going to press much on the topic. For a change."

"Really?" He sounds extremely skeptical. "I'd think that would be something right up his busybody alley."

Andi just raises her eyebrows. "After last night? I suspect it will be a topic he'd prefer to ignore for as long as humanly possible." She grins somewhat wickedly. "Hence the need to bring it up."

She looks into her empty coffee mug and sighs. "I need more coffee and some breakfast."

"And a few other things?" he asks suggestively has his fingers dance down her side.

She sits up and kisses him, luxuriating in the physical and metaphysical pleasures of lips brushing against lips, qi swirling and dancing through their meridians, the delightfully nuanced sensations of his beard against her cheek as she brushes across it to whisper in his ear, "Of course, my beloved." She tugs gently on his earlobe with her teeth before moving back to look into his eyes.

"But there's cold pizza in the refrigerator that's calling my name," she teases.

A few satisfying and blissful hours later, they're walking out the back door toward his car. She has her backpack — holding both their uniforms because... well, you never know... and a few bottles of water — slung over her shoulder and her staff in hand. One is seen, the other is not. As she locks the back door, Pablo remarks quietly, "It looks like Bobby has the day off."

She glances at her best friend's house, and the open kitchen windows, as she stashes both items in the back seat of the car. "Gosh, too bad you are, too. So much gossip... so little time!"

He chuckles as they get in the car. "I think I might need to drop by the office this afternoon, however," he says, winking as he starts the car.

Andi just grins.

It's a beautiful day. The sun is shining, there are only a few wispy clouds in the blue sky, and the temperature is supposed to reach about sixty degrees today. As they drive up Eighth Avenue, they pass plenty of bicyclists and runners wearing shorts and t-shirts. Some might find it odd that, on this seventy first anniversary of the Day Which Will Live in Infamy, the weather is so mild. Andi has gotten used to Denver and its weather, so it seems completely normal to her.

As they head up the driveway to the cabin about twenty minutes later, she can see the twins standing on the front porch. Her posture doesn't betray her, but Em's aura certainly does... she's looking up the mountain with a whole lot of longing. Given their conversation the first day they had met, Andi feels confident her niece is looking for the big cats. She grins.

"You know, I should probably introduce you to the cats, too, while we're up here."


"The mountain lions who play tag with the prox sensors? They've already been telling tales about you, if what the bobcats down in the Garden of the Gods said was accurate."

"Andrea, I don't have a talent to talk to the animals like you do."

She chuckles. "Doesn't matter. You impressed them — well, we impressed them, but you were half of the show — with the light and energy of our Bonding after you got back from Quetzalcoatl's world." She looks at him from the corner of her eye. "They called you the Fiery One."

He groans. "Great. I'm not going to need to come up here to deal with them, am I?"

She shakes her head, watching Em and to a lesser extent Vin, as Pablo pulls up next to one of the Humvees and parks. "No, you and Perry can leave them to me. I can at least talk to them. Convincing them to behave? Well, that's a different story. But now they have incentives." She nods in the twins' direction... the twins who have decided to come running toward them. "You'll be fine. Let's have family time and stop worrying about wild animals, okay?" she says, getting out of the car.

"Aunt Andi!" Em calls out, barely able to contain her excitement. "Mom said it was okay for the cats to come visit us! Did you tell them? Oh, please say you did!"

Andi laughs... her niece's joy is almost a physical presence. "I did, Em. But they have rules they are supposed to follow... one of which is that they're not allowed to set off the alarms in the Sheriffs' office."

"Tio Pablo! Do you know Sheriff Joe? He's coming to dinner, too!"

Pablo chuckles. "I know of him, Vin... I haven't had a chance to meet him yet, though."

Oh great. Someone else for Andi to meet who knows Ninja. Oh, well... She'll trust Fox, its magic, and the work she's been doing to make Andi and Ninja look dissimilar.

It's good to be with family... with the Pentad again. Heck, they haven't even seen Rene all week!

"Come on, kiddos, let's see what your folks have planned." Andi scans the area for the energy signatures of the cats and smiles inwardly.

Hai, Sly Cat! I see you!

Hai, Head Talker! You see well!

"If you've got time for getting to know the cats, I'll ask Sly Cat and her sisters to come down." Em's incredibly excited and Aunt Andi drapes an arm around her shoulder. Even though she's only ten, she's still an Elder... Andi would trust Em around the cats as much as she'd trust an average ten year old around their family dog. Maybe more.

The four of them climb their stairs to the porch, the youngsters politely letting the grownups enter the cabin first. Well, normal sized door and all that.... Pablo the gentleman holds the door open for Andi.

"Hey, Maddie! You want to beat me up now... or wait until later?" she asks.

Madeline pauses mid-chop with the chef's knife as the door opens. A simmering crockpot on the counter next to her exudes the scent of curry. On the stove behind her, a pot also simmers, sending up a flurry of other scents — garlic, onion, and more. A stack of serving dishes wait on the bar to be filled, along with a half full glass of wine. Neither Rene nor Logan are anywhere to be seen.

She raises an eyebrow at Andi's question.

"Kids, go up the hill and help your father with the wood," she says.

Logan does not need the help, certainly, but it's as good an excuse as any. Her tone is unmistakable and the twins obey without questioning, although Vin does throw her a confused look.

Andrea watches the twins go back out the door, closing it carefully behind them.

Once they are gone and the door is closed, she asks, "Just what in the nine sphincters of hell are you playing at, Andi?"

She looks at Pablo, then Maddie. She isn't even trying to see her Sister's aura, yet it's lit up almost like a Christmas tree: fear and worry and anger; fear tightly woven with the worry and securely packaged in a wrapping of anger that would be the envy of small electronics packages everywhere if it were something visible. Her tone and words barely hint at the storm beneath the surface.

"Do you think any of this is a game to me, Maddie?" Andi asks, as the stress of the past few weeks starts seeping back into her conscious mind. "Yeah, I'm a smart ass, and maybe that gives the impression that I might not be taking things quite as seriously as they ought to be taken.

"But I'm not above saying that I'm scared... that I'm freaking out... and that my life is getting so weird that even I'm not sure I can handle it."

She feels Pablo's hand on her shoulder.

"Andi, Madeline didn't mean..."

She continues to look at Maddie and nods.

"Yes, she did. And she's right, Pablo."

She glances at her husband as she steps out of the embrace he's trying to pull her into, then sits down at the bar. Gods, was it really only six weeks ago — not even that long — that she stood here for the first time, telling Maddie and Logan about Rene... Leon using his powers to show them the conversations she'd had with him?

Andi props her elbows on the counter and rests her forehead on her palms. She can feel the power there, growing stronger. She really IS scared. She's channeling so much power these days... far more than even Grandmaster Chen believed was likely. Or even possible. And yet, here she is. She feels like she could destroy the entire city if her control weren't so precise. She probably would.

"Do you want me to not help Logan with the firewood, too?" Pablo's voice is tight, yet Andi can hear the compassion behind his worry. "If this is something the two of you need to work out, I'll give you the space."

She doesn't know how to do this. Andi looks up at her Sister, unable to hide from that gaze. Her fear matches Maddie's, her worry resonates. The only thing Andi doesn't have is the anger to hide it in, so it all just spills out... messy and ugly.

"I... there are things I need to say that you and Logan and Rene should hear, Husband. What's between me and Maddie isn't something we can hide anyway.

"I'm just not sure it's something the twins need to hear."

She lowers her head again, this time raking her fingers through her hair as she stares at the inside of her eyelids. This isn't how she wants to have this conversation with Pablo... but those two are bound tightly with what's happening to her.

"I can ask the cats to keep them occupied."

"Yes, the cats, just maybe not just those cats," Maddie agrees.

"Rene? Cat?"

Both Spirits materialize at her call. Her husband speaks for both of them. "Maddie?"

She looks at the four footed Spirit first. "Will you and Panther look after Em and Vin while we talk? I know Naughty Cat has been hanging about so I'm sure the others can't be far."

Cat looks at Madeline curiously then turns its attention to Andi.

She feels more than sees Cat's attention focused on her.

Yes, of course, O Cat... feel free to eavesdrop. I can't stop any of you from listening in anyway.

Damn, even inside her own mind, she's starting to sound depressed... maybe even resigned to misery.

We are concerned, Warrior. Fox especially so.

After a moment's inspection, Cat nods. "We will do as you ask."


"Just be a moment."

Cat and Rene both disappear, and Andi curls her fingers in her hair. Gosh, she can't begin to imagine why any of the Spirits would be worried.

Maybe it's just being up here while not in uniform, maybe it's finally being close to Maddie again, maybe it's both... on top of everything that's happened since they got back from France... but she's having a hard time holding herself together.

If those two are going to make her life — well, her emotional state really — this miserable and chaotic until they get into this world, she might just lose her mind. Probably not, but right at this moment, she's having more doubts than usual about her sanity.

She can feel Pablo behind her; she can feel his worry echoing Cat's. Almost thankfully, she hears footsteps approaching the steps outside. Why does she find it so amusing that Rene seems to be making an effort to sound... what? Alive? No, that's not it; he's as alive as any of them. Solid maybe.

And why can she tell he's actually trying to make sure he's coming close to matching the sound of Logan's footsteps?

Insanity. That's the only thing that can explain it. Great. How is she supposed to explain that to Peregrine, Captain Sanchez, Nick? Oh, by the way, I'm going a little crazy. Pay no attention to any aberrant behavior on my part, okay?

Yeah, that'll go over well.

Rene reappears not long after leaving, but he comes through the front door with Logan, helping him carry the additional wood to the porch. Madeline sets her knife aside, turns the heat down on the stove, and collects her glass of wine.

Andi looks up as the door opens and sees the look on Maddie's face.


You know, that would explain why I'm more aware of Rene than usual.

"Couch, Sister," Madeline does not quite order.

Andi isn't sure it's quite the same "command" tone of voice her Sister is using on her that she's heard her use on the twins, but at this point she quite frankly does not care. It's just easier to get up, walk over to her sofa, and settle herself back down. She'd guess she must look as miserable as she feels; Pablo sits down beside her and tucks her in close to him. It's almost as though he's trying to protect her.

She sort of snorts quietly. It's not like she can actually laugh, and it's really more a sharp exhalation than anything else, but either Pablo is over-reacting or Andi is even more hypersensitive than usual. Waves of his worry and fear flow over her.

"Are you okay, Andi?" he asks softly.

She looks up into his dark eyes, finding some measure of peace and solitude there. Not enough, of course. There might never be enough.

Oh, goody. She's getting melodramatic now, on top of everything else. This is awesome.


That certainly gives him pause. Understandable, of course. How often in the many years he's known her has she seemed so insecure and afraid? Besides that first time they met when she was in college? She doesn't think it's ever happened. He's so used to her being strong and sure. Even that day when he returned from Quetzalcoatl's realm and she didn't really know him wasn't as scary to him as this.

"What's wrong, love?" He brushes the few strands of hair from her face that had fallen across her eyes when she looked up.

She glances at the rest of their family, waiting for them to sit down as well.

"Nothing... and everything." She groans almost silently at the stupidity of that comment. "Sorry. I don't..."

She can't help but sigh as she gestures towards Maddie.

"I'll explain. I'm just not sure any of the languages I know have the words to make sense of what's going on."

Madeline settles on the couch that Andi had not chosen, right in the middle, with her men — the other parts of her triumvirate — automatically flanking her. She holds herself upright in a way most would assume is simply a matter of not spilling her wine. Rene and Logan know better. Rene had spent decades with her; he knows her almost better than he knows himself. Logan's knowledge is more instinctive and primal. Their fingers meet at the small of her back as they each place a hand at her hips.

As Maddie sits between Rene and Logan, the only way Andi can explain the sensation is... well, something like all the air being sucked out of the room and then, as Rene's and Logan's fingers touch — how does she even know that? — it all comes rushing back in almost like a spring wind off the mountains. She closes her eyes as a wave of dizziness washes over her.

She doesn't get dizzy. Ever. What the actual fuck?

Madeline sips carefully from the glass, then leans forward and sets it on the coffee table. Now unburdened, her hands find purchase on the legs of Husband and Mate.

When she speaks, her tone no longer holds the note of command, but entreaty instead. "Begin, Andi."

Okay, she isn't sure about most of what's going on, but she does know what she can trust. Andi breathes deeply as she strips off her boots, eyes still closed. She feels Pablo's confusion, but he'll figure it out. When she folds her legs into a full lotus — something that isn't easy when wearing jeans, by the way — she opens her eyes and looks at Maddie. Her own qi is properly connected to earth and sky, just as Doshu Ueshiba and Grandmaster Chen taught. She feels balanced, at least in comparison to recent weeks.

When Pablo shifts on the sofa and lightly rests his fingers on her spine at the level of her xia dan tian, the upturned hands resting on her knees briefly look like cups of light. She minutely adjusts her posture to account for Pablo's part of their combined qi. They feel balanced.

"The first question is why did you feel my death more strongly than either of us expected. The second question is how do we keep that from affecting our respective lives and work."

As Andi look into Maddie's eyes, it's almost as if perspective splits. She's aware that the five of them are sitting in the living room of the Jacobs' cabin. On another level, she feels as though she and Maddie are alone in a void.

"There are several schools of thought on the subject of reincarnation. The Eastern schools see it as a cycle of birth and death and rebirth, with each life bringing one closer to the final death, the exit from the Wheel of Life... reaching nirvana for the Buddhists, moksha for the Hindus.

"Ancient Greeks, Celts and Norse had stories that spoke of people returning to life as other people.

"Even the esoteric sects of the Abrahamic religions have their versions of reincarnation stories.

"Some of the First Nations People have their own stories.

"And, of course, many belief systems under the umbrella of 'New Age' have their own views on the subject."

She smiles almost sadly. "I am Diné. These are not our beliefs. When a person dies, they leave this world and go to another. I have not heard of any tales that speak of the cycles that exist in other religions. But I do honor my teachers in their beliefs. I think, perhaps in many cases, that a very strongly held belief can determine what happens to you after you die."

In the split perspective of the void, Andi reaches out and takes Maddie's hands, although in the reality of her living room, she barely blinks.

"My beliefs have been rocked severely recently. I have been told that, at least for some souls... souls that travel through life after life together, that there is..." Andi closes her eyes for a moment, squeezing but not squeezing Maddie's hands. "...perhaps an idea of a place. I can't grasp what it is, and even Great Spirit has been less than helpful in my search for understanding. The only way I can bring any kind of meaning to it is to call it a library, a repository of knowledge.

"Still, despite not understanding all of what I've been told, it is clear that those of us in this room have chosen the path of traveling each lifetime together. Except..."

How can she possibly explain this without sounding like she needs to take a long vacation at a funny farm?

"...sometimes, or so I've been told, a soul might decide to live a dual existence. Usually as twins. Or close relatives. Rarely... as apparent strangers."

In the void, Andi reaches up and softly run her fingers along the sides of Maddie's face, then leans her forehead against her Sister's as she rests her hands on Maddie's shoulders. Sitting beside Pablo, Andi barely feels the tears streaming down her face.

"That is what we-I-you, did. And, we forgot. Because it is the nature of life for us to forget Before. Or the Great Library, as I'll call it.

"That is why you felt my death more strongly than you otherwise would have. I think. I feel... I feel confused, and conflicted, and scared. But I have been told this is the truth."

She closes her eyes, and discovers that she can't merge the split perspective back to a single one. The reason for that, however, is simple... she doesn't want to. Not yet.

"It answers the first question," Andi says softly. "I don't know how to answer the second."

She can hear the questions forming in Pablo's mind; so many of them, and it's chaotic. One question, however, is struggling to the surface... the question she doesn't want to answer just yet. And she can feel the curiosity of her guardian Spirits, and Cat, too.

"Shhhhh..." the Warrior says to all of them, her voice sounding very much like a gentle breeze gliding through the leaves of a tree.

Madeline's eyes don't exactly glaze over through Andi's pseudo-explanations, but much of the mysticism goes straight over her head. As she has said previously, in cases of the mutant powers and the like, she doesn't need to know how they work... just what they do and what tactical advantages they might provide.

In this case, however, there is an extreme tactical disadvantage to the problem.

"Then who would? Do we need to go straight to the Top?"

Andi considers that idea for a moment. It seems... She isn't sure if it's the wrong answer, or maybe the default answer after all other options have been exhausted. It doesn't help that she's not sure what any of the other options are.

"Maybe," she say. "But maybe not." She sighs and nods at Maddie. "I know. That's no help."

With her eyes closed, it is always easier, much easier, to look inward. If she only looks at her qi, she can't tell that those two are there. But she had peed on one of those damn sticks — which isn't actually the same level of proof for her that it is for most women, for obvious reasons. Still.

She wishes she could trust that her dreams were real.

What if she trusts that they are real, that those two told her the truth?

What if she trusts, and then it all turns out to be a stress-induced hallucination?

What if, what if, what if?

Andi opens her eyes and she looks at Maddie again.

"They say it's not possible for my death to affect you, or your death to affect me, while we're working... so to speak. That the Warrior within each of us will protect us." She shakes her head as her brows furrow. "But only when Ninja and Black Wolf are working. Andrea and Maddie will continue to be affected."

"While we're in Warrior mode only?" Madeline asks. "That's not a whole lot of help. I could be driving. I know I'll get up and walk away from a crash and Em would likely too, but Vin and Leon might not, nor would any I might collide with."

"Yes... at least that's the takeaway from my last encounter with them. It's worse than trying to understand the Spirits sometimes.

"And I'm pretty sure you have less faith in mystical ramblings than I have — well, okay, I'm not sure about the part about this being mystical. But I don't have a lot of faith, not in this particular case."

Before Maddie can say anything, Pablo interrupts.

"Who are 'they'?"

Andi looks at him and blinks.


Well, no time like the present, right? After all, is there ever a perfect time and place to share this kind of information?

"Our children."

He just stares at her blankly.


She swallows.

"I'm pregnant."

At least this time, Pablo blinks.


"Don't do that."


Andi can feel the tears welling up. This is not good. Why the fucking hell is she crying? She hates this!!

"Pablo. Do not make me slap you."

"Wha... I..." He blinks rapidly several times, then shakes his head. "Wow, I might be getting overworked and kind of stressed out myself. I could have sworn you said you were pregnant."

She can't tell if he's in shock or joking with her. Shouldn't she be able to tell? She could go all Hiroshima on Denver, but she can't tell if her husband is messing with her?

Seriously... what the actual fuck?

"I did." Hmm, that might have come out a little more snottily than she had intended. Fortunately, Pablo doesn't seem to notice.

His eyes go wide, however, and it feels like a shock wave of emotion hits her an instant before she finds herself crushed in his embrace. She thinks he's babbling, but not a bit of it makes sense. But she is being bombarded by overwhelming joy. Also? She can't breathe.

"You're squashing me, Pablo!"

Annddd... he can't, doesn't or won't hear her. Crap, if she had known that he would get to this level of crazy, she would have maybe figured out a way to tell him earlier... in a more open place... where she could escape. Now? She's trying to wiggle out of his smothering embrace, but she doesn't think she's going to escape without hurting him.

But damn, breathing would be nice!

Andi hadn't realized just how much stronger he'd become during his vacation in Quetzalcoatl's prison world, and she's pretty sure the forming of the Pentad gave him a boost, too. And she's at a disadvantage because she doesn't want to hurt him.

Great. She's got one arm trapped between them and, unfortunately, her palm is facing her chest. The other arm, however... yes... she can just barely move it enough to rest it on the outside of his thigh. It will have to do.

She jolts him with what she hopes is a relatively tiny amount of qi. It's hard to tell these days. And right now, she's freaking the fuck out!

But he does release her, at least with one arm — and the other one is merely draped over her shoulders.

"What?" he asks nonsensically as he looks at his leg, and then rubs the spot that had been zapped.

"If you say that one more time, I won't zap you. I'll hurt you."

He looks up at her with eyes that hint at the hurt and betrayal he'd felt when he returned from visiting Quetzalcoatl.


"I still need to breathe, Pablo. You were crushing me. It was that or go all Kung Fu on your ass, which would have meant tissue damage or broken bones or both... to say nothing of damage to Maddie's furniture. And I didn't zap you that hard."

He looks between his leg and his wife several times, using both hands now to poke and prod at the area around his alleged injury.

"OW, Andi! OW!"

Now she's losing it. Andi can feel whatever control she thought she had over her emotions eroding faster than she thought possible. She slides off the sofa to the floor, and walks on her knees over to Maddie. Pushing Rene's legs out of her way — possibly more forcefully than necessary, but she doesn't think she's exactly sane enough anymore to be able to tell — she wraps her arms around Maddie's waist and rests her head in her Sister's lap.


It might have come out as a whimper, but at least it was in English. She thinks. She's almost sure.

But that's when she starts her incoherent babbling. Maybe she's just speaking Diné Bizaad, but she might be cycling through all the other languages she knows, too — English, Japanese, Mandarin, maybe even Spanish. But she'd definitely speaking in tongues.

"Help me, my Sister, my Heart, my Soul. Please help me."

"Listen, Chief... you need to dial it way back before I kick your ass," Madeline says, automatically cradling Andi against her.

Andi is barely cognizant enough to realize that aside from Rene, there are absolutely no Spirits in the vicinity. None. Not hers. Not even Cat... although, Cat really ought to be with Em. Right?

It's almost as though they're afraid of her.

Yeah, well... so is she.

She can feel Pablo's eyes on her. And she can feel his utter confusion. Underneath the overwhelming joy, there is shock and hurt and betrayal and a great deal of uncertainty.

And she can't deal with that right now. That is her husband, the father of her... her children... and she can't deal with it. Now.

Is it bizarre that she feels safer with Maddie? No, that's not exactly it. Not exactly safer... but maybe grounded? That comes closer, although if she were any more grounded she'd probably start sprouting roots from the bottoms of her feet. She might be losing her mind, but physically she feels fine.

And it's not actually being with Maddie that she quite means either. Good gods, she really must be losing it!

Until some random thought wafts through the back of her mind... Skin to skin contact, even as slight as it is at the moment, closes a circuit. It's literally as if she had flipped a switch. She doesn't know why, but that makes sense.

Maddie is right, though. Whatever it is they have going on here might not be dangerous when they're actually working, but that's a fairly small percentage of their lives. The Warrior's reflexes are faster, maybe fast enough to keep anyone else from getting hurt... but maybe not.

Andi takes a deep breath and kneels up straighter, capturing both of Maddie's hands in her own, as she moves over a bit to let Rene get closer to Maddie. Right now, she needs this. How weird is it that she feels like this is the first time since getting back to the States from Paris that her mind feels as though it's returning to its usual and — HELLO! — normal clarity?

"No, it's not a big help. But maybe it's a clue. Or something."

She hears Pablo get up and walk to them. He crouches next to Andi, keeping himself close but not actually touching either his Wife or his Sister. It's more than a little unusual that Andi can sense nearly every bit of his conscious attention is focused on Maddie.

"Sorry," he says... to all of them, Andi thinks. "I just..."

She turns her head to look at him. To her, the pain of losing Juan and Rosalia isn't even beneath the surface anymore. But he shakes his head.

"Being deliriously happy is no excuse for getting carried away, especially since Andi obviously has been having a hard time... with more than I can even comprehend." He pauses, takes a deep breath, and lets it out slowly. "And allowing my clearly still unprocessed grief about my first wife and my son overwhelm all sense of appropriateness is inexcusable. I hope you'll forgive me, Andi."

Andi isn't sure what expression is on her face when she looks at him, but she feels like Grandmaster Chen just nailed her with one of his roundhouse kicks... and even though it lands with preternatural accuracy, she simply absorbs the energy and remains standing. Like a tree. Or maybe more like a boulder, since she doesn't even bend. From the blow, that is. Emotionally... well, she wouldn't say she's completely relaxed, but knowing that Pablo has been trying to ignore her looming break down as much as she's been trying to ignore it kind of helps.

She glances at Rene suspiciously; however, but he looks more impressed than pleased with himself.

"No, Rene didn't coach me," Pablo says with a ghost of a smile. "I might be thick headed, but I do remember a few things my dad taught me. Acknowledge what you did wrong. Own up to it. Mean it when you apologize. Try never do that particular bonehead thing again." He looks between his Wife and his Sister.

"I really am sorry. And as much as I'd like to say I'll never get ridiculously carried away with happiness at the opportunity to be a dad again, you know how I feel, Andi." He starts to reach out to place his hand over hers, then draws it back. He looks intently at their four hands twined together — Andi's and Maddie's — and looks first at Maddie... then at Andi before speaking.

"You remember when we repaired our Bond after I got back from Quetzalcoatl's prison world? Right, stupid question. But the little bit of qi I can see between the two of you looks a bit like how I felt when I got back. Like there's something you need to fix."

He looks at Andi's face, serious but trying to be strong. For her?

"Right. Stating the obvious. Sorry. You know what? I'm just going to sit here and shut up."

She smiles, briefly, but it's all Andrea with none of the snark Ninja brought to the table when she reintegrated her personality.

It's okay if you want to rest your hand on my foot there. The picture I have in my mind is that you three guys are grounding the hot mess of a live wire Maddie and I happen to be at the moment.

"Andi, I don't suppose there's a way for me to talk to those two as well, would there be?"

Unfortunately, the smile fades when she looks back at Maddie, and she shakes her head. Pablo's feather light touch above her ankle seems to lock something into place, but she doesn't know what. She's starting to feel like she did in those first few months that she spent in China... almost, but not quite, understanding her own power.

"Not unless you know how to get into my dreams when those two happen to be in a talkative mood, because most nights it's just fog. Last night, they said they're not big enough yet to talk to me except in dreams." She sighs. "Oh, but they're so looking forward to the moment they can talk to Shimá and Shizhé'é," she says sarcastically.

But then Andi stops. She remembers all the dreams... so many nights of dreaming about fog, the frustration, the shock. And the penultimate clear dream... the one around Thanksgiving. She can't stop the tears from streaming down her face as she recalls that conversation.

"I asked them who they would be," she whispers. "If all of it was real — my mind refused to accept it, and yet my heart knew immediately that it was true — I figured I should find a way to prepare myself for even more weird, you know? They said, Who? How can anyone know that? We will be who we will be. But we wished to be with you, and so we are. I was shocked. But not. Well, not as much as I probably should be." Andi looks Maddie in the eyes.

"The whole heart and brain being disconnected thing, I guess. I must have expressed my disbelief, my doubt that choosing a path in life before being born was even a thing. It is what happens. Most do not remember. You do not remember. You chose. We promise.

"If I chose this life, I must have been insane. I said something to that effect. They wanted to know if my life was bad." She smiles at her Sister. "I don't think I could imagine a better life, to be honest. But it's weird, and a lot of times it's hard. That doesn't make it bad. That's what I told them, that it's just hard. Yes. That is life. We know this. That is why we do it. To experience. To learn. And I guess that makes some kind of esoteric sense. It's close enough to Buddhist teachings that I wondered if maybe I was just having a conversation with myself inside my head. And then they asked me if I would teach them."

She shrugs slightly, vaguely aware that her face is wet.

"I don't know, maybe I was trying to get back to something that passed for normal. My brain finally embraced the crazy, I guess, because the rational and reasonable answer to the question — if one assumes the conversation was a mother talking to her children — is, 'yes... of course... that's my job.' Except, well, I guess some people decide to show up to live without teachers."

Andi pauses again and tilts her head. "That sure as hell better not be what's going on with the asshole Spirits and me trying to learn how to deal with all this power I seem to have acquired.

"Anyway, they said they specifically chose me and Pablo because we're 'very special' and I don't think they meant in the same way I would, which would be to say we probably need padded rooms. Or at least I do.

"And they argued with each other." She closes her eyes and holds Maddie's hands tighter. "Oh, gods, Maddie, I can't do this! They said they haven't done this 'living thing' for a long time, but even argued about that. I can't put duct tape over their mouths until they're born and they'll still keep talking to me inside my head!

"That's when I thought about..." She barely manages to stifle a sob, just barely, and only because she can feel Pablo's hand squeeze her ankle in silent support. "I was sure by that time that they were telling the truth, but I knew I couldn't tell anyone. Especially Pablo. He lost his son; he knows about my miscarriage. It would hurt him even more than it hurt me to find out I'm pregnant only to have another miscarriage."

Andi swallows hard, takes yet another deep breath, but keeps her eyes closed. Seeing the connections of qi among the five of them is soothing.

"They promised they wouldn't go away like... like my first child did. That one was young they said. I guess that means a young soul? What the hell do I know anymore? But she or he had picked the right father and the wrong mother. And I got this sense of Jared and his family; the second child was the same... I don't know... spirit or qi signature or something as the baby I lost.

"I remember thinking that I have a baby shaped hole in my heart because some... speck of qi made a mistake, and I..."

Finally, finally... Andi actually looks at Maddie's qi. It's not like she hasn't looked at the energy signatures of each member of the Pentad; it's not like she doesn't have them memorized and etched in her heart. But looking beyond the differences, she finally sees the similarities.

"We were both meant to have this adaptive DNA. They said you remembered that; that's why you gave it to me when we formed the Pentad.

"And all of us, the Pentad? We do this thing called living over and over and over... and usually we do it together. That's kind of a comforting thought sometimes. Makes me think that the solution to the problem we've got is probably something we already know... but don't remember that we know. It's not like Logan's missing memories, it's something we know in our hearts and souls. And don't give me that look."

She sighs and opens her eyes to see Maddie's There goes Andi talking the Weird again look. Smiling, she pulls one hand free to rest it on Maddie's shoulder, then pulls her closer so she can rest her forehead against Maddie's.

"I don't know how we're going to figure it out, but I know we will. I see you, Sister who shares my soul. But I have even better news, depending on your definition of 'better'. What I just said about the five of us... or four, depending how you look at it... traveling through lives together? That's what mine and your youngest two have done forever. Mine have made a conscious — if that can be said of a decision made while not actually being alive — decision to remember. Yours will probably figure it out someday. If mine don't outright tell them.

"Because they're so excited about being with all of us, plus Vin and Em, I'm probably going to throw up — not right now! — over their excitement. They think Leon has a beautiful heart, and he does... and this is the sort of Weird that makes me think I've completely lost my mind. I made Rene and Pablo promise to get me a rainbow colored strait jacket... tie dyed would be nice... in case I need to spend time in the loony bin.

"I have absolutely no idea how we're going to do this, Maddie... this managing not to hurt each other if we get killed. But I know we will."

Andrea extricates her other hand and cradles Maddie's face, hers only far enough away from her Sister's so she can look clearly into her eyes.

"We will do this. We will, because we must. Isn't that what our lives are about... doing the things that need to be done? Yes? Our friends, these men who love us, they will help. And the... well, no... I don't think the Spirits are willing participants in this... but the Gods and Buddhas willing, the next time I have one of these strange dreams I will remember to grill those two about what must be done."

A faint Ninja-like smile takes form. "And I give you permission right now to kick their respective asses when necessary."

Andi kisses Maddie's forehead, then her lips. "Trust me. Just don't die before we can figure this out, okay?"

"Take your own advice, Sister," Madeline says with a gentle smile and a squeeze of her hands. "And you know as well as I do... the bad guys don't always cooperate."

"With Tezcatlipoca's Chosen One no longer stalking my husband, and both Aztec demi-gods locked up for a while, I should be as safe as I've been since taking up the staff. Bumps and bruises and some broken bones, but nothing really serious." Well, there was the wipe out she had had on the Yamaha, but that was a combination of black ice and a bike that was kind of crappy... at least compared to her Harley, and especially compared to the Ducati.

She leans forward just a bit to kiss Andi. "And dinner will scorch if I take any more time from it. Come help me?"

She smiles. She feels better. Not great, not sane... not by any stretch of the imagination. But Maddie knows madness. What's a little crazy next to that?

"Just don't make me do anything terribly complicated. If I'm ever going to remember how to cook properly again, I'm going to have to move away from my best friend."

Andi stands up, to find her husband waiting to wrap his arms around her.

"I think I understand," he says softly. "We'll talk later, okay. And I'll stay... mostly calm."

She just hugs him tightly.

"I love you, Pablito."

She nudges him back toward the sofa where they had been sitting, and she follows Maddie to the... kitchen corner, nook, space? Whatever.

"Well. It looks like we're chopped liver, Logan. Andi loves Pablo, but she doesn't love us."

Logan is a wise, wise man. He says nothing. Andi rolls her eyes... not that Rene can it. Well, unless he's practicing Spirit stuff, but she doesn't think so because she still can't sense any of the Spirits here. Weird.

"Now, Rene," she says oh so sweetly, "with an attitude like that, you might never get a chance to burn down my house."

"Ow. That hurts, Andi. That really hurts."

She suspects he's dramatically clutching his chest, because Pablo snickers. Very, very softly.

Andi stops to close her eyes, looking at the qi flowing through the room, between all of them, through all of them. She snatches one tiny thread and yanks it. And then giggles until her nervous tension dissolves after Rene jumps up as though he'd been goosed.

Which he had.

Sort of.

But at least he is quiet.

She opens her eyes again and just watches Maddie for a minute. Just Maddie, just her qi and her physical movements, without the rest of the Pentad.

Wow. She isn't sure she's ever separated out Maddie from All of Them, just looking at her Sister's qi. Well, not since forming the Pentad, anyway. Maybe before that? When they were moving Rene from where he was to the Realm of the Benevolent Spirits? She's not admitting that she's buying into the whole One Soul Two People thing, even though it sort of looks right. And maybe it feels right. Qi and her heart say one thing, her always thinking brain seems to want a third opinion.

"What do you need me to do, Maddie?"

Andi pauses, listening... feeling... almost tasting the qi around them.

"I don't think I've had this much time without the Spirits around since... gosh, since Quetzalcoatl showed up. It's kind of peaceful."

She braces for what she expects to be a jinx on her solitude, but they remain blissfully alone.

Madeline sets her Sister up beside the sink with a wood cutting board and a variety of vegetables. Handing over the chef's knife, she says, "I know you can handle a blade." She sets several bowls on the bar just above the counter workspace, one for each different vegetable.

"You don't need to go all Benihana on them," she says with a wink.

She also pours a second glass of wine and sets it on the bar right in front of Andi. "We both know it won't affect your or the children."

She chuckles as she takes the knife from Maddie. "Bobby sometimes lets me chop veggies, usually when he's trying to pry information out of me. I can manage normal person chopping."

She looks at the glass of wine and rolls her eyes before sighing.

"You know, I might start to think you actually are trying to corrupt me, and not in the way our Husbands believe. Teaching me about fine wines is certainly a terrible thing for you to be doing. Why, before you know it, I'll be a lush!"

Don't you think you're being a little melodramatic over there, Sister?

She glances at Rene for an instant, before responding, No more than you were, dearest Spirit Brother. In fact, far less.

Pablo is evidently able to eavesdrop, because he chuckles.

Andi decides that she's just going to ignore the lot of them.

A half smile curves Madeline's mouth. "I didn't show you the wine cellar when you came out to Paris. It came with the house when we bought it and was half full. Gifts from the other industry houses and businesses when I took over came close to topping it off. And Marie sends at least a case every month, so it's near to overflowing."

She sips her own wine, notices how low it is, and refills it.

"How well does your friend Amanda deal with weird? I've already told Naughty Cat that I don't think having the kits in her den is a good idea." Pablo sounds like he's half choking on something. "Mostly because my Mate wouldn't care much for it."

"Amanda is a gifted midwife. I only wish I had had her with us in Suriname when the twins were born instead of that half wit Greene hired, who wanted me to go to a hospital."

She rolls her eyes as she recalls that instance.

"She also didn't blink at having to assist with the Commerce City evacuation, now did she? You'll just need to decide if you want to let her and Joe in on our secrets. They are both pretty sharp, and he's likely to notice the similarities between Ninja and Andi. And, yes, while you can make yourself look different enough, you won't be able to do that while in labor, and I certainly won't allow it. You'll need your energy, and… and, well, things can happen during and after the birth."

She nods at Maddie's assessment of Amanda. She received high marks in Ninja's book with the way she helped with her people in Commerce City.

"I know. In some ways, I think they're like your two... even my dying didn't affect them. And shouldn't it have? No, you know what? I don't think I want to know. Because then they'll tell me. And I don't want to know."

She pauses in the chopping.

"How many people know that Madeline Jacobs is La Loup Noir... or Black Wolf? I feel like the number of people who know Andrea Yazzie is the same person as Ninja is getting out of control. Family is one thing.

"I'm fine with Perry knowing, because he's a Super and, well, I trust him.

"I'm okay with Captain Sanchez knowing because I need some kind of LEO liaison to make things happen.

"But as charming as Armand is, it makes me nervous that he knows who I am.

"The FBI special agent out here is entirely too curious and clever for his own good. He flat out asked me where my secret lair was."

Andi takes up chopping again. It's soothing; she understands why Bobby does it when he's freaking out. It hasn't helped lately, but... she sighs again.

"I have the greatest respect for the Sheriff. My contacts in each county around here are truly the best of the best, even if Markensen is certifiably insane. Granted, most of my dealings with Jeffco are with Davis... and I've only worked with Baker on larger issues. It's still the truth. They're both damn good cops, and truly fine people.

"That doesn't make it any easier, Maddie."

"How many? Hmmm. Outside this room — Charles, Armand, Francois, Bernard, Freak, Leon…"

She pauses and glances out the window. "And I'd be unsurprised if the hellions had figured it out. Also, your Captain Sanchez and Colonel Masterson are far too astute for their own good. Unlike back home, we rode without masks here. It's a simple enough connection, but I trust their discretion."

She checks the pots on the stove and, satisfied, replaces the lids as Andi continues to talk.

"Although we never spoke of it, Joe was the one person out here who truly understood what Rene and I were, why we kept to ourselves mostly. Should we take up residence here, even if only on a part time basis, he will know he can call on La Loup Noir for aid."

Andrea nods. "I can see why parts of the equation makes me nervous. The good Detective and I had a conversation about it when we first came out to one another, so to speak." Then she has to sigh again — reluctantly, yes — but she's edging into frustration now.

"Maddie, you don't really get how much power I have. I don't think anyone does.

I know I'll need all the energy I have for labor and delivery.

"That's the key term, dearest Sister... 'all MY energy'. But..."

She looks up at Maddie in mid-chop. Her emotions are clamped down tightly... at least she thinks so... but she knows she has a look of panic in her eyes. Where else is the crazy going to go at this point?

"Mother... Maddie, I have the energy of an entire planet. She either won't or can't stop sharing with me. Mostly, I'm able to just let it all flow through me, but I'm really scared. At this point, I'm a little bit afraid of... okay, I'm lying... I'm a lot afraid of how much power, how much energy I have access to and can control."

She nods as she continues chopping. One bowl is finished, another nearly so. She knows things can go wrong because... well, labor and delivery is very often dangerous or deadly for her people up in Commerce City.

Madeline's eyes seek out Logan and Rene, who are both watching her. They both remember. She sees that there in their eyes. She had originally thought that the conversation with Rene had simply been a figment of her imagination. She knows better now.

"I died within minutes of giving birth to Em and Vin..."

Andi drops the knife on the cutting board and stares at Maddie after this last statement.

She doesn't even realize that she's crying until she inhales and it turns into a sniffle.

"Maddie..." she whispers.

Wait... hadn't those two...

"Em and Vin saved your life," she says softly, knowing as she says it that it's the truth. "They called you back."

She thinks back to the conversations that she'd had with Rene; he had only been vaguely aware, or so it had seemed at the time, of the twins. Had that been one of the times... no, it had to have been the first time she went to him in what he had then thought were dreams.

To have to choose between staying with Rene, and going back to Logan and her children... Even though they'd left the Not Born place, as those two call it, they would still instinctively have known that they needed her. They'd given her the ability to heal... Andi remembered that from the day up here when they had moved Rene to the realm of the Benevolent Spirits. Maddie had come back from death when Rene thought he'd killed her, right before he had died. Because of her twins... hers and Logan's.

As her last words impact her Sister's heart and mind, Madeline smiles, although it is a bit sad. She offers Andi one of the towels from the drawer to wipe her eyes.

"They called to me, yes, but I could have chosen not to return, to stay with Rene."

It is hard not to remember the initial surprise when the fear that it was simply another mind fuck... and finally the wonder that, yes, they were really together again. They had touched only their fingers together at first, having reached out with trepidation only to find a solid touch, and more, there. She had wondered aloud if she was dead. Rene had had no answer; he only asked her what the last thing she remembered was. That was when she had made the connection. That was when she had known she was dead.

"No, you couldn't," Rene says from across the room. "You couldn't leave the twins without a mother or Leon an orphan. And I wouldn't have let you."

Her eyes are bright with unshed tears. She does not argue the point with Rene. She knows he is not wrong. Still, she shifts her gaze to meet Logan's.

"I chose to come back for the children."

I'm sorry, she says to her Mate.

Logan shakes his head. Don't be.

He had not even been considered in the decision, but it is not something he would ever hold against her. He understands it, too well perhaps.

She swallows her tears and smiles at him. His patience and understanding still amazes her.

Andrea closes her eyes, trying to control her emotions. Life is so fragile and if she doesn't stop thinking about how random it was that she had happened to be on the mountain when Rene had been close to the edge of this dimension she's going to get lost in the spirals of 'what if'. How often had he done that? How often was she up on the mountain?

She opens her eyes and looks at her Sister. "Okay, Maddie. I'll do it for you, because you will worry less. And maybe I will, too. But you'll be with me, too, won't you? Please promise me."

Madeline turns her attention back to Andi.

"Right by your side, Sister mine. And there's nothing to say you can't just tell Amanda and only Amanda that you have Gifts. She doesn't share her patient's details with Joe anymore than he shares cases with her."

Andi can only shake her head and pick up her wine glass. "I don't know why I'm so uncomfortable about it. It's actually kind of irrational. Mostly. At least in Joe's case."

Nothing is remarkable about the glass she holds in her hand, and yet everything about it seems oddly beautiful... from the simplicity of the shape to the way the liquid sparkles and clings to the glass. She shakes her head again. Maybe this is what insanity is.

"Pablo's even worse," she says softly, not looking up. "I wonder if maybe it's just way too much all at once. I spent years developing my circle of contacts as Ninja, getting to really know people, building trust on both sides of the relationship. I'd only just gotten to the point of letting Pablo into the inner circle, so to speak, when..." She sighs and tilts the glass slightly, watching light dance on the surface of the wine. "Well, it feels like my entire life is out of control.

"It's not. I know that. But I do feel as though it is."

She sets the glass down, carefully.


She looks up at Pablo.

Um... you're starting to do that thing you did down at... ah... you know...

"Oh. Sorry. I'm..."

It's not that her power is out of control. There'd be a crater here instead of a cabin if it were. It's maybe more like... she doesn't know her own strength anymore? She closes her eyes and crosses her hands over her heart.

Which is weird, but it feels right.

Mother? Father? Please... I fear for the Normal people, and all the dear creatures who abide here. I need to learn more slowly how to hold so much of your energy.

{Daughter... love} {Daughter... love, love, love}

They sound sad.

I know. But I seem to be very slow at learning. I do appreciate your gifts... very much.


Ut oh. All three of them at once?

She opens her eyes and sighs again. Pablo nods at her; she manages a smile, but it fades as she looks toward the door and then to Maddie.

"I think two ten year old humans are more energetic than the cats are used to."

Head Talker! Please! These kits will not lie still in the sun!

Andi just rolls her eyes, and does manage another smile. "Also, they're not acting like proper cats, and lounging in the sun as proper cats do."

Taking a deep breath, she nods once — to herself more than anyone else, really — as she holds it. It's a reminder to center, to focus, to be still. While exhaling slowly, she embraces her Sister. Andi can't speak yet; she's still too emotionally fragile to speak without more tears.

Maybe, just maybe, those two weren't talking nonsense and trying to drive her even crazier than she thinks she already is. There's a distinct sensation of unity Andrea experiences when wrapped in Pablo's arms. They belong together; their qi signatures are identical, making it impossible to tell where the dividing line between Andrea and Pablo is. They are the Two Who Became One.

She can feel the flow of love and energy of the Pentad weaving among them. In this, they are separate and different and equal and inseparable. They are the Five Who Became One.

But despite the clear differences between them — or is it because of them? — Andi feels as though she and Maddie are two powerful magnets that have snapped together. Are those two right? Are they the One Who Became Two?

It's too much to think about right now. She pulls back slightly, only enough so she can rest her forehead against Maddie's. But she's smiling at least.

"I'm not ready to let another person in on my secret. At least, not today. I know I'll need to mention it to Amanda, and I'm sure we'll have quite the conversation. But not today. Just... just the easy stuff today."

She actually feels as though a weight has been lifted from her heart and mind by making that simple decision. Today... maintain the status quo. Who knows what tomorrow will bring?

"It's probably time to save a trio of mountain lions from your hellions. Small doses are probably best," she says, smiling more broadly, "at least until your hellions realize just how lazy those cats are."

We heard that, Head Talker! Sly Cat, the eldest sister, says indignantly. We are not lazy. We are...

Efficient! Naughty Cat finishes her sister's thought.

Almost as though they might truly be magnets, she draws back from Maddie with difficulty. A soft brush of her lips against Maddie's seems to break the bond, however, and Andi takes half a step back.

With an understanding smile, Madeline listens to Andi and watches her too. Certainly her Sister had had to deal with the vagaries of being Cursed, but this is something different altogether. Better than Madeline's own demons, although no less troublesome. She smiles at the brief touch of lips.

I will be here for you, Sister. All of us will.

Maybe it's Maddie's understanding that manages to knock her panicked fear on its ass. Andi know it's only temporary, but at this point she'll take whatever relief she can get.

"I know my glamor won't work on anyone in the Pentad, but I have a feeling it might work on the twins. I should probably show them what I'm doing before Joe and Amanda get here." Andi smiles wryly. "I'd like to at least pretend I have some normal left in me."

"Probably Vin more than Em, but even if it doesn't they'll need to be prepared. Kind of like a dress rehearsal for the wedding day."

When Andi picks up the wine glass again, she tries not to look at it too closely. After taking a sip, she nods and aims for some normal. "This is nice. The one we had on our last night in Paris is still my favorite... but so far, this might be my second favorite."

"Great. Thanks, Madeline," Pablo says, trying to sound annoyed and failing, landing on amused and put upon. "Get her hooked on the really expensive stuff. That's just wonderful."

Madeline's eyes slide over toward the menfolk as Pablo makes his pseudo complaint.

And considering how much she drinks, Andi is fairly certain Pablo's comment is simply made for its comedic value. She does appreciate that he's trying.

"Does it matter, Pablito? It isn't like she has to pay for it. Which reminds me, Andi, your new house needs to have at least a wine cabinet if there isn't enough room for a cellar. I'll have Bernard send along enough to share as well. There's a winery in Southern California that also has some excellent vintages."

Rene, be a dear?

Almost without seeming to move, Rene delivers a Gibbs slap to Pablo.

But Andi can't deny that the Gibbs slap Rene gives him is even funnier than the comment itself; she can't suppress the giggle that escapes.

"Hey!" Pablo pretends to complain. "Why's everybody always pickin' on me?" It's actually a decent imitation of the line from the Coasters' song.

His wife rolls her eyes at him, but then pauses to study his face as she smiles softly.

Thank you, dear Husband.

You're welcome, my beloved Wife. You haven't been smiling enough lately.

"Logan, will you round up the hellions... give the poor cats a break?" She can't help the small laugh that accompanies the last part.

He chuffs an answer as he rises and goes to the front door. Poking his head out briefly, a louder sound can be heard. Five minutes later, two pairs of ten year old feet pound up the front steps. The sounds become less thunderous, although not reserved, as they cross the porch and the front door opens once again. Vin and Em look at their mother expectantly.

"Rene, keep an eye on dinner? Come on in the back, you two. Aunt Andi has something to show you."

After the twins are corralled, with effusive thanks from her three feline troublemakers, Andi and Maddie spend some quality time with the twins.

Ever since her conversation with Captain Holbrook out in Flagstaff, she's been considering his comment that she should wear a mask. As much sense as it makes, she think she got her point across to Pablo when he voiced all the same concerns and more. People know Ninja. People in communities that have no reasons to trust anyone in law enforcement have come around to trusting Ninja. If Ninja had started off wearing something that hid Andi's identity, hid her face, that would be one thing... but she feels like it's a betrayal of their trust to start hiding her face now.

Hell, Charlie thought it was odd that she was wearing the distortion mask last night. And if anyone is going to just take things in stride, it's definitely Charlie. Well, Jocko would probably be beyond fascinated. Gods, that's all she needs.

But given these new abilities she picked up from Fox, modifying her appearance as Andrea seems both more logical and — in the long run — a much better idea. She suspects Maddie's appearance hasn't changed appreciably since she picked up her heal from everything and live nigh unto forever thing from the twins. Around her family, no one is going to think anything of the fact that Andi may well look like she's in her late twenties, maybe early thirties forever. But she does have friends who don't need to know that. It's probably beneficial to alter Andrea's appearance gradually, making it appear to ordinary folks that she looks like she's aging like... well, an ordinary person.

That's her story, and she's sticking with it.

Changing her appearance isn't hard; it's all rather minor and far more subtle than any changes that she's made when working. Now, Andi's hair doesn't look quite as lustrous as it once did, and there are a few gray hairs showing. Her eyes are a darker brown, almost black. Her face is rounder. She supposes as the years go on, she'll add more gray... probably some wrinkles. Who knows? It's getting fairly automatic now; she uses braiding and unbraiding her hair as a trigger to know whether to hold the illusion or drop it. Heck, she had to consciously drop the illusion as they were driving up

Pablo's a big fan of glasses. Sexy librarians should wear glasses, he says. She might skip the glasses.

The hardest part of this whole illusion is weaving in the These are not the droids you're looking for... well, she wouldn't call it a command. Suggestion? She hasn't fully tested that part on anyone she knows really well. She figures she can try out one or two things at a time on Bobby and David; as long as she's consistent, they'll just think poor Andi needs to see a hairdresser. On the other hand, she doesn't expect either of them to be particularly observant until the madness of Christmas is over. She plans to take full advantage of her family's presence to practice her illusion skills on them.

Weirdly — or not! — the difficulty of the exercise and the amount of energy it would take had been greatly over-exaggerated by Fox. Andi suspects Mother is helping. A lot.

The four of them spend nearly half an hour in the kids' room, time that is punctuated by the murmur of Madeline's and Andi's voices, awed expressions from Vin and unusual silence from Em.

Finally she says, "I get why, Aunt Andi, but I hope you don't mind if I don't look at you while you're doing it. It makes... It's just... It's weird. Mom, Uncle Rene's not going to do that at the wedding is he?"

"No, sweetheart, you just have to pretend you don't know him."

At Em's comment, Andi nods. Maddie had suspected as much, and it makes a lot of sense that someone who has such acute senses would feel like something was... well, off. She's going to leave the 'disguise' out of sight until she really need it. Not that it takes any energy, really, but...

"Not a problem, Em. Maybe we can sit down tomorrow or the next day and talk about what you feel is weird." She gives her niece a hug. "If there's something I can tweak to make it less weird for you, I'd like to give it a try. And even if Uncle Rene wanted to look different than he usually does, I think it would..." Andi tilts her head. "He's a Spirit, so I have a feeling he could take on any appearance he wants and he'd still feel the same to you."

She gives Vin a quick hug, too. "Thank you both for helping me out here."

But it's an interesting point Em brings up. Probably even to Andi, Rene would always have the feeling of Rene. The only reason Andi gives off different vibes, so to speak, is that she's combining her own qi with Fox's and powering the illusion with help from Mother.

Andi and Madeline return, with the twins rejoining them shortly after washing up for dinner. Madeline directs the reordering of the furniture so that there will be seating for everyone, while Rene helps to finish the preparation of the meal.

"They're here," Logan says, his exceptional hearing noting the Bakers' vehicle first.

Rene takes his leave of the family and fades away. He doesn't need to promise to return later. It is a given. Madeline refills Andi's glass with wine as well as her own, and sets out four more glasses. Logan is opening another bottle to let it breathe as the Bakers' SUV pulls into the spot left open for them.

It feels like barely any has passed when Andi hears another car pulling up, probably only a second after Logan does. She takes a deep breath, pulls her illusion around her like a warm blanket, then glances at the twins. Vin is smiling; Em is pointedly looking away.

Pablo wraps his arm around her waist, and she leans against him.

"You going to be okay?" he asks quietly.

She nods. "Chances are good. If I start to feel not okay, I can always lie through my teeth and claim to feel fatigued."

She hears the sound of feet on the stairs when something else occurs to her. She stiffens slightly in Pablo's embrace.

Oh, shit, Maddie! How big of a hole am I digging for myself if I forget to call you Madeline instead of Maddie? Damn it, I didn't practice that.

She will not freak out. She will not freak out.

She'll be fine. No problem. Probably.

Madeline opens the door and steps out onto the porch to welcome her friends and to give Andi a chance to put her magic into effect.

"Amanda, I asked you not to bring anything," she says.

"You knew I would anyway, Lin," Amanda replies as she hands the herbal bouquet to Madeline and hugs her. "Besides, Joe contributed too."

Looking over Amanda's shoulder during the hug, she shakes her head and grins. "You two are incorrigible."

Joe tilts his head questioningly, his hands being full with a cake carrier in one and a case of beer in the other. "Pot, kettle?"

Madeline laughs as she releases Amanda and gives Joe a hug, too, as Amanda takes the cake from him. "Come on inside. Don't worry about closing the door."

She gets them inside and the gifts settled, then makes introductions.

"Joe and Amanda, this is Andrea Yazzie and Pablo Garcia. Andi, Pablo, Joe and Amanda Baker."

Pablo hugs Andi again before stepping forward to shake hands with the Sheriff. In that instant, she knows everything is going to be fine... at least tonight. As she looks at Amanda, Mother tickles the soles of her feet.

Andi almost laughs. Amanda might not hear Mother when Mother speaks, but she knows Mother.

{Daughters! Love!}

Yes, Mother... I see her.

Apparently, this version of Andrea is a hugger, because it feels like that's what Mother wants.

"It's so nice to meet you," she says as she hugs Amanda, making sure to maintain the soft-spoken and kind librarian timbre in her voice. It's just a quick hug, but Mother decides she needs to tickle Andi's feet again. She smiles, perhaps a bit shyly, at Joe as she holds out her hand to shake his.

"Madeline has told us what good friends you've been to her."

Pablo nods in agreement, then tilts his head as though deep in thought, brows furrowed, a slight frown on his face.

"Baker? You're not the top Jeffco Sheriff, are you?"

Andi looks up at Pablo, genuinely surprised. "You are very naughty, Pablo. Maybe you were working too hard inside your head when Madeline mentioned that fact, hmm?"

He grins that boyishly handsome grin of his, the one that actually wins out over Rene's oh so charming smile to capture her heart. "But I always catch up eventually, don't I?"

No illusion can mask the love in her eyes as she returns his smile.

"I suppose you do."

They'd better chill out before the Hellions demand that they get a room.

"Yes, Andi, I did mention it," Madeline said, "being cognizant of the fact that Pablo is DPD."

This time it is Madeline who gives Pablo the Gibbs smack.

"You should pay closer attention, Detective Garcia," she scolds him before breaking into a chuckle.

"Now that we've got that out of the way, who is hungry?"

She has a feeling Pablo is going to spend most of his life, and then his afterlife, being teased. Given how happy he is, she doesn't think he's going to care a whole lot.

It did take him a few weeks to really believe her when she told him she would hold his memories of Rosalia and Juan in her heart and cherish them. Even if it wasn't part of her Curse, she would do that for him because he and they deserve all that and more. But her easy acceptance of them as part of him continues to surprise him at times. That, in turn, surprises her... Rosalia was his life and had helped him become the man Andi fell in love with.

And no one can forget their child. No one with a heart, anyway. She knows she can't, even knowing everything those two told her. Little Danny's parents still miss him and it's been... well, more than a quarter of a century now. Pablo can talk all he wants of Juan and Andi will listen to every word, she will hear every word.

All of that gives Pablo the peace and joy he needs to be happy.

Unsurprisingly, the twins both pipe up that they're hungry, as do Logan and Joe. With a minimum of jostling, everyone is successfully served with food and the desired libations. Vin and Em are happy to settle at the bar. Here, like in the Parisian home, the bar is closest to the food.

The small round kitchen table has been pulled apart and its leaf set in place to offer a cozy seating arrangement for the six adults. There is only small talk at the beginning as Madeline's friends become accustomed to one another, but soon it is as if they had all known each other for years. Joe and Pablo swap age-appropriate war stories of police work that Madeline is fairly sure are mostly fictional. There are unsuccessfully hidden giggles and laughing from the twins. Madeline doesn't both to try hiding her amusement.

Andi snickers at a few of the stories Pablo tells, harmlessly and mildly exaggerated tales of his days as a patrol officer. While he clearly enjoys talking shop with Joe, he's keenly aware that two ten year olds are close enough to listen in... and she doesn't doubt Vin is enjoying the stories. But when he starts in on stories about her and Clara and Deb, it's Andi's turn to Gibbs slap him. Lightly.

"You can just save that silly stuff for the cousins," she says, trying to keep from giggling. "They'll think you're even more marvelous than they already do, since you can obviously spin tales better than I can. And do you really want to eat frozen Hot Pockets for a week?"

"Ew, why would I... holy guacamole! You remember that? Please... don't remember that." He pretends to shudder, she gives him the lamest stink eye in the history of stink eyes. They're both trying hard not to laugh.

Andi shrugs and rolls her eyes. "You started it... stalking me and all. Then you threatened to go home to your cold, dark apartment and gnaw on frozen Hot Pockets if I wouldn't let you feed me." She sighs dramatically. "How am I supposed to forget something like that?"

She realizes that there hasn't been enough time to tell Maddie and Logan and Rene all the silly little things that have been the building blocks of this deep friendship she and Pablo share. She is beyond thankful that they'll have time for all of that, and more.

She also notes that the twins are paying attention without paying attention, and trying not to giggle too loudly.

"Hey, I'm pretty sure... I think... that I never said anything about a cold, dark apartment!"

"Whatever!" she replies with her very best Valley Girl imitation.

Based on the giggling from the youngsters and the glances they receive from Logan, she suspects Tio Pablo might be getting some odd questions at some point in the future. And that's excellent, because Andi has a feeling that those two are going to be just a little bit more than he expects.

Okay, probably a lot more.

Dinner is wonderful, and the company delightful. Socializing with Joe Baker is a hell of a lot different than working with him. She really is not ready to spills all her secrets to the Sheriff — not yet, not tonight. But she's starting to feel like... yeah, someday that could happen.

As the laughter and enjoyment go on, Amanda is more and more quiet, although her smile stretches wider and wider. She watches the faces around the table, but mostly watches Madeline. Finally the hostess has had enough.

"Okay, what, Amanda? Just what?" she asks. "Why do you keep looking at me like that?"

She thinks if it had been anyone other than Amanda, she probably would have snickered when Maddie, ah, "confronts" her. But Amanda's aura ripples with so much joy that she almost gets lost in the mesmerizing swirls.

Bad idea, Andi. Stay in the present.

Damn good thing. Better to feel a little choked up than to be completely spaced out.

Amanda looks at everyone around the table, lastly coming to Joe, who nods to her. "I can't tell you how happy I am, Lin, to see you happy. When you and Leon left all those years ago, we feared the worst. Joe even came up to..."

She lets the words trail off as she dabs at her eyes with her napkin. "I'm so glad you came back to us. And I don't know why, exactly, but I'm pretty sure it has to do with the people at this table."

Although Amanda has included Logan, Pablo and Andi in that statement, it is Andi she looks at as she says it. To Andi, she says, "Thank you."

Andi meets her eyes, then looks at Maddie for a moment. There are no words to express how she feels about her Sister... not in English, anyway.

K'é... kinship, family, connectedness, love, kindness, compassion, generosity, peacefulness.

Hózhó... harmony, balance, beauty, unity, the pathway to the Divine.

She smiles, Andrea smiles, that part of everything she is that is not the Warrior smiles. But the Warrior only refrains from smiling because that part of her smiles oh so wickedly most of the time.

I see you, my Sister, and I see your friends.

When Andi looks back at Amanda, she doesn't doubt that her eyes glisten with a hint of tears.

"You are most welcome." She includes Joe in her gaze when she says, "Your happiness... it washes my heart with waves of peace."

Amanda says what she had been wanting to say. Although the method of Andi's welcome had surprised her a bit, she takes it in stride. Surprises are not uncommon her line of work. She raises her glass in a toast.

"To good friends, old and new," she says.

Madeline and Logan meet each other's eyes as they also raise their glasses. He had been active military, several times over. She had lived it in deed, although never in name. Rene is there with them, a hand on each one's shoulder, although he remains incorporeal.

"To good friends, old and new," they echo and add among themselves, To those gone but not forgotten.

The not forgotten part may not be entirely true for Logan, but the feeling is the same. He also knows that Madeline had lost several people on the day she had freed him and the others from Alkalai base... Rene among them. They drink deeply.

When Amanda raises her glass in a toast, the verbalized... blessing is easiest done.

"Sí. To good friends..."

She looks around the table, feeling considerably calmer than she has in weeks. It's not the wine, either.

"...old and new."

Just as Maddie and Logan lock eyes for a moment, Andi exchanges a glance with Pablo, smiling softly. It seems as though she's known Maddie forever, but really? It's only been just over six weeks.

It is impossible not to note Rene's presence. It's still a hit or miss proposition on whether or not Pablo notices him when he's incorporeal, although he's getting much better... he's probably batting six hundred or so.

A subtle flicker of his aura tells Andi that he's knocked it out of the park tonight.

Huh. What's the deal with the baseball analogies? Could it possibly be that she misses her beloved Rockies?

But Pablo holds her hand tightly under the table as the other thought circles around the Pentad — To those gone but not forgotten.

Like Pablo, Andi's first thought is of Denise, and she's grateful for the distraction of drinking the wine.

"Okay, more wine is needed," Madeline says to stop from going down a path that could put a damper on the joyous night. "But a different variety."

"The port?" Logan asks.


Not that Andi is sure she needs any more wine, but she thanks the Gods, Buddhas and Spirits for Maddie's short circuiting of the spiraling crazy those thoughts have the potential to cause.

Bottles of an amazing, slightly chocolaty port from Portugal are opened, poured into dessert glasses and passed around. After finishing one, Logan rises and gets a fire going in the fireplace. Amanda wants to start clearing the table; Madeline shakes her head and physically guides her toward the couch with the admonition that the dishes aren't going anywhere.

And speaking of Spirits, it occurs to her that that she hasn't seen any of them except Rene and Cat in well over twenty four hours. That's downright bizarre.

Are the Siblings angry with me, Rene? she asks, watching Em and Vin confer with their heads close together.

Her smile feels peaceful, at least, so there's a good chance it looks peaceful, too. She hopes she and Pablo can do as well with their two impending hellions as Maddie and Logan have done with theirs.

Oh no, dear Sister, he replies... quite reluctantly, it sounds to her. They're terrified of you.

To cover her shock, she finishes the glass of wine and sets the glass on the table. And guess what? She is not going to think about that at all!

"I suppose if Amanda's not allowed to clean up," she says after Logan fetches yet another type of wine she's never heard of, "you're not going to let me help either, are you?"

Although she's looking at Maddie, it's Pablo who answers.

"You absolutely are not," he says, holding a hand out to help her stand — right, like she needs help... but her Pablo is a gentleman — and then sliding an arm around her waist. "I think there's some rule about the youngest people being responsible for cleaning up."

Andi looks over at the twins, who are looking at Pablo as though he's an alien from a really bad sci fi movie.

She giggles. "I don't think you're going to be anyone's favorite Tio for very long, dear." She sits down beside him, across from Amanda and Joe.

After taking a sip of this newest alcoholic adventure, she looks over at Maddie.

"You realize I have consumed more types of alcohol since meeting you — and possibly more alcohol in general — than in my entire life prior to that."

Pablo pretends to gasp. "I knew it! She is corrupting you!"

Andi laughs, and then leans over to kiss his cheek. "Miss Madeline is simply a bad influence," she says, her accent slipping toward the American Southeast for a moment.

"I'm pretty sure that's different that corruption, Detective."

He looks between Andrea and Madeline, trying very hard not to smile. "Hmm. I'm not convinced."

Madeline shrugs and mostly does hide a grin as she snuggles in against Logan. "You had a much later start than I did.

"And don't worry your pretty little head about it, Pablito. We have more than we could possibly consume in several lifetimes, so I'm more than happy to share."

Andi nods in agreement. "True. Not much interest in my family for alcohol, college is a zone of the cheapest and worst alcohol available, and even my Food Diva best friend is remarkably conservative when it comes to alcohol.

"Oh, my goodness, that reminds me! You really need to meet him, Madeline." It feels so weird to use Maddie's full name. "You'll love him. Just don't mention Martha Stewart, okay?"

Even Pablo hears Rene's laughter. "And I believe you've already told Bobby and David about Madeline, dear," he says.

She looks at Pablo, innocently confused, until she pretends to recall the incident. Then she giggles.

"I did, didn't I?"

"Oh, you did. And certain people thought you were not very nice about it either," he reminds her.

Yes. That would have been me, Rene says. You're evil in a special sort of way, Sister.

Andi pouts slightly for both Pablo's and Rene's benefit.

"Hey, how was I supposed to know David was a Fashion Queen? He's never even hinted at it, and Bobby never mentioned it. How was I supposed to know?"

Pablo gives her the stink eye. He's starting to get better at, but Andi doesn't think he'll ever be as good at it as she is.

She just ignores him and looks at Maddie. "I'd been telling them about that day we met..."

Her attention shifts to Joe and Amanda, and she smiles sheepishly. Or at least what she hopes comes across as slightly embarrassed. She's supposed to be the bad guy in the story, since she thought Maddie was going to Gibbs slap her when she related the tale she had told her neighbors. Right... like that would ever happen! Well, she's right, of course. And if she had had more time to come up with a suitable tale for Bobby and David, she would have realized that. She supposes this would mean she's getting better at storytelling, but in her cousins' collective opinions, she still sucks at it.

"I was riding up this way one day on my bike..." She glances at Pablo. "...while somebody was off solving a crime or something when he should have been with me."

He snorts. "Right. Like me being with you would have stopped this..." He points between her and Maddie. "...from happening."

Andi looks at Maddie, snuggled against Logan with Rene behind them and smiles.

"I guess not." She's happy to lean against him as she continues her little story.

"As long as I've lived around here, this place was empty. That's why I liked to ride up here... hardly ever any people, and I get a chance to think, to get lost in my thoughts. Well, apparently I was a little too lost in thought when I rode past the end of the driveway that day. I thought I saw somebody standing on the porch. I never would have seen anyone in summer with all the leaves on the trees, but there are enough aspens here that... well, I kind of freaked out. And wiped out."

A new story! Constantly a source of amusement, Sister.

Oh, shut up, Jacobs.

Apparently Pablo is going to join Rene in the Tormenting of Andi game.

"That's not the story you told Bobby and David," he says suspiciously.

She looks at him. "Really, Pablo? I'm going to tell Bobby that I took a tumble on my bike? He'd have taken me to the hospital in a heartbeat, the worry wart."

"Oh. Yeah. I guess you're right."

"Are you going to let me finish my story?"

"Yes, dear." He's grinning, handsome and devilish.

She sighs. But she smiles back at him. It's a good feeling not to feel... well, crazy. Even if it only lasts for this one evening, she's going to savor it.

Looking back at Amanda and Joe, she shrugs one shoulder. "You've know Madeline a lot longer than I have, so you probably know she can sometimes be a little, ah, intense. Well, she was intensely striding down the driveway toward me when I'd finally gotten myself untangled from the bike. I think I'd bruised my shin, but honestly I was more concerned for my bike."

"Spoken like a true Coloradan," Pablo says proudly.

Andi ignores him. "Intense people are... sometimes unnerving, and you'd think I'd be used to them by now with the work I do... ah, did... for the Denver Public Library. I guess I just don't expect that much intense on a lazy weekday morning.

"I was checking my bike, but I felt like this woman was just staring at me. Dissecting me. Finally she said, 'Are you all right?' or something to that effect.

"And I just said, 'Not sure yet' as I was checking the rear derailleur."

She laughs. "I swear I'm not always a ditz, but I really was more concerned about my bike than me. So she said, 'I meant you.' That's when I looked up at this bundle of intensity staring at me and... well, that was when I bothered to make sure I wasn't missing any parts. And I wasn't. Just the crack to my shin that turned into the most beautiful bruise you'd ever want to see, and maybe a sprained wrist. I wasn't sure about the wrist, but it was sore. Turns out I'd bruised that, too. But when I mentioned the shin and wrist to Miss Intensity, she said, 'Well, I'm certainly not going to have your death on my conscience if you kill yourself on the way back to wherever you came from. Come on up. I know some first aid.' And then she intensely strode back up the driveway.

"Like I was going to ignore something that sounded like a command, you know?"

And then she just looks at Maddie for a minute, seeing her as one of the people who holds a piece of her heart, as the strongest person Andi has probably ever met in her life, as the person who is the embodiment of stability when that's necessary despite the madness. If those two are right... well, that might be a clue.

It probably looks like she's just sizing Madeline up or something, but there's a wave of gratitude flowing around the Pentad. They do have a lot to be grateful for because of their connection.

"I have no idea how it happened," she says to Joe and Amanda, "but by the time I left here that morning, we were friends."

She is going to just leave it there, but Pablo has other ideas.

"Aren't you going to finish telling them how you almost killed your best friend's boyfriend?"

It's her turn to give him the stink eye.

"That's fine, dear. I was there. I remember it." Pablo looks just a little too happy to tell this particular story.

The way I remember it, you two were working together.

What did I tell you, Jacobs?

It would seem Pablo is getting much better at hearing Rene. The glint in his eye is worrisome... although, to be fair, Bobby did deserve everything they threw at him. David just got caught in the crossfire.

"At some point, Madeline had mentioned that Leon was having a birthday of a significant number, and that perhaps she should have a party to celebrate. Andrea, being the sort of friend who always wants the best for all her friends, mentioned that Bobby can throw a heck of a party.

"I had my doubts, because I've been to a party or two that Bobby hosted and the man is so devious I'm grateful he cooks and bakes and throws god-awful themed parties, because he could be a criminal mastermind."

Pablo shakes his head, really getting into this story. Andi is starting to worry if her cousins have corrupted him... until she remembers that he's done a lot of undercover work. Still. She thinks he's enjoying this just a little too much.

"But we'd been over to their place for lunch one day when everyone's favorite librarian here dropped the bomb on poor David."

"Nuh uh! It didn't happen like that, and you know it," she says grinning up at him, before looking at Amanda. "We were trying to explain who Madeline was and, well everyone will tell you my French is just terrible, so I was trying to remember the name of the fashion house Madeline runs.

"Although when David did figure out I meant House of Beauvoir, and that the Madeline we were talking about was actually the reclusive head of House of Beauvoir, he... um..."

"He fainted."

"Still not my fault," she says, pouting again.

I'm not reclusive, it's that I'm simply boring compared to Rene and his... exploits, Madeline says, defending herself.

Rene harrumphs. Logan simply smiles.

Pablo kisses the top of Andi's head. "Whatever you say, dear." He does look over at Maddie then. "I'm pretty sure he's talked himself into not behaving like a complete fan boy at the reception."

But Pablo's mention of the man who wouldn't try to act like a fanboy... Oh. Oh, dear.

The remainder of the evening passes quickly with shared stories. Joe and Amanda, having known Leon as a little boy, want to know about him. Emelia and Vincent are only too happy to share, tempered by only a small warning from Madeline. They had only been five when he had gone off to study with Charles.

Too soon it seems, Amanda stretches and stands up. "Need to get going, Lin. I have a client coming in tomorrow late morning. It's been really wonderful meeting you, Andi, Pablo. I hope we can do this again soon, work willing for all of us."

Joe echoes her sentiments and offers handshakes to both Logan and Pablo.

It's really nice to get to know Joe from a different angle. And Amanda is simply... comfortable. In the best possible way.

Andi pats Pablo's knee when Amanda stands to leave. "We should get going, too, Pablito. I'd like to get something accomplished tomorrow before David's show, even if it's only the laundry." She stands up as well.

Give me a minute, will you, dear? I want to have a word with Amanda.

"Of course, Andi. I'm sure there was some manly task you wanted me to do in the morning."

She slaps him lightly on the back of the head. "Goof."

When saying goodnight to Amanda, she hesitates, but then plows forward, speaking softly... for her ears only. Well, Andi is pretty sure there are others in the room who have sharp enough hearing... but she's only concerned about Joe at the moment. And if she's not going to plan on giving birth in a mountain lion's den, she's going to need someone she can trust without reservation. Maddie trusts Amanda, and that in itself gets her pretty close to having no reservations. But the fact that Mother knows Amanda?

"I just discovered that I'm going to be needing your professional services, Amanda. I..."

Wow. She did not expect this part to be so hard.

"Well, Maddie trusts you, so I know I can."

Maybe she's talking about her professional qualifications. One might certainly come to that conclusion. And yes... Andi uses the name she has always used for her Sister. Deliberately.

"I have some issues, so..." She shrugs. "May I call you in the next couple of days to set up a time when we can talk? I can get your number from Maddie if you and Joe need to run."

It's the leave-taking that has the most impact on Madeline. Certainly, she and Rene had had friends and social dinners over the years, but those had been either with fellow mercs or, more uncomfortably, the events in France. This... this is special. Joe and Amanda are friends with no connection to either of those other worlds. And Andi and Pablo... well, she can't really put a word to it, but thinks that this might be something like what regular people have. She squeezes Logan's hand as they look on.

As for Amanda, she leans back just enough to really look into Andi's eyes. She nods with a knowing look, then leans in to hug her and whispers, "Get it from Lin. No questions that way."

She releases Andi and winks at her, then turns and pats Joe's arm. "Come on, Sheriff, we need to get this show on the road."

Having Amanda looking at her soul is a little disconcerting. Andi isn't sure that's what she's actually doing, or even what she believes she's doing...

But damn! That's sure what it feels like!

She gets the same feeling when Elder Ravenclaw looks at her, but he's all hard edges and — at least lately — weary exasperation. But Amanda just feels... accepting.

She smiles and nods, then wraps her arm around Pablo's waist as she watches them through the front window. Now that she knows what she's looking at when she sees these things, she can see that they have a Bond as strong as Rene and Maddie had before he died.

Although Joe Baker isn't of The People, Andi asks Great Spirit to watch over him anyway. His job is as dangerous as Pablo's, although not as dangerous as the Warrior's. Although they have no children of their own, she has a feeling Amanda is the sort of midwife who likes to keep up on what the children she's helped into this world are doing.

She doesn't know why she has a picture in her head of them — as old or older than Papa and Tita — surrounded by children. Wishful thinking, she supposes. Tali is the family's precog... not her.

"Penny for your thoughts, Ms. Yazzie," Pablo whispers.

She smiles up at him, then tilts her head back toward the car that's heading down the drive.

"I wish you could see what I see there."

He chuckles. "I think I do. Maybe not the way you see things, but it doesn't take Denver's best detective to know those two won't let death part them. They have what we all have."

Now that Joe and Amanda are gone, she can let go of the illusion she has been holding for much of the day. And she hears a sigh escape from Em — just barely, as soft as a spider spinning a web. She looks over at the twins; maybe it's just a trick of lighting or her imagination, but they look like they're leaning on one another for strength. It's not how their qi looks. So maybe it is her imagination.

She gives Pablo a quick hug, then walks over to the counter where the two of them had spent much of the after dinner time.

"Thanks, guys. Especially you, Em... it sounded like that was harder on you than Vin." She looks at the two of them and nods. "You were both great. I really appreciate it. I only put a couple of streaks of silver in my hair when I'm around Bobby, so if you all come to the concert tomorrow, it won't be anywhere near as bad as this was."

She glances over her shoulder at Pablo, eyes twinkling when she looks back at the twins. "You even have my permission to argue with Tio Pablo about whether it's silver colored hair or actual silver." She winks and adds, "Just not while David's chorus is singing."

Andi is happy to be feeling so calm, so normal, so... well, happy that when she hugs them both goodbye, she also feels relieved that she merely needs to get her emotions orderly and set to the side... as she has heard is proper and polite when one is in such close contact with an Empath.

Hey, Tommy does help her learn about things he understands! While all Shamans have the innate ability to speak with the Spirits, and they all seem to possess the gift of telepathy — it's something that predates the nuclear testing in New Mexico and Nevada, and the unleashing of the Virus on the world, so it's not really a Curse — so many new abilities have blossomed in the generations since Papa and Tita were born. Many Shamans, as well as those who choose to become Healers of any sort, have this thing called Empathy.

Saying good night... Her brain knows Maddie and Logan will be in the States for a while, her brain knows that Rene shows up to visit whenever he's in the mood to do so, but her heart feels so much better when the five of them are in relatively close proximity that she thinks her brain might need to Gibbs slap her heart. She wonders if that's possible... and if she don't stop thinking about it, Andi is going to start giggle fits that might not stop.

Hugs are shared all around, and plans confirmed to meet at the theater in Arvada where Harmony is performing. Most importantly — okay, maybe not most importantly — Andi gets Amanda's number from Maddie.

She will be a kind and considerate person, of course, and wait until Monday to call her. Especially since her alter ego happens to know the Sheriff has the weekend off... barring crises, of course. But the sooner she calls, the less likely she'll lose her nerve. It probably wouldn't make anyone happy — well, except for Naughty Cat — to have the twins in her den.

Damn. And she thought getting laid off was going to make her life less complicated.

Pablo and Andi walk hand in hand to his car. This feels to right, so ridiculously normal.

She really likes it.

© Kelly Naylor and ividia kt